Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Book Reviews

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary MarriageFranklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There has always been talk of FDR's affairs and Eleanor's possible lesbianism so I expected this book to be salacious and catty. Instead, I was pleased to find that this was a great read about a very interesting and unorthodox couple. FDR may have been president but Eleanor was instrumental in getting him elected and helping him help others while president through the New Deal and WWII. The author made a strong case that Franklin and Eleanor deeply cared for one another, even as they expanded their relationship to include many others. I think they might have been the first polyamorous President and First Lady! FDR's struggle and concealment of his polio is inspirational and Eleanor's deep concern and caring for African-Americans is stunning. Frankly, this book is a must read for anyone interested in History as it really brings the couple to life. I've always admired FDR and Eleanor but after getting a glimpse into their personal life, I feel like I am admiring real humans and not just the image we see in the historical footage.

Undress Me in the Temple of HeavenUndress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If there was ever a book that would grab you while at the same time making you never want to travel to a foreign country, it is this one. In this book, Gilman tells of the post-graduation around the world trip she is making with a friend from college. The book starts out as a typical two girls on the road and then startles you as you realize, at the same time as Gilman, that her friend is not really who she (and we) thought she was. While at times you want to throttle the two girls for their naivete (roughing it is fine but not if it puts your health, safety and sanity in danger) you are also privvy to Gilman's realization that all of her fierce beliefs of herself, others and the world around her may not be as realistic as she thought. Very interesting coming of age story!

Sing You HomeSing You Home by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know that some people think of Picoult's book as the literally equivalent of McDonald's, but I have always found her books to be absorbing, her characters realistic and the stories quite timely. The last few books of Picoult's seemed to be following a pattern and I could almost predict where the story was going to go, but this book took me by surprise several time. I could not put this book down- finishing it in a day and a half. The story is so current- gay rights, fundamentalism, IVF, what happens when best laid plans go awry that you really get attached to the story. This book comes with a bonus cd that is supposed to act as Zoe's voice but since I got my copy from the library I didn't listen to the CD but I didn't feel like I was missing anything by not hearing the songs. While the ending seemed a bit too neat and tidy to me it didn't detract from the overall story.

Blood for Dignity: The Story of the First Integrated Combat Unit in the U.S. ArmyBlood for Dignity: The Story of the First Integrated Combat Unit in the U.S. Army by David P. Colley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a huge WWII History buff but one thing I haven't read much about is the role of African-American soldiers, mainly because they were relegated to the service units rather than combat. Thanks to that horrible idea- segregation- able bodied and patriotic men were forced to stand by despite a strong desire to fight. This book tells the story of the first combat unit in the Army and how these brave, strong men proved all the naysayers wrong. I found the story gripping, infuriating, heartbreaking and fascinating. There were times while reading this book and seeing how yet again racism reared its ugly head when I wondered why these soldiers would fight for a country that often treated German POWs better. This book is not for the squeamish as it doesn't hide the hard part of war but I couldn't put it down.

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