Book Review: Killing Lincoln

March 10, 2013 Books to Read, History, Nonfiction 0

Killing LincolnKilling Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Nonfiction – History (Released September, 2011)

Bottom Line: Read it.
Summary: The story of the events leading up to and following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.
My Thoughts: As I said in my review of Killing Kennedy (O’Reilly and Dugard’s other Presidential assassination book), I was looking forward to reading Killing Lincoln since I did not know much about Lincoln’s assassination. Just like Killing KennedyKilling Lincoln is a fantastic and compelling overview for someone who does not already know a lot about this historical event (i.e. this book is for regular people – not history scholars!). There are so many interesting things about Lincoln’s assassination that I was unaware of – such as the fact that it was the result of a much wider conspiracy. I’m actually somewhat embarrassed to talk about how much I learned from this book since it makes it painfully obvious how little I retained from U.S. History classes in high school and college! Basically, all I remembered going into it was that Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre…I didn’t know why, who else (if anyone) was involved, or what happened to Booth after the murder. All those questions are answered here – and in a way that reads like fiction. My only complaint is that the first quarter of the book was mostly devoted to a play by play of the end of the Civil War and Lee’s surrender to Grant – which I found boring. I think I could have skimmed through that part and not missed much of the story – or the authors could have saved us readers some pain by significantly shortening (or omitting) that section!

Have you read Killing Lincoln?  Tell us what you thought (without spoilers!) in the comments section.

Book Review: Phantom

March 10, 2013 Books to Skip, Fiction, Mysteries/Thrillers 0

by Jo Nesbo, Fiction (Released October, 2012)

Bottom Line: Skip it.
Summary: Detective Harry Hole returns to Oslo from Hong Kong to try to prove that his former girlfriend’s son, Oleg, is innocent of murdering his drug dealer friend, Gusto.
My Thoughts: If you read my review of Nesbo’s The Leopard, you may remember that Nesbo was billed by some as being similar to Stieg Larsson. Phantom is the third book of the Harry Hole series that I’ve read and, including Phantom, I’ve been disappointed twice. The beginning of the book is completely confusing and I almost put it down after 50 pages. Nesbo starts each thread of the story without using any character names and includes the perspective of a rat at the murder scene, which totally lost me. Gusto’s “dying thoughts” is one of these threads, which actually does add to the story later in the book, but these segments are a mess in the beginning. I thought things got better through the middle, but slid downhill again as Nesbo explained and then discarded most of the potential solutions to the mystery. There were so many twists, I found myself forgetting whether a certain character had been eliminated from suspicion for Gusto’s murder.  And, the nail in Phantom‘s coffin is that I absolutely despised the ending. Though I love Harry Hole as a character, I think I’m done with Nesbo’s books for awhile.

Have you read Phantom?  Tell us what you thought (without spoilers!) in the comments section.

Book Review: Fiction Ruined My Family

March 10, 2013 Books to Read, Memoirs 0

Fiction Ruined My FamilyFiction Ruined My Family
by Jeanne Darst
Nonfiction – Memoir
Released September, 2011
Bottom Line: Read it.
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary

The youngest daughter of an alcoholic mother and a struggling writer father tells the true story of her childhood and of trying to avoid repeating her parents’ mistakes while trying to succeed as a writer herself.

My Thoughts

Many reviews compared this book to Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, and I do think the two books are similar (although this one is definitely funnier). Certainly, if you liked The Glass Castle, you will probably like Fiction Ruined My Family.

It’s somewhat of a tragi-comedy – Darst is able to inject humor into a childhood that was pretty heartbreaking. She is honest and doesn’t sugarcoat any unpleasant experiences, both her own and her family’s. So much so that I wonder if any family members are still speaking to her after reading this book! She doesn’t spare any of them their most embarrassing moments being described in minute detail for the world to read! And, there are some doozies in there – i.e. if gross-out humor bothers you, probably best to avoid this book.

Darst basically lives her adult life with the sole purpose of creating situations that may result in great writing material. This involves rarely holding a steady job, living in squalor, and acting like she is 22 well into her mid-thirties. But, her strategy worked and she got a very entertaining memoir out of it all!

Though this is kind of a fun book, it is well-written and more than just a memoir of drunken escapades…it’s also going on my Book Club Recommendations List.

Book Review: Life Among Giants

March 10, 2013 Books to Skip, Fiction 0

Life Among GiantsLife Among Giants: A Novel
by Bill Roorbach, Fiction (Released November, 2012)

Bottom Line: Skip it.
David “Lizard” Hochmeyer, a 7 foot tall star quarterback, and his tennis-playing sister, Kate, team up with their ballerina neighbor to try to solve the mystery of their parents’ murder and the death of their neighbor’s rock star husband.
My Thoughts: 
As you can probably tell by the summary, this book was a little all over the place (even though it was an Amazon “Best Book of November 2012″). A 7 foot tall quarterback with professional ballerina and rock star neighbors in Westport, Connecticut? Somewhat random cast of characters…however, the characters were the main thing about this book that I really liked. In addition to being a star quarterback, Lizard Hochmeyer was also an avid chef and started two restaurants…right up my alley! Unfortunately, it was almost like Roorbach couldn’t decide whether he wanted this to be a mystery/thriller or a character-driven coming of age novel – so he just made it both. I actually preferred the coming of age story and was distracted by all the clutter of a weak murder mystery. A clean writing style may have been able to save the book from itself, but I thought the writing was a bit choppy…just like the murder plot. I liked some things about this book, just not enough of them to recommend it.

Have you read Life Among Giants?  Tell us what you thought (without spoilers!) in the comments section.