Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review -- Unbroken


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
 Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars (if I could give it 6 I would!)
Genre:  Non-fiction; biography
Source:  Personal copy
Sensitive reader:  graphic descriptions of war, bombing, prisoner of war treatment and conditions.



The Greatest Generation: This title has become synonymous with the generation of Americans who served our country during World War II. Among them was Louis (Louie) Zamperini.

Louie was an Olympian and after coming up short in the Berlin Games of 1936 – he’d set his sight on the 1940 games and was training to be the first man ever to clock running the mile in under four minutes. But his dreams were interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Louie was stationed in Hawaii with the Army Air Forces when he and an assembled rag-tag crew (which included his pilot, Allen Phillips) were ordered to fly a mission in an unreliable B-24 plane, “Green Hornet” as a rescue mission for another missing crew.

What happens to Louie and his fellow service men after they boarded their plane is terrifying, horrific, heroic, and how legends are made. And the results of their ill-fated mission are just the beginning of Louie’s story.

Laura Hillenbrand has written an epic story that follows Louie through his being lost at sea for 47 days, his years as a Japanese POW, his inhumane and brutal treatment at the hands of psychopathic prison guards, his liberation and his difficult return home.

Her narrative is transfixing – I often found myself “white knuckling” the binding of the book as I read the more anxiety filled scenes of bombings and shark infested waters. As a reader, there is an intimacy with Louie, his friends, his crew, his fellow POWs, that as the story unfolds and you learn their fates, it is mixed with utter jubilation and heaving sobs.

I am in awe of Louie and the thousands of men and women who had the fortitude and endurance to survive such atrocities. And I am humbled by those who suffered similar carnage, but didn’t survive. It is amazing that any human being was able to endure the brutality that was inflicted on Louie and his comrades.

Thank you Louie for your spirit, your optimism, your example and for carrying on (he is still going at 94!).

Thank you Laura for telling his story in such a spellbinding, but reverent and respectful way.

And thank you to all those who served and died for our country during World War II. You truly are the Greatest Generation.

(For an equally inspiring book, I recommend The Hiding Place by Corie ten Boom)



I recommend the following video clip; I also highly recommend going to www. louiezamperini.com and viewing the Louie Zamperini Olympic tribute from the 1998 Nagano Olympics



Thursday, June 23, 2011

It’s not summer without a summer a reading list!

Much to my children’s dismay, each afternoon during the summer we have reading time – about an hour of quiet time where we – myself included – sit down and read a book.

With the help of my older two children (ages 8 and 10) we’ve put together a fairly aggressive reading list for the summer. I don’t expect that we will finish all of these in the next 8 weeks – but it gives us some latitude on what our mood may be for each given book.

Most of these recommendations are for juvenile readers (generally regarded as 8-12 years of age) – but any of them could be advanced or remedial, depending on your child’s reading level. Please use your parental discretion.

My 10 year old daughter’s reading list:

Who What Wear: The Allegra Biscotti CollectionWho What Wear: The Allegra Biscotti Collection (#2)

by Olivia Bennett

Overview (from the publisher):

Emma Rose is SO not famous


So how did she score inside information on the most talked-about party of the year? Because Emma is secretly the hottest new fashion designer-Allegra Biscotti-and hired to whip up a Sweet Sixteen dress for the guest of honor. Wait...fashion emergency! How can she create a fiercely fashionable dress and keep her secret? There's only one solution: Emma must go undercover-as her own intern!


But when Emma feels the pressure by her BFF to explain how she got an invite from the in-crowd and an ultra-fabulous fashion internship-just when Jackson finally starts paying attention to her-she knows she has to make it work......or will it all come apart at the seams?

Mia in the Mix (Cupcake Diaries Series #2)Mia in the Mix (Cupcake Diaries Series #2)

by Coco Simon

Overview (from the publisher):

At Park Street School, you have the Popular Girls. They even have a Popular Girls Club. But what happens when you aren’t invited to join? Do you start an Unpopular Club? No, you start a Cupcake Club!


This second book from The Cupcake Diaries is told through the perspective of Mia. Like the other members of the club, readers will get a chance to know the new girl in school. Mia has never had a problem making friends before. Her motto is to be open and friendly with everyone. However, not everyone at Park Street school believes in mixing in with different groups of friends. When the Popular Girls Club takes interest in Mia's keen fashion sense and decide to recruit her, Mia has to decide between them and the Cupcake Club members. What's a girl to do?

