Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence

I am again having a hard time finding the right kinds of young adult books for my 12 year old son. I want to try something different, plus we have listened to every book available by his favorite authors. There has to be enough of an interesting story, not too girly or romantic, and I’d like a new setting. This book is a bit simplistic, though there is some gruesome parts to it. This is about a girl living near Rome in 79 A.D. She is a ship captain’s daughter who tries to unravel a mystery with the help of her neighbor, a slave and an orphaned beggar. Again, my personal interest is in the historical setting – the houses, the living conditions, the daily routine (washing in the public baths), the scrolls (instead of books), the classes of people – slaves, freed slaves, born free, Jews and Christians in early Rome, etc. Not as well told as some I’ve read, but OK. I’ll have to listen to the second half again, when my son returns from Latvia.(finished listening to June 12)

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

This was one of those books I knew nothing about when I picked it up at Borders in Louisville, because it was on sale, but I had a hard time putting it down – kept reading it in the mornings and evenings, not just before going to bed. The thing that holds the women in the book together is a book club – they get together once a month to discuss a book - one the host of the month has suggested. The women are quite different in the beginning of the book – though they live in a good neighborhood of Minneapolis and have or have had husbands earning a decent salary. Faith came from a drunk mother and a father who left when she was born. Merit was the beautiful one that escaped from her family led by a strict minister and married Eric, a doctor who abused her. Audrey was the sexy one who had some wealth of her own. Slip was tiny in size, but very strong physically and mentally. She was the great liberal who fought for all sorts of causes. Kari was older and had lost her husband and had never been able to have children, but loved them. This book takes us through the lives of these women, their families and those around them from 1968 to 1998. They create a supportive family for each other through the book club, as they each go through various crises. I liked the way each time period was depicted – they all smoked and drank, even when pregnant, in the beginning. Their children were a big part of their lives and the novel. Many issues were raised, the anti-war movement, effects of Viet Nam on vets, homosexuality, biracialism, abuse, and much more that is dear to my heart. These were life stories, and not sappy romances (like Nora Roberts ends up pairing people too perfectly.) Some had great partners, some divorced, some stayed single and found happiness anyway. And of course, I loved the book theme. Though the books sometimes don’t even get mentioned in a chapter, each chapter begins with the host, name & author of the book, why it was chosen, or food served with it. I have pulled out the titles as a potential reading list for myself. And I know I will try reading Landvik’s other books. (finished reading this early June)

The books mentioned in Angry Housewives and my comments if I’ve read them:
Hotel by Arthur Hailey – maybe I’ve read this, I’ve forgotten
Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver – read long ago
Middlemarch by George Eliot
On the Road by Jack Kerouac – tried reading in the last few years, but couldn’t get into it
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – I’ve read Lewis
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion – I’ve read Didion
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather – I’ve read a few by Cather
Dr. Faustus by Thomas Mann (a banned book)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe – read in mid-late 1970’s
Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask by Dr. David Reuben – read in high school and hid under my mattress
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong – read
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan – I think I tried to read this, I was definitely aware of it
Roots by Alex Haley – saw most of it on TV
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck – read this and a few of her other books
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell – sounds so familiar
Terms of Endearment by Larry Mc Murtry – saw the movie
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – just had to answer a reference question about this the other day
My Home Is Far Away by Dawn Powell
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – read, but can’t say I liked
Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler – read last year
West with the Night by Beryl Markham – read
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Handling Sin by Michael Malone (funny)
The Stand by Stephen King – I’ve read some of King and don’t want to read any more
My Antonia by Willa Cather – read
Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – read
The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – I have read something of Undset in Latvian
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
Eastward Ha! By S.J. Perelman (funny)
Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
Others mentioned:
Martian Chronicles - read
Age of Innocence
The Drifters by Michner – read a few of his books

