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The Lost Book of the Grail

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 The Lost Book of the Grail, by Charlie Lovett A little while ago, I had this novel recommended to me as one of the best novels the person had read this year.  Given that she reads a good deal more than I do, this was quite a recommendation, so I got it from the library.  Lovett has a fun take on the Grail legend, planting it in Trollope's fictional county of Barsetshire. Arthur Prescott teaches at the local university, but what he really likes is living in Barchester's cathedral close, going to Evensong (even though he's an atheist), and studying the Holy Grail in the cathedral's library.  Arthur's grandfather taught him that the Grail was real, and located right there in Barsetshire.  Then, to Arthur's dismay, Bethany arrives from the US to digitize the medieval manuscripts in the library, which might possibly be all right if it didn't raise the possibility that the cathedral would sell the books off.  And Bethany is suspiciously interested in the Holy Gra

Blood Secret

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 Blood Secret, by Kathryn Lasky I've long admired Kathryn Lasky's work (though I only just now realized how very much she's written, my goodness).  She's written quite a few historical fiction novels for the middle grades, including the first "Dear America" book, and this one is also historical fiction, but I think it's pretty unusual. Jerry has lived much of her life in various Catholic orphanages, wondering if and when her mother will return for her.  Now that she's 14, Jerry is going to live on the outskirts of Albuquerque with a great-great aunt she's never met -- Constanza, who lives in an old adobe and bakes bread for a living, and doesn't seem to mind that Jerry hasn't spoken aloud in years.  Down in the cellar of the house, Jerry finds an old trunk filled with pieces of part of her family's history.  In a series of dream-visions, she learns about her ancestors' secrets, the persecution that followed them, and the tattered re

Jesus and John Wayne

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Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristin Kobes du Mez Well, that's an arresting title!  When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  Kristin Kobes du Mez is in a good position to write it, too; she's a long-time member, observer, writer, and journalist in the American Protestant culture.  If she's going to say that it has 'corrupted a faith and fractured a nation,' she's in a position of some authority to do so, and to discuss what she calls 'militant masculine Christianity.'  Du Mez writes a cultural history of about the last 100+ years of Evangelicalism and conservatism in American Christianity, especially the history of cultural attitudes about masculinity, the roles of men and women, and how race has combined with that.  (She specifies white Evangelicals because black churches are mostly very different.)  She documents Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Mark Driscoll, and cultural shifts t

Zenzele

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 Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter, by J. Nozipo Maraire Here's another one that came from the donation table.  It's Maraire's only novel, published in 1996 (a 25th anniversary edition has just come out).  Although it's short for a novel, it's very long for a letter, which is the form that it takes. This letter is addressed to Zenzele, a driven young woman who is about to leave for the United States and an education at Harvard.   Shiri, her mother, wants to share her thoughts with her daughter, and gives them to her in this form.  Shiri claims to be a traditional woman who has always focused on her home and family, and has watched Zenzele grow up to be a politically-involved, ambitious young woman who takes after her father in many ways -- but this turns out not to be quite true.  As the letter unfolds, Shiri is revealed to be part of an impressive family.  Her sister and cousin fought in the war for colonial Rhodesia to become independent Zimbabwe; her husband is a

20 Books of Summer Wrapup

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 Well, I'm going to call it good.  I've definitely read 20 books this summer, even if I didn't finish that exact list, and much of it has been very good reading!  The Popol Vuh was a highlight, and so was Piranesi .  I still have a couple of books to post about, too.   I only read one book for #WIT month, which is kind of disappointing.  I have another book of Urdu short stories, but so far I've only read one, so I can't exactly count it.  Oh well. In the fall, I'm very much looking forward to Witch Week , which will take place at Calmgrove this year, and I'll be doing a guest post. Plus RIP season is starting!  I have a couple of fun books for that, but mostly I want to focus on preparing for Witch Week.

Spin Title #27: The Popol Vuh

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 The Popol Vuh (Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings), translated by Dennis Tedlock I am so happy with my Spin title!   The Popol Vuh is amazing stuff, and Tedlock puts in plenty of explanatory material to help with comprehension.  I loved it.  Mythology/religion readers, put this on your list! The Popol Vuh is the holy book of the Quiché people in Guatamala -- the Mayans.  The book tells of the creation of the earth, the start of the Quiché, and goes right down to the writers' own day, which was the 1550s.  The men who wrote it down kept themselves anonymous for fear of punishment.   (Tedlock is of the opinion that they were the three Masters of Ceremonies mentioned near the end.) Of course I can't go through the whole thing, but...at first there is nothing but a quiet sky and sea.  The gods arrive and decide to create an earth and people for it; they want the people to be able to name the gods and to keep the proper calend

Summer 2021: Another Riffle of Reviews!

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 I want to blog, I really do.  Everything has just been getting away from me so fast!  I'm gearing up to go back to work, which means lots of fun meetings beforehand.   I've officially changed some of my 20 Books of Summer list!  I just can't read it all, but that's OK.  And so, here is my second riffle of reviews... Summerbook #14: Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War, by Virginia Nicholson.    The UK seems to have an even more endless and voracious appetite for books about WWII than we do here in the US, which is no surprise.  This book collects the stories of many different women; Nicholson is trying to give us a portrait of the incredible number of ways women lived and worked during the war.  So we have Wrens, WAAFs, land girls, decoders, housewives...Vera Lynn and Vera Brittain.  Nicholson also covers how women managed under wartime conditions -- not just drawing lines up the backs of their legs, but cooking on the ration, keeping everyb