Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl (2014) by Martin Windrow was a sweet book about an rather unusual (though at the same time so stereotypically British) relationship between a man and his owl.

It was truly fascinating to read about the habits of owls and how they did (and, in many ways did not) fit in with human habitation. Windrow made abundantly clear that he respected that owls, even owls that have been hatched and raised by humans, are still wild animals. In most cases, by adjusting his own habits and expectations to fit in with living with the owl rather than expecting the owl to do so. In short, he was never under the illusion that he could fully domesticate her to live as a pet but rather worked very hard to make co-habitation work.

While I loved the relationship between Martin and Mumble, he also very effectively dissuaded me from ever wanting to live with an owl myself -- issues with excrement alone would be a deal-breaker!

I won't spoil the ending by commenting on that, but at the end I was very glad to have read this short, interesting, funny book.

Perched on the back of a sunlit chair was something about 9 inches tall and shaped rather like a plump toy penguin with a nose-job. It appeared to be wearing a one-piece knitted jumpsuit of pale grey fluff with brown stitching, complete with an attached balaclava helmet. From the face-hole of the fuzzy balaclava, two big, shiny black eyes gazed up at me trustfully. 'Kweep', it said quietly. Enchanted, I leaned closer. It blinked its furry grey eyelids, then jumped very deliberately up on to my right shoulder. It felt like a big, warm dandelion head against my cheek, and it smelt like a milky new kitten. 'Kweep', it repeated, very softly.
Love at first sight – when it hits you late, it hits hard. It hit me at thirty-four, and I was a slave to it for the next fifteen years.

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Falling From Horses by Molly Gloss

Falling From Horses (2014) by Molly Gloss is a somewhat sad, disturbing story about Hollywood cowboy films in the 30s in which not very much good happens to any of the characters. Written as a memoir of someone well-known, who interacted with other well-known people -- even though (as far as I know) it's all fictional and none of the characters in the book are real (aside from a couple of real actors from the time who are mentioned only in passing and by name only) -- the structure of the story made it an interesting read, and made up slightly for the fact that there was more telling than showing in the prose.

The story jumped back and forth between different time periods, and I liked that the 'present' of the story (still a flashback) was told in the first person and the further back flashbacks in third person, which made it slightly easier to keep track of the jumps.

Though overall I think this was a good book that was worth reading, I will note that it is definitely NOT for anyone who gets upset about descriptions of animals being mistreated. I really appreciated that the story didn't gloss over the realities of the way animals were treated in the film industry before protective legislation was passed, but I still found many scenes very tough to read.

The subject matter was certainly a time and place I have not read much about before, and the beauty of stories such as this is that they transport us into their unfamiliar environments, good or bad.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline is a fascinating commentary on humans and Western civilization and a brilliant, exciting love letter to geeks, video games, and pop culture.

Set only a few decades in the future (scary in itself), after civilization has mostly fallen apart and 'society' exists only in virtual spaces, the story kept me interested, engaged, and slightly tense the whole way through. Cline does an amazing job of creating interesting characters and putting them in situations that really keep you guessing.

I loved the idea of living 'in' a video game, and the virtual reality setting certainly gave Cline extensive leeway in what he could do in certain scenes, untethered as his world was from actual reality.

Though I'm sure most people who don't consider themselves geeks or nerds might initially dismiss this book as not for them, I would urge anybody to give it a shot -- it's that good. It does a great job of showing both the advantages and disadvantages of increasing reliance on continually improved technology, and while knowing all the pop- and geek-culture references probably brings more amusement and enjoyment to the reader, not knowing every one does not take away at all from the main themes of the story. In the end, the book is about what it means to be human, which applies to us all.
“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.”
“Dilettantes,’ Art3mis said. ‘It’s their own fault for not knowing all the Schoolhouse Rock! lyrics by heart.” 
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Page-to-Screen: TV edition!

I interrupt my (somewhat) regularly scheduled reviews to discuss a topic that has started to dominate the way I choose what books to read: adaptations of books into ongoing tv shows. Though adapting books into movies has been a long-standing practice in Hollywood, I think the runaway success of Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black (and older shows such as True Blood and Sex and the City) have shown the advantages of spending much more time in these worlds and creating more opportunities for creative freedom while also being able to follow the original stories to a greater degree of detail.

Given my love of both reading and tv, I have seen a close intersection of my reading and viewing habits already, and there are many more upcoming shows based on books I am super excited about.

Currently on TV (and loving them all!):
Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) – read all (main) books, before watching show
Sherlock (Arthur Conan Doyle) – read all (main) books, before watching show
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) – have read books 1-5 so far, after watching season 1
The Magicians (Lev Grossman) – read all books, before watching show
Shannara Chronicles (Terry Brooks)– have not read any of the series, but really want to

In most of these cases (Game of Thrones, Outlander, Magicians), I had been intending to read each series for awhile, but the announcement of the shows was the push I needed to finally do so, and I'm very glad I did in each case. So I'm thinking that many of the following upcoming shows will also be a lot of what I read in the next year or so, and I'm excited to dive into it all!

Here are the upcoming shows based on books I'm most excited about:

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams) BBCA – written by Max Landis (of American Ultra fame), this is a series by Douglas Adams that I hadn't even heard of before (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy certainly overshadows it), though hearing about it in relation to the show makes it seem to be entirely up my alley. Given that the premier is this week (Oct 22), I think I'll be watching first and reading after.

American Gods (Neil Gaiman) Starz - I finally read (and enjoyed) the book earlier this year, and have so far heard excellent things about the upcoming adaptation. It's highly appropriate that this is the book of Gaiman's adapted in the US, as the entire storyline takes place here (hence the title).

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) Netflix – Of course I loved the original show, so I'm cautiously excited about this new version. I'm not sure we necessarily need another adaptation of the fantastic book series, but I'm remaining open-minded.

