Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nevermore: Paris Architect, Karin Fossum, American Crucifixion, Detroit, and more!

 Reported by Meygan

This week’s Nevermore opened with Charles Belfoure’s The Paris Architect. This book takes place in Paris and puts us in the shoes of architect Lucien Bernard. Lucien is offered a lucrative amount of money to outwit the Gestapo by creating hiding places for Jews—hiding places so unique that they would be almost impossible to spot. Lucien is well aware that if he is caught then he will be tortured and killed by the Nazis. How does Lucien hide the Jews? Does he get caught? When the Nevermore reader was asked if whether or not she liked the book, she said it was depressing and she had to look over certain street names and descriptions because they were written in French. 

The next book, I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum was described as being a real thriller. When cops show up at Riktor’s door, he isn’t all that surprised to be arrested. What he is surprised about, however, is what he is being arrested for. Riktor didn’t commit the crime he is being blamed for, but how can he prove that without admitting another crime he has committed? The Nevermore reader highly recommends this book!

American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church by Alex Beam tells the story of how Joseph Smith founded Mormonism and how he came across the Book of Mormon. According to the Nevermore reader, the book would be highly recommended for those wanting to know more about Joseph Smith but not to those wanting to read about Mormonism as a whole. 

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff has been a Nevermore sensation! Three of our Nevermore members highly recommend this book. The book is about Detroit and how it was once the richest city in the nation but is now deemed as the poorest. To quote what a Nevermore member’s son said about the novel, “Depressing as hell but fascinating!” Detroit: An American Autopsy discusses Detroit’s unemployment, illiteracy, foreclosure, and dropout rates. Did you know that a city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could fit into the vacant lots of Detroit? Our Nevermore reader said the only downfall to the book is that while there are pictures of Detroit in the book, there are no pictures of the old and new buildings. But this is a book that our Nevermore reader cannot get out of her head. Detroit: An American Autopsy definitely sounds like a must read!

In Gaute Heivoll’s Before I Burn, readers are introduced to a small town in Norway that goes up in flames thanks to an arsonist. But among the chaos, the town has gathered for the christening of a young boy name Gaute Heivoll. Heivoll grew up hearing stories about the arsonist, inspiring him to retell the story as an adult. Because of this, the identity of the arsonist is revealed. Our Nevermore reader says the true value of this book is the psychological fix of the small town and how characters are interesting and varied. 

The next book discussed was Inheritance: How Our Genes Changes Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes by Dr. Sharon Moalem. This book is full of information about the importance and inheritance of our genes and how something we do in everyday life such as eating right or exercising can turn off (not eliminate) a gene. The author then states that this gene can be turned on and off again. One Nevermore reader stated that the book would probably make a reader think of the environment in which to bring up a child. There is a study in the book where lab rats were taken away from their mother for several hours a day throughout x amount of weeks. Scientists discovered that the mice became incapable of sensing fear, such as not knowing not to be in the path of a cat. Scientists discovered that stress caused this gene to switch off. They also noticed that these mice passed on the gene several litters later, even though that particular group was never taken away from their mother. Anyone who loves science should definitely check out this book!

About two weeks ago, one of our Nevermore readers was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. This week, he decided to read Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House, a collection of short stories about different topics. The Nevermore reader stated that this book wasn’t as “science-fictioney” as The Sirens of Titan, and he preferred The Sirens of Titan over Welcome to the Monkey House

 The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell was very heavily discussed in Nevermore. This book tells how if a plague or catastrophic event was to happen then how the world could rebuild equipment and buildings. Several of our Nevermore readers didn’t care for the book, but a particular Nevermore reader stated that the book seemed to provide false suggestions and how if a meteor were to smash into Earth or is Yellowstone blew then this book wouldn’t help because it doesn’t meet basic needs such as how to obtain food, water, and shelter. I think we all can agree that is a catastrophe were to strike Earth then we would worry more about our basic needs being met more than how to look up building plans. A Nevermore reader stated that this book sounded like what to do after a catastrophe four generations later. 

The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car by Steven Parissien discusses the history of the automobile, mainly focusing on cars since World War II. The Nevermore reader couldn’t get enough of this book! He said The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car was a delightful read and is like taking a trip with the author as the driver. One of the Nevermore reader’s favorite parts was when the author wrote about how the government wanted to make the American cars tougher and provide more gas per mileage. Since the American companies couldn’t fix these problems overnight, the Japanese started making cars. To quote the Nevermore reader, “You will like this book if you like automobiles and who doesn’t like automobiles?”

