Wordless Wednesday: Montana Rafting

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

White Water Rafting in Glacier National Park

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

The Astronaut Wives Club

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel

During the 1950 and ‘60s the space race was in full swing. The astronauts who took those huge leaps for mankind became celebrities around the world. This book is the true story of the women who stood behind the men on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

Those alive during those decades might remember some of the names mentioned in the book. I had no idea that the women were under such public scrutiny. Their photos were in Life magazine along with personal tidbits about every aspect of their lives. Like politicians and movie stars, their lives became public domain as Americans clamored for more information about the men behind the space suits. Life magazine even had reporters in their homes while their husbands’ lives hung in the balance on various flights.

Koppel gives the dirty details about the clothes, the fights, and the quirks of the women, but there was certainly a darker side to the story as well. Many of the men were cheating on their wives and multiple marriages ended in divorce. Others ended when something went wrong on a mission and men were lost. The public grieving that followed was painful to read about.

It’s funny, when thinking about astronauts and their incredible courage and accomplishments; I don’t think I’ve ever reflected on the women who stood behind them. How terrifying that must have been to watch your husband be shot off into space in a rocket!

BOTTOM LINE: I really enjoyed learning more about the women behind those famous men. My one complaint is that they tended to all blend together for me.  The author jumps between groups of women and it was hard to distinguish one from another.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Monday, April 28, 2014

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
by Ann Patchett
This collection of essays from one of my favorite authors covers a wide variety of topics, everything from working at TGIFridays to dogs. The way Patchett writes makes any topic interesting. She is truthful and blunt at times, even when discussing sensitive subjects like grief, censorship, and divorce, but it’s this honesty that makes it easy for a reader to feel connected. Her passion for different things come through in her writing and you find yourself getting sucked into stories about seeing MET opera productions in her local theatre, taking a book tour or staying in a hotel and doing nothing.
Most of these articles were published in various magazines (Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, etc.) over the years, but all of them were new to me. She also included a few new pieces to round out the book. She spent years making ends meet with her freelance work for magazine and that experience is evident in the structure of the essays. They flow smoothly, each one a self-contained piece that stands on its own, but also adds to the neat arch through her life that the book traces.
One of my favorites was a piece on her bookstore Parnassus in Nashville. I had the opportunity to visit it last year and I loved hearing more about the history of its creation. I also loved her pieces about her dog Rose. As a dog lover it’s easy to immediately relate to those.
BOTTOM LINE: Each essay offered the reader another glimpse into the writer’s world. I don’t know if I would have loved it so much if I wasn’t already a huge fan, but I am, so this was a treat all the way through.
“Sometimes love does not have the most honorable beginnings, and the endings, the endings will break you in half. It’s everything in between we live for."
“I think the best vacation is the one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again."

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Friday, April 25, 2014

******************    UPDATED HOUR 18  *****************

Pages Read: 1,613
Currently Reading: King John by William Shakespeare 
Books Finished: 7: Go Ask Alice, Enchanted Night, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Whale Rider, The Missing Golden Ticket, Blankets and The Magician's Elephant
Breaks Taken: 5: ran on the treadmill, laundry, chat with friendly new neighbors, and making food
Snacks Eaten: Guacamole and chips, breakfast at IHOP, lots of coffee, blackberries, salad, brie and apple chips.
Music Listened To: Bach, Cat Power, Head and the Heart
Mini-Challenges Completed: 7
Blogs Visited and Commented On: 52

End of Event Meme: 
Which hour was most daunting for you? 16

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? We Have Always Lived in the Castle, A Streetcar Named Desire, and AD: The Deluge. 

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Honestly no, you guys are awesome.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The cheerleaders were so organized! I loved that Heather split them into groups to cheer on specific platforms.  

How many books did you read? Seven! 

