Category Archives: history
This Monday I didn’t read much, and I’ve been in a definite reading slump since hitting Europe. Surprise, surprise. There are too many things to do and people to watch!
Today is May 20.
I have read 38 books toward my goal of 80 for 2013. I’m only one book ahead at this point, which is kind of disappointing.
It’s a week of being totally in the middle of things.
(all titles link to the book’s page on Goodreads)
A Game of Thrones by George R. Martin — I bought the paperback from the English bookstore because I wanted a challenge. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone. I’m reading it very, very slowly, but enjoying it. What sucks is that I can’t read before bed because I have no lamp or book light, so that’s seriously impeding my progress.
Shades of Earth by Beth Revis — The third and final book in the Across the Universe series. Sol Earth is one scary-ass planet, but no worries…there’s lots of kissing to quiet the panic. I’m reading the audio book for this one.
Feed by MT Anderson — FINALLY READING IT. It’s only been on my Nook for 2 years. Since I can’t read A Game of Thrones before bed, I’ve turned to my iPad for night reading…to clear out some of the books that have been lingering for too long!
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank — I’m not reading it cover to cover exactly, but I’m headed to Amsterdam later this week. I plan to visit the Anne Frank house, so I thought I’d catch up before I head out.
What are you reading today?
Title: The Time Machine
Author: HG Wells
Publisher: Trout Lake Media
First Published: 1895
Length: 4 hours, 10 minutes
The Time Machine is a sci-fi novel from 1895. It’s the story of the Time Traveller describing his trip to the future. He travels to the year 802,701AD, where he meets two group of creatures: the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are small creatures who live above ground in crumbling buildings. They are kind of lazy and dumb, but happy. He befriends a particular Eloi female named Weena. However, after learning that his time machine has been stolen, he discovers another group, the Morlocks. These creatures live below ground in tunnels and they are definitely sinister. The Time Traveller must get his machine back so he take Weena back home with him, but they end up getting attacked by Morlocks.
I first read this book in the sixth grade. While I could certainly map the plot and compare/contrast the Eloi and the Morlocks, I don’t think I really “got” the story. For example, I didn’t realize that this story essentially coined the word “time machine” and the idea of time travel using an object as a vehicle. I also had no concept of how the Eloi/Morlock creatures represented class struggle. The delicate, yet useless, class of creatures living above ground and the underground creatures who run the machinery beneath the surface. Now it’s a little more obvious what Wells was trying to say. My sixth grade brain had no context for that information. I just remember the Worlocks being really scary.
And is it just me, or is the “story within a story” conceit big in the these older books? My most recent classic was Frankenstein, which was a story within a story within a story. Here the narrator is just a dude listening to the time traveller recount his time spent in the future. However, at the end it totally makes sense why Wells did this. In fact, I found the ending the most oddly creepy part of the whole novel. I did not remember it at all.
FINAL GRADE: C Maybe it’s because I’d read the book before, but I found it lacking. It was only four hours long as an audiobook, and it took a long time before the Time Traveller even started telling his story. The actual time traveling, Eloi/Morlock part of the novel was relative short. I wanted more adventure, more action. But I recognize that this is a trail-blazing story, and my thirst for those elements comes from all the subsequent works that added them. It’s definitely worth a read as key work of science fiction, if nothing else.
Assigned Reading: Assigned to all fans of science fiction, Doctor Who, and anyone looking for a quick classic.
Library Recommendation: Put it in a middle or high school library. You can probably find a relatively cheap edition. It’s not for every kid, but it’s a classic and it should be there. Also consider buying one of the graphic novel adaptations of the story, as I’m sure that format would appeal to kids.
What was the first time travel book you ever read?
Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Recorded Books, 2012
Length: 14 hrs and 14 mins, 549 pages
Series?: His Fair Assassin #1
Genre: YA Historical/Paranormal
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
You heard me right.
