VictoriaPL's RTT thread. Where'd we park the Tardis?
Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
OK, I've decided to make my own thread after seeing the others. I'm not sure if I'm a good fit for this challenge, but I just love challenges, so I hope you don't mind if I play along. Most of my reads will be fiction. Also, for the remainder of 2010, there will be significant overlap with my 1010 Challenge thread.
JUNE 2010 - 19th Century
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
Mr. Hale, a clergyman, decides to leave his church in the English countryside and takes his family north to the industrial town of Milton. There he takes on a student, Mr. Thornton, who runs a cotton mill. Mr. Hale's daughter, Margaret, becomes acquainted with Mr. Thornton and some of his workers and finds herself torn between them when a labor dispute begins.
Why Did I Choose It?
I recently saw (and loved) the BBC mini-series. Even the factory, which had cotton fluff flying everywhere like snowflakes, was beautiful. The story was terribly romantic. The longing between Mr. Thornton and Margaret was almost too much to bear. It was palpable and just grabbed at me. I simply had to read the source material.
I read some reviews that said North and South is "Austen meets Dickens". Having seen the adaptation, I knew that Mr. Thornton is very like Mr. Darcy but I was curious about the Dickens influence.
I had never read Gaskell before, but I knew a little of her from her relationship with the Bronte sisters. I wanted to know if her material was anything like theirs.
What Did I Learn?
The perspectives on labor and unions was interesting to me. I've never lived in a "union town". I've never belonged to a union and neither had my parents. It's something that is unknown in my experience. Gaskell did a good job of making me feel the peer pressure and the mob mentality.
These workers were desperate. There was a section where it explained that if a mill owner installed a fan, which removed the cotton fluff from the air, the workers felt they should be paid higher wages. Even though the cotton fluff caused lung problems, it also went into their bellies and they weren't as hungry. It's difficult to imagine hunger like that but Gaskell certainly made it more tangible for me.
When Mrs. Hale became bedridden, Mrs. Thornton loaned her a waterbed. I had no idea that waterbeds were used that long ago. They helped prevent bed sores although since they were unheated, the user often became very chilled.
I probably would not have waded through so much social commentary had I not known about the romantic denouement at the end. I enjoyed Gaskell better than Austen, but not as much as the Brontes. I saw similarities to both Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.
Thanks for the great review! I have this one on the TBR list, but now I know why! And I love the title for your thread.
JULY 2010 - Freedom
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy
Why I Read It:
A few years ago, as I was browsing my library's shelves, I came across a novel called The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. I read that one and then the next, The Masque of the Black Tulip, and then the rest of the series in quick succession. While I am waiting for the next "flower spies" book to grace the shelves, I thought I would check out the novel which so obviously inspired Willig.
Because the novel is largely from the point of view of Marguerite, we don't get much detail of Percy's adventures in The Reign of Terror. Instead, we get a lot of information on the state of their marriage and how shackled the two of them feel. It's nice to know at the end of the novel that, in addition to helping save the lives of so many others, Percy finds the freedom to love Marguerite again.
I liked Orczy's writing style, even if some of her dialogue (Zooks! Zounds! Odd's Fish!) occasionally irked me. She thrilled me with her ingenuity - the scene where Marguerite finagles a secret message from the hands of Sir Andrew during the ball was priceless. The next time I feel like an adventure, but don't want to work as hard as a Dumas or Hugo sometimes demands, I'll fetch another Pimpernel book.
@4 :: Sink me, but I love this book! :) It may not be first-class literature, but the story is so entertaining! I completely agree with your assessment that it's an adventure that doesn't make you work as hard as Dumas or Hugo. :)
>5 Hey Christina!
It surprised me how much I liked it.
Are you ready for the next Carnation books? I think one is being released in December and another in January!
I am definitely ready for the next Carnation books! I'm a little nervous about The Mischief of the Mistletoe, though, since it is so clearly catering to the "holiday" theme. Oh well, I'll be buying it anyway! :) Depending on how things shake out in 2011, maybe we can do another group read for next year's challenge!
Well, you have convinced me to put both series onto my wishlist. I hadn't heard of either before now!
Darn, another series to add...Well, at least I don';t have to worry about running out of things to read... I wonder if they're available in e-book?
Why did you have to say that....now I have to go look for them right away.
I keep forgetting to keep this thread current!
AUGUST 2010 - CIVIL WAR
Amelia's War by Ann Rinaldi
"Mama and I were Southerners, but not Rebels. We were for the Union but not the Yankees. You have to be from Maryland to understand it."
