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Category Archives: Read

Read – Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

As you may know, I griped and groaned much after reading a few pages of this book.  It seems that you cannot pick up anything anymore without it pertaining to ghosts, vampires, werewolves or some other form of dumb sparkly creature.  I felt disappointed that one of my favorite subject, Ancient Egypt, was getting the same treatment.

How wrong was I.

Queen of Kings weaves a story of lies based on the true story of Cleopatra, Antony and Octavian, Caesar Augustus.  What I initially feared was a silly story of vampirism quickly turned into a story involving myth, legends, love, power… everything you could hope it would be.

After Cleopatra hears that Antony has killed himself, believing that she betrayed him with Rome, she makes a bargain with the ancient goddess Sekhmet: Antony’s life for her soul.  Her wish is granted, but with terrible consequences.  What ensues is a wild story involving witches, warlocks, Hades and Persephone, immortals and mortals locked in a battle brought on by Octavian’s need to control Egypt and Cleopatra.  Cleopatra’s love for Antony unleashes a monster that she struggles to control, and who frightens the young Roman emperor.

An amazing book, full of folklore, amazing imagery  – all told at a tremendous pace that makes the book impossible to put down once you start.  I am more than happy to eat crow on this one, and admit that I was wrong!

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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Read

 

Read – The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada

This is a beautiful and haunting book.  The story opens in the 1990s with a concert featuring a beautifully crafted violin.  The story then traces the roots of how the instrument was crafted:  by a luthier in a concentration camp.  The violin owes it existence to a bet between to ruthless Nazi commanders of the camp.

This book is simple and that alone makes it hauntingly beautiful.  The last few chapters do seem to bounce around a bit, but it makes sense in the end.  Probably some of the most chilling parts of the book are the openings of the chapters, which feature actual Nazi documents from the concentration camps.  The disregard for human life is stomach churning, but adds an additional depth of emotion that makes this book that much more poignant.

Highly recommended.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Historical Fiction, Read

 

Read: Lily of the Nile – Stephanie Dray

Synopsis:

With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers…

I stepped into this book knowing that it was close to the same story line as Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s Daughter.  And indeed, it was almost frighteningly close for the first three chapters.  I assume that it should be expected considering the subject matter is widely known.

I did like the differences.  While Selene and Helios share the bond that is unbreakable in both books, it does come to an end in each as well… although for entirely different reasons.

Cleopatra Selene discovers that she truly is her mother’s daughter, and she comes to know the power and responsibility that her mother shouldered.  Guided by the knowledge that she is Isis Resurrected, Selene engages in a dangerous game of strategy and test of wills with the man who ultimately brought her parents to their deaths… Julius Caesar Octavianus… Augustus… Octavian.

I did enjoy this book, and read it in only two or three days, although spread over a week.  I thought the last chapter was like walking into a brick wall.  The story came to a screeching halt and I was left wanting more.  More comes out in October, 2011… as Stephanie Dray releases Song of the Nile.

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…

Color me happy in October.  I’ll snatch this up as soon as possible.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Historical Fiction, Read

 

Read: In the Garden of Beasts – Erik Larson

 
I finished up this book last evening, July 27.  I found it very interesting, and an exceptional amount of research must have been put into this work by Erik Larson.

The story follows the life of the Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, William E. Dodd.  The secondary title of the book is “Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.”  While the book centers around the entire family, which includes Dodd’s wife Martha, son Bill Jr. and daughter, also named Martha, it truly focuses on Dodd himself and the younger Martha.  Younger Martha is, to be frank, a tramp.  The attitude of her parents toward their daughter is somewhat surprising.  There is little reprimand for the affairs and indiscretions that Martha engages in.

As the Dodds settle in Germany, it is evident that the mindset of the American family that they are firmly on the side of the Germans and Hitler’s new regime.  The “Jewish problem” somehow justifies the early actions of the Third Reich.  While the story focuses on the actions of Hitler and his henchmen, there is a background story on the struggle that a gentleman scholar had surviving in the diplomatic “good ole boys club”, which had diplomats from around the world spending exorbitant amounts of money of parties and affairs that had nothing much to do with their diplomatic causes.

Martha the Younger’s love life is fascinating, especially when she takes up with Rudolf Diels, Gorring’s protege.  Diels himself seems a strange character, who, although he sports a deeply scarred face, remained handsome and charismatic.  Martha would also be involved romantically with a Russian communist spy… and it is rumored that she also became part of the KGB in later years.

The book is filled with intrigue, backbiting, danger, love and politics.  I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in the on-goings and the thoughts of Americans in the early part of the Third Reich’s reign.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Non Fiction, Read

 

Attempted To Read: The Secret Supper – Javier Sierra

I am rather adamant about finishing a book once I start it.  I think it is awful to put one down and never find out how it ends.  With that being said, I owe myself a flogging for not finishing this book… and then an additional flogging for ever attempting to read this book.

I had started The Secret Supper initially last winter.  I figured this would be a good, deep read, great for those hot chocolate in hand evenings when the world was white, quiet, and utterly boring.  Little did I know that this book would be far more boring than the great expanse of white stuff outside.

di Vinci is completing his great masterpiece, The Last Supper in Milan in 1497.  And being di Vinci, everything is mysterious and coded.  Not only that, but the famous painter is hiding secrets and symbols in his paintings, which is far more injurious when you consider the painting is installed in a church. None of the saints appear holy, the supper table isn’t quite right, and why do the saints resemble well-known heretics?

Normally this would be my speed, I’d eat it up in three days and exclaim how wonderful and rich the writing was.  But I just could not stand to read another page once I forced myself through 2/3 of the book.  I have no idea how it ends.  But I’m guessing Leo wasn’t burned at the stake… The Last Supper wasn’t destroyed… and I probably won’t learn my lesson and will attempt another book that I will inevitably not finish at some point in my life.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Historical Fiction, Read

 

Read: The March by E.L. Doctorow

I have just finished the last page of The March by E.L. Doctorow.  This is an epic tale in three parts about William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous March through the South at the end of the Civil War.

War was indeed, hell.  There is no sugar-coating as to how the Northern troops went about “liberating” the African-Americans at the time.  Yes, they were often freed from their masters, but they were then left for themselves with very little provisions.  A key character in the book, Pearl, is freed from her life as a half Negro-half white plantation child.  But Pearl is different, as she is as white as any of the Southern Belles.  Only when she speaks do you find her true beginnings.

I am somewhat torn on this book.  I only rated it 3 1/2 stars on my reader.  While the story was fascinating with all the twists and turns, and the ability of the author to tie the characters together was truly wonderful, the skipping around and sometimes lengthy internal conversations of the characters, especially Sherman, became tedious.  I’d find myself skimming them over and hoping that they would end soon.  Kilpatrick is a truly vile individual in this book, although he gets him comeuppance in fabulous fashion.

A young Southern plantation wife, a Judge’s daughter with a gift for nursing, a German doctor with a brilliant skill, famous generals, ordinary soldiers and individuals are carefully weaved back and forth through the story.  I did feel that the ending was very blunt.  I wanted to know more of what happened to Pearl, her beau, Calvin the Negro photographer, and the little slave boy David.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Historical Fiction, Read

 

Read: Athena Project by Brad Thor

Sure, every covert operation is ran by gorgeous women of the utmost intelligence.

A thrilling page turner, Brad Thor’s Athena Project seems like a complete joke at first.  The women of the elite task force are so beautiful, it’s almost comical.  But eventually, you understand that beauty will get you almost everything, and these highly trained women are the best at what they do.

A new menacing terror is being unleashed on the world, and the women of the Athena Project are sent to sniff it out.  The terror is some part of an unholy scheme discovered and unleashed by the Nazis, one that hurls individuals through time and space and plasters them against the wall of the opposite portal.  But this time travelling gadget is being used to hurl bombs on the innocents of the world, and the girls of the Athena Project race against time to save the day.

Having never read a book by Brad Thor, I enjoyed the intrigue, detail and history involved.  The girls in the book were likable, and in the end you could imagine that such a group of women could exist and the fate of our world could be in their hands.  Just another day at the office.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2011 in Fiction, Read