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Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Culloden: 1745. Culloden: 2010.

In A History on June 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Point of Information: I know you want to pronounce “Culloden” like cullllllllidin. with the emphasis on ‘Cull.’ It’s not. The Scottish pronounce it as culawden, with the emphasis on ‘oden.’

Also, Culloden is viewed by the Scottish people as a war grave. To my fellow Americans, stepping onto the Culloden battlefield would be like visiting Gettysburg, or Normandy. And since Scotland views it as a grave, you could also liken it to Arlington Cemetery. You don’t simply walk onto any of these places with a light spirit.

My family visited Culloden partially because we were staying in Castle Stuart, which is nearby. We chose Castle Stuart because my parents stayed there 13 years before, when my mother forced my dad to take her on an Outlander tour– I’m not kidding. When we were there in 2010 there were two elderly sisters who were staying at the castle for the same tour! I had never heard of Culloden or any battle, or even Bonnie Prince Charlie, until my mother made us (well, made my brother and father…I was all for it) go. And she didn’t know about it until she read Outlander. And I was extremely glad I visited not only for history purposes, but it also encouraged me to begin reading Diana Gabaldon’s series (I’ll get to that in my next post…this one is already long enough, don’t you think?)

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This photo is one that I took in June/July 2010. That day had strange weather, and my mother, with her proclivity to address anything odd to ghosts or spirits, said that it was because of the souls lost on the battle field of Culloden that we were standing on. To be honest, I had an eerie feeling the entire time we were there. When you first walk onto the Culloden land (which was not very far from our hotel, Castle Stuart), you have to go through the modern structure that serves as the museum. It had the typical museum shop complete with never ending plaid, thistles, and shortbread. Past that was a dark area, lit only by soft lights under the floor and against the walls which shown a dim glow on the timeline of Culloden. They make you read that first, so you know what you’re experiencing when you walk the battleground. It was quite silent inside, and the museum employees were very solemn. It hadn’t been raining that day, but, if you know anything about Scotland, you know that the weather can literally change in seconds. Image

The tour guide called together everyone in a soft but firm voice. He didn’t need to tell us, but he did anyway– he reminded us to be respectful of the tour. The Battle of Culloden resonates so strongly in the hearts of every Scot. It nearly decimated all clans. There was no clan in that battle who did not lose someone. The English soldiers behaved so brutally I almost can’t call myself an anglophile. They chased down survivors, smashing in their heads from the back. They killed and raped the females of the clans, the ones who couldn’t get away fast enough. They buried the Scottish dead, clad in their kilts and blood, in mounds on the battle ground. The mounds still exist, but of course they have grown over and the remains are not far from dust.

The ground looks pretty flat, and in most places it was– it had to be, to be considered a good battlefield. As soon as we stepped outside, it started to downpour. I was stupid and didn’t bring a rain jacket (I actually didn’t have one, but whatever.) And then, it resolved to a fine mist that swirled around us, patterning against my father’s windbreaker I was wearing. It was a weird mist, though. It made both my mother and I feel uneasy before she even voiced her belief that if was the ghosts (she’s not normally that crazy). The tour was quite silent, and the entire mood was very somber.The tour wound its way on a roped path around the battlefield. We listened intently to the story our guide told, and it was a tale of such tragedy and loss it’s hard to even repeat what he said and have it worth as much meaning as it was for me as I stood on the battlefield where so many Scots lost their lives and their hope.

Known as the last and final battle of the “forty-five uprising,” it took place on April 16, 1746 near Inverness, Scotland. The Jacobite followers of the Bonnie Prince Charlie fought British troops commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. It ended the Jacobite attempt to end the House of Hanover and instill the House of Stuart instead. The Jacobite cause was supported by the Kingdom of France. Each side had both Scottish and British troops (which I found interesting). The entire battle took place in under an hour.

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The saddest part about the Battle of Culloden is the fatalities on either side– nearly 2,000 Jacobites werekilled. Only 50 died on the British side. Fifty. The Duke of Cumberland earned the nickname “Butcher” because of this battle.

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The majority of the Jacobite forces were, in fact, Scottish Highlanders whose clans were Catholic or Scottish Episcopalian. Perhaps a point which led to the extreme number of deaths to the Jacobites was the lack of competency on their side. Most of their voices were volunteers, and therefore there were very little trained officers. Their weapons consisted of swords, axes, pitchforks, and scythes. Only a few had pistols. The Young Pretender’s officers wanted a different type of battle featuring guerilla warfare (they believed the Culloden terrain was not acceptable), but he refused. The rain on April 16th was also blowing directly in the faces of the Jacobites. As the British troops pummeled the front lines of the Jacobites, the Scottish morale began to suffer. Eventually, the Jacobite lines began to collapse which led to a definitive British victory.

The Jacobites began to retreat, and Prince Charles told them all was lost and to fend for themselves. He left Scotland and never returned.

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The day after the battle, the Duke of Cumberland issued an order that led to a search over the hills for Jacobite wounded, who were then killed. Jails were emptied of common men and replaced with captured Jacobites. What I remember the tour guide telling us is a bit different than what I could find on the internet, although I do not think he was lying. If I remember correctly, he talked about the brutal search for the retreating Jacobites, sometimes killing the females in the clans when they wouldn’t give their men up. I remember him telling us that some clans were entirely wiped out. After Culloden, kilts were outlawed by the Dress Act in 1746.

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My family stayed at Castle Stuart while we visited Culloden. As it was so close to the battle (and is in the same Stuart family), the castle owners have a story teller come to relate the story of Culloden.

Even today, the battle is still very present in the minds of the Scottish people. It is an amazing story, and three words to describe the Jacobites resonate in my mind– bravery, loyalty, and perhaps most of all, faith– faith in themselves, faith in their fellow clansmen, faith in the Bonnie Prince, faith in Scotland, and faith in the Jacobite cause.

