Saturday, January 21, 2012

Over There

One of the things I really love about Goodreads is that I see reviews for so many genres of books. My friends all have very different tastes, so the books they read and review are dramatically different, too. (Help! I’ve Married a Demon! meets Man Booker prize winner The Sense of an Ending. You know who you people are.) I’ve been convinced to try a few books that I never would have picked up on my own. You want to know how else to get me to try a book I might not have chosen otherwise? Have a contest and give it away.

There’s a giveaways section on Goodreads where you can win free books. It’s awesome. There are hundreds of book available, but usually there are two copies and two thousand people requesting it. (Totally not kidding.) I’m really picky with what I enter and I don’t ask for any book I don’t genuinely want to read, even though it’s tempting to ask for every book available. All you have to do is click a couple of buttons to enter, but I think it would be great if you could enter a twitter length argument for why you deserved the book most. Ooh, or a haiku!*

I know that the quid pro quo is that the sponsor would like a positive review, even though they are very careful to let you know that no review is required. I’m not sure what the best method is when you receive an advance copy and you absolutely hate it. Some people review it negatively, while others chose not to review it at all.

The nice thing is that I don’t have to worry about that issue, because the book I won was Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Novel and I really liked it. It’s set during the beginning years of WWI, before America enters the war, and Maggie Hope enters the secretarial pool for Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain. Maggie has a brilliant mind for mathematics and is frustrated at being part of the clerical staff when she could support the war efforts better through code-breaking, but there are lots of secrets being kept from her. It’s a fast-paced mystery/spy novel, but it’s an equally compelling historical account.

It’s a beautifully researched novel, with details of WWI in London and snatches of Churchill’s most stirring speeches. The author’s respect and fondness for Churchill shine brightly and his brief forays into the story are special. The story focuses on Maggie, but her group of friends and flat mates are interesting enough that I’d love to see the same time period and events seen through each of their viewpoints. If MacNeil wrote those books as engagingly as Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, I would read each and recommend it as highly as I do this one.


*My Haiku
Tired man puffs cigar
War has come in the winter
Give me a free book


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