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Monthly "Reads" > Shomeret's January Reads 1/3

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message 1: by Shomeret (last edited Feb 28, 2011 07:23PM) (new)

Shomeret | 1366 comments So here it is the end of February and I am finally getting around to posting my January reads. Well, it's better than my record for last semester. I'm only behind one month.

1)Zeitounby Dave Eggers (history)335 pages. Source: Amazon Started: 12/31 Finished: 1/2

Why Read: I've been meaning to read this book. Book Nook was reading it in January, so I took the opportunity. I'm very interested in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the story of an Islamic family in those circumstances sounds like something I need to read.

Comments: Abdulrahman Zeitoun is an inspiration. He is a contractor who builds, paints and re-models in New Orleans. He was doing this before Katrina and now he is continuing this activity, helping New Orleans to rebuild. Unfortunately, he was unjustly treated by Homeland Security because he is an Arab. I learned from this book that FEMA is actually under the auspices of Homeland Security. I don't know how this came about. Rating A

2)A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, And the Birth of Americaby Stacy Schiff (history)
412 pages. Source: Library Started: 1/2 Finished: 1/9

Why Read: When Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra bio began to be promoted, I looked to see what else she had written because Cleopatra isn't an interest of mine. I found this book about Benjamin Franklin's mission to France to persuade France to become America's ally in the revolutuion. I've always admired Franklin, but I knew more about Jefferson in France than Franklin's diplomatic efforts.

Comments: I learned things about Franklin and the alliance with France that I hadn't known. There were also some great lines and anecdotes in this book. I rated it B+

3) Dark Road to Darjeelingby Deanna Raybourn (historical mystery)388 pages. Source: Library Started: 1/9 Finished: 1/12

Why Read: I'm not fond of this period, but I thought the location in India might make the book more interesting. I've never read this author before. When she was promoting this book last November, Deanna Raybourn ran a contest on her blog giving away a $25 I Tunes gift card. I won. I got a Dark Road To Darjeeling bookmark along with the gift card. I used the gift card to download an entire season of the 2nd BBC Robin Hood series which I hadn't gotten to see because I don't have cable. So thank you, Ms. Raybourn.

Comments: I'm afraid I don't like Lady Julia. She's far too manipulative and conventional in her values. Her husband Brisbane is much more interesting, however. So I might read more of this series if there's an interesting case or milieu. Of the non-continuing characters, Cassandra Pennyfeather was quite unusual and I very much liked the clear sighted Miss Thorne. But there was too much British upper class society for me. I didn't have to travel by book all the way to India in order to read about such things as lawn parties and blancmange. Rating B+

4)The Painted Boyby Charles De Lint (urban fantasy) 431 pages. Source: Independent Bookstore Started: 1/12 Finished: 1/14

Why Read: First of all, I love De Lint. He's one of my favorite writers. This is also his first Asian American protagonist which interests me.

Comments: When I read that Pearl in Shanghai Girls was a Dragon in Chinese astrology, I was expecting her to be really special. The MC of this novel is also a Dragon, but this is a fantasy so he's a dragon on a more literal level. There's a sleeping dragon inside him that can emerge in certain circumstances. De Lint's idea of what dragons do is wonderful. None of this eating maidens that one sees in fairy tales. The fairy tales are probably slanderous. I'm sure Snap would agree. As usual, De Lint makes the magical beings in this novel relevant to the modern world. So De Lint's dragons play an important role in society. Rating A

5)The Divine Sacrificeby Tony Hays (Arthurian mystery) 294 pages. Source: Library Started: 1/14 Finished: 1/15

Why Read: I got interested in this series as a result of GR giveaways that I didn't win. So I noticed this second book in the series on the shelf in my neighboring city's main library. The central character is Maelgwyn, who is normally a villain in the Arthurian tales. The usual story told about him is that he kidnapped Guinevere and mistreated her. In this series he is Arthur's friend and an investigator of mysteries. This takes Arthuriana in a sideways direction. I tried to read a series in which Merlin is the detective, but I couldn't get behind a Merlin who is scientific, a Sherlock Holmes type and anti-magical. I not only didn't find the character sympathetic, but I think the character is completely anachronistic. So I figured this series was bound to be better than that one.

Comments: Hays made Maelgwyn sympathetic, but not overly so. He's realistic and ambivalent. Arthur is also portrayed with more realism than I see in Arthurian fantasy novels. The realistic Arthurs that I've seen in the past in military oriented Arthuriana tend to be brutal and unsympathetic. I tend to prefer Arthurian novels with Pagan content and magical elements, but this book was still a good read. Rating B.

To Be Continued...


message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14273 comments Shomeret:
I got Zeitoun from the library and started it the other day, I am enjoying it so far. Thanks for posting your January books!
Shomeret wrote: "So here it is the end of February and I am finally getting around to posting my January reads. Well, it's better than my record for last semester. I'm only behind one month. ..."


message 3: by Marcy (new)

Marcy | 865 comments I have thought about reading Zeitoun since it came out, but after living through stressful hurricane seasons in a house on the water in Florida for 30+ years, I keep putting it off until that house is sold.


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