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Topic: 2009 H/F - #1 - New to You

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Subject: 2009 H/F - #1 - New to You
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 8:38 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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1. Read a book of Historical Fiction that is written about a "new to you" time period, person, or location.

Discussion here.

Subject: Tai Pan, James Clavell
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 10:57 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Both my daughter, KellyP, and my older brother have been urging me to read Tai Pan, by James Clavell for years and years; why did I wait so long to pick it up??  It is a wonderful novel.  I loved the characters, their relationships, the setting, and the bits of history I learned about the culture of 19th century Hong Kong.  Easily a 5-star novel. 1/10/09

(And, one of these days I'll get around to the other Clavell books such as Noble House and Shogun!)

Linda

Subject: Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross
Date Posted: 1/17/2009 10:20 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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One of the best things about this challenge (to me, anyway) is that it serves as a fun way for me to work the TBR pile and read books I have allowed to molder on the shelves for far too long!

Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross is just such a book and the one I chose for Challenge #1. It actually answers the challenge on all three criteria - it is set in the Frankish Empire (new location), about Pope Joan (definitely a new person!) in early to mid-9th century (new time period for me). For some reason, even though my Mother (Linda) had already read it & recommended it, I was always reluctant to actually pick it up and start reading it. Even when I did, it was with an attitude of just getting this one out of the way. Which was the wrong attitude!

If there are any other readers out there who are concerned about getting bogged down in a dry, lifeless story about a woman who may or may not have ever been Pope set in the unromantic and cold marble halls of the Vatican, lay those fears aside.

Pope Joan is a richly written story, with multiple layers, a complete cast of characters and lots of wonderful information! I have come away from my reading with a new and better appreciation of Europe's history; of the early Catholic Church and of the customs and beliefs of that time.

I will be very interested in hearing from others who have read or are planning on reading this book as part of the Reading Challenge.

Highest recommendations - with a 4.5/5 rating.



Last Edited on: 1/19/09 10:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/17/2009 3:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Well, I've finally begun one of my Challenge books!  I started reading The Kitchen Boy last night!  New to me author, new to me time period, new to me setting, new to me people.  So far (and I'm only like 50-some pages in), I like it.  I posted on the "What Are You Reading" thread, but as I started reading last night, I noticed two things.  First, the author lives in my home state of Minnesota, and second, the copy of the book I have (which I got through PBS) is autographed by the author.  Cool!  I may be hanging on to this one even though the author's note isn't specifically addressed to me.  LOL! 

Date Posted: 1/18/2009 10:22 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Linda, the books by James Clavell are ones that I have been meaning to read for years. I will definitely be getting to them this year though because I found out that the four "Shogun" books are being re-released into trade paperback editions in May. Great news!! I was so glad to see that because I prefer reading the really long, fat books in the larger, trade paperback editions. I added them all to my WL, but I think I'll probably buy the whole set as soon as they are released. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Tai Pan.

Kelly, I thought the Cross book was the first piece of fiction written about Pope Joan, but then I found an earlier one while browing PBS one day. It's also titled "Pope Joan" and was written by E.L. Hastings. It has a rather cheezy looking cover, but so many books did back when this one was written so I won't hold that against it. I'm curious to read it, but I don't really expect it be as good as the Cross book. It's much longer, about 500 pages, but I don't know if it will be better. It looks like "Pope Joan" was the only book ever written by E.L. Hastings.

Shelley, I predict that you will love "The Kitchen Boy"! Then, you'll be wanting to read the rest of the books. I'd definitely hang on to the signed copy, especially if you end up loving the book.

Has anyone read "Pope Joan" by E.L. Hastings?



Last Edited on: 1/18/09 10:23 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/19/2009 5:42 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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I have only 30 pages left in The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.  You all know by now I am not good with words so I'll just say it's soo sooo soo sooooo good!!!!

