Christina’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett


Christina’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken FollettA Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2010-07-21
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Sagas, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 576
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
In 1866, tragedy strikes the exclusive Windfield School when a young student drowns in a mysterious accident. His death and its aftermath initiate a spiraling circle of treachery that will span three decades and entwine many lives.   From the exclusive men’s clubs and brothels that cater to every dark desire of London’s upper class to the dazzling ballrooms and mahogany-paneled suites of the manipulators of the world’s wealth, one family is splintered by a shared legacy. But greed, fed by the shocking truth of a boy’s death, must be stopped, or the dreams of a nation will die.   Praise for A Dangerous Fortune   “A terrific page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times   “Political and amorous intrigues, cold-blooded murder, and financial crises . . . old-fashioned entertainment.”—San Francisco Chronicle   “Breathlessly plotted . . . relentlessly suspenseful.”—The New York Times   “Gripping, complex plot . . . sexual intrigue . . . fascinating characters . . . You won’t be able to put down this exciting page-turner.”—Lexington Herald-LeaderFrom the Paperback edition.

Ken Follett never disappoints me… As I have repeated in numerous reviews, I love his writing style. His stories always captivate me and I feel connected to the characters. Follett’s A Dangerous Fortune was the 8th book on my “15 To-Read of 2015” list I have gotten to this year (tracking ahead of the game!) I came across this book in a library book sale and bought it because 1) It was Ken Follett and 2) It was set in Victorian England and had an intriguing synopsis.

A Dangerous Fortune began with the story of a group of boys away at school, one of whom was found dead in the nearby creek. It was unknown if the boy drowned on accident or was killed, but there were suspicions. However, the boy’s death was soon buried under the crash of a local bank and businesses associated with. An elite and powerful family looks to secure their future and prestige in the community, a boy in the family is taken in under charity by his relatives after the passing of his father… on the other side of town, another family affected by the crash as the father was laid off were separated, and a girl and boy were left to their own will as they leave to start new and separate lives.

The story continued crossing over years of time, and the wealthy Pilaster family continued to grow in prominence throughout the community. The family’s power was invested in the great Pilaster bank, one of the more powerful and stable banks in London. As their power grew, the concept of “a dangerous fortune” also grew with the control and wealth.  Follett drew the reader into a world of scandal, affairs, money, corruption, power, deception and defeat.  In the end, Follett tied together the story through a climactic finish.

One of my favorite things about Follett’s books is how he always brings the stories together so well in the end. There are no loose ends that leave my hanging, and I feel content after finishing his stories. The characters always have a purpose and are intertwined in an intricate network. There are always certain characters I end up siding with and routing for throughout the book, hoping the best will come to them. In this book, I sympathized for Hugh Pilaster and wished evil things would fall on Augusta Pilaster and Micky Miranda. At the same time, I found the manipulation and selfish doings of Augusta and Micky to be tantalizing and wanted more.

Side note on this book: A Dangerous Fortune featured a more sexual and mature environment than some of the others books of Follett’s I have read. There is scandal, adultery, brothels and more. Just a heads up for those going into this book! (Though I felt this added to the story and did not bother me)

One other side note: The edition I read needed better proofing. (Delacorte Press, hardcover, 1993) On a few different occasions, I came across sentence and grammatical errors. On at least one occasion, I also came across Augusta’s name missing the “a” in the end, spelling “August.” While this is not a big deal, it was distracting to me and I began to notice small errors like this. For example, one sentence on page 446 read:

“Edward, you cannot go the prizefight”

… missing the “to” … “Edward, you cannot go TO the prizefight.”

While this may seem nitpicky, there were a few minor errors similar to this I kept getting hung up on.

Overall, however, another great Follett book I am glad I found on the used book shelf. Whenever I start one of his books, I find it difficult to put down. At the same time, I never want to rush through them. Instead I want to take my time and picture the story playing out in my head. This book in particular would make an awesome movie.

