Tag Archives: November

Week 13 Reading: “The Sea Shall Embrace Them”

Hi everyone! Sorry for the late posting about this week’s reading. My family and I are busy visiting my in-laws in (not-so) sunny Arkansas. This morning, it rained ice. Not my idea of fun, but the setting is gorgeous, and it’s always nice to be around family!

This week we’re reaching the end of our November “Month of Travel” reading, and capping the month off with David W. Shaw’s The Sea Shall Embrace Them: The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.

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This story brings us aboard the American steamship Arctic, and discusses a fateful collision with French steamship Vesta, which killed more than 400 people. The book comes recommended from my stepfather Grant (hi Grant!), and if he goes out of his way to recommend something, I know it’s going to be good! The book jacket comes with great write ups, calling the story “heart-wrenching,” “stunning,” and calls it a story of “anguish and horror, villainy and heroism of duty and death.” Sounds pretty excellent!

I have a feeling this will be another “up until 3am on Saturday morning finishing my book” kind of week, because I have to read an entire novel, and work on three essays for school this week – along with the familial duties of visiting with the in-laws! Wish me luck, and I hope you’re reading along!

 

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Book Review: “Gulliver’s Travels”

So, I’m running a little late with this book review (still Saturday, I guess). I’ve been scrounging to the the last 2/3 of the book done TODAY, first because I have homework due, and second because I needed to post this book review. My husband and I have spent the last two days (Thursday and Friday) on a road trip with our two kids from North Carolina to Arkansas, to visit my in-laws for the Thanksgiving holiday. While we really enjoyed the scenic drive, it didn’t leave much chance for reading (I get car sick). We also didn’t have a chance to get the audio book ordered, downloaded or borrowed from the library in the week before our trip – it was a very hectic week!

But, I managed to finish the book today (literally minutes ago), and I am right on time for this review!

This week we read our third book for November’s “Month of Travel” theme, and finished the 12th book of our book challenge. Our reading was Jonathan Swift’s classic novel Gulliver’s Travels.

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I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read this book before this week, but I am glad I picked it up. Besides being able to kill two birds with one stone (this book was required reading for my “17th and 18th Century British Literature” course), I really enjoyed Swift’s satirical novel!

Honest assessment: this book is kind of tedious. It’s an exciting adventure story following Gulliver on his travels to magical lands, where he encounters people who are described as vastly different than those of his home of London, but which are, deep down, not much different than the land of Gulliver’s origins. Swift brilliantly uses satire to comment on human nature, pointing out how we all have desires (for wealth, for immortality, for intellect), but it is in our nature to be disappointed with whatever our situations are, even if we achieve all these things.

My favorite part of the novel was Gulliver’s visit to Lilliput, where he encounters a race no more than 6 inches tall, where Gulliver towers over even the buildings. Swift satirizes the state of English politics, poking fun at politicians by calling them “small,” and comparing politics to circus performances. The comedy is tongue-in-cheek, and Swift blatantly bashes politics (particularly the King, Queen and the Whig party, who Swift himself clashed with), hiding behind the guise of telling a silly story (because, of course, politics are pretty silly).

Taken simply for the story, Swift still tells an interesting tale, that has stood the test of time! Navigating the language barrier got better through practiced reading (it was actually the punctuation that got to me, and I found myself inserting periods to separate the various ideas that were in each paragraph-long sentence).

Did you read along? Did you love the story? Did you have trouble with the language? Which race of people were your favorites?

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Week 12 Reading: Gulliver’s Travels

Hey everyone! This week we start the third book of November (how fast is this month going?!), and in keeping with our “Month of Travel” theme, we are picking up Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels.

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I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve never picked this one up before, but am really excited to finally tackle it. The added bonus is that it’s this week’s required reading for my “17th and 18th Century British Literature” class for my BA in English. I swear I picked out this book well before opening the syllabus for this book (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought my own copy if I had known I was going to get it as part of my textbook), but I did schedule it for this week so I could kill two birds with one stone. Reading an entire novel in a week is daunting enough, but it’d have been even tougher to read this entire novel AND a novel for my class, so I’m looking forward to the little break in my reading schedule!

I hope you’ll read along this week. If you’ve already read this one, I hope you’ll participate in the book club/review at the end of the week!

Happy trails!

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Week 11 Reading: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

This week we begin our 11th book for the reading challenge (it has gone by pretty fast, huh?!), and the second week of November’s “Month of Travel” theme. I’m finding it hard to believe we’re 10 days into November, and find myself getting anxious about the oncoming holiday season!

This week’s reading is a sci-fi/comedy by Douglas Adams called The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The book is the first of three in his Hitchhiker’s trilogy, which take readers traveling around the universe (just because I said “travel,” doesn’t mean I only intended to travel around Earth this month!).

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I am really looking forward to this book! It was recommended to me by my friend Shannon (hey, Shannon!!), and I’ve heard nothing but good things about this series from a lot of my friends. Shannon is already 1 for 1 in the “book recommendation” department, having suggested I read “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” in October (which I really enjoyed). I have been told a few times over the last few years by a good friend, Sam, to pick up this book… I should probably have listened a while ago, because everything Sam recommends (or already loves), I have loved (hey hey hey, Sam!!). I have seen the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, but it’s been years, and I’m looking forward to approaching the book with not much memory of the movie (it’s always better to read the book first… I think we can all agree on that fact).

