Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dorothy Dunnett 'King Hereafter'

Some books have stories that stay in your head long after you've finished the last page. This is just that sort of book. I do have a higher-than-average interest in Medieval European History, having a bachelor's degree in the subject. But I didn't have a lot of interest in the political intrigue of that time period. This was facilitated by most of my professors being more interested in the social history as well. Somehow they just assumed I was getting the wars and the kings by osmosis; if Dorothy Dunnett had been teaching the wars and the kings I might have paid more attention.

MacBeth(Thorfinn) was a real person, he ruled 'Scotland' from 1040-1058. He started out as the Earl of the Orkney Islands and became ruler of Alba after killing his cousin Duncan. He tried, with varying success, to bring what is now Scotland under one rule for most of his life. Ms. Dunnett spent over six years researching his life and times, having to use predominantly primary sources. When she describes MacBeth as a brilliant political strategist and a loyal husband and friend, I believe her. MacBeth and his wife Groa's relationship is written so beautifully and with such insight into human nature, it's a wonder to behold.

This book is not for the faint of heart, although I generally consider myself in the faint of heart category, so if I can do it, you can too. Just be prepared that it's detailed and 720 pages and very small type. It was more than worth the effort; these characters are so real and I miss them already. It's not just with a sense of accomplishment at conquering the book, but with a real sense of loss at having finished it, that I give it 5 stars.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jude Deveraux 'Someone To Love'

Ms Deveraux will be looking hard for someone to love this book. Yuck. I haven't read this author in a few years and after this one I have no reason to try again.

Jace's fiancee apparently committed suicide three years ago just before their wedding. He still can't move on so he buys an ugly English estate, that seems to be involved, to solve the mystery. He gets help from the two resident ghosts, and the heroine who is a local journalist.

There are so many ridiculous moments in this book, like when Nightingale, our heroine, who is a foreign correspondent at home on leave in Margate, writes a completely inflammatory ludicrous article about our hero in the local paper. Supposedly she is tricked into writing it by some local yahoos who snow her about what Jace has been doing in little Margate. First of all, how did she manage to be a war zone journalist, by never fact checking? And secondly I'm supposed to believe that Jace forgets all about this event once he meets her and finds out she's nice? Hmmm.

The book isn't worth any more description. If you love Jude Deveraux, go ahead, waste your time. If you've never read her before, avoid this like the plague.

Contemporary Romance: 1 out of 5 ghostly encounters.

Image is portrait from 1790 by Vigee le Brun.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

De-Lurking Week (Day, Hour)

It's not really De-Lurking Week anymore but I thought I would jump on the bandwagon (late) anyway. I just really liked this picture. And yes, I'm neurotically desperate for comments. Does every blogger feel this way? I once said about snail mail, "Every letter is an affirmation that you are still alive." I was a bit melodramatic in my younger years wasn't I?

So comment already, will ya?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lisa Kleypas 'Mine Till Midnight'

Excellent example of a completely average, acceptable romance novel. The writing is decent, the characters are mildly likable (the heroine is more interesting than the hero in this case), the plot facilitates the main characters spending a lot of time together and isn't too incredibly silly. There is a lot of relatively explicit sex. I didn't dislike it in anyway, but I didn't really like it either.

Amelia's parents are dead, her older brother has given up on life after his fiancee died of scarlet fever, and her sister barely recovered from the fever herself. One of her younger sisters is a kleptomaniac. Cam is a very successful gypsy businessman who can't stop himself from wanting to take care of her. There's one bodice ripper sex scene that I couldn't approve of on principle. Beyond that I wish I could be more opinionated (since that is what I do here) but I really can't explain why it didn't grab my attention more. Nice fluff.

I know that I promised my next review would be King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett but I just couldn't make you wait any longer for me to finish it. I realize no one will believe that King Hereafter is a great book, since it's taking me so long to finish. But please keep in mind that I normally read so much trash, my brain has to struggle to read a decent book. Not to mention the damn thing is 700 pages in nine point font. Mine Till Midnight was an easy insert between my efforts on a more demanding read.

Historical Romance 2007: 3.5 out of 5 blue dresses.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Neighbor Totoro

Since I'm wading through a wonderful but very dense novel about Macbeth, set in the 11th century, I thought it might be a good time to add a post about a non-book thing. The spawn asked me if they could watch My Neighbor Totoro today. I can't say enough great things about this movie. If you have little kids and you allow them to watch TV, it's a constant struggle to find movies that aren't too upsetting but aren't sickly sweet either.

The two main characters are sisters about 8 and 4 yrs old. They are both what my Mom called 'pistols' exploring the world around them with little fear. Pretty much every character in the movie is, at first glance, a little frightening, and then with time is revealed to be benevolent. So the movie doesn't have to be disgusting like My Little Ponies, or truly threatening like Disney. (The sick mom actually gets better, can you imagine!)

The animation is beautiful with typical anime human characters somewhere between western features and asian features. This director has many other movies out there but I'm waiting until my kids are a bit older before we move on to Spirited Away. If you have kids under 5 in the house, I highly recommend My Neighbor Totoro.