Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Playdate With Death

A Playdate With Death

Ayelet Waldman

In the third book of the Mommy-Track series, former defense attorney and stay-at-home mom Juliet Applebaum arrives at her L.a. gym to find that her personal trainer and friend has been found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gun-shot wound. Juliet has her doubts that upbeat Bobby would have committed suicide, and when his fiancé also expresses doubts, Julist launches her own personal investigation into his death.

These books are both entertaining and interesting. Juliet Applebaum is such a fun, relatable character, and there always seems to be an interesting facet to the mystery: in this case adoption plays a key role.

I definitely enjoy these and will read more of them in the future.

No Place for a Lady: Adventurous Women Travelers

No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers

Barbara Hodgson

This book is about one of my favorite subjects; women who were daring enough to buck convention, escape the narrow confines that defined their societal role, and who saw, explored, and experienced the world at large.

I have to admit that the writing was a little weak. Especially the structure of the book was a little choppy.

That being said, who cares? What was lacking in structure was more than made up for by the adventure, and by the lavish, beautiful illustrations. I was especially enthralled by the gorgeous maps from Victorian-era atlases.

I've learned that Barbara Hodgson is a book designer as well as an author, and it shows.

I totally fell in love with this book.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Seamstress: A Novel

The Seamstress: A Novel

Frances de Pontes Peebles

Set in Brazil in the 1920's and 1930's, The Seamstress is about two sisters who each long to escape from their small, backcountry village. As they each find what seems to be their means of escape, their lives diverge, yet they retain strong, though obscure ties.

Emilia marries into the family of a wealthy, highly respected doctor and moves to a coastal city.

Luzia, or Victrola, as she is called, chooses to align herself with the cangaceiros, a viscious gang of bandits who roam the interior, and with their magnetic leader, The Hawk,

While Emilia struggles to fit into her new family, and the upper echelons of society, Luzia is transformed into The Seamstress, the most notorious bandit of them all.

I loved this book for so many reasons! The characters were phenomenal, the historical detail was wonderfully rich, the separate plots were enthralling, and harmonized beautiful.

I think that this book would make a terrific selection for book clubs; it embodies so many interesting topics for discussion.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Captain Alatriste

Captain Alatriste

Arturo Perez-Reverte

Set in Seventeenth-Century Spain, this is the first in a short series about the adventures of Captain Alatriste, a sword-for-hire.

When the captain is hired to waylay a pair of foreign travelers by a group of mysterious masked men who are headed by a prelate whose power is such that he needs no disguise, he makes a split-second decision which may cost him his life, and which will affect not only Spain, but much of Europe.

This was a rollicking, swashbuckling, fun read. At the same time, the elegant prose was a pleasure.

I enjoyed the heck out of this book!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

Tim Bascom

Tim Bascomb is the son of American missionaries, and, as a result, spent much of his childhood in Ethiopia in the 1960's.

Like the children of many former missionaries, he had to adapt and make adjustments to Western culture on his return to the United States. Unlike many that I've read about, he seems to have done a good job of adapting.

I also really like that he seems to be particularly clear-sighted about religion and about his past experiences. His views, on the whole seem very balanced, IMO.

This was a very good memoir.

The Blue NIle

The Blue Nile

Alan Moorehead

This book is a history of the Western exploration of Northeast Africa and Egypt. I have not read the companion volume, The White Nile.

Having been written in 1962, some dated attitudes were apparent, but overall, it was very interesting and informative. I'm glad I read it. I learned of edplorers I'd not heard of before, and even though I'd known that Napoleon had occupied Egypt for a while, I'd never known the details, and found them fascinating.

Astrid and Veronika

Astrid and Veronika

Linda Olsson

This is a novel about a friendship between two women, one a recently bereaved writer who has come back to Sweden from New Zealand after the loss of her fiance, and the other a reclusive older woman who has been living with her own painful secrets and loss.

I enjoyed this, but it seemed, to me, pretty typical women's fiction fare. There's absolutely nothing wrong with women's fiction. I read it and enjoy it, but it seems to me to be a glutted market, and to really appeal to me, a women's fiction book needs to stand out from the rest. This one just didn't, IMO.

To sum up, it was a decent book, but nothing to get excited about.