The Secret History of Wonder Woman ~ Jill Lepore

secret-history-of-wonder-womanThe Secret History of Wonder Woman ~ Jill Lepore 2 thumbs
ISBN ~ 9780385354042
Publisher ~ Knopf
No. Of Pages ~432 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Audible

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman no superhero has lasted as long, or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history.

Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman 
is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

2 Thumbs-UpI actually picked up this book to read as I was intrigued by what made this character a friend of mine so passionate about; after reading it though I must confess I am still as intrigued.

Although the material in the book is very interesting, and definitely a worthwhile read for those interested in Wonder Woman, it wasn’t as I expected and was definitely lacking in the visual art side of the character as well as acknowledging those who had visually brought her into being; her artist only getting a few scant lines.  With this being said there really is very little I can comment on the secret history of Wonder Woman herself.  However, if I wanted to read and review a book about the life of William Marsden Moulton, this would have been the one to read.

If you are looking for something new and great about Wonder Woman, I would give this a miss.  It takes entirely too long to read, and this wasn’t helped in the slightest by a dry writing style.  Another black mark against the book was the way in which it was edited with too many repeated paragraphs and chunks of information; with a decent editor this could have been a cleaner, tighter read making it not seem as tedious.

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5 Cures for ‘Outlander’ Separation Anxiety

Personally I gave up on the Outlander series after the first three books, but I know plenty of people who pull at the bit waiting for the next book, and who schedule their day around the next episode on TV.  Hopefully as you wait for season 2 to air, or wait for the next instalment in the book series, here are five books I think you may find helpful:

Into the wildernessInto the Wilderness ~ Sara Donati
ISBN ~ 978-0385342575
Publisher ~Delta
No. Of Pages ~ 896 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati’s epic novel sweeps us into another time and place…and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.

It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered—a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America.

veil of timeVeil of Time ~ Sara Claire R. McDougall
ISBN ~ 978-1451693812
Publisher ~ Gallery Books
No. Of Pages ~ 416 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

time travelers wifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife ~ Audrey Niffenegger
ISBN ~ 978-1476764832
Publisher ~Harvest Books
No. Of Pages ~ 571 pages
Links ~ Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.

human croquetHuman Croquet ~ Kate Atkinson
ISBN ~ 978-0312186883
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 352 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

Once upon a time, in far-off England, there was a small village surrounded by a mighty forest, where a dark stranger, one Francis Fairfax, arrived to build a stately home. Fairfax Manor was renowned throughout the land for its feudal pleasures, its visit from the Queen, and the mysterious beauty of Lady Fairfax, who one day cursed the Fairfax name and vanished into the forest, never to be seen again except in a ghostly haze. Fast-forward to 1960…Over the centuries the forest has been destroyed, and the Fairfaxes have dwindled, too; now they are the local grocers to their suburb of Glebelands, a family as disintegrated as its ancestral home. It is here that young Isobel Fairfax awakens on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, a day that will change everything she knows and understands about her past and her future. Helping celebrate if one could call it that are the members of her strange and distracted family: There is Vinny, Maiden Aunt from Hell; Gordon, Isobel’s father, who disappeared for seven years; and Charles, her elder brother, who divides his time between searching for aliens and waiting for the return of their long-gone mother, Eliza. And back again…As her day progresses, Isobel is pulled into brief time warps and extended periods of omniscience, from the days of the first Fairfax to the roaring twenties to World War II, through which she learns the truth about her family and about her mother, whose disappearance is part of the secret that remains at the heart of the forest.

perilous gardThe Perilous Gard ~ Elizabeth Marie Pope; Richard Cuffari (Illustrator)
ISBN ~ 978-0618150731
Publisher ~Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
No. Of Pages ~ 288 pages
Age range ~ 10 – 14 Years
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

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Review: My Own Story ~ Emmeline Pankhurst

my own storyISBN ~ 978-1784870409
Publisher ~ Vintage Classics
No. Of Pages ~352 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Project Gutenberg

The great leader of the women’s suffrage movement, tells the story of her struggles in her own words.