 

Word of the day: Tartan–a woolen or worsted cloth woven with stripes of different colors and widths crossing at right angles, worn chiefly bythe Scottish Highlanders, each clan having its owndistinctive plaid. (Source: Dictionary.com)

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A Valiant, if Failed Effort: Scotland and the Fight for the Restored Monarchy

In A History on June 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Currently, I am reading The Winter Sea, a book by Susanna Kearsley. It takes place in Scotland, in the year 1708. The eighteenth century was an incredibly tumultuous time for Scotland. The amount of change it experienced was incredible. In this particular year, a large group of Jacobites comprised of French and Scottish soldiers almost succeeded in saving their exiled king, King James, and restoring the monarchy. They failed, but the Jacobin efforts did not stop. It is a fascinating topic. I am not Scottish, but I’m quite interested in their history (I might as well become familiar with it if I’m supposed to be living there for 4 months.) Why is this topic a source of fascination to me? I promise, it is NOT because of Jamie Fraser, featured in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (although, really now, who could blame me?)

a quick summary of the Scottish resistance:

  • 1296 CE- Edward I of England invades Scotland. Scottish resistance begins.
  • Fighters like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce champion for Scotland’s independence
  • 1314 CE- Battle of Bannockburn
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, Catholic) descends from the Stewart line (cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. She was also imprisoned by her cousin. And executed. Harsh.)
  • She gives birth to James (1566-1625), heir to the childless Queen Elizabeth I (of England)
  • This James I and VI is now king of Scotland AND England
  • His son Charles I (1600-1649) gets beheaded by Cromwell when he assumes too much power and disbands Parliament
  • This ensues a Civil War that lasts for years in England. Cromwell rules during this
  • England wants their kings back
  • They have Charles I’s son, Charles II (1630-1685, still a Stewart) to rule
  • His brother James II  and VII (1633-1701) ascends the throne when Charles II dies in 1685
  • Point of Information: James is Catholic. The English really don’t like Catholics at this point in time. The English think he’ll use his Catholic powers to be friends with the King of France, also Catholic, who also happens to be the number one enemy of the English
  • King James’s daughter, Mary, is married to William of Orange, who is Protestant
  • But before they can have William and Mary rule, Mary’s father (King James) gives birth to a son (1688-1766, the Old Pretender)with his new wife!
  • Point of Information: Legitimate son=HEIR!
  • This scares the Protestant loving English, so they start a rumor that the child isn’t really James’, and therefore he isn’t a true heir
  • This starts a lot of problems within England that leads to
  • King James, wife, and son fleeing to France
  • 1688- the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, with (the Protestant) William and Mary ascending the throne
  • Back to Scotland– they’re split between Presbyterians happy with Mary ruling (she is Scottish) and those who agree her half brother, the little heir, is the true ruler (because males are put higher than females in the line of succession)
  • The latter group is the one who wants King James VII back. They become JACOBITES. This means followers of James (Latin for James is Jacobus) 
  • Scotland suffers during the time of William and Mary– their fields produce terrible harvests so Scotland is starving to death. England puts so many laws and tariffs on them that their trade suffers drastically
  • King William, after Mary dies, fears that upon his death Scotland will bring back a Stewart (King James or his new son, also named James)
  • Scotland and England used to be joined as one monarchy way back in the day, so William believes creating an act of Union that will make Scotland and England one, and so he can continue having Protestants ruling on the throne
  • When he dies Mary’s sister and daughter of King James, Anne, becomes Queen. She believes her half brother is really her half brother, but her council persuades her to choose her new successor (she was childless) from the German House of Hanover (does that last name ring a bell?)
  • Scotland refuses to accept this. They have their own parliament at this time, and declare that they won’t accept the Hanoverian claim on the throne unless Scotland is free to ignore foreign policies that don’t agree with Scotland’s interests
  • England retaliates with the ALIEN ACT—unless Scotland discusses the Union with England, every Scottish person living in England would be become an alien, and all Scottish owned estates in England would be taken back.
  • Scotland decided to talk
  • 1707 CE—Act of Union joined the parliaments of England and Scotland and formed the Parliament of Great Britain. It confirmed the Hanoverian (Protestant) succession to the throne
  • 1708 CE—failed Jacobin uprising (Where The Winter Sea takes place) 
  • 1715 CE—another failed Jacobin uprising
  • 1745 CEBonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles Edward Stuart arrives in Scotland and creates a Jacobin rising. He has some success, but the Jacobin fight was viciously ended as the English brutally murdered nearly all clans in Culloden (where Outlander takes place). My next post will be about the Battle of Culloden (which I have visited) and Outlander.

If I haven’t bored you so much already that you’ve stopped reading my post, you can see that Scottish history is quite complex, bound quite unwillingly to England. When my family visited England and Scotland in 2010 (my choice!), I remember the Customs Guard at Heathrow Airport asking us where we were headed. When I told him Scotland, he looked up and he said, “Ahh! Why in heavens’ name would you want to go there? There’s nothing over there!” He said it jokingly, and my father laughed, but a history as rich as it is is still felt by people today. Perhaps not with the vigor of the Scots and English back in the day, but they are certainly aware of it, and are aware of the feelings of betrayal and loyalty that lived in both England and Scotland for hundreds of years.

Word of the Day: Divine Right of Kings- a doctrine of political and royal legitimacy. A monarch receives his right to rule directly from God and is subject to no authority on earth (meaning the will of the people or the church). Strongly promoted by King James I and VI in England. Mostly associated with the House of Tudor and the House of Stuart. It was abandoned with the Glorious Revolution.  

Espionage During the Napoleonic Wars and Lauren Willig

In A History on June 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

First of all, readers, I must apologize for the week I let pass between this blog and the last. My stupid laptop (and it is stupid, I’m not just saying that out of the immense frustration I feel towards it) had to be sent in, and even though there are three computers in the house (not including four (well, 3 for now) laptops and two iPads), it is hard to switch to a different format than I’m used to. I received an email this morning that it is being shipped, so hopefully I’ll like it better this time around!

