WWW Wednesday 11/30/2016


What are you currently reading?

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym


What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Victoria:  The Queen by Julia Baird

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami


What do you think you’ll read next?

Never Never by Colleen Hoover

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley


Julia Baird: Victoria: The Queen

From International New York Times columnist Julia Baird comes a magnificent biography of Queen Victoria. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, Victoria: The Queen is a stunning new portrait of the real woman behind the myth—a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.

When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would begin to threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. Born into a world where woman were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty years old, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning. This sweeping, page-turning biography gives us the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times, a Victoria who endured.

OOOOOH boy. This book, like Victoria’s reign, is long and never ending. Except when it does end, it happens suddenly, without warning, and you’re left with half a book left of notes and annexation.

It was interesting reading this so soon after watching The Crown. Obviously two different queens entirely, different time periods, different manners, different ideals. But the same challenges, prejudices, ageism, and misogyny. I could certainly see how the groundwork for Elizabeth’s reign was laid by Victoria’s. But that’s a different story altogether. Back to Victoria…

There’s so incredibly much to be learned here. I really knew nothing about Queen Victoria before starting this, except that there is a whole group of people and culture named after her. Who knew that her husband was the main influence of that movement–not actually Victoria herself? My reading journal is filled to the brim with the new random facts I gained by reading this.

But, that’s also my biggest criticism too. Sometimes this book doesn’t seem like much of a biography of Victoria at all. Often I wasn’t sure if she even respected the Queen, and I feel like that is kind of a necessary qualification for writing a biography about someone. It’s hard to figure the author’s motivations. Did she want to write about Victoria, but lose respect after getting into the research? Was she just super into the time period and decide the Queen would be the best base? I’m not sure. At times it almost felt more of Florence Nightingale’s commentary on Queen Victoria’s lack of feminism.

Speaking of which, let’s be clear. Queen Victoria was NOT a feminist. Which was wholly disappointing to discover–and why I wonder if the author misses the respect needed to write the biography she intended. Albert was that husband that very much dissed woman’s suffrage and even though his wife was THE QUEEN, still managed to convince her that he deserved more power over her. The work felt bitter because of it, especially when Nightingale stuck her nose in.

As an informative biography, I think it’s extremely well researched. I found the details fascinating, and as usual I loved reading about a monarch I didn’t previously know much (or anything) about. However, there definitely seems to be a bias here. I am unsure if it was intentional or if the history really was colored that way, but there’s just some weird tone that I haven’t felt in other similar biographies. Hm. I need to think on this one.


NetGalley and Random House provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.


Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

Opens mouth.

Shuts mouth.

Opens mouth.

Shuts again.

That was…an experience? I have so many mixed up thoughts, which I suppose is not completely unexpected, as this IS Shakespeare retold. I’ve mentioned before that I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare to begin with–it takes me time to come to terms with his plays. But, because this was Margaret Atwood, I wasn’t going to miss it, right?

I was immediately confused by some of the language. Granted, Felix is a snooty theater person, so his speech is “high elitist,” but it is still a little over the top. And the prisoners are just the opposite…is there such a thing as under the top?

And then there’s this sentence:

“Should that happen, his humiliation would be total; at the thought of it, even his lungs blush.”


Felix also really took care to describe the races of the prisoners. And I say that with my tongue all the way in my cheek because when he was first introducing us to the men, he would point them out as yellow, red, brown…you get the picture. It was extremely cringeworthy.

I’m sure a case could be made that Felix is an unreliable narrator and this is not actually how the author feels or would refer to people in real life. But I still don’t think it’s at all appropriate or called for. Just because a person is of color does not mean we actually need to refer to them BY that color, especially when in history those colors have had such negative connotations.

While the language really bothered me, I did appreciate the breakdown of the play itself. It was certainly an interesting interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I read through the text before beginning this book, and didn’t quite grasp what happened–Felix’s class broke it down so much better! This is what I wish I would have had more of growing up–legitimate discussion of literature. We didn’t read many classics in school, so I missed this. I would have understood Shakespeare better had it been broken down this way, perhaps. I wish I could go back and take lit classes for fun now. It’s why I write this blog–analysis and discussion.

