Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Middle East, WW2 POWs, and Jane Austen

Requiem (Delirium, #3)Requiem by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently, I've given all three books in this series three stars. However, I think each book was better than the one before. Still, these books just weren't my thing.

A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle for the Mastery of the Middle EastA Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle for the Mastery of the Middle East by James Barr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four stars overall. Some chapters were more like three stars and others were five stars. This was a fairly uneven read. There are a few very dull chapters in this book that don't really need to be entire chapters. For example, the author spends pages and pages on the dispute between the British and the French about the proposed route of the oil pipeline from Mosul to the sea. Britain wants it in Haifa. France wants it in Tripoli. And on and on and on. In the end, guess what??? They split the pipe and it goes to both ports. I just told you in a few sentences what it takes the book a very long slog of a chapter to convey.

A long slog, despite the fact that I am very familiar with the geography of the region treated in this book, and I've read books about several of the main characters or peripheral aspects of this period of history. This book was not difficult to read because it was unfamiliar or a lot of new information. It was difficult to read because dude sometimes didn't know how to advance the story.

Other times, however, the storytelling was stellar. In the end, the book does a really good job explaining how the modern Middle East came to look like it does. It's just atrocious how it all went down. Sykes, for example, took a look at a map of what is now Syria/Lebanon/Iraq/Jordan/Palestine/Israel and proposed drawing a line from the 'e' in 'Acre' to the final 'k' in Kirkuk...and that would be the border dividing the French Mandate from the British one. Yikes.

A quote from Sir John Shaw, the former chief secretary of Palestine, in the final chapter of the book:

"It's not your business or my business, or British business, or [for] anybody else to interfere in other people's countries and tell them how to run it, even to run it well. They must be left to their own salvation."

Georgiana Darcy's Diary: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ContinuedGeorgiana Darcy's Diary: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Continued by Anna Elliott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Kindle version of this book is free on

It was fine. I don't really have anything else to say about it.

The House at TynefordThe House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This might take a while. My damage with this book, beginning with the most egregious issues:

1. The main character, Elise, is absolutely unlikable. Her own family kind of doesn't like her, and it's not in that heart-wrenching, Jacob Have I Loved way where you feel like shaking them and yelling, "she's better than the lot of you, you idiots!!!" No. I don't blame them for not liking her. She whines about her lack of musical talent in an exceptionally musical family. She calls her parents by their first names (sorry, I never got over that, not through the whole book). She doesn't like her sister and then is surprised that her sister doesn't like her.

Outside of her family, Elise continues to be unlikable. I felt like all she ever did was shriek at other people and expect them to help her and save her and love her when she had done nothing to deserve it. For example, her only chance at getting out of soon-to-be-German-occupied Austria is to sign on as a housemaid at an estate in England. Her Austrian housekeeper gives her a treasured English-language housekeeping manual in the hopes that it will help Elise learn both the language and some essential housekeeping skills. If I were her, and my physical safety and well-being depended on my being able to hold down a job in England, you can be dang sure I would be reading that book every single night until I had it memorized. Elise, though? She just tosses it aside. Whatevs, no biggie. She is both stupid AND lazy. UGH.

2. The two central relationships in this book fall flat flat flat. With all her shrieking and being stupid and lazy, I could never figure out her feelings regarding Kit. She was always wavering and stuttering and tripping over her poor English grammar and as a result, I never knew if I was supposed to be rooting for her or not! I get the idea of understated affection, but yeesh, this was like dealing with an annoyingly passive-aggressive friend who expected you to figure out her every whim and emotion just by reading into her sulky moods.

3. Not once, but TWICE in this book, people declare that someone else is dead without having any evidence whatsoever that this is so. They just "know" it, or "feel" it. Not good enough, book.

4. On the other hand, sometimes people in this book just "know" something good is going to happen or "feel" it, against humongous piles of evidence to the contrary. Humongous. Piles. Of evidence.

5. Sometimes things in this book that were written on the page, were not actually happening. This got really annoying, really fast.

6. Can someone please explain to me what was with the novel in the viola? The author herself seems unable to do so. I do not understand a) why Margot was so upset about it; and b) how the pages came to be blank...?

7. The descriptions of the English countryside were lovely. They really were. But there were far, far too many of them. The action of this book moved in fits and starts: something relevant would happen, and then paaaaaaages of nothing. Repeat repeat repeat.

8. Finally, I found this book to be very predictable. From the first time a certain two people met, I knew exactly what was going to happen.

Look, some of these issues might be because I listened to it as an audiobook. Sometimes I get frustrated with audiobooks because they move very slowly when I could be reading the book much quicker. So this book tried my patience more in its audio format than it would have in print. Still, though.

Daddy-Long-Legs (Daddy-Long-Legs, #1)Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great, quick, uplifting read. You have to forgive it for some antiquated plot elements - talk of socialism and the completely non-creepy use of the nickname "daddy long-legs" for a love interest.

Keeping the CastleKeeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book way more than perhaps I should have. The whole thing reads like a big Jane Austen inside joke. I loved it! I would be tempted to give it five stars but it's not really substantial enough for repeat readings. Still, for a one-time, super-fun read, I highly recommend this book.

Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific WarEscape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War by John D. Lukacs

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read 3/4 of this book but today I gave up and I'm calling it a DNF. A book about POWs escaping from Japanese-held Philippines, boring?? Weird, I know. But it totally was! I read several hundred pages, waiting for it to get enthralling, but it just fell flat. I never knew who these people were or where they were or what their changing objectives were. A big old mess. Read Lost in Shangri-la or Unbroken instead.

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