Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorites of 2013



It was hard to choose, but here is my list of favorite books I reviewed this year:


1. Fever by: Mary Beth Keane
         
A historical fiction book about Mary Mallon, A.K.A. Typhoid Mary. Keane examines the question if Mary actually understood that she was spreading the disease or not. The story follows Mary as she is discovered as a healthy carrier of the disease and how she was treated by the authorities. It was an excellent book. Completely engaging, while inviting the reader to think about how we treat people when we are frightened of them.




2. The Saga of the Icelanders by: Various Authors
     
A collection of sagas and tales selected from the Icelandic five volume set. This is an excellent collection of some of the lesser known tales. Although the more popular sagas such as: The Saga of the Volsungs and Njal's Saga are not included, you will discover similar tales in this book that you will like. The Penguin edition contains a lot of supplemental material which explains about the time period, how the political system worked, and maps.




3. Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by: Anne Somerset

I enjoyed learning more about Queen Anne. She is a monarch you do not hear a lot about despite the role she played in some major historical events such as: The Glorious Revolution, The Seven Year's War, The War of Spanish Succession, and The Act of Union. Anne Somerset gave us another exceptional biography with Queen Anne.





4. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by: Ransom Riggs

Jacob travels to an island to see what he can discover about his Grandfather. He learns more than he could possibly imagine. I loved the use of vintage  photographs as an idea and illustration for this story. Having the photographs as part of the story almost makes you believe the story is real. This was an imaginative tale full of mystery that kept me engaged in the story. I cannot wait for the next book Hollow City to be released.


5. Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by: Jonathan L. Howard

This is the third book about the anti-social necromancer Johannes Cabal. I loved reading this book! Johannes Cabal is an anti-hero, which makes for an amusing read. In this book he becomes a guide for The Fear Institute on their journey to the Dreamlands to find embodiment of fear. I thought this was a very entertaining tale.





6. Harvest For Hope by: Jane Goodall

The perfect introduction to mindful eating. Goodall clearly explains why it is important to know about what we eat, where it comes from, and how it is grown/raised. She writes about farming practices, factory farms, water, CSAs, and much more. I learned a lot from this book, and joined a CSA when I was done reading it. If you care about what you eat, or are curious why other people do, you should read this book.




7. The Greek Myths by: Robert Graves

I love mythology, and Graves' collection is one of the best for the Greek myths that I have read. He provides additional notes about each tale, and this edition has some beautiful pictures. If you want to know more about the Greek myths, this is a great edition.



8. Eleanor Of Aquitaine by: Alison Weir

Eleanor of Aquitaine was a powerful woman. She married two kings, and was the mother of three kings. She lived a long and very active life. I was particularly impressed with how much she traveled. She traveled back and forth between France and England. She also went on one of the Crusades to Constantinople and Jerusalem. This was a well researched and engaging biography. I really enjoyed learning more about Eleanor.




9. The Cookiepedia by: Stacy Adimando

This is a cookbook of classic cookie recipes. It is my new go to cookbook for cookies. I love the wide variety, and the easy to follow recipes. Full of tips on how to change the recipe slightly or how to make some steps easier, it is the ideal cookbook for the new or experienced baker. I've made several of the recipes already, and am looking forward to making more.



10. Catching Fire by: Suzanne Collins

This is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. It is my favorite of the three. I loved the introduction of previous winners of the games. They all have such strange personalities, you cannot help but love them. This book also captures the different emotions of the people and events better. I had a great time rereading this book before I went to see the movie. I like it more each time I read it.




11. We Band Of Angels by: Elizabeth M. Norman

The account of Navy nurses deployed to the Philippines during World War II. They end up as prisoners of war, and despite horrific conditions all of the nurses survive their imprisonment. The amazing part is, they continued to do their best to care for the wounded, even when they could barely stand from illness and starvation. It was a very moving book, and I highly recommend it.





12. Nick And Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab by: Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla go to their Uncle Newt's house for the summer. They get to use their Uncle's lab for experiments. Nick and Tesla start using their experiments in their adventures around Half Moon Bay. I read and reviewed this book with my nephew. We had a lot of fun reading this book. There are instructions for five experiments from the story that you can do yourself. This book is a fun way to expose kids to science.

Eleanor Of Aquitaine




Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful women in the Middle Ages. She was married to Louis VII King of France, and after that marriage was annulled, she married Henry II King of England. Eleanor was very involved in politics from an early age because she inherited Aquitaine, which was important politically. She is also well known for being the mother of Richard the Lionheart and Prince John. She lived to be eighty-two years old.

In Eleanor of Aquitaine Weir does an excellent job separating fact from fiction. There are stories and songs about Eleanor that grew over the years, and many of them were untrue. I liked that these stories about her were addressed, but not used as a factual representation of Eleanor's life. There was an excellent discussion on why these stories would have developed, and why they could not be true.

This was a well researched biography. Despite the lack of sources such as letters and diaries, Weir manages to piece together Eleanor's life from Court records and other contemporary sources. There is a lot of discussion of Henry II to help determine what Eleanor would have been doing, particularly when there is a lack of record about her. While I wish there had been less of Henry II in the book, I think this was unavoidable, and it was handled well.

I really liked this biography. Weir does excellent research, and presents her findings in an engaging way. If you are interested in Eleanor or this time period, I recommend reading this book.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

As I Lay Dying





Addie Bundren dies at the beginning of the book. Before she dies, she extracts the promise from her family to bury her where she grew up. It is a several day journey from where they are currently living. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character in the book. It explains their thoughts on what is happening, and their motivation for fulfilling Addie's dying wish. Some of their reasons are noble, and others quite selfish.

Normally, I do not like stream of conscious writing, but it worked really well in this book. The way the writing style was used to tell the story tricks you. It feels as though you are reading a bunch of jumbled thoughts from the various characters, but there is actually great subtlety to the presentation that draws you in. You grow to appreciate each character's unique voice as you begin to understand their thoughts about what is occurring.

