Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman is a biography of Elizabeth I’s life as influenced by the women who helped shaped it. It begins before Elizabeth’s birth with a history of her mother, Anne Boleyn, then describes both Anne’s life as queen and her treatment of her daughter before her execution, which occurred when Elizabeth was almost three years old. The biography continues on with chapters devoted to the lives of those who influenced Elizabeth when she was growing up and after she became queen. There are good mini-biographies of her female servants, friends, enemies, and relations, who include her step-mothers, her sister Mary, and cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.Overall, the book is a well-researched biography written in an accessible manner. It tells the history of Elizabeth from a new angle – from the point of view of her interactions with the women in her life. This was something new to me, having read other, dryer biographies of Elizabeth, and was a refreshing change of perception. I recommend this book for anyone interested in this period in history and give it four stars.
I read this book when it first came out, and really enjoyed it then. Listening to it as an audio book was just as enjoyable. Michael Page doesn't have quite the voice range of Tony Britton (the narrator of other Dick Francis audio books I've listened to), but he was easy to listen to and added to the story. This novel features horses in only a very minor way, but has a great main character, a BBC weather forecaster who gets into loads of trouble after the plane he is in crashes after flying through the eye of a hurricane. Francis worked with a real BBC weather man in doing research for the book, and the facts one can glean about weather forecasting, hurricanes and surviving a crash on a desert island are an added bonus to the mystery. In fact, the mystery in this Francis novel is a little hard to fathom, and is one of the weaker plots for a Dick Francis book. It had something to do with selling nuclear bomb-making material, and really didn't make much sense. I'm still giving this one four stars, because I liked all the side stories, and the flying through a hurricane part, and all the minor characters.
I didn't like this one as much as the first three books in the series. It followed the story of characters I don't care about for the most part. It was dreary and long-winded. If this had been the first book in the series, I wouldn't have gone on. I suppose it's a placeholder like "The Two Towers" was for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, although I can't say I didn't care about the characters in either Tolkien's or Rowlings' books. In those cases, the characters still contributed a lot to the story. I feel Martin's characters in "Crows" just plod along and have lots of terrible things happen to them on their way to nowhere.
This was one of the best books I’ve read in the past 12 months. Markus Zusack also wrote The Book Thief, which is another favorite of mine. In I Am the Messenger Zusack tells a coming of age story about a young man who drives a taxi for a living in an unnamed Australian city. The beginning of the book finds the main character, Ed, and three of his friends on the floor of a bank during a hold-up by an armed robber. Ed and his friends are all unmotivated, but essentially good young people in their late teens. They are wandering aimlessly from childhood to adulthood without any clear goals or desire to do anything other than work in dead end jobs and play cards with each other on a regular basis. When Ed confronts and disarms the bank robber, he becomes a momentary hero in the eyes of his community, and sets in motion the events leading him up to becoming the messenger. He starts receiving messages from a mysterious stranger, and has to figure out what they mean and how to help the people the messages send him to.Ed seems to be a pretty ordinary nineteen year old and Zusack is great at building his world from that of ordinary to extraordinary. The other characters in the book are simply lovely. Ed’s friends are following a loser track, but their quirks and revealed truths make them come alive. The minor characters, from Ed’s Ma, to the thugs who deliver a couple of the messages, to the people Ed helps are all fully drawn – you feel they could walk off the page and into your world with no difficulty. Zusack’s use of language is beautiful. Here’s a passage where Ed is talking directly to the reader, “But you’re far from this. Your fingers turn the strangeness of these pages that somehow connect my life to yours. Your eyes are safe. The story is just another few hundred pages of your mind. For me, it’s here. It’s now. I have to go through with this, considering the cost at every turn… The scattered stars shower down like icicles tonight, but nothing soothes me. Nothing allows me an escape.” Here is one more passage I liked, “An expression of surprise falls from her face, though she’s trying to keep it. It breaks off and she seems to catch it and fidget with it in her hands.” There’s another place where Ed talks about the color of mint ice cream on a girl’s lips. I could just picture it, and almost taste the ice cream. The moral of the story is that even ordinary people can make differences in peoples’ lives, but this simple truism is delivered in such an original way that I feel this is a book that I’ll re-read with great pleasure. Ed could have ignored the messages and gone on with his mediocre life, but he didn’t and the world is a better place with stories like this in it.
This was a quick read. Learned a bit about the Masons and enjoyed the mystery up to a point. It was a little too preachy and the bad guy wasn't very believable. Robert Langdon was not as interesting in this as he was in the first two books.
I listened to the audio edition of the book and was impressed. The narrator, Sam Dastor, has a great accent, though it's sometimes hard to clearly hear some of the Indian names and words. The narrator is able to give the listener a feel for the author's subtle humor and ironic viewpoint. The book is set primarily in Delhi, India. The chief protagonist is Vish Puri, a not too humble and rotund owner of a detective agency. The main case involves the murder of a prominent guru de-bunker by what witnesses describe as the goddess Kali. There are a couple of side mysteries, and the one involving Vish's mother is an amusing distraction. Enjoyable mystery + great narrator = 4 stars.
A mediocre historical romance set during the time of Mary, Queen of Scot's first few years back in Scotland following the death of her husband, the King of France. The main character is a fictional lady-in-waiting who has improbable adventures and lives happily ever after. Unremarkable writing and plotting.
This book is well-written and extensively researched. Some of the more interesting ideas Vanderbilt discusses are congestion pricing and lowering speed limits -- both ideas sure to get lots of support (tongue-in-cheek). The best thing I learned -- driving is serious business and must be consciously done. We aren't just riding around in "mobile living rooms."
This novel wrapped around me like a warm and cuddly blanket. It tells the story of Major Pettigrew (retired) who is mourning the death of his brother Bertie and discovers that many of his beliefs about family and tradition need to be updated. It's a warm love story between improbable soul mates - Major Pettigrew and the local shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali. The honorable and chivalrous Major Pettigrew saves the day. I might have only given this four stars if I had read the print version because the ending is a little pat, but the audio book with narration by Peter Altschuler is marvelous and bumped this one up to become my second five star book of the year. How nice it would be if Helen Simonson returns us to Edgcombe Saint Mary for future visits with these delightful people.
Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors, but Cousin Kate is not one of my favorite Heyer books. I found the heroine to be too malleable, and the hero a bit of a wimp. This was written toward the end of Heyer's writing career (1968) and it shows what I call "popular writer's fatigue." For other examples I classify the same way try Leon Uris' "O'Hara's Choice," or Robert Heinlein's "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls." Three stars because it's a Heyer, and they are all worth at least that -- but it's not one of her best.