The year is 1588. The location, Brittany. Seventeen-year-old Ismae has been rescued from the life of an arrange marriage to an awful man, and is sent to the convent of St. Mortain. There she learns that she is the daughter of St. Mortain, the god of death, and she is trained to serve him. She discovers her great powers, hones her skills, and learns of a destiny she had never imagined. At the conclusion of her training, Ismae is offered an assignment: posing as a spy in the high court, killing anyone who bears the mark of St. Mortain and attempting to discover who in the court has been a traitor to Brittany.
Okay, so my summary isn’t that great. This is a very hard book for me to describe. Check out the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads if you need a better description. Just know this: there’s romance, bad ass-ery, and poison. Lots of poison.
I can’t say this was an escapist read for me in the traditional sense. I mean, c’mon. The 1500′s were kind of gross and plague-y. And I certainly do not feel like killing people. Granted, the story does a good job of justifying the process (a god has marked the targets — you can’t argue with the gods) (…or can you?), but I’d rather be the duchess. Anyway, I don’t want to BE Ismae. But I’ll be along for her story. The 549 pages here are full of mystery and intrigue, and even a sloooooooooow burn romance. I’ll take it.
But you know what? I’m having a hard time writing this review because I just didn’t LOVE it. I picked it up because of all the gushing 5-star reviews all over ALL THE THINGS, so maybe this was an issue of hype. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it. Ismae is probably one of the best protagonists in any story I’ve read. It’s different, it introduced me to a time period I knew very little about, and somehow, still, I just thought it was good. Worth the $10 I paid on Audible, sure. Maybe not worth buying a shelf copy for a re-read.
FINAL GRADE: B I’m an anomoly. Seriously. Everyone else gave it 5 stars, so I wouldn’t take this review too seriously. I’m going to chalk this up to the format (audio book) just not holding my interest as well as a print book. Sometimes that happens. In this case I think it was because of all the French names and unfamiliar words/places. I have pretty poor auditory processing skills, so I had a hard time following who was who and where they were going and why in the beginning of the story. I’ll probably read the second book in print. Yes, this is a trilogy.
Required Reading: I’d require this to high school students and lovers of historical fiction. There is a paranormal element, but that’s not the focus of the novel.
Library Recommendations: Buy it for a high school library. I can think of about six of my more sophisticated middle school readers who would have LOVED this book, so I probably would have bought it for my library. But, honestly, I can’t see many of the under-14 set really enjoying this.
What did you think of Grave Mercy? If you loved it, inspire my readers in the comments! If you didn’t…leave me virtual fist bump of mutual understanding.
Before spring break I said I would have some exciting news to share…
I’m spending my summer in Europe!!!!!!!
I was able to join on a summer research experience through the School of Education that will allow me to do self-directed research abroad. I’ve got funding for most of that experience, including eight weeks of research at a university and two weeks of an global studies institute at a different university. Since I have some money saved and a tax refund coming, I’m also able to finally take my dream European travel extravaganza upon completion of the research! I’ve plotted the things I really want to see and places I really want to go, so I think I’ve nailed down my itinerary.
I’ll be going to:
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Jonkoping, Sweden
- Oslo, Norway
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Porto, Portugal
- Berlin, Germany
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Krakow, Poland (and Auschwitz)
- Vienna, Austria
- Venice, Italy
- Florence, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Pompeii, Italy
I’ll be there for a total of three months, so it’s a lot to arrange before the end of the semester! I’ve got to cross my fingers that my passport comes in time (it should), arrange for a house sitter, make travel arrangements, and deal with the financials. It’s also really hard to keep my head in lit reviews, papers, and theory when I want to be cracking open my European guidebook to plan my travels. I traveled to Paris and London when I was 16, but this will be my first big trip abroad. Kind of a no-holds-barred, bucket list experience.
As of now, I’m not sure how I plan to “document” the trip. I’m sure I’ll share a little on here, especially anything bookish I do (I plan to read a book while drinking coffee in every country I visit). What I want to know from you, my dear readers, is what I should DO in these countries. I’ve got my ideas, but I’m flexible at this point. Anything I just CAN’T miss? Anything super cool, off the beaten path, or particularly bookish I might consider adding to the itinerary?
