Posts By: Louise

The Once and Future King
by T. H. White

December 9, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 8

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Once and Future King by T.H. White | 1958 | Ace | Paperback $9.99

Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn’t possibly imagine. A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values. A future that would see him crowned and known for all time as Arthur, King of the Britons.

I imagine that most of y’all have heard of this book — or at least of its first part, which is often read as a stand-alone children’s book, The Sword in the Stone (yes, like the Disney movie) — or AT LEAST the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. Right? Because if not, you’re missing out on a HUGE piece of Western folklore / literary canon and you should get off the internet and go to a library to amend this situation right freakin’ now.

Although it looks at first glance like a typical kind of “classic” novel, I’d say it’s closer to something like The Lord of the Rings meets Discworld meets A Game of Thrones meets Narnia. (In fact, even though I originally had it classified as red-font “20th century literature/poetry” on my Classics Club list, I’ve switched it to green for SF/F.) I was actually convinced that T.H. White had been a part of the “Inklings” group because the writing/themes seem so in-tune with their work, but apparently he wasn’t (although he did correspond with C.S. Lewis to a limited extent).

The first section — the aforementioned The Sword in the Stone — is certainly the most lighthearted of the stories, leaning more heavily on kid-friendly British folk tales and general silliness than the latter sections. It’s a kind of bait and switch, though, because the stories grow rather more morbid and grown-up after Arthur pulls his sword from that stone. The second section begins with a bored sorceress torturing a cat in gruesome detail, which should give you some clue as to how things go on for the rest of the book. The author might as well have titled part 2 “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The writing style remains consistent throughout the book, despite the abrupt shift in tone/content. The narrator fairly frequently “butts in” for little explanatory asides or gently snide remarks, which I think annoys some readers but I personally find it charming (at least in this case). The characters are mostly fully developed (or at least sketched with decent detail), with the obvious exceptions of the villainesses, who seemed to be hardly more than seductress-witch caricatures. There are certainly more interesting portrayals of Arthur’s sisters out there, though, so I’ll just leave this little quibble to whither away in the face of the book’s more significant virtues.

This was actually a re-read for me, though it’d been probably about a decade since I read it originally. It’s certainly a favorite of mine now!


Links:


Publication information: White, T.H. The once and future king. New York: Ace, 1958. Print.
Source: Owned.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Movie Musicals Challenge –
Grease

December 8, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 4

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I re-watched Grease on Netflix recently for the Movie Musicals Challenge based on the AFI’s 25 Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time list.

I love this movie. It’s quite silly and campy in some ways, but it’s also funny and smart and — obviously — packed with great musical numbers. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I absolutely had to narrow it down to ONE… it’d be “Beauty School Dropout” with Frankie Avalon (the scene where Frenchy contemplates her career/educational options after a disastrous dye job).

Of course, like many musicals on this list, Grease is based on a stage play. I vaguely remember seeing one of my cousins in a high school theater production of it ages ago — and I also vaguely remember that they got in a bit of trouble for not cutting out some of the raunchier lines! (This was conservative small town Texas, after all.)

Speaking of raunchier lines… Rizzo is one of my favorite characters, ever. I confess that I kind of hated her as a kid — she seemed too mean and slutty compared to the naive Sandy, almost like a villain. But there isn’t really a villain in this film, is there?

Oh, sure, there’s the guy from the other car-racing gang with the spikes on his wheels and the fancy-dancing girlfriend. But his rivalry with the T-Birds is secondary to the main storyline, just a convenient device to move the plot forward and create a little conflict to frame the more interesting problems the main characters are having: first love, first car, first job… and first failures. Rizzo experiences perhaps the most serious problem of all the characters — her unintended pregnancy — but this is too-neatly wrapped up in a throwaway line in the final number: “It was a false alarm!”

Anyway… I don’t really know where I was going with that line of thought, other than to say that I think Rizzo is an interesting-yet-underrated character.

Do you have a favorite character or song/dance number from this musical?

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Sign up for the Wizard of Oz Read-Along!

December 5, 2016 Books 14

As I mentioned last month, along with my Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along I’ll be starting L. Frank Baums’ Oz series this coming January. This is your official invitation to join me!

I’ll be reading at a pace of 1 book per month. The series includes 14 books (well, the ones written by Baum anyway). I am a firm believer in the “you do you” school of book blogging. If you want to read faster or slower than that, it’s totally up to you. This read-along is really all about having fun with some classic children’s books!

