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review 2021-02-22 11:15
Review - Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
Zombie Fallout - Mark Tufo

Well, well, well..I'm into Booklikes for the first time in many months  Quite excited by that, if I'm honest!  So far, so good, I'll just keep my fingers crossed that this works.  Nothing much to say about Zombie Fallout, apart from I love the series and I'm on to Book 8 now, just wanted to see if I could make a post...  Here goes nothing...

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review 2020-12-11 12:27
**Limited time sale 0.99!** - Book review on historical fiction Love Under the Stars
Love Under the Stars (The Brashear Series Book 1) - Kathleen Shoop
**Limited time sale 0.99!**
Book review on historical fiction Love Under the Stars (The Brashear Series Book 1) by Kathleen Shoop
 
Kathleen Shoop and historical romance, what is there not to love? The author jumped to the top of my list in this genre as soon as she hooked me with The Letter Series and I've never looked back. Here, with Love Under the Stars, is another prime example of why I simply love her writing! I drifted into the storyline with ease, the surroundings, the characters, the emotions, all felt real as if I was there as an observer watching it all unfold in front of me. I love reading how different life was back then compared to how it is now, I sometimes wonder if it was simpler in a way even though it was harsher times.
 
The two adorable main characters, Phoebe and John, enjoy the journey of first love, yet are torn between their love and loyalty. I felt my heart pull for them as they secretly fall in love, knowing that in reality it wouldn't be that easy to follow their dreams together. Young, big hearted Phoebe strives to keep her parents and family happy in their lives, centred around her love of cooking and caring for others she understands, as she has been told many times by her father, that she is destined to live as a single woman to serve her family. John is a lovely, thoughtful, and determined character, who comes from a loving and encouraging family, who brings love, nature and wonder to Phoebe's domestic life.
 
They are a match made in heaven in this quaint, cosy tale that pulls on your emotions hoping that their love will win through against the odds.
 
An easy
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐'s
 
Source: beckvalleybooks.blogspot.com/2020/11/love-under-stars-brashear-series-book-1.html
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review 2020-09-09 17:26
The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories by Alexander Pushkin
The Captain's Daughter: And Other Stories - Alexander Pushkin

There’s a little sense of dissonance when I read a classic and my response is “huh, okay.” This is especially true when I read the classic in translation; in this case, the translation is very smooth, contemporary, and easy to read, which causes its own form of dissonance. These now feel like contemporary stories rather than something written in the early 19th century, and compared to contemporary stories they don’t particularly stand out to me, but then I neither read them in their original language nor am familiar with the history of Russian literature so as to appreciate the ways in which Pushkin was blazing a new trail.

The stories:

“The Captain’s Daughter”: This novella occupies almost half of the book. It involves a romance between a young officer and the angelic daughter of the captain, set during the time of Pugachev’s rebellion, and Pugachev himself is the most vibrant character in it. The story moves along briskly and is fairly satisfying, though the characters are not particularly complex. This edition also includes an omitted chapter, which is interesting in that Pushkin ditched a bunch of melodrama and overt paternalism.

“The Tales of Ivan Petrovich Belkin”: These five stories, mostly around 15 pages each, are given a framing device in that they were all collected by a fictional young dead man, but they aren’t actually linked, so I’ll discuss them separately.

“The Shot”: The narrator pieces together the story of a multi-episode duel from others. It’s a bleak world in which men are expected to kill and die in duels over the most mundane insults, and those who refuse lose all respect from their fellows. (Pushkin, sadly, died himself in a duel at age 37.)

“The Snowstorm”: A prank disrupts a love affair. This is a cleverly structured story, in which after reading the end you go back and read over the earlier parts with fresh eyes, something I love in a short story. It made me uncomfortable in that I didn’t find Burmin’s behavior deserving of a happy ending.

“The Undertaker”: A man has ungenerous thoughts and is punished with a nightmare. Um, okay.

“The Postmaster”: Another narrator piecing together someone else’s story, this time of a postmaster and his prodigal daughter. This didn’t do much for me.

“Mistress Into Maid”: A sweet little story about a forbidden romance, also involving some pranking, but this time harmless. I enjoyed this one.

“The Queen of Spades”: This is a somewhat longer story about gambling and obsession, in which a calculating young man will go to almost any length for a guaranteed win at cards. I found this one pretty good and with a satisfying ending.

