With a Whimper

fscotWest of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan recounts the final years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal and professional life in Hollywood. This novel reminded me of a movie entitled Beloved Infidel I dimly recollect from years ago starring Gregory Peck. I did however, find the story very interesting.

As we all know, Fitzgerald was one of the great writers of our time. Countless movies have been made based on the books he wrote. During the Jazz Age, he and his wife Zelda lived the high life; rubbing elbows with many other famous artists and writers. Theirs is a tragic story. Fitzgerald was an alcoholic and Zelda suffered from mental illness.

I thought this was a very sad story and found it even more sorrowful knowing it was true. Although much of the book is conjectured, it is based on truths which are widely known. The novel is populated with many famous Hollywood people who lived during that era. It also tells of Fitzgerald’s affair with a young female columnist, Sheila Graham, and his relationships with Zelda and their daughter, Scottie.

It took me some time to really engage in this book, but once I did, I felt I learned a great deal more than I had previously known about Fitzgerald and the times in which he lived. I am uncertain if the italicized quotes were fictional or not, but either way, I appreciated the story as it increased my knowledge of a great writer.

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Circus Parade

delicatePappa’s Delicate Condition (1952) by Corinne Griffith is an autobiography I discovered while watching the movie by the same name. What truly fascinated me about this book is that Griffith was a silent film star. After her movie career ended, she became an author. Hers is a real life Singing in the Rain story. Griffith had a successful career in film until the talkies came along.

This novel is the story of her early life in Texas and New Orleans. In particular, it is the story of her relationship with her father – a man she clearly idolized. Mr. Griffith enjoyed his libations; a sentiment not shared by the rest of the family, and understandably difficult for a young daughter to comprehend. Being with Pappa was an adventure!

I greatly enjoyed this colorful story and am grateful Griffith turned to writing after retiring from acting. She weaves a good tale.

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Sticky Fingers

2015Unbecoming is Rebecca Scherm’s first novel.  It is a story about a girl from Tennessee named Grace and her attempts to reinvent herself.  Wishing to live a life which she has been denied by birth, Grace tries to ingratiate herself into the family of a young man named Riley whose family with  married parents and four boys appears to be the answer to Grace’s dreams of normalcy and the feeling of being wanted.

This an interesting tale with unexpected twists and turns, a pathological liar, and several thefts.  The story takes place in the U.S. and Europe.  I thought it took too long to get to the climax of the story.  I do think it has a creative plot and wish the story had grabbed my interest sooner.  If you can get through the first three quarters of the book, the ending makes it all worth the wait.

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God Bless Us Every One

When I came to the end of A Midnight Carol by Patricia K. Davis, I wanted to turn back to the first page and read it all over again. I liked it that much!

This is a delightful, historical fiction based on Charles Dickens and the creation of his famous story The Christmas Carol. The novel is populated with vividly described characters, both real and imaginary. It provides insight into the political climate during the time in which Dickens lived and when he wrote his beloved stories, still treasured to this day.

A Midnight Carol was published in 1999 and I intend to acquire a copy with a grateful heart to add to my collection of holiday books. It is a keeper.

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Revival

Written in 1940, One Foot in Heaven, is an inspirational biography authored by Hartzell Spence in tribute to his father, Dr. William Spence. Dr. Spence was a Methodist minister during the early 20th century. Many of you may have seen the movie by the same name starring Frederick March, which in my opinion, ranks a close second to the novel.

A son’s love and respect for his father is apparent in the text, but more so his father’s love of God, the many congregations he led, and his family. This book was generously loaned to me by the Wheaton Library and I am grateful as copies of the book are difficult to acquire due to its age.

This is an especially beautiful story to read during the holidays when our thoughts turn to those we love, the spirit of giving, and the birth of Our Lord.

Much like the star of Bethlehem, Dr. Spence devoted his life to guiding others to God and lived what he taught. No matter what your faith, there is much to be learned from Dr. Spence’s example. I highly recommend this book.

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December Book Giveaway

Just in time for the holidays, Penguin Random House has offered one Bookwinked follower who resides in the U. S., a copy of THE NOVEL CURE: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You (available in paperback December 30, 2014) authors and bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin present a witty and irresistible A-Z of literary remedies that recommend works of classic and contemporary fiction as cures for ailments of the mind and body.

To create this apothecary, Berthoud and Elderkin have searched through 2,000 years of literature for the most brilliant and engrossing reads. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment and are given the recommended novels to read as the antidote. Suffering from anxiety? Pick up The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. A broken leg? Get Johanna Syri’s Heidi. Had a falling out with your best friend? Try William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow.

To enter the contest, please email us at bookwinked@gmail.com. The winner will be notified on December 19, 2014 via email.

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Evergreen

lookI thought The Look of Love by Sarah Jio would be a holiday story because Jane, the main character, was born on Christmas Day, but it turned out to be something completely different. What it is, is a fictional novel about a 29-year-old woman who learns the strange migraines she has experienced for most of her life are more than migraines; they are a side-effect of her ability to “see” love.

I had high hopes for this novel, but found it to be just too strange and depressing. I thought the story was over populated and thought the many characters were underdeveloped.  I was told more than I was shown. This is my first foray into Jio’s work and I really did not know what to expect.  This is chic lit and not my personal genre of choice.  I imagine others who like this type of work will enjoy the book.  The end of the story was a bit redeeming, but all in all, I hoped for more than it delivered.

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