Honestly, this is one of the books you read, and want to read again to go back and see what you missed in the first reading. This was my first time reading a complete Faulkner book, and I liked it. As I Lay Dying leaves you thinking long after you have finished it. There is a dark beauty to this book. I am looking forward to reading more Faulkner in the future.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Cookiepedia





Cookiepedia is for anyone that loves to make and eat cookies. The simple and easy to follow directions make it perfect for the newbie baker. If you are a more experienced baker this will still be a great addition to you kitchen. It is full of tips on how to make the recipes your own if you feel more adventurous. There are simple cookies with a few basic ingredients, and some with more steps. Anyone will be able to find a cookie they feel confident baking.

I won this in a Quirk Books DIY contest.* Winners use the craft or cookbook to compete in a contest for more books. I really liked this cookbook. There are pictures for every recipe, which I like. It always helps me decide what recipe to choose when I can see it. It is also useful if you have never made the recipe to see how it should turn out. The cookbook is divided into sections by the type of cookie buttery, chocolate, etc. At the start of each section is a picture of all the cookies found there. At the end of every recipe there is a place to write notes about it. This is an extremely useful feature. I have so many notes in my cookbooks wherever I can find space, so I love this feature! Some of the cookies I have already tried are:


Thumbprint Cookies

An easy cookie to make. This is a great cookie for a group. You can make the fillings different to please the various tastes of your guests. I used three different fillings here. 1. Blueberry Jam
2. Pumpkin Butter 3. Chocolate Pudding
There are numerous possibilities for these cookies.



Mint Thins

I no longer have to track down the Girl Scouts once a year. These are very tasty, and are very good if you stick them in the freezer, and let them get cold. The only problem is they disappear quickly!







Crinkle Cookies

I used the basic Crinkle recipe, but added my own twist. I crushed Andes mints into small pieces and added them at the end of mixing. The chocolate and mint flavor is delicious! I had never made crinkles where you melted the chocolate, but I really like the flavor of the cookies. I also liked how small these are.




I'm looking forward to making Shortbread cookies. My recipe for Kormos calls for them, and last time I made it I had trouble finding plain shortbread cookies. Now I don't have to worry about finding them at the store, or what is in them. I can't wait to try it out and all the other delectable looking cookies in this book. If you like to bake cookies or want to learn how I recommend Cookiepedia.


*Quirk Books does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I would not have read, or gotten to as soon.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Saga Of The Volsungs





The Saga Of The Volsungs follows several generations as they achieve great renown, and are killed by people jealous of their success. The following generations try to avenge their fallen ancestors. Filled with compelling elements such as: cursed gold, a ring with the name Andvaranaut, a broken sword to be reforged, fights with dragons, dwarves, shapeshifters, magic, and epic battles it is a story you will not want to miss.

Revenge is what motivates the characters in this saga. What I find absolutely fascinating in this story, is the varying methods the Volsungs use to get their revenge. From one on one fights to training from a young age in the woods, the Volsungs seek and obtain justice for their murdered family.

Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings trilogy was partially inspired by The Saga Of The Volsungs and several other sagas. The broken sword reforged and the magic ring are some of the more obvious inspirations. What I appreciate about Tolkien is while clearly inspired by this tale, he uses it to make his own story. He does not create a cheap imitation. It is an excellent example of how appreciation of a story can influence a person without overtaking their work.

I enjoyed reading this saga, and only wish it was longer. I recommend reading this book if you are new to the sagas. It is an excellent one to start with. It follows many of the typical themes in the sagas without completely overwhelming a new reader with a lot of different terms.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Heart Of The Lion & The Lion Unleashed






The first two books in a series about King Richard returning to England from the Crusades. The first book: The Heart of the Lion, has King Richard captured by Duke Leopold of Austria who trades him to King Henry of Germany in exchange for a portion of the ransom. Back in England, Queen Eleanor and Princess Joanna try to thwart Prince John in his attempt at a coup in Richard's absence. In book two: The Lion Unleashed, King Richard remains imprisoned waiting to be ransomed. Although Queen Eleanor raises the ransom, Prince John does everything he can to stop it from being paid. Princess Joanna hatches a plot to free Richard and puts it in motion.

I won these books in the Goodread's First Reads Program*. I really like this time period, and have read much about it, so I was excited to try Barlog's books. I was extremely disappointed! I found the overall plot, the character development, and the writing style unsatisfactory. In fact, the only reason I finished the first book and continued on to the second was because I won them, and I think it is in the spirit of the program to finish the books and give an honest review. Otherwise, I would not have wasted my time reading these books.

To expound lightly on my dissatisfaction, the author used a great deal of language to say very little. The  best writing tries to show, rather than tell. In addition, the number of adjectives overwhelmed the narration, making it difficult to read. There needed to be less description with more action and dialogue to further the plot. I was also wary of the lack of character development, in the first book, and would have hoped to see more depth in the second.

While the second book improves some in the overuse of adjectives and plot development, it still falls short. As a second book in a series there was a particular lack of character development. Motivations were often stereotypical. Each character appeared to be made from a template, and the author did not succeed in making me believe they were real. For example, there were various knights mentioned in the book, but there was no spectrum to their thoughts. I need more development to stay engaged in a story.

I would recommend reading different books about Prince John and Richard III.


*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Almond Tree






Ichmad Hamid is from Palestine, and his story takes place from 1950-2010. He is a gifted mathematician who struggles to help support his family from a very young age. His family is living in occupied territory, and they must do as the military demands. When his father is wrongfully imprisoned Ichmad struggles to maintain his ideals and avoid the hate his family is rapidly succumbing to. He must choose between feeding his family and getting an education.

Knowing his father wants him to get an education to have hope of success in life, Ichmad struggles to get his education against many of the odds against him. He tries to live up to his father's ideals and advice. It is moving to read about the hardships Ichmad suffers with poverty, lower wages because of his race, his father's imprisonment, prejudice professors, and overcoming his fear of the Israelis.

I won this book in the Goodreads First Reads Program*. I found it to be a captivating book. I liked that the author told the Israeli/Palestine conflict from a Palestinian perspective. It is a view that is not often portrayed in the West, although that seems to be slowly changing. I also liked the emphasis in the story of the need to form relationships with people to create understanding.