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the fifth book of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I have read two other books in the series, but entered them with no description. I again enjoyed this slow paced, but wonderful book about Botswana. As is quoted from the Seattle Times on the back of the book: “The author’s deceptively simple prose…is as supple as ever. His gift for effortless description of dusty, sun-bake Africa is undiminished.” The main characters:
Mma Precious Ramotswe – a wise middle aged woman, traditionally built, has her own detective agency. In this book she looks into a few beaus of a rich woman who hires her to check if these men are after her or her money. Most of the story is told from her point of view, with a beautiful, traditional view of the world, which has a lot to teach us today.
Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is engaged to Mma Ramotswe and has his own car repair shop. He is concerned about not having refused to jump out of a plane with a parachute as a fundraising event for an orphan farm he helps. He also notices a fine Rover owned by a butcher has been fixed with cheap replacement parts by another mechanic.
Mma Makutsi is Mms Ramotswe’s assistant and secretary, who graduated from secretarial school with a 97%. She has opened a typing school for men and has a bit of money left over, so in this book she moves to a new living space.
Mma Silvia Potokwane runs the orphan farm and manages to talk people into doing things they did not necessarily intend to do. There is also a great scene where she talks down a bully. (finished reading this 5/30/05)

Vacu ordenis un Livonija (The German Order and Livonia) by Kaspars Klavins

I feel very strange that this is the first Latvian book I have entered in this list. I’ve read things for Latvian school, and some poetry, which I will have to record later. This book was written by a friend, who recently stayed with me during the Medieval Conference at Western Michigan University. This is a thin scholarly volume, with many quotes in German and Latin, extensive notes and a bibliography. Though reading a scholarly work in Latvian was not easy, the topic was of interest to me. Kaspars has read all the ancient Chronicles about Latvia and the Baltics from the 13th and 14th centuries and has looked at the ideology and attitudes of the German Order in Livonia or what today is Latvia and Estonia. He talks of their motivation to be fighting, their level of religiousness, what pagan beliefs they stilled adhered to, and the burning of bodies (contrary to Christian custom of the times), which he explained in more detail at a session of the Medieval Conference. As you can see from my other reading choices, I love historical fiction, and this would be ideal background material for a novel or even series of novels. I am intrigued and would like to tackle reading those Chronicles (in English or Latvian translation, of course) at some point in time. If I was really ambitious, I’d write a young adult novel out of those stories. (completed reading 5/28/05)

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

I picked up this book at TBW, because it was about an illuminator of medieval manuscripts. The librarian in me loves novels about books, libraries, librarians, and anything to do with books. Having those illuminated texts in our rare book collection helps. Again, there was an engaging story, lives brought together and torn apart, set in 14th century England. We see some historic figures: Bishop Henry Despenser, the “warring bishop,” John Wycliffe (the first to translate the Bible into English), Julian of Norwich (first woman to write in English – I picked up a book of her writings in the library), and John Ball. But again, though engrossed in the story, I liked the description of the historical setting: the nobility vs. clergy vs. peasants/slaves; the way a manor was run in those days; the role of women; the attitudes toward religion including Jews; the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. Of course I was most intrigued with all that had to do with the manuscripts - translating of the Bible in English – doing in secretly, transcribing it, illustrating it. How Finn encouraged Julian of Norwich to write. Even details about making the ink and colors. This was also a story about an actual five-panel painting rediscovered after 400 years in the Norwich Cathedral. Finn, the illuminator is forced to paint this while in the captivity of Bishop Despenser. The central character in this book seemed to be Kathryn of Blackingham. She has been recently widowed and has two sons coming of age – Alfred takes after his father and goes on to serve the sheriff Sir Guy. Collin, the gentle blonde one plays the lute, comforts his mother, and falls in love with Rose, the illuminator’s daughter. Kathryn is a strong, fair woman, but these are difficult times, though she gets a brief respite in loving Finn.

This is a time when I went to get the physical book from the shelves of the library to check on a few things like the spelling of the town of what I heard as “Norridge.” Turned out to be Norwich, so I could find Julian’s writings. There was also an Author’s Note that was not in the tape version, but the tape had an interview with the author, and it turns out she is a retired school teacher, who loves to write, but this is her first novel since she never had time to complete a whole book. One of her interests is the early history of the church. (finished listening to this 5/26/05)

Maker’s Mark: My Autobiography by Bill Samuels

I picked up this coffee table book in Louisville after I had gone to the Maker’s Mark lounge. It was a different kind of bar – with comfy couches and stuffed chairs for seating, some behind light curtains. They are cigar friendly and the air was filled with the not unpleasant smell of cigar smoke. Maker’s Mark is a local bourbon and they have a whole list of bourbon’s you can try – you can even compare them by ordering “flights” that is smaller shots of three brands at a time. The book is colorful and fun about a family tradition of distilling bourbon and how they make and market the drink now. They have a distinct red wax hand dipped on the cap and neck of the bottle. As an old Jack Daniel’s drinker I found this fascinating and the bartender told me about differences between the different whiskeys. Bourbon is one of them and can only be made in Kentucky because of the water. Not a book I need to keep, so I’ll either have to find someone to gift it to or donate it to the library. (read on 5/15/05)