Kat, IncorrigibleKat, Incorrigible

by Stephanie Burgis

Overview (from the publisher):

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Stepmama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society--if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings--saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles--find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman and battle wild magic along the way!

The Penderwicks at Point MouetteThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette (#3 of series)

by Jeanne Birdsall

Overview (from the publisher):

When summer comes around, it's off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.


That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)—a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind's directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Jane's Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty—contrary to all accepted wisdom—the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?

It's a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears.

The Gollywhopper GamesThe Gollywhopper Games

by Jody Feldman

Overview (from the publisher):

Ladies and gentlemen!


Boys and girls!


Welcome to the biggest, bravest, boldest competition the world has ever seen!


The Gollywhopper Games!


Are you ready?


Gil Goodson sure hopes he's ready. His future happiness depends on winning the Golly Toy & Game Company's ultimate competition. If Gil wins, his dad has promised the family can move out of Orchard Heights away from all the gossip, the false friends, and bad press that have plagued the Goodsons ever since The Incident.


Gil's been studying for months. He thinks he knows everything about Golly's history and merchandise. But does he know enough to answer the trivia? Solve the puzzles? Complete the stunts? Will it be more than all the other kids know? Gil's formidable opponents have their own special talents. He must be quicker and smarter than all of them.


The ride of Gil's life is about to begin. Win! win! win!

Theodore Boone: The AbductionTheodore Boone: The Abduction

by John Grisham

Overview (from the publisher):

Theodore Boone is back in a new adventure, and the stakes are higher than ever.

When his best friend, April, disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night, no one, not even Theo Boone-who knows April better than anyone-has answers.

As fear ripples through his small hometown and the police hit dead ends, it's up to Theo to use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to chase down the truth and save April.

Filled with the page-turning suspense that made John Grisham a #1 international bestseller and the undisputed master of the legal thriller, Theodore Boone's trials and triumphs will keep readers guessing until the very end.


My 8 year old son’s reading list:

Noah Barleywater Runs AwayNoah Barleywater Runs Away

by John Boyne

Overview (from the publisher):

Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest.


Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it's a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it's a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life.

Magic in the Outfield (Sluggers Series #1)Magic in the Outfield (Sluggers Series #1)

by Loren Long

Overview (from the publisher):

Griffith, Graham, and Ruby's father passed away in the war. And now they must join their mother and their father's wartime traveling baseball team, The Travelin' Nine, on a tour of America to raise money. No one will tell the kids why the team needs money so badly. Their only clue is a baseball with a hole the size of an acorn in it that their Uncle Owen gave to them the night of their father's funeral. They know very little about its significance except that their father made it with his own two hands and carried it with him throughout the war. And when all three kids hold the ball, strange things begin to happen...


George Washington's Socks (George Washington Series)George Washington's Socks (George Washington Series)

by Elvira Woodruff

Overview (from the publisher):

In the midst of a backyard campout, ten-year-old Matt and four other children find themselves transported back into the time of George Washington and the American Revolution, where they begin to live out American history firsthand and learn the sober realities of war.


Mr. Popper's PenguinsMr. Popper's Penguins

by Richard Atwater , Florence Atwater

Overview (from the publisher):

A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. "Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story."—"The Horn Book." Newbery Honor Book.

Mickey and Me (Baseball Card Adventure Series)Mickey and Me (Baseball Card Adventure Series)

by Dan Gutman

Overview (from the publisher):

Joe Stoshack's dad has been in a car accident! When Stosh visits him in the hospital, his dad tells him about the great Mickey Mantle and an unfortunate fall in Yankee Stadium that changed Mantle's career. "I've been thinking about it for a long time. Go back to 1951. You can warn him. You're the only one who can do it," Dad whispers.


So while baby-sitting his younger cousin, Samantha, Stosh sits down with a baseball card in hand, ready to travel through time. But when he opens his eyes, he's not in Yankee Stadium -- he's in Milwaukee on June 8, 1944. Stosh is seven years early and in the wrong town. What has gone wrong?

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. FiggThe Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

by Rodman Philbrick

Overview (from the publisher):

Master storyteller Rodman Philbrick takes readers on a colorful journey as young Homer Figg sets off to follow his brother into the thick of the Civil War. Through a series of fascinating events, Homer's older brother has been illegally sold to the Union Army. It is up to Homer to find him and save him. Along the way, he encounters strange but real people of that era: two tricksters who steal his money, a snake-oil salesman, a hot-air balloonist, and finally, the Maine regiment who saved Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg and won the war for the Union.


