Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Woman in White

By Wilkie Collins
Rated - 3.5
Format: Audio Book

This was only an OK book as far as I was concerned.  Way too much description and rambling prose.  If an editor with a sharp pen went through and reduced by about half it would have been a much better book because the story was very good.  It was just that I had to fight my way through to find it.

Product Description

One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White was a phenomenal best seller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Charles Dickens. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall audiences today.

The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening.
Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction: Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant "Napoleon of Crime".

Saturday, February 19, 2011

15. The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

By Will Cuddy
Rated 5 Stars
From Library
Format: Printed Book

Back when I used to wander around the UK I bought one of two books in the Horrible Histories Series.  They were so funny and my my whole family read and enjoyed them.  View Horrible Histories

This book is written in very much the same style and again the entire family started saying "me next," " I'm after you."  I think I am going to send a set of these boxed up Horrible Histories to three of my Great Grandchilden for Christmas.  I hope I don't get them into too much trouble with their teachers.

Publisher Summary 1

Ever wonder what Nero did before he began fiddling about in Rome, or wanted the bare facts about Lady Godiva? Maybe you've found the story of Lucrezia Borgia a bitter pill to swallow, or wanted the straight skinny on corpulent King Henry the Eighth, but you haven't the stomach for stuffy history books. Now these and twenty-two more of history's most famous personages are brought brilliantly to life, in this collection of unfailingly accurate yet undeniably hilarious biographies. You'll laugh while you learn about the very real people behind the legendary names, including why Montezuma was so vengeful, and why Catherine was so Great. You'll even finally lay to rest the rumor that Charlemagne was called "Chuck" by his friends.

14 One Unashamed Night

By:  Sophia James
Rated: 4 Stars
From: Library
Format:  Audio Book

This is a nice, moderately steamy little Historical Romance.  It had a decent story but one that wouldn't stand up to someone scrutinizing it too deeply for logic.  But for what it is, it is a nice little diversion.

Product Description

Living in a gray world of silhouette, Lord Taris Wellingham conceals his fading eyesight from society. He has long protected himself from any intimate relationships.

Plain twenty-eight-year-old Beatrice-Maude Bassingstoke does not expect to attract any man, especially not one as good-looking as her remote traveling companion.

Forced by a snowstorm to spend the night together, these two lonely people seek solace in each other's arms. The passion they unleash surprises them both. Then a new day dawns....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

13. The King's Speech

By:  Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
Rated 4.5

This journal entry is for the book, not the movie which is not out on DVD yet, or if it is my library hasn't ordered it yet.  I imagine given the popularity of the movie that they will be ordering it at the first possible minute.

I am enjoying this book although the punctuation is weird.  I can only guess that it is the editors or the printers fault as I can imagine an author with as many books as Peter Conradi has under his belt making the kind of errors that are in this book, i.e. periods where commas should be and commas in place of periods.  It kind of jolts one out of the story since misplaced periods especially can distort the meaning of sentences.  This is not the only book I've read in the last couple of years that looks like the publisher's have made a decision to reduce costs by either overworking and rushing editor's or perhaps hiring cheap incompetent ones. :(

However it is still a very good book.

Publishers Description:

Presents the life of the Australian speech therapist who helped the English king, George VI, overcome a lifelong speech disorder and become an eloquent leader of his people during the difficult days of World War II.

Monday, February 14, 2011

12. A Needle in the Right Hand of God

The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Making and Meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry
By:  R. Howard Bloch
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

I enjoyed this author's writing style.  It's very readable.  I learned quite a few things that surprised me.  For one it is a lot larger than I had imagined and for another it has some rather earthy images on it.  The most amazing thing about it is  that it has survived as well as it has for so long.  I would dearly love to see it in person.  Oh well, my next life maybe. :)

Publisher Summary 
The Bayeux Tapestry is the world’s most famous textile–an exquisite 230-foot-long embroidered panorama depicting the events surrounding the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is also one of history’s most mysterious and compelling works of art. This haunting stitched account of the battle that redrew the map of medieval Europe has inspired dreams of theft, waves of nationalism, visions of limitless power, and esthetic rapture. In his fascinating new book, Yale professor R. Howard Bloch reveals the history, the hidden meaning, the deep beauty, and the enduring allure of this astonishing piece of cloth.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

11. Life

By:Keith Richards & James Wise
Rated 4.5 Stars
From: Library

I picked this book up on a whim, mostly because it was about as far as I could get from Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill.

