Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Blatherings: Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!  This year is pretty low key.  My mother is flying back from Ohio today, my best friend is in the Dominican Republic, and I went to have dinner and decorate eggs with family yesterday.  It was really nice to catch up with extended family and their kids.   

As a quick catch up, we're now on Spring Break.  I finished up end of term--yes, I magically finished all of those essays that had to be graded.  We're in full state-test-prep mode now, which I'm integrating into the unit I teach.  I try not to completely focus on teaching to the test, but the truth is that even a few focused lessons right before the test can help with test scores. 

Over the coming week, I'll be heading home to Idaho to help my mom wrap up a few things so she can sell and move.  The whole process has been pretty gut-wrenching, since that is where I grew up.  In fact, my family has lived in that part of Idaho for over 150 years, so it's pretty difficult to start to let go of places that have been in my family history for so long.  The truth is that most of our family now live elsewhere--actually within an hour of where I currently live.  This move isn't going to be easy, but it will be nice to have my mom closer, and memories are really about people, right?

Well, that's my little corner of the world.  I hope you have a great Easter and a great weekend!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

End of Term

I've been grading most of the last two days (and last week), so reading has gone to the back burner for the moment.  I am, however, still catching all the March Madness news so I can dive in later this coming week.  Let's just hope that I get these essays and all my grades in with plenty of time to spare so I can enjoy!  I'm at about 20 minutes a paper, with 14 left to go.  That should take me, what, another 4 1/2 to 5 hours? 

I'll be back once the papers (not dust) settle!  Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Days of Splendor by Juliet Grey

Seriously.  I think I keep reading books about France, Paris, etc. because I'm dying to go back!  I thought I was going to get to go over to Paris next month, but that fell through, so I just keep reading books that can take me on a journey.  As for a literary journey, Days of Splendor is the second in the Marie Antoinette series, so I would recommend you check out my previous review of Becoming Marie Antoinette if you're interested in reading about Marie Antoinette or that time period in history.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attachĂ© Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever."

Review:  Picking up where the first book left off, we find Marie Antoinette learning about her role on the throne and how to deal with her lack of a child.  Even more troubling is her entire lack of intimacy with her husband, which would give her that child.  Repeatedly, Antoinette faced the ridicule of the court and the citizens of France.  Why couldn't she produce and heir?  Was she just there in Versailles to spend money and drive the people of France further into poverty?

I'm pretty intrigued by the story of Marie Antoinette and have been for a long time.  The first book really made me feel for this young girl, who was thrown into a world of responsibility, yet sheltered away from the world that swirled around her.  In this installment, her biggest worry is her lack of a child with Louis.  Yes, he has stress to deal with in his position, but he continually runs off hunting and then cannot be intimate with his own wife.   Since we view the story from Antoinette's viewpoint, it's difficult not to want her to just have a child and get some of the stress of the nation off of her shoulders.  

Thankfully, as history tells us, she did eventually go on to have children with Louis.  There is some research that says or believes that Louis had a condition known as phimosis, which once circumcised, made him then able to reproduce and have children with Antoinette.  Whether this is true or not, historians still seem to debate.  However, this was part of the story and really added to the drama surrounding Antoinette's crazy life at court.

Beyond the story with Louis, I really liked hearing about Antoinette's time acting and spending time on the grounds of Versailles.  To a full-time working gal, the kind of luxuries she enjoyed sounded pretty heavenly, even though she often described them as tedious.  

Laden with history, intrigue, and romance, Days of Splendor is a great historical read for those interested in France, Versailles, or Marie Antoinette.  The story does not end with this book, and because of that, I'm anxious about the one to follow.  We know from history what happened at Versailles, so I'm a bit nervous to read the next installment.  The writing, descriptions, and details are sometimes a bit slower in this second novel, but I still found the story captivating and interesting to consider.  Although I like to wonder and dream about parts of Marie Antoinette's life at Versailles, there are definitely many things I can see that I would never want to experience!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Pride and Pyramids by Amanda Grange

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Pulled into the craze of Egyptology, the Darcys and their lively children embark on an expedition to find a hidden tomb and uncover its treasure. Not only are immeasurable riches awaiting them in the exotic land of the Sphinx, but also danger and betrayal and the chance to lay an ancient grudge to rest...

Amanda Grange, bestselling author of Mr. Darcy's Diary and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, teams up with Egyptologist Jacqueline Webb to create a breathtaking historical tale. The Darcys' adventures at the hands of these talented -storytellers open up whole new realms of exploration for lovers of Jane Austen and the Regency world."

Review:  Pride and Pyramids by Amanda Grange, was one of those novels that I thought I wouldn’t like.  I know that sounds like a bad way to approach a book, but I will own up to my hesitation.  Once I got going with the story, however, I found that I really enjoyed it and wanted to keep reading.  

