1356 by Bernard Cornwell

This is an excellent story about the time, politics, and people leading up to the Battle at Poitiers, France in 1356. The battle, between the English and the French, was an outstanding battle in English history;  the second of three great battles in The Hundred Years War.  The English were badly outnumbered, weary, injured, short of water and food. Yet they fought a long battle and emerged clearly victorious.

The story’s main character is Thomas, leader of a group of select warriors for the English. It is a story you can’t put down and even though the book seems like one bloody battle after another, all vividly described, it is a story that pulls you in and takes you along for the ride.

I didn’t know that it was part of one of Cornwell’s series, but now I will try to get the others as I would like to read more about Thomas. Cornwell is expert at writing historical novels; he makes you forget that you are currently in the 21st century.

The Tigers of ’68 : Baseball’s Last Real Champions by George Cantor

The Tigers of ’68 was entertaining and informative. It followed the individual players both in their pre-Tigers career and in their post-Tigers lives. It related the events of many of the games played that year and it talked about the changes that have happened to baseball, Detroit and the nation since ’68.

For ’68 was the end of an era, call it ‘real baseball’ if you wish. It was the time before divisional playoffs, huge salaries, the designated hitter and television.  (Not to mention the new addition of ‘review’)

George Cantor was a baseball reporter for the Detroit Free Press in 1968 and he says of the moment when the Tigers won the World Series, “…it took all the journalistic restraint I had in my body to keep from jumping up and screaming…”. The book is written with that journalistic restraint and you feel slightly removed from the emotion of it all.  My favorite baseball book remains – The Bottom of the 33rd.

Published in: on August 27, 2014 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

I finished this book in tears.

It is 1937, Japan is about to invade China when Stephen, a 17 year old Chinese student at college,  contracts TB and his wealthy family sends him to their summer home in Japan to get well. He will be in the care of Matsu, an elderly caretaker whom Stephen always felt was very remote. Away from the hectic, frenzied world of China, Stephen finds himself in a quiet remote village and at first finds it difficult to adjust to this slower pace of life.

As he begins to get better he starts getting to know Matsu and he learns that when Matsu was a young man leprosy swept through his village and he lost his sister to the disease. She committed suicide by walking into the ocean in order to keep ‘shame’ from her family. Matsu also had two friends, Kenzo and Kenzo’s girl-friend Sachi. Sachi also contracted leprosy and Matsu took her to a leper colony where she could live, to prevent her from following the path of his sister.

Matsu finally takes Stephen to the leper colony and introduces him to Sachi. Sachi is the strongest character in the story and it is around her that the others lives take focus. Stephen learns that love does not draw boundaries whether of beauty or nationality. When he leaves the village to return to China he leaves a different person than he was when he came to Japan, just as the reader becomes a different person having followed this story with his/her heart.

This book is not for anyone that demands action or conflict or high drama but it will be one of the treasures on my bookshelves. The writing is spare, clean and lovely. It is a love story, a coming of age story and a story about the real meaning of beauty.

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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