April 25, 2015

Talk about a title that's misleading...

It was immediately apparent that the main goal of Lincoln's Secret Spy was to prove that William Alvin Lloyd was absolutely not a spy. Even the end notes point out the flaws of previous works that believed this to be the case. Also, Lincoln was a peripheral figure and yet it was his picture on the cover of the book which I felt amounted to a kind of click bait for hardcovers. In fact, the authors pointed out that there were no likenesses of Lloyd on record which is why his picture is not included in the pictorial insert (although Google seems to disagree on this point Edit: The author Jane Singer has confirmed this is not William Alvin Lloyd.). If you're not a fan of minute details about train travel then I doubt you would be a big fan of this book. I applaud the authors attention to detail but I found it to be both tedious and difficult to follow because of its overuse. I know that it can be difficult to jazz up historical subjects, especially those about little known figures, but it was a bit over the top in some sections where they compared the story to a play and the reader as an audience member (or something because I honestly felt confused about their main goal with the flowery language). I saw it through to the end mainly because I kept hoping that there would be some big revelation about Lloyd that was contradictory to the rest of the book and supported the claim that he was a spy (there wasn't).

All this being said, I was inspired to go on a little quest to locate Lloyd's grave as it's located in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. It was actually a lot more arduous than I had anticipated and I spent 2+ hours trying to find it and finally had to enlist the help of a security guard. I had assumed it would be small as Virginia Lloyd, his wife, was currently quite poor at the time of William Alvin Lloyd's death. As you can see, I was very wrong.

I walked past this about 3 times before I realized it was the one.

My new friend, Mr. Security, said this was probably a part of the plot.

Here's a view of the back with my buddy, Mr. Security.

A close-up of the inscription.

Next up is The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest by David Roberts. This story delves into the history of the Native Americans who occupied the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. Their migration from this region along with their neighbors has been a mystery for many years. Roberts travels throughout this region searching for answers and locating artifacts unseen for the last several hundred years. My Anthropologist soul is practically thrumming with excitement over this one, guys!!

April 18, 2015

So syrupy sweet you'll wish you had pancakes

If you're in the mood for a quick, predictable romance then The Inheritance is perfect for you. As far as the historical record goes, I'm quite glad that this previously unpublished work has now seen the light of day. It's fascinating to see the first novel from one of America's most beloved authors. From a reader's perspective, however, the book fell a bit flat. It is definitely a product of the times in which it was written. The main character is without flaw and is the embodiment of what it meant to be a noblewoman. From the opening pages, I knew what the ending would be and the twists of the narrative weren't so much twists as twitches. That being said, if you are a fan of Louisa May Alcott and you're curious as to where she started from in order to reach the upper echelons of literature then you should go and pick up a copy of The Inheritance.

I believe I mentioned in my previous post that I took a little trip to the library to get some inspiration for upcoming reading. It wasn't as easy as that, however. I went to pick up a copy of Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. I walked out with From the Earth to the Moon which as you might recall I read 3 years ago. *slaps forehead* After a second trip to the library, I was more fortunate (although I still didn't get Around the World in 80 Days).

Lincoln's Secret Spy: The Civil War Case That Change the Future of Espionage by Jane Singer and John Stewart is the story of William Alvin Lloyd. After Lincoln's assassination, he showed up at the White House claiming that he was hired by Lincoln as a spy and overdue for payment. Lloyd was either the Civil War's most successful spy or the most daring con man of all time. I guess we'll find out more soon!

April 16, 2015

You'll never look at The Wizard of Oz the same way ever again

Most people are aware of the reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the form of the book entitled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire and/or the musical by Winnie Holzman. However, Dorothy Must Die takes a completely different spin on the classic tale. In Paige's version, Dorothy has returned to Oz and she is the epitome of all things evil. The Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, Lion, and Glinda are her willing participants in turning Oz into a fearful, corrupt place devoid of any happiness (other than Dorothy's own). Amy Gumm (also from Kansas) has stumbled into this world and she is tasked with the ultimate mission: Kill Dorothy. This book is the first in a series (which I will HAVE to read just as soon as I can get my mitts on the prequel novellas) and the sequel has just come out entitled The Wicked Will Rise. I highly recommend this to anyone who is 1. A fan of the original Oz series by L. Frank Baum. 2. A fan of Wicked. 3. A fan of fairytales being turned on their head (think Once Upon a Time). Trust me, guys, this one is worth your while.