Where are you DYING to travel one day? What’s your favorite place you’ve already been?
Author: Gregg Olsen
Publisher/Year: Splinter, 2012
Length: 288 pages
Series?: Empty Coffin #2
Genre: YA crime novel/paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher
Based on the real-life Amanda Knox case, Betrayal is the story of the murder of British exchange student Olivia Grant. Olivia was found wrapped in a bloody sheet on the floor during a Halloween party, and the rich, snobby Brianna Conners (and her boyfriend Drew) are persons of interest in the case. Between doing yoga at the police station between interviews and buying lingerie while making out with Drew less than twenty four hours after the death of her BFF, Brianna becomes the focal point of the media frenzy. Twins Hayley and Taylor find themselves experiencing supernatural messages and visions connected with the murder. However, they are also caught in their own drama — the continuing web of secrets that might unlock keys to the past.
Let’s start with what’s good about this book. First, the crime element was well-written and appropriately creepy. Olsen does a good job with taking a familiar, real-life crime and hooking us on the story. However, the story always goes its own direction and the ending isn’t predictable. Second, the overall arc of the series is quite intriguing. Hayley and Taylor have these strange powers and many strange incidents in their pasts. There is something quite sinister at work in their lives, and only small bits are released at a time. I really want to know exactly what happened that day their school bus plunged into the water..and why. That’s what will keep me reading these books.
Unfortunately, there were a few things I didn’t like. If you read the reviews of the book on Goodreads, I’m not alone in this complaint: there are too many pop culture references and the book sounds like it’s trying a little to hard to be “hip” for teens. It’s okay in books like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, because those books are like the candy of the book world. Light, airy, superficial cotton candy that can get all caught up in muffin tops and Victoria’s Secret thongs. However, I think that type of writing is missing the mark with the target demographic for this series. I really think Olsen could be writing for people who like a good crime story and awesome plot twists without having to resort to references that will just be dated in a few years.
FINAL GRADE: B With this book, I just have to see the forest through the trees. I’m a sucker for a mystery and a sucker for a crime novel, what can I say? Gregg Olsen has a knack for storytelling and tossing in enough twists/tension to keep me turning pages.
Required Reading: Required for anyone who read Envy and enjoyed it. Required for fans of crime novels, mysteries, and paranormal novels.
Library Recommendation: Put it in your middle or high school library, the kids will definitely read it.
Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 2/05/2013
Length: 309 pages
Series?: Finishing School #1
Genre: YA Steampunk
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Feminist Reads Challenge
You guys. YOU GUYS. This. Book. Is. Awesome.
I can’t tell you how fabulous it was to both reeeeeealllllyyy look forward to a book AND not be disappointed by the hype.
Etiquette & Espionage is the story of Sophronia, a mischieveous girl sent to finishing school, only to learn that “finishing” has two different definitions. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, the girls learn curtseys and proper dress, but they also hide simple objects in their petticoats to use as deadly weapons. Sophronia spends much of her time sneaking around the floating school, figuring out what her shady classmate, Monique, is up to while trying to stay out of trouble.
This book is lovely. Absolutely lovely. And different from what I typically read. So this review will be a little different, because I’m just going to highlight the things I loved:
This was my first experience with the genre. Though jarring at first, I was quickly enamored with the imagination involved in every detail! The Victorian technology made for fabulous mental images throughout the story. TAKE ME UP IN THE AIR SHIP, I’M SOLD!
A STEAMPOWERED MECHANICAL PET DOG, y’all. First, I want one. Second, it’s the most fun pet ever in a book. Sophronia feeds him coal and he burns it in his belly!
Soap is a boy who works in the boiler room of the airship, aka a “sootie.” He and Sophronia quickly become buddies, and their friendship is super cute. Soap was easily my favorite character in the whole book, wonderfully charming and helpful, with an adventurous streak. I can’t wait to get to know him better throughout the series.
The Feminist Slant
Loved seeing the strong women here. They are educated, polite, and ready to defend themselves at a moment’s notice. Sneaking around and curiosity are even encouraged. I love that these ladies not only put up a cunning fight against random attacks by flywaymen while traveling, but also see the flywaymen coming and calmly formulate a plan in their fancy dresses before the attack occurs.
