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Posts Tagged ‘summer reading’

Living in the Past

In history, Reading on June 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

First off, I must apologize for my sporadic posts. I really don’t follow a set schedule or topic pattern, which means that I write when an idea hits me. I’ll be sitting in the living room and suddenly think of a topic, or I’ll be reading a book and a thought will cross my mind, and I’ll think “that would make an interesting post.” So since my last post nothing’s really hit me. My week has been really uneventful….as usual. I think it’s important to point out that I am so bored that even my brain can’t think of a blog post topic I could write to take up my time. (Okay, so this post has been in my drafts for four years. I’m not quite sure exactly when I began it. But I thought I’d finish it now!)

Tonight, however, I read 300 something pages of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, finally finishing it after starting it August of last year. Yes, a year ago. I’m never like that, I assure you. It’s just that it’s really hard to read in college! I don’t have any time for it, and so I had three books (One Day and two Gabaldon books) sitting on my adorable yellow Martha Stewart bookshelf in my dorm room all year long. For an avid reader, it made me very sad. But I finally finished it! Even though it’s really hard sometimes to start up on page 457 and expect to remember every little detail, character, and plot written in the previous pages.

This post will simply be a reflection of myself and my tastes in books and history (because I just thought of it and felt like writing about it).

Did any of you read Ann Rinaldi’s historical fiction novels when you were a teenager? I believe she published the majority of them in the 80’s and/0r 90’s, but I found the re-printed Harcourt collection at Barnes and Noble when I was in middle school. She wrote stories that centered on the Salem trials, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, among others. Young females were always the protagonist. Her books made a huge impression on me as a young person. She didn’t start my obsession with history; I’m convinced I was born with that. But she wrote about the topics I was totally in love with. I wrote an essay about Rinaldi’s novels for an English class and had it posted on the hall bulletin board for everyone to see (I felt awkward).

I believe every reader has an experience like that– where you you find an author or book and it either transforms you or enhances a specific characteristic in yourself. For my mother, it was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. For me, it was Ann Rinaldi (and I say it was her and not Jane Austen because early 19th century literature just didn’t affect me as a 14 year old as a contemporary Rinaldi book did…I’ll say it did later, and does, but not when I was 12, 13, 14).  In fact, her novels so made an impression on me that I found myself using antiquated terms spoken by the protagonists in her novels (I didn’t do it on purpose, I promise! At least my friends found it amusing and not creepy….thank goodness for small favors). I’ve never once looked up Rinaldi. I’m not quite sure if she’s still alive or not (is it odd I don’t want to know?). I did, however, print out nearly 100 pages of my mother’s nice printing paper with transcripts of the Salem witch trials for me to read through… I also kept a college-ruled notebook in which I painstakingly copied quotes or passages I found meaningful from Rinaldi’s books. Some of them, if they offered advice, I tried to apply in my own life (that’s sort of difficult for a young teenager, btw).

Anyway. As I was wrapping up An Echo in the Bone and verbally mourning the fact that I don’t have the next book in the series yet, I discovered just how acutely I was feeling for the characters and their present roles in the American Revolution. It’s one of my absolute favorite wars to study and so I naturally flock to any literature which takes place during that time (Rinaldi’s The Fifth of March was my favorite of hers. It takes place in Boston just before the official start of the Revolution). Picking up the Outlander series is like a veritable treasure chest of history since it spans the ’45 Jacobite Rising to the French Revolution to the American Revolution. Whoo!

But I realized tonight (and, sadly, not for the first time) that I longed for the chance to time travel backwards to those times I loved to study about in the present. I would think it’s every history major’s/lover’s dream to experience first hand the events or locations they study. I will be the first to admit it– I live in the past. I hold people accountable based on historic standards. A lot of my sense of morality comes from long established ways. I am in many ways a complete traditionalist, and that is because I live in the past.

It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Wishing so fervently for a chance to live in Charleston during the Revolution or Civil War will only break my heart in the end. I romanticize the past sometimes, and I know that is silly. I nearly attended graduate school to study the 18th-century British-Atlantic world so that I could force myself to fully understand the realities people lived through 300 years ago. Romanticizing and idealizing how people (strangers) lived is not only unfair to their realities but unfair to ourselves. No one should want to live in Charleston in the 18th and 19th centuries. The weather was hideous, life sucked if you weren’t wealthy and accepted in society, and there weren’t many opportunities for women (duh). Wearing pretty dresses would get old after the third day of forcing my stomach into a corset and placing the fourth layering of clothing on my sweating body before stepping out into Charleston’s sweltering, miserable heat (I live here, so I can say that).

