Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Savannah: or A Gift for Mr Lincoln

John Jakes is another one of "my" authors, or an author that I will pretty much purchase and read anything they publish.  Over the years, these authors have changed somewhat, particularly if there is a downard trend in quality.  Savannah: or A Gift for Mr Lincoln ranks on the lower end of Mr Jakes' work but still there is enough enjoyment here to keep him on my list.  His last three books have suffered some so he's pushing it a little but his age would dictate there aren't too many novels left in him anyway.

This particular novel is one of his shorter ones and is a fairly light read.  He takes a tiny part of General Sherman's famous "March to the Sea" campaign near the end of the Civil War, namely that of the days and weeks surrounding the taking of Savannah during late December 1864.  Sherman, to this day, is often a hated man in the South due to this campaign which they see as unneccesarily harsh to the farmers and other non-combatants of the region.  But Sherman intended to break the back of the South and make them plea for peace and end the war sooner.  Not all that unlike another controversial decision almost a century later with the dropping of atom bombs on Japan.

The story here though is not about warfare or tactics or political decisions.  Rather, it brings it all down to the personal level, as we follow the story of how ordinary people in Savannah deal with what is happening around them.  It's a fairly basic story and the characters represent a cross section of society at that time.  One of the main characters is a twelve year old girl and as a result, the novel almost reads as a young adult novel.  Certainly there is no swearing or sex in this book.  General Sherman does put in a couple of appearances and comes across more as an understanding grandfather than the root of all evil.  This, ultimately, is a book about Christmas and the spirit of that time of the year so understanding the other person's point of view is easier, or at least people do tend to work harder at it.  I will say that I continue to be inspired by the historical accuracy of Mr Jakes' work.  He always manages to sprinkle in quite a few historical tidbits and that makes his books fun to read.

The third story in Jeffrey Archer's collection, Cat O'Nine Tales was awesome.  "Don't Drink the Water" is told in his same style of campfire storytelling; i.e. not much dialogue, just here's what happened.  The story tells of a man in Russia who got away with murder.  He does it by getting his wife to unknowingly drink the tap water at a hotel instead of the bottled water.  Apparently 50 some years ago the water there was downright dangerous.  Sure enough his wife gets a disease and dies.  Unfortunately for the protagonist, justice is ultimately served to him though, just not by the legal system.  The twist right at the end was a complete surprise and had me laughing out loud.

Next up: a young adult fantasy novel, The Steps Up the Chimney, the first in a series of four called "The Magician's House Quartet" by William Corlett.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire