Thursday, July 30, 2015

Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, 375 pages

Z is a credible, fictional account of Zelda Fitzgerald's life just prior to her marriage to F. Scott until shortly after his death. Knowing very little about her life beforehand, I was captivated by this book from the jazz age time period, to the endless parties around the globe hobnobbing with some of the greatest literary minds ever, to F. Scott's alcoholism and his abusive nature (who knew?), and to her schizophrenic diagnosis that landed her in and out of mental institutions. Some doctors now believe based on old medical reports, that Zelda was actually bipolar.

 Although Zelda's life was spent in the shadow of her more famous husband, she was an author, painter and dancer in her own right. I can't help but wonder where she would be had she been born in a different time. This really was a well written, highly entertaining book that made me want to know more, to reread The Great Gatsby one of my all time favorites, and to read Zelda's work as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, 311 pages

Lily and Ted meet on a plane and several drinks and conversations later, decide to murder Ted’s wife. Seems a simple enough plan but for a host of psychopathic characters each a bit more evil than the other but still you can’t help but root for them. This well written, fast paced tale gets you hooked fast with lots of twists, turns, betrayals and secrets. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book. 

Psychological thrilling at its best.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, 460 pages

Oh, Calamity!  I am finished with a Liane Moriarty book and don't have another to start immediately.

"Big Little Lies" revolves around three women, all of whom have kindergartners at Pirriwee Public School.   Jane is new in town and is a 26 year old single mother.  Madeline just turned 40 and is happily married to her second husband.  She has three children and a huge grudge against her first husband, who deserted her when her now 14 year old daughter was 3 weeks old.  Celeste is also near 40, has identical twin boys and seemingly has the perfect marriage and life.

A quite large calamity happens at the school's trivia night and the novel reveals the build up to that night and what happened afterwards.  Ohhh, this was fun.  Three words: Perfect Summer Read.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, 320 pages

Not surprisingly based on his track record, David McCullough has done it again.  He has written an interesting and completely readable (in my case, listen-able) story about Wilbur and Orville Wright. The men who solved the mystery and question of the possibility of flight.

The Wright family lived in Dayton, Ohio.  Wilbur was four years older than Orville and they had two older brothers and one younger sister, Katharine.  Wilbur and Orville never married and owned a bicycle shop together.

How did these two non-college attending men go from bicycle builders and sellers to airplane pioneers?  Through hard work, determination, inquiring minds and perseverance.   Put this on your to be read or listened to list!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trouble by Non Pratt, 384 Pages

When I'm not working part-time at the library, I'm a high-school librarian and I taught high school English for the last three years, so I've been trying to read a decent amount of young adult fiction this summer. This was one such book, a debut novel by Non Pratt. It's written in two perspectives, that of 15-year-olds, Hannah and Aaron.

Hannah spends a lot of her time chasing or being chased by different boys. Sometimes the boys are single and sometimes they're not which gives her something of a shaky reputation at her school. Aaron has just started at Hannah's school after a bad experience at his last one forced him and his family to move. Hannah finds out she is pregnant early on in the story and as she won't tell who the father is, the school prepares to obliterate her already-shaky reputation. In steps Aaron who volunteers to play the role of the father to spare Hannah from embarrassment. She's unsure at first but, as they get to know each other, their friendship grows until Aaron's past comes to the forefront.

This was a decent read. I am always a bit nervous when I read something with back-and-forth perspectives as that's a method that is often done very poorly. However, I found both of these characters fairly interesting and the plot was engaging enough to keep me turning the pages.

One thing that did bother me was the tone of Hannah's voice. The author made her sound much older than a 15-year-old or at least anyone of that age I've ever known. It didn't ruin the book or anything but I do recall being distracted by it a few times throughout the reading.

You can often move through young adult novels pretty quickly and that can definitely be said about this book. It didn't take a long time to read but I didn't find myself completely bowled over when it was finished either.

