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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

V.V.B.C. Killing LIncoln by Bill O'Reilly

Vicarious Virtual Book Club
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

UPDATE: I am in the process of launching a new website that will be a resource for finding and sharing family traditions. Please sign up to be notified when it launches!
Thank you!

For those of you who are new to the Vicarious Virtual Book Club, or V.V.B.C: This is an online "book club" that follows the reading selections of my "real" Sisterchicks book club. This group allows anyone to have a book club experience without actually having to GO to book club! You can enjoy the books, the discussions, and sharing comments, wherever you are--no traveling to meetings! If you want to read the blog while in your pajamas, no worries! No membership requirements! No rules! The V.V.B.C. is simply an opportunity to share your love of books with like-minded individuals. Anyone is welcome to join in.

The Sister Chicks will choose our books for the next six months in May. Feel free to post your book suggestions, and I will share them with the group. I never post any discussion about the books for the Virtual Book Club until after my "real" book club has discussed the book on the third Monday of each month. 

Even though our group of ten Sisterchicks was smaller than usual, Pam led us in a stimulating discussion about Killing Lincoln. Several people mentioned enjoying the fast pace and short chapters of the book.

We figured that Bill O'Reilly's background as a history major enhanced the book, and made it more interesting. We also felt that for the most part, the book gave a "fair and balanced" view of the events surrounding Lincoln's assassination.

Sandy had Googled about the well-publicized controversy surrounding errors in the book, in anticipation of Pam's question on the subject. Sandy shared her research. The book's co-author apparently did most of the research. Bill O'Reilly maintains that the errors were minor, were corrected in subsequent printings.

National Geographic is making a two hour movie of Killing Lincoln. It should premiere early next year.

The majority of us were not well-versed on Abraham Lincoln's Presidency, and the conspiracy theories put forth in the book. We agreed that the conspiracies, as well as personal perspectives taken from diaries, made the read more engrossing.

We discussed the role of President Lincoln's wife in the book; how she must have felt guilt because her husband was at the theater at her urging. We talked about how difficult Mary Todd Lincoln's life must have been. She lost three children and endured the Civil War, with her husband serving as President. We also discussed the difficulties of her life after her husband died.

The detailed description of the actual assassination, and the young doctors heroic attempts to save Lincoln, intrigued most of us. We have several medical professionals in our group!

We talked about the scope of injury and death in the Civil War--and the illnesses that killed so many. We lamented the conditions in prisoner of war camps, such as Andersonville, and the tragedy of those soldiers whose families never knew what happened to their loved ones.

We thought it was interesting reading about officers who trained together at West Point. The officers knew their opponents strategies, strengths, and weaknesses, since they had fought together in Mexico prior to the Civil War. Ultimately, friends found themselves on opposite sides in the Civil War--or "the Silver War," as Pam's son thought it was called, when he was in 4th grade.

My husband and I listened to the Audible version of Killing LIncoln, read by Bill O'Reilly, while we were traveling. It was very well done. We both enjoyed it, EXCEPT for my extreme annoyance at Bill O'Reilly's continued mispronunciation of "Calvary" when the correct word for mounted troops is "cavalry!" I played a brief audio clip for the book club, so they would understand why I was chagrinned by Bill O'Reilly's use of the wrong word throughout several chapters of battlefield narrative.

I found it almost impossible to believe that someone who promotes a new vocabulary word each broadcast would make such an elementary mistake! I sent Bill O'Reilly a pithy comment about the matter via his website. To date, I have not received a response.

One person had not quite finished the book, but planned to. Someone joked that we wouldn't give the ending away to her in our discussion! In a slightly unusual unanimous vote, everyone at book club enjoyed Killing Lincoln.

I recommend Killing Lincoln for anyone who'd like to learn more about President Lincoln's assassination. The Sisterchicks are looking forward to the release of Bill O'Reilly's next book: Killing Kennedy, since we all remember that assassination.

(Click on the Audible Links on the right side of the page for discounts on audio books. Click on the link below to order from Amazon.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

V.V.B.C. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Vicarious Virtual Book Club:
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

UPDATE: I am in the process of launching a new website that will be a resource for finding and sharing family traditions. Please sign up to be notified when it launches!
Thank you!

I've been waiting to post my review about Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff, until I finished the book.I persevered through almost 14 1/2 hours of listening to Cleopatra via, and finished today.

Bottom line--I didn't like Cleopatra. It was hard for me to follow when reading it in book form, so I decided to try listening to it, since I knew I had some upcoming trips, and would be in the car. I usually LOVE listening to Audible books. I had to force myself to listen to Cleopatra. It was boring to me! It made me sleepy while driving! Cleopatra was undoubtedly the worst book I've ever listened to. The NARRATOR was good. It was the content I didn't enjoy. The book seemed to me like a high school term paper, for which the author didn't have enough material, so they had to add extraneous filler!

Sister Chick Member, Tracy, struck a chord with her Facebook 

post: "I've made it through chapter 3 in Cleopatra. I don't know 

what the manic first 2 chapters were about, and half of chapter 3, 

but I felt like I was finally understanding something once I got to 

the description of Alexandria (basically Las Vegas with a good 

library), and Caesar & Cleopatra's luxury cruise down the Nile. 

Great descriptions without the buckshot approach to history. Let's 

see if I sink or swim in chapter 4 now...." 

And another message from Tracy: "On

there's something called "Quicklet On's like 

Cliff Notes for the very book we're reading. A list of the characters 

(who all have the same names), and summaries of the chapters. 

You download it to your Kindle for $2.99. I really want to like this 

book and I hope soon I will. Not meant to discourage you! Maybe 

it's just me?"  

I talked to Gloria after I missed Book Club. I was out of town when the Sister Chicks had the discussion on Cleopatra in March. Gloria is the Sister Chick who recommended the book, and led the discussion. Only four members had actually finished the book before the discussion, while maybe a dozen attended the meeting. She said it was pretty much universally agreed that the book was difficult to read, and the dates and names were confusing.

Gloria said that people enjoyed the background and historical  information, descriptions, leaning about the richness of the culture, etc. They felt as I did that the book was more like historical fiction than biographical. According to Gloria, and a couple of other Sister Chicks I spoke to who read at least part of the book, they didn't think it was that great.

It bothered me that the author continually made statements, that could in no way be corroborated. She speculated that Cleopatra studied more poetry than prose. She speculated on how Cleopatra acted, and what she did. Sometimes the author would say that someone during that time period would have probably done thus and so. But, many times, speculative, obviously non-factual information was presented pretty much as FACT. I found that to be annoying and misleading.

Some of the comparisons between different authors was informative and interesting, but it was done so much that it became source and footnote overload. I also thought that the book was at least twice as long as it needed to be. 

On the positive side, I didn't realize Cleopatra was such a shrewd and powerful ruler. I didn't have any concept of the complexities of the region covered in the book, of the interaction of the rulers and dynasties, and of the politics of the region, before reading the book. I'm still not CLEAR on these things, but at least now I have a smidgeon more knowledge!

I did not know about Cleopatra's "colorful" lifestyle, and had no idea how she died. As the book mentions in a derogatory way, my impression of Cleopatra, like that of many others, is largely based on Elizabeth Taylor's film portrayal. I'm not convinced that Ms. Schiff's portrayal is very accurate, either. I do not recommend reading--or listening to--Cleopatra.

However, if you do want to read Cleopatra, and present a contrasting view in the comments, there's a link to the book on Amazon below. If you'd like to try listening to Cleopatra, or any other books, see the links for special offers from Audible on the righthand side of my blog. Many V.V.B.C. books--which you can search on this blog--have WONDERFUL Audible versions!

I welcome comments, corrections, and contradictions in the comments
section! What did YOU think?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

V.V.B.C Hunger Games & Nearing Home

Vicarious Virtual Book Club:
Hunger Games &
Nearing Home

UPDATE: I am in the process of launching a new website that will be a resource for finding and sharing family traditions. Please sign up to be notified when it launches!
Thank you!

(I've gotten behind on posting reviews for  the V.V.B.C., so I'm going to at least "catch up," with a short overview, on our last few books in the next couple of days. PLEASE feel free to jump in with comments!)

Hunger Games

Hunger Games was pretty much universally enjoyed by the Sister Chicks Book Club. Subsequently, movie goers from the book club thought the movie did a better than average job of interpreting the book. (I haven't seen the movie yet.)

When I finished Hunger Games, I was a little frustrated to find that the story just stopped! It did not seem like an appropriate place to end a book. I immediately went on to read the next two books, and enjoyed them. However, it seemed to me like the author broke one story into three books, for the purpose of selling more books! This series did not seem to be so long that it required more than one book.

Since Hunger Games was the first book of a trilogy, those of us who had read the entire trilogy were unable to discuss Hunger Games in full context, since many members had not completed all three books. With the permission of those who had not completed the book/series, we did "let a few cats out of the bag" for the purpose of sharing and comparing what we particularly enjoyed, or thought interesting. Those of us who had finished enjoyed the entire series.

This book was "different" from what we usually read, but we thought it was entertaining. We discussed a lot of the "what ifs" that the book brought forth. Someone wondered if the drawing for Tribute might have been "fixed" as a warning, since Katniss was an independent and resourceful person, and thus a possible "threat" to authority. Something I never considered!

I recommend Hunger Games, along with the trilogy. Considering the realities of life after a cataclysmic event is of interest to me, and I thought Hunger Games it made for entertaining reading. (I read it on the Kindle program on my iPhone.)

Nearing Home

The Sister Chick's Book Club all enjoyed Billy Graham's Nearing Home. It was a quick read, that is classic Billy Graham: Easy to read and understand, inspirational, and thought provoking.

Billy Graham writes, “All my life, I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die.” He talks about the difficulty and frustration of no longer being able to do what you want, because of his body's declining. He looks through a positive lens at the issues caused by the inevitable aging process, because of his belief that God is is Sovereign, and in control. He wonders,"if God in His sovereignty allows the eye sight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.”

Readers are left with the challenge of living our lives with eternal purpose, with the ultimate goal of "finishing well." This book will be especially meaningful for Christians, and serves as a gentle reminder of what is really important. Another book I recommend. I read it on the Kindle Program on my iPhone. 

The large print version below would be a great Mother's Day gift for Mothers, Grandmothers, or other friends who are growing older!