Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Reviews

I haven't done a book review in a while so how about we do one, m'k?  Click the name and title to take you to my full review.  Which may or may not contain nuts. No wait.  SPOILERS.  Not nuts.  Spoilers.

The quick review:

This book will depress the living heck out of you ... if you let it. There are moments of snickering, but for the most part, it's about a family falling apart at the seams and trying desperately to put it back together again. And it's not just falling apart -- it's fragmenting, then decaying, then pieces are falling off along the side of the road while one family member or other patiently gathers then all back up.

If you liked "The Corrections", you'll probably like this one.  

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University" by Kevin Roose

4 stars out of 5

What happens when a college student from Brown decides to take his "semester abroad" at ultra-conservative Liberty University, run by none other than Jerry Falwell?  The answer -- almost anything.  I won't spoil this one for you, but it is worth the read.  Roose began writing this book at age 19 but it reads far more intelligently.  Some crazy coincidences at the end of the book will make the hair stand up on your arms, but suffice it to say -- this isn't the book you're expecting.

3 stars out of 5

Oh, what a disappointment. I'd given five stars to her book "Water for Elephants" and had high expectations for this one.  Alas.  I was far more interested in the peripheral characters than the main characters, finding the main characters flat or uninspiring, and the story lacked .... something.  Sorry.

4 stars out of 5

Once again, this was a book I was anticipating ever since I read (and reread) Kostova's realistic vampire hunt called "The Historian".  

This book is about a phenomenal artist who slowly and painfully loses his mind, and along with it, his family, his job, and his ability to explain just what it is he's painting -- the same woman over and over.  A psychiatrist, also a painter, is assigned to him to try and break the artist free of his demons.

The book is told in various voices -- the ex-wife, the jilted lover, the psychiatrist -- and it's a haunting tale.  Exactly what one would expect from Kostova.

5 out of 5 stars

I saved the best for last.  

Hillenbrand, who hit the scenes with her first novel "Seabiscuit", switched gears to write about Louie Zamperini, a survivor of WWII.  But this isn't just any WWII memoir!  

Louie started out as a scamp of a kid, getting involved in petty theft as a youngster.  His brother tried to tame him by getting him on the track team, and all of a sudden Louie became a star.  Louie even made it to the Olympics in Germany, meeting Hitler before Zamperini even really knew what Hitler represented.  
Joining the military, Zamperini had a fear of flying, yet was made a bombardier, eventually being shot down and floating in a life raft for more days than anyone could make sense of.  He got rescued, though -- by the Japanese.

The remainder of the book speaks to his time in various camps, his survival, and how he came out of it.  But what's DIFFERENT about this book is the first-hand anticdotes the author managed to get from so very many of Zamperini's friends and colleagues, making the book read as easily as a novel, not as a dry memoir.

If you've never read a thing about WWII, never had the SLIGHTEST interest in it -- I'd challenge you to try this book.  Full of photos, hilarious stories, poignant thoughts, historical factoids, and not a dry bone about it, it's one of the best books I've read in years.

I hope you bibliophiles have enjoyed this blog post and you beaders have stuck with me!  Now, tell me about books YOU like!  And if you're on, please do friend me.  Click here to find me.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.


  1. Hey Lori, I really like this idea of book reviews! I am having a little bit of trouble lately finding a great book to keep my attention ... always nice to see what other people are finding interesting, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Sounds interesting. I want to check out your books. Thanks for the reviews.

  3. Great reviews Lori! I just finished the Corrections and am now in the middle of Freedom. And at your Goodreads suggestions, I have "Her Last Death" on deck!

  4. I loved, loved,loved Water for Elephants, so sad to hear you didn't like her second work.

  5. I just finished listening to Unbroken. AMAZING. I would drive a couple extra blocks to and from work just to keep listening.

  6. Hi Lori, I love reading. Good luck on reaching your 75 books that would be great. I'm shooting for 2 a month. This month read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and finishing The Girl Who Played with Fire. Very good and I will next read The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest. I recommend The Life of Pi and 100 Years of Solitude.

  7. I have heard of all of these books and I like your ability to sum up what is good and not so good about them so adeptly and concisely. The WWII book sounds super. I proofed my Dad's memoir for him, Victory Road, when he wrote it. He was nineteen when he left Yale and enlisted, joining his Dad and his brother Mac. It was privately published but is still in circulation. My father: my hero. Robert C. Baldrige. You can also see him on Youtube and it is really worth it.

    jean xox

  8. actually he changed his name to Baldridge as a young adult. the rest of the family didn't! He added an extra d because he was so sick of everyone spelling our name with the extra d in it!!! geesh I cannot believe I spelled my own name wrong!LOL


  9. I'm not familiar with any of these books. Or goodreads for that matter. I'll have to check it out this weekend!

  10. I want to read Swan Thieves and I'm glad the new Hillenbrand book is good. I read Seabiscuit and I love that one.

  11. Funny, I just re-read Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum because I FORGOT I'd read it already in '09. Now, being an aspiring writer I must tell you, I am mortified that I could have forgotten the book. And it was a pretty good book, too! Anyway -- I just got Unbroken and I can't WAIT to read it! I'm just starting Fall of Giants and it's a library book so I have to finish that one first. Thanks for the reviews!

  12. I am reading unbroken right now and LOVING it! The only reason I got it was from a recommendation on FB of a friend of a friend. Do you like light reading? You have probably read way more books than me (I am too obsessed with using my hands constantly to sit and read much). I enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and also The Thirteenth Tale and The House at Riverton. I've also been consuming anything by the Yarn Harlot lately :o)


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