Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Have I Been Reading?

I have been reading a lot, and across a number of genres. So here are a few brief book reviews, in, as they say on TV competitions, no particular order.

1. The Beggar King by Oliver Potzsch. The plot finds Jacob Kuisl, his daughter Magdalena, and her lover Simon Fronwieser (a medicus who dropped out of his training to be a doctor, but still practices medicine in their hometown of Schongau) all in the imperial free town of Regensburg. Jacob went there to visit his sister, but is arrested and framed for murder. Not knowing what has happened to her father, Magdalena and Simon have eloped to Regensburg hoping to find a place where they can build a life together. In Schongau they are not allowed to marry because Magdalena is considered unfit to marry out of her class because her father is the hangman. All kinds of crazy plot convolutions follow. Can Magdalena help save her father? Who is behind the murders? Why is the Venetian Ambassador so attentive to Magdalena? What is the blue powder at the murder site? Magdalena and Simon meet the leader of the city's beggars and hide out in the beggar's secret city within the city. Jacob is subjected to the same tortures he is required to use on others in his job as the Schongau executioner. There are political plots and revenge plots, and never a dull moment.
This is a story in the Hangman's Daughter series. It is translated from the German, and sometimes there is a little awkwardness in certain phrasings that I think are due to the language change. For the most part it flows smoothly. Although I have the book both in Kindle and Audible versions, I mostly listened to it, going back to the print when I did not understand something such as a name, or missed something. The reader does a very good job.

2. The Courtiers, by Lucy Worsley. Ms.Worsley is the Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces in England. In this very interesting book she tells the story of life in the royal circles in the time of King George I and King George II--these are the kings sometimes referred to as the German Georges. Determined not to have another Roman Catholic king, the British Parliament had bypassed the deposed rightful royal line and went to distant cousins in Hanover, Germany to find a ruler upon the death of Queen Anne, who had no living children. I've always heard that the Georges did not even bother to learn English for the first two or three generations of their line, but I learned this is not true. Georges I and II both were adults at the time they were called to England. They spoke German, French, some Latin, and learned English. As it was not their first, or even third, language, they did not speak it with fluency and preferred German or French. This book is nonfiction, but reads as easily and with as much interest as a novel. It has a juicy, gossipy feel to it and is full of fascinating information about life, fashion, loves, and family feuds in the royal circle. I enjoyed it so much I immediately ordered another book by the same author, which is--

3.  If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home. I'm only part way through this book, but I am finding it very interesting. Ms. Worsley uses the rooms of a house to show how life was lived through many eras of history: styles, customs, morals, beliefs, child birth and child rearing, and food are some of the ways of life she covers. We live in a messy, sometimes dangerous world, but I am glad I am living in this era of its history! Just reading what women had to go through to get dressed in some eras is enough to make me even more grateful for jeans and shirts! The only disappointment I have so far in the book is the fact that it deals mostly with upper to nobility classes in Britain. I wish she had given more details about the way the lower classes lived. However, the people leaving records, letters, diaries, and items that ended up in museums were the upper classes. This author has another book I plan to read also; Cavalier.

4.The Blackbird Sisters series, by Nancy Martin. The eighth novel in this lighthearted mystery series, Little Black Book of Murder, recently came out. Besides the eight novels there are two novellas that I also have on my Kindle. Although they are murder mysteries, there is a lot of humor in them. The three sisters are all young widows, and fear they are under a curse that anyone they marry will die. They deal with the deaths of the spouses they have lost in different ways, some sad, some hilarious. The story is seen through the eyes of middle sister Nora, the most balanced of the sisters. In addition to losing their husbands, the sisters have been thrown from life as Philadelphia upper crust wealthy to near poverty, because their charismatic but irresponsible parents have run through the family fortune, including their children's trust funds, and then absconded to South America. Each book has a stand alone mystery, but continues the personal stories of the sisters. When Little Black Book came out I went back and read the entire series, including the novellas, over. It was fun entertainment and I look forward to the next book, which the author says will come out about this time next year.

5, Ancient Rome in So Many Words, by Christopher Francese. This is a book that I just dip into from time to time when I just want to fill a few minutes. The author reveals things about life in Roman Empire times through language. He takes a word, explains what it meant and how it was used by the Romans. It is a unique and interesting way to dip into history.

I am obviously always reading something. This is surely enough book reviewing for now!

1 comment:

  1. I am currently reading The Fragrance of Her Name, or something like that. It isn't a great book but I am determined to finish it. Dumb, huh? All of your's sound better.