Book Review – An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

ImpartialBLURB: Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then ‘The Origins of the Industrial Revolution’ somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson’s ‘Shatterproof’ ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now…

In this ‘Horrible History for Grown Ups’ you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; ‘Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends – oi, he’s nicked my bloody ox!’ Discover how England’s peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain’s kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn’t have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, ‘2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge’, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain’ fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

MY THOUGHTS: I found this title by randomly selecting the podcast We Are History, a relatively new addition to my listening agenda, by Angela Barnes and this author. It’s funny and informative, and available on a number of platforms (I use Podcast Addict on my android phone).

I listened to this title during my week’s commute to & from work on Audible, but again, the book is available from many different sources. This version is unfortunately abridged, but I didn’t notice that until I read someone else’s review after finishing (whoops!). That said, I enjoyed learning more about things I’d skimmed over in the past and also his irreverent but truthful view of some of the most obvious cock-ups in British history. An easy listen that might send you off onto another learning tangent or satisfy your need for one-off entertainment. Four stars.

Book Review – Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

ShelterinPlace.jpgI kind-of went off Nora books for a while. I found them all too similar, then she delved off into the arcane and frankly creepy.  But the synopsis of this one grabbed me and I am really, really enjoying it. So much so, that I had to tell you even before I finish it!

SYNOPSIS: It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tending to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.

MY THOUGHTS: While the topic of teens and shootings is being used as a political points scorer,  Roberts is fairly careful not to let you know which side of the fence she sits on (altho, IMO, you’re an idiot if you are voting in lines with the NRA).

There is romance in this book but it’s well worked in with the suspense. You know who the bad guy is almost right from the start, but that allows Roberts to explore the influences fully and actually ramped up the suspense. The writing clearly shows that for the people involved in a shooting, no matter if they survived or were family members or bystanders or first responders – there is a burden and it’s not a light one.

I purchased this title through www.amazon.com.au for my personal library. It’s now available widely and if you can, I recommend at least borrowing thru your local library. Easy four stars for me.

AUTHOR SITE: http://www.noraroberts.com/

Book Review – A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Long-time readers might remember I raved about a book waaaay back in November 2016. Today’s title is connected to this series and is just as good! It released state-side today, so pop into your local retailer and buy it.

alothSYNOPSIS: Though Israel has found relative peace, Moriyah has yet to find her own. Attempting to avoid the scorn of her community, she’s spent the last seven years hiding behind the veil she wears. Underneath her covering, her face is branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, a shameful reminder of her past captivity in Jericho and an assurance that no man will ever want to marry her.

When her father finds a widower who needs a mother for his two sons, her hopes rise. But when their introduction goes horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

MY THOUGHTS: It’s no wonder RT Book Reviews have given this 4 ½ stars – it’s detailed, well-written, empathetic and good. I devoured most of this while at the A&E with my eldest son, & it was hard to put down.

Moriyah as a character is well rounded but as we met her, cloistered within her own shame and closed off to the voice of Yahweh, even tho she heard Him as a child. Her scarring means she is the focus of mean comments and she does allow this to influence her daily actions. Things change when her friend urges her to dance; then she meets someone who will influence the remainder of her life.

At one point so much happened to Moriyah that it was a bit rollercoaster, but on a re-read this might well smooth out.

I am in awe of the amount of research that went into this book. The background is so rich and colourful and seamlessly enhances the story. The theme of redemption thru sacrifice resonates.

I received an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review – but I’m buying it anyway! Book 2 is scheduled for this year; book 3 for 2019.

Book Review: Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

things we set on fireBLURB: A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed thirty years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations.

Sisters Elin and Kate fought mercilessly in childhood and have avoided each other for years. Elin seems like the last person to watch her sister convalesce after an attempted suicide. But Elin has her own reasons for coming to Kate’s side and will soon discover Kate’s own staggering needs.

This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide—is filled with flinty, flawed, and complex people stumbling toward some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story, and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.

 

MY THOUGHTS: This is my first Reed read (ha!) but not likely to be my last. I’ve enjoyed the way the author can weave past & present very, very smoothly and the way that life is portrayed as a cycle.

I actually found part of that cycle woke memories that I try hard to keep buried. Being raised primarily by a (at times) mentally unstable parent is not easy. Not to put down the character of Vivvie, but I saw similarities between her and Kaye, especially when Vivvie was at the end of her coping times. I know why Vivvie took the actions she did; & I strive to be the opposite in my life. Perhaps I’m trying too hard, but that’s not an open conversation for a blog!

I guess everyone carries a burden of some kind.

 

Four stars, easy to grade, harder to read.

 

I read this book as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription.