Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Doc

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Random House, May 3, 2011


The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.

And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins—before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Authentic, moving, and witty, Mary Doria Russell’s fifth novel redefines these two towering figures of the American West and brings to life an extraordinary cast of historical characters, including Holliday’s unforgettable companion, Kate. First and last, however, Doc is John Henry Holliday’s story, written with compassion, humor, and respect by one of our greatest contemporary storytellers.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Have you ever read a book and then arrived at the end surprised at how few pages it had? A story that feels so much larger than it seems could be contained in so few pages? Such is Jane Gardam's Old Filth. When I turned the last page of the book, it seemed impossible that Gardam created such a larger than life character in only 289 pages.

Before I start the review, I have a story to tell a confession to make. Old Filth along with its companion, The Man in the Wooden Hat was sent to me for review almost a year ago by the fine folks at Europa Editions, whose books are so lovely in their construction (and content!) that I begin to love them before even reading the first page. I started Old Filth in long ago last year and made it through about 60 pages before I sat it aside. You see, Old Filth is a fantastic book, and it reads almost like a classic, and in keeping with that reputation, requires some actual effort at comprehension and a little extra time to really relish the prose. In the run-up to summer last year, it was particularly ill-suited to me, so I put it aside for a later date, not figuring it would be quite this much later.

In the end, though, I'm glad (if somewhat ashamed) that I put it off, because I knew I wouldn't like it if I trudged through it then, but in the late winter when I was hungering for something of substance, Old Filth was just the thing. It might be a year late, but it's going to be a heck of a lot more positive of a review, too. So, I'm sorry Europa folks...I think?

Old Filth is the story of Edward Feathers born shortly after the end of World War I, the son of a mother who died shortly after childbirth in the British colony of Malay and his father, a distant District Officer of the colony. At 4, he's sent back "Home" to England for schooling only ever to see his father, who never seems to have loved him anyway, for one more fleeting moment. Effectively orphaned, Eddie grows up alone, constantly estranged from those around him for one reason or another. His unhappy past doesn't keep him from success, however. Despite failing as a lawyer in London he becomes a successful lawyer and a judge in the Far East - hence his name, an acronymn for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. The opening pages of the book find Filth a retired but still unassailable old barrister whose reputation has grown to such mythic proportions that it obstructs the hard truths of a man so damaged by his past that he has found himself forever unable to love. It's only as Filth toddles gracefully into old age that he can begin to rediscover the parts of himself that he has locked away and come to terms with the dark secrets that made him the man he became.

Old Filth is everything a good character study should be. The book starts out with an elderly, retired Filth who is famous among his peers but also a profound mystery. Then it begins to deconstruct the facade he's constructed, peeling back layer after layer and we begin to know and understand the man even as he unlocks the doors on his past and begins to rediscover himself. Gardam's crisp, clear prose weaves effortlessly between past and present tying together memories of the past and behaviors of the present thereby giving readers a full picture of a fragile boy always destined to lose those he loved, a boy with unthinkable secrets who became a man that always held himself at a distance from those he could have loved.

By the end of the book, Filth feels like a friend with his secrets laid bare before us. Your heart will break again and again for him as he endures confusion and rejection as he tries to make connections with people whose concern for him is fleeting. You will be proud of the successful, polished, determined gentleman he became even despite circumstances that could have crushed him again and again. In short, Filth is a complicated, vivid character that smacks of reality, and a man you, like me, will begin to miss as soon as you turn the last page.

(Thanks again to the publisher for sending me the book to review.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

It's always a ton of fun seeing the bookish top 10 lists coming out of The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesdays. At last, I'm getting around to participating! This week's topic is...

Bookish Pet Peeves

1 No quotation marks - It takes a good, good story to make me forget that there are no quotation marks in a book. Not having them just irritates me. It seems pompous. Like "I'm too good for your silly little quotation marks. Quotation marks are for talentless hacks bound by the common conventions of writing! Not I, my friends, NOT I!" Yeah, so, quotation marks are a big issue with me, so much so that when my blog was young, I may or may not have written a sort of love letter to them.

2 Classic spin-offs - I like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I have less than no interest in reading any elaborations or re-imaginings of these classics, but they're everywhere, and I'm afraid I'm tired of even seeing them.

3 Super long chapters - Okay, so. I have a job and many other things to do. That means I'm forced to read in fits and starts throughout the day. Chapter ends give me something to shoot for.

4 Super SHORT chapters - This chapter's too long. This chapter's too short. I know, I know. I'm a real Goldilocks of the book world, but I like my chapters to be just right. When they're too short, it just breaks up the flow of the story.

5 Super tiny print - There are no prizes for how many words you can squish on a page. Don't make your print so tiny that my head starts to hurt when I'm reading. Especially if you're publishing something that's a little dense and requires a little extra effort anyway, like a classic. Sadly enough, classics happen to be a pretty common offender on this count.

6 Movie tie-in covers - Ugh. Do I even need to comment on this?

7 Bad covers on good books - Speaking of covers, doesn't it just break your heart, knowing that a good cover goes a long way in getting anybody to pick up a book, to see a really great book with a really lame cover? A book you ended up loving but you know that you would never even have considered picking up on a whim at the bookstore because the subpar cover never caught your eye or worse, caught your eye and made you cringe.

8 Multiple narrators that all sound the same - There's nothing more disappointing than a novel with a bunch of first person narrators and they all sound the same and you have to be told when they're changing, and you still find yourself confused. On the flip side, when multiple narrators are done well with distinctive voices, they add up to some of my favorite books. It's a fine line, I guess.

9 Bad editing - I know mistakes happen from time to time, but it's so distracting when a character's name changes or a some big grammar or spelling flub goes undetected in a finished work.

10 Preachy books - I'm pretty smart. How about you tell your story and trust me enough to get your point on my own?

What bookish things make you crazy?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crossing the Heart of Africa by Julian Smith

Do you ever have those books that seem like they take you an eon to read and you don't understand why? I mean, of course you've got chunksters and the books you know are packed full of beautiful, complicated prose that need extra reading time and you know from the outset to expect it. What about those books, though, that are fairly uncomplicated, fairly enjoyable, and yet just seem to go on and on despite being of average length? I'm afraid that Julian Smith's Crossing the Heart of Africa was just such an experience for me. Despite liking it enough, it seemed to go on and on for me. Perhaps it's because I let myself get out of the habit of reading non-fiction, even nice narrative non-fiction with hefty doses of memoir, usually my favorite non-fiction to tackle. I worry the amount of days I unwittingly put into reading Crossing the Heart of Africa has clouded my opinion of a book that ultimately has much to recommend it, but enough of this navel gazing, let's start at the beginning.

In Crossing the Heart of Africa author Julian Smith tells two intertwined stories. The first is that of somewhat lesser-known African explorer Ewart Grogan, who, in 1889, pledged that he would make the first crossing of the African continent from south to north in order to win the hand of his true love, Gertrude, a woman well above his social station. Smith gives us a version Grogan's treacherous journey which will end with Gertrude's uncle's blessing upon their matrimony. Alongside Grogan's story is Smith's recounting of his own journey across modern-day Africa following Grogan's route, a journey that despite the passage of more than a hundred years, is still fraught with danger and difficulty, but for entirely different reasons. Rather than earning his love's hand, though, Smith's journey is his last act as a "free" unmarried man. As he traverses the continent, Smith also reflects upon his 7 year relationship with Laura, the woman who is about to become his wife.

Smith's relationship reflections are easily my least favorite part of the book and, in my opinion, add little to it. Smith's disclosures are never inappropriate, but in ways they feel almost too personal to the point that I worry that if it had been me Smith was getting married to, I'd have been uncomfortable to have the nooks and crannies of our relationship dissected on the page. Smith, in his reflections, also reveals himself to be the sort of total commitment-phobe that I find difficult to understand. I found it difficult to wrap my mind around someone who, after 7 years and numerous "Aha! I love you!" moments would still be dragging his feet about the part with the rings. I'm afraid these things distracted me from what is, on the whole, a very good book.

I'd never heard Ewart Grogan's story before, and Smith does an excellent job of giving Grogan's story new life. He captures the highs and lows of Grogan's trip, a journey made difficult by everything from disease to cannibals to volcanic wasteland to lack of supplies and hostile natives at every turn, but also a journey made spectacular by its opportunities for seeing incredible, virtually untouched wilderness, the thrill of the hunt of species that were practically the stuff of legends, and, of course, the reaching of the ultimate goal - a marriage to Gertrude. Smith reveals, in Grogan, a still young man of extreme determination and intelligent, practical leadership, and, in Africa, a still wild land of tribes both friendly and unfriendly, laboring under the great and lesser burdens of colonialism.

