Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

My Photo
Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory (2013)

It has been a while since I have read one of Philippa Gregory's intricate historical novels, so I tried this. I had to pull out my most trusted reference on Britain's kings and queens - meant for children, but gives me the grounding on where this fits in their long history and gives me the simple, at times funny explanation of these royal machinations, which can get lost in the details of the story. I am just glad we live in a time with term limits and that the outgoing ruler does not need to be killed or imprisoned to change governments. I also realized that Queen Elizabeth II has been ruling (well, presiding) my whole life - and I am no spring chicken.

The main character is Anne, the kingmaker's daughter. Her father raised the royal York boys Edward, George and Richard, and when he didn't like the way Henry (the sleeping king, as Anne calls him) ruled, he placed Edward on the throne, imprisoning Henry. When he didn't like the fact that Edward's wife and her family had too much influence on him, he tried to put the second son George in his place, but lost that bid. 

Anne's sister is married to George, at 15 Anne gets married off to old King Henry's son, her father thinking he can get one of his daughters on the throne and be grandfather to a king. Then Anne's young husband and her father get killed in battle. She ends up marrying Richard, the third York son. Her nemesis - real or imagined is King Edward;s wife Elizabeth Woodville, who is not only beautiful and fertile with 10 children, but skillful in getting her family into positions of power.

Oh, the constant machinations and bids for power, trying to disprove the rights of one or the other to be king or queen, calling marriages illegal, children bastards, praying for a male child, trying to rule through children, accusing people of bewitching them. And this struggle for power, at least through Anne's eyes, doesn't mention how one or the other could be a better ruler for the country, but who can hold the most elaborate Christmas feast or wear the most elegant dresses with silks, gold, and furs.

At times this all sounded so petty, but then we have our own ways of being petty, and I don't even want to start with the power plays in American politics. Even today we follow the lives British royalty - Princess Charlotte was just born to Prince William and Kate. I'm not clear who will be king after Queen Elizabeth, I've read that she will pass the throne on to Price William or maybe her son Prince Charles this year.

I think I have had enough of a dose of British royalty for a while, but it is an interesting read, especially the details of daily life.

Monday, May 11, 2015

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001)

A wonderful book. I liked Gaiman's premise, that all the different immigrants to the U.S. brought their own gods to the country, but that if they are not remembered or believed in, they start losing power. Shadow is released from prison early, because his wife has died. On the way home he meets Wednesday, who convinces him to work for him, and with nothing waiting at home, he goes on this strange adventure across the country.Wednesday is actually the old god Odin and is gathering the gods for a huge fight against the new gods of the Internet and technology. The old gods live among normal folks and affect those around them - I recognized some of them, but many I had never read about. I should have written this up right after I read it, as I had numerous insights, as Gaiman has things to say about various important issues, but...

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Heartwishes by Jude Deveraux (2011)

I really like books set in an academic world, which is why the description intrigued me, but I forgot that Deveraux is basically a romance writer, and the academic part was just the setting. My favorite parts of the book were the beginning and end. We meet Gemma Ranford, a PhD student in history, who gets the amazing opportunity to go through untouched family papers going back to the 16th century, and as the owner says, she almost had an orgasm when she saw the extent of the papers. Gemma moves into the guest house on the Frazier estate in Virginia and starts work. I was a bit skeptical on how quickly she got through the first sort, and that the first piece of paper she picks up is a fragment of a letter that speaks to a family mystery, but hey, this is fiction. Her love interest is Colin Frazier, the eldest son in the family who is asked to watch over her by his mother. His dream was to become the sheriff of their small town of Edilene, which he has accomplished, but now he also falls in love. He is a very large man, but Gemma likes that, as she has been tutoring the football players and other athletes in her college. Another piece I really liked, was that she discovered that they would fall asleep during her tutoring after practice, so she practiced with them and taught while they exercised - getting her in great shape as a side benefit. The Heartwishes stone story was a bit much - a family heirloom lost over the years that granted Fraziers one heartfelt wish in their life. There's also an old girlfriend, mysterious thefts, and a cozy community. In the end, Gemma finds the hidden papers that explain the family mystery, which brought it full circle 

Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso (2010)

I just grabbed this one day as I was passing the graphic novel section in the library. Maybe the fault lay in the fact that I didn't read this straight through, or I am getting old and don't know how to follow a story in images anymore, but I felt lost in this book, had a hard time keeping track of the characters. I liked the artichoke heads, but had to look very hard to differentiate them. It has been a while since I did read this, so I don't remember any details, but there was some romance, power hungry folks, war, some industrialized, some rural parts of this imaginary world, in conflict. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Tsunami Quilt by Anthony Fredericks (2007)

Subtitle: Grandfather's Story.

