Posts Tagged With: Non Fiction

Winter Reading List 2017

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Finally a blog entry, right?  Work has gotten insane on me.  One of our own went out on disability to get her knee replaced (surgery went well, and recovery is too – yay!), but we’re all doing a little backfilling to pitch in. Couple that with all the beginning of the year crazy and the cold Brian shared that just won’t go away, and it’s a miracle I’ve been able to write at all.

Which is to say that blog entries might be sparser (once a week and irregular?) until March.  We’ll see how it goes.

It’s more than time for the winter reading list. The students came back last Monday and I’m officially late.  So, here’s all the things I’ve read since the fall, and what I thought of them.  I know… I did say there would be less book reviews in the new year.  I’m still mostly holding to that.  But I also said the Reading List was something that would stay.  This one wins the award for most books ever (if that’s an actual award) with 53.

I hope you find something to like in this batch.

 

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean – I’m basically in love with this woman and consider her books to be the best thing ever.  I have never seen Informed Consent in a romance novel, and not only does MacLean do it, she does it so it’s SUPER hot.  Basic rule for all the MacLean books that follow?  READ THEM NOW.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Beautifully written, but I just couldn’t get into it.  For some reason, I just felt like I had read this book before.  It didn’t offer me anything new.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – Again, a very pretty book with not a lot of exciting things to offer.  I decided not to continue with the series after this one.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – A runaway in the wrong (or right, if you like super hot guys) carriage trope, only this one is done remarkably well.

A Scot In The Dark by Sarah MacLean – It’s like if the naked celebrity selfie problem went 17th century on us.  Crazy well done.  And who doesn’t love a lady who ultimately saves herself?

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean – A marriage of convenience novel in an illicit gaming hell.  He’s trying to keep her “pure.” Sign me up, please!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean – Another in the gaming hell series, and just as good as the first.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean – This one might actually be my favorite of all the Lord of Scoundrels series.  The lady the duke supposedly killed turns up alive, and of course sparks fly.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery – A comfort read that I’ve memorized parts of, and don’t read often.  It’s such a gem of a book, and I think I got more from it this time than I did as a teen.  She’s saying important things about women and relationships in this one.

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean – OH so good.  I love the secret that is the premise of this book, though I won’t spoil it for those who are planning to read the others.  And who doesn’t like a newspaperman hero?  I ALWAYS do.  My FAVORITE of the Lord of Scoundrels.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I’m probably a horrible person, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I think it’s because Kvothe annoyed the CRAP out of me, and I didn’t want to spend any time with him.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede – I don’t know why I keep returning to this book, because it really isn’t my favorite – it’s too long a timeline and too rambling to be About anything.  But Wrede’s world and alt-history is SO fascinating.  That’s what I go back for, I guess.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – This hilarious book is all letters back and forth as the two girls confront separate problems in the country and in town that ultimately end up being related.  Combines Wrede’s awesome alt-history world with regency romance and is perfection.  Bonus points?  It reads like it was fun to write.

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan – I think this book is for people who aren’t history-buffs and totally crazy about the Regency.  I learned a little bit, but not as much as someone else might have.  Also, I felt kinda “meh” about it.  I struggled to get through it, though ultimately was glad I did.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare – A couple of mystery lovers tryst in a room that both the Hero and Heroine happen to also be in, and they’re blamed.  Now they have to get married, which seems like a hardship but really isn’t after all.  It was definitely a solid novel, but not a favorite or anything.

That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran – It’s a marriage of convenience novel, where the hero needs the heroine’s money to keep a hospital he runs open.  I read it all the way through, but ultimately didn’t feel it was great.

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas – I actually hated this book.  It was basically the plot of “Splash” in 18th century form, but it got a little rapey and awful in there.  I wouldn’t recommend.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – Oh, so great.  The heroine is trying to pry her brother away from the hero’s terrible influence.  She’s super-smart, he’s fairly oblivious, and things are basically perfect.  I would 100% recommend this novel.

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase – Love this novel, too. It’s an already betrothed but fell for someone else totally unsuitable trope, where the hero falls for his fiancé’s dressmaker.  Unique, though, because there’s genuine affection between the hero and his fiancé, just not romantic love.  So great, I kept picking up her books.

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase – Dressmakers #2, and it features a delightful heroine who sneaks into all the Ton parties to report on the latest fashions.  So great.  Would recommend.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese O’Neil – Totally hilarious and disgusting (in a good way) in every way.  Ever wanted to be a romance heroine?  This will cure you.  And leave you laughing.

The Young Blood by Erin Satie – I loved this book a bunch.  It was well written, and the murder scene was horrifying while still serving the story.  It lost a few points for me for deus ex machina balloon rides, but all in all I would recommend.

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas – I was out of stuff to read, and so I DID go back to the Bow Street series, despite my reservations.  This one was better than the last, but still not that great.

Secrets from the Eating Lab by Tracy Mann – Such a cathartic and helpful read.  I’ve read a ton of books and evidence about how diets don’t help, but Mann takes it farther and tells you how to live healthfully at any size.  Finally a course of action that won’t kill me!

Romancing the Beat, Story Structure for Romance by Gwen Hayes – Very helpful as I was planning my Nano novel this year, which was a romance.  And a quick read, which was also nice.

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – Oh, I love this man so much.  I got a little bogged down in the section that’s all commentary on comics and things because I don’t read that genre, but otherwise it was magical to read his thoughts on things.

Red Rose by Mary Balogh –   I hated this book completely, was 100% turned off by the way she treated her disabled heroine, and didn’t finish it.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – I loved this book so much that I started my own project this year.  I’ve almost totally dropped it 3 months in, but I did change several significant things that seem to be really helping me feel better about myself.

Geoducks are for Lovers by Daisy Prescott – I mean, it was the usual contemporary beach house romance, complete with wishy-washy reason for the couple to stay apart.  But it was well written, at least.

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe – While I really loved the tension between the hero and heroine, I also felt like the book was missing something.  Maybe because it’s #4 and they’re not as stand-alone as everyone hoped?

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt – The plot was pretty great, really, as was the hero and heroine traveling through the slums after a secret.  I think I can’t give it full marks, though, because of a needless almost-rape.

His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander – Uh, no.  This book annoyed the CRAP out of me because there seemed to be no reason at all for the two not to at least schtup each other, and they didn’t.  And it was repetitive.  I read about 75% of the way through before I gave up in disgust.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig  – Maybe the best Christmas book I read this year.  An intrigue with puddings, silly and not too smart but still drool-worthy men, and much Christmas goodness.  Hot, but no sex.

Oh Horrid Night edited by Amber Newburry – This is the book I’m in!  I had a fun time reading everyone else’s stuff, which was oh so creative and very creepy.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Nora Roberts – it was fine, but nothing to write home about.  The kids were cute, the romance just fine.  I have nothing to criticize.  But, I also have nothing to praise, really.

Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams – I actually liked this book quite a lot.  The fellow in the relationship was a pastor, and so I thought it might be sickly religious.  Not so, though.  And very solid, with plenty of hotness and a story line that seemed natural.

A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield – A sweet holiday romance in which the spunky and awesome heroine falls for the father of the house, who’s mad at himself because he thinks she’s engaged to his son.  Sweet.

A Family for Christmas by Noelle Adams – It was written well, but I felt like this missed the mark for me.  They were both missionaries, and for some reason I didn’t feel like I really identified with them, though the writing and story were both solid.

Twas The Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries – A cute and steamy novel about a man and his estranged mother.  The guy falls for his mother’s companion after she tricks them into reconciling.  He was a little too creepy at first, but I ended up liking it.

What A Lady Needs for Christmas by Grace Burrowes – This was one of my FAVORITE Christmas novels this year. It features a Scot, a train escape, an awesome wardrobe, and a precocious daughter.  I didn’t want it to end.

Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham – The heroine is an ex-con and a train engineer, and watching her story unfold was great.  Especially because her brother and the hero are such funny guys.  Plenty of Christmas goodness, too.  Also, the ugliest sweater EVER.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan – A VERY cute tale that made me want to at least explore reading the rest of the series.  Plenty of skiing and coziness, along with a mean mother and a teen to adore.

The Duke and Miss Christmas by Amelia Grey – I got REALLY angry with the hero in the first chapter and refused to read the rest of it.  The verdict is a resounding No.

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – Oh, I love this book so much.  I was skeptical because of the title, but the hero and heroine are both so quippy, and they both have a hilarious posse of friends, and it’s hot all the way through.  Yes please.

Once Upon a Highland Christmas by Lecia Cornwall – Another one of my favorites this year.  The villagers are such well-written characters, and I loved the Lady and Lord, and the way gossip traveled.  They both stubbornly held to marrying others beyond the point of reason, but I still think it worked.  Would recommend.

The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron – This was an interesting read, and I think it was good for me.  The difference between ranking and linking situations, and how we rank when we should link sometimes, has been very helpful.

A Bad Boy for Christmas by Jessica Lemon – I was not really a fan of this one.  Eventually things get kinda sweet, but the hero in the beginning is a little creepy about his need to “protect” the heroine and it never quite recovered enough for me.

How A Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe – This book had all the good parts of an amazing novel, but it somehow didn’t grip me.  I found my attention wandering even as I enjoyed it.  I recommend?  I gave it 4 stars on Amazon.

Seducing Mr. Knightley by Maya Rodale – downtrodden and shy advice columnist known as Dear Abigail reverses things and asks her readers for advice on how to seduce her crush.  Which happens to be her boss.  Nothing to do with Jane Austen (closer to Never Been Kissed, the movie), but features a newspaperman.  Yum.

Grin and Beard it by Penny Reid – It’s the 2nd book in the series, but it’s OH so good and can stand alone.  National Park ranger and movie star fall in love.  She has an amazing career, is Latina, and also a size 14 and totally sexy.  So is he, bear-trapping and all.  It sounds cheesy, but it’s really not.  It’s perfection.

Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid – I read the book above and HAD to read the entire series.  This one is technically part of the “Knitting In The City” series, but it features their sister and is also considered Winston Brothers 0.5.  A sad book since it features the death of the MC’s mother, but also a beautiful love story.  And you HAVE to love that gaggle of friends.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid – The 2nd book in the series.  Two hometown haters fall in love when the girl mistakes the guy for his twin and things get hot.  Full of sassiness, too.  I almost said this one was my favorite so far, but I don’t think I can, really.  It’s impossible to pick.

Beard Science by Penny Reid – I was worried about this one because I don’t really think of Cletus as being romantic.  But he definitely is.  And this book may be the funniest yet because the heroine is so great.  She’s smart but sheltered, so it’s an interesting combination with Cletus’ slyness.

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Winter Reading List, 2016

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I’ve felt like it’s been officially spring here for a few weeks now, but it’s now officially official as of the end of last week. The winter quarter is over, finals and all.  Which means… it is time for the Winter reading list.  It’s shorter than normal, partly because I just did this in January.  Partly because when I do a lot of my own writing, I tend to do less reading.  And partly because life has been a little crazy lately as Brian and I spend all our weekends planting out the front beds and  waging a gopher war in the back yard.  All my raised beds are lined in chicken wire now.  So there. (crossing my fingers that holds them.)

The time has come.  Here’s everything I have read since January and what I thought of it:

