This year, I thought a fun addition to the posts of life and writing would be giving a few book reviews. In my day job, there always comes the dreaded question, “I’m looking for a book to read, can you recommend one?” Of course I can, as that’s my job, but that feeling of the floor falling away from my feet is always there. I’ve been trying to be better about branching out into different genres so that I can recommend different types of stories but man, it’s difficult.
I love me a good historical fiction (no bodice-ripping bullshit, please), horror (ghosties, haunted places, psychological thriller), biographies, and non-fiction, especially history, and oddly enough, science. If you like any of those, I’ve got your back with a great recommendation. But for all the rest, my go-to database search is Novelist. You can search titles or authors that you’ve enjoyed and it will give you suggestions and explanations as to why it was suggested whether that was because of similar genres, tone, or writing style.
Another tool I love to use is Goodreads. You can add titles you’ve read, title’s you’d liked to read, and you can create “shelves” and lists for easy referral access later. They also offer a fun reading challenge for the year. Last year, my goal was to read 50 books and I missed by two. So this year, I’ve set the same lofty goal of 50, and I’m off to a great start. I’ve finished three so far and I’m eagerly devouring a fourth.
by Adrien Bosc
For December, I went through our new books and pulled out obscure books for a display. This title was one that was displayed and when no one checked it out, I did. It was fascinating. Constellation is a fictionalized tale of an actual plane crash that happened in 1949. It departed Paris and was headed toward NYC. It was to make a landing for fuel in the Azores when contact was lost. 37 passengers and 11 crew were onboard the flight, including famous boxer and lover to Edith Piaf, Marcel Cerdan; Ginette Neveu, a violin prodigy; and Kay Kamen, a merchandiser for Walt Disney.
Bosc weaves the backstory of many of the passengers and how they came to fly upon this doomed plane. He also records the aftermath when the plane was discovered and what appeared to be survivors, and the agonizing story of mistaken identity between two female passengers.
It’s an extremely quick read, but what I enjoyed most, aside from the fact that I knew nothing of the crash of the Lockheed Constellation (a plane developed by Howard Hughes), was the writing style. Bosc blends the backstories of the various passengers as well as the aftermath and his own experiences in researching for the story. It’s an incredibly haunted and moving story and it’s one I found hard to put down.
by Sarah Pinborough
My next book was also one I had pulled for the display. (I actually found a few titles that are on my to-read list this way!) This one struck my fancy because of the inside flap: “A young woman sits by her father’s bedside, watching as death approaches. The rest of the family also gathers, unsure of how to deal with the impending loss, but she is waiting for something else.…” Ooo…what “else” is coming?! I needed to know. Language of Dying is a strange mix of fantasy, family drama, loss, relationships, trauma and essentially, searching for oneself.
While the “something else” isn’t as frightening or intimidating as I was expecting, what was terrifying was the flashbacks of the main characters life. Without giving too much away, she experiences loss at an early age and you can see how that affects her future relationships. There are five siblings, an elder brother and sister who have their own weird relationship, the main character who often times finds herself alone, and a set of twins, each with issues of their own. The family dynamic and history is fascinating and entirely believable and it’s one of the things I appreciated most. It’s brutally honest yet incredibly moving. And the ending broke my heart. So there’s that.
by Paul Coelho
I heart so much Coelho’s The Alchemist, yet I’ve never read anything more by him. When I caught an interview, I think on CBS, where he discussed writing and researching for his latest book, The Spy, a telling of the life of Mata-Hari, I knew I wanted to read it.
While Coelho takes certain liberties with her life, it is an interesting tale. It’s written as a series of letters as she sits in prison waiting to see if her plea for a stay of execution will be honored. While I knew of Mata-Hari, I knew little of why she was executed. True, this novelization writes her in a positive, glamorous light, it is believed that she was most likely innocent of all charges and was killed in part of a government cover-up.
What I loved most about this was a story of a strong, independent woman who was unafraid to live her life as she chose rather than conform to society’s view. There’s a big place in my heart for the rebel.
by Sigrid Undset
This is one that’s been on my “To Read” shelf for quite some time. But it’s been pushed back and back and back because it’s HUUUUUUUUUGE. It’s a serialization written in three separate books, “The Wreath”, “The Wife”, “The Cross” and the only edition we have in the library is this massive paperback containing all three books. It’s 1124 pages long and I started reading this last week so I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be finished by the end of the month, but ya never know! But it’s got like a 4.28 rating on Goodreads and it won the Nobel Prize in 1928 for the “powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”. (PS: if you’ve ever wanted to read Pillars of the Earth” don’t. Believe me, I’ve read that one too. It’s horrible. Read Kristin Lavransdatter instead.)
It was a little slow going to begin with, because it starts in her early life and it’s pretty boring. She goes up into the mountains with her father and thinks she sees a nymph or wood sprite or something and loses her shit. Oh, and some bad stuff happens to her sister. That’s about the most exciting thing that happens in the first few chapters. But the story picks up when she becomes a teenager.
I’m a little over halfway through the first book and I’m hooked. While there are some Norwegian words that I just make up or skip all-together, the characters and their histories and life is fascinating. Even though the flap gives away much of the plot line I still want to know what’s going to happen to everyone.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! I had fun writing it. What great books have you read lately? Share below!