Thursday, January 29, 2009

Library Loot

I'm off work today and tomorrow and trying to catch up on my blog posts and reviews. The reviews are done!

Here's what I've brought home from the library since my last Library Loot post:

1) Elizabeth: The Golden Age: After finishing The Lady Elizabeth, I just happened to find this one on the DVD shelf, so I grabbed it. I really enjoyed the first Elizabeth movie with Kate Blanchett, so I'm looking forward to this one.

2) The New Amateur Astronomer came home as a request from my astronomer husband.

3) and 4) I saw 200 Stitch Patterns for Baby Blankets on a cart of books I was shelving, and I liked some of the patterns and not just for baby blankets. After investigating some, I found the other Jan Eaton book on the shelf as well and brought both home. I will probably end up purchasing at least one of these books in the near future.

5) The same day I picked up Elizabeth: The Golden Age, I found Flags of Our Fathers on the shelf. We've been wanting to watch this one, too, so I brought it home. Of course, both have been sitting on the TV since then... I'm horrible about leaving movies sitting forever. (Case in point: the Netflix copy of The Manchurian Candidate that we kept for at least 5 months, and I never watched. At least Jimmy watched it!)

Women of the Revolution by Robert M. Dunkerly

I have realized that when it comes to non-fiction, what really floats my boat is history. I am also fascinated with Southern history (this is where the Mississippi girl in me shows her face), so it's no surprise that the subject matter of this book, Women of the Revolution: Bravery and Sacrifice on the Southern Battlefield, attracted me.

Unfortunately, I can't give a glowing review of the book. While, yes, the subject matter was interesting, the book was not well-written. To me, it read like a stack of notes that were thrown into book format. What bothered me the most about the book was that there were sections (sometimes even separated as entire chapters) where basically all it said was "I'm sure there were women involved in this part of the war, and this is the type of things they probably did, but we don't have any personal accounts to share." Interspersed with these sections, were some accounts of actual women and varying accounts of their stories, and I thought those were very interesting. I started the book assuming that it would be full of these actual accounts, and I was disappointed to find otherwise.

The author indicates that there is very little recorded about actual women involved in the Revolutionary War, which, of course, explains the lack of accounts in the book. But I wonder, if so little is available, why is it necessary to publish an entire book full of speculation? I noticed that there are other books on the topic; it seems that a chapter on the involvement of Southern women in a larger book might have worked better.

Another thing that bothered me a bit was the inclusion of photographs of reenactors portraying 17th century women. I would have preferred to see paintings or drawings. The photographs seemed (and were) staged; the women seemed too clean and tidy. Also, some of the photographs were repetitive - how many pictures of women sewing in camp do we really need to see? The one place in the book where I found the photographs to be a welcome addition was in the section devoted to clothing. I enjoyed seeing actual photographs of bedcoats, short gowns, etc. 

All in all, this book was disappointing. It, however, was very short, and I did learn a few things, so I don't feel that it was an overall waste of my time.

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

The Lady Elizabeth is a fictional account of Elizabeth I's life from a small child up until she is declared queen. Alison Weir, known primarily for her Tudor biographies, does an equally fabulous jobs with her fiction!

I almost gave up on The Lady Elizabeth several times, as the beginning moves at a fairly slow pace. I have also read or listened to several other books of the time period, and they were all starting to blur together. However, once I reached the point in the book where King Henry dies, the book's pace picked up, and I honestly had a hard time putting it down. I'm so glad I stuck with it!

Alison Weir will be appearing at my library in a few days, and I am looking forward to hearing her speak about Katherine Swynford, the subject of her newest book Mistress of the Monarchy. I am unfamiliar with Swynford, but I'm sure Ms. Weir will fill me in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

This is the second time I've read Hatchet. The first was about 2 years ago, when I was home with a sick kid. This time around, we read it for bedtime. We have gravitated towards more fantasy-esque books for bedtime, I think (I'll have to go back and look at that), and this was the first time we've read any kind of survivor fiction. I think it was a fantastic choice! Both kids were engrossed and last night, when we only had one more chapter to go, the entire family asked me to keep reading. I think we need to look at a variety of genres from now on.

If you've never read Hatchet, here's a brief synopsis. Brian is a 13-year-old boy who is traveling in a small plane to visit his father when the plane crashes. He (obviously) survives the crash and must find a way to live in the wilderness. The book is gritty in places and Paulsen doesn't skirt around some of the more gruesome details.

The only thing I didn't care for (especially as a read-aloud) was the choppy text. I think it worked when I read it the first time, but aloud it just sounded weird.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Library Loot

I love this idea! I don't order enough books to warrant participation in Mailbox Monday, so when Eva posted about this idea, I was so excited to be able to participate!

Being a public librarian, I am always grabbing books off the shelf. I doubt I'm structured enough to actually post this on a certain day (whatever happened to me participating in "It's Tuesday, where are you?" for example), so my plan will be to post whenever I pick up something new.

Today you get lucky, because I will post the 2 books that I just grabbed, as well as anything that is in my account worth sharing.

1) Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon - I checked this one out a couple of weeks ago when it was passed to me by a coworker. I may or may not finish it.

2) The Little Shop of Horrors - This DVD is of the original film. The quality is horrible and ultimately we fast-forwarded to the scene with Jack Nicholson and then put in the 1980s version. I'll return it soon.

3) The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel by Alison Weir. This is my current read, and while I'm enjoying it, it is very slow-going. I want to finish it, but I may end up abandoning it.

4) The Portion Teller: Smartsize Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss. This one grabbed my attention as I was waiting for the elevator a few minutes ago. 

5) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. This one is relevant to my work as well as parenting. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher

I hate when I wait a few days to write a review, especially of a book I really liked. I always forget what exactly I wanted to say. I'll do my best to do this book justice!

First off, let me say that this is the first book I've read in quite a while that I give 5 stars. It was absolutely fantastic! Mirany is a priestess in what appears to be ancient Egypt. As the Archon ("god on earth" - sort of a pharaoh-type character) dies, he passes a slip of papyrus to Mirany, describing a plot to choose an impostor as the next Archon. Mirany must put a stop to this plot.

The book is extremely fast-paced, and the characters are well-developed. I had a hard time putting this one down. The Oracle Betrayed is the first in a trilogy, and I plan to read the next two in the near future. 

The funny thing is that I almost passed this one up. My mom bought this for the kids over a year ago, and I had picked up and it put it in my to-read-next stack. When it was time to start it, I picked it up and thought "I don't know if I want to read this." Luckily, I checked reviews and saw all the rave reviews it had gotten and gave it a chance. I sure am glad I did! I was not disappointed!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Already sidetracked

I'm trying so hard not to get sidetracked, but 1 week into the New Year it's already happened. But with good reason.

Tuesday night we had a huge Charlaine Harris event at the library. As far as I've heard, this was her one and only scheduled event of the year, and we had people from all over. One lady flew in from Boston! Unfortunately, I wasn't working that night and had ridden the bus in and didn't have a way to get home if I stayed. Plus, I haven't read any of her books (yet) and was afraid of spoilers.

But I noticed yesterday that the next author coming is Alison Weir, in February. I listened to Innocent Traitor a while back and really enjoyed it, so I grabbed The Lady Elizabeth off the shelf this morning to read before the event. I would have waited until I finished my current book (which I just started this morning), but I was afraid it wouldn't be available by then. And, along the same lines, since I might not be able to renew it after 2 weeks, I probably should go ahead and read it now.

I will get back on track immediately afterwards, though!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I'm on a winning streak with LibraryThing Early Reviewers, it seems. I got Women of the Revolution: Bravery and Sacrifice on the Southern Battlefields by Robert M. Dunkerly this month, which makes 3 in a row. Interestingly enough, this appears to have been published in 2007, so I'm not sure what makes this an Early Review copy (new edition? new publisher?).

On another note, I'm about 20 pages away from finishing The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher. This is the first book in The Oracle Prophecies trilogy, and I cannot *wait* to read the next two! A more detailed review will come, but let me just say that this one shouldn't be missed!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield

Lysandra is a priestess of Athene, trained in the military arts just as a man of her time. She has been captured and enslaved by the owner of a training camp for women gladiators. As you might imagine, this is not a book for anyone averse to a little violence. In fact, the reader should be prepared for A LOT of violence. Reader beware. I, luckily, generally don't mind the violence as long as it has a place, and I knew when I requested this book from LibraryThing that it would be violent. 

I enjoyed Gladiatrix quite a bit, although there were a few things that I didn't care for. Lysandra was not a terribly sympathetic character - her arrogance was downright laughable at times. Also (spoiler ahead - highlight to read) the battle that the gladiatrices were preparing for for a good portion of the 2nd half of the book never happened, and the fight with Sorina was anticlimactic (although I wasn't surprised - I thought either they would both live or they would both die)

That said, I liked the book from the moment I started reading it, and I had a hard time putting it down when I neared the end. I will definitely watch for other books by Russell Whitfield!