This is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his oThis is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his own stories: HERE) that "it is just about my favorite story of all the stories I have written."
It is certainly a superb story on the nature of entropy and the ultimate question: Can entropy be reversed? The twist which provides the answer comes in the final lines of the story and is stunning. There is little more that I can say without completely giving the story away. If you like Asimov, if you like good science fiction, if you like a blazing good story...just read it. Or, as I did, listen to it. I listened to Isaac Asimov read it. But my preferred version is the reading by Leonard Nimoy (HERE)....more
Grammy Lamby & the Secret Handshake by Kate and M. Sarah Klise is a delightful children's book about the relationship between grandparent and granGrammy Lamby & the Secret Handshake by Kate and M. Sarah Klise is a delightful children's book about the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Instead of a more expected, traditional view--where "grands" are natural allies and friends, the book gives us Larry Lamb, a boy who seems to meet his grandmother later in life and who is embarrassed and confused by this loud, exuberant person who wears loud hats, sings much louder than anyone else in church, and wants him to do the secret "I love you" handshake when all he wants is for her to go away.
But Larry soon learns that Grammy's spirited personality can be a great thing when storms hit and his family and his community need help. As he helps Grammy to help others, he finds out what a special person she is and what it can mean to have a secret handshake meant just for you. A really sweet book with a great story told in simple language and beautiful illustrations.
The Greedy Gremlin is the second in a juvenile series called Pixie Tricks. The series premise is that fourteen fairies of different sorts (pixies, sprThe Greedy Gremlin is the second in a juvenile series called Pixie Tricks. The series premise is that fourteen fairies of different sorts (pixies, sprites, gremlins, etc) have managed to escape from their world into the world of humans. And they are all out to cause trouble. A fairy named Sprite is sent by the Fairy Queen to trick them all and send them back where they belong. He teams up with a clever girl by the name of Violet and each book is an installment in their quest to trick all fourteen fairies.
This particular story features their "battle" with Jolt--a gremlin who loves machinery and gadgets of all sorts and who loves making them work improperly. He becomes fascinated with video games and when Violet's cousin Leon tries to keep Jolt from playing his game, Jolt magics Leon onto the screen. So not only do Sprite and Violet need to trick Jolt to send him back to the land of the fairies, but they also need to save Leon from being destroyed in one of the levels of Action Kingdom.
This is a fun chapter book that children should enjoy thoroughly. The main premise (tricking fairies into doing something that will send them back home) reminds me of Mr. Mxyzptlk in the Super Friends cartoon. He was also a trickster--causing all sorts of trouble while not really being a super villain. In order to send him back to his own dimension, the Super Friends had to trick him into saying/spelling his own name backwards. Enjoyable story and easy to read for kids.
You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its cYou know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its core, that's what The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951) is about--how quickly everything mankind has been used to and sure of is destroyed when the majority of the population is blinded after the Earth's orbit takes it through a strange meteor shower (or comet's tail or even a nuclear fireworks show from orbiting satellites--we're just not sure) and venomous, carnivorous plants which are ambulatory start preying on the survivors. It is also about how humanity reacts in the face of such a shattering experience. Far more terrifying than the possibility of death by triffid is the realization of how quickly humanity could lose the qualities that have seemed to separate us from the beasts. Man can become very beast-like when the trappings of civilization are stripped from him.
Whether they decide polygamy is the way to go (to better ensure future generations) or to team up sighted people with those who are blinded or revert to strict religious tenets, it is interesting to watch various groups come up with survival plans and new "rules" for their colonies. It is also interesting to think about what tactics I might adopt if in the same circumstances. Despite the "Killer Plant" B-movie monster theme, Triffids is really a book of thoughtful contemplation about what makes humans survivors and what about humanity should survive.
(view spoiler)[The finale is very open-ended. Of course, so is life. We never know what will happen tomorrow. And neither do the survivors in Triffids. They have driven the man-eating plants from the island, but the triffids still hold sway over much of England and the world. Humanity will have quite a battle before them if they are going to reclaim the Earth. It's left to our imagination whether they succeed. (hide spoiler)]
This story wound up affecting me more vividly than I anticipated. My words of wisdom for my co-workers this morning? "If you ever decide to read the classic SF story The Day of the Triffids, don't do it right before bedtime."