Emmeline Pankhurst grew up all too aware of the prevailing attitude of her day: that men were considered superior to women. When she was just fourteen she attended her first suffrage meeting, and returned home a confirmed suffragist. Throughout the course of her career she endured humiliation, prison, hunger strikes and the repeated frustration of her aims by men in power, but she rose to become a guiding light of the Suffragette movement. This is the story, in Pankhurst’s own words, of her struggle for equality.

3 Thumbs-UpLet me first explain my reasoning behind the three thumb review; I found this book to be a strangely impersonal account of Mrs. Pankhurst’s life.  It read more like a diary of the main events of the WSPU (Suffrage movement) in the lead up to the outbreak of World War I.  This made it extremely difficult for me, as a reader, to get a handle on what she was really like as a person, or the opinions of others of the movement of which she and her sister, Christabel, were such a big part of in England; this in turn had me doing further research at the library and on the internet to fill in the gaps.

Giving an explanation of what propelled her out of the normal role of women in her time, into a political arena is an interesting and eye-opening journey into what it was like to be female in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, and this was one of things that kept me reading this book.  This book is a snapshot into a turbulent time in British history, and may be an eye opener for those who read it and are not acquainted with the nuances of that time.

One thing I became aware of whilst reading this was the tremendous hardships and deprivations these women went through to secure the vote for women.  They were humiliated, beaten, force-fed and denigrated in a way that not even the worst of criminals were at the time, all because they wanted more control over their lives and things that ultimately affected the way they lived.  This in turn led me to consider the women’s movements today and how they regard the role of women in the twenty-first century; there really is no comparison and it made me grateful for the freedoms I do have as a woman today.

I was disappointed that this book ended with the advent of World War I as I would have felt it would have added to the account if there had been an endnote saying what happened to the WSPU and their campaign for Women’s Rights after the end of the war; this was one part of where my extra research came in.

Despite its short comings this is a good read, and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning about the origins of feminism and treatment of women in the United Kingdom.

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An Interview with Hilary Mantel by Carole Burns

hilary-mantelIn the Washington Post on Friday, Author  of The Missing Woman, Carole Burns interviewed Hilary Mantel.  With the debate over whether the screen adaptation of her novel threatens to distort history, a debate which is lighting up literary message boards all over the internet and causing definite ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps on the sides of both the book and the Author, I thought it would be pleasant reading to share this interview with you.

Hilary Mantel’s two best-selling novels on King Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell — “Wolf Hall” (2009) and “Bring Up the Bodies” (2012) — have won her two Booker prizes. A new Masterpiece series, “Wolf Hall,” begins tonight on PBS, and a two-part Royal Shakespeare Company play based on the novels officially opens April 9 on Broadway. Mantel spoke about her books — and their spin-offs — from New York, where she is working on the plays.

How did you become fascinated by Thomas Cromwell?

It was the very singular arc of his story: blacksmith’s son to Earl of Essex, poor boy to king’s right-hand man. It has a strong archetypal quality to it. You want to know: What kind of man could achieve that and stay at the top of Henry’s court of predators, be close to the king for some eight years before disaster struck? And during those eight years, he helped reshape the nation.

Your depiction goes against the prevalent image of Cromwell as a ruthless despot. Is he your fictional character or a reinterpretation of history?

Well, it’s not simply my reinterpretation. There is a divide between academic history and popular history. Cromwell’s role was explored intensively by academic historians, but people’s imaginations are not shaped by scholars; they’re shaped by popular historians and fiction writers. And of course, Thomas Cromwell had really fallen victim to Robert Bolt and “A Man for All Seasons,” and we see him emerge in a very bad light. Even though I would say there can be other ways of thinking, my interpretations are valid; they’re not plucked out of the air. It’s not that I was looking for a hero. I was looking to explore a very complex man who was flawed and equivocal and ambiguous, and I’m not big on judging my characters. I want to understand them.

Do you think you ended up with a hero?