What were the names of the books you read? Go Ask Alice, Enchanted Night, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Whale Rider, The Missing Golden Ticket, Blankets and The Magician's Elephant

Which book did you enjoy most? Blankets and The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Which did you enjoy least? Enchanted Night

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I cheered for 3 to 5 blogs each hour and that split it up nicely for me. I like that more than taking a big chunk of time just to cheer. 

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Definitely! I will be both a reader and cheerleader and maybe host a mini challenge or something.

Mid-Event Survey
1. What are you reading right now? Blankets by Craig Thompson

2. How many books have you read so far? 4 completed books

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I think I might need a comfort re-read to keep going and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be perfect.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I made sure to avoid scheduling anything today and the Huz is keeping me company.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? A few, I tried not to get to worried about missing reading time.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I haven't taken a nap yet! This is the first readathon with no nap for me!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I know you guys say it every year, but stressing that people should turn off word verification on comments is always great for cheerleaders. 

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I have figured out quite a few things that work for me. I would probably take allergy medicine earlier in the day next spring because my sinuses are going nuts.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Surprisingly, no!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? For me I really like cheering for about 5 blogs per hour. That way my comments stay fresh and it gives me a short reading break.
HOUR 10 Mini Challenge: Shelfie hosted by The Book Monsters

HOUR 7 Mini Challenge: Six Word Celebration 
hosted by Estella's Revenge 

Books, snacks, naps, it's Dewey day!!!

HOUR 6 Mini Challenge: The Best of Your Reading Year 
hosted by Lisa's World of Books.

Best Supporting Character of Your Reading Year
Best Supporting Character: Almondine from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. One of the best characters I've encountered... and she's a dog!   

Best Fantasy Book: Tooth and Clawby Jo Walton, it's a re-telling of a Trollope novel with dragons.

Best Non-Fiction Book: At Home by Bill Bryson, he could make any topic interesting.

Hour 6 Mini Challenge: The Best of Your Reading Year - See more at: http://www.lisasworldofbooks.net/2014/hour-6-mini-challenge-best-reading-year#sthash.hS9y181M.dpuf
Hour 6 Mini Challenge: The Best of Your Reading Year - See more at: http://www.lisasworldofbooks.net/2014/hour-6-mini-challenge-best-reading-year#sthash.hS9y181M.dpuf
Hour 6 Mini Challenge: The Best of Your Reading Year - See more at: http://www.lisasworldofbooks.net/2014/hour-6-mini-challenge-best-reading-year#sthash.hS9y181M.dpuf
Introduction Quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Indianapolis, IN

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Blankets by Craig Thompson

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Brie and crackers

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm turning 30 in May and I'm so excited about it! I'm taking a trip to New Zealand, Australia and Fiji in September and I've read 27 of Shakespeare's 37 plays.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? This is my 7th readathon (I've linked to the others at the bottom of the post). Last time I was in Iowa visiting family. This time my whole day is about reading!

It’s Readathon time! For the past few years I’ve spent one day each April and October participating in the Dewey Readathon. It’s always so much fun and I get a ton of reading done. There’s a great sense of community, mini-challenges each hour, cheerleaders and prizes.  Heather and Andi are the incredible ladies who help organize the whole thing and you can get more details at the official site. 
Tomorrow I will be reading from 8 am until whenever I fall asleep! I have my stack of books ready to go (see my pile with Ollie pup above) and I will be cheering for at least 4 hours.


- Have meals for your day ready to go. I’ve got chili already made for dinner. It gives you more time to read.

- Listen to an audiobook during events that can’t be avoided. If you have to do a bit of yard work or cooking, have an audiobook on while you work.

- Have snacks ready to go. I look forward to special snacks on readathon day, but don’t pick only stuff that’s bad for you or you’ll sugar crash pretty quickly!

- I will be updating this post throughout the day so I don’t bomb people with half a dozen new posts.
- Please turn off your comment word verification for the day! It’s such a pain for cheerleaders.
- Tweet about your day with the hashtag #Readathon or by tagging @readathon 

April and October 2011  /  April and October 2012 / April and October 2013


Thursday, April 24, 2014

by Neil Gaiman

I first read Neverwhere in 2007 and had so much fun following Richard Mayhew and Door on their adventures in the London Below. When I heard about the 2013 Radio dramatization of the novel on the BBC I was so excited. The incredible cast included James McAvoy, Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Natalie Dormer just to name a few. They brought the story to life in such a wonderful way, I think I enjoyed it even more this time around.
The plot revolves around an ordinary man in London. He has a regular job, a regular girl and nothing too exciting ever happens to him. Then one day he meets a girl named Door and everything is turned upside down. He finds himself in London Below, along with hundreds of others who have "fallen through the cracks." As he explores the strange world of Angels, markets and guardians he finds that he might just have a taste for adventure after all. 

Gaiman’s talent for writing is undeniable, but this story is a great demonstration of his ability to create quirky, memorable casts of characters. Hunter, Old Bailey, the Marquis, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, such a weird and wonderful group that I’m not going to forget anytime soon. The story isn’t as complex as some of his later work, but it is a fun, fast-moving story.

BOTTOM LINE: Of all of Gaiman’s novels, I think this one is the best candidate for a sequel. I had so much fun revisiting the characters through the audioplay and I hope more people check it out! (You can find it on Audible if you're interested.)

“There are little pockets of old time in London, where things and places stay the same, like bubbles in amber,” she explained. “There’s a lot of time in London, and it has to go somewhere—it doesn’t all get used up at once.”

“Until that moment she had never thought she could do it. Never thought she would be brave enough or scared enough, or desperate enough to dare.”

Wordless Wednesday: Florida Sunset

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Florida Sunset

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

The Republic

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Republic
by Plato
This famous piece of literature introduces readers to the Socratic method. Socrates was a famous Greek philosopher and his student Plato wrote about his method of teaching. Instead of informing or explaining things, Socrates would ask questions and open a dialogue with his students.
He shared his philosophical view by asking questions and making his students reach the conclusions on their own. His political theories and observations are still relevant, though the book was written in 300 BC. In The Republic Socrates discusses the way to create a perfect society. They work their way through the different rules and regulations that society would need. They decide what their education would focus on and whether there would be equality between the sexes, etc. As they talk through all of the details of their society they come to the inevitable conclusion that it can never exist. Mankind is too flawed and even with the best of intentions, political leaders are corrupted by power.
The other major issue up for debate is justice. Each man comes to the table with a slightly different view of how to define justice. Is justice helping your friends? Is it unjust to injure your enemies? These questions make the Athenians go round and round as they each add their opinions to the mix. This book also includes the famous allegory of the cave, which is discussed in every Philosophy 101 class.
BOTTOM LINE: The arguments aren’t flawless, but it’s the style of arguing that makes this such a compelling read. I enjoyed every second of it and would highly recommend finding an audio version if you can.
“The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”
“They agreed to avoid doing injustice in order to avoid suffering it. This is the origin of laws and contracts.”
“Don’t you think this is why education in the arts is so powerful? Rhythm and harmony find their way to the inner part of the soul and establish themselves there, bringing grace to the well-educated.”

Welcome to the Monkey House

Monday, April 21, 2014

Welcome to the Monkey House
by Kurt Vonnegut

I feel like a broken record when it comes to short stories, but every time I seem to have the same reaction. It’s incredibly rare to find one where every story in the collection is a gem and this is no exception to that rule. There are some great pieces including “The Lie” about a young boy’s application to the prep school. “Unready to Wear” is another fascinating one, telling the story of a world where some people have figured out how to leave their bodies behind and exist without them. They put on new bodies like a suit of clothes. But for every good one there is a weaker one and the collection of 25 stories is a mixed bag.

