Monday, November 30, 2009

Old New York

Old New York by Edith Wharton

I was browsing in the library and came across Old New York by Edith Wharton, a collection of four novellas. I've read Ethan Frome, which is very different from other Wharton works as it's set in a rural area in New England while most of the others are in New York society like this one.

Summary from back cover: "These tales are vintage Wharton, dealing boldly with such themes as infidelity, illegitimacy, jealousy, the class system, and the condition of women in society."

False Dawn: A young man is sent on a tour of Europe to collect art to bolster his family's reputation; when he returns his father disowns him for choosing poorly. However many years later it turns out to be a very valuable collection. I liked that the man's wife stood by him even through their years of poverty-I only wish his judgment could have been redeemed in his lifetime.

The Old Maid: This is also a Bette Davis movie; although I have not seen it, I enjoyed trying to picture her in this role. Possibly my favorite due to that. It's an especially heartbreaking story as a mother watches her daughter scorn her in favor of the adoptive mother, her cousin. I can't imagine having to watch your child everyday call someone else Mother and treat you as a poor spinster relative.

The Spark: This was my other favorite as the main character Hayley Delane is an interesting man. He ran away from school to enlist in the Civil War despite being underage and wealthy enough to buy his way out. Later he takes in his scandalous father-in-law as there is no one else to care for him. And it turns out that he is inspired by his meeting Walt Whitman during the war although he doesn't care for his poetry at all. I shared in the narrator's fascination with Delane and looked forward to finding out more about him as the story progressed.

New Year's Day: I really liked the twist in this one. A woman engages in an adulterous affair in order to scrounge up enough money to provide for her dying husband-everyone thought she was just a cheater but she didn't care because she kept her husband comfortable. She spends the rest of her life alone and comfortable in the knowledge that she did her best for her husband. It was a sweet love story although since the husband died in the beginning also tragic.

Overall: 4 out of 5. Actually all of these stories were to varying degrees depressing showing limitations placed on women and families by society. Despite that, they were enjoyable and readable. I was already planning on reading The Age of Innocence but now I am even more interested. The backcover also described the last story as O. Henryesque which makes me want to read some of his work now too.

I realize this wasn't so much a review as a description of the parts I liked but it is really good. I would recommend it as a nice bedtime reading or to someone who really likes Edith Wharton and has read her major works already.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Victoria and the Rogue

For a long while, Meg Cabot was my favorite author. I usually preferred her contemporary novels but I liked reading her two YA historical romances. The other one is Nicola and the Viscount; I don't like it as much but I would still recommend it if you like Meg Cabot and/or romance. I'm just going to spotlight but not do a full length review. I would say this is very Emma-esque as Victoria thinks she knows everything and interferes in people's lives to a great extent (and usually she's right except when it comes to love).

Summary from Meg Cabot's website:

"Growing up in far-off India, wealthy young heiress Lady Victoria Arbuthnot was accustomed to handling her own affairs—not to mention everyone else’s. But in her sixteenth year, Vicky is unceremoniously shipped off to London to find a husband. With her usual aplomb, however, Lady Victoria gets herself engaged to the perfect English gentleman, even before setting foot on British soil.

"Hugo Rothschild, ninth earl of Malfrey, is everything a girl could want in a future husband: he is handsome and worldly, if not rich. Lady Victoria has everything just as she’d like it. That is, if raffish young ship captain Jacob Carstairs would leave well enough alone.

"Jacob’s meddling is nothing short of exasperating, and Victoria is mystified by his persistence. But when it becomes clear that young Lord Malfrey just might not be all that he’s professed to be, Victoria is forced to admit, for the first time in her life, that she is wrong. Not only about her fiancĂ©, but about the reason behind the handsome ship captain’s interference."