One could say he’s an equivocal hero. Perhaps he’s a hero for our times, because I think we’re very aware now that judgments are not a simple matter, and that one’s sense of right and wrong often gives way under the pressure of events. He was a ruthless man, but no more so than other politicians of his era. And he had a number of good qualities that I think tended to be buried under a weight of prejudice.

Another idea your books explore is how dangerous it is to be so close to power.

For politicians, one misstep could be fatal. You didn’t get to resign. You might well find yourself in the Tower [of London]. In the case of the women in his life, he began by putting them on a pedestal, and they ended up in the dust. Obviously, what he needed was a son and heir. It’s in some ways a problem peculiar to kings, but in other ways, it’s a very common problem. I don’t mean simply the lack of a child, but, who is the partner who will give you what you desire? To come into the king’s sight, to be identified by him as his next true love, was a very dangerous business.

Are today’s politicians as ruthless as Cromwell?

Yes, but the difference is that their ruthlessness results in mass deaths at a distance. With Cromwell, the victims, if you can call them that, are named, and they die on Tower Hill. But they die singly. I think our age has no business looking back and judging the Tudors. Cromwell and his contemporaries weren’t there to act as a kind of rehearsal for us. They have to be seen in their own light. So although there are all sorts of contemporary resonances, my stories aren’t a disguised way of writing about the present. They really are about the past.

How would you compare your role in the BBC’s Masterpiece production with your role in the Broadway play — and how have these experiences affected your third novel, ‘The Mirror in the Light’?

My involvement with the two projects is very different. With the BBC, I visited the set, but the script writer, Peter Straughan, needed very little help. It was miraculous how quickly he grasped what was at stake and how to make the characters talk. The plays were a very different story: I worked with the adaptor for 10 drafts. I’ve been in the rehearsal room, so my conversations with the actors do change the third book — but the third book also changes the plays. I’m just this morning writing a passage that explains why Thomas Wyatt, at the end of “Bring Up the Bodies,” gives Cromwell the evidence he needs to convict Anne Boleyn. About 5:00 tonight I’ll have it dropped off at the stage door when the actors arrive who play Cromwell and Tom Wyatt. It won’t change the words they’re speaking, but it will change what they know.”

Carole Burns B&W (Jason Parnell-Brookes) use this oneCarole Burns’s short story collection, “The Missing Woman,” is being published this month. She is head of creative writing at the University of Southampton in England.

Review: Audacious Escapades in the Fabulous Columbia River Gorge ~ Marc E. Paulsen

Columbia River GorgeISBN ~ 978-0977473717
Publisher ~ Marc Paulsen Press
No. Of Pages ~ 124 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books

Marc Paulsen has had a lifelong infatuation with the marvelous Gorge of the Columbia River, partly from many unique experiences on and near the old highway and also from his belief that the Columbia Gorge ranks among the world’s natural wonders. After countless trips through the Gorge covering 6 decades, he is still awestruck each repeat trip. May you enjoy Marc’s tales of youthful exuberance and humorous escapades…and allow a bit of charity in your judgments.

The book details some of Marc’s wilder adventures on the old road which will have to be chalked up to youthful exuberance and the reader must understand that he is a reformed man!

From its opening on July 6, 1915, first-time tourists unfailingly found the remarkable old Columbia River Highway awe-inspiring. To Marc at age eleven, the highway’s magnificence in beauty and construction struck indelible memories.

This book’s frontispiece is a reproduction of designer Lancaster’s lovingly created inscription to a friend. A supremely elegant execution of hand-calligraphy, he placed it in a 1916 edition of his detailed book telling his Columbia River Highway story. His superb hand lettering and the majestic highway he designed are one and the same in supremacy–masterpieces of artistic design and engineering. Even now, it is impossible to drive the few existing old highway sections without a warm feeling that one is rolling along cradled in the arms of this eminent design master. The highway and his brilliant plan for an artful Crown Point rest station enroute were so grandiose that it was as if Lancaster had borrowed concepts from the art world’s old masters. They were that good!

