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Jack 1939

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance copy of this book with the expectation that I would provide an honest review. I enjoy historical fiction and I am always intrigued by the idea of a story where an author undertakes to fill in the gaps of history with her idea of what might have happened. The author has researched Kennedy’s itinerary in the spring and summer of 1939 and re-created in this book.Jack 1939 is about John Kennedy’s senior thesis research trip to Europe. The fictionalized part of this trip is that just before he heads out, President Roosevelt asks him to act as a spy for him to investigate a scheme whereby the German government is trying secretly to buy the 1940 US presidential election to ensure Roosevelt is not elected. This is an interesting premise and it is this tory that fits into the gaps and cracks of Kennedy’s actual itinerary that year.Along the way, Kennedy meets a number of people from a number of backgrounds and finds himself being pursued by a Gestapo hit man. Many of these people are real, although their interactions with Kennedy are fictionalized. In all this, the plot doesn’t feel forced or unnatural.While I am not necessarily a fan of Kennedy, that did not get in the way of my enjoyment of this book. It offered an interesting glimpse into the inner workings of one of the families of American royalty, without getting bogged down in it. After about 80 pages, it was not essential that Jack Kennedy be the protagonist. The story is very readable and the dialogue is natural, and doesn’t feel as though the author is trying to deify Kennedy or really anyone else.This book presents an interesting insight into Europe in pre- World War 2 times. This is one of my favorite periods in history because it is so complex and nuanced. The book captures a lot of this feel very well.
Atonement

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Review pending.

I still can't decide what I think of this. I liked it, but I don't know if it was a 4 or 5.
Crime of Privilege: A Novel

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Review of Crime of PrivilegeDisclosure: I received a free copy of this book with the expectation that I would provide an honest review. That review follows:This story is about George (diminutively referred to by some as ‘Georgie’) Becket, an Assistant DA on Cape Cod who gets caught up in investigating a cold-case murder that the police and the DA’s office have abandoned. As George investigates further, he finds this crime is related to another crime with which he is himself involved.I enjoyed the writing, the prose is natural and readable, but nothing spectacular. I struggled with maintaining interest in a few places--the characters did not really captivate me and the plot took some illogical turns sometimes. There was little masking the resemblance between the Gregory family in the story and a remarkably similar American family. While this interest drives the reader’s interest,for a while, ultimately, the story has to carry itself. The most interesting aspects of this book were the insight into the power and influence that people can wield and--perhaps more significantly--how easily the rest of us let ourselves be awed and ‘bought’ by the equivalent of a few trinkets of attention of influence. It makes you wonder: how low is your price? Possible spoilers follow:The genre of this book is a little difficult to track, since it is presented as a mystery, but ultimately falls short of getting the reader to care. The story meanders so much that it obscures the real plot. Ultimately, the story let me down and left me vaguely empty. There was an attempt at tying up some loose ends, but they felt more forced than natural and didn’t really help.The very last line of the book at first felt very satisfying, but after a couple seconds suddenly felt cheap, easy and predictable.
The Paris Directive

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book with the expectation I would provide an honest review.I really wanted to like this story—I really did. In the end, it felt like it was just mediocre. The writing was uneven and even jarring (not in a good way) sometimes. The pace was fairly even and moved well. There were several plot holes that were fairly easy to look past, but they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.It felt as though the author couldn’t decide which story he was going to write—a “thriller” (whatever that is these days), a mystery, a police procedural, or what. There is some political and corporate “intrigue” that was presented to explain the plot, and while somewhat interesting, ultimately they were made to be completely perfunctory and didn’t do anything to add to the feel of the story.The characters were shallow and I found myself only interested in them because of the people they were: Cop, wife of the accused, embassy representative, assassin, shop-owner, etc. They were rather one-dimensional and lacked any unique personality.The setting in the southwest of France is interesting, but never really adds flavor to the story—it would have been the same story even if set anywhere else.All in all, it was an entertaining read, but not a great book. I honestly don’t know if I would go out of my way to look for anything else by Gerald Jay.Possible spoilers below:The professional assassin in this book was almost a joke. I cannot imagine someone who was more bumbling and inept than this man. Even worse, his ineptness was necessary to have a story. How can someone be a professional killer and leave so much to chance and then risk getting himself personally involved with his targets? It almost removed suspense because you knew he was such an idiot that he was going to get caught. I appreciate that he wasn’t a typical perfect, indestructible, omniscient bad guy that is so common, but his weaknesses were never described in enough detail to understand why he was so flawed.
In The Garden of Beasts: Love and terror in Hitler's Berlin

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Excellent view into life in 1930's Berlin. I am fascinated by this period in history as I try to understand how people could miss the pure evil of the Nazis and how quickly and thoroughly they abdicated to their rule. This story shows the conflict that many people had internally and how, by suppressing any free speech, Hitler and his men were able to hijack an entire country.
Lots of interesting first-person detail that really put this into perspective.

Excellent background reading for anyone interested in the time period.
The Hobbit

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I feel like I should have liked this more. I realized that I really do not like fantasy literature. I do not like keeping track of all the different kinds of creatures and their peculiarities.
I suppose I should like this because of its stature as a work, but I wasn't really impressed.

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

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Max is good, but for some reason, this topic doesn't really resonate with me. I am sure I have fears, but I don't think of them as he does and therefore the book doesn't really hit me. There were some great points in it and it was worth reading (very quick read), but not one of my favorites.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel

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Truly amazing book. Billy Lynn is a soldier. He is one of eight soldiers of "Bravo Squad," ordinary army grunts in Iraq who one day find themselves in a brief but fierce battle that happens to be captured by their embedded reporter on video. The film of their battle makes them instant "heroes," so the pentagon decides to pull them out of Iraq and send them on a two weel "Victory Tour" around the US to drum up support for the war. The final appearance of the Tour is a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving day. The whole story takes place on this one day, with brief flashbacks to a few scenes in the previous weeks.Fountain packs so much emotion and thought into every scene that I was often exhausted from reading, but in a good way. He manages to get you to think, but without being preachy. He is ironic, but without the smugness that often marks modern American irony. It's emotional without being maudlin, political without being partisan or polemic.This story isn't for everyone, but those who read it will be glad they did.
A Special Mission

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borrowed from Uncle John.
Dissappointing. Wasn't really about a "plot", but rather the broader context of the Vatican and the Pope in the context of if they should or shouldn't speak out about the holocaust.
In Freedom's Cause : A Story of Wallace and Bruce

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started 9/1/2012? reading with boys.
Good historical fiction about the war for Scottish independence. Reads easily, lots of action. Readable by middle-schoolers and above.
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