Foundation (Isaac Asimov) HBO
Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) Spike TV – are both classic science fiction series, neither of which I have read, but both of which I would like to at some point. As I've only recently gotten into sci-fi books, I'm wondering if these might be better to watch first so I don't get too bogged down in the books.

Dark Tower series (Stephen King) – This is an unusual case in which a movie is planned for 2017 release (starring Idris Elba - how fantastic is that?!), which will be a sequel to the book series (unlike all the others on this list, which are adaptations of existing material), then a tv show will start in 2018 (also starring Elba) that will be a continuing sequel to the movie. I've only read the first book of the series so far, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest before the movie comes out next year.

Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket) Netflix – I've never read either the children's book series or seen the movie starring Jim Carrey, but I've heard wonderful things about this adaptation, so I'm looking forward to checking it out!

His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman) BBC – I absolutely loved this YA series, which I read years ago. It is smart, interesting, emotional, and witty, and I am thrilled that the adaptation is coming right from the BBC. I didn't mind the movie starring Nicole Kidman, though it of course came nowhere near the level of the book, so I think this might end up being a prime example of how a tv show (especially from the BBC) can be a better format for adapting a book, especially a book series, than a movie.

Cormoran Strike Detective Series (Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling) BBC – This is another upcoming BBC adaptation that I am extremely excited for! Rowling's adult mystery/thriller series is filled with interesting, well-rounded, understandably flawed characters, so for me the casting/acting will make or break the adaptation to tv. Unfortunately, the release dates of both this show and His Dark Materials is as yet unknown, so I'll have to wait to see how it turns out.

And this list doesn't even include the comic book-to-tv adaptations that are coming up (perhaps they warrant their own post). Lots here to keep me busy!

Keep reading (and watching)! Beth

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Flight by Kazu Kibuishi (Ed)

Flight V. 1 (2004) edited by Kazu Kibuishi is a collection of 23 comics (and one very funny essay) by different artists with VERY different visual and storytelling styles, all with the general theme of flying.

This was a wonderful book that really showed the extent to which comic art can vary, from the detailed and ornate to simplistic and suggestive. Some of the individual stories really spoke to me, and I enjoyed those very much. But even for the ones I didn't like, I could appreciate the skill and talent that went in to developing the story and creating the multiple layers of art.

My favorite parts of this collection were:
"Maiden Voyage" by Kazu Kibuishi  an adorable story about failure and never giving up,
"Paper and String" by Jen Wang  about feeling like an outsider and finding something to inspire you,
"The Maiden and the River Spirit" by Derek Kirk Kim  a funny twist on a classic Aesop fable, and
"The Bowl" by Clio Chiang  which tells the story of a Native man who makes 3 wishes, and doesn't quite get what he expects.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone curious about comics / graphic novels but doesn't know where to start  this is a wonderful way to explore many different interpretations of the genre and decide what you like!

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

The Last Bookaneer (2015) by Matthew Pearl is a very interesting book with a great concept that didn't quite live up to the thrilling precedent set by Pearl's previous books I've read -- but was an enjoyable read just the same.

I like books and pirates are pretty cool, so the idea of book pirates has a lot going for it, which is why I originally picked up this book (that, and I really loved The Technologists and The Dante Club). While there was certainly plenty of action in this book, I think it wasn't quite at the level of his previous books mostly because of the narrative structure -- as most of the story is told via a character reminiscing, there is less at stake. You of course know right away that the narrator lives through the story since he is telling it! And there was a little bit less overall character development than I would have liked.

But the setting was lovely (I liked the contrast between Europe and the tropics) and the combination of books, legal quagmires, adventure, sea travel, and famous authors made it a fun read. And I certainly appreciated the extent to which books themselves were honored by many of the characters in the story.

At the end, I was glad to have read the book -- it was a good story, it just maybe wasn't what I was expecting based on his other books. This was much more in the category of adventure fiction, rather than literary thriller. Overall, pretty good.

“Strangers talking over piles of books do not remain strangers for long.” (p. 22) 
“Authors do not create literature; they are consumed by it. As a bookseller, I am often asked if I didn’t dream of being an author, but I should rather think it is the author who learns to dream of becoming a bookseller. I do not seek the mantle of genius. I am an appreciator, an observer, a preposition, and content in that, and that is me in a nutshell.” (p. 90)

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad is Fat (2013) by Jim Gaffigan (of the Hot Pockets joke fame) is absolutely hilarious, as expected! Even for someone without kids, many of his observations still resonated with me and made me laugh out loud - a lot!

He writes in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, often directly addressing the reader, always in a very funny way. I loved this style, which really made reading the book feel very intimate, like I was having a conversation rather than passively reading (which was of course what I was actually doing, but still...). He really made me feel 'in' on his jokes, and I loved it.

I don't want to spoil too many of the punch lines, but here were two of my favorite jokes from the book:
“Every morning after I get up, I always gaze longingly at my bed and lament, ‘You were wonderful last night. I didn’t want it to end. I can’t wait to see you again…’” (192) 
“I guess you could say I’m allergic to camping. Jeannie loves camping because she says camping was a tradition in her family. I always point out that prior to the invention of the house, camping was a tradition in everyone’s family. I don’t get camping. ‘Hey, want to burn a couple of vacation days sleeping on the ground outside? Chances are you’ll wake up freezing and covered in a rash?” No, thanks. If camping was so great, why are the bugs always trying to get in your house?” (258-9)
I completely agree Jim!

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns (2008) is John Green's third solo book, and I think his best of the ones I've read so far. It was sweet, funny, exciting, compelling, interesting... it had it all. Mystery, 'romance,' suspense, fear, longing, heartache and heartbreak, dead bodies, final exams, and a road trip. What more could you want?

I really, really loved all these characters -- they were fun, funny, well-rounded, complete characters. It was a pleasure to live in their world for a little while. The road trip part was the best -- I was crying laughing at one point, and I really wished it had lasted longer.

