Well, that needed to happen too- it's been a pretty busy since my Java class replaced the prof in mid-March with a guy who actually wanted to teach- and given that I was one of the ringleaders in complaining that the assigned homework was a) too little and b) too easy, I felt particularly challenged to do well. Which I did! (Grades posted last week!)
So without further ado (and hidden behind cuts for extreme wordiness)- the reviews-
Stark Decency: German Prisoners of War in a New England Village by Allen V. Koop-
This book described the establishment of Camp Stark in Stark, NH (north of the White Mountains in northern NH) during World War II. It was a forced-labor camp where the prisoners were used as labor to harvest pulpwood under the direction of American foremen.
Koop is clearly a better researcher than he is a writer. This was interesting to me for both the local setting, and the unusual viewpoint. It brought out some relatively little discussed history- I had not realized how many German prisoners were brought to the US, or many of the social issues surrounding it. While there were many interesting snippets of information, the book is not well written. It suffers from the author's determination to portray the (often surprisingly cordial) relations between the prisoners, guards and townspeople of Stark in a positive light, rather than trying to tell the story for its own sake. A shame, because I think had the author done more to include the anecdotal personal accounts of the people involved, interspersing them with his factual research, it would have both been more cohesive a story- and proven his point better as well.
Floodgate by Alistair MacLean
This is a late work by a popular author, and sadly left me with the not uncommon impression that the author published his first draft. The most interesting part was the Holland setting, but the good guys win too easily, the bad guys are so amateurish that you wonder how they could have stolen Girl Scout cookies, let alone weapons, and the swift uncomplicated resolution made this not especially worth a reader's time. If I'd had this book on an airplane, as my only reading material? I'd have done the Sudoku in the in-flight magazine first.
The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune,and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander
Okay, so gardening books are not generally my thing. This was bought as a gift, however and what kind of a person would I be if I didn't at least check it out before wrapping it? Alexander describes the trials and travails of being a yuppie gardener with self deprecating humor. I was often bemused by the lengths he went to, the more particularly since the vegetable gardens of my childhood were far more practically oriented to the aim of providing affordable food. I was amused to the very end- and I may well have to borrow the book back to copy down some of the recipes included at the end, which looked quite intriguing.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes- Vol 1&2 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I read most of the Holmes oeuvre when I was a preteen, but they stand up very well to rereading, as generations of fans can attest. For those who've never attempted the original works, Doyle has a very lucid 'modern' style, and the charm of the stories is undiminished by the years. And considering that I just read all four novels and fifty-six short stories nearly back to back? They still hold the reader's interest very well!
Moonstruck by Edward Lerner
Unfortunately, the author did the research for an excellent novel, but failed to finish even a novella. The narrative was very disjointed, with the plot structured in three sections of differing lengths and action. The POV shifts were awkward. The book starts as a mystery- "the aliens have contacted us, whatever can they be up to?" Then it switches to the point of view of several of the aliens, who thoroughly explain everything. That storyline ends two-thirds of the way through the book, and the rest of the book deals with "what else were the aliens up to?" Profoundly unsuccessful, belying a deceptively promising beginning.
Now, how's that for variety?!