4 Thumbs-UpI first visited the Gorge last year, intending to be there for only two days we were snowed in, that is when I discovered this book in the hotel library.  If you live in Washington State or Oregon, this book is something you really need to pick up, even if you don’t live in these two states it is worth the time it takes to open the cover and dive in.

This is a little book full of history and anecdotes, and revisits a way of a life that children are not able to enjoy in this day and age; although humourous in parts this realisation of what children are missing out on today also makes it very poignant and a reflection on the world we now inhabit.  What really drew me into this book was the way in which the history of the Columbia River Gorge was laid out; it wasn’t stuffy or preachy but told in a way that encourages readers to want to get out there and experience the place for themselves, whether it be by car, bicycle or hiking on many of the trails mentioned.  To support the escapade and history telling the Author has included some wonderful pictures which just made this book all the more interesting.

I would have liked to maybe see some actual trail recommendations in the back of the book, for those who were inspired to experience the beauty of the Gorge for themselves, but unfortunately there were none which makes a visit here something that needs to be planned precisely; this was reason for the 4 thumbs review.  Apart from that I will be getting my hands on a copy for my bookshelves, and would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a travel book, that really isn’t a travel book.

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Review: Stitch ‘N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker ~ Debbie Stoller

The Happy HookerDebbie does crochet! Debbie Stoller, the “knitting superstar,” has been leading an entire movement of hip young knitters with her New York Times bestseller Stitch ’n Bitch and its follow-up, Stitch ’n Bitch Nation, together with over 521,000 copies in print. But guess what? For every one knitter in the world there are three crocheters—which translates into millions of hip, crafty, 18- to 35-year-olds ready to be happy hookers with Stitch ’n Bitch attitude, sexiness, ingenuity, and cool.

Written in the author’s cheeky chick style, this heavily illustrated book—featuring four-color photographs and instructional illustrations throughout—is chock-full of instruction, inspiration, and to-die-for designs, from a Fishnet Skullcap to a lacy evening wrap. For knitters and new crafters exploring the hook comes the primer: the advantages of crochet and the ways in which knitters (and nonknitters) benefit by learning this sister craft; a discussion of tools; all the cool yarns available, and what the different gauges mean; plus basic techniques and stitch patterns—including the chain stitch, picot, flowers, filet crochet, changing yarns, and finishing. Then come 40 fabulous, funky projects—the kind that make Stitch ’n Bitch rule—for crocheters: Pom Pom Capelet, Retro Clutch Purse, Anarchy Irony Hat, Ms. Pac Man Change Purses, Doris Daymat, Va-Va-Va Voom Bikini, Animal I-Pod Cozies, Kid’s Sock Monkey Poncho.

No, these aren’t your grandma’s doilies.

5 Thumbs-UpI’ve been a knitter for many many years, but have always wanted to learn how to crochet but, as my yearly attempts always seemed doomed to failure I was beginning to believe that old saying ‘knitters can’t crochet, and crocheters can’t knit’; until I found this book.

If you are starting from scratch after many frustrating attempts, this is the book for you and is a perfect example of what ‘learn how to’ craft book should be like.  Written in a clear and easy to understand manner, which is also laced with humour, this book covers it all.  If you are a visual learner, don’t despair, as this little tome is full of easy to understand illustrations that add weight to the ‘lessons’ they are contained in.  I found them very useful as, for some reason, when my brain wasn’t prepared to process the words the illustrations helped them sink in and stay there.

The book starts with a brief history of the craft and then progresses from there through tools, getting started, how to read charts and finally finishing with some easy first patterns to follow.  It covers yarns and the hooks that go with them, so even the most die-hard knitter will maybe have to shell out a couple of dollars to get themselves started.

The only thing I would say about this book, other than how wonderful it is, is that it would have been nice if the beginners patterns wear more along the line of household items and accessories rather than the usual wearables; however, this didn’t take away from my thorough enjoyment this book gave me, and the feeling of accomplishment that I now have from using it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who, like me had given up hope of ever learning to crochet. Crocheters who want to learn to knit, don’t despair as this Author also has a book that covers this written in the same fashion.

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