Archive for the 'Historical Lit' Category

The Signature of All Things

Thoughts tsoatbyeg The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert,  Penguin Audio 2013, 21.75 hours

Narration by Juliet Stevenson. Thank you to Joann of Lakeside Musings who sold me on the idea to listen to this one. Fabulous recommendation.

I do love long audiobooks! This one had me from the get go.

I am one of those that loved Eat, Pray, Love but haven’t read any of her subsequent nonfiction books. I hope to, though. And with this, so curious how she would do with fiction. I liked it very much. Some may not read her books based on her first and that is a pity but I think she will be just fine and her writing career is set.

I liked Alma Whittaker. I was fascinated by her father and his story of how he came to wealth. I thought his marriage to Beatrix extremely fortunate for them both – they suited each other.

I didn’t quite get Prudence. Never did get a satisfactory answer to “the Prudence Question”, did we?

I am marking this Historical Fiction due to how well she covers the 1800’s and the history of the players in Evolution Theory. I am now thinking of this book EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. that I see moss!

If you like to have true visual of setting and want to know more about this book, watch this video:

RATING: Four slices of pie. And a few bites into the fifth slice, too.


Copyright © 2007-2014. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.




Thoughts Winterson_2.indd Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson, Mariner Books 2004, 252 pages

This book has beautiful poetic language and is very atmospheric. The story is one of loss, more loss, unmooring loss and a story of stories.

Yet, it is hopeful and has some touching moments of surety and love.

A young girl is orphaned and finds herself apprenticed to the Lighthousekeeper. He has many stories, some too fantastical to believe but that is the point. All of life is a story. When the powers that be decide the lighthouse no longer needs a keeper, the girl is orphaned once again. She sets out to seek the stories.

“I have been trying to find out what reality is, so that I can touch it.”

Also, this might be historical fiction what with the side story of Robert Louis Stevenson and perhaps his inspiration of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who ARE people, really?

I don’t even remember how it ends, in the end. I never seem to remember how books end! I think I’m afraid of endings, sometimes.

I am glad I read this in April, the month of poetry.

Four slices of pie. Four penny pork pies. And a lemonade.


Copyright © 2007-2014. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Thoughts shfbykv Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, RosettaBooks 2010 (orig 1969), 285 pages

For the What’s in a Name 7 Challenge.
Number in Letters category
First book of six.

A reread. First experienced in the early 80s.

FIRST Sentence:  “This all happened, more or less.”

What’s it ABOUT: This is a book about one guy’s experience in World War II, specifically about being an American POW, witnessing the bombing of Dresden, living a normal life after the war and time travel. Tell me again, what is a normal life?

“And so it goes.”

What’s GOOD: Vonnegut’s “la di da” tone of ambivalence towards everything, tragic and not, and yet still being able to call attention to the true horrors of war. He states things that happen with little added emotional emphasis. He is sympathetic but not sentimental.

It is comic in many many places. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this non-linear, meta-fictional, historically educational (accuracy is debatable), crazy story full of fascinating characters. This book is listed 18th on the 100 best English-language books of the 20th century (Modern Library, 1998).  It has been often criticized and banned from schools and people have gone so far as to claim the time-travel elements ‘don’t work’. (See the Wikipedia page, Criticism section.) Whatever – how do they know if time travel works?! I enjoyed it very much. I love time travel books.

RATING:  Five slices of pie. Grape and Peanut Butter Pie.  photo-78

I adored and devoured all of Vonnegut’s book when in High School. I don’t remember why so I wanted to revisit a few. I *think*, maybe?, that Cat’s Cradle was my favorite. I wish I had kept a book blog then. I can’t even find much mention of the books I read in any of my journals.

Are you a Vonnegut fan? Have you seen the movie of this book?

Copyright © 2007-2014. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Alias Grace

Thoughts agbyma Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, Anchor Books DOUBLEDAY 1996, 465 pages ***** 35th book of my 2013

This is just another proof of Atwood’s talent to plumb the human psyche and her masterful skill at writing a story.

Given a true crime story from a century ago, Ms. Atwood extensively researches and then creatively conjures up what might have happened. A young girl is caught with a man in an American hotel and they are both dragged back to Canada try for the murder of their employers. Did she do it? Was she the mastermind or a pawn?

