Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 2014-Audiobook-Read
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-10-21 20:26
A dual duel biography
War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation - John Sedgwick

I didn’t know much about the 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr before I read this double biography, but that (of course) didn’t stop me from having an opinion: Hamilton, good; Burr (the “victor”), bad. Learning more about them was revelatory and provided some well needed nuance. John Sedgwick takes readers back to the beginnings of each man's life, revealing surprising similarities and stark contrasts. Both men fought in the Revolutionary War, practiced law in New York City, and held political office--Hamilton worked closely with George Washington and was the first Treasury Secretary, while Burr was Vice President during Thomas Jefferson’s initial term as President. But their contrasts started at birth.  


Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock on a Caribbean island, and then orphaned early and put to work. At twelve he had charge of the Beekman and Cruger shipping business, a job that would have been daunting for most men twice his age. When he was sixteen a ferocious hurricane ravaged the island, but instead of hiding inside Hamilton ventured out to see the storm and then wrote a dramatic account of it for the island’s newspaper. His literary skills brought him to the attention of Hugh Knox, a local minister, who arranged for Hamilton to be educated in America. Hamilton never returned to the island.  


Aaron Burr initially led a more privileged life than Hamilton because he was born into a kind of religious dynasty. His father was a minister and the second president of a prestigious New Jersey college that later became Princeton University, and his grandfather was Jonathan Edwards, a Calvinist minister and a leader of the Great Awakening religious revival of the 1730’s-40’s. Maybe because of his background Burr was driven to accelerate and excel in his studies, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree when he was just sixteen. Burr was a great admirer of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and he made sure that his beloved daughter Theodosia was as well educated as any boy.


Sedgwick’s penetrating account of the eventually fatal rivalry between the two men provides fascinating insights into the personalities involved and the history of their time. The love lives of several Founding Fathers are laid bare and I was intrigued by deportment differences between Federalists and Republicans. Those supporting the Federalist party made formal bows upon meeting and considered the handshake a vulgar Republican custom. George Washington in particular couldn’t bare to be touched. One man who patted Washington on the shoulder to win a bet deeply regretted it afterwards, being almost undone by Washington’s cold stare.


Federalists and Republicans even admired different doctors--Republicans preferred old fashioned bleeding and purging styles of medicine while Federalists like Hamilton favored gentler cures with doctors who allowed the body time to heal itself. America’s polarized politics have a long history.


While I couldn’t understand how he did it, I enjoyed reading about reactions to Hamilton’s financial alchemy. He somehow managed to turn the country’s prodigious debt into money that could be invested in things that would help the young nation grow economically, like canals and roads, but Republicans like Thomas Jefferson, who envisioned a society made up of gentlemen farmers, considered the whole business unseemly.

Moving, informative, and entertaining, the book takes the story forward many years after the Hamilton/Burr duel, including Burr’s audacious attempt to hijack some Louisiana Purchase lands to found his own republic and ending with Burr’s death in 1836.

Source: jaylia3.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/a-dual-duel-biography
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-12-11 20:38
The Weird Sisters
The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown,Kirsten Potter

What bibliophile could resist The Weird Sisters, a story about three book-loving but otherwise very different sisters all named for characters from Shakespeare? I’ve succumbed to its  charms twice, reading the book in 2011 and listening to the audio version in 2014.


My review from 2011:


I loved this satisfying, hopeful, intelligent book from start to finish. It’s a sort of belated coming of age story about three twentysomething, verging on thirtysomething, sisters who grew up in the small college town where their father is employed as a Shakespeare scholar. Their mother has just been diagnosed with cancer and they are all back home to help.


Each sister is named for a heroine from Shakespeare and the title, The Weird Sisters, comes of course from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.  When Macbeth was written the word “weird” meant something closer to fate, and the book’s story contains a mixture of determinism, because each sister is influenced by being born with a particular birth order into a household consumed with Shakespeare, and free will, since each sister immediately sets out to carve her own life.


When I read in reviews that The Weird Sisters has a first person plural narrator, a "we" that includes all three sisters, I pictured a homogenized Greek chorus and was extremely skeptical that the book could delve deeply enough into any of them to be interesting. That turned out to be far from true, and far from being interchangeable these sisters have stark differences that make it hard for them to get along sometimes.  Part of why the first person plural works so well though—and it would be worth reading the book for that alone—is that being family the sisters share the same history, have common understandings, and know each other very well.


And they all love reading. When a soon to be dumped New York City boyfriend of Bianca’s asks incredulously how she has time to finish a few hundred books a year, she narrows her eyes and in a speech that will thrill reading addicts tells him she doesn’t waste hours flipping through cable channels complaining that nothing is on, doesn’t fritter away her Sundays on pre-game, in-game and post-game TV, and doesn’t hang out every night drinking overpriced beer with other hot shot financial workers. Instead, every moment in line, on the train, or eating she--and her sisters--spend reading.


But their differences are as significant as their similarities and all three sisters have big decisions to make. Rosalind, the oldest, has a passion for order, being in charge and staying put, but her fiancé wants the two of them to move to England. Bianca, the middle child, has taken great risks, even breaking laws, because she longs for attention, glamour and the kind of cosmopolitan life that can only be found far from their Ohio hometown, but after being fired from her job she has to rethink everything.  Cordelia, the youngest, has been living a sort of always on the road hippie vagabond life, but now she’s pregnant and putting off telling anyone or even thinking much about her situation.


Part of the book’s charm is its beautiful scenes, especially the ones of common childhood memories, like the time all three sisters danced with wild abandon on their porch, and the time they “borrowed” the family car, even though none of them was old enough to drive, because they wanted oversize, late night ice cream cones. I am hoping for another book from Eleanor Brown.


Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/1062542/the-weird-sisters
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-12-04 11:01
Earthquakes, and comet strikes, and computer bugs, oh my!
Etiquette for the End of the World - Jeanne Martinet

With a Mayan prophecy predicting the demise of the world, SOMEONE needs to write an end times book of etiquette so there isn’t panic and bad behavior when civilization collapses, and Tess is determined that the someone will be her. Not that she actually believes the doomsday prophecy, but her wealthy potential employer is almost looking forward its fulfillment, and since Tess’s own life is already pretty much of a disaster she needs the job. Plus she’ll be conferring with a movie star handsome co-worker so it’s all good. Good, that is, until the end-of-life-as-Tess-knows-it prediction starts seeming all too plausible. Heartwarming hilarity ensues. This entertaining romantic thriller is packed with quirky characters and fun galore.


I bought this as an inexpensive Kindle book, and then was able to purchase an even less expensive Audible version which kept me smiling during my commute.

Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/1056998/earthquakes-and-comet-strikes-and-computer-bugs-oh-my
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-11-28 13:34
I hated it and then I loved it--a series review of The Magicians
The Magician's Land - Lev Grossman
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
The Magician King - Lev Grossman

I’ve had a tempestuous relationship with this series by Lev Grossman. The first book I started out liking--I loved the idea of a secret college for magicians in upstate New York--but in the end I rated The Magicians only 2 out of 5 stars, a bit harsh in retrospect because I read it straight through and I don’t finish books I don’t enjoy. My complaint was that the plot wandered as aimlessly as its snooty-smart, ennui-filled, self-involved teenage main character Quentin, who irritated me.


I wouldn’t have even tried the sequel, The Magician King, except I was intrigued when I heard Grossman mention in an interview that he was only planning one chapter for Julia’s part of the story--as Quentin’s early crush she was a minor but significant character in the first book--but instead of playing a similarly small role in the second she ended up taking over half of the book. Julia was tested for but not invited to attend the formal college of magic Quentin went to, and in the second book we learn how she ends up sort of jumping off the grid and teaching herself spell casting in the gritty underworld of safe-house magicians. Her hardscrabble back-story captivated me so completely I just skimmed through the chapters that didn’t involve her. When I recently listened to audiobook versions of the first two books in preparation for reading the third there were whole sections of The Magician King I didn’t remember.


I enjoyed both earlier books a lot the second time through, even many of the parts I disliked the first time, and the third book is an awesome conclusion that had hooked me from its opening chapter to its final pages. Quentin is thirty now, and has had his impossible childhood dream of living in the Narnia-like land of Fillory come true, and then fall apart. He’s trying to live like an adult and make amends for some of his past actions, which involves him in a hair-raisingly dangerous team-work heist of magical objects. But it’s Janet who really got to me this time. She had been little more than a self-proclaimed bitch in the first two books, but a chapter in Magician’s Land about a solo adventure she had is so mesmerizingly moving that as soon as I finished it I went back and read it through again--something I’ve never done before.


There’s plenty of gripping high-stakes action throughout this series, but there’s also a kind of thoughtful introspection. Grossman considers what it might really be like, both the difficulties and the beauties, if we had magic, here, in our modern but imperfect world. What if its difficulty meant only geeky nerds were smart and obsessed enough to learn it, so magical powers necessarily mixed with angsty adolescent gawk? And how would those social misfits handle the potential emptiness of purpose that could come if it was possible for them to do or have just about anything? What forms might religion or gods take in such a world, and what roles might they play?


I think when I read the earlier books the first time I was looking for something cozier--to the extent that the Harry Potter series is cozy--but now I love how Grossman explores the psychic innards of his characters while giving them plenty of room to grow, and I’m highly impressed with his storytelling skills, his world building, and his ability to develop and run multiple interesting plot arcs and see them all through to a fitting and satisfying conclusion. I think this is the final book in the series, but I’m really hoping there will be more.


The Magicians--originally read 2009, reread 2014

The Magician King--originally read 2011, reread 2014

The Magician’s Land--read 2014

Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/1053430/i-hated-it-and-then-i-loved-it-a-series-review-of-the-magicians
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-11-13 15:47
Popular progressive fiction from the early years of the 1900’s
Emma McChesney and Co. - Edna Ferber

Edna Ferber’s third and final book about savvy career woman Emma McChesney entertained me at least as much as the previous two, beginning with a flurry of excitement in the first chapter. After spending the last 15 years traveling between small Midwest towns or living in New York City, Emma sets off on a boat trip down the coast of the continent to sell her T. A. Buck Featherloom petticoats and skirts in Argentina, where she takes the country by storm. Based on the last two books I knew romance was headed Emma’s way, but she’d been so determinedly independent I wasn’t sure I would like it--I did.


Along with being good stories these books charmed and fascinated me by presenting a lively picture of how people lived, thought, worked, played, dressed, traveled, raised their children, and fell in love 100 years ago during the early decades of the 1900’s. In one chapter Emma was forced to deal with wealthy lady organizers bent promoting their pet cause, which wasn’t “Votes for women” as I had guessed, but instead a self-righteous insistence based on their rigid uneven morality that working class “girls” must be convinced to dress with drab unassuming modesty as befits their station. I would have been disappointed if Emma turned out to be an anti-suffragette, but Emma was right to poke a little good natured fun at these women.


Ferber wrote all three Emma McChesney novels long enough ago that they’re in the public domain so ebook versions can be downloaded from sites like Project Gutenberg. I listened to superbly narrated audio versions available on the Libravox website that made me almost enjoy my commute--I had witty Emma and her adventures to keep me occupied.


Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/1045037/popular-progressive-fiction-from-the-early-years-of-the-1900-s
More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?