Whenever I'm feeling conflicted about which book to pick up next, I hit the stacks in the library and wait for inspiration to strike. That's how I came across The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott. Some of you may remember Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys which were also authored by Alcott. That series was one of my absolute favorites (and still is come to think of it). I remember bringing it home from the school library and telling my mom in excited tones about these sisters (I'm an only child) who lived in a different time. So when I saw that there was a book by her that I hadn't read much less heard of I had to take it home with me. The Inheritance was written when Alcott was just 17 and in fact was her first work. It was unpublished until 1997 when it was discovered by biographers. It's a flowery romantic story that centers on a character named Edith who has all the charms and graces of an aristocrat without any of the legitimacy of the class...or does she? Guess you'll have to check back in later this week for my review to find out (or should I keep it a secret?).

PS It was made into a tv movie and I think you know what means. There's my Friday night sorted!

April 10, 2015

Talk about your twist ending!!

Whoever wrote the blurb on the back of The Secret Keeper, was not exaggerating. You will most definitely be surprised by all the twists and turns of this mystery. It is so multilayered that I often wondered how all of the different narrative threads converged...then about 30 pages from the end I started to suspect I had figured out the BIG reveal. In a book that was almost 500 pages long, this is quite the feat. Morton's characters are so vibrant that they fairly leap off of the page. It's separated into 4 different sections that focus on different characters and help to gradually fill in the details of the secret (hence the name) that has loomed large over Laurel's life since she was sixteen years old. Most of the story is focused on London during the Blitz of WWII and it's clear that the author did her research on the time period which further enriches the story. In fact, Kate Morton has earned herself a spot on my Favorite Authors List. (Also, I bought another one of her books that I'll be reviewing a little later this year.)

Since I'm traveling this weekend, I chose a book that I'd been eyeing for a while to read next. I'm going to be reading and reviewing Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Of course, after I picked this one up I discovered there were two prequel novellas also available...only time will tell if I'll have to pick those up as well (and there's a sequel too!). These books tell the story of Amy Gumm who hails from Kansas and made her way to Oz like another girl we've all heard of: Dorothy Gale. However, Amy's experience is decidedly disparate from the story we all know and love. Amy's been recruited by an organization known as the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and she has been tasked with a mission...killing Dorothy. As a fan of the original L. Frank Baum Oz series which began with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I am intrigued to see the direction in which Paige has taken these beloved characters. I'll be updating you soon with my thoughts!!

What books are you guys reading? Have any recommendations for me? Leave a comment below! :-)

April 3, 2015

Quick review: The Iron Giant

One of my favorite animated films is The Iron Giant so when I discovered that it was based off of a book by the same name...well I had to read it didn't I? Ted Hughes, late poet laureate, created something truly special with this book. It's incredibly short (79 pages to be exact) but so much is crammed within those pages that it spoke more to me than some books three times that length. It is the tale of an Iron Giant/Man who arrives in a small town and begins wreaking havoc among the farmers by eating all of their metal machinery. At first, the farmers believe he is a monster and they trap him in a pit. However, when he escapes a little boy named Hogarth speaks upon the Iron Giant's behalf and comes up with a compromise. For a time, there is peace. And then (here's where the movie deviates) a creature born from a star lands on Australia. This creature is gigantic and shaped like a dragon and it demands to be fed living things. The people of earth decide to go to war against this creature instead. (Remember this is a "children's" book and it has already tackled prejudice (the farmers against the Iron Giant) and now it's taking human beings predilection for warfare head-on.) The weapons unleashed are unparalleled in their ferocity and yet the creature only smiles. It delivers an ultimatum and the people of earth are terrified. Once again, Hogarth (and yet just like a children's book to put the power in the hands of a child) has an idea. He asks the Iron Giant for help. A challenge of strength is issued which the dragon creature accepts.

I don't want to give away the ending. In fact, I feel slightly bad having said as much as I already have. I do hope you'll check this book out. It's worth your time (it took me no time at all to read it), I promise. It's lauded as an exceptionally brilliant read for a reason. There is so much to be gleaned from the story.

PS I'm still working on The Secret Keeper but I'm trying to stick to a somewhat regular posting schedule so I thought I'd try out something a little different with this quick review. Let me know in the comments what you thought of it. :-)