Friday, January 31, 2014

An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson

An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson



An Army At Dawn is a history novel that focuses on the actions of the Allied forces in the beginning of the United States involvement in World War II. It explains the actions of both President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in choosing to attack North Africa instead of Western Europe in efforts to oust the Germans and win the war. This novel thoroughly examines the movements of the Allies and includes excerpts from the diaries of General Eisenhower and General Patton as well as many other officers on the Allied and Axis sides. We follow the campaign from the planning phases, through the first attacks in the fall of 1942 through victory in Tunisia in May of 1943.
                This book is Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy written by Atkinson. It is obvious that he is preparing the reader to follow him on a journey throughout the conclusion of World War II. In the opening of the novel he stresses how essential it is to understand this first victory in order to appreciate the completion and success of the Allied forces in winning World War II. The amount of information is overwhelming but delivered beautifully. Atkinson made sure to be as clear and concise as possible in presenting the information to the reader and for that I am thankful. In my opinion you could easily spend a semester just going over the amount of information listed in this one novel for which Atkinson won a Pulitzer Prize.
                I enjoyed and will without a doubt recommend this novel to anyone interested in the history of World War II. After reading this first volume, I feel compelled to finish the journey and complete the trilogy through the words of Atkinson. This was definitely an eye opening experience. It is only through the amount of detailed delivered through authors like Rick Atkinson that one can even begin to imagine the horrors of the war, the amount of planning and soul searching that goes into the decision making process and the true courage of those who fought.

                I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars. I only recommend this to those who are extremely interested in the history of World War II. I would in no shape, way or form consider this light reading but it will definitely hold the attention of anyone who wishes to be educated on the topic. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl by Tara Conklin



Lu Anne Bell was an artist and the wife of a slave owner before her death in 1852. The style and subjects of her art are unlike any other from that time. The portrayal of her slaves in her drawings and paintings is the current subject of the art world in New York City, especially since the authorship of the paintings has come into question. Many now believe that Josephine, the seventeen year house girl of the Bell Plantation is the true artist and deserves the credit as such. Josephine had been Lu Anne's care taker since the age of seven and had spent little to no time away from her company, but nothing is known of Josephine after 1852. There are no records of children, of her staying with Robert Bell, Lu Anne’s husband, after her passing, or even her being sold to another slave owner.  So what happened to Josephine? That wasn’t a question Lina Sparrow was prepared to answer. She wasn’t even aware of the controversy surrounding The Bell paintings until she was assigned a reparations case for slavery by her firm. The search for a plaintiff to be the face of slavery for this case and Lina’s father, Oscar's, connection to the art world, introduced her to Josephine’s story and the possibilities it held. Lina uncovers the life of the young slave, the conditions she endured, her search for freedom and the art she produced. Lina uncovers the truth of The Bell paintings and the faces behind each one.
                This was a very well written and enjoyable story about a young slave who unknowingly left a legacy and another young woman who thinks she’s found her place in life. The more Lina uncovers about the unknown life of Josephine, the more she questions the people around her and the things that have influenced her life the most. Josephine lived her life under the demands of others and found joy in not only finishing her Missus’ art but in creating her own. Lina is living a life completely different from that led by her artist father but is constrained by the demands of her job and has no life or freedom outside of it. It is through Josephine and the research she places into the life of the house girl, that Lina realizes her life needs to allow for movement and change.

                Conklin did an amazing job delivering the story. The narrative was divided into two parts: Lina and Josephine which allows the reader to see intimate details into the lives of each character. But with Josephine we were still lacking some information about the era in which she lived and factors like the Underground Railroad and the slave trade. To fill in the gaps of information, she introduced outlining characters and allowed them to speak in first person through letters they wrote to family in the story. This not only relayed an immense amount of information and gave context to the story but it also kept the story intimate and relatable in nature. 
               I really did enjoy this novel especially because it handle a most inglorious topic with grace and sensitivity. I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars and definitely recommend it. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Libra by Don DeLilo

Libra by Don DeLilo



Lee Harvey Oswald the boy, the defector, the husband, the assassin, the patsy. What is the story of the man who traveled with his mother as a young child to New York, New Orleans, Texas? Who is the man that joined the marines only to become obsessed with Russia and Marxism? Why kill the President of the United States of America? And who are the CIA agents who planned an assassination attempt on the life of President Kennedy to frame Fidel Castro? Libra is a fictional account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald from his teenage years through the assassination of President Kennedy and his own death. It ties in the lives of three CIA agents, who were apart of the failure that was The Bay of Pigs, and are coordinating the assassination attempt on the Presidents life.
                This novel, more so than anything, is believable and intriguing but I did not care for the way it was written. The story jumps from Oswald in the different stages of his life, to the different CIA agents in 1963 as they plot together, to the 1980’s when Agent Branch, another CIA agent, is going over the different theorys and evidence regarding the assassination. It took a while to get used to that configuration in order to follow the story. My problem with this novel was that I wasn’t at all engaged or invested in the story of the CIA agents. I was much more interested in the actions and life of Oswald and even some of the outlying characters that were introduced like Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Oswald.  When everything begins to pull together in the later parts of the story it becomes more enjoyable. With all the conspiracy theorys that circulated around the death of Kennedy, it is easy to fall into a story that does make Oswald out to be a patsy. The mixing of fact and fiction in the story leans credibility to the different possibilities.
                So in the end do I suggest this book? I give it 3 out of 5 stars.If you are interested in the story of Lee Harvey Oswald and you want to read an interesting fictional account then sure give it a shot. But be prepared for some “dry” spots and realize that though this story revolves around the assassination of the President this is a story about the man behind the gun and not the man running the country.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth



Abnegation value selflessness. Dauntless value courage. Erudite value knowledge.  Amity value peace. Candor values honesty. What value do you cherish most? What faction do you belong to? Each student, at a certain point in their schooling, must take an aptitude test to help them determine what faction they should belong to for the rest of his life. Beatrice Prior was raised in Abnegation but never felt like she was selflessness enough compared to her parents and older brother. She hoped her aptitude test would assist her with her choice but her results are inconclusive. She is divergent, which means she could belong to more than one faction, which also means she is dangerous. Does she stay with her family in Abnegation? She could never join the Erudite who she considers arrogant and selfish. Or should she join Dauntless and discover how brave she could really be? She reveals her choice at The Choosing Ceremony and from there her life really begins.
                What value would you choose to dedicate the rest of your life to? And how do you ask that question of sixteen year olds? To choose a different faction would be to choose a different family and to disregard your own, in doing so you completely disavow yourself of the ways of your old faction. You then have to be initiated into this new faction and you have no idea what that initiation may be. If you fail initiation however you become one of the factionless. Now with Beatrice, we have the discovery of Divergence. This story is about Beatrice’s discovery of not only herself and what it means to be Divergent but also of those she loves. What secrets and mystery do those she love hold?
              I enjoyed this story more than I thought I would. It is an easy read with an intriguing storyline. It is obviously a young adult novel and read as such. This is a trilogy and I am looking forward to reading the other two novels in the series. This first novel set a good foundation for the two books that will follow. This was not my favorite young adult dystopian novel. It does have its faults but I give it a 3 out of 5 stars. I would suggest this novel if you enjoy reading novels like The Hunger Games which takes place in our world but in an alternate reality. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Jay Gatsby has a beautiful home in Long Island where he throws the most extravagant parties every weekend. Everyone attends Gatsby’s parties, even celebrities and here the liquor is always flowing, the dancing is always going and the music never stops. What Nick Carraway, the Yale graduate and bond salesman soon realizes is that no one knows Gatsby. Of course people see him and spark conversation but rumors circle with no truth to be told. People believe he is an heir to enormous wealth, or a gambler or swindler maybe even a murderer but no one knows. People simply enjoy being a part of his lavish lifestyle. Nick becomes exposed to the man that is Gatsby and the truth of his circumstance. The relationship between Gatsby and Nick’s cousin, Daisy, is revealed and the revelations continue about Gatsby and his motives for his lifestyle.
                I found the novel intriguing. Here is a man who seemingly has it all but he is essentially a ghost and the people around him do not care. They are too consumed with the spoils of the life he is portraying. What’s worse is that they find no fault in the fact knowing so little about the man whose wine they drink and whose home they occupy on a regular basis. But what can we learn about a man who seemingly has no friends and find solace in surrounding himself with superficial people? Is he not then superficial? This novel was written in 1925 about 1922 in Long Island but it could easily portray our society today. Many shroud themselves in elaborate settings to hide true intentions. In this instance the driving force was love and a determination to prove worth by any means necessary.

                Did I enjoy this novel? Yes, very much but I find myself very critical of it at the same time. Its realistic portrayal of a superficial society that can reflect all the ages is commendable. But the fact that so little has changed gives me pause. I give this novel a 4 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend this novel because it a great read that says a lot about how we view wealth in society. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year in Review: 2013



Welcome to the New Year! It is now 2014 and I hope everyone is ready for the great things to come this year. The end of the month will mark a year since my first blog post! I must say that I have really enjoyed all of the books that I’ve read this year and posting the reviews of the different books on this blog. This is something that has become an integral part of my reading process. I love that I am able to share it with people who share my love and interest for books. There is definitely more to come in this new year and I am excited to share with you all that is going on as of right now.

I read 83 books this year! I love it! I’m including the list of books at the end of the blog. There are quite a few books that have been read and reviewed, I simply haven’t posted them on the blog yet. I do this for consistency. I want to be able to post a new review every Friday for you to enjoy so I have stockpiled in order to keep that rate going. In case I hit a reading slump (which I doubt will happen) or if I decided to read Harry Potter more than once this year (which just might happen) you will still get a blog post every Friday.

