WWW Wednesdays

The weekly meme at shouldbereading.wordpress.com asks 3 questions every Wednesday. This is where I’m at in my reading these days:

What are you currently reading? I’m continuing my reading of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series with The Fiery Cross.

from amazon

What did you recently finish reading? A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness; I will be posting my review of this book for Bookish Thursdays tomorrow.

from goodreads

What do you think you’ll read next? The next book in the All Souls Trilogy is on hold at the library as I write.

from ew.com

Wanna participate? Go to MizB’s blog via links above or leave comments below.

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Bookish Thursdays: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Summary from GoodreadsIn this breathtaking novel—rich in history and adventure—The New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon continues the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser that began with the now-classic novel Outlander and continued in Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager. Once again spanning continents and centuries, Diana Gabaldon has created a work of sheer passion and brilliance…. It began at an ancient Scottish stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past—or the grave. Dr. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice. Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became a legend—a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in the American colonies. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century—their daughter, Brianna…. Now Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the circle of stones and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history … and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past … or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong….

I loved Drums of Autumn. Almost as much as I loved Outlander. Almost. Even though I didn’t love Voyager, I read Drums of Autumn because it was there and I felt compelled to keep reading Claire and Jamie’s story. I’m glad I did. Drums of Autumn restored my faith in the series and I am now quickly moving through The Fiery Cross.

Once again, Gabaldon delivers a strong novel about love, relationships and family.

This time the Frasers are in America – the new world. And what a fierce world it is. Claire and Jamie battle the political landscape, wilderness, poverty, and the knowledge that war will once again find them with ferocious courage and determination to make a good life for themselves.

Any romantic notions about time travel are quickly dissolved in this novel. Gabaldon paints a picture of a very hard life. The struggle to survive is the focus of each day. The constant preparation for long winters is exhausting. I wouldn’t last a month.

I loved Brianna’s journey in this book – both literal and metaphorical – and absolutely loved when she finally finds her parents and meets Jamie. The adventures in this book are vast and full of unexpected turns. My mouth fell wide open with shock at certain points and I just could not put the book down.

I thought Gabaldon did a nice job of developing Jamie and Brianna’s father/daughter relationship.  They disagree on most things; their views on life and gender are completely alien to one another due to being from wildly different centuries. Yet, the love they have for each other helps them to bridge the abyss no matter how unforgivable their actions may seem.

This book highlights new characters and conflicts that Jamie and Claire bravely face together. It also manages to maintain the deep love and romance between Jamie and Claire without being redundant or overly dramatic. I really loved the growth in Brianna’s character as well.

Drums of Autum was so much fun read. It was entertaining and had just enough romance, intrigue, violence and adventure to leave one fully satisfied and ready to read the next installment upon closing the book.

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Bookish Thursdays: The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

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from Goodreads

Summary from GoodreadsFor fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca—a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come. As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation. When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.

I read The Orchid House in August. It was on display at the library and I just grabbed it on the way out. I love stories that span generations so I really got into this book quickly. For the most part I enjoyed the novel, however there were parts that left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

The plot opens approximately 7 months after the main character, Julia, faces the tragic loss of her husband and two year old son in a car accident. I found it very hard to believe that her sister, who happens to be a mother of 4, is rallying Julia to “get on with her life” a mere 7 months after the destruction of her family. Immediately, I found that hard to believe but carried on with the reading in order to give the book a chance.

I was easily swept into 1930s London. I loved reading how youth at the time cavorted and frolicked. I quickly became a fan of Olivia. She is sweet, loyal and yearns for love. It is easy to be on her side when she falls madly in love with Harry Crawford, heir to Wharton Park. They stumble a few times, but I really bought it when he commits to her and claims to love her. I feel like the true tragedy in this novel is his betrayal of her. (Sure he’s a P.O.W during WWII and all that…but poor Olivia!)

As the story unfolds and secret after secret is revealed, I can’t say I was really surprised by any of them…except perhaps one about Julia’s dead husband…but that was just absurd…it was about at this point that The Orchid House lost me and I finished it because I had to see how the whole thing finished.

