Wednesday Videos: Jane Austen Drinking Game

WednesdayVideoOK, the first version of mew new book has been turned in.  It now resides in the hands of HarlequinPop!  where all my spelling efforts shall be revealed.

What book is this, you say?  Why I’ll tell you – it’s a short book comparing the television and film adaptations of Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and, my personal nemesis, Wuthering Heights.  In honor of this literary event, I bring you…The Jane Austen Drinking Game!

Book Review: Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England

Cover of Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan EnglandThis is history just the geeky fun way I like it!  The Time Traveller’s Guide is a non-fiction history book about Elizabethan England, but it’s written as a travel guide for time travellers.  This means that there’s nothing ponderous about it.  If you want to know the underlying causes of the Spanish Armada attacking England, you probably won’t find it in here (although the book is pretty big – I might have missed that part).  If you want to know how to greet people, and what people eat, and how to brush your teeth and where to take a dump, look no further.

The book is conversational, practical, and amazingly detailed.  Because it’s written in little sections, it’s a handy book to keep in the bathroom or by the table – places where you might want to read something really entertaining for a few minutes, although it’s certainly entertaining enough to read cover to cover.

Author Ian Mortimer has also written a Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England (and a lot of other history, as well as fiction).  If only he would write a Guide to Regency England, my life would be complete.  In the meantime, I know how to avoid the plague, and how to keep myself clean (linen plays an important role) and what to wear.  I know that witchcraft was not yet equated with Satanism, but I could still be hung for it, and being a coal miner was a wretched job that usually resulted in death, while being a domestic servant usually involved rape (of the servant, alas).  I know that I will be expected to wash my hands before dinner, although not with soap.  The most depressing thing I learned so far was that infant and early childhood mortality rates were huge.  The most cheerful thing I learned so far?  Reading was wildly popular, and almost everyone could read, at least a little bit.  Surely I could feel just a little bit at home in a world where everyone loves to read as much as I do.

History’s Hidden Heroes: Thomas Odhiambo

102639a0a632f860725f415ca0621c13Thomas-Odhiamo-RWelcome to ‘History’s Hidden Heroes’, a monthly feature in which I challenge my mental image of what a scientist looks like (American or European, and usually male) by learning something about scientists from elsewhere in the world or from other genders and ethnicities.  Write in with your suggestions for what to call this feature.  I’m not happy with “History’s Hidden Heroes” as a title because I bet that plenty of people know about these heroes – just not me!

When I picture scientists in Africa, I picture white men digging for fossils and white women studying gorillas.  But Africa has had plenty of its own scientists, including Professor Thomas Odhiambo, from Kenya.  Odhiambo was an entomologist who was interested in biological ways to reduce agricultural pests.  He wanted farmers, especially impoverished farmers, to have low-cost, environmentally sound, non-chemical means of reducing pests and maximizing yields.  During his life, he published over 130 papers and six children’s books.

Professor Odhiambo lived from 1931 – 2003.  He grew up in Mombassa and studied at Cambridge and in Uganda.  One of his concerns was in not only educating Africans to be great scientists but in motivating them to stay in Africa once they were educated.  Dr. Odhiambo founded three different schools of higher education in Kenya, including The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).  Odhiambo was particularly proud of the fact that most of Icipe’s PhD graduates are still working in Africa.

My sources for this blog entry are African Success and  The Guardian.   I urge you to click on the links for more details about this amazing man.

Wednesday Videos: The men of Jane Austen

WednesdayVideoTa-Da, it’s official!  HarlequinPop will be publishing my eBook comparing television and film adaptations of Jane EyrePride and Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights!  One week until my book draft is due!  ONE WEEK!  Can it be done?

The book has no title although I think of it fondly as “Jane, Cathy, and Lizzie Walk Into a Pub”.  For inspiration, I turn to the following video.  I hope you enjoy objectifying the men of the Regency as much as I do.  Fell free to comment with your title suggestions!

Mini Review: The Stolen Luck

stolen luck coverThe Stolen Luck is a gorgeous book that takes a difficult topic and treats it with sensitivity and care to create a beautiful romance with not a trace of squick.  James’ family has benefitted for years from an Elven talisman called “The Luck”.  When it is stolen, James wins an elven slave in a card game and promises to free the slave if the slave will guide James into the Elven realms to retrieve The Luck.  James deeply abhors slavery, and he promises himself that he will treat the slave, whose name is Loren, well.  But honorable though James may be, the taint of slavery makes it impossible for James and Loren to trust one another.