  • The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchet – Oh, I don’t know. It wasn’t bad.  It felt more like it was done for funny than actually because it had a good plot arc or compelling story.  It was funny, but I quickly got impatient with Rincewind and his inane tourist.
  • Good Poems: American Places, by Garrison Keillor – Left me melancholy and nostalgic in the best way. I would recommend wholeheartedly, and I don’t like poetry usually.
  • English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs – Not what I was expecting, and not really new at all (despite author claims). Feels like the French stuff rehashed.  It was well written, but didn’t offer more than other standards in the same genre.
  • Desperate Duchesses, by Eloisa James – I enjoyed it, as I do all of James’ stuff. There’s a reason I’m on a quest to read everything she’s ever written.  The heroine in this one was a bit silly, but not as silly as some I’ve read.  And it all worked in the end to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Aspects of the Novel, by E. M. Forster – You know, I got just as much out of the beginning of this book as ever, but got super tired of slogging through old novel excerpts in the end of it for not as much analysis as I’d like. Great for the information, but definitely work to read.
  • Pippa’s Cornish Dream, by Debbie Johnson – Meh. It was fine, but it wasn’t anything unusual.  I liked the fact that the heroine was so spunky.  I think the real reason it didn’t work for me is because I didn’t like the guy much.
  • Emily Climbs, by L. M. Montgomery – I LOVE Emily and her cats and her writing. A favorite of mine, that I’ve read more times than I can count.  It makes me feel like the writing struggle is real, and surmountable with enough work.
  • Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery – Every time I read this, I am less of a mess. I mean, Emily really makes a lot of the strife she suffers for herself.  Still, it’s not an easy read, though it’s beautiful.
  • Clarkesworld Year 3 Anthology, by Neil Clarke – I mean, they’re well written with some beautiful and heartbreaking ideas. But I realized that I just am not a fan of short stories.  Oh the irony, right, as I try to write them?  I know.
  • Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman – My new favorite thing (!!!). It’s like my Deadlands game came to life and featured a super awesome heroine who sold her soul to the devil and now channels his magic to protect the territory.  Best thing EVER.  I’m sad the other 2 books aren’t out yet, because I’d get them in a heartbeat.  I can’t wait until October.

As always, happy reading!

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Interterm Reading List, 2016

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I’m in a weird place with the seasonal reading list.  My other school was on semesters, and the students just got back.  That means it should be time for a winter interterm reading list, right?  But the new school I’m working at is on the quarter system and it’s all wonky.  The students are already back.  This means I’m all fouled up.

So… I will post the interterm list and then another when the quarter ends, I guess?  We’ll see.  I like using this system because it’s so easy to figure out when I should post things.  End of semester?  Do a book list.  Nice and simple.  We’ll just have to make it work on the quarter system.

Here are the books I’ve read so far this December/January:

  • Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Eloisa James – a little bit farciful for my tastes, but I felt a palpable relief at getting into James’ writing after having read such terrible Christmas books before this one. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s doing it the fun way.
  • A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh – I actually liked this one quite a bit. The premise was original and the family was hilarious.
  • Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp – So fascinating. I love hearing about the lives of the von Trapps, and this one was from a very different perspective of the ones I’ve heard before.  Agathe remembers much more about their early childhood and there are amazing pictures. Way worth it if you’re a Sound of Music fan.
  • Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede – The character development was wishy-washy and it read like a D&D Campaign. Sometimes I don’t mind that with Wrede’s Lyra novels, but this time it bothered me a bit.  I think I would have appreciated it more if the story line and characters were stronger.  Still a solid book, though.  She writes well.
  • Much Ado About You by Eloisa James – Ah, and now we move onto romance novels with embarrassing names. Good book, though.  Interesting premise, I loved the relationship between all the sisters, and I couldn’t at first tell who the hero would be.  That’s a first for romance novels for me.
  • Kiss Me Anabelle by Eloisa James – Continuation of the 1st book, and still almost as good as ever although it does feature a stopover in a hovel that I think could have been skipped. Even though Anabelle is the heroine, Imogen sort of steals the show for a while.  I didn’t mind.
  • The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James – Finally an Imogen novel, and it’s as amazing as you would think it would be. Also bonus points because you have no idea at first who she will get together with.  She’s such a spitfire.
  • Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James – I think that of the 4 Essex sisters, Josie is most like me. This book had lots of the fairy tale about it, too, so that was nice.  I think this one might have been my favorite of the 4.
  • Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay – I read Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly last year and fell in love with her writing.  This one is just as compelling as you watch Lizzy and Jane figure out their relationship, watch Lizzy fall back in love with cooking, and get to care about all the other patients at the clinic.  It seemed more likely than Knightly, too.
  • Faking It by Elisa Lorello – Even if the writing wasn’t overly telling and the premise silly, I would have been mad at this book. It commits the carnal romance novel sin of not getting the guy and the girl together at the end.  She gets together with a different guy (who, while very nice, is NOT THE RIGHT GUY).  No, just no.
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell – My new favorite author. (!!!) Vowell was the voice of The Incredibles’ Violet, and is obsessed with all things macabre American History. She’s hilarious, makes the greatest connections, and throws a ton of good history in for good measure.  I’ll be reading everything she’s ever written, please.
  • It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray – I know it was a short story, but I’m not really sure what changed for the Leta between the first and the last except that she was left wholly alone at the end of it. Your understanding of her situation changed, but she didn’t.  Still a good read, with Bray’s amazing writing to pull you right in.
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck – OH, so good.  I am an Oregon Trail junkie, have played the game a bazillion times, am a bit familiar with the history of it all, and have fallen in love with this book.  I desperately want to learn to drive a mule team and take them over the trail to Oregon.  Please say I can? Also, this has spawned much other reading.  I have Narcissa Whitman’s letters coming on Interlibrary Loan soon.
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Book Reviews: Colonial Non-Fiction Favorites

