Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership; James Comey

Macmillan Audio - 2018

A Higher Loyalty: Truth Lies and Leadership was a fantastic memoir, narrated by James Comey.  The memoir, spanning Comey's childhood to his post FBI days was not a bashing of the current political climate, rather more of a look back at Comey's life, his values and commitment to ethical leadership.  Fired in May of 2017 by the current President, Comey is often self-critical when he talks about his life and his career. It is clear, above all else, truth, integrity and respect for others were not just words for Comey, he lived by these values.

Much of this memoir was an eye opener. He was bullied as a child, the victim of an armed home invasion and, we are also given insight to his early work ethic, college days, marriage, family as well as all of the key cases he was involved in throughout his career.

I was so impressed by Comey's writing and the book overall. I wasn't exactly sure how I would react to this book, hoping that it would not be strictly political -- it was not.  We listened to the audio on a recent road trip and it was fantastic. It's a memoir that actually made me tear up on one occasion and, even my husband thought it was one of the best memoirs he's experienced. The book is narrated by James Comey, his voice very pleasing and sincere.  I highly recommend this book!

Note: As a side note, James Comey's baby brother, Chris is a wonderful neurosurgeon who we feel saved the life of a family member, to Chris we are grateful.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tin Man; Sarah Winman

Tin Man; Sarah Winman
GP Putnam - 2018

I decided to read this book after several reviewers mentioned the beautiful writing.

The story begins in the 1950's with Dora Judd in what seems to be a very unhappy marriage to Leonard. Unfulfilled with her life in general, a newly acquired Van Gogh print of "sunflowers" that she claims she won in a raffle, is the one thing that means the world to her.

Ellis and Michael were just 12 years old when they became friends in Oxford, both boys had domineering fathers.  What begins as friendships grows into something more but, their lives move in different directions.

Fast forward to 1996 and Ellis is a conflicted man who works at the Crowley car plant, he is now married to Annie and prone to periods of sadness. He often thinks about his boyhood friend Michael. As the story progresses the reader learns what happened to the people who meant the most to Ellis.

Based on the reviews I've come across, I'm probably in the minority here, but I had a hard time finishing this book. Yes, the writing was very good,  but often felt too melancholy and over done at times as well.  So overall, this one just wasn't for me and left me disappointed.

Rating - 3/5 stars

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Once again - The Handmaid's Tale; Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale; Margaret Atwood
read by Claire Danes (excellent)

I first read this book back in January of 2010, but since everyone seems to be talking about the television series or the book lately, I decided to try it again, but this time on audio -- read by Claire Danes (who did an awesome job). Once again, I really enjoyed this book, which is clearly outside of the kinds of books I am normally drawn to -- happy reading surprise.  Below is my review from 2010.

Margaret Atwood's, The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead, formerly the US, a place now run by a conservative Christian dictatorship.  It is here where the men are in charge, everyone is being watched over, and all offenders of ANY laws are prosecuted.

The narrator, thirty-three year old Offred, is a "handmaid". (a handmaid is a fertile woman whose life is one of isolation. She is forbidden associations with other men or friendships with other women). Previously, Offred enjoyed life with her husband and child. She use to have her own job, own money, and own interests.  Since she is presumed fertile, the new leadership has taken away her child, her money and she is being offered to the Commander of the government as a "handmaid" for the purpose of being him a child.  With birthrates declining dramatically, women are prized only for their fertility and their ability to reproduce. They are forbidden to work, own property or even to (GASP) read. If no baby is produced within two years these "handmaids" are sent to colonies for "unwomen".

MY THOUGHTS - Can you imagine such a scary thought -- women being stripped of their identity and having their existence justified by their ability to breed? Without giving away too much of the plot, I'll just say that there is even a monthly "ceremony" ritual that made me scratch my head in disbelief. How about a repressive society where order is maintained by terrorizing its people?  A chilling, but thought provoking read that drew me in from the very first page. I did not expect to enjoy this book, however by the end I was amazed at what an effect this book had on me.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

I haven't seen the television series yet, have you? If so what did you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Kinship of Clover; Ellen Meeropol

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Kinship of Clover; Ellen Meeropol
Red Hen Press - 2017

Chapter One

"The first time Jeremy saw the plants go crazy was at the cat's funeral, held in the family greenhouse crowded with teas and herbs and medicine-plants growing in pots and flats, their vines spiraling up wooden stakes against the walls. The air was earthy and moist and candles--dozens of them, hundreds maybe--shimmered and the plants danced in the flickering."

What are your thoughts on this intro? I can't wait to begin this one. The reviews seem very positive.

Monday, July 16, 2018

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff
Penguin - 1970

This book was such a lovely, charming and even sometimes funny memoir. A story that began with a simple letter inquiring about the availability of some used books.  Helene Hanff lived in New York City and worked as a freelance writer, she initiates a book inquiry letter. Frank Doel, is a proper Englishman who managed a used book store, 84, Charing Cross Road in London, the bookstore where Helene's first letter is sent. 

Helene and Frank never meet but correspond for over 20 years. Initially their letters seem to be mostly about books, but as the years go by the letters begin cover a variety of topics.  Where Helene is often witty, Frank is generally serious and proper. It was wonderful to see how over the years their letters change and a very special friendship develops. I found the ending unexpected and sad but, I was so happy I finally decided to read this slim gem of a book.

I immediately decided to watch the movie version of this memoir, staring Anthony Hopkins and Ann Bancroft, and, although I did like the movie, I loved the book even more.

Here is a paragraph from of the letters that Helene writes that made me chuckle ---

"Trust you and Nora had a fine holiday. Mine was spent in Central Park, I had a month's vacation from Joey, my dear little dentist, he went on his honeymoon.  I financed the honeymoon. Did I tell you he told me last spring I had to have all of my teeth capped or all of my teeth out?  I decided to have them capped as I have got used to having teeth. But the cost is simply astronomical.  So Elizabeth will have to ascend the throne without me, teeth are all I'm going to see crowned for the next couple of years."

Have you read this book or watched the movie?

Rating - 5/5 stars

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Tin Man; Sarah Winman

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. 

Tin Man; Sarah Winman
GP Putnam - 2017


"All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle.

She remembered being out in the back garden, as lights from the Crowley Car Plant spilled across the darkening sky, smoking her last cigarette, thinking there must be more to life."

This book is just 213 pages and, although I've only read a few pages, I'm really enjoying the writing. What do you think, pass or read more.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI; David Grann

David Grann - Penguin Random House - 2017

In the 1870's the US government drove the Osage Indian tribe off their land to a small reservation in Oklahoma. 

Fast forward to 1920 and the Osage were some of the richest people in the world once oil was discovered on their land.  However, it wasn't long before members of the tribe were ending up dead. Some had been poisoned, murdered and others dead under mysterious circumstances.  Those who attempted to investigate also found their lives cut short. When over 20 members were killed, the newly formed FBI took matters into their own hands. The FBI uncovered until a conspiracy of vast proportion which revealed coverups, greed and other injustices done to members of the Osage tribe.

A moving, chilling, eye opening, well-written story that will stick with. The audio book was well done and narrated by Will Patton..

Rating - 4/5 stars