Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Not much going on around here today. I got a Kindle Fire (more info to come) so Evan's picked up my other Kindle and has been glued to the Hunger Games series the past couple days. He's cuddling with our foster dog, Bella.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's not much better than a cuddly dog and a good book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shit My Dad Says

I thought I would find this funny in a college frat boy sort of way, but I thought it was much more than that. It was a family memoir and Halpern's dad's love for his son is apparent. Funny, but also genuine and loving. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amazing Grace

I found this at my library book sale. I was really interested in it because of the blurb on the front: "A chick lit grand slam." I love YA chick lit.

Sadly, I was disappointed by this. I hoped that it was going to be along the lines of a Sarah Dessen novel, but it wasn't near as good.

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull is about a young tennis phenom who wants out of the craziness of being a media star. She hides out in Alaska, where she meets a new best friend and a love interest, while growing up a bit. The plot was a bit far-fetched by having the main character landing in Alaska.

I gave it 3 stars on goodreads, but it's more of a 2.5 stars book. It's definitely not a grand slam.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Thousand Lives

Wow. This was fascinating. I bought the audiobook, which was 11 hours long, and listened to it over two days. I couldn't stop listening to it. It was fascinating.

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres is about Jim Jones and the massacre at Jonestown in 1978. Over 900 people were killed/committed suicide under the direction of Jones. An audio file of the last minutes survived and people can be heard fighting giving their children the poison while Jones and his leaders talked about how everything was fine and that they shouldn't worry. A number of people had injection marks, leading the medical examining team to believe that they were killed rather than had willingly taken the kool-aid. (This is where the term "drank the kool-aid" originates.)

Jones began his church in Indiana in the 1950s as a integrated, welcoming group, but increasingly became in to a cult. People followed Jones from Indiana to northern California to San Francisco and finally to Jonestown, Guyana in South America. Once in Jonestown, Jones descended into to a drug induced fantasy land and his followers suffered. To someone reading the book today, I think it's easy to say WTH about the people that followed Jones. But, the author talks about how it's easy for us to dismiss Jonestown while instead we should be examining how Jones was so successful at getting people to believe in him to the extent of killing themselves.

The whole incident was so horrifying. It's hard to imagine what the residents of Jonestown thought as things worsened. The book says that the 45 minute audio of the final minutes of Jonestown are online and can be listened to. It was difficult enough hearing (audio book, remember?) the bits that the author quoted.

If you're interested in Jonestown at all or just like non-fiction, you should definitely read this. Incidently, you are reading my review on the 33rd anniversary of the event.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It Is Well with My Soul

It is Well with My Soul is a memoir by Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson about her long 106 year life. Johnson gained attention in 2008 when she attended Obama's Inauguration. Evan and I also attended the inauguration and were on the same plane as Johnson. We sat in the row behind her as people around us asked her questions about life and her thoughts on Obama. For me, it was a really cool way of starting out our trip, thinking about this black woman who had seen so many changes in society that lead her to where she was that day.

The book was very short, but was interesting considering the wide time span it covered. It focused a lot on her life rather than what she saw in society. It was enjoyable, but I would have been a bit disappointed by it had I not met her because I would have preferred the book to have discussed Johnson's reflections on changes she saw in the the US through the many events she experienced.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Gulag Archipelago

Yes, that does say abridged. Despite being an abridged version of The Gulag Archipelago, the book I read still had 500+ pages. for years, I've been thinking that I needed to read The Gulag Archipelago, but I never got around to it since it's such a beast. When I found this edition, I picked it up and had no more excuses.

The Gulag Archipelago was written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn spent time in the Soviet gulags (work camps) because he spoke against Stalin. Many others were in the gulags for no real reason- a family member had made negative comments about Stalin, someone had been tricked or tortured in to falsely accusing them of some offense.

The stories Solzhenitsyn tells speak about how the gulags are horrible. One of the saddest parts, though there were too many to count, was the story of WW2 veterans who were sent to the gulags becuase they had been taken as POWs by the Germans instead of fighting to the death. Life in the gulags was extremely difficult and millions of people died from overwork, starvation, or preventable diseases.

It was a long hard read, but very worthwhile to spend time on. Stalin was truly evil. His people suffered so much under his rule.