These historical people and places will educate and engage young readers about our nation's past--in one of the most decisive moments of American history. In Homer's inspiring fight to track down his brother, Philbrick brings us another groundbreaking novel.


Funny, poignant, entertaining, and tragic, The Mostly True Aadventures of Homer Figg will be embraced and heralded by readers and reviewers alike. A magnificent novel by one of the best fiction writers of our century.

(The above book will be read in remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War)



And finally, my planned summer reading list:

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the WestNothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West

by Dorothy Wickenden

Overview from Publishers Weekly:

On July 24, 1916, the Syracuse Daily Journal printed the headline: "Society Girls Go to Wilds of Colorado." The two young women were Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, recent graduates of Smith College who, in order to defy their family's expectation of marriage, sought work in the small town of Hayden, Colo. Woodruff was the grandmother of New Yorker executive editor Wickenden, who herself becomes a central character in an informative and engaging narrative. Using letters from her grandmother, newspaper articles, and interviews with descendants, Wickenden retells how Woodruff and Underwood traveled to the newly settled state of Colorado to teach at a ramshackle grade school. The book offers a wide cross-section of life in the American West, but the core of the story is the girls' slow adaptation to a society very different from the one in which they were raised, and their evolution from naïve but idealistic and open-minded society girls to strong-willed and pragmatic women who later married and raised families in the midst of the Great Depression. Wickenden brings to life two women who otherwise might have been lost to history and who took part in creating the modern-day West

The Girl in the Blue BeretThe Girl in the Blue Beret

by Bobbie Ann Mason

Overview from Publishers Weekly:

Mason (In Country) is back with a touching novel about love, loss, war, and memory. Shot down over France during WWII, Marshall Stone takes the controls and lands the plane, helping as many of his surviving airmen to safety as he can. He's saved by the French Resistance and ferried from one safe house to the next until he reaches the U.K. In 1980, after being forced into retirement, he returns to the crash site and vows to find those who helped him. Two in particular stand out in his mind: Robert, the dashing young man who helped plan his escape, and Annette, a school girl who lived in one of the safe houses. Moving between the present and the events he revisits, the novel descends deeper and deeper into memory, profoundly revealing how the past haunts the present. Stone learns that Robert and Annette were both punished for the roles they played in the war, and that memory serves us all differently, saving one while destroying another. Mason's latest, based on the real-life experiences of her father-in-law, is fascinating and intensely intimate. (June)

The Greater Journey: Americans in ParisThe Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

by David McCullough

Overview (from the publisher):

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.


After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history. As David McCullough writes, “Not all pioneers went west.” Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, who enrolled at the Sorbonne because of a burning desire to know more about everything. There he saw black students with the same ambition he had, and when he returned home, he would become the most powerful, unyielding voice for abolition in the U.S. Senate, almost at the cost of his life.


Two staunch friends, James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse, worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Cooper writing and Morse painting what would be his masterpiece. From something he saw in France, Morse would also bring home his momentous idea for the telegraph.


Pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk from New Orleans launched his spectacular career performing in Paris at age 15. George P. A. Healy, who had almost no money and little education, took the gamble of a lifetime and with no prospects whatsoever in Paris became one of the most celebrated portrait painters of the day. His subjects included Abraham Lincoln.


Medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote home of his toil and the exhilaration in “being at the center of things” in what was then the medical capital of the world. From all they learned in Paris, Holmes and his fellow “medicals” were to exert lasting influence on the profession of medicine in the United States.


Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James were all “discovering” Paris, marveling at the treasures in the Louvre, or out with the Sunday throngs strolling the city’s boulevards and gardens. “At last I have come into a dreamland,” wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe, seeking escape from the notoriety Uncle Tom’s Cabin had brought her. Almost forgotten today, the heroic American ambassador Elihu Washburne bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris and even more atrocious nightmare of the Commune. His vivid account in his diary of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris (drawn on here for the first time) is one readers will never forget. The genius of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the son of an immigrant shoemaker, and of painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, three of the greatest American artists ever, would flourish in Paris, inspired by the examples of brilliant French masters, and by Paris itself.