Master Butcher’s Singing Club by Louise Erdrich

I had been eyeing this book at Talking Book World for a while. Long ago I read her co-authored book Crown of Columbus and in the last few years I listened to Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, about a woman who takes on the role of a priest in an Indian community in Wisconsin or someplace in that part of the country.
This book is about Fidelis, a man who is trained as a master butcher by his father in Germany, but leaves for America sometime after WWI. He lands in Argus, ND, where he ends up starting his own butcher business, brings over his wife and sons, and starts a singing club. Singing clubs in Germany were organized by guilds or professions (strangely enough, historian Kaspars Klavins told me about these guild singing clubs when he came to the Medieval Conference, while I was still listening to the book), but in the US, men of various professions gathered to sing and share songs they knew.
The other main character in the book is Delphine, who comes back to her home town to take care of her alcoholic father, and she is accompanied by Cyprian, a juggler and balancer with whom she had an act together. Though they get along very well, he is gay, and she wants a partner in all aspects. (An interesting glimpse into what it meant to be gay at that time.) Delphine goes to work for Eva, Fidelis’ wife, in the butcher shop. She loves Eva, spends a lot of time with her, helps her with all the chores and the boys, and when Eva gets sick, takes over the household.Enough about the story – I just enjoyed the detailed description Erdrich gives of this time, about the way relationships worked, how the community worked. It was really poignant with the coming of WWII, and Germans in Germany versus Germans who had moved to the US. (finished listening to 5/12/05)

The Calhouns: Suzanna and Megan by Nora Roberts

Fluff reading, but I needed something light. This is the third and fourth book of a series about 3 sisters who lost their parents and were raised by Aunt Coco in a castle built by their great-grandfather. Their great-grandmother Bianca died by falling out of a window and there is a mystery intertwined in all of these books about her difficult life with her husband, her love of a painter that painted on the coast. (This is all on an island in Maine – see previous note on The Calhouns.) There is an emerald necklace involved, which is sought by a nasty thief with skills to disguise himself. The necklace gets found in the third book: Suzanna’s Surrender. The fourth book, Megan’s Mate is about Megan, the sister of Sloan, who also has had a son by rogue ex-husband of Suzanne. The couplings are way too predictable in this series – only one man appears in each woman’s life, they hate them, but of course fall in what appears to be soul-mate love each time, and soon after have babies. All live happily ever after in or around the big castle. But I still like Nora Roberts’ characters and her details. (finished reading 5/10/05)

Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

This was a hard one to listen to. It is a fictional account of John Brown, as if narrated by one of his sons. I have heard his name in history accounts, have sung the song about him, but didn’t really know who he was. Turns out he was a religious white man who felt a strong compulsion to fight slavery by working on the Underground Railroad and often killing those who were slave owners or supported slavery. In 1859 he led an attack on Harper’s Ferry, VA to steal weapons for the slaves and their supporters to use in an uprising. Most of his men were quickly killed or captured. He was tried and hanged. By the end of the book I appreciated this insight on a piece of history, but it was hard to swallow, as the book was quite graphic in its violence. And I find I have a hard time with zealots, especially religious zealots who will break all sorts of laws and commandments to attain their goals. Even Frederick Douglas cautioned John Brown and did not support his plan for Harper’s Ferry. If I were to take this further, I would read some of the books on the black take on John Brown, as it seems that his actions did help nudge the country into the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. From the titles of books in the library, John Brown was a hero to the blacks. (finished listening to late April, May, 2005)

True Betrayals by Nora Roberts

Not my favorite book of hers, though it did grow on me. Setting – horse farms and horse racing with the Triple Crown at stake. Kelsey thought her mother died when she was little, but it turns out she had killed a man in self defense, and had gone to prison for 10 years. They reconnect on her mother’s horse farm. Her love interest is Gabe, who won his horse farm in a card game, and is trying to make an honest go at raising horses. This turns into a pretty convoluted murder mystery, but with Roberts’ eye for detail I learned about one more world I knew nothing about. (finished listening to in April, 2005)

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

A slow book with lots of characters I didn’t like, but maybe we are all flawed and Russo just showed us that. Small town life, many stuck and couldn’t get out.
(Finished listening to by April 1, 2005)

Just saw an interview with Helen Hunt on David Letterman – she is in a movie version of this book and plays the wife that has just lost a lot of weight and is discovering sex with the shallow health club owner, and is divorcing Miles the main character. (5/11/05)

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A wonderful book about girl, Lily, who lost her mother at age 4 and is living with her mean father T. Ray and big black nanny Rosaleen in South Carolina in 1964. Lily has no friends and has a huge hole in her where her mother should be. So this book is about how she heals in the midst of a group of wonderful black women. It is a coming of age story, it has a couple of gentle love stories, it is powerful in its Civil Rights era setting, showing how blacks were proud to register to vote, which got the whites riled up and we see two nasty incidents between the races ending up with arrests. But mostly it is about the power of women to heal, to mother each other, to relate to the divine mother, Mary. The figure of the Black Mary was moving. And this wonderful story is set in a hot southern summer surrounded by bees. The author had researched beekeeping and had Lily land amongst 3 beekeeping “Calendar sisters” - August, May & June. August is the main mothering one and May in an interesting character deeply affected by the pain and sorrow of others. She had built a wailing wall, to which she would bring her pain. [Stop reading if you don’t want the ending spoiled.] To answer the questions at the end of the book, this is what I think will happen: Lily grows up to be a very strong woman, who finally sees the pain her father has suffered and she goes to see him, to tell him her life is in order, though he never appreciated it. She does become a beekeeper and takes over the bee farm, but she is also a writer – after she has gone to college. Rosaleen stays on the farm till they end of her days and is active in the community (after her charges are dropped), maybe opening a bakery or something. Lily and Zach get married and he is a lawyer in town, but he gets involved in major civil rights cases. I don’t know if they live in the pink house or build their own.
(read over spring break, completed April 6, 2005).

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

Oh how I love Ann Patchett. I might even write her a letter when I finish Taft. This was another wonderful sweet, but sad book. This is her first novel that she thought out while waitressing and then wrote it in those writers’ workshops, colonies that she went to. (looks like this will have to be completed at some other time)
(Read March 2005)

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett

(read Feb 2005)

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

A quick listen kids book about two kids who get involved with a stolen Vermeer. The thief publicizes that the Vermeer has been stolen so that everyone would look at Vermeer’s work more closely and realize that some of the paintings attributed to him were probably done by others, imitating him. There are some good support characters and things – the interesting teacher that lets them explore different ideas pretty freely, the old gruff spinster, who becomes their friend, the pentanicles (sp?) that the boy is constantly playing with. It is a well constructed story with a lot of puzzle pieces coming together in the end. And I enjoy books about art. (listened Feb 2005)

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The first of the series, we learn about Mma Precious Ramotswe, her childhood, her father, her unsuccessful marriage, and how she starts the detective agency.
(read Feb 2005)

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

The second or third of the wonderful series: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, about a lady detective in Botswana.
(listened Feb 2005)

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Gealy

After reading Truth and Beauty, I just had to read this. It is a powerful book, but interestingly enough I found it in the young adult biography section of our library. Though it is mostly about a girl, it is definitely not written for younger readers. Chapters like “The Tao of Laugh-In” wouldn’t make sense to kids. Her inner world was amazing, the strength she had to deal with the world with her deformed face is astounding. But she also had a desperate need to cling to friends, and we see how this evolves. (read Feb 2005)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Lion Boy: The Chase by Zizou Corder

Ansis and I finished listening to the second of these Lionboy stories, where Charlie, a boy who can talk to cats, escapes with lions from a circus, ends up in Venice, takes them back to Africa, where he finally meets up with his parents, so we have a reprieve before the next set of misfortunes besets him. I found this delightful. (listened Jan-Feb 2005)

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

I just finished listening to this amazing book. The author Ann tells her true story of becoming a writer along with best friend Lucy Grealy, also a writer. Lucy’s face was disfigured in childhood by a bout with cancer and much of the rest of her life is spent trying to fix her face and/or deal with it. It is an amazing tale of friendship. And though I have nothing like that, there have been moments I have felt as close to Sufi, Donna, Sniedze, and Inta. I am now reading Lucy’s Autobiography of a Face and expect to read all of Ann Patchett’s books. I realize I have already listened to her Bel Canto. (finished listening 2/17/05)

The Children’s Homer by Padraic Colum

After watching the movie Troy, I realized I had forgotten a lot of the story of the Illiad and the Oddysey. Colum does a nice job of retelling these stories in today’s language, so I could be reminded of all that happened. Now I want to see the movie again to see how closely it followed those original stories. I also plan on listening to a version of Homer’s Illiad. (I tried and couldn’t get through it.) If I understand correctly, there are various versions of the tales, as they were in the repertoire of numerous bards. I’m still trying to understand when and how they were written down.

Winner by David Baldacci

This mystery was recommended by Alison at Talking Book World (TBW) and it was good – a fairly unique plot of a poor Georgia girl who is chosen by a man to be part of his scheme to fix the lottery. She is desperate with a baby and a drug dealing boyfriend, so she takes him up on it, but leaves a grisley scene at her trailer – a dead boyfriend and another drug dealer, who attacked her. So once she wins the lottery, she has to leave the country and is told to never come back. After 10 years she comes back, but various people are on to her. Anyway… though I had to finish the book because it had me hooked, I can’t say that I really liked the constant feeling of unease while listening. It seemed that something nasty was going to happen at any given moment. I just kept reminding myself that the heroine is going to come through this OK. I liked Baldacci’s characterization of Lou Ann, her friend Charlie, and the bad guy Jackson. They were each outcasts in their own way. I wasn’t sure how they managed to live without friends as they did.

Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory (2004)

Listened to one more wonderful book about Queen Elizabeth I. This focused on her early years and her affair with Robert Dudley. I do regret that this was an abridged version, as much of the color of the times was deleted from the story, which made the previous book by Gregory so good.

The Calhouns: Catherine, Amanda and Lilah by Nora Roberts

Not the best of Nora Roberts, I just needed some light reading. This is a reprint of 3 Silhouette books from 1991, so they are written with the quick romance book formula. What I did like about the book, was that it was set in Bar Harbor, Maine – on the island where Acadia National Park is located and which we visited last summer. True, the place is really beautiful. Again, her heroines are strong women – the three sisters are a bit stereotypical as opposites – one is an auto mechanic, one a businesswoman, one a free spirited naturalist. What held my interest was the thread of mystery woven throughout – a long lost emerald necklace, that was hidden somewhere by an ancestor who committed suicide (or was killed in my opinion). We actually don’t get the mystery solved, and I realized that there is at least one more, if not two books in this series. I like the research they do in old family papers and libraries. Roberts’ usual mysticism comes in the form of a ghostly energy from the past and not overdone. What I did not like was the quick way all three sisters found the loves of their lives with one wedding and the other two planned. Their pattern of falling in love was so similar, so predictable, that it drove me nuts. I understand instant connection, chemistry, but love takes a while to realize, to work out differences in life styles, etc. They had three very successful men, one a Cornell professor, drop their lives and move to Maine to live in an old mansion with these ladies, all within a matter of a couple of months. I don’t think so. (Finished reading Jan. 26, 2005)

My Life by Bill Clinton

I wish this taped book had not been unabridged, as I would have really liked to hear all of it, but something was better than nothing. I loved Clinton as a president, with all his foibles, or even because of them, and I really enjoyed hearing him retell his life. His mother was really interesting, maybe I need to read her book. (Now I’m thinking, if Ansis becomes famous, will all of my life be unearthed?) I felt reaffirmed in my support of him – he was an intelligent, caring president, with a flair for politics and an understanding of the way the world works. I felt Clinton’s frustration and was appalled at the media coverage of his presidency, starting with the Republican inspired focus on gays in the military within the first week of office to take attention from his work on the economy. Almost everything he did was overshadowed by bogus accusations about Whitewater or whatever. And Kenneth Starr just seems outright evil. All I can say is I hope that we have more strong, moderate Democrats like Clinton out there (and I’m sure Hillary is one) that can keep the ultra conservative right at bay. I think I will read the whole thing when it comes out in paperback, because a brief review mentioned a lot of details I missed in the abridged version. (Finshed listening to Jan. 22, 2005)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Queen’s Own Fool: A Novel of Mary Queen of Scots by Jane Yolen & Robert Harris