The last novel discussed was The Collector of Dying Breaths: A Novel of Suspense by M.J. Rose. Set in the year 1533 in Florence, Italy, the author introduces us to Rene le Flotentin who is pulled from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Rene is trained to combine fragrance and medicine, creating a formula that could possibly reincarnate the dead. The Nevermore reader said the book was “pretty good”, even though there were a lot of French words.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War by Paul Kennedy

Reviewed by William Wade

This is not your usual narrative history of World War II, which begins with the September 1939 attack of Germany on Poland and concludes a few hundred pages later with the final surrender of German and Japanese forces in 1945.  Kennedy’s book is highly analytical and selects a few crucial themes for a full evaluation.

He begins his study in early 1943: the United States has become fully engaged with Britain, the Soviet Union, and other nations known as the Allied powers in a truly world-wide conflict.  The Allies have the opportunity to win this war, but there are serious problems that stand in the way of an assurance of victory.

·         The U.S. has enormous military and industrial potential, but German submarines pose a great threat in the Atlantic.  Unless the submarine menace can be overcome, the ability to get American troops and military equipment to the various fronts will fatally diminish its contribution. 

·         U.S. and British bombers have struck at German cities and industries but it has become evident that bombers without fighter escorts are being destroyed at an unacceptable number.  Unless an answer can be found, the air attack upon Germany will be a failure.

·         German troops have been formidable in the use of the blitzkrieg; in the early stages of the war they seemed invincible.  Unless tactics and strategy can be found to thwart the blitzkrieg, Allied troops will be in trouble.

·         It is clear to Allied planners that their move toward victory will require many attacks upon enemy-held shores, both in Europe and in the Far East.  There has been very little study at the higher military ranks as to the necessities for assuring victory in such attacks.

These issues become the focus of Kennedy’s book, and chapter by chapter he shows how solutions are gradually found and put to use, often with intense trial and error efforts, but sometimes through serendipity.  He writes with great technical skill, and the reader is pulled into the narrative, eagerly awaiting a happy solution to a difficult problem.  I would rank this as one of the best books on World War II, though it presumes some prior knowledge of the general story of the conflict.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Drinking and Tweeting by Brandi Glanville

Reviewed by Meygan

We all know that the media loves celebrity gossip.  (Remember the Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt divorce? Tabloids STILL talk about their divorce nine years later!) I have been guilty of reading these magazines while waiting on my groceries to be bagged, and, as pathetic as it sounds, there are celebrities that I want to know more about. 

When a copy of Brandi Glanville’s book Drinking and Tweeting: and other Brandi Blunders made its way to me, I was somewhat inclined to read the book because her name was very familiar. I didn’t know anything about Brandi other than she was on The Real Housewives and although I had never watched the show, I had friends who ranted and raved about Brandi and her unfiltered mouth. So, I googled her and found that her ex-husband, Eddie Cibrian, left her for Leann Rimes. I’m still not sure why, but I wanted to read Brandi’s story. Also, it had been a while since I read what I call a “junk food” book (a book that you read for enjoyment only and retain nothing beneficial from it). 

Brandi and Eddie’s marriage was never perfect. He had several affairs and he wasn’t the best hands-on father to their children. Nonetheless, Brandi was wealthy and by being married to Eddie, she was able to live in sunny California, close to Los Angeles. Brandi had ignored Eddie’s first affair because she was comfortable with forgiving him due to her circumstances. (Where would she go if she ever left him? She had given up a modeling career to stay home with their two children.) 

However, thanks to Celebrity Gossip sites and magazines, Brandi caught wind that Eddie was having another affair and this time it was with country singer, Leann Rimes. With Eddie two-timing her yet again, Brandi decided that enough was enough. She was filing for divorce. 

Brandi’s Drinking and Tweeting is a somewhat humorous book that gives readers insight just how ugly a celebrity divorce can be. There were times when I felt sorry for Brandi because she was a complete wreck after the divorce. I couldn’t feel too sorry for her though because the woman “downgraded” to a Land Rover because of finances, and she also dropped thousands of dollars for a plastic surgery. (I’ll give you a hint—the surgery wasn’t for her nose.) But in spite of her vulgar name-calling language, a reader doesn’t have to be a genius to see that she loved and possibly still loves her ex-husband. Journalists don’t realize that when they capture this celebrity sleaze, they aren’t just destroying a person’s reputation—they may be destroying their life. However, if not for the tabloids and paparazzi then Brandi wouldn’t have known about Eddie’s second affair, so kudos to her for dumping him for good! 

