Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’d read the positive reviews and an article in The New Yorker about the Pulitzer Prize winning author. And so, not having read Jennifer Egan’s previous work I was eager to delve into this story about a young Brooklyn girl who battles against the odds to become a diver at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II.

But I put the book down around page 159 annoyed by what I called the "over-writing." A day later, however, I picked it up, determined to see what I was missing. I also found the writing just a little too “clever,” the author injecting metaphors too frequently where they only distracted from the narrative.

Although interesting on the surface, this historical novel about civilian life during the war tried too hard. I found that several characters didn’t justify the space they were given when they didn’t add to the story or to the embellishment of the main characters.

I grew up in Brooklyn so I was very familiar with many of Egan’s landmarks. I got the feeling she felt the need to include as much of Brooklyn as possible, even when it seemed a little too much.

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Review: Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’d read the positive reviews and an article in The New Yorker about the Pulitzer Prize winning author. And so, not having read Jennifer Egan’s previous work I was eager to delve into this story about a young Brooklyn girl who battles against the odds to become a diver at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II.

But I put the book down around page 159 annoyed by what I called the "over-writing." A day later, however, I picked it up, determined to see what I was missing. I also found the writing just a little too “clever,” the author injecting metaphors too frequently where they only distracted from the narrative.

Although interesting on the surface, this historical novel about civilian life during the war tried too hard. I found that several characters didn’t justify the space they were given when they didn’t add to the story or to the embellishment of the main characters.

I grew up in Brooklyn so I was very familiar with many of Egan’s landmarks. I got the feeling she felt the need to include as much of Brooklyn as possible, even when it seemed a little too much.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone who thinks reading history can be a dry experience has never read any of David McCullough's books. The man is an American treasure. Here, in a series of addresses he's given over the years, he brings the past to life, reminding us of the people who've made this country great. Read it! It's not the old dull history texts you had in school. Here you'll meet the men (mostly, exception Abigail Adams) whose ideas and actions made this a great country. And, if there's a student in your life, do him or her a favor and present this book without fear that they'll be bored.



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Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Passing On

Passing On Passing On by Penelope Lively
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this account of how a domineering parent, even after her death, continues to affect the lives of two of her middle-aged children, Penelope Lively shows how hard it is to break free from the opinions of a caustic personality. Helen and Edward, both single, continue to live their lives in the same house they shared with their mother Dorothy whose things still fill the closets and cabinets. This novel is about the damaging effects of a opinionated parent whose voice continues to determine how Helen and Edward live their lives.

Penelope Lively's novels draw upon the realistic thoughts of her characters, most of whom are middle-aged or older. She writes truthfully and beautifully and I recommend her books. An added bonus for nature lovers is that in Passing On, as in several of her other novels, she writes in detail about gardens and the birds and other creatures who visit them.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You would expect a memoir written by a former writer on Saturday Night Live to be funny and, of course, Al Franken doesn't disappoint. But when the topic turns from his thirty years as a comedy writer to his decision to run for the Senate from Minnesota, Franken turns serious. However, there's almost no page where a humorous comment cannot be found. Even when he writes about serious topics, I still found myself laughing out loud.

Franken's stories about campaigning, the long and often tedious details of raising money, the role of his many staff, both in Washington and back in Minnesota, the long days, the constant learning about the issues important to his constituents and to all citizens, and his relationships with both Democratic and Republican senators are both enlightening and surprising in their honesty. Honesty? Yes, that's the point of this book.

Franken covers all of the topics that are current today: health care and the Affordable Care Act, the need for more mental health coverage, immigration, education, the role of big money and its effect on our elections, and, very importantly, climate change. Franken ends his book on what is happening today in Washington.

I recommend this book especially to anyone who wants to see how Washington really works from a person who doesn't sugarcoat anything. Even his views on prominent personalities often in the news. You can guess who they are.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fourth grade was the beginning of my lifelong interest in maps. So, when I spied this book on the shelves, I had to buy it.

Tim Marshall, a journalist who has covered thirty countries, uses ten maps to explain why and how nations evolved, how rivers and mountains determined the course of history and why, today, these nations are affected politically by these advantages or disadvantages.

As he states in the introduction, "Broadly speaking, geopolitics looks at the ways in which international affairs can be understood through geographical factors: not just the physical landscape - the natural barriers of mountains or connections of river networks, for example - but also climate, demographics, cultural regions, and access to natural resources."

This is a book to keep and refer to when listening to the news of the day.

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Review: Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fourth grade was the beginning of my lifelong interest in maps. So, when I spied this book on the shelves, I had to buy it.

Tim Marshall, a journalist who has covered thirty countries, uses ten maps to explain why and how nations evolved, how rivers and mountains determined the course of history and why, today, these nations are affected politically by these advantages or disadvantages.

As he states in the introduction, "Broadly speaking, geopolitics looks at the ways in which international affairs can be understood through geographical factors: not just the physical landscape - the natural barriers of mountains or connections of river networks, for example - but also climate, demographics, cultural regions, and access to natural resources."

This is a book to keep and refer to when listening to the news of the day.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Once again, against my better judgment, I fell into the trap of the best seller list. Expecting a "thriller," I found instead an annoying and quite unbelievable main character, whose outreach to every other character fails to ring true.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: The Moon Is Down

The Moon Is Down The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short novel was used world-wide in a propaganda campaign to show the effects of an invasion by an unnamed army upon a conquered people. It was published in 1942 at the zenith of Nazi Germany's power and had an extraordinary impact as Allied propaganda. The story shows the power of ideas in the face of brutal force.

Despite efforts by the Nazis and the Fascists, it was secretly translated into French, Norwegian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, German, Iranian and Russian.

Because of the current American political atmosphere, I found it particularly interesting to read how some people, even while questioning internally, follow blindly the ideas put forth by their leaders.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: Commonwealth

Commonwealth Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of how six children are affected when divorce splits their families. It begins at a christening party for Franny Keating and ends more than fifty years later. In presenting each person's story, Patchett intertwines his/her involvement with others throughout the years. This is a compelling book because of its truthfulness in recognizing that life decisions are never simple, and that happiness is often elusive.







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