Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: L.A. Noir

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I finally finished reading L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin. I actually started reading this months ago, but it keeps getting back-burnered. So, heading into 2015, it was at the top of my reading list, mostly just because I knew I need to get through it.

Story: L.A. Noir is about the history of Los Angeles. It begins with how L.A. rose up as a settlement. We learn how, when, and by whom it was settled. We see the history of who controlled the city through two main camps: organized crime and the LAPD.

Now, I've been to LA before, just as a travelling tourist. I've spent almost no time in the city itself, keeping to more touristy places like Anaheim and less touristy places like Modesto (because I have family there). So my interest in this book wasn't necessarily for the city itself, but rather the history. We see a lot of the infamous Mickey Cohen, who I knew next to nothing about, and also a hard-core, straight-laced policeman named William Parker, who served the LAPD in many and various capacities over the year. I love juxtapositions like this. Cop vs. mobster, organized crime vs. law and order, criminal mentality vs absolute justice. In fact, most mobster stories--films, books, etc.--need this opposition or else they're just plain dull. And the fact that this is all real life history is even better!

Writing: While the subject matter was very interesting to me, the book itself, I'll admit, was a tad on the boring side. Perhaps it was just that it was a non-fiction, but I don't think so. Plenty of non-fics I've read are super easy to read. I think it's more that he used lots of names and titles, even for minor players in the story. Maybe that's just him being historically thorough, but it made for difficult reading. Also, he did tend to jump all over the place, from story to story, without using any obvious linear or consecutive narrative to tell the story. The other historian I've read who does this is Edvard Radzinsky, who writes Russian history. And there's nothing for it. That's just how these guys write. If you want the history, you gotta deal with it. Just saying it's not the easiest way to envision a timeline.

History: The history was obviously well-researched and I learned a ton about these people and this time period. He even had lots of interview quotes from the major players. (It probably helped that Cohen fancied himself a celebrity and was always more than happy to talk to the media.)

My Take-Away: I felt like I got a lot out of this book. Lots of history, and a clear picture of who these people, their personalities, and how they respectively fit together or (more often than not) clashed. There were several ridiculously interesting characters (usually the supporting players) that I just had to write down something about, and where to find them in the book so I could come back. Let's face it, truth can be stranger than fiction, and I don't think I could come up with such rich characters on my own. These character studies are priceless.

Dislikes: The only thing I could say I didn't like was something that didn't pop up until the end. As they got into the late '50s-early '60s time period, of course there was much talk of the civil rights movement. I didn't mind this in and of itself. In fact, with the large number of African Americans living in L.A. at the time, one could hardly talking about the city's history without mentioning it. My problem was that, at this point, I felt like the author took on an agenda, and I was bugged by it. For most of the book, he did a good job of simply presenting fact, as well as all viewpoints involved, without asserting his own opinions. Once the issue became race, his opinion was very front and center. 

I'm not saying I agreed nor disagreed with his opinion (okay, for the most part, disagreed) but more to the point, it was so in-your-face obvious, especially as compared to the rest of the book, that I felt it took away from the history. The book claims to cover the history of L.A. during the lifetimes of Mickey Cohen and William Parker, but there was an entire epilogue about the Rodney King riots of '91, which happened after both men had passed away. Not that those riots aren't important, and they are a big part of L.A.'s history, but they were beyond the scope of what the book claimed to cover. It felt very superfluous; an excuse for an extra, racially charged discussion that has little to do with the subject matter. Anyway, this painfully obvious agenda was about the only thing that rubbed me the wrong way about the entire book.

Overall: I really liked the book and was glad I finally got through it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this time period, Mickey Cohen, the history of LA, or just mobster history in general. With the caveat that it's not the easiest read in the world. Despite what I've said above, it's not a terribly difficult read or anything, just not the easiest in the world. If you really want the history, it's definitely worth it!

Has anyone else read this book, or this author? What do you think of the history? Of the writing style?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday + Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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This week's teasers come from Mockingjay by Susan Collins. With the advent of part 1 of the third film (which I have yet to actually watch) I decided I wanted to re-read book 3. Even before the films, book 3 is the one I remember the least. I do remember the big things--how it ends, etc.--but I can't remember much of what actually happens in the plot. So, I'm doing a quick re-read.

