Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Reviews

For Christmas I received two books, which in and of itself was either a very brave or very foolish move on Santa's part because I literally have an entire bookshelf of books I've received for the last 3 Christmases that I have yet to find time to read. That said, since we immediately went on a week's vacation the day after Christmas, I took one of my new books with me and read it in just over 2 days, and it's a very thick book.

The book I received and quickly devoured was _The Scottish Prisoner_ by Diana Gabaldon. You may have read a review of one of her books here before, if you've been reading me for a number of years. There are only two authors that I have read this extensively, Diana Gabaldon and Taylor Caldwell. Gabaldon's books are very heavy on history, moderate on medicine and politics, and light on time travel. Sounds like an odd combination, but they really do work well together. Gabaldon's main series of books are the Outlander series about Jamie and Claire Fraser. Claire accidentally stumbles through time through one of those ancient rock formations in Scotland and the Outlander series follows her adventures in post-WWII Europe and 1700s Scotland and America. It's an excellent series and I devour each book that comes out and there are many. I feel like her Outlander series is like the Harry Potter series for adults. Here's a link to her website: Diana Gabaldon website

So the Scottish Prisoner is not actually from the Outlander series, even though Jamie Fraser is a main character in this book. The Scottish Prisoner is from her side-series about Lord John Gray. He's a minor character from the Outlander series who was so popular, that she began writing a series of books about his adventures. What I enjoyed about the Scottish Prisoner was not only another story about John Gray that helps round out his character and life history, but also that Jamie Fraser was included. There were huge gaps in Jamie Fraser's life story from the Outlander series that were filled in, in the Scottish Prisoner. So if you are a fan of the Outlander series, you should read the Scottish Prisoner to add to your knowledge about Jamie. If you haven't read any of her books, this book can stand on its own as a good story. The Scottish Prisoner, like many of Gabaldon's books is heavy on intrigue of the Jacobite uprising of the 1700s Scotland and England. I have every book of the Outlander series and most of the books from the John Gray series. I haven't read a bad book from Gabaldon yet. She is an excellent storyteller and the pace of her books is excellent as well. I would recommend any of her books, but would recommend the Outlander series first. If any of you locals would like to borrow one, I'm happy to share, even though the last person I loaned a book to never returned it and it's been 4 years. I've since purchased a replacement. Oh, and her Outlander series is so complex and interesting, I've easily read each book at least 3 times because each time I read them, I pick up more information that I missed in previous reads.

After I finished the Gabaldon book, for the last couple of days of our vacation, I was working on my appellate case that I had to argue when we returned from vacation. By the time we made it to the airport to fly home, I was burned out on the legal reading and decided to pick up something else to read at the airport. I was planning on getting a magazine when this book, _Sarah's Key_ caught my eye. Just before leaving school for Christmas break, a professor told me he'd seen the movie, _Sarah's Key_ and thought it was fantastic. So I grabbed the book and read it in just about a day. I can honestly say this is a very good story, a good plot, a good mystery and it unfolds nicely. There are things that happen in the story that are harsh realities that help make this piece of fiction believable. That said, there is one character and one plot line in the book that is not fleshed out enough to make it believable. This one character and his storyline attempt to tie up the book in a "happily ever after ending" that is not believable and honestly, very irritating. It was like someone slapped an ending on this story from another book, or the author got tired and just tied things up quickly. The ending was the more so disappointing because all the rest of the story was so enjoyable. I felt cheated by a poorly written ending. I would still recommend this book because everything but the last few pages are good. I also enjoyed this story because my area of historical interest is genocides. I learned something about the Holocaust that I didn't know prior to reading this book. I went looking for a fact based book about this particular incident, the Vel D'Hiv roundup and the only books I could find on it were written in French. If you're put off on books on the Holocaust, don't be with this one. Yes, there are some things in the story that are tragic, but this story focuses more on the culpability of French citizens when they were occupied by the Nazis, and the cultural ignorance and denial that is present in society all these years later. IMDB Sarah's Key

So with all this reading of late, I decided to begin reading the other book I received for Christmas, _Rin Tin Tin - The Life and the Legend_. Anyone who knows me would think this is the perfect book for me. The book starts out on the battlefields of WWI when Rin Tin Tin and his sister are found in a bombed out kennel in France. History, a good thing in a book for me. Rinty, as Rin Tin Tin later is called by his owner, is a German Shepherd. I LOVE German Shelpherds, as anyone who knows me also knows. This should be an excellent book for me. This book also follows Rinty's career in Hollywood of the 1930s and the succeeding generations of his pups who carry on the family business. So far, I'm about a third of the way through this book and it's horrible! The writing is very slow, goes off on tangents about the author's personal life, and the writing is pedantic and annoying. I will keep reading this book in hopes it will pick up the pace and redeem itself, but at the present, all I want to do with the book is beat the author up side the head with it. How could you ruin such a potentially good story like that? NPR story


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

The first two sound very interesting and the book about Rin Tin Tin sounds shameful---Especially, as you said---this could be a GREAT Book....
I like Kristen Scott Thomas very much--I am going to rent that film....
I don't read very much anymore and mostly whatever I read really has to interest me up-front.
Glad you got to enjoy some off-time, my dear.

Larena said...

glad you can still find enjoyment in the written word.

wunelle said...

Fun. I was just listening to an NPR interview with Susan Orlean today. What a fun little lost piece of history.

The others I haven't heard of. I guess I did hear something about Sarah's Key, and I have a thing about Kristin Scott Thomas (from the English Patient--yes, yes, I'm supposed to hate it, but it remains one of my favorite films), so maybe I'll look for the film.

Danmark said...

Anything Diana Gabaldon writes is amazingly well done, and I really enjoyed this book. I have read all the Outlander series, and this was a charming reminder of Jamie and his clan. Slightly removed in the story line, but it slides right in with all the others. So i like this one too (The Scottish Prisoner)