I read The Healer's Calling while researching 16th and 17th century medical practices, particularly in the realm of midwifery. While this book mostly...moreI read The Healer's Calling while researching 16th and 17th century medical practices, particularly in the realm of midwifery. While this book mostly covered 15th century practices and focused very little on the science and how to aspects of medicine, it was still a very interesting read, prompting me to skim through the entire book rather than jump from section to section as I searched out what was actually relevant to my research topic.
Tannenbaum's primary focus is on the community and social aspects of women's medicine, particularly how medicine formed or supported female communities, how the female medical community intersected with the male, and how a lack of community was often a large factor in whether a female healer might be accused of and condemned for witchcraft. All of her information is rich with real-life accounts of from journals, letters, and court records from the 1600s, which helped Tannenbaum completely bypass the trap of potentially dry analytical prose. Her arguments and examples were always related to the experiences of specific real people and events.
If you're actually interested in the sociological impacts of female medicine in New England of the 1600s, definitely check this book out. I wouldn't so much recommend it for fun, though. :-)(less)
Saints follows the fictional Dinah Kirkham and her family from abandonment by their father at a young age, their difficult childhood, their discovery...moreSaints follows the fictional Dinah Kirkham and her family from abandonment by their father at a young age, their difficult childhood, their discovery of Mormonism, sailing from England to America to join the Mormon settlement in Illinois, and through their lives as part of the first generation of Mormons.
This is a slog of a book, and I am so relieved to finally be finished with it. Weighing in at just over 700 pages in paperback and 21 discs in audio, the only thing I really looked forward to the whole time I was reading was getting to the end. I put myself through the torture of getting to the end only because I've set a goal to eventually read through Orson Scott Card's entire bibliography. I've had this book on my bookshelf and then in my audio book library for quite some time now and had previously made several false-start attempts to read it. I thought now was probably the best time to give it a real go because I've recently read several other books related to Mormonism, so I hoped I would have a little higher interest in the subject matter than previously. It did help. But only a smidgen.
But don't be misled by my negativity. This is a well-written book. Just boring. There were never high enough stakes or enough personal connection with the characters to really draw me in. I think people who have a real interest in Mormonism and its founding may find this book a fascinating read. But for the purposes of simple entertainment (with the bonus of learning a little history), it definitely falls short.
Although I greatly love OSC, I have to admit--and I knew this going into my reading of Saints--that not everything he writes is good. That's why I listen to most of his stuff in audio (which I find easier to get through when something is boring or not as well written; though I make it a general policy to read all fiction for the first time in print, save for this OSC exception and a few other series that I enjoy in audio more). But I'm afraid that even in audio Saints was difficult to get through. (less)
This fifth installment in the wonderful Temeraire series continues the story of Temeraire, the Celestial dragon, and Laurence, his British Aviator Cor...moreThis fifth installment in the wonderful Temeraire series continues the story of Temeraire, the Celestial dragon, and Laurence, his British Aviator Corp. captain, after they have (view spoiler)[committed treason (hide spoiler)] at the end of Empire of Ivory by flying the (view spoiler)[dragon cure across the channel to the French (hide spoiler)]. Laurence has since been stripped of his rank, and given a suspended death sentence while Temeraire has been shipped off to the dragon breeding grounds. But, when Napoleon manages to get his men across the channel and into England, Laurence must rejoin the service, temporarily--but with the death sentence still looming. And Temeraire finds himself the captain of his own large band of unharnessed dragons as they fight the French to win back England.
Victory of Eagles continues the series without disappointment. I love Novik's writing style, her excellent characters, and this amazing pseudo-historical world she has built.
If you're unfamiliar with the series in general, here's the rundown: The books are historical fantasy set in Britain in the Napoleonic era, but with dragons that fight as the Aerial Corp of the various armies, complete with captains and crews. Good writing, good battles, history, dragons. And polite British manners, of course.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I gave the print version of this book a five star rating, back when I read it in 2006. The audio version had a little less impact for me (4 stars), an...moreI gave the print version of this book a five star rating, back when I read it in 2006. The audio version had a little less impact for me (4 stars), and I think I would have enjoyed this re-read more in print.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell takes place in England in the early 1800s, with an alternate history where the Raven King, a man raised from infancy by faeries and taught all their magical ways, conquered and ruled Northern England. His coming introduced magic into England, but magical knowledge and potency have been slowly dwindling over the last 400 years since the Raven King's mysterious disappearance. Now the field of magic is led by theoretical magicians who discuss and write essays on magical concepts, history, and ideas. But never do they practice magic themselves.
When Mr. Norrell announces himself as the only practical magician in England, proved with astonishing feats of his skill, all of that changes. Mr. Norrell seeks to restore magic to England, yet he fears sharing his fame and importance with anyone else and hordes his magical knowledge. Until, that is, he meets Jonathan Strange, a practical magician with astonishing natural talent but also burdened with a wife and carrying opinions about magic that Norrell is hard-pressed to keep silent.
