Connie Willis – Blackout
I have read several of Willis’ novels before, some of them set in a historical setting but from a modern angle (the main characters are time-travelling historians). This time, the historians get stuck in London during the Blitz, a very bad time to be stuck in indeed. As an historical novel, Blackout is great. It made the Blitz feel real and was genuinely interesting. However, the book is only the first of two, so let me finish my little review below.
Connie Willis – All Clear
Blackout ends in the middle of the story and All Clear is the sequel. Actually, it’s the story I like the least in this double-decker. The main characters are separated at the outset and way too much time is spent on people running back and forth trying to find each other. The overall plot is okay, but it takes too many pages to tell. In the end, though, I found both books enjoyable. Willis is a competent writer and manages to make the setting come alive. Four snails.
Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist
I have read a few books by Charles Dickens before, the most recent one being Hard Work, which I read as part of my studies in English literature at university. Dickens is an author I almost expect to be boring because of his fame and status, but really like when I get down to actually reading him (I remember feeling the same way when reading Hard Work). I love the narrator’s irony and the way the story is told. Dickens is also very, very good at describing villains, and although the overall story feels a bit contrived, the positive still easily outweighs the negative.
Rod Ellis – Second Language Acquisition
This is a basic introduction to second language acquisition that I picked up somewhere and felt like reading. It doesn’t contain much I haven’t already studied, but it doesn’t hurt to reread stuff like this. Rod Ellis is one of the major figures in the second language acquisition field, and this book, which is in the Oxford Introduction to Language Study series, works well as an introduction. The only drawback is that it was published in 1997, but most of the content is so basic that this hardly matters.
J. D. Salinger – The Cather in the Rye
This book has been on my ought-to-read list for a long time and now I finally got around to reading it. I must admit I don’t understand its greatness. It could be because I never felt alienated as a teenager and the setting feels distant (mid-century New York). It could also be because I seldom appreciate vernacular language in books (several “I really did” or similar per page or “that killed me” once per paragraph). As a window into teen alienation, I can see the value of reading this book, but I didn’t enjoy reading it much. I really didn’t.