Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ten Books, Volume 6

Here are the books I've read, numbers 51 through 60...

NON-FICTION
  • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
    • Huguette Clark's father was W.A. Clark, a man who made his fortune in copper mines. She was his youngest daughter from his second marriage (he was 62, she was 23). He was one of the 50 richest Americans ever but somehow his fame has waned in comparison to the others like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and so on.
    • Clark County, Nevada is named for him because he built a railroad through the area using Las Vegas as a stop.
    • When he died at 86 his will divided his fortune into 5 parts among his surviving children. Huguette, born in 1906, lived in a Park Avenue apartment in New York City with her mother. She lived a reclusive life, keeping away from her family because she assumed they only were interested in her money. She eschewed any publicity so nobody really knew anything about her, including her family.
    • She developed skin cancer and was finally convinced to go to the hospital where she was treated and then lived for the rest of her life, 20 more years, dying at the age of 104. She never returned to her Fifth Avenue home, nor her other mansions although everything was kept as if she'd arrive at any moment.
    • The hospital didn't make her leave once she recovered from her skin cancer surgeries because they thought they could get considerable donations from her if she was on location for them to influence. While she was afraid family members were after her money (for the most part they all had their own inheritances) it turned out that everyone else was instead and she was a soft touch for any sob story. Her lawyer and accountant took enormous fees and gifts (and would also benefit as her executors). Her main nurse received over $30 million dollars over the 20 years in gifts and was a main beneficiary of the will.
    • Long story short, when Huguette died the will was contested and everything about Huguette's life came out to the public (she would've HATED that). The will was settled and her family got some money ($34 million for about 21 people), the nurse returned $5 million and gave up her claim to the estate and most of the money went to arts foundations.
    • It was fascinating story. The only flaw with the book is that it was published just before the outcome of the case of the contested will so I needed to look up the resolution online.
FICTION
  • No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz
  • No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz
    • A young adult book series, of which these are the first two, about the release of a dirty bomb in a suburban mall.
    • The bomb releases a deadly flu virus. As many of the mall occupants are teenagers the story is told from their points of view.
    • At first things are fine. Supplies are sent into the quarantined mall and a sort of system is set up. Then the "Lord of the Flies" mentality of the teens kicks in and the whole story becomes apocalyptic. The flu is so deadly that there is talk of the government just bombing the mall into dust. This does not go over well.
    • Some of the characters are very likeable and some that you hope get the fate they richly deserve based on their anarchic, barbarian antics. (Spoiler alert: One main character actually murders people and comes out of the story with no repercussions.)
    • Having read the final book (it will be included in my next book entry) I didn't ultimately like the series but I think it would be a good movie concept.
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
    • Due to a nuclear war in the past, Earth's remaining population live in spaceships overhead. To test if the Earth is ready to be recolonized they send 100 teens to the surface. Because spaceship supplies are dwindling people are being executed for even minor infractions. If the 100 don't go to Earth they would be executed too.
    • It's an intriguing premise. The next books aren't out yet so it will be at least a couple of years before the story finishes. I'm not sure if I will remember to pick up the sequels.
    • I wonder if the next books will be titled "The 82" or however many are left at the start of each book!
  • Echoes by Maeve Binchy
    • Rich boy David and working class Clare are your standard Maeve Binchy couple. Her books are usually fun to read because you learn about everyone in whatever small Irish town they are set. I think this one suffers in that the 2 main characters just aren't ultimately very sympathetic. Angela, the teacher who helps Clare in her studies to get ahead, was the best character.
    • Not one I will want to read again like some of Maeve Binchy's other books.
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
    • These two books conclude the story begun in A Discovery of Witches. These three books basically tell one long story. 
    • In Shadow of Night the main characters, witch Diana and vampire Matthew, go back in time to 1590 where they live for a while trying to find the mysterious manuscript that supposedly tells the secret of immortal life. Or something.
    • Oh but geez, this book was repetitive! LOTS of scenes with Diana and Matthew where he asks her not to interfere in a conversation. She interferes. He broods and gets angry at her. She apologizes. He apologizes. Then the cycle starts again until finally at the end of book 2 they share their hidden secrets with each other (using occult witch/vampire methods of course) and somehow this fixes THAT issue.
    • The character of Matthew has anger issues --- The Book of Life uses the phrase "blood rage" ad nauseum --- and cannot stand it when ANYBODY touches Diana, not even in a friendly way. WTF? Get over it, Jealous Vampire Guy.
    • Anyhoo, it turns out the volume they search for doesn't even really matter much and you never really learn about its formation other than it's made from the skin, blood and hair of witches, vampires and demons. Yeah, gross.
    • And in the last book a villain comes out of nowhere (he has blood rage too!), there is a quick final showdown and...the end.
    • There are parts of these books that are very, very good and parts that were not. The characters were mostly pretty good (loved Gallowglass especially) but I'm not a fan of the overbearing vampire male which is a trope writers use too frequently.
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
    •  In another future dystopian series, Cia is a character in a very small outpost of the new country The United Commonwealth. To go to the (apparently only) university, characters are tested.
    • This book series is compared to The Hunger Games in that Cia's test is against fellow teens in an apocalyptic landscape. Naturally they resort to killing each other off except for Our Heroine whose moral code learned from her sainted parents is too ingrained for such things (because all the other parents raised THEIR kids to become bloodthirsty murderers).
    • Obviously she passes the testing or there wouldn't have been a book 2 or 3.
    • But then there are MORE tests to determine the students field of study. As the candidates fall it turns out that they are just killed off. Some people don't like this. So anarchy and rebellion naturally follow. Will Our Heroine succeed in bringing down the corrupt government officials? Duuuuhhh.
    • It always cracks me up how the main characters in these types of books manage to figure things out. Cia ALWAYS figures out the angle. For example, when you are given a task, do only that task and NO MORE. (Otherwise your testing device will explode and kill you!) Or the task is so laughably impossible we may as well give up because THAT is the solution. (Giving up is the sign of leadership brilliance apparently.)
    • I keep reading these types of books and I keep criticizing them. Perhaps I need to keep away from them for a while. I didn't love The Hunger Games books either for a lot of these same reasons. Katniss, Tris (from Divergent) and Cia are just too perfect to be true.
    • All that said though, I think the author of these books is pretty good. I would definitely check out her future books even if they are more heroines in dystopias.
    • So far my favorite of the dystopian book series has been those of Marie Lu. Her Legend series is very good and avoids a lot of the dystopian tropes.

2 comments:

  1. You are making the right choice in avoiding Divergent book 3, Allegiant -- I HATED it!!!!! Dystopian futures aren't really my thing either. And I've tried to start A Discovery of Witches several times and keep putting it down; after reading your notes above, I think I'll just pass it along. There's so much good stuff to read . . . (But I got an idea for a story I want to write about teen witches -- probably I should watch that season of American Horror Story first to make sure I'm not copying anything. I know witches are kinda done to death, but it would be a fun story to write. But first I must finish writing about my Purity Club! If only I ever wrote EVER . . . Hee.) Right now I'm re-reading "Carney's House Party" and will then re-read "When Patty Went to College," perfect end-of-summer/pre-first-day-of-school books.

    Oh, and I loved your presents and letter, and I will write a proper THNQ soon, I promise!

    xxx

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  2. Not all accountants are thieves. I am very distressed just from reading your posts. But to be sure, when the end is nigh, I will find the smartest girl I know to save us all. (That would be you, Kelly.) LC, if you want to study other teen witches, start with Sabrina.

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