Overall: 4 out of 5 for a perfectly enjoyable quick read

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gone with the Wind-Movie

Recently I happened to catch a sort of Gone with the Wind marathon-meaning the movie, a making of documentary, and bios of Vivien Leigh (my favorite actress) and Clark Gable (I didn't watch this). I did not watch the whole thing (Scarlett's miscarriage made me cry too much and I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the rest). It also made me want to reread the book so I'm hoping to do that this December/January. I also thought I'd share some of my (random) thoughts:
  • If you haven't seen GWTW, you should. I feel that it is the greatest example of studio movie making and epic movies.
  • I didn't realize this but Leslie Howard, who played Ashley, was 46 during filming. His character is supposed to be about 26 and he in no way looks 26 to me. I'm not a big fan of Ashley (My mom doesn't like watching this with me because I find myself incapable of not yelling at him for being awful)
  • Jean Arthur was among the actresses vying for the role of Scarlett. While I can imagine Bette Davis as Scarlett (I've seen Jezebel after all) and Paulette Goddard, I cannot think of Jean Arthur in the role. This is mostly because she annoys me (I've seen her in They Can't Take That Away From Me, Talk of the Town, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and Mr Smith Goes to Washington-she was bearable in the last two but quite grating in the first two). I'm not entirely sure why she annoys me so but I do not enjoy when she is the focus of a picture.
  • I love Melanie! Olivia de Havilland is so warm and sweet and caring. Just lovely! And I liked when the snotty Atlanta women accept things because she says they're alright.
  • I saw this on an imdb board discussing Scarlett/Vivien's age. Scarlett begins the book at 16 years and it ends I think 10 years later. But Selznick focused on women in their twenties. Admittedly I'm not sure if there would have been an actress in her teens who would have been able to play Scarlett but I like thinking about the possibilities.
  • I also really admire Scarlett particularly as she flees Atlanta for Tara because I believe she's 20 there and thus my age. I'm not sure I could be so strong. I also admire her strong business sense and work ethic even if morally she's questionable.
  • Favorite Outfit-This may be obvious as you can see in the picture but it's the red dress.
  • Favorite Part-Rhett bidding on Scarlett at the Atlanta Bazaar and then she gets to dance!
  • Second Favorite Part-Rhett kissing her during his proposal and that whole exchange actually
  • Third Favorite Part-Sewing/Reading while waiting for the men to return from burning the shantytown
  • Honorable Mention-Any time Scarlett slapped someone-just awesome!
  • Things I Have Problems With: marrying your cousin-maybe it's just because my male cousins are rather lame but and of course the whole genetic disorders that come with first-cousin association but I find that so gross and just plain weird; the vigilante justice of the men (No! Just no!); Ashley says he would have freed all of his slaves-okay, and then do what? Scarlett saved them all after the war and pushed Ashley into business, what would he have done otherwise?; and then Scarlett is blamed for the embrace with Ashley-now it is certainly her fault but it's Ashley's too. I hate that he is treated as if he is blameless and I liked Rhett's description of him as unable to be faithful in mind and unable to be unfaithful in body-so true.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recommendations #1

Wolf Hall has revived my interest in Anne Boleyn. I visited wikipedia and it had a list of books featuring her. I am posting that list and asking if anyone has read any of these or any other books that talk about her? Which would you recommend?


1. The King's Rose-Alisa M Libby
2. Luther's Ambassadors-Jay Margrave
3. Mademoiselle Boleyn-Robin Maxwell
4. A Lady Raised High-Laurien Gardner
5. The Queen of Subtleties-Suzannah Dunn
6. Doomed Queen Anne-Caroline Meyer (READ)
7. Dear Heart, How Like You This?-Wendy J. Dunn
8. The Other Boleyn Girl-Philippa Gregory (READ)
9. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn-Robin Maxwell
10. Blood Royal-Mollie Hardwick
11. The Lady in the Tower-Jean Plaidy
12. A Tudor Story: The Return of Anne Boelyn-W.S. Pakenham-Walsh
13. The Concubine-Norah Lofts
14. The King's Secret Matter-Jean Plaidy
15. Anne Boleyn-Evelyn Anthony
16. Brief Gaudy Hour-Margaret Campbell Barnes
17. Murder Most Royal-Jean Plaidy
18. Queen Anne Boleyn-Francis Hackett
19. Dissolution-C.J. Samson
20.The Dark Rose-Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

While I mostly enjoyed TOBG, I did not like the portrayal of Anne. I am a big supporter of her and I feel that she was greatly hampered by living when she did. She was smart, cunning, and ambitious and could have done a lot if she could have worked for power on her own right as say Cromwell had. Ideally I would prefer sympathetic views of Anne but it is not necessary.

I would also like to read some books about the Reformation. If it's fiction, preferably set in England or Germany and told from a Protestant point of view. If non-fiction, then just a really good book covering any area.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I almost forget to wish this to everyone because I'm currently abroad and not with my family :-(

Some Things I'm Thankful For:

1. My health-while I've had a cold, it hasn't been serious and I'm so grateful that my family is healthy as well.
2. Books/Libraries-for providing so much fun for me over the years
3. Airplanes-I'm flying back to the States next week and while I'm grateful for the opportunity to study abroad, I can't wait to be home, even if there is a roughly 20 hour flight before I will be.
4. Computers/Internet-for keeping me connected to home.
5. My family- I love and miss them so much!

Wolf Hall

I picked this book because I saw that it won the Man Booker Prize and because I was considering it as a present for my mom who likes the Tudor era. I don't think I will buy it for her but that does not mean I think it was a bad book. In fact I really liked this book!

Summary: This book is primarily about Thomas Cromwell, an important adviser to King Henry VIII. There is a section about his childhood but most of it is focused on the years 1529-1535 tracing his rise to power. These are the years when Henry is desperate for a male heir and the English Reformation occurs.

