Some of My Favorite Books

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Small Island by Andrea Levy

I finished reading Small Island last night, late. Then when I woke up this morning, I fiddled around on the computer a little then watched the PBS Masterpiece Classic show Small Island. I love being able to do that!

The book was exceptional, telling the tale of four young people during and after World War II. Hortense and Gilbert Joseph are from Jamaica and come to England after the war to begin new, better lives. Gilbert met Queenie during the war and since her husband, Bernard does not return home after serving in the RAF during the war, she lets rooms. Gilbert and Hortense rent a room and since I don't want to giveaway more of the story, I'll stop with the storyline.

Small Island won the British Orange Prize in 2004, and rightfully so. This novel is well written and tells a story, though fiction, of a snippet of four main characters' lives during the war, bringing that period to life. Oh, the Masterpiece Classic show was very good too. It followed the book closely but they added a small ending that wasn't in the book reflecting what present day was like thanks to the main characters.

Book Read: Small Island
Author:  Andrea Levy
ISBN:  0-312-42467-1

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Temple of Music by Jonathan Lowy

Well, this is another book I never thought I'd finish. The Temple of Music is a historical novel that is based in fact. It is basically the story of the people and events that led up to President William McKinley's assassination in 1901. 

Mostly what made this book a bit difficult for me was the format; it is totally different than any other book I remember reading. The author skips from one character to another to tell their particular story in a particular time. The sequence of events is not necessarily chronological, making it a bit of a "keeping you on your toes" reading experience.

From the book jacket:

America is starkly divided between the haves and the have-nots. A Republican president seeks reelection in the afterglow of a war many view as unnecessary and imperialistic. He is bankrolled by millionaires, with every step of his career orchestrated by a political mastermind.  Religious extremists crusade against the nation's moral collapse. Terrorists plot the assassination of leaders around the world. And a lonely, disturbed revolutionary stalks the President . . . .

This book was interesting, but I knew next to nothing about this snippet of American history. I wasn't even sure when McKinley was president before reading The Temple of Music, which refers to the building at the 1901 Buffalo World's Fair where Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley in a receiving line.

All in all, I like The Temple of Music:  I learned about the McKinley era/assassination, the writing was very good, and the author's filling in the blanks made the historical facts come alive.
Book Read: The Temple of Music
Author:  Jonathan Lowy
ISBN:  0-609-60819-3

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London by James L. Haley

I just, minutes ago, finished reading Wolf, a biography of Jack London. I had read some of this book at Learning Ally, but when you read a book while recording it, you have a lot of other things to think about so paying close attention to the content can come in a distant last.

I had taken the dust jacket off the book when I started reading it so hadn't been seeing the title. I just realized when I typed it (Wolf:  The Lives of Jack London) that each chapter covered one of London's lives:  The Work Beast, The Oyster Pirate, The Seal Hunter, The Tramp, The Student, The Prospector, The Aspiring Writer, The Muckraker, The War Correspondent, The Lover, The Celebrity, The Sailor, The Rancher, and finally The Jade.

Since none of us is just one thing at one time, there was some overlap in learning about various facets of his life, but Haley did a good job of telling the story of London's life chronologically. I have to admit I haven't read any of Jack London's books, but reading a writer's biography or autobiography without having read their writing isn't new to me. I love biographies!
Book Read:
Wolf:  The Lives of Jack London
Author:  James L. Haley
ISBN:  978-0-465-00478-2


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