The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
(Putnam Adult, 2010, 496 pages)
I do not know if it is because I am a mystery fan or because I am about to visit Scandinavia, but this title caught my eye and I could not put it down. Gabriel Allon is the main character, but the author draws in many characters to keep up the pace of espionage. Gabriel was once a spy, but now enjoys his hobby of art restoration. The murder of his friend, another art restorer, and the theft of the Rembrandt painting the man had been working on draws Gabriel into action.
Powerful people, suspense, and murder are intertwined as the story segues from art theft to international financial chicanery and crimes intended to cover up the ever-present Nazi madness of Europe’s past. The Rembrandt Affair is the tenth novel by the author featuring legendary Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon. When I return from vacation, I will have to find more of this series.
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
(Ace Trade, 2010, 327 pages)
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
(Ace Trade, 2010, 320 pages)
These are the first two titles in the Sookie Stackhouse, or Southern Vampire, Series. The HBO series “True Blood” is based on this book series. I have to say I am having a ball reading these. They are super quick reads and even if you are over the whole vampire thing, these are campy and don’t take themselves seriously so they are enjoyable. There are not only vampires in this series. In the little town of Bon Temps, Louisiana there are many supernatural beings floating in and out of the story.
Vampires have come out of the coffin, so to speak, and Sookie, a telepathic waitress in a bar run by a shape shifter, is dating one that was originally from Bon Temps during the Civil War. Each book focuses on a different mystery but also furthers the story of Sookie, Bill the vampire, and the other characters of Bon Temps. If you are fan of the HBO series “True Blood” but have not read the books you might want to give them a try because the story line in the books is actually quite different from the TV show. I’ll be starting on the third one soon, called Club Dead.
Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant
by Jennifer Grant
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, 179 pages)
I ADORE Cary Grant so when I saw this book about him, written by his daughter, I thought – “How cool this will be – someone who can really talk about Cary Grant without all the rumor mill nonsense!” My mistake! Unfortunately, I found Jennifer Grant to be completely absorbed with Jennifer Grant. I was disappointed. I did, however, enjoy looking at the pictures and reading the captions, but I found the actual text to be way too much about the author reminiscing about herself growing up and not as much about Cary Grant. Granted, her reminiscing included Cary, but only in the context of her involvement. Oh well, I guess this goes to show I will read anything and once I start, I finish 🙂
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser
(Harper Perennial, 2005, 383 pages)
I’d been wanting to read Fast Food Nation for a while. I remember all the initial buzz from when it first came out but I just never seemed to be in the right “mood” to read it. Fortunately, I found myself searching for a good audiobook to listen to on my way to work and Fast Food Nation happened to be on the shelf at the library.
Schlosser takes a look at the history of fast food restaurants here in the United States. He walks the reader through how they were developed and how they came to be the giants they are today. In addition to the background information, Schlosser also takes a close look at what our nation’s fast food dependency has done to the way we treat food here in the U.S. At times it was very hard to listen to because the hidden side of what we eat isn’t always pretty. This isn’t only because of the treatment of animals, but also because of how workers and farmers are forced to adhere to “industry standards” that want more products, more quickly, for less money. Let’s just say that odds are pretty high you wouldn’t want to be working on the line at a meat processing plant. . .
Schlosser makes you think about the value of the food you’re getting when you make the impromptu decision to stop at places like McDonald’s or Taco Bell (and they’ve worked hard to make sure they get your attention, thus encouraging on-the-fly pit stops). He helps you to see that not only are we faced with unhealthy options, we’re also encouraging the continuation of unhealthy business practices in terms of employees (think about the typical age of the person behind the counter who’s helping you), farmers (small farmers are being run out of business because large fast food chains want more product at a cheaper price), and factory workers (the emphasis at meat processing plants is on speed – to the detriment of safety and quality of meat). Fast Food Nation was an interesting read and I’m glad I finally got around to listening to it. I’d definitely recommend it.
I’ve been on a literary “food” kick over the past few years and I just recently read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. That was decidedly more graphic and disturbing – Foer makes you think about the food you’re eating and what it took to get on your plate from a much broader perspective. If you think you can handle it, and you have an interest in this genre of writing, it would be another book I’d recommend.
Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
(Viking Adult, 2010, 285 pages)
Eat, Pray, Love is the unofficial “prequel” to Committed. Committed begins a few years after Eat, Pray, Love left off, with Gilbert and the true love of her life, Felipe (a Brazilian with Australian citizenship), fully committed to each other and their transnational love affair. This commitment had one caveat, however, neither Liz nor Felipe ever wanted to get married. Both had already experienced marriage and very painful divorces – marriage was officially off the table. Or at least that’s what they thought. . .
Liz and Felipe had essentially made their home in the U.S. with the occasional venture overseas. On one return home, Felipe was detained in customs. He and Liz were informed that Felipe had been coming and going to the U.S. too frequently. They had two options – either get married or Felipe would never be allowed back in the country again. After effectively being ordered to wed, Liz devotes the majority of her book to coming to grips with the idea of marriage (its history and what it really means to be married). She talks to friends and family and she gets different perspectives from people in all walks of life (and all over the world – with Felipe not allowed in the U.S. they are forced to live as nomads, traveling constantly).
I enjoyed this book, primarily because I wanted to see what happened next for Felipe and Liz. I didn’t really get too much insight on the nature/history of marriage (I’d turn to a different book for that), but I enjoyed getting different perspectives on what it means to different people. Also, Committed helps you see the true nature of what love means – even when it’s not at its prettiest.
If you haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love I’d definitely recommend it (my favorite parts are the “Eat” and the “Love”) – then you should check out the movie, and THEN pick this up.
Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield
by Kenneth D. Ackerman
(Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003, 551 pages)
Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth D. Ackerman describes the election and assassination of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. When Garfield attended the Republican Convention in 1880, he was there to back John Sherman, one of three candidates seeking the presidential nomination. When none of the three original candidates garnered enough votes to win the nomination, the Republican delegates compromised on the nomination of the unprepared James A. Garfield. After winning the Presidential election, Garfield took office in 1881. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau in July 1881 and died in Sept. 1881 at the age of 49. He did not even complete one year of his presidency.
Dark Horse is well written and well researched. The author, Kenneth D. Ackerman, has spent 25 years serving in the federal government and knows his subject matter. I enjoyed reading this book, but because it is a true story, I was left wondering “what if?” What if Garfield had not accepted the nomination? What if Presidents had better security in the 1800’s? And the biggest question of all, what if Garfield had better doctors or was shot today? His wounds would not have killed him with better doctors or today’s modern medicine. This book is recommended for biography lovers.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
(A.A. Knopf, 2002, 146 pages)
I am always on the hunt for good books to read to my grandchildren when they visit. We lay on Papa’s big bed and read several chapters before they head to slumber land. With that in mind, I went upstairs in our library to the children’s section and came across James and the Giant Peach. I have not read this book since my own boys were quite young and had forgotten much of it. What a delightful totally pretend story!
The first chapter was very sad as I read about how James came to be in the situation he was in so I’ve decided we will have to read at least 3 chapters the first night so they don’t have bad dreams 😉 I know they will be spellbound, not only by the outrageously wonderful friends he makes, but by the journey they all take on a giant, juicy peach! I will definitely preface the reading of this book by telling the kiddos what pretend is all about and that NOTHING in this book will ever come to be real!!! But what fun it will be to take this pretend journey with James!