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 7:38 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 1,932
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The Kitchen Boy was a great book. I have to move Pope Joan up on my TBR. That's a new to me period and I've had the book for some time and it just sems to keep getting pushed back. SO MANY BOOKS NOT ENOUGH TIME!

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 8:07 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Michelle, I felt exactly the same way about Hansel & Gretel. Sooo, sooo good! It was a really unique sort of book, wasn't it? Sad though.

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 8:16 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Oh I didn't know anyone else had even heard of it!  Do you have anymore recommendations for this period of time?  I forgot that I did read My Enemy's Cradle in 2007 or 2008 and it was another good read.  I know so little about the war but am growing interest in this era.

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 9:09 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Just finished the book.........loved, loved, loved it!!!

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 9:24 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Michelle - As soon as I heard of the Hansel & Gretl book (I think when you first posted about it), I put it on my WL.  Now that you've raved, I really want it!  Glad you enjoyed it!

Yes, I am enjoying The Kitchen Boy very much.  Over half way through. Today I read about Tsar Nicholas on Wikipedia just to get more of a background.  Prior to reading this book, I really knew nothing about the Romanovs other than that they were murdered.  I also have Rasputin's Daughter, which I'd like to read right after I finish TKB, but I may not have time. I have to get going on the February BOM soon!

Date Posted: 1/19/2009 10:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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Michelle, I'm glad you enjoyed Hansel and Gretel! I was going to try to sneak and read it before I sent it to you, but I ran out of time. LOL! It looked good, though. I've been interested in the war and the Holocaust since I read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child.

Have you read Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum? It's a war story told from the other side, from the POV of a German woman and her child. Quite good.

 Shelley, you should try Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie, a terrific book about the Romanovs. It's non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. And it's available here in HB and PB, I just checked. :-)



Last Edited on: 1/19/09 10:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/20/2009 4:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Thanks, Janelle!  Just put it on my wl!!

Date Posted: 1/20/2009 10:26 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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1st Challenge Complete!  Woo hoo!  Just finished The Kitchen Boy, so I have successfully completed one challenge!  I really enjoyed the book.  The ending surprised me to say the least.  Off to check out the book Janelle just suggested!

Date Posted: 1/20/2009 10:43 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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I loved The Kitchen Boy!!

Date Posted: 1/23/2009 9:29 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,466
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I've read the True Story of Hansel and Gretel and I agree that it is excellent - and sad too. The very beginning is so gripping that this book is hard to put down. Even though it is fiction, it is hard to imagine that people (especially children)  had to survive this way. For any of you interested in that period, this is a great read!

Date Posted: 2/7/2009 11:33 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2008
Posts: 456
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I just finished The Kitchen Boy but I read it for the Revolution category.  As many of you said, it was quite good! :-)  I read Pope Joan last year and it is probably one of my favorite books!  I ended up saving it on my keeper shelf instead of swapping it (at least for now, eventually I might want to share it, we shall see...)

For this category I read When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer as I typically don't read books about ancient history, never read a book about Egypt, and since I was in the middle of teaching my 8th graders the Ancient Egypt unit in World History, I figured why not get this off my TBR list and start reading it already!  I really enjoyed it and it was nice to see Cleopatra's motives from her point of view, but it got very repetitive at times.  I gave it 4 of 5 stars.



Last Edited on: 2/7/09 11:33 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/23/2009 12:10 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,466
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I just finished The Poisoner of Ptah by Paul Doherty. I had never read about Egypt before and his descriptions of the locale were so vivid! The Mystery surrounding this was exceptional - can't say much more or it will be a spoiler. Some areas were a little slow, but I have to say that the conclusion was a real surprise!

Date Posted: 2/24/2009 8:34 AM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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I read The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant for this category, and loved it.  I really felt like I was there in Florence, and loved how Dunant connected the painters of the times through her story.  I now can't wait to go to Florence and see some of the places that were mentioned!

