At the turn of the century, it was not uncommon for large passenger ships to find stowaways on board. Usually of the lower classes, these passengers w...moreAt the turn of the century, it was not uncommon for large passenger ships to find stowaways on board. Usually of the lower classes, these passengers were kept in steerage and usually turned back to Europe once they reached Ellis Island and were denied entry into America. But in Belgium in 1904, a member of the privileged classes stowed away on a ship wearing a formal white evening gown and diamond earrings. She had no money, no luggage, no name, and no history.
Those are facts as reported by the New York Times on August 3, 1904. Republished as a moment in history, it came to the author's attention in 2004. These are the only factual details around which the author builds up a story of a small group of passengers aboard the Red Star Line steamship Kroonland. Each passenger travels with his or her own muddy past, but the woman in white is the mystery they all want to solve.
Though the plot becomes tragically predictable throughout the middle, it was cute, engaging, and short.(less)
Melissa Olson is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, in a chick-lit-that-isn't kind of way. While not high quality literature (and with some...moreMelissa Olson is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, in a chick-lit-that-isn't kind of way. While not high quality literature (and with some glaring mistakes that an editor should have been able to find!) her books are fun and keep me guessing through to the end.
In this new Lena Dane Mystery series we meet Lena, a former cop, now private investigator, who works in an honest way. She doesn't cheat her clients, and she tends to become emotionally involved in their cases, especially when the cases involve the welfare of children. So it's surprising to the reader that Lena is less than thrilled to discover that she is about to have a child herself, and she throws herself into a new case to find the missing biological father of a teenaged boy who will soon be without a guardian. What seems like it should be a simple missing persons case becomes very dangerous, and everyone expects Lena to sacrifice a bit of herself to protect her unborn child. It's fun to watch as she wrestles with this; caught between being true to herself and what society says she should be.
I couldn't put the book down and read it all in one day! I look forward to finding out what happens next.(less)
This is the final set of articles that Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist. It is interesting to watch her writing style change as her daughter, Ros...moreThis is the final set of articles that Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist. It is interesting to watch her writing style change as her daughter, Rose (at the time a world-renowned journalist) came home to Rocky Ridge farm after traveling Europe with the Red Cross. Laura includes Rose's stories in many of these later articles, and also has more time to write longer articles since Rose has taken over most of the house work. Apparently Laura, now in her 50s, was in poor health.
Laura's last regularly scheduled articles are written in 1924; they stop with the death of her mother on Easter Sunday of that year. After that, at Rose's urging, she began writing a book, a novel about her childhood, and so she only published several more articles. The last article is actually from 1931 as she is waiting for a publisher to approve changes to her manuscript for Little House in the Big Woods.(less)
I love reading these articles! They really capture the time in a much more honest way than time-period movies. Through Laura's articles for the Missou...moreI love reading these articles! They really capture the time in a much more honest way than time-period movies. Through Laura's articles for the Missouri Ruralist we catch a glimpse of politics, economics, gender roles, and technology of a quickly changing era. Laura has a lot to say about gridlocked Congressional nonsense (sound familiar?), finding alternatives to gasoline to limit carbon emissions (more familiarity?), the newly won right of women to vote, the use of time and necessity of doing Work-what you do for pay and to make a living versus what you do that makes a contribution to your community. Her articles, often based on her reading of National Geographic and letters from her daughter Rose who traveled as a journalist, introduced family farmers to locations across the ocean which that had never imagined. In one of her articles, she talks about scientific experiments which led to learning about Earth's atmosphere and the "air submarines" scientists and engineers were trying to build to explore space. It's so much fun to read about these real-time events for her time, since all I associate her with are the Little House books!
More and more I do not appreciate Dan White's commentary before her articles. Rather than simply giving historical context to an article, he editorializes a lot and butts in his own opinion or comparison to present-day events.(less)
The collection of Laura's articles for The Missouri Ruralist continues in this second volume. She focuses a lot on integrity, endurance, and hard work...moreThe collection of Laura's articles for The Missouri Ruralist continues in this second volume. She focuses a lot on integrity, endurance, and hard work. Life has changed a lot. In one article that particularly spoke to me she marveled at the fact that so many new time-saving technologies were in use, but people seemed to have less time than ever before. This, and many other articles about stalling and corruption in different levels of government, and America involved in world-wide assistance are topics that we often think are unique to us today, but through her writings we learn that they have always been issues.
I very much enjoy her writings, and I like the background that Dan L. White is able to provide; insight into how her attitudes are reflected in her writing. However, toward the end of the book, White begins projecting his own views and opinions into his introductions that add nothing to the reader's experience of Laura's early work. He and I would not be friends.(less)
Dan L. White lives in Mansfield, Missouri, the final destination where Laura and Almanzo Wilder built Rocky Ridge Farm and spent the rest of their day...moreDan L. White lives in Mansfield, Missouri, the final destination where Laura and Almanzo Wilder built Rocky Ridge Farm and spent the rest of their days. White and his wife have studied the Wilders and written many devotional books based on Laura's writings and earmarked Bible.
These Before the Prairie Books are compilations of articles that Laura wrote for the local farming magazine. White points out elements of Laura's writing style and personality, and also fills in the historical backdrop against which Laura was writing. By 1916, several people in Mansfield had automobiles, and World War I had begun with tanks and planes. This is a far cry from the Laura Ingalls we think of, riding through an empty prairie in the back of a covered wagon. Many of Laura's articles deal with the subject of new devices for the home that make work easier, or take away some of the joys of the work.
It has been fun reading these articles and watching her writing style change as she comes closer to the decision to write the Little House books. Reading what she has written about farm life as an adult takes me back to the same feelings I had reading the Little House books as a kid.(less)
Published posthumously and largely unrevised, this is the last known work of Pearl S. Buck.
The story doesn't exactly have a plot. It basically takes u...morePublished posthumously and largely unrevised, this is the last known work of Pearl S. Buck.
The story doesn't exactly have a plot. It basically takes us through life as experienced by Rann Colfax, a born genius, as he develops and learns from infancy through adulthood.
Buck writes about the joy and loneliness that come from too much wisdom and understanding. Rann can simultaneously be learning and taking in the wonder of everything around him and be perfectly alone and apart from normal society. He is never accepted as part of a peer group, but never really seeks to be.
Because the story begins at conception, you really wonder where this is going for a good portion of the book. And while the theme of learning (from books, experiences, and others) is present from the beginning, the apparent "moral" of the story really only happens in the last 10% of the book. I didn't have page numbers as I read this on my Kindle, but all of the sudden events are happening for the last 20% and the book comes to a screeching halt. Whether this was purposeful or Buck didn't have time to finish and edit, I suppose we'll never know.(less)
Religious books are very hit or miss for me, and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to read this book. Did I really need another Southern Christian woma...moreReligious books are very hit or miss for me, and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to read this book. Did I really need another Southern Christian woman telling me my life is incomplete because I don't have a master husband and children to raise? So I began this book as a heavy skeptic.
Swope is far from perfect. She calls her husband cuss words in front of her children. She is quick to quit and walk away from challenges. She suffers from anxiety and depression and has been medicated at moments in her life.
She also believes that she is exactly the way God wants her to be. Women today are under a lot of pressure. To have the perfect family. To have the perfect career. To look a certain way. Act a certain way, and have it all at once. Swope claims that we don't have to be any of that. God created us to live our lives the best way we know how and to use our experiences to help each other. We can throw all of that other stuff out of the window and just say, "God is enough." That takes a lot of pressure off.
And she admits that you will not perfectly live into that mantra every day. Anyone who seems to, well, you don't really know what is going on inside someone else's head. And anyone who says they do, is a liar. That also takes a lot of pressure off. We aren't going to be perfect. All that matters is that we focus on the gifts we have (because we all have them, and we should get to know them) to make our lives and the lives of others as amazing as possible.
I also like that this book doesn't claim that if you just give everything over to God he will make you wealthy, or always happy, or anything like that. God doesn't promise those things, and Swope doesn't either. The simple message is that if we take the time to know ourselves and know God, we will have the confidence to tackle our passions, which is all we are meant to do in the first place.
