Monthly Archives: February 2012

Death of Kings – review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Death of Kings by: Bernard Cornwell

The Forever War by: Joe Haldeman

The Crown by: Nancy Bilyeau

Other Books I’m Reading:

The new Dana Stabenow is on hold for me at the Library.  I think it is called Restless in the Grave.  But don’t quote me.  My mind is on the 9th century right now.

I admit I was worried about Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series after the fifth installment The Burning Land.  I thought I detected the sort of subtle aimlessness in the book that often is the sign a series is about to founder.  I should have had more faith.

Death of Kings finds Saxon Warlord Uhtred poor and living off the estates of King Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed.  He’s still a Pagen, he’s still ready for a brawl, and he’s still very grouchy when mercenaries show up to kill him.  After foiling the attempt on his life with some sheep a shepherd and a large sword, Uhtred marches off on a peace mission to King Eohric.  Naturally it’s a trap.

The next three hundred pages are all that another installment to this series should be.  There are bloody battles, although mostly raids.  Which are actually more fun than the larger battles anyway.  There are fortune tellers and counter fortune tellers.  Traps and counter traps.  I think it’s not spoiling anything to say that Alfred finally dies, and his son Edward takes the throne.  Likewise Aethelwold who has been asking for it for several books now, finally dies in a  largely satisfying way.

Watch for the scene where Uhtred tells the people he’s attacking exactly what he’s doing, and they refuse to believe him for long enough that he has time to do exactly what he said he would.  I admit those scenes are a staple of this series.  Still I’m always amused by them.  This time their are boats.  And don’t boats make everything better?

The main problem with the book is a problem that Cornwell is saddle with by history.  There are simply an appalling number of people running around with very similar names.  Not just the Aethelwolds and Aethelflaeds and Aethelreds, but also a Sigelf, two Sigurds and a Sigebriht.  I am always tempted to wonder what these people called each other when they were alive.  Maybe Edward called Aethelflaed “Sissy”.  Maybe everyone called Aethelwold “Stumpy”.  We’ll just never know.  Yet, Cornwell pushes forward to spite the fact his word processor must be having a melt down.  I don’t blame you if you need a score card.  I certainly thought about using one.

Death of Kings does serve to remind me that Uhtred is getting old.  In his 40’s in this installment.  35 is the average life expectancy for the period.  So it seems the clock is ticking on Uhtred and his ambition of retaking his family home of Bebbanburg.  All along the books in the series have eluded to a future in which Uhtred does accomplish his goal.  Sadly, I’m thinking we’re going to have to get there soon.

As usual I’ll remind you these books are shamelessly gory and should be avoided by sensitive readers.  I’d say Death of Kings is about medium gore for the series.  Less rape than usual.  More  bodies left exposed to the elements.

Enjoyability:   Very Enjoyable.  I give Death of Kings  five stars.

Where to read this book:  Anywhere.

Further reading:  I’ve started on The Forever War, which my husband is shocked I’ve missed up until now.  Also, I’ll be headed to the Library for the new Stabenow.

To Die For – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Forever War  by: Joe Haldeman 

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

The Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (Hooray!!)

Other Books I’m Reading:

I’ve been knitting, and not so much with the reading this week.  Also, I have been trying to find a book free for download that I can stomach long enough to write a review.  Either I’m not trying very hard, or there isn’t much out there.  Suggestions welcome.

I read Sandra Byrds’ historical novel To Die For.  I can’t review it.  I just can’t.  The blood bath might leak onto my keyboard.  It’s a good keyboard.  To Die For is one of those novels where the more or less historically named lady falls in love with the more or less historically named man, and they can’t be together for 99% of the book.  And then they can.  There is a good deal of futzing around in very detailed period clothing at more or less historically portrayed places and events.  Toward the end Anne Boleyn loses her head.  Like you knew she would.  In short, I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

After that I did start the Ken Follett book I had.  Then Library called and said my Bernard Cornwell book was in.  Then then there was a happy dance and some snickering from the peanut gallery.  Then I went to the Library.  Which means at some later date I will have to give Ken Follett a try again.  In all fairness.  But not this week.  I’m 12 pages in to The Death of Kings and the body count is already at 13.  I just love how this guy writes.

Enjoyability:   Half a star.  I don’t know how it got published.

Where to read this book:  Nowhere that you will be seen with it.

Further reading: Bernard Cornwell.  And then some other stuff.

A pair of Aces… I mean hats.

I’m in the middle of a long project right now.  It’s a shawl called Helms Deep.  I admit, I’m a sucker for projects with Tolkienian names.  Well, within reason.  Let’s face it, a shawl called Mount Doom, probably not something I’d go for.

While the shawl is going well, it’s just a long project.  Lot’s of Bobbles and lace pattern work.  Which is great and interesting to knit.  But sometimes even a knitter just wants to veg.   So I made a couple of hats to break up the work a little.  They have the added advantage of being totally from the left over yarn pile.  So using up yarn, plus lovely hats.  I am full of win.  Here they are:

I’m partial to the green one, but they both look good on me, and stay on my head.  I may become a hat person after all.

I’d like to say that I made the pattern.  I didn’t.  I modified a pattern that my father choose for a hat I knitted for him last week.  It’s a really nice pattern.  Versatile too.  Dad’s hat was navy blue sock yarn, and didn’t have the lovely little contrasting pattern on the brim.  Go figure.  Mine are both made of worsted weight yarn, and I modified the size and brim to make them work for me.  Here is the ravelry link to the free pattern if anyone else wants to give them a try, I’ll be happy to share my notes on the mods.

Now I’m so looking forward to getting to the end of Helms Deep for another reason.  I want the leftovers for another hat.  I’m thinking Oatmeal with a dark blue pattern.  Hmmmm.   I have to go work on a shawl now.

Then Came You – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay  by: Beverly Jensen   (Mostly checked out because of the Stephen King endorsement on the back cover)

The Pillars of the Earth  by: Ken Follett (Which seems unnaturally heavy)

To Die For by: Sandra Byrd

Other Books I’m Reading:

Nothing really at the moment

While I wait for my name to be next on the Library’s waiting list for the Death of Kings, Bernard Cornwell’s new installment in the Saxon Series, I thought I would go on a Science Fiction bender.  That didn’t really work out for me.  I started in on Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time.  Normally I like time shifty, time thready, loopy sorts of stories.  Somehow I just couldn’t get into this book.  I kept thinking it would get better.  “Just ten more pages”, I kept telling myself.  Which is how I read the first 107 pages.  It didn’t work out though.  So I returned it to the Library.  It wasn’t badly done.  It just wasn’t to my taste.  Although, if you happen to dream of a city at the end of time, I understand the Chalk Princess is looking for you.  Run!

Just as I was putting The City at the End of Time down, and looking around for something else, my husband came how with the newest Jennifer Weiner.  He’d spotted it at the Library and checked it out for me.  How sweet was that???

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Jennifer Weiner elevates Chick Fic to Women’s Literature.  She’s one of the very few “women’s” writers that I really respect.  She doesn’t write down to her reader.  Her characters are often realistic, logical, and funny.  Best of all, Jennifer never shies away from showing women being really genuinely evil to each other.  If you don’t believe me, you really have to read In Her Shoes and watch for the step mother.

That said, I don’t know that Then Came You is really a rave.  The characters are interesting and sympathetic.  The pacing is good.  The plot has plenty of twists and turns.  I don’t even mind the lesbian love story.  It’s well done, and the one scene of corporeal exuberance is short mild and easy to skip if that sort of thing bothers you.  However, I get the feeling that this book was going someplace else, and some editor somewhere insisted on a happy ending.

What is it with the happy ending anyway?  Most of the really great  books on earth don’t have happy endings.  Most of them aren’t even hopeful.  Quasimodo dosen’t ride off into the sunset with Esmerelda.  He lays down next to her dead body and dies.  Mannie wins the war, but loses his best friend.  Rhett leaves Scarlett. (As far as I’m concerned there are no follow ups to this book.  So don’t even go there.  Margaret could write!)  Hester takes up her punishment again, and is buried near her lover.  Beth dies, and they always miss her.  None of these books would be classics with out, well, unhappy endings.

Then Came You starts out with heaps of poignant ending potential.  I give you poor college girl Jules who just wants her father to have a chance at rehab, and so donates her eggs to an infertility clinic.  I give you Annie, who just wants to help her family be financially comfortable so she agrees to be a surrogate.  I give you India, who suffers with infertility, and hires a surrogate.  I give you Bettina, lonely, angry step daughter of India who just wants her father’s trophy wife gone.  Each voice separate, different and interesting.  All of them three dimensional and surprising.  All of them concerned with the birth of the same baby.

And then there is a happy ending.  A rather unbelievable happy ending at that.

Read the book.  By all means read the book.  It’s very well written.  Just know that in my mind it ends differently.   Jules is left to wonder what happened to her eggs, and it makes her a better woman this sacrifice without answers.  Annie is left to read about the child she carried in the papers (famous parents) and hope that she is well, while always weighing the comfort she bought with cost she paid.  India raises a child that she loves desperately, but who she feels always compares her to another possible mother.  Bettina comes to understand her father’s love of his wife, and hates him for it.

But of course, that is my ending.

Enjoyability:   Very Enjoyable.  Four stars

Where to read this book:  This is a pot of tea, and a comfortable chair sort of book.

Further reading:  I think Ken Follett.  I’ve never actually read any Ken Follett.

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