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Film Fanatic That Loves To Read

First off, that is me on the left (I'm pictured with my niece). Okay, I'm not exactly the biggest book nerd out there, but books have been a very important part of my life. It has helped me through things like, ohhhhhh, real life maybe. In my hours of triumph to the darkest of tragedies, books have always been important to me. Depending on my mood at a given time - like many of us - will depend on what kind of book I'm reading. Reading opens the mind and makes the world more understandable in its complication. Simply put, I love the world of books...........

Currently reading

The Stories of John Cheever
John Cheever
Progress: 148/853 pages
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter
Progress: 100/1134 pages
Skipped Parts
Tim Sandlin
Progress: 100/318 pages
The Forty Days of Musa Dagh
Peter Sourian, Franz Werfel
Progress: 90/824 pages

"Little Failure" is not.......

Little Failure - Gary Shteyngart

It must be gotten out of the way right up front: I never even heard of Gary Shteyngart before I put "Little Failure" on my "Wish List" on my Barnes and Noble Nook. I read a blurb somewhere - more than likely the Huffington Post (while it was still the Huffington Post), in which in a small paragraph managed to convince me this was a book worth reading. Finally the price was reduced, and being unemployed at the time, swooped at the chance to purchase the book at a really cheap price.


But honestly, it would have been worth the full price. Though only 41 when he wrote this memoir, I can tell you his life was anything but dull. This is someone who was born a Russian Jew in Leningrad, and by the time he was 7 was living in the Bronx when his parents had to flee the collapsing Soviet Union. So having to go from Soviet Union to soon-to-be-Reagan years would be enough for someone to feel a little alienated, confused, not to mention angry and sad. Which would lead to a drug-induced stay at college, and how, despite all that has happened to him, ended up being a writer - and a very highly praised one at that. Yes, it's having to come to terms with what has happened, acceptance, and moving on. Not that original, but told in an original prose that now makes me want to read his other works.


And trust me, I will. But first..............

A gripping read and hard to put down.....

Fire Lover: A True Story - Joseph Wambaugh

Like yesterday I remember the trial of John Leonard Orr as it was heavily covered in the Los Angeles Times at the beginning of the new century. It was truly unbelievable. John Leonard Orr was an arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department at the time of his arrest. Turns out that this very arson investigator was, in fact, the CAUSE of a huge series of fire that started wherever he happened to be. And who better to tell the story than Joseph Wambaugh, whose writing style is perfect for this particular true crime story.


And like a lot of us looking back on an incident with 20/20 hindsight, you can't help but feel the old cliche of "Why in hell didn't anyone catch on to this guy sooner? How was that possible?" Wambaugh shows you with his top-notch writing style how it was possible. Though I knew how the story would turn out, it was amazing the amount of suspense this book generated. It's been a while since I read a true-life crime story, but glad I happened upon this book. I really recommend it.

It's, well, different......

I Am an Executioner: Love Stories - Rajesh Parameswaran

"I Am An Executioner - Love Stories" is a collection of short stories by author Rajesh Parameswaran in which love, oddly enough, plays a part in all the stories. Just not in the traditional sense. We have one story told from the point of view of a tiger, and another from an insect. All stories are interesting, but admittedly, the "footnote" story I'll have to probably read a couple more times to "get it". 


Though I can't say I was blown away by this collection, I liked it enough to where I am very much looking forward to more books by Rajesh Parameswaran.

WATERGATE - by Thomas Mallon

Watergate - Thomas Mallon

It was one year ago today that I was sideswiped by news that I was laid off my two year temp job. I was so confident that I would be hired full time that the news really took me off guard. And unlike my layoff from my 20 year job in 2012 - at which time far worse things were happening to me that it was the least of my problems - this time I had to go through all the grieving processes one goes through when losing a job. So as a result, I was not even able to concentrate on a book for many months.


And why I chose "Watergate" by Thomas Mallon to be my next read I'll never know, but boy am I glad I did. It's a historical fiction story of the Watergate mess told by the imagined point of view of all the people involved. And being I grew up in that era and remember what happened like yesterday, it wasn't difficult for me to figure out which was based on real life and what was entirely made up (I seriously don't think Pat Nixon ever had an affair). The book is, on the whole, a very darkly funny take on the whole scandal, with some poignancy thrown in for good measure - and it all works. Yes, it took me probably four months to actually finish it, but hey, I did it, and it was worth the, in this case, very trying effort to concentrate on it.


And on a happy note, I'm currently working and getting a regular paycheck again and getting my footing back financially, so I get way fewer nasty calls from bill collectors. I'm pretty sure that is helping me with my concentration problems. hehe. Anyways, if you choose to read "Watergate" by Thomas Mallon, you will enjoy it - ESPECIALLY if you lived in that period of time.

