Publish & Perish

Publish & Perish (Ben Reese, #1)Publish & Perish by Sally Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of my random reads from drawing slips at the beginning of the year. I drew three slips from my “new series” pile. This was on my TBR because later titles in the series were take-offs on Jane Austen titles, an old “theme” that still gets my attention. And the main character has a Welsh last name – Ben Reese – so that got my attention too, and the next book in the series takes place in Scotland, and he is an archivist interested in rare books, coins, paintings, and ancient documents so that all appealed to me.

It’s an old series, published in 1997, but set in 1960. Reviews have compared the author to Dorothy Sayers. I think that’s a stretch but it does have something of that flavor revolving around academia. It started a bit slow, but it grew on me. I’ve already started the second book Pride & Predator. Although marketed as “Christian” fiction, I didn’t find anything off-putting here. He talks about God, and ponders some theological/existential questions but there is nothing pushing his views (or the author’s views) on anyone else. Nothing incompatible with my own decidedly liberal views.

The set up for a series is okay – we get to know the main character, but there is not much in the way of character development for anyone else. The plot moves quite slowly and is mostly introspective until the very end. More thoughtful than action, with some subtle humor. Still, I liked Ben Reese enough to want to read more and find out more about him and what makes him tick.

Book description: Publish And Perish, the first Ben Reese novel, begins in 1960 at an academic research institute near Oxford, England, though the story grows out of tangled relationships at the small Ohio university where Ben Reese is an archivist – an expert in antiquities, in coins and paintings and the dating of ancient texts. He’s also a thirty-seven year old veteran of WWII; a behind-the-lines reconnaissance expert who captured German command posts across France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany until he was stopped by a Tiger Tank.

His war experiences aren’t something he talks about easily. He’s a quiet man, who lives close to the country, and rides his horse, and enjoys the accomplishments of long dead craftsmen, while he tries to get over the death of his wife. It isn’t until his closest friend dies, minutes after phoning Ben in England, that Ben has to rely again on the characteristics that kept him alive from Omaha Beach to the Saarbrucken Forest. Ben looks under a lot of academic rocks at the politics, prejudice and ambition that had to be navigated even then by those with unpopular opinions. That leads the killer to come after Ben with a calculated brutality that takes Ben back to the war, and makes the question of his own survival more than a matter of academic interest.

Advertisements

Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Caroline: Little House, RevisitedCaroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely writing, though occasionally overdone and repetitive. It brings back memories of reading the original Little House books and watching the TV show which aired when I was in college. My quibbles are minor – it was difficult for me to see this Caroline as anyone other than Karen Grassle, meek and mild and never ever getting angry. She seemed far too good to be true. It was stated that Laura and Mary were 3 and 5, but I’ve been around enough 3 year olds to know that they are not this verbal and articulate. They seemed more like 5 and 7. The first half of the book reminded me strongly of the Little House books with many of the same events I remembered, and I wondered if there wasn’t going to be more of the “real” Caroline. The second half was better in that regard, and the author’s note at the end was helpful. This book could stand alone without any knowledge of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It might even be better without having that reference point.

Audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Marvel.

Book description: In this novel authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before–Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The Outcasts of Time

The Outcasts of TimeThe Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little slow to start, and the time travel IS the plot. The joy of this book is in the observations, social commentary, philosophical and existential musings of our main character John of Wrayment (“Everyman”). The author knows history well, and each vignette through history is well done. Although material progress is made through the centuries, one might despair that the human condition does not seem to have kept pace. It would seem that humanity as a whole has not evolved at all. At the risk of a slight spoiler, I’m going to say that it was evident quite early on that John was meeting his descendants as he traveled. We could see his legacy in their words and in their kindness even if John could not. I did wonder that language was not more of a problem after two or three hundred years, but that would have interfered with the story.

Book description: With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and suffer in the afterlife. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries – living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last. As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the reader travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment, and war. But their time is running out―can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up?

Virgins

Virgins (Outlander, #0.5)Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Diana’s usual repartee and humor here, but at 79 pages (Kindle version) I didn’t feel it gave me any added insight into the world of Outlander. Jamie and Ian are both quite young here and I had trouble connecting these characters to their older selves. I could picture Ian as Young Ian (John Bell) from the TV show, but I couldn’t picture Jamie at all. It’s a fun, somewhat erotic romp and nothing more. No particular lessons learned, or events that might shape later character. It does show how well educated Jamie was. But able to speak and understand Hebrew? Really?

Technically, this is a prequel, but it isn’t necessary to be read first. Start with Outlander and get to know the characters first.

Book description: Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds; both have good reason to stay out of Scotland; and both are still virgins, despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue. But Jamie’s love life becomes infinitely more complicated—and dangerous—when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor’s beautiful granddaughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be—but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they’re truly dealing with.