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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Time Tutor by Bee Ridgway. "I love the twelfth century," Dar whispered. "It's completely mad."

Remember when I reviewed The River of No Return and everything was sunshine and sparkling rainbows, because time travel + sexytimes? Well GUESS WHAT. This week a prequel came out in the form of a novella called The Time Tutor, and you can get it as an eBook for $3 (which is what I did).

It's shorter than you'll want it to be. Which is a good thing. I GUESS. So in the first book, Nick Davenant, who is THE DASHINGEST, is part of this Guild of time travelers, but then told "Oh no! The Guild is bad!" by a rebel group called the Ofan. What The Time Tutor does is talk about how the Ofan started to get their shit together back in the day and not just bounce around time.

There are more sexytimes. There is a party in the 1920s. Bee Ridgway again drops in random historical/literary references that she refuses to explain to you, thereby encouraging you to get off your ass and learn (de Underjordiske? the Hidden Children of Sweden? not even Wikipedia is that up on what they are)…

The Visionist is a rollicking good time filled with diligence and self-abasement

So I got really excited and ASKED Little, Brown if I could review The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart, because it is about SHAKERS.



Before Netflix decided to be evil and take it away, they had a Ken Burns film from 1984 called The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, which I watched MULTIPLE times because I have a mostly ignored, small part of me that thinks living in the 1800s and carding wool sounds like the height of living. These thoughts usually extend to me being courted by Seth, the blacksmith's son and preparing all season for the quilting bee, where my quilt will surely beat Clara Wilson's because it's not like she usually even sews she just has her family's maid do it and who does she think she is I'm going to win that ribbon this year or die trying.



The Shakers were pretty acceptable weirdos in a time in America when weirdos were cropping up all over. Transcendentalist utopian communities started in the 1820s, Mormonism was the 1820s, and my state's s…

Bleak House Week 4: Esther Esther Esther.

I can't focus on anything in this section but Esther's fever dreams and Lady Dedlock's revelation to her.

Esther suddenly falls ill with smallpox. In her feverish state, the things she's tried so hard to repress come forward: 

"While I was very ill, the way in which these divisions of time became confused with one another, distressed my mind exceedingly. At once a child, an elder girl, and the little woman I had been so happy as, I was not only oppressed by cares and difficulties adapted to each station, but by the great perplexity of endlessly trying to reconcile them."
Our awesome narrator has grown up without a mother — without even a mother FIGURE since Miss Barbary and Miss Rachael were such bucket trolls to her — and she instead becomes a mother to everyone around her. This confuses her actual role in life. She never allows herself to go through the adolescent phase -- she suddenly goes from being a child to an older adult (something also suffered by Cha…

"Old Mr. Flood" by Joseph Mitchell is what we call a lost piece of kickassery

If you wander the shelves of your library, you're gonna come across a lot of junk, because libraries rarely ACTUALLY discriminate. Their main job is to provide books to the public, which includes books the public wants to read, and sometimes the public really wants junk. Their collection — especially if you frequent a GIANT library like Harold Washington in the Chicago Loop — is probably akin to a whale sweeping up plankton and whatever other detritus comes in the way of its mouth. There's just so MUCH and you don't know what you're going to get.


I was wandering the M's this week, in search of some Nancy Mitford, when I saw this shelf of mostly Probable Trash:



Along with that SLIM VOLUME in the middle there. "Hello," said I. "You're not like the rest."

I couldn't even read the title on the spine, so I pulled it down, and immediately found this:


I tend to feel sorry for older books that might have lost readers, so I decided to give Old Mr. Fl…

Bleak House Week 3, Krook Goes to Pieces

SO MUCH HAPPENS ALL THE TIME IN THIS BOOK.

Points I would like to make:

- I like Mr Gridley muchly. And am sad about his end.


- I forgot how many people die in this book. There're just corpses strewn everywhere. (Nemo, Jenny's baby, Mr Gridley, Tom Jarndyce, Coavinses, Miss Barbary, Krook, SO FAR)

- Richard drives me up the wall, even though I super-relate to him and his cheerful attitude and bouncing around of interests.


- I want Mr George to just settle down and be happy. I will tell all my friends to patronize his shooting gallery.

- Mr and Mrs Bagnet have the only healthy marriage in the book. Discuss.

- Sir Leicester is really wonderful in his own way, and it makes me so happy that while Dickens didn't like the upper classes and barely makes an attempt to write about them beyond caricature, he makes Sir Leicester something of a complex human being. A complex human being who very, very much loves his wife.

-Also:

Young man of the name of Guppy! There have been times, when lad…

Kindle Books What I Am Looking Forward to Reading Someday

Do you know how easy it is to buy a book for Kindle? "CLICK." Done. And sometimes they are so cheap!...so cheap.

I no longer own a Kindle, as my brain for some reason rejects eReaders as a viable way to read, BUT it's totally fine with using the Kindle app on my computer or phone, so...I still buy Kindle books. Over the past four or so years, I've accumulated a number of them, many of which have remained unread, because after you buy it, it HIDES in your app, among the dozen of library eBooks you've checked out and never finished and don't want to delete, because then it says removing it from your device will delete ALL notes and marks and what if you highlighted something really important!

That being said, here're some eBooks I have that I have not read yet but REALLY WANT TO (someday):


The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller. DOES ANYONE REMEMBER, way back in 2012 when I was like "Omgggg Song of Achilles is so super way amazing"? Yeah, so, I neve…

"There's nothing more elegant in the prose universe than a short story, Officer Lambiase."

I finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry in about 24 hours. Which should tell you something about it. It's about a grumpy bookseller who runs the only bookshop on an island off the coast of New England. His wife has died (HI TROPE, but I am ok with you) and one day he finds a two-year-old girl abandoned in his store. Then the rest of the book happens.

I got this ARC from NetGalley (it comes out April 1st), and when I saw the average rating, I was flummoxed. 4.49? Out of 178 reviews? That's...quite good. But as I read it, that rating made more and more sense.



It's a good, very readable book. I'd recommend it to most people as a "This will make you feel nice and maybe cry a little" book. I certainly teared up at lines like "It matters who placed A Wrinkle in Time in your twelve-year-old daughter's nail-bitten fingers," and I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.

The CAVEATS are mainly that:

1) It teeters between being made of solid writing and …

Bleak House Week 2: There are chords in the human mind...

Ah, second week! Where we added to the exposition with more exposition, but also some things happened! Some of you are getting more invested, and also discovering the payoff of sticking with Dickens, because after you meet the first 50 characters, later you hear about one of them in a sideways sort of way and go "Oh! oh!!" and it's all very exciting.


So Esther as a revision of Jane Eyre has been mentioned. And why not. It was published in 1847, Bleak House was published in 1852-3. The heroines have remarkably similar backgrounds. Sure, Dickens said he'd never read Jane Eyre, but I think we all know rule 1 is


In Lisa Jadwin's "'Caricatured, not faithfully rendered': Bleak House as a Revision of Jane Eyre," she says that between 1849 and 1853 "Dickens devoted considerable space in Household Words and in his letters to putting feminists in their domestic place."

I'm willing to grant that Dickens wrote Esther as a sort of answer to Jane E…

Wigs on the Green: Where Nazism Is All Fun and Games

Nancy Mitford's Wigs on the Green was JUST republished in 2010 after being out of print for 35 years. Out of print despite the semi-enduring popularity of Mitford's novels. Why? Because it's pretty soft on Nazis. Oops.


The introduction to the reprint says "When Nancy's published begged her to be allowed to reissue the novel in 1951, she refused. 'Too much has happened for jokes about Nazis to be regarded as funny or as anything but the worst of taste,' she wrote to Evelyn Waugh, 'so that is out.'"

The word "Nazi" is such a thing of its own now, it took me learning some German to find out they were National Socialists, with National being pronounced "Nahtzional." And to be honest, I'm still pretty much 'looks at you uncomprehendingly' when people talk about fascism/socialism/otherism. I know fascism is strict rules and a dictator, but socialism...is too?

ANYWAY. The reason this was all sticky for Nancy Mitford is…

January was IN-sane for books, man

I rocked January, you guys. I don't mean to brag, except I TOTALLY DO.


Because the end of last year was so reading slumpy! And then I read ten books in January. TEN. And they weren't even YA books! 

I know that some people read ridiculous numbers of books all the time, but I usually average 3-6 a month, so this was WELL above my quota and I am so happy about it. Especially because I finished some books on my TBR challenge list, and that makes me happy because SHELF SPACE.

1. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,bell hooks. Totes already reviewed this. Essentially: Listen to everybody's opinion and don't be a dick. 

2. Rent Girl, Michelle Tea. OMG Michelle Tea. Why aren't we besties? I mean, sure, you'd probably find me annoying, but I want to sit at your feet and have you write things and then throw them down to me. Rent Girl takes the time when she was a prostitute and graphic...novel..izes it. It is QUITE good. 

3. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd. Already …

"I have not the slightest doubt that the scoundrel has passed his whole existence in misdirecting travelers" — Bleak House has begun

This book. THIS BOOK. Is what started me on Dickens. I hated him. HATED. And then when I was 18, my professor assigned it and Bleak House became one of my favorite books of all time, and its author the biggest love-hate relationship of my life.


Bleak House is a massive undertaking. Immediately before it, he published the fairly autobiographical and still widely read David Copperfield, but before THAT you had his road trip novels, none of which had much structure, and Martin Chuzzlewit and Dombey and Son, which could be excellent, but I haven't read them yet, so I don't know. Also no one talks about them, so, whatever.

Bleak House. This enormous mass of invective against Chancery, which, let's hope, contributed to the passing of the Common Law Procedure Act of 1854 (Bleak House was written 1852-3), which "eliminated many of the lengthy delays" associated with the Court of Chancery. This book is huge and complex and has a FASCINATING narrator you should all love. If …

Retreating and BleakAlonging

THE WOMEN'S RETREAT HAPPENED. And I was there. With Minnesota Girlfriend. And then we drove home to Chicago and ate Thai food and watched Doctor Who.


We learned about the Enneagram, and if you haven't done it and you don't know your number, I don't even know what you're doing with your life, because it's like Myers-Briggs, but way better because it doesn't involve a bunch of letters I have to remember.


Also MG and I went for a walk on Saturday after it'd snowed (this was in Wisconsin, and they mayyybe get more snow than we do), and we saw Lake Michigan and it looked like an alien planet.


And then we took a selfie because WE LIVE IN A MODERN AGE OF WONDERMENT.


Anyway. The women's retreat is the greatest of retreats. And also -- BLEAK HOUSE STARTS TOMORROW HOW FAR ARE YOU YOU NEED TO READ THROUGH CHAPTER ELEVEN. ELEVENNNN. I am on like chapter five myself. But I was WOMEN'S RETREATING, so there was no reading.

From what some of you have mentioned, you…