Understanding the past allows us to place our own lives and experiences on a continuum. Once we grasp the economic forces that enabled 17th century Holland and its artists like Johannes Vermeer to establish the Dutch Golden Age of painting and trade; once we accept the sociology of post-war American architects who created new and startling architectural styles in houses and high rises as a way of coping with the effects of WWII; once we acknowledge the enormity of the decision for our great-great-grandparents to leave Ireland in the middle of the night with a note to their parents, jump on a ship, and travel the Atlantic to make a new life in New York City (my great-great-grandparents, if you haven’t picked up on that)–only then, do we appreciate our own place in time.

So, I loved Ann Rinaldi’s books as a teenager because I could fantasize living on a plantation in the midst of the Revolutionary War in Camden, South Carolina. Her books pushed me to study the war on my own time, reading chapters of textbooks we never got to in class and secreting away my mother’s research books to my room to memorize. Now, though, about a decade after first picking up one of her stories, I’ve graduated to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Her books are so detailed, descriptive, real, that they served as the perfect outlet for me to both fantasize and realize “life back then.” Until time travel really exists, it is only through extensive research and immersion into history that we can feel the past as tangible as the reality in front of us.

Have any of you had a meaningful experience with a book/author, whether you were young or old? What or who was it?

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Summer Reading to 8/03/12

In List of Summer Reading, Reading on August 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm

A List of Reading I’ve Accomplished Thus Far–

note: all but 9 are old reads…I really can’t explain why I love re-reading novels so much, but I suspect any fellow reader can understand. I recently bought 3 more books at Barnes and Noble while attending a book-signing, but I will post them as I continue to read. Well versed readers should recognize most of the titles.

1. The Secret of the Old Clock– Carolyn Keene

2. The Hidden Staircase– Carolyn Keene

3. The Bungalow Mystery– Carolyn Keene

4. The Mystery of Lilac Inn– Carolyn Keene

5. The Secret of Shadow Ranch- Carolyn Keene

6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm– Carolyn Keene

7: The Clue in the Diary– Carolyn Keene

8: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter– Carolyn Keene

9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles– Carolyn Keene

10: Password to Larkspur Lane– Carolyn Keene

11: The Clue of the Broken Locket– Carolyn Keene

12: The Message in the Hollow Oak– Carolyn Keene

13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm– Carolyn Keene

14: The Whispering Statue– Carolyn Keene

15: The Haunted Bridge– Carolyn Keene

16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time– Mark Haddon

17: The Clue of the Tapping Heels– Carolyn Keene

18. The Perks of Being Wallflower– Stephen Chbosky

19: Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk– Carolyn Keene

20. Tuesdays with Morrie– Mitch Albom

21: Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion– Carolyn Keene

22: The Quest of the Missing Map– Carolyn Keene

23: The Clue in the Jewel Box– Carolyn Keene

24: The Secret in the Old Attic– Carolyn Keene

25: The Clue in the Crumbling Wall– Carolyn Keene

26: Mystery of the Tolling Bell– Carolyn Keene

27. The Proposal– Mary Balogh

28. A Night Like This– Julia Quinn

29. What Happens in London– Julia Quinn

30. Just Like Heaven– Julia Quinn

31. The Duke and I– Julia Quinn

32. The Viscount Who Loved Me– Julia Quinn

33. An Offer From a Gentleman– Julia Quinn

34. Romancing Mister Bridgerton– Julia Quinn

35. To Sir Phillip, With Love– Julia Quinn

36. When He Was Wicked– Julia Quinn

37. Derby Day– D.J. Taylor

38. It’s In His Kiss– Julia Quinn

39. On the Way to the Wedding– Julia Quinn

40. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever– Julia Quinn

41. The Lost Duke of Wyndham– Julia Quinn

42. The Winter Sea– Susanna Kearsley

43. An Echo in the Bone- Diana Gabaldon

44. The Postmistress– Sarah Blake

To read (so far) by end of summer: Incindiary– Chris Cleave, 1776- David McCullough

Reading is like my addiction. Once I start I cannot stop. I may take long breaks (it’s impossible to read for fun in college….) but I’ll always find a new read! As the end of summer draws closer it’s harder for me to read more. I think it’s because I’m too nervous and preoccupied thinking about Scotland. But I wanted to post this just to collect and organize all of the reading I’ve done this summer and to give you all a taste of what I’ve been reading. I really hope I’ll get to the last two, but if I’m not in the mood to read a depressing novel (Incindiary) or a lengthy documentary (1776) I won’t read it (yet). Feel free to comment or even recommend some others to sneak in before September!

How many novels have y’all read in one time period? I think this may be the most for me. How does it feel to read so much in such a short period of time? For me, it’s rather soothing and calming. It makes me think, too, about things other than me and my immediate surroundings.

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.

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.

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.

Nancy Drew: the Icon for all Aspiring Young Detectives. Pt 3

In List of Summer Reading, Nancy Drew on June 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

This post is more for people who are familiar with Nancy Drew– and I’m (hopefully) assuming most people are (although in my Perfect World everyone knows Nancy Drew and she is, in fact, a real person. And Ned turns out to just be her friend so he can go and be my boyfriend…do try to contain your jealousy).