I thought that was a completely engrossing book. Despite the hopelessness that is present throughout the book, there are moments of beauty that give you kernels of hope. This is a poignant story that will stir strong emotions, and make you reevaluate what is important in your life. I recommend reading this excellent book.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Catching Fire



The second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy has us following Katniss and Peeta as they go on their Victor's tour of the 12 Districts and the Capitol. The tour does not go as planned when they encounter unrest in the Districts. Katniss is filled with despair when she realizes winning the Hunger Games means the Capitol will never let her be free, particularly as she becomes the symbol of the rebellion.

I like this part of the trilogy. We are familiar with the world, but it is before the story culminates in its grand finish. I enjoyed reading about the victors from the previous games. They are different from anyone else in their world. They appear to have an easy life compared to everyone else, but on closer examination, they all seem crazy because of the methods they use to cope with surviving the games.

I reread this book right before seeing the movie. It is my favorite book in the trilogy. There is so much more depth to the characters and the story. The balance of hope and despair throughout the book is outstanding. We learn that there is a darker side to winning the Hunger Games. I loved the first book, and this one is even better. I recommend continuing to read this trilogy.



Monday, December 9, 2013

The Ghost Bride






Li Lan lives in Malaya during the 19th century. Her mother died when she was young. She lives with her father, who is addicted to opium, in reduced circumstances. One evening, her father returns home and asks if she would like to become a ghost bride. Her bridegroom is the recently deceased son of a wealthy family. While contemplating this choice, Li Lan is visited by the ghost of her prospective bridegroom. He becomes increasingly insistent that she marry him. Li Lan travels to the afterlife to figure out why he continues to haunt her.

I read this book for my Historical Fiction class. I enjoyed the exploration of the afterlife in this book. It was a different focus for a historical fiction novel. I like to read mythology and explore cultural beliefs and how they influence history. This book embodied my interests in a fascinating way. It also made me want to read more about Chinese folk tales and ghosts.

The Ghost Bride has a complex plot, which is wonderfully executed. I liked the second half of the book the best, where Li Lan explores the afterlife. The use of myth and history was combined beautifully to me. I recommend reading this book.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Heir To The Empire





It is about five years after Return Of The Jedi, the New Republic is in control of the galaxy. There are only a  few remaining strongholds of the Empire that they have left to defeat. A new leader for the Empire emerges, and has a plan that will return the Empire to its former glory. Suddenly, the New Republic finds itself in a perilous position--they might loose everything they have fought for, to the Empire.

This was one of the first Star Wars books I read, and was one of the reasons I became obsessed with Star Wars. I particularly enjoy books in this universe, that Timothy Zahn writes. He creates a suspense that keeps you turning the pages to see how the plot turns out. You will not want to stop with this book. He also introduces some of my favorite characters: Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Grand Admiral Thrawn.

This is the beginning to one of the more satisfying trilogies in the Star Wars Universe. If you are interested in Star Wars, and are not certain where to begin with the plethora of books that are part of this universe, I would strongly suggest beginning here. You will encounter characters you have already become attached to, and become invested in a whole bunch of new ones. I highly recommend starting this trilogy, and discover where in the galaxy you end up.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fever





Mary Mallon lives in New York City around the end of the 19th century, and early 20th century. She works as a cook for some of the wealthiest families in New York. In 1907, it is discovered that Mary is a healthy carrier of Typhoid fever. She was the first identified person with the capacity to be a healthy carrier of the disease. She was quarantined on North Brother Island where doctors ran tests on her. A judge ordered her release after several years in quarantine, on the condition she would stop cooking for other people. Lacking the ability to earn a significant wage in another position, and taking pride in her ability as a cook she finds herself a job cooking.

I read this for my Historical Fiction course. I was anxiously waiting to get to the portion of class where we read this book. I was not disappointed. It ended up being my favorite book from the class. It was well written, and covered a fascinating person. I had always heard about Typhoid Mary the same way I heard about Mrs. O'Leary and her cow starting the Chicago fire in 1871. Both were always depicted as women that caused horrible things to happen through their own carelessness, or malice depending on the story. Of course, there is much more to these women.

Keane depicts Mary Mallon in a compelling way. I loved the richness of her character. Rather than showing Mary as completely innocent or guilty, we are given all the complicated parts that make up Mary, and her case. We are given questions that are difficult to answer: Did Mary really understand what was happening? Is it okay to imprison someone for something they might do? Perhaps it is easy for us to judge being removed from the situation, but when confronted as a reality in our own lives, I think it is not. It became harder to blame Mary for her actions as the book went on.

Fever held my attention to the very end. I found it to be an engrossing tale, despite knowing how it would end. This book made me remember how little I actually knew about Mary, and that was mostly stereotypes. I can't wait to read more books about Mary Mallon. I highly recommend this book.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The American Way Of Eating



"We're facing a dire health problem related to poor diet. Is it really in America's best interest to maintain a food system where eating well requires one to either be rich or to drive a total of thirty miles? Nearly two years after leaving my job outside Detroit, I think the answer is no."

Tracie McMillan is a journalist interested in America's food system. If minimum wage is considered a living wage, you should be able to pay for basic necessities such as rent and decent food. She goes undercover as a field worker--picking food from fields in California, working at Walmart selling produce, and working in Applebees in food prep. She explores what really is happening with the food we eat, and who can afford it.

Picking Food:

McMillan worked for hours (16+/day) in the fields to earn less than minimum wage. It was appalling how in the fields the workers were taken advantage of. The workers perform hard labor and are paid less than minimum wage, and have no health benefits. She watched as pay information was changed on the books to appear as though workers were paid minimum wage, when really they were not. Workers were also exposed to chemicals in the field, which is dangerous for them. Many of the workers put up with this because they did not have proper papers, or could not get another job.

Working in Produce:

MacMillan talks about the lack of training employees received at the Walmart where she worked. Employees had little to no training in how to take care of the food they were stocking. There was no real system for storing the food, and when it should go on display. As a result food would sit rotting in bins in the back of the store, waiting for someone to do something with it.

For me, one of the most discouraging parts of this book was the amount of waste that goes on. People are going hungry, and cannot afford decent food because of high prices, while food rots because it doesn't make it to the produce area in time for someone to buy it. Since the book was published, I have heard several large companies have developed plans for reducing food waste that happens in their stores. I hope they can accomplish this goal.