Weaved into Grogan's story is Smith's own journey through Africa via a similar route to Grogan's. Smith's journey is fraught with trials of its own, though his near-death experiences are considerably more limited than Grogan's. Smith's is a story of still-rugged wilderness, packed and undependable "public" transportation, friendly eager-to-please people who might just be friendly or might just be so desparate to get out of Africa that any American looks like a walking chance at a U.S. visa. On his trip, Smith finds an Africa riddled by violent conflicts that keep him from following Grogan's route exactly and an African continent marked by countries with struggling economies that offer few opportunities to their citizens, no matter how industrious.

Crossing the Heart of Africa is an entertaining re-telling of a death-defying adventure and a study in contrasts. Smith gives an interesting side-by-side look a Africa's past and its present that allows us to draw our own conclusions about what has really changed in Africa in a century marked by struggle and corruption. At the same time, Smith offers us a snapshot of practical modern love juxtaposed against the romantic ideas of a different time that might well have us longing for days when a woman's heart and her hand in marriage was considered something worth earning.

(Thanks to Erica at Harper Perennial for the review copy!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Art of Forgetting

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan
Dutton, June 9, 2011


Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.

And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory—dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago—Marissa's own equilibrium is shaken.

With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future. The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

To BEA or Not To BEA...?

That is the question. (*hardeeharhar* Sorry, I'll be here all week. All month. All year, even.)

Hi, my name is Megan and I suffer from a debilitating condition called "Decision Making Impairment." It's likely that you know someone who suffers or that you yourself suffer from this troublesome disease. Do you find yourself unable to do something so simple as choose an entree on a menu that is too large? Does the though of making a major life decision make you want to go cry in a corner? Does the choice of where to spend oh, $1000 or so find you rocking back and forth manically trying to stop your teeth from chattering? Does your total inability to make decisions both large and small give you the compulsion to cook up dozens of internet polls so that people you've never laid eyes on in person who are far less engaged in your life than you are can decide with the click of a button what you should eat for dinner or how should spend your meager savings? If so, you may, like me, be Decision Making Impaired.

(P.S. If you're strapped for time, you could probably just skip the next few paragraphs of waffling/evidence of extreme Decision Making Impairment and pick up with the important questions at the bottom. Not that I recommend that or anything. Just saying. Thanks. - The Management)

I'm sure you're thinking, right about now, that I may be coming to some point with all this. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but... No really, I am. You may have heard of this little thing called BEA. Book Expo America, and accompanying Book Blogger Convention, of course. So have I. In fact, last year I was there, and I had a fantabulous time. For real. There were bloggers and books and authors and more books and signed books and people I'd just met talking to me about books and people on stages having intelligent conversations about books and buzz about upcoming books and there were those pirates that were supposed to mail me that picture of me and them (and BOOKS!), but the picture never showed up, and you just can't trust pirates (even ones with BOOKS), but that is another story altogether. So, it was great. Last year it even brought me out of a months long bloggery slump. This year, I feel way more steady as a blogger, so maybe it'd be even better for me to go this year.

However, it cost me in the neighborhood of $1000 for my 3 day stay. You heard it here first one THOUSAND dollars for THREE DAYS (and that's WITH the discounted BEA hotel rate). I was into NYC on Wednesday morning around 7 AM and out by 6 PM on Friday evening with my bank account suddenly just about $1000 emptier, and I'm pretty sure my soul fell out while I was trying to squeeze my suitcase and me and a massive tote bag full of Book Blogger Con swag onto a New Jersey Transit train on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Actually, I may have sold my soul to get a spot on the train. I think that may actually be how it works when the entire free world is trying to get out of NYC for a long holiday weekend.

So, here I am this year, thinking about BEA/BBC. Yes, I want to go. It's great fun. I even have the money, sort of. I even have about a trillion leftover business cards despite throwing them at everything that walks. Alas, I also have creeping doubts. Like, should I save my $1000 for something I haven't already done or something I should be doing but am not doing (*ahem* getting ahead on my student loans? Looking for a new place to live?)? Can I manage to negotiate the mostly impenetrable logistics of getting to New York City just from Pennsylvania any better than I did last year? Different people are going to be there this year. As a matter of fact, I don't even really have a clear idea of WHO is going to be there this year from the blogosphere or whether they will even hang out with me.

So, I need help, because for the Decision Making Impaired weighing her options, this has proved to be an insurmountable decision. At one point, I thought I'd decided to skip it this year, but I didn't shut the door tight enough on it and out popped BEA again calling out my name. So here I am, dear readers, begging your assistance in support of the Decision Making Impaired. I've resisted the temptation to compile a poll. You need not donate any money, but could I prevail upon you to answer me some questions that might nudge me in one direction or the other?


- Will you be at BEA/BBC? (I sooo miss the "Attendees" page on the Book Blogger Con website. I got a bunch of page views off of it in the aftermath of the event, too. *sad face*)
- If so, are you the sort of benevolent blogger/person who will hang out with me there? (On the show floor? Or, even better, for like lunches and dinners and stuff?)
- Are you going and secretly (or not so secretly) need a nice, well-behaved, non-snoring, only mildly insecure roommate (like yours truly) to help defray the cost of that overpriced New York City hotel room and to, you know, keep you company or whatever?
- Do you know of any amazingly simple ways I may have overlooked to get to NYC from Pennsylvania (and the reverse) without A) actually driving my car into the city, B) spending an additional small fortune, or C) having the life squished out of me in Penn Station?
- Have you any other assorted information and/or tantalizing details that might sway me in my decision-making?

Thanks in advance for any assistance you or your friends can lend to the severely Decision Making Impaired. We are forever indebted (if indeed you do assist us). I mean, uh, me.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Caleb's Crossing

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Viking, May 3, 2011


Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

The narrator of Caleb's Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative, secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures.

Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb's Crossing further establishes Brooks's place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby

24-year-old Prudence Burns has always dreamed of being a seller instead of just a buyer at the farmer's market. She can picture herself beside a table loaded with farm fresh organic produce she's grown herself feeling finally and fully alive. Unfortunately, Prudence happens to live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and her efforts at being sustainable have chased her boyfriend away and left her wondering just what to do now. Next thing you know, Prudence has inherited her Great-Uncle Harold's farm in Canada and it seems as if her dreams might just come true.

What Prudence finds, though, is a run down farm that hasn't produced anything in years, a house that hasn't known any cleaning, mountains of debt, and a lonely, pathetic half-sheared sheep. All these problems are hardly enough to deter the ever-optimistic Prudence, and she happily sets about making the improvements she imagines will turn Woefield Farm into the profitable sustainable farm of her dreams with the help of her unlikely and unwieldy "staff." Prudence inherits crotchety Earl, the farm foreman who's much better at watching TV and playing the banjo than he is at building or farming, when she inherits the farm. Soon after her arrival, Prudence hires Seth, a reclusive celebrity gossip blogger with some embarrassing secrets and a major drinking problem who's just been kicked out of his parents' house. Last comes too serious eleven-year-old Sara Spratt who needs a home for her prize-winning chickens and a place to get away from her own home life that is rapidly deteriorating.

If you're looking for a serious book on the trials of modern-day farming or the practical aspects of sustainability, look elsewhere. However, if you're looking for a laugh-out-loud funny unexpectedly heartwarming tale of a group of people who come together to save a farm and find a home, that's what you'll find in Home to Woefield. The book unfolds in the four very distinct voices of its four main characters, getting inside each one's bizarre thought patterns and revealing each character for what they see themselves as, as well as how the others perceive them. It's as easy to laugh at as it is to root for these characters as they attempt to shear the other half of the sheep, get Alec Baldwin (the chicken) ready to compete at the county fair, and come up will all sorts of harebrained schemes to hold off creditors until they can figure out how to make the farm profitable. You'll find yourself laughing out loud at Earl's grumpy old man narration or Seth's self-deluded ramblings, but you'll just as easily find yourself feeling for them as they face up to the secrets from the past that dog them.

Though, the story lacks something in believability, it more than makes up for it with its big heart. Ultimately, Home to Woefield is a fun, funny, and refreshing book that never takes itself too seriously yet somehow manages to strike at the heart of how much we all need to find a place where we can be safe and loved for who we are, big messy secrets and all.