Her attorney manages to commute her sentence to life in prison, narrowly escaping being hung like her ‘boyfriend’. Thirty some years later and she is released and disappears into a marriage south: one more escape into the US and this one succeeds. Her trail ends, no more records of her life exist.

This story imagines a psychiatrist visitation while still in prison. Hired by sympathetic folk to her innocence, the doctor hopes to investigate her amnesia for the guilt of the crime – she just can’t remember. Atwood does a great job slyly suggesting a split personality but never really giving her opinions of Grace nor her motivations.

“And then she began to cry, and when I asked her why she was doing that, she said it was because I was to have a happy ending, And it was just like a book; and I wondered what books she had been reading.”  -p.446

Thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction.

Five slices of pie.



With Up the Down Staircase:  “SAUVE QUI PEUT”!  p.376

With The Good House: fortune telling



First Half Discussion #AchilleSong

Greetings, Singers of The Song of Achilles!  tsoabymm2 tsoabymm by Madeline Miller. Got your lyre ready?

In my usual rambling style, I will offer questions, quotes I liked and interesting things of note that will encourage us to share what we are enjoying so for in the story and what we are not. I read the first half rather quickly – to Chapter 17: When Achilles and Patroclus arrive at the beach to meet Agamemnon, before they all set off for Troy. I was waiting to post this before I finish but am hoping it will be this afternoon!

I have read the P.S. included in my copy: the Meet the Author, Insights and Interviews, etc. Hope you have that, I hope to chat about that here, too.

FIRST. I must share that I barely know the Greek mythology. This may be obvious when I say that I do not know who Mary Renault is. The cover of my edition shows a quote by Emma Donoghue, “Mary Renault lives again!” and I have no clue who or what this Mary person is. In order to check my guess, I seek goodreads and find that Ms. Renault wrote historical fiction of ancient Greece. I actually might have heard of The King Must Die, not that I would have guessed it was about Theseus*. Has anyone read it? Want to? I think I might! so more books go onto the tbr… Ah, I see my imaginary (and very influential on my reading choices) friend Ruthiella has read this. Cool.

Second question, would you put The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller in the HISTORICAL FICTION category? Do we care? Must we genre-fy everything. (Perhaps that question is an aside best tackled another time.)

I have had the opportunity to listen to Madeline Miller speak at the 2012 Boston Book Festival and really enjoyed the talk and how she presented herself, how truly excited she is about this project of hers. Having taken 10 years to write and maybe I assume the getting it published time was added to that, the reception to this award-winning book must be a thrill and a half. I blame Softdrink’s review for first bringing this book to my attention and I know I must blame Miller herself for ensuring I WOULD read this. So thank you all again for joining me here.

Style. The prose has been said to by lyrical (appropriate, no?) and beautiful. At first encountering it, I was struck by how short and simple the sentence structure seems but the sentence and paragraph construction feels highly artistic and powerful. I marvel.

…, I would mumble from my bed, “Is she well?”

And he would answer. “Yes, she is well.” And he might add:  “The fish are thick today” or “The bay is warm as a bath.” And then we would sleep again.
~ p.52

Spoilers. If you know your Greek gods, you know how this story will progress. Actually, the story itself more than hints that Achilles will die. Do you think the author has balanced this well for those of us who may be murky on Achilles, the Trojan War and who is who? (I guess, I framed that question to say I would agree.)  She drops in the prophecy, “Hector’s death will be first.” in the conversation between Thetis and Patroclus so we know we can expect death.

Also, in the Q&A between Miller and Gregory Maguire, he asks a question about authorial decision. A long question about combining present and past tense and techniques that as a layperson like me would likely never notice consciously (which again would speak to the author’s skill) and then Miller complements him on ‘framing the question without spoilers’! I got excited all over again to keep reading but instead starting poking around at movies about Troy,


and picked up on spoilers I kind of wish I hadn’t read/seen. Oh well. Discuss – CAN this book be spoiled?

Do you like Patroclus? Do you think he is ‘surprising’? Do you think he was ‘surprising’ because he was one boy who didn’t fawn all over Achilles AND that he had a reputation? It reminds me how we never want what is easy. We are always wanting the thing that is a little harder to get.

