CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To show how to survive a romantic breakup.
FACTS: Breaking up with his latest lover, writer Arthur Less cobbles together a world tour financed by “festivals, prize committees, universities, residency programs, and media conglomerates.” The book made me feel dirty. Every chapter was filled with one night stands and casual hookups. I read this for a book club – otherwise I would not have continued after the first few pages. I am incredulous this won the Pulitzer Prize. What a piece of trash!
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): “to humanize and bring understanding to the gracious blue-skinned people of Kentucky, to pay tribute to the fearsome Pack Horse Librarians, and to write a human story set in a unique landscape.”
FACTS: I learned a lot by reading this book. Methemoglobinemia is an extremely rare disease that causes skin to be blue. The disease was first discovered n a family in Kentucky. This historical novel traces one such family in the hills of Kentucky. These blue-skinned people were considered “colored” and bore the same discrimination waged against blacks in the 1930’s. The story also chronicles “Book Women” who traveled by horse, foot, and rowboat to deliver reading material and teach reading in the most remote areas of the state. The book is a fascinating read about little-known facts and customs.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. A wonderful story. I was sorry when it ended.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To show how history is made up of background stories.
FACTS: Though I am not a fan of short stories or essays, I found these very compelling. The essays explain how courage played a role in the lives of great figures of the 19th Century and how courage allowed them to accomplish extraordinary things. From Harriet Beecher Stow to Simon Willard, figures known and unknown, we have an opportunity to go behind the pages of history and get a glimpse into fear, desire, motivations, and moral resolve. There is a common thread running though each of these vignettes. They all led lives of active discovery and their work was truly inspiring. Success was achieved through their attitudes – something worth pondering.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To give insight into the life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Teddy Roosevelt.
FACTS: Alice Roosevelt was born to Theodore Rooselvet and his wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, who died two days later. The death of Alice Lee affected Theodore’s relationship with Alice and she spent most of her life trying to win his affection. Enter an older debonair congressman who promises to free her from the control of her father and step-mother. The book is an inside glimpse into a fascinating life that spanned 96 years, marked by a rapidly changing America. I learned so much about Alice and her family. I can remember her as an old lady. She was witty and irreverent. She is often credited with saying, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.” It is a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To describe experiences during WWI in Russia and France.
FACTS: The story is told from the point of view of three different characters .I often found it hard to follow the story because of the format. This is the prequel to The Lilac Girls written by the same author about the WWII era. Lost Roses goes back a generation to describe the childhood of Caroline Ferriday. I’m not a fan of prequels, I would prefer to read books in chronological order. The story is compelling, yet some of the characters seem less than authentic. It is a story of strong bonds among women in difficult times. It is an easy read. The brutality and privations of the times are explicitly described. I think it would have been more compelling if written in a single voice.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?)” Guilty, as charged.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To chronicle how friendship handles a terminal illness and to bring awareness to alternative treatments.
FACTS: This book is being re-released ten years after the death of Farrah Fawcett. Farrah and the author – Alana Stewart (the ex-wife of George Hamilton and Rod Stewart) – were old friends. When Farrah was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Alana agreed to be with her through her treatment and chronicle the journey. The two traveled to Germany several times to obtain treatments that were not available in the United States. For three years the duo explored pain, suffering, spirituality, and the bonds of family, all while trying to find a cure for Farrah’s cancer. Following Farrah’s death, Alana became the president of the Farrah Fawcett Foundation which “supports cutting-edge HPV-related cancer research, along with patient assistance and prevention efforts.”
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. A very informative read.
Thanks to my friend Ernie for loaning me the book!
CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To explore the effects of World War II and the Great Depression.
FACTS: A family home becomes a boarding house as a couple tries to save their home. Their assorted guests are all fleeing something. A young couple runs from their failed farm, professors flee their closing university, a widow escapes the pain of losing her young husband, and a veteran flees the horrors of war. Can they find what they were searching? Can the home be saved? Can a local treasure legend be solved? This is a sweet story of healing and redemption.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. A very pleasant read.
CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To describe leaving the Jehovah Witness lifestyle.
FACTS: Amber and her husband traveled to China as Jehovah Witness missionaries. Their marriage was over but their religion bound them together. “I was not allowed to leave him, so perhaps if I left enough places with him, it would suffice.” She had given up a career, education, financial security, and close personal relationships to save souls from destruction. They arrived in China in 2–5 where her religion had been banned since the 1950’s. Because of this, they were freed from the strict requirements of multiple weekly meetings, continual study, avoidance of worldly people, etc. In Communist China they actually found freedom. The book spends a lot of time talking about the founding of the Jehovah Witness religion and how the author’s family became involved. Though I expected an abrupt climatic break, the author’s “enlightenment” was much more subtle. How does she replace her religion. Her choices are rather disturbing.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Hung jury. I started out being sympathetic to her plight, but was very disappointed with her in the end.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To explore the efforts of an affair on a marriage.
FACTS: Tessa had it all – a successful handsome and loving husband, three great kids, and a multi-million dollar beauty industry she created. Did she take her life for granted? Lindsey is a young beautiful single mother working as a secretary to support herself through nursing school. Her son is being raised by her mother in another state as Lindsey tries to make a better life. Tess and Lindsey’s lives collide in a beautiful beachfront house as a powerful hurricane bears down. The effects of this meeting will change them both forever.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. A fast read that leaves you wanting more.
CHARGE: To explore whether the assassination of John F. Kennedy was ordered by Fidel Castro as the result of the CIA’s attempts to assassinate Castro?
As JFK assumed the presidency in 1961, he inherited a CIA that President Eisenhower described as “a legacy of ashes.” It had deviated from the mission for which it was created – intelligence gathering – into covert action. One of the first pressures placed on the new president was to do something about Castro and Cuba. Working with the Mob, the CAI plotted the assassination of Fidel Castro, while simultaneously planning the doomed Bay of Pigs Invasion. It was fascinating to learn that the CIA had an assassination team in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis,despite their informal commitment not to attempt to overthrow the Castro government. After resolution of the crisis, the US continued to work toward a solution of the Cuba problem. Castro understood that these activities were continuing. In an interview with the AP in September 1963, Castro said, “United State leaders should be mindful that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.” Were these words prescient? Was this the rationale for Oswald’s continued efforts to enter Cuba. Did he receive his instructions while in Mexico City? What were his ties with Russia – where he lived and married a Russian woman. Four days before the assassination, in a speech in Miami, President Kennedy called Castro “a barrier to be removed.” Had he just called for his own assassination? After Kennedy’s death, the investigation was hampered by the inability of the FBI and CIA to cooperate. In effect, Oswald had brought about regime change. Evidence seems to indicate that all investigations of the Kennedy assassination were to steer clear of the issue of foreign involvement. Some have called the Kennedy assassination one of the greatest intelligence failures in history. This is an extensive investigation of all these circumstances.
VERDICT: Guilty, as charged. An exhaustive treatment of an interesting theory.