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review 2017-02-06 17:49
The Primrose Way by Jackie French Koller

In The Primrose Way by Jackie French Koller we find a detailed account of the first years of settlement in the Boston colony and its environs. Beginning in 1633, we find Rebekah onboard a ship from England just as they sight the land surrounding Massachusetts Bay. Rebekah is coming to join her father, an elder in the church. She is excited to reach the colony yet after leaving the comfort of a cozy home with servants she is somewhat taken aback at the conditions she finds in Boston. Things go downhill once more when she leaves the relatively civilized Boston for the new settlement of Agawam at the edge of the wilderness. Throughout the story Rebekah will deal with betrayal, loss, and love. But will she opt to return to England and the chance to be a bride or choose to remain in the colony and seek her true love?


The Primrose Way is a clever tapestry of fact and fiction that is skillfully woven by the author. Great detail into the everyday existence of both white settlers and Native Americans gives the reader a true picture of what life was like in the early 17th century. Easy reading that will move you through the story at a rapid pace but you'll want to slow down and savor each finely drawn scene. Don't gloss over the details - they add so much to the story. And while the story is placed in early America the characters deal with problems that are relevant today.


This book includes a glossary of Native American terms as well as a detailed bibliography for further reading. Teachers and students alike will enjoy The Primrose Way not only for its story but for the lessons it teaches. Highly recommended.


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text 2015-01-29 19:48
Reading in Progress: The World of Caffeine by Weinberg and Bealer - Coffee Snark!
The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug - Bennett Alan Weinberg,Bonnie K. Bealer

I am always on the lookout for historic snark. Mainly because every now and then someone will write something passionate online, full of despair over people who aren't being polite and how this is ruining our society - something like that. After all, society has survived snark in the past, and the squabbling and the drama. It makes me smile when people think there was a golden era of politeness, when people weren't...well, people. So I enjoy reading about the snark of ages past and wondering how people find this so easy to forget.


For instance! In the 1700s in London they didn't have blogs, but there was the same desire to write about someone or something that was annoying. What did the literate folk do? They wrote snarky broadsides or pamphlets - which could contain essays, poems, tavern songs,etc. (Also see street literature.) These were printed out and distributed. Not for money - this was not about profit (gentlemen don't dirty their hands with that) - only to get it and the (hopefully) witty writing talked about. The subject of your annoyance could get in a huff and write a response and then distribute broadsides of his own. You could go after anyone in writing - but of course, there was always the possibility you'd get called out for a duel or even jail if you were spouting anything hinting treason. But a lot of the snark was of a personal, gossipy nature for the usual human reasons.


Sometimes a snark war would break out in a newspaper's/periodical's letters section. With one person starting it, then the target defending himself (or a good friend stepping in as author) in a response letter, and so on. Afterwards, if the topic was really juicy or you just didn't want anyone to forget the subject of the snark or perhaps how great you were in your snarky writing, you could print up the whole series of letters as a book - which again, you'd not sell, but hand around to friends. Who might eventually see to it that the subject of the snark would get a copy too. Thus perhaps re-starting the snark war. (Randomly I have no idea if snark war is a real phrase I've previously read or not.)


This snark writing was usually done by someone with money, because otherwise you'd want to sell your writing. Lots of class issues in there of course, with the assumption that selling your work meant you weren't a worthy author or scholar. (Again, the whole "gentleman and truly educated people don't work" thing.) If you couldn't write in a witty manner? You could have a friend write for you - and sometimes they'd go ahead and do this without asking you. Surprise! Everyone's talking about you because I just wrote an amusing defense for something you'd not heard you'd been snarked over!


Now I'm not saying all this is particularly good - I am saying this is pretty much what goes on here and there online now. Not a vast amount has changed this way - except perhaps the extremes. (Though remember, duels. Death threats and writing were always there - go read up on Mark Twain's newspaper editing days.) Even if the writing didn't use your name there were loads of clues in the text so that everyone knew who the author was snarking on. (It helped that this mostly went on in a fairly small group of aristocrats and politicians, and their friends.)


