There are no two better novels to pair up together than these. Written just a year apart, it seems there is no shortage of this type of theme occurring often and lately. That is, the theme of books and how they build and support communities—welcoming even newcomers into the fold. In both stories, the main character is a woman trying to start over, with the focus of selling books to people who are hungry to read and want to escape reality. In the first one, Sara from Sweden, is visiting a small town in Iowa to meet her pen pal Amy. When she arrives, the news of Amy’s death comes as a shock. To keep Amy’s memory alive and the town interested in books again, Sara opens a bookstore and also finds love. The second tale features Nina, a librarian working in England, who loses her job due to budget cuts. To continue what she has always loved doing, she decides to take a leap of faith and buys a van to furnish as a bookmobile. She starts her business on wheels in dreamy Scotland and helps the community of a village to find the right type of book. Nina even happens to match herself with the perfect man, even though she doesn’t see it at first. Each novel has its group of characters that act like a tight knit family, helping the heroine realize her dreams and acknowledging how books are an integral part of it. Both stories are fun and light—perfect for being curled by the fireside or on the beach.
This book will appeal to anyone who was curious about the relationship between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. It is also another view of the lovable man we all remembered as Spock. As a ‘Trekkie’, I certainly wanted to know what Shatner would say about the friendship that seemed to fizzle in the final years. Granted, Shatner’s opinions may be biased but I saw him this year at the Montreal Comic-con and I really thought he was a fun and nice person, so I tended to trust his words in this open and honest book. I am always willing to give the benefit of the doubt. This memoir wasn’t so much about the sci-fi franchise, yet it was undeniably the biggest thing that brought Shatner and Nimoy together. Shatner’s book starts the recollection of their friendship by mirroring his life to Nimoy’s: their close birth dates, same religious backgrounds, similar childhoods in busy cities and the hardships they encountered when starting out in Hollywood. They even experienced their own struggles with personal demons (Leonard was an alcoholic at one point and couldn’t quit smoking, while Shatner always got involved with women who were alcoholics). There are a lot of interesting tid-bits in here, which I would never have known otherwise. What I think this work represents (first and foremost) is an official apology for any wrongdoings and a sincere, heartfelt goodbye. It is the product of a complicated yet admirably respectful friendship. After all, many true and deep friendships thrive for years—despite an absence of communication. Even men can attest to that.
Hislit title read-alikes:
If you liked Shatner’s book about Nimoy, here are others you may find just as fascinating:
I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
Star Trek Memories by William Shatner
Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows by Harvey Kubernik
It took Shatner courage to face the mystery of a friendship that weaved in an out of difficulties for decades and admit to certain bumps in the road, including his jealousy at times. The book is a nice gesture—almost like an extended eulogy, which seems to give Shatner a sense of closure. Whatever his faults, Shatner has shown that he is willing to let bygones be bygones and sing the praises of a worthy comrade.
Book vs. Movie
Those who have read the book first will be slightly thrown off when watching the movie. The reason is because in this case, there are quite a few differences, even though they are minor or not very important. The biggest distinction is the location. The novel takes place in England while the film is set in America. More details are included in the book, of course but one of these details is how Rachel actually sleeps with Scott and even gets threatened/held hostage by him—as opposed to the distant relationship between them that is shown in the movie. On screen, Rachel never goes to a job interview set up by her friend Cathy and the red-haired man is a more serious figure, rather than a friendly drinking stranger. It is also never mentioned in the movie how Megan’s dark past about killing her baby is revealed through the media. And although the story ends the same way (thank goodness), Rachel’s memory comes back to her differently in the film. We are meant to think that Tom’s boss’ wife is the one who helps her remember her blackouts. The readers will know that in the novel, the memories just eventually start piecing themselves together in Rachel’s mind. I will admit that I watched this in the cinema before I borrowed the book. It’s possible that if readers really enjoyed the story, they may have issues with how it is portrayed on the big screen. However, the movie alone, was certainly well done for an entertaining psychological thriller. The actors were appropriate for the characters. How precisely it followed Hawkins’ work, remains to be debated. If you read the novel, do you think the film did it justice?
A Five Star Pick
I’m going way back for this one. Yes, it is a classic but I just read it this year. It took me a few months to finish it too. Not because it was boring or I couldn’t understand it—although good translation is key to old texts, such as this. It does, however, have over a thousand pages. When I had borrowed the book, I was also reading other novels, so that is why it took longer than I imagined. I never studied it in school and the reason I decided to embark on reading it now was because I was due to see a ballet production of Don Quixote in May. I figured if I was going to see a rendition on stage, I better get somewhat acquainted with the real story. In truth, I didn’t even get to the end of the first volume when I saw the ballet and what I did read was enough for the ballet’s purpose—as there really wasn’t much in common except for two scenes. I don’t regret reading it, though. It was quite something! I never would have thought it to be as funny as it was. Don Quixote and his trusty companion, Sancho Panza get involved in all types of mischief, while meeting others on the road and occasionally getting beaten up from their own stupidity. It truly is about two fools who go around believing that they are a knight and squire, respectively. Their expressions are hilarious but you also find yourself totally loving these guys. I was sad to find out how it ended. If you have the time to immerse yourself in it and the patience to understand old English (not as old as Beowulf, though), then you are in for an entertaining ride!
On the surface, you may think these novels have nothing in common. It is true that the first takes place about six years after the second one and is set in America, instead of France but there are some interesting similarities between the two books. I only realized them after I was part way through reading the second story. The strongest points these novels share are: people striving to understand, survive and live through a tragedy; conflicting relations with certain family members; the innocence of “young love”; an older person reflecting on the past and about to attend a reunion in honor of those who passed away during the tragic events. Even if you look at the covers—both depict a symbol of flight, where the image represented, is linked to risk and the feeling of melancholy in each tale. In the first book, Miri Ammerman is only in her mid teens when a sequence of three plane crashes affect her hometown, in Elizabeth, NJ. The accidents happen one after another, in a short span of time (within three months) and she is left to struggle and cope with the meaning of these misfortunes—and to try moving on with her life. She faces obstacles in the relationship she has with her single mom, Rusty and also experiences her first time being a girlfriend. With the second story, Isabelle Rossignol is eighteen in the midst of the Second World War. Her beloved country (France) has been taken captive by the Germans and she can find no welcome in her father’s or older sister’s arms. She helps to fight for the rights of French citizens by working under cover and endures great suffering through her successful efforts. Similar to Miri, Isabelle also experiences first love during so much heartache and danger. As you can see, the two novels are very different in terms of plot but there are a few threads that tie them together. Although they were both very appealing books to me, some readers may choose to dismiss them based on their topics (plane crashes or World War II).
This book takes place in the vividly described setting of Hong Kong. If you have never traveled there, the author does a good job making you feel as though you have visited it. In addition to the various detailed locations mentioned in and around the city, the plot pulls you in quickly. Retired expatriate journalist, Paul Leibovitz, is still grieving for his son’s passing and trying to seclude himself from the world after being divorced. When an American woman approaches him to find out what happened to her adult missing son, he is reluctant to help. As he hears more of the intriguing story (she is visiting with her husband, who owns a company in the city—which their son was a part of but who, one day, failed to meet up with her husband’s business partner), he realizes that foul play may have been a factor and fears the worst. Red flags seem to go up everywhere and the father himself acts suspicious. Leibovitz must tread lightly because his own life is threatened, as his every move is being carefully watched. He discovers that shady politics and bribery surround the city, while citizens look away for their own good. He contacts a long-time friend, who is a homicide detective and despite all odds (even from the hometown police force), the two manage to solve the case.
Hislit title read-alikes:
If you enjoyed the type of suspense found in Sendker’s book, you should like these too:
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
Hong Kong by Stephen Coonts
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
Sendker’s novel is fast-paced and shows the dirty side of money hungry companies, that will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. There is even a love interest for Leibovitz, giving him a reason to pursue the good fight. This is apparently the first story in a trilogy, where the second has yet to be translated from German and the third is currently being written.
Book vs. Movie
I feel really embarrassed to admit this, but I have never watched the animated version of the Disney’s classic. I don’t recall ever seeing it from beginning to end, or I might have been too small to remember the film in its entirety. While I’m at it, I might as well confess that I only read the actual stories by Rudyard Kipling, a few weeks ago. I had no idea that there were TWO Jungle Books. I found out that the movies were based on three stories in the first book (“Mowgli’s Brothers”, Kaa’s Hunting” and “Tiger! Tiger!”). I was interested to see the most recent version because it was a live action film that was directed by Jon Favreau—whom I admire. I thought I would give it a shot to see if it appealed to me. I really ended up liking it and have to say I was impressed. That being said, I couldn’t ignore the differences between what was on film compared to the book. First off, Mowgli’s parents do not die in the tale; Baloo and Bagheera are the ones who stand up for the child when he enters the wolf pack (therefore, Mowgli has known Baloo ever since he was little and does not meet the bear later on—like in the movie); Kaa is actually a friend of Mowgli and never is there any attempt from the snake to kill the boy; there is no King Louie and finally, the way Shere Khan meets his demise differs very much from the big screen. I would have to say that the movie used the characters but changed the plot quite a bit. Still, it was nice to see that the recent film included the recitation of the “wolf pack law”, which is in the book. I continued to read the stories from the second Jungle Book because it follows Mowgli’s adventures throughout his later years, where he goes back to the village and meets his biological mother. In the last Mowgli tale (“The Spring Running”), he decides to leave his jungle family for good. I also found out that Rudyard Kipling wrote a story in 1893 called “In the Rukh”, which describes Mowgli’s return to the world of men and where he ends up getting married. Whatever version you prefer (the written tales did seem a little darker than the movie), they are both told well and they each bring enjoyment in their own way.