What Jessica is reading…

I am currently reading a Viking Romance saga entitled The Sons of Odin series by Erin. S. Riley.   It’s truly enthralling and indulgent.   I am also working my way through Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies which is full of interesting tid bits about, well old kingdoms that existed and thrived mainly after the fall of Rome and before the European nation states as we know them today existed.

I’ve also got Danubia by Simon Winder on the go.  It’s really good, however a thesaurus is necessary.  He says some wonderfully eloquent and witty things at times, painting a picture of these mad ole’ Hapsburg emperors, etc.  I’ll be honest, though, there are points where I struggle for a bit of coherence between all the rulers with all their different names.  It’s been a mind boggling read interspersed with brilliance.

I usually hate television.  But I do enjoy historical documentaries…however in my household I am all alone there.  So, escaping into my kindle to surf between a bit of romance and some historical stuff is well…it’s great.    Still working on it all.

I finished a trio of books set in ancient Greece by Rebecca Lochlann.

The first is the Year God’s Daughter, the second is The Thinara King, and finally In the Moon of Asterion.  It is also known as The Children of the Erinyes series.  Apparently Rebecca Lochlann spent around fifteen years researching for these stories.  It shows.

The story begins in a very female centered, Goddess Athene worshipping, mother and moon revering, king and bull sacrificing society.  It takes place in Crete, and the reader is introduced to the female ruling family of Crete.   The human sacrifice is a little disturbing at first, but integral to the story as it is how things begin to ‘change’.  I am no expert in Greek history that is for sure, but reading this made me at least want to have a look at Minoan and Mycenaean religions and interconnections.  Fascinating stuff, but I barely know where to start :/

Menoetious and Chrysaleon come from Mycenae on mainland Greece to see for themselves the bounty and success of the island of Crete.  Their father, the King of Mycenae was hoping for a reason to take advantage of/dominate this affluent, female centered society.  Menoetious’s and Chrsaleon’s reasons for staying/returning I don’t want to get too much into as there is the realm of ‘spoilers’.

All I can say is that the characters, Princess Aridela, Menoetious/Carmanor, Themiste, Selene and Chrysaleon are amazing.  They are so real and vivid.  Their interactions throughout the story never completely unfold as I expect.  There is all manner of challenge, violence and destruction here.  There is plenty of romance and love that kept me very willing to remain connected to the story when things began to get too gory.  That’s human life and history though, there is so much evil, horror and destruction yet it is the softest, sweetest and most gentle things that keep it going.

Consider me obsessed, really.

This is really inspired, creative, well researched stuff.  The best thing is, there is more to come.  I can’t wait :).

 

 

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory:

I have to give this five stars due to the pure quality of the research and writing. Gregory’s interpretation of historical people and events is passionate, beautiful and entertaining. I spaced out reading it because at times, the trials and tribulations of Catharine of Aragon were so heart breaking. I did know a little of the history before reading this as I’ve had a minor interest in the wives of King Henry VIIIth, but I am no expert.

I don’t want to give any of the events and her interpretation away, because it is totally worth the read. All I can say is that the relationship she has with her ‘true love’ in the story is yet another testament to Gregory’s skill with romance. My heart melted and broke as that part of the story unfolded.

The portrayal of Henry the VIIIth through Catharine’s eyes was, I think realistic. This work has in common with others the author’s desire to give a stronger voice to historical women. By that I don’t mean in any sort of overzealous ‘men are evil women are angels’ way. She presents them as human beings with high passions, weaknesses and strengths. Catharine has real moments of doubt and darkness. She was weighed down by the history of her own family, her duty, her promises. But she was a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a Queen and utterly utterly human. Without writers like this, these long dead people would be banished to seldom thumbed pages and vague memories of history class, maybe the odd click in wikipedia. Not that historical archives and free online encyclopedias are bad things, but they do not bring to life the passion that flowed in the veins of Catharine of Aragon when she still breathed.

There are some very poignant quotes in the story when she is reminded of her parents’ (Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain), persecution of the Moors and Jews in Spain. When Catharine of Aragon is defending the Northern English borders from the Scots who had begun to raid, her troops are eventually victorious and one of the Lords asks if they should ‘lay waste to the Scots and destroy them.’

Catharine has to take a moment, telling herself ‘not to feel with a tender heart, think with a hard brain, a soldier’s brain…’

Then she thinks this:

‘They would recover in time, they would come against us. Their children would come against my children and the savage battle would have to be fought all over again. Hatred breeds hatred. My mother and father drove the Moors overseas, but everyone knows that by doing that they won only one battle in a war that will never cease until Christians and Muslims are prepared to live side by side in peace and harmony. Isabella and Ferdinand hammered the Moors, but their children and their children’s children will face the jihad in reply to the crusade. War does not answer war, war does not finish war. The only ending is peace.’ (The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory).