Why has Nancy Drew persisted to this day? (I’m talking about her books, not the computer games, movies, or anything else…although that collection is impressive.)

1) She has been an icon since the 1930s, when young girls were looking for a strong female character to help them through the Great Depression

2) Our mothers most likely read them (mine did!) so…

3) They were more than happily inclined to give us their much-loved copies to their precious daughters so that we could somehow share the same memories our mothers possessed growing up while reading Nancy Drew

4) They’re mystery books! And who doesn’t like a mystery novel? (I especially like how they’re not terrifying…I don’t do well reading scary novels at night, alone…meep)

5) They’re filled with historical charm…personally, my favorite aspect is how frequently Keene uses the word “gay” in its original intention…”Ned gaily skipped to meet Nancy,” “Nancy, Bess, and George, were feeling quite gay that day, ”  “Nancy was in a gay mood as Ned accompanied her to the dance.” I made those up…I didn’t feel like rifling through 56 books to find the exact mentions. The real sentences, though, serve as  lovely reminders of how times have changed! When I was little I would giggle in a silly manner as I read the word in that antiquated term, but I believe it lends quite a bit of historical character to her novels, which make them all the more enjoyable (I’m a history major, if you haven’t caught on yet). My second favorite antiquated phrase—“Good night!” emphatically produced by Ned whenever he hears something startling. Could you imagine yourself saying “Good night!” in a shocked manner to a friend today? Me neither…if I want to retain my friends!

6) She has turned out remarkably well for having no mother since the age of three, and a father who constantly travels and is rarely home. Today some people I believe would take her story and make her fragile or easily broken. However, Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew’s creators instead made Nancy a very, very strong person who seems to be unaffected by her loss. Fortunately, I do have both of my parents, although they travel as much (my mom) and more-so (my dad) than Carson Drew. But I can imagine that if a young girl with the loss of one parent in the 30s and now picks up a Nancy Drew book for the fist time, she will appreciate Nancy’s resilience and maybe have someone to aspire

Since the Nancy Drew books definitely cater to a younger audience, it makes sense that the novels would be very similar in structure. I recently double checked about a dozen or so, and each novel starts off with dialogue, uttered first by Nancy or her acquaintances. Also, you can’t get past the first page without hearing Nancy’s full name, her age, and a mention of her “titian blond hair.” You can’t get through the first chapter without hearing a mention of Carson Drew, her famous lawyer/father in River Heights, or Hannah Gruen, who has been the Drew’s housekeeper since Nancy’s mother died when Nancy was three (has anybody made any guesses as to how her mother died? I’ve always wondered…) Amazingly, I never realized till I re-read them, but Bess and George actually do not appear in the first several novels! I thought they were always a staple in Nancy’s life, but you don’t meet them till the 5th book, The Secret of Shadow Ranch!  Personally, I love how much dedication Bess and George show to Nancy. They’re willing to do nearly anything for her and constantly let her have the limelight!

Of course, one cannot get through a Nancy Drew novel without smiling when Ned comes on the scene. In fact, Ned doesn’t come around until the 7th, in The Clue in the Diary, where Nancy first believes he was trying to steal her car, instead of move it away from the fire. Another note to mention is the important role Nancy’s blue convertible plays in nearly every  books. My mom and I used to have a running joke about how many times Nancy had her car stolen (although I’m on book 23, and so far it hasn’t really). Good old Ned Nickerson, football player at Emerson College (hot stuff), always is willing to help her out, even when it meant they have to cancel their dates (which they frequently do). He always calls at just the right time, always shows up just before Nancy’s kidnappers get ready to move or kill her (she’s also always kidnapped), and he always brings backup. You go Ned!

I love the level of independence Nancy has in the books. Her father essentially lets her do anything! She wants to go to the bad side of town to talk to a witness? Sure thing! She wishes to hop on a plane and fly to New York to check out a clue? Let me get my checkbook! He also willingly sends her off alone to help him complete mysteries involving his cases, which I find amusing. Sure, let me send my daughter out to the middle of nowhere in some dark bayou, or an Indian reservation! She’ll do fine! It’s clear he loves her, but geez, Carson Drew easily places his daughter in danger 9 times out of 10.

Which Nancy Drew book is your favorite? When I was young mine was the 4th book, The Mystery at Lilac Inn. Now, I’m not so sure. Now, I love all of them.

