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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tour Stop and Book Review: Written in the Ashes by K.Hollan Van Zandt

Publisher: Balboa Press
Genre: HF
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
Book Source:
My Rating: 90/100

From the Tour Home Page:

Who burned the Great Library of Alexandria?
When the Roman Empire collapses in the 5th century, the city of Alexandria, Egypt is plagued with unrest. Paganism is declared punishable by death and the populace splinters in religious upheaval.
Hannah, a beautiful Jewish shepherd girl is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai and sold as a slave in Alexandria to Alizar, an alchemist and successful vintner. Her rapturous singing voice destines her to become the most celebrated bard in the Great Library.
Meanwhile, the city’s bishop, Cyril, rises in power as his priests roam the streets persecuting the pagans. But while most citizens submit, a small resistance fights for justice.
Hypatia, the library’s charismatic headmistress, summons her allies to protect the world’s knowledge from the escalating violence. Risking his life, his family, and his hard-earned fortune, Alizar leads the conspiracy by secretly copying the library’s treasured manuscripts and smuggling them to safety.
When Hannah becomes the bishop’s target, she is sequestered across the harbor in the Temple of Isis. But an ancient ceremonial rite between a monk and priestess inside the Pharos lighthouse ignites a forbidden passion.
Torn between the men she loves, Hannah must undertake a quest to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra to find the one thing powerful enough to protect the pagans: The Emerald Tablet.
Meanwhile, the Christians siege the city, exile the Jews, and fight the dwindling pagan resistance as the Great Library crumbles.
But not everything is lost. . .

My Thoughts:

Written in the Ashes is about how attitudes towards paganism changed, as a result of a rising tide of Christianity,  in the Great city of Alexandria, thus possibly dooming the Great Library and it’s head librarian Hypatia.  Early Christianity was not a tolerant religion and certainly couldn’t abide by intelligent outspoken women.  Therefore, Hypatia was an easy target for radical Christian leaders in Egypt.  Hypatia was a philosopher, and strove to expand mankind’s knowledge by making copies of every strip of text that found it’s way to Alexanderia, and keeping them safely in the Great Library.  Unfortunately, the Great Librbay was ultimately destroyed and with it the hopes for survivial of all the pagan religigons that were in Alexandria at that time.  All of this is of course supposition on the part of the author, however to me it made perfect sense and a great vehicle for what this book was truly about; to me anyway.

Before the Great Fire, we learn about several major pagan religions through the eyes of Hannah, our storyteller.  Hannah, a Jewess, enters into Alexandria as a slave stolen from her father.  However fate or a great force has different plans for her.  Hannah is fortuitously bought by a man named Tarek, and is ultimately owned by a wonderful and intelligent man named Alizar.  Alizar by far, is my favorite character from this book.  Alizar is many things, a vinter, a philosopher, a protector of knowledge, and most of all very respectful of everyone he meets, evens his slave Hannah.  

Hannah has a very good life and through her eyes we learn about several pagan religions: the rites of the Priestesses of the Temple of Isis, the beliefs of the Brotherhood of the Nuapar, a gentler sect of the Christian religion, and finally the followers of Amun-Ra.  Although terrible events happen in this story, the basic story to me was how, regardless of your individual beliefs we are the same men and women who basically believe the same thing, just in a different way.  We should all just learn to get along, for goodness sake, and be respectful of one another.  I think this quote says it best:

"You see, the one God, the Great I am of Moses, is a radiant mystery, like a light through colored glass, like a light that is too bright to look upon.  And so we interpret that light through colored glass, a bit like the dome in the Great Library.  Each color is a name we give it: Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, Krishna, Isis, Poseidon, Demeter, Elohim.  It is though we can only describe that much greatness by naming it in part.  By definition, I think God, or Goddess, must be beyond our intellectual comprehension, the way geometry is beyond what a fish can ever know."  (page 285)

So religion aside, the journey to get this message was a pleasant one.  Hollan Van Zandt’s descriptions of ancient Egypt and Alexandria were fabulous.  I tasted the sand in my teeth and was scared to death when the Parabolani were in the area.  I did lose myself in the story as I read, and I love it when books do that.  I liked all of the characters, even the ones that were mean (looking at you Cyril).  There were two issues I had with this story.  One, I never got a good grip on Hannah’s age, and although it seems silly, it sometimes affected the way I interpreted her actions, and her character in general.  I did like Hannah, however at times she worked a nerve.  My favorite female character would have to be Hypatia, and I will be researching her in the future.    

Two, the character of Tarek and something he does at the end.  I don’t want to give it away, but I thought it was rather obvious and couldn’t believe the other characters in the story couldn’t figure it out.  For as smart as they were, and in consideration of how Tarek acted throughout the story, I just felt this action was a given.  Otherwise I enjoyed the story immensely, and would recommend it.  Especially for those of you who love Ancient Egypt.

