Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #14)

I apologize for the slight delay in entries this weekend (not that anyone is so faithful a reader that they check in every day but I feel that since I committed to a post a day I ought to do what I can to live up to that, right?) I've been gallivanting with 300+ of my closest friends all weekend at a mid-singles conference. Unfortunately I didn't meet the love of my life but I did have a few fun adventures and was pleasantly surprised by the entire event (I'd gone into it all with pretty low expectations and a rather negative anyone shocked?) Anyway, that's my excuse but here's today's second entry to get us back on track.

Mara: Daughter of the Nile
Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Age Range:
Historical Fiction
Cover Score: **
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG 
Mara is a young slave girl living in Menfe, Egypt.  Educated by a former owner she speaks Egyptian and Babylonian and can read and write as well.  Her current master doesn't value these skills and is spooked by her blue eyes and angry at her proud and defiant manner, earning her more than her share of beatings.  
One day when she has escaped to the marketplace she bewitches a young baker and absconds with several of his fresh baked rolls.  Unbeknownst to her she's been observed by two men. One buys her freedom in exchange for her promise to act as spy and interpreter for the newly arriving Babylonian Princess sent to marry King Thutmose. The other, Sheftu, she meets on the boat during her journey along the Nile and finds herself stumbling into his own plans to spy against Thutmose's aunt, the Queen Pharaoh Hatshepsut who sits on the throne.  Stuck between both sides of the plot to overturn the rulers of Egypt she realizes she is in over her head and worse, she is falling in love with Sheftu, the nobleman and mastermind behind the coming revolution.  When both sides discover her duplicity she struggles to appease both masters, spare her own life and stay true to the cause she has come to believe in.
I really enjoyed this little adventure story set against the thrilling backdrop of actual historic events in one of the world's most dramatic environments. Mara was a spunky character with flaws and feelings, easy to relate to and care for. There was a perfect blend of intrigue and suspense, action and romance. I only wish there'd been some author's note or something to provide a bit of factual historic context for those not familiar with the time/events. It's nothing you can't easily find with a quick Google search but still...

McGraw also paid great tribute to the land of Egypt. Her descriptions were eloquent and vivid and easily drew me back to the sights familiar from my trip there a few years ago. (Oh how I'd love to go back!) So, permit me to lead you on a tiny little tour of some of my favorite spots.
The Great Pyramids...of course

The Sphinx and Pyramids

Edfu Temple

Karnak Temple details

Sailing down the mighty Nile River

A column/lintel from the Temple of Hatshepsut (where part of the story takes place) at Deir El-Bahari
It's such a spectacularly breathtaking place in its ancientness, the mystical history and cultural significance.  The landscape itself is incredibly haunting. It's easy to see why it has captured the imagination of people for generations. It was a once in a lifetime journey and I would highly recommend to anyone who has the chance to visit to GO!!! But if you can't get there in person here are a few other books about the area that you might enjoy.

And at least a million and a half others.  Do you have any that you've read and loved?  I'm always looking for good suggestions! Take a mini-vacation and escape to a new and exciting world from the comfort of your favorite chair. Just don't forget to tell me about it!  Happy Reading!


  1. how i love you my friend!! and how i wish i was more committed to just read everyones blogs! when i finally do i enjoy every minute of it. i'm way behind on mine, i hope to have an update on russ posted in the next day or so & then my blog turns into geneology central!
    i've spent the summer reading the brothers karamzov and yes, it's taken me all summer because it's 925 pages & the only time i get to read it is on my 15 & 30 minute breaks at work!! it's been good, but it's a pretty heavy read. only 100 more pages to go & then i'm off to find something a bit lighter. happy summer & miss you!!!

  2. Yeah, I'm not a faithful reader either I must confess. I'm trying to do better though! I'll be sure to check in and see what you guys have been up to.
    I'm more than impressed that you've waded through Dostoyevsky...I'm not sure I'll ever be that dedicated to just one book!
    We need to get together when I'm home in August. I'll email! (Thanks for commenting, I love comments!)