A Great Read!!!!

The Brothers K - David James Duncan

For the first 110 pages I kept thinking "This is interesting. This is interesting." Then came one paragraph on page 125. One paragraph. And by the time I finished reading the paragraph, I was moved to near tears. 


But unfortunately, i would hit a bump on the road called "life" that forced me to not read the book for three or so months, but I got right back to it. And what a read. You really LIVE this story. You care for these people, flaws and all. Their problems become your problems, you feel their triumphs. The prose was top rate, the story engrossing. I will be buying copies for other people to read - I loved it that much. Can't recommend it enough.

The Brothers K

After starting the book nearly a year ago, and then abandoning it, i decided to start over again. I'm now on page 62. Don't know why I abandoned it. It's great.

BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

Been listening to Springsteen for 38 years now. It started with "Darkness on the Edge of Town" - which I only bought because, well, I liked the title. I never heard of Bruce Springsteen let alone what he had done with his 3 previous albums (and no, I don't know HOW "Born to Run" got past me - but it did). So upon playing the first songs, must confess I was a little, well, whelmed with his voice. I wasn't used to raspy voices beings I was basically brought up on Top 40 (Bob Dylan, for that matter, usually talks his way through most of his songs so I'm not counting him). What in heck was he saying? So I grabbed the lyrics sheet. That is what hooked me. And not only that, I noticed that after 3 or so songs, I didn't even notice the voice.


I CONSIDER myself a huge Springsteen fan, but I've ONLY seen him in concert 15 times total over 36 years. Most of his most devoted fans see him that many times in one month of a tour. But that didn't make me any less anxious to read his autobiography. And guess what? If he had missed his calling as a rock performer/songwriter/singer etc., he would have found it with writing. Because damn, he is a very good writer.


He does not spare himself. He says it pretty much like it is - his strengths and his weaknesses. He talks of his starting out - which is a good reminder that EVERYBODY has to start somewhere, the years of struggle, his signing with Columbia Records, and the level of fame that he reached. He doesn't trash anybody (he speaks only positively and affectionally of his first wife), but of course he doesn't tell us EVERYTHING - hey, he's worked hard enough to be able to keep certain things to himself.


And beings this only took me 2-1/2 weeks to devour 527 pages, that should tell you something as I can't even remember the last time I read a book that quickly - and many of them weren't even 300 pages. So yes, the book is great, and I'm recommending it - ESPECIALLY for the Springsteen fan. Enjoy.


Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories - Sherman Alexie

It has been a long while since I read a collection of short stories. So glad I read this particular collection.


Being a devoted Barnes and Noble NOOK reader, found this particular title without ever hearing of Sherman Alexie, and that was due to the fact that the price for this title dropped to only $1.99 for 24 hours, And being I'm in a financial situation that I must take advantage of sales, couldn't resist the temptation to download this after reading the raves the book good.


And they were justified raves. This collection of stories are mostly darkly humorous, but a few are dramatic, some tragic. All good. Well worth your time. I can hardly wait to read other Sherman Alexie books.

The Ghost of Flight 401 - John G. Fuller

For some strange reason, maybe because I'm in my mid-50s now, stopped reading two novels in a row due to too much going on and not really being able to focus on the story itself. And yet, I decided to re-read a book I read 40 years ago. Back story:


In the 1970s there were many books claiming to be true stories - that would turn out to be hoaxes in one form or another. "Sybil" being one of them. Another was "Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous. Turns out there was no Anonymous - it was committee-written by a group of adults in an effort to scare us young kids away from drugs.


But one of those true stories had a lasting impact on me - and that was "The Ghost of Flight 401", which shaped many of my beliefs in the possibility of an afterlife. Could it be that THIS story turned out not to have happened? So with that, went back and read it again. 


Guess what? I found nothing in this book that sounded crack-pot or kookie. It all made sense. And that is totally understanding that there is no real PHYSICAL evidence. I mean, come on, it's a ghost story. Ghosts don't leave behind any evidence except a few shaken nerves. 


Okay, the story is this: In 1972, an Eastern Airlines L-1011 jumbo jet airliner crashed in the Everglades. The crash killed 101 people, but 70 survived. And to this day, it is the subject of airplane crash-related shows as the circumstances were so unusual - the chain of events started with a $12.00 lightbulb. But a few months later, there were rumors circulating through the airline world that the two pilots were being seen on other planes. And these stories were coming from pilots, engineers, mechanics, cockpit crews, and of course stewardesses and passengers. But nobody would come right out and say it. In the airline business, you can't just go telling people you saw a ghost. But John G. Fuller, who wrote this book in first-person style, persisted and got the story. The most intriguing thing about it is that the ghost - mainly of Don Repo - appeared only on specific Eastern Airlines planes. He didn't hop onto a Pan Am or a Continental or a United Airlines plane. It was ALWAYS an Eastern Airlines plane. Now why would that be? Turns out that those particular planes had salvageable parts from Flight 401.