The first thing I liked about this book was its portrayal of Anne Boleyn. I've always liked her, if only because she was the mother of Elizabeth I. Then I read The Other Boleyn Girl which clearly did not like Anne. But this book recognizes that yes she is scheming and manipulative although not necessarily more so than anyone else at court and certainly more skilled at it than many others. She was stuck in a world where she could only advance through a marriage and she played her cards well (for awhile at least). For whatever reason I kept picturing her as Vivien Leigh, maybe because in some ways she reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara (blog entry on GWTW Movie is forthcoming). I also thought its portrayal of Lady Jane Rochford was somewhat softer than I'm used to which is good. She was in a sucky situation and reacted as best she could.

I also liked Cromwell (I pictured him as Clive Owen although I think Cromwell was a bit older at this time). Firstly I enjoyed his relationship with his mentor Cardinal Wolsey and then as he gained power he sort of mentored other young men. This does establish a system where people owe him but I felt like in some cases he enjoyed guiding them.

I'm not entirely sure why the book is called Wolf Hall as that is the name of the Seymours' home. I feel like Austin Friars would have been a better title as it's Cromwell's home. And the book ends before the Seymours really ascend to power. However I read that there may be a sequel. Another book would have to deal with the Seymours more since Jane marries Henry in 1536 and Cromwell wasn't killed until 1840.

Generally I had trouble with the fact that sometimes dialogue was not in quotes-I really hate that. And many of the characters had the same name which is of course historical accuracy. Another difficulty for me was the changing titles of people and how they weren't always referred to by the same one.

Overall: 4 1/2 out of 5

In regards to the actual historical context I don't get the fuss over scripture in the vernacular. Cos you know Jesus totally spoke in Latin so obviously everything has to stay like that. The importance of the printing press as a tool of dissemination is also seen as various smuggled Protestant works show up in England and Cromwell's office. It would have been a lot harder to spread these ideas using the traditional parchment and quill. The other thing was the importance of birth. Cromwell was frequently mocked for his low birth; he was the son of a blacksmith. I know that's how it was but I feel like he proved himself as willing to learn and very effective and should not have to deal with the gentry/nobility who basically can't do anything other than scheme. I think that's the American in me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sea of Poppies

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh I chose to read this because I enjoyed The Glass Palace. This time the story occurs on the brink of the Opium War, 1839-1842. A wide variety of characters appear to travel on the Ibis and like Glass Palace, the narrative shifts to follow each in turn.

Summary: There is a ship called Ibis sailing to China. People from many different walks of life with secrets to spare find their way on it.

I did have some problems with this book. First the sailors speak in an odd mix of languages-I recognized some English but for the most part I could not understand it. I was still able to follow the story but it detracted from my enjoyment. The shifts in perspective could be annoying when it focused on a character I didn't like (Paulette) but I enjoyed it in both Glass Palace and here. I also felt the ending was rushed-apparently this is part of a trilogy which is good because this ending would be incredibly unsatisfactory in wrapping up the story. I actually think the book could have been a bit longer to pace out the ending better.

I'm going to talk about each character in turn with MILD SPOILERS so skip to the overall if you don't want to know.
Deeti-is an Indian woman of high caste married to an opium addict; after he dies, she flees his lecherous brother with Kalua, a big man who is disdained by the community. As they run, they marry, they enlist as workers to travel on the ship, she becomes pregnant, and he has to abandon ship to avoid being killed.
Zachary Reid-my favorite character; he's a mulatto who joined the ship to leave behind poor opportunities in America. He is fitted out to become a proper gentleman by Serang Ali, a former pirate and the leader of the ship's crew.
Paulette is a Frenchwoman whose father had lately died leaving her at the mercy of the Europeans of the city; she ends up disguising herself as an elderly Indian and enlists on the Ibis; unfortunately she and Zachary like each other (I think he could do a lot better than this annoying girl).
Baboo Nob Kissin was an odd character to me; he is a devout man who believes he is possessed by the spirit of his now dead religious patron Taramony-I do not entirely understand where Ghosh is going with this story nor do I understand the religious practices being performed.
Ah Fatt is a recovering opium addict and prisoner on the Ibis along with Neel, a former Raja whose lands have been taken by greedy Englishmen (Yes, he was not a good manager of his estate and nor was his father but it's the calculations of the colonists that really doom I think).

Overall: I would rate this 4 out of 5 due to my difficulties with the language and the abrupt ending but also for an enjoyable time, for sparking my interest in the Opium War, and for promising two books to come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Glass Palace

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

I bought and read this book for a class I took on Southeast Asian history. It begins as the British army invades Burma roughly 1885 and ends in 1996. The action primarily takes place in Burma and India with brief trips to Malaysia/Singapore.

Summary: Rajkumar is a poor orphaned Indian boy in Burma as the British invade. He sees Dolly, a servant of the Queen and vows to find and marry her. As the story continues he becomes a rich man, marries Dolly, and the plot shifts to their children.