I love Achilles. Can’t help it. I love kids like him who are confident and don’t even know it. That are easy and smart and make eye contact. I love his father  — and boy-howdy, I did not like Patroclus’ father. I can’t help think of how much we shape our children with our expectations. Oh how subtle and obvious we are with our words and actions. “Why do you always screw up!”, “The teachers don’t get it that you have a learning disability and shouldn’t be expected to read this”, “You’ll make your best friends in college” etc…

Or has Achilles (ARISTOS ACHAION!!) already changed into something more egotistical with his choosing glory over a long life? DID he choose? or is he just embracing his destiny?

“Achilles nodded and bent over the lyre. I did not have time to wonder about his intervention. His fingers touched the strings, and all my thoughts were displaced. The sound was pure and sweet as water, bright as lemons. It was like no music I had ever heard before. It had warmth as a fire does, a texture and weight like polished ivory. It buoyed and soothed at once. A few hairs slipped forward to hang over his eyes as he played. They were fine as lyre strings themselves, and shone.” ~p.34

I’m seriously thinking I might want to read The Iliad.  I love books that only add more suggestions to my tbr.

SO FAR: My notes, trying to keep track…
Ch 1 – Son of kings, simple mother, smiling bride.
Ch 2 – Attempt to be suitor to King Tyndareus’ dot. Blood oath not to fight. (Proud of myself for thinking this important!)
Ch 3 – Killing the boy and banished. p.22 – meaning of Patroclus (“honor of the father” – ha! what was I just saying about expectations?)
Ch 4 – Meeting Achilles
Ch 5 – Therapon = companion. Confidence of a prince, “He is surprising.”
Ch 6 – Friendship (age 12) “Gods and mortals never mixed happily in our stories.” ~p.51
Ch 7 – The kiss
Ch 8 – The Centaur Chiron
Ch 9 – Learning from Chiron
Ch 10 – “She cannot see us here.” – whoa:  instant recognition of the weight of that statement!, pink quartz cave
Ch 11 – Called back to Phthia,“They never let you be famous and happy.” ~p.105
Ch 12 – Helen captured by Troy; Sycros/Lycomedes/Deidemeia & Achilles/Pyrrha (fire hair), Achilles swears to son. ~p.137 (LOTS happen in this chapter!)
Ch 13 – Deidemeia and Patroclus
Ch 14 -
Ch 15 -
Ch 16 -
Ch 17 -

p.22  jape – to say something mockingly
p.127 moue – grimace or pout
p.144 craven – lacking the least bit of courage, contemptibly fainthearted, “as craven as you are ugly”
p.145 goad – something that pains as if by pricking


* I’m at risk of being deathly boring, I couldn’t tell you who Theseus is…


Copyright © 2007-2013. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Announcing Song of Achilles Readalong #AchilleSong

Up for a flexible informal readalong, Anyone?


One of the tweeples I follow has expressed interest in reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. So I thought I would open it up to anyone else who might be interested in this (from what I hear) beautifully written interpretation of one of the stories in The Illiad.

We’ll be tweeting with hashtag #AchilleSong.

We don’t yet have a start date nor time frame – we are being FLEXIBLE. Flexibility is in order because Sharlene is in line to get the book from the library and we don’t really have any way to expect WHEN it will be available.

So, if you want to read this book and don’t mind the vague details of a readalong plan and could possibly start at a moment’s notice, then JOIN US!  We’re hoping sometime in February but it might be later.


Last October, I attended a Boston Book Fest 2012 session featuring the author and a Harvard professor chatting about this book and I am really excited to see what is about. Maybe then I will have the courage to attempt The Illiad itself.

Leave a comment here or tweet at me @BkClubCare if you are interested and I’ll start a list.  Or watch the hashtag in Twitterville. If you don’t tweet and even if you don’t have a blog, you can always join the discussion here at Care’s Online Book Club. All are welcome.


Copyright © 2007-2013. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Jamaica Inn

Thoughts  Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier, Avon Books Imprint of HarperCollins 1999 (orig 1936), 302 pages


A young woman named Mary must go to her Aunt’s in Cornwall per her mother’s dying wish. She finds an unsavory inn/tavern with despicable clientele in a  desolate location. The locals fear the place, her Auntie has gone loony and her new Uncle is a brute. Mary suspects foul play; actually she is warned of it and to keep her nose out of it.

Will she survive the unholy shenanigans?! Will she find love on the lonesome wild moors?

Well, yes. She does. That’s not really a spoiler, is it? Mary is a tough cookie despite, alas, her being only a girl.

It was a bit tedious the first 200 pages but it picks up and flies when the danger and treachery and suspense of how it all will turn out finally comes to a head.

RATING:  Three slices of pie. Not my favorite DDuM but I count her as a favorite author still.

And no matter how bad the movie might be, I really want to see it! Have you?


Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Thoughts  11/22/63 by Stephen King, Scribner 2011, 849 pages Hardcover.

You may already know this book is about time travel. You may already know that it centers on the idea of preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You may have perceptions of Stephen King as being a horror writer and this means you either love him or dismiss him.


I am very impressed with Stephen King. I’ve only read three of his books:  Carrie (read it twice, actually), Lisey’s Story and his nonfiction book about writing, On Writing. I enjoyed them all. I think he is a helluva writer but I wouldn’t at all call him a favorite. I don’t like horror. BUT, his On Writing sold me and convinced me that perhaps he is actually a pretty good writer. Why I ever found out that he wrote On Writing and why I would be interested is curious. I think I read a back-of-the-book blurb he wrote about some book I did love (that was nothing like something I would expect him to read) and that’s how/why I gave him consideration. I now no longer dismiss him as ‘popular’ like I might with frantically produced paperback crap where the author’s name is in larger print than the title of the book. (I hate that.) I try not to be a snob but when that is the ONLY stuff some people read, I do judge. Shame on me, I suppose but READ SOMETHING ELSE, too!!  I know none of you are like that…

Where was I?

Horror-genre?  Nope. In fact, apparently there are references to past King characters that went write over my head and I never noticed so don’t let the King stereotype of his early works prevent you from reading this.

Dancing is life.

I loved this book about Jake Epping and how he travels back to 1958 to complete an assignment his friend Al didn’t live long enough to attempt. I loved his being a High School English teacher and taking on substitute teaching assignments while ‘laying low’. I loved how he fell in love! I loved the harmonies of time-lines and how obdurate that darn past proved to be.

I didn’t go into this with any expectations other than I am always intrigued with time travel stories.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn’t put this book down during the last half; stealing every second I could, bargaining with myself to find time and avoiding chores to get this darn book read.

Five slices of pie.

“Nice as pie,” I said, giving it the Texas twist: pah.”

If I wanted to think critically, I might be persuaded to agree that a few little things were either expected or typical or not fleshed out  in some way but nope. I enjoyed it too much!

So, if you want a different perspective AND to balance out this review with the last one I posted, I present Ti of Book Chatter’s not-quite-enthusiastic review of 11/22/63. Or is to be contrarian? Actually, Ti and I agree on books about half the time. I cannot use her thoughts on a book to predict whether or not I will like something but she always writes thoughtful reviews. We did agree on Model Home, Goon Squad and Owen Meany - that’s somethin’.  :)

I liked Rhapsody-Jill’s review, too. She praised it.

BOOKS I WILL READ BECAUSE of 11/22/63:  Hardy’s Jude the ObscureThe Reluctant Wife, Time and Again by Jack Finney, The Lincoln Hunters – about time travel. Book I’ve already read that was mentioned which resulted in a SQUEEEE:  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks.


For more King reviews, stop by here:  


Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Before Ever After

Thoughts   Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto, Crown Publisher New York 2011, an eBook so… not sure how many pages – goodreads says 260 which means I had the font a bit bigger because mine shows 312.

Book Club “The Bookies” Choice for December 29 Meeting

FIRST SENTENCE:  “Jasmine. It was not Max Gallus’s top choice for his last thought, but it would have to do.”