First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Tzimmes (and don't forget the cheesecake and strudel) is a charming slice of Jewish life served up with a side of humor and heaping portion of panacheTzimmes (and don't forget the cheesecake and strudel) is a charming slice of Jewish life served up with a side of humor and heaping portion of panache by Art Marshall Fell. When Art contacted me through the blog to ask me if I'd like to review his short novel, I was delighted. His request was lovely--it came adorned with two music videos of him and his friend David Cross playing a bit of jazz and his bio told me that he hails from Bloomington. As I told Art in my reply, How could I possibly say no to a fellow Bloomingtonian? I couldn't and I am glad.
This short piece of fiction was delightful to read as it tells the story of Dr. Sam Landover, high school math teacher, and his trials and tribulations in brokering a deal among the Shalom Center's Board as they try to choose a new rabbi. Dr. Landover has just gotten through congratulating himself on easing himself off of the Board and getting his friend Max voted on. Time to relax! But Max finds himself unable to take sides when the other six Board members split down the middle on a vote between two rabbinical candidates. He has friends and customers on each side and he doesn't want to make anyone mad. So...he insists that Sam (who got him into this mess, after all) help figure out a way to make everyone happy. Sam uses his flair for making things up as he goes along and, miraculously, manages to find a solution that everyone approves.
Great fun and a lovely quick read. ★★★★
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog My Reader's Block, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]...more
The Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before ChThe Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" and lesser known Christmas-themed works by others as well as non-holiday stories and poems about childhood. It is designed along the lines of the MacGuffey Readers that were used as school primers long ago and far away (I have a couple of those around here somewhere as well). The stories and poems beyond the famous Moore poem are obviously intended to teach and remind children of strong moral values such as friendship, family, giving, studying, and helping. The works are charming in their old-world flavor and a nice peek at the world of yesteryear.
Synopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, aSynopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, a young art historian, is assigned eighteenth-century painter Canaletto’s Vedute by his teacher as the topic for his dissertation, he decides to focus on a secondary feature, Canaletto’s figures. Allyn uses his camera phone to solve a centuries-old mystery, thanks to clues left by the painter employing a mobile device of his time--the camera obscura. With the action taking place over a single day, art and technology, as well as ambition, romance, and a brutal crime intersect in a series of step-by-step revelations culminating in a startling deus ex machina at the end.
I opted to just quote the synopsis from the book cover and to make this a mini-review for two reasons. First, this is a very short book. Very short. (44 pages) And I was afraid that I might make the synopsis either full of spoilers or, at the very least, longer than the book itself. Second, I don't have a lot to say on this one.
The premise was fantastic--the book jumped off the library's "New Arrivals" shelf and into my hands and as soon as I read the synopsis I was hooked. But. When I started reading it--what a let-down. As I mentioned this is one short book....and as far as I can tell the primary purpose was to give the reader every bit of knowledge David Alan Brown (he would be the author) has about Canaletto, painting in Italy in the 1700s, and the camera obscura. Tons of dry as dust info-very little story. And when we get to the big discovery (finally!), he crams it all into about five pages (five tiny pages--the book is about 4 inches square). Brown could have done so much with this story to make it interesting, but didn't. The startling ending mentioned above doesn't even do it. If anything, it feels rather like a cheat--like he knew the book wasn't all that intriguing and, hey, why don't I try to spice it up with this surprise ending? The book is okay--great premise, poor execution.
At its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and theirAt its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and their ways of handling what they have been through and what they have done only serve to drive a wedge of silence between them. They rub along for ten years in what is revealed to be a fairly superficial semblance of a relationship, but the day that Peter puts his fist through the glass pane of the back door starts them down a road that will lead either to the complete disintegration of the marriage or reconciliation and healing.
Blake (Swift) is absolutely on target with her representation of how a relationship can gradually slip away--almost without notice. The polite daily interactions smooth over the troubled waters underneath and both Rhoda and Peter believe that the other responsible for the lack of warmth and trust. The truth, as always, is more complicated than that and they both need to lay a few war-time ghosts to rest before deciding what really matters to them.
Deft characterization and terrific period detail make this novel an absorbing read. An emotional exploration of the psychological effects of war on both the soldiers and those they left behind. ★★★★
Review will post on My Reader's Block on Dec. 2 for Blog Tour. Please request permission before reposting my comments. Thanks.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments in this section are entirely my own honest opinion.] ...more
...he was pleased to see me in a way he wasn't actually going to be able to say. And I told myself that it was going to have to be enough. I would do...he was pleased to see me in a way he wasn't actually going to be able to say. And I told myself that it was going to have to be enough. I would do the thing he had asked for. That would have to be enough.
Louisa "Lou" Clark is an ordinary woman living the most ordinary of lives--still living at home with her parents, working as a waitress in the local cafe, riding the same bus and walking the same way home every evening. The most extraordinary thing about Lou is her eccentric taste in clothing. She bursts on every scene looking like a rainbow that had a fight in an Oxfam shop. But her life is about to become very extraordinary indeed....and all because she loses her job.
Will Traynor has always been a man of action--whether scaling rocky heights and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or taking on the big deals of the corporate world, he's known what he wants and how to get it. Preferably as quickly and in the most exciting way possible. All that changes on a rainy afternoon when he collides with a motorcycle as he sprints for a taxi. Up till now, he's tackled every challenge that's come his way, but the challenge of living the rest of his life in a wheelchair--not even able to feed himself without assistance--isn't the kind of challenge he had in mind and he decides it isn't the kind of challenge he wants.
When the cafe where Lou works closes down, she is forced to look for another job and, after trying various options that just didn't work out, she applies for position that will offer "care and companionship for a disabled man." That ad doesn't even begin to explain the situation when she meets Will Traynor. Will is bitter and tired of life. He doesn't want help, he doesn't want cheery, and, as far as Lou can tell, he doesn't want her. But little by little these two very different people begin to get to know each other...and the six months they spend together will change them forever.
So...I made the mistake of finishing this book at work. Teary-eyed and sniffing at my desk. Jo Jo Moyes has written a heart-breakingly beautiful book. An out-of-the-ordinary love story. The characters are quirky and imperfect and utterly believable. The story is difficult--the decisions Will makes are devastating for all who care for him--and the struggles they all go through to determine how best to prove that they love him are real and painful the hardest battle anyone should have to face emotionally. I loved watching the relationship grow between Will and Lou. I loved watching Lou learn how to live and to reach for what she wants most in life. I cried with her as she had to let some of those things go.
At the end of the novel, Will asks Lou to support him the most difficult decision anyone can make. At first she can't face it--and then, in a revisiting of a scene from earlier in the book, Will says:
“Hey Clark. Tell me something good." I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn't have met, and who didn't like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other...And as I spoke I knew these would be the most important words I would ever say and that it was important that they were the right words, that they were not propaganda, an attempt to change his mind, but respectful of what Will had said.
And, at its heart, that is what Me Before You is about--two people who had every reason NOT to like one another, every reason NOT to get along who become the only people who can understand and help each other when they need it most. Will as he faces the most difficult moment of his life and Lou as she faces a crucial crossroads. Their care and understanding of each other is what makes this book work. Fantastic story-telling. ★★★★ and a 1/2 stars.
Synopsis (from the book flap): Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk-show host, a musiSynopsis (from the book flap): Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk-show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Toppers' House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.
In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells the story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance and their own mortality. Intense, hilarious, provocative, emotional, A Long Way Down is a novel that asks big questions: about life and death, strangers and friendship, love and pain, and what it takes to make through a long, dark night of the soul.
******** My Take: So....I'm guessing that somewhere in the 333 pages I read that there's a story full of deep meaning. I mean it says so in the synopsis, right? And a whole bunch of people on Goodreads gave it good ratings and talk about how wonderful it is...and by the way it's funny. Hilarious even. Um. Right. I suppose if you find pages and pages sprinkled with the f-bomb all over the place while four people are dealing with suicidal thoughts funny, then, yeah, it's a riot. You see....I couldn't manage to pay attention to the story much because I was studiously trying to avoid all the swearing. It was like maneuvering through a mine field and there was no possible way I was going to pick up on any deep meaning when I was too busy being annoyed by all the four-letter words. Seriously--a couple of these folks are supposed to be fairly well educated and they couldn't possibly come up with any other way to express themselves anywhere in the entire book? Not a single conversation without f--- or various spicy little British swears? And don't tell me that everybody talks that way. No. Not everybody. There are plenty of people that I know who don't. And people who may use that sort of language--but not all the live-long day every day.