“Who Am I This Time?” is my favorite of the bunch. Harry is a quiet man who works at a local hardware store. Once a year he comes to life in a local theatre production. He throws himself into every new role with wild abandon, but the moment the curtain falls on the final night he return to his chronically shy personality. Helen is new to town and finds herself cast opposite Harry in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She falls in love, but she’s fallen in love with the character Harry is playing, not Harry himself.

The main stories that I think will stay with me are not Vonnegut’s usual fare. For a man so well-known for his sarcasm the book contains some surprisingly sweet pieces. His cynical wit seeps in, but it's tempered with a warm nostalgia. Many of the stories were written while he was a young author trying to make ends meet. His talent is there but he was writing for a wider audience. A great example of this is one Vonnegut originally titles "Hell to Get Along With," when it was printed in the Ladies Home Journal (yes a Vonnegut article!) it was renamed, "Long Walk to Forever." Another great one is "Adam," which introduces readers to two Holocaust survivors marveling at the miracle of childbirth.

BOTTOM LINE: Some of these stories, particularly the ones I mentioned, are absolute 5 star pieces for me, but overall the book is hit or miss. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try Vonnegut to see if they might like his style.

p.s. Last month I got to see a play based on three of the stories from this collection. It was called "Who am I This Time?" and it was excellent! 

Antique Books and a Happy Book Lover

Friday, April 18, 2014

(The books that I'm keeping!)

 There are some serious perks to people knowing you love books. Recently one of the Huz' best friends helped someone move. They had boxes and boxes of "old books" that they were gong to throw away. Seriously, they were going to put them in a dumpster! The guy said our friend could have them if he knew anyone who liked books.

Lucky me! Our friend immediately called the Huz to see if I might be interested. Needless to say I was grinning like a fool when they brought the books over. There were about a dozen boxes and about half were cheap paperback Grisham and King novels and things like that. The Huz and I carefully went through each box together. Every few minutes I would squeal as I pulled out a 1917 edition of The Merchant of Venice or the 1857 edition of the Bible.

The photos are just a few of the beautiful covers I took pictures of for my LibraryThing cataloging. The Crime and Punishment book is actually a 1940s two volume set with wood carving illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg. It matched the editions I already owned of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre! The cover next to it (above) is called World's Great Detective Stories and it's a 1800s edition with a soft leather cover and stories by Tolstoy, Poe, Doyle, Dickens and more.

I am going to donate about 80% of the books, but at least they will be going to someone who might read them instead of into the trash! The remaining 20% are all gems that are staying with me. I just had to share because I knew all you fellow book lovers would be just as excited about this!

Photos by moi.

Orange Is the New Black

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Orange Is the New Black
My Year in a Women’s Prison
by Piper Kerman

Like everyone else, I first heard about this book after marathon watching the Netflix TV series of the same name. The show is great, but the book is actually an excellent nonfiction memoir in its own right. Piper is relatable enough that it’s easy to picture yourself in her situation. 

The book could easily have been subtitled: First World Problems. The picture of prison that Piper paints is an interesting one, but it’s not very scary. She gets pedicures and has time catch up on reading classics. One of her biggest problems is that the prison store is out of the radios that you need to listen to the audio on the movies they show, so she's stuck watching the movies with no sound.

She touches on more serious issues like sexual harassment from guards, lack of preparation for prisoners re-entering the work force, prisoner health problems, minority persecution, etc. but she never really has to deal with any of those things. They feel like distant possibilities, not real issues people are facing. To be fair, Piper acknowledges the fact that she is very lucky to not have to deal with those problems. 

That being said, it was a really fun read. I knew the basic premise before I started it because of the TV series. If you are already a fan of the show I would encourage you to check this out. I was actually expecting there to be many more differences, but the show is just a sensationalized version of the book. There are added bits of drama in each episode, but much of the plot is based on her real experiences. 

BOTTOM LINE: Read it if you love the show or are a fan of nonfiction. Don’t expect a revealing look at the American prison system.