I recommend this book for a wide-range of readers. It is great for the history lover, as well as the drama seeker. Anyone who likes George R. R. Martin will find Follett has a similar writing style and would probably enjoy his books. I recommend starting with his Pillars of the Earth series before proceeding to A Dangerous Fortune and other books of his. (Just to get you ready for his writing style and stories so you will fall in love like I did!)

pj - christina

Michelle’s Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is the popular meme created and run by The Broke and Bookish.

This week is a freebie, so I figured because I haven’t already listed out what I am excited for, I’d do it now!

top10tues 1

  1. Days Like This by Danielle Ellison: I’m extraordinarily lucky to know Danielle and am very excited for her latest book. It comes out next month and I think the cover is gorgeous. She also had a really cool campaign going on social media to get people to focus on the good things, #dayslikethis1
  2. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: My lovely #OTSPSecretSister got me this book a couple of months ago and I’m very excited to dive into it this summer. I love almost all of Holly Black’s books so I have high expectations for this one.
  3. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: I’m so late to this considering how this book to the reading community by storm, but I would like to see how I feel about it! Hopefully I get to it this summer!top10tues 2
  4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: Despite having only read His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi has earned a spot as one of the authors I will grab at. I’m very excited to read this as it sounds just as intriguing but very different from the Temeraire series.
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: Again, I’m apparently pretty late to the party on this one despite having followed its progress since it was an idea that Victoria was playing around with. I look forward to savoring it.
  6. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: All the coverage on this book lately! I have never read Maas before so I think perhaps this is a good one to start with. Ride the wave while it’s rising!
  7. Trapped by Kevin Hearne: Probably not anyone else’s list, but I’ve been binge reading the Iron Druid Chronicles so this is the next one I have to read. It’s happening.
  8. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Like Trapped, this is the next book I have to read in the Outlander series. I need to get going with it before I forget some of the details of Voyager.
  9. White Queen by Phillipa Gregory: My #OTSPSecretSister ALSO got me this one, which I have wanted to read since watching the Starz series. It’s been a while since I read a good historical fiction.
  10. The Heir by Kiera Cass: This is my guilty pleasure series, and as much I don’t have high hopes for this book, I’m still curious enough to divulge.

top10tues 3

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Computer Woes and Vlogging Complications


For over a year now I have been flirting with the idea of becoming a vlogger and even once uploaded videos that I have since deleted out of shame, but you may have noticed that there has been no real progressed made on that front.

What’s my hang-up?

It once again comes down to editing software…but perhaps in a different way than you might expect.

I was tagged a while ago by Steph from Cover2CoverBlog to do the Taylor Swift tag. I wanted to do it in video format because I had watched a few and I figured a tag video would be a good place to start experimenting with some of the intricacies of filming and editing. I had an entire shoot of me doing it and then went to download the video editing software that had been recommended to me from someone on Twitter.

And that’s when it went all wrong.

I went to CNET to download it and clicked download. Little did I know at the time that I was clicking on sneaky little ad instead of the real download button. I thought I was still downloading from CNET, despite all the warnings from my computer that perhaps the file couldn’t be trusted. Very stupid, I know now.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I had not downloaded the editing software, but some really strange program. I panicked. I went to remove the software and tried restoring my computer’s settings to a previous date.

I thought it turned out okay but my computer began to progressively act strange until it got to the point that I couldn’t use Chrome whatsoever without random pages popping up and a Chrome plugin refusing to be deleted for good. I quickly bought and used virus protection software (again, hindsight is 20/20…should I have had that before, yes. Did I think I was going to have all this happen, no. Lesson learned). I performed lots of advanced scans on my computer and the virus protection software didn’t seem to identify any viruses. And yet the issues persisted.

My fiance performed a better search of the computer and discovered that I had something called root virus, or a rootkit. It hides as if it’s part of the computer’s operating system, giving it privileged access and preventing it from being removed. One way to quickly tell if you have one: If you go to the add/remove programs part of your control panel (speaking PCs here), if you have programs that have “” or ** as the totality of its Publisher name, it’s likely a root virus. Try removing it. If it says you need administrator privileges to do so (and you’re clearly the administrator of your own PC) then it is most definitely one.

It seems to me that these viruses grow and replicate and basically take up even more space. There are rootkit removers, but so far we haven’t had much luck actually removing them.

