Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Tuesday, where are you?

Niccolo Rising
Bruges, Flanders 1460
I want to say that Flanders during this time was a part of France...but maybe it was actually a part of the Netherlands. I don't know. Wikipedia has failed me. My world is crashing down around me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just me...

So this was actually posted several days ago, I am just extremely slow in mentioning it. After reaching 50 followers of her blog, Becky at Page Turners randomly chose two of those followers to feature on her blog. On of those two followers was me! Woo woo!! So check out my interview and then poke around the rest of Becky's rockin blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Romanov Bride - Robert Alexander

the romanov bride
robert alexander
c. 2008
301 pages
completed 2/21/2010

read for: tbr challenge, year of the historical challenge

*may contain spoilers*

I know that when you get right down to it people are not that easy to kill.

Switching back and forth between two points of view, this is the story of the last years of Tsarist Russia. Ella, Grand Duchess of Russia and sister to the Tsarista, lives through the bloody revolution as she becomes closer and closer to God, eventually taking the veil and becoming an Abbess and founding a Russian Orthodox convent devoted to charity. Pavel, a poor Russian peasant whose wife and unborn child were killed on Bloody Sunday, lives through the bloody revolution in a cloud of rage with a need for revenge, becoming an important member of the Revolutionaries. Eventually, their paths will meet.

I thought this was a decent read. I knew nothing about Grand Duchess Elisabeth before reading this. Most of what I know about the Romanovs is about Nicholas and Alexandra and their children, not any of their other relatives. She was pretty impressive. Once her husband was killed, I really enjoyed reading the chapters she narrated and hearing about how she left royal life and opened her convent and hospital.

While I thought it was a good idea to have the two narrators on extremely opposite sides of the revolution, I wasn't as engaged in the chapters narrated by Pavel. His character only rarely drew me in. I only became interested during the times when I saw a little humanity return to him, such as when he found the Minister's children after the Minister's house was bombed or during the times when his path crossed with the Grand Duchess. But the chapters in between, detailing his time as a revolutionary, were just not as engaging. And I wish we could have gotten a little more detail about how he ended up where he did.

I also was occasionally a little put off by some odd turns of phrase throughout the book. Some of it I chalked up to typos. There was definitely more than once that I noticed some odd grammar choices and some weird sentence structure. Things like that can easily pull me out of a story.

Not bad, but not my favorite either.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

never let me go
kazuo ishiguro
c. 2005
288 pages
completed 2/14/2010

read for: before i die challenge, 1001 books

*may contain spoilers*

My name is Kathy H.

Set in England in the 1990s, Kathy H is now in her thirties. She has recently been reintroduced to two old friends from her childhood and adolescence, Ruth and Tommy, and she begins to look back over their time together and the way they grew up. On the surface, her memories consist of growing up in an idyllic boarding school, but there's something a little darker underneath, and it takes a while for Kathy and her friends to understand just exactly who they are.

I was extremely surprised I like this book. I went into it preparing myself to give it up after my required 100 pages, but by the end it was bordering on un-putdownable. Perhaps that is because the science fiction element of it was very much in the background. Just by reading the book jacket (and likewise my brief synopsis) you would have no idea this book is about clones. Unless, like me, you went to check the Answerer of all Life's Questions (also known as Wikipedia) to find the correct publication date and glanced at the book description. I don't think the word was mentioned until after the first 100 pages of the books and even then it was used extremely sparingly. Instead, the author created a vocabulary of euphemisms that society used to describe them, as a way for them to gloss over some of the unease. They weren't clones, they were "students" and later on "donors." They didn't die, they "completed." I assumed this was supposed to mean they completed their purpose in life.

I like to read other people's comments on books I've just read and I noticed a lot of the people who didn't like this book complained about the lack of science, and I think maybe those people missed the point of the book. I don't say that to be mean. I often feel like I am missing the point of the books I read. But while it had sci-fi undertones, I think the book was really about life and friendship and humanity. The book didn't go into the development of the clone technology, or how their "donated" organs cured cancer, or anything like that. There was no clone uprising at the end to show that science and technology will one day take over the world. Instead, the book focused on the mundane daily lives of these three people, on their humanity. The important thing to learn about these people isn't how they were created and for what purpose, but to understand them as people. They had hopes and dreams and fears and foibles like any other person, even though they were maybe created in a test tube. The book was not explosive and excitable the way someone might assume a sci-fi clone book would be. Instead, it was quietly melancholy, a bit bleak, and ended not with revolution but with a resigned outlook to a way of life.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Music Mix Friday...Queen "We Are the Champions"

The Olympics start tonight! Go Team USA (and wherever you're from). And yes, I agree, those are some questionable clothing choices coming from Freddy Mercury and the boys.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reforms and revivals...

I'm so excited that blogger now lets you have more than one page on your blog. I'm going to be adding some things and maybe moving some things around and just doing some general maintenance. So get excited for some fun new things!

