Sunday Post #20: Summertime

Sunday PostLooks like summer is starting pretty much all over (at least in the northern hemisphere). I’m beginning to see vacation pics on Facebook, and I’ve been eying my TBR pile, looking for good summertime reads.

I have a bit of a busy summer ahead. I am going to at least four teaching workshops. If anyone tries to tell you teachers don’t work during the summer, don’t you believe it. In addition, I have a new course to plan.

This week, I finished two books. The first I’ve already reviewed: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. The second I have not yet reviewed, but will review and post about tomorrow (so good that it really needs its own post rather than a review rolled into the Sunday Post): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Both were audio books.

I am still finishing up Walden, though my other books are on a bit of a hiatus, with the exception of I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. I don’t know if other readers do this or not, but I have to have at least one paper book, one e-book, and one audio book going at all times. The paper books I can read in the tub without fear of destroying an expensive device. The e-books I can read pretty much everywhere, including in bed with the lights off, so I don’t disturb my husband. The audio books I can listen to while I do housework or make soap.

I love to read books set in my adopted home state of Massachusetts, so that was one reason why I liked We Were Liars so much, and I admit, seeing Massachusetts as a setting will push a book higher on my list. Here is a partial list of some of my favorite Massachusetts reads.

           

Some I’m looking forward to diving into or finishing:

    

I wonder if other readers are like me and like to read about places they have lived. I also certainly read a lot of books set elsewhere, too.

I added some books to my TBR list this week:

 

I know what you’re thinking: some variation of either “why haven’t you read The Things They Carried?” or “why wasn’t it already on your list”? It sort of was on my list, to address the second question, but now an oversight is corrected in that it’s on my Goodreads to-read list. As to the first question, yeah, I know.

Not at all a bad reading week, and I’m looking forward to more time (I hope) to read this summer. What about you? Have any recommendations or books you’re anxious to read?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Review: The Wolves of Andover, aka The Traitor’s Wife, Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent’s novel The Wolves of Andover, also known as The Traitor’s Wife, is something of a prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter, a novel told from the viewpoint of Sarah Carrier, daughter of Martha Carrier, who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials. The Wolves of Andover tells the story of the courtship Thomas Carrier and Martha Allen alternating with the story of several conspirators of Charles II bound for America to find and capture the man who cut off the head of Charles I in the English Civil War.

As the story begins, Martha is sent to her cousin Prudence Taylor’s house to serve as Prudence prepares to give birth to her third child. Her husband Daniel is often away on business, but two men, Thomas and John, work for Taylor household in the hopes of earning a piece of Taylor’s land. Whispers surround Thomas Carrier. Some claim that he was the regicide, the man who wielded the very axe that struck King Charles’s head from his shoulders. He is uncommonly tall and possessed of a quiet air of mystery. Martha soon finds herself in love with him. Meanwhile, several men in the employ of spy Tiernan Blood make their way across the Atlantic after a harrowing journey in an attempt to find the Welshman, known as Thomas Morgan, and capture him for execution in London. What they don’t realize is that Oliver Cromwell’s old followers have spies of their own, too.

One of the things I realized reading this book is that I have never really given a lot of thought to the ways in which the English Civil War created America, and (it could be argued) led to the American Revolution. Of course, I knew the early founders of Massachusetts were Puritans, and of course I knew Cromwell was a Puritan, too, but for some reason, perhaps because it’s the story we always tell, I always pictured the Puritans who settled New England as religious dissidents instead of political ones. I don’t think our own history plays up the role the Puritans played in the English Civil War very much, probably because the first group of Puritans to arrive in America came well before the English Civil War began; however, successive waves of Puritans arriving later must surely have included soldiers who fought with Cromwell, even if the greatest wave of Puritan migration occurred before the English Civil War. It certainly stands to reason that these early settlers had quarrels with the monarchy and that they passed their feelings down to their children and children’s children.

I was able to hear Kathleen Kent speak at an English teachers’ conference several years ago, so I know that she descends from the Carrier family, which is partly why the subject matter intrigues her. Though Martha Carrier’s notoriety is more established, as a documented victim of the Salem Witch Trials, Thomas Carrier’s is somewhat more speculative and based more on family and local legends.