During this short interim, I have read several more books, the most recent being The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. I am nearly certain it is the 8th in the series. I very much enjoyed it. Not as much as the first two, but more than the previous three. I believe my reservations concerning her latest books in the series is that they do not take place in England, and they do not concern the original characters minus Miss Jane Wooliston. I originaly picked up the series because it was set in England. I am such an anglophile, and since I love history so much, I found the stories fascinating. Are any of you well researched on the Napoleonic Wars? Neither was I, before I read them. In fact, I really wasn’t quite sure what they were about. I originally thought it as simply about bringing Napoleon down, but that’s only the surface of it. After I was nearing the end of her most recent novel, I thought about the war, and how much information I do not know. I decided, therefore, to do some research. I always think that if someone is going to read a novel, he or she should really become familiar with the topic. I’m not suggesting one orders a dozen books, all in hardback and the size of a large laptop, and highlights each page of information. I simply mean that a quick summary of the topic will suffice. How stupid would it be for one to read a book about the Crimean War or botany and have no idea what is going on? It is a readers’ duty to figure that out, in my opinion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series is one of my favorites. The first two are my absolute favorite, the third is also a favorite, and then my favoritism sort of dies down….the latest book in the series was published in February, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it until this month (and I was pleasantly surprised, thankfully). It’s not because Willig isn’t a superb writer. She is. A story even better than romance taken place in early 1800s England is a love story in early 1800s England that involves espionage and counterespionage. Seriously, it’s something that can make my blood running. The first novel (mentioned above) starts out the series by laying the foundation of a collection of special spies whose special cover names involve flowers (Pink Carnation, Blood Lilly, Black Tulip, Orchid, Crimson Rose, Night Jasmine, emerald ring…oh wait, that’s not a flower. Why is that a title in her series? Hmm.)

 

Anyway. The men are dashing, intelligent, witty, seductive, romantic, silly, outrageous, and swoon-worthy. The females are just about the same, but in female-related terms. Even though I openly wish I lived during the Napoleonic Wars (or the Revolutionary Wars in both America and France….) in England, I have never fully researched the Napoleonic Wars, such as what it entailed, why it began, how it ended, and of course….the spying that occured during the war.

Espionage was a given. The Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1797-1815, was a major war that involved a ton of countries other than the countries of Great Britain and…France (of course). Even Sweden was somehow involved! Switzerland was a breeding ground of counterespionage, and one of the most famous British spies, William Wickham, conducted most of his work there. Compared to other wars before this period, the Napoleonic Wars saw a high increase in espionage.

Espionage. Isn’t it such a great word? Esssssssspioonnnaaaaaggggeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Anyway, I found relatively little online. I spent a lot of time researching, looking for book excerpts, anything, really, that would account for all of the exceptional information Willig knows. I found one academic book that’s conveniently titled Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815 by Elizabeth Sparrow. I am debating ordering it, but it is certainly not light reading one generally spends in the summer. No online excerpts were available so I really couldn’t read even the Index. I’m really quite curious where Willig receives her knowledge for writing a book. My own mother orders dozens upon dozens of books, highlights them and stickies them before she writes the first sentence. I can only imagine how much research Willig had to do to be able to write this series.

I suppose, when writing a spy novel, much of it is left to the writer’s interpretation. Not everything is going to be laid out, like “Oh, this is how one spies on one another,” or “this is a how to guide on wearing a black mask and cape and sneaking through a window.” Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

So, I found simply outlines on the wars and skirmishes that involved Napoleon and more about his side of the espionage world. I would encourage all of you, especially ones who have read Willig, to do your own research. It’s really quite fascinating.

And if you haven’t yet read the series, I do encourage you. Perhaps you will like books 4-7 more than  I did!

Word of the Day: Discombobulated: (n.) confused (v.) to confused, frustrate, or or upset.     (Isn’t a spy’s dream to discombobulate his or her opponent? And then oust said opponent, I suppose.)

P.S. The Napoleonic Wars were sparked by the French Revolution (1789). France’s power rose dramatically from 1803 till about 1812, when Napoleon famously invaded Russia in the middle of winter (really?? Who ever thinks that’s a good idea??) and nearly succeeded killing every French soldier there. Finally, however, the Bourbon monarchy was finally restored after his defeat.

The wars resulted in several major outcomes– any semblance of the Holy Roman Empire was destryed, Spain became less powerful, and the British Empire became the most powerful in the world.

As I am sure most of you know, Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo (Waterloo! Couldn’t escape if I wanted too…Waterloo! Knowing my fate is to be with you…) on June 18, 1815 by the Duke of Wellington.

Oh, look! That computer just flew out of that window!

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

How many of us have had computer issues? Everybody. It’s a necessary part of life, just like getting one’s driver’s license or getting a haircut. It happens often.

For me, however, it happens a bit more.

I honestly believe I was born in the wrong decade. The wrong century, really. I have NEVER been able to understand the inner workings of computers. what exactly is an IMAP? what is a RAM processor thingy? I couldn’t tell you.

I took computer classes all throughout school. The funniest part of this whole messy hate-hate relationship between computers and me is that in 8th grade I won the Computer Science Award. I had to walk up in front of the entire school (Pre-k through high school) to receive a metal award attached to a  red, white, and blue ribbon, with a pained smile on my face while my friends snickered and my mother didn’t bother smothering her surprised laugh. Yes, everybody was laughing because it was quite comical. Me, winning an award about computers? That was crazy talk. To clarify, they gave it to me because I had the fastest typing skills in the 8th grade. I believe my score was 56 words in a minute (is that fast?). But regardless, I hardly saw how that qualified me for the Computer Award. A father of a boy in my grade (who really should have won it) even said something along those lines after the ceremony (rude, right?)

So, as you see, it’s been quite obvious to myself and people around me that I”m the Kiss of Death when it comes to computers.

When I left for college my father bought me my first laptop (which I still have, but might not any longer….). It has a yellow and white polka dot cover and weighs a ton (I liked the size of the screen and didn’t understand how complicated it would be to lug my heavy laptop all over campus).

