Historical / Art

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

Summary:

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This is a book that I had postponed reading because I have heard a lot of opinions from family and friends around me who are passionate fans of mountaineering.  If you look at the historical accounts, Krakauer is a little more contentious and I’m planning on reading Boukreev’s counterpart to the story soon.  (Note: I have heard his book is not quite as accessible to the casual reader.)  But this is all a side note, onto the review!

The things that is undeniable about Krakauer’s account is that it’s extremely compelling.  It’s fascinating storytelling and he does an amazing job introducing the topic of Everest with history, why people are drawn to the mountain and he himself ended up with the ill-fated climbers.  I was fascinated with the build up of the book just as much as the events that followed.  The tension portrayed through the final three days had me pausing to stop and take a walk around the room before going back to it.

One thing I found extremely annoying, however was the tendency to alternate between calling people by the last name and their first name.  It made it confusing when switching back and forth and meant that I made ample use of the first few pages that described each respective climbing party.  I would highly recommend reading this book, but if you enjoy it, also encourage you to check out some other accounts as well.

Warning: Contains repeated violence of people’s own choices as a side effect of dangerous climbing.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest and enthusiasm into the type of climbing that happens on the top of the world.

Thin Ice

Thin Ice

Summary:

The world's premier climatologist, Lonnie Thompson has been risking his career and life on the highest and most remote ice caps along the equator, in search of clues to the history of climate change. His most innovative work has taken place on these mountain glaciers, where he collects ice cores that provide detailed information about climate history, reaching back 750,000 years. To gather significant data Thompson has spent more time in the death zone—the environment above eighteen thousand feet—than any man who has ever lived.

Scientist and expert climber Mark Bowen joined Thompson's crew on several expeditions; his exciting and brilliantly detailed narrative takes the reader deep inside retreating glaciers from China, across South America, and to Africa to unravel the mysteries of climate. Most important, we learn what Thompson's hard-won data reveals about global warming, the past, and the earth's probable future.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

Full disclosure I did NOT finish this book.  I really wanted to enjoy it, but just couldn’t quite get myself into it.  I kept picking it up, putting it down, picking it back up and trying again and then getting disinterested.  I found the climbing, the hurdles required when obtaining the cores and the overall techniques fascinating, but Bowen kept swapping gears.  We went from South America to the poles and then jumped into some general background.  I found the abrupt changes distracting whereas if the history had been woven into the story a bit more it may have been easier.

Despite those frustrations, the third of the book I did read was highly fascinating and taught me a lot on the techniques and approaches of the scientists in such extreme locations.  What’s particularly interesting is the combined athleticism with the scientific achievements the were able to achieve at high altitudes.

I readily admit that had I had less going on in life I might be more willing to sit down and focus, but at least for now, this is a book I’m abandoning that perhaps I will come back to it one day.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Folks passionate about climate change and would like to know a little more about how historical accounts were/are studied.

The Sworn Virgin

The Sworn Virgin

Summary:

Dukes’s gripping historical novel tells the tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future…even if it means swearing to remain a virgin for her entire life.

When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.

Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.

But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him… (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins where I voluntarily chose to write a review

Review:

This was a very intriguing book in that I’m not sure that it was like anything else I have read.  That being said, I found it very difficult to relate to Eleanora and was frustrated by her decisions to be extremely selfish at times.  It was tough, because Eleanora was trying to be an independent and strong woman, but really tripped up multiple times throughout the book.  She is quite young, and does manage to grow throughout the story.  I was expecting the book to go in a different direction based on the description, but instead we follow Eleanora over two years in her life and she is forced to decide if she'll reject or embrace her cultural heritage.

What I did enjoy about the book was the imagery and exploration of a culture and geography that I know nothing about.  In 1910, it’s interesting to hear how Albania balanced the old and new ways of life, like so many other countries at the turn of the century.  

Warning: Contains repeated violence and sexual content.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone interested in historical novels.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (Jane Austen Addict #1)

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Summary:

After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? 

Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman's life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her love of Jane Austen has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who fills Courtney's borrowed brain with confusing memories that are clearly not her own. 

Try as she might to control her mind and find a way home, Courtney cannot deny that she is becoming this other woman and being this other woman is not without its advantages: Especially in a looking-glass Austen world. Especially with a suitor who may not turn out to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a very “meh” book that I certainly finished, but would not have lost anything if I had decided to leave off halfway through.  As with many other readers, one of the things immediately noticeable is that the purported “Jane Austen addict” really doesn’t know anything about the historical time period.  Having read P&P around four times now (any by no means pretending to be an expert) there were multiple things that had me scratching my head that Courtney should have known.  I believe younger readers might have enjoyed the descriptions more even if some of the items are inaccurate.   

I do have to say that I liked the response Jane had to Courtney when she tracked her down, as it was likely the most historically accurate thing in the book.  Otherwise, the rants, questionable moral decisions (for the time) and general confusion had me shrugging my shoulders and deciding to move on.  I’d call this more of glorified fan fiction that has a title that is guaranteed to make Janeite frustrated.

Warning: Contains sexual content.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Fans of historical romance, vague Jane Austen things and isn’t super concerned with historical accuracy.

Want to read the whole series?

  • Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (Jane Austen Addict #2)