2.5 out of 5 stars from Ethan

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nemesis by Catherine Coulter 384 pages

This is another great FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter.  Sherlock and Savich split up to take on the bad guys in this latest edition in their series.  Lacey Sherlock is just trying to get home when a man in the airport security line pulls out a grenade and threatens to blow everyone sky high.  Sherlock diffuses the situation, gets the bad guy in custody but that is only the beginning of her adventures in New York as she becomes entangled in the mystery of why this mild mannered man from England, with a wife and children would attempt this act of terrorism.  Now Sherlock must solve the puzzle before his family become victims also.  And who is trying to blow up St. Patrick's Cathedral?

Meanwhile, Savich becomes involved with some witches when he tries to find out why 2 normal, happy guys with bright futures would stick a knife into their friends' hearts and then not remember anything.  Let's just say, it comes to Savich in a dream.  Oh my, you will have to read to figure this one out!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola, 438 pages

I'm making a confession right up front, I don't read a lot of classic literature.  However, this is the current book club selection for the Downtown group so I dutifully read it.

Emile Zola was a  popular French author who lived from 1840 -1902.  He wrote a 20 volume series about life in France and "The Ladies Paradise" was book #11.  It was originally published in 1883.

On the one hand this is a fascinating story.  It is set in Paris in the 1860s and details the rise of the fictional Ladies Paradise, a grand department store that put many smaller retailers out of business.  The descriptions of the smaller retailers struggling against the mega business kept reminding me of what we all say about Walmart.  Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun.

The not so fascinating part of the book is the love story between the angelic and impossibly pure Denise Baudu  and the rakish Octave Moret, owner of the Ladies Paradise.  I found the general lack of any real character development made this book somewhat difficult to plow through.

Denise was an orphan who came to Paris with her two younger brothers and was immediately mesmerized by the Ladies' Paradise even though her uncle's shop was in direct competition with it and was dying a slow and painful death.  Her uncle couldn't employ her so she, of course, got a job at the Ladies' Paradise.  And the story goes.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Get Happy by Mary Amato 226 pages A Young Adult Novel

Minerva is something of a free spirit.  She wears colorful, striped leggings, wants to play the ukulele, writes her own music and walks around singing.  She and her best friend, Fin, are quite willing to take on the world together.  However, Minerva's Mom just does not get it. She is super organized, buys Minerva old lady sweaters for her birthday, worries obsessively about her, and for 15 years has been telling her lies.  Everything starts to unravel on Minerva's 16th birthday when she receives a surprise birthday gift from her absentee father, who may not have been so absentee after all.   I like Minerva, Fin and their friend Hayes.  I like  Minerva's music.  I do not like her drama, her temper or her sneakiness, but hey, she is a teenager and her Mother is not that great of a role model.   This was an entertaining read and I see sequels in the future.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Power Of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle, 195 pages

“The Power Of Now” is a spiritual enlightenment book. The writer has studied many religions, and has built his philosophy on finding happiness from what he has learned. I found many sections that really spoke to me, and many times his thoughts made me reflect on my current views about happiness. I do agree with the author that many of us become so caught up in just getting through life that we really are not living life.  

Although I do not believe there is one philosophy that can be true for all of us, I do believe that by listening to the ideas of others I can only grow. I enjoyed the book immensely, and look forward to reading more of this author’s work. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 531 pages

I'm a fan of World War II books.  If I had known this was about World War II, I would have put it higher on my "must be read list."  And if you are like me and haven't read it yet, even though it won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer, and has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for over a year, then stop procrastinating.  It's worth the read.

This is the parallel story of a brilliant German boy, Werner Pfennig, who gets caught up in the Hitler Youth and a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who leaves Paris with her father when it falls to the Germans and spends the war in Saint-Malo, a walled port city in Brittany.

This is a beautifully written novel and is one of those books that I rushed to finish because I couldn't put it down and was sad to finish because it was so good.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, 418 pages

Erik Larson writes narrative nonfiction.  That means he does a good job of making history interesting.

The Lusitania was a British passenger ship that was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast in May 1915.  In my vague knowledge of World War I, I thought that the sinking of the Lusitania prompted the United States to declare war on Germany.  It didn't.  The United States didn't enter the war until April 1917.

This is a story of the ocean liner, its passengers and crew, its final voyage, its sinking and the aftermath.  It is also a story of what was happening politically in the United States, Britain and Germany in front of and behind the scenes from 1915 to 1917.

This is a great book for anyone interested in history, intrigue or a good story.