If Hornby has such an awesome story to tell, then it would be nice to be able to enjoy it. I couldn't. And, I have to say that much as I adore Pierce Brosnan--if his character (and the others) speak that way throughout the movie that's being released on July 11 (so sayeth Google), then I'll be giving it a miss.
Oh...and you might be wondering why I bothered to slog my way through this. That heroic effort was all for the Semi-Charmed Summer Reading Challenge which requires us to read a book that has been or is being made into in 2014--and the synopsis struck me as interesting when I was hunting for a suitable entry. A good read? No. Challenges met? Yes! So a win for me even if I can't recommend the book. Your mileage may vary.
Eleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornamentEleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornaments; she doesn't much like children. And there isn't even a proper park near her oppressively tidy home in Reading. Why can't the Carnabies be headed out for an adventure somewhere exciting instead. You know what they say: Be careful what you wish for....Because when Professor Ampersand and his adopted children Zara and Ben zoom up on a yellow motorcycle and sidecar to whisk Sam away from the proposed dreadful visit in Reading, the adventure is well on its way. And it will be more adventure than Sam could possibly imagine.
Sam barely has time for a quick investigation of Professor Ampersand's awesome inventor's digs when one of the professor's colleagues arrives with news that the evil Professor Murdo is out to kill the rest of the original "7 Professors of the Far North"--a group of brilliant scientists who were once going to teach at a university on Nordbergen, an island in the Arctic Circle--as well as making preparations to take over the world. The other professors are called for a meeting at Ampersand's home--but before Professor Gauntraker can fully explain the dangers, Murdo's henchmen arrive and kidnap the professors. Sam, Zara, and Ben manage to hide and Gauntraker leaves a clue behind that will allow the kids to follow to Nordbergen. But how can three children take on an evil genius and his armed minions? The fate of their friends...and the world...is in their hands.
A wonderful adventure book for the nine and older crowd. The opening immediately grabs the reader and the story provides an exciting ride. This is definitely the type of book that I would have devoured in my younger days and I found it quite enjoyable now. It reminds me of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories--written as a straight narrative. While the idea of three children defeating an evil genius may be a little hard to believe, the story as told sweeps you right along and the kids have enough doubts and get just enough help along the way to make it really easy to suspend your disbelief. Great fun and interesting story. There is also a parallel story about Marcia and her parents that works well as it dovetails with the adventures of Sam, Zara, and Ben--and it serves as a nicely done morality story about being happy with who you are and letting others be exactly who they are as well. Good, solid story-telling.
Steampunk Poe is a sumptuous collection of stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe effectively illustrated by Zdenko Basic and Manuel Numberac with imageSteampunk Poe is a sumptuous collection of stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe effectively illustrated by Zdenko Basic and Manuel Numberac with images influenced by steampunk. This edition showcases a variety of Poe stories--from the well-known "Murders in the Rue Morgue" to the more rarely anthologized "The Spectacles" and "The Balloon Hoax" and ornaments each one with steampunk-inspired artwork featuring elaborate clockwork aviation, cyborg-like evil eyes (a la "The Tell-Tale Heart"), truly phantasmagorical spectres of the Red Death and Roderick Usher's sister, and so much more.
Poe may have written long before steampunk became a major force in fiction, but never has a classic author's work been so perfectly fitted for a steampunk makeover. The illustrations provide a haunting new twist to the grandmaster of mystery and the bizarre. My favorites include the illustrations for "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." It was also refreshing to read new-to-me stories: "The Spectacles" and "The Balloon Hoax." My only complaint--and the reason for four stars and not five--is that there are too few illustrations. Having gone to the trouble to provide us with an entirely new slant on Poe's work, I would have hoped for more examples of that view.
Sinners and the Sea is a compelling story about many things--many more things than just a retelling of Noah and the Ark. Because, honestly, this isn'tSinners and the Sea is a compelling story about many things--many more things than just a retelling of Noah and the Ark. Because, honestly, this isn't simpy the Biblical story that you might have grown up with...and it doesn't matter that it's not. At its heart, Sinners and the Sea is about identity-- what it is about us that makes us who we are and carries us where we need to go. Noah's wife, who remains unnamed until the final page of the novel, struggles with the fact that she has no name of her own save those that tie her others (daughter, Noah's wife, mother, grandmother) and wonders "If Noah and my sons die...who will I be?" Her story, her journey, is all about discovering who she really is regardless of what others call her. Her story shows us that while we may see imperfections, disabilities, or disfigurements as obstacles, perhaps it is those very things that allows us to be who we ought to be, to go where we ought to go, and take others with us.
Beautifully written. Kanner evokes Biblical times with realistic touches and is utterly convincing in recounting the horror with which our unnamed heroine watches humanity pulled down by mighty waters. Her characters are well-drawn and completely believable...although not always likeable. But, then, not all people are likeable. She effectively represents the good and the bad in all humanity--even the righteous who are spared the flood. Four % 1/2 stars.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion. The entire blog tour review will appear on my blog My Reader's Block on May 21, 2014.]...more
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is an epic title. That would be why this book jumped off the shelf at the library, into my hand, and inThe Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is an epic title. That would be why this book jumped off the shelf at the library, into my hand, and insisted that I needed to take it home with me. Which I did. Sadly, the book did not quite live up to its epic title. The book is good. The book is funny--as I expected it to be. But it's not that good. And it's not that funny. There are places in it where I am sure there are jokes and I'd get that feeling that I was supposed to laugh--like Robert Rankin had paused expectantly waiting for the audience to provide the laugh track. But then I'd be like Sherman in the Mr. Peabody & Sherman movie (which we just saw at the drive-in last Saturday) and I'd look up and think to myself I don't get it.
Rankin has created an interesting premise. A young man named Jack is on his way to the big city to seek his fortune--he's heard stories that that's where all the fortunes to be made are made. But when he gets there, all is not as glamorous as he's been given to believe. First off, the "big city" is really Toy City (aka Toy Town). Everybody is a toy except for the rich and famous nursery rhyme characters like Little Miss Muffet and Little Tommy Tucker and Ole King Cole, etc. And there is a serial killer loose who is knocking off the Mother Goose celebrities one by one in rather gruesome methods based on their rhymes. The Toy City police are stumped and Bill Winkie, a Private Eye who has starred in his own series of crime novels, has mysteriously vanished.
Jack runs into Winkie's sidekick, Eddie Bear, and Eddie convinces him to partner with him to solve the murders and collect a fabulous reward. Because you know, Eddie was the real sawdust--er, brains behind the P.I. business. Eddie leads Jack into underage drinking, high-speed car chases, in and out of jail, and into encounters with mysterious spider women. There will be quite a few more deaths and some high-tension drama before Eddie and Jack can find out who's really behind the nursery rhyme murders.
The book is a fantasy-style riff on the noir genre and private eyes in general. It is very self-aware and that is part of the fun. Jack and Eddie discuss how "if this were one of Bill Winkie's private eye books" then "we'd have met all the important characters by now" or "we'd have gotten hold of the MacGuffin by now." They also talk about whether or not the decisions they make along the way would be what a true detective in a crime novel would do. Lots of in jokes (and, as discussed, plenty that go right over my head) and plays off of the nursery rhymes. Excellent premise that manages to fall just short of being a fantastic story. Good solid entertainment, but not extraordinary. Three Stars.
Poor Lady Mablethorpe is having a bout of the vapors. Her innocent, young, soon-to-be wealthy son has announced his intention to marry the beautiful tPoor Lady Mablethorpe is having a bout of the vapors. Her innocent, young, soon-to-be wealthy son has announced his intention to marry the beautiful twenty-five-year-old Deborah Grantham. The only difficulty? Miss Grantham is the niece of Lady Bellingham, the owner of a gambling establishment. And, even worse, Miss Grantham actually presides over the gaming tables--flirting with the gentlemen and playing them off one another in the hopes of driving them to leave even more of their wealth behind.