“Kirdjali”: Eight pages about the legend of an Eastern European bandit. Okay.

“The Negro of Peter the Great”: This is an unfinished fragment, around 40 pages long, of what was perhaps intended to be a novel. The title isn’t politically correct these days but the “Negro” in question is a (lightly fictionalized?) version of Pushkin’s own maternal great-grandfather, Abram or Ibrahim Gannibal, who was brought to Russia as a boy, adopted by Peter the Great as his godson, sent to France to study military engineering, and later returned to Russia to be an important figure in the military and the court. The fragment deals largely with Ibrahim’s love troubles, as well as his relationship with Peter the Great, who’s presented in a very positive light. This is interesting from a historical perspective though a fragment is unlikely to satisfy in a storytelling sense.

Overall, I’m glad to have read some work by a classic author I hadn’t been exposed to before, and appreciated the window into 18th and early 19th century Russia. But while the writing is perfectly fine, I can’t say any of it blew me away. I also have the sense that this collection doesn’t represent Pushkin’s best work, much of which was poetry and plays.

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review 2020-09-05 18:45
White Mughals by William Dalrymple
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India - William Dalrymple

I have a lot of admiration for this author’s Nine Lives, and The Anarchy is highly informative. But this book is supposedly a love story, which isn't actually all that well-documented and for which the author puts on heavily rose-tinted glasses to ignore the fact that the participants were aged 35 and 13 and that we know almost nothing about her life, thoughts, or feelings. In reality, the book is in part a biography of East India Company official James Achilles Kirkpatrick, and in part a very detailed and heavily footnoted account of the British presence in India from about 1798-1806.

So. Kirkpatrick was a Resident of the East India Company in Hyderabad, essentially an ambassador to the princely court there, a position from which he built himself a monumental residence and negotiated treaties that strengthened the British and weakened the Hyderabadis (at times he felt bad about this but not bad enough to resign). He wrote a bunch of letters which from a modern point-of-view look awfully patronizing (referring to the Nizam, or local ruler, as “old Nizzy,” or giving himself credit for “convincing” the Indian authorities to do any useful thing they did); it’s hard to parse this stuff because the author never addresses it.

Kirkpatrick also, at the age of 35, slept with a 13-year-old girl from an aristocratic Muslim family, whom he got pregnant and then married. Now, I know that conventions about age and sex were different in many historical time periods, but rather than talking about that at all, Dalrymple seems to hope readers won't notice. In fact his description of the early years of this “romance” entirely obscures the age issue by stating vaguely that Khair un-Nissa was “probably in her early teens” and then quickly moving on. That uncertainty was apparently cleared up in Dalrymple’s own mind by the later chapters, at which point he states without ambiguity that she was 19 when their oldest child was 5. Dalrymple further tries to paper over the consent issue by emphasizing the fact that Khair un-Nissa’s male relatives, and Kirkpatrick himself—when accused of rape by a third party for what Dalrymple insists were purely specious and political reasons, to drive a wedge between her male relatives and the British—portrayed her as the initiator. Which in my mind just makes it worse (most of us would be pretty disgusted by a 35-year-old man excusing himself with “but the 13-year-old totally initiated!” regardless of whether it was true, in part because this is such a common line in the sex offender playbook), especially since Khair un-Nissa’s own voice is entirely absent from the book. None of her letters survived, and she’s viewed almost entirely through male eyes.

The couple go on to get married and have a couple of kids whom he insists on shipping off to his relatives in England at the tender ages of 5 and 3, at which point they’re forbidden from corresponding with their mother or her relatives. We don’t actually know much about their marriage because Kirkpatrick didn’t write much about it, but the author infers a lot. Both parties then die young. Dalrymple insists on viewing Khair un-Nissa as a tragic heroine throughout, based on what seems to be pretty scanty evidence. In a place and time when medical knowledge was still quite basic and a doctor even feeling a woman’s pulse was reserved for serious circumstances, I wouldn’t infer that she died of a broken heart from the simple fact that the doctor couldn’t pinpoint the cause.

