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text 2014-08-09 04:52
Reading in Progress: So Remember My Last Post About Libraries?
Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby - Mary S. Lovell

Hey, what's with booklikes being weirdly slow to load tonight? It's almost like something in serverville knows I'm especially wanting to book blog.


I really need to write a love letter all about libraries and why publishers should love them as well. For my current, highly relevant example: Rebel Heart, this very book. My library loan will expire - either sometime tomorrow or in a few hours. And I was going to give in and see what the used book prices were on Amazon.


I may now actually buy the ebook. [Find out by the end of this post if I do! Suspense!] It's at $8.89, and I usually hold out for the neighborhood of $5 and less because I am ridiculously cheap. However there are extenuating circumstances!


1) The author told a story [I quoted it here] about researching the book which involved unknown journals and letters, plus a secret code (every time I type that about the code my brain is just all squee with the idea of how fun that discovery must have been) - and I LOVE that she added this information, plus did all that work researching the subject. This makes me want to reward an author. I am always a sucker for a good research story. (Seriously, I want to write fan mail. I may have to if the book doesn't eventually talk about the code cracking.)


2) I can work with the neighborhood around $8 - it makes a difference that they tried a price other than 9.99, as silly as that sounds. (I see that as publishers experimenting with various prices. I want to encourage that.) If an ebook is priced higher than $12 - which is the start of inching into "more than paperbacks and used, so not for me" I'd say no. Since I buy history books often I see a lot of ebooks in the neighborhood of $20, $50, and higher. I don't buy them.


3) The reason the book blurb for Rebel Heart reads like a romance novel is because Jane Digby's life resembled one - so much so that 8 novels (at least) about her or using her story in some way were published in her lifetime. One of the reasons I'm reading this slowly is that I'm trying to find all of them online for free, and since many were written in the 1800s I have done so! Problem: this makes me stop reading.


[I may also have to make a separate post from the review with brief - yes, I can do brief! sorta! - plot synopses of her life + novels about her and see if anyone can help me figure out if her story's been filmed - possibly without citing her. It seems impossible this hasn't been a movie. Here, read her wikipedia and you'll see what I mean. If you've read or seen many romances you already know her story. Her life is a huge list of Tropes! Actually I'll have everyone help me play Find the Trope. Er, when I finish the book that is.]


4) Even after I finish this book I have a feeling I may want to refer to it - and I also would like a copy where the footnotes work. (I really hope they do in the kindle version - I have no idea if you can actually check this in a Look Inside section.) In any case, when I get to the point where I'm planning to take a screenshot of the reference section just so I can have a list of books to look up in the future? Yes, I want to buy the book. [Post book purchase: footnotes work. Am already reading them. I adore footnotes.]


5) I am having a really fun time writing silly back and forth dialog between people in this book like in that last post of mine. Not caring if I put it all in a review - it's for me, I'm amusing myself. So when I found out the ebook exists - I was already looking for a used paper copy - I thought, well why not just get the book so you can slow down now and have fun reading this way? Because the only reason I'm rush-reading is the expiring library loan part.


Just like that - I've bought the book. (And I did too - just after I typed the next word...click.) I can see this happening a lot too - if I find a library book I really like and then there it is waiting for me to purchase and keep.


...It possibly also helps that I've been reading all day and just ate a huge quantity of candy that was hidden in a part of the fridge that everyone had overlooked. Yes, that's how I roll on a Friday night - I read, unexpectedly eat a lot of sugar and then I buy books for more than I usually spend! Go, Team Book Nerd. (I say, proudly, because this book is definitely worth one expensive cocktail plus tax. Assuming that was an alternate plan for this Friday evening, which it actually wasn't.)


...Where was I? Oh right.


So, see publishers? Libraries - they're helping you sell books. And I know I'm not an exceptional case.


And for the rest of you that are interested, here's the open library link:


Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby by Mary S. Lovell


Someone already has it checked out for the next two weeks though, after I turn it in. (And I can turn it in now and they can gleefully have it early!) But you can hop onto the waiting list. Meanwhile I may post my little summaries in multiple posts if I have too much fun with them. (But yes, in the "click for more" page break thing, because I do know I rattle on a bit when in a book-love-frenzy!)


One thing that is making me very happy about now having this in ebook? One of the (other) reasons it took me forever to read it was that I wanted to curl up with it in a chair or before going to sleep. I have to read Open Office books on my computer - I don't think Open Office uses any formats that work on kindles yet, or tablets. Especially if I have days when I don't feel well - or at least just feel like curling up with a book. (I desperately need a comfortable computer chair. Ugh.)


Later, after book has downloaded:

Randomly I just got a newer ebook version of Carl Sagan's Cosmos as a download. An update maybe? Weird. I wonder how I can tell which part is added...

(And yes, before I typed that sentence I had a moment of "squee, new book acquired!" over the one I bought.)

(Also, when you are out and about and see older women reading and buying books? Know that inside many of them are secretly going all squee over those books. Because I know a LOT of us do that. While we pretend to be extremely mature adults. Heh.)


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text 2014-08-09 01:02
Reading In Progress: Me and Libraries, Argh
Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby - Mary S. Lovell

I am enjoying this book SO much. But I've yet again discovered that I can have the SAME problem with digital/online libraries that I can have with their terrestrial kin. I have an awful time figuring out how much time it'll take me to read a book. And I get distracted sometimes. So I have a rotten time finishing some books in two weeks, while others I read in a few days easily.


Now I have a chunk of this book to finish before the due date tomorrow. Normally I'd just check it out again - but the great thing about Open Library is that you have a notification that someone else is on a waiting list. I LOVE this. Seriously. Most of the time I'm reading books that I assume no one checks out - in the paper libraries of yore I knew this was the case due to the lack of stamps on the book card. (Which always made me sad.) Also I hate to be rude, if I'm using something someone else needs/wants.


But it does mean I'm having to motor through the rest of this book tonight. Which means I really need to stop writing notes about it and just read, except I'm having SUCH fun writing notes - just to keep track of the plot - er, I mean the history. Here's a sample - in the review I'll post the full thing under spoilers in case you end up reading the book, although it's history so not exactly spoilers right? Not that you know who's who in the following...


Charles: So now that I'm betrothed to Jane I'm feeling protective and I feel personally affronted that Felix doubted my Jane and treated her this way. I'm writing to Felix to challenge him to a duel unless he formally denies these stories.
Jane: I've already written him telling him we're going to be married. I might have hinted that even now he could tell me to return to him and I would.
Me: Everyone is REALLY into letter writing.
Felix: Hey I NEVER suspected that Jane was unfaithful! (Though I totally did. And said that out loud. To many other people.) I said we had to part because our "tempers were incompatible." I totally wish you both the best! And I just wrote all that to you in a letter because I never do get around to talking to Jane in person since I ran off years ago!
Author: That incompatible part is a direct quote too.
Me: Is this dude for real?! Also I note he doesn't mention his and Jane's child!
Author: I know right?!


I'll also post quotes so you can see that the author's style is very much history writing, but the material is just SO amazingly lively at all times that you can't not make this sound like a complete soap opera. And I am enjoying it despite the whole "I didn't plan to have this kid so let me find a place to drop him/her off" thing - which, sigh.


Ok, enough break, back to reading...

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text 2014-07-30 20:41
Book a Day #30: Book You Want to Read
Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby - Mary S. Lovell
The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark
The Venetian Bargain - Marina Fiorato
Sacred Treason - James Forrester
Some Danger Involved - Will Thomas
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne Du Maurier
My Real Children - Jo Walton
The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis - Stephen Halliday,Adam Hart-Davis

My memory of what books I've put on my wishlist because of this game is terrible.  I'm sure there are some!


So I'm just listing some stuff I've found out that I want to try recently; I'm not sure of the source on any of them!

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text 2014-07-27 16:16
Reading in Progress: Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby
Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby - Mary S. Lovell

One of my most favorite Moments of Squee: when an author uses the prologue to tell the story of the research behind the book. I adore tales of lost books, undiscovered manuscripts, hidden drawers in old desks that reveal old letters, dusty shelves in libraries with forgotten books - you get the idea.


I'll get back to the forgotten texts bit - but first, the women in question!  I have a long list of women whose biographies I want to read (that I mentally file under Women I Wish Had Been In More History Textbooks), and I've finally gotten around to Jane Digby. Here's the way Rebel Heart describes her life on the book jacket:


"Jane Digby (1807-1881) had everything: beauty, aristocratic connections, money, and, as revealed in her letters, poetry and intimate diaries, a highly original mind. Said to be the most beautiful woman in Regency England, she was married at eighteen to an ambitious politician twice her age, and at twenty-one was involved in a scandalous, much-publicized divorce. Jane had fallen in love with a dashing Austrian diplomat, and she did not care what the world thought.