Enter my father. Probably the most adept computer person I have ever seen (and that includes my computer teachers in school). I think he majored in Econ or something in college, so I don’t know where he learned all of that, but nonetheless, he knows exactly everything there is to know about computers.  He ordered it, he installed all of that stuff that goes onto computers (it came on a CD disk?), installed a backup system and all that anti virus stuff (which I still don’t understand because I thought a lot of viruses pose as anti-viruses, so how do I know it’s a real one when it asks me to update the software? Sheesh), among other things. Do you want to know what I did? I put a pretty background picture of a Christmas window front display of Anthropologie and coordinated colors with the sidebar (you can do that, you know. Isn’t that cool?).

The first day my parents dropped me off at campus, I had a minor heart attack. It was not because of homesickness. It was because my father could no longer be ten feet away from me when (not if, when) I had a computer problem. Sure enough, later that night I couldn’t connect to my school’s Wi-Fi and called my father frantically (sadly, he thought I was calling because I was missing them already. It made me feel kind of guilty. I’m such a bad daughter).

And now this year. My ethernet thingy on the side of my laptop broke (a piece of it came off or something), so at school I couldn’t log onto the internet after 9 pm (got my homework done early at least!) When I took it into the school’s tech center, they said I would have to send it out for two weeks. Uhhhhhhhh, let me think about that….NO! It was the week before finals! I’m a history and English major with minors in Art History and classical studies. Do you even know the amount of essays I have to write? It’s ridiculous. (But I secretly love it.) So I angrily took my laptop and left, secretly wishing it may fall out of my car on the train tracks and get run over (one can dream).

I sent in my computer (after my dad called Dell, of course) 3 days before the warranty was out so they could replace my motherboard (what the heck is that, exactly? It almost sounds like a curse word…) which would have cost 400 dollars if my laptop wasn’t covered. When they sent it back, EVERYTHING WAS SO WRONG WITH MY LAPTOP. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of software problems my computer had.

My dad has been on the phone with dell for over 4 hours in the past two days, and they are planning on calling again today or tomorrow to make sure the box they sent came in, so I can then send my computer back to them. (note: the laptop was fine when I sent it in. It was PSYCHO COMPUTER when I got it back. Seriously. They could create a horror movie starring my laptop.)

So basically my hardrive will be wiped out, all of my files have been saved to CDs and Dropbox (which I still have no idea what that is or how it works), but I will still lose all of my personal computer setting and possibly iTunes. Yayyyy….. And the might fix it. Might. They can’t be certain.

Why are computers so complicated? If everybody owns or uses one nearly every day, shouldn’t it be so easy that any moron could resolve any issues? I mean, it’s seriously putting a damper on my life plans. How am I supposed to live a single life alone if I can’t fix my computer or understand the accents from the tech guys? That scares me more than living alone where my house could be burglarized and I could be kidnapped and then tortured and then who knows what else?

I really want to throw my laptop out the window. It’s a common phrase in my family (uttered by both mother and daughter more than son and father). But I REALLY really want to throw it out my window. I can hear the satisfying crunchy thud it would make when it landed. I bet it wouldn’t come apart at first. But when I throw a hammer down after it it might.

Sigh. I don’t think my father would be very pleased if I did that. Especially since I don’t have the funds to replace it.

Sheesh. What will happen when I go to Scotland? If my laptop dies and I have to buy a new one, it won’t have the $ sign on the keyboard! Eek!

Derby Day, Epsom Downs: A History

In A History on June 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

Since I’m reading a book entitled Derby Day, I’m doing this post as much for myself than for my readers. The book is less about the actual event than the people involved in it (unsavory characters at best). Even though I’ve been riding horses consistently since about 9 years old, I was never one to be quite knowledgeable on horse related facts (a travesty I’ve been trying to correct). As a self professed anglophile, I’m interested in all things relating horses to England. So, I did some research to try and find out why the Derby is so special. Hopefully I got it right, and I’m not portraying any inaccuracies (it is, after all, through the eyes of an American).

Derby, 2012. June 2nd.

1779: first race recorded on the sight

It was organized by the 12 Earl of Derby, Edward Smith Stanley. He set it up for he and his friends, who all owned 3 year old fillies. The distance was approximately 1 1/2 miles.  1780 featured another race that included colts as well as fillies.

How did the race become called the Derby? Friend and horse racing fanatic Sir Charles Bunby tossed a coin with Derby to determine who would be the namesake of the race. Ironically, Bunby’s horse won.

The Derby race is one third of the British Triple Crown, which I find quite interesting, as I had no idea the Triple Crown existed other than in the United States! The British Triple Crown consists of these three races: The Derby, the St Leger, and the Two Thousand Guineas (quirky names, don’t you think?). I suppose now I’ll have to update my bucket list to seeing both the US and the UK Triple Crowns!

1927: the first Derby to be broadcast by BBC

Fun Fact: Emily Davidson, a suffragette, killed herself by throwing herself in front of King George V’s horse in 1913.

In 1779, no race was run unless it was less than 2 miles. No 3 year olds ran.

140 countries hold a Derby, but Epsom Downs remains the Home of the Derby.

One of the owners of the 2012 Derby winner, Camelot, said about the Derby: “To win the Epsom Derby is a dream come true.” The 2012 race began at the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The race occurred the 2nd of June.

http://www.epsomdowns.co.uk/racing/derby-history this is the link to the official Epson Downs website, if you want to learn more about the race!

Disappointment: Eating Me on A Friday Night

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm

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Geez. My last post got a very disappointing number of views. 0. I don’t like to be so easily persuaded, but it seems like my blog is failing a bit. I’m not quite sure why though. Are book reviews not in vogue for WordPress? Perhaps. And I know there are only so many books I can read with so many types of genres, but even I was worried before I created my blog that it would be boring, a waste of words. I was actually weirdly excited about my last post because I thought it was a great perspective not many people think about. It was either so good that people couldn’t possibly fathom it/bother to read it or it was just a huge flop. I’m favoring the latter.

