Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci

I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci



                I was familiar with the story of the Uruguayan Rugby team that crashed in the Andes after watching the movie Alive years ago. I remember thinking after the movie ended how one could possibly go on living any semblance of a normal life after being in such a horrendous situation for over two months. Watching your friends die, having to eat their bodies to survive and the constant fear. It would take an unimaginable amount of strength to survive and then even more to continue to live. When I first ran across this title I was intrigued and ultimately overjoyed. Here was proof that someone could survive and not only continue living but use that strength to help others survive. I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives is well written memoir by Roberto Canessa who was 19 years old when his plane crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972. This memoir is as much about the trials and tribulations of him and the other survivors as it is about the life he lived after leaving the mountain.
                This memoir is divided into two parts. The first details the struggles of Roberto and the other survivors, describing what life for them was like those sixty days barely living, before he and two others dared to try to hike out the mountain. He relays the information very matter of fact. He isn’t trying to sugar coat anything because he knows that every decision that was made was for survival. There was a selflessness that existed on the mountain that benefitted everyone. Roberto conveyed these situations in vivid detail. The second part of the memoir talks about how he uses his past experience to provide the best care possible in his field of pediatric cardiology. Roberto knows that even in the direst circumstances there is still a chance because he always believed that they had a chance to survive on that mountain and so does the child fighting to live in the incubator.

                Canessa and his coauthor Vierci did a great job with this memoir. This was written with the utmost respect for all those involved in the plane crash, those that survived and those that perished. I Had to Survive took it’s time relaying the story without lingering too long on some of the more disturbing aspects of what happened. Both parts of the book included chapters written by those whose life in some way was affected by Canessa, whether it was one of the pilots from the rescue missions, his own father or a patient. I found these included chapters to be beneficial in the first part but not so much in the second part. In the first part these chapters were used to move the plot forward and give a different perspective on life while the survivors were still on the mountain. In the second part they were used to show the many different lives Roberto has helped in different ways. I found the amount of these chapters included in the second section to be distracting but not without compassion. Overall though I enjoyed this memoir. It was well written and engaging. Canessa had an amazing story to tell and I am glad he chose to reveal what his life has been like since that plane crash in 1972.  The crash took so many lives and yet it also placed in one man’s heart a determination to never stop living and to help others. I gave this memoir 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Feminist Black Radical by Sherie M. Randolph

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Feminist Black Radical by Sherie M. Randolph


                I love reading a biography that does more than just educate, instead it enlightens, broadens perspectives and changes the way certain segments of history are viewed. This biography of Florynce Kennedy is a great example of this type of biography. It is well written, narrated and honest about the life of a black feminist radical. Her story takes readers through many different pivotal moments throughout history and readers are exposed to the many injustices imposed on women, the Black community and both fights for equality.
                A simple narrative worked beautifully for this biography because Florynce Kennedy lived such a long and complex life. Her grandparents on both sides had been enslaved and at a young age, Kennedy saw her own parents threatened by members of the white community around her and they didn’t back down. Watching her parents stand tall in the face of discrimination influenced her own idea about what it meant to not take shit from anyone. She began challenging not only racism but sexism as well in her teens, feeling doubly criticized against because she was both Black and a woman. Kennedy would eventually attend Columbia University in the 1940’s and obtain her law degree. She would use the courts to challenge discrimination and even though she didn’t view that as the best approach she still used it to her advantage. Kennedy would join many different feminist and Black power organizations trying to fight the oppression and injustice on both sides. One of the ideas that Kennedy held on to was that the struggles of both women and the Black community should be bridged and fought together. Only by embracing both struggles and advancing both rights would there be success on both sides. Kennedy’s position in history within these different organizations refutes any past indication that the leaders of the Feminist movement, which would gain so much traction, was not exposed to the idea of fighting against both racism and sexism but simply chose to ignore the reasoning.

                I would never be able to give Florynce Kennedy’s life any justice in such a short summary. She was an extremely motivating woman who fought against extremely difficult odds and tried to make a change in our government and our culture. Her life story is extremely impressive and I am still shocked that I didn’t know more about her before reading this biography. Randolph let the story tell itself and was very detailed with the information that she provided. I have a very well rounded image of the woman that Florynce Kennedy was and the mark she has on history. My only complaint about this biography is that at times it got repetitive, not the struggles she endured but the way the information was relayed. This is definitely a novel that I would purchase and recommend. Extremely engaging from the beginning to the end. I give this biography 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson


                Imagine the year is 1933 and you have just been sent to Berlin as America’s Ambassador to Germany. You have brought your wife and two grown children. You have loved Germany since attending school there years prior and have looked forward to returning. You’ve heard rumors of Hitler’s regime and how they are dealing with the Jewish problem, but you don’t have any reason to believe that this is more than hearsay. You arrive and see the pomp and circumstance that surrounds Hitler and his followers. You grow to realize that everything is not as it seems. American civilians are being attacked and the German soldiers involved are not being punished. Other things also catch your attention like the incident your daughter witnessed where a woman was stripped of her clothing, beaten, and paraded in the streets for having a relationship with a Jewish man. Time passes and you become disenchanted but how do you communicate that to the President of the United States? How do you make him understand that if action isn’t taken now that there will be war? This is just a glimpse of the life of William Dodd and the years he spent in Germany during the rise of Hitler.
                I’ve asked myself before how in the hell Hitler was able to rise to power and commit the atrocities that would come to define him. The answer is denial. Time and time again the answer, to me at least, is denial and willful ignorance. No one believed that he would ever actually commit the heinous acts that he was committing. Dodd was in denial himself until it became evident that Hitler wanted complete control, would gain complete control and would go to war. No one wanted to believe Dodd so they didn’t. World War II was a result of everyone’s willful ignorance. Larson produced with this nonfiction novel an amazing portrait of what life was like for Dodd and his family, especially his daughter Martha whose relationships with people in Germany would cause controversy, in in 1930’s Berlin.

                In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Berlin is a biography of William Dodd but it is written as a nonfiction novel. It is dramatic, informative, moves well and the world of 1930’s Germany is very well crafted. I enjoyed this biography. This time in history is filled with so many different elements and so much depth that it’s easy to get lost in the details. That didn’t happen with Larson. He was able to keep me interested and involved in this story. The tense atmosphere was felt throughout the pages. As a reader knowing the worst was to come, I found myself looking for the aspects of Hitler’s regime that I knew were going to change. Larson alludes to all what is to come while revealing one page at a time that things were changing and that those changes would lead to devastation. I can easily recommend this novel and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Larson’s writing style is one I enjoy and I am looking forward to reading more from him. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Oregon Trail: An American Journey by Rinker Buck

The Oregon Trail: An American Journey by Rinker Buck



                Rinker Buck and his brother Nick took three mules and covered wagon across The Oregon Trail in 2011. They were the first people to cross the trail in a covered wagon in over a century. The trials and tribulations they experienced were similar to those of the pioneers of the 1800’s: questionable craftsmanship of the wagon, a constant search for water, handling mules across varying terrains and weather. In this day and age the trail wasn’t exactly like the trail of the 1840’s. Now there was plenty of state sanctioned land and corrals for camping, friendly “trail families” along the way that offered showers, food and a dry place to sleep. The brothers were determined to cross the trail without motored assistance and they did. They took part in a journey that many could only dream of but never comprehend. A journey through a huge part of American history.
                Oh, The Oregon Trail. The first images that come to mind when I read those words are that of the computer game that I felt I could never win. It always seems so mysterious and so much a part of the past that I would never have imagined someone even attempting to cross it now. Rinker though had other plans and reading of his journey across the country with his brother was extremely enjoyable. Rinker Buck did a really great job at combining the history of The Oregon Trail with his journey. He did a great job at educating the reader while also filling the book with a sense of adventure. There was peril and a sense of the unknown. The banter between the brothers brought a sense of lightness to the entire book which kept it extremely entertaining.

                This was a very intimate and personal trip for Rinker as well. It meant a lot to his brother, Nick, to take on this journey with him, and they expressed those emotions to each other. The relationship between Rinker and his father, who took the family on a covered wagon trip in 1958 and has since passed, was one that resonated with Rinker throughout the trip. Seeing that kind of introspection and the effect the journey had on Rinker just added a certain level of depth to this story. I thought The Oregon Trail: An American Journey was an interesting, fun read, with highs and lows, in need of a little editing, but overall really enjoyable. I gave this 4 out of 5 stars. The easy narrative, focused and humorous writing brought this adventure to life nicely. 

Thanks to Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson

Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson


                I’ve always found Alexander McQueen fascinating. I wasn’t overly aware of his work before he passed but I was aware of some of his designs and was a fan of what I had seen. His suicide sent shock waves through the fashion world and it was then that I became more aware of the impact he had on fashion and the theatricality he brought to the runway. As sometimes happens after someone famous passes, Alexander McQueen became the hot topic and his fashion was thrust into the spotlight. It wasn’t until reading this biography I learned more about the man who was born Lee Alexander McQueen and how the way he lived his life and the clothes he created changed the way many saw fashion.
                Alexander McQueen was very complex. He was a gay fashion designer that struggled with his appearance and his confidence. He had been sexually abused, would later be diagnosed with HIV, did drugs, drank alcohol and had been in abusive relationships. But he knew what he wanted his brand to represent and he was consistently pushing the envelope with both his clothes and his runway shows. He wasn’t always the most admirable person but he was passionate about the things he cared about. That’s what I have learned about Alexander McQueen from reading this biography. It took Andrew Wilson quite some time to find his voice while writing this biography. The introduction to Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin begins with the gathering held months after McQueen’s death and focused very heavily on the opinions others had of McQueen and the clothes they chose to wear to the event. Wilson continued the opinion heavy narrative throughout the first third of the biography and it honestly didn’t feel as if he had established his own narrative about McQueen’s life until midway through the book. Wilson’s style of writing isn’t my favorite because of the amount of tangents that took over the biography. When Wilson began to focus and lead the narrative of the story instead of letting the opinions and source information take over, this became a more enjoyable biography. Overall I give this 3 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson


                When I begin reading a biography there are a few things I am looking for right off the back: authenticity because the book needs to be well researched, a sense of depth because I ultimately want to understand and appreciate the people I am reading about and (most importantly) an unbiased author. Steve Jobs nailed every single one of these on the head. After years of research, interviews with not only Steve Jobs himself, but his family, colleagues and even Bill Gates, Steve Jobs feels like a completed and honest biography about a man who revolutionized the way we use technology.
                Based on this biography I can easily conclude that Steve Jobs was an extremely complicated man and the few things that I knew about him before reading this book, paled in comparison to the truth. Isaacson covered Jobs abandonment issues from being adopted, his awareness of being smarter than his parents at a young age and how that affected his mentality while growing up and creating relationships. Isaacson discussed in detail throughout the biography how Jobs pervaded a reality distortion field around him and how he could convince people to do the impossible by making these crazy and completely unrealistic timelines or expectations simply because he believed that it could be done. (More than likely it was done because he demanded it be done.) Isaacson didn’t hold back in discussing Jobs temper, his outburst, his need to sometime hurt and belittle, or his painful honesty. But Isaacson also showed Jobs as the business man and how even though he wasn’t the engineer behind the parts, he was the visionary behind the merger of technology and art, which is something he prided himself on. Isaacson also touched on with grace and respect Jobs battle with cancer.

                I can only summarize Steve Jobs to show the tip of an iceberg that was a man who lived an incredible life. There is a reason why this biography was over 500 pages, there was a lot of story to tell. Isaacson did an amazing job with this biography. From the very beginning Isaacson was able to entice me and hold my interest. He looked at every possible angle of Jobs and his life. The interviews that he conducted with people, and the sources he used just gave so much depth to Jobs life. This biography never felt one sided. It always felt complete. Everyone weighed in and was honest about this man, his integrity, lack of, his genius, his attitude, his delusions and his strength. This gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. At the end of this book I honestly felt moved and happy that I am able to at least have some understanding of such a passionate and complicated person. This is definitely a biography I can stand behind and recommend. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner


                Thomas was jilted awake, with no memory of anything but his name. The walls surround him and he could feel the lift taking him higher. He came out of what the boys called “the box.” He was the newbie, the greenbean. There were boys who had been in the Glade for two years. Every month they got a new boy in the box. He would have to pitch in so there would still be order. He would stay away from the doors. The Glade was enclosed by four humongous, ancient walls. Outside those walls was a maze that none of the Runners could solve. In that maze were the Grievers. No one had lasted a night in the maze after the doors closed. The Grievers were keeping them in but the maze would be their only way out.
                You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that small blurb about this book. No idea what so ever. I really wanted to like this book. I went into reading this book convinced that I would really like it. The premise was amazing. These guys have to find a way out of this unsolvable maze. There were so many questions! How did they get in the maze? Why did the walls move? What kind of experiment is this? Why all boys? I spent a lot of time waiting for these questions to be answered. Hundreds of pages waiting on the answer and I am sorely disappointed, especially since most of my questions didn’t get answered. Therein lies the major problem with this book: the kids all lost their memory and had to discover this new world but wouldn’t divulge any useful information to Thomas. Why? Because he was new. It was extremely annoying. Thomas’s struggle to understand his memory loss and his urging for answers became repetitive and did not help move this plot along at all.
                The lack of information led to all the other problems I had with this book. There was no world building because the kids were in the Glade, the Glade was surrounded by these walls and there were places they could go in the Glade. That’s it. No hint of the outside world. No idea of what’s happening. The kids weren’t even really motivated to do anything, they just wanted to keep order, so they all had jobs they had to do. There also wasn’t any real struggle within the glade. The weather was perfect. They were provided with food and other supplies every week. They could request supplies. They even had livestock they took care of! The only struggle was to get out of the maze. Sigh.
                I wish I could go on to tell you the characters were at least well developed. But alas, I can’t do that either. This novel struggled. The characters felt immature. The language they used was childish and unnecessary. There was never a moment when I felt like the characters genuinely cared for each other. I never understood their real motivations. I am just at a loss.

                This book left me unimpressed with Dashner. This novel is a prime example of an author setting up for sequels. I guess my main problem is that this doesn’t feel stand alone at all. No useful information was provided. This was all misleading, meaningless. The reader is supposed to be kept dangling so they can’t wait for the next book. I can wait. I’m not going anywhere near the second book. This could have been great. If information had been provided, characters well developed and the point of the book not veiled in secrecy it would have been a success. The redeeming quality was that it was an easy read, even if I did roll my eyes through most of it. This gets 2 out of 5 stars from me. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill



                Ignatius Perrish got rip roaring drunk on the one year anniversary of the death of his girlfriend Merrin. She had been bashed in the head with a rock, raped and left to die in the woods. Ig was the only suspect and even though he was never charged with her murder, he remained a person of interest and everyone in his home town believed he did it. He went back to the place her body was found, destroyed all of the memorials placed there in her honor, pissed on his own feet and now, the next day has no idea how he got home. He also has no idea why he has small horns coming from the top of his head. Or why people kept telling him things that they would never say out loud, let alone confide to the guy they believed capable of murder. Yet here they were, everyone he encountered, spilling their guts. That’s how he found out who really killed Merrin. Now all Ignatius wants is a way to make that person pay for the pain he felt. The horns were the answer. The horns were the way.
                This novel was a very dark, intense, suspenseful mystery. It was so easy for me to fall into this book. Ignatius felt like a wronged character from the beginning, so when I realized he was coming into his own I got excited. I wanted to see him be a bad ass. I wanted to see him embrace the horns and open up a can of whoop ass, which he does ever so methodically. I think the love story between Ignatius and Merrin added a certain necessary level of depth. His need for revenge had to feel real. The love between the two characters, the future that was in store for them and the reasons why everything went south, all felt real. They were well crafted and smart characters. All of the characters were for the most part and their experiences with Ig and his horns said a lot about human nature. I almost feel like the horns in itself became a character. As much as Ig embodied the change, the more the horns took over Ig and started influencing his character. The horns were such a great tool and mystery throughout the story. Was Ignatius really turning into a devil, or some demon? Questions regarding that were slowly revealed in the plot which helped moved the story along.

                Hill chose to write this novel in the third person which worked incredibly well for this story. Ig is a great character to follow and observe. His inner workings while revealed didn’t need to be a constant factor. Looking from the outside in simply made this more fun. It also allowed Hill to observe some of the other outlying characters as well. Hill also has great comedic timing. This novel was full of moments that caught you off guard because of the dark comedy littered within. Horns kept me entertained, kept me turning the pages and kept me invested. This was another really well done novel by Hill. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb


                Malala Yousafzai is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is a young Pashtun girl who was raised in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, dreamed of creating a school and ended up residing over three schools in the Swat Valley. His love for education was passed on to his daughter and she became an advocate for educating women in Pakistan and all over the world. Her love of education made her a target for the Taliban. Malala had experienced fear under Taliban rule years earlier when they took over the Swat Valley in 2009. Bombings and gun fire rang out in her village and the fear was palpable. Her school was closed and she began speaking out alongside her father for the need to educate youth, including girls. She would eventually leave her home in Swat Valley as the military fought to take back the valley from the Taliban. She would return 3 months later to her home, school and would continue to speak openly. Three years later she would be shot by the Taliban. Malala left Pakistan for medical care, never to return again. She was only 15 years old.
                I could never imagine having to live the life described in the pages of I Am Malala. I never experienced a hostile takeover. I have never seen my government completely taken over by terrorist. I have never feared for my life because of the sound of gunfire ringing through the night or feared that a suicide bomber may be lurking around the corner. Malala spoke about all these things and how she watched the world around her slowly be destroyed. With each page Malala wrote of her world very honestly and from the heart. She spoke of her faith and how her family lived. She explained her culture and what life was like living in her beautiful Swat Valley. She discussed how life changed when the Taliban slowly took over and how the government seemed to allow it. It was obvious throughout that Malala wanted people to understand everything that happened to her, how these things were allowed and what led to her shooting.