The thing I loved the most about this book was that it was about a boy and a girl, and love, relationships, etc. but it wasn't REALLY about that -- it was about growing up and figuring out who you are and what you want, and accepting other people for who they truly are, and just figuring out people. So lovely!

The movie version was a pretty good adaptation -- of course not as complex and well-rounded as the book, and they left out some of my favorite parts of the book, but a nice movie in its own right. Good movie, great book!

"[E]ach of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen -- these people leave us, or don't love us, or don't get us, or we don't get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places. And I mean, yeah, once the vessel starts to crack open, the end becomes inevitable... But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it's only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through the cracks and into others through theirs... [O]nce the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out."--Quentin (p.302)

See my review of John Green's first two books here.

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir (2015) by Stan Lee is hilarious, adorable, and illuminating -- a must-read for anyone into comics and/or super-heroes. Set in the form of a graphic novel, this memoir spans Lee's entire life, and therefore most of the 'life' of Marvel comics, from way before they were called Marvel comics.  

I thought it was interesting how he referred to people who ended up leaving the 'fold' as it were after being a big part of the comics productions. I liked that Lee acknowledged that some issues might have been his fault -- without really making himself look bad. A very tough balance! And he brought up some painful memories he didn't necessarily have to (like his wife's inability to have more children) in such an open and honest way that I was really impressed.

Overall, Stan Lee was humorously self-deprecating, clearly loves his wife and his work, and just seems like a wonderful person to be around. I hope he stays around for a good long time yet!

“Oh! Here’s one example of how we tried to have things at least vaguely grounded in science in the Marvel Universe. I wanted Thor to be able to fly. But I hated the idea of him just hurling through the air with no support. I figured, hey, he has a war hammer called Mjolnir, so how about he will have that hammer with him. And when he wants to fly he’ll whirl it around his head really fast, and then he’ll throw it, and since he’s attached to it by the thong around his wrist – when the hammer goes flying, it’ll take him with it! To this day I don’t know why NASA hasn’t invited me to join their science team.”

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Short "Ghost" Stories

The Grownup (2014) by Gillian Flynn

Very short story (originally written for a story collection) of suspense and twists, which leads you to question everything, and even keeps you guessing as to what genre the book fits into - horror? supernatural? mystery? suspense? All of the above? The ending is slightly unsatisfactory, but I found it more palatable in this short story format -- at least I only committed around an hour to reading it rather than a couple weeks, and the questionable nature of the ending was clearly the whole point of the story. Very clever, with some interesting characters.     

Springtime: A Ghost Story (2014) by Michelle de Kretser

Another short, somewhat confusing story. Unlike The Grownup, there was so little character development that even in the hour it took me to read, I still couldn't remember who some people were because they were presented in such a perfunctory and confusing way. Called itself a ghost story but had barely any ghost stuff in it, just a vague unease on the part of the main character that was not in any way translated to the reader. Reaction at the end: "huh?"

Overall, I think these were both interesting stories that made me think, and even though I didn't love either of them, the incredibly short reading time required by both stories I think made them worth it.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Drums of Autumn (Outlander series #4)

The Drums of Autumn (1996) by Diana Gabaldon is yet another wonderful addition to this gripping series of time travel, romance, and family - and some violence and revenge.

After the wonderful "Pirates of the Caribbean" plot that encompassed book #3 (see my review of that book here, and a staff roundtable review of books #1-2 here), Jaime and Claire are firmly settled in the New World, and so this book was filled with exciting stories of colonizing the American South in the mid-1700s.

I absolutely loved the framework of exploring and pioneering, especially setting up a homestead from scratch with almost nothing but bare hands and force of will. I really loved the slow, day-to-day scenes in the book, the small bits about putting up food and building structures. This is a period of time that has always fascinated me since my childhood obsession with the Little House books, and I was glad to have reminders of that in this (much more adult) series. One of the things I like best about historical fiction is the insight it gives readers into how people lived in a particular place and time, not just the big events that everyone learns about in school.

And, without giving too much away, there was quite a lot that happened in the book that surprised me, especially the storyline with Bree and Roger, and the plot with Ian. His story especially was part of the reason I could not put the book down in the second half - I just had to know what was going to happen with him!

One of my only complaints is how much Fergus has been pushed to the sidelines now that he's set up with his own family. I really like him -- indeed, he was perhaps my favorite character in books #2-3 -- and hope he becomes a more central character in the future (though not, I suppose, if that must come at the expense of his family!)
“Forgiveness is not a single act, but a matter of constant practice”
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England (2007) by Brock Clarke is an interesting book, one I was a little conflicted about for most of the time I was reading.

Following a completely avoidable accident that landed him in jail as a teenager, Sam Pulsifer's short break of normalcy following being released from prison as an adult is disrupted when his past comes back to haunt him (somewhat literally). Surrounded by other people also making poor decisions, this story was somewhat frustrating but also endearing at the same time; even though it was painful to read as Sam makes mistake after mistake, you can't help but feel for the guy.

At the end, I was mostly glad to have read the book. But one note of caution: do not bother to read this at all if you have a particular problem with main narrators who are (self-professed) bumbling idiots who make nothing but the obviously wrong decisions in every situation. There's a lot of that. But there is also decent character development, an interesting literary connection, and somewhat amusingly dysfunctional family relationships.
“If only my mother had a book to hold, she wouldn't have looked so lonely. And maybe this was another reason why people read: not so they would feel less lonely, but so that other people would think they looked less lonely with a book in their hands and therefore not pity them and leave them alone.”
Keep reading! Beth

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Finally catching up with Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series with the latest entry, #8 - The Woman in Blue (2016).

Cathbad is back, and in top form! So good to see him back at the center of things relating to the mystery, though I'm somewhat disappointed that, while on maternity leave, Judy's character has been relegated to that of Cathbad's partner and mother of his new baby. Hopefully by the next book she'll be back on the force and see some real action.

