March 2nd, 2011

antique books

Books 19-20: The Lost Prophecies and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Book 19: The Lost Prophecies.
Author: The Medieval Murderers, 2008.
Genre: Historical Murder Mystery. Science Fiction (1 story)
Other Details: Large Print Paperback. 528 pages.

The Medieval Murderers are a group of British writers who specialise in historical murder mysteries. They are Michael Jecks, Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, Philip Gooden and C. J. Sansom. Rather than write an anthology of short stories, they hit on the idea of each writing a novella that would build up into a coherent tale. Each book has a relic that passes from one hand to another down the centuries, allowing each author to feature their own main characters, usually from the series that they are best known for.

As for the plot of this one: Michael Jerks writes on the web page dedicated to the book: A mysterious book of prophecies written by a sixth century Irish monk has puzzled scholars through the ages. Foretelling wars, plagues and rebellions, the Black Book of Bran is said to have predicted the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. It is even said to foresee the Day of Judgement. But is it the result of divine inspiration or the ravings of a madman? A hidden hoard of Saxon gold. A poisoned priest. A monk skinned alive in Westminster Abbey. Only one thing is certain: whoever comes into possession of the cursed book meets a gruesome and untimely end.

This is their fifth collaboration though the first one I have read. Aside from Sansom, I hadn't previously read the other authors' series though this didn't detract from my enjoyment as each author did give a thumbnail back story of their main protagonist. Each are accomplished in their own way and the tales gave me a taster of each author's style and characters. Still I was surprised that of all the stories, it was C.J. Sansom's one set in the future that gripped me the most.

Lost Prophecies web page - gives more details on the stories and who wrote what.

Book 20: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.
Author: Bill Bryson, 2006.
Genre: Memoir. 1950s-1960s USA.
Other Details: Paperback. 404 pages.

"My kid days were pretty good ones, on the whole. My parents were patient and kind and approximately normal. They didn’t chain me in the cellar. They didn’t call me “It.” I was born a boy and allowed to stay that way. My mother, as you’ll see, sent me to school once in Capri pants, but otherwise there was little trauma in my upbringing."

Subtitled: Travels Through My Childhood, I rather loved that he opened with this declaration of it not being a misery memoir. Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and as much as this is a memoir of his childhood, it also chronicles aspects of American culture during the 1950s and early 60s.

Although this was quite funny in places, it was also tinged with sadness for a time now lost outside of an episode of Mad Men As I grew up in the same period as Bill Bryson there was a lot here I could relate to even though I was growing up in Canada. Therefore, this was very much a trip down memory lane for me. It was a selection for the library reading group I attend and it was notable that it had more appeal to members who recalled the period themselves.

Bill Bryson on the book (YouTube)

# 13 Wandering Star

Wandering Star

J.M.G. Clezio

Wandering Star is the story of Esther, a young Jewish girl who has been displaced by the war in Europe during WWll. Eventually, after the war, she emigrates to Palestine, which is soon to become the nation of Israel.

It is also the story of Nejma, a young Palestinian girl who has been uprooted by the conflict that was created by the founding of a new nation in that region.

Even though Esther and Nejma have met only for a brief moment, and were unable to communicate, that moment remains important to both of them for the rest of their lives.

Le Clézio's writing is strong. He does not focus on placing any blame, and tells each girl's story in a straight-forward manner without being overly sentimental. Those factors, IMO, make the novel even more powerful than it might have been in the hands of a less skillful writer.


This Silver Stepsister Killed Bone

Bone Crossed, by Patricia Briggs
Mercy Thompson; I dig. The vampire politics in this one were really interesting.

The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C. Hines
The first several chapters of this were... I didn't feel like they were anything special, straightforward and adventury, nothing that would be out of place on a slightly more daring Disney imprint. But then, well, wow! Things took a turn for the darker (and better) that had me totally entranced for the last huge chunk of the book, and made me appreciate the rest of it more. Love.

Someone Killed His Editor, by Josh Lanyon
Fun, fluffy romantic mystery set at a mystery writer's convention. Our Hero is a cozy writer struggling with market irrelevance and The Romantic Interest is a broody cop with whom he has history. I did not love this as much as I love the Russell Quant series (shoutout to Anthony Bidulka! Saskatchewan's finest!), but it was the next best thing... so I will be reading more of them later. Very comfortable and sympathizable writing, with some teeth.

Picture This!, by Lynda Barry
OMG THIS BOOK IS SO FUCKING BRILLIANT I CAN NOT EVEN TELL YOU. You would have to read it. Then you would run around saying NO REALLY YOU HAVE TO READ IT to everyone you know who cares about art or drawing or figuring out how to let yourself be yourself instead of freaking out all the time. WOW. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK SO MUCH. And if anyone says "oh, I don't know, it's good and all that..," I start RABIDLY EXPLAINING how amazing it is. That reminds me, I need to go send this book and another book to my aunt for her birthday! Right now!! There, I sent it. (Along with Marian Bantjes' _I Wonder_, which is wonderful in fairly different but not unconnected ways.)

Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs
You can tell how much I like this series by how closely together I am readin' 'em. This one was also tasty. The main plot sort of felt like she'd been reading Charles de Lint, but in a good way. I know some people think her books are lacking in characterization, but I think this one really delved into the ways in which the wolf pack remain individuals - often at odds - even though they are all so tied together. Showing, not telling. Thumbs up.
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Book 14 for 2011

Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester. 281 pages

Autobiographical account of the author's childhood in Depression-blighted 1930s Liverpool. Used to genteel surroundings and a private school education, Helen's life and that of her siblings, is turned upside down when she is twelve by her parents' bankruptcy. Ignorant that the law allows them to keep some of their clothes and personal possessions, her father moves them all to his home town of Liverpool with only the clothes they stand up in and there follow years of dreadful struggle to survive.

A moving and well-written account of almost unimaginable hardship. I'd read this before many years ago and it still has the same impact.