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Search tags: Historical-fiction
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review 2017-05-26 00:37
Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett
Queens' Play - Dorothy Dunnett

Series: Lymond Chronicles #2

 

Francis Crawford goes undercover to help protect little Queen Mary from the attempts on her life disguised as accidents. Of course he does this in a completely Lymond style where he almost gets sent home his first week and he’s later suspected of doing things he didn’t do. It was a fun novel and easier to read than the first one, but it didn’t have nearly as many aha moments that made the first book so great. I also found the ending to be a bit of a downer, but I do plan on reading the rest of the series.

 

I read this for the Water Works booklikes-opoly square “Read a book with water on the cover”. At 496 pages, this nets me another $5 for my bank which brings my total balance to $92.

 

I think I’m going to do a tally at the end of how many times I landed on each square because there are a lot of repeats…

 

Previous updates:

100%

80%

53%

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review 2017-05-24 16:50
The Moor's Account: A Novel - Laila Lalami

Although I can appreciate the importance of this book's subject matter and admire the scope of Lalami's research, I found the protagonist lacked depth and the narrative dragged in places. I was more caught up in the story of Mustafa's life as a young person, prior to his enslavement, than in the episodic adventures of his journey among the Indigenous peoples of America; he seemed much more of a complete person in these sections, whereas in the present-tense of the book he felt like little more than a vessel for the tale.

 

Perhaps if I wasn't already aware of the horrors of early contact I would have been more engaged and certainly, if this perspective on history is new to you, you'll find it worthwhile.

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review 2017-05-21 16:43
The Daughter of TIme
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant lies in the hospital with a broken leg and he is utterly bored. Since Grant has the ability to judge a character from a persons look, he takes a look at a photograph of Richard III, who is supposed to have killed his two nephews, the princes in the towers. He immediately becomes interested in the mystery of the past. Has Richard III. really commited the crime?

 

I didn´t know anything about this book when I started reading it and I have to admit, this novel took me by suprise. I have never read a book before, where someone is solving a mystery by doing extensive research in books. And it is not even boring. I felt utterly compelled by this book the whole way through.

 

I have to admit, though, that I would have enjoyed this novel more if I would have known more of the Plantagenets and their history. Which means I will revisit this book as soon as I have brushed up on my historical knowledge.

 

I´ve read this book for the historical mystery square and it was a perfect read for this square.

 

Page count: 206 pages

Money earned: $3.00

 

 

 

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review 2017-05-20 21:21
Making History
Making History - Stephen Fry

Can you have a mid-life crisis at twenty-four? Or is it just the usual crisis of adulthood, something I was going to have to get used to until I doddered into oblivion? For the past year, I realised, I had been suffering from this pain, this leaking of hot lead in my stomach. Every morning when I awoke and stared at the ceiling and listened to Jane’s gentle snoring it flooded my gut, a dark swell of recognition that here was another pissing day to be got through as me. How can you tell if that’s freakish or usual? No one ever says. The ceaselessly expanding Christian Societies in the university would tell you that it was a sign that you needed room for Christ in your life. That your ache was a vacuum in the soul. Yeah, right. Sure. It was the same void that drugs filled, I supposed. I had thought too that maybe this was what Jane was for. No, not what Jane was for, what Love was for. Then either I didn’t love Jane as I should or this was another blown theory. The longings of a creative spirit then? Maybe my soul craved expression in Art? But: can’t draw, can’t write, can’t sing, can’t play. Great. Where does that leave me? A kind of Salieri deal perhaps. Cursed with enough of divine fire to recognise it in others, but not enough to create anything myself. Aw, rats . . .

Even tho I love Stephen Fry's books (and pretty much everything else he shares with the world), Making History has been lingering on my kindle without even tempting me to start this. Why is that?

 

Well, I unfortunately was put of by the premise that promised time travel that would culminate in the prevention of Hitler, two subjects that really don't intrigue me at all.

