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Showing posts from 2016

Books Finished in November

55. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini (audiobook) The story ostensibly focuses on the relationship between Julia Dent Grant and her childhood slave, Jule. Julia, who grew up on a plantation near St. Louis, Missouri, married Ulysses S. Grant, who later led the Union army to victory. During the war, Jule, as well as eventually the Dents' other slaves, escaped, and she later became a hairdresser of some repute in Washington D.C. and New York City, overlapping respectively with her former mistress' time in those two cities. However, although an intriguing concept, the story actually centers on the love story between Julia and Ulysses Grant, and defending the pair from every allegation made over the course of his career (he wasn't drunk, he had headaches!; he didn't know his officials were corrupt!). Jule was frankly the most interesting character, but the main character least deployed. Overall, this is an obviously well researched historical romance, bu

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind for Hanukkah

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish ! Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind for Hanukkah 1. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert I've already read it, but I want to re-read it and I feel like it's a book I will enjoy referring back to. 2. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin I have it out of the library right now, and I've already read and renewed it twice. 3. The 8th Habit by Stephen R. Covey I have it out of the library right now, but I feel like to really use it right I have to own it... 4. Anything by Jen Lancaster She makes me laugh out loud so much. I got Bitter is the New Black from the little Free Library and I'm not giving it back anytime soon. I also have The Tao of Martha out from the library right now, but she has a ton more books that I'm sure I'll enjoy just as much. 5. Marriage; A History by Stephanie Coontz I've wanted to read this forever, but flip-flopped on buying nonfiction I

Book Review: The Circuit: Earthfall by Rhett C. Bruno

The Circuit: Earthfall by Rhett C. Bruno *Published Dec. 13, 2016* Earthfall is the incredibly satisfying conclusion to Rhett C. Bruno's The Circuit trilogy. Although I wouldn't recommend reading it without having read the other two first, I thought it was the best of all three books in terms of pacing, writing, and character development. The plot has a clear arc from the outset, and develops naturally from there. It never slows down too much, but nor does it feel convoluted. And most importantly to me, although it wasn't exactly what I would have hoped for, there's an ending that feels appropriate for each beloved character. The concept of the Circuit is what drew me in, but it's the characters that kept me reading. What I love about the Circuit is that it's not dystopian, but it's far from the pie in the sky, colonize the stars dream of 1950s and '60s scifi. Humanity managed to escape Earth's demise, but society is stagna

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2016

Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016. I hit over 25,000 words. That was not my original goal for the month: I was aiming for the traditional NaNo goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. However, a little bit more than halfway through, I evaluated my progress and decided to change my goal to 25k. I'm proud of reaching my secondary goal, and I think I did a good job, considering. However, I'm still a little bummed that I didn't hit 50k like I did last year, and I want to figure out why. First, I've had less time to devote to it this year since my work schedule is different. Second, I wrote historical instead of contemporary fiction, and did less research instead of more, due to the aforementioned different work schedule. Third, though, it wasn't my first rodeo. Last year, I was motivated to win my first NaNoWriMo. I followed my scheduled writing plan exactly, and I got a huge head start, finishing 4k in the first day alone. I've been reading Gretc

Books Read in October

52. Queen of Flowers and Pearls by Gabriella Ghermandi. Translated by Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto. Came across this interesting gem just browsing in the library. It's a series of interpolated stories, compiled by the narrator, set during Italy's occupation of Ethiopia. Embarrassingly, I didn't even know that Italy had occupied Ethiopia, so it was very informative for me. The author lives in Italy and was born in Ethiopia, and the book is translated from the Italian, so this was a Women in Translation (WIT) read for me this year. Highly recommended if, like me, you want to learn about this moment in history. 53. Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard This well-regarded biography of President James Garfield was an appropriate read during the election. Millard starts with Garfield's rise to the presidency and chronicles the assassination attempt and its aftermath. She compellingly argues, based on contemporary medical evidence inclu

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. After the election, I decided I can take out all the library books I want. Although I've returned only one of the six from two weeks ago, I took out three more today. Pictured below, minus An Abundance of Katherines audiobook. So far, I like it better than Paper Towns . p.s. Do all John Green's books feature road trips? 2. I'm obsessed with memoirs. Biography used to be the only nonfiction I would read, but now, I can't get enough. I loved Jen Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black so much I read it twice in one month, and when I saw a row of Jen Lancaster books at the library, I couldn't help myself. The Tao of Martha , about her attempts to live a la Martha Stewart stood out the most to me, so I got that one, but I'll be back! Mennonite in a Little Black Dress also caught my eye, and although it wasn't what I was expecting (prodigal Mennonite daughter moves back home, instead of out), I'm intrigued. 3. I'm picking wedding colors, and it

Post-Apocalyptic Library Haul

It's been a long time since I let myself take out this many books, but I needed it. Even though I won't finish them all, it felt satisfying to take out all the books I wanted. Some are research for my NaNoWriMo novel, which spans the time periods of both WWI and WWII.

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Books Read in September

47. Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire Finally finished the Wicked Years. Out of Oz finishes the story in some ways, and just leaves it open again. Oh well. I don't know how much closure I expected. Still best read for the dark and amusing riffs on the land of Oz. 48. The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory (audiobook) One of my favorite of Gregory's, and I've read nearly everything by her. Katherine Parr is, in my opinion, the most interesting of Henry VIII's wives, both because she survived and because she was one of the first women to publish in English. Also, I wasn't aware of the relationship between her and Anne Askew, a contemporary female preacher, a relationship which is central to Gregory's novel. As usual, Gregory takes an inventive approach to history, creating the highest possible stakes drama (as if the Tudors weren't dramatic enough!). I've also felt that Gregory's later books, like this one, and The White Princess , feel m

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. Two of the bloggers I follow went to Jonathan Safran Foer readings recently, as did I. It's interesting to hear the different takes on him and his work. When I saw him, he was introduced by his mother and his whole family was there! I didn't realize he'd grown up in D.C., so that was quite a surprise. It also made more sense why his new book is set here. He read the passage about the urinal that he's apparently read elsewhere. Although I loved his first two novels, I'm not sure how I feel about this one...I did start reading Here I Am , but I haven't gotten to the urinal scene yet. 2. I missed the National Book Festival and the Baltimore Book Festival and all the other bookish events the weekend before last because I was sick. I hate that I missed Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Ann Goldstein and so many other interesting writers. At least I saw JSF the week before. 3. I just celebrated Rosh Hashanah, and spending that time concentrating on how I can be a better pe

Favorite Passages from Cold Comfort Farm

I've wanted to read Cold Comfort Farm ever since I learned it is one of Boston Bibliophile's favorite books . Her allusions to it piqued my interest, and while browsing in the library the other day, it caught my eye. Gibbons' wit suffuses this offbeat, Austen-inspired novel. First published in 1932, it's set in early twentieth century England, when the recently orphaned and consummate cosmopolitan young Flora Poste resolves to rely on the generosity of her country cousins, and furthermore, adjust their lives to her convenience. Flora remarks to a friend: I am only nineteen, but I have already observed that whereas there still lingers some absurd prejudice against living on one's friends, no limits are set, either by society or by one's own conscience, to the amount one may impose upon one's relatives (15). Zingers like these abound, and this gem and the one below were two of my personal favorites. In her equally amusing foreword, Gibbons notes that s

Books Read in August

45. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell This is the third of Gaskell's novels that I've read, and my favorite. Interestingly, it's earlier work than the other two. It seems to me that she was more honest and raw here in her opinions about class divisions. North and South and Cranford also both address divisions between mill workers and mill owners, but North and South is more nuanced, while Cranford is almost a farce. Mary Barton is more radical. Mary and her family (and their friends and neighbors) suffer extreme loss, and the consequences that follow are appropriately drastic. Highly recommended, and unfortunately, very relevant in the present day. 46. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire Finally, after holding onto the final two books for a few years, I finished the Wicked Years series. A Lion Among Men jumpstarts the story again after the possible ending in Son of a Witch . We backtrack to events that took place during Elphaba's life, and the book focuses

