Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Reviews From January Meetup

Holding Up the Sky: My African Lives, by Sandy Blackburn-Wright

This astonishing autobiographical work is the story of a young Australian woman's complex love affair with Africa and its people. Sandy Blackburn-Wright lived and worked in South Africa between 1988 and 2003 - years coinciding with some of the nation's most tumultuous and significant events, including the release of Nelson Mandela. As a social worker in the townships she witnessed the brutality of life under the apartheid regime; at the same time she was bewitched by the uncrushable spirit of the people; the richness of the culture; the beauty of the land. Through her work she met her husband Teboho, and began the next phase of her life as part of an extended and welcoming traditional, rural black South African family.

A Tiny Bit Marvellous, by Dawn French

Everyone hates the perfect family. So you'll love the Battles. Mo is about to hit the big 50, and some uncomfortable truths are becoming quite apparent: She doesn't understand either of her teenage kids, which as a child psychologist, is fairly embarrassing. She has become entirely grey. Inside, and out. Her face has surrendered and is frightening children. Dora is about to hit the big 18 ...and about to hit anyone who annoys her, especially her precocious younger brother Peter who has a chronic Oscar Wilde fixation. Then there's Dad ...who's just, well, dad. "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" is the story of a modern family all living in their own separate bubbles lurching towards meltdown. It is for anyone who has ever shared a home with that weird group of strangers we call relations. Oh and there's a dog. Called Poo.


Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon

This time-traveling romantic adventure will please fans who have been waiting for the further adventures of Dr. Claire Beauchamp Randall, a 20th-century American who goes to Scotland in search of her 18th-century husband, virile Scot Jamie Fraser, whom she met and married in Outlander ( LJ 7/91). Book 2 of a planned trilogy takes readers along on Randall's quest, as she hopes to find a state or time (like that of the title's dragonfly suspended in a piece of amber) where Fraser still exists. This imaginative novel suffers somewhat from the author's overuse of personification ("spectacles gleaming with concern and curiosity") and her confusing switches between the two first-person narrations, which sometimes cloud an otherwise intriguing adventure. But Outlander 's readers will still devour this hefty volume without complaint.
-Marlene Lee, Drain Branch Lib., Ore.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.


The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory

In Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, we are introduced to Elizabeth Woodville - and as I read the book I grew hugely sympathetic to her. While I didn't find the story as easy of a read as some of Gregory's other novels, my interest was still captured by this seemingly "common" woman who became queen, bore child after child and lived through so much tragedy.

Enter now The Red Queen and Margaret Beaufort. Everything Elizabeth was, Margaret was not. Kind, compassionate, loving - none of these things, but who could blame her, honestly? She was married away for the first time at age 12 despite expressing a desire to join the church. She was forced to bear a child at the tender age of 13 and lived through a horrific birth to do so. Then..married away again after the death of her first husband, she was forced to leave her son behind. This was the life of a woman in these days and it's no wonder that Margaret turned to a female as her inspiration - specifically Joan of Arc.

Throughout this book I tried to sympathize with her, and I think I did so when she was younger. But as she aged, as she matured, she became this horrible, bitter person and all I felt was a growing disgust at what I was reading. Just when I'd go to put the book down, feeling the urge to wash my hands or.. something cleansing, I'd ask myself: What would I have done?

After all, this is a woman who's son was denied his birthright, who lived through husband after husband, was denied what she desired most and spent her entire life in a world of intrigue, betrayal and pain.

Book Reviews From January Meetup

A Legacy of Honour: The Omnibus Edition, by Elizabeth Moon

In a future age, Gird will be known as the patron saint of warriors. And although he inspired legend, he was once just a man with a cause. Poverty, fear and anger shaped Gird, as he struggled to survive under an oppressive aristocracy of mageborn magic-wielders. His innate hunger for justice and love for 'his' people have taken him from humble beginnings to leadership of a peasant army. Where reason has failed, it seems the only way to end tyranny is rebellion, with perhaps some help from the gods. But Gird's fondness for drink threatens his mission and his life, as his strengths are tempered with weakness. In his passion to achieve his goals, Gird has also overlooked a great danger in his own camp. He knows his follower Luap is the bastard son of a king. But in spite of Luap's oath to seek no throne and to renounce his mage heritage, he cannot forget his past. And this will shape the Fellowship of Gird in a way no one wanted or predicted.