 

When I started the book, the misgivings I had with the premise continued: I liked Fry's writing but I still couldn't get to grips with reading what was in part a biography of Hitler, which, well, I had not planned on ever reading. I even found myself skimming some of those parts. It was written really well, but not something I would have engaged with if it had been by any other author.

 

However, I knew enough about Stephen Fry to be intrigued as to how he would handle the subject and how he would tie up the various parallel story lines. 

 

And of course the second story line about a history student who has just submitted his PhD thesis, was quirky enough and contained all the good parts, the parts where Fry questions things like the relationship between science and art, and how society attributes more importance to one rather than the other.

 

But then it happened: At about the half-way point, two things happened:

 

For one, I realised how unusual it is to read a WWI account (even tho fiction) from a German perspective. What is more, Fry did this rather well and without resorting to a lot of stereotyping or using cliches.

 

 

The second change was that the story suddenly changed a gear when the two plots crossed, and when we get to read Fry's conjectured alternate reality, which is not as, erm, peachy as the simple solution erasing Hitler's existence from the 20th century may seem. 

 

The second half of the book had me gripped. If I had not arranged to meet with a friend for lunch, I would have read this book straight through all morning.

 

What I loved about Fry's story is that he did not rely on a naive plot, but actually put a lot of thought into his conjectures, where one change effects so many things that outcomes are not predictable. And, yet, despite the sensitive subjects that Fry brought up, there is an overarching tone of hope for humankind, even if the book focuses on the balance between the good and the bad that comes with every action.

 

I absolutely loved it.

 

Unfortunately, this is the last of Fry's novels that I hadn't read, yet, so I can only hope that he will at some point write another one. I love his other books (the non-fiction ones), but his fiction work is rather special to me.

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review 2017-05-20 20:37
The Breedling and the City in the Garden
The Breedling and the City in the Garden (The Element Odysseys) - Kimberlee Ann Bastian

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I thought I’d like this novel more. It has an interesting and probably complex mythos, juxtaposing our world and another, Elemental-like creator powers, a Fates triad, soulcatchers, the Devil, and quite a few more—something I wouldn’t have minded dive in more. However, the way information was revealed was strange: both an info-dump and confusing, which is an unfortunate mix. I don’t doubt that, had it been presented differently, I would’ve warmed up to it.

I don’t mind a book starting in medias res, but here I felt I was thrown into a story without having enough background elements to fully grasp who the characters were, what their roles were, and why they were important. Stingy Jack, the Tales Teller, the Apothecary... After a while, it started to make sense, yet too late into the story for me to have been allowed to care about them, and too little (for instance, the relationship between Buck/Bartholomew and the Shepherdess is only made clearer right at the end; had it been manifest sooner, I may have cared about the Breedling a bit more, I suppose).

Also, some of the decisions the characters made were odd, or at least presented in a way that that made them look like they came out of nowhere, or without subtlety. I was particularly unsure about Charlie’s ‘plan’ involving the speakeasy—it made sense in one way, but not considering the kind of people would go there, as if he couldn’t have thought about that (hint: precisely the kind of people Charlie didn’t want to see near Buck).

The style was the other element that really bothered me. Omniscient point of view isn’t my favourite, so when it comes with a prose I don’t enjoy, I don’t do well with it. Dialogues were often stilted, with characters telling about their past as if they were reading from a book (I never expected Charlie to speak the way he did), and a lot of telling instead of showing. Since there were a lot of heated feelings in the story (grief, tension between gangs, wariness, simmering violence, threats...), this ‘telling’ was all the more obvious.

Nevertheless, there were good parts in the novel. Charlie especially was a relatable character: not perfect for sure, torn between his desire to follow his mother’s wishes (by helping those younger than him) and his wish to be free to live a life of his own—and yet, his natural tendencies always carry him towards taking care of others. He had to go through a lot, dealing with his grief while trying to follow his sense of duty, and no matter what, I definitely cannot fault a person for accepting their responsibilities.

I don’t think I’ll pick the second book though. It’s more a 1.5/2-star read for me.

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