Saving Sophie

by Ronald H. Balson, 2015, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York

This is a very interesting novel about a girl being abducted by her grandfather and the attempts to get her back from the West Bank in Israel.  The book is a fast read and is interesting.  The author weaves historical facts about Israel and the Palestinians into a suspenseful novel.

The ending is a bit of a letdown, but otherwise it is a decent novel.3 1/2 stars

Honor’s Voice, The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln

by Douglas L. Wilson, 1998, Alfred A. Knopf, New York

I had always eyed this book as it surely targeted a subject that I was interested in: the transformation of Abrahams Lincoln from a backwoods youth to the person who had possibly the greatest command of the English language ever.  While the book did answer some questions for me, unfortunately it bored me to death.

I think the major problem with the book is the author’s approach to the subject.  He took a forensic approach to each of the events in the period from 1831 to 1842 and tried to logically make a case for the most accurate accounting of each. The first chapter is about Lincoln’s fight with Jack Armstrong shortly after he arrived in New Salem.  The author goes through several different accounts of this event and tries to determine which is the most likely.  The chapter went on and on to the point where I had to skip about twenty-five pages because it was so redundant.  Also, it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference which accounting was the most accurate as the point was that a fight occurred where Lincoln was involved and, as a result, he earned some new found respect that he previously didn’t have.  ‘Nuff said!

After skipping much of that chapter, I went on to read the rest of the book.  It followed the same path but I eventually made it through to the end.

At the end of the day, I discovered that Lincoln in his early years was prone to making personal attacks on his opponents via anonymous articles submitted to the local newspapers (Twitter wasn’t invented at that time).  This behavior was fairly despicable, even for those times.  It eventually caused Lincoln to be challenged to a duel.  I also learned that he had a penchant for reading Shakespeare and Byron’s poetry.  I think this might have been a key to his mastery of the English language in his later years.

I think the book could have been a lot more enjoyable to read if the author had dispensed with a lot of the detail and focused more on his conclusions.  This would have made the book a lot shorter, but he also could have expanded the time period he examined beyond 1842 as I don’t believe the entire “transformation” had been completed by that time.  There were a lot more events that influenced Lincoln after 1842 including his term in Congress, his family life, etc., that made him the man who was elected in 1860.  2 stars

Look Again

by Lisa Scottoline, 2009, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York

This is a story about a woman who adopts a young child and then finds out that the mother who gave up the child wasn’t the real biological mother, but that the child was kidnapped.

The book is easy to read and moves along  The plot is pretty well constructed, although it is a bit thin toward the end.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it.3 stars

In the Unlikely Event

by Judy Blume, audiobook narrated by Kathleen McInerney, 2015, Random House Audio

This is a novel based on three plane crashes that occurred in the city of Elizabeth, NJ, in the early 1950’s within the time span of a few weeks.  All three resulted in the fatalities of all the passengers and crew and the last two also resulted in casualties on the ground.  The third crash resulted in the closure of the Newark airport for a period of time and the rerouting of the approaches and departures away from the residential areas in Elizabeth.  Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth during that time and, therefore, recalls the crashes from her childhood and the effects they had on her.

The author weaves a story about the some of the families that were affected by these crashes and the emotional toll that it extracted on those who witnessed the events.  The book, however, is more of a fictional chronical of the characters than an actual historical novel.

It was a good story to listen to as we travelled from Florida to Rhode Island but it seemed somewhat slow at times.  The characters were portrayed well and it kept us engaged.3 stars

The Summer Before The War

by Helen Simonson, 2016, Random House, New York

This novel centers on the experiences of a young woman who is trying to make her way in life just before WWI breaks out.

The story has some interesting moments but the characters are pretty standard fare; the good guy, the heroine, the jackass lord, the young schoolboy who is interested in his school subjects but is afraid to show it because of fear of being ridiculed by his classmates, etc.  The story also didn’t move along very well in places so it became a bit tedious.  In spite of all of the above, the writing is fairly good and it’s not a really bad read; just not great. 2 1/2 stars

The Nix: a novel

by Nathan Hill, 2016, a Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York

This book is pretty fascinating.  It interweaves topics such as computer game addiction with the anti-war protests that occurred during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, along with Nordic myths.  The author did a fair amount of research on all of these topics and managed to pull them together into a compelling novel.

As with many novels, however, the author relied heavily on some improbable circumstances which sometimes strained my belief.  I would cut him some slack in this regard as the story he spins is pretty fascinating.4 stars

Small Island, A Novel

by Andrea Levey, 2004, Picador Books, New York

This book is about a man and a woman from Jamaica who married and then immigrated to England after WWII.  It highlights the degree of racism that existed in England and the difficulty these individuals had in adjusting to their new surroundings.

The book wasn’t very interesting in the beginning but became more readable as I became more familiar with the characters.  The writing is pretty good and the story picked up once I was into it.  Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable read, but certainly not what I would categorize as a great book. 3 1/2 stars

Skink, No Surrender

by Carl Hiaasen, audiobook read by Kirby Heyborne, 2014, Random House, LLC

This is a very light weight novel about a girl who runs away to meet a guy she met on the internet and the subsequent search for her by her friend and a wacky old guy who was once the governor of Florida.  It is hardly believable but it was fun to listen to on our way to Florida.

2 1/2 stars

The English Girl

by Daniel Silva, audiobook read by George Guidall, 2013, Harper-Collins Publishers

This book was just plain terrible.  I was really disappointed because I had listened to another book by Silva that I really liked.  This one had a bit of a plot, but there was a voluminous amount of rehashing information from his other books.  Whenever a character was introduced, Silva spent an inordinate amount of time going over that character’s past history and episodes.  I kept wondering when he was going to tell me about what was going on in this book!

I can usually hang on to the bitter end, which is what I did with this book.  When the end of the book came, I felt myself breathing a huge sigh of relief.1 1/2 stars

Orphan Train: A Novel

by Cristina Baker Kline, audiobook read by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren, 2013, Audible, Inc.

This is a book about a young, alienated girl in Maine who begins to establish a relationship with an elderly lady.  She, at first, does not recognize that she has much in common with the lady, but begins to discover that they both were abandoned by their families at an early age.

Apparently, orphaned children were routinely sent on trains to the Midwest to find homes.  There they encountered many hardships which are vividly described in this book.  Despite the suffering, however, many of these young children went on to live successful and fulfilling lives

The book was enjoyable to listen to but, as I have experienced with other books, the ending seemed very rushed.  There was probably at least another chapter or two that needed to be written.  It’s disappointing to go through an entire books and leave with a feeling that the work was unfinished.

3 1/2 stars