As others have stated, if you like -Unbroken-, you would no doubt enjoy this book about the 8-man rowing team from the University of Washington that wAs others have stated, if you like -Unbroken-, you would no doubt enjoy this book about the 8-man rowing team from the University of Washington that went to Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics. I knew nothing about crew before reading this book (other than that a friend's daughter got into it in college), but after reading this, I know the ins and outs pretty intimately --- the technique, psychology, equipment, and definitely the people involved in putting this team together. The author had pages of notes and a complete index at the end, and his acknowledgments included references to the many people he had interviewed. Photos added to the authenticity of the research, and made the characters (especially Joe) come alive. Not all of the rowers came from hard lives, but the point was made that they all came from working class families, unlike most of the rowers on teams from the East (Harvard, Yale, etc.), and were conditioned by hard work such as lumbering, construction, etc. The coach, who had crewed on another championship team, was young and passionate. The man who built the boats (George) was from England, from a long line of boat-builders and rowers, and the science of why his boats succeeded was also thoroughly described. What impressed me the most was how these guys trained in all kinds of weather --- wind, snow, ice, and rain just made them more competitive. It was also interesting to learn how prestigious it was to row for U of W, and how many guys competed for the spots. And how many spectators turned out to watch their competitions (again, in all kinds of weather)! I wonder if that is still true . . .
It was also interesting to read about how Hitler and his team viewed this Olympics as their introduction to the world, and used it to impress others with their efficiency, excellence, etc. -- all the while keeping their atrocities (already begun) well out of view. I would be interested in viewing the video that Leni Reifenstahl created called Triumph of the Will (called the "greatest propaganda film of all time") and Olympia, her film about the 1936 Olympics (from the German point of view, of course).
It took a while to get through this, and it was very descriptive, but also I was gripped by the stories. Worthwhile. Stick with it, if you have the time....more
Nelson's previous book, *The Sky is Everywhere*, was on ISLMA's Abraham Lincoln award list. This one was very good, too, and I think most teenagers anNelson's previous book, *The Sky is Everywhere*, was on ISLMA's Abraham Lincoln award list. This one was very good, too, and I think most teenagers and also adults would appreciate its themes and characters. Jude and Noah are twins, and though they are vastly different, and very competitive, they are also joined-at-the-heart-close. They seem to know what the other is thinking, and can sense one another's location almost via ESP. The book is divided into two sections, with Noah narrating the first part (when they are 13), and Jude narrating the second part, when they are 16. The two sections are separated by more than time, however, as they have totally changed in the interim. JAt age 13 Jude is the confident, cool, popular twin - she surfs and parties and constantly fights with their mom about clothes, make-up, etc. Noah is the nerd who does nothing but draw, and Jude often has to rescue him from bullies. He is also a disappointment to their dad, and knows that more disappointment is ahead, as he is just starting to come to terms with being gay. A family tragedy occurs, and three years later we almost don't recognize the family that remains, and through Jude's own painful thoughts and interactions we learn what happened to everyone and why. Art plays a very big role in this novel, and would be a big reason for art lovers to pick this one up. ...more
A novel told from the viewpoint of the family dog, this one impressed me with its beautiful writing, and its beautiful characters (both canine and humA novel told from the viewpoint of the family dog, this one impressed me with its beautiful writing, and its beautiful characters (both canine and human). Who has not looked into the face of a dog and felt that the dog was trying to tell them something --- if only that dog had the gift of human language! Well, Enzo wishes, too, that he could communicate with his humans, because he has a lot to say. And he understands so much. His master, Denny, marries and has a daughter, and Enzo shares that with him. But what they share the most is a love for car racing -- Denny is a racer, and they watch videos of Denny's races (cockpit cameras) as well as of famous races together. When tragedy after tragedy strike, Enzo suffers right along with Denny, while advising him as much as he can. I'm not a dog person (everyone who knows me is right now saying "No duh"), but I LOVED this dog, and his relationship with his friend Denny. ...more
A delightful romp as Don, a genetics professor in Melbourne, Australia, seeks to find a wife through scientific inquiry. He designs a questionnaire thA delightful romp as Don, a genetics professor in Melbourne, Australia, seeks to find a wife through scientific inquiry. He designs a questionnaire that will screen out all unacceptable candidates, with the "help" of his best friend Gene, another professor whose side project is to have sex with women of different nationalities (he keeps track with pins on a world map). Don lives his life by a strict series of rules and an unalterable schedule, and his decisions are made based on provable facts. This world is tossed upside down when Gene sends Don to meet a possible candidate for the Wife Project --- but Rosie meets none of the criteria from the questionnaire. She asks Don to help her out with the Father Project -- to find her biological father, as her mother's husband has disappointed her one too many times, and she wants to know if her life might have been different with her "real" dad. Gradually Don is pulled away from his routines and his preconceived notions about life as he and Rosie try to get DNA samples from all the likely candidates for the Father Project. This is a good look at the realities of Asperger's Syndrome and how the world views "Aspies". And how they can reach a full and productive --- and even socially appropriate -- life. ...more
I must be on a Moriarty kick right now - "winter cabin fever reading"? This novel surrounds a group of mothers (and fathers) of kindergarten studentsI must be on a Moriarty kick right now - "winter cabin fever reading"? This novel surrounds a group of mothers (and fathers) of kindergarten students at a seaside school outside Sydney, Australia, and from the beginning we know that a tragedy occurred, and someone died at a Trivia Night event at the school. Each chapter begins (and also often ends) with a series of quotations, i.e. transcript entries, from interviews with the witnesses to that tragedy. As time goes on, these entries add to the intrigue, and it's fun to see how Moriarty develops even the minor characters through this technique -- Gabrielle is the one obsessed with her weight, Samantha is the funny one married to Stu, Thea and Harper are blindly loyal to queen-like Renata, etc. But the main characters are Madeline, Celeste, and Jane, and it is their stories in which we become embroiled. And through it all, the suspense builds as we wonder "who died, and who was the murderer?"
A good page-turner that would provide food for discussion. ...more
Lyrical and pragmatic as a Mary Oliver poem, this novel invites the reader to explore the meaning(s) of life and what one is to do with the time we haLyrical and pragmatic as a Mary Oliver poem, this novel invites the reader to explore the meaning(s) of life and what one is to do with the time we have. Do you wish to retire to the country to read and write and take long walks in the woods? Do you want to devote your time and energies to fighting hunger by being an aid worker in Africa? Is it more meaningful to have a family than to be single? Is life richer in the bustle of a big city, and are you "copping out" if you choose instead the simpler life available in small towns? The various characters that people this novel are all struggling with these questions in one way or another, and they all come together in a summer in small town Pomeroy, New Hampshire. Bud is the owner (and editor and writer and deliverer) of the town's newspaper. Frankie has returned from living and working in Africa for the past 15 years to her parents' summer home, to which they have now retired after renovating it to make it winter-ready. Another element that arises is a series of fires set in the (mostly as-yet-unoccupied) homes of the summer people. As the town tries to figure out how to prevent future fires, the divide between the summer people and the year-rounders is heightened in ways that hadn't previously been so obvious. Frankie has come home from Africa this time somewhat disillusioned with her purpose and unsure of what to do next. When she and Bud begin a torrid affair, and when Frankie's father's Alzheimers becomes apparent, she is able to postpone even further any decision about her future.
Like other Miller novels, this one focuses more on character than on plot, though there is plenty going on. But what stays with the reader are the mental wanderings, the descriptions, and the feelings elicited by those descriptions --- of peace, of fun, of comfort, and of the many kinds of love that can fill one's life....more
Definitely not one of White's best efforts. I just never cared about the characters, and most of them were glossed-over outlines of characters anyway.Definitely not one of White's best efforts. I just never cared about the characters, and most of them were glossed-over outlines of characters anyway. I felt like White had an outline of a story prepared, but never went back and fleshed it out -- he just typed up the outline, added some flash and "thrill," and sent it in. Since I read it at Halloween time, the allusion to a ghost, the sleeping-in-a-haunted-house, and the creepiness factors of the scorpions and chimps-gone-wild were intriguing, but the story itself just didn't hold together. Hannah's (main character, center pin for White's spinoff-series of his Doc Ford mysteries, i.e. same location, different main character) friend Birdy, who got her involved in this haunted house thing in the first place, just serves the purpose of introducing the situation. But we never really understand whether Hannah and Birdy have been friends for a long time, whether they hang out regularly - and she disappears from the story midway, unexplained. A disappointing toss-off effort....more
I had sworn off Jodi Picoult after immersing myself in her page-turners a few years ago -- needed to take a break after feeling too manipulated too ofI had sworn off Jodi Picoult after immersing myself in her page-turners a few years ago -- needed to take a break after feeling too manipulated too often by those "quirky" endings. But this one impressed me with its extensive and intelligent coverage of the behaviors of elephants -- the "character" which unites all the others. Jenna, 13, is the child of two scientists who worked at an elephant sanctuary, caring for and studying the creatures that had been been labelled dangerous by the zoos, circuses, or wherever they had lived before being rescued. Every since her mother disappeared 10 years ago after a violent incident at the sanctuary, her father has lived in a mental health institution, and Jenna has lived with her grandmother. But she is desperate to find her mother, and so she hires both a psychic and also the detective who had worked on the case years ago. I loved loved loved these characters -- Serenity, the formerly world-famous psychic who has lost her powers after failing to find a famous politician's kidnapped son who was found dead. And Victor/Virgil, the detective who feels badly that he might have messed up the case ten years ago, and wants to make it up. The only reason I would lower the rating to 4 1/2 stars is Jenna. Her voice sounds too old for a 13-year-old. Not just her word choices, but her sentence structure, which is WAY too complex and sophisticated for her age, and that kept distracting me and reminding me that "this is only a story." But otherwise, Picoult had me all throughout the story, wondering what really happened on that night ten years ago as each character's story is built through alternating chapters from the various points of view of each person involved. I ran off into blind alleys and followed every red herring to the end, and I didn't see the ending coming. Loved that! ...more
