I love this book. It is absolutely brilliant: the American Civil War, as seen by Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee's favorite horse, Traveller. The...moreI love this book. It is absolutely brilliant: the American Civil War, as seen by Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee's favorite horse, Traveller. The book begins with Traveller in a barn, the old campaigner telling stories to a rapt pair of cats. He explains how he started out, under another name and other ownership, a young horse with a good reputation. It is this which brought him to the attention of the Confederate command, and then to the man he would call "Marse Robert." Traveller tells the war as a horse would see it, taking on verbal tics (calling the Yankee enemy "those people" as Lee does, referring to artillery as "bangs") and interpreting Lee's 1863 heart attack just before Gettysburg as a fall due to Traveller's own misbehavior. It's also a great way to see the legends of the army: Traveller renames many of them, so that Stonewall Jackson becomes "Cap-in-Eyes," and J.E.B. Stuart is "Jine the Cavalry" for his habit of always saying "join the cavalry!" (Traveller is not cute, though, not with camp life or the realities of the war.) For those who might be confused about the timeline, there are paragraphs between the tales, explaining what is taking place between the armies. And through it all is an extraordinary love between horse and man.(less)
This is the first in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, introducing Adelia, a doctor of medicine who is also trained in forensic medicine at the...moreThis is the first in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, introducing Adelia, a doctor of medicine who is also trained in forensic medicine at the University of Salerno in Italy (a university which taught Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike) and her manservant the Saracen Mansur, a eunuch. When four small children are murdered in Cambridge, one of them seemingly crucified, the townspeople turn on the Jews of the city, who flee to the sheriff's castle for protection. Henry II needs the Jews for the money they pay him in taxes and he dislikes unrest of any kind. He sends to the King of Italy for Salerno-trained investigators to solve the murderers. Due to miscommunications and the head of the medical department's unworldiness, Simon of Naples comes with a female doctor of death, not a male one.
And thus it begins. When Adelia relieves Prior Geoffrey of incredible pain, he becomes her friend, supplying her with a respectable woman to live with (Adelia's own nursemaid having died on the way), a place for them to live and set up a medical establishment with Mansur to masquerade as the doctor (because women are forbidden to be doctors by the Church) and Adelia to be his assistant and translator. Together with Simon, who is Jewish, the three begin to investigate the deaths of the children, together with the help/interference of Rowley Picot, the king's tax collector.
The webs are tangled and touch on the city's flesh and bone: their killer is probably a Crusader; the idea of Jews as Christ-killers and the idea of blood debt; the omnipresence of the river and fens in allowing the killer to come and go as he pleases. In all of this there is the danger if Adelia is found out, because the church will burn her as a witch. And there are other complications. Loads of `em. Plus a surly small boy, a smelly dog, the vaulting of one of the dead children to martyr status to bring money into a convent, and a king who is trying to bring the rule of law to the realm.
I love these books. This is my second reading of MISTRESS. (less)
Laurie Halse Anderson always writes well. My heart was in my mouth all the way. Sal is wonderful and feisty, trying to find a way out of a situation t...moreLaurie Halse Anderson always writes well. My heart was in my mouth all the way. Sal is wonderful and feisty, trying to find a way out of a situation that appears to have no way out. My only objection is that there's a sequel and I don't have it!(less)
Vivid, lush, about two orphaned sisters made famous by music in 17th century Venice. One becomes a wealthy wife; one gives up any chance at that life...moreVivid, lush, about two orphaned sisters made famous by music in 17th century Venice. One becomes a wealthy wife; one gives up any chance at that life for music as the protegee of Vivaldi.(less)
Oops! I put the review for MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH here. Now I'll have to go and re-read THE SERPENT'S TALE to review it correctly--what a chore!...moreOops! I put the review for MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH here. Now I'll have to go and re-read THE SERPENT'S TALE to review it correctly--what a chore! ;-)(less)
Another one of Heyer's Regency/mysteries/romances, with a murder plot, a practical daughter of romantics, a charming heiress, and an overbearing mothe...moreAnother one of Heyer's Regency/mysteries/romances, with a murder plot, a practical daughter of romantics, a charming heiress, and an overbearing mother, among the other elements she blends so well. Not one of my A list favorites, but fun to read in one of those intervals when I don't want one of the books I've practically memorized!(less)
The only reason I didn't read this book the moment it came out (you all know I adore Hambly's work) is because it's an epistolary novel, consisting so...moreThe only reason I didn't read this book the moment it came out (you all know I adore Hambly's work) is because it's an epistolary novel, consisting solely of letters. I hate epistolary novels by and large. I figured if anyone could make me love one, it would be Hambly, and of course, the moment I made myself start to read, I fell in love with it.
The letters are written by Cora, of Deer Island, Maine, who is married to Ethan, the neighbor and friend of Susanna, of Greene County, Tennessee. The book begins not long after Cora and Ethan have left Greene County for Maine, with Cora and Susanna agreeing to write to one another, and not long before Beauregard fires upon Fort Sumter, which announces the beginning of the American Civil War. We see the war unfold through the letters, sent and unsent, written by each woman.
