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Winter of the World

Ken Follett is a genius. He has an amazing gift for creating riveting, all-encompassing stories that sweep human history. And he’s done it again with Winter of the World, the second book in the Century Trilogy.

Have you read Fall of Giants? Pillars of the Earth? World Without End? Those are his big ones as far as I’m concerned but I know he’s been a pretty prolific World War II spy series writer as well. The only one of those that I’ve read was The Key To Rebecca which was a really fun read.

But I’m totally getting distracted.

I was first introduced to Ken Follett through Pillars of the Earth. It was one that I could not put down and I found myself literally breathless reading it. When Fall of Giants was published I was so excited. Stories taking place in Medieval times are not generally something I’m drawn to but early 20th Century is right up my alley. Fall of Giants was spectacular but then it ended and I’ve waited 2 years for its sequel.

Winter of the World does not disappoint. Follett’s knowledge of World War II history is pretty astonishing and his previous experience writing spy novels really comes through for him in this novel. Seemed like every other character was a spy in this one. But in a good way. I don’t know about you but I’ve read a lot of World War II stuff and somehow Winter of the World made it seem like I never had. The whole era was made new again – does that make sense? Somehow Follett was able to make me really feel what it must have been like to live through that era. It was a really emotional read.

The book starts out in Germany in 1933 right around the time when Hitler seizes power and begins to really exercise his will on the people. The story takes us through the Spanish Civil War, Pearl Harbour, the Battle of Midway, the landings on the beach at Normandy and finally the uneasy peace following the war. When the book finishes, it’s 1948 and everyone is still waiting for some kind of resolution to be found.

Follett’s characters are always relatable and wonderful, or completely evil. I found that this time around he was more focused on making everyone have different sides to them. There were only a couple of truly evil people in this one, everyone else was trying to make the world a better place with the tools available to them. Follett definitely knows how to write a strong female character. Winter of the World is full of them. Fall of Giants had its share as well but the tradition gains traction in the sequel. Maud, Eth, Rosa, Carla, Frieda, Zoya, even Daisy in the end, are all incredibly strong female characters, stepping in when the men in their lives are unable to.

Sometimes I wish that I would just discover these series when they had already been completed. That way I wouldn’t have to wait and I’d save quite a few dollars getting them all in paperback! But now I’m doomed to wait another 2 years for the conclusion. The saving grace here is that it is sure to be worth the wait.

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Coming Soon

Even though it’s likely to be a while before I can rationalize buying a new book (the library has become my new best friend), I still like to know what’s coming out so that I can add things to my list. I’m obsessive about my list (confession: I have a book journal). This morning I saw that one of my favourite authors, Marian Keyes, has a new book coming out. Which made me curious about who else is about to release a new title.

So I did a little research. We’re heading into the Fall so you know some good ones are going to be released shortly. Here is a (by no means complete) list of some of the books I will be looking out for (and lusting after):

First up: Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close. Those of you that have read any of the books featuring the Walsh sisters will be thrilled to hear that this newest book features Helen Walsh. Helen! The baby! The one that’s always up to no good finally gets her own book! If you want to reacquaint yourself with any of the other Walsh sisters, check out (in no particular order): Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels, or Anybody Out There. In the meantime, Keyes is releasing an e-book: Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family. The Mystery of Mercy Close is set to be released by Penguin Canada on October 30 2012.

Ken Follett is set to release his second book in the Century Trilogy in September 2012. For us Canadians, the date is September 18th. Mark it down. Winter of the World will pick up the stories of the five interrelated families – in Russia, America, Germany, Wales and Britain – that we encountered in Fall of Giants. Ken Follett is a master story teller of epic tales and I cannot wait for Winter of the World to come out. Incidentally, if you were a fan of The Pillars of the Earth miniseries, the sequel series, World Without End will start airing on Showtime September 4th.

Nearly three years ago, Gretchen Rubin showed us small practical ways that we could increase our personal happiness. She’s at it again, this time tackling bigger issues when it comes to the relationships with those closest to you. Happier At Home still focuses on small practical ways to increase happiness, but in terms of bigger issues like raising happy children, maintaining a loving relationship with one’s spouse and how one can prevent a smart phone from taking over. I loved The Happiness Project and I’m looking forward to September 4th when Happier At Home will be available in stores.

Obviously I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of JK Rowing’s adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. In case you’d forgotten, it’s due to be released on September 29th.

Finally, in case you’re jonesing for a new title to run out and get right now, Philippa Gregory has released The Kingmaker’s Daughter, her first sister novel since The Other Boleyn Girl. Although I have been underwhelmed by some of her more recent releases (The Red Queen, Lady of the Rivers and The White Queen all come to mind), when I see her name, I can’t help myself. The ‘Kingmaker,’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was always such a shady character and whenever sisters and marriage and thrones are involved, well, Gregory tends to be at her best.

What new book are you most looking forward to?