Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: We Were Curious

We finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH last week.  While it wasn't the favorite readaloud we've done, all of us did enjoy the book.  I was particularly interested in how the rats furthered their education.

The reading we did! We knew very little about the world, you see, and we were curious. We learned about astronomy, about electricity, biology and mathematics, about music and art. I even read quite a few books of poetry and got to like it pretty well.

But what I liked best was history. I read about the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, and the Dark Ages, when the old civilizations fell apart and the only people who could read and write were the monks. They lived apart in monasteries. They led the simplest kind of lives, and studied and wrote; they grew their own food, built their own houses and furniture. They even made their own tools and their own paper. Reading about that, I began getting some ideas of how we might live. (pg 159)
We talked a lot about Mrs. Frisby and the Rats. One thing we talked about was how history is replete with lessons for those who would hear them - lessons that can help us see trends of failure, of power grabbing, and of success.  The rats knew history, how would they use it?

One last thing this week, please be educating yourselves on fair use and copyrights.  Sharing books this way has been a boon to my TBR pile and our conversations have been a blessing to me. I hope it has been for you as well!

What have you been reading this week?

Wordless Wednesday: At the Fair

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: When Gods Die by CS Harris

When Gods Die (Sebastian St. Cyr #2)When Gods Die by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this book as well as the first. For most of the book, I thought I liked it better. I found the resolution a bit confusing - the motives and explanation of how the plot shook out seemed a little lightly woven, like one false move would tear it asunder.  I liked the intrigue and the weaving of potential coup in with his family story.

I was not such of a fan of Sebastian's professed atheism corrected to theism of some amorphous pattern to things. I see from future reviews that this theme opposed to Christianity continues and have my concerns with continuing the series. The theme of what happens when Gods die - from those we love devotedly to heroin to ourselves to God himself - is strong. Harris shows disillusionment, fear, and shattering. I'm just not convinced that is what she meant to show about God the Father.

And, yes, I want to know about Hero - despite her small walk-on roles so far, she is a favorite character and I think she is in love with Sebastian. I thought Harris did well with Tom - his incarceration was a haunting episode in the book. Kat did not seem as involved with this and I fully expect her connections with the French to cause problems in the future.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: It matters

I've been reading the Sebastian St. Cyr novels by CS Harris. (Truth be told as I write this Tuesday night I'm right in the middle of the second, but have the third on deck from the library and may request book 4 & 5 to pick up Thursday because I will finish 2 either tonight or tomorrow) I've been sucked into the setting and characters and the mysteries are intriguing too.  I read and reviewed the first book, What Angels Fear, last week.

This week, I'm reading When Gods Die. Sebastian, as we have seen, has a strong sense of justice and a need for - not retribution - but that the truth be told.  Here he discusses that need with his friend, Dr. Gibson who does medical examinations on St. Cyr's behalf:

Sebastian gazed down at the still, ravaged body of the woman hidden beneath the sheet. "[I don't trust Jarvis] at all. But someone killed Guinevere Anglessey. Someone slipped that dagger into the livid flesh of her bare back and brought her body here to drape it across that couch in a deliberately suggestive poster. Lord Jarvis's sole intent in all this is to protect the Prince. But mine is different.  I'm going to find out who killed this woman, and I'm going to see that he pays for it."

"Because of the necklace?"

Sebastian shook his head. "Because if I don't, no one else will."

"What does it matter to you?"


He had few illusions about the world in which he lived.  He knew the shocking inequality between its privileged and its poor; he recognized the savage injustice of a legal system that could hang an eight-year-old boy for stealing a loaf of bread and yet let a king's son get away with murder. Once, he'd been so repulsed by the raw barbarism and senseless cruelty of the wars his people fought in the name of liberty and justice that he'd been content simply to let himself drift, aimless and alone.  Now that struck him as a reaction that was both self-indulgent and faintly cowardly.

Crouching down beside what was left of the young woman named Guinevere, Sebastian tucked the sheet over that pale, vulnerable hand and said softly, "It matters."
What are you reading this week? I'd love to know about it!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Embrace the Ordinary: Soccer Season

Sometimes the Ordinary is seasonal. We are currently entering a season of 6 weeks of eating, breathing, and sleeping soccer.