I was engaged by the story almost immediately and found it a pretty easy read. It moves quickly and is pretty good historical fiction although if you might have problems if you are unfamiliar with the region. I was studying this in class but if I was reading it on my own I would definitely want to do more research. The reader meets many characters who represent some of the people, actions, and reactions of the region to war, colonialism, and economics. Interestingly while much of the book takes place in Burma the main focus is on Indians rather than the Burmese.

I had two problems with this book. First there is not enough time spent on each character and too many characters are introduced too rapidly meaning that sometimes the relationships were blurred in my head. Second huge amounts of time are passed over in sentence or two. 1914-1929 goes by in a blink and post-WWII receives only cursory attention while still important to the story. Although the book is already quite long (my paperback is 470 pages), I felt it could have been longer and then the story could have been fuller.

Overall: 3 1/2 out of 5 I enjoyed it and I'm recommending it to my mom but I feel there are serious flaws that detracted from the book.

Tomorrow: Sea of Poppies, also from Amitav Ghosh

Monday, November 23, 2009

100 in 2010

Beginning January 1, 2010 and continuing through the year, the goal is to read 100 books. While I'm pretty sure that I've read over 100 books this year, I didn't keep track so this will be a personal challenge for me to keep track of everything I read, including new reads, rereads, challenge books, and any audio books.

To sign up, head on over to
J. Kaye's Blog!

Also at J. Kaye is the 2010 support your library; I read books that are almost exclusively from the library so I'm going for the Super Size Me which is 100 books. If I can complete the first one, I should be able to finish this one too.

So because I'm kind of lazy, this is a dual post for reading 100 books from the library. Most of the books I would review for this blog are from the library; the other books I read, I bought for class and tend to be less interesting.

1. Nixonland by Rick Perlstein
2. Ex-Mas by Kate Brian (I love that I read this in January rather than December)
3. Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff
4. Signing Their Lives Away by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese
5. Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy L Sayers
6. Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
7. Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen
8. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie (I fingered the murderer!)
9. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
10. Polk by Walter Borneman
11. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
12. The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
13. Nobody's Prize by Esther Friesner
14. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
15. Love You, Hate You, Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
16. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming
17. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
18. Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger
19. Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
20. How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger
21. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
22. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
23. Harry Potter and Imagination by Travis Prinzi
24. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
25. The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Would love to continue this series but the library does not have the second book :-( Will keep looking)
26. Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder
27. Murder on Board by Agatha Christie (3 books in one)
28. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
29. Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier
30. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
31. Becoming Jane Eyre by Shelia Kohler.
32. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
33. A Truth Universally Acknowledged ed. Susannah Carson
34. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
35. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
36. And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
37. Fire by Kristin Cashore
38. Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
39. A Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
40. Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
41. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
42. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
43. Final Exam by Maggie Barbieri
44. George Lucas' Blockbusting ed. Alex Ben Block
45. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
46. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
47. The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen
48. Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton
49. The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols
50. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
51. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
52. A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker
53. Frankly My Dear, I'm Dead by Livia J. Washburn
54. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers
55. Perfect Shot by Debbie Rigaud
56. The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren by Wendy Toliver
57. Love Off-Limits by Whitney Lyles
58. The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
59. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
60. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
61. Huckleberry Finished by Livia J Washburn
62. A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
63. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
64. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas by Marilyn Butler
65. This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson
66. Flirting with Disaster by Rhonda Stapleton
67. Redeeming the Hero by Moira J. Moore
68. Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison
69. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
70. The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
71. Laughing Feminism by Audrey Bilger
72. The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
73. Heaven by Lisa Miller
74. Fat Cat by Robin Brande
75. The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton
76. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
77. Bible Babel by Kristin Swenson
78. Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount-White
79. Albatross by Josie Bloss
80. Wish by Alexandra Bullen
81. The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
82. Darklight by Lesley Livingston
83. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
84. Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan
85. The Real Real by
86. Impossible by Nancy Werlin
87. Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri
88. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
89. Quick Study by Maggie Barbieri
90. Just Jane by Nancy Moser
91. Daughter of Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
92. Written on Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
93. Thread of Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin
94. Jane's Fame by Claire Harman
95. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
96. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
97. The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
98. When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
99. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
100. Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
101. Belief by Francis Collins
102. In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch
103. Heist Society by Ally Carter
104. Fifth Avenue, 5 AM by Sam Wasson
Updated September 5th

Top 10 TV Couples

I saw this meme at Angieville and since I love TV I decided to make my own list. I ended up with so many couples that I created an honorable mention list for couples that were for one reason or another disqualified from the main one. I did this one as a countdown so scroll down if you want to see my number one pick.

Honorable Mentions:
Homer and Marge-I grew up with The Simpsons (we're both 20!) and if this was ten years ago, they definitely would have made the list. Unfortunately I have still continued to watch the show and I am frequently disgusted by the antics Homer gets up to and the way Marge forgives him. I know Homer loves Marge and his family so much but I can't quite get over the awful things he does.

