Book Review #50: “The Great Gatsby”

The Great Gatsby - Complex

Image Credit: Complex

I may have mentioned before that I re-read The Great Gatsby at least once every year. This Book Review attempts to express my deep love and appreciation for this novel, first published in 1925.

I was first introduced to this thrilling work of fiction in Mr. Degnan’s English class in high school. At the time, I knew bits and pieces of the eras known as “The Jazz Age” and “The Roaring Twenties,” but I hadn’t willingly picked up a work written by F. Scott Fitzgerald until this particular assignment.

Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a man in his late twenties, the book catapults you head-first into the crazy world of New York City and Long Island during the summer of 1922. Nick is surrounded by a literal cast of characters, including Jay Gatsby, the owner of an extravagant, opulent mansion. Nick rents the modest bungalow next door, and is immediately awestruck by Gatsby, the incredible parties he hosts, the rumors that swirl, and the air of mystery. What follows in the coming days and months is a violent whirlwind of many parties, little work, lots of dancing, plenty of food and drink, and a time of celebration following The Great War’s end.

Nick reconnects with his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan. She is married to one of Nick’s college acquaintances, Tom. Jordan Baker, a beautiful amateur golfer, soon enters Nick’s life and his heart. Along the way, Nick learns that Tom has one main mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and rents an apartment in the city for other affairs.

An invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties thrusts Nick into another world. He learns the man is borderline obsessed with Daisy. Five years have passed since their chance encounter. However, Nick can see that Gatsby desperately wants to reconnect with her. Over time, he uses Nick surreptitiously to accomplish his goal.

Throughout the novel, affairs run rampant and can easily make the reader’s head spin. The dancing, music, and illegal alcohol will do that, too.

The characters’ personalities are heightened, and sometimes incredibly violent and unsettling. The fights and shouting feel real, and the hot summer day that serves as the novel’s climax makes me sweat every time.

Several of the characters suffer quite tragic consequences, and by the very end, many are bitter and disillusioned, to say the least. There’s a sense of an incredible downward spiral.

The novel is long enough to take readers on an incredible adventure set in a span of just a few months, but short enough to be thrilling, breathtaking, and entertaining without getting stale. Reading Gatsby for the first time inspired me to dive into Fitzgerald’s world and read more of his work. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Finishing the book leaves me in a slightly depressive mood, but in the end, it’s worth it. It gives me a sense of what those years were like for those who experienced it, in the cities, in modest houses, and in the ashes.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

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Book Review #49: “Prints in the Sand: My Journey with Nanea”

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Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the other two Book Reviews I’ve written about Nanea’s books:


The BeForever Journey Books are starting to grow on me. Choosing your own adventure is so much fun!

Our modern girl is in Hawaii, on the beach with her twin brothers and their babysitter, whom she calls Auntie Oli. Her father is “overseas” in Iraq. She’s struggling with him being gone, along with other things.

A traditional puka shell necklace, much like the one Nanea is given, transports her to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1942!

Along the way, our modern girl meets Nanea, Lily, the Honolulu Helpers, and climbs the Punchbowl volcano crater! She even gets to solve a mystery or two, like Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes!

I was impressed how the book focused on the war effort, and how women became more involved with the military.

The one major criticism was one of the paths / routes was so heavily embedded in the book, that I had a lot of trouble finding it. I wanted to read it, but it took me a long time to find it, and I got frustrated. I’m sure it was a simple oversight, but I didn’t like picking through the pages, trying to find the one route I hadn’t read yet.

I loved learning even more about Hawaii and the early war effort in this book.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #48: “Hula for the Home Front: A Nanea Classic 2”

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Image Credit: American Girl

If you havenโ€™t already, I would recommend reading the review of the first Nanea volume before checking out this one:


At the end of Classic 1, Nanea and her friends were preparing to return to school, nearly two months after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor.

To Nanea’s dismay, there’s a new girl in her class. Her name is Dixie Moreno, and Nanea immediately struggles to be nice to her. Donna has left for the mainland, and Nanea is still sour about that. However, Nanea tries hard to not “borrow trouble” and show kindness to Dixie. Along the way, they help each other out, and start to become friends.

Meanwhile, hula is a central theme in this volume. Nanea finds joy in her lessons, and she learns that her dog, Mele, is a talented dancer!

