This is the second in the trilogy featuring Ignazio di Toledo, a merchant whose only religion is the acquisition of knowledge. Ignazio lives in the beThis is the second in the trilogy featuring Ignazio di Toledo, a merchant whose only religion is the acquisition of knowledge. Ignazio lives in the beginning of the 13th century when knowledge is considered not only often dangerous but often heretical. Nevertheless, he has a reputation for finding, collecting and selling rare books, often written by the Arabs, and often dealing with alchemy. His vast travels through the Occident and the Orient have won him a reputation for being able to solve arcane mysteries.
The story begins as Ferdinand III of Spain charges Ignazio to find and liberate his cousin, Blanche de Castille, regent of France and mother Louis IX, who was kidnapped and is supposedly kept in a mysterious castle called Airagne. Along the way he is charged with finding an important philosophy text that may be the key to solving the mystery of the Count of Nigredo, involved in Blanche's kidnapping.
Simoni is a great storyteller, more akin to Agatha Christie than Umberto Eco, although there are similarities to Name of the Rose, specifically its Medieval setting, and the erudite main character. The story is steeped in the history of the time, the protagonists are fallible heroes, the villains appropriately traitorous and villainous, and the surprising twist at the end makes this book a particularly satisfying read.
Note: Although I started with the second book in the trilogy, the books can be read out of sequence....more
I had not read Ian Rankin before, so decided to start with his first Inspector Rebus mystery.
The novel was first published in 1987 and it's a bit of aI had not read Ian Rankin before, so decided to start with his first Inspector Rebus mystery.
The novel was first published in 1987 and it's a bit of a shock to read a modern story that has no computers, no Internet, no cell phones, or any of the communications devices we use today. It makes for a much slower story.
Rebus is an Edinburgh police inspector struggling with what we would call today PTSD, a failed marriage, and keeping touch with a daughter he barely knows. We get to see the seedier side of the city where alcohol, drugs, and thieves flourish.
The story starts with the abduction and subsequent murder of two teenage girls and leads us into a search for the identity of the killer.
Rankin draws a portrait of a man who is fumbling through life and his job. The story is more about how he can continue to function day after day without breaking down than about his abilities as a policeman and how he solves the murders. It is disconcerting and defies expectations, while at the same time somewhat disappointing. The prose is strong if not elegant, but I found it a slow read, which is unusual in a mystery.
Rankin's first book was a good enough read for me to try his second, but not enough to rave about it.
From time immemorial, humanity has sought the secret to longevity and, ultimately, immortality. But what happens if you find that secret? Who does itFrom time immemorial, humanity has sought the secret to longevity and, ultimately, immortality. But what happens if you find that secret? Who does it belong to?
Sherry D. Ramsay's novel explores that very subject with a compelling story that blends drama with ethics.
Luta Paixon, Captain of the starship Tane Ikai,is over ninety years old, but doesn't look a day over thirty. Even with existing rejuvenation technology, this is extraordinary. Luta thinks she's had a little genetic help along the way and that's why she's been looking for her biogeneticist mother, who disappeared when Luta was a teenager, as a source of explanation. Even if she's been searching for fifty years without success, Luta is convinced her mother is still alive and could provide those answers.
When she hears a rumour that her mother was sighted on a distant planet, it leads Luta across the galaxy in yet another attempt to find her. This time, though, she's accompanied by her dying husband and her resentful daughter and plagued by PrimeCorp who wants to study her. Her trek through the galaxy leads her to love, family, discovery and the big question: what would be the consequences if everyone lived forever?
Even though the subtext of the novel is weighty, Ramsay succeeds in leading us to the end seemingly without effort, thanks in part to her well-rounded characters. Luta, despite being a tough, no-nonsense ship captain, has the qualities and flaws that make her struggle with being a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a leader. The rest of the cast is interesting and real, each with a distinct personality and his or her own secrets.
The narrative flows smoothly, allowing the reader to focus on the people in the story, even though the technology sometimes seems a bit arcane for someone who knows little about space. The ethical questions she poses makes the reader think and takes this novel beyond space opera: this is speculative fiction at its best. ...more
Manfredi's novel is the saga of the Italian Bruni family, spanning three generations, two wars (WWI and WWII) and the nazifascist civil war. The BruniManfredi's novel is the saga of the Italian Bruni family, spanning three generations, two wars (WWI and WWII) and the nazifascist civil war. The Brunis are a family of farmers who have been working the land for a landlord for a hundred years. They are known for their generosity to itinerants --their barn is calls Hotel Bruni, the original title of this book--and the solidarity of their family.
The first third, as we learn to know the Brunis with its seven brothers, and as we follow some of the brothers through the horrors of WWI, is absolutely fascinating and captivating. They all miraculously come back but not unchanged: resentments build, the family dynamics change with the addition of wives, and the family slowly degrades, fueled by the rise of fascism and its violence against those who opposed them, and differing social and political views.
Unfortunately, I found the last two thirds of the book became more a vehicle for a history lesson than for the story of the family, perhaps because the narrator is third person removed and there is no one protagonist. The author meanders, adds characters who appear and disappear, jumps from Russia to Northern Italy, and we end up getting lost. The characters increasingly become props to describe the difficulties and the injustices of those times. The ending drags to a sputter.
Despite the flaws, Manfredi was able to paint a vivid picture of country life in Emilia-Romagna(near Bologna), where the twentieth century was slow to take hold, and where poverty and servitude where taken for granted. The translation (by Manfredi's wife)preserves the rhythm of the Italian language and gives the prose an alien beauty.
For those interested in history and Italy, the book is worth the read....more