Whew! The next to the last A to Z Challenge post. I had no idea April was such a long month. Today’s letter is ‘Y’, which is awesome, because I’m in the mood to Yak about some amazing books (for you English lovers, that’s “yak” as in trivially converse rather than large domesticated wild ox with shaggy hair, humped shoulders, and large horns used in Tibet as a pack animal).
My Reading goal for March and April combined was six books, and I squeaked by with six. In my defense, UP COUNTRY was 736 pages. Because there are so many books to yak about, I’ll keep my reflections über brief.
March and April’s (brilliant) Round-up
THE NAZI OFFICER’S WIFE, UP COUNTRY, FULL DARK NO STARS, THE FIFTH WITNESS, UNBROKEN, THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS
THE NAZI OFFICER’S WIFE by Edith H. Beer (Audio)
This is the WWII memoir of Edith Beer née Hahn, a well-educated Viennese Jewish woman who survived a slave labor camp, escaped deportation, and with the help of false identity papers, lived as an Aryan married to a Nazi officer. Sound riveting? It was. It’s a grueling and unsentimental tale of the resilience of the human spirit.
UP COUNTRY by Nelson DeMille
This is apparently DeMille’s second book with protag Paul Brenner, but I neither read nor saw THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER. Doesn’t matter, this book works well as a stand alone. UP COUNTRY is fascinating on so many levels I’m not sure where to begin, especially since this is supposed to be a brief review. The story: retired Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brenner returns to Vietnam undercover to investigate the decades old murder of an American Lieutenant. In UP COUNTRY, DeMille tackles the social, economic, political, and cultural impacts of the war in Vietnam, something I would have predicted held absolutely no interest for me. I was wrong. Every aspect is beautifully detailed, from Brenner’s travels across Vietnam, to his memories of old battles, to his relationships. It is not a quick and easy pleasure read nor a breakneck paced thriller (which is what DeMille is known for). But UP COUNTRY will give you much to think about. A fine book.
FULL DARK NO STARS by Stephen King
To be honest, I hadn’t intended to read this. I picked it up, skimmed a few pages and was hooked. Although not a rabid Stephan King fan, I do enjoy his writing if not always his subject matter. And I far prefer his suspense/thriller material to his horror stuff. The four novellas that make up FULL DARK, NO STARS fit the bill. I especially enjoyed BIG DRIVER, a story about a mystery writer who plots revenge after she is attacked and left for dead. Heh, heh, heh! Never mess with a mystery writer.
THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael Connelly
This legal thriller from Connelly stars defense attorney Mickey Haller (THE LINCOLN LAWYER). There’s a silly murder (one of Mickey’s foreclosure clients is accused of murdering a mortgage banker), lots of courtroom theatrics, and an altogether implausible plot. I loved it. Mickey Haller makes it work. He’s half optimist, half cynic. I can relate. I also appreciate that Connelly writes characters. No one would confuse Mickey Haller with Connelly’s other great protagonist, Harry Bosch. This is not true of many mystery/thriller writers whose characters may have different names but who remain virtually interchangeable across series.
UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand (Audio)
UNBROKEN chronicles the true story of Louis Zamperini, a young man who turned from juvenile delinquent to Olympic runner to Japanese POW during WWII. It is an extraordinary tale, harrowing in fact – Zamperini survived six weeks on a raft after his plane went down at sea and two years as a POW. And that only scratches the surface of his extraordinary life. Hillenbrand’s (she wrote SEABISCUIT) narrative ranges from cinematic to anecdotal and held my interest throughout. That said, had I known Louis wrote his own memoir, DEVIL AT MY HEELS, I would have read his book first—or instead of Hillenbrand’s.
THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS by Roland Yeomans
This isn’t a review. I don’t feel comfortable reviewing friends’ books here, and Roland is most definitely a friend. But if you’re familiar with his blog, Writing in the Crosshairs, you already know Roland is a master storyteller. In THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS, he spins an epic tale of good vs. evil, layered in celtic myth and Native American legend. As I said, this isn’t a review, but I will give you this much: if you chose to join wise, brave, loyal Hibbs the Bear on his journey, you will have no regrets. Did I enjoy THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS? Enough that I’ve already purchased Roland’s other work, RITES OF PASSAGE and ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM.