It is almost the end of 2012 and I still have lots of books I read but haven’t reviewed yet. Because I’m not the type of person who can “skip” writing reviews (though I wish I was), I’m determined to write something about each book—both for my benefit and for yours. Because I have so many to write, every review will be short and sweet. So here goes!When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery Why I Read It: These are the third and fourth books of Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, of which I’m a big fan My Rating: 4 stars
Unlike most series, this one gets better with every book. I adore Atkinson’s ability to get inside the heads of her various quirky characters, and I love seeing Jackson’s life get immensely more complicated. Sure, I almost always immediately forget the details of the various mysteries almost as soon as I read the last page, but who cares!? Atkinson is simply the most amusing mystery writer out there. Besides the humor, there is also a real depth of feeling and human misery. If you’re a fan of the series, I’m sure you’ll read (or have read) these. If you haven’t discovered Atkinson yet, go back to the first book and get cracking. (Note: Atkinson has a new book coming out in 2013 called Life After Life. It isn’t a Jackson Brodie book but I’ll definitely be reading it.)The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat written by Oliver Sacks and narrated by Jonathan Davis Genre: Non-Fiction, Science Why I Read It: This book was mentioned in the fabulous Moonwalking With Einstein so I thought I’d read it. My Rating: 3 stars
You’ve probably heard of Dr. Oliver Sacks—the neurologist whose collections of patient case studies have been the subject of various books and movies (including Awakenings). I’d been familiar with Oliver Sacks for years (my dad had many of his books) but never actually read any of his books. Despite the fascinating case studies described in the book (idiot savants, Left Neglect, memory loss), I found the writing off-putting and never really engaged with the book. I think it was a combination of Sack’s writing style (which might be too clinical despite being accessible) and my need for more personal details and depth than Sacks was able to offer.Girl In Translation written by Jean Kwok, narrated by Grayce Wey Genre: Fiction Why I Read It: I accidentally downloaded this from Audible after thinking it was Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven, which has a somewhat similar cover (a girl with “chopsticks” in her hair). Since I only had one credit for the month, I powered through this. My Rating: 3 stars
This is an immigrant coming of age story about a young girl named Kimberly Chang who emigrates to America from Hong Kong with her mother and lives a dual life of brilliant student and exploited factory girl living in horrible conditions in Brooklyn. I’m not completely sure why I didn’t bond with this book, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that many of the problems in Kimberly’s life could have been avoided had she just talked to someone! This drives me nuts in characters, and it annoyed me to no end in this book. However, if you enjoy immigrant stories, this might right up your alley. I read that the author immigrated to America as a young girl so I suspect much of book is based on her own experiences.Curtains: Adventures of An Undertaker-In-Training by Tom Jokinen Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Why I Read It: I love books about unusual jobs My Rating: 3.5 stars
If you interested in the ins and outs of the funeral industry, this would be a great read. It has a lot of “insider” information and insights on the industry that I found fascinating. What kept the book from being really good is that Jokinen doesn’t have the sense of humor that would have elevated this book from “interesting read” to “kept me glued to the book from page one.” (In other words, he’s no Mary Roach.) Still, it is worth reading if you enjoy books of this type.Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and The Race of a Lifetime written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin and narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Politics Why I Read It: The part of the book dealing with Sarah Palin was made into an HBO movie and it spurred me to read the book (though I never saw the film) My Rating: 4.5 stars
This is a book about the ins and outs of the 2008 campaign (you know … the one where a young upstart named Barack Obama beat out Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and went on to defeat John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin). I’m not into politics AT ALL but I found this book utterly fascinating (which makes me wonder if I’m more interested in politics than I think or if it was just such an interesting campaign). I mistakenly thought it dealt more with Sarah Palin than it does (her part is only the last third of the book), but it didn’t matter—the battle between Obama and Clinton provided more than enough drama and intrigue. (And the whole John Edwards disaster was like watching a car accident in slow motion.) However, I did get the payoff I was looking for as the book provides a rather damning look into the selection of Palin and the realities of her candidacy. (If you didn’t guess by that last sentence, I’m not a big Palin fan.) Trust me … you don’t need to be a political junkie to enjoy this book. It was gripping from the start and, even though I knew how things turned out in the end, I was still on the edge of my seat as all the various aspects of the race unfolded. I listened to this book on audio, and Dennis Boutsikaris was the perfect choice of narrator. I’m hoping that the authors chronicled the 2012 campaign as I’d LOVE to read about it and find out the details and behind-the-scenes stuff that we don’t really get in regular news coverage. This will definitely be on my “best of the year” lists.