The mystery itself was interesting; I like way Griffiths integrates different religious, pagan, and secular ways of thinking into many of her stories in a relatively equal way. I am inclined to believe that her personal beliefs run closest toward Ruth's own (as the main character), yet other characters (such as Cathbad and Father Hennessey) present a sympathetic view of other ways of thinking.

Overall, a nice continuation for a series that has really settled on a comfortable pattern, with the pros and cons that entails. I think you really know what you're getting with a Ruth Galloway mystery at this point, which is okay by me. Looking forward to the next one, which is expected sometime early 2017.

See my reviews of book 1, books 2-4, and books 5-7 posted earlier on this blog.

Keep reading! Beth

Friday, July 8, 2016

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) (2012) by Mindy Kaling is a super funny, very sweet book broken into many small chapters.  

As expected, Mindy has a wonderful voice that is at the same time endearingly self-deprecating, honest, and hilarious. I loved the insights into her life, though the format of segmented essays (while very easy to read) meant that she didn't delve super deeply into any one topic. But I didn't need this book to be a full autobiography or a sordid tell-all about her life, and it wasn't.

This was simply a collection of very funny observations and anecdotes covering lots of little bits of her life that certainly gave me greater insight into Mindy Kaling the person (not to be confused with her character from her show The Mindy Project - Mindy Lahiri. this is why I don't get when people name characters after themselves). And it made me laugh -- a lot! What more can you ask for?
"[M]y parents dressed both my brother and me according to roughly exactly the same aesthetic: Bert from Ernie and Bert. Easing them out of dressing me in primary colors and cardigans (seriously, I was a child who wore cardigans) and getting them to let me grow my hair out past my earlobes was a first huge step that took years." (191)
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Here are the words that came to me as I read Mr. Splitfoot (2016) by Samantha Hunt:
A strange book, about which I was unsure for most of the time I was reading. Even more than half-way through, I was wondering why I was actually still reading it, especially as there was not nearly as much fantasy as the front flap description implied. But the story kept me going; I wasn't necessarily loving or even enjoying the book, but I really wanted to know what happened next.

Then twist ending made it worth it -- not only was it surprising, but it also resolved everything pretty neatly (which I always appreciate). A few things still left unsaid maybe, but anything not specifically explained was at least suggested -- good enough for me.

After I finished reading, this was one of those books that I had to just sit and think about for a few minutes, especially regarding people's general goodness (or lack thereof). The story really turned an unpleasant mirror on a sub-set of our culture most people try to ignore / forget about. Overall, this was a very interesting book that really made me think, and I was glad to have read it.
“Why do the living assume the dead know better than we do? Like they gained some knowledge by dying, but why wouldn't they just be the same confused people they were before they died?”

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona (2015) by Noelle Stevenson was originally published incrementally online, then combined into a graphic novel due to its runaway popularity thanks to the wonderful story and endearing visual style.

The story was lighthearted and humorous, but still had great messages about being different, following your instincts / conscience, and that good vs. evil is not always so black and white. Not everything was as it seemed all the way through, and so the book was very effective at making me think, at least a little.

Noelle Stevenson has a very distinct drawing style, as demonstrated both here and in her Lumberjanes series (see my review of that here). It's very casual and loose, without the rigidity often associated with some of the major publishers. This is not art to pour over each frame individually, but that moves you through the story quickly and with a great deal of interest.

My only real gripe is with the ending, which wasn't necessarily as definitive as I would have liked. I hope this means that Stevenson intends to continue the story with another series in the future?

Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (2015) by Sarah Addison Allen was a lovely, uplifting sequel to Garden Spells (see my review of that book here). A heartwarming tale of belonging and families and relationships, knowing who you are and embracing that. Filled with very likable characters, who were flawed but (mostly) good, this book was an easy, comfortable read.

I really identified with Sydney's daughter Bay, now a high-school student set apart from her classmates by her different-ness. Though she is not shunned, she still feels 'other' and slightly isolated, knowing what she wants but not knowing how to get it -- while also dealing with the normal issues of growing up.

And even though I was frustrated by the way Sydney handled her receptionist Violet's issues, it was clear that Sydney knew it was frustrating for herself even, which made it much more understandable. (And, not to spoil anything, but I guess it worked out alright in the end...).

Overall, I would highly recommend both Garden Spells and First Frost when you want something that will captivate you without making you think too hard.
“It had taken her a long time to realize that a prison sometimes isn't a prison at all. Sometimes, it's simply a door you assume is locked because you've never tried to open it.” 

Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ruth Galloway mystery series #5-7

Elly Griffiths continues her wonderful Ruth Galloway series in books 5-7, in which Ruth continues to solve crimes, inadvertently place herself in mortal danger, and struggle with her personal relationships in a rather endearing way. (See my review of book #1 of the series here, and books #2-4 here.)

#5: Dying Fall (2013) 

Yet another great entry in the series. I loved that Cathbad was a greater part of this story; we really got to know him better. And some additional insight into Nelson's character, being back in his hometown. Otherwise, it was a little silly that - having been in situations of mortal peril at least 3 times previously - Ruth still decides to go check out these bones with her daughter after getting threatening texts. Slightly unbelievable, but I guess it's good for the main character to have flaws and make bad decisions - it would be hard to really connect with her if she was perfect.
"'You need a break, a complete rest, recharge your batteries.' Recharge you batteries. What the hell does that mean? Nelson prides himself on not needing batteries. He's an old-fashioned, wind up model." (p. 21)

#6: The Outcast Dead (2014)  

The story in this one had a great sub-plot that really developed Judy's character especially. I'm very glad Tim has joined the team; I really like him. And so glad Cathbad has been given a reason and allowance to come back! Though I found his daughter, Maddie's, involvement in the case suspicious, it was nice to 'see' her again. And the way that the police case and the goings-on in Ruth's life intersected without Ruth officially working on the case was great and more realistic than Ruth officially consulting on every issue that comes to the police.

