Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Wisdom of Big Bird by Caroll Spinney

Memoir

Caroll Spinney is the man behind (or in?) Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. This novel is presented as life lessons learned from being Big Bird, but it's really a short look at how Spinney became Big Bird and the adventures he had as him. Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood. I watched it fairly frequently, enjoyed the muppets, and even had my own little version of Big Bird at home. This path down memory lane for Spinney was enjoyable to read as a grown up fan.

It gives you a bit of insight in to how Sesame Street was produced, how they came up with their characters, and how they hired new talent. I didn't learn any lessons or really have any wisdom imparted on me, but the story that Spinney told was interesting. I wish Spinney had spoken a bit more about his wife. It's obvious that he is deeply in love with her and we only got a few pages on how they met and got engaged in a quick period of time.

More detail could have been provided in many parts of this book, but it was a good overview of the man behind Big Bird.

First Line: "The alarm goes off."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Outlander by Gil Adamson

Historical Fiction

We first meet Mary, the widow, while she's just left her house and is on the run. She has killed her husband for reasons so far unknown and has left her home to escape her brothers-in-law. She has nothing to her name and must learn to survive in the wilderness, as this is 1903.

As Mary makes her way through the Canadian wilderness, she meets a few people that knowingly or unknowingly help her out. But her brothers-in-law are on her tail. She winds up in a mining town of mostly men, working with a priest to help him build his church.

For a book with little dialogue, the momentum was maintained quite well. We learn about how Mary came to be in her situation (justified or not, I'm still not certain), but we mostly read about her survival. This part of the book is the most satisfying. Mary's past was far less satisfying as it seems like there should have been a bigger and better reason for her to risk her life.

This book is an impressing debut novel.

First Line: "It was night, and dogs came through the trees, unleashed and howling."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Monday, July 03, 2017

Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine

History

Dunkirk was a massively successful failure in WWII. I had never learned about this story in history class so knew absolutely nothing coming in, other than this took place in the early parts of WWII. The British and French troops kept getting pushed back and back by the Germans until they wound up on the beaches of Dunkirk, France having to be evacuated across the channel. Ships came from everywhere, both civilian and navy, to evacuate these troops. Many died, but many many more were rescued. This book tells the story of what lead up to Dunkirk and how this rescue took place.

This book is also about the new movie Christopher Nolan is making on the events at Dunkirk. There's both an interview with Nolan at the start and a chapter at the end of the book about the making of the movie. Having no knowledge about Dunkirk, I found the Nolan interview at the start of the book oddly placed. I was worried it was going to spoil something further in the book and couldn't appreciate their interest in the story because I knew nothing about it yet. However, the notes at the end of the book on the film making were quite interesting. The fact that they filmed on the Dunkirk beach should make this even more authentic.

In the telling of what happened at Dunkirk, there were many eye witness accounts stitching together Levine's story. These likely come from his other book Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk (I can't help but wonder if the book is exactly the same, but with chapters added on the movie). These accounts were very interesting, but overall they were all quite short, which lead to some major pacing issues in this book. The history of Dunkirk isn't started until about page 60. Then the book is on a roller coaster from engaging and interesting to boring. At times I wondered if I should give up, but I stuck through to the end. It does get better once the troops are on the beach and the rescue attempt is underway.

I'm not a huge history buff (but do enjoy well tell stories of historical events) and feel that most parts of this book are geared towards someone of a more historical buff nature. If you can get past the first 100 pages or so, you'll learn a lot about this event and the movie that will represent it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. Interested in trying this book for yourself? You can find where to buy it here.

Rating:
(3/5)
About the Author

Joshua Levine has written six bestselling histories including titles in the hugely popular ‘Forgotten Voices’ series. ‘Beauty and Atrocity’, his account of the Irish Troubles, was nominated for the Writers’ Guild Book of the Year award. ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, his history of the pilots of the First World War, has been turned into a major British television documentary. He has written and presented a number of programmes for BBC Radio 4. In a previous life, he was a criminal barrister. He lives in London.
Find him on Twitter or his website.