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Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

29 Jan

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionMy rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Louie Zamperini’s life is nearly unbelievable!  The WWII backdrop is fascinating.  I believe everyone should read this to get a real sense of America and Americans during WWII. 

This was the first non-fiction book I picked up since Devil in the White City.  If you recall my review of Devil, you’ll remember that I really struggled with the tediousness of the historical detail.   I was a bit nervous that this book would be the same way in honestly in some ways it was.  But as I always say, life is about expectations, right?  Since I was prepared to have to digest a bit of history with my story, it was much less painful for me to do so.

This book is about Louis Zamperini, Olympic gold medalist turned Air Force enlisted turned lost at sea turned POW turned religious nut turned old guy.  It’s really unbelievable the twist and turns of this guy’s story. 

I liked this book for two reasons.  First, Louis Zamperini’s story really is fascinating as is the overall time period and culture during World War II.  Secondly, I learned more about WWII  from this book than I have from any other source in my entire life.  I will spare you the details of my conversation about this with my husband, but the gist of it is that I am positive I was never taught WWII history in school, I never watch the history channel, and I don’t like war movies.  So my opinion is that I am lucky I knew ANYTHING about WWII.

Learning about WWII was not only just a good thing to have done, but it has a special place in my heart.  My grandfather was a machine gunner in Italy during World War II.  Not only did he survive, but he went on to raise a wonderful family and is still very much alive at 87!  The wonderful bonus is that he is a master storyteller who loves to talk about his experiences in the war.  He does this, ironically, in a completely light and rated G kind of way by focusing on the cooperation, camaraderie, and deep relationships he built with the men he shared this surreal experience with. 

This book makes an excellent Book Club read.  It is chock full of people and situations to discuss.

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Book Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

28 Jan

BossypantsMy Review:  3 out of 5 stars

Meh.  I don’t get the hype about this book.  Parts are funny, but overall I found it kinda boring.

This book is funny.  Well, funny-ish.  Tina Fey’s road to fame is actually pretty uninteresting, but her satirical look at life and the ways she describes her life’s milestones are humorous-to a point.

Where I got a bit bored was when the book took a turn from being a quirky autobiography to being more of a Management for Dummies thing.  The last quarter of a book had a very, “now that I’m in charge, here’s what I do as a woman who has to manage people so they like me and do what I say” sort of tone.  It was surprising.   And useless.  Obviously you offer favors.  Everyone knows that.  I AM JUST KIDDING.  Holy cow. 

Anyways, the more ‘managerial’ it became the less funny it was.  I still love Tina Fey, but I’m not looking to get leadership advice from her.

Book Review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

13 Dec

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaMy rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

This novel follows two intertwining stories:  all of the construction for the opening of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer living in Chicago at the same time.  Both aspects of the story are true.

I picked this book up because someone told my friend it was their favorite book of all time.  I take that as a very serious assertion and had to find out what could make it someone’s favorite.  I still don’t quite know.

Do you remember having to write a research paper in high school or college?  The project had to follow a certain order of operations like:  pick a topic, find resources and put quotes from them on index cards, write an outline (that you had to turn in) and then write the paper?  I think that’s the gist.  Imagine the topic you chose to write about had so much information that it would have yielded an entire room full of index cards.  Now imagine you incorporated every single fact on every single index card into your paper.  That’s Devil in the White City.  While it’s obvious that the author did an exorbitant amount of research, he thought we were as in love with these topics – particularly the Fair construction – as he was.  I don’t believe a single detail was edited out of this book.

Each chapter was so chock full of information that I struggled to stay interested.  And it was pretty fascinating what they pulled off for the world’s fair in such a short time with little money.  But the detail around all of this was just too much.  The alternate story about H.H. Holmes and his macabre serial killer life was honestly all that keep me going.  And  even that I didn’t think was that creepy.  I mean don’t get me wrong, it was creepy, but not THAT creepy, especially since it wasn’t posed as a mystery.  You knew he was doing it.

Okay, all of that being said really means this book was just okay in my opinion.  The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze as my boss would say.  Struggling through this book wasn’t worth it in my opinion.  But if you like history and non-fiction and the late 1800s in America, this might be a good one for you!

Book Review: You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers

17 Jan

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers: Book CoverRating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

An unusual and uncommonly moving family memoir, with a twist that give new meaning to hindsight, insight, and forgiveness.

Heather Sellers is face-blind-that is, she has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that prevents her from reliably recognizing people’s faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion and anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, and gait. But she sometimes kissed a stranger, thinking he was her boyfriend, or failed to recognize even her own father and mother. She feared she must be crazy.

Yet it was her mother who nailed windows shut and covered them with blankets, made her daughter walk on her knees to spare the carpeting, had her practice secret words to use in the likely event of abduction. Her father went on weeklong “fishing trips” (aka benders), took in drifters, wore panty hose and bras under his regular clothes. Heather clung to a barely coherent story of a “normal” childhood in order to survive the one she had.

That fairy tale unraveled two decades later when Heather took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and began to discover the truth about her family and about herself. As she came at last to trust her own perceptions, she learned the gift of perspective: that embracing the past as it is allows us to let it go. And she illuminated a deeper truth-that even in the most flawed circumstances, love may be seen and felt.

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My Review

This was one of my book clubs February book pick. 

Unfortunately, meh.  The subject matter was interesting; I did not realize such a thing as face-blindess existed.  I think Heather’s approach to it was realistic – I might not have thought anything was wrong either.  I also think her being obsessed with the fact that her condition could be linked to her mother’s condition was something I would have been obsessed with too.  I did NOT like the switching back and forth of timelines in the chapters – for some reason it confused me. 

I didn’t know that this was an autobiography until the end.  I’m not sure this made any difference, but there were some things I didn’t quite understand because I felt like I was only getting a quarter of the whole story.  Once I knew it was autobiographical, it made more sense – there probably were gaps in the story- intentionally done by the author to keep certain things private.  Unfortunately, it made it hard for me to understand the characters.   I didn’t really feel like I ‘got’ how things were for her.

I didn’t get the husband David either was he an alcoholic?  Did he fall off the wagon?  His over niceness was creepy to me.  He was like a robot! 

Bottom Line:  This story is an autobiography that deals with 2 conditions that are sort of interesting:  schizophrenia and face-blindess.  The story itself, however, isn’t very strong.  It has some good parts, but some gaps, which makes it a bit difficult to connect with the main character.   It’s not paced very well either.