There was also the issue of how fresh the food is. The produce is shipped across the country, and by the time it reaches the shelves it is at best, already wilting. People are not getting the best quality of food, as they are loosing much of the nutrients from the food when they buy it this old.

Preparing Food in a Restaurant:

Much of the food being cooked and served in the restaurant seemed to already be prepared and frozen. Frozen food isn't necessarily bad, but you have to wonder what is used to preserve the food. It seemed the meals served were a pricier version of fast food, which people have deluded themselves into thinking is good for them. The importance of training was again mentioned in this section. There is a lack of food safety training Macmillan writes, that can be detrimental to the people handling and eating the food.

It was revealing to read how she struggled with expenses while making minimum wage. Even with little splurging she struggled with basic necessities. There is a problem with our current food and wage system. People should be able to live off the money they make, and they should be able to afford real, and decent food.

I heard the author give an interview about this book on the radio, and was intrigued. I think too much of the American food system is hidden from the public. More transparency is needed in the food industry, so people can afford good food. I thought it was an important book to read, and I am glad that I found this book.

I liked how statistics about food and wages were conveyed through personal experience. This book is important to understand the current food dilema facing America, and why school lunches, farmer's markets, farm bills, minimum wage, and food stamps are issues that effect us all, and need to be addressed in a well thought out plan. If you are curious about where your food comes from I would recommend reading this book. It is an enlightening read, and will hopefully raise awareness on some of the changes that need to be made in the food industry.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Year Of Wonders





Anna Firth is a widow in the village of Eyem. She works at the Rectory as a maid, but lodges a tailor for extra money. In 1666 he receives an infected bolt of cloth from London, and plague comes to Eyem. When the villagers are faced with the choice to flee the plague or stay in quarantine to prevent the plague from spreading, they make the surprising choice to stay.

The story is told from Anna's perspective about what happens to the villagers as they succumb to the plague. They start looking for someone to blame. Here we see the best and worst of humanity. Some people help their neighbors by nursing them while they are ill, sharing food, and helping with various chores. Others swindle their dying neighbors, accuse people of witchcraft, and some resort to killing their neighbors.

The theme of what fear does to us was prevalent throughout the book. Fear and misunderstanding was just as much a plague to these villagers as the black death. It was interesting to read what people did when faced with fear and death. It is the making and the destruction of the village.

I reread this book for my Historical Fiction course. I have conflicting feelings about this book. I like that the story is based on real people and their experience with the plague. I really liked the examination of humanity. Brooks does not shy away from the depths the villagers were plunged to. I did think there was too much prose. While it was sometimes beautiful and perfect for the moment, it would go on too long and occur too often for my preference. I would find in these moments that my attention would start to wander, which is a shame because there is a lot of interesting material in this book. I would recommend trying this book, and seeing if it works for you. It should definitely be read at least once.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nick & Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab





Nick and Tesla are eleven year old twins that go to stay with their Uncle Newt, who is a scientist, for the summer. They find an abandoned house with a mysterious girl in the window. There is also a black SUV that keeps following them. To solve these mysteries they use their Uncle Newt's lab to experiment with regular objects to help them figure out these mysteries.

I thought this book was a great way to show kids that science can be fun, and can be part of a normal day. It was an excellent idea to include instructions for experiments that are mentioned in the book. It helps bring the book alive and get kids interested in science.

I won this in a Quirk Books Promotion event*. I was very excited about winning this book because I immediately thought that my nephew Alejandro would like it. He and I read it together via video chat. I liked reading the book together and discussing it.


Q&A with Alejandro


Did you like the book?
I did like it!

Was the book serious or funny?
Funny! Because Uncle Newt did funny stuff like singing in the shower. He was singing Christmas songs, but it was not close to Christmas. It was summer. Nick and Tesla thought he would stay in there until Christmas. They kept telling him to get out!

What was your favorite part?
I liked it when they made Robo-Squirrel and distracted the guard dogs because they were creative. It was a good way to distract the dogs.

Who are the main characters?
Nick and Tesla and Uncle Newt. And some of Nick and Tesla's friends.

Who was your favorite character?
Uncle Newt because he was a crazy scientist guy. And because he does cool stuff like letting them (Nick and Tesla) use his lab. If my Dad was a scientist I would ask "could I use your lab?" because it would be fun to make things.

Did the book have illustrations?
Yes, it had some. I liked them. They showed the experiments.

Did the story turn out how you expected it to?
I was expecting more a Scientist guy and kids doing experiments and they would turn crazy. It was not how I expected because there was more playing with their science and friends.

Would you tell other people to read this book?
I would tell my friends "you should read this first book, it is really good!"

Did you do any of the experiments?
Not yet. But I will soon.

We will update this when Alejandro has a chance to do some of the experiments. He is very excited to try some of them. There are instruction for five experiments that Nick and Tesla use in their adventures.

Are you excited to read the next book Robot Army Rampage?
Yes, because it has robots and Uncle Newt. I wonder what he'll do in this book.

Did you like reading over videochat?
Yep! It was fun to read together.


Thank you Alejandro for your review, and for reading this book with me. I'm looking forward to reading the next book together.

*Quirk Books does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I would not have read, or gotten to as soon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Troubled Waters






Zoe Ardelay's father has just died. She has barely had time to mourn his passing when a stranger arrives in the village and tells her she is to come with him to marry the king and become his fifth wife. When they arrive in the city Zoe decides to escape from the King's advisor and strike out on her own, to discover what is really going on. She camps at the river until she discovers that she is the Prime of the Lalinder family, one of the five most powerful families in the kingdom. She must figure out her new role while trying to navigate the court intrigues.

Power and religion is based around the elements. While each person identifies with a particular element, there is emphasis on being in balance with all of the elements. I liked when people needed guidance, or at important life moments, they would go to one of the temples and draw a random blessing; a coin with a glyph of a certain blessing on it. This is not a definite foretelling of the future, but it gives people general guidance. 

