Monday, May 22, 2017

A Head Full of Ghosts (Paul Tremblay)

In July of this year, 1776 Books will be celebrating its 8th anniversary.  In all that time, I can probably count on one hand how many times I've given a 5 rating.  When I began the blog, I worked hard on my definitions of each rating and described a 5 as "Excellent. I would read it again in a heartbeat."  To me, a 5 is practically perfect, and Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts is that for me.

With so many books being released every week, it's getting difficult for one to surprise me.  I've read the historical fiction, the beach reads, and and the "I couldn't even begin to describe this book if I tried" novels.  I picked up A Head Full of Ghosts because I was looking for something different, and the possession/reality show plot caught my attention right away.

We begin simply with a normal suburban family -- John and Sarah Barrett are parents to Marjorie and Merry.  Merry worships the ground her older sister walks on and is always asking her to tell her stories.  But the family can't hide the fact that Marjorie is starting to act strangely, and in addition to sending her to a psychiatrist, John seeks the counsel of a priest.  John is also out of work, and when a reality show comes calling to film what they think is Marjorie's "possession", he finds it hard to say no.  What results is a suspenseful, often horrific, and utterly tragic story of the entire Barrett family.

A Head Full of Ghosts also ranks as a book I read in record time.  I normally like to take my time with novels I enjoy, allowing me to delve into each layer of the story.  With this one, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  You'd be hard pressed to find a more richly developed horror novel than this one.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Churchill, Roosevelt & Company (Lewis E. Lehrman)

Lewis E. Lehrman’s Churchill, Roosevelt & Company covers the stories of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt but also pulls their advisers and lower level government officials in to weave the narrative of the Americans and British during World War II.  While the Churchill-FDR relationship was unique in its flow and ebb through both men’s leadership of their respective nations, the management of that relationship and the Allied War effort by individuals such as John M. Keynes, Lord Halifax, Anthony Eden, Harry Hopkins, and Generals Marshall and Eisenhower played a more critical, substantive role in ensuring the two countries collaborated in their efforts to defeat the Axis Powers.

Lehrman compares the two leaders’ styles in managing and dealing with the Soviet Union during and especially after World War II, and shows how both countries were able to use each other (and each other’s strengths) to their advantage. The author skillfully moves between the British and Americans, weaving in tails of espionage and intrigue along the way to add extra spice to the historical narrative.

Above all, Churchill, Roosevelt & Company reinforces a most powerful lesson that all of us should remember: Relationships matter. The book shows many examples of how government policy and decision-making was influenced by interpersonal relationships by second and third level diplomats and lower level government advisers. While Churchill and FDR garnered the headlines, the dirty work in the trenches required that personal touch that Churchill and FDR were not always able to maintain during the balance of the war effort.