#7: The Ghost Fields (2015)  

It was -- interesting, I guess? -- that Nelson's wife Michelle got her own storyline in this book. I won't spoil too much by saying what this story was or my specific reaction to it, but regardless of what actually happened, I liked that she was given some additional character development outside of Nelson and Ruth. And I liked the way that Griffiths plays with suspicious of various characters, keeping you on your toes.

And that's me finally caught up on the Ruth Galloway series, just in time for the publication of book #8, The Woman in Blue, which came out May 3rd. Going to jump right into that one!

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, May 16, 2016

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art (2013) by Neil Gaiman is a very small book with a great message.

The transcript of the 2012 commencement address given by Gaiman at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, this is an inspirational and often amusing little book filled with wit and words of wisdom.

Though he is specifically speaking to students graduating from an art program, his messages are universal, such as: doing and failing is better than not trying at all, as long as you do your best, and stay true to yourself.

Emphasized throughout is the message that everyone makes mistakes, and the sooner you can accept that, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with whatever mistakes you make. And certainly that creativity is a gift everyone should nurture and apply anywhere they can.

Gaiman's inspiring words of wisdom are brilliantly presented in this book via the graphic design of Chip Kidd, who perfectly captures the whimsy and enthusiasm of Gaiman's spoken words.

Very uplifting for 30 minutes of reading!
"If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once missspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the a and the o, and I thought, 'Coraline looks like a real name...'"
Keep reading! Beth


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project (2013) by Graeme Simsion was a sweet, surprising story about a man with many idiosyncrasies who struggles with accepting his own limitations in a world that (frustratingly) does not operate in the logical, orderly way he requires.

When I first started this book, I was really worried that the author would mock the main character and use his different-ness as comedic relief. But Don was an incredibly sympathetic character and I enjoyed his story immensely, especially coming from his unusual but understandable perspective. The Rosie of the title was a very interesting and decently complex character, who had her own plot developed outside of being the main love interest in the story -- always appreciated.

I loved that, since the reader was treated to Don's thought process but not Rosie's, he came off as the more likeable character, despite his own social issues contrasted to Rosie's "normal-ness". My only very small complaint is that the ending seemed a little rushed, but then again the point of the story was really about the journey and not the ending, which left the main characters in a satisfying way. To that end, I have waffled about whether or not to read the sequel, The Rosie Effect, since finishing The Rosie Project. I really liked this as a self-contained story and am very reluctant to get into another story that might muddle the waters, so to speak. For now, I was happy to have read this as a very good, heat-warming, stand-alone novel.
"It was also obvious that Rosie had very poor taste in coffee -- or she had done as I had and ignored the label 'coffee' and was enjoying it as an entirely new beverage. The technique was working brilliantly." (201)
Keep reading! Beth

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Saints of the Lost and Found by T.M. Causey

Today, enjoy a guest post from staff member Lindsey! 

Avery Marie Broussard can see what other people have lost, from car keys to the greatest loss of their lives. Born to con artists, she is used by her parents to make millions over the course of her childhood. After a traumatic event, she finally escapes her hometown -- only to be lured back home by her family, where she is forced to confront the life and love she left so abruptly.

The Saints of the Lost and Found (2016) was utterly gripping. Causey did an amazing job delving into the psyche of someone who is constantly bombarded by the images and the pain of lost things. This is a story where someone’s superhuman abilities come at a heavy cost, and I came to greatly admire Avery’s drive to put herself in danger to help others. Over the course of the book, more and more of Avery’s past comes to light -- both to her and the reader -- making the climax tie in expertly with past and present.

I refuse to tell you any more about this book for fear of spoiling it for you but I will tell you this: I just finished the book and I am going read it again right now. I tore through it so fast the first time that I want to go back and really appreciate the story.

This is a quick read and well worth your time.

Keep reading! Lindsey

Friday, April 22, 2016

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House (2016) by Kathleen Grissom is the long-awaited sequel to her 2010 debut, The Kitchen House. I loved the original (read my review here), and am so happy that she continued the story!

Grissom continues to demonstrate a fantastic ability to write characters that you connect with immediately, which was one of the things I was so impressed by in her first book. And in this case specifically, she took a character (James) who was not particularly likeable in The Kitchen House as a child, and gave him such depth that you couldn't help but feel for him in this book. Even though he was anything but perfect, his actions were so understandable and... human... that even if you saw the mistake and its inevitable consequences coming, you get why he did what he did.

Some of the other characters were slightly less understandable -- namely Pan, who made such a wilful, obvious mistake that it was hard to do anything but shake your head at him. But still, he was such an endearing, sincere kid that you felt for him and desperately wanted him to be safe.

And Robert, James's resourceful and unflaggingly loyal butler, was the true hero of the story, swooping in and out with just the right word and idea at key points. I loved his composure and grace, though I liked to imagine that there was a good bit of snark behind that stoic exterior.

This was such a wonderful story, I'm sure this review won't do it justice. Though it started off in a little bit of a disjointed manner, the flashbacks come fairly early on in the book and really provide a complete picture. It was a thrilling page-turner, a heart-pounding look into the Underground Railroad, filled with characters I was truly invested in. You could certainly read it as a stand-alone without much confusion, but I would urge you to read both together -- they are truly worth it! Hopefully the story will continue within the next six years (hint, hint Kathleen...).

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Currently reading: The Kitchen House sequel

Stay tuned for my review of Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House later this week. In the meantime, be sure to check out my review of The Kitchen House from last year at this link.

Spoiler alert: Glory Over Everything is great, and really lived up to my expectations based on the first book.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, April 11, 2016

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent

American Nerd (2008) by Benjamin Nugent is a quick nonfiction read about the world of 'nerds' (or at least the author’s very specific experiences with it). Comprised of both autobiography and information about different topics, the author mostly used stories from his own life to illustrate many of his points. Which I think was a very good thing – without those anecdotes, the book could have been dry, but as it was, it was a fun read about an interesting topic.

