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Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

All the Light We Cannot See

In My Book Club Books, My Favorites on June 13, 2015 at 3:57 am

The Literary Epicurean Book Club Selection June 13, 2015

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 by Anthony Doerr

2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

(Also, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction; winner of the Australian International Book Award; a #1 New York Times bestseller; the 2014 Book of the Year at Hudson Booksellers; the #2 book of 2014 at Amazon.com; a LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites; named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review; a best book of 2014 at Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, NPR’s Fresh Air, San Francisco Chronicle, The Week, Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, Slate.com, Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Oregonian, the Guardian, and Kirkus)

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads): Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. My Thoughts: What a great piece of historical fiction, brilliantly plotted and beautifully told.  I thought the plot was complex and unique, jumping back and forth as it told the two very different stories of the two children, one German and one French, and how they were caught in the horror of WW II . The author developed these protagonists, as well as other meaningful supportive characters, so well that I  deeply cared about what would happen to each of them. Not just Marie-Laure and Werner, but also Papa, Uncle Etienne, Frederick, and Jutta. The author did a masterful job developing them and thankfully didn’t leave too many threads hanging at the end. All the characters served a purpose in terms of giving the reader a little more insight into what people on both sides of the conflict were going through and how that influenced the choices they made. I thought I knew quite a bit about WW II, but there were still so many things throughout the book that I hadn’t considered or been aware of. The plot, the characters, and all the historical details were all exceedingly well presented, but the writing itself was, for me, just the best part about the book. Such incredible sensory details (“His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on rare occasions, just to feel it between your fingers.”) and so many specific quotes that just resonated with me (“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.” ) Beautifully written, utterly fascinating, and incredibly enlightening pretty much sums up my reaction to this book. This is just one of those books that is going to stay with me for awhile. My Rating: 5/5 Book Club Discussion: What a great time we had discussing this book! I think it was one of our longest and most in-depth discussions ever. We had decided on this book just before it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so we started our discussion questioning what exactly made this book worthy of such a prestigious award. One member immediately brought up the excellent point about the degree of research that went into this story and how all the different parts managed to connect as it came to an end. We found the plot to be well thought out and thoroughly researched resulting in a very intense read that grabbed our complete attention from the very beginning. That definitely made it award worthy. Not that this book did not have its shortcomings, because there were a few. There were many side stories and assorted characters, and that caused a bit of confusion for each of us and left us with some unanswered questions at the end. None of us was really convinced that the whole story line about the search for the missing jewel even needed to be in there. However, one member noted that it may have been included just so there would continue to be discussion about it long after you finished the book. Authors do love doing that to the reader. Another minor issue was that not everyone was satisfied with the ending. At least two of our members didn’t expect that Werner would die at the end. That was all just so senseless, but, then again, so is war so that may been exactly the point. Also, when Werner’s sister Jutta went to see Marie-Laure after the war was over, at least one member was disappointed that she didn’t want to know more about her late brother. Jutta just wasn’t able to get past all the horrors she had suffered, and that was unfortunate. What was satisfying about the ending, however, was that it did give some closure to what happened to some of the characters after the war, how some were able to forgive and move on to useful lives, and some were not, such as Jutta, who didn’t seem able to forgive and unable to truly move on and reach her full potential. Overall, the tone at the end was one of hope which was desperately needed after the telling of such a sad story. Another discussion question brought us back to the two epigraphs at the opening of the book. I think we all quickly read them and moved on when we first started reading the book, but each of the two quotes now held incredible meaning as we reread them and discussed them after having completed the book. The Joseph Goebbels’ quote was especially significant about the role of the radio and how it helped Hitler and the Nazis gain power. From there we discussed the impact of the internet on our society, how overloaded we are with information and misinformation and superficial information. Then as now, we as a society really should pay more attention to what we take as truth… Moving on, our next question was whether the book reaffirmed or changed opinions we held. For some members, the book gave a better understanding of how WW I and the treaty set the German people up to put their trust in Adolf Hitler then subsequently become the aggressor in WW II. While we were all aware that propaganda was widespread and powerful, I don’t think any of us were aware of what was being done to the boys in the Hitler Youth Group training. That was absolutely chilling. This book impacted us each in a different way, and we believe we are coming away with a stronger intent of putting things in perspective, the best intentions of maintaining our integrity and values as best we can in even the most challenging situations, and being more compassionate of others and less judgmental taking into account that everyone comes with experiences that shape them. All in all, it was a story worth telling, and we loved reading and discussing it. Book Club Rating: 5/5 Resources: Similiar Books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Favorite Quotes Time Lapse WWII/Modern Photos of France Book Club Discussion Questions

All the Light We Cannot See Menu

Aperitif French Martini

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Appetizers Fig and walnut confit with goat cheese Herb garlic soft French style nut cheese

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Main Dishes

French Onion Soup

French Bean Salad

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Dessert Julia Child’s Reine de Saba avec Glacage au Chocolat Macaroons

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Wine Island Girls of Corsica Chardonnay Reserve De L’aube

After Dinner Tea Harny and Sons Fine Teas from Paris

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Tesla’s Attic

In YA Book Reviews on June 4, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Unknown

 by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

Science Fiction/©2014/248 pages/Book One of the Accelerati Trilogy/Recommended for ages 10+

Publisher’s Blurb (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Tesla’s Attic is the first book in a brilliantly imagined and hilariously written trilogy that combines science, magic, intrigue, and just plain weirdness, about four kids who are caught up in a dangerous plan concocted by the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla.

After their home burns down, fourteen-year-old Nick, his younger brother, and their father move into a ramshackle Victorian house they’ve inherited. When Nick opens the door to his attic room, he’s hit in the head by a toaster. That’s just the beginning of his weird experiences with the old junk stored up there. After getting rid of the odd antiques in a garage sale, Nick befriends some local kids-Mitch, Caitlin, and Vincent-and they discover that all of the objects have extraordinary properties. What’s more, Nick figures out that the attic is a strange magnetic vortex, which attracts all sorts of trouble. It’s as if the attic itself has an intelligence . . . and a purpose.

Ultimately Nick learns that the genius Nikola Tesla placed the items-his last inventions-in the attic as part of a larger plan that he mathematically predicted. Nick and his new friends must retrieve everything that was sold at the garage sale and keep it safe. But the task is fraught with peril-in addition to the dangers inherent in Tesla’s mysterious and powerful creations, a secret society of physicists, the Accelerati, is determined to stop Nick and alter destiny to achieve its own devious ends. It’s a lot for a guy to handle, especially when he’d much rather fly under the radar as the new kid in town.

Fans of intrigue, action, humor, and nonstop surprises are guaranteed a read unlike any other in Tesla’s Attic, Book One of the Accelerati Trilogy.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book! This is a fast-paced, exciting adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seat the whole way through. It has endearing, likable, quirky characters, hilarious dialogue, and a completely unpredictable plot with unique twists and magical elements. On the one hand, this is a paranormal, sci-fi story about fantastical happenings, but it also explores love and loss as well. The relationship Nick forges with his new friends is interesting all by itself, as well as the dynamics of middle-school life. There’s a lot of good story here even before you throw in the weird stuff.  A nicely layered story, some genuine creeps, good writing – a totally awesome middle grade read.

Other Thoughts and Resources:

Official Book Trailer

Edison’s Alley (Book2 ) Goodreads Synopsis and My Review

Hawking’s Hallway (Book #3)…coming in 2016

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)

In YA Book Reviews on June 3, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Unknown

 by Kasie West

YA Fantasy Para Normal/©2013/343 Pages//Recommended for Ages 12+

Publisher’s Blurb (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier…

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through… and who she can’t live without.

My Thoughts:

I am not usually a fan of the paranormal/sci-fi genre, but I really liked this book. It is a quick, engaging read with memorable characters, a unique narrative style with each chapter alternating between the two futures, and an insanely creative plot with an ending you don’t see coming.

Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West

My Goodreads Review for Split Second

Other Thoughts on Pivot Point:

Ohchrys Book Review