Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


DownloadedFile-4My husband, the non-reader, was given an iPod Touch for Christmas and has embraced audio books, hooray!  His first book on the iPod was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  I read Unbroken with my book club last fall, so I was excited to be able to discuss it with him and get his impressions of it.

For those who don’t know, Unbroken is an amazing true account of the life of Louis Zamparini, a man in his 90s who was, among other things, a scrappy kid from Torrance, CA,  a student at USC, an Olympic runner, a WWII bombardier, a plane crash survivor who spent more than 40 days floating in the Pacific Ocean on a tiny raft, a POW in Japan, an alcoholic, a born again Christian, and a motivational speaker.  He met Hitler during the 1936 Olympics and met Billy Graham after the war.  I liken him to Forrest Gump.

Let’s just say I enjoyed the book much more than my husband did.  I was so surprised!  I mean, it’s a war book and a survivor book, guys like that stuff, right?!  But he felt it was too long and that there were just way waaaaay too many details about everything.  Details about planes, about weather, about the ocean, about the sky, about maggots in the food, about starvation and bodily functions.  Details about running and training and school.  Most of his annoyance, though, had to do with the abuse Louis Zamparini endured in the Japanese POW camps.  He felt that, if it were accurate, nobody could possibly survive it and live to tell about it.  He wondered if perhaps it was exaggerated, and we talked about memory and how a man in his 90s could recall in such great detail what had happened to him decades before.  I admit I wondered if there was some exaggeration in the book, too, but by all accounts the author did flawless research.  And, the old dude is sharp, even now!!  We watched an interview with him on youtube and he’s got to be the most with-it *nonagenarian ever (*that’s an old dude in his 90s, in case you don’t know that word).

The old dude

The old dude

Anyway, I’m just giddy that I was able to have an actual book discussion with my actual husband.  Friends, this has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!  Hopefully it’s the start of a trend.

Does anyone have any good recommendations for my husband’s next audio book?  He hates accents of any kind, so the narrator must speak American English.  No Brits.  Leave me a comment if you know of a good one.  I don’t listen to audio books so I’m not sure what’s good to listen to.  He likes history, action, adventure, and anything that would be motivational/positive thinking (you can perhaps see why I thought Unbroken would be perfect for him?!)  Thanks for any suggestions you can offer!

Review & Giveaway: Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963

Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963 by Jay Mulvany and Paul De Angelis

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)

Forty-seven years ago this month, Americans as well as people around the world were brought together by a senseless act of violence against our youthful and much-loved President, John F. Kennedy.  The outpouring of grief from around the globe directed at Jacqueline Kennedy, the beautiful and elegant new widow, was massive and immediate.  She received more than one million letters in the weeks and months that followed the tragedy.  Although Mrs. Kennedy vowed to display the letters in the Kennedy Library one day, the letters remained filed away in a warehouse for decades waiting for the library to open.

Volunteers reading and sorting the letters

From grade school children to dignitaries, nuns, moviestars, and royalty to politicians and famous names like Martin Luther King, Jr and Winston Churchill, the expressions of sorrow and sympathy came from everywhere.  I truly appreciated the authors’ decision to do more than just catalog the letters.  They introduced each one by telling who the letter writer was in relation to the president, giving the reader a much more complete snapshot of the history of the time.  This was so helpful to someone like me, who had heard of Anwar Sadat, for instance, but wasn’t quite sure why I knew the name.

I think of the Kennedy assassination as the 9/11 of that generation.  Both events shattered our collective innocence.  People en masse remember where they were and what they were doing the minute they heard the shocking news.  Both events brought everyday life to a standstill and kept us riveted to our televisions.

My reaction to this book surprised me.  I was a baby at the time so have no firsthand memory of the assasination, yet I was greatly moved by the expressions of sympathy.  I had to put the book down more than once as the tears just flowed out of me.  It also made me realize more acutely than ever before the value of the written word; the art and sensory pleasure of beautiful stationary and handwriting as opposed to emails and text messages.

This is a book every American who cares about history should read as it is a fascinating portrait of the time; an intimate portrayal of the hope personified in one young man and the shock as that hope was extinguished so violently.

Highly recommended.

I thought it would be interesting to ask a few bloggers about their Kennedy memories.  This is what they wrote:

From Suzanne at Preternatura:

I was in preschool in a small town in Northwest Alabama, and we were on the playground when the news came in. I remember the teacher herding us back in our classroom and telling us the president had been shot. We were really too young to get it but others in my class I’ve stayed in touch with over the years remember it the same way. They closed school early.

