ex libris reviews
1 June 1997
The reviews contained in this page originally appeared in a precursor of ex libris reviews called Will & Jane's Book Page. It did not have a monthly format, being just a set of steadily lengthening pages on what we'd been reading. It was split into monthly sections for convenience when ex libris was launched in August of 1997.
5/25/97 David is teething. It's been a long week.
5/18/97 David went on his first reasonably long car ride yesterday, about 3 hours each way with a cousin's first birthday party in between. 'Twas an experience for all of us, though he was really fairly well behaved.
One reader took exception with my statement that "Jane actually has precious little to do with" the creation of this page; and as she said, taking care of our son so that I can play on the Internet is hardly "precious little." This is certainly true, and I'd hate to have anyone think I don't appreciate Jane's efforts. However, Jane does not do any of the writing for this page. Observant readers will note that the Cookbook and Romance sections of the Recommended Authors page vanished a while ago. I had added them thinking that Jane would like to fill them in, but it develops she's not much interested in working on web pages. Therefore, I'd like to amend my previous statement: Jane has precious little to do with the actual production of this website. The reviews are written by me, and unavoidably reflect my opinions. Unless I say "we" or "Jane", do not assume you're getting Jane's opinion. (If you're interested in knowing what she thinks, feel free to send e-mail and ask her!) I'd like to apologize to anyone who was mislead.
Patrick O'Brian is one of my favorite authors, but this is the first time I've tried reading anything of his to Jane. Since Jane's usually involved in some author activity while listening, we tend to read fairly light books together. O'Brian is invariably entertaining, but his books take more attention than our usual run. This is especially true for Master and Commander, the first of O'Brian's tales about Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin. The action takes place on board a vessel of the Royal Navy circa 1800, a time and place O'Brian is intimately conversant with. The book (and its sequels) are full of obscure nautical terms and naval customs, and until one becomes familiar with them it can be heavy going. We managed to get past that point, however, and enjoyed the book considerably. It's not clear yet whether we will go on to Post-Captain or not. Reading aloud means reading slowly, and I had fun noticing the things that slipped past me the previous times I read it. Finished 5/25/97.
Somehow I missed being forced to read this in high school and college, and thought I'd give it a try. I'm enjoying it more than I feared I would, but I doubt I'd have liked it when I was younger. I wouldn't have had the patience.
The Curse of the Pharaohs
The Mummy Case
Lion in the Valley
The Deeds of the Disturber
The listed books are the first five of Peter's Amelia Peabody mysteries, romantic whodunits set in the world of Egyptology at the end of the 19th century. The most recent Amelia Peabody novel, The Hippopotamus Pool, was just released in paperback, and I'm taking the opportunity to re-read the witty, fast-paced stories of Amelia Peabody Emerson, her archaeologist husband Radcliffe Emerson, and their remarkably erudite and troublesome child "Ramses" Emerson. I've read all of these aloud to Jane.
The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog
The Hippopotamus Pool
I had almost completely forgotten what happens in The S, the C, and the D, and found it to be a great deal of fun. It and its predecessor are perhaps the two best books in the series. The Hippopotamus Pool was fun, fairly standard for the series.
Dorothy Dunnett might be the most-respected writer of historical novels currently living. These two books, recently reprinted in trade paperback, are the first two in the "Lymond Chronicles," which concern Scottish nobleman Francis Crawford of Lymond. Lymond is a bit of rogue, though an honourable one, and an intriguing hero. The books take place during the childhood of Mary Queen of Scotts, and during the reign of King Edward of England, son of Henry VIII. Dunnett has a great flair for sarcasm and wit, and and an attention to detail that is outstanding. Her description of a steeple chase (literally, a foot race over the roofs of the city) was so vivid that I can still see it in my mind. I enjoyed these books very much, and look forward to reading the rest of Lymond's story as the remaining volumes are reprinted in the coming months. If they measure up (and I only expect them to get better), Dunnett will soon appear on our Recommended Authors page.
Much of my historical reading has dealt with the 19th and very early 20th centuries, and in particular with Great Britain and China. Hong Kong joins the history of the two countries as neatly as one could wish. Welsh does a fine job of telling the story of Hong Kong from its founding to nearly present day, a story which is in many ways the story of the relations between the two countries. Started: 1/12/97, finished: 5/13/97. It only took so long because I read the last half during occasional lunch hours at work.
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