As per usual, all of these books deserve their own posts. But, as that is unlikely to happen for a good long while, if at all, mini-reviews will have to do.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
This is an amazing and epic (lengthy!) novel. I read this one with my brother. It is composed of six interconnected stories told first in chronological order and then again in reverse chronological order like this: A B C D E F E D C B A. Each story is told from a different time from a different perspective and time period. It required some work, but I feel like it really paid off. I’d recommend reading this one with a buddy so you can discuss.
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
A book club pick, I thoroughly enjoyed this intriguing tale of many (mis)adventures. Walter Hartwright is an art instructor to young ladies. By fortune, he receives an excellent post at the Fairly home, where fate will toss about the two Fairly sisters, Laura and Marian, as well as Walter and a host of other characters. It is told in first person accounts from the people who witnessed the events of the story. I raced through this chunkster in one weekend, anxious to see how it would all play out. I really loved it, but I did have some issues with the fact that Walter essentially ended up with the best of both worlds: pretty (and rather insipid and childlike) Laura for a wife and intelligent and strong Marian as a live-in support.
Something Blue, by Emily Giffin
I enjoyed but didn’t love Something Borrowed. And I felt rather the same about this sequel. This one is told from the point of view of Darcy, the would-be-wife of Dex, previous best friend of Rachel. Pregnant and alone, she heads to London to find herself. Like the previous book, the writing was good, but I just never really warmed up to Darcy or her story.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
With both Gone Girl and Gillian Flynn receiving crazy incessant buzz throughout the summer and fall, I just had to have this book. And I devoured it as soon as I got my hands on it. It took me for a wild ride with twists and turns that I just couldn’t see coming (for the most part). The writing was good and believable. But, perhaps due to the unstable nature of the two main characters, there was just something about it that made me fall in like with it – not love. For one, I have my doubts about how it would hold up on a reread – without all of the twist surprises.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
I reread this classic Newbery winner in anticipation of meeting Lois Lowry herself! It is much shorter (and simpler) than I remembered, but it definitely still packed a punch. It’s about two young girls living in Germany on the cusp of World War II – one Jewish, one not. They both must face dangers and find their own courage in these pages. It’s not to be missed.
The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho
I was reluctant to read this book for one of my book clubs, because I had not loved The Alchemist. Luckily, I found this one to be readable and extremely thought provoking. It is a collection of accounts of Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, who is eventually dubbed the witch of Portobello because of her unorthodox practices and beliefs. It deals with perception of the mystical, but it also explores belief systems and why we believe what we do. This one lead to a really good book club discussion.
Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
Mrs. Mike is the story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, who goes to live in the wilds of Canada in the hope that it will help her pleurisy. Immediately upon arrival, she meets Mike Flannigan – a sergeant in the Canadian Mounted Police – and they fall in love. Kathy follows Mike as he is stationed at various difficult localities, battling nature, building community and family, and finding her own strength. It is based on a true story, and it is told extremely well by the Freedmans. I experienced ups and downs with Kathy as she builds her character and finds her own limits. It was a good book club book.
The Mansion, by Henry Van Dyke
This is a short Christmas story in the vein of A Christmas Carol. It is about John Weightman, a wealthy man who his primarily concerned with his public perception. He has a dream about his mansion in heaven and awakes a changed man. I didn’t find as much to love or as much insight here as I did in A Christmas Carol, but it is a fine (and short) holiday read. I read this for book club too.
Have you read any of these books? Which was your favorite?