How did May go by so fast? I just posted April’s books! As usual I didn’t read nearly as much as I would have liked but that’s always the case. It’s been easy so far to just read women authors, I’m starting to feel a bit guilty for neglecting the fellows but then I come across another book I want to read and I get over it.
Book #19: Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific- Mary Cronk Farrell
I was so looking forward to this book. The first time I tried to buy it for my Kindle I got some weird message about a delay due to copyright issues. I waited a few weeks and tried again and voila! This book sounded so great. The previously untold story of brave and heroic nurses in the horrors of the Pacific campaign in World War II? Sign me up! I couldn’t wait to start reading.
As soon as I did the disappointment set in. The writing wasn’t great. The story stumbled along in short bursts and lacked cohesion. That’s okay I told myself. I want to know about these women, keep reading. Then I started to get down right irritated. Where was the editor? Was there an editor? I couldn’t blame the author all by her lonesome. Tidbits like the fact that nurses had to resign if they got married as well as the first person accounts that made the nurses’ struggles so relatable and real kept me going.
Then shit got real. Or really bad. The section describing the Battle of Corregidor had the date off by a year. THE WRONG FUCKING YEAR. Okay, okay, maybe a typo that damn editor missed. And then I turned the page. Again, wrong year. I felt like I was in Bizarro world. Was I wrong? I admit I couldn’t tell you offhand the exact date of the Battle of Corregidor but I damn well know when Pearl Harbor was and subsequent battles would have only happened after this. Not seven damn months before. I even double-checked to make sure I hadn’t gotten a wire crossed because it sure is embarrassing to have a rant and be wrong. Not one, not two, not three, but four incorrect references to the date before I stopped and put the book down. I wasn’t even halfway through.
I quit. I hate to not finish a book. But for a book that touts itself as a historical account you need to get basic things right. Like the goddamn year a battle occurred. I returned the book to Amazon. I’ve never done this before but damn. As interesting a subject as this was to me, this particular volume was not worth my money or time. So for any history majors out there looking for a thesis, this is a great topic that has not yet been given its due.
**So I went back onto Amazon and looked at the book listing again. I had not realized it was supposed to be for a younger audience (listed 10-16 years old). That might help explain some of the simplistic writing, although I read some young adult fiction that is much more sophisticated, but still doesn’t excuse the glaring errors.
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste weaves together several stories across decades with the ship Mary Celeste as its focal point. The Mary Celeste was one of those “ghost ships” that was found mysteriously abandoned with no clue as to what happened to its crew. The Mary Celeste was real. I have no idea what other elements of truth there are in the rest of the book (Arthur Conan Doyle is a recurring character) and I don’t care, it was lovely.
Book #21: The Three- Sarah Lotz
Dayyyummm. That was my reaction at the end of this book. I’m über sophisticated, no? I got the recommendation for this book from Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog, and as usual, Chuck knows what he’s talking about.
The Three begins with four catastrophic airplane crashes in the same day. Of the four crashes only three passengers, all children, survive. The stories of the children and the reaction of the world to their survival is the meat of the story but my favorite thing (besides the general creepy aura of the whole book) was the wonderful way Lotz made the different parts of the world the book takes place in come alive. The South African slum where one of the planes crashes was so vivid and authentic you’d think the author grew up there while online chats between Japanese teenagers rang equally true. The Three was an original and disturbing story and I’m glad I took Chuck’s advice.
Book #22: First Comes Love- Marion Winik
I recently discovered Marion Winik when I took a her session on memoir writing at the Maryland Writer’s Conference this spring. She was funny and honest and her life seemed so nuts I knew I had to read some of her stuff. She talked just briefly about her marriage to her first husband, a gay ice skater named Tony and all I could think was “How does that even happen?” First Comes Love is that story of how.
The book follows Marion and Tony from when they first meet until he commits suicide while suffering from advanced AIDS. In between they fall passionately in love, do lots of drugs, have children, have marital problems, the normal stuff in life but engaging and witty and dramatic when framed by Winik. Wow, is the word I kept thinking to myself. The honesty was compelling, some of the best bits were when Marion admits her own flaws and describes some of her less than stellar actions. Marion and Tony are imperfect and real and that makes their story compelling and entertaining. I’ll be reading more of her work for sure.