Marked by Sarah Fine
Marked is an enjoyable light read that tries to check a lot of boxes. It is a murder mystery set in a future dysfunctional world where the main characters are supernatural beings with a high sex drive. The story is interesting, with a number of twists. It is well paced and the main characters are people I care about. It is the first of a series but I’m not interested enough in the main premise to read the upcoming books.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I am a big fan of George R R Martin’s writing so when I saw his excellent quote on the cover of Assassin’s Apprentice I was eager to read it. I’ve read just a little over half and I doubt I will finish it. The book has most of the things I look for in a fantasy novel, a well conceived world with strange abilities or creatures. The story, at least the bit I’ve read, is interesting although it does drag a little from time to time. For me the only problem is that I don’t care about the characters. They seem to be stereotypes and flat. This may be how the young narrator sees the world but it doesn’t work for me.
When I am feeling a bit stressed or down, I find one of the best things is to visit a nearby lake or river for a duck fix. There is something about watching, and feeding, ducks that brings out the child in people. Fortunately, ducks are found on every continent except Antarctica so help should be close at hand.
Ducks are part of the Anatidae, or wildfowl, family of birds, which includes swans and geese. They are known for their long, wide bodies, long necks, and webbed feet. There are two main kinds of ducks, dabbling or surface feeding, such as mallards and teals, and diving, such as redheads or canvasbacks.
Ducks are generally, but not always, monogamous for a single year. They tend to have a single clutch of 5 to 12 eggs each year. Domestic ducks often don’t know how to incubate and/or raise their ducklings so human assistance is needed.
Trolls are one of the least desirable fantasy creatures. Modern witches, warlocks, vampires, and werewolves are sexy and exciting. Trolls, on the other hand, are stupid and ugly. There is widespread disagreement on what a troll looks like. Some say they are small, like dwarfs, others say they are giants, and still others say they look like humans.
Trolls originated in Old Norse mythology. They lived in small family groups away from human civilization in mountains and caves. They were a supernatural nature creature, similar to fairies, to be respected but avoided. They were night creatures as exposure to sunlight turned them into stone. Their fear of lightning made them easy for Thor to defeat with his thunderbolts.
World War I, also called the First World War and, prior to World War II, the Great War and the War to End All Wars, was an event that changed nearly every aspect of life in the western world and created the modern world. The conflict itself lasted from July 28, 1914 until November 11, 1918, involved 32 nations, took the lives of an estimated 10 million people, and physically or mentally injured around 20 million. The two sides were the Central Powers or Coalition (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) and the Associated Powers or Allies (28 nations including Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the US).
The war was probably inevitable. Following the Industrial Revolution, the great European powers needed raw materials and outlets for their goods. Colonies around the world were a valuable asset for supporting the host country’s economy. They wanted to expand into new colonies while still protecting the ones they already had. Armies were maintained and new weapons developed just in case the neighbours invaded. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy joined together in the Triple Alliance. Aware of Germany’s desire to be the most powerful country on the European continent and have a navy to challenge British sea supremacy, Britain, France, and Russia formed the Triple Entente. Continue reading
For centuries the Vikings have been remembered as strong barbarians that attacked the last outposts of civilization, pillaging and murdering as they went. While this is certainly true, it is just a small part of who the Vikings were. They were also sailors, traders, farmers, craftsmen, and explorers with a rich tradition and many of the human rights still missing in many countries today.
The Viking era spanned over three hundred years, from about 750 to 1050. Archaeologists have found evidence of their civilization not only in their homelands of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but also as far away as Greece and Baghdad in the “old world” and L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada in the “new world”. They traded furs, amber, iron objects, walrus ivory and slaves for silks, spices, and silver. A sixth or seventh century bronze Buddha was even found in Helgo, Sweden. Continue reading