Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Friday, November 11, 2022

Memoir Monday on a Friday... A Veteran's Day Review...

Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. One such veteran was Louie Zamperini, who served his country during WWII in the Army Air Corps. His story is written by Laura Hillenbrand in her book, Unbroken. She is an amazing writer. I first read her when she published Seabiscuit, which still is one of my favorite books to this day. I read this amazing review of Unbroken, written by Ann Jonas on the College of Saint Benedict Saint John's University bookstore site, and I think that this review is one of the best I ever read, so I'm sharing it here today...

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU

Author Laura Hillenbrand first heard of Louie Zamperini while doing research for her best-selling book Seabiscuit: An American Legend.  She was searching for information on the racehorse Seabiscuit and kept encountering stories about Zamperini, who ran in the 1936 Olympics and then was a World War II POW survivor.  After finishing Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand contacted Zamperini and asked him about his life.  Spellbound, Hillenbrand spent the next seven years reading diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; she interviewed Zamperini's family, friends, and fellow Olympians, as well as American and Japanese veterans. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is Hillenbrand's engrossing narrative of Louie Zamperini's remarkable life. 

While growing up in California in the 1920s, Zamperini was a failing student and was constantly in trouble for fighting and stealing.  His older brother, who was a star athlete and exemplary student, introduced Zamperini to track, hoping that the sport would help straighten him out.  Zamperini idolized his older brother and was transformed from being a juvenile delinquent to a runner in the1936 Summer Olympics.  He had hopes of running a four-minute mile in 1940 Olympics, but, due to the escalating war in Europe, the Summer Games were cancelled.  In early 1941, Zamperini enlisted in the Army Air Corps; by November 1942, he was trained as a bombardier and was ready to go to war. 

Zamperini and his crew were stationed in Oahu, and survived many dangerous missions while dive-bombing in the Pacific.  In late May of 1943, while on a search mission, the engines on their plane failed, and the plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean.  Zamperini and two other crew members survived the plunge and were stranded on a small raft, managing with only a meager amount of fresh water and food. Hillenbrand's depiction of the men's desperate plight is filled with suspense, as the men drifted on the ocean, battling sharks, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon, along with starvation and tremendous thirst.  After forty seven days, they caught sight of an island.  Their relief quickly turned to anguish, as they were spotted by a Japanese military boat and taken captive. 

For the next two and a half years Zamperini endured incredible cruelty at the hands of the Japanese, both physically and psychologically.  Hillenbrand's vivid descriptions of Zamperini's treatment are difficult to read; the brutality and savagery that took place in the Japanese POW camps are unimaginable.  Zamperini's unbreakable spirit helped him to persevere until August 1945, when his POW camp was liberated. 

After returning to the United States, Zamperini suffered from agonizing dreams, tormented by his desire for revenge.  Hillenbrand writes of the difficulties that Zamperini and many World War II veterans encountered with the then unknown illness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Zamperini turned to alcohol to forget his pain and floundered for a time. With the help of his wife-- and evangelist Billy Graham-- Zamperini turned his life around and became an inspirational speaker.  

Unbroken tells a riveting story of a man with tremendous courage and perseverance.  Hillenbrand herself mustered a great deal of courage and perseverance in order to write her books.  She has suffered from severe chronic fatigue syndrome for the past 24 years and is seldom able to leave her house.  This well-written and meticulously researched book tells an incredible story about an amazing World War II hero.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager... A Review

 Lock Every Door, but it won't matter... And that's all I am going to say about Riley Sager's book, Lock Every Door, besides if you need some thrill in your reading, start turning the pages on this one. 

My Mom and I have always loved mysteries and thrillers. Often times for her birthday or Christmas, I'll buy her a stack of books. I try to find authors we haven't read before so that we can find some fresh reading. That's how I happened upon Riley Sager. After reading thru the plot blurbs, I found his books all have that eerie plot element that screams "read me if you dare and find out what happens next". This was one of the books in the latest stack I gave Mom and on a recent visit down South, she brought it with her so I could read it. OMG, I spent a whole week at the Bartholomew with Jules Larsen and couldn't stop reading! 

In Lock Every Door, Jules answers a mysterious newspaper ad for a job as an apartment sitter at the very exclusive Bartholomew, where the rich and some famous live very secluded and secretive lives. The money for 3 months of apartment sitting seems too good to be true, but perfect because she just so happens to be broke and without a place to call her own. But Jules soon starts to feel that things aren't quite right at the Bartholomew... and when one of the apartment sitters she makes friends with goes missing, life at the Bartholomew takes on a frightening twist. 

I really enjoyed this book! I literally could not put it down when I got about 1/3 of the way into it. I have a warning though... DO NOT READ any of the cover "blurbs"... you know, the great things that writers and reviewers say about the book so that you'll read it and are printed in quotes on the front and back covers. Two of those blurbs almost gives away the game. Those blurbs made me suspicious about what was going on and could have ruined the story. I can't say any more...

Want to read a good thriller... read Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in 2019. 

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