More than that, I remember watching the funeral on our black-and-white TV (God, does that make me feel old), not understanding it but mostly watching Caroline and John-John, as everyone called him, since they were about my age. I remember sitting and watching it with my brother and my parents, and my parents being upset, but not much else. I was too young, and over the years my memories have gotten mixed up with all the iconic images we’ve seen from the media.

From Debra at Bookishly Attentive:

My parents, my twin sister, my grandmother and I were in a lighting store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, probably shopping for a dining room fixture. I was three. I actually remember the store (I was fascinated by the lights, evidently) and I remember the owner (an older, heavyset woman) coming up to my parents and asking if they heard what happened, and if they had, why are they still shopping in the store?  She was crying, wringing a white handkerchief. I then remember my parents hustling us out to the car. She closed the shop behind us.

I asked my mother about this memory years later, after watching some kind of JFK documentary, and she said I had remembered the events almost perfectly.

I was too young to really process what had happened, but I do remember my parents being subdued.  I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of the living room of our old apartment on Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. My mother, my sister and I were watching the funeral on the old black and white in the corner. The thing that made the biggest impression on me and what I actually remember to this day is the horse (Black Jack?) with the boots backward in the stirrups. I remember that scared the heck out of me.

I just think how totally different this world would have been if that day in November, 1963 had never happened. And it makes me immeasurably sad. Always.

From Terri at Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement:

I was 13; I was in a junior high class (English I think); the news came over the loudspeaker, our principal announced it. I don’t recall precisely what we were doing in class; when the news came over the loudspeaker, I was confused at first. It didn’t sink in until later when I saw my friends in the cafeteria. There was lots of crying and hugging. I think they let us out of school early.

We watched TV non-stop for days. It was quite surreal, especially when Oswald was shot. I hate to admit it, but I was taking my cues from my parents, so I can’t really recall what I was feeling, other than scared and sad.

I remember watching Jackie Kennedy and being fascinated by her and by the Catholic rituals. I don’t think I’d ever seen them before (kneeling, crossing herself, etc). In my naïve adolescence, I decided I wanted to be a Catholic, so for a few nights I knelt by my bed and crossed myself. That was as far as I went though.

It was the beginning of a very volatile time in our country – many assassinations, the Vietnam war and its protests, etc. The age of innocence ended in those years, I think.

I have one copy of DEAR MRS. KENNEDY to give away (US/Canada only).  To enter, just leave a comment and let me know where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of either the Kennedy assassination (if you’re old enough) or the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.  The contest ends Sunday, 11/14, at midnight.

Review and Giveaway: Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me by Donna Corwin

Parenting is a process, and when we know more, we can do a better job.  Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me: Preventing or Reversing Entitlement in Your Child’s Attitude by Donna Corwin is a book I wish I’d had 10 years ago (for the preventing part) but thankfully, according to Corwin, it’s not too late for the reversing part.

Often I’ve wondered why my kids expect “stuff” without having to earn it.  Why they think they deserve to get every new thing that comes out and why they think it’s so unfair when their demands aren’t met immediately.  In short, we’ve created little monsters and contributed to their feelings of entitlement by offering too much praise (over inflating their little egos) rather than encouragement (contributing to more healthy self esteem) and by overindulging them instead of delaying their gratification.  The blame lies squarely on my shoulders (and my husband’s) and this book has opened my eyes.

Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me is all about setting limits and discovering your parenting goals and priorities.  It’s about teaching responsibility, about giving real attention, about showing our kids the true meaning of love (and that it can’t be bought).  It’s about supporting your kids but not rushing to fix everything for them, about letting them find their own solutions and solve their own problems.  It’s about taking back control and not allowing your children to suck in all the advertising and media images they are bombarded with on a regular basis, about teaching them about money and morals and manners and how to be charitable.  The book showed me the reasons why I’ve behaved a certain way (rebelling against my own parents’ parenting style) and how I can turn it around.  All in all, this was exactly the reality check I needed.

This book is full of really valuable information and useful advice.  If you are a parent with kids who feel like they are owed the world just because they live and breathe, please do everybody a favor and get this book!

I reviewed Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me as part of its TLC Book Tour.  I’ve got two copies to give away, courtesy of the publisher. Please leave a comment by midnight on March 15th for a chance to win!

Review: Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

imageDB-2.cgiTruth & Beauty by Ann Patchett is the story of the author’s friendship with troubled fellow author and poet, the late Lucy Grealy.  

I read Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face last year and developed very strong, protective feelings for this brilliant girl/woman who was permanently disfigured by Ewing Sarcoma and the resultant treatment and surgeries.  When I heard that Bel Canto author Patchett had written about their friendship, I couldn’t wait to read more about Lucy, but then I quickly changed my mind when I discovered Lucy’s family’s reaction to the book.

