by Karen Mahajan, 2016, Penguin Books, New York
This book is about a terrorist bombing in Delhi, India, where two young boys were killed and how it affected the victims, the perpetrator, and their families.
I had a hard time getting into this book as the plot seemed to meander a lot (although it did come together somewhat in the end). I think I may have lost it with all the Indian place names but I also didn’t connect very well with the characters. The portrayal of the characters seemed very flat. It was an interesting subject but I wish the delivery could have been better.
by Ken Follett, Audiobook narrated by John Lee, 2012, Penguin Audio
I have continued on my quest to listen to all three books in this trilogy. I am again giving this book a three-star rating although I think it’s a bit better than the first book of the trilogy, World Without End. This book was about World War II and various families who were impacted by the war whereas the prior book was primarily about World War I. Perhaps the immediacy of the subject made it a bit better than the first.
I often think of Herman Wouk’s Winds of War and War and Remembrance when I read these books as they are written with the same basic formula: the war, the families, and how they survived through the war. Wouk’s works are definitely a better effort as they dealt with the internment in concentration camps of some of the family members. I could feel the stress and impending doom much more in his books than Follett’s. Follett also throws in a few sex scenes to titillate his readers while Wouk’s were a bit more prudish.
While I can’t really rave about these, they aren’t bad listening, and, I as mentioned, they do refresh the history for me.
by Peter May, 2009, Quercus, New York, London
Occasionally I come across a book I really, really like and this is one of them. I particularly liked the author’s descriptive writing. His way of describing the surroundings is almost poetic and creates a compelling backdrop to whatever is going on in the novel. I also liked his characters as they seemed to be real people. Sometimes I would get frustrated with Fin, the main character, as he would not behave the way I wanted him to behave, but that’s what makes for an interesting individual. The plot was well constructed, although the mystery that was at the heart of the story sometimes got a bit lost in the emotions and interactions of the characters.
The book takes place in the Outer Hebrides which are in the northwest of Scotland. The author clearly has a strong connection and understanding of the people and the land. I experienced an enjoyable reading of the book but I also took away an appreciation of this part of the world that I didn’t have prior to reading it. It was well done.
I understand that this is the first book of a trilogy. I can only hope that the other two books are as good as this one.
by K. W. Garlick, 2016, Stillwater River Publications, Chepachet, RI
I was given this book to read by a friend and it looked interesting as some of the story was set in Jamestown and Prudence Islands in Rhode Island.
Alas, the book, did not meet my expectations. Even though the book was self published, it clamed to have an editor and co-editor at the end. The book is rife with sentences that were missing verbs, the wrong tense, and poor punctuation. Also, while the idea behind the book was interesting (linking a conspiracy associated with the loss of the Titanic to the aftermath of the 1938 hurricane in Rhode Island), the book failed in many other aspects. The dialogue was extremely stilted and every character spoke exactly like all the other characters. It was impossible to differentiate between the high-ranking naval officer who was head of the family and the housemaid/caregiver who grew up in Haiti. The story seemed to drag in places as the characters repeated information over and over that was previously disclosed.
I generally don’t like to disparage writing efforts that are self-published as they probably shouldn’t be held to the same standard as books published by publishing houses, but I have read some fairly good books that are self-published and some pretty bad books published normally. Even though this one is self-published and was lent to me by a friend, it is just too bad to give it a pass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.