It's Tuesday, where are you?

A Shopkeeper's Millenium Rochester, New York, USA 1815

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Innocent Traitor - Alison Weir

innocent traitor
alison weir
c. 2007
400 pages
completed 2/5/2010

read for: tbr challenge, year of the historical challenge, reading western europe challenge

*may contain spoilers*

Lady Jane Grey came into this world a disappointment. Born to parents longing for a son, Jane was begrudged her existence from day one. Her only joy came from her studies. Jane was extremely intelligent and, with guidance from her tutors, became one of her times great Protestant thinkers, corresponding with leading theologians. After years of abuse and neglect from her parents, they finally began to notice her, but not for her intelligence and devotion to her religion. Instead, they saw her as a pawn to gaining power. With the death of Protestant King Edward VI becoming more and more inevitable, leading council members looked for any way to keep devoutly Catholic Mary from inheriting the throne. Their plan was to disinherit Mary and her sister Elizabeth, and set Edward's cousin on the throne. But that poor cousin, in the form of Lady Jane, knew the rightful heir to be Mary.

Wow, okay I don't know what is going on with my synopsis of this book. I tried but there is just no fixing it. So my apologies to anybody who speaks the English language for what I have done to it.

My poor description aside, this book was incredible. I was riveted pretty much from page one. I knew the basic outline of the plot just from being aware of Tudor history, but there was so much detail into Jane's life and what went into making her who she was that the story seemed completely new to me. I felt the author did a wonderful job bringing Jane to life, making her sympathetic and likable, and not just a gutless, thoughtless political pawn. Yes, she was overpowered by those around her, but she was sad and strong, and I cheered during the times she was able to stand up for herself. Even in her death she was so brave. I will totally admit to being in tears for probably the last thirty pages of the book.

My sister, the English scholar, is reading the book now and she has complained about the prose style, how she feels it to be a bit clunky, but I never noticed that. I thought all the description to be relevant and never over bearing. There were scenes with horrific detail, such as the scene where Jane witnesses the burning of two heretics or where Jane is blooded for the first time with her parents, that were just enough to make the reader uncomfortable and horrified, but not too much to become sensational and gratuitous.

I only had one complaint through the whole book and that came at the very end. While I really enjoyed the changing narrative, going from Jane's point of view, to her mother's, to her nurses, to Northumberland, and more, I found the executioner's voice at the end to be a little jarring at first. As he continued to speak he seemed to mesh a little more, but up until that moment the action was so tense and then his voice was so easy going. While I imagine he was a good choice so we could end on such a poignant yet horrific last line, I felt maybe there could have been another choice. Perhaps someone else who had witnessed the execution such as the Catholic priest she befriended in her last days or maybe her jailer. They could have closed the narrative with more emotion and heartbreak at Jane's execution and still witness the executioner's last line. But that's just me. Some people probably felt the executioner was the perfect voice with which to end. To each their own I suppose.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Music Mix Friday...Journey "Don't Stop Believing"

Just as I truly believe Disneyland to be the happiest place on Earth, I truly believe this to be THE greatest song of all time. Followed closely, if any one is wondering, by Thunder Road and Living on a Prayer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

By the end of February...

Okay, so I didn't finish one of the books I planned to read in January so I'll have to add it to this month. I did read two other books in January instead, so I won't have to read them later. Hopefully it all works out in the wash. Otherwise we're going to find that I'm ALREADY BEHIND. And that's just sad.

To Be Read by the End of February
Innocent Traitor - Allison Weir
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Romanov Bride - Robert Alexander
Niccolo Rising - Dorothy Dennet
The Whiskey Rebels - David Liss

Let's get February going!

To be read...

Saplings - Noel Streatfield
The Sweet Smell of Decay - Paul Lawrence
Notorious Royal Marriages - Leslie Carroll
The Bird Room - Chris Killen
The Dolphin People - Torston Krol
Faithful Place - Tana French
Crossing the Bridge - Michael Baron
One Amazing Thing/The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni (2 books)
Roses - Leila Meacham
The Crazy School - Cornelia Read
The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova
Power and Patch - Georgette Heyer
Alice I Have Been - Melanie Beryamin
Astrid and Veronika - Linda Olsson
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
The Palace of Strange Girls - Sallie Day
The Nobodies Album - Carolyn Parkhurst
Martha Peake - Patrick McGrath
The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
Blacklands - Belinda Bauer
South of Broad - Pat Conroy
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
Small Wars - Sadie Jones
Fidelity - Susan Glaspell
The Kingdom of Ohio - Matthew Flaming
Bloodroot - Amy Greene
Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Wild Irish - Robin Maxwell
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
Naive. Super - Erlend Loe
Twilight of Avalon - Anna Elliot
What the Dead Know - Laura Lippman
Signora da Vinci - Robin Maxwell
The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty
Bombay Time - Thrity Umrigar

37 new books added to the list...