(I love this quote because I think of Maryland as part of the North. They never serve me sweet tea when I'm there and that's the deciding factor, isn't it?)
Amelia's War is a fictionalized account of the real-life ransoming of Hagerstown, Maryland by CSA Brigadier General McCausland in July 1864.
As a southern girl, I knew about Sherman's march to the sea and I had heard the famous story of how Savannah escaped the torch, but I never knew that towns had been blackmailed for money. We all know that war is horrible, but this just brought another facet of the horror into focus for me.
I tell myself that I read Rinaldi's young-adult books because I love her style but it seems she can teach adults a little history too.
I'm planning on stretching my Civil War reading into jext year and this book is one of the reasons. I want to read it but can't seem to squeeze it into the list in 2010. I read the non-fiction book about the invasion by the Confederates in 1864 and about the ransoming of Hagerstown, so this should be interesting to see how they align.
SEPTEMBER 2010 - ROYALTY
The Prince by Machiavelli
Why I Read It
This was the only book on my TBR shelf that even approached the chosen theme of Royalty.
So, why would a girl who hates politics and nearly failed Western Civ have such a treatise on her shelf? In preparing for this year's NaNoWriMo, I considered writing about a prince (actually two) and thought this book would give me a better perspective on their characters.
The first two-thirds of this book were torture for me (see note on Western Civ above). The names! The names! I cannot process lists of names of long-dead rulers. Snore! And I did... snore. I fell asleep three reading sessions in a row. But then I managed to soldier through to the last third, which is more general instruction instead of illustrative history, and I really got into it!
Being American and having no royalty to ponder over, I substituted 'President' every time I read the word 'Prince' and that helped me to connect with what Machiavelli was saying. The traits he speaks of, the behavior he discusses, are dead on. Machiavelli knew human nature. This book made me feel more cynical about people in general and more positive towards leaders and politicians. What a feat!
* A prince must use troops from an ally sparingly and should absolutely avoid using mercenaries.
All I could think about during this section was the mess overseas. The ill feelings that were fostered between nations, even down to small things like 'freedom-fries' and people pouring bottles of French wine down their toilets. And I considered our modern-day mercenaries, uncontrollable private forces, like Blackwater (who changed their name since things went badly for them).
* A prince will not always be able to keep his word, but a prince should do his best to maintain the illusion that he keeps his word and is reliable.
It must have been so much easier for them back in the 16th century, without every speech and campaign promise transcripted and archived on the internet for everyone to re-read and criticize at the click of a mouse. Leadership was never easy but it must be more difficult now.
* A prince cannot be completely moral and still be effective in an amoral world.
"Men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is, for what should be, pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good."
This one was difficult for me because I see the logic in it, but it disagrees with my religious upbringing. I'm still chewing on it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on The Prince. It sounds like you got a lot out of it. I'm not much into politics/political theory, either. You've made me think I ought to add this to the list of books I need to read "someday". I'm sure I'll be able to find it at the library.
DECEMBER 2010 - VIKINGS
The Fetch, The Runestone Saga, book one by Chris Humphreys
Not a full review - but I did want to record that I read it for the challenge and I did enjoy it. The boy, Sky, "travels" between the Viking world and his time (modern day). I liked the Viking scenes the best, even though they were often battle sequences. Not sure if I'm sold on the rest of the trilogy though.
FEBRUARY 2011 - LOVE & MARRIAGE
The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig
Laura Grey comes to Paris with the intention of being the governess in Andre Jaouen's household. She hopes his government position will give her access to information she needs for the Pink Carnation, who knows of Laura as the Silver Orchid - the latest in a chain a spies. But Laura isn't the only one in Andre's household with secrets. As she tutors the children she finds out some startling information about the man himself. They have so much in common, could a man like this really send the innocent to their deaths?
In the modern side of the story, Colin and Eloise go to Paris for his mother's birthday bash. High drama is in the family blood. Will our two love-birds be able to enjoy the City of Lights?
Why I Read It
It's a romance. I always read the latest in Willig's series around this time of year. Valentine's Day and all that...
I don't think this one is the best flower in the bouquet, although it's certainly very pretty. It's difficult to put into words. I didn't feel so much of the emotional roller-coaster with this one, it just bubbled along on an even keel. Laura and Andre's moments together never made me catch my breath. I blazed through the book but I wasn't particularly on the edge of my seat. Am I getting too inured to Willig's charms? Maybe, but I don't think so. I certainly hope not!
