Friday, July 31, 2009

What's a body part or two

Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead by Peter Manseau

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Manseau writes about what seems to be the need and fascination among many peoples and religions for religious relics. Even those religions which deny relics officially have some item or other that is venerated.
From the first chapter about the Catholic St. Francis Xavier's uncorrupted body in Goa, India to the Muslim hair from the beard of the Prophet in Kashmir to the tooth of the Buddha in Sr Lanka, we are told some of the stories, the background, and attitudes toward these relic.
This is a fine line between adoration of the articles and scoffing at the people who believe in them.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

A tale of riot, murder, and vengence

The Revenge Of Captain Paine: A Pyke Mystery The Revenge Of Captain Paine: A Pyke Mystery by Andrew Pepper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the second book of a series about Pyke, an ex-Bow Street Runner. The first dealt with his acquiring a wife and money. This one deals with his life as a banker and the early days of railroads in Great Briton. The book is gritty, fairly violent, and way too long.
We have a threat to Princess Victoria (this is two years before she comes to the throne) by her mother's secretary and the Duke of Cumberland. We have a threat to public safety with the rise of unions, and we have a threat to personal safety of Pyke's wife and son.
I generally enjoy historical mysteries, but this one was not my cup of tea. It took a while to get to the mystery, and then it unwound so very quickly in the last few pages.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

North River

North River: A Novel North River: A Novel by Pete Hamill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Set in the middle of the Great Depression, North River draws a convincing picture of doctor James Delaney who lives and works in New York City among of mix of the laboring class.
He had survived the Great War of 1917-1919, but a a great cost to emotional health. Now he is dealing with the disappearance of his wife and the unexpected appearance of his three-year old grandson.
This is not a book to read in a hurry. The characters demand time to get to know them and in return reward you with a really interesting story.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A New Sally Gunning book

Bound: A Novel by Sally Gunning. William Morrow, 2008. 307 pp.

Alice Cole is bound as an indentured servant for eleven years at age 7 when her father suffers from lack of funds upson coming to the American colonies. At first she is treated well, but at age 15 her contract is reassigned and life darkens. Each bit of happiness seems destined to be torn away.

We meet many of the characters from Gunning's earlier (and most excellent) book The Widow's War. Gunning once again examines the legalities of the mid 1700s and how it affects women. She adds to that the conditions of servitude in a country seeking to rid itself of servitude to England. (There is much talk here about the non-importation act and the Stamp Act.)

This is a really good historical fiction, even better than The Widow's War, which I really loved.