Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Talk: Reading Prehistory

Since 2012 I’ve led a quarterly reading theme for the Reading Through Time group on LibraryThing. These quarterly themes are designed to read through history in a chronological way. After four years, we’d gone from prehistory all the way to modern history, which was the last quarter in 2015. This year, we’re starting again with prehistory.

The prehistoric time period ends at different dates in different parts of the world and also depends on the definition in use. One definition often used is that prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Using this definition prehistory only ended in large parts of Europe when the Romans conquered it. Another definition, and one that I agree with more, is that prehistory ends when farming begins. With farming came permanent villages and cities, and all of the social intricacies associated with that. And while some let prehistory begin when early humans started to appear, I think prehistory does not necessarily mean that humans need to be present: the Age of Dinosaurs and the Rise of the Mammals are just as much a part of prehistory as the time when (a form of) humans walked the Earth.

photo credit: Prehistoric re-enactment via photopin (license)

So for easy definition for this theme prehistory is the time before agriculture, which roughly coincides with the end of the Upper Paleolithic at 10,000 years ago. Last time we only had two months for this time period, as I didn’t get the quarterly themes set up until February 2012. But we read some great books. I read Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker (see full review) and Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst (see full review). Promise of the Wolves was not as good a read as I’d expected and hoped and several others who happened to read the book for the theme as well agreed. Raptor Red on the other hand was great. My absolute favorite bit of the whole novel was this:

Aegialodon the scorpion-killer stays absolutely stll. He's survived, and he'll live to a ripe old age - eleven months. By that time his aegi genes will be in swarms of children and grandchildren.
Over a hundred million years later, the flow of aegi genes will produce wonderful creations - giraffes, elephants rhinos, whales, bats, monekys, chimps, Democratic senators, Republican majority leaders. Charles Darwin himself. All can be tracked back to the supreme bug bopper the Aegialodon.

I hope for this quarter I’ll be able to read some more great books about this underappreciated time in history. High up on my list of possible reads, because it’s on my shelf, is Circles of Stone by Joan Dahr Lambert.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Series Saturday: Benni Harper Mysteries

A revived weekly theme in which I discuss series that are either on my wish list or that I am currently reading. This week a series that combines quilts, mysteries and great characters.

This cozy mystery series by Earlene Fowler has Benni Harper as the main character. IN the first book she’s thirty-four years old, a widow, and has just gotten a job as a curator for a folk art museum in the small town she lives in. And despite the fact that the series is marketed as a craft themed cozy mystery focusing on quilting, I found the while the quilts play a part it’s really not such a big part. So if quilts and quilting are the main draw for you, then this is not the mystery series for you. However, if you like mysteries that revolve around the characters than I can highly recommend this series.

photo credit: Quilt with Fool’s Puzzle pattern via photopin (license)

I found very little, if any, clich├ęs in the books I’ve read so far. Difficulties that should arise in real life do arise in the books as well and are not swept under the carpet to keep everything ‘cozy’. And like most cozies, there’s often a secondary storyline in these books as well. So far I’ve highly enjoyed those storylines. The series is a fun, light read where the strong, realistic characters are the main draw for me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bookish Quote

“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of “literature”? That means fiction, too, stupid.”

John Waters

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Talk: Women in Command Theme

Over at the Reading Through Time group on LibraryThing, there is a monthly theme for which the group members can read historical books – fiction and non-fiction is allowed. The book just needs to fit the theme and we’re quite liberal with our guidelines. January’s theme is hosted by myself and I picked ‘Women in Command’ as the theme.

This does not just mean the obvious women who ruled as queens, empresses, tsarina, sultana, or pharaoh (to name a few titles). It can also mean a woman who is the boss of a company, captain of a ship, abbess of a cloister, or in any other way holds official authority over a group of people.

photo credit: Oil on canvas portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by Russian painter Fyodor Rokotov via Wikipedia Commons (public domain image)

There are several books on my TBR list that fit this theme. Foremost is Elizabeth I by Margaret George, which I started last year and haven’t finished yet. Another book I own that would probably fit the theme is Captive Queen by Alison Weir. And The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is on my TBR list as well. They’re all about female rulers, as I don’t seem to have many books about women in a different kind of command on my TBR list.

Now, I’m not kidding myself. I won’t read all of those books this month. My plan is to concentrate on Elizabeth I by Margaret George. So far I’ve loved it. I don’t even know why I put it on the shelf and never picked it up again. Either way, I’m looking forward to picking it up again this month.

Over at the group, I’ve seen some interesting titles mentioned from other participants in this group read. Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner, for instance. I read The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner and loved it. Perhaps I will one day give Mademoiselle Chanel a chance. Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti was also mentioned, a book that a read several years ago and highly recommend. I’m definitely keeping my eye on what everyone is reading. It’s highly probable at least one book (if not more) will make its way to my TBR list by the end of the month.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Series Saturday: Arthurian Mysteries

A revived weekly theme in which I discuss series that are either on my wish list or that I am currently reading. This week a series that takes you back to Arthurian times – without the Hollywood glamour.

The Arthurian Mysteries is a series written by Tony Hays, set in the time King Arthur probably lived. The main character of this series is Malgwyn, a one-handed former warrior who fought besides Arthur against the Saxons. He gets involved with several mysteries at the young Arthur’s request. Arthur’s not even king yet in the first novel, but all the familiar characters of the familiar story of King Arthur are present. But there is no real magic, only historical accuracy (as far as there can be about that time).

photo credit: Cardiff Castle keep via photopin (license)

What I love most about the series is that all those magical, mystical things in the Arthur legends are given a place. From Merlin as a wizard to the sword in the stone, this series shows historically possible happenings that could have grown over time into the myth we know today. Another aspect of the series I like very much is the fact that the characters grow and change and learn from their experiences.

Unfortunately Tony Hays suddenly passed away in January 2015, so there will not be any more additions to this wonderful series. It’s a real shame to lose such a talented author. Still, despite the series’ rather abrupt ending (though I hope not a cliffhanger, something I don’t expect given the books I’ve already read), I highly recommend reading it. But beware, all the books in this series are fairly gritty and graphic in places.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bookish Quote

There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over.

Gail Carson Levine

photo credit: Pixabay (license)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Author Page: Tom Clancy

I don't recall which Tom Clancy book I read first, as it's many years ago. I was around twelve years old, I think, maybe a little younger even. I do know it was a Jack Ryan book and I was hooked. I tried other books, other series. Some I liked, some I didn't. His Netforce books never appealed to me, for instance. I don't have all of his books listed, just the series I am currently planning to read. I have also listed books that are (and are still being) written in his name.

Jack Ryan (including Jack Ryan Jr., John Clark and Dominic Caruso) series

This series is listed in chronological order, not publication order, and the dates in brackets are the dates the story takes place.

1. Without Remorse (1970-1973)
2. Patriot Games (1981)
3. Red Rabbit (1982)
4. The Hunt for Red October (1984)
5. The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1986)
6. Clear and Present Danger (1988)
7. The Sum of All Fears (1990-1991)
8. Debt of Honor (1995-1996)
9. Executive Orders (1996)
10. Rainbow Six (1999-2000)
11. The Bear and the Dragon (2002)
12. The Teeth of the Tiger (2006)
13. Dead or Alive (2007)
14. Locked On (2008)
15. Threat Vector (2009)
16. Command Authority (2013/present day)
17. Full Force and Effect (2014/present day)
18. Under Fire (2015/present day)
19. Commander-In-Chief (2015/present day)
20. Duty and Honour (will come out in June 2016)

Power Plays series

1. Politika
2. Ruthless.Com
3. Shadow Watch
4. Bio-Strike
5. Cold War
6. Cutting Edge
7. Zero Hour
8. Wild Card

Op-Center series

1. Op-Center
2. Mirror Image
3. Games of State
4. Acts of War
5. Balance of Power
6. State of Siege
7. Divide and Conquer
8. Line of Control
9. Mission of Honor
10. Sea of Fire
11. Call to Treason
12. War of Eagles