by Karen Armstrong
Karen Armstrong set out to write a biography of the Buddha with this book. One of the very first things she says is that it's impossible to write one that isn't reliant on Buddhist scriptures, so if you have a problem with that, tough. There isn't anything she can do about it. She talks about using the scriptures and what we know of the time-period to construct a reasonable idea of what his life was like. She also discusses the mythologizing of his life and how the stuff that's clearly mythology is still useful in what it tells us about what people want us to know about the Buddha.
The book runs from the Buddha's birth to his death, and somewhat before and after both of those events. It's fascinating and well-written. Karen Armstrong is an author who knows how to write well instead of writing drily or worse yet, writing so that the reader's eyes start to glaze over with WORDSWORDSWORDS. Ability to write well is something I revere in history writers, and so far, Ms. Armstrong has yet to disappoint me. The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel
by Drew Hayden Taylor
This is one of my favorite recent vampire stories. In it, Tiffany, an Amerind teenager, has to deal with her family and her life and the general trials of being an Indian teenager on a reservation, while an Amerind vampire comes home to his tribe's lands for the first time since he went to Europe so long ago. They interweave beautifully, so often passing each other by while they tend to their own lives but coming together at the end.
No, it is not at a romance at all, and no, she doesn't die.
I have an especial fondness for the sequence where Tiffany is sulking over her father moving her into the basement so their boarder can have an actual nice room, and the vampire shows up and goes, "... A nice bedroom where I can see the sunrise. How... nice. But I'd really prefer the lightless basement."Snake Agent
by Liz Williams
The first book in the Detective Inspector Chen mysteries. I read this one, then I went and immediately bought all of the others that were available. That should tell you how good I found this book.
, we have a world dancing a line between the magical and the technological. The majority of the world is at mid-near-future levels of technology, but then we have people like Detective Inspector Chen, who serves the Singapore-3 Police Department as the go-to for supernatural problems since he is a servant of Kuan-Yin who knows enough magic and lore to visit Hell and deal with Heaven.
In this book, he is asked to look into the case of a high-society young woman who died and didn't end up in Heaven like she was supposed to.
Meanwhile, Zhu-Irzh of Hell's Vice Department is looking into some of the ghost-brothels who are dealing in unlicensed girls. It's not that Hell objects to ghost-brothels, you understand, but unlicensed and not paying the fees? Bad for business.
Chen and Zhu-Irzh run into each other while searching for the same girl. Things go downhill from there.1. The Singapore franchise thing never is explained.Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
by Rachel Simmons
This is a nonfiction book studying the culture of bullying among girls. It was an absolutely fascinating, enlightening read as it showed a lot of things I just took for granted as a part of how things were and how people behaved. Sometimes it was hard to read, and a lot of the time I could barely put it down.The Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Things I love: Mongols, romances, well-done diary stories, fairy tales. Things "The Book of a Thousand Days" does well: Mongols, romances, well-done diary stories, fairy tales.
Dashti, maid to Lady Saren, and her lady are shut up in a tower when Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has selected for. The two prepare for a dark and long imprisonment, with Dashti writing her chronicle to help keep herself sane and Lady Saren succumbing to a slow depression. They are visited by the cruel man Lady Saren was betrothed to and by the man Lady Saren professes love for. Dashti must speak to both men, for she is the one with the courage and the backbone (and, to be honest, the smarts). Which is how Dashti comes to fall in love with the man Lady Saren loves.
Their imprisonment is supposed to last ten years, but two years into it, they realize the guards are gone and they have not seen anyone for some time. They are running low on food, so Dashti decides they must leave. Once they escape, they learn the lands of Lady Saren's fathers have been devastated by war. Their only hope is to travel as refugees to the lands of Lady Saren's love and proclaim her there.
But when they arrive, Lady Saren is too frightened to do so, and she begs Dashti to pretend to be her until they can see if this lord is any safer than the last one Lady Saren was supposed to marry.
This was recommended to me by bookblather
, and it is awesome and she should feel awesome.The Birchbark House
by Louise Erdrich
I lovelovelove the Little House books. They are one of my pleasures from childhood reading that still hold up as an adult. So imagine my sheer delight at finding another book-series set in the same general time-period, focusing on a little girl and her family as they live their lives. Now triple that delight, because Omakayas and her family are Ojibwa.
This book follows Omakayas through all four seasons of the year 1847, when a historically documented smallpox outbreak struck the Ojibwa of the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. It starts warm and sweet when she and her family move from their winter lodgings to a birchbark house by the lake. Her father is out trapping pelts to trade, so it's up to her grandmother and mother to manage the children and gather for the winter.
It's during the winter the smallpox comes, nearly destroying the little family, killing a number of others, and forcing everyone to the edge of starvation. The author doesn't pull her punches with this, though she does her best to lighten it in other ways. Me being the trickster girl I am, I was particularly fond of Omakayas's father convincing the storekeeper to go a few rounds of chess with him. He played badly, getting the storekeeper's confidence up, then bet he could win the next game- and if he did, the storekeeper would consider half his bill settled.To Tempt a Scotsman
by Victoria Dahl
I've been following Victoria Dahl
on Twitter for some months now. She's great fun, and definitely one of those writers who don't believe in the "glamor" of writing. I finally got around to picking up one of her historical romances, and hoo boy~! Excuse me while I fan myself.
As a 'fallen' woman, Lady Alexandra Huntington doesn't have to be bothered by minor things like keeping her reputation up. If she wants to seduce the large, dark, and handsome Collin Blackburn, well, who's to say no? Especially since Collin is quite willing to let himself be seduced.
Until he finds out she's a virgin, and he's just taken her virginity.
Delicious, delightful story. Very worth reading and a great pick-me-up. It's also one of Ms. Dahl's earliest novels, so I look forward to reading some of her more recent stuff. If that's her level of quality when she was just getting started, well