Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In The Garden of Beasts

I first ran into Erik Larson's writing when the public library did a book review of his novel, Devil in the White City. Larson's research and presentation of fascinating factual information about the World's Fair in Chicago set against a serial killer's fascination was amazing.

So when I saw his new novel, In the Garden of Beasts, was available last week, I couldn't wait to whip out my kindle and download. I wasn't even in the mood to wait for a hard copy to arrive via mail from amazon. I had to have it immediately.

This tale is equally as compelling as Devil in the White City, but perhaps even spookier.

Dodd is a history professor who is selected to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Germany in the years leading up to World War II. There are a lot of reasons that Dodd may or may not have been suited for the role, but FDR asked, and Dodd acquiesced, moving his whole family from Chicago to Berlin.

From his position, Dodd watches as Hitler rises through the ranks and gradually assumes complete control of Germany. He watches the German people accept the situation without protest. He himself raises questions time and again, but to no avail.

It is a chilling account, and one that Larson writes flawlessly. A true page turner, I couldn't put the book down until I finished it. Even then, it haunted me, making me feel especially grateful for living in America where freedom rings. Definitely pick this one up, and if you haven't read Devil...it is worth it to buy both.


A friend gifted me Bossypants, Tina Fey's hysterical autobio, and I totally got a kick out of it.
Admittedly, there are parts that you can skim. But having grown up with SNL and having been to Second City, I loved Fey's references and her feminist message. Her honeymoon description had me giggling so hard, I had to share it with Jason (who also hates cruises).
The book was pretty well laid out, so the abrupt nature of the end had me puzzled. Overall, however, it was worth the read.

Little Bee

It is hard to talk about Little Bee. There are so many twists and turns that to reveal any one of them would be letting the cat out of the bag - spoiler style.

Needing to get away and work on their marriage, a British couple chooses Africa for a free vacation. The outcome of their romantic stroll on the beach changes their lives, and the lives of others, forever.

Really, that's all I can say - but the book is about so much more.
I didn't love the book. I expected much more than it was able to deliver.
But I will say that author, Chris Cleave, is an amazing writer. The ability to string words together in such a nature is an unparalleled craft. For that reason alone, I would pick up a copy!

Monday, May 16, 2011


As an avid fiction reader, I sometimes find non-fiction to be dry. On any given day, I'd much rather read fiction. When I find a writer like Laura Hillenbrand, however, it is easy to get wrapped up in the story. She is an expert storyteller.
Unbroken is the tale of Louis Zamperini: impossible child, Olympic runner, World War II bombardier, and POW survivor. Louis lives a golden life, unscathed, charming...until his plane crashes.
For 47 days he is adrift, fighting off insanity and sharks, until he lands on Japanese controlled shores...where the truly hard journey begins. He is captured, tortured - physically and mentally, and forced to live in horrible conditions. He is starved, beaten, and stripped of dignity.
Yet through it all, Zamperini triumphs. Each page, I kept thinking that things couldn't get any worse, and they did. But the message of hope prevails. What should be an overwhelmingly sad story leaves you inspired.
That, folks, is good writing!
Make sure to check it out.