Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Hadley Richardson meets the young Ernest Hemingway in Chicago in the early 1920’s.  Hemingway is just back from his harrowing experience with World War I.   She falls in love with the brawny 21 year-old even though her best friend Kitty is disapproving.  The book follows their courtship, marriage and moving to Paris. 

Much has been written about Paris in the “Roaring Twenties”.  There were many expatriates living in the magical city which find their way into the young couple lives; Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tokas, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Archibald MacLeish.  They lived a relatively hedonistic lifestyle.  They make trips to Italy, Switzerland for skiing and Spain for the bullfights.  The Sun Also Rises was written during this time frame and was taken from Hemingway’s life.

This is really a story about marriage and what happens when one of the pair decide to change the rules.  How much will one person tolerate? 

The writing wasn’t fantastic, but the subject was interesting and kept me reading.  (Spoiler Alert) I knew that their marriage didn’t last, but it was interesting to read about the evolution and seeing the missteps along the way.

3 stars (Rated PG-13; some sex, but not too graphic)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell

The entire title is The Speckled Monster A Historical Tale of Smallpox.  I'll have to admit that I probably never would have read this book if it hadn't been chosen for me by a very discerning member of one of my Book Clubs.  If I hadn't read it, I would have missed a very intriguing story of a immensely ugly disease.

Ms. Carrell does an excellent job of weaving the stories of experimental innoculations in Boston and London in the same year (1721), the people who brought it all about and those who tried to stop it.  Lady Mary Wortley Montagu went to Turkey with her ambassador husband and discovered that the people their were not "pock-marked" as they were in London.  Having gone through the ravages of small pox herself she wished to save her children from the horrors and has them innoculated.  When others hear about its success, royalty becomes involved.

In Boston, Zabdiel Boylston, a self-made 'doctor' strives to find a way to help his patients with this horrific malady.  He hears about the innoculation and is intrigued.  When he discovers that black slaves from Africa had all gone through this innoculation before coming to America he decides to give it a try.  The other Doctors and men in the governement oppose him at every step.  Woven into the Boston story is the appearance of Ben Franklin as a young boy selling newspaper and the birth of one Sam Adams.  Fascinating!

The mastery of an author to take a subject such as smallpox and to write in such a way as to keep you enthralled for 400 pages is extraordinary!

4.5 Stars  (Rated PG for gorey subject)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans is the author of all those romantic Christmas books.  This is very different.  It is the first of seven books in a series geared towards YA's.  The attempt was to give them something compelling to read which displays good values.

Michael Vey appears to be an average 14-year old boy living in Meridian, Idaho with his mother.  But Michael is anything but ordinary, he is one of 17 'electric' children in the world and people are looking for him...bad people. 

I was entranced with the story and found myself wondering what I would do if put in the same situations.  What choice would I make? 

5 Stars (Rated PG - for tense situations and some violence.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally & Brett all live in the same Palo Alto neighborhood in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  They meet weekly and discuss their writing attempts.  The bigger story is their lives and the support they give each other.  The story of women supporting each other has been done often and Ms. Clayton's tale is very compelling.  What makes it even more interesting is the history that is woven into the book.  Everything from man landing on the moon to women being allowed to run the
Boston and New York Marathon to the founding of Intel and those pesky computers.

One of my "chuckle moments" was when the whole group gathered at one home to watch the moon landing on the 'giant' 23-inch color TV!

Rating: 3 stars (PG-13 - some sex, but not too graphic)

Friday, August 12, 2011

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Claude Wheeler is a young man that longs for something bigger and better and can never seem to find it.  He lives in Nebraska in the years just before World War I.  He longs to go to a better school but his parents seem to think the current school is adequate.  Then he is needed back on the farm.  School must be put adside to save the farm.  He enters into a loveless marriage with Enid.  After the war breaks out Claude signs up and finally feels fulfilled.  He loves the importance of being in the war.

Willa Cather has a wonderful way with prose.  The scene of all the GI's on the ship, seeing the Statue of Liberty fills you with an appreciation for this great country.  Her view of the war was criticized for being too romantic, but I say there are far too many gruesome war books.  I can handle a romanticized version.  She did win the Pulizter Prize for this book.  A true classic! Well worth the time and effort.