Book Adventures (Almost) Weekly: Issue 18

Today’s Memorial Day issue focuses on history and its records.

However, it’s also Towel Day.

The Sentinel in Pennsylvania tells the story of Moravian records in the Caribbean that provide unusually detailed insight into the lives of slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries. The pages are falling to bits due to bad conditions and vermin, but some interesting tidbits are still legible.

On this Memorial Day, listen to the story of the original Fly Girls – women who served as pilots in World War II. On NPR.

In defense of libraries: The head of the British Library says libraries could outlast the internet. I don’t know about you, but I thought the internet would be here forever… It’s a stirring defense.

Memorial day as the Opening Day of Grilling Season? Seems about right. The Smithsonian Gardens have a blog post on the history of barbequing and outdoor grilling – which goes back to the West Coast in the 1930s. Want to see more? There’s a traveling exhibit called Patios, Pools, and the Invention of the American Backyard.

Preservationists at the National Archives in St. Louis share their story of discovering the “blood chit” of a soldier who crashed in China during World War II. Blood chits (and similar documents) were created to help soldiers who found themselves stranded in friendly but foreign-language-speaking territory.

Did you know the origins of Memorial Day go back to the Civil War?

This spring, read a book that arguably began the environmental movements in the 20th century: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962). Read more about it in Environment and Society Portal’s blog post on both the author and her book.

From the Department of Random, Conservation Division:

Ways you can contribute to the efforts to clean up the Refugio oil spill.

Wolves in Washington need your help.

Book Adventures Weekly: Issue 17

Today’s edition is probably the most random issue yet.

Want to see what your historical romance heroines wore? You can explore historical fashion, including early 19th century dresses, from the MoMu fashion Museum in Antwerp online on Europeana.

Are you a grammar or linguistics fan? Read about the man who removed 47,000 wrongful instances of “comprised of” on Wikipedia.

For fans of history and psychiatry, here’s a CBC radio episode about nutty “scientists” and their practices.

If you read, or want to try reading, M/M romance, Book Riot has a list of five authors to get you started.

I don’t believe in “should-reads” – I believe in reading books I want to read, instead of books touted to be important for “everyone” to read… but if you like them, or if you’re looking for more books to read, head over to Business Insider, which has compiled a list based on, of all things, Reddit recommendations… (link thanks to Book Riot)

– WARNING: Out of 35 titles listed, only THREE are by women authors. This is a perfect example of why I don’t believe in “should-read” lists. Different books will resonate with different people, and creating a list for “everyone” actually excludes the experiences and perspectives of a lot of people. Most of these authors are some combination of white, Western, and male.

– Instead, I would recommend perusing the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr blog, or their list of places to find diverse books, or even any of the Goodreads lists of diverse books. Know of any others? Feel free to share in the comments!

Coloring books are (finally) in style for adults. And apparently it’s a soothing activity with de-stressing abilities.

Sink Fangs into Vampire Myths and Legends (Halloween Special Part 1)

vampire forensics Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins
Published: February 2010 by National Geographic

My Rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)

I found this exploration into the myths and legends of vampires underwhelming, in a word.

I expected the book to delve into the historical and literary evidence for vampires, and to a certain extent, that is what the author does. However, the exploration jumps around, and at times the author doesn’t explain how one factor/myth/legend/story indicates the existence of, or belief in, vampires.

In the last chapters, the author enumerates (yes, it is essentially a list) of various traditions in distant regions (i.e. not Eurasia, whose legends have the most definitive connection to the modern-day vampire) of the world, even though they are not vampires. It’s as if the author only wants to say that traditions of ghouls, witches, sorcerers, and demons exist all over the world, in many diverse cultures. Their connection to modern-day vampires is never made.

Additionally, the author never draws a firm conclusion. The most compelling evidence provided in this book is that some corpses decompose differently than others – with distinctive characteristics that tend to match the characteristics our Eurasian societies have given to “vampires.” (more…)

Monthly Non-fiction with ‘The Inconvenient Indian’

15797509The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
Doubleday Canada, November 13, 2012 (Nonfiction)

My rating: Outstanding Adventure (5/5)

Fictions are less unruly than histories.

It’s that time again, for my monthly foray into nonfiction all in effort of facilitating my book club at work. Last month I tackled WWI and this month it’s a more complicated and controversial subject, Native relations in North America. This was not my pick for this month’s meeting, and I wasn’t exactly filled with excitement to read this one, but it’s a nominee for this year’s Evergreen Award, and we wanted to support the program at our book club. I should have been excited for this one, was it ever good. And I’m always happy when discussion flows at our meetings, although with this one, discussion got a little heated. (more…)

World War I on the High Seas: “The Wolf”

6810289The Wolf: How One German Raider Terrorized the Allies in the Most Epic Voyage of WWI by Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen
Free Press, April 20, 2010 (Nonfiction; History)

My Rating: Beach Vacation (3/5)

Once again I’ve departed from my usual fiction reading for something for the nonfiction book club that I mediate at work. Due to this year’s WWI Centennial, I decided to pick something WWI related to discuss, and let me tell you, this was an arduous undertaking. It was extremely difficult to find a history book that was under 500 pages long and not dry as dust. Ultimately, I do think that The Wolf was a good choice for book club; not only was this book informative, it also offered some food for thought and discussion.

The Wolf concerns a lesser known aspect of the First World War: war on the high seas. Typically, when you think of the WWI you do not think of oceanic battles or countries like Australia and New Zealand; usually it’s the trenches that come to mind. The Wolf was eye-opening in the fact that it reminds you that WWI had a far reaching impact. This book explores one specific German freighter’s year-long voyage that terrorized the Allies in the hopes that they could help starve the enemy by compromising their supply lines. (more…)

Book Adventures in Egypt!

Today, Jaclyn, our friend Koren and I have teamed up to bring you our Top Ten Favorite Adventures in Egypt. Mystery, history, and romance backed by lush and exciting scenery. So, if you’ve ever wanted to go to Egypt, or you’ve been, and you miss it, or even if you just want to read about an exotic, historical locale this summer… check out one of these books!

Jaclyn’s picks

The Other Guy's Bride (Braxtons 32)

The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway. If you enjoyed The Mummy at all, you will find this historical romance an absolute fantastic adventure. This book is funny and romantic and exactly how I fantasize an Egyptian adventure would unfold. This one likely isn’t the most historically accurate of the bunch, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Shadows on the Nile

Shadows on the Nile by Kate Furnivall. Although I read this one quite some time ago, it has continued to stay with me. It’s set just after the first world war and has more of a mystery element to it. Quite a bit of the novel actually takes place in London, England, but I loved seeing the heroine’s reaction to traveling to Egypt.


Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey. Is another Egyptian adventure that’s similar to Shadows on the Nile. However, the novel is set completely in Egypt. What I liked about this one is that readers are treated to a more involved look at colonial life in Egypt. Again, there’s a dash of mystery here, but on the whole, Resurrection is much more introspective.

The Sacred River

The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace. I recently reviewed this one and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quieter adventure. While on the surface this one is an adventure to Egypt for three very different women, this journey is a metaphor for the internal transformation that each woman goes through. This one is beautifully written.

Koren’s picks

Memoirs of Cleopatra

Memoirs of Cleopatra: This is a long haul, but worth it. A dying Cleopatra recounts her life following her personal and political struggles (sometimes one and the same) up until her suicide. George paints a brilliant, detailed picture of Egyptian court life and politics during this period, from the relationships between the pharaohs to the strengthening hold of Rome over the country. If you really want to get to know Cleopatra, Memoirs does a great job of connecting the reader with the famous pharaoh.

The October Horse: A Novel of Caesar and Cleopatra (Masters of Rome #6)

The October Horse is the sixth book in McCullough’s Masters of Rome series and though the title suggests this is the story of Caesar and Cleopatra, that is only a portion of the book. It also covers Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination, as well as the rise of Octavian. Cleopatra and Caesar’s relationship is a different than what is usually portrayed – it is a lot more calculated (on his part) and Cleopatra comes off as more of a girl in love than a “sex-pot” set on securing her own power. McCullough makes ancient history so readable. She’s able to take oft-dry topics of ancient politics and military campaigns and makes them come alive.

The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles #3)

The Queen of the Damned is the third book in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Akasha, the titular “Queen of the Damned”, is an ancient Egyptian queen who is cursed to become the mother of vampires. I love Rice’s vampires – sparkly they ain’t – and this origin story is fascinating.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah (and Rachel, and Zilpah, and Bilhah). Through the teaching of Rachel and others, Dinah becomes a skilled midwife. Her life takes her into Egypt where, unknown to her, her brother Joseph (of the technicolor dreamcoat) is prime minister. There’s only a brief mention of Dinah in the Bible, but Diamant has fleshed out her story so that we have a vivid picture of the lives of women in the ancient world.

Stacey’s picks

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is an enchanting ancient historical romance about a proud, determined young slave named Mara. In her quest for freedom, she becomes a double agent, spying for two masters – and finds herself falling in love with one of them. I loved this quick, evocative tale that brought to life not only this clever young slave, but also the world of ancient Egypt. Marked as, and written for, young adults, it works equally well for adults.

The Beacon at Alexandria

The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman who disguises herself as a man to enter a “man’s” profession, travels to Alexandria and moves on to become a doctor on the Roman war front in Thrace. It is a wonderful tale that will surely please historical fiction fans. Bonus: it covers ancient Roman history and the war with the Visigoths.

 Honorable Mentions (by Stacey)

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Twelve Rooms of the Nile – the fictional tale of a passionate meeting between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert as they both travel down the Nile. Based in fact – they both traveled up the Nile at the same time – it weaves in a beautiful story of how they might have met and become soulmates. I’ve only read part of this one, but what I did read had wonderful imagery and great, boating-on-the-Nile pace.

Cleopatra and Antony

I haven’t read Cleopatra and Antony yet, but it appeals to me because the focus (even in the title) is (supposedly) on Cleopatra. This is a historical nonfiction, about the life and times of Cleopatra, Octavian, Caesar, and Antony. Have you read this? Did you like it? What were your impressions?

Happy Fourth of July! Now, go read these…

Just three days after Canada Day (happy birthday, Canada!), its southern neighbor celebrates its own origins. Often, with barbeques, friends, family, and fireworks. I’m here to add books to your list of ways to enjoy the holiday. Most of these are historical fiction, but I’ve thrown in a graphic novel, a couple of histories, and an alternate history, too.

Into the Wilderness (Lake in the Clouds #1) Celia Garth Blindspot Jack Absolute (Jack Absolute #1) The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale The Shadow of Albion (Carolus Rex #1) Thirteen Moons Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America The Turncoat (Renegades of the Revolution) Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation