In 2007 I went to the theater and saw the then latest Jake Gyllenhaal movie, Zodiac. It was based on the true story of the Zodiac Murders in the 70's which I hadn't known anything about up until then, but it was interesting and the movie itself was really good. And then, coincidentally, I watched the movie again last month when a friend of mine was visiting because she hadn't seen it before and it was on Netflix. So I was super interested in this book when it came out. (And just a side note, the cover is so interesting. The front and back cover is a picture of the believed-to-be serial killer and the dust jacket is red and clear. My hubby is reading this one too, and he and I agreed to keep the dust jacket on while reading this, because I can't just have a large serial killer's face sitting around my house!)
Anyway, it took me a minute to get into the book, but then once I did it was hard to put down! One of the authors, Gary Stewart, was surprisingly reunited with his birth mother at the age of 39. This eventually led him to look more for his father. He started to find signs that his father may have been the infamous Zodiac killer of the 70's, so he continued to research it for the next twelve years and provides his evidence and reasoning for how he believes his father, Earl Van Best Jr. "Van", was this serial killer.
The book is broken up into three parts: first he writes about the history of the romance between Van and his mother and then the second two parts are about his investigation and when his father becomes the Zodiac. It was fascinating and, especially if you are into true crime, you will fly through it. I can't remember if the author's conclusions were the same as the movie's or not, but I feel like the movie thought it was someone else. It's convincing in the movie, but so is the book, so I'm not sure about all that. I do wish that the author would have mentioned the movie and his thoughts on that, since he was doing all his investigating already when the movie came out. But other than that and feeling like it ended somewhat abruptly, I really enjoyed this book. If nothing else, it is an interesting look at the factors that influenced the development of a possible serial killer.(less)
I am having a serious book hangover after reading this. I'm writing this review a couple days after finishing the book, and I have had serious issues with trying to start another book because this has been in my head. I mean, it's not that this was my favorite read ever, because it wasn't, but it was very good and really threw a lot out there. I have not read a book as direct and straightforward, especially related to the topic of race and belonging, as Americanah.
I'm taking the synopsis from bn.com for this one: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
So, really, this book was not about their relationship as the synopsis makes it out to be. That's sort of the backdrop to everything, but the real story is about life in America, London, and Nigeria for Ifemelu (mostly) and Obinze. It's about life as an American Black (AB) and a a Non-American Black (NAB) and how their experiences are different, how non blacks respond to them in general and to them as different groups, the ways in which they (ABs and NABs) relate and in which they can't. It's about the dynamics of Nigerians in Nigeria and how they are changed after moving abroad.
There is really a LOT about race and belonging throughout the book - so much insight and so direct. I laughed because at one point I started to feel like everything was so in-your-face (just totally straightforward) and shortly after that the characters in the book are at a dinner party talking about publishing books and how readers want things to be subtle because they're uncomfortable with reading about this topic unless it's barely there, only understandable by reading in between the lines. Oops!
Americanah is such a social commentary on our society. Through Ifemelu's journey from Nigeria to America and back we learn from her experiences and from her blog posts about race. But even though that is the focus, there is also a story, and I miss reading about Ifemelu and her friends and family! I would recommend this to anyone who loves literary fiction. And I've said this before about other books, but it's one of those that I feel would be a huge benefit to people learning about or who are interested in sociology.(less)
I don't think I was able to give this book quite the fair shake because for the majority of the book I just kept comparing it to The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom which I have yet to review but which I listed on the Best of 2013 list. I read that book back in August 2013 (and this in January 2014), but I couldn't get it and the characters out of my mind! The two stories were very similar. In The Invention of Wings, we follow the lives of Sarah Grimke from the time she is 11-years-old and the same aged slave, Hetty "Handful" Grimke. Sarah is gifted Handful as her own slave for her 11th birthday, but Sarah develops more of a friendship with Handful, even teaching her how to read and write. Sarah has ambitions of a career when she becomes an adult, and even as a child she recognizes that she does not agree with slavery.
Where this book differed from The Kitchen House for me was that the latter was focused much more on the relationship and the characters themselves. In the former, it seemed the first half to 3/4s of the book were focused on developing a timeline and glimpses of Sarah's ambitions and thoughts about slavery. It seemed as though this portion of the book was developing the foundation for the plot related to Sarah's abolitionist leanings as an adult. The Invention of Wings is based on the true story of Sarah Grimke who was an abolitionist and women's rights advocate in the 1800's, who fought for all this much to the chagrin of her family and that of the entire community and culture in Charleston, South Carolina. I was very interested in this part of the story, but because so much of the book was spent building up, I felt like this part was rushed through too fast. I did find it interesting to learn how even the Quakers and other abolitionists didn't necessarily believe in racial equality and how they often demonstrated hypocritical behaviors! It was also interesting the conflict between pursuing abolition of slavery at the same time as women's rights.