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Maybe I was so-so about this book because I am SO happy that I didn't live at this time -- the Puritan ethos was so inMassachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Maybe I was so-so about this book because I am SO happy that I didn't live at this time -- the Puritan ethos was so intensely anti-freedom, anti-woman, anti-independence. I would have gone nuts! Mary Rowlandson was married to a minister, living life as she expected --- until a band of Indians attacked their town when her husband and other men were gone, and she and her three children were kidnapped along with other women and children - the men and young boys who tried to fight off the Indians were killed. There followed several days of hard travel in the cold winter until the group reached the winter grounds of the Indians, part of the Indian sachem "King Philip's" kingdom. Mary spends a few months adjusting to her new life. Although Mary is a prisoner and servant among the Indians, she ironically finds a level of freedom that she hadn't previously known. And it is the direct contrasts between her two lives that provides the conflict, as she later faces reintroduction into the Puritan community. And then there's the love interest . . ....more
This was a fun between-book-club-books read. It appealed to my own pioneer can-do spirit. Following a divorce (and her ex decides to rent the house diThis was a fun between-book-club-books read. It appealed to my own pioneer can-do spirit. Following a divorce (and her ex decides to rent the house directly across the road from their house!?!), the author is determined to stay in the house with their three sons. This will require a LOT of belt-tightening, and will also require them to produce a lot of their own food. Thus follows a year of succeeding disasters interspersed with some successes. They win a contest with their giant "zucchini" that gives them a year's worth of bread. They try to raise chickens, and end up eating eggs every way imaginable, but then one of the chickens turns out to be a rooster --- mean and scary. They raise a pig, and put the meat in the freezer, but a power outage fries their freezer. Besides doing a lot of the physical labor around the "farm," Mardi is a writer and editor, and occasionally picks up odd paychecks from some freelance jobs. But I couldn't help but question some of her decisions -- why not look for some kind of steady income-producing job? And after spending all that money raising the chickens, well, what she decides to do with them seems foolish to me. But in general, I admired her determination, and enjoyed reading about her and her sons' fortitude and mutual support. ...more
"Downton Abbey" has created a resurgence of interest in the "downstairs" part of English manors, and though the home in this novel is no fine manor, i"Downton Abbey" has created a resurgence of interest in the "downstairs" part of English manors, and though the home in this novel is no fine manor, it aspires to be, as it is the home of Jane Austen's Bennet family, of "Pride and Prejudice." The five daughters of the family must be found husbands, and their mother will make every effort to entertain the "right people," and to dress her daughters and present them as worthy wives. Well, let's say that she will spare her SERVANTS no effort, for that is the side of the house we see most clearly in this novel. Sarah, rescued from the poorhouse at an early age, has grown up under the care and tutelage of Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper and cook. Likewise, another younger girl, Polly, was brought on to help out as more daughters were born. Now, as the daughters are reaching marriageable ages, a mysterious young man is hired as a footman and general handyman to help out the aging Mr. Hill, erstwhile butler and valet.
What was most noticeable to me was the details of the chores that happen before the fine dinners are served, or to get the girls ready "for the ball" - the process of doing the laundry is excruciating. And maintaining a busy household without the conveniences, appliances, and products available to us today was eye-opening. My mother was raised in a house without indoor plumbing, so I was familiar with the idea of chamber pots and outdoor privies -- but combine the necessity for emptying those pots with the assumption that the person filling it is uninvolved in its disposal makes the disgusting practical details all the more mundane. And with all those girls in the household, let's just say that this was WAY before the invention of tampons or disposable pads. Yuk.
Other than the housekeeping details, the backstory of the mysterious James, and the way that society in those times dealt with things such as pedophiles, homosexuals, and socially acceptable (and UNacceptable) marriage matches were fascinating. I also appreciated how Baker dealt with war - in spite of our advancing military technology, the effect of war on soldiers has changed little. The author skillfully illustrates the futility of the daily grind and boredom for soldiers, and how young men often leap into war as a way to show how brave and mature they are only to be disillusioned by the reality. We see also how war can provide a place for bullies to thrive.
The difference between the classes is much less romantic seen from the perspective of the lower classes. I am interested in re-reading "Pride and Prejudice" to see if my appreciation of that novel is tarnished after experiencing the lives of its unseen characters. ...more