I’m long overdue for a book review. My last one (also my first) was months ago now and I really enjoyed writing about some of the interesting books I stumbled across (one picked solely for it’s cover).
I’ve read several books over the months since my last post, but I have three below to share today. Mostly because at the moment, I can’t remember what else I’ve read recently!
Here are three books I’ve finished within the last week.
This is another book I picked up because of the cover. I was curious about the red chair, plus it was in a Irish novel/author display in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. (Sadly, I’ve already read everything by my favorite Irish author, Tana French, and was looking for something new).
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville is a murder mystery suspense set in Northern Ireland. It’s one in a series, which I didn’t realize when I brought it home, but I didn’t find that to be a hindrance in reading the story.
Here’s a (somewhat) brief synopsis, nothing more than what’s on the book jacket: Rea Carlisle inherits a house from an uncle she never knew. In the house she discovers a locked room with no key. She manages to bust through the door (rightly not wanting to live in a house without seeing every inch first) and makes a horrifying discovery: a bare room containing only a single chair and a table with a large book that contains stories of people murdered and mementos (fingernails, hair) of those victims.
Wanting to go to the police, she is stopped by her father, an up-and-coming local politician who’s afraid of damage to his reputation. Instead she turns to an old boyfriend, Jack Lennon, a police inspector currently dealing with his own professional and personal issues.
Okay, synopsis over because I do NOT give away spoilers!
I enjoyed the book, but I won’t be hunting down any more of Lennon’s books. Not really my style and I felt it dragged a bit in the middle. I also found some of the character reactions (mostly the women’s) a bit off.
The book shifts perspectives between the main characters, but Lennon keeps it clear with chapter breaks between characters. He also does a great job of illustrating some of the continued tensions in Northern Ireland, politically and culturally, which I found interesting.
Overall, the premise was interesting (with the book) and there’s several decent twists in the narrative that I enjoyed.
This is the first book in the bookclub I started with my friend in Maui. She suggested we read non-fiction (an area I tend to be less well-read in since college) and picked this book because she was curious about the woman, Christine Granville.
Oh my God, this woman was so INTERESTING!
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville is a life story of a truly remarkable woman told by master stoyteller and biographer Clare Mulley.
The full synopsis can be found in the link above (goes to Amazon) and I highly encourage everyone to read about this woman. She did remarkable things during WWII and her feats are the stuff of legend for her colleagues. She lived and loved large and apologized to no one.
According to the book, Granville (not her given name, which was Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, but one she adopted) was a Polish woman who offered (but really demanded they accept) her services to the British when WWII broke out. She was traveling and living outside of Poland at the time and was desperate to save her country and her family, in that order.
She became the first the first female British agent employed by the SOE when it was founded in 1940 and remained one of the longest-serving British female agent during wartime, serving in Nazi-occupied Poland and France. In fact, her success and daring were the reason that the SOE expanded their recruitment to more female officers.
I could honestly go on about Granville, but Mulley tells the story much better than I could here. Her research is great and her background information very helpful for context and understanding.
Reading this book also helped me realize that, while I know quite a lot about WWII, it’s mostly from an American/British and somewhat French perspective. I’ve read some about Poland (of course) but there’s so much more coming out now and each story is more courageous than the last.
One thing I will warn you about this book: it seemed to drag a bit for me towards the middle, about the time Granville is languishing in Egypt. Push through that part because it gets REALLY good again. I promise.
So this last book I didn’t exactly read. I listened to it.
However, with the bar set this high (I mean, Dale did different voices for every character) I am VERY picky about the audio books I listen to now. I can’t stand a reader with a bad voice or a condescending tone. It will completely ruin the book for me. I won’t even get past the intro if they’re bad enough.
However, there are some audio books that truly are magical and I’ve been working to incorporate those into my life. It gives me even more time reading, especially when doing housework, driving or when I’m working on a project, and sometimes listening to the tale can make the story even more magical.
I mean, I probably would have loved the book reading it myself. But hearing her stories (Barrymore is insistent in the beginning that the book is not a memoir, but a collection of stories) in the author’s voice felt like she was telling me them herself, complete with exclamations, screams, and sound effects.
She recounts tales of her childhood, of growing up in West Hollywood, of being emancipated at age 14 and having to figure out adulthood herself (can you imagine?). She talks about her daughters and how she wants to raise them, and also her dogs and the bond she shared with them.
I have loved Barrymore since Ever After, she was the first live-action, kick-ass princess of my childhood and set the mold for those to follow her. I used to watch that movie then go outside and practice throwing apples, just in case some asshole tried something if I was in an orchard someday.
(Santa Clarita Diet, on Netflix, is my newest favorite of hers. Absolutely hysterical, check it out!)
I highly recommend Wildflower and I recommend even more that you listen to it. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and I believe that the audio book makes it even more endearing.
By the way, I really love the trend of celebrities reading their own books for the audio edition. I’ve listened to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and Mindy Kahling’s newest Why Not Me? I recommend them all, in any format. (Look at that, three extra recommendations!)