So with that in mind - I'm actually bringing the topic around to this book! So when the coffeehouse became wildly popular in the UK of the late 1660s and 1700s, not everyone was a fan. Men gathered in coffeehouses for hours, reading newspapers and discussing politics, literature, etc. Tavern keepers didn't like the competition and those in power didn't like the idea of people criticizing politics.

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review 2014-12-27 06:38
Review: Daring Passage
Daring Passage: Book Two of the Spirited Away Saga - Maggie Plummer

Book Two of the Spirited Away Saga takes us into the teeth of the storm, where Freddy, Colin, Birdie and the children flee from Barbados in their quest to find a place to call home. Sailing to America brings its own terrors complete with colonial politics, religious persecution, and the ever-present fear of having someone discover that they're runaway slaves. Even in the New World, freedom is not truly free and a slip of the tongue could destroy everything.


Maggie Plummer continues an excellent story in Daring Passage. Freddy and Birdie are still the strong and sweet women we met in Book One, and we are lucky to learn more about Colin, with the story being told both by Colin and Freddy in alternating chapters. The author really makes the past come alive as we meet corrupt customs officials, Quaker Friends, and the every day colonials.


While I loved that the author was able to show us that the colonials weren't either good or bad, we were limited to seeing well-off officials and plantation owners. While I would have loved more interaction with the every day people of that era, the story revolves around their journey through the wilds to find Birdie's people, with the hardships carefully written so they are not overlooked nor made to be overbearing.


I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you are interested in the early colonial days and interactions with the native people. This is not a stand-alone story, however, and you will want to read the first book - Spirited Away - in order to get the most out of this tale. I'm happy to say that this second book is as strong and well-written as the first, and I look forward to reading other stories by this author.


Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.




If you enjoyed my review, please help me share it by marking it as being helpful on Amazon. I have included the link to the Amazon review in the Source section at the bottom of this review.

Source: www.amazon.com/review/R3OHUU6DWEOPEN
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review 2014-11-23 02:13
Review: Spirited Away
Spirited Away: A Novel of the Stolen Irish - Maggie Plummer

In the mid-1600s, Cromwell and his men terrorized Ireland, capturing Irish Catholics and selling them into slavery. Told from the point of view of a thirteen year old girl, Spirited Away is a tale that teaches this bit of little known history in a way that will make you both cry and smile.

Frederica "Freddy" O'Brennan is a tomboy, loving nothing more than riding her horse and helping her father in the fields. When her father is captured and she is forced to run with her family, she thought that worst had happened. She finds out how wrong she is when both she and her younger sister are captured and taken to Barbados as slaves. The author doesn't sugarcoat this story, showing families separated, slaves beaten and raped, jealously and hatred... but also hope, love, and the possibility of escape. Bringing humanity to this story of slavery, we are reminded that first and foremost slaves are people, and - even if they had to hide them - have the same emotions as their masters.

I really enjoyed this story. I am a history buff, so it was great reading about a part of history that isn't as well known. But not only that, the characters are likeable - when they're supposed to be - and you really care about what happens to them. We watch Freddy suffer through slavery for over three years, losing her childhood and forced to become a woman. We also see, through letters received, that not all plantation owners are the same and not everyone is brutal to their slaves. While the book is written to tel the story of Irish slavery, we also see many other people and cultures affected, and we are reminded that every culture has experienced their share of tragedy.


Regarding the audiobook: While I purchased the kindle copy of this book myself, I was also gifted with an audible copy of the audiobook (from the author in exchange for an honest review) so that I would be able to compare and review both the audiobook and the kindle version. I'm not a big fan of audiobooks, mostly because I can read faster than most people can speak - especially the actors/actresses who record audiobooks! However, if I was going to listen to an audiobook, I wouldn't mind another one narrated by Whitney Webster. I normally prefer male voices for audiobooks, but Whitney Webster surprised me by being both a relaxing voice to listen to, and someone capable of actually speaking in the appropriate accents that the book required. It was nice to listen to her switch from an English accent to an Irish accent, since too many people have a tendency to blend the two together. I enjoyed both listening to this book and reading it, and being able to switch between the two formats using Whispersync was a nice option.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a free copy of the audiobook (in exchange for an honest review) so that I was able to review both the audiobook and the kindle versions.


If you enjoyed my review, please help me share it by marking it as being helpful on Amazon. I have included the link to the Amazon review in the Source section at the bottom of this review.

