Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Memory Of All That : George Gershwin, Kay Swift, And My Family's Legacy Of Infidelities
by Katharine Weber

What started out to be a promising book deteriorated after ninety-five pages and I stopped reading. The author spent an inordinate amount of time writing about her father who was a louse in being both a husband and a parent. It went on and on and became old soon enough. Katharine Weber's grandmother (Kay Swift) was supposed to have had a ten-year affair with George Gershwin while she was married to James Paul Warburg and that might have been interesting if the chapter about Weber's father had been abbreviated. There's also endless name-dropping. Ho hum.
Not recommended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paris To The Past : Traveling Through French History By Train
by Ina Caro

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, get a copy of Paris to the Past and in no time at all you will be dreaming.
Ina Caro is an authority on medieval and modern French history and travels to France quite often with her husband. She has an idea of taking one-day train trips from central Paris to see the churches and cathedrals that are en route and they will do it in chronological order, historically. The two of them begin with the twelfth century and end with the nineteenth century.
Sound interesting? I thought so and the first couple of chapters were. It began to bog down when the immense amount of details became too overwhelming and boring. The writing is dry.
If you're a scholar of medieval French history, this is probably the book for you. For the rest of us, there's better travel books with abbreviated histories.
Not recommended.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sex On The Moon : The Amazing Story Behind The Most Audacious Heist In History
by Ben Mezrich

Before the book even begins, when the author says that settings, descriptions, names, and histories have been changed to protect identities, we are in trouble. (The irony of this statement is that you can google Sex On The Moon and come up with the original names and just about everything else.) He has also re-created dialogue from conversations that took place ten years prior. Not a good sign.
So, here is this college student, Thad Roberts, who decides that he wants to be an astronaut and walk on Mars. He is accepted as a NASA co-op and works in a life sciences lab. It's not enough for him because he wants to be that shining star and starts doing daring things that could bring him to the cusp of trouble. Then he gets the idea of stealing moon rocks from every Apollo landing.
For an incredibly gifted young man, he was a total idiot and definitely had problems. I didn't finish the book reading up to Chapter 17. The writing is so juvenile (much foul language) and there is no depth. Reviewers have gushed that it's the most audacious heist in history but that is false. There were many others (some reviewed in my book-a-holics blog) where the culprits were never caught.
Don't bother with this one.
Not recommended.

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Extravagant Hunger : The Passionate Years Of M. F. K. Fisher
by Anne Zimmerman

I guess I should really start reading books by M. F. K. Fisher instead of reading books about her. So far, none of the biographies have been too good. This one is no exception.
Mary Frances Kennedy loved food and wrote about it. Her opinions influenced a whole hoard of chefs such as Julia Child, James Beard and Alice Waters.
An Extravagant Hunger attempts to capture Fisher's world but doesn't even come close. The author did her thesis on the life of M.F.K. and it shows because this is what I feel like I'm reading. It's dull, pedantic and unexciting.
Not recommended.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Someone Else's Twin : The True Story Of Babies Switched At Birth
by Nancy L. Segal

Due to human error at a hospital in the Canary Islands, identical twins Begona and Delia were switched with another infant. Neither of the two families knew that anything was wrong until twenty-eight years later when the twins finally met each other. DNA testing was done for the final proof and both sets of families were shocked and traumatized. The case was aired on television with lawsuits against the hospital.
Dr. Segal, herself a twin, talks about genetics, identity, the psychology of twins, and how a mistake at birth can devastate the lives of everybody involved.
With one hundred pages left to read, I stopped. The book is supposed to focus on this one set of twins but it ends up going in all kinds of directions. Dr. Segal is a professor of psychology and is supposed to be this expert on twin research. She's no writer, that's for sure. There is so much repetition and filler that the book could have been a magazine article instead.
I got bored and impatient. Dr. Segal has written other books on twins but I won't be bothering with them, either.
Not recommended.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The House In France : A Memoir
by Gully Wells

I'm so glad that I didn't have to pay for this book and took it out of the library. What a bunch of drivel.
The author writes about her mother, Dee Wells, who was an American journalist and her stepfather, A. J. Ayer, an Oxford philosopher and their glamorous life. They lived in France, London, and New York. As I did not get too far (only fifty pages), what I read was enough to totally turn me off. There's way too much name-dropping, the writing is rambling and nothing is of any substance.
Not recommended.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Statues That Walked : Unraveling The Mystery Of Easter Island
by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo

The only people who gave this book great reviews are, in some way, involved in Archaeology, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Conservation. It would make sense for them to read it but not for the rest of us.
Easter Island has these statues that have been there for hundreds of years. How did they get there in the first place (950 of them)? They're quite massive and they don't exist anywhere else in the Pacific. How were they moved to the coastline with their backs facing the ocean? In order to make the statues, the island was destroyed.
Authors Hunt and Lipo carried out archaeological studies in 2001 on the island and supposedly solved the mystery of what really happened. Since I didn't finish the book (only lasted thirty pages), I don't know for sure. I do know that it's unreadable unless you're a scholar of the above subjects. Academics would be interested but not the general public.
Not recommended.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Killer Stuff And Tons Of Money : Seeking History And Hidden Gems In Flea-Market America
by Maureen Stanton

Flea markets attract millions of people from all walks of life. Anybody who wants to find a good bargain (or so they think) goes to as many of these as he/she can.
In Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
Maureen Stanton follows a guy around named Curt Avery (a fictitious name; he wanted to remain anonymous) as he travels the circuit in search of good deals. Avery is well-known and knows how to spot either the right stuff or trash.
I thought the book would be interesting as I have collected many things over the years and that I would learn more about what to look for and what to stay away from. Alas, I lasted fifty pages because I became bored and disgusted. There are two problems. First off, I couldn't stand the language of Avery. In just about every sentence, he is using the "f' word. Is that really necessary? Second of all and the main problem is that Stanton is the driest writer. For someone who teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Missouri, she certainly doesn't use any creativity in writing this book.
Not recommended.