Peter and Olivia (from Fringe)-I have only watched about half of season 1 so I'm not as committed to it as I am with other shows and something could change although on the whole I think not.

Sheldon and Penny (from The Big Bang Theory)-First if you're not watching this, you definitely should; it's one of the funniest shows on TV. Now technically Penny is dating Sheldon's roommate Leonard and Sheldon has zero interest in love/romance/sex but I still like watching their scenes together and I think they have great chemistry.

Sabrina and Harvey-I did almost put this on my list but I have two other couples from shows that I felt were similar to this so I did not.
Rory and Logan-I think one of the great TV questions for my generation is: who should Rory have been with, Dean, Jess, or Logan? Earlier this year a big group of my friends ended up having a big debate on this topic. We are very passionate about it. I personally never liked Jess (and I hated him when he played a similar character on American Dreams and part of the reason I didn't watch Heroes was cos I saw Jess and couldn't bear to watch; nothing against Milo Ventimiglia who is very nice I'm sure) and I didn't like Dean after he slept with Rory while married. But I liked Logan-it didn't quite make the list because I didn't watch many of the later episodes.
Stephanie's List

10. DJ and Steve-I loved this couple (I like Rebecca and Jesse too but at this point in my life I feel closer to the teens than the happily married parents). In my imaginary Full House Reunion Movie, they're married with three kids and end up taking over the house-it's very cute.
9. Annie and Eric-maybe it's just because I've been watching a lot of 7th Heaven reruns but I really like them. They have a strong loving marriage and they deal with problems together (for the most part). Although I'm not entirely sure how two wonderful people managed to raise the awful Mary and Ruthie (seriously they suck and Matt isn't much better)
8. Booth and Brennan-The only couple who isn't really a couple (YET) on my list. I am very hopeful that they will end up together eventually but until then I love the lingering looks Booth gives Brennan. And he loves her!
7. Daphne and Niles-This past summer my parents were taping something like 20 episodes of Frasier a week. At first I wasn't watching but it was on all the time so of course I fell in love. I didn't like how the writers handled them getting together (did Niles really have to get married?!) But even so I was immensely happy to see them once they were married and expecting.
6. Cory and Topanga-I kinda blame this show for giving me unrealistic expectations of high school but this was a major part of my childhood (also Philly!)
5. Jim and Pam-I liked them best in season 2 when my energy was spent hoping for them to be together. I don't like them quite as much as I used to (Andy and Erin!) and I was displeased that Pam got pregnant before they got married but I still like them a lot and will even after the show ends.
4. Eric and Tami (or Coach and Principal Taylor)-I LOVE my parents but if I was picking a different pair, I would want the Taylors although I wouldn't want Julie as my sister. And I wouldn't want to live in Texas.
3. Blair and Chuck-this third season has been disappointing as they are hardly in the episodes (it's like the writers decided that CHAIR was too awesome so they have to be shown less so the other characters have a chance to shine. But the other characters mostly suck so it's not good). I love them and I hope they can continue!

2. Monica and Chandler-I posted about this couple at Angieville but I'll repeat it. When I first watched the show I loved Ross and Rachel and liked Mondler. Now as I watch reruns I realize how much I hated the baby/Rachel&Joey storylines which really ruined the couple for me. Now I realize that I love Monica and Chandler (and I kinda want to marry a Chandler-a funny sweet guy who just happens to be my best friend) Even before they get together there are all sorts of sweet moments with them.

1. Sam and Diane-I love Cheers (I also love Frasier and Lilith and Woody and Kelly). I still liked the show even after Diane left and found Rebecca really fun too. But you just can't beat Sam and Diane. I was going to share my favorite moment but then I realized that I had two so: A. The professor read War and Peace but Sam read War and Peace for Diane; and B. Sam can't say "I love you" to Diane.

So those are my favorite TV couples. I'm also working on a movie couples one (haven't seen a meme for it but I'll link back if I do) and maybe a book couples post too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Age of Iron by J. M. Coetzee

I chose this as part of my diversification of FITG; the author is South African and a Nobel prize winner. I picked it because it was short. That was maybe a bad idea because I did not really like it. Perhaps I should have read the summaries of each book before choosing.

I did not really like the main character, who is dying of cancer. She's writing letters to her daughter who fled apartheid South Africa for America. The cancer that is killing her is likened to apartheid killing South Africa. There's violence as the situation escalates. I thought it would be good to know more about apartheid but this was not the book to do that. I think I will look for some non-fiction.

I would describe as very literary. For me this means, there's a lot of writing and describing and feeling but not much happens. As an example, I have felt this in some parts of Jane Eyre where she just goes on and on about the stupid landscape. It does not appeal to me.

