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.

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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.