Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An amazing and well-told story. Yes, it is a testament to courage, and the ability to survive, but it is also a testament to how cruel and brutal human beings can be to each other. War is a terrible thing, and that made this a hard book to listen to at times.

Book Description:
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

The Reincarnationist

The Reincarnationist (Reincarnationist, #1)The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

I REALLY wanted to like this book. With a topic of reincarnation I thought it would be right up my alley. I rate it a high 2. It was okay, but with some serious flaws. The author had a great concept, but the plot had serious holes, too many characters and characters in disguise to keep straight, and no real ending. Lots of loose threads and unanswered questions. As for suspense, there was too much switching of time, place, and point of view to build any tension. The main character, Josh, is just as clueless at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. The author desperately wants us to believe in reincarnation, but even her main character does not grow or learn anything from his experience. The best part of the book was the portrayal of ancient Rome and the Vestal Virgins. But who is Sabina? We never find out. Every other character seems to have a modern incarnation, but apparently not Sabina. The twist at the end makes no sense. And it just ends. There is no resolution of karma. In my experience, memories of past lives don’t just come out of the blue unless there is a reason. We have agreed to have that experience as part of our spiritual growth, to resolve karma, to heal self-karma, or to validate our connections with people we have known in the past. None of that happens here. It seems to me the author is like Malachai – desperate to have that experience for herself, but with no idea what it really means. The “Memory Stones” was so gimicky. I wish the author had stuck with historical facts. If someone can tell me the series gets better, I might try another one.

Book Description: A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white, and photojournalist Josh Ryder’s world explodes. As Josh recovers, thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the intimacy of memories invade him. But they are not his. They are ancient…and violent with an urgency he cannot ignore—pulling him to save Sabina…and the treasures she protects. But who is Sabina? Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the Phoenix Foundation—a research facility that scientifically documents past-life experiences. He is led to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient, powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present.
Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.

Lost in Austen

Lost in AustenLost in Austen  (2008)

Starring: Jemima Rooper, Elliot Cowan as Darcy, Hugh Bonneville, Alex Kingston

Director: Dan Zeff

Length: 180 minutes


I’ve taken a break from the Moby Dick stuff to revisit Pride and Prejudice. I had hoped I would be doing a presentation for the Minnesota Library Association on this in the fall, but alas my proposal was not selected. I still hope to do it somewhere, sometime, somehow so I will revisit this topic from time to time and work up a page like I did for the Moby Dick project.

I’ll give this film 4 stars. Basically, a 21st-century woman unwillingly changes places with Elizabeth Bennet and manages to screw up all her efforts to make the story come out the way it is “supposed to.” Along the way, there are some hilarious twists on Jane Austen’s story. Several of the characters are not what they seemed in the original P&P.

I didn’t love the Amanda character, but the rest of the cast was, well, perfectly cast. Elliot Cowen is my favorite Darcy to date. He had the perfect blend of haughtiness and arrogance without being wooden, and yet his transition into the passionate, in love Darcy was seamless and believable. Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet was also outstanding. I thought her interpretation of the hysterical Mrs. Bennet was perfect without being over the top silly. I loved that all the Bennet girls, Caroline Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy were all played by actresses that seemed the appropriate age instead of being 10-plus years too old. And Mr. Collins – deliciously creepy. And wait until you meet his brothers!

Very well done! I would love to see this cast do the original P&P.

Description: Amanda Price is sick of the modern world. She yearns for the romance and elegance found in the books by her favorite author, Jane Austen. But she’s about to get a rude awakening as one fateful evening, she is propelled into the scheming 19th century world of Pride and Prejudice while that book’s Elizabeth Bennet is hurled into hers. As the book’s familiar plot unfolds, Amanda triggers new romantic twists and turns within the Bennet family circle as she clumsily tries to help the sisters nab husbands and even captivates the tantalizing Mr. Darcy herself. But what about Elizabeth…and what will become of one of the world’s greatest love stories?


Little Bee

Little BeeLittle Bee by Chris Cleave

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and so did everyone in my bookclub. It’s not perfect – at times it is overly melodramatic, the characters border on being caricatures and often act in unbelievable ways, but it is fiction after all. I liked the way the narration alternated between Sarah and Little Bee and even became blurred at times and you didn’t know who was talking. This is a book that will make you think about the world we live in, about our comfort zones and how we push away and ignore things that are disturbing. It is about the things we do to feel safe from horrors both imagined and real. It is about how we treat refugees, and the moral decisions we make. And hopefully, it will shake up your complacency and make you a little more conscious of the global world we live in, and the very real human cost of our Western greed. The ending is really hard to believe (who in their right mind would…) but not to give too much away, it is open ended enough that you can choose to give Little Bee a happy ending, or even hope for a sequel.

Book Description: British couple Andrew and Sarah O’Rourke, vacationing on a Nigerian beach in a last-ditch effort to save their faltering marriage, come across Little Bee and her sister, Nigerian refugees fleeing from machete-wielding soldiers intent on clearing the beach. The horrific confrontation that follows changes the lives of everyone involved in unimaginable ways.Two years later, Little Bee appears in London on the day of Andrew’s funeral and reconnects with Sarah. Sarah is struggling to come to terms with her husband’s recent suicide and the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, who is convinced that he really is Batman. The tenuous friendship between Sarah and Little Bee that grows, is challenged, and ultimately endures is the heart of this emotional, tense, and often hilarious novel.Considered by some to be the next Kite Runner, Little Bee is an achingly human story set against the inhuman realities of war-torn Africa. Wrenching tests of friendship and terrible moral dilemmas fuel this irresistible novel.