Category Archives: Historical Lit

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Thoughts by Susanna Clarke, Macmillan Audio 2005 (orig 2004), 32 hours 29 minutes

Narrated by Simon Prebble

Challenge: TOB Faves Long List

Genre/Theme: Historical Lit, Alternative History, Fantasy / Magic

Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible + eBook, Libby via Kindle

What It’s About: Two magicians bring magic back to England. The years is 1810 or so. One is a hoarder of all books on magic – about magic — with magic and the other is one of those guys who is just clueless, finds something he can do and so he does it. The first is miserly and mean and insecure but arrogant. The second is also arrogant. Both are oblivious.

Thoughts: Some readers love the richness of detail and the amazing adventures in this long long book. I get it, but it wasn’t for me. Much to admire but I honestly got to the 3/4 mark, listening to over 20 hours and then couldn’t take it anymore. I was thrilled to see that I could access the eBook from my library so I could skim to the end and find out what happened. I did need that closure but I just couldn’t carve out the 10 hours needed to do it through my ears.

That said, Simon Prebble did a great job. The audiobook was well done and for a book that has many footnotes, many that are stories in themselves, the audio was a great way to digest. Somehow, they didn’t really interrupt the flow. (When I switched to the eBook, I realized I was skipping right over them without even noticing — THAT very much interrupted the flow!)

Clarke must have had much fun writing this and I’m happy for her that it thrilled most of those who managed to read it all the way through. It just bugged me that the magicians would not realize that magic was happening right in front of them and just brush it off without nary a ‘”Huh, that’s weird.” Yay for Stephen – I liked him, the poor guy. And I liked Childemas and Vinculus. Though I did wonder why Childemas put up with Norrell for as long as he did.

And my final thought is best wishes for the fictional Arabella and Miss Flora – may they ever be happy together.

Rating: Two to three slices of pie. Pork pie.

“Pork pies dropped on the heads of the French!”

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Thoughts by James Baldwin, Vintage 2006 (orig 1974), 197 pages

Challenge: 20 Books of Summer, Book to Movie

Genre/Theme: Civil Rights, Love Story

Type/Source: Tradeback, Indie Bookstore purchase

What It’s About: I’m rusty. I was on SUCH a good roll of writing/posting/sharing my book thoughts and now, I can’t think of thing to say.

This is the story of first love and family love. And heartache. Both for the young couple and because of the tragedies they are swept up in, for whatever family is and should be. The way Tish’s family supported her and Fonny, contrasted with how Fonny’s family (exception, his father) was not able to do the same. Sad and unfair. Nothing was fair.

“The only way anything gets done is when you make up your mind to do it.“

Thoughts: I was gutted at the end. I’m not sure I can recall a book that quite did what this one did AFTER the last page was read. I closed the book and sat and just welled up, welled over. And felt almost a physical sensation, shock-like.

Rating: Five slices of pie.

Sweetie pie.

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Update August 2021 in Review with Note on #20BooksofSummer

 Monthly Recap Time!

  • 10 books; 87 for the year (1 book cover not included above – a pie cookbook)
  • 1548 pages, ~14 hours | 19333 total pages, 186 hours
  • Hardcovers – 1, 5 Tradebacks, 0 eBooks, 4 Audiobooks (though 3 would likely be the equivalent of a magazine article?!)
  • 3 from the Library, 2 purchased from an Indie Bookstore, 1 Audible Credit and 3 more Included with Audible Membership, 1 gift
pieratingsml

My favorite was … I don’t have a favorite this month! I can tell you that I voted for Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch for my TOB Summer Camp favorite. And I really did like Housekeeping – it was SO unique! and I really enjoyed Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets… Black Gold, too, was a pleasant listen.

I gave 2 slices to The Orphan Collector but left the rating blank on goodreads because I just can’t figure out what didn’t work. I only know that I experienced that “blech, I don’t want to read this” feeling. Maybe it is a coconut book.

pieratingsml

Locations and travels:

  • early 1600s Germany EKYMiaW
  • the Pacific Northwest (specifics unknown, 2 books: TFLotP and Housekeeping)
  • Georgia and the Olympics (basketball, Black Gold)
  • the future I,Autohouse
  • early 1900s Philadelphia TOC
  • 1970s NYC IBSCT
  • on tour with Sting, but mostly England

“If you look steadily into that unblinking blue, into that pinpoint at the center of the eye, you discover a bottomless cruelty, a viciousness, cold and icy.