Overall: 2.5 out of 5. I would not recommend this to someone who shared similar tastes to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

All About the Brontes Challenge

Wow-another challenge already but this one coincides with personal goals/FITG. My first experience with the Brontes was reading Jane Eyre in 9th grade. Needless to say I hated it-it was so boring. Around that time I discovered Pride and Prejudice, confirming me as a Janeite and leaving me somewhat anti-Bronte. I've felt bad about that though and have been meaning to rectify my closed-mindness. I've seen the 1939 Wuthering Heights (I love Olivier) and the 1996 Tenant of Wildfell Hall and I enjoyed both of them although the former because of the actor-I just don't get how Heathcliff is romantic.

The challenge is to read/watch/listen to 3 to 6 items about anything Bronte between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010. I wrote up a tentative list and it had 10 items on it so I will hopefully be able to complete it.

Tentative List:
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  • Agnes Grey
  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte
  • The Eyre Affair (would be a reread)
  • The Taste of Sorrow (I really enjoyed two other books by Jude Morgan so this is a must-read for me)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea
  • The Thirteenth Tale (which has been on my list for a while)
  • Jane Eyre 2007
  • Wuthering Heights 2009
Thanks to Laura at Laura's Reviews for hosting this-I'm excited to get started!

Animal Farm

I read Animal Farm as part of my FITG challenge. I feel like many of my friends read this for school and felt left out that I hadn't (I'm kind of a nerd). I also liked that it was short! One interesting part of the copy I read was that it was in English and French; if I read French, I bet it would have been interesting to examine the translation.

I found AF to be a quick and pretty easy read. I can see why teachers assign it. I don't really have anything else to say; I just want to document that I read it for FITG.

Line: "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others."

Overall: 5 out of 5. Very good; highly recommended for all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Curse of the Pharaohs

[This is not the cover I had; mine features a cobra wrapped around a shovel which is odd as there is no mention of cobras]

I had seen some recommendations for the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I always like finding good mystery series so I decided to check my library for them. While I like to start at the beginning, I often find with mystery series that order is not so important. The first book was not in so I picked the second called The Curse of the Pharaohs.

Summary: Amelia Peabody Emerson and her archeologist husband have been living peacefully in England with their young son but when the opportunity arises for them to excavate a new Egyptian tomb, they arrange for him to stay with relatives and set off. Unfortunately this opportunity comes about because the previous overseer of the tomb was murdered. Curses, terrified workers, and a host of eccentric characters greet the Emersons as they work in Egypt.

I really enjoyed this book. The style was intimate and chatty as Amelia addresses the reader and tells her story. She and Emerson have a wonderful partnership and irony is utilized to a great extent to describe it. This is also a very humorous story-I laughed pretty often.

I did not figure out the murderer. Now if you've read the previous posts, you might be thinking "Stephanie, do you ever figure out who the murderer is?" And I will say "Yes, yes I have. But this is the first book I've reviewed here where I feel there are sufficient clues for the reader to finger the murderer." I also feel that it would be better to read the first book in the series first because there are some references to it in this book. While it did not ruin the story, I would prefer to have read in order.

Overall: 4/5 stars for this sparkling mystery. I would recommend this to people who enjoy light mysteries and/or have an interest in Egyptology.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Goals of Blog

I would like to write a bit more about why I am keeping a blog and goals for one:

1. I hope it will encourage me to read more in college and beyond. I have allowed college work and the internet [] to distract me from what I have always considered my favorite activity.
2. I would like to create an archive of books I've read. I can usually remember what I've read especially if I can see the cover but not always. I also tend to have a bad memory for authors so this would help me remember.
3. Strengthen my critique/analysis skills. I was always average in English because I could read and discuss but not necessarily write it all out. I also feel like I should be better-practice should help.
4. Encourage me to explore new authors via challenges and following other blogs. While I have done challenges without a blog, I think it will be more fun with one.

Other thoughts:

1. I think I will be using a rating system of 1 to 5 stars as well as including recommendations for who might enjoy the book.
2. There probably won't be many negative reviews as I generally don't finish books I don't like. I believe very much in the idea that I only have so much time and I don't want to spend it reading something I don't like. It doesn't mean the book is bad or without merit, just that it didn't appeal to me at that time. I can always go back and try again.
3. I'm unsure about whether I need to specialize. Most of the blogs I've seen focus on some genre like romance, YA, or fantasy. But I've never been able to stick to just one genre. At the moment I seem to be in a bit of a mystery/historical groove but in a few weeks I know I will be reading fantasy and beloved childhood books (BSC!) I don't think there's any genre I avoid-I'm pretty open to reading anything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Terry Pratchett Challenge

I've liked Terry Pratchett since my friend introduced his books to me in 10th grade (she also introduced me to Tamora Pierce-isn't she a great friend?) However I still haven't read that many of his books. So when I saw that Marg at ReadingAdventures is hosting a challenge for the upcoming year to read the Discworld novels, I was very excited.