I don’t want my blog to be a collection of my thoughts. They’re not that interesting. I keep a journal for my thoughts, and people will never read them (because I won’t let them). So. What should I do about my blog? Leave it be? I can never do that. I am not one to quit. I may feel like it most of my life–that’s just the personality I was born with– but I was also born with the personality that perseveres, that forces me to finish everything I start. So I guess I won’t trash this blog. If anything, it will be a trial run for my hopefully more interesting blog about my life at St Andrews University in the fall.

Maybe I should shift the point of my blog: keep it semi-focused on books and the written word. Maybe a couple posts on special phrases and thoughts from books I’ve read along the way? A history lesson on a topic that was in a book I read a dozen years ago? I’m no expert (although I’m trying– it’s a history major’s life goal) but I have tons of educational books I’ve picked up along the way (nerd status). Maybe I should add more pictures. I just haven’t seemed to master HOW to perfect adding photos– good photos, at that.

I really didn’t want to think that people won’t care about my reading tastes. That’s maybe why I started out with Nancy Drew. And sure enough, the most views I’ve ever received was Pt 3 of my ND series. I got less for Julia Quinn, and I suppose that’s understandable, since she’s a very specific writer with a very specific genre that not everyone’s into. I get that. But what am I supposed to write about if I’m trying to cater to everyone’s interests? I received no notifications today. Not one. And that disappoints me. I thought that by writing this blog I would feel a sense of purpose in my otherwise excruciating, grueling summer in which I am jealous toward everyone with a paying job. Jealousy motivated this blog. I won’t lie. I thought– maybe I can do this, and place it on my resume, and have it be respectable and professional, worthy of the Smithsonian (where I wish to intern next summer and eventually work permanently).

Don’t give up on me yet.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. MLK Jr

Elizabeth Bennet and Lisbeth Salander Walk into a Room: What Happens Next?

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Currently I have not finished the book I’ve been reading for a few days. It’s terrible. The book and how long it’s taken me to read it. The book, if you must know, is Derby Day by D.J. Taylor. It was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, so naturally I believed it would be an enjoyable read. It’s not. I detest reading books where every character is immensely unlikeable, and I really dislike essentially every character. I am an avid horseback rider and even compete with my university team, but seriously, this book is NOT about Derby Day. I’m halfway through and it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m pretty sure the actual event doesn’t occur until nearly the end. So, I suppose that instead of not posting for a few days (because I promise, even if I don’t like the book, I’ll do SOMETHING with it), I’ll talk about something else having to do with reading, and a topic I would love to talk about.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if a character in one book met a character from another book? Am I the only one? (please say no.)

Here’s a list of characters meeting characters from other novels that I’ve come up with:

  • Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) and Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina)
  • Claire Abshire (The Time Traveler’s Wife) and Claire Randall Fraser (Outlander)
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) and Emma Woodhouse (Emma)
  • Dexter Mayhew (One Day) and Robbie Turner (Atonement)
  • Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) and Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights)
  • Noah Calhoun (The Notebook) and Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Cecelia Tallis (Atonement) and Tess Durberville (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)

What do you think? Should I add any other characters you think would have an interesting dynamic?

I’ll explain why I chose each pairing. (some of them can only be written if I give away key aspects of the books, so just watch out when I alert you to **spoiler alerts**)

1- Elizabeth Bennet and Lisbeth Salander- First of all, P and P is my most absolute favorite novel of all time. Dragon Tattoo is not. In fact, I hated it. Strongly.  I felt like I had to go cleanse myself after reading it. I just felt dirty and gross, and I really really needed to get out of Lisbeth’s head. That girl has some serious issues going on! For those who have read it, the scene where she enacts her revenge that stemmed from that thing that happened (you all know what I’m talking about…maybe) scarred me. Ew. So, if Lizzy met Lisbeth, I think she’d dislike her. That’s not just because I dislike her. I believe that although Elizabeth certainly tried to wash away common societal norms (like marrying within one’s class), I don’t think she’d appreciate Lisbeth’s surly, depressive, and unhappy attitude. Elizabeth would probably try to encourage Lisbeth to act with a more sunny disposition and to open up more, but eventually she’d back off because she would realize it was hopeless and that it really wasn’t her place to begin with. Lisbeth, on the other hand, would be bored by Elizabeth, although she may admire Elizabeth’s tenacity and strong character.

2-Scarlett O’Hara and Anna Karenina (**spoiler alert…don’t read this if you don’t want the ending of Anna Karenina to be revealed yet)**- personally, I think this is the most dynamic duo of the bunch. For those who have read both novels, these two women are full of drama. They thrive on it. If the two of them were in a room together, the electricity between the two would be quite forceful. This is how I believe it would first play out: Scarlett would size Anna up, and vice versa. Each would think their lives are better than the other. Then, Anna meets Vronsky and begins the affair. If Scarlett knew, first she would envy Anna. One, because S would believe that A is blissfully happy, and that that happiness would last forever. S would envy A’s ability to grab and successfully obtain what she wants. Secretly, S would loathe herself for not doing with Ashleigh what A’s doing with Vronsky (although Scarlett wouldn’t yet realize it’s because her moral compass is more align than Anna’s is, and S loves Melanie too much to break up a marriage). Scarlett would begin plotting how she could do the same, and if she would be as happy as Anna. Eventually, Anna’s happiness lessens. She becomes paranoid, clingy, and desperate. Scarlett begins to feel supercilious. Then, as Anna’s downfall spirals even further and she’s shunned from society while Vronsky can still do whatever he wants, Scarlett will begin to feel that she did the right thing in not forcing herself on Ashleigh to the point where they’d commit adultery. She’ll feel especially thankful when Melanie dies, because she never desecrated her only friend. Anna’s suicide would convince S that S did the right thing, and that she is stronger, has more character, and better moral judgement than A ever had.

