Here I go again with more book reviews. Maybe I should write more about daily life, but when I’m posting stuff fairly often on Facebook, I lose the drive to do it all again here. Book reviews are another thing. I love to have a record of what I’ve read and this is a great way for me to look back… it may even be interesting to other people who love books like I do – so, with that said, on to my first review for this blog post….
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. Strange book, this. I’ve read quite a few of Anne Tyler’s books, and looking back, I can say they are hit or miss for me. This one was unfortunately a miss. There was once a great TV show about “nothing” called Seinfeld. Well, this book was essentially about “nothing” and while it kept my attention for the most part, I really cannot recommend it. Yes, it was very well written, but the content… everyday life of an everyday family – IMHO it was just not novel-worthy. Sorry Anne Tyler. I wanted to scream in frustration when, towards the end of the book where it SHOULD BE wrapping up, she starts the whole mostly boring story AGAIN from a different person’s point of view. I had to skip over that. No way was I reading all that again, even from a different perspective. I waited weeks to get this from the library and then, when life got in the way and I didn’t finish it in time, I had to return it and re-request it. Honestly, it was not worth all that effort. Maybe I should have perused some reviews BEFORE I was so darn-tootin’ I was going to read it… but I wanted to form my own opinions, and that I have done. And they are not good.
Book number two is…..
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Prior to this book, I had never read anything by Kristin Hannah. Yes, I’ve seen her works here and there, and yes I had definitely heard of her. I was of the opinion that all of her stuff would fall into the category of silly fluffy romance, and I have no time for that genre` these days. Then I started hearing a lot of kerfuffle about this book being so fabulous…. and since it was set in my favorite era (WWII), I decided to find out for myself what all the brouhaha was about. I am SO GLAD I DID!! Let me preface this by saying that at the beginning of the book I nearly quit reading! It starts out in Paris, 1939. The dialog between the two main characters (sisters) at the beginning of this book sounded to me like two sisters talking to/harassing each other in the language of today. I didn’t get the 1939 vibe whatsoever. I was so ticked off, as I’d had high hopes for this book….. this time I’d read some reviews and they sounded great. I began to think… oh the minions who wrote the reviews are probably all big fans of Hannah’s fluffy romance style, and will say anything good about her novels. Au contraire mon frere! This book was simply EXCELLENT! Not silly, not fluffy, but instead what I believe to be very realistic descriptions of what went on in occupied France during WWII. If you are a fan of this era, I can guarantee, yes guarantee you won’t regret reading this one. It’s good, it’s really good.
I recently finished this exquisite library book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – a Northwest author from Idaho. Published in May, this novel is getting accolades from all around the literary world, and I can certainly see why. First off, I love the setting(s) in France and Germany – and the time period – before and during WWII. “Unique” is a good way to describe the way this book is written. It runs parallel between two main characters, a young blind French girl, and a young underweight but brilliant German boy. This is not, repeat NOT, a romance story in ANY way. One of the unique things about this book is the way it’s written – in short but to the point chapters. This does not mean it was a short book – it’s over 500 pages. Going back and forth between Marie-Laure and Werner, we see how different their lives are, yet how each is affected by the coming of war, and the war itself. I hesitate to write more about the plot, but suffice it to say that this is one heck of a satisfying read. To ANYONE who enjoys WWII history, you will thoroughly enjoy reading this amazing book. For a full synopsis, click here for a great review from the New York Times.
I can’t remember how I heard about this book, but I’m certainly glad I discovered it! Unfortunately I had to check it out twice from our local library before I finished it. So I read it in a bit of a “broken up” way, but it was still an excellent read! Set before and during WWII on the German occupied English island of Guernsey, it’s about a woman who lives with her two daughters and elderly mother in law. First off I wasn’t thrilled with the title of this book. The “soldier” in the title is obviously the woman’s husband who plays literally no role whatsoever in this novel. Vivienne is so much more than that “soldier’s wife”. I’m thinking a different title would have been so much more apropos. That aside, this was truly an engrossing book and beautifully written. Vivienne doesn’t miss her soldier husband who is off fighting for the Brits somewhere. Theirs was a loveless marriage. Then the Germans take over a large home next to hers and Vivienne begins a stealth relationship/love affair with one of the German Captains. It’s much, much more than a love story – you know by now that if that’s all it was, there is no way I would be able to give it a great review. The author does not sugarcoat life under the German occupation. You get a fairly good taste of what everyday life may have been like in those times.
If you enjoy books set during WWII, you will certainly enjoy this one as well! I have had friends at work tell me that I’d love the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” – which is also set in the same place as The Soldier’s Wife, and during the same time. Honestly I really did TRY to like that book. I guess I couldn’t get past the way in which it was written – in the form of letters – and gave up on it after 30 pages or so. After reading this one and enjoying it so much, I thought maybe I’d give the other one more try. Then I changed my mind. Too many good books, too little time!
It may seem like I’ve been in a reading frenzy lately, but I don’t think it is any more than usual – but I’ve finished a couple nearly at the same time, so I’ll briefly review them both. The first is entitled “War Brides”, written by Helen Bryan. It’s set in a genre that I love, WWII England. I’ll admit that the name of the book is rather cheesy, and when I started reading it I wondered if it was going to be another of those silly, fluffy romance novels that I hate. But I kept on reading because I held out hope that it would be a good book. After all, it was recommended by the handful of us WWII nuts on Paperbackswap.com (of which I am one) who share these English novels between us. I’m glad I hung in there. This book was not a bunch of silly gibbering about wartime romance, apart from what the title would imply. It was about a group of five women from all different walks of life who end up living the war years mostly together in a large home in the English countryside. I think the biggest problem I had with the book was as I mentioned, the beginning. The author did not do a great job (IMHO) of introducing each character. I found it quite confusing for a while, but was so glad I hung in there. A great story about strong women who lived through some incredibly tough times.
I’ve often asked myself why does the WWII era interest you so?? I guess it’s for several reasons. It was a time when everyone had to pull together, to actually fight (in many ways) for the freedom that I think we take waaaay too much for granted. It was an era where my own parents met and fell in love, and I often imagine them listening to some of those great old Glenn Miller songs together. And why England? Well, I like WWII novels set in the USA as well, but it was in England where people really had to struggle with daily life and the fear of what could be flying overhead or landing on the beach, everyday. Maybe I have a bit of a soft spot for England because my dear husband’s parents lived that struggle themselves. He in the Royal Worcestershire Regiment and she, at home, in a mine detonator factory. I think I would have loved to have lived then…. but maybe I’m wrong.
The next book is called “Room” by Emma Donoghue. I’d heard – or read a lot of great things about this unusual novel and was excited to get the audio version from our local library. People, I have listened to a LOT of audio books and never has one grabbed me the way this one did. Frankly, I’m surprised I was able to drive and listen at the same time! My mind was completely caught up in the world of “Room”. Room was an 11 X 11 foot converted garden shed where Jack (the 5 year old main character) and his Ma lived his entire life. They were held captive by “Old Nick” – the bad guy who kidnapped Ma when she was 19 and kept her “all to himself”. Obviously, Room was locked so Ma and Jack had to depend on Old Nick for virtually everything. I won’t do a synopsis of the book, but suffice it to say, this was incredible. The person reading Jack’s part in the audio version was the most convincing reader I have EVER heard. The whole book was strange, and scary, and crazy, and amazing, and yet full of love. If I were giving star ratings, I’d give this one 4 out of 5, only because the middle of the book fizzled a tiny bit. But only a tiny bit. This was a great read!