APRIL 2011 - RELIGION
Strange Saint by Andrew Beahrs
Melode lives among the Saints but with her mysterious past, she’s never been one of them. Believing that she’s found love, naïve Mel boards a boat to America, where the congregation seeks land to call their own. The journey holds a rough awakening for Melode and she is cast off onto an island barren of all but birds, a place befitting a Sinner. Among harsh circumstances Mel discovers who she is in light of such a judgment and what she will do to prove her worth.
Honestly, there’s very little established religion here but there is much about faith, discovery and identity. Beahrs always puts such detail in his work, it’s easy to drown yourself in Melode’s surroundings. The austerity of those early settlements, the desperation and suspicion of the frontier, comes through clear.
I thought I would find it easy to identify with Mel, being the outsider in the group (a very common device among novelists) but once she was on the ship, I lost touch with her. By the middle of the book I wasn’t sure who she was any more and later I was just looking forward to the end. The character transforms from needy girl into independent woman and I should have applauded her but I just wanted to be done with her tale.
Beahrs does not use quotation marks and in a few places I struggled to determine if something was said aloud or who said what. Generally, it wasn’t much of a problem but I thought I’d mention it as it does bother some readers.
AUGUST 2011 - TRANSPORTATION
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
"Exploration is the physical expression of the intellectual passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore."
The knowledge that Apsley Cherry-Garrard wrote those words after seeing his two best mates and "the boss" frozen dead just shows how strongly he believed in what they were doing and exhibits his general good-nature. I think it was his optimism in particular that kept me reading throughout the expedition's harrowing attempt to reach the South Pole. Sometimes able to move only 1 mile a day on half rations of biscuit and tea, and suffering from frostbite at -70 degrees, it was difficult for me to imagine that a fictional character would trudge on in those circumstances, much less to know that flesh-and-blood men did it. Their travels through Antarctica might have ultimately been The Worst Journey in the World but there are moments in Cherry's book that are captivating.
I was first surprised when Cherry wrote that Antarctica is not white. He mentions the blue and green ice, the rocks and hills and he also states that nearly every color is present in the cast of the snow. He talks so much of the land and the ice. Crevasses where they lose dogs, but thankfully, no men. He speaks of pitching his tent on less than six inches of ice, hearing it groan beneath him, of being aware of it breaking up and of leaping the ponies back to safety. He writes of the aurora australis and the amazing darkness of a polar night. Of seeing (and hearing) his breath freeze before his face.
But some of my favorite sections tell about the indigenous wildlife. Cherry's role during the trip was as assistant zoologist and while they were at an Emperor penguin rookery he helped acquire both birds and eggs for study and as museum specimens. He recorded such surprising observations of penguin behavior: to other penguins, to men and also to the sled dogs. Apparently the birds had absolutely no fear of canines, even getting right up in their faces when barked at - which of course often led to "a red spot in the snow".
I was rivoted by Cherry's tale of Orcas that would swim under the ice and bump it with their bodies to break it up, seeing if they could get a meal to fall through.
"The Killers were too interested in us to be pleasant. They had a habit of bobbing up and down perpendicularly, so as to see over the edge of a floe... cruising about in great numbers, snorting and blowing, while occasionally they would in some extraordinary way raise themselves and look about over the ice, resting the fore part of their enormous yellow and black bodies on the edge of the floes. They were undisguisedly interested in us and the ponies, and we felt that if we once got into the water our ends would be swift and bloody." I shall certainly never see Orcas again without thinking of Cherry and feeling his terror.
Cherry's other duty, when not collecting penguins or seal, was to stock depots of food and oil so that the team going to the Pole would have supplies to make it back. He clearly had a fondness for all of his fellow mates, never writing a disparaging word regarding their character. Even in dire conditions they seemed to have kept their tempers and humor too. He talks of them passing long hours of the night singing together (apparently singing was a favorite past time, they would even sing to the penguins, who would sing back). They swapped books and listened to records, Cherry of the opinion that music was very helpful in warding off the depression of winter.
Cherry relates the day Scott tells him he's not one of the five men going to the Pole and he accepts it gracefully. He calculates Scott's progress, worries once he believes the team overdue, accepts it when he knows they must be dead and resolutely goes out to find their bodies. It's obvious that some of the politics and 'quarterbacking' of their expedition got under Cherry's skin. He speaks of the blizzard, the "if-onlys", of losing the South Pole to the Norwegians and he defends Scott's many accomplishments but he never comes across as overly negative or bitter. In fact, Cherry has a wonderful philosophical side that peeks out now and again. There is one passage I've been chewing on and I am sure it will stay with me for some time to come: "Just enough to eat and keep us warm, no more - no frills nor trimmings; there is many a worse and more elaborate life. The necessaries of civilization were luxuries to us;... the luxuries of civilization satisfy only those wants which they themselves create."
