Books 2012

April 25th.  I just finished reading two great books!  One was an audio book and the other a traditional book. Here they are:

“While We’re Far Apart” was a great audio book set in Brooklyn NY during the war years (1942-46 or thereabouts). The genre is “Christian Fiction” and I have learned that Lynn Austin sure does write a great novel.  This book had many story lines going, and I love that!  I think it was a good portrayal of life on the homefront during the war, and some of the challenges lived out by the people who waited for their servicemen to come home. One reason I really like this author is that her stories sound realistic.  I have read other Christian fiction by famous and well-loved authors that I just couldn’t stomach.  The situations were totally unbelievable. That sure turns me off!  Anyway, if you like this era, you will enjoy this book, guaranteed.  I sure did.

“The Girl From Barefoot House” was written by one of my favorite English authors, Maureen Lee.  I thought after reading the back cover that this one would be set during WWII also.  Only the very beginning was.  This novel turned into a true saga – one that didn’t end until the 1980’s.  I love that this author also has many story lines going throughout the book.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book I didn’t like by Ms Lee.  Again it was interesting the whole way as we follow the main character, Josie, through most of her life… which started in the slums of Liverpool and ended… well, I can’t give that away, can I?  🙂

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Finished March 29th.  Well, I’ve done it.  I’ve finished Philippa Gregory’s trilogy regarding the “War of the Roses” or as she calls it, “the cousins war”.  As I’ve said before, I read these books out of the order in which they were written but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of these very well researched stories.  Of course Ms Gregory’s books are often fiction-based-on-fact, and I truly believe she has this down to an art!! This book is about Elizabeth Woodville, who married King Edward of York – hence the “white” queen.  York is symbolized to this day I believe by the white rose, as Lancashire continues to be symbolized by the red rose.  It was set in the mid to late 1400’s.  My only complaint about this book has nothing whatsoever to do with the author or the writing.  It has to do with the fact that everybody of that time period seemed to name their children the same names, and it was nearly impossible to follow along with all the Richards and Edwards and Henrys!  In fact the “white queen” herself managed to add to the confusion by having two sons with the same name!  WHY?!!!  It was just crazy trying to figure out who was who.  The other thing I got a bit tired of was ALL the battles.  It seemed like there was constant war in those days.  Like I said, these “complaints” have nothing to do with Ms Gregory, who put all these confusing facts together and crafted a great novel.  If I were to suggest an order for reading these novels, I’d definitely say to read the last one first- “Lady of the Rivers”.  Then “The White Queen”, followed by “The Red Queen”.  Each book does stand alone and any way you read them, you’ll enjoy them.  I now have several more books by Philippa Gregory waiting for me.  Can’t wait!

Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Finshed March 19th.  As shown by the above photo, I listened to this book on CD.  First off, I  truly respect and have always admired our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.  I was certain I’d find this book interesting.  Hubby listened to it first and he said it was pretty darn riveting, so I had high hopes.  Well, it was “just okay for me, dawg” (I stole a Randyism from American Idol).  I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it.  I’m a history nut, and I’m a little disappointed in myself for not totally devouring this book… but, it is what it is.  I definitely DID learn some new things that surrounded the VERY unfortunate assassination of President Lincoln.  What really bugged me, and I mean *really* bugged me throughout the entire book was the mispronunciation by Mr O’Reilly over and over and over…. of several words.  CAValry and SENtries were the two biggies.  He repeatedly reads them as “CALvary” and “Centuries”.  He also mispronounced some medical words, but I’ll cut him a little slack for that.  BUT NOT the words “cavalry” and “sentries”.  How could he not know he was saying these words wrong?  How could the editor or audio production manager NOT NOTICE these ongoing obvious mistakes?  I just don’t get it.  The deal is this:  I should have read this book.  It would have been MUCH better in print form.  Call me picky or crazy, but I did send an email to Mr O’Reilly, asking him nicely to NEVER narrate one of his books again.  I didn’t go in to how much his mispronunciation bothered me, I just said, “Please hire an expert to read your future books for audio production.  You know why.”   I understand he’s in the process of writing another, entitled “Killing Kennedy” – which definitely sounds interesting.  I’m hoping that Bill takes my advice – or I’ll be reading, not listening to – that one.