Books Finished on Vacation

When I travel, I like to read books related to travel. And, I finally did use my ereader on vacation---after I finished reading the two physical books I brought. 40. Better Than Fiction 2 This is a collection of nonfiction stories by celebrity writers. I found it an interesting read, but nothing was a huge standout. One story has nuns chasing Italian boys away from American girls. 41. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it, and I found it in the store right before I left for my trip. It's a collection of stories about people inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Now, before reading Eat Pray Love, I would have thought this was hokey, but now, I can sympathize with the "bathroom floor club," as one writer here puts it. These are more like vignettes, about the moment that changed everything, which at first was disappointing, since each story is only a few pages, but, I realized that each story packs more punc

Top Ten Fantasy and Scifi TV Shows

I watch so many fantasy and scifi shows--any other fans out there? What shows have I missed? Classics 1. Star Trek I'm a fan of all the iterations of Star Trek , although most recently we re-watched the first couple seasons of Enterprise (which contained most of my favorite episodes from that show so I'm not sure if I want to continue). I really love S2 E5 "A Night in Sickbay," which features Captain Archer's beagle, Porthos. 2. The X-Files I didn't watch this in real time, but so far, we're somewhere in, I think? I love Mulder and Scully, especially the one-offs (but, you know, also the continuing stuff). S3E4, when they encounter a real psychic, is one of my favorites, but there are so many to choose from. 3. Babylon Five I watched individual episodes while this was airing, but I never watched in sequence or really got the overarching plot. If this were airing right now, I guarantee it would be one of the most popular shows

Top Ten Books I Read in School

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish ! Most of these are from college or graduate school, since a lot of the books I read in grade school I had read on my own before we read them in school. 1. Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston 2. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum by Aemilia Lanyer 3. The Tragedy of Mariam by Elizabeth Cary 4. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy 5. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin 6. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox 7. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev 8. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer 9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo 10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. After North and South , I've gone straight on to another Elizabeth Gaskell novel that's been on my TBR shelf, Mary Barton . Unfortunately, my puppy got to it before I did, but despite that, I've been enjoying it so far. It was the first written of the novels of hers I've read, and it feels like the most honest and--I think--the best. 2. I'm listening to the audiobook The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory. It's about Henry VIII's sixth wife, Katherine Parr, the one who survived. However, I realized that the title makes it sound quite more salacious than it is, and I wonder what people passing by, who see the case on the seat in my car, think. So far, I'm enjoying it, but I dislike that Gregory credits Parr with giving Elizabeth the "woman with the heart and stomach of a king" line. 3. Also, it is hard to read historical fiction in a time period you've studied--so far, in Taming of the Queen , there's an inaccuracy when

Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf Before I Started Blogging That I STILL Haven't Read Yet

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish ! Since I've been blogging for eight years, I'm happy to report that most of the unread books on my shelf since then are gone. I read some, and the rest probably left with my KonMari book purge of almost a year ago. There are only two still left, one of which I'm currently reading. 1. The Templars by Piers Paul Read I know I bought this (at Borders, RIP), after my first trip to Israel, and I'm finally reading it after my third trip. It's not a hard read, but it is nonfiction, and until recently, I've had a vast preference for fiction (still do, it's just not SO vast). To be fair, this isn't the first time I've started it, but will hopefully be the time I finish! 2. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok Also one I've started before, but never finished. No plans to get to it anytime soon. It's been on loan from my uncle for probably some 15 years at least. He said I could ke

Books Finished in July

37. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell A less sparking, more thoughtful Pride and Prejudice . I've discussed more of my thoughts here . For those who wish Jane Austen was more political. 38. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith The third installment in this character-driven detective series finally focuses purely on the detective, Cormoran Strike, and his assistant and would-be co-detective, Robin Ellacott. The novel gets into some interesting disability politics, and of course many shades of evil, and will thoroughly break the hearts of Strike/Robin shippers. 39. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (audiobook) I'm glad I read this, because I was familiar with Gloria Steinem's name linked with the feminist movement, but not much else. Now, I feel like an expert! Her memoirs about all the places she's been cover her childhood, and many of the momentous occasions of her adulthood. I feel like I have a much better idea of what an activist actual

Top Ten Books Set in the 19th Century

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish ! Some of my lesser known (but still, let's be honest, pretty well known) favorites set in the nineteenth century. Some are contemporary, but some were written more recently. 1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 2. Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston 3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell 4. Persuasion by Jane Austen 5. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev 6. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy 7. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin 8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke 9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 10. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott