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review 2017-10-06 12:39
Unseemly Pursuits by K.B. Owen
Unseemly Pursuits: A Concordia Wells Mystery - K.B. Owen

Concordia Wells is back for another year of teaching and trying to keep mischievous students’ pranks to a minimum. Hartford Women’s College has a new lady principal, Olivia Grant, who already has a reputation for being overly strict and who seems to hate Concordia in particular. Then there’s Madame Durand, a spirit medium who has started a “Spirit Club” on campus and who Concordia worries is taking advantage of her mother’s grief over the death of Concordia’s sister.

Everything takes a turn for the worse when an Egyptian amulet donated to the college is stolen and the man who donated it, Colonel Adams, is murdered. His daughter and Concordia’s best friend, Sophia Adams, confesses to the murder, but Concordia is convinced she didn’t do it. Finding the real killer will involve finding the amulet and learning more about her own father’s unexpected past as an Egyptologist.

I read the first book in this series almost 3 years ago. Although I didn’t love it and generally thought its mysteries were too obvious, it was a smooth and appealing read that made me want to continue on with the series. I feel much the same about this second book. Concordia was still an enjoyable character, and I liked the historical details, although I wondered whether Lady Principal Grant would really have had the power to confine Concordia, an adult and professor, to the campus the way she did. The women’s college setting continued to be fun and interesting, even though I found myself wishing that it went beyond the occasional mention of student pranks and grading papers. It would have been nice if Concordia had had more on-page conversations with individual students.

After finishing the first book, I was interested in seeing how Concordia’s familial and romantic relationships turned out. This book gave me a lot of the former and not much of the latter. A large portion of Unseemly Pursuits was focused on Concordia’s rocky relationship with her mother, who didn’t approve of her decision to become a professor, and her relationship with her late father. I loved Concordia’s gradual realization that she’d possibly put her father too much on a pedestal. I was less thrilled with the easy way Concordia’s years worth of issues with her mother seemed to resolve themselves in the end. Hopefully the next book makes it clear that it isn’t quite as simple as Concordia and her mother having a few heart-to-hearts.

I’m somewhat wary of Concordia’s romantic subplot, due to my worry that any sort of more serious relationship might lead to Concordia having to quit her job. However, even I was taken aback by the complete lack of mention of David, Concordia’s most likely love interest, for much of the beginning of the book. Him not being around campus was one thing, but she didn’t even idly think about him from time to time. His appearances in this book were few and mostly unmemorable, although there were a couple developments that make me think the romantic subplot might become more prominent (and awkward?) in the next book.

One character who was around more than David: Lieutenant Capshaw. I honestly can’t remember what he was like in the first book, but I really liked him in this one, and David’s general absence made me wonder if the author was planning on shifting Concordia to a new love interest. David seemed like a nice enough guy, but Capshaw could spend the series scowling at Concordia’s amateur sleuthing, doing his best to keep her out of harm’s way, and falling in love with her over the course of several books’ worth of encounters. Sadly, his interest lay elsewhere.

As in the first book, Unseemly Pursuits’ mysteries were a bit too obvious at times. Thankfully, Concordia seemed to catch onto things a little more quickly this time around - I usually only had to wait a page or two for her to realize things I’d already figured out myself. The biggest exception involved a character whose sudden change in behavior somehow didn't clue Concordia into that character's likely involvement in the overall mystery.

While I did enjoy seeing how all of the book’s seemingly unrelated mysteries fit together, there was so much going on that the story tended to feel a bit cluttered. That said, I liked it overall and will probably be continuing on with the series.

Additional Comments:

I noticed one or two continuity errors. The one I’m most sure about involved Dean Pierce. At one point he brushed his hair out of his eyes. However, earlier on he was described as being bald. I don’t think there was enough time between those two parts for him to grow hair long enough to get into his eyes.

The one I’m less sure about: Madame Durand was initially described by one character as having an odd accent, somewhat like that of a Romance language speaker but with occasional Slavic language speaker aspects. Concordia thought of her accent as “exotic.” However, later on Madame Durand’s dialogue was peppered with French words and seemed more specifically French. I thought it might be a sign Madame Durand was slipping up, but Concordia never noted a shift in her accent.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-10-01 01:00
500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights
500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights - Nicholas Patrick Miller

The upcoming 500th celebration of the Protestant Reformation has spawned numerous books focusing on the impact of the movement on particular facet of history.  500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights by Nicholas P. Miller is one of these books in which the author’s articles for Liberty are reproduced in an anthology to chronicle a link between Luther to MLK Jr.

 

The book is divided into four sections surrounding a central theme each reproduced article in that particular section can be related to.  The section introductions and the articles are all well written and fascinating reads especially for those interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues.  However in relation to the subtitle of the book, I found the overall flow of the book did not link Luther to MLK Jr.  The first and fourth sections definitely link Luther and to the present-day, but the third seemed to be just its own thing though very informative while the second is somewhere in-between.

 

So while the focus of showing a progression from Luther to MLK Jr., it thought it faltered enough to impact my overall rating, I still recommend this book to anyone interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues.

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review 2017-09-27 16:23
Jefferson Lies by David Barton
The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson - David Barton,Glenn Beck

This book was challenging to listen to, and I can't imagine it is any easier on the eyes in its physical format. Although there are some great points made about how modern writers often misinterpret history, the writing style in general was repetitive to the point of being condescending. Even worse, some of the faults Barton (rightly) accuses other authors of, he is just as guilty of himself.