3- Claire Abshire and Claire Randall Fraser- For those not familiar with these people (shame on you! just teasing. But really. Life altering novels.): Claire 1 deals with a husband who time travels with hardly any warning. Claire 2 herself is a time traveler, although she can’t do it as often as Claire 1’s husband or she’d kill herself. I believe pairing a non time traveler with a time traveler who are both familiar with each side would be interesting, especially since they’re both from “modern times” (both from the 20th century, early and late), but one lives in the past. Each faces her own battles dealing with time travel. Claire 1 feels frustrated that her husband always leaves her, even at the most inopportune times, and she never knows where he is until he comes back (one of my favorite lines from the book- “I won’t ever leave you, even though you’re always leaving me“. Tear jerker). Claire 2, on the other hand, has to deal with knowing too much information. And although her husband (Jamie Fraser…yum) respects and supports her, she realizes that he can feel frustrated sometimes with his “lack” of knowledge, which makes him feel inferior (and you  really don’t want to make an 18th century male Scottish highlander feel inferior). Both Claires can bond over the fact that their lives are inexplicably different from everyone else’s. Claire 1 can take comfort in knowing that if Claire 2 can live in the past she wasn’t born into and survive, then Claire 1’s husband could be okay wherever he travels to, even if he’s alone.

4- Hermione Granger and Emma Woodhouse- I’m really quite sure everyone is familiar with Harry Potter, even if you haven’t read them. Emma is a pretty straightforward novel, so I don’t feel the need to put spoiler alert on here. I chose the two of them  because I believe they’re very similar. Emma, for example, likes to get in everybody’s business through match-making. She does a rather horrible job of it, but she won’t let anyone tell her differently. She’s a bit stubborn. If she and Hermione paired off, they’d do great together until they disagree on something, and then their stubborn attitudes would bring about their downfall unless they listen to the people around them. Can you imagine? Emma would think Mr So and So should definitely marry Miss So and So, but Hermione would then say that Mr So and So should most certainly NOT marry Miss So and So because SHE is a horrid toad (or something to that effect). Hermione and Emma would be charming together, when one looks past their stubborn personalities. Emma would most likely end up setting her up with Harry (and we all know that wouldn’t be a good idea).

5- Dexter Mayhew and Robbie Turner (**spoiler alert** for both of the endings)- I absolutely adore both of these tragic love stories. ADORE. I would go for Robbie over Dex, but they both have a certain quality to them– a bit mysterious, a bit brooding, self-confident– that I’m quite attracted to. I can’t quite figure out, though, whose story is most tragic (from birth till death). What do you think? Dexter spends most of his life aimlessly living life, not accomplishing anything and disappointing nearly everyone closest to him. He wastes too much time not realizing his perfect girl has been there the entire time, and when he finally does, she dies. Tragically. They have very few perfect years together. Perhaps they would have had more if Dex hadn’t been so oblivious and hadn’t changed so much. Robbie, though, has a hard life from the begining, although it’s not as depressingly self indulgent as Dex’s. Robbie has a generally good job working at the Tallis’s home. He pines for the daughter of the house (Cecelia) and finally has one night of passion. But is one night enough? Would it have been better if he never knew what could be and lived contentedly, or was it better that he knew even if it lasted only once, and he could never, ever, repeat it. I think it may almost have been worse for Robbie than Dex (romantically) because Robbie was ripped from his true love. He knew she was The One, but he was cruelly barred from ever seeing her. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s thrown into a war where he can never advance because he’s a convict, and where he dies mere days before being rescued. He never learned what became of Cecelia. He never knew the perfect ending Cecelia’s sister created for them through words only. Perhaps one consolation with Robbie’s luck is that soon Cecelia dies, so they meet up in the afterlife sooner than Dex and Emma can. Poor Dex has to deal with his demons for years before finally coming to terms with Emma’s death, and finally, finally dying at however old he makes it to be. So, I suppose they both face really bad luck. They also have really good chances with fate, but both have been touched by Death. But beautiful nonetheless. I think they’d hit it off if they ever met, before or after their tragedies. Their personalities would balance each other out, don’t you think?

6- Jane Eyre and Catherine Earnshaw– again, I feel like most people are familiar with their stories, so I’m not putting spoiler alert. Jane Eyre is a great deal less crazy than Catherine. Poor Catherine was driven crazy by the harsh landscape of northern England, lack of neighbors and company, and even more lack of suitable people to fall in love with. Although Jane’s life is certainly touched by sadness, she encounters shelter in Thornfield Hall, if spurned only by the crazy woman living upstairs who’s life vendetta is to kill everyone. But really, if Jane met Catherine, she’d probably face her just as she faced Bertha. Although she handle it better, by not running away. In fact, Jane might offer some solace to Catherine and help her through C’s difficult life. I’m not sure if Catherine would come out differently knowing Jane. She’d still die, I suppose. But would she die happier? More content? I don’t think so. I do, however, think Jane would come out stronger meeting Catherine– and who knows, perhaps if she met Catherine before attending Thornfield Hall, she’d face Bertha and kill her herself!

7- Noah Calhoun and Marianne Dashwood– you all better be familiar with The Notebook! I must say, I hated the written story. I absolutely adore the movie, but the book was simply awful. But the character remained the same with both book and film so I think it’s still okay to write about him. I put these two characters together because they’re both such romantic people who are very in touch with their emotions. They may not suit each other romantically, but I do think they’d admire each other. For one, Marianne appreciates a person who can express himself, who doesn’t keep things bottled up inside. She’d most likely become infatuated with him, adoring his love of Whitman and his shyness at his early stutter. A move like restoring an entire house simply for the one he loves would likely send Marianne to her knees. And while she’d eventually realize they were unsuitable, she would most likely be looking for someone to fill Noah’s heart; say, a girl named Allie, perhaps? Noah might actually think Marianne silly sometimes, but maybe only because of her young age. He, though, would appreciate Marianne’s decision to deal with thins outright and her willingness to throw everything away for one man.

