Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I've Been Reading: October Edition

BEST of October

There is more to the Holocaust than the horrors of the death camps. There are those who escaped that fate and there is what came after the war. Journalist Martin Fletcher, whose voice could reassure the world that nuclear annihilation isn't as bad as we might imagine (his voice is up there with Jeremy Irons in true cooolness) has written a marvelous story of a young Jewish couple who "got out" and survived in World War II London. As they mark each name off the list of family members in the months after the war in Europe the face the realities of survival--neneighbors who want them gone, British Fsacisim rearing its post-war head and Jews wanting to take Palestine for themselves through any means necessary. This one is not to be missed.  The List by Martin Fletcher.

Non-linear storytelling done PERFECTLY. Amazing story--on the edge of the car seat today as I started the second-to-last disc of the audio book. Trying to decide who should be in the movie. I don't know how either would manage as a Frenchman, but I think Robert Bathhurst as the father and Christopher Plummer as the Great-Uncle and Max Irons as Werner...... [Minor point: Mentions tuning in a radio broadcast from Pakistan before it was a country..... no, it is not a minor point to Pakistanis.] All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Who doesn't love to go home to Mitford, North Carolina to visit with Father Tim and Cynthia? You'll need to stick with this one--it starts out slow, with way to many recaps of each characters past story lines, but becomes really good. Excellent, in fact. But, do wish she'd not rehash so much of the past. A "Cast of Characters" in the front of the book would be much better at this point --the series is too long to keep making a 1/4--1/3 of each book an explanation of who each character is and how Timothy knows him/her. This made getting into the story longer than normal. In spite of that, it turns into a great read for fans of the series. I did not like how the reader of the audio version voiced Puny--he made her so dumb! I read all of these until "Home to Holly Springs," so I suppose I'm just not used to someone else's way of seeing a character. These are minor points though. This book is everything you want in a visit to beloved old friends--it is warm, honest, true to the spirit and the letter of the series and leaves you feeling very glad you came. Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

I missed the part of the review that said this was for Middle School or early High School, but no matter--it is excellent. It captures the mood of hope that infused the Freedom Summer volunteers as well as the creepy fear that engulfed the state of Mississippi and the entire old south in general in the early 1960s. This is the type book that would get a class of disdainful history students to sit up and take notice. I cannot say enough to recommend this book to its age group--or to adults who don't know where to start in understanding this frightening time in our history. The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell.

I also fell back in love with Anne Perry's irascible William Monk and romped happily thru two more books in the series: Slaves of Obsession and Funeral in Blue. This is my go-to series when I need a cure for loneliness. Love William, Oliver, Hester and Callandra. Love the marvelous names the author comes up with, too--they are among the most anticipated moments of a new adventure. She is so brilliant at naming her characters and I love quirky names, but not the stupid improbably nicknames that seem to be mandatory in fiction today for at least one character per book. Ms. Perry gets the "tone" of names just right in each new adventure. Haven't met Mr. Monk and company? Then start here: The Face of a Stranger. You won't regret it.

The Rest of October

Yet another take on Amish life this month. In Money Secrets of the Amish there IS good information, but the author spoils it by trying way too hard to be glib and clever. Just tell us about their ways and spare us the rest. I ended up skimming the last third of this--I was that eager to escape her annoying style. Such a shame she didn't reign it in and let us really learn from the wisdom she was trying to convey. Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker.

"Colorless Tsukuru Tazari" is an interesting study of a one man's ordinary life. His friends, his career, his life do not combine to make him exceptional But then the friends just "drop" him. Why? This book builds the mystery, interspersed with his otherwise ordinary life. Sadly, I "ruined" it by getting the MP3 player setting messed up and landed accidentally on the solution to the mystery. Once heard, I couldn't go back. An interesting way to tell the story. Colorless Tsukuru Tazari by Haruki Murakami.

This little collection of essays came up in a search for a writing project I'm doing. I started listening and was soon hooked. Ordinary topics, presented in a fun manner, by a Mom and her grown daughter. What's not to love? Plus she has dogs, cats, a character of a mother and a life as a published author. In short, I've found a new role model. I'm sad to say I'd never heard of her before this little book, but I will be listening to more audio versions of her work, you can be sure. My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space by Lisa Scottoline.

Bored middle class Mommy goes to Nigeria--NIGERIA--for a holiday and it changes her life.Her only child needs therapy and a Mommy who can say "no." Then there's the whole "in Africa" thing. If he'd said it one more time, I'd have thrown the book away. Instead, I don't regret finishing it. It tells a very necessary tale--the tale of what it IS like to be a woman on the outside of a very dangerous society and the tale of the illegal immigrant needing--not merely "wanting"--asylum in a safer country. It is also the perfect illustration of a "First World Problem" Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Don't Bother

I had such hopes for this book! I so loved The Thorn Birds and Anthony and Cleopatra but this one just wasn't up to her normal standard of story telling. It is billed as a  sweeping family "saga," but was under 400 pages--not very "sweeping" in my opinion. Not much of a "saga" either, since it doesn't really cover more than one generation of the family. Then there's the cardboard characters, the seemingly-obligatory-today character with a stupid nickname, and the sterotypical responses of same. None of the four--two sets of twins with the same father, different mother--stands out in any way. Then there's the truly unbelieveable moment when a Conservative politician, in the 1930s in Australia (a country whose leadership would not accept a twice-divorced woman as Queen...) allows someone to out him as gay in a conversation at fund raising dinner? Please.... It's like that throughout the book. Colleen McCullough is a way better storyteller than this. Bittersweet by Colleen McCullogh.

A book about a Royal AND Churchill would seem to be a perfect fit for me, I know. But this one.... I guessed how "deep" it would be when he referenced the movie "The King's Speech." Did the author not realize that everything the Prime Minister and the King said to each other would never be recorded or revealed unless in their private diaries? He also is very selective in referencing sources of certain statements of comments in spite of presenting appropriate research sources in the back of the book.So, this then is a book about Churchill and a book about King George VI in which he draws vague comparisons between some common experiences  the two men had. In short, nothing new is presented here. If you want to know about working with Churchill read John Coville or Charles Moran's books. Verdict: If you known nothing about either man you will learn a little from this book.

What happened to Ann Hood?? I've loved her book Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine since it was published, enjoyed the Knitting Circle and recently enjoyed the Obituary Writer.

In this book the author has a man "unzip" his trousers before trousers had zippers.....oh well.....no editors anywhere who know history any more I suppose...UGH...We're treated not only to the village idiot walking around with his penis swinging free, but to a description of the penis, too??  Seriously??  I am sick to death of such "interesting" things being crammed into books. What happened to authors who cared about their reputation and to editors who took pride in helping their author's polish their work????? I've never thrown a book back by this author, but this one is going back fast. The Italian Wife by Ann Hood.

Leave a comment and tell me what you read this month. I love to hear what other readers are enjoying--or not enjoying.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I always look forward to your reviews! All your "best of" sound good to me. It's a shame about the Amish book; as I read your review the author there reminds me of how I felt about the author of the book trying to re-live LIWilder. It just was too "cutesy" for my tastes. Too bad the TBirds author book isn't better -- although, I loved TTB movie and I'm not sure I've ever read that book!