You can see my official read-along page with the schedule and brief summaries of each book here:

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How can you participate? It’s really up to you! Personally, I will be posting a brief review + discussion topic each month after reading a book in the series. You can join in the discussion in the comments on my blog, post about the book on your own blog, share your thoughts on the Lone Star on a Lark Facebook page, @ me on Twitter, spill your feelings into your diary, etc.

But that is a lot of books, what if I do not have the money/space for all this? First of all, go to your freakin’ library. Also, these Oz books are all in the public domain in the United States, which means you can usually find reprints for cheap — or you can just read them for free online (legally) at the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg or similar sites.


Want to be included in that participants list? Please leave a comment on this post with a link to (a) your own blog page where you will track your reading, (b) your blog tag or category for read-along posts, or (c) a Goodreads shelf or LibraryThing collection/tag or similar.

(Please do not add links for individual book review posts. This is meant to be an “umbrella” link that can be included on the official read-along page.)

Not tracking your reading online? That’s totally fine, too — just comment with the name/alias you’d like to be known as on the participants list instead.


Sign Up for the Wheel of Time Re-Read-Along!

December 4, 2016 Books 8

As I mentioned last month, I intend to re-read Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy ‘Wheel of Time’ series starting this coming January. This is your official invitation to join me!

Please note: You do not have to have read the series previously to participate in this read-along. I’m only calling it a “Re-Read-Along” because it’s a re-read for me and I’m self-absorbed like that.

I’ll be reading at a pace of 1 book per month. The series includes 14 books + a prequel. But hey, I am a firm believer in the “you do you” school of book blogging. If you want to read faster or slower than that, it’s totally up to you. This read-along is really all about fostering discussion/camaraderie/mutual misery enjoyment.

You can see my official read-along page with the schedule and brief summaries of each book here:

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How can you participate? It’s really up to you! Personally, I will be posting a brief review + discussion topic each month after reading a book in the series. You can join in the discussion in the comments on my blog, post about the book on your own blog, share your thoughts on the Lone Star on a Lark Facebook page, @ me on Twitter, scream into the void, whatever.

But that is a lot of books, what if I do not have the money/space for all this? First of all, go to your damn library. Secondly, all of the WoT books are available as ebooks (both EPUB and Kindle formats), which happen to be DRM-free because the publisher Tor is cool like that.


Want to be included in that participants list? Please leave a comment on this post with a link to (a) your own blog page where you will track your reading, (b) your blog tag or category for read-along posts, or (c) a Goodreads shelf or LibraryThing collection/tag or similar.

(Please do not add links for individual book review posts. This is meant to be an “umbrella” link that can be included on the official read-along page.)

Not tracking your reading online? That’s totally fine, too — just comment with the name/alias you’d like to be known as on the participants list instead.


Wine Reviews for November ’16

December 3, 2016 Home Sweet Home, In the Kitchen, Just for Fun, Wine 2

I tried a couple of reds from Chile this month. I didn’t bother to take notes on the Cabernet, but the Carménère was a little something different! I’d never heard of this variety before, but apparently it was an accidental transplant to Chile from France — a lucky accident that saved the variety from disaster, as it turns out. (Read more about it at Wine Folly.)

Hellooo holiday weekend 🍫🍷🍫🍷

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

Casillero del Diablo Carménère Reserva

Chile, 2015

The color is a deep bluish red, very opaque and viscous (“sticky”). It smells like herby/spicy yet juicy red berries, followed by a faint whiff of… chocolate? Something kinda bitter-sweet. It looks and smells delicious.

Taste-wise, it starts out with a tart but mild strawberry flavor, followed by a fresh herby sort of quality (though I’m unable to discern which herbs…) and a little bit of acidic “bite” at the end. It seemed simultaneously spicier + sweeter with the dinner I served alongside it — portabella mushroom-stuffed ravioli and sundried tomatoes in a pesto sauce.


Nonfiction November Week 5

November 28, 2016 Books 18

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The point of Nonfiction November is to read, discuss, and otherwise celebrate all the awesome nonfic lit out there. The hosts have decided on weekly blog post topics, and this week’s topic is….

New to My TBR

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls, recommended by Toady @ B.B. Toady

Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova and The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean, recommended by Amanda @ A Bookshelf Monstrosity

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, recommended by Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell, recommended by Amanda @ Gun in Act One

The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites by Libby H. O’Connell, recommended by JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, recommended by Brandy @ Reading Beyond

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Congo: The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck and Everfair by Nisi Shawl, recommended by Jenny @ Reading the End

The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough and The After Party by Anton DiSclafani, recommended by Sarah @ Sarah’s Book Shelves

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines, recommended by Stacey @ Unruly Reader

I also added a few more to my Goodreads to-read list, but I am TERRIBLE about noting who recommended what, so… if you know that you are the one who nudged me towards a certain book, please feel free to nudge me to add your name as the recommending party as well!

