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Showing posts from April, 2011

Victorian Literature: The Heir of Redclyffe

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The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte Yonge Charlotte Yonge was a tremendously popular mid-Victorian novelist who wrote very moral and wholesome family stories. She's not well-known now, but her books are fun to read. The Heir of Redclyffe is Yonge's first and most melodramatic work, and also one of her most popular. The story focuses on one family, especially the two older sisters, Laura and Amy. Laura is older--classically beautiful, angelically good, eminently sensible, and very influenced by her older cousin Philip (who is handsome, intelligent, influential, and pompous). Amy is only a little younger, but everyone considers her to be the cute, silly, snuggly one. Their family welcomes a distant cousin, Sir Guy, into their home. He has just lost his guardian and is now without a family. All of his clan is infamous for their ungovernable tempers, and Guy lives in fear that he will turn out the same, though he is a very nice young man. Cousin Philip is convinced that

Week 17: Sapphique

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Sapphique , by Catherine Fisher I finally got my hands on the sequel to Incarceron ! Yay! But I don't want to spoil the story. So: it's more dystopia. And it's pretty good; there's so much YA dystopia out there right now that quality is hard to find, and I think this is closer to the top of the heap than the bottom.

Week 17: Unbroken

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Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption , by Laura Hillenbrand I had a hard time putting this book down; it's an amazing story. This is the biography of Louis Zamperini, young punk, Olympic athlete, bombardier, POW, and survivor. You spend a lot of time wondering how on earth he survived. Zamperini grew up in Southern California, and as a kid he was a total punk, a rebel without a cause. But in high school he started running, and turned out to be incredible at it. At the time runners tended to be older, and he was unusually young when he went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He planned to do better in 1940, but the war got in the way, and that's when the story gets really exciting. This book is getting a lot of buzz right now, and deserves it. It's very much worth reading. And thanks to Julie in Austin for recommending it to me! I had a hard time figuring out where to put this one on my map, but decided that majority rules.

Week 16: The Dirty Life

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The Dirty Life: a Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love , by Kristin Kimball It's another organic farming manifesto! I like reading books about how to get back to the land; I just don't think I'd be any good at it myself, since I'm a rotten gardener. (Sorry Mom.) Come the Apocalypse, I plan to survive by sewing and educating children in exchange for food. Anyway, this is the story of a typical ironic New York writer who falls in love with an organic farmer with radical ideas. They move to upstate New York, to a run-down 50-acre farm, and turn it into a sort of uber-CSA farm. The Dirty Life describes how the author met her husband and how they started the farm. It was pretty enjoyable, but there was way more information about their relationship than I needed. This isn't a how-to book, though, it's a memoir. And it's pretty good if you like that sort of thing, which I mostly do, as long as it doesn't have made-up stuff about utopian Neolithic socie

Week 16: The Sons of Heaven

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The Sons of Heaven , by Kage Baker The final Company story shows what happens when everyone gets to 2355--the Silence, beyond which no one knows what will happen. The whole thing is now so complex and bizarre that it can't really be described to people who haven't read the series, and if you're halfway through it you won't want the story spoiled, so that's all I'll say. I enjoyed it pretty well, though.

Take a Chance: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , by Mark Haddon 9: LibraryThing Pick: Go to LibraryThing’s Zeitgeist page . Look at the lists for 25 Most Reviewed Books or Top Books and pick a book you’ve never read. Read the book. (Yes … you can click on MORE if you have to.) I picked this title from the 25 Most Reviewed Books list, and yep, it was the only one I hadn't read that I was willing to read. I'd heard lots of good things about this book, but had never felt like I particularly wanted to read it. And it turned out that I liked the book a lot. It's a novel written from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy with fairly severe autism as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbor's dog. His naivete and inability to understand the world (which he finds overwhelming, scary, and illogical) bring you in. It's easy to be fond of Christopher. At the same time, it's easy to understand that his parents--who are very ordinary people--f