I really wish the focus of this book had been the part with Sarah as an adult. I initially rated this 3/5 after I finished the book, but then I realized I spent a lot of time afterwards thinking about the characters and wanting to return to the story. So I changed my rating to a 4. It turns out I did develop a connection to the characters. So, yes, this was in all a very good book. But I can't help feeling that if you are going to read a book somewhere within the area of this topic, I would go with The Kitchen House first! (less)
One day I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a photo that another Facebook friend "liked". I don't remember the photo, but I remember...moreOne day I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a photo that another Facebook friend "liked". I don't remember the photo, but I remember it intrigued me, as did the title of the page it was posted from, "Humans of New York". Turns out I had inadvertently stumbled upon a wonderful photo blog by Brandon Stanton who takes pictures of various people all over New York City every day; he posts each picture along with a snippet from their conversation or an insightful or funny comment.
Now he's compiled 400 photos (75 brand new) into a gorgeous hardcover book (with a frosted transparent dust jacket)! I had the opportunity to review a copy and am in love with it as expected! His pictures are beautiful just on their own. But better than that, even is what he captures in little bits of conversation, turning each picture into a complete story and a look into another person's life. Sometimes they're funny, or sentimental, or just plain adorable. And on top of that you get fun glimpses of New York City in each picture. (Yay!) He also manages to include such a variety of people and cultures in his pictures that his book sort of chronicles the diversity and humanity of the city.
This book is the perfect coffee table book! It definitely would be the perfect gift for those who love NYC and/or people in general - for those who have an appreciation for the unique qualities in every person and in every photograph.The book turned out beautifully!
I'm sad that I didn't write a review for this one as soon as I read it because, unfortunately, I'm forgetting a lot of the details and reasons I loved it. That being said, I did love it! Reconstructing Amelia got a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl, and I disagree. However, it still has it's own craziness and twists and as I stated in my Best of 2013 post, by the end I felt like I'd been punched in the gut! It is one of those books that is a whirlwind as you come up on the end.
For a quick recap, the book starts out with the reader knowing that Amelia, the daughter of attorney, Kate Baron, has committed suicide by jumping off the roof of her school. It's especially sudden for Kate, as she had been on the way to the school after being told her daughter had been caught cheating. This was totally out of character for Amelia who was a great student and a really good kid. Kate grieves as normal, but then she receives an anonymous text saying "Amelia didn't jump." This validates what Kate was thinking anyway, so she starts a mission to investigate and figure out what really happened.
The book is narrated partly by Kate but also partly by Amelia, so we, readers, get insight into what was actually going on her life before Kate does. We get access to some Facebook posts, text messages, and e-mails which was a fun way to get to know her on top of her narration. There are also random scandalous blog posts from a anonymous writer. We see how Amelia gets caught up with some of the wrong "popular" crowd and watch as the drama gets out of control. Honestly, for the first 100 pages or so I thought it was just good and didn't think it was worth all the hype... BUT, then after that it started to move really fast and there were so many little mysteries and characters to figure out. Everyone seems to be involved in one way or another. If you have a teenaged daughter I could see where this book could be a little scary, and it is telling what adolescent girls today are dealing with as we see the unraveling that Amelia goes through.
I wish I could remember more specifically what I liked about this one, but I did list it at one of my best of 2013, and it was a great book to finish 2013 with. I highly recommend it!! READ IT!!(less)
This book was on many "best of" lists in 2012... I loved Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets, so that drew me to this as well. But with a fairly vague synopsis and it being so different than Financial Lives, I kept putting it off. But I should have known better! I hate to say the same thing so many other bloggers said, but it really IS so hard to explain, and it really IS about so many things, but I'll do my best.
The main storyline, if you can narrow it down, follows a young man, Pasquale, in 1962 Porto Vergogna, Italy, as he tries to turn his family's hotel, The Hotel Adequate View, into a tourist destination. Then there's the American actress who turns up to stay at his hotel while filming a movie (Cleopatra with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, yes the real one) in Rome. There's the American man who goes to Italy every year in an attempt to get away and write a book. Then present day, there's a famous movie producer, Michael Deane and his frustrated assistant, Claire. There's Shane, a spoiled script writer trying to pitch his movie. There's a middle aged man whose life has gone pretty much nowhere after being in various bands who then starts a comedy music show. Each of these characters is all connected, and you don't have to wait until the end to find out how. Within the first third of the book at least you know how most are connected. You may not like all the characters, but they are all so interesting and in some instances, scandalous.
It's not just the characters and their stories that illuminate Beautiful Ruins though. Not only is the writing intelligent (and infused with subtle humor), but the storytelling methods were so clever. Though there's mostly traditional narration, there's also a chapter from a book, part of a memoir, a pitched movie script, a play, and I could be forgetting something. Each of these was interesting, moved the story forward, and added so much. Then there's also the themes running through the book of people living their lives trying to accomplish their dreams and not always quite getting there - but maybe finding themselves along the way. It's also about how the people in our lives affect us. I loved the following quotes.
"This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life." -pg 218
All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character -- what we believe -- none of it is real; it's all part of the story we tell. But here's the thing: it's our goddamned story!" -pg 266
Another interesting thing was the way Walters incorporated the real life scandals that took place during the filming of the movie, Cleopatra. He even made Richard Burton a character in the book!
Anyway, loved Beautiful Ruins! It's still in my head after several days, and now I can't wait to read more of Walter's books!(less)