Friday, June 17, 2011

Louie Zamperini is the Unbroken in Laura Hillenbrand's 2nd Best Seller

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely compelling, amazing nonfiction. Clear, evocative, and emotionally exhaustive narrative about the indomitable will of Louis Zamperini, and his fellow POWs to survive man's inhumanity to man in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. Louie, an Olympic Runner(1938 4 min. mile)known worldwide as the Calif. "Torrance Tornado", the son of Italian immigrants and his fellow airmen Phil, and Mac, were adrift 47 days(!) covering 4000 miles(!)in a life raft with *no* food & scant provisions (fish hooks but no bait, 4 canisters of water...) 4 attacks of enemy airfire, sea storms, and horrendous daily shark attacks, only to be captured by the Japanese Army and endure prison camp atrocities for an additional 2 years 4 months. I will remember these men, along with Harris and the other POWs, the Zamperini family, and the sadistic camp commander, Watanabe ("the Bird"). I will forever be grateful for these men and carry sadness for 140,000 POWs held in Japan's camps, 36,000 of whom died. This book will make you cry, rage, wonder and cheer.

Hildebrand is also the author of Sea Biscuit.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Garden Spells

Garden SpellsGarden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book dripping with Southern (North Carolina) charm, that was a fun escape read. Romantic fiction with a culinary twist--think of Like Water for Chocolate. It is whimsical, lovely, magical, enchanting, and a thoroughly delightful book. I LOVED this book by a first time author!

from the flyleaf:
"The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future. "

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Comingof Age in Savannah Georgia

Saving CeeCee HoneycuttSaving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. A young girl surrounded by beautiful, strong, crazy, and wise women with Southern charm discovers who she is and how to let go of an unhappy past. A fun chick-lit read. I LOVED this book by a first time author! Reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees.

From review:
"Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others."

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Gorky Park--A Cold War Era Russian Crime Detective Novel

Gorky Park (Arkady Renko, #1)Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a time-tested popular classic crime fiction, obviously much appreciated according to its high ratings, but this is not a fun read. I admit that Smith is a word smith (no pun intended), but this is not my favorite genre --international intrigue, labyrinthine crime thriller with lots of bloody violence, gore, and more f-words and macho sex than I care for.

Although the mostly corrupt characters are well drawn, except for bumbling Pasho, I didn't care for any of them. Irina is self absorbed, shallow, completely lacking in moral strength, but hey, she's so gorgeous that even ragged shabby clothes look terrific on her. Arkady, the good guy hero, scorns almost everyone & everything. He is arrogant, morose, cynical, and emotionally conflicted. I couldn't decide if he was skilled or just plain lucky with his unrealistic, "gut feeling" approach to exposing corruption and dishonesty. But he was a maverick with integrity and afterall he was successful.

Having been to Moscow & Leningrad in the early 90's, and being somewhat famiiar with Russian history & cultrue, I got right into the dark feeling of the book, but I felt the first 1/3 of it dragged.

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