Unique Perspectives on History

Ken Follett’s Winter of the World provides for a rich reading experience as it transports you from the bleak economic depression of the 1930s to the Cold War when the world feared the power of the Soviet Union. Follett is able to depict this so vividly through his characters who are the children of the characters in his first book in the trilogy, Fall of Giants. In the beginning of the novel, all the children are young and witnessing history every day: from Brownshirts storming the office of a publication one child’s mother works at in Germany to two children witnessing politics in action as children of a senator close to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

As these children grow up, their lives become intertwined as one girl ends up marrying the son of an earl. The earl is revealed to actually be the father of a boy whose mother had once served as a maid in the earl’s country home. The two children from Washington grow up to become, respectively, a famous war photographer and an enlisted officer in the Navy. The connections forged between the children change their families forever.

What these children learn in their adult years is that they truly have the power to change history. One of them, a Russian, commits a crime that affects American intelligence, and the Navy officer mourns the loss of his fiancée at Pearl Harbor. Their everyday lives are shaped by the events that occur in their countries, and all end up involved in American society. Follett is able to depict the lives of these characters vividly and show just how tumultuous these periods of history were.

This is a book that will enthrall those who love history and even those who may just enjoy a book filled with unique personalities and locations. It may be long, but it proves for a fast-paced read as readers will see how lives become intertwined and are altered in the course of even an ordinary day. Follett  once more proves just how masterful he is at writing historical fiction, and fans of his work will not be disappointed by this book.


Uncovering the secrets of a family

The Secret Keeper is filled with intriguing characters and vividly describes the conditions in London during the time of the Blitz in World War II era London and beyond into the 1960s and the present. It is a book filled with secrets that are gradually discovered throughout the course of the book. It will make you wonder just how well you really know your own family.

It begins in 1960 when 16-year old Laurel is in her childhood tree house dreaming of the future. It is a special occasion for her family as it is her younger brother Gerry’s second birthday. She thinks about her crush who has just given her a play to read. Her sisters want her to come down and finish the game of hide and seek they were playing and have some of their mother’s special birthday cake but she decides to stay hidden in the treehouse. It is from that vantage point that she witnesses the arrival of a man that her mother clearly recognizes and sees her stab him with the birthday knife with the red ribbon.

This crime has haunted Laurel for the past 50 years as she left the family home to become one of Great Britain’s most beloved actresses. Her mother is almost 90 and dying in the hospital so she sees this as the perfect opportunity to figure out what really happened that day and why her mother was so frightened to see him. By delving into the family attic and documents found in various libraries she is able to piece together the story of her mother and who her mother was involved with during the war. What she finds changes the way she perceives her mother forever.

The book alternates between Laurel’s perspective, her mother’s perspective, and the perspective of her mother’s sometimes friend Vivian. Through her mother’s and Vivian’s perspective the connection between the two is revealed and comes as quite a shock to Laurel and her brother Gerry who has agreed to help with the investigation.

The Secret Keeper is a novel filled with plot twists and characters that aren’t easy to forget. Even for those who may not consider themselves history buffs may find themselves wrapped up in this book trying to solve the mysteries of Laurel’s mother’s past as well.

Robin Sloan’s “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore”

Article first published as <a href=’’>Book Review: <i>Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore</i> by Robin Sloan</a> on Blogcritics.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is one of those books that is not easy to forget.

Clay Jannon is an unemployed art school graduate who last worked for NewBagel, a San Francisco-based bagel company founded by two Google employees who set out to create the perfect-shaped bagel.

He creates the website for the company and assists with public relations as well. When the recession hits, however, the public desire for the perfect bagel begins to disappear and Clay finds himself out of a job.

He spends his days on his couch scanning “Help Wanted” ads on his laptop and finally begins to wander the streets looking at storefronts looking for “Help Wanted” signs.

He finds one on the window of a bookstore looking for someone who could work late shifts.

Upon wandering inside he finds that the bookstore has an unusual design, with high shelves of books that stretch all the way to the ceiling. The bookstore is run by the mysterious Mr. Penumbra, who after hearing Clay’s love of a fantasy series hires him.

What he finds is that there are few customers and those that do frequent the store ask for mysterious texts. With the help of his friends he begins to analyze their book choices and discovers that the customers and Penumbra have a secret book fellowship.

The book takes you from the bookstore to New York to Google headquarters and lets the reader discover that there may be more to the world of books than meets the eye.

The Dark Side of Marriage

When you get married, you should feel like you know the person that you’re married to. Sometimes though they have a dark side that makes you question who you really got married to in the first place. This is precisely what occurs in “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, a psychological novel that takes you inside a marriage that appears to be perfect but has been rapidly unraveling for awhile.

Nick and Amy Dunne seemed to be the perfect couple even though she seems to put more into the marriage that he does. She even goes so far as to plan romantic treasure hunts for their anniversaries with clues that he is never quite able to decipher. On the day of their fifth anniversary a new more sinister treasure hunt is revealed after Amy’s mysterious disappearance. The question is though–did something happen to her or did she leave on her own? This mystery is investigated throughout the course of the novel with Nick engaging in behavior that is often inappropriate such as seeming to flirt with another woman on television and hiring a top lawyer even though he seemingly had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Flynn crafts an intriguing and fast-paced novel that makes you question the actions of Amy and Nick and leaves you wondering if either of them can really be trusted. It delves into the darker side of marriage when you begin to lose trust in your partner and wonder if maybe your partner is the one you were supposed to end up with in the first place. If you enjoy psychology and a good mystery “Gone Girl” is the book for you. It may leave you asking questions about your own relationships.