What came through to me is that in spite of everything he was basically a very talented and decent human being who loved his family.  Yeah he did a lot of drugs but the only person he ever really hurt was himself.  It seemed to me that this kind of life often goes along with the kind of stardom he had and would probably drive almost anyone to seeking relief from all the pressure. He somehow managed (willy nilly) to have raised  four decent and seemingly happy and productive children and that is something even a lot of more conventional parents can't brag of.

I came away from this read liking him better than I expected too.  I really didn't know much about him before as I am not much into paying attention to the private lives of the people who make the music I just enjoy listening.

Publisher Summary 
As lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the riffs, the lyrics, and the songs that roused the world. A true and towering original, he has always walked his own path, spoken his mind, and done things his own way.

Now at last Richards pauses to tell his story in the most anticipated autobiography in decades. And what a story! Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records in a coldwater flat with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones, building a sound and a band out of music they loved. Finding fame and success as a bad-boy band, only to find themselves challenged by authorities everywhere. Dropping his guitar's sixth string to create a new sound that allowed him to create immortal riffs like those in "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Falling in love with Anita Pallenberg, Brian Jones's girlfriend. Arrested and imprisoned for drug possession. Tax exile in France and recording Exile on Main Street. Ever-increasing fame, isolation, and addiction making life an ever faster frenzy. Through it all, Richards remained devoted to the music of the band, until even that was challenged by Mick Jagger's attempt at a solo career, leading to a decade of conflicts and ultimately the biggest reunion tour in history.

In a voice that is uniquely and unmistakably him--part growl, part laugh--Keith Richards brings us the truest rock-and-roll life of our times, unfettered and fearless and true.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Young Victoria

From Netflix

Sweet little flick for a cold and snowy day.

And, it was even vaguely historically correct!

Netflix Blurb:

Eighteen-year-old British royal Victoria (Emily Blunt) ascends to the throne and is romanced by future husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) in this lush period film that chronicles the early years of the British monarch's larger-than-life reign. Produced by Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, the Oscar-nominated film also stars Miranda Richardson as the Duchess of Kent, Jim Broadbent as King William, and Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne.

10. You Know When The Men Are Gone

by Siobhan Fallon
Rated 5 Stars
From Library

This book is about the experiences and stresses on Army Wives at Fort Hood, Texas when their husbands unit deploys, sometimes multiple times. I thought I might relate to this book more than I did because I was certainly no stranger to deployments as I was a military wife (Navy) during the Viet Nam war.

But while some experiences are universal re: separation and what I always called "shifting gears" from being "In Charge" to part of a partnership, I was older than these girls (and to me they are girls.) My children were all school age and I had the relief of always being able to find a job outside my home and was able to keep my days filled and my brain distracted. And brother, were they full! Also sailors usually are (excepting corpsmen, small boat crews and seals) not in the immediate danger that soldiers are so while I was lonely I was never terrified for Jim's safety
on a daily basis. My heart goes out to these families for what they are going through

Good book though. More Americans than will ought to read it. There is a tendency to ignore this never ending war we are caught up in. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be most peoples attitude. By constantly dinging away on Facebook with the IGTNT (I Got the News Today) Diaries I vent a tiny bit of my anger and frustration about the way we (this country) are paying such a high price for such a small (if any) return.

Publisher Summary
Reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien, an unforgettable collection of intercollected short stories.

In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches.

When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

9. Blind Your Ponies

By. Gordon West
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

This story was a not very plausible adolescent fantasy. But still a pleasant read.

Library Summary

Sam Pickett never expected to settle in this dried-up shell of a town on the western edge of the world. He's come here to hide from the violence and madness that have shattered his life, but what he finds is what he least expects. There's a spirit that endures in Willow Cree, Montana. It seems that every inhabitant of this forgotten outpost has a story, a reason for taking a detour to this place--or a reason for staying. As the coach of the hapless high school basketball team (zero wins, ninety-three losses), Sam can't help but be moved by the bravery he witnesses in the everyday lives of people--including his own young players--bearing their sorrows and broken dreams. How do they carry on, believing in a future that seems to be based on the flimsiest of promises? Drawing on the strength of the boys on the team, sharing the hope they display despite insurmountable odds, Sam finally begins to see a future worth living.