Sharon Shinn is one of my favorite authors, and does not disappoint with the first book of this series: The Elemental Blessings. I felt immersed in this world. I loved all the details that are given. There are traits and blessings that determine each person's personality and partly reveal their fate. It was a different approach to a fantasy world that was well done and absorbing to read. I very much enjoyed rereading this book, and cannot wait to read the next book in the series Royal Airs.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Physick Book Of Deliverance Dane





Connie is a graduate student in American History. She is searching for an unique primary source for her dissertation. She finds it in her grandmother's house. A key wrapped in paper with the name Deliverance Dane written on it. She sets off on her quest to find out more about Deliverance Dane, and find her physick book. Along the way we learn more about who Deliverance Dane was, and what her role in the Salem Witch Trials was.

This was one of the books I read for my Historical Fiction course. I really liked the idea for this book, that perhaps someone accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials was actually guilty of witchcraft. I did not think this story was conveyed in the best way. I did not like the dual story--Connie's in the 1990's and Deliverance's in the 1690's. I found it jarring to go back and forth between the eras, and for me, it interrupted the flow of the story. I would have liked it better if it had only been Deliverance Dane's story.

Because I was distracted with going back and forth in time, I didn't feel engaged in this story. It didn't feel like it was real with some of the fantastical elements, and moving between the two stories prevented immersion in the world, which would have made some of the fantastical parts more believable. It also prevented the level of character development I would have hoped for. I would recommend reading different stories about the Salem Witch Trials. I am interested to try Howe's Historical Fiction book: The House of Velvet and Glass, because I want to try her writing when it focuses on one story, in one time period, and find out if that helps me enjoy her writing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Divergent




Set in dystopian Chicago, members of the five factions (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite) are trying to avoid the violent conflicts that have always plagued human society. At sixteen, each person must choose which faction they belong to. This is where we find our protagonist Beatrice Prior. She must choose her faction, and make it through the initiation phase, or become factionless. The factionless live on the edge of society, poor and outcast.

I started reading this series because it has recently received some controversial attention. I was curious to see what was stirring up such strong emotions in people. Unfortunately, the controversial part was focused on the last book in the trilogy that just released, so I will have to wait until I get that far in the series to satisfy my curiosity.

Divergent focuses on the initiation of Beatrice into her chosen faction. There is some suspense as you wait to se if she will survive the tests. I thought it was an easy and entertaining read. It is a coming of age story about self discovery while trying to do your part for society. I am hoping that the second and third book give more details about the world, and how their insular society truly survives in relation to the rest of the world. The first book caught my attention, and now I have to see if the story delivers in the second and third book.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We Band Of Angels




This is the account of Navy nurses deployed to the Philippines during World War II. It seemed like an assignment in paradise, until December 8, 1941 when the Japanese began dropping bombs. The nurses served in a field hospital they set up in the Jungle of Bataan to care for the wounded soldiers. The nurses were sent to the tunnels of Corregidor when it became inevitable that the Army would be overrun. When Corregidor fell, the nurses were sent to an internment camp for Prisoners of War, where they would be kept until 1944.

The nurses served in deplorable conditions. They had to deal with bombs, starvation, imprisonment, diseases, lack of resources, and so much more. What was impressive to me was that even while they were starving and ill, they would report for duty to care for the sick and wounded soldiers and prisoners. To the point where they had to rest between changing bandages because they were so weak.

It is extraordinary that all seventy-seven of the captured nurses survived imprisonment. They would have lasting health problems from the starvation and diseases they suffered while imprisoned. After returning home, the women were at first celebrated, when needed for propaganda, then they and their achievements, were mostly forgotten. For example, I had no idea before reading this that one of the nurses became the most decorated woman in American military history.

I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads Program* I had heard good reviews about this book, and was eager to read about women deployed in the Philippines during World War II, as I didn't know anything about their service. The author uses a combination of first hand accounts, letters, and diaries to explain what happened to these women. The stunning courage of these women leaves you speechless.

I highly recommend reading this book. It is a moving account of service under the worst possible conditions. The nurses went beyond their duty when caring for their charges at great personal cost. Read this book to be reminded how humanity can succeed even at the worst moments. Even those that do not typically read history will be engrossed by this book.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Saga Of King Hrolf Kraki


By: Anonymous
Translated: Jesse L. Byock

This saga tells some of the tales of King Hrolf, and his twelve champions. It is full of captivating tales of beasts attacking annually on Yuletide, an evil stepmother turning her stepson into a bear and having him killed, children born half man and half beast, and epic battles. The twelve champions are drawn to serve King Hrolf as he is considered a great ruler. He is liberal with rewards and fair to those that gain his trust, so these great warriors seek to prove themselves to him.

My friends picked out this book in Iceland for me. I really like reading the sagas. This was my first time reading King Hrolf Kraki's tale in full. It was recorded in the fourteenth century in Iceland by an anonymous author. The events that take place occur in fifth century Denmark. I found it intriguing that their are references to courtesy and being chivalrous in this tale. That is not typical in the sagas. It is an indication of an outside influence. These ideas were particularly popular with courtly romances in Europe. There were also christian references, but that would have been added by the author or a scribe, as the material predates christianity in this area.

I like the supplemental material Penguin included in this edition. There are general notes on the material, family trees, and a glossary of names. I always find it helpful to have the answers to my questions in the book. It was also interesting that some of the stories included are underlying tales in Beowulf, which I hope to read again soon to examine how the tales work together. I thought this saga was an engrossing read. The only problem is it's a short tale, so it is over too soon. I highly recommend this book if you like the sagas, tales of King Arthur and his knights, or fantasy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Witness Wore Red




Rebecca Musser was raised in a Fundamentalist Mormon group (FLDS). At age 19 she became the 19th wife of the 85 year old prophet, Rulon Jeffs. After his death, worried for her own safety, she escaped with the help of a friend to her brother's house. It took time to adjust to living outside the FLDS community, where dress, beliefs, and language were very different from what she had been exposed to growing up.

She became a lead witness in several cases involving the FLDS church. Her eyewitness testimony, explanations of the culture, and meaning of things found at the compound in Texas were key to several trials involving FLDS leaders. Her participation in these trials came at great personal cost, but she did it to help other people maintain their rights. She has become an activist for human trafficking victims.

I liked that she was very careful to never exaggerate what happened to her. Her precise delivery of the horrific things that occurred, needed no amplification. It was clear her book was not about shocking the audience, but creating an understanding of her experiences. It was about raising awareness about what happened during her time in the FLDS church, in the trials, and the raids in Texas. I also appreciated how honest she was with her feelings and her experiences.

It was heartbreaking at times to read her story knowing that it was true. I could not help admiring the courage she showed in her actions at various points in her life, when she easily could have done nothing. I thought it was well written, and I was completely absorbed in reading it. I would highly recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Queen Anne: The Politics Of Passion





Anne ruled England from 1702-1714. She had 17 pregnancies, and none of the children she gave birth to lived past age eleven. The throne passed to the Hanoverians, who were the next in line for the throne that were not Catholic, or married to a Catholic. England still lived in fear of being under Catholic rule.

Anne had little education, leaving her unprepared in that aspect to be queen. She was more reclusive, preferring to spend time with those few she was close to and felt she could trust. Despite this, she made an effort to do her duty, appearing at social functions she had no desire to attend. Anne was not an admired queen like Elizabeth I. Perhaps that is why we hear so little about her, even though she was part of the Glorious Revolution, The Act of Union, and The War of Spanish Succession.

I received this copy from the Goodreads First Reads Program.* I was very pleased to win a copy as it was a book I wanted to read, and I really enjoy Anne Somerset's books. She seems to have written a different perspective of Queen Anne than the Duchess of Marlborough, who was a close friend of Anne's until she became queen and they grew apart because of the Duchess' behavior. She wrote terrible things in her memoirs about the queen that Somerset often contradicts in her book. Somerset does not try to make Anne perfect, but appears to be more balanced than the Duchess of Marlborough. I look forward to reading the Duchess' memoirs to form my own opinion of them.

I really like Somerset's style of writing. She portrays the numerous facts in an engaging manner. I was excited to learn more about this period, which leads to the change of dynasty from Stuart to Hanoverian. I knew very little about the change in dynasty, and was interested to see Anne's role in and perspective of the change. I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to people interested in women rulers, or that period in history.

* Goodreads does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I would not have read, or gotten to as soon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Love Artist




We follow Ovid as he writes some of his most popular works. He travels to the Black Sea, and encounters the witch Xenia. He takes her back to Rome, and their relationship influences his current work Medea. The very real emotions of love, jealousy, hatred, fear of failure, the desperate need to succeed, and the need to be remembered after death are examined in this portrayal of Ovid.

I found it compelling that Alison, when writing about these emotions uses very limited dialogue to convey them. Written from the character's perspectives, many of these emotions are felt, but are not communicated. The lack of communication is what drives their feelings and actions, pushing them towards their dramatic end.

Two of the great mysteries surrounding Ovid are the content of his tragedy Medea, and why he was exiled from Rome in AD 8. All that has survived from his work Medea, are two lines. We know the myth of Medea, but it would be fascinating to have Ovid's rendition of the tale. Alison also explores one possibility for his exile from Rome -- that he has offended the Emperor with his actions after already being in a tenuous position because of his writing. All we really know is that Ovid was exiled from Rome, but not why.

I read this book for a Historical Fiction course I'm taking. I liked the real emotions that were portrayed in the story. I found the human side to these characters to be relatable, and an interesting motivation for some timeless work. I thought there was a little too much description at some points, but if you can move through that, you will be open to some interesting thoughts on human nature.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Stella Bain





Stella Bain is an American woman serving as a nurse in World War I. She has no memory of who she is. She was wounded on a French battlefield where she was working as a nurse. She is dependent on strangers to help her discover her memory again.

I won this book in the Goodreads First Read Program*. I thought it was an interesting idea for a book to focus on a woman's role in the war, and the suffering they would have also endured on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this was not the main focus of the book, which was rather disappointing. The book was less about her role as a nurse, and more about her struggles with her husband and children. That is an important issue, but not what I thought I would be reading about. 

This is an uncorrected proof advanced reading version of the book. I note this because there were some issues with spelling, grammar, and choppiness that I thought interrupted the flow of the story, and was quite distracting, particularly at the beginning of the book, which prevented me from really getting into the story.

I was disappointed in this book. It brings up some important issues, but they are not covered well, and left me unsatisfied. There is a lack of plausibility when you read this book that prevented me from engaging in the story. It was easy to read, but lacked the depth I wanted. I would recommend looking for a different book if you are interested in women's roles in World War I.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. They are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse?




Are you looking for an amusing activity? Something to do for Halloween? A choose your own adventure Zombie Apocalypse book is great fun! The scenario begins with you sitting in a meeting. Suddenly warnings fill the news of something strange happening at the hospital. Everyone leaves work in a hurry. How do you get home? Do you go home? What do yo do when you encounter the Zombies? Will you survive?

An amusing way to get in the holiday spirit. My husband and I read this together and were competing to see who could stay alive the longest. With much horror and dismay, I died first. I knew it was a bad idea to try to take the subway. His end was ambiguous. It is possible he survived.

The main character, which you adventure as, doesn't seem to have a lot of common sense. It works out for him sometimes, but you are often left crying out in frustration at the idiotic choices he makes that you have to deal with. Then again, how many people are at their best in a Zombie Apocalypse?

You never know where a choice will lead you when you are faced with hordes of Zombies and mobs of people trying to avoid being eaten. Try your hand at surviving, and see where you end up. It is a fun read, but it is written for adults, so you might want to adventure a little to decide if it works for everyone. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The October List





The October list is a mystery about Gabriela's desperate efforts to save her kidnapped daughter. She races against the clock to obtain the half million dollars and the October List the kidnapper is demanding. And he wants it all in thirty hours. Starting at the end where the kidnapper has found Gabriela, and working itself backwards, we learn how Gabriela gets to this point.

I received this copy from Bookish* as a promotion for the book. I wasn't sure how well the backwards telling of the story would go, but it worked. It actually created a lot of suspense the way Deaver put it together. I think the change in perspective helped to keep me guessing about the plot, which would have been much more transparent if it had been told in chronological order. The plot itself is not particularly complicated, but it is still an entertaining read.

I actually really enjoyed that this book was told backwards. It made the story much more interesting, and I really liked the beginning, when I got to it. This was my first Jeffery Deaver book. I would like to try one of his books told chronologically to see how he does with suspense in a "normal" setting. I would recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries, and are looking for a different take on the way the story is told.

*Bookish does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I would not have read, or gotten to as soon.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Witch Of Blackbird Pond




In 1687 Kit Tyler finds herself on a boat from Barbados to the Connecticut Colony where her Aunt Rachel lives. Her Grandfather died, leaving great debts, so she had to sell everything they had to pay the debts, and travel to her last remaining family living in America. Kit finds her liberal upbringing has not prepared her for life in a Puritan community. She does not understand why her actions would offend so many people, who seem to like living a strict lifestyle. She befriends an old Quaker woman, many view as a witch, and finds herself on trial for witchcraft.

A friend introduced to me to this book when I was about thirteen, and I have loved it from the first time I read it, and I have read this book many times over the years. I enjoyed the chance to reread it again. It is shocking how easy it was to be thought a witch in Puritan times. Simply acting outside the norm, or looking at someone wrong could lead to accusations. I liked that the author addresses the issue of spectral evidence, or statements that could not be proved through physical evidence. It also reveals some harsh treatment towards Quakers during this time period.

I enjoyed this coming of age story, particularly how it gives an outsider's perspective on Puritan ways. It is also interesting to read this fictional account of witchcraft in the American colonies that was not part of the Salem witch trials. I think it is important to understand while Salem was a large affair, such things happened in individual cases throughout the colonies. I recommend reading this if you enjoy historical fiction and learning more about accusations of witchcraft in early American history.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunshine




Sunshine is from a very involved family that work together in a bakery. She needs a moment by herself, and goes to visit the lake. She thinks it will be safe, because nothing has happened there in years. Discovered by Vampires while at the lake, she finds herself chained to a wall in a mansion, and she must use all of her abilities to survive.

I liked that the story was set in a modern era. Most of McKinley's work is set in a fantasy world, so it was surprising to find one of her books take place in a present-day setting. It was also refreshing to have vampires not as the focus of the story. It is more about Sunshine's self discovery in a world filled with more possibilities than she realized were open to her. Told from Sunshine's perspective, we learn that humans and the Others-- Vampires, Weres, Demons, people with magical abilities coexist, as long as the Others keep a low profile.

I liked that Vampires were portrayed as monstrous creatures in this story. They are seen as different from humans, and something to be feared, which is refreshing from many popular versions of this genre. It was also interesting that even though the Others are feared, a lot of people in the story are Others. It was fun to discover who is human and who is not. Fans of Robin Mckinley's books will enjoy this one, even though it is not set in her typical world.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children



By: Ransom Riggs


After a death in his family, Jacob travels to a remote island to learn more about his family history. He discovers the ruins of Miss Peregrine's home for children. In the ruins he learns more about the children that lived there, and that they might have been kept on the island because they were dangerous. He also discovers they might still be alive.

Riggs' story of people with unusual powers is an imaginative one. The use of old photographs gives the feeling that, just maybe, it is possible people with peculiar abilities exist. The combination of present and past in the story was handled well, and made for a gripping tale. I had a hard time putting the book down.

I won this book in a marketing promotion from Quirk Books*. I am so glad I did. I might not have gotten to this book for a while, and I wasn't sure how I would like it. I found Riggs' idea to use vintage photographs as an inspiration for the story to be an unique approach. What an excellent way to use old photographs and help people appreciate this resource.

I enjoyed the story, and I cannot wait for the second book: Hollow City to come out at the beginning of the year. It is definitely on my to read list. I have to know what happens with these characters. I also want to see what pictures the author chooses to use in the next book. I would recommend reading this book to anyone that likes suspenseful tales involving people with peculiar abilities.

*Quirk Books does not require a review or stipulate what kind of review should be given if you are inclined to review the book. It was simply part of a promotional event for their book. Winning this book does not change my review. It merely provides me with a book I would not have read, or gotten to as soon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Frankenstein





Victor Frankenstein's life began as a pleasant one. He was raised by a loving family, had a close friend, and a sweetheart. He leaves for University, and everything changes. He becomes obsessed with his studies, which culminates in an experiment where he creates life in the form of a monster. His creation becomes the bane of his existence, leaving him filled with horror and remorse for his work.

This was my first time reading Frankenstein. I knew the basic plot, a scientist creates a terrible monster, the monster causes problems, and people try to kill the monster. I did not realize previous to reading it, that there was such depth to the story. I was surprised to find it was more about human nature and ethics, than it was about a mad scientist and his monster. Shelly brings up some difficult questions in the book about what is owed by a creator to the things it creates, how we judge people and things by their appearance, the consequences of advancements in science, and much more.

I liked the implications of a monster that is thinking, communicating, and has feelings. It added a lot of emotion to the story, while allowing Shelly to bring up some of the issues of ethics and treatment of others in a more natural way. The awareness the monster has about his actions helps you sympathize with both Frankenstein and his monster at different moments.

I think this is an important book to read. I don't think Frankenstein is given the appreciation it deserves, particularly in media portrayals of the story. It asks questions that are still relevant today, and they are questions we should be asking ourselves. Don't worry, Shelly isn't preaching these ideas to you. They are a natural part of the story. I would recommend reading it if you like thought provoking stories that are told in captivating ways.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Witches




This issue follows Bufkin the flying monkey's battle with Baba Yaga while they are trapped in the collapsed fable headquarters. The 13th floor members(magic users) lead by Frau Totenkinder try to decide the best method to get rid of Mister Dark. Although the magic users have been working together for a common cause, that is about to change. Ozma is ambitious and longs to be in charge. Frau Totenkinder abruptly leaves the group to enact her plan, and Ozma leads a coup in her absence. Who will the denizens of the 13th floor support in the latest upheaval?

The graphic novel is the 14th in the series, and covers issues 86-93. This installment brings the series from the initial storyline to the next foe the community faces. We learn some of Mister Dark's background, and some of the challenges the fables will face as they try to defeat him.

Frau Totenkinder is one of my favorite characters, so I always enjoy it when she has a major presence in the story. I have enjoyed learning more about her character. She is not just a witch that lures children in with her candy hut. This issue sets us up for more brilliant moves from her, while making you slightly worried she has finally met her match.

