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The man who loved books too much is not the most likable guy.  In fact, he can be very annoying and infuriating at times.  But, Allison Hoover Bartlett sure knows how to tell a good story.  She makes this story so fun to read, even when the title character is being infuriating.  There is, actually, a whole host of characters in this true account of a man who desired rare and valuable books, but could not, and would never be able to, afford them.  Being somewhat psychotic, however, he believed that because he desired them so greatly, he deserved them.  So he resorted to credit card fraud in order to obtain them.  And somehow, in his head, he could not admit that this was stealing.  Even though he was repeatedly incarcerated for fraud, he continued to perpetrate it without remorse.  In fact, he somehow believed that he was the victim of greedy rare book dealers who simply priced books too high for him to afford.  The dealers, many of whom helped the author with her story by granting many interviews over many months, were the true victims of this story.  But they were also the heroes, as they banded together to aid in the apprehension of the con man who manipulated them with his charm and deceit. This book is a fascinating look into the world of rare books, their dealers, and the mind of a man who needed to acquire them by any means.  It is a quick read, an interesting story, and  alot of fun.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:   Anna

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I have to say, fellow readers, that your enjoyment of this book will depend entirely on your political tendencies.   Mr. Pierce’s politics are made very clear through his rantings in this book.  And while my politics are more in line with the author’s than not, I tended to agree with alot of what he had to say here.  However, no solutions were offered, so I am not 100% sure of what the point of the exercise has been.  As far as I can see, the drift of the book is to point out how Americans, most of us anyway, have allowed ourselves to operate on political autopilot, and have let ourselves be duped by other Americans in politics and the media into believing things because they are popular and not because they are true.  I happen to agree with this.  However, I am not sure what we, as Americans, can do about this.  Where can we go to get the truth from the government and/or the media.  If they are going to spread untruths, how are we to know?  This is what I mean when I say that there are no real solutions offered here.  Perhaps, that was not the point.  Perhaps awareness of the phenomenon is the author’s first step.  Unfortunately, Mr. Pierce wrote so passionately here with regard to his belief in our willing participation in our own dumbing down, that he has certainly alienated an entire sector of the population who might have been able to do something about it.  Therefore, I believe that while this book was enjoyable for me, it was pretty much just a rant.  The author was venting, but I am left asking, “Now what?”

I give this book  3.5 out of 5 bookmarks, unless you are conservative.  Then maybe 2 out of 5.

Reviewed by:   Anna

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I found this book to be really a remarkable story.  The author, Steve Lopez, a newspaper columnist in Los Angeles, is looking for interesting subject matter for upcoming columns,  when he comes across a homeless musician, by the name of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers.  Playing classical music on a street corner, he captures the imagination of Mr. Lopez, who senses a column in the making.  Little does he know what an adventure he is in for, by befriending this street musician.  Through his efforts to get the story, Mr. Lopez discovers that Nathaniel is mentally ill and living on the street, but has been classically trained, at Julliard!  Delving into Nathaniel’s past, Steve discovers the story of how Nathaniel’s talent was recognized and honed as a young boy, and how he gained admittance into one of the nation’s most prestigious music programs.  He also traces Nathaniel’s descent into mental illness and homelessness.  But, as he researches his subject, Steve grows to care about Nathaniel and his well-being.  He educates himself about life on skid row and what he can do to help his new friend.  With a self-effacing style, Steve Lopez chronicles his efforts to help his friend and how his friend helps him in return.  The story is full of joy and sorrow, triumph and despair, hope and frustration.  It is heartbreaking, uplifting and real.  A story worth telling and worth hearing.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:      Anna

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Well readers, I have sacrificed my time to read this book so that you don’t have to.  Seth Grahame-Smith, to his credit, has very seamlessly managed to work a sub-plot involving man-eating, undead zombies into the original Jane Austen story surrounding the social antics of the Bennet family and their community.  However, aside from a silly sort of humor, the zombies don’t, in my opinion, really add anything of real value to the original storyline.  It is, perhaps, a case of unfair bias on my part, as Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite authors, and it is hard to improve on near perfection.  However, I realize that Mr. Grahame-Smith isn’t really trying to improve on Austen.   In giving him the benefit of the doubt, I can see how this version, which still contains approximately 80 percent of the original Austen prose, might attract an audience which might not otherwise be inclined to read a work by Jane Austen.  So, in that regard, I get it.  And it was, at times, funny.  However, in the end, upon finishing the book, the characters I missed most were the living ones and not the unfortunate undead.  So, ultimately, unless you have a sort of perverse sense of humor, I would advise readers to stick with the real thing.  Unless, of course, you have an 11 year old boy whom you really want to read Jane Austen.  In that case, this book might be just the ticket.