To follow on the theme of fools (see Queen’s Fool above), I found this other book about a Queen’s fool, but this time it is in Italian girl Nicola, who is rescued from her uncle’s traveling troupe by Queen Mary of France. This time we get the story of Mary Queen of Scots. The book is meant for young adult readers, so the chapters are very short, and the intrigues a bit less complex, though there is still murder and hangings, etc., but it is toned down a bit. This time I was fascinated by the differences between France and Scotland, the French being so ”refined”, while the Scots are portrayed as being more crude. I’m amazed at all the languages people spoke in those times, but then again, people in Europe today speak various languages. Again, the fool is a plain folk person, who with her wit ingratiated herself into the heart and presence of the queen, thus being witness to many important events. All noble women do embroidery, even the queen. What a queer pastime. Plus they play cards and chess. In France chess is used as a method for teaching strategy. All in all a good book, but the Gregory book left me more satisfied. (Finished reading Jan. 14, 2005)

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

This is the first of a trilogy still in process and is based on Nora Roberts’ love for gardening. This will again be about three women and the way they find their loves. The focus of this book is on Stella, who lost her husband in a plane crash (bizarrely in September 2001, but doesn’t even mention 9/11) and is raising two little boys. She decides to leave her home in Michigan and move to Tennessee, where she gets a job at a garden shop run by Roz, a wealthy lady who has decided to turn her love of gardening into a business. Stella comes in and organizes things better, rearranges the store, and they have a record year. Logan is the landscaper, who doesn’t take well to being organized, but he somehow still falls in love with this women with red hair and two comic and fun loving boys. Opposites attract, etc. The third woman, Haley, a distant relative, shows up on their doorstep pregnant and wanting a job, though she originally worked in a bookstore. (Both of those two business are appealing to me, and I actually got to try out one of them.) Looks like her love will be Harper, Roz’s son, who lives in a cottage on the grounds and is their plant propagator. He’s there when Haley gives birth to Lily. Roz’s love may or may not be Mitch, a genealogy specialist she hires towards the end of the book to research not only her family tree, but specifically the ghost that has been haunting her house – protective of kids, but mad when Stella decides to marry Logan. The prologue tells us who she is. (Read Jan. 05)

Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is my secret easy read. Her novels are romances, sometimes with mystery or thriller tossed in, often with a mystical component. She writes well, gives me an insight to numerous locations and professions, which she seems to research well. Her women are strong and independent. Occasionally she dwells too much on antiques and fashion for my taste, but the rest is OK. She has written so many books, that I better start keeping track, or I’ll forget what I’ve read.

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

I think this is the second of Shreve’s books I’ve listened to. A 12 year-old girl and her father have moved to the country in New Hampshire from New York City after her mother and baby sister were killed in a car accident. They find a newborn baby in the woods shortly before Christmas and befriend the mother, who comes to thank them for saving the baby. A nice book, a bit slow paced, a good look at grief and how people deal with it, adolescence, nice depiction of NH winters. (listened Dec. 04)

The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

One of my currently favorite genres is historical fiction and this is a prime example. Hannah is a 14 year-old Jewish girl with a gift of “sight” prized in 16th century England, so she is brought to the court as a fool in boys clothing by Robert Dudley, where she befriends both Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth. I enjoy the personal connections, the romance, but am most gratified by the historical details. I especially enjoyed the description of the life of Jews – pretending to be Christians, but still being the shopkeepers, and in this case a book printer and seller. The religious intolerance, the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, the inquisition, imprisonments and executions were uncomfortable to read about, but important for me to understand. Having recently seen the Tower of London, I can better imagine what imprisonment there would be like. I was also fascinated by the power struggles for the throne of England – with Spain and France also in the mix, and Queen Elizabeth before she was queen. The importance of a male heir seems ridiculous to me now, but I guess back then… Plus Queen Mary was in her 40’s when she tried to deliver a live heir. If I was considered an old mother at 37, I could see that in those days she was ancient and had very little chances of delivering a healthy baby – plus she was so stressed out – with all the intrigues around her, and her absent husband. Ah well, some things never change. (Read Dec. 04)