                To hear of a young girl fighting for her education and the education of women around the world was inspiring. It was that passion and drive that made me want to read Malala’s memoir. I remember hearing of her shooting in 2012 but I wasn’t aware of the impact she had been making in Pakistan. I was shocked and disgusted that the Taliban would stoop so low as to attack a child. Now after reading her book I understand that they were afraid of the message she was spreading. You can’t manipulate people if they educate and think for themselves. Reading this memoir there were so many moments that I could only commend Malala for not only her bravery but her faith. At a time when many people look at Islam as a threat, she showcases what her religion is supposed to embrace and it’s not what the Taliban showcases. I’m glad Malala chose to write this memoir and that she told not only her story, but the story of her people, the history of Swat Valley and of the terror everyone experienced. I give this memoir 5 out of 5 stars. It was educational, inspiring and full of the hope of a young girl fighting to make a difference.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Unteachable by Leah Raeder




                Maise has slept with older men before. She has accepted the fact that boys her age would never meet the cut. She is eighteen, about to start her senior year of high school and is determined to conquer her fears. The night she met Evan on the roller coaster, she didn’t expect anything to come from it. He was hot, the sex was hot and she was gone. Until she walked into her Film Studies class and there he stood. Evan Wilke. Her teacher. She had no idea. He had no idea. Yet here they were together and the temptation was too much to resist. The affair had begun before either of them had a chance to stop it. But now the secrecy begins and the teacher and student fall fast into each other and into a deception they may not be able to climb out of.
                Well this caught me completely by surprise. From the very first page I was lost in Maise’s life. This book was so many things: intoxicating, thrilling, sexy, addicting, detailed and forbidden. I wanted to get lost in a story and I did. I was completely lost in this forbidden but legal relationship between Maise and Evan. The adult in me wanted to hate the idea of a teacher and student ever being intimate in any shape way or form. But the teenager in me, that was attracted to older men, and was intrigued by the mystery of being with someone even a few years older and the mystique that age can cast, loved every single second of it. Raeder captured the voice of an 18 year old like I’ve never seen before. Maise is witty, flawed, beautiful, confident and frightened all at the same time. She is a ball of emotions and insecurity and can be a walking contradiction but she felt so amazingly, wonderfully real. Her relationship with Evan was intense and passionate and hot, oh so hot. These characters were so well developed and so beautifully sculpted. The plot unfolded amazingly. When I thought something was slightly predictable it imploded in my face to show the reality and I was forced to stay on my toes. I couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t want to stop reading.
                Raeder’s Unteachable easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. I crashed into this book and loved every second of it. My heart was racing through this story. There were just so many beautiful elements to Raeder’s writing. She created a novel where the intensity was palpable in every page, along with lust, fear, love and danger. There are so many things I didn’t even mention like the druggie mom, the forgotten father, the nuances of being in high school but it’s all there adding intensity and depth to the story. I couldn’t get enough. Some people may not be able to get past the idea of a teacher secretly dating his eighteen year old student so that could scare people away. I completely understand. But this is fiction and I got lost in the story. I loved it and I would take that ride again. If Raeder can keep producing books like this than I may have to get every single one.

                

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian



                I consider myself to be a casual soccer fan. I’m probably not going to watch every DC United game or catch Major League Soccer highlights, but when the World Cup and the Summer Olympics come around, I am watching every match and cheering for the team. With that being said I have been aware of Hope Solo’s presence for a while now, at least the last five or six years. I think she is a powerhouse on the U.S. Women’s National Team and an amazing goalkeeper. She has also been in the media quite a lot over the last few years for a variety of reasons, not many of which are positive. After randomly finding this memoir at a Dollar Tree store I decided it was time to learn more about her so I gave it a try.
                Solo: A Memoir of Hope is intense. Solo is unapologetic and frank about her life. She talks about her chaotic upbringing with an alcoholic mother and a father who was homeless for many years after their divorce. She discusses playing soccer at a young age and loving the thrill and drive it gave her. Being a professional soccer player was always her goal and she joined an Olympic Development team while in middle school and gained traction as a goalkeeper. Solo then discussed what I found to be the most revelatory statements about what it was like joining the national team. The drama surrounding the newcomers and the veterans of the team: the controversial statements she made after being benched after winning three games in the World Cup and the fallout that ensued, the changing of coaches and the team dynamic that developed after those changes. She went into great detail about all of these aspects of her life explaining her frame of mind and why she will always defend her actions.

                This was a pretty well written memoir. I appreciated her honesty. I liked the way Solo framed this around her entire life and didn’t simply highlight what it was like playing soccer. She introduced in the prologue the 2007 World Cup controversy and the story took its time getting to that point. From the beginning Solo stated that she didn’t believe in happy endings and how that belief was a reflection of her life. I enjoyed this memoir and it made her more relatable. There has been quite a bit of controversy around Solo since the release of this memoir from issues with her husband and drinking, to a domestic violence case against her. After reading this I want to hear more of what she has to say. I am more inclined and interested in her side of the story. I’m also more interested in the dynamics of the U.S. Women’s National Team. I didn’t expect the revelations that came out of Solo’s memoir. My interest is now peaked in many ways. I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. It’s definitely something I can recommend. 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller



Patroclus remembered seeing Achilles when they were both children. Both boys were princes but while Patroclus was the child of a simple woman, Achilles’s mother was the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles was to be the greatest fighter the world had known. Patroclus would have no such destiny. When he accidentally killed a young boy he was exiled and sent to live in the home of Achilles and his father. There, Patroclus would become Achilles most trusted companion and much more. They would be by each other’s side for over a decade even in the mist of the war that lasted ten years. 
I had no idea that The Song of Achilles would center on the romantic relationship of Patroclus and Achilles. Not a single clue. Patroclus is the narrator throughout the entire novel and I found his point of view extremely fascinating from the beginning. After about 40 pages I realized the attraction between the two characters would take center stage. Their growing relationship, its intensity and the love they obviously shared was genuine but I just didn’t expect this to be a romance novel. I wanted action, fighting, and intense inner monologue. I didn’t get that. I got quite a bit of intimacy, a lot of longing looks and some sex. All fine and dandy just not what I was looking for. This was a really easy read and regardless of the romantic element I devoured it. The characters were well developed. The plot moved easily. The imagery and world creation were all there. The story came to life. 
So what rating do I give Miller’s The Song of Achilles. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Why, if the story came together so well and was such an easy read? I didn’t connect with it in the way that I thought I would. Was I invested in the outcome of the characters? Yes but the novel started off slowly and I honestly got really tired of Patroclus’s yearning for Achilles. It was never ending and it overwhelmed way too much of the plot. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn


                When I picked this book up from the bookstore I was looking for something dark and twisted. Well, this novel hit that nail right on the head. Camille Preaker is a reporter for a small newspaper in Chicago. She has been sent on assignment to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murders of two young girls. Their deaths are about a year apart but they were both found strangled with all of their teeth removed. Fully aware that this could be a big break and absolutely huge for the newspaper, Camille heads back to Wind Gap begrudgingly. Her relationship with her mom Adora is non-existent and has been irrefutably fractured since the death of her younger sister over a decade ago. Camille’s return home opens old wounds and reveals new ones in the shape of her 13 year old sister Amma, who is both beautiful and terrifying.
                There were a lot of things I really loved about this novel. It moved well. I easily fell into the pages of this frightening and eerie landscape. The question of what in the world is going on in this small town haunted every single page. Not to mention the fact that Camille is a really complex characters with wounds and scars that won’t heal. The mysterious deaths were affecting everyone in Wind Gap and was raising questions about everyone’s behavior and motives. The first hundred pages of this novel I was fully immersed in this novel. Then I just got irritated. Camille started making decisions that made me want to bang my head against a wall. Amma was a pain in the ass and just seemed extremely shallow and exaggerated. Then I started guessing who the killer was and it became so painstakingly obvious to me that the small twist at the end barely registered with me.

                I’m giving this novel 3.5 out of 5 stars and in my opinion they are well deserved. I started this novel loving it. By the end I was underwhelmed. I probably would have really enjoyed this novel if it revolved around Camille but wasn’t first person. I don’t know if I would have been as annoyed near the end if I wasn’t as privy to her thoughts. I am still going to recommend it because it was so dark and it was such an easy read but I had my misgivings. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


                Dorothy Must Die has been on my radar for a while. It’s the story of Amy Gunn, a teenage girl who lives in a trailer park in Kansas. She doesn’t have many friends, is known as Salvation Amy because of the clothes she wears, and has an alcoholic mother. One day her trailer is swept up in a tornado and she is whisked away to Oz. But this isn’t the Oz that she remembers from the stories. This world is different. It’s different because Dorothy returned from Kansas and is now harboring all of its magic for her own uses. Now Amy, as the other “outlander” is believed by some to be the only way to get rid of Dorothy. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked is now training her to kill Dorothy.
                I imagined that this story was going to be extremely dark, a little grisly, with a kick ass heroine that would be able to execute the plan with no problem. That isn’t exactly what happened. This story was extremely dark, a little gruesome and though not terrifying the world itself was really well developed and imagined. I could see this world taking shape. I could see how one person, in this case Dorothy’s, greed could remove magic from such a special and iconic place. I could even see how a group of people who would normally hate each other could band together in order to fight against a common enemy. Amy was the problem. I have had this happen before when I just didn’t connect with the protagonist. I kept with the series because I really enjoyed the story and ended up being burned in the end. (I’m looking at you Tris from the Divergent Series.) I don’t know if I am willing to take that chance again. Amy was just a boring character to me. I didn’t believe in her at all. I questioned every decision she made throughout the book. If she had been amazing instead of simply a mediocre, teenager filled with angst I would have probably loved this story.

                Alas I didn’t love Dorothy Must Die. I didn’t hate it though either. This was an extremely strong story with a premise I can stand behind. Some people may even love it and love Amy but seeing how her and I are butting heads I am giving this 3.5 out of 5 stars. I really liked the idea of Dorothy coming back and raising hell in Oz. I read this book in no time and for the most part enjoyed it. I just can’t get over Amy. There were a few other things that made me think twice and I do still have a few questions about the story so I might eventually get to the sequel. But I won’t make any promises. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino


                I had never read a historical nonfiction account of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am elated that the first time I am able to dive into the history of what happened, it is with To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. Pellegrino did an amazing job telling the stories of these survivors and everyone involved in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This book was well researched and beautifully executed. Pellegrino has a very simple, matter of fact narrative style that allowed for the history to simply unfold. He went over the facts of what happened explaining the technicalities of the uranium and plutonium bombs with ease. He explained what happened to those at Ground Zero of both sites sparing no details so that readers could capture and understand just how horrifying and disastrous the events were. Pellegrino was unbiased when depicting everyone’s story from those in Japan who weren’t acknowledging just how serious the attacks were, to the pilots flying the planes that would deliver the atomic bombs, to those who survived the attacks and were treated as outsiders. Pellegrino throughout this book respected the seriousness of the tragedy and as part of that respect, spared no detail.

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima may be one of the best historical, nonfiction books I have ever read. I’m walking away from this book an educated individual on the subject with more empathy than I ever thought imaginable for those whose lives were affected. Pellegrino did an amazing job telling this story without any bias, simply allowing the voices of everyone to be heard, their stories and experiences told and the information communicated. This book easily receives a 5 out of 5 stars from me and a high level of recommendation.

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland


                I remember when I was younger hearing about a Debbie Allen production of The Nutcracker. I was very young and had never been to a ballet before but I was intrigued. Debbie Allen was a famous African American dancer and choreographer and her production, The Chocolate Nutcracker, would have an African American cast. I never got to see that ballet and I hadn’t thought about it since. So imagine my surprise when reading Misty Copeland’s memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina realizing that she was the lead dancer in that very same ballet I had heard of as a little girl. I was shocked and yet amazed that a young girl that was raised in San Pedro, California, not far from where I was raised in Los Angeles, was now an author and an acclaimed soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in New York.
                Misty Copeland came from humble beginnings and an unstable childhood. Her mother was forever the wanderer and would move herself and her six children from one man to the next over Misty’s childhood. It was by chance that Misty stumbled into ballet at the age of thirteen, only to soon be hailed as a prodigy for her natural talent. The road wasn’t easy and it was filled with public ridicule, a stint in court and doubts because of her race and yet she endured. She still dances today. She is now garnering more recognition than ever because her movement up the ABT ranks and her Under Armor endorsements.

                Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina is a memoir that brings light to what life as an African American dancer really is. Copeland has been under a spotlight since she began dancing and her race unfortunately has always played role in how people have viewed her. She has either been applauded for impeccable style and flawless technique or ridiculed for her shape and skin tone. Copeland endures and continues to fight. This memoir exposes what that fight has been like her entire life. It explains why she fights so hard to make history and to be the brown ballerina that many try not to recognize. This memoir was well written and poignant. She was honest about her relationships, her family, her upbringing and her persistence. The injuries that threaten to break her and the criticism that tried to take her hard work away. I was amazed while reading about her story. I had never known what the fight was like for her and I was glad I had taken the time to read her amazing story. I can definitely recommend this memoir and give it 4 out of 5 stars. It is a memoir of courage and progress and the forcing of change. 

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940's by Julian Padowicz

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s by Julian Padowicz


                When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s is the fourth memoir written by Julian Padowicz. This memoir focuses on Julian arriving in the United States and being placed in an educational system when he barely understood the English language. The memoir begins with his arrival to New York. He is nine years old and would soon be enrolled in 4th Grade at a private school. He has fled Warsaw with his mother Barbara. They have escaped war torn Europe and landed in Brazil and have now reached their final destination. The book continues to follow Julian throughout his journey until he graduates college and begins his career.
                I found this memoir enjoyable. Padowicz tells his story with such vivid detail and honesty that is hard not to be invested in his plight. He has a non-existent relationship with a manipulative and self-centered mother. He has to adapt to surroundings that he doesn’t necessarily understand all while receiving an education. The struggle was obvious and understandable. To make things even more complicated, Padowicz was a Jewish boy who was told by his mother to lie and say he was Catholic because of the anti-Semitic attitude that existed.

                This is a memoir that I can recommend because not only was it fascinating, it was well written and easy to read. Julian’s life in the 1940’s in the United States is one full of highs and lows but more than that it was about endurance and overcoming the struggles that exists when you have to adapt to a new land. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Five Towns

The Five Towns by Leslie Tonner



The Five Towns is a very descriptive look at suburban life from 1950 to 1980. Three decades of family drama, prejudice, bigotry, rumors, gossip and community standards. Tonner has a strong narrative and point of view with the ability to tell more than one side to a complicated story with beautiful style. I was immediately fascinated by the everyday life of people within The Five Towns. There were so many different stories to tell from the Jewish family moving from the city looking a for a new start, to the gentiles who felt as if their way of life was being infringed on, to the pregnant maid who was struggling to survive while supporting her mother and daughter. The stories were there. The execution was there. But the stories diverged midway through the novel and never quite found their way again.
It honestly felt like Tonner was trying to hone in on one family and in doing so felt the need to eradicate the other families from the story entirely. Characters that we had been introduced to early on in the novel and were prevalent throughout the pages would disappear and we would learn of their fate in the passing words of an unremarkable character. Or characters would die in a way that was supposed to seem tragic but in my opinion seemed forced or unnecessary. The storylines flatlined later in the book and the main characters began to lose interest to me.

This novel started out strong and held so much promise but the further I got into it, the less of my attention it held. I was intrigued enough to finish and I really did enjoy Tonner’s writing style. I just wish the plot had been well rounded and felt finished instead of abruptly executed.I give this 3 out of 5 stars.                                                                                                                                              

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced review copy I was given in exhange for an honest review. 


The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir


                Do you like action packed, suspenseful, science fiction novels? If so then The Martian will be your dream come true. This novel follows Mark Watney, the only man currently on Mars. He was part of the United States Ares 3 mission. When the crew of six was forced to evacuate Mars, Watney was hit by an antennae and pushed off course. The rest of the crew was forced to leave him on Mars assumed dead, which makes sense because he had an antennae poking out of his side, so they could survive. What follows is his fight to survive. And he does put up a fight against insane odds to make it back home to Earth.
                Mark Watney is such an easy character to root for. He was very well developed and had a great sense of humor throughout the novel. He was imaginative and yet a realist. Watney always kept in mind how slim his chance of survival was and yet he fought against it. The question throughout the novel was whether or not he would survive and he wasn’t the only one asking that question. The people at NASA and his surviving crew members were as concerned about his life. Once it became obvious that Watney was alive it was a round the clock battle to come up with ways to keep him alive. This is where storytelling in this novel should be commended. Watney’s point of view was given through written log entries which I though was extremely successful. Weir though also included what was going on with the surviving crew and people back at NASA which provides the reader with a well-rounded view of what is really happening. I didn’t want to read a Mars version of the film “Castaway” and that’s not what this is.

                I only had one real issue with The Martian: it got repetitive. Really repetitive. I guess this is where the different point of views became a hassle. Moments of discovery were relived in the different points of view and that could be tiring, especially near the end of the book when there was literally one life or death situation after another. This is also a very math heavy novel. If you aren’t into math and dubious equations/calculation then this might not fit for you.  Beyond that though I enjoyed this novel. There was a high level of suspense until the very end of the novel and it was extremely unpredictable. These situations have to be. It’s space! I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. Great science fiction that assures I will never leave the planet because catastrophe is waiting. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt



                There is a commercial for SportsCenter that always plays in my mind when I think of Stuart Scott. It’s him and Scott Van Pelt, they’re in suits hyping each other up, acting like they are about to run out on the field instead of on to a set. Right before their segment starts they rip off their suits, that breakaway like basketball warmups, to reveal their real suits. They walk on to the set, have their seats and begin their segment. I loved it. It’s still one of my favorite commercials of all time and they are both hilarious. When I think back on Stuart Scott and the energy and fun he had doing his job I always remember that commercial. I don’t remember the first time I ever watched him on SportsCenter. He just always felt like a familiar face. He was always at the NBA playoffs and Monday Night Football. When I wasn’t constantly seeing his face, I realized that the worst may be coming. When I turned to ESPN on January 4th and heard of his passing I caught my breath. I reacted in a way that I hadn’t been expecting. Tears started to swell in my eyes. I couldn’t think of anything to say besides “wow” all day when anyone mentioned it to me. I watched each tribute as they came and was simply stunned. I didn’t find out about this memoir until right before its release and knew I had to have it. His story would always live on through his own words and I wanted to read what he had to say.
                Every Day I Fight is a passionate memoir written by a man passionate about life, his daughters, his job, and sports. Stuart talks about his family and upbringing in North Carolina as the last of four children. He explains his love of sports and being physical as a young child, a love that never faded as he got older. He describes the moment he realized he wanted to go into broadcasting and his fight through rejection after rejection. He talks about meeting his wife and the two children they had together. Stuart talked about being a black man working at the predominantly white ESPN. He was open and honest about keeping his integrity and wanting to honestly represent himself. He talked about the support he received by the executives at ESPN who were supportive of him and his battle with cancer. Stuart described what life was like having cancer. He talked of his earlier eye troubles and the many corrective surgeries he had from his teenage years. Stuart detailed the fight to live, survive cancer and be there for his daughters.