The Wolves of AndoverThe violence in the book can be graphic, and I definitely was glad I was reading it instead of watching it, though nothing seemed so gratuitous that it strained credulity. The violence also offered an interesting contrast between the monarchists and the Puritans, who are painted as hardy survivalists, but ultimately peaceable and good people. To be fair, the monarchists presented are probably the worst sort of folks imaginable, but Charles II himself is not depicted in a good light (though I give props to the writer who does manage to make Charles II look like a fairly decent human being).

The stage for Martha Carrier’s later accusation is deftly set as Martha comes across as contentious and headstrong (which is why she’s not married at the book’s beginning). Another spoilery incident I won’t recount adds additional evidence to the pile.

Martha Carrier

I took this picture of Martha Carrier’s memorial on our trip to Salem.

Knowing how Martha Carrier’s story will ultimately end lends sadness to this book, but Thomas Carrier emerges as quite the character, and one of those folks family historians love to weave tales around—a Welshman who changed his name and has mysterious antecedents, who was nearly seven feet tall, who lived to be about 109. He’s a little hard to resist.

Upon its paperback release, the book’s title was changed, hence the two names. Since it appears to be more readily available in paperback form, I have linked to that version of the book. To my knowledge, the title and cover design are the only changes made.

Rating: ★★★★½


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The Heretic’s Daughter

The Heretic’s Daughter: A NovelKathleen Kent has a personal stake in telling the story of Martha Carrier, who was executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials: she is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. The Heretic’s Daughter is a story of the witch trials told through the point of view of eleven-year-old Sarah Carrier, Martha’s daughter, who herself was one of the youngest among the accused. In fact, the real Sarah Carrier was younger than Kent’s Sarah by about five years!

Sarah describes contention against her family and the climate of Andover, Billerica, and surrounding environs prior to the witch trials. She doesn’t understand her mother’s ways, and they seem to be at odds with each other all the time. Then whispers of witchcraft start finding their way to Sarah’s ears, and before long the entire Carrier family is embroiled in the trials.

Martha Carrier

I took this picture of Martha Carrier's memorial on our trip to Salem. Click for larger version.

The Heretic’s Daughter is beautifully written and poignant. However, it’s also slow to start. The first half of the book moved slowly for me, but after the witch trials begin, the book finds its stride and moves quickly. I read the second half in one sitting. I did enjoy Kent’s portrayal of the Carrier family’s contentiousness, which does much to explain why their neighbors turn on them—and in fact, it was often contentious men and women who were accused. It’s also refreshing to read a book that seeks to portray the accused realistically instead of glorifying them as saints. It is mostly well-researched and rings true with the exception one glaring mistake—Giles Corey, one of the most famous figures in the trials because of his resistance and his major role in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, is called Miles Corey in this book. Not only is that a strange mistake given the attention to detail Kent otherwise displays, but it’s astonishing that an an editor didn’t catch the error. However, setting that issue aside, the book itself is more accurate than Miller’s play, and I found it much more enjoyable to read, too.

I’m glad I persevered with this book through the slow beginning—which did have some beautiful passages, good description, and it laid essential groundwork—the second half of the book was worth the investment. Readers might also be interested in Maud Newton’s interview with Kent.

Rating: ★★★★☆

R.I.P. Challenge V

This book is my second book for the R.I.P. Challenge, which means I have officially finished at the level to which I committed; however, I am going to read Dracula, My Love and Wuthering Bites in the hope that I can read four books and move up a level in the challenge.

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Booking Through Thursday: Current Reading

Lost in Literature

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks readers what they’re currently reading and what they think of it. I posted a reading update just a few days ago, and nothing has really changed since my update. I’m still reading The Heretic’s Daughter, The House of Seven Gables, and Great Expectations. I haven’t started Jamaica Inn on audio yet.

However, I will say that while I find The Heretic’s Daughter interesting in its historical detail, and even a good and fair account of the Salem witch trials (at least the part of the book which I’ve read), it’s not grabbing me, and I am not itching to pick it up. I think it’s suffering unfairly from my just having finished The Hunger Games trilogy. That kind of action and edge-of-your-seat reading is rare—after all, the novels have rightly become a publishing phenomenon for that reason. I think I always knew The House of Seven Gables would be a slower read for me, and it’s not suffering from any discrepancy regarding my expectations.

What I’m more interested in talking about is the fact that I’m reading three or four books at the same time. I didn’t used to be the kind of person who could do that, or I suppose I should say I didn’t *think* I could, so I didn’t attempt it. However, I have discovered the ability to juggle several books at once in the last couple of years. It depends on the way I read. I usually have one book going in DailyLit, which is very slow going with just a five-minute portion of the book each day; however, I have managed to read five books in the last couple of years in this way, and I think at least three of them, I never would have finished had I tried to read them any other way. I usually try to have an audio book going, too. Aside from that, I’ve discovered I can read two other books either in print or on my Kindle. But four seems to be my max, and I can only read four if two are in some format aside from print/e-book.

It turns out NPR’s Talk of the Nation recently ran a story about folks who read more than one book at a time. The story calls them polyreaders. Interestingly, the story mentions that some folks frown on reading more than one book at a time. I found that curious because I have never met anyone who frowned on the practice. Have you? It seems a strange thing to be disdainful about!

What do you do? Do you read one book at a time or several at once? Why?

photo credit: truds09

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Reading Update: September 20, 2010

On the platform, reading

Friday was my birthday, and my parents usually send me a book gift card. The last few years, it’s been an Amazon card because I can get books shipped for free. An added bonus this year is that I can buy books for my Kindle instead. I haven’t spent all of it, but here is my haul to date:

I have been wanting a NKJV Bible for some time, and reviewers gave high marks to this study Bible. I think I will like having the annotations, and the NKJV is my favorite translation. Passion is the story of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the point of view of the women who loved them. That sounds absolutely fascinating to me. From Slave Ship to Freedom Road is a children’s book by Julius Lester. The artwork is superb, and it tells the story of slavery like no other book I’ve read. I have actually used it with my students before and since I’m teaching American literature again, I decided to pick it up. Dracula, My Love is a new novel by Syrie James, whose previous work I have really enjoyed. As a bonus, I can read Dracula, My Love for the R.I.P. Challenge if I finish The Heretic’s Daughter and have time for more books—and I don’t see why I shouldn’t, as it’s not even October, and I’m nearly halfway finished with that book.

Wuthering BitesI’ve started Jamaica Inn on audio, or rather I will when I catch up on my podcasts. That book, too, can be counted as an R.I.P. Challenge book, and then I will have four, which means I can move up a level in commitment. Of course, my department chair also gave me Wuthering Bites, the latest mashup novel in the tradition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Jane Slayre. Heathcliff is supposed to be a vampire, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. OK, I admit it looks good. We’ll have to see if my sense of humor can handle mocking my favorite book.

This week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and as I work in a Jewish school, I have a half day on Wednesday and no school Thursday and Friday. I am excited to have some time to read. The first draft of my portfolio for grad school is finished, so I am not anticipating a ton of grad school work to impede my enjoyment of half a week off. I plan to spend the time reading.

Amazon sent me my replacement Kindle, I’ve sent the broken one back, and the new one is already up and running and loaded with good reads. What are you reading?

photo credit: Mo Riza

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Reading Update: September 11, 2010

TeaIt feels each day like fall is just around the corner. Fall makes me think of tea. I truly wish we had a little tea place like this, where I had a great pot of tea several years ago. We have a few branches of Teavana, but none close by (that I know of) have a little place to sit. Sort of like Starbucks, but for tea. Because Starbucks’ tea is only OK.

What goes with a great cup of tea? Books, of course! So I finished The Hunger Games series, and am currently experiencing the withdrawal symptoms that go with finishing the last book and wishing it wasn’t the last book. I did pick up The Heretic’s Daughter, and so far it’s fine, but it doesn’t have me by the hair yet.

I had to abandon American Music. It has some great reviews on Amazon, but it looks like some of the folks on Goodreads were in agreement with me. It sounds like an interesting premise, but I just wasn’t interested, and I decided not to spend any more time on it. I realized I needed to just stop listening to the book in the car when I was trying to find other things to do—listen to all of my podcasts and music—rather than listen to it. It might be better to actually read rather than listen to, but at any rate, I don’t think it’s for me. When I decided to stop listening to it, it was sitting on about two stars for me, and life is growing too short to spend on two-star books. So I am listening to Persuasion, and Juliet Stevenson is a brilliant narrator. I love her characterization of Sir Walter Eliot. Plus it’s part of my Everything Austen II Challenge, and since I feel behind on that one, I need to give it some attention.

I have what I think is a pretty good idea for a reading challenge in 2011, but I’m keeping quiet about it for the time being.

