Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Monday. What are you reading?

This event is hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Here's what I'll be reading this week:

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker for a book review coming soon
Starting The Lincoln Lawyer on my iPod
Starting The Finkler Question in the car
Reading The Things They Carried and A Separate Peace because I'll soon be assigning them to my class

Happy reading!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Recent Read: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Over Christmas I got in a little extra reading time and got to read a book I'd been looking forward to: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap. I enjoy reading athletes' stories but didn't know much about Owens' accomplishments. Also, I didn't learn anything about the 1936 Berlin Olympics when I visited the city (but I learned plenty about other things) and was curious. Not only did I get what I needed to know about Owens and Hitler's manipulation of and propaganda for these Olympic games, several other things I've recently read also popped up here.

American Ambassador to Germany William Dodd got box seats during the Berlin Olympics to watch Owens run. (In 2012 I read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, an account of Dodd's time with his family in Berlin between the World Wars.) Author Thomas Wolfe sat with him in his box watching Owens win his three gold medals in three events (I visited Wolfe's Asheville home a few years ago and have just moved You Can't Go Home Again closer to the top of my reading stack). Also, there was mention of the eugenics programs in effect while Hitler was in power. Unfortunately, the same practices were also happening in some states in America, and exploring the program and its practice in North Carolina after World War II (when many states put an end to these programs) was something I spent a lot of time studying, contemplating and writing about in graduate school. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New year, less clutter

Last week I read Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter Find Your Life by Gail Blanke. How much did I need this! It's the new year and I'm feeling the need to keep my house, and particularly my office, more organized this year. In the book, Blanke gives you the step-by-step, room-by-room instructions to clean out your house, followed by removing other unnecessary clutter in the form of old expectations, failures, relationships and other mental clutter. I'm planning to at least tackle getting the house together. (I figure the business goals I've set for the year probably suffice for the other.) So far I've cleaned out costume jewelry I haven't worn in too long and the master closet. I've got a bunch of stuff for Goodwill now. And, I can actually close my jewelry box! Up next: the bathroom cabinets.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Modern Sherlock Holmes Books: Love!

I've recently read two modern-day Sherlock Holmes novels, both of which I enjoyed, but especially The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. I saved The Sherlockian for my London trip back in the fall and it kept me occupied during most of my down time that week. It was quite a page-turner, and I got a surprise at the end that I never saw coming. I love when that happens. I was enjoying it so much that I picked up The House of Silk in a Waterstone's in London and recently finished that. While I wasn't as enthralled with it as I was The Sherlockian, I really enjoyed both of these modern stories with familiar characters.

Two years ago in London I visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street. It was cheesy enough that I enjoyed it but didn't feel the need to go back and see it again this past trip. I did get to meet Dr. Watson on my visit. Though he was certainly no Jude Law, he was a fun character who wanted to be in pictures with all the tourists.

(Photo by Melyssa)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Published by: Dutton Adult
Published on: January 8, 2013
Page Count: 320
Genre: Historical fiction
My Reading Format: Advanced Reading Copy for Kindle through NetGalley
Available Formats: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD, Audible book

My Review:

Sisters Grace and Honor Bright leave their English village and board a ship to the United States in 1850 so Grace can marry a fellow Quaker from their hometown who has moved to Ohio. On the way Grace contracts yellow fever and doesn't survive the journey. Honor continues on since the slow mail service might mean Honor herself will have to give Adam, Grace's betrothed, the news of her death. Honor meets new people along the way as she contemplating the differences between the English life she's used to and her new American one. There's Donovan the sometimes-creepy, rough-around-the-edges slave hunter who takes a liking to Honor. Donovan's sister Belle Mills, a milliner, takes Honor in for a few days and becomes her truest friend even though their spiritual lives are vastly different from one another. Mrs. Reed, though her shell is a hard one to crack, becomes a friend to Honor as later the two work together to assist slaves escaping from the South through Ohio and on to Canada. Adam Cox, Grace's fiance, and his sister-in-law Abigail briefly take Honor in until she makes other arrangements. Finally, those other arrangements present themselves about six weeks after Honor's arrival in Faithwell, Ohio, when she marries Jack Haymaker and joins his family on their farm just outside of town.

I enjoyed reading about Honor and how she navigated a new life that felt very uncertain. She remained true to her Quaker faith even when that meant going against her husband's family's wishes, or against the accepted culture in her town. She spends much of her time during this book feeling unsettled and without purpose until she finds a way to help Mrs. Reed and slaves who are escaping to the north to freedom. When the Haymakers forbid Honor to assist slaves, Honor has a choice to make.

I have always enjoyed Chevalier's stories (particularly The Girl with the Pearl Earring), and her latest didn't disappoint. I think many readers will be able to relate to Honor and her need to help people and do what's right, but all of us don't have Honor's bravery.

Four out of five stars

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Monday. What are you reading?

This event is hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Here's what I'll be doing this week:

Finishing Tracy Chevalier's latest, The Last Runaway, and posting a review
Getting familiar with the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook (exciting, right?)
Starting my next review book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Reading Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find your Life (my office is a mess right now. I need to fix that)
And I'm waaaaay behind in my fun magazine reading

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out With the Old, In With the New

I'm in the process of putting away all my Christmas decorations and returning the house to the way it is most of the year. Here are a few pictures I snapped of my literary ornaments:

 Max reading Where the Wild Things Are

 William Shakespeare

 Henry VIII with Scarlett O'Hara

 More from Where the Wild Things Are

A bookstore

Happy new year!