Book Review: Flight of Dreams

6457162_718087

Flight of Dreams

Ariel Lawhon

Doubleday

336 pages

The Hindenberg was a commercial airship that was designed and built in Germany at the start of WWII. I am not going to go into the mechanics, because it is impossible for me to understand, let alone explain, but I am personally in awe that such a mode of transportation ever existed.

Flight of Dreams is the fictionalized retelling of the final flight of the Hindenberg in May 1937. It tells the story of the last voyage my alternating chapters between various crew members and passengers. I found it a bit tricky at first to keep everyone straight, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became immersed in the story despite that, and it all ended up becoming clearer as the book continued.

I felt like the storylines were interesting and thought provoking. I only researched the different characters after I finished the book. SPOILER ALERT: Once I researched it, I did find a few aspects of Lawhon’s story to lack credibility. By that I mean she obviously made them up and there is no evidence that shows they ever occurred. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because it is fiction and to be expected, however I have seen where other reviewers took issue with it so I thought it was worth noting.

One aspect I found interesting is that Lawhon did stay true to the actual characters-everyone was really on the ship except for “The America” (that is one aspect that was completely fabricated, at least from what I could tell)-and that also whether you lived or died on the Hindenberg was portrayed accurately in the book. So she didn’t change that part of history at all, which made the deaths of certain characters at the end even sadder to read.

I am personally in awe of the Hindenberg now and I would love to have been on it during one of the non fatal flights. It sounds so cool, with all the observation windows and lookouts, although definitely not safe at all. Fiction based on true events and people is a favorite niche of mine and I am so thrilled with how Lawhon crafted this story. I read her last book as well (it was good but not as great as this one) and I now know I will continue to read whatever she publishes in this sub genre.

1024px-Hindenburg_at_lakehurst

 

Book Review: Maybe in Another Life

th

Maybe in Another Life

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Washington Square Press

342 pages

Hannah has just moved across the country. She is about to hit the big 3-0 and she has nothing to show for it. Her family left the U.S. when she was a teenager, leaving her behind, and ever since then she has been adrift. She has finally decided to move back to CA to stay with her best friend Gabby while she attempts to get her life back on track. To welcome her back in town, Gabby hosts a small get together at a local hangout. One of the guests is Ethan, Hannah’s former flame, first true love, and “the one that got away”. Hannah isn’t sure where she and Ethan stand, but as the night runs its course, old feelings start to surface.

As the evening draws to a close, Hannah is faced with a choice. Does she leave with Gabby or go home with Ethan? A seemingly innocuous choice, the decision has a much more serious impact.

Maybe in Another Life switches back and forth between two scenarios: Hannah’s life if she had left the bar with Ethan and Hannah’s life if she had left the bar with Gabby. It was interesting as hell to watch her two separate lives unfold. Her relationships with people were so different in her two lives, and although some of the same situations played out in both scenarios, the way they were handled and discovered varied greatly. It made for an interesting reading experience.

Maybe in Another Life started off as just another dose of chick lit for me, which had me nervous. I used to be a major fan of Sophie Kinsella as a young adult, but my tastes have changed over the year and I stay away from chick lit now. I am so glad I stuck with this one though because I quickly became intrigued with the story. I plan on reading everything by Taylor Jenkins Reid now, and especially look forward to her most recent book.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library.

 

Book Review: The Red Parts

th

The Red Parts

Maggie Nelson

Free Press

201 pages

Maggie Nelson was not even born on the spring day long ago in 1969 when her aunt, Jane Mixer, a student at University of Michigan, was found murdered in a rural cemetery. Jane had posted the day previously on a bulletin board on campus looking for a ride home to tell her parents about her engagement. What happened next remained a mystery for almost 35 years.

Back in 2004, Maggie had just finished writing a poetry book about Jane when she received a call from her mother that a man had been arrested under suspicion of Jane’s murder. Gary Leiterman was arrested after a cold hit on his DNA matched the DNA found on Jane’s pantyhose at the crime scene. The Red Parts chronicles Maggie’s life as she sits through Leiterman’s trial.

Because of Nelson’s background as a poet, this is not your typical true crime fare. There is much more fluidity to the prose and much more emotion conveyed. Instead of a retelling and recounting of the trial itself, it is a snapshot into Nelson’s entire life for the brief time during the trial.

I read this for the #24in48 readathon and it was perfect. It grabbed my attention from the beginning, was a shorter length, and kept me riveted throughout. I have heard the poetry piece is not difficult, so although I typically avoid poetry like the plague, I may pick that up.

An interesting aside, Jane Mixer was originally believed to be part of the Michigan Murders, committed by serial killer John Collins. I also plan on reading The Michigan Murders, by Edward Keyes, which was just republished in June of this year.

Book Review: Missing, Presumed

9780812998320

Missing, Presumed

Susie Stein

The Borough Press

400 pages

Manon Bradshaw is a police detective who responds to a call regarding a missing woman. Edie Hind is a 24 year old college grad who has disappeared from the home she shares with her boyfriend, Will. The door is left wide open and her cell phone and keys are left behind. The home is in disarray and it is immediately apparent that something is wrong. An investigation is launched, and tensions run high, especially considering that Edie’s father is Sir Ian Hind, surgeon to the royal family.

As the investigation continues, and hours turn into days, detectives are no closer to discovering Edie’s whereabouts. In fact, new questions continue to arise. Throw a budding romance into the mix and you have quite a story.

As far as mysteries/thrillers go, this one was more subdued. I wouldn’t say it had me on the edge of my seat, at least not for the majority of the time. I was curious about where the story was going, but not in the fast paced, can’t put down way that I would expect from this type of book. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing, however I wish I had known that in advance. Instead, I was constantly wondering when the action would start.

