The Razor’s Edge by M. Somerset Maugham

This book is a character study of how people deal with life’s trials, and how they live their lives. Larry was a fighter pilot in World War I. When he comes back from the war, he gets back with his girlfriend Isabel. Isabel comes from money. Her father was an ambassador, so the family had been used to being in the social scene with powerful and rich people. Isabel lives with her mother, Louisa Bradley, and the father has passed away. Then there is Elliot Templeton who is Louisa’s brother, and he is very rich and is very social conscious. He looks after Isabel and wants her to have the best and marry well so that she will be able to continue her lifestyle.
Larry and Isabel become engaged, but Larry doesn’t want to just get a job and make money. He was almost killed in the war. Larry’s friend saved his life, so he was traumatized by the event. He wants to search for the meaning of life. He wants to marry Isabel, but he tells her that he wants to go to France for a couple of years. After two years Isabel has to decide if she wants to marry Larry, join him on his quest for meaning and live off a meager inheritance of Larry’s, or let him go and find somebody else. At first I didn’t like the book, but as I read it I thought that it gave the reader important things to think about.

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The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fanny Flagg

Fanny Flag, best known for her book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café”, is always funny and touching at the same time. I’ve never been disappointed in one of her books.

Sookie Poole of Alabama lives in the shadow of her mother, Lenore. She has never seemed to be able to live up to Lenore’s expectations. Lenore is a fun but formidable woman, outgoing, talented, and a bit overbearing to Sookie. Yet, Sookie has had a good life, a wonderful husband, and now all her children are married and out of the house. It’s time to relax. That is, until she discovers a long-kept secret about her mother’s past. As Sookie learns to deal with this new revelation, she discovers more about herself and how to live as Lenore’s daughter. Her research into the past reveals things she never knew about herself or her mother.

Without giving away too many secrets, the book goes back and forth in time, presenting the details of the life of women serving in the United States Air Force as WAVES during WWII. We focus on Fritzi, an ambitious women as the 1940’s and her family who run a gas station in the Midwest. Fritzi joins the WAVES, and her story tells of the hardships and prejudice these brave women endured. The reader learns a lot about this real group of brave women who have only recently gained the recognition they deserve.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes a strong female-led story, or stories based in the South. The combination of humor, history, and mystery is something I personally can’t pass up.

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Mrs. Queen Takes the Train – William Kuhn

Book cover - Mrs. Queen takes the train - William KuhnThis was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

The Queen, now in her mid-80’s, is feeling a little down in the years since 1995. Feeling the need for a little cheering up, she slips out of Buckingham Palace and goes on an incognito trip to Scotland. Her happiest moments that she recalls were on the royal yacht Britannia, which is now a tourist attraction. Once she’s discovered missing, various people start looking for her, palace staff, a young Englishman of Indian descent. Overall, an excellent book, and one I will enjoy reading again. If you have any interest in the House of Windsor, or even how people who have spent their entire lives in the public eye cope with the attention and stress, you’ll love this book.

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Actors Anonymous by James Franco

Actors Anonymous by James FrancoI suppose I was interested to read Actors Anonymous by James Franco for the same reason I’m interested in any kind of celebrity memoir or novel: a sense of morbid curiosity. Our culture is obsessed with celebrity, and so am I. And so is James Franco.

Although Actors Anonymous is a novel, parts of it are very clearly autobiographical. The character known as “The Actor” apparently has a career identical to Franco’s, and part of the fun for me of this book was wondering how much else was based on truth.

The book’s style is experimental. It’s loosely based on the 12 steps of the AA-like Actors Anonymous, and is told through vignettes of the lives of various actors. Some characters’ stories are presented in verse or letters. We see different perspectives on the craft of acting, as well as fame and success.

I think how much a reader enjoys Actors Anonymous will depend upon how much goodwill the reader is willing to extend to James Franco. I’ll give him a lot, honestly–I can acknowledge that he’s a pretentious art school weirdo, but I admire his honesty. Here is a lithmus test for if you will enjoy this book:

F*** business. F*** money. F*** fame. F*** coolness.

 

I am in a great position. I can say f*** all of those things because I am a famous actor and because I have money and I can do whatever I want (within a range) and I will look cool.

Did you hate that? Fair enough. Don’t read this.

If you were intrigued or entertained by it, check out Actors Anonymous by James Franco.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied LifeI was completely pulled in by this story, which is about a cranky bookseller who is not really living- as a result of his young wife dying in a car accident.  Through a series of events carefully knitted together by the author, A. J. (book store owner) comes to take care of an orphaned? toddler.  His life is never the same.  The child opens life up to A.J. in ways he could not have imagined, and soon a book saleswoman arrives on the scene to shake everything up again.

I’m sure we all gravitate to stories that resonate familiarity…but there was something so compelling about the way the story was told that made me want to just live inside the pages.  I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

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