For the most part, the novel was entertaining, the characters not all that complex and the plot – at first, had me hooked – but then slowly released me and left me feeling not all that interested. Reading about wartime London and how women were involved in the war effort was also pretty interesting (again, more points in Olivia’s favour!) If you enjoy stories about family secrets affecting generations that follow and how these secrets are slowly revealed during the simultaneous self discovery of a hero as she pieces her life back together after a tragedy and everything ends splendidly for all involved, then you’ll enjoy The Orchid House.

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Bookish Thursdays: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

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Summary from GoodreadsSweet and sassy or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they? In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

I read this book in the summer…the beginning of the summer.  While I have forgotten many of the details of what I read, I do recall how it made me feel.

I encountered a spectrum of emotions actually. I can’t quite decide whether my first emotion was fear of the world in which I will raise my daughter or the all-encompassing “duh?” of what seems to be common sense…you know, like I know this stuff already because I’ve lived it and continue to live it every day.

I felt disarmed because Orenstein offers so much insight into a culture that I feel will swallow my daughter and I have no defense against it. As my dear friend (whom recommended this book) wisely reminded me (I’m paraphrasing here): “It is the crux of feminist social analysis…the problems are clearly laid out…but there never seems to be a solution”.

Once I grappled with this feeling of powerlessness and got a grip on my fear and self-righteousness, I devoured the book. It is thoroughly researched and each argument for and against girly-girl culture is well presented and supported. While my tendencies are feminist and I believe in raising my daughter with an empowered voice and sense of self, I am also the first to buy her a cute pink outfit with cute bow to match…I mean she has gorgeous creamy skin and dark silky hair…how can I not?!?

And there is the dilemma. Or the irony. Or whatever you want to call it…moms of this “post-feminist” (in quotations because can we ever really be post-feminist?), post-girl-power age have a fine line to walk. We understand the importance of looking our best and the danger of succumbing to media-fueled images of female sexuality. We understand that being true to ourselves does not always look like the cookie-cutter version of femininity. But how do we pass along this knowledge to our daughters and help them navigate the incessant messages of what they’re supposed to be in favour of just being who they are?

This book will not offer any solutions. Not a one. But it does clearly explain the root of the marketing machine and the power of the bottom-line in the hopes that our decisions for our daughters will at least be informed ones. More importantly, it really sends the message that your support and guidance are vital when she is making her own choices.

This a quick read that will get you thinking. I highly recommend it.

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Bookish Thursdays: Reading With Your Child

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My son has been looking at books since he was four months old (read more about that here). My daughter is now doing the same. It is the most special time of the day to have my baby on my lap as we read the alphabet, count to ten, or flip through a cute and cuddly touch and feel board book. Or to laugh out loud at the antics of Captain Underpants as my son now proudly takes on some of the reading himself.

It is the book-lover in me and the English teacher in me that drove me to instil a love and respect for books in my son and I hope to continue that with my daughter.

There is something about reading that teaches us to slow down, to appreciate the written word and to use our imaginations in ways that modern society does not challenge us to do in our every day lives.

The importance of reading to children and babies is firmly supported by a plethora of journals, researchers, parenting websites etc etc etc.

I do not pretend to be well versed in this research – but, I do know that as a mother of two my heart is warmed by my son’s excitement when we discuss our favourite parts of a book and  my 7 month old’s little fingers grasping at her book when I say “turn the page”.

I admit that as an English teacher, I am aware of the connection between being a good reader and being able to inquire, research, deduce, create and write well. So instilling a love of books is as much about their education as it is about loving the written word. This is easy for me because I love reading. But what about those adults who don’t? If you’re at a loss for how to give your child something that you may lack, but you know is important, here are a few tips that might help:

watermarked children and books

They deprive me of sleep, push me to the borders of irrational rage, squeeze every last bit of patience out of me – but when we sit to read everything dissolves around us. My children and I willingly lose ourselves in the magic of the words and pictures.

Love for reading is a gift that will last forever. Teach it with passion. Give it with abandon. Your children will thank you.

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