The idea of the book lingered in the back of my mind, however, but because I didn’t want to betray Lucy, I refused to buy it.  Then it seemed like I was just being stubborn about it. Finally, on a trip to the bookstore, I happened to see it on a table and, wanting to be close to Lucy again, I took it home.  Part of me is glad I read it but another part wishes I’d left it alone.  The book made me appreciate Ann Patchett’s writing more (I wasn’t a fan) but it made me think less of Lucy.

Ann and Lucy attended Sarah Lawrence college at the same time but were not friends.  Ann knew who Lucy was (everyone did) but Lucy was only vaguely aware of Ann.  Then they were both accepted to the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, where they were roommates and where their love for each other emerged and grew.

patchettgrealey‘Do you love me?  Do you love me best?  Am I your favorite?  Do you think I’m pretty?  Do you think I’m talented?  Will I ever have sex again?’  Lucy plagues Ann with these questions on a continuous basis over two decades.  Who would want to be friends with this clingy, needy, self absorbed woman?  I couldn’t find the Lucy I knew anywhere, the strong, brave, dazzling presence of Autobiography of a Face.  

Lucy had a brutal battle with the aftereffects of cancer.   Her disfigured jaw made speech difficult and swallowing nearly impossible.  She had 6 teeth in her mouth because she didn’t have a stable jaw to hold dental implants.  Her diet consisted of very soft foods and alcohol.  She loved to drink and party and socialize, but basic things like eating and talking were a constant struggle.  Her love life was complicated by her lack of self esteem and her distorted self image.  Her ever-increasing pile of medical bills seemed insurmountable, so she just didn’t open them.  Disorganized and irresponsible, she missed deadlines and frittered away writing workshops.  Chaos ruled.

Ann, the long suffering friend, the ant to Lucy’s grasshopper in that old fable, went to great financial, physical, and emotional lengths for Lucy, but it was hard to understand why.  The relationship seemed extremely one-sided, almost a parent/child dynamic, but with a peer.  What was Ann getting out of it?  Lucy would sit in Ann’s lap, demand her attention when Ann was speaking to others, whisper to her during dinners out, pout if Ann got too successful or earned a writing fellowship or received an award.  Then later there were lies and drug abuse to contend with, and while Ann occasionally lost patience with Lucy, she stuck by her to the end.  Why would anyone put up with Lucy’s crap, unless they had some kind of savior complex? 

But this book.  What does it say about Ann?  About Lucy?  I can’t shake the feeling that in writing this book, Ann wanted to get back at Lucy for the shabby way she treated her by baring her secrets to the world.  Is this admirable? Is this the way a true friend would behave?

And Lucy.  Can anyone be this one dimensional, this needy and self involved, and still have so many friends?  She was an absolute magnet for others and had dozens and dozens of friends, yet in this book I can’t see any redeeming qualities in her at all.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ann Patchett loved Lucy Grealy but I question her motivation for writing this book.  It feels like a payback of sorts.  It is not really a biography, an autobiography, or a memoir, because it doesn’t tell the story of either of their lives, only the shared bits, and only from one vantage point, so I’m not sure what to call it.  

If you’re going to read this book, read Autobiography of a Face as well.  At least you get a more fully realized image of Lucy Grealy that way.  If I had read Truth & Beauty first, I wouldn’t have wanted to read any more about Lucy, ever.  I’d recommend the two books together but I wouldn’t recommend reading this one on it’s own. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair or accurate by itself.  If you’re interested in either writer, I’d recommend it, although I’m not sure it has much worthwhile to say about friendship in general.  It is well written and I can appreciate Ann Patchett’s talent, but it’s hard to know what is true, and there’s not a lot here I’d call beautiful.

Teaser Tuesdays – May 12, 2009

tuesday-t11Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

imageDB-2.cgiMy teaser comes from a book I swore I would never read from an author I don’t really like.  Or didn’t like, before this book.  Anyway!   Kids- you should never swear not to do something.  You might change your mind.

The book is Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, about the author’s friendship with Lucy Grealy, the late author of a book I loved, Autobiography of a Face.  I’m reading this book because I want to feel close to Lucy again, not because I like Ann Patchett.  Because I don’t.  Or didn’t.  (Actually, the jury is still out.  I’ve only read 65 pages.)  But already I’m starting to feel like she’s writing about someone else, not Lucy.  Not the Lucy in my mind, the one I fell in love with in Autobiography of a Face, but someone much more one dimensional and juvenile.  It’s such a different view.  

