Friday, March 28, 2014

The Braintree Mission

While it took me a fair amount of time to get through this book, 11 days actually, it was only because the subject matter was not something I am used to. It is a very well written account of a proposal to the Boston Colony to make one of their own an Earl in the House of Lords in England just after the bloody Boston "massacre" in 1770, the hope being that it would give the colonies representation in England and improve relations. While this proposal never in fact took place, the author tells the events of how it may have gone down and to what affect it would have on the relationship, which I took to understand as none.
As I said, this is not my usual read, even though it can be technically classified as "alternate history" the outcome was no different from true history. That being said I still found myself enjoying the tale. The characters of John and Abigail Adams, whom the author himself titles the hero and heroine of the tale, were wonderful people indeed! And I was also attracted by the writing style, which I found to be beautiful.
That being said, I am sure this book is not for everyone. But I say history lovers should try and give it a read!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Birth of the Chess Queen

Marilyn Yalom was giving a lecture on the history of the breast when she was presented with a very unusual statue of Mary suckling the baby Jesus. She was told it was a chess piece, and this one event sparked her curiosity forcing her to take a close look not only at past chess queens but also the history behind the queen from when she first took up her place on the board to the changes in her movements on it.

This book was a fascinating read for me. I not only enjoy the game of chess but am also fascinated by the outside appearances that changed as women grew in power in the world. This book was an insightful look into the women who were powerful enough to change this game piece that people the world over played with, at a time when women seemed to have little to no power in the real world. As Yalom goes back to the beginning of chess to describe the original piece, the vsir, who stood in the place we now associate with the queen, the carefully picks her way through the history of several countries looking for the first appearances of the queen in each. She then looks at the women in power as the piece appears, trying to figure out who may have had a hand in bringing forth this now-powerful figure.

Not only does Yalom seem to cover all her bases, answer most of the questions she began with and then some, she makes it all clear to the reader in such a way that I was not once bored by what I was reading. Instead, like any work of fiction, I was drawn into the book wanting to know what detail she would present next, what historical Queen she would give me to consider next, and what other pieces have survived from the time that so differ from the one I have in my home. She is a skilled lecturer that is able to convey all she wants to onto the page with a beautiful outcome.

Finally Yalom presents in the last chapter a look at women players today. She shows that chess has once more become a men's game with women still being spoken down on when showing interest in it. While the chess queen remains supreme on the board, the players are still very misogynistic about the playing. A sad fact indeed.

I picked this book up off a whim at a discount store because of my enjoyment of the game, and I was pleased to discover something more. I look forward to picking up more of Yalom's books in an effort to get a look into her perspective of women. Consider it furthering my Women's Studies class from college! I recommend that lovers of the game take a chance and read this one. You could be surprised at what you learn!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Jane Yolen has pulled together 12 short stories and put them into this random little book to give the reader 12 new things to think about! Most of them are retellings of stories we have grown to love (i.e. "Lost Girls" is Peter Pan and "The Bridge's Complaint" is The Billy Goats Gruff) alongside some new stories (i.e. "The Babysitter" and "Wilding") all of them unique and incredible reads.

Yolen is one of those writers that I see in a store and pick it up without even looking at the description, knowing that she will tell an amazing tale. This book did not let me down! My only regret is taking so long to finally read it.

Each of these stories is unique, never thought before tales told by a master writer who loves making the readers look at things differently. And she does such a wonderful job making the stories come to life, making me a little afraid after reading one of the horror stories just before bed one late night!

I encourage everyone to give Yolen a chance, and this is a good place to start! I look forward to reading these shorts stories to my kids very soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mutant Message Down Under

Marlo Morgan claims to have gone on a walkabout (a journey with no set destination or duration) with a small tribe of Aboriginals of Australia. This book is a retelling of her journey into knowledge given to her by these people that ave chosen to die out rather than remain on a planet that is being killed by the inhabitants, what the tribe calls Mutants.

I must say that by taking this book as a work of fiction it seems that I have a better view of it than most of the other readers. I don't know much about the Aboriginal culture or peoples, but I have always been fascinated with older, native tribes of any continent, hence why I picked this book up in the first place. I was a little hesitant to read it once I had discovered others' views of it, but I wanted to form my own opinion.

This book was not horrible, in my opinion. No, it was not a classic work of art, but it was not the trash many claimed. Yes, some of the notions, such as the selecting of the author to pass on the ancient ideas of this race, seemed far-fetched, but some of it made sense. Many of the views and ideas are not new ones, simply pure ones that I believe any culture would hold if they had been around long enough to truly gain wisdom.

My only big issue with this book was the writer's poor writing. As a memoir, maybe this book is done as best as it can be. But taken as a novel, she is clearly not a writer, or should have considered editing it once more before publication.

All in all the book was an interesting read, if not an entirely pleasant one.