Wordless Wednesday: Lindenhofplatz

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lindenhofplatz in Zurich
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Top Ten Bookish Things That I'd Like To Own

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own. I could list 100 things. Every time someone asks for something specific I'd like for a birthday or Christmas it is inevitably something bookish. 

1) A bookish flask - Seriously, typewriters on flasks, you just can't beat that! 

2) A Spineless Classics print - There are so many great ones (Hamlet, The Hobbit, etc.) but I always thought one of the children's prints (The Secret Garden or Wizard of Oz) would look incredible in a nursery. Not that I will be adding a bursary to my house right now! 

3) An old vintage typewriter - I've always wanted one, but there's not really a good spot in my house to put it. 

4) A Literary Map of Britain 

5) A Persuasion Scarf - It's so beautiful, there are no words. 

6) Things from Out of Print. Seriously, that store is my kryptonite. Their sweatshirts, t-shirts and now jewelry are all so fantastic! I've got my eye on the red Fahrenheit 451 t-shirt and the To Kill a Mockingbird necklace (or maybe the Moby Dick necklace or maybe Vonnegut!) 

7) A classic book cover for my kindle 

8) British phone booth bookends 

9) A custom print with a few of my favorite books 

10) This lovely HP pillow quote.

The Magnificent Ambersons

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Magnificent Ambersons
by Booth Tarkington
At the turn of the 19th century the world was changing incredibly fast. From electricity to automobiles, people could either embrace the changes or get left behind. This Pulitzer-Prize winner’s title describes a wealthy Midwestern family as “magnificent” and then proceeds to chronicle their downfall during this tumultuous time.

The Ambersons’ fortune, managed by their patriarch Major Amberson, had always been there for the younger generations and they never doubted it would always been there in the future. The Major’s daughter, Isabel, married and had one son, George Amberson Minofaur. George grew up to be a self-centered young man who becomes infatuated with Lucy Morgan.

Lucy and her father Eugene Morgan have known the Ambersons their whole lives. Eugene and Isabel have always been close, though their attraction was limited to friendship after Isabel married. Years later when Isabel is widowed Eugene renews his interest to the chagrin of George. His pompous self-worth won’t even allow him to consider the match as anything less than vulgar.

I know that Isabel is the most sympathetic character, but part of me was frustrated by her actions. She allows her son to bully her into a miserable life. The fact that George is completely spoiled and expects the world to be handed to him on a silver platter has to be, at least in part, attributed to how his parents raised him. Isabel turns a blind eye to George’s cruel snobbery and there are never any consequences to his actions.

The ending feels like a really strange add on. It should have ended with George’s accident. I don’t understand what adding a trip to a psychic added to the story except to tidy everything up in an awkward way. 

BOTTOM LINE: I was actually expecting to like this one less than I did. It’s not about lovable characters or romance overcoming all obstacles. It’s a story about the world changing whether you want it to or not. It’s about people making selfish decisions and the way that others are affected by those shortsighted views. It’s about hubris and jealousy, selflessness and devotion. To me those counterpoints made for a fascinating look at this time period.

“Youth cannot imagine romance apart from youth. That is why the roles of the heroes and heroines of plays are given by the managers to the most youthful actors they can find among the competent.”

The Movie: There is a 1942 film version that I watched after finishing the novel. It was written and directed by Orson Wells the year after he completed Citizen Kane. It stars Drew Barrymore's grandmother as Isabel Amberson. I was surprised that it clocked in at a measly 88 minutes. I checked online and it turns out 50 minutes had been cut from the final version of the movie and a happy ending was reshot and tacked onto the end without Wells' knowledge. Wells once said that if his original version had been released he thought it would have been a greater movie then Citizen Kane. Unfortunately the 50 minutes of cut footage were destroyed, so we'll never know. 

SIDE NOTE: Tarkington is one of the only major authors from Indiana (Lew Wallace, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Green round out the short list). There is a local theatre named after him and I’m glad I finally read one of his books!

*This review was originally posted at The Project Gutenberg Project where I'm now a contributor!