 

People who do not study history think that it is boring and simple. They are not aware of the heated debates that take place over motives and personalities. Thinking history is nothing more than a list of dates, they discount it as insignificant. If this book does nothing else, it disproves this thought regarding history.

 

Was Jefferson an atheist, racist, rapist, *add in the negative term you have heard applied to Jefferson here* - or was he a forward thinking, brilliant Christian man unfortunately limited by the world in which he lived? The answer, of course, would fully satisfy nobody at either extreme because Jefferson, like most everyone else, was a complex man not able to be fully defined by simplistic labels.

 

Barton gets a few things completely right. Modern writers do transpose their own worldviews onto historical figures and try to force them to fit into it. They do look at one written line or one spoken comment and draw drastic conclusions from them. They do try to use historical figures as props to hold up their modern ideas despite the fact that we have no idea how they would truly react to our current situation.

 

Unfortunately, Barton also gets a few things wrong. He tries to paint such an overwhelmingly positive portrait of Jefferson that he dismisses evidence contrary to his ideas just as much as those he speaks against. He states repeatedly that Jefferson was unable to free his slaves through his will due to Virginia law, which is easily disproved in about 30 seconds online. Yes, a law similar to what he describes existed, but it was not as restrictive as he makes it out to be. It was a painful exercise to listen to the author attempt to clear Jefferson's name as a 'racist' while admitting that he owned slaves his entire life.

 

This is the problem with trying to force our modern views upon historical figures. In truth, Jefferson really was forward thinking in his attitudes toward blacks, but he still lived during a time of legalized slavery. He did free some of his slaves, and he did hire free black men for various positions and held them in high esteem....but he also owned slaves. This is a way of thinking that we can't reconcile in our modern mind without trying harder to understand the 18/19th century way of thinking. Anyone calling Jefferson a racist or trying to exonerate him is not really trying to understand who he really was because it's just not that simple.

 

I did appreciate the section of this book explaining more detail about the so-called 'Jefferson Bible' and clarifying Jefferson's attitude toward faith & the church. The fact that freedom of religion has evolved into freedom from religion in the US leads to many misunderstandings of Jefferson's feelings and objectives in this arena.

 

This book unfortunately is not a good source on Jefferson due to the half-truths & exaggerations that are made. Some previous knowledge is required to be aware of where the author is taking liberties with the subject matter.

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review 2017-09-06 18:45
The Sun and the Moon
The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York - Matthew Goodman

One morning in the late summer of 1835, New Yorkers woke up to read in the newspaper that the eminent British astronomer Sir John Herschel was in Capetown, in southern Africa, where he had invented a new type of telescope.  He had turned it to look at the moon, and made great discoveries; the moon possessed lakes and volcanoes, bipedal beavers, and man-bats worshiping at temples, among other wonders.

 

This was, of course, a hoax, but almost everyone in New York, and then a great many people in the United States generally, and many in Europe, believed it.  (Hershel complained in a letter to his Aunt Caroline that he had to answer letters in four languages asking about his great discoveries on the moon - he was quite apparently very fed up.)

 

The great hoax was the brain child of the New York Sun, the first "penny newspaper," which started publication in 1834.  Prior to that time, all of New York's papers cost six pennies a copy, and were aimed at the wealthier members of society, focusing their news on shipping reports and the stock market.  None of them had anything so ungenteel as a crime beat or police court reporters.  And none of them had a huge circulation.

 

And then there came The Sun.  It cost only a penny, which the vast majority of the city's population could afford to buy.  It was flacked by newsboys at every corner (something no established paper did).  And it already had a large circulation by the middle of 1835, buoyed by its innovation of crime reporting, and its coverage of the spectacular murder trial of a local religious guru, "Father Matthias."  It almost immediately started acquiring competitors, most notably James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald.

 

Bennett was one of the few in the city who immediately smelled a hoax.  The others seemed to be Edgar Allan Poe, who thought the Sun had ripped off one of his stories (and he was most indignant about it), and P.T. Barnum, who knew a good con when he saw one.  But few others smelled a rat, and The Sun soared in popularity to become the most read newspaper - certainly in the US, and probably on the planet.

 

The ironic thing is that Herschel was indeed at Capetown at the time - though he had not invented a new type of telescope, and was looking at pretty much everything except the moon!

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text 2017-08-02 14:06
Chawton: Jane Austen's Home
Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics) - Vivien Jones,Tony Tanner,Claire Lamont,Jane Austen
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Persuasion - Jane Austen,Gillian Beer
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Emma - Jane Austen,Fiona Stafford
Teenage Writings (Oxford World's Classics) - Kathryn Sutherland,Freya Johnston,Jane Austen
Lady Susan - Harriet Walter,Carole Boyd,Kim Hicks,Jane Austen
Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed - Marie Dobbs,Anne Telscombe,Jane Austen

... during the last 8 years of her life, during which she wrote all of her major novels (and saw four of them published during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma).

 


The dining room, with Jane's writing table tucked away in a corner next to the window.


Jane's bedroom (also the room where most of her family said goodbye to her before she died).


A replica of the blue dress and bonnet that Jane is wearing in the portrait sketched of her by her sister Cassandra.



A quilt handmade by Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother, and a muslin shawl embroidered by Jane.

 

And last but not least ...


The museum's resident cat! :D

Merken

Merken

Merken

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