It's been a long time since I read one of Wilbur Smith's books. So long that I'd forgotten just how enjoyable those books are!
The memory came rushingIt's been a long time since I read one of Wilbur Smith's books. So long that I'd forgotten just how enjoyable those books are!
The memory came rushing back with the first page! "Desert God", 5th in Smith's Ancient Egypt series has all the charm, adventure, and atmosphere of the first book in the series, "River God".
Taita, former slave, loyal supporter and friend to Pharoahs and Queens, tactical and practical genius, narrates the tale, as usual. And what a tale it is! Battles, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and daring missions vie with beautiful Egyptian princesses, breathtaking treasure and forbidden romance for the reader's attention.
The true Egyptian royalty of Upper Egypt are still battling the Hyksos usurpers who control the Nile Delta. Taita, as is his wont, has come up with a brilliant and devious plot to cement Upper Egypt's alliance with both the Minoans of Crete, and the Babylonians to the East. If all goes as planned, the evil Hyksos will be hemmed in by enemies on three sides, and the sea on the other. There's also the possibility of a huge treasure for Taita's beloved Pharoah.
With a casual glance, a potential reader might mistake "Sexually Dangerous Individual" for an entirely different sort of book. In actuality, the titleWith a casual glance, a potential reader might mistake "Sexually Dangerous Individual" for an entirely different sort of book. In actuality, the title refers to a diagnosis used by mental health experts to classify sex offenders. "Sexually Dangerous Individual" is the harrowing non-fiction account of one man's experience as a clinical psychologist in a system that tends to devour its most devoted.
Anyone who has ever worked as a health care professional will recognize and identify with the dangerously destructive power structure. After a 35 year career as a nurse, I can attest to the shortsightedness and general uncaring attitudes of those at the highest levels of decision-making in most health-care settings. One quote in the book, from an administrator, illustrates this attitude perfectly: "I just set the standards; it's up to you to figure out how to implement them.". (translation: I know it's impossible, but it's up to YOU to make it look like it's being done, and up to me to pretend to believe you--until something bad happens. Then it's YOU who'll be the scapegoat) Add in political corruption and cronyism, and you have the system that systematically destroyed a dedicated psychologist's career, and wrecked his life.
Dr. Joseph Belanger was plainly and simply a victim in this cautionary tale that, tragically, is no tale, but a true story. His honest convictions and dedicated work were used against him in a battle he didn't realize he was fighting until it was too late. He saw gray areas in a world where the powerful and greedy wanted only black and white facts, and paid dearly for his refusal to compromise.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seeing how corrupt politics can be, how shockingly some mental health care facilities are managed, and how often loyal, honest staffers are set up to "take the fall". In addition, "Sexually Dangerous Individual" is very informative about mental illness, and about those dedicated professionals who care for, and champion the rights of the mentally ill....more
Three unlikely friends, all Asian-American, all from very different parts of the country and very different families, first meet in San Francisco in 1Three unlikely friends, all Asian-American, all from very different parts of the country and very different families, first meet in San Francisco in 1938.
Grace, Ruby, and Helen, each for her own reasons, want to become entertainers. Grace lusts for success, Ruby for adulation, and Helen just wants to defy the stifling existence she leads as the only girl in a large, prominent Chinatown family. When they try out for positions as dancers for the exclusive new "Forbidden City" nightclub, two of the girls land spots in the "All Chinese Revue", while the other finds work dancing at the Golden Gate International Exposition, a more lucrative but much less reputable job than the glamorous Forbidden City. Still, the three remain friends, offering support and companionship to each other.
Each girl harbors her own dark secrets--secrets that will severely test their loyalties and friendship as they endure the ups and downs of their unique niche in the entertainment world and the changes in the larger world headed for war. The intricacies of their own relationships with families, men, and their pasts affects the friends relationship with each other, bringing them close to the breaking point, several times, yet always being resolved, until the day when an explosive truth is revealed, changing the girls forever.
This is a fascinating story about women, and their power to endure, to forgive, and to love. A power stronger than any of them ever dreamed possible on that day in 1938.
I thought I'd really love this book--after all, it's been so highly recommended on book lists and book newsletters, and it was reported to have a noveI thought I'd really love this book--after all, it's been so highly recommended on book lists and book newsletters, and it was reported to have a novel time-travel element: a telephone that reaches into the past (and boy, do I love any book that incorporates the concept of time travel!)
