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I’ve been traveling for work a bit lately and for pleasure too. The downside is that I’m tired. The upside is the volume of reading I’ve done. I love finishing a book within a day or two. I had the good fortune to have the time to finish The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger in a day. I thought the writing was excellent, and the characters were very well textured, but the plot got a bit too long for me. There were many twists and turns, but her characters were so well drawn, she should have trusted them to be interesting enough. I think its big success will be in paperback. I predict Bel Canto sales in paper.

I also read the first Game of Thrones book. This is a pretty odd choice for me. I tend toward popular non-fiction, contemporary fiction (with a literary slant, usually by a woman) and crime novels. I knew I was going to Las Vegas and I wanted to have a serious escape novel. Based on everyone and their grandmother loving this book, I gave it a try. It is exactly what you think it will be. It’s a lot of battles and intrigue and bodice ripping. I really enjoyed the parts about the desert people and the young woman assimilating to their culture. The rest of the book was good filler when what you really want is an early Philippa Gregory Tudor novel but you’ve read them all and are slightly ashamed that you read them so quickly and with so much gusto. Basically, I wanted something that would scratch the same itch as The Other Boleyn Girl. Game of Thrones was good, but at 864 pages, I was ready to move on.

And move on I did to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I’d read three excellent reviews of her new book Bringing Up Bodies so I thought I should read the first in the series. I’m reading it right now. It’s from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell pre-Henry VIII. (Did I mention that the Philippa Gregory itch is big, and hungry?) Mantel deserves all of the praise she’s receiving for her work. She writes in the present tense and in a very contemporary style. There are moments when she cares far more about voice than she does about structure and plot. The voice itself is spare and chilly. Not normally something I like, but it suits the main character and makes him seem strong with vein of fragility. The book does require a level of concentration that Gregory and Martin don’t, but that’s okay. Because of Mantel’s writing, you feel like Cromwell is whispering in your ear. She sets him up so well, you want him to keep whispering. Loving this one.

Up next: Blood, Bones, Butter.

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