365 Slow Cooker Suppers

Friday, April 11, 2014

(Split Pea and Ham Soup)  

In January I started a new job and though I'm loving it, the hours and the commute are a bit longer. Consequently I'm not always in the mood to cook by the time I get home. After a couple weeks of getting home and just wanting to make frozen pizza or go out to dinner, I realized I needed to find another solution to eat a little healthier. I'm not a huge cookbook person and tend to just get the recipes I want online, but I'd had my eye on the 365 Slow Cooker Suppers cookbook for a while. I got a copy with the hope that I could combine the ingredients in the crock pot the night before (after I have time to relax after work) then in the mornings I would just need to start the slow cooker and it would be ready when I got home.

 (Honey Lime Chicken Soft Tacos) 
Every single recipe in the cookbook is made in a slow cooker and they don't require a ton of prep work, which I love. There's a great variety in the recipes offered, everything from Miso salmon to chicken piccata. So far I love it and it's a big improvement as far as saving my sanity after work. The cookbook starts with a huge list of ingredients that you might want to keep on hand, which is so incredibly helpful. It's also splits the recipes into your basic poultry, beef, veggie sections, so it's easy to navigate. One aspect I love is the author's notes on each recipe. She adds a few comments on each ones about her personal experience with it.

I read through the whole thing, bookmarking recipes I wanted to try, then I went through my pantry to check for ingredients and made a big grocery list of what I needed. I've already made half a dozen recipes from the book and have a few more I'm trying soon.

(Carrot and Coconut Bisque)

The split pea and ham soup is the runaway favorite so far. It's creamy and so good! We sprinkled some grated parmesan on top and it warms up really well the next day too. The honey lime chicken tacos had a great flavor and everyone liked them a lot. We used lots of cilantro and Nonfat Greek yogurt as toppings and we'll definitely be making those again! The honey Dijon beef stew wasn't as great. It turned out pretty well, but the red wine flavor was a little overwhelming and I have another beef stew recipe we like more.

The only bomb was the carrot and coconut bisque. It had the consistency of baby food with a weird spicy/sweet after taste. Honestly we are not picky eaters, but this one was awful. We ended up dumping it and making frozen pizza. You win some, you lose some.

Overall I'm really pleased with the cookbook and I am planning on making a couple of the recipes each week. We always end up with leftovers and that makes packing lunches easier too!
 (Mac and Cheese - not from the cookbook)
I also recently used my crock pot to make mac and cheese. I had never tried the crock pot liners before (the plastic sleeve you can put the crock pot in to make clean up easy) but it worked so well! I used the Reynolds brand. I won't use them all the time, but if I have a bunch of people over it would be perfect! That way you aren't scrubbing out a crock pot while you're guest are hanging out in the other room.
Anyway, a few people on Instagram asked for the mac and cheese recipe, so here it is courtesy of the Huz' cousin.
Mac n Cheese
- 4 oz cooked macaroni
- 6 oz evaporated milk
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/8 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 cups shredded cheese

Spray the crock pot first then combine all ingredients together and cook on low for 3 hours. I sometimes sprinkle bread crumbs on top.  (I mixed the both kinds of milk, butter, salt, and egg in a bowl before adding it to the crock pot.)

Photos by moi.                                                                                                         
p.s. I posted this as part of Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking!
p.p.s. I was not given the cookbook to review and I get nothing if you get a copy. I just wanted to share my thoughts on it.

Emily of New Moon

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Emily of New Moon
by L.M. Montgomery

Emily Byrd Starr is a dreamer. Even at a young age she writes poems and wanders through nature. When she is orphaned by the death of her father her mother’s estranged relatives descend upon her home and draw lots to decide who will care for her.

This novel obviously shares a lot of ground with its predecessor, Anne of Green Gables. The author’s two heroines share similar temperaments and interests. There are also a lot of characters that feel very familiar. Emily’s Aunt Elizabeth Murray is reminiscent of Marilla, while her Aunt Laura takes Matthew’s role of a softer guardian.

