I am going to list some books I would like to read this summer. Below this list are the books I’ve either read recently or currently #amreading:
The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen hundred Years Supernatural Encounters. Scott G. Bruce
Relentless (Book One). by Karen Lynch.
A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forest
The Black Eagle Inn by Christoph Fischer
A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes. Jonathon Bardon
Who Fears Death. Nnedi Okorafor
The Haunting of Ashborn House by Darcy Coates
I also want to read some historical sources on the French Revolution but have yet to discover any good sources I can download.
I am currently reading Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. It is a fantasy, set around an Eastern European village, involving a sorcerer called ‘The Dragon’ who takes a village girl at the age of seventeen to work for him for ten years in his tower. There is an evil wood, scary creatures, possession by evil entities and plenty of talk of witchcraft and sorcery. It’s beautifully written and conjures a fantasy style Old World very well. If you are into fantasy and looking for summer reading, I highly recommend Uprooted.
I’ve recently finished Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night by Dr. Bob Curran. It’s interesting if you want a quick guide to vampire mythology in different cultures. I found it a tad expensive for an ebook but it was for research purposes that I bought it.
At the moment, I’m reading some historic fiction by Christoph Fischer. I’ve recently completed Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian and I’ve got my eye on In Search of a Revolution and The Black Eagle Inn. Luck of the Weissensteiners is set mainly in nineteen thirties Bratislava, Slovakia, and follows the intertwining lives of a Jewish weaver family and an ethnic German farming family. As the tides turn throughout the war, between pro-German pro-Nazi groups dominating the region, to Hitler’s defeat and communism’s victory the fortunes of the families are played out. The Weissensteiners are spared the fate of a concentration camp, and in a strange turn of events the Jewish son even finds himself fighting for the German army against the Russians. Fischer’s characters are diverse, the family dynamics are powerful and realistic. How the characters find themselves on different sides of fortune depending on what stage the war is at, is very interesting indeed.
One common theme or thread in Sebastian, set mainly during WWI era Vienna, is that there is a family, though technically Jewish they have assimilated into mainstream society, partly due to a lack of personal specific religious views, and partly due to the accepted notion that Jews aren’t popular in society. It’s really poignant and sad to read a WWI era tale involving characters who you just know will not fare well twenty years in their future. There is plenty of turmoil from the beginning in Sebastian’s life after he loses his leg thanks to a gangrene infection from stepping on a rusty nail. The ups and downs of his love life are worth reading. As is the section taking place in refugee strewn Galicia.
I was reading historical romance by Pru Batten. Gisborne: Book of Knights is the beginning of a saga surrounding a noble yet down on her luck noble lady who falls in love with a knight, Gisborne sent to tell her of the poor fortune of her family estate. Gisborne is mysterious, dark and ambitious. I’m going to be honest, I enjoyed the first book and now am on the second in the saga, but Lady Ysabel’s distrust and flighty feisty temperament reflected in her inner dialogue seems to go on just a bit too long. But the atmosphere and writing is quite good and the love story itself between lady Ysabel and Gisborne was holding my interest. I’ll likely pick it up again soon but I did feel it necessary to break off from Lady Ysabel’s constant fretting and somewhat immature decisions and thoughts. Granted I think it’s realistic for a lady of her age and in her era, so that’s no insult to the author who has come up with a pretty cool world of medieval romance.
I did start reading The Universe has your Back by Gabby Bernstein. I felt the need to read something spiritual. I completely appreciate the notion of changing your mindset and meditating and reaching out to the great beyond to get where you want to be in life. But I’ve got to brace myself before checking in with this book. Part of me thinks it’s a really great movement and I prefer it to any other staunch zealous religious texts. Part of me is very skeptical and wonders at people who make a living by encouraging people to change their mindset and be more open and spiritual. Part of me feels really bad for saying that. But hey…I bought the book and I do recognize the importance of checking in with yourself and the universe from time to time.
I downloaded a few European history books, like Danubia by Simon Winder, and Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies. I want these books to be more interesting than they are. I find the narrative tricky to follow in books like these. Still I admire the authors’ knowledge and commitment to history and forgotten aspects of European culture.
A friend lent me a book called The Ancient Paths by Graham Robb which I had a similar experience with. Like Danubia it’s part travelogue part history book. Like Vanished Kingdoms it seeks to bring to light possible achievements and existence of cultures outside of and independent to Rome. But it’s obviously focusing on the Celts and reexamining what historians accept they achieved and what they actually did achieve, i.e. roads and stuff.
I have downloaded ‘The Other Queen’ by Philippa Gregory. It’s okay so far, but I’m struggling with Mary. I did watch Reign on Netflix and despite my horror at the liberties taken with historical events and fashion, I kind of enjoyed it. Mary is a likeable queen in the show, and I sympathized with her in the nineteen seventy one film, Mary Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave. That’s worth a watch.
Of course she would have genuinely believed that it was her God given right to rule but in this story I’m growing weary of her mentioning that in the book. I’ll persevere though as I do like Gregory’s work.
So, my epic history reading fails aside, I’m thinking I need to read something a bit less Eurocentric. I just have no idea where to start.
On Netflix I started Frontier and The Other Kingdom. That’s come to a halt due to work and the fact that the other people in my household aren’t fans of historical drama. Bah.
A Netflix movie I enjoyed, and forced my family to watch, is a German language film called Das Attentat: Sarajevo 1914. It has English subtitles of course. It involves the investigation following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the pressure the acting magistrate in Sarajevo was under. It also has one of the most beautiful love scenes I’ve seen in a long time. There’s also anti-semitism, a bit of rioting and Austro-Hungarian arrogance over how quick and easy they imagine the war is going to be.
If you find yourself on YouTube, I would recommend The Great War Indy Neidell. It follows the course of World War One exactly one hundred years on, in approximately ten minute segments. There’s lots of interesting extras like for example, what JRR Tolkien was up to during the war and what Romania was all about, etc.
That’s my reading and watching for now. I do believe I need to broaden my horizons outside European history. However it will take some research before I decide how to begin on that one.