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 3/7/2009 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I read/listened to Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matsuoka. It is set in Japan, someplace I had never read about. I learned ALOT about the japanese culture. It is a great book, a bit confusing at times. IT jumps around covering 500 years. This mornign I looked up the print version and found out the book is Book 2. THAT MAKES A LOT OF SENSE. lol. It probably wouldnt have been so confusing. I ordered the first book and plan on reading it as soon as it comes.

Autumn Bridge follows a clan with prophetic powers in Japan.Telling the story of how the clan got the prophetic powers and the truth behind them. IT was very good.

Date Posted: 3/20/2009 12:05 PM ET
Member Since: 9/19/2006
Posts: 2,940
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I just finished Honolulu for Alan Brennert for this category, and thought it was ok.  I'd heard so many good things about Moloki that I was really excited for it, but I didn't end up loving it.

I loved the Kitchen Boy!

I am reading Pope Joan for my "over a year on my shelf" book.

The Hansel and Gretel book has been on my RL for a while, but I may need to move it to my WL!

Date Posted: 3/20/2009 1:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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Hi, Ladies! My choice for #1 New to You is Pravda, by Edward Docx.  I'd read a magazine review of it  a year or so ago and had it on my reminder list, so the challenge motivated me to buy it and read it.

I'm just starting it, but it's set in St. Petersburg, a city I know nothing about except for its notoriety in the history books. It's abit of a mystery as well. I'm not sure yet exactly when it is set--it feels modern, like maybe after 1917 but before the wall fell...which doesn't pin it down much, does it? It is the story of a young man who arrives home, finds his mother dead in there apartment and in the process of her funeral and internment discovers facts about her younger life that lead him on a winding trail of discovery.

I will keep you posted, but I've read a few books set in Moscow or elsewhere in Soviet Russia and I am eager to see what I can learn about St. P from this one.

 

Edited to Add:  Well, it's 3/26 and I'm finished it; really liked it. It is tersely written, in separate chapter/flash back format and runs from the high-party Soviet era to present day as the main characters, a pair of twins, unravel their parents' life story and hence their own.  Very nice--and frustratingly, the flight attendant bumped my tray as I was reading it and spilled my tea on it so it is now, alas, unpostable. If anyone would like it, free w/ any order from my bookshelf.   :(



Last Edited on: 3/26/09 10:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/15/2009 11:34 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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I read Until I Have No Country: A Novel of King Philip's War by Michael Tougias. I picked it up because I've become more interested in reading historical fiction set in America, especially before the 1800s. I thought this might be an interesting book on colonial America and King Philip's War (a war between Native Americans and English colonists in New England in the 1670s.

The book was not really what I had hoped for. I think it would be worth listing the things I think it's missing. First, I wish it had focused more on King Philip/Metacom. I wanted to learn more about him and his motivations/family/strategies/goals, but it mainly focused on a fictional follower of Philip. Secondly, I wish the author would have given more historical background. He briefly touches on the relations between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at the time of settlement, but I would have loved to see a better explanation/exploration/description of the ways things had gone downhill from what were initially good relations between the groups, to where the book started off, with the Wampanoags beginning to fight back.

On the whole, the book is interesting, but not engrossing. It's not really a book that will stick with me--it wasn't that memorable. Parts of it were bittersweet (mainly having to do with the losses that occur in times of war), but I just never really felt connected to the main characters. I gave it 3/5 stars.

Date Posted: 6/15/2009 1:18 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Katy,

Great information & very appreciated! My husband's family settled in the Rhode Island area in the mid 1650's & got caught up in King Phillip's War. I would like to read more about that time & get a better understanding of this time in our country's history. (I don't believe King Phillip's War was ever mentioned one time in any of my classroom history books!)

Now I know what to avoid! Have you read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick? We have it, but have not read it yet - but I guess it is a phenomenal book.

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 6/15/2009 1:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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Kelly,

I haven't read Mayflower, but it sounds wonderful. It is definitely going on my WL!

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