As Nanea prepares to celebrate her tenth birthday, things begin to relax a bit on the island. Her family and friends come together to pull off an excellent birthday surprise! She’s excited to celebrate, but she remains observant and guarded. Her brother, David, constantly talks about Lieutenant Gregory and how much he wants to enlist. He turns 18 in a few months’ time. Nanea is scared, and angry. How will she express her feelings?

Nanea learns several important lessons – Patience, understanding, a hint of wisdom, and how to make her own contributions to the war effort. Through hula, War Stamps, and a few other things, she learns that even kids can make a difference!

Like the first volume, I received an excellent education about Hawaii and its involvement in the early stages of the U.S. entering World War II. I was impressed at how much detail was included. I can only imagine how much research was done! The books also discussed the challenges that many Japanese-Americans faced in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and it was well-written.

I’m looking forward to reading her Journey Book! Look for that review soon!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #47: “Growing Up with Aloha: A Nanea Classic 1”

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Image Credit: American Girl

As soon as American Girl announced Nanea as their newest BeForever Historical Character, I knew I wanted to read her books!

These books are relatively quick reads for me, but since I love historical fiction, I try really hard to pay attention to all the details!

Nanea’s story begins in 1941, on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. Her given name is Alice Nanea, and the author packs a variety of Hawaiian words into the story. She’s the baby of the family, with an older brother, David, and an older sister, Mary Lou. Her mother is a Hawaiian native, while her father is from Oregon, from the mainland. I had to remind myself that Hawaii wasn’t a state yet!

Nanea enjoys spending time with her friends, Lily and Donna. They like shave ice on the beach, learning and performing hula, and school.

As the story progresses, we learn that Nanea’s father is a welder for one of the shipyards. Pearl Harbor is bustling with activity, especially as World War II has ramped up over the last several years. However, many on the island go about their daily business, welcoming tourists and taking care of their families.

A special contest is being held, and Nanea and her friends are excited to enter. The prize is a brand-new Schwinn bike! They have to meet four criteria. The deadline to enter is December 15th.

Then, on December 7th, everything changes. Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. Nanea’s father has to work around the clock, and her brother and sister volunteer their time and effort in the community. Nanea feels like the baby again, wanting to help, but being too young. Everyone is scared as martial law is declared, blackouts begin, and schools are closed.

Christmas doesn’t feel very festive, but the family celebrates anyway. They rekindle the Hawaiian spirit of “ohana” and “aloha.”

This story wraps up around January 1942. Just as things begin to look normal again, Nanea and her friends learn that one of them may have to leave because of the Army’s orders. Nanea wants to help her friends, but she’s not sure how!

Overall, I dug deep into Nanea’s story. I found myself dreaming about the story and picturing certain scenes every night when I went to bed. I really want to visit Hawaii now!

I really appreciate the attention to historical accuracy, while making it relevant to the main audience. Nanea may be the baby, but she’s starting to grow up. And, I learned a few new things along the way!

I’m already thirteen chapters into Volume 2 – Look for that review soon!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #46: “The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, a World War II Soldier”ย 

The Journal of Scott Pendelton Collins

Image Credit: Amazon

Scholastic has published three particular series that I have loved since the sixth grade.

It all started with finding Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, R.M.S. Titanic, 1912ย in the Western Branch Middle School library. I had never heard of it, or that it was part of a series, but my best friend Melissa immediately recognized it, and recommended I read it. I did, and an obsession was born!

I have a good number of the “Dear America” books in my personal library, and my goal is to eventually own all books in all three series.


When Al and I visited 2nd & Charles in Newport News recently, I found this book on the shelf. I couldn’t pass it up for $3.45, since most of these books retail for at least $10.95, or more.

I don’t remember reading this one as a kid and young adult, but I’m glad I did now.

Summary: A seventeen-year-old soldier from central Virginia records his experiences in a journal as his regiment takes part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and subsequent battles to liberate France.

Written by Walter Dean Myers, this is a impressive, fictionalized account of what hundreds of thousands of men went through during World War II.

It was also really interesting to realize this character was raised in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked about life in Roanoke and Winchester. It made the story even more real for me, and sobering. It also makes me want to re-read several books by Myers, who has written books about African-American life, as well as the Vietnam War, among other topics.

