Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Band that Played On by Steve Turner

From the Publisher

The never-before told, inspiring stories of the 8 brave musicians who played as the Titanic sank.
When Titanic collided with an iceberg on April 14, the eight members of the band had already retired for the evening. Still, they put on overcoats and came out to play in the lounge.

When most of the First Class passengers had taken to their lifeboats, the musicians moved to the deck and continued to play as the ship sank. One passenger said: “Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea.

The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.” But who were they? What journeys brought them to this deck on this icy ocean? Who did they leave behind? Historian and biographer Steve Turner delves into the lives of these brave men, revealing eight unique portraits of bravery.


My take

For some reason, I have always been enamored with The Titanic---shows on The History Channel, the movie, and anything else I can find. So when this book became available for review, I thought it would be another bit of information for my fixation. Never has there been a book all about the musicians. This should be interesting!

Starting the book, there was a lot of foundational information interspersed with the last hours of The Titanic's voyage. It was fascinating to learn how the cruise ship industry obtained musicians and crew in the early 1900's. It's quite a bit different that what we know now. Once the foundation was set, there was so much detailed historical information, I kind of thought I was back in school again. I found myself skipping over sentences to get to the "meat" of the chapter.

Each of the musicians' lives are chronicled in their own chapters. From a young age to the time of their deaths, the author detailed their lives. Sometimes a little too much. None of the musicians lead extraordinary lives so the fascinating story I was anticipating didn't pan out.

In my opinion, the best part of the book came at the end during the ship's sinking. Most of the information was speculation from witnesses and because of the traumatic situation, their versions were varied. The only semi-consistent theme was the final song heard while the ship went down. Most of the witnesses heard Nearer My God to Thee but that still wasn't agreed upon. Unfortunately it became somewhat tedious reading the descriptions over and over.

While Steve Turner definitely did his research, I felt the book was dry in places. It was not meant to be sensationalic or romanticized, it was meant to be factual. Regrettably, because of that, I had a hard time reading it. I have to give it a 2 1/2 out of 5---more than a 2 because of the information presented but less than a 3 because of the monotony.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Beginning of End's Beginning by Charlean Fletcher

From the Publisher
Life has never been easy for Sharla Fisher. Hardworking and strong-willed, she has little time or patience for friends. She saves her affections for her mother and her older brother, Jerry, a professional sports phenom.
After graduating from high school, Sharla and her family plan a vacation to celebrate, but at the last minute, Sharla is offered a promotion at work and she stays behind. It is a decision that will forever change her life.
Her family is killed in a car accident while on the trip, and Sharla is left to fend for herself. Hardened by life, she struggles to find people she can trust. This becomes even trickier when Sharla realizes just how much money her brother left her.
Even after she meets the charming Richard Crane, she remains uncertain about ever opening her heart. And the more people find out about her money, the more difficult everything becomes.

My Take
Reading the description of this book on Dorrance Media’s website, it sounded intriguing. Everything included in the description actually does happen in the book---Sharla definitely had a hard life growing up, going without many things since her mother didn’t make much money. She also had almost an estranged relationship with her sister and other brother but loved her older brother, Jerry. Sharla’s high school years were very bumpy as many are in a small town—cliques of girls shunned her (quite traumatic to a teenager), even her cousins.
Sharla is lucky enough to get a job with the telephone company two towns away during her summers. She becomes a hard working and dedicated employee so when she’s offered a promotion, she reluctantly gives up her family vacation in order to work. While her family is driving to their destination, they are involved in a horrible car accident that kills them all. For some reason, her older brother, Jerry, had proactively set his financial house in order before the vacation and Sharla inherits his immense fortune.
After the death of her family, Sharla begins her plan of revenge on all those people who snubbed her and attacked her during her young life. The only thing she is missing in her life is love and emotional attachment. She won’t allow anyone into her heart or life for fear they will turn against her. Even when Sharla meets Richard, she can’t fully commit her emotions to him. His family finds out about the fortune she inherited and everyone wants a hand-out. Sharla steps up her complicated retaliation plan with the help of Richard’s father and they set the wheels in motion.
I have to say this was a difficult book to read for several reasons, the first of which was the size. In an 8.5x11 format, it was cumbersome to hold unless you were sitting at a table. The actual writing was very stilted with no contractions used—people don’t talk that stilted or formal, especially in the region where the story takes place.
It wasn’t easy to determine the point in time when the story took place. The discussion of becoming a telephone operator and extensive use of Greyhound buses leads the reader to believe maybe the era was the 1950’s or 1960’s. At one point, Sharla sells her family’s home for $36,000. Even in today’s economy, that’s a very low value for a home. On the flip side, there was discussion of CD players, cell phones, and laptops which implies a current time frame.  I found it very confusing not knowing the period of the story.
Another problem in reading the book was the editing. There are numerous edit errors involving punctuation, sentence structure, and quotation of the character’s discussions. Most of them could be ignored without impacting the storyline. However, when it comes to where the quotation marks were missing or out of place, it was hard to follow the conversation.
There were other issues with the writing style, but I think you get the idea. As for the plot of the book, sometimes I wondered where it was heading. I’m not sure there was really an obvious climax and resolution. After reaching the end of the book, I was left feeling disappointed—was that it? Where was the conclusion to all the loose ends?
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to give this book a 2 out of 5.

About the Author
Charlean Fletcher is retired and currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is the mother of one son, Shawn, who encouraged her to write The Beginning of End’s Beginning, her first book.  Charlean worked for the telephone company which gave her insight to her character.

Authors: Charlean Fletcher
Publisher: Dorrance Publishing
Published Date: 2010-06-30
ISBN-10: 1434907201
ISBN-13: 9781434907202

I received this book free from Dorrance Publishing as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."