Nearly all of these Americans, whatever their troubles learning French, their spells of homesickness, and their suffering in the raw cold winters by the Seine, spent many of the happiest days and nights of their lives in Paris. McCullough tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’s phrase, longed “to soar into the blue.” The Greater Journey is itself a masterpiece.

The American HeiressThe American Heiress

by Daisy Goodwin

Overview (from the publisher):

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

What is on your summer reading list?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review -- The Luck of the Buttons


The Luck of the Buttons
 The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book source:  Public library

Genre:  Juvenile Fiction


Summary:

In Iowa circa 1929, spunky twelve-year-old Tugs vows to turn her family’s luck around, with the help of a Brownie camera and a small-town mystery. Tugs Esther Button was born to a luckless family. Buttons don’t presume to be singers or dancers. They aren’t athletes or artists, good listeners, or model citizens. The one time a Button ever made the late Goodhue Gazette - before Harvey Moore came along with his talk of launching a new paper - was when Great Grandaddy Ike accidentally set Town Hall ablaze. Tomboy Tugs looks at her hapless family and sees her own reflection looking back until she befriends popular Aggie Millhouse, wins a new camera in the Independence Day raffle, and stumbles into a mystery only she can solve. Suddenly this is a summer of change - and by its end, being a Button may just turn out to be what one clumsy, funny, spirited, and very observant young heroine decides to make of it.


A cute book – not overly thought provoking for an adult, but perfect for the intended audience of an early reader. Tugs is spunky and determined to make friends with the popular girl, Aggie. A very similar plot as Kit Kittredge. An easy read that could be finished in an afternoon.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review -- The Invisible Wall

The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers
The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers
by Harry Bernstein


My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book source:  Personal copy





You are never too old to tell your story.

And at the age of 96, Harry Bernstein did just that.

Growing up in Manchester, England on the eve of World War I, Harry details in stunning prose the “invisible wall” that divides his neighborhood – that of Christians on one side and Jews on the other. His father a drunk, and his mother providing for 5 children (eventually 6), Harry’s childhood was filled with poverty, depravity, and neglect, but also a genuine amount of love.

More often than not, neither side of the street would have anything to do with one another. On the occasion of the Jewish Sabbath, a “goy” (or Christian neighbor) would cross the street to perform the necessary duties (light a fire, put a pot on to boil), in order for the Jews to keep strict Sabbath day observance. But that was the extent, for the most part, of their interactions.

The seriousness of this divide was made evident when a Jewish neighbor, Sarah, fell in love with a Christian, Freddy. When the romance was discovered, “shivah,” or mourning of the dead, was performed by Sarah’s family, and she was exiled to Australia.

It is miraculous that Mr. Bernstein can recall in such vivid detail the scenes from his early childhood. He is exact when remembering his home, his mother, the dialogue between his mother and siblings, the beatings he took from the bullies on the street. His portrait of his father is menacing…and we learn that after his mother died, Harry never saw him again.

Ultimately, this was the story of Harry’s sister Lily, and her own romance with Arthur (a Christian), that grabs hold of your heart and won’t let you go. Determined to break with religion, tradition, and risk all that they have, including their lives, for love, Arthur and Lily forge their own way in this very structured society. Harry’s portrayal of how their love bridges the divide is truly magnificent.


He published two other works, The Dream, which chronicles his life once he emigrated to America, and The Golden Willow, about his life with his wife of 67 years, Ruby.

I was touched by this story.

But even more so by Mr. Bernstein, that even at the age of 96, you can still grab hold of your dreams.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Book Club and Book Review -- Hold Tight


My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Source:  Public library 


Parenting is the most difficult when trying to support your teenage son after the suicide death of his best friend. But when the son’s behavior starts to mirror that of the deceased friend, panic sets in and parents will do all most anything to keep their son alive – including spying.

Mike and Tia Baye have “doctored” their son Adam’s gadgets – cell phone, computer, -- with spyware and tracking systems, all in an effort to learn where he is going and what he is doing in the aftermath of best friend, Spencer’s, suicide. What they don’t realize is their “protection” will start a domino effect of potentially fatal situations that none of them would have predicted. At the same time, a serial killer has taken the lives of two seemingly, unsuspecting women – are the Baye’s problems and these gruesome deaths related? In a sequence of twist and turns and dark alley altercations, the reader will soon find out the truth.

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben was our book club selection for June. A murder mystery with modern day implications of teenage suicide and prescription drug abuse, Mr. Coben has written a fairly formulaic “whodunit” with the angst of parenting in the 21st century.

