WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—June 1, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”B004R1Q9PI” target=”_blank” ]The Secret Diary of a Princess[/amazon_link] by Melanie Clegg and [amazon_link id=”1594202885″ target=”_blank” ]A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter[/amazon_link] by William Deresiewicz. I am thoroughly enjoying Melanie Clegg’s book. Not far enough into the other yet to say, but I love Jane Austen.

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”039332902X” target=”_blank” ]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_link] by Rebecca Fraser. I was reading it for about six months! You can read my review of it here.

I think after I finish my next book, I might read [amazon_link id=”0743482832″ target=”_blank” ]The Tempest[/amazon_link] by William Shakespeare so that I can more thoroughly enjoy [amazon_link id=”B0048EL84Q” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link] by Dexter Palmer. I am looking forward to trying my first steampunk novel.

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The Story of Britain, Rebecca Fraser

[amazon_image id=”039332902X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_image]Rebecca Fraser’s comprehensive book [amazon_link id=”039332902X” target=”_blank” ]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_link] delivers exactly what the title promises: Britain’s history for approximately the last 2,000 years. With such vast subject matter, 800+ pages seems like an achievement in brevity. Fraser’s chapters are divided by monarchs, and until the Prime Minister is established as leader, the chapters mainly focus on the monarchy. After the introduction of the Prime Minister, focus shifts to the Prime Minister, Parliament, and more general matters. Sprinkled among the hard history, Fraser shares stories some readers might consider trivial, but that are nonetheless entertaining. Rather than pick out one thing, it might be easier for you to scan my public notes and highlights. The monarchy comes off well in the narrative, as do Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. The book overall has a sort of liberal bent, however, which the author takes no pains to disguise (this is not a criticism but an observation).

In all, the book was by turns delightful and intriguing, but I have some quibbles with it that prevent it from earning five stars. First, Fraser frequently neglects to use commas in situations when doing so would make her writing clearer. A reader should not have to re-read sentences two and three times when a simple comma could have clarified meaning. I know commas can be a style issue, but in nonfiction writing, I expect a more faithful adherence to grammatical and mechanical rules. If that sounds too English teacher school marmy, then I apologize, but above all, nonfiction should inform, and readers should not be distracted by punctuation errors as they are trying to understand what they’re reading. Another quibble I have with the book is that I know Fraser made some errors. Case in point, she refers to Sputnik as a manned space craft. In another instance, she refers to great naval hero as Paul Jones. He was John Paul Jones. Minor? Perhaps. However one was his full name and the other was not. Fraser seems particularly weak when referencing American history, which makes sense given it is not the subject of her book—another example is the slogan “Fifty-four Forty or Fight,” which Fraser renders “Fifty-four Fifty or Fight.” Such inaccuracies may be minor, but they made me question the accuracy of everything else I read that I didn’t know. From what I can tell, the book is largely accurate, but these issues did make me question.

In all, the book is a fascinating read about the history of a fascinating country, and setting aside the issues I had with it, I’m glad I read it. I learned a great deal from it, and it sparked some interest in eras I previously had not given much study to. I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in British history and/or culture. You might find it handy to read on the Kindle like I did: it’s a chunkster if you have to prop it up in bed.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—May 18, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”0670022527″ target=”_blank” ]One of Our Thursdays Is Missing[/amazon_link] by Jasper Fforde, The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas, and The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History by Rebecca Fraser (I have been reading it since January, but in my defense, it is over 800 pages long).

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”0670021040″ target=”_blank” ]Caleb’s Crossing[/amazon_link] by Geraldine Brooks (my review).

What on earth am I going to read next? I’m not really sure. I need to think about it. Maybe [amazon_link id=”0743482832″ target=”_blank” ]The Tempest[/amazon_link] so I can read [amazon_link id=”B0048EL84Q” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link]. It has been a really long time since I read The Tempest. I won’t try to pick it up until school lets out, however.

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WWW Wednesdays—May 11, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”0670021040″ target=”_blank” ]Caleb’s Crossing[/amazon_link] by Geraldine Brooks, [amazon_link id=”0199537259″ target=”_blank” ]The Man in the Iron Mask[/amazon_link] by Alexandre Dumas, and [amazon_link id=”039332902X” target=”_blank” ]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_link] by Rebecca Fraser (I have been reading it since January, but in my defense, it is over 800 pages long).

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”0143034901″ target=”_blank”]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_link] by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (review) and Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran (review).

I’m definitely ready to pick up the new Jasper Fforde, [amazon_link id=”0670022527″ target=”_blank” ]One of Our Thursdays Is Missing[/amazon_link] next. I absolutely love Jasper Fforde. Oh, my TBR pile is so big. I will get to most of those books. Eventually. I hope.