Reading this book inspired me to re-read the Dear America books that I already have, as well as seek out other My Name is America and The Royal Diaries books that I haven’t read yet.

Although these three series are designed for younger readers, the authors work hard to accurately portray history. Plus, I usually learn something new every time I read or re-read one.

Look for more Book Reviews on these series, coming soon!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Book Review #45: “The Girl on the Train”

The Girl on the Train

Image Credit: Barnes & Noble

This was another 49-cent birthday purchase from Best Thrift. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while!

I’ll try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, if you haven’t read the book yet.


I’d heard mostly good things about this book, so I wanted to give it a shot.

Let’s just say that Hawkins does not disappoint!

I love that this book is set around London. It gave me a different perspective of how people in Britain work, live, and struggle.

I immediately noticed that each chapter was a different POV. Given my inherent struggle to read and finish books with multiple POVs, I was crossing my fingers, hoping and praying this was different.

It was. This book was a breath of fresh air!

Hawkins enveloped me into the train, the houses, and the characters. It was an amazing look into a group of people’s lives, and how dramatic things can be and become.

The book starts with Rachel, literally “the girl on the train.” Pardon my French, but this woman is fucked up from the get-go. She takes the train from the house she shares with Cathy, into London, every day. She’s an alcoholic, and we quickly learn that she was fired from her job, she single-handedly demolished her marriage, and she’s incredibly jealous of the woman that is now married to her ex-husband.

Along the way, we meet Tom, Anna, Cathy, and the man and woman Rachel refers to as “Jess” and “Jason.” She gives them these names because she sees them, and their house, from the train every day.

Little does Rachel know – Her life is about to be turned upside down. As her drinking increases, she struggles with multiple emotions and feelings. When one of the women suddenly disappears without a trace, Rachel believes she saw something, and inserts herself into the investigation.

What did Rachel supposedly see on the night this woman vanished?

Will her daily observations of “Jess” and “Jason” from the train be significant?

By inserting herself into the investigation, is she doing more harm than good?

Will her drinking help or hurt?

Hawkins crafts each chapter like a diary, where each character experiences something different. There are flashbacks, but Hawkins tries hard to keep the characters in the present, especially as they start to intertwine and get caught in different webs.

I actually appreciated the flashbacks, since it was made obvious with the headings, and I didn’t have to flip pages back and forth. Much better than other books (I’m looking at you, Allegiant)!ย Hawkins masterfully built the worlds around these characters, and was able to tell multiple stories in a clear, consistent way.

This book being classified as a “psychological thriller” was almost an understatement. The characters were quickly embedded in my brain, and I found myself thinking about the story during the work day, and on my way home from work.

I flew through this book, repeating, “One more chapter, one more chapter.” I looked forward to reading this book nearly every night. I stayed up way too late earlier this week, but I couldn’t put this down!

I’m definitely looking for more psychological thrillers to spice up my reading life, so any recommendations are appreciated!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #44: “Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake”

Catch Me If You Can

Image Credit: Amazon.co.uk

I couldn’t pass up this book for 49 cents! I found it at Best Thrift in Norfolk on my birthday.

I’ve always loved the movie, and I knew it was based on a true story. I hadn’t read the book that inspired the movie. Until now!


For me, finishing this book was a struggle. I think this is one of the few times where seeing the movie affected my perception of the book.

Reading Abnagle’s story, overall, was very fascinating. Before he turned 19-years-old, Abnagle had successfully conned many companies and banks out of millions of dollars. He posed as a Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) pilot in the U.S. and in cities throughout the world, a doctor in Georgia, and a lawyer in Louisiana. After he was apprehended, the FBI came to him to help them catch other check forgers.

But, after Chapter 8, I stalled. It was tough to keep going. I almost gave up entirely.

At the same time, I hate not finishing books. So, I pressed on. It ended well, but I felt like I stuck in neutral for a while.

Initially, I wasn’t sure why I got stuck for several days. Then, I realized that I was playing the movie in my head, and I know that affected my reading.

If you’re looking for an interesting, true story, about one of the smartest, most cunning thieves that both the U.S. and the world has seen, I recommend this book.

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