The distraught mama enlists the aid of her nephew, Max Ravenscar, to, at best, persuade young Lord Mablethorpe of his folly and put an end to the love affair or, if necessary (heavens she hopes not as she reaches for her vinaigrette), to buy off the shameless hussy at any cost. Mablethorpe is thoroughly besotted and there is no hope of changing his mind, so Ravenscar meets with Miss Grantham to try and make a deal. But--inexplicably--Deb Grantham refuses the more than handsome offer of 20,000 pounds and is thoroughly insulted by the insinuation that she would take advantage of an innocent. She determines to make Ravenscar pay for his injustices to her....and she and Ravenscar are plunged headlong into a battle of wits and wills to see who will get the better of whom.
Georgette Heyer was the queen of the Regency Romance. She did her research well and the reader is completely immersed in the age from the first sentence to the last. The conversations are pitch perfect and the descriptions of the gaming house, Vauxhall, and the Park (where everyone who's anyone goes to be seen) are delightfully on target. Despite the fact that historical romances tend to run in a somewhat formulaic manner to brooding, pompous, I'm-going-to-be-a bachelor-forever-so-there Heroes and strong-willed, feisty Heroines and even though the two declare throughout the book how much they despise each other, so we all know what will inevitably happen--despite all that, Heyer writes fantastic stories with characters that keep you reading for the fun of it. Her books have it all: witty dialogue, the life and doings of the ton, creditable characters that are some sometimes a bit larger-than-life (but not too, too much larger), a great concern with social standing which always, always puts a twist on the romance in question. She's my go-to author for historical romances and I love reading her books.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was a dirt poor Staten Island boy. He works side-by-side with his father--a down and out farmer who can't make the farm pay and wCornelius Vanderbilt was a dirt poor Staten Island boy. He works side-by-side with his father--a down and out farmer who can't make the farm pay and who often has schemes that don't work out. Cornele (as he's known in the family) watches the ships come into harbor from all over the world. He knows the name of every one and he knows that one day he'll be part of that world that brings the goods of the world to New York's shore. His father scoffs at him and tries to discourage him and by the time Cornele is 16 he wants out. He's determined to go to sea--but his mother doesn't want him to go. He arranges to borrow $100 from her to buy a boat and start his own "Staten Island Ferry" business. He promises to pay her back and give her a return of $1000. He's as good as his word. This is the beginning of Vanderbilt's spectacular climb from the poorest family in town to the richest man in the world.
With nothing more than a 5th grade education, he uses his wits and his infallible nose for the right deal at the right time to repeatedly plunge into the next best thing--from the Staten Island Ferry to a shipping business based on a fleet of sailboats to learning all there was to know about steamships to running supplies during the War of 1812 to a switch to railroads when that what the shipping business needed. When he got knocked down--which was rare--he just got right back up and waded back in to work. Telling him something couldn't be done when he had set his mind on it was the surest way to guarantee that it would be done....and at tremendous profit.
Simon Sobo's novel, Commodore, tells us Vanderbilt's story in Cornele's own voice. The Commodore is at death's door. He has turned reporters away repeatedly, but finally allows Michael Burch to come and listen to the story of a lifetime. The public is hungry to know everything about the richest man on earth--how he did it; what his secret is...because if they know that, maybe they can do it too. As the book says: People couldn't get enough of him in their newspapers. One of their own showed 'em it can get done. One of 'em that wouldn't take nothing from no one. He was the Michael Jordan of his day. He simply refused to not win.
Sobo tells a compelling story and Vanderbilt comes to life as the reader follows him from the farm to the mansion in Washington Place where he will see the end of his days and face all the demons of his past. Cornele wants to make peace with his father and wife...but will telling his tale to Burch help him accomplish that?
This is a fascinating book about a remarkable man who fought for every inch. An interesting look at life when America was young and industry was just beginning. But it's not for the verbally squeamish--Vanderbilt doesn't pull any punches and he has no censor when it comes to language. The book probably has the most f-bombs of any I ever read. If that's the way the Commodore spoke, then I wouldn't have wanted to be in the same room with him for long. But the book does its job--it paints a raw and real picture of where Vanderbilt came from and who he was. Four stars.
This was first posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.
Thanks to Jocelyn of Kelley & Hall Book Publicity for providing me with this review copy.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.] ...more