The Famished Road

Ben Okri

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This book should have been right up my alley: magical realism, Booker Prize winner, African folklore; it has it all. Yet somehow it just didn’t do it for me. A young African boy, Azaro, is continually being kidnapped by spirits, but it doesn’t seem to hurt him, and he easily escapes. His parents try to scratch out a living. His mum earns a pittance as a street vendor, and his dad carries heavy sacks as a day laborer. His dad also is an unsuccessful prize fighter. The first time any of this is described is entertaining, but by the third or fourth time, it is merely repetitive. Nothing new is added. At the end of the book all the character are unchanged.

I read it in my quest to read all the Booker Prize winners, and I wish they had chosen Paddy Doyle’s The Van instead.

 

 

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Medieval Cuisine

Shenanchie O’Toole

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This is a good little book if you don’t overload it with expectations. It’s a brief overview of medieval cuisine, with additional introductory material about tool, ovens, ingredients, and recipes. It serves as a quick overview of the subject and is a fine introduction to the subject. At 44 pages, it can be read at one setting. I enjoyed it very much. It reminds me of several of the pamphlets available through the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Starship Troopers

Robert Heinlein

What can I say about a classic? I first read this book when I was in high school, and it shaped my world view. Far more than a mere science fiction book, it explores the moral question of what it means to be a citizen. Along with opening the ideas of military life, politics, and the right and wrong of using deadly force, it presents questions of life and death.

Intriguingly enough in an era of white-bread uniformity, Heinlein chooses a young Filipino boy to embody the virtues of citizenship.

One of the best books I have ever read, it never loses its appeal.

 

Mary, Queen of France

Jean Plaidy

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I have been reading Jean Plaidy for years, since I was a teen. She never fails to deliver an easy well-researched read. This story of the younger, petted sister of Henry VIII is no exception. Spoiled from birth, Mary is used to getting her own way, until the matter of her marriage comes up. Then she learns the hard way that being a royal princess has its downside. Married off to the aging king of France for political reasons, she has to grow up in a hurry. At his death, she risks all to marry the love of her life, Charles Brandon, depending on Henry’s promise, and his love for her and Charles.

This intriguing story follows the facts of history, and at the same time delivers a satisfying novel with insight into Mary’s feelings. A good read.

The Draig’s Woman

Lisa Dawn Wadler

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I love me a time slip novel, and this one has a hot Scot and a kick-ass heroine. Using her mad martial arts skilz, she rescues the hero from the bad guys, then helps him manage his money using her accounting knowlege. What’s not to like?

This book was pleasant and pleasantly forgettable. Oh, BTW, Draig is the name of his clan, and he is known as The Draig since he is head of the clan. Don’t know why the title is in all lower-case letters.

Somewhere Towards the End

Diana Athill

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What is it like to grow old? Locked as we are into our ghettos of age, we seldom come into close contact with the elderly, and few of the are as articulate as Diana Athill. She shows how growing old can be a challenge and a reward in itself. Scrupulously honest about her past life as an active woman, a loving partner, and an outstanding editor and writer, she is equally as honest about her present weakness and sense of loss. Still writing at age 101, she has am attitude of ‘enjoy yourself as much as you can without doing any damage to other people.’

A rare treasure of a book and a writer.

Otherwise Engaged

Amanda Quick

Otherwise Engaged by [Quick, Amanda]

This book had a very strong beginning, with the heroine meeting the hero wounded and helpless in an alley in a back port. She picks him up and nurses him back to health on the return voyage back to England.

Even though the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the strong beginning, it is still a fun read. The heroine makes her living writing as a travel journalist. Unfortunately we don’t see any of this activity because she is engaged in helping the hero to track down a deranged murderer known as the Bridegroom.

The book is a pleasant read, but ultimately forgettable. I read it in June and had to go to Amazon to refresh my memory. The cover brought it back because of the amazing fan the heroine uses as a weapon.

Not every book has to be memorable. This was a pleasant read and worth the $1.99 I paid for it.

 

Chicken with Plums

Marjane Satrapi

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This is the story of Marjane’s great uncle, a famous musician. When his instrument is damaged, he searches unsuccessfully for a replacement. Depressed, he gives up the search and decides to die.

In the eight days between his loss and his death, Marjane’s wonderful illustrations travel back through his disappointing life. The only pleasure left to him is a favorite dish, chicken with plums.

Although I loved her illustrations, the story left me cold. This man cared nothing for his wife or children, only his instrument. If he couldn’t have it, he decided to die and did. What selfishness!

Day Shift

Charlaine Harris

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Vampires, shifters, and psychics, oh my! These are just some of the people who make up the population of Midnight, Texas. And yet, they all manage to live in peace unless they are disturbed by outsiders. Then the trouble begins.

I particularly the the pairing of the vampire Lemuel with the mysterious, beautiful and deadly Olivia. Since the inhabitants of Midnight have perfected the art of minding their own business, no one knows exactly what Olivia’s background is. They only know that she’s a good person to leave alone, and that’s OK with them.

I like how Harris’ mind works and how she is able to create a world in which these characters are able to get along with each other. Mostly.

Queen of the Tearling

Erika Johansen

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I read this book and the two that followed in one, glorious binge read over a couple of days. I was so enchanted and pulled into the story, I had to keep reading until the story was finished. It is the story of a young woman, raised in isolation by two people in the country. One day, a group of men-at-arms arrive, and hail her the Queen of the Tearling and take her away. From then on, she must learn what it means to be a queen.

The main character is so appealing and the task before her is so large, I couldn’t help rooting for her to overcome the odds against her.

An excellent story.