WHAT’s it ABOUT:  In this chicklit romance story about immortality but NOT vampires, Shelley is our hapless-but-adorable heroine who runs away from her life to take an offbeat tour of Europe, ultimately falling in love with Max, the tour guide. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they figure it out easy-peasy.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The travel pieces from the non-typical spots of Europe entwined with story bits of ancestors who lived through little-known historical events were entertaining, descriptive and informative.   Seeing how well this book is being received, I bet Sotto has a promising career ahead.  I hope her writing gets tighter and less embellished.  Pacing was good; I can say that.  The book does a lot of back and forth between NOW and THEN and it works well.

And since I have an interest in mosaics, I was pleased to see this mentioned in the story.


WHAT’s NOT so good:  OOoo boy. I didn’t fall into this like I hoped. I wanted to, but truthfully found it difficult to root for our poor Shelley and sympathize with her apprehensions about love. I never did get much sense of Max. Or his chickens. HOWEVER, if you want a light and sappy tale of resisting love and then saying ‘what the heck – go for it’, you might enjoy the humor and the silliness and get your heartstrings tugged despite the over-abundance of amber-colored eyes. And chickens.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Overall, I enjoyed it but at times I had to squash my picky inner booksnob critic.  The author has charmed me –  she likely has a fun sense of humor.  Three slices of pie: QUICHE, of course!

“Yes. The good news is that we woke up,” Max said. “Today is a new day, and I, for one, have decided to live it. I strongly urge you to do the same.”

other REVIEWS:  S.Krishna, Amused, Fyrefly, and the entire list of results of Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Paris Wife

Sad Thoughts  The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Ballantine Books 2011, eKindle on my iPad.


I can tell that my mother still has amazing powers of influence in my life. Most especially when it comes to books. If she tells me she didn’t care for something, I can bet that I bring a bias to it not easily overcome.

My mom did not like The Paris Wife. I can’t actually remember what exactly she found displeasing or unsuitable, but I do remember she was not fond.

and so, I didn’t either.

Honestly, I was bored.

I did like the protagonist’s name ‘Hadley’.

Why it was her nickname? or why she went by Hadley and not her given name Elizabeth, I don’t recall.

I liked her spunk. Sometimes. By which I mean that sometimes she exhibited some spunk. I didn’t like that she felt lost and overwhelmingly lonesome when Ernie left on his first 3 week assignment. Come on, Hadley!  Find something to do!  (or go get drunk or … pregnant – THAT will fix things. I didn’t get to this point in the book — I am only assuming that might have happened.)

I was amazed that she was willing to hike through the Alps!  I was unimpressed that she chose to wear silly shoes to do so and then felt the need to tell me about it. Be practical, woman!

I don’t know much about Ernie other than to assume I shouldn’t like him. I did google some photos of young Ernie to see what he looked like and I will admit the man was ruggedly handsome. I wasn’t impressed with his moodiness.

I wasn’t impressed with Hadley.

I felt like I was reading a celebrity ‘tell all’ about the poor first wife of some great (?) – famous – person.  But I could never summon enough interest to care; except for wondering about other little things mentioned like the neighborhoods in Chicago/St. Louis and that guy who wrote Winesburg Ohio. His wife was named Tennessee? cool. I know absolutely nothing about Ezra Pound – what a name! Sounds like one from a different time. And Gertrude. I am intrigued by Gertrude Stein.

But this book felt like it was going to ramble on into the Poor-Me stories of the girl who had to clean up with the womenfolk after the big dinner and having to miss the fun of watching the football game on TV. Poor Hadley, missing the big conversations about culture and art and literature.  Hadley had to sit and have tea with Alice instead.

I was spectacularly aware of how each chapter ended with a doomsdayish ominous teaser about the pain ahead.

“Are you happy?” he said softly.
“You know I am.  Do you need to ask?”
“I like asking,” he said. “I like to hear it, even knowing what I’m going to hear.”
“Maybe especially, then,” I said. “Are you happy?”
“Do you need to ask?”
We laughed lightly at one another.

I was annoyed by this book. I made it about 1/4 of the way through.

 Two slices of pie. Avocado Meringue Pie.

For insightful, enlightening and much more credible professional reviews, may I point you to Fyrefly’s book blog search?  or click here – an impressive review at A Work in Progress.


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

I prefer pi.


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