Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fastest 3 minutes in book reviews!

My apologies to ESPN’s Chris Berman, and his “fastest 3 minutes in the NFL” – my homage won’t include any interceptions or injuries, but you can easily read this post during any halftime.
 
Life. Children. Home. School. Work.
All have somehow complicated my reading habits.   Books have become the caboose of my daily existence – the end of a very long day to which I fall asleep.  Thus, very few have been completed in recent memory.
So in order that the few that I have completed to keep from being lost in the synapses of my gray matter – I offer the following (and you could queue the ESPN theme music, but I'm sure that would involve litigation).

Skeletons at the FeastSkeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
September Book Club Choice
My enjoyment level 3 out of 5 stars

Source:  Personal Copy

Sensitive reader: A few graphic sex scenes and violent war scenarios



Blurb from the book:
In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines.
Among the group is eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a twenty-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family’s farm as forced labor. And there is a twenty-six-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred–who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz.
As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna’s and Callum’s love, as well as their friendship with Manfred–assuming any of them even survive.
Perhaps not since The English Patient has a novel so deftly captured both the power and poignancy of romance and the terror and tragedy of war. Skillfully portraying the flesh and blood of history, Chris Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the twentieth century’s greatest tragedies–while creating, perhaps, a masterpiece that will haunt readers for generations.
My thoughts:
This was a great book club selection – so much to discuss – Hitler, the bombing of Germany, the deportation of Jews to concentration camps – one of our better discussions.  The author includes some unnecessary sexual descriptions – but I skimmed them for the most part, and was able to maintain the story line.  I love WWII historical fiction, and although a great book club choice, it wasn’t necessarily a GREAT individual read.


Diamond Ruby: A NovelDiamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

What’s In a Name Reading Challenge:  book with a “gem” in the title

My enjoyment rating 3 out of 5 stars

Source:  Personal Copy

Sensitive reader:  Organized crime of the early 20th century – but nothing alarming (that I remember!)

Blurb from the book:
Seventeen-year-old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces after a devastating tragedy, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920s New York City. She’s got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitchers in a baseball-mad city.  From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, Diamond Ruby chronicles the extraordinary life and times of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld.  Diamond Ruby “is the exciting tale of a forgotten piece of baseball’s heritage, a girl who could throw with the best of them. A real page-turner, based closely on a true story”
My thoughts:
Love a female protagonist who tries to “make it” in a man’s world and nothing is more “manly” than professional baseball.  I loved Ruby, but, the author tried to do TOO much by incorporating nearly every historical account of the early Twentieth century – from Babe Ruth, to prohibition, to organized crime, to the influenza epidemic.  Also, I had a hard time believing, that outside of her pitching strength and speed, Ruby could actually play baseball.  Because pitchers do need to know how to field the ball! 
Another, better than average book, but not great.



Lost HorizonLost Horizon by James Hilton

October Book Club Choice

My enjoyment rating:  3 out of 5

Source:  Personal copy

Sensitive reader: Clean

Blurb from the book:
Four people from a plane crash are taken to Shangri-La in the Himalayas, where the members of a Tibetan lamasery live in peace and seem to have found the secret of eternal youth.

My thoughts:
This was not what I was expecting!  Which is neither good nor bad.  It was a very strange book – and one I would have enjoyed more had I been able to discuss it at book group, but I wasn’t able to go because my husband was out of town.  The narrative was confusing, so I had to go back and reread the first chapter, then the latter finally made sense.   The notion of 4 individuals being hijacked for the mere purpose of populating an isolated monastery, where one could live forever (nearly) and NEVER leave (think Hotel California, but without the Eagles) was a bit much for me.  But it was a classic, so I’m glad to have read it.

Finally, our Mother Daughter book club October selection was: The Secret Life of Amanda K Woods by Ann Cameron.  I did not go, nor did I read it -- so I can't offer my thoughts one way or the other.  Our November selection is:  Finally by Wendy Mass
Finally
Blurb from the book:
You can pierce your ears when you're twelve. You can go to the mall with your friends when you're twelve. You can babysit little Timmy next door when you're twelve. You can get a cell phone when you're twelve. Hey, you can even ride in the front passenger-side seat when you're twelve.
When you're twelve, when you're twelve, when you're twelve . . .
My name is Rory Swenson, and I've been waiting to turn twelve my whole life. In exactly 18 hours, 36 minutes, and 52 seconds, it will finally happen.
My life will officially begin.