Obviously set post-Pride and Prejudice, we find Elizabeth and William Darcy married with a family of beautiful children.  To their brood, they introduce this journey of a lifetime to Egypt to visit the ancient sites as other upper class members did in their day.  To the story we add the intrigue of a doll, that seems to have taken on a life of its own and overtaken their daughter.  (Strangely, it reminded me of that tiki doll episode of the Brady Bunch when Greg was “cursed” by the doll in Hawaii?  Yes, very much like that.) 

I liked the adventures the family went on, and I enjoyed the idea of them going to Egypt together.  In some ways I thought there was no way William Darcy would have permitted the endangerment of his family on such a major journey, and yet I still kind of liked considering it.  Overall, I just thought it was a really fun, engaging, and entertaining continuation story.  If you like adding to the familiar tale of Pride and Prejudice, then this is a fun story to continue with.

*FTC Disclosure:  Review is based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Late (or Early) Sunday Night Blatherings: Daylight Savings Edition

I thought I'd just skip out today and not bother posting anything, but I thought I'd share a bit about what's up in my world.

Weekend's Biggest Achievement:  Tax receipts added up and off to my accountant!  Woo hoo!  It's not necessarily good to have been raised by a father who did taxes for a living.  As an adult who has kind of crazy taxes, what with my online job that is out of state, and lots of write offs, I miss having my dad around to take a look at them.  Thankfully, I have a great tax man and he really puts my mind at ease.  Yay for that nightmare being wrapped up!

Week's Funny Moment:  As mentioned in an earlier post, I have a student teacher for the first time.  It's a strange, interesting, and fun experience all mixed together.  My student teacher is a great teacher and is going to do a really nice job.  I have had to learn to exit the room though, since my larger than life personality means that my students will look to me for a response if I'm in the room.

Anyway, my students were working on projects the hour that my student teacher was teaching.  I have a HUGE stack of essays I'm trying to get through for the AP classes I'm still teaching, so I decided to just stay in the room, but put on my earphones so I could just concentrate on my grading.  What I didn't expect was for "Killing Me Softly" by Lauryn Hill to pop up and turn me into a beat-driven fiend!  Without even realizing it, there I was nodding my head right along to that strong beat in the background.  Next thing I knew, a group of students waved me down, laughing at my little desk dance.  I was little embarrassed, but even more so when I told them what song was driving me to groove along to the beat and they DIDN'T KNOW IT!  Sad. 

What can I say?  A good beat will just make me feel like I gotta move, somehow!  Speaking of beats, back in November or December, I caught Pink's VH1 Storytellers episode.  There she performed my newest obsession, "Just Give Me a Reason" with Nate Ruess from Fun.  I'm now slightly obsessed with that song and have played it about a million times.  Here--check it out!

Coming Week's Fun: We're about two weeks from end of term, so I'm going to be grading essays like a mad woman!  I honestly had hoped to get through a bunch this weekend, but I only got through a couple.  :(  Tomorrow I'm going to have to really put my head down and work, work, work!

However, I do have something fun to look forward to.  On Tuesday night I'm really excited to go to the state competition of Poetry Out Loud.  One of my AP students actually won our district competition and will be going to recite, "Cartoon Physics" by Nick Flynn, "The Canonization" by John Donne, and "Vixen" by W. S. Merwin.  I'm pretty excited to see her compete and am crossing my fingers for her to win!  She is amazing at her recitations and has worked really hard on her poems.

Well, that's my crazy life in a very wordy, yet short, nutshell.  I'm off to bed to TRY to sleep, despite the time change.  I'm not one to sleep well when it's earlier than I'm used to, but I have to get used to it soon, right?  I don't like to take sleep aids, but this might be a good night to take a little something so I'm not dead tired at work tomorrow. 

If all else fails, I have some really great reads waiting for me!  I'm going to go read a bit of  The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar and maybe a bit of Thomas Hardy.  I've been in a mood to read "pen to paper" reads, so these sound like great choices tonight. 

Whatever you're doing this weekend or coming week, I hope it's the best!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

6th Blogiversary!

Happy 6th blogiversary to One Literature Nut!  I can't believe I've been blogging here for that long.  What started out as a place to discuss books with my friends, as I prepared (once upon a time) to take the GRE subject test in literature, turned into a book blog once that aspiration for the PhD went away.  I don't regret my decision at all--even though I grumble a lot about the essay grading I do NON-STOP around here.  (Yes, I have 45 essays staring at me this weekend, as we speak.)

Thank you to all of the great readers and friends I've met or reconnected with here!  In a crazy world and time when work seems to take front and center, it's nice to have a place to go to talk about books and life all at the same time. 