But what makes it suspect? For one thing, many of the eyewitnesses are not identified. And in 40 years time, you'd think maybe one of them would come out and say "that was me" - unless of course that the pension plan stated that the pension stopped the moment you talked about "the ghost". But what makes it legitimate to me? One undeniable piece of evidence - and that is a memo leaked to the press that shows that mechanics were ordered to remove the salvaged parts from Flight 401. Hmmm. I would say that is something to ponder that there may have been something to the story.


But this still remains the most logical and serious study (not to mention one of the first) on the subject of the possibility of an afterlife. Remember, in 1976 when the book was published, it was only then that we were really starting to hear stories about "the tunnel of light". It's amazing how much of the info remains valid 40 years later.


So with that I STILL believe much of what is described took place and the story is not some crazy hoax. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Can hardly wait for the movie now…...

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - Ben Fountain

Initially, I didn't think the critics could possibly be right. I mean, come on, a 274 page book that takes place in 1 day during  a football game? How could THAT hold interest? The only reason I decided to give this book a chance is because one of my favorite film makers is, in fact, making a movie out of this book. 


Okay, let's go back a little.


I read a review that INSISTED this book was great. So I put it on my Nook Wishlist. I don't know how much time passed, but I saw the book was marked down to a mere $1.99, so heck, I sure couldn't go wrong with that price. So I downloaded it. But it remained unread for many months - until I learned that Ang Lee's next project would be based on this book. So I finally got myself to read it.


And I'm glad I did so. It IS a great book. Great prose, great writing, memorable characters. A really great read. I can only hope the movie will be anywhere as good. And I WILL be reading more Ben Fountain from now on. HIGHLY recommended.

Reading progress update: I've read 25 out of 281 pages.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - Ben Fountain

Have decided this time for SURE to read the entire book from beginning to end. I decided to read the book first in anticipation of the Ang Lee adaptation of it only to find out that the movie is due to be released on November 16th……..2016. Ugggh. Over a year away yet. But I will read the book as though the movie is coming out in a week. hehehe

The Shadow of the Wind - Lucia Graves, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A truly wonderful read. It's breathtaking prose and original story makes this one I can't recommend enough. Despite the surrealism of some sections, this was a story I felt bad had to end as I truly lived this story for the duration of the read. Give it a try. You won't be sorry.

Yep, finished 2 books in about a month

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements - Eric Hoffer

Miracles do happen - I started and finished a book within a few weeks. That is amazing considering my schedule now. hehehe.


But this one is a jaw-dropper. This was written by a man who was once a longshoreman. Not someone who had several college degrees. And what this guy observed about the human species is indeed amazing. Okay, he gets irritating in that he uses 2 or 3 big words in about every sentence to prove he is indeed smart, but his explanations about what can turn a person into a fanatic for a particular cause is pretty much on the mark. It was first published in 1951 - LONG before 9/11, and he already explained the mindset of the people who pulled off one of the deadly attacks in history. It is a fascinating read.


The Martian - Andy Weir

Yes, I realize the book is a quick read, but I also have an exhausting job which makes it impossible to read as often as I would like. In other words, I'm usually too tired to read at the end of the day.


Which could explain why it took me 3 months to read a quick read book. And in this case, it would be hard for anybody to believe I could have even put this book down for any extended period of time. Trust me, it wasn't easy. This is one of the most riveting best-written and entertaining books I could have asked for. The publishing history of this book gives me much hope for the future of book reading - cause it was originally a self-published book. So there!!!


Though I know movies usually aren't as good as their original source material, it is hard to imagine that the movie won't be at least good. After reading this, I'm only more anxious to see the film version. But if you want to skip the movie, well, I can assure you, this book is WELL worth your time and effort. I just loved it.

Just in time for the movie…..

Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream Spare Parts (Paperback) - Common - Joshua Davis

I downloaded this one on my Nook due to the fact that it seemed to be endorsed by my favorite magazine ("Mental Floss") without even knowing a movie was made. Finished the book 2 hours before seeing the movie. A great quick read. Yeah, we know ahead of time how it turns out, but there is still a bump in the road for these people that make the time reading well spent. Enjoy.

Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 824 pages.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh - Peter Sourian, Franz Werfel

Technically, I'm only 10 pages in. The first 45 pages were a Preface and an Introduction. Did they ever want you to be given the backstory before beginning the story. And already at 10 pages, this looks like it's going to be great……..