It starts December 1, 2009 and will run to November 30, 2010 so plenty of time to read! I'm signing up as Academic at the Unseen University which means I'll read 6-8 books. I own The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Thud although somehow I've never read them so those will be my first three. Then I will probably reread Going Postal and/or Making Money because I've enjoyed them a lot and I love Moist von Lipwig. I'd also like to read the newest book Unseen Academicals. To finish I will definitely want to read some books starring Death who is my favorite character. If I am very successful at acquiring the books, I may move up a level. But for now I want to aim for 6 to 8 since I know I will have a lot of other reading to do.

Tentative List:
1. The Colour of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Thud
4. Going Postal
5. Making Money
6. Unseen Academicals
7. Mort
8. Hogfather

Thank you for hosting Marg; I'm very excited to get started!

Diamonds Are Forever

I tried to read Casino Royale some time after seeing the movie-I enjoyed the movie but not the book. But I decided to give Fleming another chance and I chose Diamonds Are Forever mostly based on the cover.

Summary: James Bond is sent to investigate the smuggling of diamonds from South Africa to America.

I really liked the description of the airplane on page 50 of my copy: the passengers are served cocktails and caviar on the two hour flight from London to Ireland. I feel lucky to get two drinks and a bag of pretzels on a US cross-country flight.

Perhaps because Casino Royale is the only Bond film I've seen, I kept picturing Daniel Craig as Bond. This works. Bond is cool and efficient whether knocking out some baddies or seducing Miss Tiffany Case (who has a horrific backstory).

I was offended by some passages regarding race and gender but I kept in mind that this book was written 1956 by an Englishman with a vastly different perspective than me. I also felt the ending was somewhat rushed but in the end it's only important to know that Bond completed his mission.

Overall: I would rate this 4 out 5. The chapters were short and suspenseful so I could move through the book quickly. I am definitely planning to read some more Bond books.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fill-In-the-Gaps Challenge

I saw this challenge on some blog somewhere a while ago and once I find it I will be sure to link back to it. Basically it challenges you to come up with 100 books that you want/think you should read because they're considered classics or you have heard great things about them but would otherwise probably not make time for them. When compiling my list, I tried to diversify based on nationality and gender. I was not entirely successful (73 US/UK to 27 other countries and 31 F to 69 M) but as I tried to include a lot of "classics" and I don't always like translations, I think that is not too bad. Criteria for inclusion: Whether I already owned it; if it had been recommended to me; Length-if there was an author I wanted to represent, I looked for shortness or a book considered to be more accessible; diversity in author's nationality/gender. The challenge lasts for 5 years which means I only have to read 20 a year and that's not too bad. I started October 13, 2009 so I must finish October 13, 2014. I hope I will still remember this blog then! At the time of this writing I have already read Animal Farm and Age of Iron so reviews will be forthcoming.

Update: I will bold those I've read and link to those I've reviewed.

1. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

2. The Black Cauldron

3. Bless Me Ultima

4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
5. Go Ask Alice-not very good; I can't believe people thought this was real

6. The Handmaid's Tale
7. The Somnambulist

8. Polk-so interesting

9. Agnes Grey

10. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

11. Wuthering Heights

12. The Good Earth
13. Possession

14. My Antonia

15. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

16. The Awakening

17. Shogun

18. Age of Iron

19. Woman in White

20. Heart of Darkness

21. Red Badge of Courage
22. The Divine Comedy

23. The Second Sex

24. The Book of the City of Ladies
25. Guns, Germs, and Steel

26. Oliver Twist

27. David Copperfield

28. Little Dorrit
29. Bleak House

30. The Brothers Karamazov

31. Sister Carrie

32. Middlemarch
33. Madame Bovary

34. Outlander

35. Stardust

36. Cranford
37. Cold Comfort Farm

38. The Bible
39. The Wind in the Willows

40. The Female Eunuch

41. Under the Greenwood Tree
42. The Scarlet Letter

43. Catch-22

44. For Whom the Bell Tolls

45. The Kite Runner

46. Their Eyes Were Watching God
47. Never Let Me Go

48. The Far Pavilions
49. The Shining

50. A Separate Peace
51. A Wrinkle in Time

52. Sons and Lovers
53. The Golden Notebook

54. The Screwtape Letters
55. Romance of the Three Kingdoms Vol 1 & 2
56. Arabian Nights and Days

57. Daughter of the Forest

58. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
59. Love in the Time of Cholera