8- Cecelia Tallis and Tess Durberville– (**spoiler alert for Tess**) Tess of the D’Urbervilles had me crying so much, especially the end. So did Atonement. Both of these girls face extreme loss in their lives. I think we can all agree, though, that Tess had it much, much harder. Cecelia led a charmed life, at least up until WWII, but Tess was born into a poor family in the English countryside with a drunk father who can’t make money. Tess tries so very hard to improve her life and eventually finds love, even if it doesn’t last. Both girls, however, shared some form of true happiness in their lives. And even if their romance lasted of only a night or so, they still had it. Both lives end tragically, but was it a blessing? Could they have continued to live? Cecelia faced the tragic loss of Robbie, but Tess just had so much loss and sadness bottled up in her life; would Angel had been able to truly make her happy forever? If these two women were placed in a room with each other, the sadness would be suffocating.

“The Graces in a High Wind” James Gillray, 1810

In Julia Quinn on June 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

caricature demonstrating how flimsy Empire style dresses were in the early 1800s (although I’m sure the men didn’t mind…)

Julia Quinn: Wit, Dishabille, and Mad Barons

In Julia Quinn, List of Summer Reading on June 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm

typical morning dress and walking costume (1815)

As I sit here typing this post, I’m currently sipping English Afternoon Tea in my I ❤ Mr Darcy mug (I promise you, I’m not that cheesy in real life. According to me). There’s really nothing quite like a cup of black, English tea. Nothing. …Well, maybe it’d be a bit better if my future British aristocratic titled husband were sitting next to me, dressed in 19th century gentleman’s garb… But anyway. Back to Julia Quinn.

I believe my favorite novel of hers is What Happens in London. This is for several reasons: Firstly, Olivia Bevelstoke is an incredibly likeable protagonist, and it may have something to do with her sense of humor (for me, at least). Secondly, Sir Harry Valentine is such a romantic name. Harry. Valentine. See what I mean? I’ve always loved the name Harry, regardless of the fact that a devilishly handsome red head who happens to be royal and unmarried also possesses the same name. Harry (The character, not the real person) also works for the War Office, which has always intrigued me. Have you ever read any of Lauren Willig’s books? The Pink Carnation series features tons of guys working for the espionage section of the War Office, and even though Sir Harry translates documents, I still find it fascinating.

(Sidenote: The British War Office was in operation from the 17th century to the mid 20th century. It administered the British Army, and therefore was a very important part of British foreign and domestic policy. The Department’s building–where Sir Harry would have gone when he was summoned– was located at Horse Guards in Whitehall from the early 18th century to the mid 19th century. It became less important after the First World War and especially after Winston Churchill became PM, where he bypassed the War Office completely. Bummer. I’m looking at pictures of the War Office building– and I really do hope it’s the right building I’m looking at– and it’s certainly an impressive structure. It seems very Palladian in style, which I’m a big fan of. I should also point out that I’m an Art History minor, so I’d like to think I got the architectural style correct, but if you are reading this and are more authoritative on the matter, please correct me if I’m misinformed.)

Another reason why I’m so enthralled with What Happens in London is because it has more substance than Quinn’s other novels. I don’t presume to say that her other novels are simply full of fluff (because they really aren’t), but the whole espionage aspect of it, the adorable and sometimes frightening misunderstandings, coupled with a sort of kidnapping, makes it much more intriguing. That, and it’s also her funniest novel (to me, at least). I found myself laughing alone in a room, and more than once I was questioned as to what was so funny.

I loved that Quinn also had the plot of another book within hers– Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron (do you get my title now?), and how it propelled the main plot along. The best part of being an author, I believe, is having the freedom to transfer one aspect of a novel into several different novels. Miss Butterworth, for example, appears in one or two of  Quinn’s other novels. I really want to question Quinn on how she came up with that book. I mean, really. It’s a stroke of genius. For those who are familiar with what I’m talking about, don’t you wish it could be a real book? Or if Quinn could actually write and publish it? It would sell so well!! For goodness sakes, it pokes fun at lurid Gothic novels just about as well as Jane Austen does in Northanger Abbey and even Sense and Sensibility, to a degree (I’m referring to Marianne’s tendency to be more than what is considered decorous in her expressing of emotions). I do not wish to give too much away from it, because it’s truly a work of art, but let’s just say that being pecked to death has never been so enjoyable to read about until now (and I’m not giving away who does the pecking or to whom it is directed–read it for yourselves!). This book also gives hope to having a novel be a direct implement in having two people fall in love with each other. And really, what reader wouldn’t want that?

I gave the title to my post because those three aspects characterize her novels. Wit, because Quinn’s dialogue is quite witty. You can’t read one of her novels without laughing. The dialogue between the characters is so bitingly witty sometimes that I tuck them in my head, in case the need should ever arise for me to use something as good as what Quinn writes in her novels. Secondly, all of her heroines find themselves in some case of dishabille, so I felt that was appropriate. And I put Mad Barons becuase it’s in the title of the aforementioned book. Also, I know Quinn meant “mad” as in “insane,” but I also use it here because all of the men (and they usually possess a title) become angry at some time, the heroines calls them “quite insane,” and they do actions that other people would quality as the 19th century definition of “mad,” although we know it’s because of love.