I love these real life stories for kids. I fantasized about writing my father's or mother's story in a kid book form for my child. But... 

In 1946 Hawaii was hit by a tsunami, and a whole school was wiped out on a peninsula. This boy's grandfather saved himself by climbing up high early, but lost a lot of his classmates. There now is a tsunami museum in Hawaii and a quilt for all those that were lost from this one area.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey & Mercedes Lackey (1992)

This was one of the books I found from my science fiction reading days and I

thought I would try rereading it. At some point I remembered what the final outcome was going to be, but it was still fun to get to that point. I ready quite a bit by McCaffrey and Lackey in my day, and I like these combined authorship books.

Seven-year old Tia lives with her archaeologist parents on a world that they are digging, when she feels ill with some virus that even the advanced medicine of the day cannot cure and leaves her paralyzed. She is considered too old to be transferred into a brainship to be its brain, but she is such a bright, flexible, adaptive child, that they do build her into a ship, and she becomes a brilliant, intuitive ship. She does need a human partner or brawn, and she finds a compatible partner in Alex. They supply archaeological digs and are especially adept at dealing with plague situations. A really intriguing and touching book. Remember liking it back when it came out and liked it again.

Christmas Train by David Baldacci (2001)

This was an intentional reread. I think it was the first Baldacci book I ever read/listened to, and it must have been before 2005, as it isn't even in this blog. I remember it being mellower than his thrillers, but still interesting, as an assortment of people with various issues gather together for an across the country trip on a train at Christmas time.

Tom Langdon is a journalist, who has retired from covering wars and other volatile situations around the world. He is taking the train to see his girlfriend in LA, because he has been banned from flying for losing it during a security check. He decides he will write about the train ride, as Mark Twain once planned to do. (I liked the Mark Twain references.) He runs into his old love Eleanor, so then I remembered the basic ending, but was still surprised at the turn of events. Baldacci writes a good story.

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (2011)

Not that I really needed another cloak and dagger book, but the most recent one of Gideon Crew books caught my eye and I though it best to start with the first one. It really helps to know how the characters end up doing these crazy things. Gideon's story is that he saw his father gunned down after he surrendered. He was falsely accused of being responsible for the loss of CIA operatives, though he was the one that warned of flaws in a new code. On her deathbed, Gideon's mother tasks him to seek revenge, so the first part of the book is about this revenge and we get to see the skill set he has. He is smart - works in Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He has acting skills - he plays numerous characters to get information and access he wants. He has learned magic, so he is good at diverting attention and slight of hand. In the beginning it wasn't spelled out, but later we find out he is an accomplished art thief, can do more with computers than most, but need help on really geeky stuff, and can fight and use weapons. He has been so focused on his goal of revenge, that he has left out the people part, so has no real friends. So we have the lone wolf again.

The second half of the book has Gideon hired by an ultra-secret divison of the government to discover what a man from China is bringing into the country. Looking at some of the reviews in Amazon, most complained about too many unbelievable plot twists. It was a bit too much, but I understand that their other books are better, so I may try more.

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy (2010)

I remember Maeve Binchy being a feel good author from Ireland, and in this book she again brings together a group of people with unhappy lives of various sorts and weaves them together into a caring community. The main lost soul is Noel, who doesn't finish school, is in a boring, dead end job, has become an alcoholic, lives with his parents, and sees no purpose in life. His life is changed by two people. Emily, a middle aged cousin who appears on his doorstep from America and seems to take over the reorganizing of the whole family and neighborhood, but who has disappointments of her own. And Frankie - a baby born to a dying former hook-up of his. Emily helps involve a whole community in caring for Frankie and helping Noel get back on his feet. The only one that doesn't really resolve her issues, but gets a bit mellower by the end of the book is Moira, the overly strict social worker, who is just waiting for Noel to fail.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside (2007)

Wonderful, down to earth book about turning 60 - in my generation that led a pretty wild life in the 1960's & 70's. Of course everyone is different and I don't always feel like the character Marie (kept being pronounced as "marry") Sharp, who lives in Britain, retired art teacher, divorced a long time ago, one grown son. But she reflects accurately so many of my feelings about getting old. I want to actually buy this book and underline certain passages. HOpefully I can add to this reflection, as the book deserves it, but too many books haven't even made it into my blog, so I will stop here.