One thing I did find especially interesting was the way in which the author conflated the terms nerd, geek, dork, etc. I am always really fascinated in the ways different people use and think about those terms, and I’ve found that most people who consider themselves one or the other have strong feelings about what each term means (myself included). In Nugent’s case, however, I couldn’t tell that he did – he never really made a strong distinction. Maybe he just lumps them all together and uses nerd as a sort of umbrella term.

I really enjoyed the historical perspective about how not just the term 'nerd' evolved, but also the concept / idea of nerdiness itself evolved – Nugent gets into how nerds became a thing in the first place, which was really compelling. And I did appreciate the connection that people who are obsessed with sports are nerds in their own way; the only difference is the way this obsession is valued in our society. His points about how nerd culture fits in (and at times doesn't fit in) our larger American culture and society were, for me, the best parts of reading this book, and I would recommend it for anyone who considers themselves a geek / nerd – or loves someone who is.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, April 4, 2016

Outlander series #3: Voyager

Voyager (1994) by Diana Gabaldon is the third book in the Outlander series, also known (to myself as I was reading it) as Outlander: The Pirates of the Caribbean Year.

This was a really wonderful new chapter to the series after the resolution to the Scottish independence storyline from books 1 & 2. This book went in a completely different direction from the previous two, filled with swashbuckling high-seas adventures to go along with all the romance, intrigue, and historical interest. I was very glad of the change of pace, new scenery, and new characters, and for the story to delve into the unknown after following the slightly predictable course of a well-known historical event.

I loved the beginning of this story, when Claire starts exploring the possibility of trying to go back through the stones a third time, and all that entailed in leaving her now-established life behind and going back to the past. I especially liked the planning stages of having period-appropriate clothing made and stocking her supplies -- I often think about things like that myself; if I knew I was going to travel back to a particular time period, what would I bring and how would I prepare?

Though I thought it was a little abrupt how quickly she found Jaime when she went back, their reunion was very sweet and funny. I really liked the sea voyage and their journey around the Caribbean. And I'm glad that they really tied up a particular storyline that I thought had finished in previous books, but was concluded in a very satisfactory way in this book.

Overall, a thrilling continuation that excited me for future books in the series. And for the second season of the TV show, which premiers in a few days! The costumes alone will be gorgeous.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson Volumes 1 & 2 (2015) are very fun graphic novels, especially for young girls and those who are young at heart!

The main concept is a group of girls (whose age is somewhat ambiguous, but I'd say maybe junior high school-age?) attending summer scout camp. Both volumes are all about friendship and girl power, with some fun fantastical and mythological elements thrown in for good measure. The dialog felt very Gilmore Girls-esq, with intelligent pop culture references (including one of my favorite shows, River Monsters) and rapid-fire exchanges. I especially loved the references to lesser-known but still important women from history; in every case I was interested enough to research each reference and learned a lot about some very cool women, such as Annie Smith Peck and Sister Rosetta Tharpe!

Volumes 1 & 2 together comprise one major storyline, so I recommend reading them together. Though the details of the story are at times a little silly and/or glossed over, the point is really much more about the girls working together as a team to save the day and it does that very well. Though the illustrations were a little rough at times, the artwork was still fun and funky, and really fit in with the story.

Overall, this series promises to be very fun, and would be a wonderful introduction to graphic novels for young girls!
“Did you have a plan?"
"I thought adrenaline would take over but it did not."

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest (2015) by Holly Black was a great book! It kept me engaged and interested from beginning to end. I loved all the characters and the integration of the fairy world with the real world in just this one small town. The main character Hazel is reckless and headstrong, but also brave and kind.

Hazel's relationships with both her brother -- how much they loved and looked after one another -- and with her brother's best friend and fairy changeling, Jack, were really deep and interesting. The secondary storyline of Jack's journey, feeling out of place and slightly isolated -- with his peers being at times amazed and at other times afraid of his otherness -- was also really moving and compelling.

Lastly, I especially enjoy when 'villains' are given some depth and meaning to what they are doing, which this story does very well. Even though the 'villains' in this story aren't even human, and it would have been easy to simply make them evil in a black-and-white sense, Black really gives some insight into why they do what they do, and how different perspectives allow actions to be interpreted in many different ways.
“They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they’d loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress. They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. They loved him as they loved lead singers of bands and actors in movies, loved him in such a way that their shared love brought them closer together.”
Keep reading! Beth

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson

Bats of the Republic: an Illuminated Novel (2015) by Zachary Thomas Dodson was a very interesting book. I loved the unusual format, with the story told in several formats from several points of view, and all the ephemera throughout (maps, drawings, notes, etc.). The nature drawings and observations of the wildlife in the frontier were especially great, and I really do like when the idea of a "book within a book" is used well.

The story built up quite quickly to a point where I really just had to know what was going to happen, especially with the famous letter that was the center of most of the main characters' stories, with the 'past' storyline about delivering the letter and the 'future' storyline about finding it. I also really liked the setting of both the parts of the book in the 'frontier' era of a slightly different past than in our own universe and the post-apocalyptic future, with Big Brother-like ruling class.

The build-up of the story was very tense and really made you feel the stress the characters were going through. Unfortunately the ending had very little pay-off for all this build up. It resolved almost no part of the story, and never actually clarified this mysterious letter that was such a big part of the story. I was glad to have read it, but the ending really disappointed me. However, if you're not a person who prefers (needs) a very concrete, conclusive ending to your stories, then I think this wouldn't be as big of a problem. Overall, I do think this is a book worth reading as the story and format are so unusual and interesting.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sandman Overture: Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Overture: Deluxe Edition (2015) by Neil Gaiman is the newest entry in the classic Sandman series that has long been considered one of the best graphic novel series ever published. It has long been on my to-read list, and when I saw an article online that suggested this new "prequel" book was a good place to start, I decided to give it a try.*

This was a pretty interesting story by itself, when taken apart from the rest of the Sandman series (which I had to do by default), with some very interesting themes about mistakes, consequences (even, or perhaps especially, from actions with the best of intentions), regrets, asking for help, reality, and family relationships.