                I thoroughly enjoyed reading Every Day I Fight. It was beautifully narrated and Stuart’s candor and humor was obvious throughout the pages. But so was his pain. There were so many heart-wrenching moments throughout this memoir: from the injuries to his eyes, the chemotherapy treatments and the way he spoke about his daughters. When I started reading this memoir it felt like a love letter to his daughters. I felt like he put his thoughts on paper so they would know how much he loved them and that he was fighting for them. His daughters were at the core of everything. Battling cancer wasn’t easy but he fought like hell to live every day, working out after chemo, traveling when he could and continuing to work at job that he loved. Passionate. I could use that word and that word alone to review this book. It was amazing. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers by Stephen King


                In 2010 Pete Saubers found a trunk filled with thousands of dollars and over a hundred Moleskin notebooks. The money would help Pete’s family through a very difficult financial time and save his parent’s marriage. Thomas’s father had lost his job and was at the City Center in 2009 when Brady Hartsfield, also known as Mr. Mercedes, rammed into a crowd of job seekers. Thomas was injured that day and his injury added tension to an already struggling family. The money was a godsend but the notebooks were the real treasure. They belonged to John Rothstein and held all of his writing since he disappeared from the public eye. Decades worth of writing held inside of the trunk, including two new Jimmy Gold novels. The Jimmy Gold trilogy is what made Rothstein famous. It was also what made Morris Bellamy murder Rothstein and steal all the money and those manuscripts in 1978. Years have passed and Bellamy’s only thought is of one day retrieving those notebooks.
                When I found out that Mr. Mercedes was going to be a trilogy my interest in the story peaked. Mind you I would have read the book anyway and found it thoroughly enjoyable but when you know a book is going to be part of a series that fact stays in your mind. I start to look for ways that the story can continue to unfold. I didn’t find any clues to a sequel while reading Mr. Mercedes. Once promotion started for the second novel Finders Keepers I learned that it would somehow involve a person affected by the City Center Massacre and it would also include the protagonist from Mr. Mercedes, the retired detective Bill Hodges. I knew I was going to have to read Mr. Mercedes again in order to catch the subtle hints King would undoubtedly drop and I am glad I did. It takes over a hundred pages for the characters in the first novel to be introduced in Finders Keepers. This time was spent wisely in developing the characters and history of Morris Bellamy and Pete Saubers, two characters brought together by chance and circumstance. By the time we meet Bill Hodges and his accomplices we are well invested into the lives of Morris and Pete and are fearful of the clash that has yet to come.

                Stephen King. If you aren’t a fan, you should be because more so than anything the man can write. This novel was great. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the tension that exhibited itself throughout. The characters were well developed. The story was just left of crazy. The pace was brilliantly kept. The history of the all the characters and their integrity was kept throughout the story. This is the kind of writing I expect from King and why I continue to buy his books. I love when I can read a novel and be amused, terrified, disgusted, entranced, horrified, confused and utterly aghast. I love when a story brings me through a wide range of emotions that can cause my eyes to bulge from their sockets, my stomach to flip and an audible gasp to leave my mouth. This was it. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. This story ends with a hint about what is to come next and makes me feel like the real reason behind this novel was to act as a bridge. I will patiently wait for the next one, or at least try to. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King



                There was a time in my life when, even though I was a huge Stephen King fan, I was not at all interesting in reading this memoir about writing. I was in high school when this book came out and I remember seeing it at the bookstore, being intrigued, flipping through the pages, and then putting it right back on the shelf. I didn’t want a memoir. I wanted horror. I wanted something that would give me chills up and down my spine or nightmares. I was young and I can see now that I simply didn’t appreciate King or his writing. Now, after 2013 and the adventure that was reading all of his novels in their order of publication, I fully appreciate him and the universe he has created. I consider him to be a master storyteller that encompasses much more than the horror genre and I am ashamed of the child I was and how easily I dismissed this amazing memoir. I mean seriously it’s a book about Stephen King and how he writes! What was I thinking?
                In retrospect everything happens for a reason. I was ready for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft now and can share with you my thoughts. King decided in his memoir to give you a brief history about himself and how he developed his style and became a successful writer. He talks about his upbringing, his relationship with his mother and brother. He candidly talks about his wife and their relationship, including their struggles early on. King also talks about his addiction to drugs and alcohol and how said addiction affected his writing and his family.  Cujo, a novel I enjoyed but found to be one of his most desperate and haunting, King barely remembers writing because of his addictions. Reading his candid reflections on life proves that he is human, has faults and has had to overcome obstacles to succeed. He shares all of this to be encouraging. It works.
                The rest of the memoir focuses on how he writes and what works for him. It may not work for everyone, which he repeats throughout this section, but it works pretty well for him. And he is pretty damn successful! I’m not in the middle of writing a novel but if I were (or when I do try) this is definitely the book I am going to read before I set forth to conquer the literary world. Why? Because everything he says is practical and makes sense! “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” That is just one essential lesson that he reiterates throughout and it makes sense. King talks about everything from his creative process, his character development, grammar, vocabulary and even getting a literary agent. He wrote a crash course on writing filled with sensible tidbits that you may need if you want to be a writer.

                In conclusion, if you like Stephen King read this book. If you want to be a writer read this book. If you like to read, then read this book. I loved it. It’s full of humor, honesty and it makes you think and consider what it takes to be a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker

Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker




                The story of Pocahontas is of course one that I am familiar with. I mean, seriously, who hasn’t seen the Disney movie, absolutely loved it as a child and then been entirely disgusted when learning the truth behind the movie. Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony is a beautifully told, moving and realistic account of Pocahontas and her life. I am not a historian but from the moment I started reading this novel I felt fully consumed in the history of the characters. They were brought to life in amazing fashion with well-developed and thought out characters and a fully developed world.
Amonute, also known as Pocahontas or “mischief,” lived in her father Powhatan’s, village in the Tsenacomoco. She was a girl that had only seen ten winters, the last few of which she spent with her father, having left her mother’s village of Pamunkey. The tassantassas, white men, had come to the shores of Tsenacomoco and had been looking to trade with the villagers. Among them was John Smith who was brought to the New World in chains for suspected mutiny, only to be given a position of some power by the Virginia Company. He is one of the few English men who understand the importance of establishing relationships with the Naturals of the New World. With aggressions coming from both sides and a lack of trust prevalent, the history of both sides would be changed forever.
You know what I really loved about this story? I loved that it was told in three different perspectives: Smith, Pocahontas and Opechancanough, the brother of Powhatan. By allowing the story to be told with the differing points of view, you can better understand the frustration of all the characters involved. Language barriers and differing cultures obviously would hinder relationships. The English were under the impression that the Naturals would want religion and want to be civilized. What they really wanted were for the English to leave their land and never to return. The Powhatans were ready to defend their lifestyle and the English were willing to defend what they thought was their claim to the New World. It was all extremely complicated. Hawker though did a great job expressing the predicaments. The novel was also told in four different parts. With each part, new challenges and circumstances emerged in the lives of all the characters. It was well done and executed with just enough action to keep the pace of story moving and interesting.

I was extremely emotional while reading this story of Pocahontas. I was frustrated, angry, sad, amused at times, heartbroken and unnecessarily hopeful. This book was over 500 pages and I enjoyed every single one. I know in the historical note Hawker mentioned she may be doing a sequel and I would be more than happy to continue this journey with her again. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone slightly interested in the history of Pocahontas. It slows down slightly towards the end but it was absolutely amazing. I give this 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry



           Annemarie Johansen is a ten year old girl, currently living in German occupied Coppenhagen. The year is 1943. It has been three years since the Germans took over her country. Three years of seeing soldiers at the corners. Three years of steadily decreasing food rations. Her sister Kirsti, doesn't remember a time before war, but Annemarie does. It's the Jewish New Year and Annemarie was going to celebrate it for the first time with her friend Ellen Rosen, whose whole family is Jewish. But plans change. Ellen is going to stay the night with the Johansens. The Rosens expect there may be a raid and the only way they can be safe is to separate and hide.

           Number the Stars is a well-written, easy to read, children's historical fiction novel. Lowry focused on the occupation in Denmark and built a story around the escape of the thousands of Jews to Sweden before they could be "relocated." Focusing young readers on one significant part of World War II made the story feel less ominous than other young adult/children's historical fiction novels based around this time frame, that take in a broader scope of the war. The story of Annemarie, Ellen and their families is one of strength, bravery and doing what is right even if it puts your own life at risk.

           I enjoyed this story. This wasn't a moment of World War II history that I was overly familiar with so I thought it was a great introduction. However you only saw true character development in Annemarie. None of the other character's experienced any kind of growth. I also got a sense of this novel being slightly toned down. I'm not saying that this book needed to go into graphic detail about atrocities but if a child were reading this book, I'm not sure if they would understand just how terrifying these events were. I see the word Nazi and it resonates with me because I know and can grasps the events that took place. A child reading this book may simply assume that there was a boogeyman taking people away.  It was easy for me to imagine the fear that pervaded through the lives of both families while this story took place but I'm not sure if there would be for a child. There needed to be more information about what was taking place in my opinion. But like I said I enjoyed this book and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I can see how this is effective in relaying a tragic part of history to young minds.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg

The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg




The “Wrap Dress” made its debut in 1974. This dress changed the life of Diana Von Furstenburg. It was a simple, yet elegant and beautiful dress that cinched at the waist, was made out of jersey material, hugged the body and usually boasted amazing, vibrant prints. It was also Diane’s key to financial independence. The Woman I Wanted To Be is the memoir of the woman behind the dress. It is the story of her dedication, her drive, her losses, her loves, her struggles, her triumphs.
         Let me start off by saying that I was completely biased the entire time while reading this memoir. I am obsessed with Diane Von Furstenburg and her wrap dress. I have been a huge fan of her work for years, ever since seeing it for the first time on Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City.” I love it! I love the way it holds the body, framing even the most petite woman’s frame. I am not one for prints but I have always found her choices vibrant and gorgeous. It is so easy and yet magnificent. So needless to say, I am a fan. When I came across her memoir, The Woman I Wanted To Be, (a signed copy nonetheless!) my heart soared. Here was my opportunity to learn more about the woman behind the dress! I dived into these pages head on!
But wait. This was not the story I was expecting. It was more, much more and I recognized it within the first few pages when she talked about her mother, a Holocaust survivor. It was her mother Lily, who endured thirteen months as a prisoner at both Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, that taught Diane strength, determination and how to be fearless. That information provided so early in the book set the foundation for the amount of honesty and candor that would flow throughout the pages. Diane would go on to speak of the story of her parents and how she would have to get affection from her father, who was extremely loving toward her and instilled in her a confidence that she would fall back on throughout her life. Diane then honestly describe falling in love with men in many different relationships and affairs. She would become a princess after marrying Prince Ego von und zu Furstenburg at 22. Their marriage would deteriorate but the friendship would not. They had two children together, Alexandre and Tatiana, who together would hold Diana’s strongest love. “Love is life is love is life…”

Diane created such a well done, honest memoir about her life! It’s set in six different parts which are easy to follow and really emphasize the different phases of her life and career. You get to know her personality and her history in the first three parts The Woman I Am. Then you get to learn about her impact on fashion and how it all occurred in The Business of Fashion. This memoir was simply well thought out and honest. I love how she was able to reflect on her life and honestly describe those events that shaped who she is. She isn’t always cast in a great light and she struggled with her identity on and off for years. Diane made sure to express that! She wants the reader to understand that they too can overcome hardships. This memoir was also fun. The fashion, the lifestyle, Studio 54, it was all great and extremely entertaining. The people she knows, the life she has experienced the places she has traveled! All so breathtaking! I adored this book (again, I’m biased) and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Reading this memoir made me appreciate the beauty that I see in her work and that I see in her.