The One Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Are you ready for an adventure? Because it seems that you’re going to get one whether you like it or not when you travel with Allan Karlsson who just ran away from the old folks home, escaping hid 100th birthday party.

Throughout the book, Jonasson follows his character Allan around the world and across time. The book alternates between Allan as a centenarian on the run and Allan growing up. Being the history buff that I am, my favorite chapters are, naturally, the ones that take us back in time.

Allan’s life was an interesting one. One of his friends said that he had “nine lives” and from what I read, it’s true. Allan participated and lived through the Spanish Civil War, befriending Generalissimo Francisco Franco along the way. Then he came to the states where he worked as a waiter for those involved in the Manhattan Project, where HE was the one who figured out how to control an atomic explosion. After that, he went to China to help fight against Mao Zedong and the communists. He ran away from that and into the arms or Comrade Stalin, who he also told about the atomic bomb. After insulting the Soviet leader he was shipped off to a Siberian labor camp which he inadvertently burned to the ground. Finally, he got to meet Mao Zedong who set him up on vacation in Bali.

I love the way Jonasson wove Allan into a bunch of historical happenings. It made me think, “maybe there was some random guy who told the men how to explode the atom bomb. Or saved Mao Zedong’s  third wife. Or told Stalin to shave his mustache.” It’s funny to think about someone getting through all of that without even losing a limb. I love Allan as a person too. He only got into all this trouble because he was helpful and non-political. He just accidentally met up with the political figures.

If you only read one book in your life… it does not have to be this one. But it should be one like it. Full of accidental and unexpected adventure. IMG_0891

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

Here’s a fun fact about me: I am obsessed with British nobility. I would give anything to be able to be a fly on the wall of the big, old houses on the countryside of the ancient island. Thanks to Julian Fellowes, I got a good look into the modern-day lives of the blue bloods of England.

To make a long story a little shorter, Edith Lavery marries for position and title. Then she gets bored being a housewife of an English Lord and has an affair with a super good-looking actor. After a few months with said actor, Edith realizes that she left based on boredom and selfishness, and returns to the husband that truly loves her.

Throughout Edith’s journey between love and lust, we are introduced into a world of privilege and snobbery. Broughton Hall is the ancestral home of Edith’s husband. In marrying for position, Edith is thrust into learning how to be an Earl’s wife. She learns how to act, speak, and dress for the elite title she now holds. I don’t know the exact reason why I love British high society, but there is just something so… exclusive about it that makes me yearn to be a part of it with every fiber of my being (much like Edith).

I thought Fellowes did a wonderful job bringing the world of the elite to life. His descriptions of the manor houses are so detailed, right down the fabric of the lounge chairs. He made me feel like I was in the cozy sitting rooms watching the oh-so dramatic scenes unfold in front of me.

Actually, now that I think about it, the reason I love the British high-life so much is because I wish I could argue and be petty as hell with all of the grace and dignity of a Countess.

I guess I’ll have to keep practicing. IMG_0890

The Residence by Kate Andersen Bower

Is it so wrong that we want to discover the most intimate goings-on of America’s most famous house?

Well thanks to Bower we can say we have some idea. Through interviews with several former and current staff members, Bower opens a world that few get to experience.

The White House is America’s most famous residence and it houses America’s most famous family. What Bower shows us however, is that the First Family is not the most important group with the house’s walls. Bower interviewed several White House staff members from maid Betty Finney all the way to Barack Obama’s private secretary Reggie Love, and has collected stories from those who were closest to all of the families that lived in the famous house, showing that many of the members of the First Family are just as human as you and I.

The most amazing part of this book was the stories from those staff members who spent 20-plus years working in the house and had seen multiple families come through. I was truly impressed by the stories of the staff members that willingly sacrificed marriages, time with children, even their own lives for the job.

Bower does an amazing job using the interviews to highlight the similarities and differences between the several occupants of the White House. She also does a good job at letting the reader in on some White House secrets and odd idiosyncrasies of former presidents (i.e. JFK’s naked swims and LBJ’s weird obsession with his shower).