"Another force to contend with. Another power player who has decided to use me as a piece in her games...But she has been the quickest to determine that I have an agenda of my own and am therefore not to be trusted. She has been the first to publicly brand me as a threat." (pg. 59)

What are you reading this week?





Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top 10 Books I'd Read With My Book Club, If I Had a Book Club (All covers courtesy of Goodreads.com unless otherwise linked)

My go-to answer would probably be high fantasy, but I do lots of read-alongs in that genre, which weekly Q&A posts, which is kind of like a book club, right? So, to broaden my horizons, I'm gonna go with a sci-fi book club. Specifically, I would love to read more space opera.  




10. Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov - Asimov is most famous for his robot laws, of course, but some of his other works, including his short stories, are simply fantastic. I read book 2 of this trilogy in college and absolutely loved it. Since then, I've wanted to go back and read the entire trilogy. And, you know, everything else Asimov ever wrote. :D


9. The Ender Quintet by Orson Scott Card - I just read Ender's Game for the first time about a year ago, before the film came out. I loved it WAY more than I thought I would. I now dearly want to read all of the Ender books. Of course, that includes the Ender Quintet and Ender's Shadow. Can't wait, though. :D



8. The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn - All I know about this one is that Zahn is a Hugo Award winner, it's about a defiant, interstellar smuggler, and it's been on my TBR for ages. Can't wait to read it! :D



7. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan - The premise of this one sounds fascinating. And--bonus!--I got a copy for Christmas. Yea!



6. Across the Universe by Beth Revis - I've heard insanely good things about this one. Really want to read it! I gather there's a good deal of romance in it as well, which is always a good thing. :D



5. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - Another one with Icarus references (seems to be a trend with space opera, and with good reason) and lots of great reviews.


4. Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Web - Another that's been on my TBR list for a while. I'll admit that both the cover (beautiful) and the title (ooh, interesting) drew me in here. Hopefully the book is as good as it sounds.


3. The Mad Scientists Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clark - Okay, from what I can tell, this isn't actually space opera. But there are robots in it and the premise sounds intriguing. Thanks to Star Trek: TNG I'm always intrigued by robots trying to find humanity. Good stuff.


2. Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch - This sounds like it's half fantasy and half scifi. It has elements of technology, but also magic. Generally, I probably wouldn't be very interested in having both of those in the same novel, but the premise sounds interesting and I'm interested to see how the author manages (if they do) to mesh the two.


1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress/The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein - I've read some Heinein and I'll say that I've liked most of it. I really would like to read more. Heinlein can be a bit too hippy-ish for my taste sometimes, but overall he writes great stories. And I really think everyone should read him and Asimov, as they are kind of the forefathers of modern scif. That said, these are two of his books I've never gotten around to, but really want to. :D




What kind of book club would you choose if you could? And what top ten books would you read?

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Hello All! We've just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in our Potter Head Read-Along. It's being hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey, and it's not too late to join in if you're interested in reading with us. Details here. As most people are all kinds of familiar with our boy-wizard's world, this won't be your average book review. I'll just talk about points that struck my fancy while re-reading. 

(If you're one of the four people in the world who haven't read or seen HP yet, be warned there may be spoilers below.)

The biggest thing I always remember about book 4 is that it's the one that made me an all-obsessive, totally die-hard Potter fan. I didn't read these until my first year of college, and I remember my older sister giving me crap for reading "kids books." I didn't care, though. I just wanted to read book 1 to see what all the hype was about. Of course I really liked it, and continued onto book 2. The first two books were really cute to me and interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading, but only that.  Book 3 upped the ante a lot. But book 4...oh good heavens. I remember waking up early to finish reading the end of the 4th book before going to an early class. Yup, actually waking up early to finish the "kids book." And the epic-ness of the ending just left me reeling. I couldn't believe how...OMG!!!...it was. It was definitely my favorite installment up to this point, and still one of my faves overall.


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Now, of course the book is way more detailed than the film, and I definitely prefer it. While I thought they did the actual ending--Cedric's death and the graveyard scene--really well, there were other things I wasn't a fan of. Of course the house elves and S.P.E.W. are totally nonexistent. That's the kind of thing that I understand why they would cut it, for time, but I still really like that story line. 

One thing I really didn't like was I didn't think they gave the beginning scene--the chaos at the world cup--enough attention or emphasis. It was just sort of there and gone in the film, but in the book it was the catalyst for the entire plot. I thought they should have done that a bit better in the film. 