For more information about the author and her work, please visit her website:

Thanks to Teddy Rose of Premiere Virtual Author Book Tours for my review copy and including me on the tour.

© Jenny Girl - 2012 "All Rights Reserved"

Monday, September 10, 2012

BBAW 2012: Bloggers I Appreciate

Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) was created by Amy of My Friend Amy. This is the fifth year of the event and it's all about showing your love of all things people and book blogging.   

Today's post prompt for BBAW 2012 is to list the bloggers or blogs you appreciate. I would rather not call specific people out, but instead list what I appreciate.
So here goes:
  • First and foremost I appreciate my dear readers and commenters.  You provide more love and support then I think you realize.  You're there to cheer me up, provide a shoulder to cry on, and remind me what this blogging world is all about.  So thank you.
  • I appreciate those bloggers that call attention to issues in the community, such as plagiarism, bully commenters, copyright issues, all the craziness that happens with book covers in the U.S.  These are issues I never considered before or never heard of, so thank you for bringing attention to these issues.
  • I appreciate bloggers who write honest reviews, regardless of the source of the book.  I want your opinion, not how you think you should feel.
  • I appreciate bloggers who force me to try a book I never would think to read before, or try cooking a meal that's brand new to me.  Strongly suggesting I broaden my horizons.
  • I appreciate bloggers who make me reconsider how I feel on a subject; making me analyze why I think the way I do and why.  You help me to grow.
  • I appreciate all of the individuality of the book blogging community.  There are blogs out there for every person under the sun.  The choice is yours on who to read.
  • I appreciate the friends I've made through blogging.  I know everyone says that, but it's true.  There have been times when I've thought about giving up blogging, but then I think about the friends I've made.  I would miss them.  How can I give this up?
  • Overall, I appreciate the sense of community I have discovered through book blogging.  Each one of us contributes a little piece to this community, and don't you forget it!
You may think this post is a cop out since I didn't post specific blog names.  But you know what, that's what I appreciate about this book blogging community the most: being able to do what I damn well please on my own blog and having people respect it.

What do you appreciate in this community?

© Jenny Girl - 2012 "All Rights Reserved"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Suddenly Sunday....Suddenly Fall Edition

Hello dear readers!  How are you? Hope the weather has cooled down and dried out wherever you may be.  Here in Philly, there is a bit of crispness in the air and I love it.  Now if my allergies would just calm down all would be right in my world.

September brings many things to me this year. Teaching classes this semester, which requires preparation, but I enjoy it.  And my students seem like good eggs, so that's always a plus.  This month at work is always crazy due to annual education there, that needs to be created and presented.  I always poop my pants thinking I won't be ready, but I pull it out every year, and it's always well received.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is this coming week (9/10 to 9/15) and although there are no awards (which I'm glad because it was driving the organizers crazy) there are daily topics to post about.  Think of BBAW as a time to reflect on why you really blog, what you like, and why you continue to do it.  That's my plan anyway.  That and try to get some reviews done.  Been trying for three weeks and have not been successful.  However, on Thursday the 13th, I am a tour stop on the Written in the Ashes book tour, so will definitely be finished in time :)  So if you have a minute, do stop back on Thursday and see what's up with this ancient Egyptian novel.

On the TV watching front, summer TV on the whole has been disappointing.  Warehouse 13 has turned everyone into idiots.  Alphas has some promise but I'm not as sold on this season as I was last year.  There were two highlights of the season though.  Boss with Kelsey Grammer on Starz.  He is one mean SOB.  The mayor of Chicago and the crazy world that is Chicago city hall politics.  Everyone on that show is amazing and I look forward to it every week.  The other highlight was Longmire on A&E. This is about a sheriff in Wyoming dealing with murders, personal loss, and relations with the reservation.  This show is as much about the man as it is about solving crimes.  Supporting cast is great (Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackoff) scenery is gorgeous, and writing is smart and witty.  I highly recommend jumping on this bandwagon, and at only 13 episodes, it's easy to catch up.

Labor Day weekend saw me finally finish Battlestar Galactica (the new version), and I am sad it has ended.  I know you're thinking Sci-Fi, really, but this show which came out after 9/11 explores what it means to be human, and what is faith or god, really?  Black is white and white is black, and the characters are all lovable and interesting.  I remember people were disappointed with the show finale, because not all questions were answered, but in this post LOST era, I am much more forgiving if the show wraps up most big elements.  (This doesn't mean I have forgiven LOST, because I haven't.)   I think watching all of the episodes back to back, instead of at the time, week to week, influenced my perception as well.  I didn't have time to dwell on minutiae. That being said, BSG is one of my all time favorite shows, and I will always rewatch it, given the chance.

I think that is enough scoop for now.  So go enjoy the beautiful weather, with or without a good book, and have a fantastic day!  See you all later :)

 © Jenny Girl - 2012 "All Rights Reserved"