Cherry on far right
OCTOBER 2011 - Spooky, Gothic, Horrific or the Unexplained Mysteries of History
The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy Hoobler
L to R: John Polidori, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley
"At the heart of the book (Frankenstein) is the mystery of creativity and its consequences, something that concerned - even, at times, tormented - all five of the people at Villa Diodati. In their outsized passions, their remarkable talents, their distorted personal lives, their never-satisfied yearning for love - they were all monsters."
Most people have heard of that dark, stormy summer night at Lake Geneva when Lord Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Claire (Mary’s stepsister, pregnant by Byron) and Polidori (Byron’s doctor) listened to ghost stories told by candlelight. The group also exchanged news of the most interesting scientific and medical discoveries of their day. All five came away inspired to write, though of the resulting efforts, only Mary’s Frankenstein achieved lasting success.
The Monsters, though obviously favoring Mary, is a communal, corporate biography of these individuals, who would remain linked after they left the cottage. Using letters and journals Hoobler weaves a tapestry that gives a fascinating portrait of their life together. I didn’t know much about any of these individuals before I started in and I was completely unable to stop reading about them.
John Polidori was the outsider of the group, so naturally his role is small, but still interesting. He only studied medicine at his father’s insistence but had aspirations of being an author. Polly Dolly (as Byron named him) apparently gave himself license to pursue his passion after finding himself in such literary company. When published, his gothic novel, The Vampyre, was rumored to be penned by Byron. I think Polidori learned well from his former employer. By allowing the controversy he knew sales would increase and the notoriety would make him famous.
Lord Byron’s reputation keeps him popular but I never understood how much of a rockstar he was in his day. His behavior certainly kept me shaking my head, it seems celebrities have not changed much. Hoobler helped me to understand that overcompensating for his self-esteem issues resulted in some wild antics, and the attention he got as a result then fed into his vanity. Byron seems to me like a line of toppling dominos, a complete mess but fun to watch. I’m convinced that being a true friend to him would have been a tough exercise and was really the only admirable thing I found in Percy.
The train wreck of Claire Clairmont’s life was completely her own doing and I found myself largely apathetic to her situation. And even angry, at times, at how her actions affected Mary and Percy. It’s like that old nail-horseshoe-horse-war proverb. Had not Claire solicited Byron, she would not have fallen pregnant by him, she would not have introduced him to Percy, Percy might not have embraced sailing and he might not have drowned, etc. I also did not care for her behavior with Percy and the strain she put on his marriage. But then again, had Percy been a man of morals or had Mary put her foot down, Claire wouldn’t have been able to do so. So, it’s really the what-ifs that make me dislike Claire.
The Monsters vividly paints the tragedy of Mary Shelley’s whole existence. Her father gave her her own mother’s name after the woman expired from the birth. Of course, Mary also had her father’s name until she was (finally) wed to Percy and took his name. She went where Percy went. Whatever schedule Percy kept, she kept. She even lost most of her children (only one lived to adulthood). So Mary never really had much to call her own, until Frankenstein. Hoobler really focuses in on that in the novel and how Mary expressed her own feelings and desires through it. I gained a new appreciation for Frankenstein while reading about Mary.
And Percy. I don’t like Percy. His unconventionalness ruffles my conventionalness and that’s really the heart of it. Byron’s actions, though not any more moral, didn’t seem to bother me as much as Percy’s and I don’t understand that yet. But I didn’t find any affection (of my own) for Percy in these pages.
The Monsters was a page-turner for me and I’m not a huge biography reader, so I think those that like biographies will really enjoy it. I also think it works well as a travelogue. It would make a fabulous tandem read alongside Frankenstein even though it’s not gothic in nature. But don’t let that keep you from cuddling up with it on a dark and stormy night…
DECEMBER 2011: Holidays
The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas by Lauren Willig
There had been the Marquise de Montval who had invited him for what he believed to be a coffee and a spot of assignation and then presented him with a pistol and three French slugs… all because she mistakenly took him for the Pink Carnation. It was enough to put a chap right off dalliance. And coffee.
While dropping off a Christmas hamper, Turnip Fitzhugh stumbles upon Arabella Dempsey, a teacher at his sister’s school. In the ensuing pudding debacle, the two become aware of a list that will unmask the English spies currently in France and determine that they must stop it from falling into the wrong hands. Along the way there is a lively pageant, a Yule tree hunt, cider and the heart-pounding bloom of true love. It’s a light, airy romp – a Victorian Christmas as only Willig can write it. Most of the Carnation crew put in an appearance. Willig even includes Miss Austen, making it clear that Turnip and Arabella are the Darcy and Lizzy of the Carnation universe. It is so delightful to see Turnip finally get his place in the spotlight.
JANUARY 2012 - Number in the Title
One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
In order to make peace between the white man and the Cheyenne and to facilitate their assimilation into the culture, the US has agreed to hand over 1000 white women as brides. Most of the women are from hospitals, institutions or prisons and the majority go willingly in hopes that their life with the tribe will give them more freedom than they had back home. But the Cheyenne and Grant's men find other things to squabble over - will peace ever be known?
I'll just be plain honest. I am a sucker for 'white person joins the tribe' type of fiction. Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans, yes please. So I came into the book with high expectations and maybe that was the problem. May got on my nerves something fierce. She's the prettiest, the bravest, the most level-headed, the most advanced-thinking woman of the whole bunch. The Major loved her over their first supper. The Chief instantly selects her as his bride on first sight. Her progeny is heralded and lauded as the 'savior' of the tribe. I just couldn't get past my annoyance enough to enjoy it.
I will say that I thought the narrator of the audiobook did a great job with the many different accents of the women and with the Cheyenne language. I was impressed.
JANUARY 2012 - Number in the Title
One Tough Cop: The Bo Dietl Story by Bo Dietl and Ken Gross
It was ten blocks, and Bo turned on the siren and smacked the magnetic dome light on the roof… the police cars with their flashing lights were scattered like rage. A street full of blinking fists.
I picked this book up on a whim, having never heard of Bo Dietl and his illustrious career as one of New York’s finest. He comes across as what John Walsh would be if he had a badge - a man with a burning hatred for wrong-doing and the confidence in his own ability to do something about it. The numbers are impressive. In his fifteen years with the NYPD, Dietl made over 1400 felony arrests (most cops average 180 in same time span) and had a ninety-five percent conviction rate. As part of a decoy (plainclothes) unit, he was mugged over 500 times. He was stabbed, shot, beaten, run over and assaulted in multiple colorful ways.
I had the best pickpockets in the world try to lift my wallet. But I had an educated ass. I could always feel the hand go in.
Dietl did more than just decoy work, although he had to fight grudges and red tape to get his gold shield. The man was the job. He worked without sleep for days at a time, driven to see justice done. He went face-to-face with Columbian drug lords on Elmhurst Ave and fought the pimps of Times Square. But the book focuses mostly on Dietl’s most famous cases, the Harlem convent rape and the Palm Sunday massacre. These were the most satisfying to him both personally and professionally. He loved protecting the citizens of New York and many reciprocated by plying Dietl with free food, free booze and with their deep friendship.
I wake up the whole neighborhood. The whole neighborhood… I was dancing over the whole neighborhood. I owned it. I was running around like a nut, but that hour was sheer ecstasy. It felt like the whole world was in love with me. For one whole hour.
Many things in these pages were surprising to me. Dietl talks about drinking in bars while waiting to testify in court. About giving detainees beer to pacify them during a delay in transport. He talks openly about beating perpetrators during the takedown and explains that it was the lesser of two evils - he subdued them with his fists because he didn’t want to shoot them dead. It’s certainly my hope that law enforcement is different now than it was in the seventies!
Dietl didn’t always find the NYPD a smooth ride. He wasn’t good at paperwork, he got into trouble for working too much overtime and he didn’t like some of the precincts he was assigned to. He frequently moonlighted as protection for Saudi princes and often found that his brothers in blue resented him for it. Dietl fought turning in his retirement papers for several years when an injury finally made up his mind for him. He went on to own his own business and he eventually consulted on a movie made of his life staring Stephen Baldwin (although as I was reading this, I would see and hear Al Pacino).
I really enjoyed Dietl’s engaging story. I've never sat in a bar and been regaled in style by a blue-collar hero, but that's what reading this book is like. Being about a New York cop, I probably don’t have to warn about the language but I thought I would just in case anyone is particularly sensitive to it. Dietl is capable of expressing himself without using profanity however, being a mostly candid telling, he rarely makes the effort to do so.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.