Not having a reliable, working computer is sort of an issue when you want to be an active blogger and an experimental vlogger. I am still unsure that even if I had the right editing software that I would know how to use it. It’s pretty confusing and not very beginner-friendly. Almost everyone recommends iMovie, which doesn’t do me a whole lot of good with just having PCs. I’m still totally open to any suggestions for editing software because I really don’t want to just upload a long and rambling video of me without some jump cuts at the very least.

My lessons learned thus far:

  • Have virus protection software.
  • Use an adblocker.
  • Listen to when your computer tries warning you about downloading a program.

Oops.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin on 2012-01-10
Genres: Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Now a Major Motion PictureTODAY Book Club pickTIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012

May’s book club pick was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book is a popular book many have already read, and I know many have enjoyed. Please do not hate me or take this the wrong way when I say I am glad I am through this book and do not intend to read it again…

Recently on our Playing Jokers Facebook page, we posted the article: 16 Books to Read and Love Forever. This book was on the list… do you agree with it belonging here? I guess I should get into my review and thoughts before I answer this…

The Fault in Our Stars follows a teenage girl, Hazel, on her journey with cancer. Her parents push her to go out of the house and hang out with her friends more, so she does. While in her weekly cancer support group, she meets the handsome Augustus and the story really begins… Hazel and Augustus begin a friendship that turns into a romance of the ages. There is humor and tears intertwined with life lessons, experiences, inspirations and difficult times. The reader will be brought through a roller-coaster of emotions as they fall for Hazel and Augustus and wish for them a happily ever after.

For me, the story told is not truly about Hazel. Hazel may be the person whose life experiences are followed and who the reader sees through the eyes of. However, the story is more about Augustus. Augustus has his own hardships he has had to endure, particularly with losing his leg to cancer. He, like Hazel, grows through the book. The Fault in Our Stars reads as a definite YA, coming of age and understanding, book.

Now for the grit…

This book was hard for me to read. It was a book club pick and I wanted to contribute to the discussion, so I picked it up on a Friday night and read through it, finishing it by Saturday afternoon. I just had to get through it and did not want to linger on it. I had a feeling that would be the case going into it… as I got a couple of chapters in this initial thought was confirmed… I just was not ready to handle it. The Fault in Our Stars caused me to relive experiences I did not want to remember. I do not want to remember those hard times a loved one experienced but rather the beautiful memories I had shared with them before… I will not go further here on my personal experiences…

The Fault in Our Stars was revealing of the monster cancer is. It does not matter where you are in your life… 6…50…90 years old. Cancer is destructive and does not care about time or the person it eats. It does not care about love and the people around. Cancer is an evil in this world I would give anything for to cure it and give life back to those it stole from.

So for those who have not read this book: I felt it was a good book to read and understand the power and effects cancer can have. However, if you are familiar with cancer and its effects, this can be a hard book to read. For me, it was and I was not ready for it. Instead of making me attach myself to the love story taking place, I was caught up on the side effects of cancer told. So to answer the question I asked above if I believe this book should be included in Huffington Post’s article on “16 Books to Read and Love Forever” – no, I do not feel this book should be included. It is hard to like a book that brings back sad memories of loved ones, rather than the happy, beautiful, loving times you spent with them. I have returned this book to the library and will not revisit it again after book club.

I really hope I do not offend anyone… these opinions are my own. I just wanted to share because, sometimes, it helps.

pj - christina

Christina’s Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is the popular meme created and run by The Broke and Bookish.

Christina’s Ten Authors She REALLY Wants To Meet

Ok… this list can be much longer than it is but these were just the first authors off the top of my head as I looked at my bookshelf. I geek out any chance I get to meet an author, talk to them, and have them autograph my copy of their book. To be able to speak with them and hear where they came from, what inspired them, learn about their aspirations and hopes (not just for a book but future writings and life in general) GAH! I love it!! The last author I was fortunate to meet and listen to speak was Richard Leahy, author of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines. Below is the start of my list of authors I would like to meet, with two authors who are deceased whom I would love the opportunity to go back in time and have coffee and a conversation with…

  1. Ellen Crosby – I love Ellen’s Virginia Wine Country Mystery series! As a book club, we have read The Merlot Murders and are reading The Chardonnay Charades in June. I would very much like to hang out with her for a beautiful afternoon at the winery to talk to her about the series and hear about her inspirations (and, of course, to talk about Virginia wine!)
  2. Ken Follett – AHHH I love Ken Follett! He’s my favorite author (I’m currently reading his book A Dangerous Fortune). I would love to meet Follett and talk to him over coffee or visit a history museum with him… he’s such an innovative, creative writer who can bring together multiple story lines and characters and tie them together in the end. His writing style and stories, with so much history built in, hook me… after writing this, I will go back to reading A Dangerous Fortune. (stay tuned for my book review on that coming soon)
  3. J.K. Rowling – Who would not want to meet the creator of Harry Potter?! I don’t think anymore explanation is needed here…
  4. George R. R. Martin – Again, who would not want to meet the great mind behind A Song of Ice and Fire series?! Although, if I ever had the honor to meet this brilliant mind, the first thing I would ask is “When is your next book coming out? Tell me when your next book is coming out? WHY IS YOUR NEXT BOOK NOT OUT YET!?!”
  5. Gillian Flynn – OK, her books are crazy… but I would love to meet the mind behind Amy and Camille… How does she come up with those story lines that are so NOT ok, but hook people and keep them craving more?
  6. Dan Brown – He is another brilliant mind. While his books are not my favorite to read, I still respect them and know he has a huge following. He puts a lot of thought and history into his writings. I would love to ask him more about his background and how he approaches writing. I feel like there is so much I can learn from him…
  7. Erin Lindsay McCabe – Loved Erin’s book, I Shall Be Near to You. I would like to meet her and learn more about her history background and research she did to prepare for this book! As a history lover, I really respect her writing style and how it was so well researched and the story told to make me feel so attached the characters and storyline.
  8. James McPherson – Another brilliant author of history. There is so much research that goes into his books (thinking of Battle Cry of Freedom alone had to take years of research and hundreds – more like thousands – of sources he poured through to compose this history thoroughly, accurately, and clearly/enjoyable for readers)
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien – I would have loved to have met this brilliant creator of Middle Earth. Tolkien inspired me and was one of the first authors I truly loved and whose books I dove into. His world of elves, men, dwarves and hobbits… Magic, power, deception… I am fascinated by his world and would love to immerse myself in its creation. (And yes, I have thought about it, and I would want to be an elf… possibly of Rivendell)
  10. Herodotus – The father of history. I would have loved to have met this man who was far ahead of his time as he recorded the histories of ancient Greece and the surrounding world and told their story for all to remember, forever.

Wow… re-reading this I noticed a key-word I used was “brilliant.” These authors are all brilliant minds, and are the reason I love to read, re-read, talk about, and write my thoughts down about books. Thank you to these authors and all others who are an inspiration to me and so many others each and every day. Without you, life would be dull.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming


Christina’s Review: Casino Royale by Ian FlemingCasino Royale by Ian Fleming
Published by Asterix040173 on 1954
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
three-half-stars
Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly ruthless and very deadly. This, the first of Fleming's tales of agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply 'Le Chiffre' - by ruining him at the baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spy masters to 'retire' him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James - Le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond's attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected savior.From Library JournalThe allure of James Bond was best described by Raymond Chandler, who insisted that 007 is

I have wanted to check out the James Bond series for a while… the movies are some of my favorites so I added the books to my to-read shelf to see their inspiration. The books are fairly short and full of action. I started with book one, Casino Royale and found it to be a quick and fun read on the infamous 007.

The reader meets James Bond as he is assigned to a mission designed to attack Le Chiffre where it would hurt: his money. Bond is sent to play against Le Chiffre in baccarat at the Casino Royale. The casino game is suspenseful… expensive buy-ins… all-in bets… can Bond accomplish his mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre? With the help of Mathis, Vesper, and Felix Leiter, Bond enters into the casino game of his life. Progressing from the casino game, Bond is thrown into additional adventures with his mission. Fleming filled his book with car chases, torture, romance, and mystery. There was never a dull moment for Bond.