Source: www.amazon.com/review/R10TUR4P6XF7MH
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text 2014-02-28 17:51
Reading in Progress: Mad Madge
Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen - Katie Whitaker

Every now and then I'll read someone gushing over life in another century and how romantic it was - and I am never this person. Because there is always such a long list of things that Were Not Allowed that I am wildly happy to be living now. For instance, once upon a time I'd not have been able to share my thoughts in writing, unless it was in a private letter. Once it was thought that only crazy women published books (I imagine women blogging would horrify them). Or such was the idea in the 1600s.


Yes, it's quoting time! Links within are all to wikipedia, in case you want more background on the people involved. Though on the page for Margaret Cavendish the current painting at the top is misidentified as Margaret - it's actually her sister Mary. (As reproduced in this book's section of illustrations and paintings.)


p. 151:


"Printing her work was doubly taboo for Margaret, forbidden her by the values of both class and gender. The gentlemen-poets of court culture rarely printed their verses: such publication would profane their work, exposing it to the vulgar eyes of all. Instead they made handwritten copies for circulation within the elite circles  to which they belonged, thus retaining some kind of control over their readership and keeping up a literary exclusivity that added kudos to their work. On the rare occasions when their poems were printed, they appeared anonymously, billed simply as "written by a person of quality"...
 ...For women of this class the dishonor of publishing was further multiplied by moral considerations. Modesty, silence, obedience, self-effacement - the central concepts of female virtue - would all be violated by publication, and women who printed their works risked shame and denunciation. "Your printing of a book, beyond the custom of your sex, doth rankly smell," one man wrote to his sister: "what will you make yourself to be?"

...Of literary works by upper-class women, only nine had appeared in print in the last fifty years, all of them published without their authors' permission, and the one exception had ended in disaster. Lady Mary Wroth, publishing her romance, Urania, in 1621, had met such virulent opposition for her story's perceived similarities to real people and events that she had been forced to discontinue publication and destroy the copies: the work would not be printed again until 1991 - and even then only in part. A complete edition appeared in 1995.

Margaret knew well of Mary Wroth's fate and she viewed her own plans for publication with great trepidation.

Work, Lady work; let writing books alone,
For surely wiser women ne'er wrote one,

she expected her readers to say, as Lord Denny had written to Lady Wroth."

From the footnote, p 152:

"Margaret's knowledge of this attack of Wroth probably derived from oral tradition, since Denny's verse was not printed. The two versions that now survive in manuscript are both different from the one that Margaret here quotes, perhaps just from memory."

Anyway, from those quotes I think you'll understand why I made a note reminding myself to find biographies on Lady Wroth. There's a long list of references on her wikipedia page, so I'm sure I'll be able to find one. I'll also note here that in college I was all over Shakespearean studies and poets of roughly that time period - and Margaret Cavendish and Mary Wroth weren't mentioned. I should add that this was also at a women's college, and that taking a women's studies course was one of the requirements. It was however in the 80s, and research into the women writers was happening - but access to that information wasn't easy, so I don't doubt there weren't nearly as many resources on hand. There certainly wasn't any internet to pull up bios instantly or find publicly available (and free) samples of their poetry. So again - I love being alive in this time period. No matter where I'd fall on the class or economic scale, as long as I can afford the internet I have a ridiculously vast access to knowledge.


[Insert happy sigh of contentment here. Then insert immediate discontented sigh for lack of hours in a day to read everything that's out there.]


It's somewhat odd trying to figure out what makes an "academic" biography from a more popular one, especially if both are researched thoroughly (footnotes, endnotes, bibliography of primary and secondary sources, etc.). A lot seems to depend on how the author adapts the writing style to be both academic yet readable, because the two don't always go together. So far I think this book has a good mix of both - interesting personalities and anecdotes, but meticulously cited.


And frankly a chunk of the poetry of this era can make for dull reading - some of which is due to everyone and their cousin taking a stab at writing it, and much of it was written specifically to impress (that kind of thing always gets old, like the folk who go on and on about themselves and their own greatness). But! Not in this book! In another post I'll be sure to quote some of Margaret's poetry on love, which would have shocked (and delighted) the Victorians right out of their corsets.


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