The ending, while unexpected, came about at a slower pace as well. While normally that would be exasperating to me, I really enjoyed the introspection of the characters as they came to terms with themselves and each other. I loved the questions they posed and what it meant to me as the reader. I really started thinking about relationships, especially between that of parent and child and that between spouses. What could you discover about your spouse that would make you stop loving them? Or parent? Or child? I especially admired Miriam Hind and she stood by her own choices, shocked as I was by those choices.

I liked that this was a little different from your typical thriller. Just make sure you go into it knowing that it is more meant to be savored and not rushed through, at least once you get to the end.

 

Book Review: Circling the Sun

blog-circling-the-sun

Circling the Sun

Paula McLain

Ballantine Books

366 pages

Ok, so I’ve found my niche. Paula McLain’s fiction based on historical characters. She just does it so right.

Beryl Markham grew up in the wilds of Kenya. She was a ruthless, spirited tomboy born at the turn of the 20th century. Her mother abandoned her at a young age, which greatly shaped the woman Beryl became. As she got older, she was able to cast off the expectations of society more so than most women to become a horse trainer and eventually a pilot.

If you’ve hear od Beryl Markham, it is probably because she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. However, Circling the Sun focuses very little on her life in aviation and instead is more of a coming of age story. Beryl was married numerous times, but her one true love (at least as far as the book goes) is Denys Finch Hatton. Denys is a man that cannot be tamed, yet he and Beryl have an undeniable chemistry.

I realize that this review is all over the place, but it is difficult to succinctly put forth the type of woman Beryl was and how she lived. I will just say that I read this book for two reasons. 1. I loved The Paris Wife. 2. I had the opportunity to see Paula McLain speak earlier in the month. I wanted to read the book before I saw her, which incidentally, didn’t happen because my kids were assholes that day. Anyway, I personally hadn’t heard of Beryl Markham and I wasn’t sure that growing up in Kenya was that interesting to me. It turns out, it was.

This was a gripping account and I loved the way McLain went about fictionalizing Beryl’s early life.

Book Review: The Girls

9780812998603

The Girls

Emma Cline

Random House

355 pages

It’s 1969, the Summer of Love. Evie is a restless 14 year old girl. She is on the outs with her only close friend and dealing with her parent’s recent split. Times are changing and she struggles to find herself in all of it. And then she meets Suzanne. Suzanne’s ethereal beauty and personality immediately catches Evie’s attention and she becomes enraptured by her in the way only a teenage girl can.

Evie quickly ingratiates herself into Suzanne’s fold, which means she becomes familiar with “The Family”, a cultish group of young adults and teenagers that Suzanne lives with, and she moves on to the abandoned ranch where they all live in one big commune. She spends the summer fawning over Suzanne and taking drugs with the head of The Family, Russell, and the rest of the family members. It all ends after The Family is implicated in a couple of murders.

First of all, if you haven’t heard of this book, you’ve been living under a rock. It has to have the most hype of any book this year. Emma Cline is a new author, and was offered an unheard of $2 million dollar contract for this book (which also includes two books to be published in the future I believe) after an all out bidding war. So it is one of those books that felt almost too gargantuan before I even read it. At the same time, seeing it everywhere only made me want to read it more.

I should start out by saying I am an avid reader of anything having to do with Charles Manson and his Family. Up until this point, that has been strictly non fiction. So suffice it to say, I know a lot about his followers and the murders they committed. I was afraid that this would majorly color my perspective and lessen my enjoyment of this book. And in a way, it did. I didn’t quite buy Russell’s character and there were little things that Cline changed that niggled at me. Obviously she took creative license with the story, but I had a hard time reconciling that in my head. However, this wasn’t a story that focused on Russell or the murders, but instead a story that focused on the trials that adolescent girls go through. Evie’s “coming-of-age” was the central focus, with the cult and murders being only a backdrop. Looking at it that way made it easier for me to let go of my hangups and enjoy the story on its own merits.

If you’ve been following the reviews for , you’ll probably notice that they’re pretty mixed. I can see why. I found the prose to be overwritten much of the time, in a way that didn’t appeal to me. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this book in a different setting (isn’t that funny? The Manson aspect truly hurt and helped this book for me), so I’ll be interested to see what Cline comes up with next.

Book Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

my-best-friends-exorcism

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Grady Hendrix

Quirk Books

336 pages

Abby and Gretchen became best friends in the fifth grade over a failed ET birthday party at the roller rink. They are now in high school and part of a foursome of girls that all consider each other to be BFF (think Mean Girls meets Heathers). Until one night when Gretchen disappears during their middle of the night shenanigans. When they find her a few hours later, she seems different.

The other two girls blow it off, but Abby can tell right away that something has happened to Gretchen. As the weeks go by, her behavior becomes stranger and stranger. She can’t sleep, she stops caring about her appearance, and she even spews vomit exorcism style all over the front lawn of the school. It’s clear she is possessed by the devil, but no one believes Abby, so she is left on her own to help Gretchen.

This is not my typical fare, but I saw it on Litsy (another new obsession) and thought it seemed fun. I promptly reserved a copy at the library, and I’m so glad I did. This is definitely one of those books where the physical book is far superior to the ebook. It’s hard cover and modeled in the fashion of a yearbook. The endpaper even looks like that of a yearbook, with all the signatures, notes, and doodles teenagers often leave for one another. At the end of the book, there are even a few pages of yearbook ads with personalized messages. This, along with the abundance of 80s references, really made this book stand out.

As for the actual story, it was fun and different. I would consider this to be a good palate cleanser for when you’re in between heavier books.