As with other graphic novels, my biggest problem was that often I couldn't figure out the direction to read things in (this was not consistent from page to page) and I'm only mostly certain that I understood what was happening. But it was interesting, and the artwork was really beautiful. Perhaps not the best place to start in the series, but it certainly didn't put me off reading the rest of the series, and I think worth reading for its own merits. After #1-75.

Keep reading! Beth

*The funny thing was, several times in the book Gaiman specifically says that this is not a good place to start for new readers of the series, but I was already committed so I persevered and, feeling very rebellious, completely ignored the author's own warnings. This was perhaps a mistake, as I did think the Overture was a little strange, but on the other hand, was a pretty cool introduction to the series. But maybe don't follow my lead :) 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (2015) is the not-quite-a-sequel follow-up to Rowell's Fangirl (which I loved and have been recommending to so many people!). This spin-off was such an interesting concept: in Fangirl, the main character spent the entire book writing fanfiction for her favorite fantasy series. This is that story she was writing, her version of the last book in a very Harry Potter-esq fantasy series.

I was very impressed by how Rowell managed to write a story that was clearly the final book in the series, but still made sense to read as a stand-alone. I liked that in Fangirl, you saw the writing process and what Cath was going through when she was writing her story, and then we actually get to read the story that we got such tantalizing snippets of before.

Once again, Rowell has written great characters that are flawed but very likeable. You really root for them. This was of course incredibly similar to Harry Potter in basics, but she had plenty of specific details that really set it apart from that series. I especially liked the way she dealt with the rules of the magic in her world. I loved the connection to literature, cliché phrases, and nursery rhymes, and the message that not only do words have power but common phrases have more; the more ingrained in popular culture a phrase is, the more power it has.

Overall, this was an interesting, funny, and magical story for fans and non-fans of fantasy alike! Highly recommended with Fangirl (which is really worth reading first but not totally necessary).
“Sometimes when I’m walking through the dining hall, just saying hello to people, she’ll drag me by my sleeve to hurry me up.
“You have too many friends,” she’ll say.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not possible. And, anyway, I wouldn’t call them all ‘friends.’”
“There are only so many hours in the day, Simon. Two, three people — that’s all any of us have time for.”
“There are more people than that in your immediate family, Penny.”
“I know. It’s a struggle.” 
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (2015) by Ruth Reichl is part memoir, part cookbook -- very similar to many of Nigel Slater's books (all of which I love) -- filled with both stories and recipes.

Following the year after the closure of Gourmet magazine in 2009 (RIP), and using her tweets from that time as the foundation of the story, it was a nice glimpse into what she went through following the abrupt closure of the magazine, and then later through the process of writing this book, and the beginnings of becoming a fiction author.

I liked that she didn't play up the 'sappy' quality of some of her tweets, and seemed to be pretty honest about what she went through and how she felt. I empathized with how personally she took the closure of the magazine as its Editor, and how responsible she felt for not only the readers of the magazine but also the dozens of employees put out of a job so suddenly by its sudden and totally unexpected closure.

And the recipes themselves looked wonderful. Some were complex and involved, but many were simple meals cooked to comfort herself and/or provide for her family. I love these kinds of cookbooks that give insight into not only what the recipe is about, but also the process of coming up with the idea as much as making it. That's the kind of thing that really inspires me!
"Sleepy gray afternoon. Storm blows in: pounding rain. Pasta sizzled in oil. Chile-sparked. Tang of bottarga. Splash of lemon. Awake!" (p. 266)
Keep reading! Beth

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Podcast Series

I promise I won't bombard this blog with posts every time we put an episode up, but I wanted to share that I have recently started podcasting with a colleague. We have started our series Hey! Listen! as part of the Diffle Presents podcast, where Michael and I will be talking all things geek and gamer-related every week. The first episode is up, where we give a bit of an intro about ourselves and our gaming histories. Next week we'll be talking about the original NES specifically, then the week after that, Xbox v. Playstation. We be getting into all things video games, comics, movies, tv shows, and more! Hope you'll join us for this series and all the other great episodes of the Diffle Presents.

Check out the episode here. Be sure to subscribe to new posts on the Diffle Presents page for new episodes of Hey! Listen! every week.

Keep reading, Beth

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger

I'm continuing my goal of reading more graphic novels this year, with one that is fairly unique in its style, story, and artwork. No superheroes here! Rather, Girl in Dior (2015) by Annie Goetzinger is all glamour and glitz rather than action and adventure. 

Filled with beautiful artwork featuring many of Dior's classic designs, this book was visually wonderful. Though I can hardly be considered a fashion expert, I certainly appreciated how pretty the dresses were, and I liked how the story addressed how they were received by the public in both Paris and the US.

At times the story was slightly hard to follow, but some of the strangeness in the text is most likely due to the fact that it was translated from the original French. And I thought it was an interesting choice to write a fictional story about a woman who didn't exist, but who interacted closely with actual people. Overall, this was a very simple, sweet story with beautiful drawings -- well worth the roughly half-hour that it takes to read. 

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Roundtable: Outlander #1-2 by Diana Gabaldon

Time travel into the land of mist and myth

Outlander is very popular here at the DFL; many staff members have read the books and/or watched the recent TV show, and so it is a frequent topic of discussion. I watched the show when it first came out – and loved it – so I've finally decided to dive in to the books themselves. I'll be offering my thoughts on each book in the series as I read them through the rest of this year. Today, I’ll start with the first two books in the series (which to me were really two halves of a self-contained story), with the additional perspectives of three of my lovely colleagues. 