I’m sure all of this is completely unlikely. I know there are classes held in prisons, but full scale theater productions, with props and blackout performances? I can’t see that happening–especially where ministry dignitaries would be allowed unescorted by security. I will say it was an engaging book, but I cannot rate it very highly due to the racial disregard shown. We must do better.


I won a copy of this book from Hogarth Books in their Read It Forward newsletter. This post contains affiliate links.


WWW Wednesday 11/23/2016


What are you currently reading?

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym


What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Immortal Writers by Jill Bowers


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Essential Gore Vidal by Gore Vidal (This one may end up being a study book.)


WWW Wednesday 11/16/2016


Can you believe it has been over a month since I’ve done one of these? Feels good to be getting back into the swing of things–and on a schedule that won’t kill me.


What are you currently reading?

Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser

Poetry:  Say Uncle by Kay Ryan

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym


What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Immortal Writers by Jill Bowers

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu


What do you think you’ll read next?


Legend by Marie Lu

Victoria by Julia Bard

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Jill Bowers: Immortal Writers

Young up-and-coming author Liz McKinnen has no idea that her life is about to change forever when she comes home from her first book tour. When she’s kidnapped and told by her captors that she has to kill her fantasy book’s antagonist, she thinks that she’s fallen into the hands of crazy, dangerous fans… until her antagonist sends a real, fire-breathing dragon after her. Liz is quickly initiated into the Immortal Writers, a group of authors from throughout time whose words have given them eternal life, and whose prose is so powerful that it’s brought stories over from the Imagination Field into the Reality Field. As Liz meets authors such as William Shakespeare, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen, she has to learn how to control magic, fight dragons, and face her own troubled past before her power-hungry villain takes over the world. Will she survive the ultimate battle against the dragon lord whom she created?

Can you be both in love with a story and hate the writing at the same time? This is such a mixed review for me. The concept is so creative:  a young writer is so brilliant that her characters come to life and take her to a castle where she is inducted into a society of Immortal Writers with the like of Shakespeare and Tolkien. However, as a sort of initiation, she must conquer her own villain. There are dragons, and magic, and a dashing hero to kiss.

Sounds awesome, right?

However, I found it all a bit juvenile. NetGalley lists this in their Teens & YA group, but I would put this on the very young side of that grouping. For a book about an author who is supposed to be as great as HG Wells and Dostoevsky, the prose just doesn’t measure up. The characters are very one-dimensional, and even the authors, while amusing, are caricatures of themselves. Bowers seems to have a particular disdain for Jane Austen and romantics, which is ironic since this is a fantasy romance.

Not much diversity either. Every relationship is heterosexual, and there is only one token POC in Langston Hughes…and he’s the first to get injured in battle. I never thought I’d call Langston Hughes a “token” POC, but he really feels that way here. More diversity, please!

Trigger warnings for domestic violence and child abuse.


NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers provided an ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.



I have a lot of emotions, but the one I feel most overwhelmingly is MAD.

Mad that we are here today, uncertain about the future. Mad that we have a political system that cheats voters out of their true voice. Mad that so many of those voices are suppressed. I’m mad that we had a law that protected those voices and it was taken away because we are in denial that racism still exists.

I’m mad that the people appointed to lead our country are racists and bigots and misogynists. We have one man whose life is fraught with scandal and who shows us over and over how he tears people down, especially women and people of color. We have another who already has an extensive political career in harming women and LGBTQIA+.

But the real thing I am so mad at is that WE elected these men. MY DEMOGRAPHIC. 66% of white women voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence–two men who hate women. WHY? We were so afraid to let go of our privilege that we gave up our rights, and the rights of our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers.

And so I’m mad. FURIOUS.

But while I’m mad, my friends of color are terrified for their lives. My friends in the LGBTQIA+ community are scared not only that they will lose the rights they have fought so hard for, but maybe their lives too.

We have had bad presidents before, we have disagreed with those in government before. But this is a wholly different situation.

This decision could cost people their lives. Already after Day 1, we are seeing reports of Muslim women having their hijabs pulled off. Gay children are coming home in tears after being bullied, and 4 trans kids committed suicide yesterday. These are not isolated incidents. This election has basically told bigots “You are right! These people are gross and you need to tell them.”

So many of us are feeling helpless right now, but there are some things we can do.