At any rate, Dalrymple never reckons with the fact that his supposedly beautiful true love story involves a middle-aged man and an adolescent girl, and has little to say about the fact that we don’t hear her voice at all. But then, the relationship is only a focal point of a book that is largely comprised of the author squeezing in whatever bits of history seem to have caught his fancy. Someone goes to a festival, and we get a 6-page history of the festival and description of relevant buildings. Someone visits Calcutta, and we get 6 pages describing its society. Someone remodels a building and we get endless discussion of architecture and the hiring of workmen. It can be pretty interesting, but it also makes the book quite dense, especially with all the tiny footnotes, which I think are overkill for a non-academic work. The publishers could have made the book much more readable by actually naming the chapters and sections (and making sure to space out section breaks more evenly) to make it easier for readers to find what interests them. Instead it’s a wall of text full of tangents and extraneous details; no wonder many readers were frustrated. I nearly gave up on it myself.

Despite all its flaws, though, I did find the book interesting, and in the end did read it all. I do appreciate details and specifics and this book has them in abundance. It seems well-researched and the author’s basic thesis, that in the 18th century the British in India did far more to assimilate than their hoity-toity 19th century successors, is also quite interesting. Those looking for a detailed picture of an era would be well-advised to pick this up, though those expecting a love story might do better to avoid it.

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review 2020-08-25 22:47
Daughters of the Sun by Ira Mukhoty
Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire - Ira Mukhoty

This is an interesting book about the women related to the Mughal emperors. I wound up disenchanted with it and think that its reception so far has been perhaps a bit too glowing, but I did learn some interesting things from it.

Essentially, this is a history of a little over 200 years of the Mughal empire in India, from just before their arrival at the beginning of the 16th century, to just after the death of Aurangzeb at the beginning of the 18th. The focus is on the women of the dynasty, who played far more powerful and active roles than western stereotypes would have it. Also, the “harem” (the correct term for the women’s quarters is a zenana) wasn’t exactly teeming with wives and concubines of the emperor; any woman related to him or to his loyal retainers could show up to live there and many did, along with their own entourages and servants.

Particularly in the early years, these women were hardly in purdah: they accompanied the emperor as he traveled around, even to war or on daring escapes across mountains from pursuing armies (this sometimes resulted in wives and children being captured or killed); they traveled from city to city at their own whim; they went on hajj. Even later on, once the zenana became more separate, the women there still wielded considerable power, as they often had independent fortunes, owned trading ships, commissioned monumental buildings, and weighed in with the emperor on issues of public policy. Maham Anaga was essentially regent of part of India for awhile, while Noor Jahan coined her own money and had the authority to issue edicts under her name and with her own seal.

All of which is fascinating, and I’m glad to have learned about these women, but the execution let me down a bit. First, the author covers more than 200 years and a ton of women in just 246 pages of text, which means it’s rushed and often doesn’t get much past generalities. Second, the first third is definitely the best because Mukhoty can rely on the memoirs of Gulbadan, daughter of Babur and relative of the later emperors, which bring a lovely personal touch to the story. In the later portions we don’t have that and so it becomes more distant. It might also be that the earlier women are just more interesting, as many of them led quite dramatic lives while the later ones seem to have mostly stayed behind walls amassing wealth and commissioning buildings in their names.

Third, the author seems to glorify the Mughals overmuch, in a way that comes across as colonialist. We may not think of the Mughals as colonizers because they weren’t European and, unlike the British, at least they kept India’s wealth in the country and acculturated themselves to the place. But still, they rode in from Afghanistan and killed a ton of people to conquer territory for their own power and glory, and continued to do so throughout the existence of the empire. Mukhoty mostly elides the fact that their wars consisted of naked land grabs, and there’s a weird “oh, those Hindus and their barbaric customs” vibe that comes close to suggesting the Hindus needed the Mughals to save them from themselves.

Finally, the book just doesn’t come across as very historically rigorous. Mukhoty’s decision to write the entire history in the present tense is weird and distracting. There’s also a tendency to use the same evocative generalities over and over again; the author is always talking about someone’s glittering, blistering, blinding, incandescent, etc., etc., ambition, which is a fancy way of saying the Mughals loved conquering people and imposing architecture. There are endnotes (though frustratingly, no index) and the author seems to have used at least some primary sources. She also doesn’t run rampant speculating on thoughts and feelings (lack of source material is perhaps why the book covers so many people in so few pages). But I would have appreciated more facts and less editorializing.

In the end, interesting book that opened my eyes to a part of history I didn’t know much about. Could be worthwhile reading if you’re interested in the subject, but ultimately it was frustrating for me because it could have been better.

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