Outlander (1991) and Dragonfly in Amber (1992) together tell the story of the tail end of the Scottish uprising of the mid-1700s, which ended with the Battle of Culloden, from the perspective of Claire – a WWII nurse who accidentally travels back in time from 1945 to 1743 Scotland. The books touch upon many fascinating subjects, both reality – including daily life, health care, and politics in the 18th century (and even to a certain extent, mid-20th century) – and fantasy/sci fi, such as: can events in the past ever be changed, or is history always set in stone? And intertwined throughout is romance, adventure, and intrigue.

I had heard so much about the Outlander series and always felt I should read them, but I’ll confess that the thickness of the books made me stay clear of them for a long time. A couple of summers ago, I caved and started reading the first one. The TV show was coming out and I wanted the visions in my head before Hollywood provided them for me. Before I knew it, the end of August arrived and I had read through the whole series. I was hooked and ready to fly to Scotland.

Call them romance, historical fiction, fantasy, or adventure – the series crosses many genres.  They left me wanting to do a little research on the Battle of Culloden and Scottish history. They left me trying to learn a few words in Gaelic. They left me wondering what I did with my old kilt and instead of thinking ‘Don’t worry’ I found myself thinking ‘Dinna fash.’

They also left me wondering if – given the chance – would I go back in time?  Luckily I don’t have to decide. I can take my 21st century knowledge and live in a Scottish castle. I can learn about medicinal herbs and sleep on a bed of pine needles, but I can do it with electricity, and modern medicine . . . and coffee. . . hot coffee in the morning. I can travel through pages (instead of stones) into the world of romance, loyalty, and honor created by Diana Gabaldon.

Give them a try. If you're also intimidated by the thickness of the books, try the audio. There is nothing like a commute to work while listening to someone profess their love with a Scottish brogue.

I really wanted to like Outlander. It has story elements that I enjoy: a smart and strong female lead, historical fiction, and some magic. But the story just never drew me in and although I am glad that I read this, I didn’t actually like it. It even left me confused, and wondering what about this massively popular story I am not getting.

One common theme that rarely holds my interest is what I think of as the “Too Many Boyfriends” scenario, which is when lots of male characters are lusting after the female protagonist, and a love triangle is part of the main story. I tend to find that dynamic annoying because it seems to be a lazy way for an author to show the importance of a female protagonist. Claire has two husbands, both love her eternally and completely, and she’s also constantly being ogled, commented upon, and pawed by both friendly and antagonistic male characters.

This was also a more violent story than I was expecting, and that bothered me. As someone who really enjoys the Song of Ice and Fire series, I can handle violence in novels. But the violence here was often justified in a way that made me uncomfortable. Jamie beats Claire at one point and she comes to forgive him because he explains that he did it out of love for her. Jamie speaks about the beatings he received from his father as being a sign of love. Claire and Jamie’s whole relationship in general seems to hinge on the fact the he is horribly hurt over and over, and she heals him. Throw in some added baby exposure and bare-handed wolf killing, and it was all too much for me.

There was also an element of gay panic to this story. There is an ancillary gay character who is predatory with a predilection for adolescent men, but who is also written off as a buffoon and an object of ridicule for the other characters. And then, of course, there is Captain Randall (I won’t say too much – spoilers!). Also, the fact that Captain Randall looks exactly like Claire’s other husband, Frank, made me wonder what sort of strange symbolism that was supposed to represent.

So, what am I missing? Why do people love this series? Is it better as a TV show?

I enjoyed Outlander far more than I expected to. Romance novels aren’t really my thing, but the historical element drew me to the series (as well as the urging of several coworkers) and I am so glad that I read them.

At first, I was displeased by the “woman loves two men and has to choose” story arc but Gabaldon made Claire come alive for me and instead of a torrid love story, I saw a woman doing the best she could under extraordinary circumstances. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here but I really loved how Gabaldon took common themes like abduction, rape, and rescue and flipped them. This damsel spent as much time rescuing as being rescued and all characters carried the scars of their encounters. Nothing was easily won or easily forgotten, which contributed to the depths of the characters and my attachment to them. Obviously the time comes when Claire must choose between her two men and I have to admit that I cheered at her choice. In all I was pulled into this book and taken for a ride that I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s worth noting that Lindsey, Suzanne, and I started reading #1 together after the first season of the show aired. Lindsey and Suzanne – neither of whom watched the show before reading the books – both mentioned that they had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at the beginning (one of whom ended up really getting into the series, the other didn’t – I’ll let you guess which is which). But I watched the show first, and had no trouble getting into the story at all. While I don’t usually recommend watching a show or movie before reading the book, in this case I can’t help but wonder if the show helped me get into the book because it was so great. I was impressed once I did read the book how closely the show stuck to the original story. In fact, there were quite a few details in which I thought the show even improved the book, specifically where the it could 'show' something that the book only 'told'.

Overall, I thought that the characters were wonderfully complex, the setting incredibly interesting, the writing was great, and I really appreciated that by the end of #2, almost all the different threads brought up in #1 were resolved, so that none of the specific story lines felt like they dragged out too much, but rather ended in a very satisfactory manner (which of course left an opening for many other adventures in the rest of the series).

While I too was occasionally bothered by what might have been a little bit too much sexual violence for the sake of sexual violence, I did feel that Gabaldon was trying to make a point about what the reality was like for women in the 18th century (and most of history before and even after that). For most of written history (at least in terms of Western / European history), women have been considered the property of their fathers and husbands, and sadly I think it was more common than not for men to take advantage of this. I thought the books did a good job of expressing how anathema that would be to a modern woman, and really helped immerse my mind in the attitudes of the era.

At the end, I was very satisfied with the way that this story (in books #1-2) addressed the fascinating question of whether or not we can change the past, in both large and small ways. While it makes me sad that time travel may always remain science fiction, perhaps it’s for the best, and at least we can always travel to any time period through books, shows, and movies. And, as Karen pointed out, can do so from the comforts of our own heated, clean living rooms with a nice cup of tea and some cookies!

Keep reading! Beth