October 27th, 2014



#72-74 Priscilla Royal: Justice for the Damned. Forsaken Soul. Chambers of Death.
Three more mysteries with prioress Eleanor and brother Thomas. I am totally addicted. The storytelling, the characters - it's all great.

#75 Lee Child: The Visitor (Jack Reacher Novel)
Another engrossing Jack Reacher novel.

#76 Adam Zamoyski: Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna.
After I decided to find out mode about the Congress of Vienna, I chose this book, because it promised some kind of balance between a retelling of every bit of salacious gossip (and there was a lot to gossip about), and a dry political treatise. I'ld say, it managed quite well to explain the issues European powers faced after Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, as well as to introduce the principal players. Unfortunately it did get repetitive occasionally, but that was to the large extent due to the fact that the delegates had to return to the same issues (Poland and Prussia) again and again without finding an adequate solution.
winter muse

Book 190: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Book 190: Boy, Snow, Bird.
Author: Helen Oyeyemi, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction. Magical Realism. Re-told Fairy Tales. Racial Issues. Coming of Age.
Other Details: Hardback. 308 pages.

Boy Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman – craftsman, widower, and father of Snow.

Snow is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished – exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird. When Bird is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This was an amazing novel that includes the elements of magical realism that I have come to expect from Helen Oyeyemi and yet she also explores themes of identity, gender, love and motherhood as well as addressing racial issues in mid-20th century USA. It is an intelligent, multi-layered novel that held a number of surprises. One to avoid spoilers for if you plan to read.

As the title suggests there is an element of fairy tale re-telling, specifically Snow White and Cinderella along with observations on the tropes of the wicked step-mother and magical mirrors. An astonishing novel that confirmed for me that Helen Oyeyemi has matured into an important writer capable of integrating social issues alongside myth and fairy tales into her narrative. My copy was originally from the library but I quickly bought my own copy as it is a novel I want on my shelf.

Book 46- The President and the Assassin, by Scott Miller

46. The President and the Assassin, by Scott Miller. Really enjoyed this one. I didn't appreciate what a tumultuous time the late 1800s and early 1900s were. The story focuses on two different stories: President William McKinley's involvement in the Spanish-American War and the United States' increased international presence (not to mention prestige), and the story of Leon Czolgosz, the radical anarchist who would assassinate McKinley. It's an interesting juxtaposition. I, at least, got the impression that while McKinley and the United States government were casting their eye on overseas market opportunities, they were missing the problems and strife at home. One interesting point that comes up is that the impression from the typical school history books is that this was a fairly easy battle for the United States- and it was. But I get the impression here that the U.S won not because its forces were superior or its leadership stellar- but that Spain grossly underestimated the threat the newer nation posed. Indeed, no one thought the U.S. stood a chance.
There were a lot of interesting tidbits. One, McKinley was the first president to ride in an automobile. I also didn't realize how much he conducted his presidential work from his Canton home. Another interesting tidbit -and I wonder if this is still done? - is that the hulls of navy ships are painted gray in times of war, and white in times of peace. I wonder how that tradition started.
Besides McKinley and Czolgosz, Miller's book also gives a lot of page time to Theodore Roosevelt, whose brash antics won him both acclaim and criticism; Emma Goldman, a prominent figure in the anarchist movement - some of her ideas would be radical today; and many others from the war abroad and the conflict at home.
The novel is easy to read and follow, and is written with a lively voice. One section that stood out was the description on how the United States took Guam; I laughed out loud at that passage. I finished the novel quickly, and was always reluctant to put it down.