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I usually try to keep the History Nerd glee under wraps, but I’ve been listening to this podcast on the way to work titled “Revolutions.” Of course I skipped right to my favorite one, the American Revolution.  I’ve been nerding out on Brian about it ever since, because I think the guy gets everything right but sometimes forgets to mention small nuances that matter much.  Like with the Townshend Act… colonists weren’t just pissed because Britain was taxing them.  They were pissed because Britain was taxing them on goods it was illegal to make themselves.

You see?  You get me going…

I’ll admit that I haven’t read as much about the revolution as I probably should.  I’ve never read 1776, for instance.  But I do voraciously read all sorts of stuff from the colonial period. In another world, in another place, I would really have loved to be a career Colonial Historian.  I’ve even delved into some of the primary source stuff.  It’s totally different than you would imagine it to be from all the myths you were fed as children.  Even a college American History course doesn’t always get at the meat of it all.  I recommend a lot of fiction on this blog, but below I’m listing four non-fiction books that changed the way I thought about Colonial America.  Because once I’m on a history kick, I want to STAY on a history kick.   (I’m just gonna pretend you’re also into this stuff…)


Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is a great overview of the pilgrim experience that is easier to read than most non-fiction books and just fascinating.  I say overview, but that might be deceiving.  It delves deeper than generalities by giving you a sense of who these people were, mistakes and all.  It also takes you farther than most pilgrim histories, right into the pivotal conflict of King Phillips War.  Philbrick explores the attitudes of the pilgrims, but also of their children and the children of Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief whose help was probably the only reason the early colony survived.

I’ve seen a bunch of different histories that attempt to do this same thing, but I don’t think that any of them have quite the complexity of this one, while still maintaining clarity.  If you’re new to pilgrim history, Mayflower is the definitive volume.

A few things surprised me in this book.  First was the way Massasoit used the pilgrim alliance to secure power for himself in the region.  We think of the Wampanoags as being these benevolent people who could not watch the pilgrims starve, (Samoset and Squanto teaching them to hunt eel and plant corn, anyone?  “Welcome Englishmen?”).  The reality was much more complicated, and to a lot of extents more equal.  The Wampanoags were giving something, yes.  But they were getting something as well.  They went from small and bullied tribe to the most powerful tribe in the region over this alliance.

The other thing I found surprising was how nuts the pilgrims were.  Again, we think of these grandfatherly men going into God’s wilderness to create the City on A Hill.  And they did go to America with the hopes that they could have religious freedom from the Church of England.  The thing you don’t realize is that they were just as fanatical about it as the people they left behind – no room for anything other than Puritanism in Plymouth colony.  They also often overreacted in bloody, bloody ways when relations with the locals weren’t going as they preferred.