My favorite quote from the book,something I struggle with, page 138: "Isn't it easy to completely neglect our dreams and desires to meet the needs of everyone around us and call it self-sacrifice? It sounds godly, but in doing so we risk shutting down a place in our soul where God's dreams and gifts are waiting to be revealed. It's not self-seeking but God-seeking to intentionally get to know and become the woman God created you to be."(less)
Of all of the YA dystopian novels I've read in the last few years, I honestly think this one is simply not as impressive. It can not compete against w...moreOf all of the YA dystopian novels I've read in the last few years, I honestly think this one is simply not as impressive. It can not compete against worlds created within House of the Scorpion or The Hunger Games. As there really wasn't much substance, it was a very quick read.
In a dystopian future, society in Chicago has separated into the five factions that they believe exemplify the best of human virtues. Candor values honesty, Erudite values knowledge, Dauntless values bravery, Amity values peace, and Abnegation values selflessness. Those who do not fit into a faction become the factionless, the untouchables of society who mainly subsist on menial jobs and help from Abnegation.
At the age of sixteen, the youth of the city take aptitude tests to better understand where their strengths and values lie, but the ultimate choice of faction is made by the individual. As Beatrice prepares to make her decision, and works through the initiation process, she finds that she values parts of each faction, and wonders what makes her so dangerously different that she must hide her true feelings.(less)
Elinore lost her husband in a railway accident and made her way to Denver to find work to support herself and her infant daughter. After working as a...moreElinore lost her husband in a railway accident and made her way to Denver to find work to support herself and her infant daughter. After working as a laundress for Mrs. Coney, she accepts a position as a housekeeper for a Scottish rancher in Wyoming, where she files a claim for her own land.
Her letters to Mrs. Coney span the first few years of her life as a female homesteader. She is in love with the beautiful mountains and pine forests, and isn't afraid of hard work or wild animals. However, she doesn't leave out the details of the punishing weather, and the harsh conditions many women face who have been abandoned with their children. She introduces Mrs. Coney to her neighbors, spread out over 30 miles of wilderness, including several very strong, single women. These women enjoy a freedom, and have such a loving, joyful spirit!
These are Elinore's real letters, with only some edits to change names. While I'm familiar with the idea of pioneering families, I hadn't heard many stories of the women, especially ones who decided to have a go of it on their own. This book is so full of the many wonderful stories of the pioneers of early 1900s.(less)
In the mid-1830s people from all over the world lived in relative harmony in the great Ottoman city of Constantinople. The Sultan Mahmud II doted on h...moreIn the mid-1830s people from all over the world lived in relative harmony in the great Ottoman city of Constantinople. The Sultan Mahmud II doted on his favorite sister, Esma, and allowed her the privilege of keeping her own harem of women. Her women, technically slaves, were her adopted daughters, and were free to make their own decisions and play happily about the palace.
Mahmud feared, rightly or not, the Janissary troupes who had led many campaigns to expand the Ottoman empire, but had also deposed my Sultans that they felt were unworthy of the crown. While the main character, "The Drowning Guard", is fictional, the main plot twist as Mahmud divides his Janissary units and causes them to slaughter each other, eliminating the corps, is fairly true to history.
I enjoyed this book and found it to be very easy reading. In a kind of ode to the tales of Scheherazade, Esma Sultan seeks to tell the tales of her childhood and beliefs to her Drowning Guard, Ivan, the man who must drown the Christian men she takes to her bed, by order of her brother. His opinions of her as murderess change as her stories unfold and secrets of her harem are revealed.(less)
By the same author as The Bloodletter's Daughter, this book blends a fictionalized retelling of the sadistic exploits of Countess Erszebet Bathory in...moreBy the same author as The Bloodletter's Daughter, this book blends a fictionalized retelling of the sadistic exploits of Countess Erszebet Bathory in 1610 with a modern day thriller. I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the combination.
Countess Bathory is one of the inspirations behind the legendary stories of Count Dracula. (Along with her ancestor, Vlad III.) She brutally tortured and murdered young girls, as few as 80 or as many as 600, for sport. Later legends say that she bathed in their blood believing it would keep her looking young.
This story is entwined with that of Betsy Path, a fictional psychoanalyst who travels to Slovakia in search of her mother, who has gone missing. The stories converge as the 400th anniversary of the arrest of Countess Bathory approaches.
I very much enjoyed the book, but would have been far more pleased without the interruption, and terribly far-fetched, modern day kidnapping chase. I'm surprised that I had never heard of Countess Bathory before, and a story revolving around her court would have been fascinating.(less)