What We’re Reading



I am reading the Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan.  The stark beauty of the cover art caught my eye at first, then the story itself, which I was immediately drawn into after the first couple of pages.  It begins with two siblings, a brother and sister, fifteen and sixteen (respectively), eating mud in a ditch.  They have are the only surviving family members on a drought-stricken Kansas farm in 1866.  There is nothing to eat and they have been slowly starving to death on a diet of mud, cornmeal, and grasshoppers.  They get a bit of a reprieve when they are picked up by a wagon train on its way to Seattle, but that’s still a long way off.  They still have to survive the journey.



I am reading The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey I just started it but so far its really good.  Its a lot like Jane Eyre with the main character being an orphaned governess and I am pretty sure she’s going to fall for the Father.  I am also reading Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez for the chick lit Book club.  Its a non fiction story of an American women who goes to the middle east and opens a beauty shop.  It goes in to great detail indo the rituals that a bride has to go through to get married. I would consider it an extremely eye opening book for Americans to read.



I’m reading “Passage of Power” by Robert Caro. It’s the fourth in his “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” series. So far, I like it as it is written in Caro’s classic style where he makes history read like literature. This book covers the period from 1958, thru his Vice-Presidency  to Johnson’s early presidency. His past volumes have won numerous awards including the Pulitzer, so it’ll be interesting to see what if any awards this one garners.



Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables: Here’s one from a time when local color was all the rage and long asides from the narrative were a sign of literary prowess (think Melville’s endless discussion of whales in Moby Dick). You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about things like the Battle of Waterloo and the history of convents. With that said, I’m loving the way Hugo works with dramatic irony and develops his characters with a slow simmer. The overall bleakness and lack of color (except for the aforementioned local color) in the description reminds me of Russian literature from that time period, more Dostoyevsky than Tolstoy. I’ve read several other books as I’ve been making my way through Hugo’s 19th century France. I spent the last couple of days re-reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, mostly so I can brush up on my Bokononism and avoid all the granfalloons out there (you know who you are).



Elizabeth the Queen : inside the life of a modern monarch

Just finished listening to this on 17 (!) CDs and it was awesome. This year marks the 60th  year  of Elizabeth II’s reign. Couple that with the upcoming Olympics and the London is the place to be this year.

The book used a systematic linear approach to chronicling the life of Elizabeth from girlhood until today, including her extended family and especially the heirs to the throne. It’s packed with details about the monarchy as well as a good overview of 20th C history. I am fascinated how an accident of birth can create world leaders for good or ill. A must for current Anglophiles. Warning: it is unabashedly pro-Queen, and somewhat critical of Diana. I am not a Diana worshipper, but many are, so they may be put off by her portrayal.



Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

When  the king of the Seven Kingdoms comes to Winterfell to ask Lord Stark to be his right-hand man,  Lord Stark and his family are plunged into court intrigues as war looms on the horizon.  But winter is coming, and the signs are it will be worse than anything seen in generations.  When an accident sends the kingdom into chaos, the Stark family members are put to the test as they face their darkest hour.

This extremely well-written saga of the Stark family and the struggles of the kingdom of Westeros will keep you guessing to the end.  This book mixes adventure, politics, love, loss, medieval warfare,  and magic.  I love way the author changes perspective as he goes from one part of the story to the other.  Characters I loved at the beginning of the story are not my favorites and some that I did not like have grown on me.  Just remember, don’t fall in love with anyone because when there is war, people die.    To quote the book, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”


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