My favorite part though, was the staff stories and reactions to major historical events. There was the high tension during the Iran Contra Affair; the heartbreak and sadness during the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination; and the shock and fear as staffers recant how they literally had to “run for their lives” on the morning of September 11th 2001.

I myself cannot imagine working in an environment of such prestige and trying not to make a big deal about it. I recommend this book to all kinds of readers. It is an endearing journey through history.

And if that can’t sway you… Just read it for the story of how Hillary clocked Bill in the face with a book. Classic. IMG_0889

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

I just finished this book this morning.

It’s far too long for me to do a good review on it. There’s not really much to review anyway. The book is what the title says it is: a history of this country.

But I urge everyone to read it. It opened my eyes to our country’s pitfalls throughout its history. It told me things that history classes never did in school. A big thank you is in order to Howard Zinn for making sure those who wanted to know the ugly truth, got it.

It’s a big read, but it needs to be seen. IMG_0900

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

I confess myself a little disappointed by this book. The disappointment is self-inflicted though, I should have known this book was nowhere near long enough to be about the entire reign of Victoria like I thought it was.

Daisy Goodwin’s novel takes the reader through approximately the first year-and-a-half of the young queen’a reign. We meet Alexandrina Victoria Saxe-Cogburg-Gotha and see her become Her Majesty the Queen of England. We see her deal with and try to avoid her over-bearing mother, the Duchess of Kent and her adviser Sir John Conroy. We follow as Victoria confides in her Prime Minister William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne and grows to feel more than just friendship for him. Finally, we watch as Victoria falls, reluctantly, in love with her cousin Albert.

Like I said, most of my disappointment stems from the fact that this book did not follow the entire reign of Victoria, but another wave of disappointment came from the book’s mundane quality. The story we get from Goodwin is fine. It’s decently researched and well-written, but it focuses on the daily life of the young queen, and only her daily life. There were so many historical happenings during her reign. Granted, there may not have been many during her first year, but I guess I was hoping that Goodwin’s story would stretch beyond Buckingham Palace.

The character of Victoria bothered me as well. That’s not Goodwin’s fault since the eighteen-year-old probably was the spoiled brat that she was portrayed as in the book. I guess I don’t like Victoria’s inconsistency. We see her fall for Lord Melbourne and see her subsequently get rejected by him. So, like any good stung teen, Victoria decides that she will reign like her glorious ancestor Elizabeth I and never marry. Then, in waltzes Albert to whom she proposes marriage. I find it hard to believe that after being so sure that she never wanted to marry, that she would suddenly fall for her cousin after only a week. For all I know, that’s how it really happened, but it made the end of the book feel rushed.

I’m glad I read it. I recommend to those who enjoy Historical Fiction. IMG_0888

Disclaimer

I’ve been keeping track of what I read for while in a little journal. So I just wanted to point out that I will probably be posting every other day, but I don’t read that fast.

The first ten or so posts will come in quick succession, then they will come at a normal readers pace.

*This post was just in case I have any readers.

Lego Ergo Sum

Why books?

Well first, why not?

I’m sure there are thousands of book blogs out there. I really don’t expect a lot of readers. Mostly because I won’t be sharing the link on social media. I’m self-conscious like that. I don’t fancy myself some amazing writer (though I am a pretty amazing reader). I like to write, so I thought I would do this for me.

Reading is a big part of my life. I love books. I love every kind. Physical paper books, electronic readers, magazines, everything. It’s in my genes I guess. My mom reads every night before bed. She can’t sleep otherwise. My dad is a journalist and reads everything. My grandmothers collect books. It’s my lifelong dream to have a large library in my home. I also love to learn. So reading about things I don’t know about, or that peak my interest is fun.

I wanted to blog, so I figured I do it about something I love. Food was my first idea. But trying to describe good food with words is harder than it sounds. Books though, books are words. And describing words with words is easier. So this blog is about the books I read. Mostly fiction, fantasy, biography, and history. It’s my own critique about what I read. If I do get readers, feel free to input your own opinions.

Lego Ergo Sum: I read, therefore I am. (According to Google Translate)