Cora, in Maine, soon finds herself in a very awkward position in ultra-patriotic Maine when Ethan goes to sign up with the military--the Southern military. She understands that he cannot fight those he grew up with, but wonders if he considered the effect on his wife and the child she carries. As the war goes on, more shortages happen, and more men are drafted, Cora is isolated from her neighbors on an isolated island. She struggles to feed her family and child, bring in money, and deal with the island's cruel seasons. Her only distractions are her letters to Susanna, written even after her ability to send them and receive new ones is severed, and the frivolous novels Susanna sent to her, books she once chided her friend for reading.
Susanna's life is also hard. Her first escape from plantation life, a women's academy, closes during an attack on Nashville, and she is forced to return to her father's plantation and the constrained life of a southern lady, when she yearns for art and learning. As food and resources go to the army, the militia that raids the plantation, and thieves, Susanna is faced not only with threats to the plantation's economy, but to her body and to her life. Tennessee is one of the states that was torn in two by the war,and Susanna is at risk from fellow Southerners as well as from the Yankees.
Hambly has done a great deal to paint a picture of two women, living in the country, in a time of war. In her notes she points out that she wants readers to see that many people didn't want the war at all, and that women and children at home struggled while the men fought. She brings these issues home through what is written by these two intelligent young women who begin the book wishing for a role beyond that which their cultures have decreed for them. Their struggles to keep their sanity, despite privation, blistering hard work, sorrow, and the endless grinding-down that comes from their own families, are nothing short of heroic.
It's an amazing, terrifying, unique book. Anyone who likes to read about the Civil War should read this study about heroism far from the battlefield in the hands of an articulate and passionate historian.(less)
I admit, I blurbed this, because I think it's a durn good book. The female hero is a Mongol princess who yearns to be a warrior in the Khan's army. Sh...moreI admit, I blurbed this, because I think it's a durn good book. The female hero is a Mongol princess who yearns to be a warrior in the Khan's army. She is strong in character and weapons, but the men scorn her because of her sex. She is given a chance, but she is assigned a truly unpleasant duty: she must be a companion to the strange-looking foreigner from the west and learn all of his secrets for the Khan. What she learns from this Marco Polo will change the way she looks at herself and at the world, as will her first experience of war. It's a powerful look at war, at prejudice against women and foreigners, at the conflict between religions and ways of life, and at one girl's willingness to change and keep changing.(less)
The blurbs scream "Austen"-esque. Not true. This reads like the best of Arthur Conan Doyle, and despite references to "19--," like something set in th...moreThe blurbs scream "Austen"-esque. Not true. This reads like the best of Arthur Conan Doyle, and despite references to "19--," like something set in the late 1800s. A young English attorney is sent to the back of beyond to attend the funeral of a very eccentric client, gather up her papers, and come back. His train trip is lonesome and creepy, the reception he gets in the isolated town near where the funeral is to be held is ominous, and people's reactions to what he says he sees should warn him and does warn us that he's stepped in something beyond his tight, rational understanding.
This is creepy, eerie, sad, and ghostly. There are rooms with rockers that rock with no one there. There is a house that's isolated from the land most of the day when the tide comes in. There are stories of ghosts and mysterious sightings.
In other words, it's a wonderful ghost story. Ignore the pictures. They reminded me of certain comics, when the book really needed the pen-and0ink sketches the Strand magazine used for the Holmes stories. And maybe, if you're nervous, don't read this at night.(less)
In 1919 America was terrified of anarchists, workers' strikes, socialists, communists, the arrival of Prohibition, and black soldiers--men who were us...moreIn 1919 America was terrified of anarchists, workers' strikes, socialists, communists, the arrival of Prohibition, and black soldiers--men who were used to fighting--returning to the country after WWI. Riots and lynchings broke out in unusually bloody numbers that year all over the country, and a lot of things changed.
I didn't know that originally the NAACP was led by whites. During the course of this summer, the NAACP not only tripled its size and spread across the nation, but its leadership became black. This book paints more vividly than anything I've read Woodrow Wilson's complete indifference to the plight of black people in this country. Despite repeated requests for him to send federal troops to riot sites where state governors refused to send state troops, and despite repeated requests to him and to Congress for anti-lynching legislation, Wilson said and did nothing at all.
This book isn't for those who are easily triggered by violence. There are photos of grinning whites standing over the battered and burned dead as if they were at a party, and there are descriptions of hunts for fleeing blacks and lynchings conducted as public celebrations. Even the idea that the blacks might fight back--and many did--brought many whites to commit atrocities against those who had nothing to do with it. 1919 was not a proud year for whites. (less)
A mystery set in northwest India, near Afghanistan, when Cleverly's detective hero Joe Sandilands is escorting a lively American heiress who wants to...moreA mystery set in northwest India, near Afghanistan, when Cleverly's detective hero Joe Sandilands is escorting a lively American heiress who wants to see something more exciting than the staid British enclaves she has been to up until now. She gets her wish as murder and kidnapping liven her visit considerably, pitching Joe into the middle of an international incident that could result in war with the uneasy Afghan tribes. Not my favorite of the four Indian Sandilands books, but still an interesting view of the time (1921) and the situation, and there's a great deal of relevance to the contemporary period!(less)