Home to Woefield will be in stores on March 8.

(Thanks to Maggie at Harper Paperbacks for sending me a review copy!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Berlin Boxing Club

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
HarperTeen, April 26, 2011


Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew; after all, he’s never even been in a synagogue. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin don’t care that Karl’s family doesn’t practice religion. Demoralized by their attacks against a heritage he doesn’t accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

Then Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German hero, makes a deal with Karl’s father to give Karl boxing lessons. A skilled cartoonist, Karl never had any interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself. Under Max’s tutelage, both Karl’s boxing skills and his art flourish.

But when Nazi violence escalates, Karl must take on a new role: family protector. And as Max’s fame forces him to associate with Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero’s sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his boxing dreams with his obligation to keep his family safe?

From critically acclaimed author Robert Sharenow, The Berlin Boxing Club is a stunning coming-of-age tale about the true meaning of courage.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick

Scott Carter is on the brink of financial ruin. The bank where he works is failing, the risks he took on the currency exchange market aren't working out like he'd hoped, and at the end of the day, he doesn't know how he's going to make his next house payment let alone keep his daughter in school. As he sits on a bench trying to work out how to tell his wife about their financial crisis, he receives word that money has been deposited into his empty account, and he has been rescued by the most unexpected of saviors. With this windfall Scott is plunged deep into his memories of growing up in Rhodesia, a virtual African paradise lush and full of life, but also a country riddled with troubles resulting from the unfair and unequal treatment of black natives by white settlers.

In Rhodesia, Scott grows up alongside Bruce, the son of other white settlers, and Simba, the son of Scott's family's black maid, his best friends. While Scott realizes that Simba doesn't enjoy many of the same privileges that he does, he considers the fact that Simba has been educated and taken care of to be a good enough life for his friend. As the trio grow into young men and join the army special forces, Simba continues to strain against the limitations placed upon him in Rhodesia, and in the end, not truly understanding his best friend or the problems the plague the land he loves will find Scott swept up in the deadly turmoil of a country trying to struggle free of colonialism.

I had some struggles with Blood Lily, several of which might be attributed to my ignorance of African history. Many parts of Blood Lily felt like being dropped into a nation you've never encountered without so much as a map. For readers familiar with Zimbabwe/Rhodesia's history, this would not be a problem. For me, however, I spent a lot of "extra-curricular" time hunting the internet to decode acronymns and unearth definitions of terms as well as seeking out additional background information on the Rhodesian Bush War, all of which might be familiar to a local or someone who has read up on their Rhodesian history, but mostly made me feel disoriented. A glossary of terms, a map, and/or a little more background information worked into the narrative would have gone a long way for the reader less familiar with Cranswick's subject.

I also found myself feeling a little on the outs with Blood Lily because it has a distinct "man's book" feel to it. The main characters go from fighting to drinking to picking up women, holding any feelings they may have about dead or injured comrades and the terrible experiences of war at arm's length. The narrative focused on the action and when it did delve into any feelings, they seemed a bit hollow. At times Blood Lily just seemed so caught up in a male viewpoint that I felt like even though I could understand it, I couldn't really get inside it.

Despite the fact that I obviously don't view myself as Blood Lily's ideal audience, there were parts of it that I definitely appreciated. Cranswick shows great attention to painting a picture of Scott's Rhodesia for us. As he reveals its lush landscape and its diverse wildlife, Cranswick causes us to a fall in love with a land that is as much a character in Blood Lily as any person. When we see it torn apart by the ravages of war, we feel the loss of something great. Additionally, I was impressed with Cranswick's ability to manifest the comradery of Scott and his friends from boyhood to adulthood in his dialogue. The group's cheerful, if merciless, ribbing of each other rings true and makes the characters jump off the page. While it may not always have come easily, Blood Lily does a good job of educating even while it entertains. I came away from the book with a fresh and fairly thorough knowledge of historical events that I'd never heard of before, yet I never felt like I was reading a textbook account.

While it could use a few tweaks to be more accessible to a worldwide audience, Blood Lily is an engrossing tale of what happens when friendships get tangled up in politics and war and also a hopeful look for renewal in a nation that has been scourged by war and corruption in the aftermath of colonialism.

(Thanks to Helen at Smith Publicity for providing me a copy to review.)