BUT I must say, however regretfully, that Landline was terribly disappointing. Despite its adult subject matter (a troubled marriage) Landline was hardly an adult novel. The writing was on the level of a rather boring Young Adult novel. The main character, Georgie, displayed all the childish angst and insecurity of a 13 year old girl in the throes of an adolescent crush. Understandable for an eighth-grader; somewhat odd for a woman who's been married for years and has two children.
Additionally, neither the confidence-challenged Georgie nor her distant (and clearly passive/aggressive) husband Neal, are at all likable or relatable. It's hard to imagine that the two ever married, and harder still not to hope that their marriage is over.
And the mysterious telephone that calls the past? The outdated landline so integral to the story that the book's title is Landline? Dismissed in a single sentence near the book's end with no explanation or justification.
Perhaps the author is better suited to writing the YA novels which seem to have won her such a strong fan-base.
"The Museum of Extraordinary Things" is one of the most beautifully written and magical books I've read in a long time. It's a story about life, and a"The Museum of Extraordinary Things" is one of the most beautifully written and magical books I've read in a long time. It's a story about life, and about the lessons we learn in life--if we're lucky.
Set in the early 20th Century New York, where poor immigrant workers and wealthy manufacturers maintain a tense and unequal partnership, and stocked with characters who are good, characters who are evil, and those who don't fit completely into either category, the story centers on Ezekiel (Eddie) Cohen, a poor Jewish boy who has lost his faith and his respect for his father; and Coralie Sardie, a beautiful, but flawed girl, who has been raised in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world, in her father's museum of curiosities--a sort of early "Ripley's Believe It or Not" establishment.
Both Eddie and Coralie long to escape their circumstances, and the influence of their fathers. Eddie manages to do so, and becomes a photographer. Coralie seems powerless to free herself from her present life. The two meet, without quite realizing it, but each dreams of the other after their strange interlude.
Mystery, villainy, good and evil abound in this fascinating story of New York in another time. We see that looks can be deceptive, and that bravery and cowardice can sometimes appear much the same. The infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire of 1911 is a major event in the book, as is the devastating Dreamland and Coney Island Fire.
In the end does love triumph? I'll say only that it's a satisfying, and moving book, with plenty of tragedy, and a lot of good, as well, along with a bit of a surprise that some astute readers might just have guessed before the end. ...more
**spoiler alert** I found "The Lucky Ones", the last book of the "Bright Young Things" series disappointing in several ways.
1) I thought that all of**spoiler alert** I found "The Lucky Ones", the last book of the "Bright Young Things" series disappointing in several ways.
1) I thought that all of the characters acted in ways that weren't typical, not just at the end, but throughout the book.
2) I thought the book was much less interesting than the previous two in the series, with the first, "Bright Young Things" being the best. The series went downhill from there.
3) While I realize that the author writes for the young adult market, I'd think that young adults should expect better writing than could be found in this book. The constant description of Charlie's face as a slab, grew very wearying: "his slab of a face", "the slabs of his cheeks", "his slab face"
Unlike with any of Godberson's other books, there was frequent temptation to put this one down, unfinished. Each of the girls did things so incredibly stupid as to be unbelievable. Cordelia and Astrid--always sneaking away without bodyguards, though they both knew people had been killed by their enemies, while Letty just behaves like an idiot almost constantly. She's little more than an annoyance.
The author, who must not have done extensive research into 1920s fashion, mentions pantyhose more than once. Be assured that women of the 20s did not wear pantyhose. Pantyhose weren't even invented until decades later.
The ending was incredibly disappointing. Are we seriously expected to believe a girl as self-absorbed, spoiled and utterly dependent on money and lots of it, would be blissful doing other people's laundry in a Paris hovel? Can anyone possibly believe an interracial romance like Max and Cordelia's would been accepted in the 1920's? Charlie would have killed Max himself, or he would have been publicly lynched. Cordelia would, at the very least, have been shunned by everyone. Not that those actions would have been right, but that's the way things were at that time. And come on....A pilot as good as Max would run a race with the added weight of a passenger in his plane, then blithely start across the Atlantic without even pausing to refuel?
