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Gypsi Phillips Bates "bilbiophile" (Tennessee)
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The Canterbury Papers: A Novel Of Suspense
The Canterbury Papers: A Novel Of Suspense
by Judith K Healey
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Historical Mystery, June 11 2004
Princesse Alais was betrothed at a young age to Prince Richard and therefore grew up in the court of Henry and Eleanor, as their "stepdaughter" and companion to the princes. Many years have passed since Alais' hopes and dreams were dashed with the sudden end of her betrothal to her beloved Richard. Prince Henry has died, King Henry has died and so has King Richard. Alais lives in Paris, attached to the court of her brother the King and dissatisfied with her life, wanting a change.
It is in this state of mind that a letter from Queen Eleanor reaches her, requesting her help. John is now King of England and, not surprisingly, unrest is whispering it's way from one end of the kingdom to the other. Eleanor fears that certain letters she wrote years ago could harm John's rule, if they come to light. She wants Alais to cross the channel, visit Canterbury Cathedral and recover the letters. In return, Eleanor offers Alais certain information. She has not misjudged her stepdaughter. Alais will face the risks for this information.
What transpires is a suspenseful web, with John, his enemies, a special pendant and Alais' history all interwoven, told from Alais' point of view with humor and emotion. The result is an exceptional historical mystery from a first-time author that I want to hear from again--and soon!

The Midwife's Apprentice
The Midwife's Apprentice
by Karen Cushman
Edition: Paperback
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Positive Girl's Story from Cushman, June 9 2004
Beetle is an orphan of indefinite age, wandering from village to village and working for food. At one stop, the midwife takes her on as apprentice and Beetle's life changes dramatically. The midwife is by no means a gentle mother figure, but she feeds Beetle regularly and the life is not hard.
The reader follows Beetle (or Alyce as she later calls herself) as she matures, sheds her insecurities, becomes self-confident and self-loving, and finally learns to face up to and conquer her fears. It's a very positive tale, excellent for young girls who need to see positive female role-models face problems and succeed by sheer determination--and not fairy godmothers or money or good looks.
While unconsciously absorbing these lessons, young readers will also find themselves learning about Medieval Europe. Cushman manages to slide historical facts in so casually that the reader will come away knowing about Medieval customs and practices, the art of early midwifery and life in a village.
This is an excellent tale, well-written, witty and touching. I enjoyed it on many levels and would recommend it (along with Cushman's other excellent novel, Catherine Called Birdy) for pre-teens and teens--and adults like me who enjoy a light story with a postitive girl character.

Maid Marian: A Novel
Maid Marian: A Novel
by Elsa Watson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.76
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.66

3.0 out of 5 stars Light, easy reading, May 24 2004
This review is from: Maid Marian: A Novel (Hardcover)
Maid Marian is a first person account of Marian's relationship with Robin Hood. It begins with Marian giving her back story. She is the orphan of landed nobility, and as a result is the ward of the Crown. She is married at five, though by seventeen she had yet to take her place as wife in her husband's home. With his death, she becomes a widow and a pawn for Queen Eleanor who needs all the marriageable land she can find to make alliances for her son, the new King Richard.
Marian hears that news of her impending marriage has been put in a letter and, desperate to know her fate, she makes a bold move. She enters Sherwood Forest in search of the illustrious Robin Hood, to enlist his aid to discover what is in that letter.
Robin Hood does in fact help her, and armed with foreknowledge Marian returns home to form a plan that will deliver her from unwanted marriage, and allow her to keep her lands. She is unsuccessful and, to her surprise, Robin Hood turns up on her wedding morning and whisks her off to Sherwood Forest. Thus begins their friendship and with it, the start of a gentle courtship.
This is Marian's story, not Robin Hood's, and as such there is very little of the legendary hero in this novel. His exploits are barely mentioned, when mentioned at all, and no real attempt is made to give life to his band or to show his outlaw side. He is just Robin, Marian's help in distress, her friend and later her love. I found this to be disappointing--instead of showing any difficulties in Marian having to adjust to Robin Hood's lifestyle, Watson merely had him move in two separate planes--Marian's life and his life.
The last quarter of the book was the least believable. Marian goes to live with a farming family and is able to deceive them into thinking that she is of their class. Then, Marian becomes a servant and is equally able to convince the lady of the house of her servant status while worming her way into her mistresses confidence. Watson gives Marian's stay in Sherwood Forest as the reason she succeeds in these deceptions, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that a woman raised as nobility for 19 years would be convincing in those roles after a few months of helping out in a camp.
It ends with an unrealistic series of events that lead to the successful, and easy, return of lands to Marian. A weak ending, with all loose ends rushing forward to be tied, that left me unsatisfied.
Despite these weaknesses, Maid Marian is a good read, light and enjoyable. The back story is especially well written, giving good flavor of life in Queen Eleanor's court and a sturdy, convincing background for Marian. Part romance, part adventure, it would make a good book for carefree summer reading.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.59
146 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure with a bit of art and history, May 22 2004
What a fun book! Every child's fantasy is to live in a super-cool place, at least it was mine, and I remember reading this is a child and being SO envious. To live in a museum! Even if for only a week! And to work on the mystery of an statue! Wow! I loved it.
Happily enough, the magic had not worn off when I re-read it today. In Claudia and James, Konigsburg has created real kids, with real emotions and actions. The plot is exciting enough to hold attention, while still maintaining a sense of "this could've really happened!".
There was no moral lesson to be learned it this book--Claudia and James run away and nothing bad happens to them. Matter of fact, they succeed and are rewarded. For that reason, I suppose a bit of parental reminding that running away is dangerous and wouldn't happen like it does in books might be advisable.
Otherwise, it's an enjoyable read for adults and children alike and just might stir up an interest in art and museums. Books that encourage kids to have an interest history or art (like The Egypt Game) need to be recommended as highly as possible. This one will stir the imagination of any receptive child and might start a life-long enthusiasm--it was one of the starting blocks for me.