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laura Thatcher Ulrich

Ulrich unearthed the diary of Martha Ballard in a local library, and created this great book exploring what her life was like as a rural Midwife in colonial Maine.  Ulrich’s New England is a bit more built-up than Philbrick’s.  It’s has information about medicine at the time, colonial understandings of communicable disease, and the colonial legal system (Martha’s husband wasn’t the best sort of guy).  It can be a bit of a slog, since Martha’s English is far from the modern standard and chapters start with snippets from her diary.  But it’s worth it to get through, and if you need to you can skip the diary excerpts.  Ulrich does a great job of quoting from them and expounding on why they’re important later in the chapters.

What surprised me most about this book was the deep connection of neighbors to each other.  I think of colonial Maine as being this bleak and unpopulated place, but there was a lot of help and a lot of camaraderie among the people who were there.  It was not the uninhabited wilderness I pictured.  What I found especially interesting was the birthing practices.  I guess having children while sitting was the norm back then – usually on a neighbor’s lap if the midwife didn’t own a birthing chair.  That kind of closeness is something I couldn’t even fathom experiencing today.  What also got me was the massive amount of work running a colonial farm could be.  Martha is only able to run around and midwife because she has older children to do most of the housework for her, and that housework is INVOLVED.

Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims, by David LIndsay

Lindsay looks into the life of his ancestor, Mayflower passenger Richard Moore, and finds a strange story.  Most pilgrim stories focus on the Puritan passengers, but there were non-puritans who made the trip too.  Moore is one of these.  Not only is it interesting to see the story from that perspective, but Moore’s father tore him from his life with his adulterer mother, sending him the only place she could never reach him (spoiler: it’s the New World).  It’s not only a crazy-awesome soap opera story, it’s an interesting look into the England they all left behind to make the journey.  Not only that, but Moore became a well-known ship captain in the area, leaving room for a wealth of merchanting information.

The most impressive thing for me in this is the England Moore leaves behind.  It’s after the Renaissance, you would think the world must be progressive somehow, but in many ways it all feels like the middle ages rehashed.  There are definite nods to landed gentry being the most important, and to them living a life so separate from the farm communities around them.  It makes you see the contrast between American and England so much more clearly – and how in many ways American was really brutal even if it was freeing.

I have seen fisherman perspectives, and trapper perspectives, but Moore also lived in parts of the country that weren’t as affected by native attacks, and he was a merchant with a large cargo ship who also traveled to the West Indies.  That was a new perspective for me as well.  Interesting all around.

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England,  by Carol F. Karlsen

This book focuses on how witch trials were more about wealth and forcing women to conform to societal norms than they were about actual Puritan hysteria.  There’s a wealth of information about relationships and marriage practices in the books.  In order to get Karlesn’s argument, you do have to understand the social hierarchy of women in Colonial America, and she devotes a bunch of time to this.  Women’s studies and colonials?  My favorite thing ever!  Karlsen makes a compelling argument, too, showing that it was usually women with wealth and power who weren’t quite conforming the way everyone liked that were accused of witchcraft.

This book occupies that sort of middle period where things were built up in the colonies and fairly urban in places, but it was still a frontier with a lot of freedom from laws and dependency on neighbors and community.  It’s an interesting time that isn’t covered as often, part of the same time that the Moore book covers.  That’s in its favor, too.  What I think struck me most is how relations between people haven’t changed much.  The rules that govern those relationships certainly have, but the feelings behind them, and the way they play out within the economic structure of society, are still the same.

All links are Amazon Affiliate links.  Happy Reading!!

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Book Review: Pioneer Girl

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Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder & Pamela Smith Hill:

I am a Laura Ingalls Wilder nut, of course.  I mean, anything pioneer and it’s probably my favorite thing.  Oregon Trail game?  Check.  Sewing a quilt?  Check.  Conestoga wagons and horses or oxen? Count me in.  Heck, I’ll even churn butter.  For a limited amount of time (let’s not get nuts).

