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Showing posts from February, 2014

Book Review: The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

7. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory My commutes with Philippa Gregory's "Cousin's War" books have come to an end, at least for now. Apparently, there's going to be a new book about Margaret Pole , and there are the auxiliary books about Elizabeth Woodeville's mother, Jacquetta, and Richard III's wife Anne Neville that I haven't yet read. I've said before that Gregory makes some unusual and spurious choices vis-a-vis historical evidence, but the world that she creates in her books is amazingly cohesive. She also continues to focus on lesser known events, infusing them with dramatic tension even for the well-informed reader. A book on Elizabeth of York has inherent frustrations, because after her marriage, she was effectively walled from influencing public policy or exercising almost any kind of agency. The White Princess reflects that reality, and I wanted to bang my head against the wall every time Elizabeth nicely acts her husband for

Not So Quiet

6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain I've been looking forward for some time to Cain's well-publicized paean to introversion. For over a year, I've been trying to get it out of the local library and finally, my turn came around. In the meantime, I'd read the critics who said it focused too much on the business world, or overstated the barriers to introverts in pop culture. I actually think Cain covered introversion in a respectable variety of settings relevant to the contemporary American audience. And I agree that she generalizes, but even she admits that in several places. What was really, ironically, lacking from this book was a depth of focus-the very quality that Cain praises so much in introverts. In fact, the book itself is an excellent example of how the media caters to extrovert culture. Quiet is organized into easily navigable chapters, it's filled with personal anecdotes, lists, and repetitive tagl

Book Review: The Malloreon Books 4 and 5

4. Sorceress of Darshiva 5. The Seeress of Kell I'm sad that my time with Eddings' magnificently developed fantasy world has come to an end. On the other hand, it was high time I finished reading a series that I started two years ago (and, really, four years ago). The Malloreon follows (almost) the same cast of characters as from Eddings' earlier series, the Belgariad . The first series deals with a quest that takes place in the northern lands of the world, while this series deals with the southern lands. I highly, highly recommend both series to fans of high fantasy. And, yet, although I placed the Belgariad on my list of SFF Lit, I realized while finishing up the series that what is truly most pleasing about this series is its predictability-how it slides neatly and comfortingly into genre conventions. Everything from the archetypal characters to the arc of the plot is practically a prototype for Campbell's Hero's Journey. But I pride myself on how much

Book Review: The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

3. The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir Weir, my favorite popular historian, concludes that Richard III murdered the eponymous princes in the tower. Even to this day, the mystery has not been definitively solved, nor, Weir argues, will it likely ever be. But she bases her conclusions on the existing contemporary evidence, asserting that it is a historian's job to deal in probabilities. And so, while Richard III could not be convicted in a modern court, she feels comfortable pointing her finger. Weir's evidence and reasoning are strong, but not overwhelmingly so. She bases her conclusions on contemporary or near-contemporary sources, relying most heavily on Italian monk Mancini, Henry VII's Italian biographer Polydore Vergil, the anonymous Croyland Chronicles, and Sir Thomas More's unfinished biography of Richard III. Weir makes strong arguments for the accuracy of these sources, not least of which that they corroborate each other in many places even though the

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

I've enjoyed reading Christine's thoughts over at Bookishly Boisterous each week,and while I don't think I'm nearly as funny or interesting, I'm going to give it a go! 1. Why don't "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" take the child with them? That was the question most of my students had when they wrote about whether or not they would be among those who walked away. Most of them felt it wasn't enough just to walk away, they had to take the kid too. I did have a few brave students who admitted they probably wouldn't walk away, and I had to give them props for their thought process. I wonder what my students would think of Peter Singer's dilemma . 2. I'm finally finishing up the Malloreon . I just finished Sorceress of Darshiva and I'm about to begin Seeress of Kell . I really enjoy the depths of Eddings' fantasy world and the comfort of his archetypal characters and straightforward Hero's Journey plot. However, ever