Tag Archives: biography

Week 23 Reading: “I Love You, Ronnie”

Well folks, we are entering February, and starting off our “Month of Romance” theme for our book club-like reading atmosphere. For those of you who have joined us recently, the idea behind this blog is to pick a theme for each month, and for each week within that month, a different book associated with that theme. I try to mix it up by picking different genres, to keep everyone interested, and to expose myself (and you!) to books we wouldn’t normally pick up. Within any month, we can read a biography, a sci-fi, a trashy romance, and a historical fiction… or anything else on the broad spectrum of literary themes!

Check out This Month’s Books, pick one (or more), and read along! At the end of each week, I post my review, and ask you to join in with your own review/commentary/questions. I enjoy having opposing opinions, learning something about the book I missed, or just discussing a novel with friends!

I’m very excited to pick up this week’s book, I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan.

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This book came as a very enthusiastic recommendation from my friend Haley (hey Haley, and Thing 1 and Thing 2!!). The book is a collection of letters from the late Ronald Reagan to his wife, Nancy Reagan. The letters encompass the bulk of their relationship, from the acting days, to the White House, and beyond. These love letters were lovingly assembled, and explained, by Nancy Reagan. When recommending this book, my friend Haley said that Ronald Reagan is possibly “the most romantic man ever.”

This should be an interesting selection. It is a collection of letters, and falls under the title “biographical literature,” which isn’t usually my genre of choice. But again – expanding my literary horizons and embracing something I usually wouldn’t pick up on my own. With a recommendation like “most romantic man ever” from Haley (who I trust with book recommendations), this should be a great one to start off our “Month of Romance,” and get us into the mood for love.

 

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Book Review: Letters from Amelia

This week started our first of November’s “Month of Travel” theme for the reading challenge. We kicked off our challenge picking up a biography (the first of the challenge) about Amelia Earhart, a legendary woman, American and pilot. I’ve always found her legend fascinating, mostly because of the mystery surrounding her disappearance.

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Letters from Amelia: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart by Jean L. Backus uses a recently (well, recently as of the book’s 1982 publication) found collection of letters written by Amelia to her mother, Amy. Backus uses the letters, as well as interviews, newsreels and newspaper clippings, and biographical books to piece together a never-before-seen-view of Amelia’s life, told mostly through her own words. The book was very interesting. Amelia was, from youth, a very bright and inspired woman. She didn’t have a life-long fascination with avionics, and only took to the sky in her 20s. She lived an unconventional life even before becoming famous, refusing to settle down and protesting to marriage – mainly because of the unhappy relationship between her parents.

Amelia’s fame wasn’t guaranteed simply because she was a trend-setting woman. Her fame was carefully promoted by her public relations representative, who later became her husband (when Amelia was well into her late 30s). He pushed her career, encouraging her to take herself and her plane to the ultimate limit – making her famous and infamous for her record setting career. Backus presents various suggests theories surrounding Amelia’s mysterious disappearance, and leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions.

This book was slow going. I’m not really a fan of biographies (give me historical fiction any day), but I felt that Backus went off on tangents and had a hard time staying on track. I think her book could have been much better (and possibly shorter) if Backus had kept to the subject at hand instead of spending pages on friends who visited Amelia at her house when discussing her married life. Just an example of the kinds of tangents Backus took. I feel like Backus wanted to fit in everything she discovered about Amelia, when really the writing should have been much more selective to make the book more interesting. I also had a few problems with her writing style – there were frequently oddly-worded sentences thrown into the mix… sentences I found myself reading and re-reading in an attempt to make sense of it.

Overall, I enjoyed Letters From Amelia. I’m glad I took the opportunity to learn more about Amelia Earhart. She was truly ahead of her time, taking on challenges that at the time (and even into our time) were seen as masculine, without a care for what anyone thought of her. She had a wonderful support network, was exceptionally caring to her family (even taking financial responsibility for her mother and later her married sister), and a visionary in regard to women’s rights. Her main goal seemed not to set records, but to inspire women (and men) to know that women were just as capable as men. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “please don’t bother” and 5 being “this book is nothing short of miraculous) , I would give this book a solid 2.5.

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November Reading List

Wow! We are rapidly approaching the end of October (where did the time go?!), and our Halloween reading is coming to an end. One book (Guilty Pleasures) and two reviews (Guilty Pleasures and this week’s reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) left, and then it’s time for our November reading. I figured I should probably release the list (which just got finished now) so you can pick up the books you need if you are following along! Remember, the library is a great resource (and will more than likely have all of these books), or you could more than likely find these books at a used book store and save some money!

