Monday, December 5, 2011

Good Books of Autumn

Covering the last three months of missed book reviews, here are my favorites from the lot:

What would you do if your memories vanished everytime you fell asleep? This is Christine's world--each morning waking up with a strange man as her husband when she might think herself only twenty, or sixteen, or newly-married rather than middle-aged. Every day she must reacquaint herself with facts that will only vanish during the night. Or will they? Can the journal Christine has been hiding help her recover the truths of who she is and why she can't remember? Absolutely chilling.

STORM OF SWORDS/George R.R. Martin/B+
The third in the Game of Thrones series. It gets a B+ for one single event in the book: the Red Wedding. I don't know that I've forgiven Martin for turning the series on end with that event, but it's true that it was a masterful stroke and the story of the kingdom of Westeros coming undone continues to be magical and complicated and thrilling. Just when you're sure of a villain's blackness, he shows a hint or more of light. And just when you get complacent about a character, he or she will reveal a new facet of their personalities. Sure, there are dragons and swordfights and sudden death and weddings and king-making every which way, but the true strength of this fantasy series is the people in it.

DRUMS OF AUTUMN/Diana Gabaldon/A-
Every now and then nothing will satisfy my hankering for a good, fat historical novel like the seemingly-endless love story of Claire and Jamie. Reunited and now in the American colonies, they set about making a new home in the Carolina backcountry. But their daughter, Brianna, is not content to let history take its course and follows her mother through the stone circle that transports her back two hundred years in a quest to save her parents' lives. Oh, and the Revolutionary War is coming, something which Claire well knows. Gabaldon is a wonderful storyteller. I plan to take the next volume of the series to Hawaii this month.

Louise Penny is my hero. Truly, no one is writing traditional mysteries as good as these today. After the traumatic backstory of the last two novels, this one returns Armand Gamache to the village of Three Pines. His artist friend, Clara Morrow, has finally landed a major solo show. But opening night is spoiled by the body of an old enemy in her garden. There were lots of reasons to kill the victim, and Gamache knows just because he likes someone doesn't mean they can't be the killer. Another amazing entry in a series that a reader should start at the beginning, with STILL LIFE.

Wow--whatever one thinks of politics, it's hard to ignore the brilliance of this short book about particularly courageous U.S. senators. While recovering from back surgery in the 1950s, Kennedy wrote about men from all sides of the political aisle who dared to turn from partisan bickering to take a courageous stand. Some of them lost their political lives, and some were redeemed. But each of them exhibited a rare degree of courage and a willingness to stand on principle when they felt that to do otherwise would cost them more than they could ever gain back.

A writer's thoughts on faith--and what thoughts! LaMott is often irreverent in her language and details, but never in the essence of her search for spiritual meaning. Some of her moments were laugh out loud funny (her resistance to born-again Christianity--which is where she ended up--being one of them) and some made me weep. Like God being found in the ladies' room. Or the concept of barn-raising by friends of those who are in trouble. If you respect the honest thoughts (and strong language) of a woman who has not found faith easily but greatly respects and admires many along her path, I recommend this book.

PIRATE KING/Laurie R. King/A-
I adores Mary Russell Holmes and this series about her marriage to the much older Sherlock. After several intense entries in the series, this was pure, frothy joy and I loved every minute of it. Mary is cornered into becoming a production assistant for a silent film company that might be engaged in illegal activities. No one told her the job would include shepherding around a dozen young actresses and their mothers, keeping various young men away from said young actresses, and getting caught at sea by actual pirates. But she deals with it all in rare form. Of course her husband pops up and I do love watching them in action. But make no mistake--Mary is the true hero of these stories. As it should be :)

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