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MAY 27, 2009
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built ~ Alexander McCall Smith
*****bas bleu - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
Precious is still precious....
This tenth book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series is less plot-driven than its predecessors and more of a showcase for Mma Precious Ramotswe's gentle wisdom and innate kindness. The plot revolves around the demise of Mma Ramotswe's beloved tiny white van, Mma Makutsi's crisis involving her fiance, and the agency's new client, the owner of a local football (soccer) team, the Kalahari Swoopers. Don't you just love their name? I always caution myself against devouring these little gems of novels. Yet I am helpless against their pull and invariably read them in one sitting, with a cup of tea at my side for authenticity. Now that I think about it, perhaps that cup of tea represents my subconscious desire to insert myself into the world that Alexander McCall Smith has created for the readers of his heartwarming and uplifting novels. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is filled with little pieces of wisdom. Some of my favorites include: - "Until you hear the whole story...you know only a tiny part of the goodness of the human heart." - "We are all at the mercy of chance, and when we dismiss or deny the hopes of others, we forget that they, like us, have only one chance in this life." - And my favorite: "There is plenty of work for love to do." I always feel like I am a better person for having read one of the books in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Series. Perhaps you will too.
MAY 19, 2009
Meet the Author ~ Dara Horn
My newest novel, All Other Nights, is about Jewish spies during the American Civil War. The main character, Jacob Rappaport, is a soldier in the Union army whose commanders discover that he has relatives in New Orleans, including an uncle involved in a plot to kill Lincoln. They then send down to New Orleans to assassinate his own uncle before the plot can progress. After this harrowing mission, his commanders have another "opportunity" for him, involving the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time Jacob’s task isn’t to murder the spy, but to marry her. Suffice it to say that this marriage doesn’t work out the way anyone expected.
I first began thinking about this subject while on a book tour in New Orleans years ago, during which I came across a Jewish cemetery. I was surprised to see graves there that dated to the early 1800s. When I began reading more, I discovered a wealth of information about Jewish communities during the Civil War, including many paradoxes that went against the typical ways we think of our country during that time. Ulysses Grant, for instance, the general from the supposedly more enlightened North, was the one who expelled the Jews from areas he conquered in the South. And in the institutionally racist South, the Secretary of State, Judah Benjamin, was Jewish; he was Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s closest confidant and also served as spymaster. Many real spies for both sides, both Jewish and non-Jewish, served as inspiration for the characters in the book. I became interested in the espionage stories because of the way they dramatized questions of loyalty. Such questions were very personal to American Jews at the time, who felt tremendously loyal and grateful to their country (whether North or South) but whose loyalty was not always rewarded. But loyalty is also what defines each person in every circumstance, then and now. Ultimately this is a story about freedom and its consequences, and what makes us free is our ability to choose our loyalties—to determine for ourselves who deserves our devotion, and why.
I think every historical novel is really about the time in which it is written, rather than the time in which it ostensibly takes place, and that is very true for this book. I was drawn to this subject because of how polarized the country has become in recent years, how impossible it has become to even have a conversation about current events without knowing in advance what the other person believes. So many of these divisions really do go back to the Civil War; when we talk about "red states" and "blue states," they usually follow the Mason-Dixon line and its legacies. We think of the Civil War as being fought over slavery, but the enduring divide in America is over something far more subtle: between the American ideal of valuing independence and the right of each family to maintain its property and traditions, and the equally American ideal of valuing social justice and progress at all costs. A similar divide exists in Jewish culture between conservative and progressive beliefs, each of which has a claim to being the heart of the tradition and neither of which really is. And this divide—in American life or anywhere else—will never really go away, because it exists within each person: the everlasting tension between the people we were born to be and the people we hope to become.
Category: Meet the Author
MAY 8, 2009
Temptation of the Night Jasmine ~ Lauren Willig
Very interesting. This book had a darker side to it with its foray into the world of the Hellfire Clubs and the seamy side of the gentry. This makes an odd juxtaposition to the main character's naive, sheltered, and sweet personality. I really liked the two main characters and mourned over their continued romantic misunderstandings. There was very little to do with French spies and more to do with India in this book (a marked difference from the previous four books) and no involvement from the Pink Carnation. Yet, it was a pleasure to welcome back Miles and Henrietta (from book 2) in a more prominent role. As always, Willig's books are fun and fanciful while still maintaining a historical edge. The modern love story is still rolling along and had a funny little twist in this book. It appears that Ms. Willig plans to continue this series indefinitely, leading me to think that she'll be expanding her cast of characters and locales (or else her next book will be completely about the Pink Carnation and the series will be over). A highly enjoyable romp through the pages of history. On another note, this book centered around the "madness" of King George, a time in history I have not read much about, but which makes me want to look further into this interesting state of affairs (and perhaps watch the movie, too).
MAY 3, 2009
The Reliable Wife ~ Robert Goolrick
When I was a teenager and first read Wuthering Heights, I was immediately captivated by its dark power: obsessive love and unbridled passion; cruelty and madness; a dark and brooding hero. Even the setting itself was brutal and violent. It is no wonder, then, that when I read A Reliable Wife, it evoked the spirit of that great novel. For an in-depth and spot-on review of the book, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Reliable-Wife-Robert-Goolrick/product-reviews/1565125967/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1