If you head off to the library or the book store to grab this one, don’t be concerned with the size. I was SUPER intimidated when I went by the library to find this book and found a GIGANTIC volume. Little did I know, later copies of this book is published as a collection, all three novels in the series making up one big book, entitled The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For this week’s challenge we are only reading the first book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Who knows – we might be inspired to read Book 2 and 3 later on in the book challenge this year!

I hope you’re reading along this week! This should prove to be a good one!

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Book Review: Letters from Amelia

This week started our first of November’s “Month of Travel” theme for the reading challenge. We kicked off our challenge picking up a biography (the first of the challenge) about Amelia Earhart, a legendary woman, American and pilot. I’ve always found her legend fascinating, mostly because of the mystery surrounding her disappearance.

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Letters from Amelia: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart by Jean L. Backus uses a recently (well, recently as of the book’s 1982 publication) found collection of letters written by Amelia to her mother, Amy. Backus uses the letters, as well as interviews, newsreels and newspaper clippings, and biographical books to piece together a never-before-seen-view of Amelia’s life, told mostly through her own words. The book was very interesting. Amelia was, from youth, a very bright and inspired woman. She didn’t have a life-long fascination with avionics, and only took to the sky in her 20s. She lived an unconventional life even before becoming famous, refusing to settle down and protesting to marriage – mainly because of the unhappy relationship between her parents.

Amelia’s fame wasn’t guaranteed simply because she was a trend-setting woman. Her fame was carefully promoted by her public relations representative, who later became her husband (when Amelia was well into her late 30s). He pushed her career, encouraging her to take herself and her plane to the ultimate limit – making her famous and infamous for her record setting career. Backus presents various suggests theories surrounding Amelia’s mysterious disappearance, and leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions.

This book was slow going. I’m not really a fan of biographies (give me historical fiction any day), but I felt that Backus went off on tangents and had a hard time staying on track. I think her book could have been much better (and possibly shorter) if Backus had kept to the subject at hand instead of spending pages on friends who visited Amelia at her house when discussing her married life. Just an example of the kinds of tangents Backus took. I feel like Backus wanted to fit in everything she discovered about Amelia, when really the writing should have been much more selective to make the book more interesting. I also had a few problems with her writing style – there were frequently oddly-worded sentences thrown into the mix… sentences I found myself reading and re-reading in an attempt to make sense of it.

Overall, I enjoyed Letters From Amelia. I’m glad I took the opportunity to learn more about Amelia Earhart. She was truly ahead of her time, taking on challenges that at the time (and even into our time) were seen as masculine, without a care for what anyone thought of her. She had a wonderful support network, was exceptionally caring to her family (even taking financial responsibility for her mother and later her married sister), and a visionary in regard to women’s rights. Her main goal seemed not to set records, but to inspire women (and men) to know that women were just as capable as men. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “please don’t bother” and 5 being “this book is nothing short of miraculous) , I would give this book a solid 2.5.

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November Reading List

Wow! We are rapidly approaching the end of October (where did the time go?!), and our Halloween reading is coming to an end. One book (Guilty Pleasures) and two reviews (Guilty Pleasures and this week’s reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) left, and then it’s time for our November reading. I figured I should probably release the list (which just got finished now) so you can pick up the books you need if you are following along! Remember, the library is a great resource (and will more than likely have all of these books), or you could more than likely find these books at a used book store and save some money!

November’s theme is the “Month of Travel.” I don’t know why I thought that up, but… we’re stuck with it. I was having a hard time making selections, but I think I put together a good list:

Nov. 3 – 9 – Letters from Amelia – Jean L. Backus

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Backus uses real letters from Amelia Earhart, the famous and doomed pilot, to piece together Earhart’s private life. I’ve always found Amelia Earhart to be an interesting subject – mostly because of the mystery surrounding her death – and thought this would be a good chance to pick up a book about her life. The book is a biography, and will be the first biography of our reading challenge.

Nov. 10 – 16 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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This “travel” book takes place in outer space, and is a great sci-fi comedy book to add to our reading list. When you pick this one up at the library, don’t be intimidated by the size. The book is the first of a series, and has been grouped together with the subsequent books to make one gigantic volume (you might find it under The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but we’re just reading the first part, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for this reading challenge. If you continue reading the other books, that’s great! I hope you do (and I hope I’ll get a chance to eventually, also).

Nov. 17 – 23 – Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

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I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve never read this classic novel! I’m looking forward to picking this one up … especially because my new 17th and 18th Century British Literature class requires me to read it this semester, so I’ll be knocking out two birds with one stone! I swear I had this book picked out and paid for (yay used book store $1.50) before this class opened (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it at all because it’s in my textbook). I’m looking forward to reading this book for the first time, and discovering all about Gulliver and his travels.

Nov. 24 – 30 – The Sea Shall Embrace Them – David W. Shaw

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This book is a historical, non-fiction account of “The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic.” Shaw writes about the 1854 collision between two steamships, and the “harrowing events” that followed. The book came with a wonderful recommendation from my mom (thanks, Mom!), and was passed on to my husband (who needs to be really bored to read a book), so I am making good use of it and putting it into our book challenge. If my mom liked it, I know I will!

So there you have it, folks! Our reading list for November. It’s hard to imagine we’re so close to the end of 2013 already! Head out to your library and get prepared to read along!

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