Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review //H is for Hawk, Dead Wake, The Painter, Euphoria, Mapmaker's Children

A bigger list than usual, but I've gotten into a really good reading groove - a definite benefit of no students around.

H is for Hawk // I put this on my to-read list after seeing all of the hype.  After finishing it, I can understand why people were losing their collective minds, but I have to say - I wasn't all that impressed. The story is about a woman who, after a death in the family, adopts a goshawk and decides to tame her.  In terms of the writing, it's beautifully done. I felt very sympathetic to the characters and it definitely made me interest in hawking, but I was a bit bummed by the utter lack of plot.  If you're going to tame a deadly bird, couldn't there be some sort of near-maiming?  I guess, because it's a memoir, you can't just invent dramatic events... Oh well. It's a lovely book, despite it's lack of bird-on-lady violence.

Dead Wake //  After devouring Devil in the White City, I had high hopes for Erik Larson's newest book. Dead Wake follows the tragedy that was the last crossing of the Lusitania, both from the Lusitania's perspective and the U-boat that would eventually target it.  True to Larson's style, he made every character nearly tangible, including so many details it felt like I was there.  Unfortunately, the end of the book was a bit flat.  I mean, a bunch of stuff happened, but I felt like the build-up just petered out.  Which is ironic, considering what the end of the actual Lusitania was like... For all of the drama about monitoring the U-boat's progress, the details about mistakes made by the crew and the misplaced confidence of nearly everyone on board, the ending (both of the book and the boat) was swift and pretty straightforward.

The Painter // My favorite book of this list.  Peter Heller is an incredibly talented writer, with a gift for creating dynamic, tragic, likable-but-repulsive characters. I was completely hooked on this book from about the third page - like, read it in any time I was idle for more than 60 seconds, hooked.  In an over-simplified way, the story is about a man who gets in way over his head with a bunch of rough dudes. Telling you any more would kind of ruin things.  The book will definitely not be everyone's cup of tea - it's rough and kind of scary and certainly not a light read, but the ending was one of the most satisfying I've read in a while and, again, Heller's a magician with words.

Euphoria // I really wish I had read this book in college.  As an anthropology major, I appreciated this story for it's apt description of an ethnographer's life in the 1930's, as well as it's beautiful story and careful tragedy.  The story moved quickly, and each of the three anthropologists featured was illustrated beautifully.  The drama definitely explodes in the end of the book, though the ending felt a bit rushed/sudden.  Like most of the books on this list, it's not much a light, beach read, but it's certainly worth putting on your list

Mapmaker's Children // I tend to love historical fiction, especially when it's woman-focused.  This story follows two women who occupied the same home at two different times - one modern, one pre-Civil War.  I was pretty disappointed by the historical story line - Sarah was a bit flat, and the story focused mostly on her love life, instead of the incredible work she was doing with the Underground Railroad.  Eden, the present day occupant, was more interesting, but the character development felt rushed.  There were a few twists and turns that seemed to create gratuitous drama, but overall, I loved the story. The opposing viewpoints were well-done, and the shared real estate was a great anchor point for both stories. (PS, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review).

I'm currently reading One Summer, tis the season for historical fiction/non-fiction.  I don't hate it.

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