I was so proud of myself just a few months ago when I got my TBR list down to 1,040… and now it’s back up over 1,070 already! I BLAME YOU ALL.


The Wives of Henry VIII
by Antonia Fraser

November 27, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

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★ ★ ★ ★

The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser | October 1992 | Knopf | Paperback $20

The six wives of Henry VIII – Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr – have become defined in a popular sense not so much by their lives as by the way these lives ended. But, as Antonia Fraser conclusively proves, they were rich and feisty characters.

They may have been victims of Henry’s obsession with a male heir, but they were not willing victims. On the contrary, they displayed considerable strength and intelligence at a time when their sex supposedly possessed little of either. Inevitably there was great rivalry between them, and there was jealousy too – the desperate jealousy of Queens who found themselves abandoned, but also the sexual jealousy of the King who discovered himself betrayed.

I picked up a cheap used copy of this book on an admittedly mead-fueled whim at the Ren Fest a couple of weeks ago — but I’m so glad that I did. I vaguely recognized the author’s name, but didn’t remember until I got home and was looking for some space on my bookshelves for this paperback that she’d written one of my all-time favorite biographies, Marie Antoinette: The Journey.

The Wives of Henry VIII exhaustively and more-or-less narratively covers the topic of — you guessed it — the six consorts of the early Renaissance reign of King Henry VIII of England: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Only 2 of these actually outlived their royal husband.

I liked that Fraser attempted to logically interpret the historical evidence and tell everyone’s stories fairly, perhaps with more compassion than a misanthrope/cynic like myself could muster. The lives of these women have been reduced to mere rhyme in the present day (“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”), but as usual with dramatic figures of the distant past, the nuances of their personalities and complications of their rises/falls from power are rather more complicated.

Henry, too, is afforded a fairly compassionate view of his actions — at least, up until the point when even the most ready-to-forgive modern reader has to admit that he started acting like kind of a spoiled, narcissistic jackass.

It was especially striking to me how very little control women (well, anyone who wasn’t King Henry, but women especially) had over their own lives at this period. Something as simple as a long-forgotten “engagement” arranged by her father could be used as an excuse to annul a marriage if a lady’s husband grew tired of her. Sad, too, was the thought of a father desperately trying for sons while ignoring his completely capable — and legitimate, whatever his claims to the contrary — daughters. And to have all of this drama wrapped up in the culture wars of Protestants vs. Catholics… it makes the head spin, really.

Have you read this book? How about any of the many other books on the subject of the Tudor wives and daughters? I’m always open to recommendations!


Links:


Publication information: Fraser, Antonia. The wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.
Source: Used bookshop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Nonfiction November Week 4

November 21, 2016 Books 14

nonficnovember

The point of Nonfiction November is to read, discuss, and otherwise celebrate all the awesome nonfic lit out there. The hosts have decided on weekly blog post topics, and this week’s topic is….

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve decided to take advantage of all y’all’s coolness and do TWO of these options.


First, the first option because I have an overblown sense of my own expertise:

Be the Expert

One topic I feel fairly well-versed in is medical science and its impact on society + society’s impact on it.

While medicine and scientific research are interesting topics in and of themselves, it would be irresponsible to ignore their impact on real people, or to ignore the impact of real people on medicine and scientific research. There are actually a lot of books that explore this out there, but for brevity’s sake I’ve limited myself to 3 titles here:

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Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

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The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig

We know it simply as “the pill,” yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig’s masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic; the visionary scientist Gregory Pincus, who was dismissed by Harvard in the 1930s as a result of his experimentation with in vitro fertilization but who, after he was approached by Sanger and McCormick, grew obsessed with the idea of inventing a drug that could stop ovulation; and the telegenic John Rock, a Catholic doctor from Boston who battled his own church to become an enormously effective advocate in the effort to win public approval for the drug that would be marketed by Searle as Enovid.

Have you read any of these — and if so, did you like them? And if you’ve been reading about the same subject, would you add any other books in particular to this list?


Ask the Expert

Now: YOUR TURN. I’m looking for historical foodie books. These can be contemporary cookbooks that feature historical (or even generally literary-ish) recipes, historical cookbooks, or some lesser-known microhistory book about some food-related subject. (For example, I just learned about the upcoming Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman.) Any ideas?


A Slight Adjustment

November 20, 2016 Books 6

A few days ago, Karen at BookerTalk wrote a very thoughtful post about what, exactly, counts as a “classic” book. Please, go visit her blog — I think she wrote more eloquently about the subject than I can really hope to.