Oh, Gail Carriger. It took me a few chapters to get used to the universe and the very formal tone. These ladies are proper ladies, and they speak like proper ladies. Delicious adjectives abound. However, the humorous, tongue-in-cheek moments are plentiful! Two of my favorite bits, which I think sum up the writing quite nicely:
“Below that was written a list of particular skills, which in Henrietta’s case appeared to be ‘Parasol manipulation, hairstyles for concealment, ballistics, quiet footsteps, fast waltz, and rice pudding.’”
“She was about to enter a ballroom certain to contain much in the way of distracting fashion and other tempting sparkly bits.”
No love triangles
In fact, romance isn’t even the focus. I have a hunch it might come into play later on, but for right now it’s about friendship and finishing. Refreshing! I don’t know how long the series is going to be, but it seems like Carriger is focused on romance in the long term, letting Sophronia have fun and just be fourteen right now.
FINAL GRADE: A I can’t wait for the sequels, I will be reading more. What a delightful, fun, imaginative, intelligent read! There’s not much more to say than that…just go read it!
Required Reading: Required for all of my 20-something friends looking for a fun YA recommendation from me. Also required for fans of steampunk and Gail Carriger’s adult series, The Parasol Protectorate (set in the same universe).
Library Recommendations: Put it in your high school library. I’m on the fence about the middle school library, since it is all very PG in nature…it wouldn’t hurt, but I think it’s geared more toward high school.
What are your thoughts on the steampunk genre? Love it? Hate it? Don’t understand it?
Title: Order of Darkness: Changeling
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 3/24/2102
Length: 314 pages
Series?: Order of Darkness #1
Genre: YA historical/paranormal(ish)
Source: ARC from publisher
Challenges: Feminist Reads Challenge
When I first read the blurb for Changeling, I had a hard time figuring out what the story was actually going to be about. Now that I’ve read it, I’m going to give you the summary I would have wanted to have: Changeling is about the journey of a church detective, Luca, as he investigates strange occurrences across Italy in 1453. Luce investigates as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a secret sect commissioned by the Pope to question these strange occurrences in preparation for the end of days. But basically…he’s a church detective. His first case is a abbey where the nuns seem to be possessed by evil spirits. Lady Isolde happens to reside at the abbey, locked away when she refused to marry after her father’s death. All signs in Luca’s investigation point to Isolde’s involvement in the abbey’s unsettling events — but what’s really happening when the women go to sleep?
First off, I have to say that I have never read a Philippa Gregory book. So I am not coming at Philippa Gregory’s first stab at YA with any kind of expectations about her writing. I’ve seen some mixed reviews over this novel and, well…I don’t agree with them. I liked the book. It does feel like two different stories (the inquiry at the abbey and an inquiry about a werewolf), but I thought of it more as a detective novel. It seems like other people may have been expecting either A.) heaving bosoms and lustful glances, B.) swashbuckling action and adventure or C.) intrigue in the royal court. This is more episodic, traveling through the countryside to uncover lies and deception.
What I felt really made the book work was the characters. Luca is kind of dull (though I imagine he will develop over the series), but everyone else made for a good cast. Luca’s companion, Freize, offers some comic relief and unpredictable moments. Lady Isolde is smart and stands up for what she believes in. My favorite character by far was Ishraq, Lady Isolde’s companion and friend. Ishraq is such a fascinating character, and not just because she’s a Muslim surrounded by nuns. She definitely doesn’t follow the rules and she has a fiery side.
FINAL GRADE: B I love logic. And the use of logic. And using logic to prove that seemingly fantastic scenarios are not actually all that fantastic, a la an episode of Scooby Doo. So that’s why I enjoyed Changeling, and it’s why I know I’ll find myself reading the other books in the series. I recognize that this is a first book in a series, so I’m hoping there will be additional development of the characters, romance, and this whole “changeling” plot line (which is barely explained) over the later books. I’m also feeling like there’s some big-time stuff with the church that will come out later, too. I’m very glad I decided to try this book!