So, once again, let me say a great big THANK YOU to all of you for sticking around or dropping by as I prattle on about life and literature!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.  

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing."

Review:  Here’s the question I’ve asked myself. Do you not write a review for the books you didn’t enjoy? Then, what would be the point in sharing books and reviews on a book blog, right? So, I will share.

In preparation for my Popular Literature course, I decided to read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, knowing how much other readers loved her writing and this story. I’ve had other students read her books and love them, so I figured this would be my introduction. Sadly, I was not as enthralled with it as they were.

The premise of the story is a great one. “Bad” girl dies. “Bad” girl gets to relive the day leading up to her death, over and over again, until she learns a lesson. “Bad” girl makes crazier choices each time, knowing there are literally no consequences. “Bad” girl then eventually wakes up and smells the proverbial coffee and becomes a “better” girl, possibly. In some ways I felt as though I were watching Grease backwards, with Sandra Dee going from her smoking, tight-black-leather-pants-wearing self back to her bobby socks and poodle skirt goodness. (I couldn’t help myself with that comparison, because that’s really what I pictured.)

Yes, I oversimplify—a lot. I’ll just have to own up to the fact that I didn’t like the character. When I was in high school, I knew a number of “skanky” girls (pardon the terminology), who just didn’t seem to see or care about anyone else around them (but what did we know?). The girls in this story were so real in that way, that in a strange way, I found I couldn’t relate to them at all. Even in the journey our character takes to wake up to her choices felt like it took too long, which it really might be for a person in that immature head space. I don’t know. I usually say that I hate to judge, but I will admit to not liking the main character and shuddering at one too many scene.

On the flip side, I’ll now say that for the right audience, this hits home. I just wasn’t the right audience. Some of my students love this book and told me that they enjoyed reading a book from characters that felt true to life. Yes, that sounds judgmental on all of our parts, but every person I know who has read this book has stepped in as judge and jury as I did. Overall, I would say that this is a great story and premise; you simply have to be in the right mindset and ready for quite the ride!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

What can I say?  I'm getting my "groove" back and still wondering how long it's going to take to feel like myself again? Over the past 10 years of teaching, I've learned that when school lets out, I generally start to feel normal about the time I'm sitting at a parade on the 4th of July.  Having said that, what's it going to take to pull me out of this funk I fell into around November?!?  All I know is that I'm not judging how much sleep I seem to need or how quickly I jump into a pair of pjs at the end of the day!  Right?

One of the books that sure snatched up my attention was A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry.  Although I've been burned out, my reading hasn't suffered one bit.  This book was one of the reads that allowed me to unwind over a nice weekend.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Bronte Talbott follows all of the exploits of the British royals. After all, they're the world's most preeminent dysfunctional family. And who is she to judge? Bronte's own search for love isn't going all that well, especially after her smooth-talking Texan boyfriend abruptly leaves her in the dust.

Bronte keeps a lookout for a rebound to help mend her broken heart, and when she meets Max Heyworth, she's certain he's the perfect transition man. But when she discovers he's a duke, she has to decide if she wants to stay with him for the long haul and deal with the opportunities-- and challenges-- of becoming a royal."

Review:  The synopsis for this book, nor the cover really let on to the serious twists this book delivers.  Bronte's love relationship with the Texan is over before it has begun, and the remainder of the story really centers on her relationship with the Duke--Max.  As with stories of this nature, it's easy to fall in love with Max.  He's the perfect man!  I think there's also this factor of knowing he speaks in a British accent, wants a life of his own outside of his royal ties, and is head over heels in love with Bronte that make him a real heart throb and hero to readers.  

The relationship isn't one that is cut and dried.  Did anyone think it would be?  Bronte doesn't know that Max is even a Duke until situations in the novel take a strange turn and then misunderstandings take over left, right, and center.   I loved that Bronte wasn't the type to swoon and just do whatever Max wanted because of his title.  At the same time, I found myself in knots over these two knuckle heads and just wanted them to have a real conversation!  I do think though, that these kind of misunderstandings are pretty true to life, so I hung in there to see a resolution.

I really loved this novel and couldn't put it down.  My stomach was in absolute knots by the end of the book and I wanted to cry that it was over!  What I thought was going to be a funny sort of chick lit. novel turned into a serious piece of drama and romance that had me choking back tears a time or two.  For an initial showing by Megan Mulry, I really can't wait to read her next release, which is supposed to be about Max's brother.  All I can say is that I hope Max and Bronte make a serious appearance! 

One disclaimer--this is an adult read and did have some strong sexual content.  I wouldn't recommend this for young readers or for those sensitive to adult content.  The story is super dramatic, but count yourself warned.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an advanced copy provided through Netgalley for Sourcebooks Landmark.