Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

I can't say that I expected to love Sacred Hearts. And I don't. I'm not sure I could ever love a book set in a 16th century Italian convent, but I certainly wasn't expecting to find the setting or a few nuns so interesting.

It's no page-turner--I doubt anyone will want to read it in one sitting---but it is the story of a determined, love-struck young woman from Milan whose noble family compels her to take novice vows in a convent in Ferrara. It's also the story of the convent's dispensary mistress, who has been in the convent since her father, a renowned physician, died 16 years earlier.

Prior to reading this book, I'd had no idea that so many nobles' daughters were pushed into convents because dowries were too extravagant for even the rich to afford. Nor had I ever considered all the politicking that would go on inside a convent, almost more vicious than any modern campaign for office because they had to live, day in and day out, with each other.

I read one blogger's review (I forget whose) in which she insisted that nothing happened. It was a funny review--I liked it. I was only a few pages in at the time and wondered if I was going to be quitting the book in the next hundred pages. But I must disagree that nothing happened. Subtle things happened, and a few not so subtle things. If the setting had been anywhere else but a convent, the book wouldn't have been interesting in the slightest.

I haven't read Dunant's other books, so I can't express an opinion about how Sacred Hearts stacks up. Though it's not a book that I'm going to run around pushing into people's hands, it's not one I'd discourage them from reading, either.

Thanks to Random House for sending me an ARC!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I think I want an iPad...

I feel that I should preface this post: I haven't been through my book blog feeds to see what anyone else thinks of the iPad.

I'm an Apple fan. My 17" Macbook Pro survived for a month and a half after being thrown through our windshield (when we slid off the road in Wyoming and the van rolled twice). And though the motherboard did die earlier this week, everyone is shocked that it turned on at all after the trauma it sustained and then sitting in the snow for hours. Besides, I like Mac things' interfaces. I have an iPhone and adore it. My husband has two G5's for his video work.

So though we all knew what was coming next from Apple, I didn't expect to want one. I mean, on one hand, it's just a giant iPod Touch. On the other hand, it's a giant iPod Touch; I love those things.

I want one to read books on more than I'd want it for pictures or videos. I think. I'm a huge fan of the feel of a book in my hands, and I don't think reading books on an iPad would override my preference for traditional books, but as has been said before, for traveling, it would be a wonderful thing.

My first and foremost qualm though is this: I want to be able to buy e-books for whatever reader I've chosen from whatever source I want--so mostly, I'd want to buy them from Powells or another indie store. I have no idea what iBooks is going to be like, but from the scant bits I've read, it sounds like Apple will be running its own e-books store. No thanks.

And yes, I think the people who chose the name and decided to overlook the word associations people would make with maxipads in favor of choosing a name that looks and sounds like the beloved iPod may have made a bad call.

I also want to get one for my Grandma, who currently has an e-mail printer, but who I think would occasionally like to respond to e-mails, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Come is another book set in Queen Elizabeth's court--but not just Elizabeth's court. There is another queen in London, a kind of mirror court, the London Faerie court. Her name is Invidiana, and she's quite likely the most ruthless creature in London.

The characters we follow are Lune, a faerie courtier who has fallen out of favor with Invidiana and is desperate to find a way back the queens good graces. The opportunity becomes to gain access to Walsingham and his intelligence by pretending to be one of the ladies of one of Elizabeth's courtiers. Deven is one of the Elizabeth's guardsmen, working intelligence for Walsingham. He has ambitions--promotions and patrons--that eventually fall by the wayside (mostly) in favor of devoted service--and his love for Anne Montrose (Lune).

It's quite an undertaking, a book this ambitious. Trying to meld two political worlds--one historical and one fantastical--must have taken quite a bit of organization and imagination. The book was well-researched, but for all the gossip and politicking that we know was happening at the time, the two worlds simply didn't seem as enmeshed as they were supposed to be, and so in the end the book seemed a bit lighter in substance than it maybe should have been.

Still, for the most part I enjoyed the book and what it tried to do. It took me a month to read, with all the holidaying and road tripping (I could read while driving but I feel the compulsive need to be a second driver when I'm in the passenger seat--and my husband is always interrupting me when I try to read in the car, anyway) and all that, but in other circumstances I'm sure I would have breezed through it in a week or so.

Recommended for those who enjoy faerie stories and light historical fiction.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Back home...

We're home!

We've actually been home for a week. My leg is still healing, and I couldn't get a doctor's appointment before Jan 26, but if the ligaments have waited this long, I guess they can wait a little longer. The receptionist at my medical clinic was unconcerned when I explained my situation and that I'd been told to see my doctor as soon as I got home.

Our cat is truly a wonder cat. Even after she was thrown out of our rolling van, she had no qualms about being put in a vehicle again, as long as there was at least one lap to cuddle on.

And in all that time of being laid up, can you believe I didn't get a single book read? I did get several for Christmas--including the Steamy Kitchen and Top Chef cookbooks and two I bought for myself: Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan (which I just finished this morning) and Fire by Kristen Cashore. I bought my sister The Hunger Games trilogy--I even preordered the third one for her, and to my amazement, she's already read the first one, and I imagine she's nearly done with the second one. (Sometimes she resists my suggestions, simply based on pecking order.)

I should have my first 2010 review up by Monday morning.

It's so nice to be back.

But we miss our van. *sniff sniff*

The first night of our first road trip in our Westy, back in November 2006. We got stuck in an Esso parking lot during a freak snowstorm.

Our beloved Westy after our rollover just outside of Wamsutter, Wyoming, on December 14, 2009.