With three kids close in age, it seems like we might be able to have two on one team, but our girls are too far apart in age for that and the teams are not co-ed.

I am thankful that this is the case. I played two years in 3rd and 4th grade and still remember playing co-ed in 4th. Boys kick the ball harder.

We love our soccer league. The kids have learned a lot about team building, physical skills, and making friendships.  They have grown in self-confidence.

As a homeschooling family, we aren't involved in the local schools. We drive about 30 minutes to our church, so there isn't local involvement that way. My extended family is spread out in other local suburbs, so we just don't know anyone in our town. Participation in our local soccer league *is* our entree into the community.

For six exhausting weeks staring today we will be on the soccer fields 5-6 days per week, running to practice, running to games, switching between fields at halftime when there are game conflicts. I miss being home, I miss our more general slow pace of life. I wouldn't trade it for the world; we Embrace the Ordinary of this season of our lives.

How are you Embracing the Ordinary? Share it with us over at Gina's.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Book Review: What Angels Fear by CS Harris

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr, #1)What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have a somewhat unsophisticated love for novels set in 1800s England and modern gothic romances.  I blame it on my high school obsessed reading of Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch, and Phyllis Whitney.  Mary Stewart came later, but is just as engrossing.  Then Georgette Heyer and Joan Smith.  My love of mysteries is older still, dating back to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.  When friends from the 52 books in 52 weeks group recommended CS Harris' Sebastian St Cyr novels, I found I couldn't get to the library quickly enough.

I enjoyed this murder mystery set in just-becoming-Regency England, one of my favorite time periods.  The intrigues were engaging and the writing hooked me from the beginning, so I read quickly.  The detecting without modern CSI-like technology but applying scientific strategies of the period made following St. Cyr's work un-put-downable.  His reliance on the information from his witnesses, the political intrigues, family relationships, and red herrings added up to an engrossing read.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin is going about his business, when he gets implicated in a murder.  Rather than allowing the local courts to look into the matter, he escapes incarceration and investigates himself using the Intelligence skills he learned in the war against Napoleon.

He meets a limited number of characters along the way which should make the reader be able to solve the mystery earlier than I did, albeit the clues are unfolded slowly.  The introduction of unsavory characters as comrades is well done and the reader begins to feel sympathy toward them and their plight ... and an interest in what will become of them.  In fact, this book sets up many threads that are not neatly tied up and that I'm excited to follow through upon in book 2.  

There were parts that disappointed me.  The characters occasionally become a little modern, break the time period.  At some points the writing became a bit flat - to be expected in a first novel. At others it was relatively gory (lots of blood everywhere). At still others there was a salaciousness that I prefer to avoid in my reading (yes, it the s*x was appropriate to the characters and the murder victim was also raped, but more descriptive than I find necessary - this book is definitely rated R).  If you're looking for "clean, traditional" Regency romance, this is not the book for you. 

All that being said, I can skim and am looking forward to reading book 2.

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I particularly like liked this section where Tom (a pickpocket boy who has attached himself as a helper to Sebastian) talks about why he made that choice:
"Why?" Sebastian asked suddenly, his gaze on the boy's sharp-featured, freckled face. "Why in God's name have you decided to throw in your lot with a man in my situation? I can't believe it's for a shilling a day, when you could earn many times that by simply lodging information against me at Bow Street."
"I would never do that!"
"Why not? Many would. Perhaps most."
The boy looked troubled.  "There's lots o' bad things 'appen in this world. Lots o' bad things what 'appen, and lots o' folks what do bad things. But there's good, too. Me mum, before they put her on that ship for Botany Bay, she told me never to forget that. She said that things like 'onor, and justice, and love are the most important things in the world and that it's up to each and every one of us to always try to be the best person we can possibly be." Tom looked up, his nearly lashless eyes wide and earnest. "I don't think there's many what really believes in that. But you do."
"I don't believe in any of that," Sebastian said, his voice harsh, his soul filled with terror by the admiration he saw shining in the young boy's eyes.
"Yes, you do. Only you thinks you shouldn't. That's all."
"You're wrong," said Sebastian, but the boy simply smiled and walked on. (page 123, emphasis mine.)