This is not a book I would have chosen on my own – and I’m not sure I would read any of this again.

Using multiple story lines in alternating chapters, Mr. Coben weaves the fear of the Baye’s against the back drop of a series of unexplained murders. Although I was kept guessing as to how these converging story lines would finally resolve themselves, it was an unsatisfying conclusion: Crazy brother in law turned serial killer; bar bouncer and little sister to the rescue; police chief getting married – it was all very odd in various places.

I can see why Mr. Coben is very popular – he keeps you guessing until the end – but it wasn’t particularly satisfying for me.

Our July book club choice is:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Summary:
In her charming debut novel, Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride. As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys' father split between them, but which Bertie's widow doesn't want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition's sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum. As he frets over the guns, the major's friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author's dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major's beloved firearms. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy.




Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book Review -- Penny Candy


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book source:  Public library

My final Jean Kerr book from the trifecta offered by the library was equally entertaining.

Penny Candy follows the same formula as her previous anthologies – essays on motherhood, marriage, fashion, décor and exercise (or lack thereof) – told from a vintage 1950s point of view.

I liked this the least of the three that I read, but one of her final chapters, “Culture Night” was fabulous! Of her six children, the older four were nearing, what we would refer to as their “tween” years. She decided that they needed to start memorizing poetry – so each week she would assign them age appropriate poems that they were to memorize for the following Sunday, at which point, they were required to recite them in front of the family. Needless to say, this new family activity was met with much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but she persevered, and soon the children were reciting, Donne, Yeats, Shelley and Housman (just to name a few). Not only was it funny to read, but inspiring ( I think I might try this!) to think that this activity had a prolonged affect on her children, that they were often heard reciting poetry – gasp! – voluntarily!

Jean Kerr was a joy to discover – I only wish she were still living so she could write about 21st century family life!



Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review -- I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

My enjoyment rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Book Source:  Personal copy







Summary: I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

This has been on my TBR list for MONTHS! I finally picked it up around the time of the Royal Wedding (castles, English countryside, romance – seemed appropriate, right?), thinking I would be swept away in adolescent love – but I wasn’t.

It took me a MONTH to read this – an eternity in literary years. I may have gotten sidetracked on a few occasions when we were without power in May, and I had to read by candlelight, but this was not a book that kept my interest, and one I had to force to read and finish.

Things I liked/loved: Cassandra, the teenage narrator. I completely agree with the blurb that she was “enchanting” – she was lovely to read and embrace. However, the story that was woven around her just didn’t make magic for me: a pair of American brothers (who happen to be Cassandra’s family’s landlords) an eccentric father, a kooky step mother, an older, yet, immature sister, a family “servant” who is trying to woo Cassandra by becoming an actor – none of it worked and it was all very odd.

This came HIGHLY recommended, so I’m disappointed I didn’t like it more.

Maybe a result of wrong time, wrong mood, and no light.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review -- Bossypants


Bossypants


My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars (possibly 2.5 stars)

Book Source:  Personal copy (Mother's Day gift to be specific!)

Sensitive reader:  Language, including the F bomb.

Tina Fey – master of Sarah Palin impersonations and creator of quirky Liz Lemon and 30 Rock - -has ventured into literary memoirs with her book, Bossypants.

I was expecting fall on the floor, choking on spit, side cramp funny – and it never materialized. For me anyway.

There are chapters on her childhood, her parents (her dad, Don, seems like one you’d want to meet!), summer jobs, her years as an improv actor with Second City, and her more recent work with Saturday Night Live, Sarah Palin and 30 Rock. Oh, and motherhood.

None of them were particularly memorable, or attention-grabbing. The highlight of the book was the latter chapters on creating the memorable scenes for SNL of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton with Amy Poehler in 2008. They rehearsed a total of TWICE before going live with that 5 minute scene! I was amazed!  And her Mother's Prayer, which has made its rounds on Facebook, is worth reading too.

Bossypants read as if she were talking to herself in the bathroom. With no one around to listen. Or any intended audience. Like one big rambling session. With a few cuss words thrown in for emphasis.

I think this would have been a GREAT audio book – listening to the author recite her experiences, impressions, and antics first hand – and possibly a Sarah Palin accent thrown in for good measure.

I still love Tina Fey. And I still love 30 Rock. Just didn’t love her book.