  • If you see bullying like the above, DO NOT STAY QUIET. Either stand up to the bully yourself, or at the very least, be an impassive force by getting the person out of the situation.

Hi everyone! This is an illustrated guide I made as part of my co-admining work at The Middle Eastern Feminist on Facebook! It will be published there shortly. The technique that is displayed here is a genuine one used in psychology - I forgot the...

  • Donate to a suicide hotline. So many people, especially kids, are calling in for help right now. They need your support, so if you can, please donate. Here are some of the best (Also, if you need help, please do not hesitate to use these. They are there for you!):
    • The Trevor Project (LBGT+): 1-866-488-7386
    • Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
    • http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#
    • http://www.crisistextline.org/get-help-now/
  • Huffington Post also wrote an article with several places to donate.
  • Call or text or email your friends, family members, and coworkers who may be hurting right now. Ask them how they are. Listen to them. Really listen.
  • Check on your kids. There’s a lot of bullying happening, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are witnessing or hearing things they aren’t used to. There have been several articles written on how to talk to your kids about what is happening. I’m not a parent, so I’m not going to point you that direction, but I’m hearing it from several of my friends that this is affecting them already.
  • Consider joining an anti-racist group or civil right organization. Here’s a good resource that lists several, or hit google to find one in your area. This is a good way to get involved with the peaceful protests and movements that are happening.

I had a friend in another country make a joke about how silly the name of our country was:  The United States of America. And she was right. Because we haven’t been United. We need to be a united front in fighting racism and prejudice. We don’t know what is coming, and that is why so many people are terrified. We need to be a community more than ever. Be kind. Be loving. Be safe.

I love you all.

Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen

Hans Christian Andersen’s magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is elevated from a children’s book to a unique work of art. It is an ideal gift for people of all ages.

It’s interesting how fairy tales used to be so harsh and murderous. The world was so simple. Death was a part of life–people felt, they got angry, there were consequences and murder. Fairy tales were not for children.

Now, these stories have been so watered down. This isn’t a fairy tale I’ve read before, and maybe that’s because it would be pretty hard to Disney-fy it. That said, I wonder if this influenced CS Lewis when he wrote The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. There is a lot of resemblances to Edward’s story line.

The book itself is stunningly beautiful with its blue paper cut out illustrations, done by Sanna Annukka. That is what drew me to it on Blogging for Books.  It is cloth bound hardcover, and would make a gorgeous gift for any collector.

A copy of this book was provided by Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press. This post does contain affiliate links.



Jennifer Mathieu: Afterward

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

GAH this book will make you HURT. It’s a book about trauma–kidnapping, sexual abuse, PTSD, healing. It tore me up so much that I didn’t write the review immediately because I just wasn’t sure HOW to write it.

I’m still not sure.

Mostly I just felt so much pain for the boys and their families in this story. It’s extremely intense, so be careful with yourselves when you read it.

I’m sorry, this is a hard book to review–it’s beautiful, and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it, but also put a major trigger warning on it.


This book was awarded in a Goodreads giveaway by Roaring Book Press. This post does contain affiliate links.



…that awkward moment when you think you’re reading a free Kindle book, and you start to dismiss it because the writing is bad…but when you go to delete it from your Goodreads you find out it is actually a classic and on the Boxall 1001 list and everyone has rated it 5 stars..


SIGH. That means I have to read the whole damn thing. ALLLLRIGHTY THEN.

Basically, Hunger is about a man who is driven to self-destruction. He refuses to work–although he does try to write for a newspaper at one point–and so he wanders about drunk and desperate. He muses on God and the idea that a higher power might be trying to beat him down. People try to rescue him from himself, but he mostly refuses all help.

I hated the book itself. Translations are always somewhat awkward–this one is Norwegian–but honestly, I think the writing is just horrible. It’s rambling and long, and nothing really happens except he’s hungry and doesn’t eat. And when he does eat, he pukes. Ok?

However, the narration does describe depression and anxiety vividly, and for that, it at least held my attention throughout. The man very clearly is mentally ill. It does make me hold the book up to modern times and wonder if the outcome would be the same–sadly, I think it probably would be.

I’m marking another book off my Boxall list, but I can only give this one 2 Book Dragons. Only the mental illness descriptions saved this from complete doom.


Fulfills Boxall #101