I found the overall book to be enjoyable and a quick enough read that I will probably continue through the series gradually. At first, it took me a couple of chapters to get into through the coding and issuing of orders. I was hoping the whole book would not be written in that style… after a couple of chapters it opened up and into a flowing story. Naturally, one cannot have James Bond without a “bombshell” of a woman as I have learned through the movies and “Bond girl” legacy. Fleming started this trend as he introduced Vesper in Casino Royale. Fleming concluded the book quickly and with a nice twist. He also left the hook there for the next book and mission Bond was ready to set out on. I appreciated this carry-on and connection through the series.

While it was a quick read, I do want to mention there were a couple of things that tried my attention during the book. The beginning was very casino-technical as Fleming walked as through the rules of the game… this was still somewhat lost on me as I am not a gambler and do not see myself playing baccarat in the casino anytime soon. After getting through this, the story picked up and carried me through. Then when Bond goes to have his “relations” with the woman towards the end, I felt this was dragged out some as well. There were quite a few chapters on their courting and love-making that were not of interest to me… I was waiting for the action, the twists, and the adventures to come back in.

Overall good book and fun read. I am glad I finally had the opportunity to start the infamous series Fleming has gone down in history for. This is a great summer read (or mass transit read in my case). Enjoy!

pj - christina

Christina’s Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is the popular meme created and run by The Broke and Bookish.

Christina’s Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

The top three on this list are hands-down my three all-time favorite authors at this point based on the books I have read, want to re-read, and have collected on my shelves. It is clear I must really enjoy epic-adventure, historical, mystical, and long novels. Don’t forget to share your top ten (or at least top three) authors of all time!

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien – Hands down, geek out, J.R.R. Tolkien fan. I recently re-read The Hobbit and am so glad I did. To carry out my book obsession with Tolkien, I have also seen and own the extended versions for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I went out to see The Hobbit trilogy movies on opening weekend each time. (Yes, the third Hobbit movie I purchased my ticket for opening day over a week in advance and in reserve seating) I love Tolkien’s writing style, I love his characters, I love the world he created in his books… I even have his Book of Lost Tales series and Unfinished Tales.
  2. Ken Follett – If you ask me to recommend a book to you, I will more than likely jump to a Ken Follett book. I was first introduced to this author when I started watching The Pillars of the Earth mini-series on television. I stopped the series a couple of episodes in, started the book, and have been hooked on Follett since. I have lent out and bought new copies of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End books just to ensure I always have them on the shelf. I loved his book A Place Called Freedom. I’m still working through his Century Trilogy and have read Fall of Giants. My next Follett book I will be starting soon is A Dangerous Fortune. He is an excellent historical fiction writer.
  3. George R. R. Martin – Take Tolkien and Follett, combine Tolkien’s mystical world with Follett’s writing style and you get Martin. I am hooked on the Song of Ice and Fire series and am dying for the 6th book to come out. (like the rest of the world) I am one of those people who love the HBO Game of Thrones series, but I get so irked when they divert from Martin’s story-line in the books. He is so meticulous and the direction of each character is so planned and yet unpredictable for the reader… come on Martin, hurry up and release the next book of the series! (And HBO, stop messing with the story line!)
  4. Jeff and Michael Shaara – This father-son duo has a knack for historical fiction. I love their books on the Civil War and have another on the American Revolution on the shelf to read soon. They both carry a unique writing style that brings me into the war and makes me feel like I am witnessing the battles in action.
  5. The Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) – When I was a little girl, I received The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm from my grandpa. I sat there in my room and read this book from cover to cover. I was fascinated by the stories, the fairy tales, the quality and quantity, the lessons, and the number of Disney and other films who developed movies from their stories. I believe this was the first “door-stopper” book I ever sat down and read. I will always treasure this book I received from my Gramps and the stories contained within by these masterful writers.
  6. James McPherson – Excellent non-fiction writer on the Civil War and surrounding period. McPherson has written a couple of my favorite books, including Battle Cry of Freedom and For Cause and Comrades. One can really learn a lot from his approach to history and advancements he’s made through his research in the field.
  7. Tony Horwitz – Horwitz is a fun and different type of historical non-fiction author. He explores history from more of a journalist perspective as seen in his books Confederates in the Attic and A Voyage Long and Strange. Horwitz explores the countries through the eyes of the historical period he is writing about. For example, in Confederate sin the Attic, Horwitz travels through the southern states visiting towns and events such as battle reenactments to see how history is being remembered today, how it has had an influence on the people through generations, and tells the story of the history he is exploring in this sense.
  8. David McCullough – Another fun and easy-to-read historical non-fiction writing. Many people know him for his work on 1776 and John Adams. He tells a broad history in a fun and succinct fashion. I find I can read his works pool-side and relax while taking in the lessons he is trying to teach.
  9. J.K. Rowling – I suppose I can’t write this list without include Rowling who has done so much for the fantasy genre. Rowling worked magic through her Harry Potter series. Now she is on to writing a new genre of tales. While I was not the biggest fan of A Casual Vacancy, I loved her writing style and how she brought everything together in the end. The Cuckoos Calling was a classic murder mystery piece I enjoyed and particularly liked talking about with the book club.
  10. Gillian Flynn – As twisted as she is, I can’t get away from her books. I look forward to reading them and I blow through her books reading them non-stop. Flynn has a mind she brings out on the paper that I don’t think can be matched by another. Her books leave me thinking “what the f***” and yet I can’t put them down and crave more.

