Book Review: Merivel: A Man of His Time

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Three stars out of Five on Amazon and Goodreads

Rose Tremain’s Merival: A Man of His Time finds our hero, Sir Robert Merivel, more or less where we left him after the author’s earlier book, Restoration: at Bidnold, the manor bestowed upon him by King Charles II. Firmly ensconced in the king’s good graces, Merivel seems to have left the Sturm und Drang of his earlier existence behind and as achieved a kind of tranquility. That is until his beloved daughter, Margaret, deserts him during the holidays, having been invited on a trip by Merivel’s neighbors.
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Book Review – Restoration

restoration

 by Rose Tremain

Four stars out of five on Amazon and Goodreads

Rose Tremain’s Restoration is the story of Robert Merivel, a physician living in
17th century England. The book chronicles Merivel’s fortunes as they rise and
fall (and rise again) during the reign on King Charles II. I really enjoyed the
book because I thought Tremain’s Robert Merivel was one of the most believably
human characters I’ve ever come across, brimming with contradictions. He’s a man
who is ruled by his appetite for debauchery, yet strives to make his life mean
something. He is capable of deep self-delusion, yet at times shows an endearing
ability to examine his own faults.

Rose Tremain’s writing puts us right in the middle of Restoration England’s (many times unpleasant) sights, smells and tastes. Historical fiction is never so satisfying to me as when an author skillfully establishes the context through which characters actions can be
understood. Tremain does this wonderfully. Through Merivel’s eyes we see life
back as it was back then, a time when, whether rich or poor, good health and
good fortune hung precariously from the thinnest thread. We follow Merivel’s
journey from obscurity to a place at the court of King Charles II. The king
becomes the sun around which Merivel’s life orbits and a good portion of the
book revolves around his obsession with staying in the His Highness’ good
graces. Merivel’s tribulations begin when he decides to surrender his dignity so
that he may hold the king’s approval.

A movie based on this book was madein the nineties which told Merivel’s story as one of a linear journey from dissolution to absolute redemption. The book’s story is not that one. While Merivel’s trials do transform him into someone who defines his worth according
to something other than his standing at Whitehall Palace, the journey is uneven.
At the end of the book Merivel remains a complicated bundle of contradictions,
which is what makes him such a very good read.

Book Review – Vampires in the Lemon Grove

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4  stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads

Reading and writing go hand in hand. Almost as soon as I started to read, I wanted to write. Most of the time reading inspires me to write. But there are times when I come across an author who uses the language with such precision and beauty that, after putting down the book, I throw up my hands and say “Who am I kidding?” T. Coraghessan Boyle is a writer like that. So to, I’ve found, is Karen Russell.
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Book Review – River of Stars

river of stars

4 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads

Like so many others, my first exposure to the world of fantasy literature was
JRR Tolkien’s sagas of Middle Earth. My younger self enjoyed these books…over
and over again. As I began to look for other works to read in the genre,
however, my enthusiasm began to wane somewhat due to the fact that everything I
read seemed to be a flaccid rip off of Lord of the Rings. For almost thirty
years I didn’t even consider anything that was described as fantasy. That is,
until I read Game of Thrones, which is fantasy, with a firm footing in what
looks like medieval Europe and borrows heavily from that continent’s
history.

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Book Review – A Year In Provence

provence

 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads

Since catching the travel bug early, I’ve always yearned to travel to places far and wide, with one significant exception. Those places I cannot travel to, I read about. Between actual trips and wanderings in the pages of books, I’ve been just about everywhere. The one place I never had any interest in going to was France. I’d probably spent more time reading about travel to Slovenia than to, say, Paris. This all changed a couple years back. Perhaps the trauma of middle school French class had finally worn away. Recently I’ve developed a keen interest in French history, culture, cuisine and geography, accumulating the info needed to perhaps someday travel to that country.

One doesn’t get very far in researching travel to France before running into A Year in Provence by Englishmen Peter Mayle. I’d heard about this book and the hordes it inspired to journey to the South of France with visions of quaint, rustic farmhouses dancing in their skulls. I wondered if Provençal’s have the same love hate relationship with A Year in Provence as Savannahians do with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (which, in Savannah, is simply known as The Book). I approached the book with caution because I thought that to have inspired such a swelling of interest in Provence, Mayle must have painted an unrealistically romanticized version of life there.
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Book Review – World War Z

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2 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads

***MINOR SPOILAGE FOLLOWS***

The zombie apocalypse is very big in my office. Cubicles are adorned with Official Zombie Hunting Licenses and bumper stickers proclaiming the owner as part of a Zombie Response Team. Most zombie apocalypse fans in my office are guys in their 30’s and are followers of The Walking Dead TV series.  Now, I tried The Walking Dead and soon found myself, more often than not, wondering when the show is going to be over.

I take a backseat to no one when it comes to my horror fan bone fides. But horror to me means light, shade, dread, mystery and creepiness. It means more of what is unseen than is seen. Yes, I’m a big fan of the zombie apocalypse Ur-text Night of The Living Dead and, more recently, well made movies like 28 Days Later. In the main, though, zombie story telling in the 21st century leaves me yawning. More often than not the tale of the zombie apocalypse devolves into one of the avaricious bitchiness of the survivors. Unfortunately, Max Brooks’ World War Z falls into this trap.
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Book Review – Paris

paris

2 stars out of 5  on Amazon and Goodreads

In four decades or so of voracious reading, I have never once been inspired to
pre-order a book. Until, that is, this previous winter when I found out the
release date for Paris. I sprained a finger mouse-clicking my way to Amazon to
make sure my copy was downloaded the minute midnight of April 23rd arrived.
Given how much I’d enjoyed Rutherfurd’s previous work and the subject he was
tackling in this, his latest novel, I knew I’d be in for hours of…dare I say
it…”delightful” reading.

The respect I have for Edward Rutherfurd and
the enjoyment I’ve experienced reading his work probably accounts for the second
star. I was very deeply disappointed with Rutherfurd’s effort here. Before I
wrote this review, I thought perhaps that it was unfair to judge Paris against,
say London or Sarum. Even if not judged against the quality of Rutherfurd’s
other books, though, in a vacuum Paris would have still received very low
marks.
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Heavy is the Head…

On Tuesday, I received my Game of Thrones Bluray box set in the mail. I had gotten the set as a gift from Leslie, who forked over some extra cashish to Amazon to ensure I’d have the set the day it came out. Ten hours over two late nights and bleary-eyed mornings later, we’re finished watching it. I’m now simultaneously telling Leslie that I’ll wait a year for the second season to come out on Bluray while hoping she blows me off and orders HBO for the three months when Game of Thrones starts again in April.
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Death of a Book Salesman

My love of books borders on fetish. I love holding them, reading them, possessing them, just looking at them sitting on shelves. When a friend offers to lend me a book I politely refuse because I know I don’t have it in me to return it. One of the world’s most pleasurable smells is that of stack after stack of old, hardbound books in a large library. There are few things that give me more pleasure than reading a book.
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2666

2666I’m reading a book now called 2666 by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolano. I picked it up about a month ago. I’d gone to Borders looking for something to read and the cover art caught my eye. Clocking in at nearly a thousand pages, the book is divided into five parts, which Bolano wanted published separately. His literary executors overrode him and the work was published in the form of the gargantuan tome I have sitting here in front of me.
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