Reading in 2013 was great for a few reasons. One of which was the fact that I had a focus to get me through what turned out to be a somewhat difficult year. I was dealing with my husband’s deployment during the first half of the year and reading helped keep me sane and occupied. My father passed away in April and reading the Stephen King collection helped me deal with his death. I know that sounds weird but my father introduced me to Stephen King and we would always have these conversations about him as a writer. Even when he was sick and my family knew his time was coming, we would still sit and talk about Stephen King. We would talk about what I was reading and how finishing would be a huge undertaking for me. When I finished the last book the one person I wanted to call and tell was my father. But it had been months since he passed. Finishing almost felt like honoring my father and thanking him for giving me Firestarter, the first Stephen King novel I have ever read, that set me on this path of being such an avid reader. So again, thanks Daddy.

The last reason 2013 was a great reading year is because of how much I pushed myself this year. I not only read 2 more books than last year but I kept this blog up and running, writing reviews as soon as I completed books. I forced myself to write a comprehensive review before I would allow myself to begin a new novel. That in turn made me a more observant reader and helped me communicate how I felt about each book. I wish I had this much discipline in 2012 because then I would have had dozens of more reviews that I could have shared.


So what’s in store for 2014? Well, the theme for this year is Banned books. I have a list of banned books that I will be choosing from throughout the year. Starting in February (January I try to reserve for Harry Potter) every other book I read will be a banned book. As part of the reviews of the banned books I plan on discussing what has made these books so controversial that restricting them became necessary to some. I have also joined the website Goodreads.com which is an amazing database for readers. If you are a member and would like to follow what I am reading, planning to read or have already read, you can definitely send me a friend request on my profile, Stacie_C. I am also now part of a review team for Onlinebookclub.org. All of the reviews I do there will only be listed on that website but I will provide links to those reviews on my blog once they become available. I am debating on whether or not I will start a Facebook page for my blog. It will simply be another tool for providing information about books and what’s going on in my reading universe.  I will keep everyone updated on that development. I am also considering placing a rating system on the blog reviews. Rating books on Goodreads has given me a different perspective on how to make recommendations about books. Only time will tell with both of those ideas but any input would be much appreciated!


Here is the 2013 reading list as promised! Happy New Year and Happy Readings! Enjoy!

2013 Reading List 

#
Books
Author
1
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
J.K. Rowling
2
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling
3
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling
4
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling
5
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling
6
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling
7
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J.K. Rowling
8
Carrie
Stephen King
9
Salem's Lot
Stephen King
10
The Shining
Stephen King
11
The Stand
Stephen King
12
The Long Walk
Stephen King
13
The Dead Zone
Stephen King
14
Firestarter
Stephen King
15
Roadwork
Stephen King
16
Cujo
Stephen King
17
The Running Man
Stephen King
18
The Gunslinger
Stephen King
19
Christine
Stephen King
20
Pet Sematary
Stephen King
21
Cycle of the Werewolf
Stephen King
22
The Talisman
Stephen King
23
Thinner
Stephen King
24
It
Stephen King
25
The Eyes of the Dragon
Stephen King
26
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
Stephen King
27
Misery
Stephen King
28
The Tommyknockers
Stephen King
29
The Dark Half
Stephen King
30
The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands
Stephen King
31
Needful Things
Stephen King
32
Gerald's Game
Stephen King
33
Dolores Claiborne
Stephen King
34
Insomnia
Stephen King
35
Rose Madder
Stephen King
36
The Green Mile
Stephen King
37
Desperation
Stephen King
38
The Regulators
Stephen King
39
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
Stephen King
40
Bag of Bones
Stephen King
41
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Stephen King
42
Dreamcatcher
Stephen King
43
The Black House
Stephen King
44
From a Buick 8
Stephen King
45
Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
Stephen King
46
Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
Stephen King
47
Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower
Stephen King
48
The Colorado Kid
Stephen King
49
Cell
Stephen King
50
Lisey's Story
Stephen King
51
Blaze
Stephen King
52
Duma Key
Stephen King
53
Under the Dome
Stephen King
54
11/22/63
Stephen King
55
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Stephen King
56
Joyland
Stephen King
57
Doctor Sleep
Stephen King
58
The Cuckoo's Calling
J.K. Rowling
59
The Storyteller
Jodi Picoult
60
Silver Girl
Elin Hilderbrand
61
Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein
62
The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
63
Where the Heart Is
Billie Letts
64
She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth
Helen Castor
65
The Man in the High Castle
Phillip K. Dick
66
Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
67
A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway
68
Red Rain
R.L. Stine
69
Inferno
Dan Brown
70
Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
71
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
72
Divergent
Veronica Roth
73
Libra
Don DeLillo
74
The house Girl
Tara Conklin
75
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943
Rick Atkinson
76
Insurgent
Veronica Roth
77
Allegiant
Veronica Roth
78
A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France
Caroline Moorehead
79
The Book thief
Markus Zusak
80
Orphan Train
Christina Baker Kline
81
The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
82
She's Come Undone
Wally Lamb
83
The Re-Awakening
Carter Vance