Friday, January 29, 2010


I just wanted to write about a few of the books I read:

Nobody's Princess/Nobody's Prize by Esther Friesner: these are two stories about Helen of Troy when she is an adventurous teenager; they were mostly good and I recommend them if you like the Greek myths and strong heroines.

Polk by Walter Borneman: I really like Polk but I wasn't too familiar with him beyond his promotion of Manifest Destiny and a song about him (although this book debunks some of the things said in it). I really liked his pledge to serve only one term which was especially good as he died about three months after leaving office (he was quite sickly).

Liar by Justine Larbalestier: I read this book due to seeing the cover controversy but I really didn't like it. I was put off by the narrator. I mean fiction is lies so her bragging about lying to me isn't that impressive.

The Tuesday Club Murders/Five Little Pigs/The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie: I am so in love with her books and I actually fingered the murderer in Five Little Pigs (although there were only five suspects so it wasn't that hard.) I am planning to eventually read all of her books and I've made some good progress.

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin: I went to amazon to see what people were saying about this book and was annoyed to discover that most of the one-star reviews were from whiny people complaining about how it was not available through kindle. So they hadn't read the book but they still felt compelled to lower its rating. I didn't really like the book due to my political inclinations which made me want more dirt on the Republicans who aren't really mentioned until almost 3/4 of the way through the book.

Love You, Hate You, Miss You by Elizabeth Scott: another great book from this author. I admit I prefer her more romantic work (Perfect You is one of my favorite books) but this was good too as the main character learns to deal with the fact that her best friend is now dead.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unseen Academicals

Unseen Academicals

Back in November, I signed up for a Terry Pratchett challenge. I forget that it started in December and so planned to wait until January and then I was reading other things so it is just now that I read my first book for the challenge. I knew that my school library would have it so as soon as I had a chance I went there and checked it out.

Overall, I really enjoyed it (although I prefer football to the soccer described here!) I will try to summarize it although that may be a little hard. Basically the wizards at the university have to play football in order to continue to receive a bequest. Unfortunately football is currently a dirty unregulated sport but the Tyrant of the city has plans to clean it up through the wizards. Trev Likely, a worker at the U and the son of a football legend, falls in love with Juliet, a gorgeous girl who roots for his team's rival. Glenda tries to look out for Juliet and becomes interested in Trev's mysterious coworker Nutt.

I was excited about the idea of a Romeo/Juliet love story which this isn't so much and I ended up really loving Nutt. He doesn't know exactly what he is (not human, dwarf nor troll) but he's exceeding erudite and polite. The wizards are mad fun and Death even pops by very briefly (wish there had been more of him but then again I didn't want any of the characters to die)

Overall: I would say 4 and say that it reminds me that I need to do a lot more reading of Discworld instead of being distracted by other books.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming

This book is taking a closer look at the personal lives of the six most famous founding fathers, in particular their relationships to their wives and other important women in their lives. I'm not sure why the order of the sections is as it is (I think it should have started with Franklin as the oldest rather than Washington).

1. George Washington: it addresses the rumors of an affair with his friend's wife Sally Fairfax but concludes that GW was very happy with Martha. It was interesting to see how they welcomed all of their assorted relatives to their home and how she worked to maintain a pleasant home for him.

2. Benjamin Franklin: was married by common-law to Deborah (who was actually officially married to another man who had abandoned her) but during his time in London seemed to acquire another woman who acted as wife. I knew Franklin wasn't exactly big on propriety but I didn't realize the full extent of it. I also tend to think of him as an old, gout-ridden man so it was eye-opening to read about his younger self.

3. John Adams: I've always been fond of the Adamses. It was heartwarming to read about her support of him especially considering the tumultous relationships of the couples before and after them in this book. She was so essential to him and they had an amazing relationship sustained over long stretches of separation.

4. Alexander Hamilton: He was a real creep to his wife Elizabeth, what with his affair and subsequent humiliation for her. But after his death she devoted herself to preserving his memory and brilliance.

5. Thomas Jefferson: I was really creeped out by his daughter Martha's devotion to him. She was one of his few remaining relatives but she seemed to want to do everything for him even to the point of alienating her husband and possibly ignoring her children. And I felt too much time was spent on Sally Hemings. At some point, someone with Jefferson DNA raped her and caused her to have children. I don't really care if it was TJ or one of his nephews (as the author claims). There was too much time spent on this speculation for my taste. I also don't really like TJ, with his hypocrisy over liberty/slavery; championing states rights; denigrating the part women should play in politics; depletion of the army/navy under his low taxes so that America was left largely undefended; his insistence on small farmers in an agrarian society (not of course that he was a small farmer) in the face of Hamilton's support for a great industrial power (who won that battle?)

6. James Madison: He had an awesome wife (Dolley!) who was probably the most helpful of all the women mentioned here to helping Madison with his political career. And then after his death, she continued to champion his memory and legacy. She also joined forces with Hamilton's widow to help create the Washington Monument. My favorite part of this though was Madison's statement even as he dies that the Union was made indissoluble; as the writer of the Constitution, it is clear that there is NO basis for secession or the breaking up of the Union. (I'm studying the Civil War this semester so these thoughts are on my mind.)

