Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mrs. B's 2009 Book Reviews -- 3 Stars (Part One)

Holy Toledo, Batman! I still have the three and four star books that I read from last year to review and I've already picked 11 for next year to read (via book club). I'd best get cracking and will try to keep each review brief. You can, of course, always check out more details on each book by going to Goodreads.com or Amazon.com or wherever you prefer to get information/reviews on books! Is anyone reading these, I wonder? Oh well, onwards and upwards!

The Zoo Keeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman (Book Club Selection). A true story of a Polish man and his wife (non-Jewish) who operated a zoo in Warsaw prior to WWII. The zoo gets bombed by the Nazis so the couple decide to start hiding Jews in the animal cages/enclosures as well as in their house. In general, this was readable and interesting although, from time to time, the author seemed to be confused about whose perspective she was writing from (hers or the Zoo Keeper's Wife). At times, too, it was difficult to read (scary scenes with nasty Nazis harassing women and children; sad depictions of lost zoo animals, etc.) Still, this is definitely worth reading as it is about an everyday sort of couple who risked their lives to save others (which led to some fascinating disclosures within our club of family members who had been involved in the resistance in Poland). Reading this book also had me pondering if people in our time would do likewise.

Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke (CD). Burke has written several novels featuring an on-going character by the name of Dave Robicheaux, an alcoholic cop in the (sort of) backwoods of Louisiana. Like many books of this ilk, each one contains a cast of return characters such as the wife, the daughter, the side-kick, the best friend, etc. and they don't necessarily have to be read in the order in which they were written (although sometimes bits and pieces can get confusing if one of the characters refers to something that happened in a book that you haven't yet read). This particular story centers around Dave delving into the specifics of his estranged mother's murder 35 years prior and his obsession with bringing the killer to justice. I don't usually go in for these types of tales, but, there is something about Burke's style that sits well with me and I truly enjoy listening to them as I drive about town. And, honestly, I also get a kick out of learning more about the Cajun South.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Book Club Selection).
This was one of two of the club's children/young adult selections for '09, the other being one also written by Konigsburg (albeit 30 years later). Konigsburg won a Newbery Medal for this story of a young girl and her little brother who decide to run away from home. Their destination of choice is the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art where they quickly figure out how to remain in the museum day and night without discovery. Since this was written for children, the author can get away with the fact that there really wasn't a terribly good reason for the children to run away in the first place and therefore focus on the neat aspect of living in a museum. The children get involved in a mystery of a beautiful statue, and, of course, they do find out a lot of themselves, each other, and that what they ran away from really wasn't all that bad.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (Book Club Selection).
I didn't think I was going to care for this at all; Bryson's recounting of his attempt to hike The Appalachian Trail, but, it was genuinely interesting and very amusing. Bryson definitely has a knack for story telling, especially when he pokes fun at himself. His grumbling and grouchy friend Katz, along for "the ride", is hysterical. The books also contains quite a bit of information about our nation's park system and historical anecdotes of others who have or have attempted to walk the trail. Not that many people have made it from beginning to end (it stretches from Georgia to Maine, after all). This introduction to Bryson's style has definitely perked my interest in perhaps picking up more of his books.


Analee said...

i'm reading. though, i'm reading more carefully when there are more stars. (i.e., if you didn't like the book, i don't think i will either.)

Mrs. B said...

That makes sense, although I do suppose I write about (or at least mention) the stinky ones to ward people off 'em!
Thanks, Analee!