Drinking and Tweeting isn’t on my favorite book list or my worst book list. If I had to create a list for Drinking and Tweeting, I would place it on the “not sure why I read that, but it was OK” list. I’m sure we all have checked out a book unsure why we were intrigued to read it. Drinking and Tweeting wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as I hoped, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are fan-crazy about Brandi Glanville. Her writing style and language reminds me of Chelsea Handler, so for those of you who like Chelsea Handler’s books and Brandi Glanville, then you may want to check out Drinking and Tweeting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nevermore: McCarthy,the Seine, Good Girl, Good Luck of Right Now, and Vonnegut

Nevermore opened with another book by Cormac McCarthy.  All the Pretty Horses is the first in the Border Trilogy and begins after the death of John Grady Cole’s rancher grandfather, which means that sixteen year old Cole has to leave the only way of life he’s ever known.  He and a buddy leave Texas and head to Mexico, meeting up with an even younger sharpshooter along the way. The style is taunt and readable, and it seems obvious that McCarthy must have spent some time in the Southwest.  It’s far more than a typical “coming of age” story, and McCarthy’s writing has been compared to Faulkner’s.  Jud commented that it has “flowery language for a dry place” and that it could be used as a travel guide to living rough in Mexico. 

That segued into The Secret Life of the Seine by Mort Rosenblum, which details the life of folks living in houseboats on the Parisian river.  Some are quite well to do, which others struggle to make a living.  Rosenblum, a reporter, ended up on a boat after losing his apartment.  He became fascinated with the characters he encountered, hence the book.  It can also be used as a cautionary tale about the problems of living on a boat. 

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick tells the story of  38 year old Bartholomew Neil  whose mother’s death throws him into a bit of a panic.  He’s not quite sure how to deal on his own.  Jud describes it as “a humorous look at how [Neil} deals with life” but that readers may not know whether to laugh or cry.  Quick is also the author of Silver Linings Playbook.

Another reviewer read and recommended Good Girl by Mary Kubica. Mia is a free spirited art teacher, daughter of a prominent Chicago family, when she is taken hostage and held for ransom.  The novel deals with Stockholm Syndrome, but it so much more than that.  “Excellent, excellent book, reads well,” said our reviewer.  “This is a wonderful book.”

Finally, Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan continued to entertain another member who wanted everyone to know that while it is science fiction, it has real meaning.  It pokes fun at some aspects of our culture and ridicules our policies.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Reviewed by Meygan Cox

Nick and Amy Dunne appear to have the perfect marriage. Both are writers living in New York City, and Amy has quite the trust fund set back for her and Nick’s future. However, their perfect marriage begins to crumble when they both lose their jobs, Amy gives most of her savings to keep her parents from going bankrupt, and Nick is asked to move back to his home state Missouri so he can take care of his ill mother. I believe anyone would agree that all of these reasons would take a toll on almost any marriage. Nick and Amy begin to argue a lot, using both words and silence to state their case, and although they are both miserable, neither one of them wants to make the first step to getting a divorce.

On their five year wedding anniversary, Nick receives a phone call from his neighbor telling him that Nick’s front door is wide open. Nick finds this unusual, so he goes home. There he finds messed up furniture and broken glass—the indication of a struggle. Nick calls the police and the police file a missing person report. Where has Amy Dunne gone? 

I couldn’t set this book down without feeling I was betraying the author. I just knew that the story would be more engrossing, more enticing with each chapter I read. I read this book before I went to bed, on my lunch breaks, and every other second of time I was given to spare. I found myself waking up thinking about the book. Where DID Amy go? Who took her? Did Nick kill her? They HAD been arguing right before she disappeared… 

The last few chapters were mind blowing. I finished Gone Girl a couple of days ago and I am still thinking about what I read. To me, that is what makes a good book a good book—you think about the story long after reading it.  I craved more Gone Girl and I knew that I just had to see the movie.
With a movie adaptation, you never know what to expect. Will the writers of the movie stick to the novel? Will the movie be a completely different story and the only thing in common is the title? I was nervous. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I am happy to say that although there were a few changes in the movie, most of the changes was minor. The ending was changed just a bit, and I found the movie ending less thrilling.  Still, the people I was with hadn’t read Gone Girl and they liked the ending, even though they found it confusing. (I had to explain a part to them because the movie didn’t elaborate on a certain point as much as the book did, causing it to be easily missed in the movie.) The actors and actresses were cast to a tee. I was a bit surprised at first to find that Ben Affleck would be playing Nick (I’m not exactly his biggest fan), but he did a great job. I sympathized with movie Nick more than I did book Nick, I will say that, but Ben did a good job nonetheless. 

The ending of the book provokes more questions, but I believe it answers more questions than the movie did. My husband, who does read sometimes but said no thanks to reading Gone Girl told me that he wished he had read the novel before seeing the movie. You are truly missing out if you don’t read the book before you see the movie. If you see the movie without reading Gone Girl, well, I’m not sure if you will truly understand Nick and Amy Dunne.

 There are already rumors floating around that there will be a Gone Girl 2. What do you all think?