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The gauntlet was thrown and I am now attempting to read Ulysses.

Mr. Zoo: Just think of it this way: once you’ve finished it, you’ll always be able to say you’ve read it!

Me: Well, technically I could say that now.

I haven’t been posting a lot lately because I’ve been reading. NERRRRD! We’ve had various dog clients boarding here for almost four weeks in a row, so really, I should be spending a lot of time at home with them, and what better way than to let the dogs out into the yard and relax on my patio lounger so I can “supervise” them [while reading]. I’m going to recap starting from the ones I liked least.

The Ghost Writer & The Book of Names. These books had so much potential. The first actually kept me so riveted with the unfolding mystery and so spooked by the suspense of it that I only allowed myself to read it during the day and not before bed. However. The last chapter, The Reveal, if you will, suuuuuuuuuucked. I actually re-read it to make sure I didn’t miss something major. Then I went back to the few sections before that and re-read that as well. Nope, still didn’t make sense. Really disappointing. The second (Book of Names) was better, more cohesive, and entertaining, but it was very Da Vinci Code-esque. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t seem exactly innovative.

Lucy. Did you know Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a long-term mistress? I didn’t. I know a fair amount about FDR and Eleanor, but I guess only from the Presidency, nothing before. And, in my delightful naive way, I just figured they had a happy marriage. Apparently everything I knew about their marriage I learned from watching the movie Annie. Anyway, this book was charming. Fiction based on historical people and descendants who spoke with the author. Not that I’m condoning adultery. Not that that probably needed to be said. But. You know.

The Memory of Water. Probably classic chick lit. Well, maybe not. It has everything to make a good story: estranged sisters; family secrets kept over generations; boating accidents; divorce; love; and so on. It toggles between the perspective of the four main characters, which has the potential to be totally confusing but the author managed it really well. Very sweet.

The Birth House & An Inconvenient Wife. Have you heard of neurasthenia? Because a few months ago, I hadn’t. To sum up in my totally biased way, basically men a couple hundred years ago decided that women were too “hysterical” and needed to be treated, and one of those treatments was, uh, digital or electric therapy for, uh, their nethers. Disgusting. Heaven forfend that women may want more than to be wives, mothers, and available for social calls by neighborhood Snooty Von Snobbertons – no, they must be hysterical to not conform to society in such a way. ANYWAY. The Birth House was actually mostly about midwives versus the new-fangled doctoring way of treating women in labor with chloroform, and how distrusting doctors were of midwives and their natural treatment of labor. Not to mention how men a mere two centuries ago were AGHAST that women would try to control their own bodies by avoiding conception when possible. The other book (Inconvenient Wife) was more about an unhappy marriage and how the wife tries to fix herself – must have been similar to how women in the 1950s/60s would self-medicate with alcohol and valium when they weren’t fulfilled being trapped at home – NOT because they didn’t want to be mothers, but because they had husbands who felt it would be an insult to them if their wife worked outside of the home. WOW I’m sounded kind of extreme. Don’t worry, I still wear a bra and haven’t stop shaving.

Fingersmith. I’m going to try to be more succinct. Victorian England. One woman a poor thief with a relatively, well-cared-for life; the other a rich heiress who lives in emotional destitution. A fraud. Then a double fraud. Mistaken identities. Family secrets. It’s good.

The Forever King trilogy (Books Two and Three here). So I became mildly obsessed with the whole Arthur/Camelot legend a couple of years ago. I thought I had exhausted the books dedicated to this subject until I stumbled upon these at the library. Its take on the legend of King Arthur (how he will come back/live forever) is fascinating. Basically King Arthur shows up (I’m hesitant to say reincarnation, but I guess technically it’s true) in Chicago in the 1990s. Other characters are “recycled” as well. I don’t know how to describe it, but I thought it was a totally refreshing take on the legend that made it very entertaining to me.

The Pillars of the Earth/When Christ and His Saints Slept (Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy). FINALLY, right? I first read The Pillars of the Earth 15 years ago and LOVED it. It’s usually my go-to book recommendation. So when I got the sequel (World Without End) I knew I had to re-read it. Am still loving it. If you’ve read other Ken Follett books and think I’m crazy for loving Pillars so much, just trust me and read it. After I read it I went on a Ken Follett frenzy and none of his other books even come close (Dangerous Fortune is good, the best of the others of his I’ve read, but still doesn’t compare to Pillars). I enjoyed it even more this time because several months ago I read When Christ and His Saints Slept, which is about the same time in English history. The second and third books in Penman’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy aren’t quite as good, but it takes a lot for me to just leave a series without reading them all because I’m just that kind of dork.

Now maybe I need to watch some trash TV or something.

Victoria Victorious – Jean Plaidy

From the back cover: At birth, Princess Victoria was fourth in line for the throne of England, the often overlooked daughter of a prince who died shortly after her birth. She and her mother lived in genteel poverty for most of her childhood, exiled from court because of her mother’s dislike of her uncles, Georve IV and William IV. A strong, willful child, Victoria was determined not to be stifled by her powerful uncles or her unpopular, controlling mother. Then one morning, at the age of eighteen, Princess Victoria awoke to the news of her uncle William’s death. The almost-forgotten princess was now Queen of England. Even better, she was finally free of her mother’s iron hand and her uncle’s manipulations. Her first act as queen was to demand that she be given a room – and a bed – of her own.
Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin, Prince Albert, was a blissfully happy one that produced nine childreen. Albert was her constant companion and one of her most trusted advisors. Victoria’s grief after Prince Albert’s untimely death was so shattering that for the rest of her life – nearly forty years – she dressed only in black. She survived several assassination attempts, and during her reign England’s empire expanded around the globe until it touched every continent in the world.
Derided as a mere “girl queen” at her coronation, by the end of her sixty-four-year reign, Victoria embodied the glory of the British Empire. In this novel, written in a “memoir” by Victoria herself, she emerges as truthful, sentimental, and essentially human – both a lovable woman and a great queen.

July 3, 2009 Finished

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