Word of the Day: Namecheck- a specific mention of someone’s name, for example on a radio programme (Source: Dictionary.com) And  yes, I specifically looked for a word starting with “N” in remembrance of Nancy (who will outlive us all)

Fun Fact: “Nancy” according to UrbanDictionary (yes, I did just reference that…)

“A vibrant girl with a zest for living life to its fullest. Nancy has the smarts and the looks to make every man fall in love with her without any flirtation. Any guy would be lucky to date a Nancy. She is everything. Adventurous, outgoing, energetic, intelligent, funny, artsy, studious, free-spirited, lively, kind-hearted, generous, enthusiastic, friendly, and loving – all the while staying modest and humble. She becomes uncomfortable when receiving compliments and never boasts about her talents.Nancy is just naturally attractive and doesn’t use makeup to make herself look beautiful. Her style is fresh, comfortable, and gorgeous. Not an athlete – but athletic. Not a voluptuous babe – but sexy in her own way. Unafraid to venture out and try anything, she’ll have you doing things you wouldn’t have thought of doing before and you’ll love every second of it. She gives meaning to life and life to the meaningless. You’ll find yourself becoming more and more addicted to her presence. You’ll ache every minute she’s not with you and she’ll pretty much occupy all the space in your head every second of every day. Nancy’s smile is gold and her laughter is magic.”
Do you find that as amusing as I did? As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments or suggestions for topics of my blog! And thank you to all who are reading it. I so heartily appreciate it.


Nancy Drew Galore!

In List of Summer Reading, Nancy Drew on June 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Nancy Drew Galore!

a collection of Nancy Drew book covers I found…Are these the same copies you possess(ed)? They are for me!

Nancy Drew: The Icon for all Aspiring Young Detectives. Pt 2

In List of Summer Reading, Nancy Drew on June 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Now for the second part of my Nancy Drew posts (I really couldn’t dedicate only one blog post to her…I mean, come on. She’s an icon!)

Nancy Drew completes her young detective career between high school and college of her 18th year in the 1930’s (I’ve gathered the timing because 1, Carolyn Keene, aka Mildred A Wirt Benson, wrote them in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Nancy Drew refers to one friend as “had” attended high school with him, her “favorite date” Ned Nickerson is in college, and Nancy is 18, which Keene constantly refers to in every. single. one. of. her. books).

Reading Nancy Drew a second time while I’m much older, it’s amazing the problems that the editors and copy-writers missed before publication. In book 3 (I believe), Bess and George tease Nancy for flirting with a guy while Ned is in Europe. Several books later, Nancy meets Ned for the FIRST time at a house fire (romantic, right?). I find this more amusing than depressing, and I say these mistakes not to make Nancy Drew lovers upset or disillusioned, but because it fascinates me. As the daughter of an author, I’ve had the privilege of learning  a freakish amount of information surrounding the publishing world, which is why I was actually stunned when I learned of all of these mistakes. In the book The Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion, for example, they visit the Kennedy Space Center, which wasn’t built until……….1962. OMG! She was 18 in the 1930’s, but somehow she’s solving a mystery 20 something years later and she’s STILL 18? Hmmmm…. Another biggie, and the most amusing of them all: Nancy Drew completes all 56 mysteries between high school and college, even though there’s not possibly enough days to complete them, AND there are specific mentions to mysteries taking weeks to complete. She must have had a time traveling watch like Hermione!!

Still, these differences bothered me much less re-reading them, despite me being a perfectionist and a tad bit OCD, coupled with a fear of childhood memories being shattered somehow. The Nancy Drew books are really amazing books, filled with amazing characters and interesting plots, no matter what age you are.

Grosset & Dunlap published the original Nancy Drew mysteries. While the original creators switched publishers in 1979, Simon and Schuster published a 57th Nancy Drew novel, which resulted in a lawsuit that entailed that the first 56 novels would be owned by Grosset & Dunlap, and Simon and Schuster would continue to publish (I think they’re up to 175??). I actually had no idea there were more than 56 until a few weeks ago. How about you, readers? Did you read the first 56 or did you continue reading them? Personally, I read the first 56, and I feel like I would be dishonoring Carolyn Keene and the other ghost writers if I continued with the 57th, etc. (call it my feverish desire to preserve original history). Viva la Nancy Drew!

Word of the Day: Mignon- small and pretty; delicately pretty (Source: Dictionary.com) As in– “Yes, I’d like a piece of that delicately pretty piece of meat– the small one, please…yum.”

The third part of my Nancy Drew post collection will be about the novels, including their similarities and differences (like plot and plot development, how Ned always arrives at JUST the right time, etc.) I really could talk forever about Nancy Drew, and I know I’m leaving a lot out, but I’ll try to get to all of the important information! Please comment, though, if you have any Nancy Drew questions or want me to discuss a certain aspect in my next post.

Also, a personal triumph: four people have read my previous post! I’ll be honest, I really didn’t (don’t) think people would even look at my blog, since I’m still confused how people can see it anyway, and because it’s a random collection of topics. However, I really appreciate it, readers from the US and Canada!