November’s theme is the “Month of Travel.” I don’t know why I thought that up, but… we’re stuck with it. I was having a hard time making selections, but I think I put together a good list:

Nov. 3 – 9 – Letters from Amelia – Jean L. Backus

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Backus uses real letters from Amelia Earhart, the famous and doomed pilot, to piece together Earhart’s private life. I’ve always found Amelia Earhart to be an interesting subject – mostly because of the mystery surrounding her death – and thought this would be a good chance to pick up a book about her life. The book is a biography, and will be the first biography of our reading challenge.

Nov. 10 – 16 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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This “travel” book takes place in outer space, and is a great sci-fi comedy book to add to our reading list. When you pick this one up at the library, don’t be intimidated by the size. The book is the first of a series, and has been grouped together with the subsequent books to make one gigantic volume (you might find it under The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but we’re just reading the first part, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for this reading challenge. If you continue reading the other books, that’s great! I hope you do (and I hope I’ll get a chance to eventually, also).

Nov. 17 – 23 – Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

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I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never read this classic novel! I’m looking forward to picking this one up … especially because my new 17th and 18th Century British Literature class requires me to read it this semester, so I’ll be knocking out two birds with one stone! I swear I had this book picked out and paid for (yay used book store $1.50) before this class opened (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it at all because it’s in my textbook). I’m looking forward to reading this book for the first time, and discovering all about Gulliver and his travels.

Nov. 24 – 30 – The Sea Shall Embrace Them – David W. Shaw

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This book is a historical, non-fiction account of “The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.” Shaw writes about the 1854 collision between two steamships, and the “harrowing events” that followed. The book came with a wonderful recommendation from my mom (thanks, Mom!), and was passed on to my husband (who needs to be really bored to read a book), so I am making good use of it and putting it into our book challenge. If my mom liked it, I know I will!

So there you have it, folks! Our reading list for November. It’s hard to imagine we’re so close to the end of 2013 already! Head out to your library and get prepared to read along!

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Book Review: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Book seven (in as many weeks) down! In keeping with our Halloween theme for October, I took the recommendation of my friend Shannon (hey, Shannon!) and picked up Seth Grahame-Smith’s mock biography, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

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What a fun book! Grahame-Smith introduces us to the “secret” journals of the late great president – journals that catalog Lincoln’s hidden life as a vampire hunter. Grahame-Smith uses real experiences in Lincoln’s life (a multitude of deaths and disappointments) to support the fake plot line, where Lincoln seeks to avenge his loved ones by ridding America of vampires.

The vampire slaying was funny… and very bloody. It was interesting and exciting, but the best part of the books were the real excerpts and letters from Abraham Lincoln himself. Everyone knows the man was a genius, but not everyone knows what a beautiful man he was. Lincoln’s words about his first love, his losses, his children… they introduce us to the man behind the iconic photos and statue in Washington D.C., making us fall in love with the great man, and appreciate his struggles all the more. He was a passionate man who grappled with a rough life and bouts of severe depression, and parts of his journal brought me to tears. These words were, of course, balanced out by the dark humor of Grahame-Smith’s vampire-slaying-plot, which bordered at times on ridiculous

I enjoyed the book mostly for the truth and history it told. I learned a lot about Abraham Lincoln, and have been inspired to learn more about the man. This book would be a great one to introduce to a teenage boy (or man/boy) who doesn’t like to read “boring historical fiction.” It introduces just enough excitement to keep a reader engaged, and teaches a lot of history about a man who lived an exciting life, as well as a very important time in American history. The “hard part” (that isn’t really that hard) is separating the vampire plot from the history (again… not that hard). I did like the ending of Grahame-Smith’s novel MUCH more than the real ending of Lincoln’s story.

I’m happy I read this book! It was a fun break from the more serious books in my challenge so far, and I actually learned more than I expected to.

So what about you? If you read along, or read it in the past, did you like it?

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Book 7: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

In keeping with our Halloween theme for our October reading, this week’s reading is a “biography” about one of the greatest American presidents … who also happened to be on a secret mission to rid America of vampires. Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” gives us our first “comedy” book (although I’m pretty sure it’s a dark comedy) of our book challenge.

All a reader has to do is look at the cover art to know this is going to be a fun week of reading:

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Classic, famous image of Mr. Lincoln… splattered with blood and… what’s that behind his back?

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Ah…. looks like someone’s been busy.

Hopefully this will prove to be a fun book to lift us out of the drudgery of last week’s reading! I’ve been anxious to throw something less serious into our book selection, and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” should be the perfect way to put us into the Halloween Spirit, but not give us nightmares!

So get to the library or used book store, or download the ebook, and let’s get reading!

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