What about you?

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WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday—April 27, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”0307588653″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution[/amazon_link] by Michelle Moran, [amazon_link id=”039332902X” target=”_blank” ]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_link] by Rebecca Fraser, [amazon_link id=”0143057812″ target=”_blank” ]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_link] by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (audio book), and [amazon_link id=”0199537259″ target=”_blank” ]The Man in the Iron Mask[/amazon_link] by Alexandre Dumas via DailyLit. I am enjoying the first three very much, but the fourth is not grabbing me. I hope it does soon because I so enjoyed [amazon_link id=”0451529707″ target=”_blank” ]The Count of Monte Cristo[/amazon_link]. The narrator for The Shadow of the Wind is exceptional.

I recently finished reading [amazon_link id=”0060558121″ target=”_blank” ]American Gods[/amazon_link] by Neil Gaiman (review) and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning (review).

My next book will probably be [amazon_link id=”0670021040″ target=”_blank” ]Caleb’s Crossing[/amazon_link] by Geraldine Brooks. I won an ARC on Goodreads. The lastest Jasper Fforde, [amazon_link id=”0670022527″ target=”_blank” ]One of Our Thursdays Is Missing[/amazon_link], is calling my name. At some point, I want to return to [amazon_link id=”0812977149″ target=”_blank” ]Finn[/amazon_link] by Jon Clinch. I have a few books on my Kindle that I’m interested in reading, too: [amazon_link id=”B004R1Q9PI” target=”_blank” ]The Secret Diary of a Princess[/amazon_link] by Melanie Clegg, a few Austen sequels, and some good nonfiction, including [amazon_link id=”0316001929″ target=”_blank” ]Cleopatra: A Life[/amazon_link] by Stacy Schiff, [amazon_link id=”0385489498″ target=”_blank” ]Marie Antoinette: The Journey[/amazon_link] by Antonia Fraser, [amazon_link id=”1400052181″ target=”_blank” ]The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks[/amazon_link] by Rebecca Skloot, and [amazon_link id=”1439107955″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

So what about you?

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A Young Girl Reading

Reading Update: What Next?

A Young Girl Reading
A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Finn is a little dark. I had to put it down for a bit because I wasn’t feeling up to a Faulknerian jaunt through Twain’s territory. I am still making my way through The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser—I am now at about 1880. I don’t want to pick up another nonfiction book until I finish it. I’m listening to the audio version of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind on my commutes and car rides. Wow! What a book lover’s book! But I need to pick up some fiction for reading at home. Since I can’t decide, I’m asking for your help to make up my mind. Here are my options. If you think one sounds really good (or know it’s really good) and I should read it now, please vote for it.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South examines the tensions between the industrial North of England and the more aristrocratic South. The novel centers around Margaret Hale, whose non-conformist minister father moves the family from the South to the North. I became interested in the book after my online buddy Clix shared this clip from the miniseries with me:

That looks pretty good, doesn’t it? I mean if you’re a fan of the Brontës and Austen.

The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman

Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector could be read as part of the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge, as it’s a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility (of a sort). It makes me nervous that it’s sitting on only three stars at Amazon after 112 reviews; they are not as notoriously cautious in their gifting of stars as Goodreads, where it actually has a slightly higher rating of 3.23 stars. On paper, it looks to be right up my alley, as it explores the lives of sisters Emily Bach, the CEO of a trendy dot-com startup, and sister Jess, an environmental activist and philosophy grad student who works in an antiquarian bookstore.

Becoming Jane Eyre, by Sheila Kohler

Sheila Kohler’s Becoming Jane Eyre is the story of the Brontë family, as endlessly fascinating as their writing. It is 1846, and the Brontës’ mother Maria Branwell Brontë has died, as have the oldest daughters Maria and Elizabeth. The family’s son, Branwell, dissolves into dissipation and drink. The sisters begin writing their novels. Of course, Charlotte and Jane Eyre are the focus.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman himself describes American Gods as a polarizing book. In his experience, readers tend to love it or hate it. A bookstore employee told me once that he felt it was Gaiman’s masterpiece. The novel centers around Shadow, released from prison on the death of his wife, who meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, from whom he discovers that the old Norse gods walk America. It’s been on my shelf a while and would be perfect for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion, by Dexter Palmer

Dexter Palmer’s steampunk novel The Dream of Perpetual Motion re-imagines Shakespeare’s play The Tempest in a dirigible called The Chrysalis, which is powered by a “perpetual motion machine.” Told by Harold Winslow, imprisoned on the Chrysalis, recounts the story of Prospero Taligent: his amazing inventions, his virtual island, and his daughter Miranda. This one would also be great for the Once Upon a Time challenge, and I hear it’s an excellent introduction to steampunk for fans of literary fiction who aren’t sure they’d like steampunk. I could pair it with The Tempest for the Shakespeare Reading Challenge.

