Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I'm participating in this event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey (be sure to visit her site). Here's what I'll be reading this week:
Finishing Second Chance by Jane Green
Rereading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The December 2011 issue of Travel + Leisure (I'm way behind in my magazine reading)
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
Finishing Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins on audiobook
Listening to Lord of the Flies by William Golding on audiobook

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm participating in this event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey (be sure to visit her site). Here's what I'll be reading this week:

Finishing Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd (It's quite a page-turner)
The December issue of Southern Living
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
Listening to Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins on audiobook

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published on: February 6, 2012
Page Count: 288
Genre: Adult fiction
My Reading Format: Advanced reading PDF by Netgalley
Available Formats: Hardcover

My Review: 

When recently single Charlotte Kinder reaches the breaking point due to the complicated family dynamics among her ex-husband, their two children and his new wife, Charlotte needs to escape reality. She finds a list of goals she wrote earlier in her life of things to do before turning 30. One of them is to read Jane Austen's six novels. When her children head to their father's for the weekend she does just that and is left wondering what it would be like to be an Austen heroine. To find out, she books a two-week stay at Austenland, an English estate where immersing oneself in everything Regency sounds like the break Charlotte needs. Upon the guests' arrival, they are met with their potential love interests (paid actors) and a mystery that must be solved before the ball on the last night of the vacation. Not only will Charlotte take the helm in solving this mystery, but she uncovers another, which is fact rather than fiction, and shows the dark side of this world where tourists and actors play at an Austen-themed life.

Charlotte proves herself to be both a very human and very hilarious main character. Her struggles to stay in character is difficult considering all the self-dialogue she's involved in during nearly every waking moment. Some of the chapters in this book give readers background information on Charlotte's marriage, her life as a mom and successful businesswoman, and her struggles to define her relationship with her ex-husband while balancing the single life. The other chapters involve Charlotte's time in Austenland and the clever way she solves not one but two mysteries. Though I am regularly amused by the books I read, few books actually make me laugh aloud, but this one did. And, most satisfactorily, by the end of the book she's not only found a mate in true Austen style, but found herself as well.

Note: Hale's 2007 novel, Austenland, is being made into a movie.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jimmy Carter Teaches Sunday School

Back in the fall I traveled back to Plains, Georgia, for my second visit to this teeny tiny town (population 683). On my first visit I'd heard that I should come back some weekend when Jimmy Carter would be teaching Sunday School at his home church, Maranatha Baptist (check out the website for Carter's teaching schedule). As Plains is tiny, Carter's church is small too, yet the sanctuary was at capacity that day (it seemed that the majority were visitors). While I was in town I toured a few other places in town and at the museum in the old Plains High School building I purchased a copy of Carter's 1992 book on his first political campaign in 1962 for a seat in the state senate. It's called Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age. As this is an election year and things are heating up, I figured it would be a good time to move this book to the top of my reading pile.

That Sunday Carter spent a few minutes of his Sunday School hour talking about the good work that's happening out of The Carter Center in Atlanta. He talked about his travels around the world (his travel schedule would wear out someone half his age) for the purposes of making health care accessible in hard to reach places and encouraging fair elections around the world. Then he turned his Sunday School lesson to one right out of the Bible. He used parts of 1 Corinthians 4 and talked about being a good steward of the mysteries of God.

It would have been a good lesson for anyone in the public eye representing the masses to hear. Now that I've read the book I picked up that weekend I realize how much Carter wanted to properly represent the people in those rural southwestern Georgia counties, and how advocating for his friends and neighbors became a calling that he wanted to do the right way. I also wondered if his experience with his own first election in 1962 influenced his work for fair elections in other parts of the world since he left presidential office. In the book, he and his team uncover unfair and illegal election practices going on at one of the polling places in a county he's hoping to represent. The book outlines the legal battle that ensued, and ends with his swearing in at the state senate.

No matter how you vote or what you believe in politically, it's always good to hear a story about a politician striving to do the right thing. It was an interesting read. As I've only been a Georgia citizen for about five years, it was particularly nice to get this back story on our former president.