… if you do exist in the unbelievably frozen winter which lives behind that eye, you are marked, marked, marked.”

If beale street could talk
pieratingsml

UPDATE on #20BooksofSummer:

  • I finished a total of 27 book-books (kicked out the kids books, short audiobooks, and the cookbook)
  • I read 18 of the original 20 books I wanted to read June/July/Aug
  • The two from my original list I did not get to:
    • Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
    • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
pieratingsml

Pie was mentioned in four of this month’s reads. Sweetie pie, a pie seller thrown in jail, all sorts of good fond pie mentions in Housekeeping, and a shop that sold pie and sandwiches. YUM.

August 20 is Chocolate Pecan Pie Day, August 24 is Peach Pie Day; I don’t know if Plum Tart has a day but I had plums on hand so… I made a mini Plum Tart.

pieratingsml

What was YOUR favorite book of August?

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch

Thoughts by Rivka Galchen, Macmillan Audio 2021, 8 hours 47 minutes

Narrated by Natasha Soudek.

Challenge: 20 Books of Summer, TOB Summer Camp

Genre/Theme: Historical Lit, a Witch Trial

Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible (cover above links to more)

What It’s About: The author discovers the true fact that the mother of renowned astronomer, Johannes Kepler*, had been accused to being a witch. She vibrantly brings it all to life. I’ve added all her books to my tbr.

Set in early 1600s. Trades people are working, soldiers are off fighting, the bureaucrats are doing what bureaucrats do, the plague is happening, etc. And Frau Kepler is just trying to be a good citizen and neighbor, tend her garden and take care of her cow. But some neighbors are not so happy with her and it snowballs. Katherine Kepler at first dismisses the original charge with a rolling of the eyes but then realizes NO! she will not tolerate lies nor her character being besmirched. And her kids support her, which was sweet. Fascinating, stuff! at least to me.

“…it’s a prime example of the mash-up genre tragicomedy. Katharina’s circumstances are dire and discouraging at best, but her tone and observations about the people she encounters and the situations she finds herself in give the narration an undercurrent of humor..“

Week 11 of Summer Camp TOB: Activity Leader Jessica Klahr

Thoughts: Well done. Well researched and fabulously presented (AND narrated!) Though I did feel that the ending fizzled out and lost some of the sparkle that enthralled me in the middle.

Rating: Four slices of pie. With lots of whipped cream.

The next (story) was that of a pie seller…

Apple Tarts were also mentioned

 

Discuss: 1) Do you have any favorite tragicomedies to recommend?

2) Do you enjoy Historical Fiction? I do, but I don’t necessarily seek it out. Do you? Any favorites from the Renaissance Period?

3) If anyone had casually mentioned Kepler to me, I’m not sure I would reflect on what makes him ‘famous’ – perhaps I would wonder if his name on a math theorem comes to mind? How about you? Are you All IN and knowledgeable about Kepler’s contributions to astronomy/optics/geometry? (I am not. And I recently read a book featuring German mathematicians! But they were 20th century…)

 * Johannes Kepler was a German mathematician and astronomer who discovered that the Earth and planets travel about the sun in elliptical orbits. He gave three fundamental laws of planetary motion. He also did important work in optics and geometry.

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Book of Longings

Thoughts by Sue Monk Kidd, Viking 2020, 432 pages

Challenge: For two books clubs in June

Genre/Theme: Imaginative Historical Fiction

Type/Source: eBook / Kindle

What It’s About: Sue Monk Kidd allowed her imagination to spark in this possible version of a wife of Jesus. She drew upon the real setting and times, history – events – culture. And threw in a lot independence and fiery determination.

The reader first meets Ana who is the only child of a high ranking government official who indulges his daughter’s thirst for knowledge. She fights against an arranged marriage to an old schemer, …

“Few girls find happiness in the beginning, but this is a marriage of honor. You will want for nothing.” I will want for everything.

… and meets Jesus in the marketplace. Things happen, etc. and then some, eventually Ana lives a most unusual but not impossible life. Kidd had fun with this and she delivers.

Thoughts: I thought this very well done. I did have a few questions, and warning – these are somewhat spoilery:

  1. What was the reasoning for not having Ana know about Jesus rising from the dead. Obviously, to assume an answer is to suggest it was a good way to end the tale. With Jesus dying, Ana can move on with her life as a widow and be able to pursue a goal to share her voice.
  2. Did Mary NOT tell Jesus about his status – if that is the right word – about how she became pregnant and what the angels told her? She seemed not to be ‘in the know’ like I would expect. I did like Mary, as she was presented as a very kind woman.

According to Judith and Berenice, the only women who write are sinners and necromancers. I ask you, how do they know this?

(For Jeanne of Necromancy Never Pays)

Rating: Four slices of pie. Pie? No mentions that I noticed. Doesn’t fit the time period.

 

A thin, gray hopelessness crept into the air. I didn’t want them to give up. It was true I no longer believed in the God of rescue, only the God of presence, but I believed in Sophia, who whispered bravery and wisdom in my ear day and night, if I would only listen, and I tried now to do that, to listen.

 

I bless the largeness within you. I wish nurturing for your creativity and may you be brave.

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Cold Millions

Thoughts by Jess Walter, Harper 2020, 351 pages

Challenge: TOB 2021 Long List

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit / Wild West Miner Labor Struggles

Type/Source: ebook / Libby to Kindle

What It’s About: Rye is the main character of this highly researched, creatively constructed story involving the efforts of miners to organize against corrupt law enforcement and the corrupt mining industry leaders of Spokane Washington in the early 1900s. Rye is a teenager hobo-ing the rails with his older brother trying to find honest work. They meet anarchists, actresses, union organizers and everyone in-between. Most have good hearts and some do not. Are we motivated only by a base self-interest and self-preservation?

Thoughts: Maybe it started a bit slow for me but by the end I had been captivated and enthralled by the interesting history, the character development and how much I was rooting for Rye to find a good place to land where might have a chance at American opportunity. I loved it.

And it had lots of pie.

Rating: Five slices of pie. Apple ♦ cherry ♦ mincemeat ♦ rhubarb and “tart” as derogatory term for immoral women.

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Tenth Muse

Thoughts by Catherine Chung, Ecco 2019, 291 pages

Challenge: Personal; I added this to my tbr after reading her lovely judgment in the TOB that advanced a book over my favorite. THAT was how lovely it was.

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit / Feminism, Mathematics

Type/Source: Hardback / Library

What It’s About: The chase for a not-quite-yet solved math puzzle as well as love and identity. Kat is a woman mathematician born in the WW2 years; the story unfolds as she chronicles her life and her search for self — her parents (seem to?) fail her, the education system fails her, her mentors fail to understand her quest for respect. She is undeterred. She sets challengingly high goals career goals to prove to the worlds and herself her own worth. Puzzle pieces fall into place but then never quite fit. Eventually she learns to trust others AND herself.

I couldn’t help but wonder why so many intelligent men aren’t more embarrassed to speak on topics they know nothing about…

Thoughts: Kat is Chinese American and confused as a child because NO ONE will explain anything to her. She has a fierce attitude and determination and this tone is present throughout the narrative. I feared for her and didn’t like a few of her decisions but that is part of the mystery. I was kept guessing what was the true story. As for her heritage and consideration of other paths not taken, I so wish Henry would have come around! Such is life; this ain’t no HEA romance, but I did fall for our heroine a little bit.

Still, I wonder now why it had been necessary, and why my teacher disliked me so much — whether it was because I was a girl, or my family wasn’t from [the town], or because I was half Chinese. But it occurs to me now that even if those were not the reasons she treated me badly, they were the conditions that made it possible to do so.

Rating: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

 

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Proud Shoes

Thoughts by Pauli Murray, Beacon Press 1999 (orig 1956), 282 pages

The Story of an American Family, part of the Black Women Writers Series

Challenge: My own education/ What’s in a Name: Article of Clothing category

Genre/Theme: History, Feminism, Civil Rights

Type/Source: Tradeback, purchased from an Indie bookstore

What It’s About: Pauli explores her ancestors’ lives; shares their struggles and triumphs throughout the 1800s. It is fascinating and a very personal look at the Civil War from a new lens – NOT historian’s but real people. The forward compared it to Alex Haley’s Roots and suggested it as a more important work, certainly as good.

“Slavery had done such violence to the human spirit that the very memory of it was intolerable long after people had outlived it. Even in my time many were trying to grow without roots at all, plucking their sustenance from the air about them.”

Thoughts: Six years ago, I had read John Ehle’s The Free Men about the civil rights campaign in North Carolina. I wish I had read these two books together due to the same setting and only a half generation apart.

“Was it not the promise of America rather than it’s fulfillment which had lured the men and women of so many nations to her Shores? Did not the common love of liberty create a new nation and hold it together in the hour of its greatest need?”

Rating: Fives slices of pie. Apple pie, peach pie, meat pie, pie.

The Big Quarterly… Tables and stands sagged under piles of fried chicken, roasted beef, barbecued pork, smoked ham, meat pies and dumplings, pickled pigs’ feet, fried fish, sausage puddings and scrapple. Almost as many white people came to observe the gaiety and buy meals from the stands as did colored people. It was the one time of the year when slavery and hard times were forgotten, and for a day at least even slaves felt like free men. (Wilmington DE, 1850s)

 

Link to host of the What’s in a Name Challenge: Caroline Book Nook

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Thoughts by Amor Towles,  Penguin Books 2016, 462 pages

Challenge: Theta Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Historical Fiction?
Type/Source: Tradeback; purchased?  I don’t recall how I got this.
 Why I read this now:  Selected Book for October’s Discussion

MOTIVATION for READING: Book Club!

“To what end, he wondered, had the Divine created the stars in heaven to fill a man with feelings of inspiration one day and insignificance the next?”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Count Rostov, a member of Russian aristocracy, is designated a Non-Person, placed under house-arrest in 1928 and mostly forgotten by the Bolshevik powers that be. He adapts quite well to the decades and makes a new family of everyone he connects with.

“There’s a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”

THOUGHTS: One of my favorite things to do is to read reviews that vary from my personal reaction. Most reviews LOVE this story. However, a few readers found it ‘twee’. This word dismays me. I don’t quite have a definition set solid for what TWEE means. (Kind of like ska* music. I have NO IDEA.) If this was twee, it was smarter and more sharp-humor than I think of when something is called that descriptor. That could be my snobbery; Twee things aren’t smart, right?

I liked this story. I was caught up in how the Count was “making the best of it”. I was quite touched that he was all-in immediately to the surprise request of taking care of an 8  year old girl, “Sure, why not?” No protests, only a tiny touch of self-doubt or misunderstanding of what he (and the entire hotel staff, of course) was about to hide and handle.

And of course, she became a lovely accomplished young woman.

But what actually happens at the end? I’m not sure…

“The surest sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.? – Montaigne

I learned a lot or was given new things to think about on the history of Russia that was playing out on the streets outside of the hotel. It felt surreal, as do times now, actually. Is what is really going on in the US really happening?! How can the two sides’ perspective, the violence the anger the ‘fake news’ the accusations, be REAL?!  Ugh, it is frightening and I wonder if we will survive to see the historical perspective on it in 20 years time.

RATING:  I gave this 5 slices of pie. Because it was well written, I enjoyed it, I needed just this right now.

“I love your funny alphabet and those little pastries stuffed with meat.”

pierating

 

* Ska is unique because it really emphasizes the offbeats of the guitar; combines Jamaican drum sounds and jazz beats…

Copyright © 2007-2020. 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.

Bring Up the Bodies

Thoughts by Hilary Mantel, 2012, 14 hours 38 minutes

Challenge:  Personal (and TOB-driven since Wolf Hall is in the Super Rooster)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible
 Why I read this now:  Just its time, I guess…

MOTIVATION for READING: Second book in the Thomas Cromwell series and I very much enjoyed Wolf Hall.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This second in the series was mostly all about the Anne Boleyn marriage years/tenure of the Henry VIII reign.

THOUGHTS: Still all Cromwell being incredibly adept at reading people and able to strategically tap-dance to the whims of the right people. He is so entertaining. And Mantel makes him come across so likeable! Amazing.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. Sadly, I dare say that an English setting like this SHOULD have pie mentioned but I didn’t note one. It’s enough to drive me back into the rhythm and pie of Ducks.

pierating

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