Having read Katy Tur’s book about the tRump presidential campaign and Luke Harding’s book about tRump’s alleged dirty dealings, I wasn’t expecting much from Fire and Fury in terms of style. I was pleasantly surprised. Wolff is a smart writer and although he gets bogged down at times in observation, overall the book makes for a satisfying read as it covers the first year of the tRump presidency. The most explosive contents have already been spotlighted extensively on cable news. However, the book is a revelation as Wolff delves into the White House infighting between tRump’s closest aides. It reveals the ugly side of politics–that the presidency represents power and those closest to the president can wield it with impunity. It reveals the fight to control a man who is essentially a loose cannon and uncontrollable. It reveals how everyone had a personal agenda and how hard they fought to get it front and center. It’s an unflattering portrayal of an unpopular president who along with his aides aren’t worthy or qualified to hold positions affecting the lives of people worldwide.
I started this book by the man who gave us Downton Abbey and couldn’t put it down! Disclaimer: it won’t be for everyone. The closest thing I can liken it to is a really well done Regency (minus the sex) which is maybe my number one guilty pleasure. In 1815, beautiful Sophia Trenchard is in Brussels before the battle of Waterloo. There she falls in love with with Edmund, Viscount Bellasis–an impossible match given he is the son of an Earl and she the daughter of a tradesman. Fast forward 25 years and the Trenchard family has outpaced even their wildest expectations moving among the London aristocracy as though they actually belong. Enter Lady Maria Grey who develops unexpected feelings for Christopher Pope, the son of a country vicar and an unabashed businessman. Can the tragedy of Sophia’s affair translate into something positive for a new generation? This is drawing-room repartee at its best, although the plot is contrived with stock characters and at times feels a bit silly. Still, it makes for compelling reading with a highly satisfying end.
If you like YA Dystopian, this book’s for you. Written by the author of Divergent, it’s more sci-fi than what we’ve come to expect, but there are plenty of fantasy elements to placate the faithful. Cyra is Shotet; sister of the violent brutal leader. Akos is from a prominent family of the opposing Thuvhe tribe. Akos is kidnapped as a child to prevent Cyra’s brother from meeting a dismal fate predicted by planetary oracles. In this universe, people are gifted with various powers. Cyra’s gift, killing by touch, causes her a great deal of pain. Akos is given to Cyra because his gift is able to counteract hers. Cyra has spent her life trying to survive her sadistic brother. Akos’s only goal is to escape. As their relationship flourishes, Cyra joins forces with rebels attempting to overthrow her brother to help him get away. Although the plot in this book seems unnecessarily complex, Roth has not lost the ability to pen a page-turning story with compelling lead characters, romance and adventure aplenty.
The Bolshevik revolution in Russia brings about sweeping changes, especially for the aristocracy. Count Rostov finds himself sentenced to house arrest in The Metropol, a grande dame of a hotel not far from the Kremlin. Rostov isn’t permitted his usual accommodations but must make do with a tiny room in the attic. How he adjusts to his confinement and reduced circumstances provides the crux of the novel. Instead of crumbling, the Count uses his charm and wit to carve out a life for himself as year after year slips by while tumultuous events occur outside the hotel’s doors. Even in his small world, Rostov manages to make friends, fall in love, experience fatherhood and find purpose in life. The pacing of this book is slow and it took me awhile to get into it. However, the writing is eloquent and the Count such a gentleman I soon found myself worrying about and rooting for him. An epic story well worth the time and effort.
Katy Tur was an NBC television reporter with an enviable posting in London when asked to report on Donald tRump’s presidential campaign. She was given the assignment over more seasoned reporters with the expectation the run would be short-lived. But seeing the reaction of fans, Tur began to believe the impossible might actually happen. For a year and a half, she lived out of a suitcase, following him to forty states, living on junk food and struggling to keep up her appearance in more than 3,800 TV reports. Along the way, she endured taunts from tRump for calling him on his lies, at one point needing Secret Service protection from rabid fans. In some ways this is a difficult book to read because we know tRump wins. It’s painful reliving the experience. But Tur doesn’t shy away from revealing his pettiness; the difficulty of life on the road; the character of his followers; and the obsequiousness of staff. All in all, a fascinating look at a political reporter on the road during an election year covering the circus that is Donald tRump.
A story about a young Japanese girl fleeing Korea at the end of WWII, this is a children’s novel recommended by members of my book club. Published in 1986, the book has lost none of its relevance or punch. Eleven-year-old Yoko is living a happy secure life as the daughter of a Japanese official stationed in North Korea. Everything changes when the U.S. drops nuclear bombs and Japan surrenders. Yoko, her mother and her older sister, Ko, must abruptly flee Communists looking for revenge without her father or older brother. Having lived the experience, the author is able to bring Yoko to life as a spoiled little girl forced to get tough to survive. The writing is spare, scenes of death, rape and other atrocities delivered without sensationalism yet all the more compelling for the restraint. Will the family get back to Japan and be reunited in this riveting tale of escape and survival? Highly recommended for all ages.
Preston is one of my favorite science-based thriller writers. When I saw this book I snatched it up not realizing it’s non-fiction. It made no difference. The book-based on his adventures in Honduras-is every bit as fascinating as one of his thrillers. There have long been rumors about a lost city in the Honduran interior. In 2012, Preston joined a team of scientists on a quest to find it. Going off findings from lidar (an amazing new mapping technology), Preston ventured into the densest kind of rainforest; terrain which hasn’t seen human habitation in hundreds of years. Battling impenetrable foliage, torrential rains, disease-carrying insects and deadly snakes, the group makes one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century. Preston covers every inch of the battle from challenges posed by an ever-changing Honduran government to unchecked drug lords to environmental hostility. Intriguing glimpses are granted into a culture which predated the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors but vanished shortly after. Why? Preston’s answer presents a chilling reality for societies which all coalesce, peak and ultimately disappear.
I got immediately sucked into this historical drama as three women struggle to survive in post WWII Germany. Smart bold Marianne’s husband is killed after a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. She vows to help the families of his fellow conspirators. To that end, she rescues beautiful but broken Benita, being taken advantage of by Russian soldiers, as well as Benita’s son. She finds strong practical Ania and her two boys languishing in a refugee camp for displaced persons. With Marianne’s three children, the makeshift family lives in a rundown castle where they must forage for food and fend off marauding predators. But their struggle is more than physical as they cope with jealousy, dangerous secrets, class differences, children left scarred by war and hatred for the Nazis. The book is very well written and emotionally gripping as the author explores themes of love, friendship, survival, judgment and ultimately forgiveness in the face of unimaginable horror. WWII is not my favorite time period to read about, but I didn’t want this one to end.
From the author of Orphan Train, I literally couldn’t put this book down even though I had a hard time picking it up. The topic sounds boring: Christina Olson, whose whole life is a small remote farm in coastal Maine becomes the unlikely inspiration for one of artist Andrew Wyeth’s best known paintings, Christina’s World, despite an increasingly incapacitating illness. But I knew after reading a few pages I’d be up all night with this one, and I was. The author weaves fact with fiction bringing into focus the little known woman behind the portrait, her complicated family relationships and an unexpected romance. Christina’s life is small, but the everydayness is its charm, along with the lyrical writing reminiscent of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. I’m not going to lie, for some this book will be unbearably depressing. I’m not a fan of needlessly sad novels or unhappy endings myself. But the writing and Christina’s stubborn pride, intelligence and hope throughout a life of hardship and tragedy almost make the subject disappear. I’m giving this one my highest recommendation.