This teaser is from page 85 of Truth & Beauty: A Friendship:

“Having Lucy in my apartment those weeks was not unlike having a couple of those revved-up cats from the Scottish Cat Protection League.  She ran all over the place, left my clothes tossed over lampshades, wet towels heaped under pillows, bowls of Cream of Wheat minus three bites in whatever spot I was most likely to step in them.”

What are you reading this week?

Oh- please check out our Summer Reading Series!  I have 3 books left to give away to anyone who’d like to participate in the discussion of Beach Trip in June!

Winners! Lots ‘o Winners!

It’s time to announce more winners!! The fabulous people at HCI Books graciously donated 7 books to be given away, so I get the fun job of picking a winner for each one!

The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel goes to:

Heather from A High and Hidden Place!

Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins goes to:

Kristi at Books and Needlepoint!

Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation by Richard Bandler goes to:

Patsy from Adventures Of..

The Vigorous Mind by Ingrid E. Cummings goes to:

Sherry Gibbs!

You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann goes to:

Steph at I’m Doing What?

Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson goes to:

MJ!


Thanks to all who entered the contest! And please see my left sidebar.. there is still time to enter my other contests!

100K Celebration Madness Continues with Another Giveaway!

Today is Day 2 of my giant 100K Celebration, which will be going on for a week here at Books on the Brain! I am having so much fun celebrating and am so glad to share my excitement with you. It’s like I’m throwing a party (everyone’s invited), but instead of receiving gifts, I’m giving them – which to me is always way more fun!

Today Kim Weiss and the wonderful people at HCI Books – “The Life Issues Publisher” – have generously offered 7 amazing books to my readers. HCI is a great publisher of non-fiction whose motto is “Changing Lives One Book at a Time”. There’s a little something for everybody! Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which book you’d be interested in winning. Here are the titles up for grabs:

3821The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances

With her friendly, thorough, and helpful advice; fabulous beauty recipes; product recommendations and ratings; Toxic Ingredients List; and a complete appendix of online resources, Julie Gabriel gives you all the information you need to go green without going broke and become a more natural, healthy, and beautiful you.

3667Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins

A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45

Known as The Makeover Guy ® from his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national television programs, Christopher Hopkins believes that as they age, women become more beautiful but often feel less attractive. He’s out to change that. For more than twenty years he’s encouraged women who often feel like they’ have taken a backseat to everything and everyone else to come out of the shadows and take center stage.

3827Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation by Richard Bandler

More than thirty years ago, Richard Bandler set out to discover how some therapists effected startling change with their clients, while others argued about theories while their patients waited in vain for help. Now widely regarded as the world’s greatest hypnotist and one of the most brilliant minds in the field of personal change, Richard Bandler created patterns that became the bedrock of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), arguably one of the most profoundly effective approaches for self-improvement. In Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation, he returns to his roots: hypnotic phenomena, trancework, and altered states to provide a highly compelling and effective prescription for quick and lasting personal change.

3811 The Vigorous Mind by Ingrid E. Cummings

Cross-train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries

In The Vigorous Mind, professional ‘Renaissance woman’ Ingrid Cummings offers a social criticism and inspiring self-improvement program that details the antidote to mental undernourishment, unfulfilling careers, untapped talents, and unexplained boredom. Through the techniques and insights in The Vigorous Mind, you will build a more complex, interconnected brain and replace indifference with cognitive reengagement, a sense of optimistic gratification, and a full-to-the-brim life lived without regret.

3812You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

A Saleswoman’s Secrets to Closing the Deal with Any Guy You Want

**JESS WILL BE ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA THIS FRIDAY, FEB. 13th!

Whether you’ve found yourself waiting for him to call or given up everything for a relationship that went nowhere, getting a guy to commit can be like getting him to walk over a bed of hot coals. Jess McCann’s tactics work because they make you strong, confident, and irresistible to every man you meet. Whether you’re looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, You Lost Him at Hello will help you find him and keep him–while having more fun and fulfilled relationships than ever before.

3848 Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson

Loving Madly, Losing Badly – How Ziggy Saved My Life

Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson didn’t see it coming: after losing his beloved young wife to breast cancer, it’s up to him to raise two children alone and keep the laughs coming in his cartoons worldwide—even as his own personal orbit is falling apart. In this mesmerizing and nostalgic account of a beloved artist’s life, Tom Wilson details his compelling journey from growing up in the shadow of his father’s genius to inheriting an iconic cartoon when his father falls ill, all while struggling to overcome a crippling depression.

Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which HCI book you’d be interested in winning. This contest is open to residents of US and Canada only (my apologies to my overseas readers!)

Come back each day this week for more great giveaways!

We’re partying all week long!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers