Monday, December 24, 2012

Book 40 - Prague Winter by Madeline Albright

I'm embarrassed to say that I never knew that the former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, spent many of her formative years in London during the second World War (and survived the blitz!). But this book introduced that information to me along with many other things that I didn't know...

I had read Madam Secretary, and even have a signed copy, and I was, quite frankly, anticipating that this would be a similar book. I expected it to be heavy on the memory and less so on the historical context. I expected it to be a little sappy too - I mean, it's really hard to look back upon your time in your homeland without rose-colored glasses even though it was a particularly bad time. However, this book was none of those things. In fact, the memoir part is the secondary narrative here. There was memoir in it - Albright describes her family's experiences in the Czech Republic and England during World War II. However, she also provides an intriguing historical narrative of World War II, with her focus being primarily on the experiences of Czechoslovakia.

In reading this book, I really felt that I learned something. I learned a lot about World War II and its impact on the people of the Czech Republic, which isn't something I knew a whole lot about previously. History glosses over facts that relate to the smaller countries, even though they are often just as important if not more so than the facts that we do learn. This book also brings the fascist and communist rise to power to the forefront with precise,accessible explanations as to what happened and why - this sort of narrative is important in teaching us what happened and how to avoid or prevent it from happening again. The way that Secretary Albright presented her story and the historical perspective, as well as the way that she had them intersect, were phenomenal and made the re-telling of a story that we all generally know, fresh and interesting.

Definitely a buy for addition into your library. FTC disclosure: I was not provided this copy to review. I got it out of the library.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book 39 - The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts: Books On the Nightstand and I generally like what Ann and Michael have to recommend so I got it out of the library. What drew me to the book was, ironically, its cover and its blood red pages. But that is where it seems that my interest ended - one really can't judge a book by its cover because it just didn't work for me.

The protagonist is Jacob Marlowe - a male werewolf that has been alive for about 200 years or thereabouts. Jake is living in Modern London when he learns that he is the last werewolf left - a group has been systematically hunting and killing them and people just aren't turning into werewolves like they used to. I didn't mind that the main character is pessimistic, cynical and negative. I generally think that characters that are drawn like this are some of the most interesting characters out there. They are creative and original, so I truly don't mind a character like this. What I did mind was how absolutely boring this book was. I didn't like the writing style. I didn't like the plot and found it utterly predictable. It was just not my cup of tea. I will pass on the next one.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...