Monday, July 19, 2010
This online app I think is simple and fun in tone. The great thing is you put in the last book you read and it's author, and it combines Amazon recos with librarything, and gives you a list of similar styles, authors and genres that you might like as well. Other engines just give you a list of that same author's books. But you may wish to discover a new author, and this simple online app will have you do just that. For instance, I typed in March: a Novel, by Geraldine Brooks, and it gave the the following list to try. Give it a try yourself and see what it recommends for you!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Hello my fellow bibilophiles! Recently, I was forwarded a great article on the top ten reads authored by "the fairer sex" which I included a link to here.
I would add Maya Angelou FOR SURE, as well as;
Sarah Dunant, Annie Proulx, and Isabel Allende, just to name a few.
And a fellow bibiolphile friend whom I respect very much, Addie, added Julie Orringer, author of How to Breath Underwater and The Invisible Bridge, and Alice Munro too.
Happy Summer reading!
Monday, July 12, 2010
In a Nutshell:
This book tells the story of the first crusades, lead by a group of French nobles called the Knights Templar. The story is told from a few perspectives, but mainly two main characters; A Sheik's Muslim daughter named Kalidah, and her childhood male friend named Bilal. These two start out in the story as characters of no real power or importance, but end up being part of the Sultan's inner circle of advisers. They begin as part of a nomadic tribe caught in the middle of a subtle family power struggle. To resolve the struggle, Kalidah is set to wed her cousin and unite her tribe. Kalidah runs away that night because this was a fate she did not want. Bilal thinks he is in love with Kalidah, and secretly follows her as she escapes. In doing so, he has a completely different adventure that leads him to his own destiny-mainly the Sultan's army and a touching relationship with a male lover (one of the Sultan's sons).
Meanwhile, there is a larger war brewing as the "Franj" (French) have taken over the holy city of Jerusalem, and the native people are not happy. To combat the invaders, the Sultan is unifying all the Middle Eastern tribes to fight against the Europeans, and Kalidah's tribe is not sure if they will join the fighting. Kalidah does not wish to marry her cousin, and the night of her wedding, runs away with one of her uncle's servant who tells her that there is a plot to kill her. Following her heart - and a complete stranger- she and this young man, Sulayman, escape. They begin a long adventure through the ancient Middle East as they run away from her evil cousin as well as journey toward uncovering the mysteries of Kalidah's (and her Mother's) past. The adventure takes you through ancient history, nomadic culture and even a little mysticism and magic-not to mention some love stories and battles.
Ooo was this GOOD! This book has many layers of storytelling and messaging. I think the big picture message I took away was pretty much summed up on the acknowledgement page where the author writes, "For an end to the crusades." Underneath the story of Kalidah's and Bilal's adventures and relationships is a greater message of understanding and acceptance of other cultures and religions. It is ever so subtle, but it is there. The crusades were pretty much the beginning of the conflicts that are still going on today in the Middle East. The ripple affect of a Western culture invading another country and forcing their beliefs and way of life on another is still being felt. But it doesn't stop there. Dunant craftily sheds the light of hypocrisy on both sides of the conflict. For instance, Kalidah at one point is condemning the invasion of Jerusalem by the French to a friend and healer they met on their journey. This wise man, named Ghassan, asks Kalidah why she feels so sure about her righteousness-and then explains to Kalidah...
"Jerusalem was already two thousand years old when King David "founded" it. He took it from the Jebusites, who had no doubt taken it from someone else. And after him it passed to the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, Alexander of Macedon, Ptolemy, the Seleucids, the Maccabees, the Romans, the Byzantines, and then-only then-the Muslims. We are a mere scratch on the surface of that great city; a scratch no longer or deeper perhaps than the Franj, in Allah's grand scheme. For if Allah has willed our existence, then He has willed theirs, too."
As I mentioned, moments of socio-political commentary is very subtle in this story. Above it are tangled relationships a tribal culture creates that add many surprises in the book. Surprises of paternity, old love affairs, new love affairs and many secrets. Kalidah is a character that grows and develops to a kind of warrior princess by the end of the story-which sounds a little cliche. But Dunant builds the story to that inevitable climax in a way that is quite believable. Her grasp on the history of this time in the Middle East is formidable, as well as her understanding of life and hardships of the tribes of that time. It was a very fun, educational and thought provoking read. And I, too, hope that someday, there will be an end to the crusades.