I do have to ask though—if you do read Julia Quinn’s novels, do you ever feel a bit embarrassed reading them in public? Personally, I used to giggle at the stupid covers of romance novels—you know, the ones featuring a demi-god with his cravat askew and his shirt bursting open, his dark, luscious locks flowing in the wind as if there’s no tomorrow. And then, as if that gets any better, the girl beside him looks like a common trollop (using antiquated terms, sorry not sorry).  She’s generally barefoot, her hair is down (come on, no self-respecting girl in the 19th century or earlier would ever be caught with her hair completely down unless she was inside and in her bedroom—or his, I suppose if we’re to be fair). Anyway, so her hair’s down and weirdly blowing in the opposite direction as the Fabio look-a-like, and her dress is in a state of dishabille. I don’t look at books like these and think, oooh, that’s going to be a good one. No, I look at it and I think, oh, COME on! Doesn’t the author have any self respect for the work of art she has produced? And it’s painful to admit, but I would never have read Juila Quinn’s novels if I hadn’t raided my mother’s bookshelves and trusted in her judgment that she wouldn’t read a book like this if it wasn’t any good. I’m only happy to say that Julia Quinn’s novels aren’t stupid, and I do not think the covers reflect the books in any possible way. I give exception to her books where the front cover consists of the title and then a shoe, or a necklace, or a book with a hand, such as The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. But, alas, you open to the second page which features a step-back (a second cover), and AHH! There’s another trollop getting seduced, once again, by Fabio’s brother! I know publishing companies think that having a half dressed man on the cover will entice women to buy the book, but it does the exact opposite with me! What about you, readers? Are you more inclined to pick up a book with that type of cover or no? Would you be caught reading it at a Starbucks, or do you only pick it up when at home? Do answer, please. I’m quite curious.

And I just want to reiterate again that I greatly respect Julia Quinn, and I don’t mean to insult her by insulting her covers. She most likely had little to do with choosing the cover (most authors don’t…some do get the luxury of giving some feedback, but it’s not always heeded). I believe Julia Quinn possesses great talent. Her novels are always unique, her characters are fully developed and not one dimensional, and she does a great job of unfolding and resolving plots. I’ve read several other authors who write similar books that also take place in the ton during the early 1800s, and I find Quinn’s more enjoyable than theirs. Do let me know, readers, if you’ve found an author similar to Quinn whom you like just as or more than her.

Word of the Day: Cravat– a cloth, often made of or trimmed with lace, worn about the neck by men especially in the 17th century. A scarf of silk or fine wool, worn round the neck, especially by men (Source: Dictionary.com)

 
 Ah, dangit! I was so engrossed in writing this blog that I only finished half of my tea! This never happens! Oh well. That must be a good thing, right?

Julia Quinn: Wit, Dishabille, and Mad Barons. Intro

In Julia Quinn, List of Summer Reading on June 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I’m going to approach each post based on the order I read my summer reading list. After reading 23 Nancy Drew books in under two weeks, I took a small break in which I read three books I’d been meaning to read forever- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I’m not dedicating a post (or three) to them because they’re not my favorite books. I only read them in one chunk because my family visited our beach house for the first time as a family (with dog in tow…), and I would have 5 days completely dedicated to avoiding their pestering and to relax before getting calls about summer job offers (that were refused. Sigh.). Let’s just say the first book had an interesting perspective (a boy with autism), the second one I enjoyed a lot more and could relate a teeny tiny bit, and the last one was a lecture to the reader on how to live his or her life.

After I returned from the beach, I was active for a few days, but then I felt the slight tug pulling me to my bookshelf. Nothing there was adequate to re-read in the mood I was in (do you ever get that way, where you can ONLY read a very certain type of book when you’re in the EXACT mood? That’s how my entire life has been!) Anyway, I walk into the master bedroom to bother my mother (she does love it, especially when she’s working) and there. I saw it. A Night Like This by Julia Quinn.

How many of you are Julia Quinn readers? Have you heard of her but never read her? You should! My mother’s read her books since the first one was published in the late 90s. My mother and I share a very similar type of genre we like to read, and so I was intrigued by these Julia Quinn books I saw my her read…especially because they were …off limits!! Julia Quinn has several sex scenes in her novels, and they’re nowhere near erotica level, but still, my ever-controlling mother didn’t want her middle school daughter being “influenced,” or whatever parents think of books like that. Well. That wasn’t going to stop me. I wanted to read a GOOD romance story! Middle school geared novels didn’t have “love.”  They had “crushes.” I didn’t want crushes! I was so very, very tired of immature romance (I like to consider myself older beyond my years). Freshman year, therefore, I picked up my first Julia Quinn novel, stolen from my mother’s bookshelf (she’s so busy with her job that I knew she would never notice it…I carefully arranged the books so no one could even tell a book had been slipped from the shelf). I actually can’t remember which one it was. I dutifully checked each book to see if they were a part of a series and what year they were published, so I assume it was one of Quinn’s first novels.

Please let me know if I’m not alone in this– taking a book from your parents’ shelves, reading a book secretly under the covers, slipping a different cover onto your hardback book, all the while looking a picture of innocence (and please, please don’t let me know if it was a porno novel or whatnot….I’m so not interested). Isn’t this subterfuge part of a voracious reader’s repertoire? I would feel very alone in this world if it were not.

In conclusion for this post, I’ve been an avid Julia Quinn fan since 9th grade, and I’m now a bit older, still reading my mother’s newest copy even before she gets a chance to read it (and oh my gosh, it is SO difficult trying to read a paperback without creasing the spine or bending the front and back covers. SO difficult!). The funny part is that my mother’s suggested three times in the past two years that I should try reading Julia Quinn (to which I answer, “oh, Julia Quinn? I’ve heard of her…I think). So now my mother is “letting” me read Quinn, but there’s still something so appealing in continue to read them secretly. Maybe I’ll admit it to my mother some day. Maybe I won’t. Who knows?

The next post will also be on Julia Quinn and her books, discussing topics like how seriously people take Avon Romances and similar genres, and why or why not. I’m interested in discussing this because I’m genuinely curious in seeing how other people view books with covers of a half naked man too handsome to be a mere mortal accompanied by a mesmerized female whose 19th century garb has been ripped from her shoulders (don’t you HATE when that happens?) I know I’ve done 3 (4 if you count the picture) posts on Nancy Drew, and I want to do only one on each book review so my blog doesn’t get too tedious, but I feel like because I’ve read every one of Quinn’s novels, one post doesn’t do her justice (and I really like talking about her!). I’ll try to stick with this post and the next, but I can’t promise I won’t spill over into three…

Word of the day: Gambit– n. any maneuver in which one seeks to gain an advantage. Intended to secure an advantage or promote a point of view.