 

My War With Hemingway by James Charles:

I wish I had time to reread some Hemingway before I write this.  He was a favorite from my university reading list.  Certainly, if anyone is worthy of emulating Hemingway it is a military Veteran.  In my humble opinion, James Charles does a fine and admirable job here, but he still presents his own voice.  It’s witty, it’s romantic, it’s tragic yet hopeful.

As I should have been researching for a different project, this was a bit of an indulgence.  I loved the synopsis though and had to have a look.  It was difficult to put down.  The romance was what drew me but the action and adventure kept me.  The friendships and camaraderie were heartwarming.

The issues of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and alcoholism, thoughts of suicide in Veterans was valiantly highlighted.  Of course, I understand that this is not total non fiction, but I really appreciate that this veteran was willing to use his own experiences and those of his friends in order to tell this tale.

The language and the way he describes his friend ‘Jim’, ‘having a nip’, ‘suckling on Jim’s neck’ among other phrases is very powerful.  The unacknowledged dependance and need for booze is put forth very articulately, and did remind me of Hemingway’s frequent references to drinking.  I can remember reading Hemingway and feeling hungry and thirsty.  To be able to present such intense craving is a skill.  I was able to follow and empathize with Zachary Powell’s emotions and needs.

Of course there were points where I thought ‘what?  Oh come on, who would do that…’ but still I went with it and am very glad I did.  It all made sense in the end.   There are stories within the story yet they all flow together.

Not every veteran’s story has a happy ending, there are some dark lonely truths that linger in between the lines. Hemingway himself ‘turns up’ and talks to Zachary.  Let’s not forget that Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.  He was a dreadful loss to the world.  Even though he gave so much in the time he was here, no doubt those who were in his life and certainly his readers would have loved for him to have stayed longer.

When it comes to images of soldiers, most immediately think of a young, smiling fresh faced attractive person in uniform.  This image is hard not to love, most would do anything to support such a lovely person.

Most people have seen images of, or even walked past old, broken people with scraggly hair and dirty clothes sitting in wheel chairs holding up a sign indicating their status as a veteran.   This image is scary, intimidating and difficult to acknowledge and deal with.

So is the reality of sacrificing so much in military service.  So is alcoholism, so is depression and so is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

James Charles humanized that image here while the story entertains. That is awful to admit, that such an image of ultimate human suffering needs ‘humanizing’ but I can’t think of another way to say it.   The romance and the adventure, the way the reader gets to know Zachary is extremely effective.

His use of Hemingway’s quotes, characters and even the man himself worked for me.  I would have loved to have met Hemingway, shook his hand, smiled at him.  It’s extremely sad he left the world the way he did.  Perhaps writing did feel like ‘bleeding’ to him.  Yet that is probably what kept him going on many dark days.

One of the saddest moments in Charles’ story is when Zachary’s fingers can no longer tap anything out on his keypad.  The alcohol starts consume him.  It becomes a one way tunnel of torment where the reader gets a sense of what it is to be more and more alone.   The tale took turns I didn’t expect.   It is ALL worth reading, and was certainly very worth writing on the part of the author.

Thank you :).   I don’t just type out the words meaninglessly.  I mean them.

 

 

I finished a short story collection entitled Wizards, Woods and Gods by F.T. McKinstry.

 

This is one crafty, creative lady.  Her command of the English language, her knowledge of mythology and folklore and story telling abilities are almost intimidating.  I enjoyed reading one of these before bed every night.  I found them comforting.  I’ve got to point out that she is a complete artist and her blog is worth a visit ftmckinstry.com.

There is a lot of mystical, ancient atmosphere going on and her use of language reflects that.  She writes as though she is from a different time.  This is not something that anyone can do.  It’s a special skill for a contemporary writer to be able to channel a long lost way of speaking.  To bring to life characters who literally are from completely different worlds is also a challenge. It requires a certain level of education and creativity.  It is a sign of the respect and reverence she has for her chosen genre, era and characters.

The stories are short but complex.  Throughout most of them, there is a reverence for nature, water and all things maternal.   Warriors, lovers and the cruelty of nature and humanity are also given their due.  Wizards and shape shifters do battle.  A beautiful shade falls desperately in love with a warrior.

I think my favorite story was Eating Crow, involving a shapeshifting female who rarely takes the form of a mortal woman.   Then there is The Bridge, which was a rather sensual tale (again not unnecessarily explicit) between a priestess and a hunter.  In another tale entitled The Deathseer, there is such a memorable quote by an assassin of all people.

‘Love is the difficult choice.  Thorn said quietly.  Fear is easy.’   (The Deathseer in Wizards Woods and Gods by F.T. McKinstry)

Couldn’t we all learn from those words?

2 comments on “What Jessica is reading…

  1. Pingback: A Review of Wizards, Woods and Gods | F.T. McKinstry

  2. Your reading tastes are really interesting. Sounds like you’re really growing as a reader and as a person. We enjoy all your writings so far. Keep it up.
    Love, Mom

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