It seems like I’ve had a plethora of good books come my way recently. Here are some short thoughts on all of them.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Audio Book)
This is one of those books that might actually be better as an audio book. Why? Because Neil Gaiman reads it himself. He does all the voices. He reads it as he meant it to be read. It’s amazing, funny, touching, sad, and crazy. The story is about a very normal guy, Richard, who gets sucked into London Below. There he meets strange people, goes on an adventure, and would be perfectly played by Martin Freeman. 🙂 I can’t say enough about how well written this story is. Reading/Listening to it was pure delight. The character growth was well done and the characters themselves are both brutal, unique, sweet, scary, and captivating. It is just the right amount of normal life mixed with just the right amount of fantasy. I listened to this story while I cleaned the house, which often caused me to stand in the middle of the living room wondering what else I could clean so I didn’t have to stop listening to the story. There were also two parts, which I don’t want to spoil, where I literally yelled at Richard. All good signs of a well-done tale. This is one of those books which is so well done, it’s hard to put into words.
The Marines of Autumn by James Brady
This is a historical fiction account of the Chosin Reservoir campaign and retreat. James Brady fought in the Korean War. He brought his personal experiences into the pages of this novel giving it more of a sense of reality than fiction. I was delighted to find a book about the Korean War just because there are not that many out there. We tend to go from WWII straight into Vietnam and skip the Korean War all together. My great-uncle fought in the Korean War, so I have personal reasons for wanting to learn more about it. I gleaned two things from this novel. One, my fairy tale takes place during a harsh winter. With the help of this novel, I hope to make the weather and the reactions to it more realistic. Two, I was introduced to Chesty Puller. I plan to do more reading about him. He was quiet amazing. This would be a great book for high school students to read when they study the Korean War.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I’ve been meaning to read one of Zafon’s novels for some time now. I’ve read several positive reviews about his books over the last year or so. The story is about a young man who falls in love with a book only to find out someone is attempting to destroy every book the author wrote. He is led on a merry chase as he tries to track down the author and keep his last copy of the book safe. Soon his own life begins to mirror the life of the author leading him face to face with the author’s arch nemeses. The wordsmithing is excellent. The setting is picturesque. The characters are well done. I did find myself just slightly disappointed towards the end of the book when I started figuring out what was going on because the mirroring effect made the story a little too predictable. But, I’m glad I read it. It was beautifully written.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
So, my sister is probably still laughing at me because I meant to get Gone Girl and accidentally picked up Dark Places and didn’t realize it until about half way through the book. Don’t ask. Dark Places is about a girl whose entire family was murdered when she was seven, supposedly by her brother. Now in her mid-twenties, she is out of money, out of charity, and unable to hide from her past. With the help of a club who thinks her brother is innocent, she begins to uncover the horrible events of the night her family was murdered. This book kept me glued from beginning to end. It was very rough, violent, and showed the sinfulness of man. It didn’t just show man’s violent sinfulness, but how sin reverberates through generations of people including the victims it leaves behind. I was a little disappointed by the actually murderer, but not horribly disappointed. The growth of the main character was well done. She moved from completely selfish, to almost self-less by the end of the story. I enjoyed the unique writing style. The chapters in the protagonist point of view were written in first person, and the flash backs were written in third person, giving the reader insight into the thoughts of several different characters. A very creepy, but enjoyable read. Now, I need to go find Gone Girl.
Beyond Band of Brothers by Major Dick Winters
I can’t seem to get enough of Band of Brothers. I’ve watched the show about three times now, read the book, and am now searching Half-Price bookstore for other books about Easy Company. This quick and easy to read book is the memoirs of Easy Company’s commander, Dick Winters. He takes you from the point where he joined the army to Easy Company reunions. It’s fascinating to read about how and why he did what he did. He is a very humble man trying to explain his own greatness. It struck me how much attention Winters gave to the fact that he was the man he was because of his mother. Ladies! If you need to be encouraged that the “hand which rocks the cradle rules the world”, look at men like Major Winters. He talks about his sense of discipline, self-control, leadership, and his love for his men. This would be a great book for any history buff, but also for young men to read. Winters would be a great role model for boys along the lines of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
The Secret in Defiance by Bousum and Bennington
This is one of those indie books which is actually really great. It is set in the 1950’s and told mostly from the point of view of a 13-year-old boy who is shouldering the responsibilities of his family after his dad leaves home. It is a bit fantastical with a haunted house, a possessed tree, and an old witch, but it is more about this boy becoming a man and doing what needs to be done. It’s a book about courage and friendship. I really enjoyed the story, and couldn’t stop reading as everything came to a head at the end of the book. It was paced very well. Despite the main characters being mostly children, it’s not a children’s book. The issues Bousum and Bennington deal with are very adult issues. It is not a long read, but it has some memorable characters, an exciting and chilling plot, and will leave you cheering for the hero to the end!
So, as you can tell, I’ve been very busy with books lately! It’s always nice when you get a rash of good ones. Keep Reading!