Feminist Challenge: Herland

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Herland , by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Charlotte Gilman Perkins was a Victorian feminist writer, most famous for her rather creepy short novella The Yellow Wallpaper . Herland was published serially in her magazine, The Forerunner, and was Gilman's attempt to show that only feminism and socialism could produce a just and peaceful society. Three men on an exploring trip find a long-lost civilization where, amazingly, there are no men. (The men were killed off 2000 years ago, and the women are miraculously parthenogenic, all descended from the single woman who developed that trait.) This women-only society is the most peaceful and advanced ever seen. Without the constant pressure of sex roles, the women have banded together and planned their society. After over 1500 years of work, they have accomplished much. Motherhood is the focus of their society, which is centered around the children, and everything is done collectively. Working together, the women have eradicated dise

Week 15: 2012 and the End of the World

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2012 and the End of the World: the Western Roots of the Maya Apocalypse , by Matthew Restall and Amara Solari Lots of people are talking about 2012 and whether it's a significant date--there are a couple of hundred books on 2012 and whether we'll have a catastrophe, a rebirth, a galactic awakening, or something. Maybe the world will end! This short, somewhat scholarly book analyzes the roots of the apocalyptic 2012 fuss and shows where it came from. Most of the time, people will just say " The Mayan calendar ends in December 2012! " You then have to assume that the Maya had secret esoteric knowledge that allowed them to predict the end of the world. It turns out not to be so exciting; the Maya probably weren't thinking about the end of the world at all. They liked to do calendar math, and one calendar they developed--the Long Count--had a very long cycle. It seems that they began the count nicely far back in the past, so that they would be co

Week 15: Kingdom Coming

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Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism , by Michelle Goldberg I saw this recommended some time ago, and got it on ILL. Michelle Goldberg explains a bit about the Christian movement called dominionism, along with some other elements of conservative Christianity in America. I found the book quite helpful for understanding those issues. Because the book dates from the Bush era, it's now a bit outdated as far as presidential politics goes. Quite a few of Goldberg's statements had unintentional double meanings that applied to current affairs as well. An example: This is how democracy starts to degenerate--with a breakdown of legal authority, government deadlock, and leaders who use the chaos to seize unwarranted powers. A liberal society (in the classical sense of the word) requires politicians willing to follow their own laws or, if they don't, institutions to hold them accountable. It requires leaders who will abide by the rulings of judges and, conversely

Victorian Literature: Barchester Towers

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Barchester Towers , by Anthony Trollope Barchester Towers is the second book in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles. I enjoyed the first book, The Warden, a couple of years ago and have always meant to read the rest of the books. Barchester Towers was so enjoyable to read that now I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the books! This particular story focuses almost entirely on the clerical population of Barsetshire. A new bishop is installed, and he is under the thumb of his wife and her chaplain, one Mr. Slope. Much of the story revolves around the question of who is to control Bishop Proudie and Mr. Slope's constant scheming to arrange matters according to his preferences. The old guard of Barsetshire is horrified by the new faction, but can do little to combat it. Meanwhile, Mr. Slope and a couple of other gentlemen are vying for the hand of the young widow Mrs. Bold (who was also in The Warden ). Quite a few of the names in B

Week 14: Radical Homemakers

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Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture , by Shannon Hayes I had heard a lot of good things about this book and I was looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that I am disappointed. "Radical Homemaking" is all about becoming more self-reliant and building a community, reclaiming old skills and getting out of the rat race as much as possible. I'm all for that stuff and I expected to like this book, where Hayes talks about "Radical Homemaker" convictions and interviews a bunch of people for their insights. I think it was the tone that got to me. The first part of the book is all social history and philosophy, but the very first thing Hayes claims is that back in Neolithic times, there were egalitarian, goddess-worshiping matriarchal societies that were peaceful and so on, until they were destroyed by the more violent patriarchal nomadic tribes that came in and killed them all, starting a competitive culture of greed and im