Monday, December 29, 2008

Eight: Home A Memoir of My Early Years - Julie Andrews

Home walks the reader through Julie Andrews' life from her first voice lesson, to various musical revues, to her first Broadway show and up to the filming of Mary Poppins. Born in Walton, England, Julie's life was full of music from the start. Her mother was a pianist and performer from an early age. She met Julie's step father - Ted Andrews - while performing for the troops during World War II. Ted was Julie's first voice teacher and eventually studied with Madame Lilian Stiles-Allen in Yorkshire.

Julie's first stage performance was in 1947 in London within a musical revue called Starlight Roof. Over the next few years she continues to perform and study voice. Her parents' careers start to falter and Julie decides that she will be the main income for her family. In June 1950, Julie becomes the resident singer on a BBC weekly radio show called Educating Archie. In 1953, she is offered the title role in the Pantomime Cinderella in London.

On September 30, 1954, Julie's Broadway career started with a role in The Boyfriend. After auditioning for Richard Rogers, she takes a leading role in My Fair Lady. From March 1956 - February 1958, she continues to perform the role of Eliza Doolittle and would go on to perform in the London production as well.

In March 1957, Julie takes on a title role in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and in December 1960 she starred in a production of Camelot as well. Julie appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show as well as had her own BBC series in 1959 called the Julie Andrews Hour. She performed a special concert at Carnegie Hall with Carol Burnett in 1962.

Although her career continued to expand after Mary Poppins, it's clear that Julie Andrews was always a performer from the start. She worked hard as a child and an adult and was luckily enough to perform with many other talented entertainers.

Andrews, Julie. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. Hyperion (2008). 352 pages. ISBN 0786865652.
I watched The Sound of Music many times with my grandmother growing up and have always admired Julie Andrews. After reading this biography, I'm truly inspired and awed by the career that she had just in her early years. Many generations have been blessed to hear her singing. She was never afraid to try something new and threw her heart into each performance.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seven: The Leisure Seeker - Michael Zadoorian

How many Route 66 diners are there between Illinois & California? Retirees John & Ella start out on a trek from their home in Michigan to Disneyland in California with that question in mind. As they journey across the country, Ella reflects on their life together and past vacations with their kids. John suffers from Alzheimer's, but is coherent enough to drive their RV. Ella is suffering from cancer and has decided to stop any kind of treatment. Along the way, John & Ella end up befriending a young couple, pulling a gun on two bandits while waiting for the auto club and riding the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica pier.

Based on Michael Zadoorian's own experience with his parents, this book is full of witty prose and heartfelt anecdotes that all of us can relate to in one way or another.

Zadoorian, Michael. The Leisure Seeker. William Morrow (2009). 288 pages. ISBN 0061671789
I picked up this book from one of the give-away shelves at work because of a gut feeling that the book would be a good read. Plus I do like reading travel stories. What I didn't expect was how personal and touching the story was going to be. My grandfather suffers from some dementia and we have history of cancer in our family as well. I kept going back and forth between feeling sad for Ella and John and admiring them for their love for each other. The ending is definitely not what I expected, but if Zadoorian had ended it any other way I probably would have been disappointed. Very easy read and another hard to put down book.

Six: Moscow Rules - Daniel Silva

Moscow Rules
1. Assume every room is bugged.
2. Assume every telephone call is monitored.
3. Assume everyone is potentially under opposition control.
4. Don't look back - you are never completely alone.

Gabriel Allon, art restorer and international spy, finally takes a 'vacation' by honeymooning in the Italian countryside with his new bride, Chiara. In Courchevel, France, a Russian journalist is murdered while investigating a sale of weapons between a Russian arms trafficker & Al-Qaeda. His editor, Boris Ostrovsky, contacts the Israeli Intelligence office wanting to talk to Gabriel about the tip that this journalist was researching. Just as Gabriel meets Boris face-to-face, the editor is poisoned in the middle of the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. No longer able to continue his honeymoon, Gabriel begins an elaborate plan to find out what information Boris wanted to tell him. Between posing as an Israeli representative to an UNESCO conference and forging a Mary Cassatt painting, Gabriel and his team unravel the details of the sale.

Daniel Silva's tale takes the reader from the cold and impoverished streets of Moscow to the elegant and lavish shores of the Saint-Tropez, France. Ripped from the headlines, this novel has many twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Silva, Daniel. Moscow Rules. Putnam (2008). 433 pages. ISBN 0399155015
Last fall I heard Daniel Silva talk at National Book Festival. Ever since then I've been a fan of his books. This book was the first mystery/thriller I've read in a long time. I definitely had a hard time putting down this book. I was very intrigued by Silva's usage of the recent headlines regarding Russian journalists. Even though this book is over 400 pages - it's a very quick read and leaves you wanting more.