None of this trilogy was nearly as good as the Luxe series, and it's sad to see that someone capable of writing books as good as those, could turn out this "barely even OK" novel....more
"Splendor" is the final book in the Luxe series. I really enjoyed the first three, becoming involved and empathetic with most of the characters, and v"Splendor" is the final book in the Luxe series. I really enjoyed the first three, becoming involved and empathetic with most of the characters, and very unsympathetic with a few.
These books were all spot on with the fashions and the intricate demands of etiquette of The Gilded Age, and with actual historical events.
The stories of all the characters stay interesting and fresh to the end, and there are a more than few surprises along the way.
I can't say that I was completely happy with the way things ended for some of the people I've come to know, but I sure had fun reading my way there!
I really did like this story. Yes, it had its flaws, but since time-travel, reincarnation, alternate universes, are all unproven theories that are seeI really did like this story. Yes, it had its flaws, but since time-travel, reincarnation, alternate universes, are all unproven theories that are seemingly implausible, there has to be a certain willingness to suspend disbelief to even read this type of novel.
The symbolism of three wars being fought, the last being against the plague of AIDS was not lost. However, I have to agree with critics who felt that Greta's obsession with her gay brother and his lifestyle possibly bordered on the unnatural. That said, I still liked the book a lot.
Greta, a woman who in 1985, is left reeling by the death from AIDS of her twin brother, and the subsequent desertion of her long time love, Nathan, finds herself seeking relief from the crippling depression that results.
When all else fails, she turns, reluctantly, to Electro-Convulsive Therapy (shock treatments) and finds herself more than shocked to wake up the morning after her first treatment in 1918. In a life that closely parallels hers, she's still Greta, surrounded by the same people she always knew, including her twin brother Felix, who's alive and well in this world.
In this time, too, Nathan has left Greta; not for another woman, but to fight in WW1. They're married, but 1918's Greta has succumbed to the temptation of loneliness and is falling in love with a younger man. This Greta, depressed and guilt-ridden, is also receiving shock treatments.
The 1985 Greta, still in 1918, undergoes the next treatment, after which she's even more stunned to find herself in 1941, on the eve of Pearl Harbor. In this version, she's not only married to Nathan, but they also have a small son, Felix. Young Felix's Uncle Felix is also in good health in this world. Greta awakes to find herself with her arm in a cast, recovering from a terrible accident in which her Aunt Ruth, a fixture in her other worlds, was killed. Naturally, Greta is terribly depressed about the accident, and is receiving....shock treatments.
Over the course of 25 treatments, Greta is transported from time period to time period. Gradually, she comes to realize that the Gretas from the other times are switching too after their treatments. They all rotate between the three time periods.
We only know the 1985 Greta, but we get a little insight to the other ones from the other Aunt Ruths, who notice that Greta seems different between treatments, and soon learns the truth.
Greta sometimes toys with the idea of remaining in one of the other time frames, where she's still with Nathan, and her brother is still alive, but she's torn. However, while in 1918, the more worldly 1985 Greta embarks on a real affair with the younger man, who soon dies in the flu epidemic. She also encourages her deeply in denial brother to be true to his real identity as a gay man. Neither the affair nor coming out of the closet was very good idea in that time period.
Meanwhile, she finds that the other two Gretas are not being idle in 1985--one is attempting to re-connect with Nathan, who is married to the woman he left Greta for, while the other is trying to locate the 1985 version of the young lover, whom she desperately hopes is alive.
As the number of treatments dwindle down to the last few, one of the Gretas, apparently having the same thoughts as 1985 Greta, skips a treatment, thus throwing the schedule off track. How do the three Gretas reconcile their fates? For that matter, CAN they reconcile their fates?
If you read and liked this author's "The Thirteenth Tale", you won't be disappointed with her second book. I loved "The Thirteenth Tale", and while "BIf you read and liked this author's "The Thirteenth Tale", you won't be disappointed with her second book. I loved "The Thirteenth Tale", and while "Bellman and Black" is not remotely similar in content, it's very similar in atmosphere.
This is a story, beautifully told, that may remind some of "The Turn of the Screw". I don't make that comparison, because I hate "The Turn of the Screw". "Bellman and Black is so much better!
At age 10, William Bellman, accompanies his cousin and two friends on a summer outing. As they play in a wood, Will suddenly brags to his friends that he thinks he can hit a rook that is sitting on an oak branch. The rook seems to be far out of range and the boys dare him to try. Will, using his prized catapult (slingshot) picks a rock and, now reluctantly, takes aim. He doesn't really want to kill the bird, and hopes it will fly off. It doesn't. Goaded by his friends, he lets fly, still hoping the bird will take wing. He considers yelling to scare it away, but he can't seem to make a sound. Amazingly, after a long arcing trajectory, the rock hits the bird and it falls, dead.
The boys feel bad at first, but like all ten year old boys, they soon forget the tragedy.
Will Bellman grows into a personable, likable young man, very capable, with a knack for business. He goes to work at his uncle's mill, making woolen cloth, and quickly catches on to the whole process. Almost everyone likes the boss's nephew, who's full of practical and new ideas that bring about profitable changes.
Then Will's mother dies and he sees a strange man at the funeral. For reasons he can't understand, the very sight of this man bring on feelings of despair and doom. He thinks he can't go on, but Will does finally get over his loss, marries and begins his own family. He seems to lead a charmed life, everything he does turns out well. But every time anyone dies, the stranger is there. Will feels the same hopeless despair. He can never remember the stranger's face afterward, but each time, the despondency becomes more terrifying. His perfect life begins to unravel.
What is it that is shadowing William Bellman? A curse? An evil spirit? A ghost? Or simply the realization of mortality that every human must face? As things go from bad to worse, he blames the stranger. He becomes obsessed with confronting him. Does the stranger really exist, or is he a figment of Will's imagination, or something else. As the story builds, William seems to be in complete control in some ways, and completely out of control in others. He continues to be incredibly successful in business as his personal life becomes practically nonexistent.
The suspenseful story will make readers want to devour this book in one sitting, and the beauty of the writing will make that almost possible. The tale is one that stays with its readers. A ghost story? Maybe--maybe not--but this is a tale that is not so much terrifying as fascinating.
I loved this little book so much that I devoured it in one sitting. Fortunately, it's neither a long book, nor one that's hard to understand.
It is, hI loved this little book so much that I devoured it in one sitting. Fortunately, it's neither a long book, nor one that's hard to understand.
It is, however, profound, joyous, sad, contemplative and ironic by turns. These little six-word memoirs are delights to be savored. Famous and obscure alike have contributed their six words, and they're interspersed without distinction for your perusal.
I loved these little glimpses of life enough to keep a record of my favorites. I was extremely touched by "I still make coffee for two". I laughed out loud at "Cheese is the essence of life", and wondered whether "After your jump, the net appears." was an expression of supreme irony or of utter trust.
You're certain to enjoy these tiny bios, and to identify with many of them. And....I guarantee that while you're reading, you'll catch yourself mentally composing your own six words.
"Bright Young Things" is Anna Godberson's next series. Following the "Luxe" series of books is a tall order; but this writer has the knack of evoking"Bright Young Things" is Anna Godberson's next series. Following the "Luxe" series of books is a tall order; but this writer has the knack of evoking an era with consummate skill.
This first book of the series begins the saga of three young women making their way in New York City in 1929. It's the height of the Roaring 20's-a world of flappers, speakeasies and a daring new way of life-girls who smoke, drink, wear short dresses and bob their hair.
Two of the girls are just off the train from Ohio, dazzled by the big city, and eager to make their mark. One has lived in the lap of luxury, and finds it rather boring.
Cordelia and Letty, the naïve country girls, arrive quite unprepared for the hardships of working class girls in what is a very class-conscious society. They have to learn the rules quickly, and the lessons are hard. Cordelia, though, has a plan.
Meanwhile, Astrid, one of the darlings of New York society, is bored with her shallow life of cocktail parties and expensive clothes, disappointed by her rich, dangerous boyfriend and looking for a friend she can trust.
Their paths eventually cross. Cordelia's secret plan costs her Letty's friendship, but its success leads her to meet Astrid. Letty, alone in the big city fares less well, but after all three face heartbreak and loss, Letty and Cordelia are re-united.
To sophisticated readers, the plot may seem a bit simplistic, as Godberson's books are meant for young adults; but her skill at putting the reader in a totally different era, and making it come to life, is such that her books can be enjoyed by older readers as well. ...more