That being said, Emily is a great character on her own and I think my appreciation for her will develop even more with the other books in the series. She has a wonderful imagination, but she can be stoic around strangers. She’s strong-willed and stands up for herself when she feels she has to. She’d immensely loyal and trusting. We also get the chance to see her with her beloved father before he dies, something we never had with Anne.

The story follows Emily as she moves to New Moon and settles into a new life there. She has a deep love of cats and doesn’t make friends easily at first. I loved her best friend Ilse. She is a little unapologetic spitfire. Her close friends also include her cousin Jimmy with his penchant for poetry, the hired boy Perry and her classmate Teddy.

BOTTOM LINE: If you read and loved Anne of Green Gables then you can’t miss this one. Montgomery writes wonderful characters and I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

“Gossip lies nine times and tells a half-truth the 10th.”

Wordless Wednesay: Spoonbridge

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read.

1) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – A nonfiction memoir painstakingly written by a man who is paralyzed in a car wreck. He blinked out every letter he wanted written.

2) Room – The horrific nature of this novel is tempered by the way it is told. A kidnap victim has a child while captive and the reader sees the story unfold through the innocent eyes of a 5-year-old.

3) Ella Minnow Pea – This clever epistolary novel uses fewer and fewer letters throughout the book as certain pieces of the alphabet are banned.

4) The Arrival A graphic novel that manages to convey a gripping emotional story of immigration without using a single word.

5) Anything by Jasper Fforde – From his literary detective in the Thursday Next series to the world of hierarchical colors in Shades of Grey, Fforde creates the most fantastic societies.

6) We Need to Talk about Kevin – A book about a killing at a school that makes the reader question nature vs. nurture. This one is unique because at the end you’re still not sure whose side you’re on.

7) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Our narrator has some form of autism, probably Asperger’s, which gives him a very distinct view of the world.  

8) The Sparrow – Is it a novel about space travel, religion, xenophobia, culture divides? It’s all of the above and I’ve never read anything else like it.

9) A Clockwork Orange – The characters speak in a slang language of their own devising.

10) The Book Thief – The book is narrated by Death, enough said.

Classics Club Meme Question

Monday, April 7, 2014

Contemplate your favorite classic to date. When was this book written? Why would you say it has been preserved by the ages? Do you think it will still be respected/treasured 100 years from now? If it had been written in our own era, would it be as well received?

It’s almost impossible to pick a “favorite” classic, so I’m just going to pick one of many. Persuasion by Jane Austen was published in 1818. I think Austen’s fame from her other works (especially Pride and Prejudice) has preserved her less popular works, including Persuasion. I hope that her work will still be popular in 100 years, because the themes she deals with are timeless.

I think that if it was written today a lot of people would dismiss it as “chick lit.” It deals with a woman and a romance and some publisher would probably slap and stupid pink cover on it with flowers or something. But there’s so much more to the story! Anne Elliot caves to family pressure and refuses to marry the man she’s in love with. Eight years go by and her path crosses with her old flame once again. There is obviously a beautifully slow-burning romance in the book, but for me Anne’s story is much more important.

Throughout the plot she learns how to stand up for herself and form her own opinions. She refuses to be cowed into cancelling a meeting with a close friend that her family sees as “beneath her.” She doesn’t fall for the shallow Mr. Elliot’s attempts to woo her. She is loyal and kind and incredibly observant. In one scene she discusses the depth of feelings that women have vs. men with Captain James Benwick, a man grieving the death of the woman he loves. That scene shows us more about Anne’s true feelings than any other in the book.

I think that Anne’s age should also be considered when thinking about when it was written. In the book she is 27, which was considered old for an unmarried woman at the time. She knows that the odds she will ever marry are very limited, which means she is dependent on her relatives and so the fact that she stands up against them is even more impressive. She had very few options at that point and yet she stood up for herself.
Join in the fun here.