Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redepmtion by Laura Hillenbrand

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

My Review:
What a fascinating account of Louis Zamperini's life Laura Hillenbrand has shared with us.  We follow Louis through all stages of his life.  When he was a young boy, we trailed behind him as he raced from neighbors after stealing their pies, we prayed with him while floating on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and then couldn't help but feel frustrated when we felt Louis' emotional struggles upon his return from the war.  Hillenbrand brought us up close and personal into Zamperini's triumphs and struggles.

Everyone in my book club agreed that the book seemed to start out slow.  Hillenbrand took her time, allowing us us to get to know everyone in Louis' life.  Louis spends his childhood running as he runs from the police, kids who want to beat him up, and from anyone else that may wish harm upon him.  His older brother is the first one to become involved in running during school years, but when Louis is helping his brother with his timing one day, it's his brother that first sees something special in Louis' running abilities.  These abilities will set Louis on a course that will eventually lead him to the Olympic games in Berlin.

It isn't long after those first Olympic games that Louis will be drafted into the war, bringing an end to any future Olympics.  A familial bond develops among the flight crew that Louis has been assigned to.  Through every mission you are left gripping the book until their plane touches the ground again.  I've seen several movies depicting the planes used during WWII, but until reading Unbroken, I truly did not realize how poorly constructed these planes were made.  I learned that during WWII there were more casualties from plane crashes that happened stateside during training, than those that were actually completing missions.

One mission ends as Louis has always feared, crashing in the Pacific Ocean with man-eating sharks looking for their next meal.  This was probably the most intense part of the book for me since the surviving men are floating in a leaking life raft with sharks circling for most of the time.  This is just the beginning of Louis' journey that will require him to summon every ounce of stamina, faith, and strength.

I'm not going to give away any more of this inspiring story.  It is truly amazing what the human body and spirit can endure when pushed to the limits.  This is one of those stories that I think everyone should read, because it's men like Zamperini, who have endured unthinkable cruelties that allow us the freedoms we have today.  I am grateful to every single one of these men!  With themes of faith, endurance, and war, I really think this book has something to offer for everyone.  I highly recommend this book for either book clubs or personal leisure.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This book is from of my personal collection and I read it for my own entertainment.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I finished:
Someone from work borrowed me The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I can tell you this is definitely my favorite in the last 6 months.  Hopefully I can post my review soon of this one.

What I'm reading now:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is our summer book club selection, so this is what has been keeping me busy.  Death was certainly a busy character during Hitler's reign.

What's next:
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years, so I think I'm going to delve into this one.  I need a break from the depths of WWII!

My life has just been getting busier and busier so I post when I can, and I realize that it has been almost a month since I posted a review!  I am starting a graduate class next month and then I have twin grandbabies coming towards the end of October, so things are not going to lighten up any time soon!  I will definitely post whenever I can so don't give up on me yet!

What kind of books have been keeping you all up at night?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Title:  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Author:  Stieg Larsson

Narrator:  Simon Vance

Unabridged Length:  20 hrs, 21 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:
Lisbeth Salander - the heart of Larsson's two previous novels - lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She's fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she'll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

My Review:
I have to admit that although I listened to this trilogy, I can't say that I am big fan that thoroughly enjoyed all of the books.  Simon Vance did a great job of narrating, and although I enjoyed the final installment more than the first two, these books just weren't for me.  We find out more about Salander's past, allowing the reader to develop compassion for the young woman.

Salander is a most interesting character as she uses her wits and intelligence to take control of her life that some have taken for granted for too long.   We learn about her family life and the events that took place putting her in the category of a highly dysfunctional family.  I would say there isn't much of a familial commitment once they try to kill you!

Needless to say, this family experience set the tone for Salander's relationships for the rest of her life.  She has come to terms with the fact that she prefers the intimate companionship of women rather than men, but it seems she still longs for Mikael.  I think she loves Mikael in her own way and is frustrated because she knows he will never return that love.

Mikael's relationship with Erika seems to carry on as it always has, until he starts to work with a young detective who catches his eye.  Finally, Mikael realizes that he wants more than just a sexual relationship with this woman.  So as all elements within this final novel seem to find a sense of balance, so does Mikael's love life.

As I said earlier, this is probably my favorite of the series, but I certainly could have gone the rest of my life without experiencing these books.  Many people out there have raved about them, but you will not hear that from me.  With themes of dysfunctional families, love, mystery, and murder, you may enjoy this book, or the entire series more than I did.  I do recommend this book for personal leisure or for book clubs that enjoy a good criminal mystery.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this audiobook from a friend to read for my personal entertainment. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and—most important—in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set—Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy—is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me." 

And they do. But one of them will betray her.

My Review:
I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time, and just this last year it was chosen as a book club selection with my group.  I have heard many glowing reviews of this novel and now that I have read it, the reviews have me confused.  I am not part of the crowd that found enjoyment from this book.

For the most part, this book was boring for me.  When it wasn't boring, I think it actually made me angry.  As a teacher in a girls school she would hand-pick a group of girls to be her prodigies.   All the girls in school wanted to be a part of the "Brodie set", so you can imagine the status given to the girls that are selected.  This part of the book made me angry, that these girls were thought of as being better than the rest.  Since when is it ok for a teacher to cultivate dividing lines among students?

Once the girls are chosen, Miss Brodie would meet with them during the schooldays.  These meeting should have been full of teaching instruction and lessons, but they were everything but that.  Contrary to the summary above, it didn't seem to me she was bringing out the best in them, as much as flaunting her own good fortune of love and beauty.

I had a hard time with the dialogue and timelines in this book.  Many times the book would be a flashback from present time and there were not always clear indicators of this change.  This book was hard for me to read and understand, and most of my book club agreed.  If you are one of the people that loved this book, I would love to know what, exactly, you find inspiring.

With themes of love, deception, and beauty, maybe you would like this book more than I did.  I know many people found more enjoyment from this novel than me.

My Rating:  2/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the local library and read as a book club selection.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday-July 21

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from A Daily Rhythm. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

This week my teaser is from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.

pg. 80

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Audiobook Review: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Title:  Sisters of Shiloh

Authors:  Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Narrator:  Xe Sands

Unabridged Length:  Aprox. 7.5 hrs

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
Libby's husband, Arden, joined the army not long after their wedding and died in the Battle of Antietam. Libby finds his body on the unimaginably bloody field, Josephine already, suspiciously, at his side. Libby, mad with sorrow, decides to disguise herself as a man, and she sets off to kill twenty-one Yankees, one for each year of her husband's life. Josephine, disguised as Joseph, goes along with her sister. As Libby proves herself a competent soldier, Arden begins to appear to her in dreams, driving her on and whispering accusations about Josephine. Josephine then finds herself caught in another kind of danger: she's falling in love for the first time, but she is desperately afraid of revealing herself to the object of her desire.

My Review:
Novels set in the time period of the Civil War are hit or miss with me, and this one was a hit!  I'm sure Xe Sands narration skills helped the enjoyment for me as I find myself enjoying almost any book she is reading to me.  I must say that I also find it interesting that two sisters wrote this book together, that happens to be about two sisters.

Libby and Josephine grew up in a good home with all their needs provided for.  Libby has always been a gentle soul while Josephine seemed to handle some of the hardships of life better.  When Libby's husband dies in a battle, Libby's grief pushes her mind to a scary place.  Not only does she talk Josephine into the two of them disguising themselves as men to join the army, but she even acts like a man at times when it is not needed.

The lives of the two sisters take a dramatic turn after joining the army.  They have to be secretive with all their actions, lest their secret is discovered.  When Josephine finds herself becoming attracted to a fellow soldier, Libby finds herself getting angry with Josephine's carelessness.  It comes down to Josephine making a decision and having to choose between her only sister or the only love she has experienced in her young life.

As I indicated earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel.  With themes of mental illness, familial obligations, and love, you may enjoy it as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audiobook Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I finished listening to:
Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall turned out to be a fascinating book to listen to.  I'm going to try to get this review done soon, so stay tuned!

What I'm reading now:
I walked in our school library one day and saw a co-worker reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  She generously offered to borrow me the book when she was done after telling me how much she was enjoying it.  I'm not quite halfway through it yet, but this could be my favorite by Kristin Hannah so far.

What's next:
Every summer our book club picks a longer book to read and this year it is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It has been tough not being able to watch the movie as I really want to read the book first. 

So those are the books that have been keeping me busy lately.  If only I didn't have other things going on in my life, I could read so many more!