Overall: 4.5/5 Definitely recommended to those who'd like to see a different side to the Founding Fathers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bad Me/Updates

So while I have read a lot (21 books and counting!) I have not felt like posting. However I have plans for two books this week (my first entry for the Terry Pratchett challenge and an American history book I really liked). I also hope to post mini-reviews of the books I've read and at the end of the month do a post listing all books read for the month plus how many pages.

As for personally, for some reason I thought it would be a "good" idea to take four history courses this semester. Consequently I am reading about a book a week for each of them plus trying to read things I've chosen on my own. I was inspired by a friend to keep Sabbath so from Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown, I am claiming me time whereby I will have, among other things, reading time. Since last week was the first week of the semester, I also had a lot of free time and read three books in addition to class work which I think is good but I know that will not continue. And while I will definitely include the books I read for class in my book count, I haven't decided whether or not I want to post something about them although as I "get" to write mini-papers about each, that may end up happening.

Basically I am sorry for not posting because I've read some good stuff although I did abandon two books because I didn't find them interesting. Best wishes for the end of January!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Goals for New Year

I've had these in my head for a while but I realized that I'd never written them down.

1. I want to finish all of my challenges. I didn't sign up for too many so I think that will be manageable. I also want to make progress on my personal challenges.

2. I want to update everything; post all of my reviews on amazon, cross-reference posts on this blog, keep my challenge posts up to date, and keep good records in my google docs.

3. I plan to read Dracula, Woman in White, The Color Purple, and Middlemarch during my school semester (in addition to whatever else I come across). They're part of my FITG challenge and the first three are epistolary novels which I am a sucker for.

4. I am setting a goal to read 200 books this year. I've never kept track of how many books I read so this will be interesting to see how close I can come. I think I can do it as long as I pick good books and prioritize better than I've done (I have a tendency to end up playing online sudoku and spacing out.)

5. I also want to make a nice dent in my 2000+ TBR list so I need to make sure that I pick books from it.

6. I hope to post at least two books a week since I don't know if I'll necessarily want to post about every book I read.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Ex-Mas by Kate Brian

(Sorry for the short review; I don't think there's that much to talk about)

This is the story of Lila and her ex-boyfriend Beau. If you have ever read a romance or seen a romantic comedy movie, then you can probably figure out what happens in the story.

I had some problems with Lila as she is largely unsympathetic (although her younger brother is also incredibly annoying, at least to someone who is an older sister) in the beginning. That is, she is a vapid popularity-obsessed bore with the requisite college boyfriend who is of course cheating on her (why can't the college boyfriend ever realize they're just too different? Why are they so focused on having their cake and eating it too?) Then there's Beau, the musician Mr Anti-popularity who has matured considerably in the three years since their falling out. He was okay; I've read dreamier heroes.

Overall: 3.5/5 for complete predictability and not very engaging characters.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

Summary: This is a look at roughly 1965-1972 focusing primarily on Nixon but bringing in the other political figures of the time and the cultural revolution to examine the landscape of American politics that exists even today in what Perlstein calls Nixonland.

(Warning: partisan political thoughts ahead)

I don't think this is so much a review as it is me just talking about the random thoughts that ran through my mind while reading this.

First, a joke: How could you tell when Richard Nixon was lying?
His mouth was moving.

Now I actually somewhat like Nixon but, especially, as 1972 approaches that is just so true. He was resentful, paranoid, and IMO approaching crazy (he seems to have believed that America would end if he wasn't reelected). His team sabotages the various Democratic candidates and plays political games with American lives in Vietnam. He exploited and injected anger and resentments as his main tactic for elections.

I liked Nixon as someone who wasn't good-looking, didn't give the best speeches, wasn't privileged unlike some other presidents who I don't feel were particularly qualified (*coughKennedyReagancough*) but got the job anyway. He had to work hard and accept cruddy jobs as the attacker for Ike or a punching bag for the Republicans.

I don't like Nixon as someone who convinces middle-class whites that they are oppressed (um what?) and takes advantage of our worse selves. I, naive little me, prefer the uplifting candidate who makes me want to be better. I don't like that he surrounded himself with creeps; I was going to say crooks but I felt the former word worked better :-) I don't like how he seemed to think that Nixon=America or how his team put the message out that disagreeing with the president was hurtful to America (Hmm, familiar?) I don't like his shifting "principles" (not entirely sure he had any)

One quote that particularly struck me was on page 47 (of the hardback): "The DNC was right: an amazingly large segment of the population disliked and mistrusted Richard Nixon instinctively. What they did not acknowledge was that an amazingly large segment of the population also trusted him as their savior." Basically you can substitute Obama or Palin for Nixon and you've got 2008. Similarly the last page talks about how "Nixon left behind the very terms of our national self-image: a notion that there are two kinds of Americans." It's been 30/40 years and we still interact in the terms laid out by Nixon.

One thing I didn't like about this book was Perlstein's repeated use of the phrase "slow, soiling humiliation." You know how some people hate the word moist? That's what this phrase did me, especially because it was used so frequently about Nixon. This book also turned me on John Wayne; I've never been a big fan of westerns (there usually aren't any female characters) but I've tried to watch some since he was the biggest movie star in America but now I don't feel guilty that I don't like his stupid movies and I'm going to avoid watching any more.

I finished Nixonland (which I'm rating a 3.5 because it was awfully long and sometimes boring but it was on my FITG list so I wanted to finish it) and I am currently reading three other books. I hope to finish them shortly.
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