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text 2017-08-11 12:03
11th August 2017
Roots: The Saga of an American Family - Alex Haley

Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you. 

 

Alex Haley

 

Roots author Alex Haley (born August 11, 1921) served in the Coast Guard during World War II. Impressed by his writing skills, his fellow sailors would pay him to write love letters to their girlfriends. 

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review 2017-07-16 18:20
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward - My Thoughts
The Bourbon Kings - J.R. Ward

Holy potboiler, Batman!  The combination of  insomnia and a book that was written to be breezed through made this book a quick read.  J.R. Ward is known for her Dark Brotherhood books that people have been raving about for years.  (I have the first one and yet to read it - but it's in paperback, not ebook, so I'm less inclined to just pick it up.)  This book is the first in a family dynasty epic, romance, mystery, soap opera trilogy.  Well, unless she decides it needs to go further.

For me, the most interesting character in this saga is the eldest brother, Edward.  He's had terrible things happen to him and he's really mostly a shell of a man when we meet him, but I couldn't tear my reading eyes from him.  Broken, beaten and more, scarred and ill - the man is a conundrum. :)

The heroine of this tale, Lizzie King, is the head horticulturist at the estate of the uber-wealthy bourbon barons, the Bradfords.  And she has history with the youngest son, Lane.  I alternated between enjoying her independent self and rolling my eyes at her silliness.  I wanted to pinch her, hard, more than once. 

Much of the book, the characters, the setting, the feel of the thing is cliché, but it's enjoyable!  The writing is okay - Ward writes for the present, lots of pop culture references that will be out of date in another 10 or less years and those inner dialogue asides that almost but not quite break the fourth wall.

I'm going to read the next book, but I will most definitely wait until it goes on sale.  I may even check out that Dark Brotherhood book I have up in the bookcase. 

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review 2017-06-14 20:09
Secrets in Summer
Secrets in Summer: A Novel - Nancy Thayer

Title:  Secrets in Summer

Author:  Nancy Thayer

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Reviewed By:  Arlena Dean

Rating: Four

Review:

 

"Secrets in Summer" by Nancy Thayer 

 

My Thoughts...

 

"Secrets in Summer" really gives you quite a read where the reader will be pulled into many different directions.  We find Darcy Cotterill a librarian is in her Nantucket home where she has inherited it from her grandmother. Oh, let me just say she is dating Nash being newly divorced. But what all was up with that?   Now it is the beginning of Memorial Day and people are showing up. But to Darcy's surprise her neighbor behind her is none other that her ex [Boyz] and his new wife [Autumn] and stepdaughter[Willow]. Some other neighbors.were one with three boys and a elderly woman who was staying with her grandson [Clive] who happens to be thirty. We now get the start of the story as the it will go into their life's.  Now, this is where this story will get most interesting as the story isn't only about the neighbors but of 'adultery, drugs, senior citizen issues, secrets and then it seems like this ex doesn't know what the word no really means.' Really what in the world was that about?  Didn't Boyz leave his wife [Darcy] for this new one?  I am only left to say that Darcy really had her hands full because it seems like she was just too involved with everyone life which did get a little over the top to me. You will definitely have to pick up this good read to see how it will all come out for Darcy.   I will say this is a good summer entertaining read that will keep your attention to see what will happen next in this story.  In the end will Darcy be able to get out of her past and finally find a permanency in her life that she will enjoy?  It will be a interesting to read and see how this story does unfold.

 

I received this from NetGalley to read and review. 

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review 2017-05-30 03:08
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

This is a strong work of literary fiction that didn’t strike any special chord with me. I’d tried unsuccessfully to read it several times in the past, but made another attempt this year and can report that it gathers steam as it goes, though it took me a couple hundred pages to start really enjoying it.

Midnight’s Children is part family saga, part magic realism, and all historical fiction, tracing the history of India in the 20th century (from British rule through the 1970s) as told through the eyes of Saleem Sinai, born at the moment of India’s independence and endowed with special gifts. It is a sweeping, ambitious sort of novel, and Rushdie of course seems to have had great fun with the language. Saleem can be a frustrating narrator, telling a story full of digressions and with grandiose ideas of his own importance (I tended to write this off as a character who believes he’s dying struggling to give meaning to his life and suffering, but that’s certainly not the only way to read it). But in the end I was swept up in the story and was glad to have read it, and one encounters a lot of Indian history along the way.

Overall, this is worth reading even if you struggle with the beginning. But if you’re looking for a giant work of Indian literary historical fiction, I’d still recommend A Suitable Boy first.

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review 2017-05-22 03:37
The Sacred Willow by Duong Van Mai Elliott
The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family - Duong Van Mai Elliott

This book would make fantastic supplemental reading for a course on Vietnamese history. The author chronicles more than a hundred years of the country’s recent past, using her family’s experiences as a focal point. It begins in the mid 19th century, when several of her male ancestors served as mandarins in a society that revered educational attainments; moves on to French colonialism and Japanese occupation during WWII; then to the Viet Minh struggle for independence, which doesn’t seem to truly divide the family despite their winding up on all sides of the conflict – the author’s father serves as a high-ranking official under the French while her oldest sister and brother-in-law join the rebels in the mountains, and her uncle, a wealthy landowner, puts his resources at the Viet Minh’s disposal. Then it traces the American intervention and the dramatic days of the communists’ takeover of South Vietnam, before ending with Vietnam’s struggles as an independent country.

It’s a lot to pack into 475 pages, and the author balances the story of her family with a broader historical perspective. The history appears well-researched, and based on her bibliography, draws heavily on Vietnamese as well as English-language sources. It also seems balanced; at times, when family members’ paths during the war diverge sharply, we get separate chapters covering the same events from different perspectives, and the author doesn’t seem to be advocating for either one over the other. Though the author’s parents threw in their lot with the French and later South Vietnam, she – like many Vietnamese – seems to respect the communists’ commitment, and while the American intervention was a short-term boon for middle-class families like hers, she ultimately seems to conclude that the communist victory was both inevitable and not as awful as propaganda had led the South Vietnamese to expect.

The book’s biggest weakness is that it is rather dry, much more focused on facts than building a dramatic narrative. Though it is in part a memoir, we learn little about the author herself; she tends to relate the facts of a situation with perhaps a bald statement of her feelings, but without developing any of the emotional detail that might allow readers to experience the story along with her. There are exceptions, though; her account of the dramatic last days before the fall of Saigon (through the eyes of several family members) is downright gripping.

Overall, I’d recommend this book, but more for educational purposes than entertainment. It is a strong answer to the rest of English-language literature about Vietnam, which tends to be from an American perspective and focused exclusively on the war.

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