It is always a pleasure to read the Fables series. It is an excellent retelling of the classic tales assembled in a way that will delight readers who love these stories. I would highly recommend this series to anyone interested in Fairy Tales. It is an amusing take on the classic tales, but filled with dark moments and heart. There is also amazing artwork in every edition.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Book Of Werewolves




The author encounters a village where no one will guide him to the city because they are afraid to venture out while it is night. They think they will be attacked by a werewolf they claim is roaming the area. Curious about their claim, he begins to explore the lore of werewolves. He learns where some of these stories might have originated, and why people still believe they exist. Exploring myths, folktales, trials, and stories of brutality we enter the world of the werewolf. The main theory presented is the need to explain many of the brutal murders, often of serial killers, that people encountered. The brutality of a monster is used to explain the horror of these deaths.

Many of the tales used to illustrate the author's point were from Icelandic Sagas. The Beserker often wore animal skins and had an animal like rage and strength come over him, that he couldn't control. They would usually be exhausted after such a spell. The description of these spells matched the details some of the violent killers(thought to be werewolves) gave during their trials.

In medieval times, people were hung when accused and found guilty of being a werewolf. This was usually accompanied with a charge of witchcraft because the accused would claim to consort with the devil for the power to change form. Cannibals were also charged with being werewolves because of the violent crimes they committed to eat people. Often these people thought they changed form into a wolf.

I thought this was an interesting examination of the werewolf myth, and why it was believed people could change form. One of the biggest issues I had with the book, was that there are many passages to make the author's point, usually in Greek or Latin, that aren't translated. This is an unfortunate result of those two languages being considered essential for an educated person in the 19th century, and that no longer being true. It was an excellent source for a collection of early tales and theories on the werewolf, and how they were connected to the very violent people in society. I would recommend this book if you are interested in a serious perspective on the werewolf myth.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies




Most people are very familiar with the plot of Pride And Prejudice. It is a social commentary told through the lives of five sisters of good social standing, in the early 19th century. This is one of my favorite stories. I love the wit Austen uses to tell a story that is much more than a romantic classic. The only problem with it is, it has been retold many times in a variety of ways that usually leaves me dissatisfied. Enter the zombies.

England is plagued with the undead. Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters must protect themselves and their neighbors from the unmentionables. Trying to be ladylike to attract husbands, and maintain their position in society while fighting zombies(considered unladylike) is difficult. Will your favorite characters survive the incursion of undead into their story?

I admit, when I first heard about this book I was suspicious. We are plagued with a plethora of retellings of Pride And Prejudice, and rarely do any of them do the book justice. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this version has a lot of original content, which helped maintain the ideas and themes of the story. The zombies fit into the plot surprisingly well. This book exceeded my expectations. I liked it so much, it has a place on My Favorite Books list.

I found it to be an amusing look at what is often considered to be the paragon of novels. It is an excellent way to remind readers that the original was a satire. It's also a great way to introduce young people to a classic, as the zombie theme is popular currently. This book is funnier if you are familiar with Pride And Prejudice, but you don't have to have read it to enjoy this version. I highly recommend reading this book.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute





Johannes Cabal is an anti-social Necromancer. He is invited by three members of The Fear Institute to help them on their expedition to the Dreamlands to find the Phobic Animus--the embodiment of fear. Having long desired access to the Dreamlands, Cabal agrees to act as a guide for the party. Not particularly caring for the company of those that hired him, he begins scheming as soon as he is paid, for a way to get rid of them. Practicality stays his hand for the moment, after all, unknown monsters await, but there is a tempting cliff in the distance...

I was pleased that the main character was a Necromancer. Often in fantasy the role of a necromancer is only briefly brought up, and usually as a foe to defeat. It was refreshing to see one portrayed in the main role of a story. Cabal does not struggle with morality, and is very much an anti-hero, which suits his character well.

I won this book in the Goodreads First Reads Program.* This is the third book in the series. I have not read the first two, but it was fine as a stand alone book. There were some clear references to past adventures, but it created no difficulty in the flow or understanding of the story. I really enjoyed this book, and can not wait to read the first two books in the series: Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer, and Johannes Cabal: The Detective.

I found this book to be a unique humorous tale told in an entertaining manner. I did not want to put it down. I don't think I can say enough good things about it. It is a new favorite, and I am happy to give it a spot on My Favorite Books List. I would highly recommend entering the world of the necromancer Johannes Cabal.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. They are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow




This is a collection of Washington Irving's writings which includes: a combination of stories, letters, history, and essays about different topics. Some of the stories with a Halloween theme were: Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Haunted House, and Adventure of the Mysterious Picture. These stories had ghosts, strange unexplained events, and creepy elements to them.

One of the first American authors to become popular in Europe, Irving helped promote American culture abroad. He was also influential to later authors such as Hawthorne, Poe, and Longfellow. He popularized calling New York city Gotham in his writing of Salmagundi. His success as an author enabled him to make a living only by writing, which was extremely uncommon in America in the early 19th century.

More horrific than his scary stories, were his views on women. They were not very different from the typical viewpoint of his time, but Irving's "longing for the days of the subjection of women" was repellent. I was disappointed to discover it was a chore to read this book. I had looked forward to being engrossed by tales of early American horror and history. I did find a few of the stories interesting, or occasionally part of a story, but I did not care for the style they were written in. Distracted with the condescending language and strange whimsy that Irving often presented, I found that these tales could not hold my attention.

Interesting Vocabulary:

Bastinado: Punishment where the soles of feet are beaten, or foot whipping
Emolument: Salary or pay for a job, compensation
Galligaskins: Loose fitting breeches
Garrulity: Excessive talkativeness, especially with nothing to say on trivial matters
Grampus: Sea creature: whale or dolphin
Rantipole: Boisterous merrymaking, wild
Roysters: Revelers without restraint
Slang-whangers: One who uses abusive slang, or a ranting partisan
Termagant: Argumentative or nagging. A harsh tempered or overbearing woman.
Virago: Quarrelsome shrewish woman, A strong courageous woman

I would recommend finding out which of his stories you like, and only buying those.

November 6, 2014 Update:
You can read my review of a movie version of this book here.