Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.

Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is a little bit like a modern Catcher in the Rye and I liked it for that reason. Twisted was on our school district’s summer reading list for rising ninth graders a couple years ago. There is some mature language and content, but I think it is realistic. I think kids want to read something contemporary that has an edge to it and Anderson understands how to incorporate this element into quality writing.

In Twisted, Tyler returns to his senior year of high school, after being punished during the summer for vandalizing the school. He struggles with a poor self-image and how others, most importantly his father, perceive him. Tyler navigates through adolescence and important relationships and, like many coming-of-age stories, learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

Final scenes with his family are raw and emotional and show Anderson at her best.

The Shoemaker’s Wife
Adriana Trigiani

I liked this family saga of immigration, near-misses in love and brushes with greatness, with the appropriate doses of disappointment and sadness. It is a light and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Italy at the turn of the century and life in the Italian Alps. The author does a nice job bringing the main characters to life.

I think the author’s strengths lie in the story’s initial setting and characters. Her early descriptions of Ciro, Eduardo and their mother are moving. In addition, Trigiani’s descriptions of the Ravanelli family show warmth and devotion. It is the foundation of a really great story.

Ciro’s success as a shoemaker and his assimilation into New York life move at a believable pace. I enjoyed this part of the story much more. Despite the unlikely nature of meeting Enza on her wedding day, we all know it is coming and accept the feel-good moment.

Some other parts I like include Ciro’s relationship with Sister Teresa at the San Nicola Convent. I also like how Ciro is accepted for who he is at the convent, and how the nuns do not force him to be a believer.

An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!

Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

11 thoughts on “Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

  1. I like Laurie Halse Anderson but I haven’t read this book. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Yes, by all accounts Jobs wasn’t a likeable person and frequently stole the ideas of others. As my English auntie would have said, “He was really a bit of a s**t!”

    1. Yes that’s the impression I got too. He definitely wasn’t a family man and I think his adult daughter has spoken out about that. I also like Anderson and her YA books – thanks for dropping by!

  2. Thank you for the review, Barbara. I read Steve Jobs. That was one of the books I read non-stop until it was finished. Coming from a counseling background, I could understand the repetition of the distorted reality which drove his behavior. It was something real to Steve on a daily basis. It showed what people had to deal with every day. I liked the book because the length of each chapter was just right. I think his wife knew what she was getting into when she took the initiative to go into his life and I appreciated that.

    I just felt sorry for Steve not to believe in medicine in the early stage of his liver cancer.
    I It would be interesting to see how the other authors write his biography. 🙂

  3. Barbara, thank you for giving me some hints for new books. I’m tempted to learn more about Steve Jobs and as a fan of Apple products, it would be interesting to learn more about the man behind the company. Whatever his faults he was Apple and it’s lagging now I feel. ‘The Shoemaker’s Wife’ sounds lovely and your final comment has me hooked:

    ‘An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!’

    Just what I need at the moment and off to check out more about the book!

    1. Hi Annika – I also love my iPhone and Apple products, though my laptop is a Dell and I get mad sometimes at how much Apple and Microsoft dislike each other. I agree that Jobs was Apple. Glad you liked my book recommendations – I read The Shoemaker’s Wife a long time ago. An escape sounds good to me too!

    1. Hi Donna – thanks so much for reading and commenting. I like reading biographies of successful business people. I thought this one was very good. 🙂

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