Now I’m going to go fix a cup of tea and work on my portfolio a little while before I read. How are you spending the weekend? And what are you reading?

photo credit: Prakhar Amba

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R.I.P. Challenge V

R.I.P. Challenge VMy favorite time of year! R.I.P. Time! Carl holds the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge each year as fall descends in early September. The challenge ends each Halloween. The goal is to select a level of commitment, which Carl has dubbed Perils, and to read the required number of spooky books (and the definition of spooky is extremely broad).

Peril the First involves reading four books of any length that fit the challenge.

Peril the Second involves reading two books of any length that fit the challenge.

Peril the Third involves reading one book of any length that fits the challenge.

Short Story Peril involves reading any number of short stories that fit the challenge.

Peril on the Screen involves watching films or television that fit the challenge.

Almost everyone can find a way to participate! I always over-commit myself and wind up not finishing the challenge, and I am going to finish this year! To that end, I’m going to commit to Peril the Second. If I can manage to fit in two more books, I’ll just up the level as I can. Even though I’ve never finished the challenge, I have enjoyed it each time.

At this point, I am going to commit to reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. It’s YA dystopia and Salem witchcraft! Should be fun. If I read more, I’ll add them to the pile later on.

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Reading Update: August 29, 2010

Reading a book at the beachI set aside Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, which I am reading as part of the Everything Austen Challenge, because everyone I know is reading Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, and I hadn’t even read The Hunger Games. Well, I’m about 200 pages in now, after borrowing it from a friend, and I have to say it’s real page-turner. I have been trying to talk my daughter into reading it because Collins’s writing style actually reminds me of Sarah’s. I think Sarah would like it. I might finish it today (after all, I read more than the amount of pages I have left yesterday). If so, I’ll post a review later.

I do have a couple of theories that I can’t wait to discover whether or not I’m correct about. District 13, believed to be destroyed by the Capitol, reminds me of the group of readers in Fahrenheit 451, and I am wondering if they’re not really destroyed but secretly carrying on some form of resistance. Don’t tell me! I want to find out. Also, it’s obvious to me that the Romeo and Juliet move that Peeta pulled is no act, whatever Katniss has decided to believe. But I guess I’ll find that out.

I am still reading David Copperfield on DailyLit. The infamous Miss Havisham has just been mentioned for the first time. I picked up Jane Mendelsohn’s American Music at Audible after hearing Mendelsohn interviewed by Valerie Jackson on Between the Lines. The book sounded interesting. After listening for a short time, I think I would have put the second chapter of the book first. It seems a little disjointed. But I haven’t been listening long, so we’ll see. It is short for an audio book. Of course, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables is still on my Kindle, though I haven’t even finished chapter 2 yet. I bought The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent and Juliet by Anne Fortier on the Kindle with my Amazon Associates gift card. Also subscribed to The New Yorker on Kindle. I’ll let you know how it is. It’s my first Kindle magazine subscription.

What are you reading?

photo credit: Simon Cocks

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Reading Update: August 8, 2010

HatsI’m still reading books set in Salem. After finishing Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places and The Lace Reader, I returned to Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, although this book is set more in Marblehead than Salem, it does have some scenes in Salem. I think my favorite thing about Salem was just walking around and looking at everything. It truly is a unique town, and I do hope I have the opportunity to go back.

In addition to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I’ve begun a new DailyLit selection: Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. I haven’t read this one. I know, I know. Well, it sure starts off with a bang! Dickens was a master of characterization.

I am still reading just finished Charity Girl. I believe I’ll be finished with that one in a day or two, but my review will not appear here until the day it is published at Austenprose.

I am now about halfway through A Farewell to Arms. At this point, Catherine is pregnant, and Henry is going back to the front. I am wondering what is going to happen. I know the ending of this book. Years of being an English teacher have spoiled that plot, but I still wonder how we will get from here to there, and I wonder what will happen in between. I also found myself looking up “jaundice” on Wikipedia to see if it can be caused by alcoholism, and it looks like it can. Hemingway’s economy with words is beautiful in its simplicity. He still manages to capture so much with so little.

I’ve been trying to decide what I should read next. I’m still on this Salem kick, so I might read The Heretic’s Daughter, but I think I will scout around. Has anyone read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman? I was going to swear off Hoffman after her Twitter rant last year, but this book looks interesting to me.

On a side note, Apture, the tool I use to create links on this site, appears to be broken at the moment, so the links might not pop up as enhanced links the way they usually do. And this post took twice as long to write as it would have with Apture. Hope they fix it soon!

photo credit: danahuff

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