So what do you think?

Which book should I read next?

  • American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (45%, 5 Votes)
  • The Dream of Perpetual Motion, by Dexter Palmer (27%, 3 Votes)
  • The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman (18%, 2 Votes)
  • Becoming Jane Eyre, by Sheila Kohler (9%, 1 Votes)
  • North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

Loading ... Loading ...

Poll expires this time tomorrow.

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Reading Update: March 13, 2011

Springtime novel reading

Last night I finished John Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. Hope you enjoyed my review. I am glad to be finished. No matter how much I enjoy a book or, conversely, dislike it, I’m always happy to be finished. It means I can start a new book. The one I’ve chosen to read is Water for Elephants. I want to read it before I see the movie, for one thing, and for another, a friend recommended it to me some time ago. In addition, it qualifies for the LibraryThing Pick Challenge as part of the Take a Chance Challenge, as it’s one of the 25 Most Reviewed Books. I really have wanted to read it for a while, and with all these reasons to try, now seems like a good time.

Of course, I’m still plugging away at The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser. I am about to begin the Victorian era. Given that my Kindle reports I am 65% finished and I’m reaching 1837, I wonder if there are just a lot of notes in the back of the book, or if Fraser really will emphasize the 19th and 20th centuries that much over the rest of British history. I hope not. Not that they’re not important, but I like to see things a little more evenly divided.

I will be finished with Great Expectations soon, and it’s not much at all what I thought it would be. Not sure I chose wisely in reading it via DailyLit. Some books lend themselves better to piecemeal reading than others. I will also finish A Discovery of Witches fairly soon (I have 4 hours and 23 minutes left to listen to).

I hate Daylight Saving Time. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to feel off. No one has given me a satisfactory explanation why we still have this practice. Can’t we have a referendum? I can’t think of a soul who likes it.

Is spring bursting forth where you live? The Bradford Pear tree in my yard is full of white blooms, and it won’t be long before the rest of the flowering trees follow its lead.

P.S. Sorry Jenners. I can’t follow the directions. I linked up this announcement post instead of the review post I will do in the future. Can you delete it, or should I just not fret?

photo credit: Tjook

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Reading Update: Wolfe and Lovelace

Major-General James Wolfe
Major General James Wolfe
I am in the reign of George III in Rebecca Fraser’s The Story of Britain, and I read a wonderful story that I plan to share with my students next week when we read Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” During the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War), General James Wolfe took Quebec in 1759. Wolfe had been ill with consumption and forced to spend a great deal of time in his tent. Things looked bleak for the English serving under the dying general. As the summer waned, the troops became fearful they’d have to put off their assault on Quebec until after the winter. Wolfe tried, ineffectively, to lead from his tent, but none of his plans seemed to budge the French from their position. Wolfe’s consumption went into remission, and he hatched a crazy plan.

 

At dead of night, Wolfe led the the 5,000 British and American soldiers with blackened faces silently downriver in rowing boats till they were opposite the Heights of Abraham. As he was borne along the treacherous river whose rocks and shoals made it a hazard to all but Quebeçois, Wolfe softly read out his favourite poem, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray, published only a few years before, a copy of which his fiancée had just sent out to him from England. His thin face, touched by moonlight, seemed to wear a beatific expression as he murmured the sonorous words whose Romantic, melancholic spirit echoed his own. As the mysterious cliffs loomed up ahead and the men rested on their muffled oars, Wolfe closed the book. ‘Well, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘I had rather have written that poem than take Quebec.’ But then he leaped overboard, into the swirling St Lawrence, and ran ahead of them until his was only one of the many tiny figures on the vast cliff face pulling themselves up by ropes.

When dawn rose over Quebec Montcalm [the French commander] awoke to see on the plain behind him, above the cliffs said to be unclimbable, row after row of British redcoats. They were in battle array and far outnumbered the French, whose sentries’ mangled bodies bestrewed the cliffs or floated in the river below. It was a breathtaking, almost impossible, feat, to have put thousands of men on top of a cliff overnight, but Wolfe had done it.

Wow. The French and Indian War doesn’t get much press in American history classrooms, likely because it’s overshadowed by the American Revolution 20 years later, but this is the kind of story that makes history fascinating to me. Wolfe and Montcalm both died in the battle. George II commissioned a painting by Benjamin West to commemorate Wolfe’s death:

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West
The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West

The result of this battle was that the British wrested control of North America from the French. While the French still controlled Louisiana, the British were no longer inhibited from expanding westward.

The other book I’m reading is a combination of two of my main interests: reading and technology. Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley is part detective story, part Romantic novel. The premise is that Byron really did write a novel in the famous gothic storytelling contest at Villa Diodati in Switzerland, the result of which was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre, which would later inspire Bram Stoker. The two major poets in the group, Byron and Percy Shelley, didn’t produce much of note. Crowley’s Byron did, but it was suppressed by Lady Byron. Smith, who works on a website celebrating women’s accomplishments, is on the trail of Ada Lovelace, Byron’s daughter, and she thinks that Lovelace might just have saved her father’s novel by encoding it. Lovelace is famous for writing what many believe is the first computer program for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, a device which if built, might have become the first computer. It was Lovelace who saw the device’s potential. The computer language Ada is named for her.

So yes, I’m doing some fascinating reading. What are you reading?

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Atlanta

Reading Update: February 13, 2011

Atlanta

I met my parents for lunch today, and it was such a gorgeous day here in Atlanta that I felt required to play “Blue Skies” by the Allman Brothers on the ride home.

I am still reading and enjoying Passion by Jude Morgan. I am over halfway through with it and eyeing by TBR pile. I am also still plugging away at The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser, though I have been dipping into Passion more often. I think I’ve decided to give up on Jamaica Inn. I haven’t listened to it in weeks. It never really grabbed me, for whatever reason, and I guess I need to put something that will hold my interest better on my iPhone for commutes. So, I downloaded A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness with my Audible credit. I had been wanting to read that one anyway. I am not sure if that’s one that is better to read or listen to, but I think I’ll give the audio a shot.

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Snow Day(s) Reading

Blue Whale Books
Tomorrow will be my fourth snow day in a row. I’m sure those of you who live in snowier climes think it’s absurd that five inches of snow or so has ground a city the size of Atlanta to a halt, but the fact is that we so rarely have snow that we don’t have the resources to clear it away when we do. I have read conflicting accounts regarding the number of snow plows the city has. One said eight, the other eleven. In any case, a city the size of Atlanta needs way more than eleven plows after a snow storm. Just in case you think I’m a wimp, I grew up in Denver, and I know from snow.

In my cabin fever, I have been reading, cross-stitching, and watching The Tudors. I’m late to that party—we just got Netflix. Enjoyable, but highly historically inaccurate. I think they missed an opportunity by not continuing the series through Elizabeth. Speaking of which, this new series on Starz looks like a combination of The Tudors and Arthurian legend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rg4Tnnjot4

I will probably watch it. James Purefoy is playing King Lot, and I really liked Purefoy in A Knight’s Tale. Of course, he’s playing Edward, the Black Prince, probably one of the coolest dudes ever. Perhaps not as cool as Alfred the Great, who is my new hero after reading more about him in The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser, which I am currently enjoying (I’m in the middle of William the Conqueror right now). Aside from Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, I don’t recognize any of the other actors in this new Arthur series. Speaking of James Purefoy, his IMDb profile states he’s Ned Alleyn in A Dead Man in Deptford, which is based on a book of the same name that is on my TBR pile. Plus! He’s a character in one of my current reads, Conceit. I didn’t realize Ned Alleyn had married Constance Donne, daughter of John Donne, but sure enough, he did. I need to move A Dead Man in Deptford up higher so I can finish it before the movie comes out.

Conceit is, so far, much better than The Lady and Poet, which read much more like a romance novel (albeit a pretty decent one). Conceit is much more literary to begin with, and I find the times captured more realistically. If I can be allowed a moment’s indulgence, there is an epidemic in historical fiction. It seems we can’t have a strong female lead who acts according to the historical conventions of her day. No, she must act as we would have her act. She must be headstrong and ahead of her time. I like a strong female protagonist, but I want her to be realistic, too. I am so tired of this modern reinterpretation of the feminine. Conceit is narrated by Pegge Donne, a younger daughter of Donne, and takes places years after the events of The Lady and the Poet. I can’t figure out why it hasn’t been published in the U.S., but thanks to Amazon, you can still order it through third party sellers, which is how I bought it.

I also saw the trailer to the new Jane Eyre movie today. Who is looking forward to this?

I was able to get a movie poster for this film at the recent National Council of Teachers of English conference, and it’s gorgeous. See:

Jane Eyre Movie Poster

photo credit: Funky Tee

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