Book Review: The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara

I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately and decided to try something different. Not sure how I settled on historical fiction, but I’m glad I did and was able to discover The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara.

While the book is a novel, it is an historically accurate portrayal of events during World War II in the European and North African Theaters. The only license the author takes is some dialogue and internal dialogue within some of the characters. In his note to the readers at the front of the book, Shaara explains his approach to this and his previous historical novels. Rather than providing a comprehensive overview or detailed exploration of events, Shaara looks at them through the eyes of some of the key participants, both large and small. Main characters include General Dwight Eisenhower, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Omar Bradley, General George Patton, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Adolf Hitler, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, and several others, including enlisted men and lower level officers in the U.S. Army.

The Rising Tide is a fascinating read and it has sparked my interest to read more about “The Great War,” and the characters who participated in the defining events of the 20th century. Five Stars.

Like Audio Books? Check Out Overdrive

Probably half the books I “read” in a year are audio books. An increasingly popular option for fans of audio books is Amazon’s Audible subscription service. With more than 180,000 titles to choose from Audible might be worth the $14.95 monthly fee. For that the subscriber gets one free book a month (additional books need to be purchased).

I’ve considered going with Audible, since it would save me from going to my local library and pouring through the limited books on CD collection. While I like going to my library, searching for an audio book is time-consuming, and I often am unable to find a book that appeals to me.

Enter Overdrive.

Overdrive is a free app you can download to your phone, tablet, or computer. If your library subscribes to Overdrive you simply add your library (or join a library that does subscribe) and you have access to their full spectrum of audio books and also their e-reader books. Overdrive offers three distinct advantages over checking out books on CD:

  1. Saves time. I don’t have to go to the library and search for a book. When I’m done with the book, Overdrive returns it for me, saving me a return trip to the library. Another time-saver is Overdrive’s filtering system, which allows you to do searches using several criteria, from genre, to author, title/subject, format and so on.
  2. More titles to choose from. My library has more audio and e-books available online than at the physical library.
  3. Easier to use. I download the audio book to my iPhone and connect it to my car’s sound system. There’s no grappling with CD’s while driving. Better yet, Overdrive audio books do not come with the scratches and other annoyances that often turn parts of CD books into skips and crackles.

In addition to audio books and e-books, Overdrive also offer podcasts, videos, and other content. To learn more about Overdrive and find a library near you that offers it, visit www.overdrive.com.

Looking for an e-reader? Kindle Fire 7″ HD

I’d been using my wife’s old black and white Kindle as my e-reader for a couple of years and was looking to upgrade. After a bit of research I asked for the Kindle Fire 7″ HD (8 Gigs) for my birthday in March. After a couple of months I can tell you I love it. It offers way more than I bargained for. Not only is it a great e-reader it is a fully functional tablet as well. On our recent trip to and from Buenos Aires I used it to watch the entire two years’ of the Harry Bosch series (free with my Amazon Prime account), as well as two movies and completing two books. I can access my web e-mail, surf the internet, listen to music, organize my media files, and much more. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced e-reader and tablet, I don’t think you can go wrong with this product.

Book Review: One Summer by Bill Bryson

Just finished One Summer: America 1927a non-fiction work by Bill Bryson, which as the title implies looks at the U.S. in the summer of 1927.  The subject sounds so narrow and remote that I wouldn’t have read the book except for the fact I’m a big fan of Bryson’s writing and the reviews were fabulous. From page 1 Bryson pulls you in. His research on the book is impeccable and his writing is rich, funny, insightful and captivating. While the window he looks at is the three months of the year, his narrative provides necessary context for the months leading up to and following that summer. There are several main story lines that the author weaves through the 456-page book:  Charles Lindbergh’s successful flight across the Atlantic, Babe Ruth’s 60-home run season, the Great Mississippi River flood, Al Capone’s reign of terror over Chicago, and a couple of others. These story lines are interspersed with interesting bits of information and trivia, such as the story of who invented the Ponzi Scheme, how the term “hot dog” came about, and the origins of Mickey Mouse. The year was filled with larger than life characters. I found the section on President Herbert Hoover to be especially revealing.

Strongly recommended – Five Stars.

 

Best book on writing?

I’m asked all the time, especially by new and aspiring writers, what is the best book to learn more about the art and craft of writing. Here are a three I’d recommend (followed by a link to its Amazon page):

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
The timeless classic that can be read in a single sitting. Even if you read it in college this book is worth re-reading every few years. Available on Amazon

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
More than twenty years old, this book is still relevant for today’s writer.  Funny, insightful, and with lots of charm, this book is part how-to and large part inspiration. The book’s title is taken from an exchange between Lamott’s brother and father:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”  Available on Amazon

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Probably my favorite writing book of all time, On Writing is an autobiography coupled with advice to writers. Even if you’re not a writer you’ll enjoy this book, especially if you’re a fan of SK. Writers looking for insider tips and tricks may be disappointed as King’s advice–while insightful and extremely helpful boils down to two pieces of advice: read a lot and write. Not a big fan of writers groups, retreats, or other communal writing activities, King asserts that writing is a solitary act that is best achieved by rolling one’s sleeves and working. Available on Amazon.