I have been a bad blogger lately and I keep meaning to make it right but life has just been getting in the way. And frankly, many of the books I’ve read lately haven’t “wowed” me enough to get me to my computer and write about them. BUT, I do have a stack on my desk that I kind of/sort of wanted to mention so before I forget what they were about I thought I’d do a set of quickie reviews:
Winter of the World by Ken Follett (published 2012, borrowed from the library). This is the second book of Follett’s century trilogy, the first of which, Fall of Giants, I really enjoyed. This novel continues the stories of the families we met in the first book and is set between 1933 and 1950, so World War II plays a major role. Follett manages to create fascinating characters and set them in events that actually took place and I found it an extremely enjoyable and easy (despite its length of 940 pages) read. I saw an interview with Ken Follett on TV last week and he mentioned that he is at work researching the next installment, which will be set during The Cold War. I can’t wait!
The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel (published 2012, purchased). I attended an event featuring this author at an area bookstore and when she read the first chapter of this book, I was hooked and had to buy and read the rest of it. The novel opens describing the daily routine of a young woman and her infant and just casually mentions that “There was a plastic shopping bag duct-taped to the underside of the stroller. It held a little under one hundred eighteen thousand dollars in cash.” (What?!). The novel actually didn’t seem as promising after that; it centers on a man who has come back to his hometown after being fired from his newspaper job and while working for his sister notifying people of their home foreclosures he sees a photo of a young girl who looks exactly like him. When he does the math and realizes the girl could very well be his daughter by his high school sweetheart who vanished under mysterious circumstances he tries to find her. The plot got muddy to me with other storylines that connect all of the characters in one way or another so I turned the last page slightly dissatisfied.
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje (published 2011, purchased). This is a story of a boy named Michael and the account of his journey on a ship taking him from Sri Lanka to England to be with his mother. Travelling alone (!) he is seated at “The Cat’s Table” (furthest away from the Captain’s Table) with other single passengers. He strikes up friendships with these seatmates and with some other boys near his own age have some fascinating adventures. As I was reading this I thought it would be a perfect book for boys, because of this adventure component, and compared to Ondaatje’s The English Patient which I had trouble with I think an avid young reader would really enjoy it.
How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance by Marilyn Yalom (published 2012, received ARC from publisher). Of course you all know I am a sucker for any and all things French, and this book describes the French outlook on love, both in history and through its literature. Of course the French are and have always been more open-minded about love and sex than those of us in North America (despite the strong Catholic history – the book didn’t really explain that now that I think of it) and I found it interesting to see how that philosophy developed and evolved.
The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson (published 2006, purchased). This is a book about obituaries; not the announcement type that give the specifics of the funeral/memorial service, but the essay-like tributes that are written for a select few. Of course celebrities and other notable people regularly receive this attention upon their passing, but there is a dedicated group of journalists around the world focused on writing about the lives of “ordinary” people; this became especially poignant after the 9/11 attacks. And who knew that obituary-following had such a following? It was a quirky topic but made for an interesting and enjoyable read, and I have to admit I now pay a little bit more attention to the obituary pages in my local newspaper.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. (published 2011, purchased). You could say that this book is a biography of Gone with the Wind. It chronicles the life of the novel, from its genesis in Margaret Mitchell’s mind to its publication and phenomenal success and to the creation of the film version. And it was no easy journey. The insight into the publishing industry and the issues of copyright were really quite fascinating and some of the issues Mitchell and her publisher encountered regarding the book’s pricing seem very relevant to the book world today. I happened to read the novel at the same time as this book and I think I had a greater appreciation for it (I still have to see the film though!)