Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Awakening --Allen Johnson

The Awakening: A Novel of Intrigue, Seduction, and Redemption —by Allen Johnson
304 pages / 1697 KB  

4 Stars

The book is exactly as advertised. It is a novel of Intrigue, Seduction, and Redemption. There were a few places where I had difficulty suspending my disbelief, and I shan't mention them, because you may not have that problem.

The book is emotionally captivating, I liked the characters, and I enjoyed the history woven into the story. I now know more about the Spanish Civil War than I knew before. The Awakening takes place over time, and to a degree over geography; mostly in Spain, a bit in Paris, and a tad in East Harlem.

This book was a good read, wonderful for my bedtime read, in other words, the story moved well, but was not an adrenaline gusher. Much food for thought and cogitation, and it belies the old saw that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Read the book. Write a review.

I hope the next book is ready soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring —by Tracy Chevalier

Fiction / Historical
240 pages / 506 kb
5 Stars

After all the hype, I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. I've read, and enjoyed at various levels her other books, save one which I just can't get into, so I decided to read this one. I still like The Last Runaway best, but maybe because it was the first of her books I read?

If you want a nitty gritty history of Vermeer, or life in his place and time, this probably isn't for you. I'm not sure how historically accurate this book is, but it's a fun read, and I do believe she has done some homework.

My classification of this book is Brain Candy, and every so often, I enjoy brain candy, especially when fairly well written.

I can understand why the wife would not like Griet. Griet is young, innocent, beautiful, and a servant. The other servant is old, ugly, and no competition or threat. I can understand why the wife would never want to wear the earrings again, and why her husband gave them away when he died (via a will). Why did Vermeer not paint his family? Perhaps as he says in the book, because they could not sit still. Perhaps no one would want to buy them. It is my understanding that many artists ground their own pigments to get them the way they wanted, that it was not usually something entrusted to a lowly servant. I may be wrong on that, but if so, then it was a sign of respect that Griet was allowed to do it. And, again, possibly his family had wanted to, and for whatever reason didn't do it right?

Though these characters are not deep, they are satisfying, especially if read for what it is, a novel. A made-up story. If you want adrenalin, read someone else's books. If you want a satisfying read that isn't racing hither and yon, read Tracy Chevalier.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nine Layers of Sky

Nine Layers of Sky —by Liz Williams 

Fiction / Fantasy (Urban)
427 pages
5 Stars

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Elena went from being an astrophysicist at Baikonur to being a janitor in her hometown of Almaty, who makes extra money buying and selling clothes on the black market. On her last trip, she picks up a small spherical object that is heavy, and oddly warm. As a scientist, she becomes curious and keeps it to study.

Ilya is 800 years old, a warrior of myth and legend, not quite human, but not sure of what he really is, who has one goal in life — to be able to die. Every time he is close to death, the rusalka come and heal him, against his will.

Ilya is hired to find the small, round object, and not only does he find it, he finds Elena, and together they discover the object can open gateways into an alternate Soviet Union, on another planet. Together, they must decide who gets the "key" and where they will live. Elena, the scientist does not know all the players. Ilya, the legend, does, and has spent 800 years hating and fearing some of them. But, are they who and what he has believed all this time?

I had a hard time putting this book down. I loved the characters, and the travel down the Silk Road in both universes. The ending came at just the right time, and was both satisfactory and conclusive. There are a few loose ends flying in the breeze here and there, but nothing serious, and perhaps, eventually, there will be a sequel?

I look forward to reading more books by Liz Williams.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Crocodiles: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos

Crocodiles: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nauture —Emma Child


26 pages / 696 KB
5 Stars

I have a soft spot in my heart for Crocs n Gators. Don't ask me why, perhaps it's their constant smile? At any rate, I was delighted when notified that Ms. Child has written another one of her marvelous books, and this time on Crocodiles.

If you haven't read her other books, you're in for a treat. She has a relaxed way of writing that will appeal to any child, regardless of their age. She researches her subjects, and uses professional photographs.

As in all of her books, there is a section of fun facts to learn and wow your friends with. Like their 80 teeth are replaceable, and scientists think they can be replaced up to at least 50 times in a lifetime. That crocs can live up to 75 years of age (wow! something older than me) and that saltwater crocs are bigger than alligators, and can grow up to 23 feet or so.

One question I have that was not answered—is crocodile meat as good to eat as alligator meat?

This is a great book for children to read on their own, and also one that the adults can read to them, as often as asked for. If you're giving a Kindle to a kinder, load it up with the books by Ms. Child!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Heart of the Trail

Heart of The Trail: The Stories of Eight Wagon Train Women —by Mary Barmeyer O'Brien

History / Women's Studies
81 pages
3 Stars

Being a short book, I knew none of the stories would be in depth; however, because they were about women I knew nothing about, they were mildly interesting. The writing is good, the subject matter terrific, but due to the shortness of the stories, not overly informative; more gravy, less meat.

I think this would be a good introduction to anyone not at all familiar with this part of our history, and would hopefully pique their interest to go on and read more in depth accounts, including the actual diaries of the women.

There was nothing here about how they coped with emergencies, or daily lives on a personal level, except as a high level gloss. Personal things, such as how they dealt with babies and diapers would probably not have been mentioned in their actual diaries and or letters home. That would have been considered women's work, and of no importance to record, as all the women would have known. And the men wouldn't have cared what they thought, let alone read the diaries.

I really wish the author had written longer stories with more usable information, given the women 50-60 pages each, and used more quotes from their diaries and letters. Unfortunately, the lack of information in this book make me hesitate to buy any of her other books, though I see she has several out about the same era and subject.