One thing I liked about this book is that it didn’t take the shortcut of showing that slavery is bad because slaves are mistreated, although it is established that they often are.  James doesn’t mistreat Loren – and guess what.  Slavery?  STILL BAD.  The master/slave relationship is not eroticized or glorified.  As long as Loren is a slave, neither he nor James can be happy – Loren, because he lives at the whim of another, and James, because he has violated his dearest principals.

The romance works because the couple is given time to get to know one another well, time to interact with a variety of people and in a variety of situations.  It also works because both parties change and grow.  I read this book with a great deal of trepidation but it left me with good book sigh.  A full length review is at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Testing, One, Two, Three…

There are serious disadvantages to blogging with no computer skills.  For instance, when your posts stop appearing on facebook, you must make this face:


What should I do?


If this pops up on facebook, we’ll return to our original programming.  If not, I’ll make this face:


Pray for me, Internet!

Book Review: The Long War, By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

cover of The Long War

full cover (front and back)

The Long War is fascinating, but not engrossing.  The premise is an interesting one, but the story is so fragmented and slow-paced that it never seems to go anywhere.  From a cerebral standpoint, the book is a triumph.  From a story-telling standpoint, it tries to do so much that it doesn’t fully succeed with anything.

Here’s the premise of the series, as described in Chapter Three:

The Long Earth: suddenly, on Step Day, twenty-five years before, mankind had found itself with the ability to step sideways, simply to walk into an infinite corridor of planet Earths, one after the next and the next.  No spaceships required: each Earth was just a walk away.  And every Earth was like the original, more or less, save for a striking lack of humanity and all its works.  There was a world for everybody who wanted one, uncounted billions of worlds, if the leading theories were right.

Here are the central conflicts of The Long War:

1.  Trolls, beings who inhabit most of the Earths, are leaving those Earths that are settled by humans.  The trolls are frequently abused by humans and the question of what they are, in terms of their relationship to humanity, is controversial.

2.  Lobsang, an artificial intelligence, is manipulating many people who don’t want to be manipulated.  He has essentially brought Sister Agnes back from the dead so that she will keep him in line with her own strong personality.

3.  Back on Datum Earth, Yellowstone is behaving in a strange and ominous fashion.

4.  While Datum Earth is eager to solidify its control over the Long Earth communities, they are eager for more independence.

That’s a lot of plot for  a 420 page book, and as you can imagine, none of it really solidifies into a detailed story.  I do have a bias against books that jump from plot to plot, but I’m pretty sure even more flexible readers will find it frustrating that each plot line deserves its own book, and all of them get short shrift.  I love it that the authors try to figure out all the implications of stepping, but I think the book would have more emotional impact if it stuck to one or two implications and looked at them in closer detail.

Fans of Terry Pratchett should know that this book doesn’t have the zany quality of the Discworld books.  It does share a certain dry wit and the general worldview is similar.  Terry Pratchett loves protagonists with good common sense, and he has several in The Long War.  Readers should also know that although there are many characters, and most of them are enjoyable to spend time with, this isn’t a character-driven novel.  That’s not a criticism, just a fact.

The most emotionally involving storyline involves the fate of the trolls.  But the message of tolerance and acceptance is undercut by the fact that while many of the characters see the trolls and sentient individuals, the three characters who are most involved in reaching out to the trolls have no problem treating kobolds, who are clearly sentient individuals, with utter contempt.  And they don’t just show contempt for one kobold – they show contempt for the entire species.  I’m puzzled by this discrepancy.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Long War.  I like the idea that the authors take a concept and really examine all the permutations of that concept.  But it wasn’t what I’d call a page-turner.  I cared about the characters, but mostly in a perfunctory way, because there wasn’t time to get to know them.  I never felt invested in what happened.  But I did enjoy watching two brilliant people throw ideas around on the page, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.  So far, counting The Long War, there are two books in the series, and I recommend starting with the first one (The Long Earth).

cover of The Long Earth

The series begins with The Long Earth