Monday, February 9, 2009

The Woman in White by Wilke Collins

Title: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
Finished: February 2009
Pages: 564

This was the January pick for the IRL book club that I am a member of, and I have to say that I am so grateful to have been exposed to this particular book. It was some rough going at the very beginning (since it is a Victorian novel that was written in the 19th century), but once I got the rhythm down, it was incredibly enjoyable! I love the way the book is set up, with the story being told by different narrators. This is such an interesting concept, since not everyone is privy to every aspect of every storyline in real life. You also learn along the way which narrators you trust and those you question. Did things really happen they way they are being portrayed or was this their own personal manipulation of the other characters involved?!?! Very interesting to say the least!

Laura Fairly is a young maiden, striving to uphold the wishes of her father on his deathbed. One of his last acts was to betrove her to marry Sir Percival Glyde. In a perfect world this would be a magical thing, with him being a Sir and all, but what is a young woman to do when she discovers that her heart belongs to someone else? Luckily she has her best friend Marian there by her side helping her through life's obstacles.

Walter Hartright is asked to come to Limmeridge (the Fairlie's mansion, to teach Laura and Marian to paint. On his last night in town Walter encounters a woman dressed in all white strolling the streets in the middle of the night. She appears to him out of no where and asks him to point her in the right direction towards London. Once they get closer, he finds her a carriage and she is whisked away. Moments after her carriage leaves, another set of horses enters the street, looking for a woman dressed in all white. Walter is hidden from view as these men inquire about the woman in white, only to overhear them say she has escaped from an asylum. From this moment on, their lives and fates and very much intertwined.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery! My only words of advice and to know up front that it may take some pages to get used to the language and really get into the storyline, but it is very much worth the time!! I thought this was a great pick for a book club because of all the wonderful aspects that are there to discuss!

There are so many wonderful things about this book that I would love to share, but I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone who is interested in reading it. I feel like this is one of those books that I will pick up again in a few years to re-read and will probably end up finding it even more enchanting and find things that I possibly missed the first time.

Split Second by David Baldacci

Title: Split Second
Author: David Baldacci
Date Finished: January 2009
Pages: 512

Split second... that's all it takes to ruin the careers of two Secret Service agents. Sean King's story takes place a few years back but is still talked about around the Service. His fallout occurred when the Presidential candidate he is protecting is shot while King was momentarily distracted at a meet and greet in a small town. Michelle is living through her career ending moment right now, when her presidential candidate is kidnapped right under her nose at a funeral home.

These two "scapegoats" join forces to find out who is behind the killing and kidnapping not knowing at first that they could be connected. Michelle was new to the Secret Service about the time of King's exit and she does a little research to better acquaint herself with his situation. There is something about that day that really disturbs Michelle, but she cannot seem to put her finger on it, and Sean King is definitely not talking about it. Another important character comes into play as the story progresses, Joan. She was not only an agent herself, but has now left the Secret Service and started her own detection agency. When she asks Sean to help her find the kidnapped presidential candidate, he eventually accepts.

Baldacci was in fine form again, twisting and turning his plot to keep you guessing and surprised. I'll admit, some of the story is a little far fetched, but isn't that the beauty of fiction. What about all those people out there who still question the conspiracy behind the death of JFK??? Having not read the series of King and Maxwell in order, it was nice to see how their broken pieces became a deep connection for a partnership. Definitely a good read for anyone who is willing to let go for a while and enjoy the roller coaster of a plot that is split second.

Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

Title: Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family
Author: Miep Gies
Finished: January 2009
Pages: 272

I first heard about this book from Trish's blog as a book giveaway. After reading this blurb and talking to her, I knew this had to be on my list of books to read. It has been years since I've read the Diary of Anne Frank, but I remembered how much it touched me as a child, and how interesting it would be to hear another person's perspective who was also there at the time.

Miep comes to know the Frank Family before they go into hiding, as an office worker for Anne's father, Otto Frank. Miep earns the trust of Mr. Frank not only in the business aspect, but also as a friend. When it comes time for the Frank family to go into hiding, Miep is one of the workers that is in trusted with this important information. Miep is the one who is in charge of gathering food the for families hidden upstairs.

The stories that she shares of the Frank family give us a more intimate look at not only Anne, but the other family members as well. It is obvious that Miep adores Anne, and she gives the reader a different glimpse than that in the Diary of Anne Frank. When reading of such a tragedy, it is often easy to forget that Anne was only a child when all of this happened, and how hard it must have been for those in hiding to remain so still and quite throughout the day for fear of being detected. Children long to run and play and sing and dance around, but while in hiding, there was not space or time for the joys of childhood to play out.

Miep does a great job of telling you not only the story of the Frank family but of her own life as well. During this awful time of war, Miep falls in love and marries a wonderful man, who is also a helpful in hiding the Frank family and coming to visit with them when he can. Miep also gives you an idea of what it was like to be a Jew in hiding by sharing with us her experiences. Anne so desperately welcomed when Miep or one of the other workers came up to visit that Miep and her husband were asked to stay the night one night. Staying late int he office after everyone else was gone, they snuck up the staircase and were treated to a wonderful dinner by the families in hiding and were given Anne's room to stay the night. When morning came, Anne was curious as to how they slept that night. Needless to say, sleep was not easy, there were lots of sounds that kept them awake, as well as being fearful of being discovered. Her description of the night spent up in the office gives you a first hand experience of what it must have been like for them day in and day out for years.

When reading stories that occurred during World War II, I often wonder what I would do in their place. Everyone likes to think they would be strong enough to protect others without regard for what was to become of themselves, but if we were actually put in that position, what would happen? I think it takes amazing strength and courage to do something like this. Miep knew what the punishment would be if it was discovered that the Frank family was upstairs, and when they were found, it was her courage to say a few words to the guard that kept her safe.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who, like myself, was touched by the Diary of Anne Frank.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Last Man Standing by David Baldacci

Being a part of the HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) an elite branch of the FBI, means putting your life on the line every day in hopes of taking out the bad guys and saving the good. What do you do when your entire life changes in a matter of minutes. Web London, for some unknown reason, freezes as his team rushes a courtyard, only to watch them all be gunned down. As he deals with the loss of his friends who were as close to him as brothers, Web is also left to wonder why not him, and what after all these years caused him to freeze?

As Web tries to discover what happened in the courtyard that day, he is faced with three separate tasks. Finding out why his team was set-up and who is behind it; finding out what caused him to freeze up after years of being a member of the HRT and always putting his life on the line, and discovering what happened to the only other survivor that day a 10 year old boy who has since disappeared. The family members of his fallen comrades are grieving themselves and lashing out at Web who is also grieving.

Knowing that something isn't right, but not knowing who is friend and foe makes Web's job that much harder as he searches not only for the missing boy, but for answers to all his questions. After finding out the identity of the child (little brother to well known drug lord), Web is even more determined to find him. Drugs, money and territory all have a large role in this plot, but will Web find the answers he needs before those looking for the lone survivor find him?

David Baldacci has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His books are very detailed but give you that "edge of your seat suspense" and keep you guessing until the very end. I would definitly recommend anything by him if you are a suspence lover like me.