Required Reading: Required for fans of historical fiction for sure. Gregory knows what she’s doing in this genre. Also required for anyone who loves romance, since this is going to grow over the course of the series. And, as noted by the Feminist Reads Challenge note at the top, this is a good book if you love a good feminist read (but one realistic to the time period).
Library Recommendation: Appropriate for middle or high school. Be aware that there is an attempted rape early in the story, as well as a murder and a violent death. I’ve also had readers wonder how similar books portray Christianity, so I will say that the story does highlight corruption of individuals who are acting pious, but the overall goal is to reveal the corruption to save the church.
April @ Good Books and Good Wine reviewed the audiobook: “Gregory has this talent for bringing history to life and infusing it with a hefty dose of drama”
Zabet @ Reading Between Classes: “It really feels like two separate stories; one that features the nunnery and one a village with a werewolf. The stories felt disconnected, almost like two novellas that were strung together in an attempt to make a full book.”
Have you read any Philippa Gregory novels? What do you think of her writing style overall?
Title: The Madman’s Daughter
Author: Megan Shephard
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: 1/29/2013
Length: 432 pages
Series?: The Madman’s Daughter #1
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Gothic
Format: Print ARC
Source: ARC from HarperCollins
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Feminist Reads Challenge
If you’ve ever read The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells or if you even know the plot, then you know the story. A madman (Dr. Moreau) has been banished from London for his criminal acts of surgical cruelty on animals, leaving his wife and daughter alone as he flees to an island off Australia. After her mother dies, Juliet finds herself cleaning rooms in the medical school and hoping to find her father again. Her search leads her to that isolated island, along with her childhood friend, a shipwreck victim, and a whole host of very strange-looking villagers and staff. Juliet learns that the isolation of the island is hiding as sinister secret, and she is forced to answer the one question that has haunted her for most of her life: is her father really a madman?
The Madman’s Daugher is a novel about opposing forces: good vs. evil, animal vs. human, wild vs. domestic, jungle vs. civilization, curious vs. mad, chaos vs. order, science vs. nature, and even a good ole fashioned love triangle of the Edward/Jacob variety. While Juliet watches these opposing forces play out on the island and in her romantic interests, she also must face the opposing sides within herself. Though Juliet struggles with this opposition, she also has the brains and strength to have a hand in her own fate. Juliet isn’t a perfect heroine, and isn’t always likable, but I respected and understood her.
For a 400+ page novel, this story moves along very quickly due to the mysteries revealed and the danger at hand. AND THE TWISTS! You guys, there’s a plot twist, and I knew there’d be a plot twist, and I love a good plot twist. I kind of saw the plot twist coming, but it was still a great moment. Not to mention the cliff hanger ending, since this is definitely a trilogy. I know, I know…a trilogy with a love triangle, how cliche. How much I’ve complained about such things, right? Well, I take it all back. If Megan Shepherd wants to entertain me with two more hefty love triangle-licious volumes, I’ll read ‘em.
FINAL GRADE: B Wow. I enjoyed this way more than I thought! It loses a few points for a few ridiculous moments related to the romance, and for being a little angsty , but it was a great read. I love when authors play around with classics and bring them into modern storytelling. In fact, I may have been inspired to read The Island of Dr. Moreau next. I actually had HG Wells’ The Time Machine already downloaded to my Audible account, ready to go, so it wouldn’t be a far stretch (plus I’ve already read The Time Machine once, so it can wait).
Assigned Reading: Assigned to fans of HG Wells and anyone who likes creepy, dark historical fiction. I guess the technical genre here is historical sci-fi, but it’s definitely no steampunk. Also recommended to anyone who wants to read a REAL love triangle novel.
Library Recommendations: This would be okay, content wise, for either a middle school or high school library. I think high school students would be quite drawn to the story if you can sell it right. If you are a middle school librarian on a strict, slim budget…skip it. Otherwise, give it a go!
What do you think about classics re-imagined? Is a fun idea, cheap trick, lack of creativity?