This novel is written in the wonderful style of classic British literature embellished with an amazing combination of history and fantastical reimagining. For new readers, be warned: this is a thick and slow-paced book. Enjoy it for its characterization, the unique and fleshed out world, and the plot that slowly unfolds with articulate care. (less)
This is perhaps my favorite of the Temeraire books so far. I absolutely love the way it ends, leaving me dying to read the next installment.
In this fo...moreThis is perhaps my favorite of the Temeraire books so far. I absolutely love the way it ends, leaving me dying to read the next installment.
In this fourth book in the Temeraire series, Laurence and his Celestial dragon Temeraire return to England to discover that all the British dragons are afflicted by a mysterious illness. And the disease has already started to take casualties. Desperate for a cure, Temeraire and his crew return to Africa, where they believe Temeraire himself was inadvertently cured of the disease while they were passing through Cape Town on their way to China two books prior.
I listened to this book in audio on this second read-through, as a refresher before I read the next book in the series. The only downside to the audio version is that there are a few parts in the novel where Novik jumps around in time, and I found these moments very disconcerting and confusing. At one point, I actually thought that I was missing several tracks and set the book aside for about a week while I rechecked it out from the library to try and resolve the issue. Only to discover, of course, that I had not missed any tracks. Such leaping through time works well enough in print but not so well, sometimes, in audio.(less)
This was by far my favorite of L'Engle's Time series. Sandy and Dennys, the Murry twins and most normal of the family, accidentally travel back to bib...moreThis was by far my favorite of L'Engle's Time series. Sandy and Dennys, the Murry twins and most normal of the family, accidentally travel back to biblical times when people lived for 700 years, and seraphim, nephilim, and unicorns walked among men. And God is just about to send a flood that will wipe out the entire human race.
Yes, Sandy and Dennys have landed in the time of Noah and the Ark. And they must help his family during this "time of change" when the future seems very uncertain and the boys aren't sure if they'll ever find a way home.
This fourth and finally installment in the Time series has great characters, a great setting, excellent world-building, and an amazing premise. I love all the creatures of the desert and the triangle dynamic L'Engle creates between the seraphim, the fallen-angel nephilim, and the desert-dwelling humans.(less)
Middlesex follows the life of Calliope (Cal) Stephanides, a hermaphrodite male who is raised as a female and doesn't come to find out about his/her he...moreMiddlesex follows the life of Calliope (Cal) Stephanides, a hermaphrodite male who is raised as a female and doesn't come to find out about his/her hermaphroditism until puberty.
Given the subject matter, this novel is unexpectedly light and humorous. Much of the novel's time is spent recounting the lives of Cal's grandparents, whose choices determine the genetic coupling that leads to his/her hermaphroditism. For me, because the story jumps around quite a bit, I found it hard to maintain interest between transitions from one generation to the next. I also felt like the story ended right when it was just getting started. But it was none the less superbly written, entertaining, and very interesting subject matter.(less)
I was very excited for Cherie when I heard that Boneshaker had been a finalist for the 2009 Nebula Award, and was very much looking forward to reading...moreI was very excited for Cherie when I heard that Boneshaker had been a finalist for the 2009 Nebula Award, and was very much looking forward to reading it. However--for me--this historical steampunk novel was rather lackluster.
Set in the mid-1800s, Seattle has succumbed to a mysterious gas that kills those who breath it or, if it doesn't kill you, turns you instead into an animated corpse bent on eating human flesh. The gas leaks still from a gash in the earth rent by Boneshaker, a machine built by Leviticus Blue--a scientist of questionable morals who went missing just after the Boneshaker's run of destruction through the city. The heart of the city is now quarantined behind a wall twenty feet thick and over one-hundred feet tall.
Beyond the quarantined city lies the Outskirts, the little town built up in the shadows of the giant wall. There, Leviticus Blue's wife Briar and their son Zeke get by as best they can with Blue's memory forever ostracizing them from their neighbors. But when Zeke gets it into his head to sneak back into the walled-off city and prove his father's innocence, Briar must follow in after him.
Airships, robotic arms, zombies, shotguns, and leather dusters. It's all here, all ready and waiting for an excellent story to take shape. Priest obviously has great skill with the English language. But her story falls short in three key places. First, she relies on weak verbs like a crutch in her abundant descriptions. Second, her descriptions, though abundant, rarely gave me a good sense of the setting. Third, and unfortunate to say, her plot was blah. Mostly, there was no plot, just a lot of running around and shooting at zombies. (The zombie attacks were also boring and repetitive.) And there was only dubious causality to hold the events of her plot together.
On the whole, this was not a strong enough work to make me want to read the next in the series.(less)