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced   On Becoming a Chef at the CIA  by Jonathan Dixon

Finished March 8th.  This book jumped off the library shelf and into my hands a while back.  I guess it’s a rather popular thing these days…. writing a memoir if you are a chef.  Yet this is the first one I’ve read.  Anyone who knows me knows I DO love to cook (and eat, unfortunately)… I watch several cooking shows on TV, my favorite being “Top Chef”.  So, it wasn’t too amazing that I was drawn to this book.  I’ve heard a fair amount about the “CIA” – Culinary Institute of America, but was fascinated to hear what it might be like to actually attend the school, and come out with the title of “Chef”.  I certainly enjoyed reading this account of a fairly seasoned 38 year old, who changed career paths to follow his heart and love of cooking.  Sometimes, I’ve actually daydreamed about becoming a proper “chef” or opening a restaurant, serving some of my yummiest meals.  Well, after reading this very interesting book, I’ve come to a final conclusion. It ain’t gonna happen.  Nope, I won’t be applying to the CIA anytime soon.  What this guy had to go through sounded just a little too hard for this old lady.  Loved this book, and if you are at all interested in how a “cook” becomes a Chef, read it!!  Totally interesting!!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Completed reading: February 16th

Once in a blue moon, I’m really blown away by a book.  I think about it while I’m reading it, and I continue to think about it long after I’m done.  This book was one of those.  This is a stupendous true story.  No wonder it was a best seller…. no surprise there are talks about making a movie.  Remember the old adage, “truth is stranger than fiction”?  If anyone would have written this story as fictional, people would have said it was totally unrealistic.  This is the story of Louis Zamperini, a guy from Torrance California who loved to run.  He was in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and actually had a fleeting meeting with Hitler himself!  Then WWII happened and Louie found himself in the Army Air Force in Hawaii. To say much more would be to spoil this incredible novel.  This is a story of supreme bravery,a deeply imbedded will to live, and divine intervention.  I finished this book with a new-found respect for all of the brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave their ALL for our freedom during that horrible war.  Read this book!  You will be glad you did.

Lady of the Rivers  by Philippa Gregory

Completed reading: February 14th.  If you’ve read my other reviews of Ms Gregory’s books, you know that a few years back I never would have picked one up!  I was certain they were silly, mindless romance novels – something I didn’t want any part of!  Obviously I’ve learned they they are most definitely NOT silly, mindless romance novels.  As in all of her books, Ms Gregory meticulously researched this novel, drawing upon plenty of fact with which to weave her fiction.  This is the third (and I believe final) volume of her “War of the Roses” books.  I have read them completely out of order.  I read “The Red Queen” first – it was book number two.  Then I read this book, “Lady of the Rivers”, which is actually book number three.  Just for the record, I’m now reading “The White Queen” which is book number one.  Lady of the Rivers is all about Jaquetta Woodville, mother of the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville.  I actually listened to this book over the period of nearly two months.  It has 14 CD’s, each over an hour long.  I loved the story as well as the narrator.  Yes, the author does go in depth to describe many, many different battles that happened during that time period.  All the battle details are not of huge interest to me, but they were necessary to tell the full story.  I love that these novels not only go together, but also stand alone.  Fascinating reading!  If you are at all interested in English history set in the 1400’s then these are the books for you!  I’ve been so impressed with Philippa Gregory’s writing that I’ve acquired most ALL of her novels (via PaperbackSwap!) and hope to read each and every one!

The Very Thought of You  by Rosie Alison

I finished reading this book in January, but am just now (mid-Feb) getting around to posting my review.  This book was short-listed for the Orange Prize for fiction 2010 in the UK.  The Orange Prize  celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. Knowing this, I plunged into the book, expecting greatness. What I found instead was mediocrity. The book did indeed follow a young girl, evacuated from London at the beginning of WWII, to the Yorkshire countryside. We also learned about her mother who was left in London, as well as all the folks at the country estate where little Anna lived during the war years. What we DIDN’T hear much about was WWII. That was a huge disappointment for me, as I really love reading/learning about life on the home front during that devastating war. Essentially, this is a predictable romance novel – NOT what I was hoping for and certainly NOT what I was expecting. If you like romance set in the 1940’s then this could be a book for you. Frankly, I was shocked that this book was actually shortlisted for the Orange Prize. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t deserve the accolade.

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