Honorable Mention:

  • Margaret Mitchell – I had to include Mitchell on this list simply because of her masterpiece Gone with the Wind. I will forever treasure this book on my shelf. It was ahead of her time, and a classic that will forever be read and adored. A beautiful depiction of the Civil War, of romance for the ages, of life, perseverance, and lessons learned… Mitchell is worth the read.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Thoughts: Rediscovering Audiobooks


I was going to write about the various stresses of this time of the year, with two major term papers due in just a week and a half. But I figured you all have pretty much heard enough of that by now. :) But one of the things that I’ve rediscovered this week: audiobooks.

I feel like every time I listen to an audiobook, I wonder why I didn’t listen to them to more often. Audiobooks:

  • Are easy to fit in with a busy schedule. I can listen on my commute, even when I’m driving and not taking the train.
  • Technology has advanced! Audible has improved sooo much since the last time I used it, and it’s become easier to pick it up and pause on multiple devices.
  • Are relaxing. Although this can also be a con because I become very sleepy after a while…
  • Allow for the story to be experienced in a very different way.

audibleIn case you didn’t read Christina’s review of The Alchemist, it is our April book pick for our VA Wine and Book Club. I have done a pretty bad job of reading the books for the club lately. Part of it stems from my lack of interest in the specific books, but also because I’m reading so much slower these days. I can’t seem to finish my pleasure read in time to pick up the club book.

My solution for this month? I re-signed up for Audible, taking advantage of their free credit for their trial. The last time I had a subscription to Audible two years ago, I had to download their audiobook manager to play the books and download each book. But now?

I can stream the book from my browser. I can use their free app (but still have to download the book) to have the audiobook play through my phone, and then thanks to Bluetooth, through my car. Each syncs so well that where I leave off of my computer, my phone picks up.

It’s making it so easy for me so I think it’s safe to say that I will actually be able to discuss the book at the club’s meeting this Sunday!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: All the Light We Cannot See


Christina’s Review: All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr
Published by London Publishers on 2014-05-06
Pages: 494
Format: Hardcover
three-half-stars
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has been on my to-read shelf the past few months (both on my Goodreads to-read and my actual book shelf).  I was lucky when I received this book through our holiday gift book exchange last December and finally got around to reading it. Overall, it was a good book but long, so definitely plan out some time to sit down to this read.

Towards the beginning of the story, the reader is introduced to Marie-Laure, a blind girl who lives with her father in Paris prior to the outbreak of World War II. The story of Marie-Laure and her father is told the same time a different story is told across the country in Germany. This story is one of an orphan boy, Werner, who is led down the path of many other Hitler youth to become exceptional (and relentless) soldiers for their country. Doerr crosses between the two stories of Marie-Laure and Werner during the tumultuous period prior to and through World War II in Europe. In addition to the crossing of stories, Doerr also crossed over time between 1944 and the events that led up to that point in time for Marie-Laure and Werner, which was a nice touch that added to the story build-up and understanding.

The story did have suspense. It was emotional, gripping, and revealing of the hardships and cruelty individuals may have gone through during the war years. Families were separated and were forced to leave their homes. Food was hard to come by for many, and dangers grew to the point people barely left their homes. Soldiers were trained to be machines that took down others who were weaker than them. And through this, Doerr paints the story of a brave little girl who learned the way around her city through the model town her father created for her with replicas of the streets and houses so she can memorize each turn and find her way home.

This book was voted the top historical fiction of 2014 in the Goodreads Choice competition. I have read at least one other book that was on the finalists for this category… Even though All the Light We Cannot See was telling and brought the reader emotionally in, it was not my favorite of the historical fiction selections. I think I took the hype and held the book in too high of standards going into it.

It was a good read, however, and I loved Marie-Laure’s character. She was so interested in the natural sciences, and Doerr did a nice job carrying this passion on throughout the book (integrating 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea throughout, even in the outcome). I also enjoyed reading the story come together and felt my heart race a little towards the end. The book was very well written and thought out, clearly.

In the end, I felt sad… thinking back to the war and the devastation and destruction it may have caused some families. These events can haunt a person through their life… On a personal note, I have the urge to go to the World War II memorial in Washington, DC and sit there in silent thought, taking everything in.

This book was a good read I do recommend picking up if you have the time to dedicate to it and enjoy historical fiction. I do not recommend it for book clubs because I think it is a little long (from experience with book club reads, this can be difficult if not everyone can complete the read in a set time). I gave it 3.5 stars because it was not my favorite 2014 historical fiction, but it was not a bad read. I think this is one of those books I need to ponder on a little more…

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Christina’s Review: The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist - 10th Anniversary Edition by Paulo Coelho
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-10-13
Genres: Body, Mind & Spirit, Fiction, General, Inspiration & Personal Growth, Literary, Spirituality
Pages: 208
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

April’s VA Wine and Book Club pick was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A couple of the club members have read this book before and enjoyed. When starting the book myself, I met many others who have either read the book themselves (for fun or through school), or who have heard of the book and were interested in talking about it. The book was a quick read (I finished it in my short metro commute over a few days) and it was fast-paced. I am still trying to decide how I feel about the book – I have mixed feelings and cannot decide if I totally liked it – but overall I thought it was worth the read and a good lingering-thinker.

The story has been translated from Portuguese into dozens of different languages (I read the English translation). Coelho introduces the reader to Santiago, a shepherd in Spain who wants to travel and explore the country. This shepherd meets a Gypsy who helps to decipher his dreams and sends him off with his vision of a buried treasure he will find in the pyramids of Egypt. Soon after meeting the Gypsy, Santiago then meets a King who talks of life and this same destination. In pursuit of this treasure, Santiago then meets the alchemist who helps to guide him along his journey. The reader has the pleasure of following this boys journey has he seeks the meaning of life and buried treasure. It is a tale of exploration, understanding, diligence, dreams and of following one’s heart. The end features a nice twist I found humorous and profound at the same time.

If you do read this book, I recommend either reading it on as an e-book so you can highlight and mark pages or buying the book and keeping a sticky pad and pencil by you to mark pages and keep notes as you read. You’ll want to own this book because it is stock-full of life quotes. These quotes ranged from motivational to “follow-your-dreams” and other parts of life.

One lesson I took away to share was to never loose focus or abandon your dreams. The story of Santiago read fast and was almost exhausting as he followed this life-lesson. I am still pondering the author’s intentions with this book… Was it meant to be a satire? Was it supposed to be philosophical? Did he pile on the quotes as a life’s lessons book? Was it just supposed to be a fun read?

I am very much looking forward to the book club’s discussion on this read. I think this book makes a great club pick because it was short and posed a lot of questions that could be answered differently. The book’s ending and purpose is also up for debate. I cannot wait until our April meeting.

pj - christina