Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Safe-Keeper's Secret by Sharon Shinn

For some reason I didn't like this one quite as much as the Truth Teller's Tale (one of most recent posts), but I still liked the world in which they lived. Damiana is a safe-keeper, who listens to people's secrets and doesn't pass them on. She gives birth to Fiona, but on the same night Reed is brought to her, supposedly a bastard son of the king. Damiana raises them both. Fiona loves herbs, but expects to be a safe-keeper like her mother. Reed tries out numerous professions, but none seem to fit him. One of my favorite parts of this book is the sense of family that gathers at the main holidays - Wintermoon and Summermoon. This family doesn't consist of many blood relaties, but of friends that support each other. This is the way my holidays have been happening recently. The ending is again too pat, with a happily ever after feeling for all.
(finished reading 2/16/05)

The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer

Read by Scarlett Johansson. It was actually Scarlett's name that caught my attention, and with an abridged version, what did I have to lose. Carrie and her fiance Mike and friends live in Madison Wisconsin, have know each other for years, have done things together for years, but there is some miscontent in her life. She wants something different, but doesn't quite know what that is. When Mike has an accident and becomes paralyzed, she withdraws and has an even harder time figuring out what she wants to be doing. She runs away to New York and meets Kilroy. (I never knew "Kilroy was here" was from WWII.) I remember that feeling of not knowing what I want to do with my life. it was nice to see things starting to clear up for Carrie.
(finished listening 11/15/05)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Truth-Teller's Tale by Sharon Shinn

A new author to explore! This young adult book was again suggested by Maria, and she says that Shinn has a whole series of great adult books.

I was fascinated by this new mildly magical world created by Shinn. It could be a pre-industrial England with a strong connection to nature and a celebration of winter and summer solstices. Wintermoon is a time for reflection with a large bonfire in which an elaborate wreath is tossed. All present have the chance to tie on something that represents a wish for the future.

In this world we have twin sisters Adele, the safe-keeper and Eleda the truth teller. Opposites, but very close. We see them growing up in this magical world from about 12 to 17, through cycles of celebration, affecting people's lives through their talents, dreaming their dreams. I just ended up feeling wonderful at the end - even if everything did come together too patly.
(Finished reading 2/11/06)

Taliban by Ahmed Rashid

Not the best book to listen to, because it is so full of names, dates and other specific facts, that I think I would absorb better visually, but I just let it flow over me and didn't try to keep track of the details. This was written by a Pakistani journalist pre 9-11, so it is interesting how he speculates about the future. Rashid looks at Afghanistan - historically, economically, and politically. It is a difficult task, as their history has been very convoluted, with many powers fighting for this crossroads. I think Afghanistan might have been left alone, except it was important to many countries for oil pipelines (which, if I understood properly, have never been built) and as a crossroads for transportation of goods in the region. Rashid had chapters on the drug trade, the oil economy, and the countries surrounding Afghanistan and their relations.
It was hard reading about their treatment of women, though the explanation that the Taliban evolved from a war culture, made sense. In war culture there were very few women, so men didn't know how to relate to them. And now they have destroyed the rich social culture of families and communities that women weave together. I ended up being very angry towards the stupidity of the males in the Taliban. Maybe it was best that Rashid didn't get into more detail about the suffering of women, it already upset me. I had fantasies that the rest of the world could bring all the women out of there and let the men just kill each other off, instead of having a constant supply of new boys to use as cannon fodder. I also found myself getting hard-hearted about the humanitarian aid offered. By feeding the people, taking care of their injuries and needs, they took away that responsibility from the Taliban leaders. For them to say "Allah will provide" was just ludicrous. I did learn that the women in the U.S. protesting the treatment in Afghanistan did make a difference.
Another case if no one had given anyone any modern weapons, they might be in a better palce right now, but I don't know how they will ever build a functioning country at this point. I will have to read up how the US is rebuilding Afghanistan, we hear mostly about Iraq these days.
I also want to reread Kite Runner, as I will now understand the setting better.
(Finished listening to 2/7/06)

Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb

My favorite series of books to keep me awake on late night drives, this time to DC and back. As I heard in a radio ad, J.D. Robb is Nora Roberts' dark side and she looks at the dark side of humanity. Lt. Eve Dallas is a homicide cop in the mid 21st century, married to Roarke, one of the richest and most powerful guys on the planet. As he is running his empire, I keep wondering where he finds time to help Eve on all her cases, but whatever... This time it is four seemingly unrelated suicides that die with big smiles on their lips. Eve feels they were nudged. Exciting and psychological, as always.
I can never keep this series of books straight. I have listened to quite a few of them, but I can't differentiate them by title. I think it will help me just to keep track of what is going on with the individuals. This starts off with Eve and Roarke's honeymoon (c. 1996), so it's pretty old. Eve's friend Mavis is with Leonardo and her singing career, AKA screaming with little clothes on, is starting to take off. Peabody is the dutiful sidekick. If I ever do a retro of books I've read, a list of JD Robb's death books would be useful to me. (Finished listening to it 2/5/06)

Water Mirror by Kai Meyer

Noooo, it can't be just the first book in a trilogy. I hope others are out there for me to read. Another wonderfully imaginative fantasy for young adults, this one given to me by my Children's lit specialist colleague, Maria. The setting - Venice, an integral part of the story with it's canals, bridges, and buildings along the waters. (Maria showed me a tour book of Venice and I had to read up on the basic history of Venice - why would anyone build a whole city on a series of islands. But trade was a biggie in earlier centuries. This is a nice tie-in to the Olympics in Torino.) Though set in the late 1800's, the global situation is such that the Egyptians rule a good part of the world, but can't get at Venice, because the Flowing Queen protects it. (Makes me think about the ebb and flow of powers throughout history - the big powers always get cocky and fall, and I've had the feeling that the U.S. will soon get its wings clipped.) The main characters are two orphan girls: Junipa is blind, Merle has connections to the Flowing Queen, a spirit in the waters of Venice, and Serafin, a homeless boy turned thief, turned apprentice. They live in the Canal of the Expelled with two rival craftsmen - a weaver and a mirror-maker. And then there is the magic - mermaids, stone lions that are used as horses, magic mirrors, magic cloth, etc. All rolled up in a wonderful adventure. This is the second book in a couple of weeks with "mirror" in the title and an important part of the story.
(Finished reading 2/1/06.)