Here are a few photos from the weekend:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy 200th birthday to Charles Dickens

A week ago marked the 200th birthday of British author Charles Dickens. I was reminded of my visit to London's Charles Dickens Museum, which is at 48 Doughty Street in a home Dickens lived in with his family after he had had some success with his earlier novels. On February 7 to mark the occasion, Price Charles and his wife made a visit, which you can read about here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

More on War Horse

Here's a link to a USA Today article on War Horse. The movie is out right now 29 years after the book was first published. The young adult novel is now on USA Today's Best-Selling Books list. This is one of the rare cases that I liked the play better than the book. I liked the movie but the production was much, much better!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Parnassus Books

A few months ago I read Ann Patchett's wonderful novel, Bel Canto, and discovered about that time that this author was due to open an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee called Parnassus Books. I blogged about it then but thought it would be worth bringing up again. Garden and Gun, one of the South's best magazines, featured it in the December 2011/January 2012 (I'm a little behind in my magazine reading). I'm just dying to get to Nashville and browse the shelves at Parnassus.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Top 100 Books of 2011

A list of the top 100 best-selling books of 2011 according to USA Today. I've only read 17 from the list, but quite a few more are ones I hope to read this year.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two Georgia Writers Mentioned in Magazine

Two Georgia authors, Flannery O'Connor and Margaret Mitchell (so, two of my favorites as well) were both mentioned in an article in America Magazine about homes of Catholic authors. Take a look.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A History of Blogging

NC State University is hosting History Weekend on campus February 17 and 18. One of the events is a lecture on the history of blogging given by Dr. Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library. According to NC State's College of Humanities and Social Sciences blog, Darnton will "share how the bits and pieces of written material from years past were our ancestors’ ways of blogging. Darnton will take audience members back to 18th century blogging in France and lead them through blogging history up to our present time." For more information on this event, visit CHASS' blog.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Recent Read: The Mystery of Lewis Carroll

My alma mater, Meredith College, has many wonderful traditions, and one of my favorite of those that happens every four years was recently. Eighty-eight years ago the campus was quarantined and to keep the students entertained, the professors got together to put on the play, Alice in Wonderland. The idea since has been for the professors to perform the play again once in each college generation. I saw it my junior year, missed it in 2008 and was determined to make the 2012 performance. I was able to make it happen, sit with friends and former coworkers and bring my five year-old niece with me, who loved it.

I've always loved the Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll, and listened to them both on my iPod last year for the first time in a while. To celebrate I read a book I bought used from Better World Books several months ago: The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created Alice in Wonderland by Jenny Woolf. Reading it to coincide with seeing the play seemed ideal. The book came out last year.

On my trip to London in 2010 I saw Carroll's manuscript that later became Alice in Wonderland called Alice's Adventures Underground. It was illustrated and one of my favorite things I saw in that gallery filled with wonderful manuscripts. My friend from the trip and I commented then about Carroll's questionable reputation when it came to his relationship with young girls. This idea has been rumor for years, and according to Woolf's book, it's due to the fact that we no longer consider Victorian ideals to be part of our lives. Yes, things change. So, I'm glad to have read The Mystery of Lewis Carroll so I can get a clearer picture of this interesting author and find out more about what has been skewed over the years.

For starters, Woolf maintains that we can't, as citizens of the 21st century, judge Carroll according to the rules that govern our society; we must judge him according to the rules of the time in which he lived. I realized as I read the book that I don't think I've really done much reading before on Carroll's life, so I'm glad my first read about him appears to be balanced and well-researched. Woolf's book is different from other accounts of Carroll's life out there in that she was able to explore Carroll's financial records, something that's never been analyzed before. She also considered a letter that lives at the University of Colorado-Boulder that sheds light on one of his personal relationships.

I enjoyed this book, and for a fresh take on Carroll's life, I'd recommend the book to anyone who loves Alice in Wonderland too.