The Well of Lost Plots: A Thursday Next Novel
The Well of Lost Plots: A Thursday Next Novel
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Fforde Masterpiece!, May 22 2004
(Warning: Reading this book without having read the first two is extremely hazardous to mental health!)
Thursday Next is back! Hoorah! Being in grave danger from the Hades girl and having been unsuccessful in the recovery of her eradicated husband, she has left the real world (a/k/a the Outland) to spend her gestation period in the Book World. Thanks to her position as Jurisfiction apprentice, she takes advantage of the "character exchange program" to hide out in Caversham Heights (a not-very-good, detective novel that is still under construction in the Well). Thursday mistakenly assumes that this will give her a peaceful year in which to be pregnant, have the child of a man that never existed, and decide just how to get that man's existence back.
Jurisfiction (the policing agency of the fiction world) turns out to be much more exciting than anticipated, what with the Pro Catherine faction trying to kill Heathcliff, the Minotaur disappearing and something odd and dangerous going on with the new UltraWord testings--not to mention the everyday adventures of training under Miss Havisham!
On top of that, she's billeting two Generics in her home, attempting to defeat a memory thief, studying for her Jurisfiction exam, having morning sickness, presenting the Bookie for "Best Chapter Opening in the English Language" and giving advice to a lady gorilla.
Sure, the storyline's a bit unbelievable, there's a lot to keep up with, and I didn't always get the jokes, but all in all The Well of Lost Plots is another gem! Fforde keeps the funnies coming so fast, it's hard to breathe in between them. His Douglas Adams-esq humor, literary jokes and just darn good writing skills make this an A-1 book! But remember, you MUST read The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book before attempting this one. If you ignore this warning, it'll be like reading Macbeth for Yeast* and not at all the pleasant experience it was for me.
*"///..//..///// ......///// .../ ./ .......// ..// ..// ./// ...///////"
excerpt from Macbeth for Yeast, translated by ..//// ..///..

Medieval: Total War
Medieval: Total War

5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Total War: Best Battle Game Ever, May 16 2004
This review is from: Medieval: Total War (CD-ROM)
This game has all other battle games beat hands down. After more than a year, we still play it regularly. The strategy of building and earning money is not so difficult as to be impossible and the battles are realistic and enjoyable. Highly recommend this game.

Lords of the Realm 3
Lords of the Realm 3

1.0 out of 5 stars Skip it, May 16 2004
This review is from: Lords of the Realm 3 (CD-ROM)
After a LONG wait and much excitment, Lords of the Realm III did NOT live up to the hype. It has none of the personality that II did, and is a shabby game over all. It certainly doesn't compare to Medieval Total War. Skip it completely, save your money, and buy a copy of Medieval instead. MUCH better game.

Myst 10th Anniversary DVD Edition
Myst 10th Anniversary DVD Edition
10 used & new from CDN$ 34.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Not fully XP compatible, May 16 2004
The Myst series are such beautiful games and I was so excited that they were released on DVD specifically for XP. The excitement lasted about 15 minutes into my first playing. . .
Despite the fact that it is supposed to be made for XP, I am still experiencing a LOT of trouble running it. In several different places in Myst, it crashes to desktop--bad thing when those places are pertinent to solving!
As of this date, 16 May 2004, there is STILL no patch availble, or any signs that UbiSoft is working on the problem.

Death Comes As Epiphany: A Catherine LeVendeur Mystery
Death Comes As Epiphany: A Catherine LeVendeur Mystery
by Sharan Newman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.78
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical Mystery, May 16 2004
Catherine, a novice at the Paraclete, finds herself embroiled in a mystery outside the safe walls of the convent. Newman makes medieval Paris come alive, gives flesh to Abelard and Heloise, and writes an incredible first novel. This is by far the best of the series and a must read for fans of historical mysteries.

The Robber Bridegroom
The Robber Bridegroom
by Eudora Welty
Edition: Paperback
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Cupid and Psyche meets the American Tall Tale, May 16 2004
This review is from: The Robber Bridegroom (Paperback)
Welty's first published novel is a retelling of Psyche and Cupid, with a decidedly American twist. Instead of turning the Greek myth into a fairy tale, she's created a delightfully unbelievable, far-fetched and bizarre "tall tale".
Many of the elements of a fairy tale are there--the wicked stepmother, the beautiful heroine, the naive and loving father, the handsome hero--but these are overshadowed by tall tale traits such as the superb stretching-of-the-truth skills by nearly everyone encountered from the mail rider who was swallowed by a crocodile to our heroine, Rosamond, who can't tell a truth to save her life.
The story takes place along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi with "Red Indians", robbers and a few famous American tall tale characters filling up the bad guy roster--with the hero, Jamie, switching sides regularly. Rosamond's father Clement Musgrove is a wealthy planter who meets Jamie at an inn and unwittingly brings his disruptive presence into Musgrove family.
Many deaths, lies, misunderstandings and berry stains later, Rosamond and Jamie do live happily ever after. . . and Rosamond even starts telling the truth. . . well mostly the truth, "it was all true but the blue canopy".
This fanciful tale is a well-executed, superbly written, pleasant read and it's only afterwards that one realizes that Welty added a bit of acid to this pleasurable brew.

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