After the divorce, every door in London was closed to Jane, and so she lived abroad, where she was wooed or wedded by some of the most fascinating men in Europe: among them a duke, an Albanian bandit chief, and King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She was an intrepid traveler and finally found her happiness in Arabia, where she married a sheik and divided her time between the oasis of Damascus and the hard life of Bedouin nomads." 


Sounds a bit over the top doesn't it? Go read Jane Digby's wikipedia page - she did indeed lead a life that was amazing. (Also from what I've read so far, the writing in the book isn't as over the top/Romancelandia-ish as the jacket blurb.) From that much you'll understand why Jane Digby's been on my To Read More About list.


Now let's go back to Rebel Heart's author, Mary S. Lovell, discussing the contemporary biographies of Digby, and her own research in the prologue - specifically trying to find out more about Jane Digby's diaries:

p. 15: "...several subsequent biographers...declared that the diaries were lost. Since [Digby's first biographer] E. M. Oddie had quoted from the diaries hardly at all, this seemed especially tragic. So I set out to discover what had happened to them in order to learn about Jane through her own voice. I also decided to try to locate the diaries and correspondence of people who met or were friends with Jane, not only to see what more could be learned about her, but to give a three-dimensional perspective to her story.

I contacted Lord Digby, a direct descendant of Jane's brother, Edward, and in April 1993 at his invitation I drove down to Minterne House in Dorset one morning to see his collection of Jane's water-colours. Over lunch I told him about my work and, after a pause, he looked at me, seemed to come to a decision, and said, 'Um, we do have Jane's diaries here. But we've never shown them to anyone.'

Within a short time I was seated at a writing table with objects that had once been Jane's; her notebooks and sketchbooks, and her diaries which covered more than three decades, principally those years she spent in the desert. All would need to be transcribed and indexed to be easily accessible. Some sections writing in pencil were badly faded; many entries were written in code and there were passages written in French and Arabic. I realized too that the code, once broken, might translate into any of the languages that Jane spoke; it would be a mammoth task. Five days later I was due to leave for Syria to research Jane's life there. I asked to be allowed to return to Minterne at some date in the future for a very long time.

Somewhere there must be a patron saint of biographers, to whom I owe much."


I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to sit at that desk, looking at all those primary sources that historians hadn't ever seen.


Glance again at Jane Digby's biography and realize how many languages the woman spoke, and you'll see the staggering amount of work Lovell had with all those papers. Not to mention cracking the code! She admits that after all her research she easily had enough content for many thousands of pages:


p 16: "However the job of a biographer is not merely to unearth and assemble facts; one must also dissect, compare, confirm and analyse; then hone the result in order to present to the reader a historically accurate, digestible and, I hope, enjoyable account of the subject."


That was all it took - the story of the unseen primary sources and secret code, plus the part admitting that she had more than enough material (and she edited it down!) - I'm in. I have the feeling I'm going to wish the book was longer than 370 pages - I'm especially interested to see if she'll discuss how those coded bits were translated.

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review 2013-07-21 20:58
A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby - Mary S. Lovell Jane Digby is an amazing woman. A woman who lived a late 20th Century life in the 19th Century. Who was divorced at a time only 2-3 people were divorced per year in England. Had affairs with Kings and Lords and who remained friendly with all her exes throughout her long life. Also a woman who ended her life, still regarded as a beauty, in the middle east, married to a bedouin Sheik. She also met people like the Burtons while in Damascus. An interesting biography about a woman who caught the attention of her biographer, Mary S Lovell, through a chance remark at a cocktail party. Through her research she seems to have got to know her character quite well and genuinely come to like the woman she was writing about and genuinely cared about her. With access to her papers through the family, and with their co-operation wrote an interesting account. The author seems to be someone who has that deft touch with people and an infectious enthuaism for her subject that leaves people after her continue to search for more information for her. The book left me with an urge to learn more about the people around Jane Digby but left me feeling like I'd experienced a significant amount about her. The Author admits when she couldn't find information and although she links available information she admits to conjecture. I would read more written by this author and more about this period, and maybe more about the people she knew.
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