Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott

iconiconA popular form of literature lately seems to be nonfiction written in novel form. The Devil in the White City and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which I read and review on this blog some months back, are a couple of examples.

This book was very similar, except I think I might have liked it even better: Sin in the Second City, by Karen Abbott. It felt a little more easily readable than the other two, especially The Devil in the White City, which was an extraordinary book but also required a lot of concentration. Abbott's book wasn't exactly light reading, as it was still pretty heavily researched, but the paragraphs were shorter and the writing seemed to flow a little more easily.

Sin in the Second City is about the downfall of prostitution in Chicago in the early 20th century. Specifically, the book deals with one brothel in particular, the famous Everleigh Club — supposedly, the basis for the term "get laid" — and its madams, Minna and Ada Everleigh (an assumed last name).

The book is an extremely detailed and intriguing look into the world of prostitution, back in the days where the unofficial policy was segregation, allowing brothels to exist even though they were technically illegal. A very interesting glimpse into the history of prostitution, and a book I would recommend for anyone who enjoys these nonfiction novelizations!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog problems fixed

I just noticed that for some reason my blog had reverted back to an earlier version, where the most recent post was dated December 5th. The problem is now fixed, so if you haven't read my most recent reviews, please scroll down!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

iconiconNote: The image links to a nice hardcover edition of this book. Click here for an ebook edition of The Hobbiticon.

I just finished reading The Hobbit for the first time. It's such a surprise, because I've read Lord of the Rings several times and loved it from beginning to end each time. I did try reading The Hobbit when I was a kid, but I lost interest quickly and never tried again... Until now.

I have some mixed feelings about The Hobbit. I liked the book, but not as much as The Lord of the Rings. It did lack the long "history of Middle Earth" chapter that I've heard people complain about in The Lord of the Rings — though interestingly I've never had a problem with that chapter. It also moved quickly and was a much shorter story.

However, The Hobbit was also not quite as engrossing for me as The Lord of the Rings. I frequently found myself skimming parts of it, and had to force myself to go back and really read them. It just lacked the ability to interest me as much as The Lord of the Rings.

Every year around Christmas I try to reread some of my favorite books. A couple of years ago, it was C.S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles, which are some of my all-time favorite books, and have been since childhood. This Christmas I was planning to reread The Lord of the Rings, right after The Hobbit Unfortunately, I took longer to read The Hobbit than I had planned, and I've also bumped up a few other titles I want to read sooner rather than later. But soon I promise I will reread The Lord of the Rings, and then we will see whether my comparisons still ring as true with both novels still fresh in my mind!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tamar by Mal Peet

iconiconI don't remember where I heard about this book — Tamar by Mal Peet. I thought it was on NPR, but I couldn't find the story just now when I looked.

Regardless of where I heard of this book, my source in no way prepared me for how good the book would be. It is an excellent story of two men involved in the Dutch Resistance during World War II, interspersed with the modern-day story of the granddaughter of one of them. It's a mystery that bounces back and forth between 1944 and 1995, only the reader has the advantage of knowing what happened a step ahead of the granddaughter.

Another thing that I like about this book is that it has an ending that makes you think — a cliffhanger ending, in a way. I know some people don't like that, but if there's a purpose in it I really do. At the end of this book, you do get to find out what really happened, but it doesn't tie everything up into neat little bows — some of it is left unresolved, for you to think about.

This is a beautifully told, well researched book about World War II and its repercussions for the generations that followed. I highly recommend it!