60. A Game of Thrones

61. The Thorn Birds
62. Mornings on Horseback
63. The Watchmen

64. Beloved

65. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

66. Animal Farm
67. 1984
68. Doctor Zhivago
69. Nixonland

70. All Quiet on the Western Front
71. Midnight's Children

72. Catcher in the Rye

73. Persepolis

74. Ivanhoe

75. A Suitable Boy

76. Twelfth Night

77. Ceremony

78. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

79. I Capture the Castle
80. The Red Pony

81. Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde
82. Treasure Island

83. Dracula

84. The Magnificent Ambersons

85. The Secret History

86. Vanity Fair

87. Anna Karenina

88. War and Peace

89. A Confederacy of Dunces
90. Huckleberry Finn

91. Around the World in 80 Days
92. Slaughterhouse-Five
93. Infinite Jest
94. All the King's Men

95. Brideshead Revisited
96. The Time Machine

97. The Age of Innocence

98. The Once and Future King
99. Howl's Moving Castle
100. The Book Thief

Monday, November 16, 2009

South Asian Author Challenge

I'm joining my first challenge-yay! In the past couple of weeks I read two books by Amitav Ghosh (reviews are coming) and I would like to continue to explore other Indian and South Asian authors. So head on over to S. Krishna to check out the challenge and sign up!

I'm signing up for the 3 book level just because I'm not sure where I'll be getting the books-I don't own any of them at the moment. I hope I'll read more especially because it lasts from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

Books I'm considering:

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
The Enchantress of Florence-Salman Rushdie
In the Convent of Little Flowers-Indu Sundaresan

The Dante Club

I want to read The Last Dickens but when I was in the library I came across The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl's first novel so I decided to check it out.

Summary: As a group of America's most famous poets work to create the first American translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy against great pressure from the Harvard Corporation, a series of murders ripped from those very pages are committed. The club bands together to solve the mystery and protect Dante's reputation.

I have never read Dante but I am now much more interested in doing so. I know The Divine Comedy is on my (massive) TBR list but I will be making more of an effort to read it now. The historical detail and world created were fantastic-I felt like I was in Boston in 1865. I liked the characters a great deal, the narrative shifts to follow them around.

Again I did not figure out who the murderer was :-( I also had some difficulty distinguishing the characters. Lowell and Longfellow's names were too similar for me sometimes and many of the peripheral female characters had the same name (I realize this is historically accurate but it was hard for me). I also kept wanting Holmes to be either his son, the famous Supreme Court Justice, or Sherlock Holmes which is just weirdness on my part.

Overall: I would rate this 3 1/2 out of 5 stars; it was mostly enjoyable but not addicting. I definitely want to read Pearl's Dickens and Poe books. I may like them more as I am more familiar with those authors.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Complete Battles of Hastings, Volume 1

While I love mysteries, I've never been a big fan of Agatha Christie. However recently I decided to try to rectify that. The only Christie I had completed before this was The ABC Murders and I thought it was merely okay. But I know that her Poirot/Hastings books were among her most highly acclaimed so when I saw this book in the library I decided to check it out. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was her first book ever and the other three are among her earliest. I'm not going to post full summaries of each of these but instead I'll briefly describe my reaction to each.

All: I did not figure out who the murderer was in any of the stories-I'll admit that I tend to like mysteries I can solve so that may contribute to my indifference to Christie. Poirot annoyed me greatly in all of them. I think I'm a bit of an Anglophile (and I'm American) so it may be his stupid sprinkling of French phrases into conversation, his mocking of stolidly English Hastings, the description of his egg-shaped head (ALWAYS mentioned), or his belief in his superiority over everyone else (I accept this in Sherlock Holmes but I will not accept it from him!)

Styles: Was probably my favorite of the four; Introduces Poirot and Hastings and sets up their personalities and tendencies that will show up in later books such as Poirot's obsessive neatness.

Links: I felt that this one was merely alright-I had the most trouble getting through it.

Big Four: I really did not like this one as the point of it was not to solve a murder but instead to catch a criminal conspiracy that was covering the world. I guess it leaned more toward what I would consider thriller than mystery.

End House: This would have been my favorite except that I had grown quite attached to the murderer and was consequently disappointed when s/he was arrested.

While I did not love any of the books, I am still planning to read as many of the Christie books as I can get my hands on. I know I have The Body in the Library, a Miss Marple book, and I have several on my Christmas wish list so more will likely come.

Upcoming reviews: The Dante Club, Diamonds are Forever, The Curse of the Pharaohs, Wolf Hall (what an interesting assortment of books)


This is a way for me to decide whether I want to begin a book blog. While I love reading, A. I have trouble making time when my semesters are occurring and B. I don't usually write reviews of the books I read. However I have enjoyed the many book blogs I have visited and have been thinking about doing it myself.

I may also keep this blog as a movie, music, and/or TV review spot as well as any miscellaneous stuff that comes into my head. For example I chose 1858 as the number in my blog title because that is the year that Theodore Roosevelt aka one of my favorite historical figures was born. I may talk about history as I am a student of history and that is one of my passions.

I'm planning to post some book reviews in the next couple of days as I've had a chance to read quite a bit. I'll see how it goes.
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