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Showing posts from April, 2019

Valkyrie (2008) and My Thoughts on Historical Dramas

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This past weekend, I rewatched the WWII movie Valkyrie (2008) with my brother.  (He, like me, is a history nerd and was the one who talked me into watching Lawrence of Arabia, for which I'm perpetually grateful.)  I don't believe I reviewed Valkyrie last time, so it seemed like a good time to talk about it and about history-themed movies in general.

Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a Nazi officer, family man, and Catholic, who is tormented by his conscience and the events of the war.  In 1943, he joins a number of collaborators planning a political-military coup, which ultimately involves a plan to assassinate Hitler.  The genius of the plot is that it uses Hitler's own backup plan, "Operation Valkyrie," against him by feigning an emergency.  The movie zooms in on July 20, 1944, when Stauffenberg and his fellow officers attempt to carry out the assassination and coup.

The first thing to get out of the way is the casting.  Now, don't get me wro…

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Week #4 / Wrap-Up

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We made it! 

If you know me from past years, you know I'm terrible at sticking to read-alongs and challenges.  So I have to pat myself on the back for finishing this one.  :)

Overall?  I give the Read-Along 5 stars - the pacing and discussion questions have been excellent.  The book itself, I give a solid 3 stars.  Wollstonecraft packed a lot of thoughts into the book, and I agreed with her on many points.  At the same time, there was a lot of needless repetition, which, if I hadn't been on a schedule, might have bogged me down completely. 

On to the discussion questions:
Do you agree or disagree with Wollstonecraft's arguments about "stupid" romance novels, in which an author presents perfect images of men and women in love and marriage. (We could even apply this to romantic films.) I couldn't tell exactly what kind of novels she dislikes, though it seems to be all of them??

Anyways, I would agree that romantic novels/films can be dangerous if they'…

Top Ten Favorite Reviews

Cleo's twist on today's Top Ten Tuesday is right up my alley.  I've been reviewing books for a while now, and sometimes it's nice to reflect on what I've written about books in the past.

Here's ten of my favorite book reviews, some old and some newer (for simplicity's sake, not including podcast episodes or movie reviews, only written book reviews):

1.  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - This is long overdue for another reading (plus a reading of Chinua Achebe's criticism of the book).  That said, I still like my theory about Kurtz being Marlowe's alter-ego!

2. Amerika by Franz Kafka - Kafka is tricky to review; in spite of that, I think here I hit upon all the important points.

3. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe - Should I apologize for this??? I took WAY too much delight in this scathing review of a book by Goethe (of all people).  I don't often write negative reviews, but when I do... whew!

4. Magellania by Jules Verne - Objectively this…

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Week #3

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Week 3 of the Readalong covers chapters 6–11 which deal with early childhood, concepts of modesty vs humility, a woman's reputation, class differences, and parent-child relationships.  Whew!  In all seriousness, though, while I personally would have chosen a narrower scope for such a book, I admire Mary's willingness to take on a broad range of subjects and deal with each one in some detail.

I think my biggest takeaway from the book thus far is how much it puts into context Jane Austen's work (and, no doubt, her contemporaries').  After an Austen phase in my tweens, I later became disenchanted with her stories, finding (frankly) not much in them which seemed relevant to my life.  However, if I had any doubt before what "sensibility" means or whether Anne Elliot's odious relatives were true to life, those doubts have been dispelled by reading Vindication. In fact, for the first time, I earnestly want to re-read Jane Austen, because everything makes sense n…

Kreisler's "Syncopation" (1925) - A Classical Cousin

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Recently, I dreamed I was playing the second movement of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, on stage, in front of a professional violinist, whom I was trying to "prove myself" to (!!).  I did tolerably well, which is the surprising thing, considering I never learned the piece (though always wanted to).


Ever since then, I keep thinking about picking it up again. I've barely touched my violin since I quit taking lessons about ten years ago (can it be, already?), when college took over my time and energies.  I generally don't put much stock into dreams, but if nothing else, I feel inspired to start again, in seriousness.

Some of my favorite music for the violin was written by Austrian composer Fritz Kreisler.  He's best known for his soulful "Praeludium and Allegro" (a piece I learned once) - in style, a kind of 20th-century successor of Vivaldi.  More delightful to me, however, are his lighter pieces in the turn-of-the-century style, or even a bit later.

Thoughts on Revelation

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Just finished re-reading The Book of Revelation this morning.  This is one book I may never be able to analyze or understand satisfactorily; much of it still confuses me.  Still, I wanted to share some memories, literary references, and thoughts about Revelation, since it may be some time before I read it again.

First, a note on the edition.  For this re-reading of the Bible, I've chosen the New King James translation in single-column format.  I grew up with the NIV and KJV, and I was curious about the NKJV.  Compared to the KJV, I've noticed not many, but some, differences.  Translation is a topic on its own; so far, though, I can say I've had a good experience reading this one.


Flashback #1 - "Revelations" I don't know why, but since childhood, I thought the book was called Revelations, plural.  It appears this is a common misconception, according to Wikipedia.  Other titles mentioned on Wikipedia are:
The Revelation to JohnThe Apocalypse of JohnThe Revelati…

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Week #2

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Week 2 of the Readalong spans chapters 4 & 5 on the topics "the state of degredation to which woman is reduced" and "writers who have rendered women objects of pity, bordering on contempt."

It looks like I highlighted more quotes in these chapters than in all of the first part. I was especially impressed by chapter 5, where Wollstonecraft responds to opposing views, including those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Boy, she cuts him down to size (and reading what he wrote, I don't blame her). 

I'm not sure I can put together a coherent summary of this section, so instead I'll go straight to Ruth's discussion questions (warning, LENGTHY post ahead!!):

Echoes of Literature in "Julia Ross"

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If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The cautionary cliche, while well known, still remains almost limitless in its potential for the mystery and thrillers genres.  Perhaps this is why watching My Name is Julia Ross (1945) immediately calls to mind its literary precursors from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle and Daphne du Maurier.


The opening, in fact, takes a page out of Doyle's "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," only this time set in the 1940s.  Londoner Julia Ross is a beautiful young woman, recently unemployed and completely alone in the world.  Her only friend and would-be boyfriend, Dennis Bruce, has just announced his marriage to someone else.  Depressed, and at a loss for how to pay the bills, Julia responds to an ad seeking a secretary for a wealthy Mrs. Hughes.  Mrs. Hughes makes Julia a generous offer, on the condition that Julia come to live with her at her mansion in Cornwall.  When Julia wakes up the next day, she realizes she's been be…

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Week #1

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Finally reading this classic that's been on my list so long!

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) My Gutenberg edition began with a brief biography of the author.  She had an interesting but tragic life:
Apparently her father was very overbearing ("a despot," according to the biography) and unkind to her mother.Mary didn't receive anything in the way of higher education, but a good friend of hers, Frances Blood, appears to have helped her along in her early adult life.  They set up a school together where Mary worked as a teacher.Her first writing success appears to have been a response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke wrote against the French Revolution; Mary's publication, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, was pro-republican.  It seems like her success with this piece was what gave her the impetus to take on none other than Jean-Jacques Rousseau (or "J. J. Rousseau" as she calls him... I got a kick out of that) in he…

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Hourly Updates, April 2019 edition

Hour 12

Finished the first part of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft.  It is really good so far!  I can't wait to share my thoughts with you all in tomorrow's check-in post.  :)


Hour 5
I just woke up, got a great night's sleep and am ready for the day!  Here's my answers to the Getting to Know You Survey from Hour 1...

1)What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm at home in Washington state.  Today is going to be a rainy day, perfect for reading!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
From my stack, I'm most anticipating The Time Machine, which I haven't read in probably over 10 years.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I never seem to have snacks prepared (sigh).  Maybe I'll treat myself to some hot cocoa.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
This is my first readathon as a (rookie) manager, which is why I'll be reading The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo.  I star…

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon: TBR stack, April 2019

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My weekend is completely booked...uh, no pun intended.  This is all happening tomorrow:
Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - one of my favorite events of the yearRuth's Rights of Woman Readathon - reading/writing thoughtsWorking on the ending of my book (it's coming along)Sending part I of my book to readers (thank you again!!)

Here's the lineup for the readathon (books I'll be making progress on, not necessarily finishing).  As always, I'll be posting updates to Instagram and Goodreads.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman / Mary Wollstonecraft The Making of a Manager / Julie Zhuo The Lost City of Z / David Grann The Time Machine (reread) / H. G. Wells Ben-Hur / Lew Wallace
And anything else I can muster.  But that's probably stretching it as it is.

The Diary of a Young Girl

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...I seem to have everything, except my one true friend.  All I think about when I'm with friends is having a good time.  I can't bring myself to talk about anything but ordinary everyday things.  We don't seem to be able to get any closer, and that's the problem.
As I read The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time, two things really struck me.  The first was that humans, ordinary humans, can turn cruel so quickly and completely.  The second was that, even as an adult, I could see pieces of my own life in Anne's, because her writing, in so many ways, is ageless.

It's one of the most famous memoirs of all time, so many people know the story: a Jewish family in Holland is compelled to go into hiding after the Nazi takeover, and the youngest daughter records their experiences in her diary.  I had heard much about the book but put off reading it, due to my emotional experience with similar memoirs (The Hiding Place, Night, and From the Ashes of Sobibor).  Though …