I give this book 3 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:   Anna

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This book is a mite intimidating at first glance, just because of it’s size.  However, once I began reading, I realized that there was nothing to fear.  This author has a very easy to read style of writing, and given the interesting subject matter, I was done in no time.  This is a very expansive biography of Lincoln’s political life.  However, I found it a bit slim on the personal front.  If Lincoln the politician is the man you are after, then this is the book for you.  I found it very similar in content to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”, which was also fascinating.  There is definitely more of Lincoln’s early life and personal life in this book than in Goodwin’s, but. to my mind, this book is predominantly a political bio., as I said before.  Although I found it light on personal information, that is not to say that I did not enjoy the book.  I found it to be very well-written, and although it is a sizable book, I read it on my kindle, which made it more convenient.  Having just witnessed a most interesting presidential race and inauguration, I found this book particularly interesting to read, at this time in our history.  The passion and intelligence of Abraham Lincoln are most inspiring, and after reading this book, I found a renewed sense of admiration for him.  I truly believe he was our greatest president.  Read this book and be inspired.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.  

Reviewed by:  Anna

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After reading and thoroughly enjoying Isaacson’s book about Albert Einstein, I was particularly eager to read this earlier book about Ben Franklin.    While Isaacson’s style of writing is very user-friendly, I found this new subject a bit harder to invest myself in.  I confess, I don’t really  know why I found this book a bit harder to get into and to get through.  It is not as though the subject matter is any less interesting to me.  Perhaps the fault lies with me, the reader.  Maybe I was expecting something different.  And perhaps it only suffers in comparison to the Einstein book.  Who is to say how I might feel had I read them in reverse order. 

That being said, I do not want to lead anyone into thinking that I did not enjoy this book or it’s subject. I enjoy the way Isaacson does not sugar-coat his subject matter.  We learn all of the truly remarkable things that Franklin accomplished in his long and prolific life, but we also learn of his character faults.  This makes the man seem more real, albeit, sometimes a bit less likable.  A truly great statesman, Franklin was, at times, selfish and hypocritical.  But then, who of us isn’t?  This is what made him human and thus, more interesting.  While still a young man, Franklin formed many of the ideas and opinions that he would steadfastly hold to for his entire life.  He never, even in his most advanced years, lost his sense of child-like curiosity.  He enjoyed surrounding himself with young people and those with strong opinions.   Some of Franklin’s greatest gifts were his sense of calmness and his willingness to compromise.  These two traits served him well as one of our nation’s founders.  During the very volatile time of the country’s founding, Franklin played a pivotal role in bringing together all of the many varying ideas and tempestuous personalities.  Isaacson’s book does a wonderful job of laying out the life of Franklin and the birth of our nation, both within the context of each other.  This was an enjoyable book about a brilliant and tireless man.  A man who was quintessentially American.

I give this book 3.5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:       Anna

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I must admit, fellow readers, that I felt a little betrayed when I first started this book.  I picked it up, because it looked like a rousing historical journey, something akin to the Da Vince Code.  But as I began to read, I felt as though I had been tricked into reading another vampire story.  Not being one to quit a book once started, I read on.  And I am glad that I did.  The payoff was, indeed, a Da Vince Code – like story, which takes the reader through Communist Eastern Europe of the recent past and the mysterious, vague boundaried Eastern Europe of the distant past.

The book tells the story of an academician and his reluctant hunt for his friend and mentor, who seems to have been abducted by Dracula himself.  While on this journey, our hero meets and falls in love with a mysterious woman.    We learn the story as he tells it, in installments, to his teen-aged daughter.  Jumping back and forth in time from the present to the past, when the abduction actually occurred, we slowly learn that the story isn’t just in the past, and it isn’t quite over.   Filled with interesting characters, good and bad, suspense, drama, romance and adventure,  Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, is worth the time  is will take to read it’s over 900 pages.  I recommend this book to any who like adventure and history.

I give this book 3.5 stars.

Reviewed by:     Anna

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