So when I found out that the South Dakota Historical Society was putting out the original, adult version of Wilder’s novel?  I went a little crazy.  I’ve been following their blog for years while they researched the annotations, and it’s been fascinating.  I tried to pre-order a couple of times but it was a complicated system.  Then, the book came out and sold out of its small print run almost immediately.  Because it was being distributed by the South Dakota Historical Society Press, it wasn’t something I could run down to Barnes and Noble and grab, even if it wasn’t a scarce commodity.  While The Frugal Frigate (my local indie bookstore) has a GREAT selection, they don’t stock many adult books.  There is no e-book version.

And then I walked into the bookshop in Damariscotta, ME, and there it was in all its painted glory.  After picking my jaw up off the floor and then drooling on it, I had to buy it.

It’s been an interesting read.  It’s not what I expected it to be, but in many ways it’s so much more than what I expected.  First of all, it’s the VERY first draft of her manuscript, before her daughter started to help her edit it.  There are at least three other versions, but they elected to print the first version with the idea that it was the most pure.  Wilder’s natural prose is vibrant, but the manuscript is definitely a first draft.  I tells, it doesn’t go into enough detail, and it finds vagueness more than it finds concrete facts.  This last thing is somewhat remedied by the annotations, but there’s only so much the annotations can do for the rest.  Still, it’s a fascinating narrative.  If you’ve read “The First Four Years,” it sort of reminds me of that in style. Only it’s so much more racy.  They didn’t lie when they talked about how much more this one holds in atmosphere and tone, something you don’t get from the Little House books themselves.

The footnotes are so vast and varied that it seems daunting to get through them all.  It was also a bit of a trick to figure out how to read them along with the text.  In places there are two to three pages of notes for every page of the manuscript.  I finally found that reading a page of the manuscript and then going back and reading only the footnotes for that page was best.  It takes a while.  Much longer than I’m used to, and non-fiction typically takes me longer anyway.

So, did I like it?  At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the book.   I know this is blasphemy, but I didn’t start liking Wilder’s Little House books until about “By The Shores of Silver Lake,” when the girls grow up a bit and are able to express wants and needs, not just play and work.  I felt the same about this book.  I didn’t start enjoying it until they moved from Walnut Grove the first time.  Then it got CRAZY.  I mean, the wives being led around the house by their hair, shootings in the saloon, robbers tying people up kind of crazy.   I’m all on board now, and dying to find out what happens next.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through.  If you can find it, it’s 100% worth the search.  It’s such a luxurious thing too – big and hefty on pretty paper with a velvety cover.  You won’t be disappointed. Especially if you are a Wilder and/or a pioneer lover.

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Book Review: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown

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I had heard Brown’s TED talk several times, and her follow up TED talk as well.  She’s a strange bundle of confidence, scientific method, insecurity, and hilarity.  At the end of it all you just have to love and trust her.  And she has powerful things to say in her scant few minutes of time in front of the camera.  I’ve been thinking for a while that I should pick up a book of hers because she had such moving things to say, but I’m a horrible procrastinator and I kinda hate driving.  All things that conspire to keep me out of the book shop.

Brian and I were picking an audio book at Barnes and Noble for our road trip when I saw the book (who have the worst selection of audio books I have ever seen, by the way.  We ended up with Audible instead).  I scoffed at the title.  I have an abhorrence of self-help book; mostly because they rarely help me, but also because of the cheese factor.  But when I saw her name at the end of it, I decided it would probably be better than the regular sort.

I read it in fits and starts in our breezy hotel room in Monterey.  It was a revelation.  I learned that I have pretty good Shame Resiliency (thanks Kathy and John!), but that I still have shame about some very weird things.   Like writing.  Like religion, and vaccinations and health care.  Like being a woman.  So many of the superficial fights Brian and I repeat seemed contained in that slim book, and I was the problem.  Knowing that has allowed me to discuss things like an adult.  Her stories of other women trying to just get through it all helped me know I wasn’t alone, either.

In short, I have a feeling this book will be life changing for me.  I think everyone I’ve ever met should read it, male or female.  Seriously.  Go get it and read it NOW.  While you’re waiting for it to arrive, take a look at her TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

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