Also, the films aren't so great at doing history and back story. The pensieve was done fairly well, but as in the 3rd film, the history of Barty Crouch and his son, along with Karkarof's role, could have been much more clear. 

And I always wish we could see more of the Dursleys in the films. Even though they are essentially minor villains, they serve as the bookends for Harry's adventures, and I always feel like the films are somewhat incomplete without them.


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As I said, though, the film does a superb job with the ending, though I do prefer the way in which the book explains ?? better. It's sweeter and more clear. I also, I have to admit, wasn't the biggest fan of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. As I re-read these books, I picture Richard Harris in the role, even though he was no longer alive for these films. I just think he exemplified Dumbledore much more.


All the other actors used in the films are fantastic, though. Brenden Gleeson as Mad Eye? Awesome! Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter? Perfect in a love-to-hate-her sort of way. And who better to play the epic villain than Ralph Fiennes himself? Let's face it. The cast is awesome. (Yeah, I'm gonna pointedly ignore typical jokes made about the fact that Robert Pattinson plays Cedric. :D)

To speak about the book itself, I really think this was the first installment in which we saw Harry as more man than boy. Of course he's still a teenager, but he's facing this terrible evil and tragedy, and we see his very real and heart-rending bond with his parents. I think that's what connected me so much to the series. Before, it was a cutsy (if still compelling) story about a young wizard. At this point, it became so much bigger than that. From here on out this will be a full-fledged, good-vs.-evil, epic fantasy (My favorite kind) that just happens to be experienced through the eyes of teenage and child wizards.

I'll say it again: J.K. Rowling is a freaking genius!



(Trailer for Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire film.)

What's your favorite HP installment? How do you think they did with this film?



Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Along, Week 2



Welcome to week 2 of our A Memory of Light Read-Along! This week we read Chapters 2-7. Remember that everything in this section as well as everything that's come before is fair game for spoilers, so read at your own risk. Sue over at Coffee, Cookies & Chili Peppers is hosting this week.

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1. Pevara and Androl has done some mutual Bonding, which seems to have created a rather uniquely intimate link between the two. Do you think that the other Aes Sedai / Asha’man pairs could create something similar, or do we have an example of mushy, romantic specialness in this case? Have you been surprised by the Red’s ability to work with male Channelers, or do you think that she is unusual for her Ajah?

I loved that they did this totally by accident, and they fight like an old married couple. 
"You bonded me?" she said, horrified.He groaned, rolling over. "You did it to me first."

If they can do this, I think others can, and inevitably will. I actually think this is really cool and will end up being a strength, rather than a weakness, even though they both seem very uncomfortable with it right now.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Citadels of Fire on Sale Today Only!

Hey Everyone!

Happy Friday! Help me spread the word: the Kindle version of Citadels of Fire is on sale for $1.99 today only! 

Here's the LINK.

I'd appreciate any help I can get. :D


In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. 

As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. 

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Follow Friday + Friday Funnies

Hey Everyone! Happy Friday! 

Quick announcement before I get to this week's #FF post: the Kindle version of Citadels of Fire is on sale for $1.99 today only! Here's the LINK.

I'd appreciate any help I can get spreading the word. :D

In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. 

As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. 

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

Follow Friday


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!



Do you post your reviews anywhere besides your blog? Where else do you post reviews? - Suggested by A Great Read

Yup, I do! I generally post my reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon, though I'll admit I can forget and get behind on this. I'll take a Saturday every month or two and catch up on all my cross-posting. :D 

Oh well. It gets done eventually. Before you go, check out my Friday Funnies below!



Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.

Yeah most hilarious video EVER! Check it out below: Diva cop rocking out to Taylor Swift. Notice he knows every word of the entire song! :D






How about you? Where else do you post reviews? Did diva cop make you laugh. I giggled for SO long! :D

Thoughts for Thursday: Joseph Conrad

Thoughts for Thursday is a new feature hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

This week's theme is quotes by Joseph Conrad, one of my favorite authors!


All passion is lost now. The world is mediocre, limp, without force. And madness and despair are a force. And force is a crime in the eyes of the fools, the weak and the silly who rule the roost...Everybody is mediocre. Madness and despair! Give me that for a lever, and I'll move the world.--The Secret Agent