Anyway, this got me thinking (haha what?! I know); how well do the titles on my own Classics Club list actually qualify as classic books?

You know, I think I’ve done a decent job of packing my list with “real” classics. Some are a little more obscure or niche than others, but that’s actually on purpose. I wanted to focus a little bit on SFF and nonfiction classics, so some of the titles on the list will necessarily be below the radar of more typical ideas of classic literature. And that’s OK.

There was one title that I’ve decided to replace, though: Quick Service by P.G. Wodehouse. I had originally intended to read the author’s short story collection My Man Jeeves, but ultimately decided that I’d rather have one actual novel instead. Fortuitously, a friend of mine gifted me a collection of Wodehouse stories for my birthday, and Quick Service was included in this collection. However, as awesome and “classic” as Wodehouse might be considered as an author, ultimately I don’t think that this novel in particular really qualifies as a classic in the same way that every other title on my list does.

All this blather is just to say that I’ve replaced Quick Service on my CC list!

My replacement of choice will be The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum.

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I wrote last year about some Christmas-y books that draw my attention around the holiday season (The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?) and this book was included on that list. But you know what? It’s actually be several years since I’ve picked it up. I think I last read it in high school, actually. I think it’s high time for a re-read, especially considering my plans for a Wizard of Oz read-along in 2017.

How do you define “classic” when it comes to books? Do you think The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus fits my list a little better?


Community Cookbooks of West Texas

November 19, 2016 Book Reviews, Books, Home Sweet Home, In the Kitchen 6

Y’all, I wasn’t going to do this post because who cares about 30-50 year-old small-town West Texas fundraiser cookbooks? Well, I do, apparently, and I kind of feel like my dear readers and fellow Nonfiction November-ers and Foodies Read buddies might enjoy some of the real jewels to be found within.

Brace yourselves.

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First up: What’s Cookin’? in Big Spring, Texas by the local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association and the Bev-Ron Publishing Company of Kansas, 1970.

This is the slimmest volume and arguably the most WTF, although I suppose it does also include some good solid advice:

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You have your typical Jell-O based “salad” sorts of things, of course:

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And your Tang-based beverages:

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But I think my absolute favorite “recipe” has to be this super classy casserole:

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Wow, Mrs. Newton, way to make an effort!

Next up, my favorite (er, only) collection of classic church lady recipes…

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In case you’re too distracted by the giant cherub preparing to go all Jericho on that church for crimes against God’s cuisine, the title is Methodist Morsels by the Cookbook Committee of the First United Methodist Church of Lamesa, Texas and Cookbook Publishers, Inc. in Kansas, 1983.

You’d think 1983 would be late enough in the 20th century for us to be beyond things like this “Fancy Chicken Log”, but you’d be wrong:

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If a cream cheese / steak sauce / curry powder flavored log of chicken doesn’t float your boat, why not try this delicious mayonnaise / canned cream of chicken soup / curry powder flavored chicken casserole instead? It’s apparently a “delight”:

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OK, this particular cookbook does include a pretty cute section of easy and cheesy (both literally and figuratively) recipes for the kiddos:

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Aww! Super cute, huh? But then you turn the page and find this:

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I’m sorry but in what world is it cute to title a recipe “Preserved Children”???

ANYWAY, back to the real (hahaha) recipes! How about these 3 Doritos-based casseroles?

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… I’m actually tempted to try one of those.

One cool thing I found is this recipe from my own great-grandmother:

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I mean, it’s super neat seeing a recipe from an ancestor, but am I going to make that for dinner? Uh, no.

The last cookbook was published slightly more recently:

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That’s Favorite Recipes from the Kitchens of the GFWC-TFWC Big Spring Junior Woman’s Club and Their Friends by… well, you know, and their publisher Circulation Service of Kansas, 1987.

Now, I was born in ’87 so I can’t make TOO much fun of how old this book is, but honestly the “favorite” recipes of the ladies of small town West Texas don’t seem to have improved much from their midcentury forerunners.

Case in point:

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Dammit Teri, who told you it was a good idea to microwave shrimp? Stop it.

However, this little cookbook does include some rather charming illustrations and helpful stuff in the index, so all hope is not lost:

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So, yeah. I know y’all are envious of my awesome cookbook collection right now.

Also, I’m totally adding these to Goodreads because I need them to count towards my 2016 reading goal.

Tell me — do you have any vintage community cookbooks or silly old recipes hanging around? Have you tried any of the recipes? Have you tried any of THESE recipes? Should I? No, wait, don’t answer that.