Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NF - The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower

Fascinating and well documented account of the behind-the-scenes activities in the White House as told from the perspective of the predominately African-American Staff. The author researched accounts from long ago, but mostly interviewed surviving staff members of  "the House".

Spanning from the FDR years though the present day Obama administration, these are the revelations of devoted butlers, maids, secretaries, waiters, electricians, janitors, and dog walkers. How they got their positions, the eccentricities of their charges, and the effects of long hours on their families.

Some of the vignettes are heartbreaking - the JFK assassination; others hilariously funny - LBJ's shower dilemma; still others are poignant or eye-opening.  Nothing too scandalous, just a rewarding insight into the inner workings of our country's most famous residence.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fict - Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

Interesting take on the life of George Sand, the cross-dressing authoress of mid 18th century Paris.  Born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, she had a unique ancestry which eventually shaped her life. She married early and well, as required, but soon chafed at the boring life of a privileged woman. Having been left a sizeable estate by her grandmother, she was able to devote her post-married life to her writing and her quest for knowledge.
Changing her name to get published more easily, and dressing as a man to go solo to plays and concerts, "George" embarked on a series of love affairs with both sexes.   And her salon gatherings became legendary - famous painters, actors, writers, politicians, and musicians all gathering for a night of drinking, intellectual discussions, and games.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fict - A Paris Apartment by Michele Gable

A fictionalized account of a real life 1890s Parisian courtesan holds so much potential. However this debut novel quickly spiraled into melodramatic chick-lit and stretched my personal limit of how bad a book I can finish.  Lots of 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads though, so I am in the minority.
Upon discovering a Paris apartment filled with antiques untouched for 80 years, a high end NY auction house sends their premiere furniture authority to Paris to oversee the cataloguing. She spends her time mooning about her very rich husband vs her newly acquired slouchy, stubbled, french boyfriend and obsessing over the diary of the owner of the treasures.
I stayed with the story to immerse myself via flashback in the historical 1890s Belle Epoque era of Paris, and the courtesan who collected these objects from famous writers & painters; ultimately skimming the last 50 pages only because I wanted to find out the results of the actual auction.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fict - Compulsion by Meyer Levin

Compelling fictionalized account of a chilling real-life murder which occurred in Chicago in the 1920's.  2 extremely gifted college students from 2 of Chicago's wealthiest Jewish families forge an unusual bond based on latent sexual tension and a shared quest for knowledge and enlightenment. 

Obsessed with Neitzche's idea of a superhuman being not subject to men's laws, the boys plot an experimental and arbitrary killing - simply for the experience.  The narrative also focuses on the friends and family and how what is being called as the "crime of the century" affects each of them.

The progression of the initial bonding, the crime, and the courtroom drama form an easy flow, producing an engrossing study of twisted youth delusions and aspirations. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Short Stories - Turtleface & Beyond

Turtleface & Beyond: Stories by Arthur Bradford is a quick and entertaining read. It's a great collection of stories that made laugh out loud several times - always a good sign. There were twists I didn't see coming. The main character throughout the stories seems to be down, but not out. He keeps moving along despite one setback after another. I'd recommend it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

YA - Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep chronicles the decent of Caden Bosch, artist, student, friend, and son, into the depths of his psychotic delusions.  As Caden slowly declines, pulling away from friends and family, his parents make the difficult decision to check him into an impatient psychiatric facility.
As Caden's point of view shifts between his reality and his delusions, readers are lead on an adventure via a large, metamorphosing ship to the Mariana Trench.  Caden is unsure whether or not they'll reach their destination, and what terrors or treasures may await them there.  The captain, the parrot, the navigator, and other crew members are representations of people he is engaged with at the hospital.  Readers will root for Caden throughout, hoping that he makes it to the trench and back home.
I think this book is important.  I think the subject matter and the way it's presented is important.  That being said, I had a difficult time getting through it.  I wasn't uncomfortable with the subject, I really liked Caden, his family, his friends on the outside, and the friends he made while inside the facility, but for some reason it took me a while to get through the book.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, or for whatever reason it didn't resonate with me.  I don't particularly feel one way or the other, personally, but professionally I know that young adult novels should showcase different types of people with different types of challenges.  It's a good book if your in the mood for a serious read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nf - Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses by Jayne Amelia Larson

Sometimes you just want an easy summer "fluff" book and this fits the bill quite nicely.   Armed with an Ivy League education, Jayne Larson moved to Hollywood with the hopes of having a screen-writing career. She struggled several years, networking and taking small acting jobs here and there to make ends meet. But living in Southern California was expensive, and when the opportunity came up to take a job as a chauffeur, she jumped at the chance.

In the male-dominated field, she had run-ins with other drivers, but being educated and having inside knowledge of Hollywood, she did well enough to be called as part of the entourage for the Saudi Royal Family's visit to California.

Allowed to drive only the women, she witnessed firsthand the shopping excesses, the myriad plastic surgery appointments, and the brutal  treatment bestowed on their servants.  Becoming friends with some of the family as well as the servants, and seeing some of the inner workings of royalty, she had an experience few can ever imagine.