February 16, 2015

Recent Reads

10. River God (Ancient Egypt #1)
I'm having a throwback kind of read. This is the kind of book I spent much of my teens devouring - once I got tired of all those Mills and Boon romances with the throbbing thighs. Seriously as adults do we ever read anything with the kind of sheer abandon we had as kids? Well, I captured some of that fun these past couple of weeks.

This is the first book in the Ancient Egypt pentalogy, and it was the recent publication of the latest installment that made me look into this series again. I am sure I've read this before, but it was so long ago that it did not diminish my enjoyment one bit. 

This book tells the story of ancient Egypt through the eyes of Taita, a slave, who seems rather like a cross between Einstein, DaVinci and Michelangelo's David. Yes, the writing is really ham handed, and over the top, it was written in the early 1990s after all, but I ripped through the 600 or so pages in no time at all. Pharaohs. Blinding beautiful women. Treason. Murder. Star-crossed lovers. The invention of the wheel. Journeys up and down the Nile. War. Bastards. And, it isn't technically a bodice ripper if no-one is wearing any clothes right? 

They do not write epic sagas like this much anymore, and while it will not be for everyone, I was delighted with the shenanigans of Taita, and the time I spent along the Nile during these cold winter days. Rating: 4 stars.

11. Everything I Never Told You
This book made lots of best of year lists in 2014, but it really moved up my TBR pile when it was short listed for The Rooster. I listened to the audiobook, which was well narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

The premise of the book is an interesting one: Lydia, a 16 year old Chinese American student is dead. We the readers know this before anyone else does (not a spoiler, as this happens on the first page), and as the story unfolds, we meet Chinese Dad, American Mom, and her two siblings. I really liked the themes this story explores - racism, inter-racial marriages, bi-racial kids, fitting in, parental disappointments and how that affects their kids - but I wanted a deeper exploration than this book provides. This debut novel could easily be read by kids in the 7th grade and up, and while that is a plus for kids who might never have thought about differences, racial or otherwise, as an older adult, it seemed to have a rather "Lifetimey" approach to these important topics.

I think it would make a good book club choice as it is a quick read with interesting themes, and if you like domestic fiction with some meaty issues that are not delved into too deeply, this would be a great book for you. As the best of 2014 lists show, there is a target audience that loved this book, sadly I am not one of them. Rating: 2 stars.

12. Kiki de Montparnasse
This graphic biography introduced me to Kiki who "escaped poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray, she would be immortalized by many artists. The muse of a generation, she was one of the first emancipated women of the 20th century". 

While I did not love the art in this book, I was fascinated by this woman, and her life. Since this book attempts to cover her entire life, it has to jump around a lot, and introduce us to loads of people, and that is its biggest weakness. I wanted more about Kiki - her inner life, her demons - and while these are alluded to, the author does not dive deeper. Still, am delighted to have learned a bit about the woman, and I plan on reading a biography to flesh out the details. Rating: 3 stars.

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