Archive for April, 2011

A Play of Knaves

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I suppose there is a joke about the high percentage of murders in the poor town of Crabapple cove in 1980’s.  I think the convent of St. Frideswide in the early 1400’s suffered the same situation.  With 17 novels in the series, Dame Frevisse, a cloistered nun is the sleuth.  I love this series.  Margaret Frazer details really make this historical period fascinating.  (near the ending of what we think of as the middle ages and shortly  before the start of  the renaissance.)  Not that there is any way for the characters to know this.  It must be difficult for Margaret Frazer to keep coming up with ideas for Frevisse to leave the convent, or to have unexpected deaths happen there, so she has started another series with Joliffe, an actor who is friends with Frevisse.  (Much easier for a traveling actor to actually travel!) This series, I think tends to be darker. Both are excellent and I sometimes know who did it, but not always.  I highly recommend them.  Good stories and thoughtful ideas about faith and spirituality.

The Whale

Monday, April 4th, 2011

The Whale by Philip Hoare was part Herman Melville biography, part commentary/critique of Moby-Dick, part history of whaling, and part description of whale species.  It was very enjoyable and readable book, except perhaps the description of whale butchering.  I was distressed to learn about 20th century whaling techniques.  It feels a little wrong to Japan bash right now, but their whaling tradition apparently didn’t really start until the 20th century.  They have not really followed the moratorium on whaling that the rest of the world does.  I really liked the description of the author in a wet suit diving off the Azores hoping to see whales.   He was right in the blind spot of a whale that was swimming right towards him very quickly.  The author felt probably the same way you feel when a great drum corps matches past in a parade, the thrum you feel in your whole body,  when the whale used sonar to see him.

A Discovery of Witches [audio]

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I really haven’t seen the point to the super-natural beings fiction.  But I read a brief summary about A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness in a library catalog and thought I would try it.  I found it in audiobook form.  Diana Bishop is a history professor at Oxford, specializing in Alchemy.  She is able to call a long-lost manuscript from the closed stacks of the Boodlian library and briefly break the protective spell.  She comes from a long line of strong witches, but rarely uses magic herself. After seeing the manuscript, she notices an increase in the witches, vampires and demons around her.  One vampire, Matthew Clermont, appoints himself bodyguard.   Of course they fall in love, which is forbidden.  She discovers why she has used her magic so little, since her parents died when she was 7 and perhaps why she was able to view that protected manuscript that so many other creatures want.  When I started listening to disc 20, I was pretty sure that there was not going to be enough time to finish the story.  I am sure this is a first in a series.  I did like it, the scene with Juliette in the field felt a little manipulative and too much, but that could be listening rather than reading.