Monday, June 29, 2015

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

book cover
The Jane Austen Handbook
by Margaret C. Sullivan

ISBN-13: 9781594741715
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: May 1, 2007

Source: Bought through

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Every young lady dreams of a life spent exchanging witty asides with a dashing Mr. Darcy, but how should you let him know your intentions? This charming guide provides step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early nineteenth century. You'll discover:

How to behave at your first ball.
How to ride sidesaddle.
How to decline an unwanted marriage proposal.
How to improve your estate.
How to throw a dinner party.

--and much more! It offers readers a glimpse into day-to-day life in Jane Austen's time and includes information on the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living.

My Review:
The Jane Austen Handbook described manners and aspects of daily life in Regency England, which is the time period of Jane Austen's novels. Some of it is information that you pick up just from reading her novels or watching the movies. However, there was a fair amount of other information that helps to fill out what life was like for the landed folk in England.

It included information like what the different servants do, correct behavior at a ball, how children were educated, how much someone's income was worth in modern terms, and so on. She included things that will help you to better understand the novels and things you simply might be curious about.

The author didn't go into great detail, but she covered a wide variety of subjects. The light tone makes it very readable and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen who want to know a little more about what life was like in the Regency Period.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Victorian People in Life and Literature by Gillian Avery

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Victorian People in Life and Literature
by Gillian Avery

ISBN-13: 9780030666551
Hardcover: 255 pages
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Released: 1970

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description:
Gillian Avery describes what life was like for the different social classes, what visitors thought of Victorian society, and rural and city/industrial life. She comments on some literature (novels and nonfiction sources) that accurately portray life and on some that didn't. Chapter headings: Victorian times, French and American Visitors, The Aristocracy, Society Life, Squire and Cottager, The Middle Classes, The Church, Cities and Industry, Life in Mean Streets, Poverty and Destitution, and Criminals. Illustrated from contemporary sources.

My Review:
Victorian People in Life and Literature explores life in England during Victorian times. It started with the rich and worked on down to the very poor, including information on workhouses and the prison system. It looked at farm life and at life in industrial cities. It quoted comments by foreign visitors, magazines of the time period, and bits from novels that accurately portray the times.

The illustrations were cartoons and line drawings taken from magazines from that time period. The book was very readable and interesting, and it came across as well-researched. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about what the living conditions and social attitudes were like during this time period.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay

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The Brilliant History of Color
by Victoria Finlay

ISBN-13: 9781606064290
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum
Released: November 1, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Victoria Finlay takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Readers will revel in a treasure trove of fun-filled facts and anecdotes.

Were it not for Cleopatra, for instance, purple might not have become the royal color of the Western world. Without Napoleon, the black graphite pencil might never have found its way into the hands of C├ęzanne. Without mango-eating cows, the sunsets of Turner might have lost their shimmering glow. And were it not for the pigment cobalt blue, the halls of museums worldwide might still be filled with forged Vermeers.

The book is written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists and is illustrated with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

My Review:
The Brilliant History of Color explores the origins of pigments and dyes that were popular for painting, glazes, wallpapers, and clothing. For each pigment or dye, she told the story of how it was found or who made it popular or of a famous person who loved to use it. She often gave dates of when the color was first known to be in use and if it was removed from use due to safety concerns. She also talked about things like the move from wood panels to linen canvas for painting.

The author started with some of the oldest pigments and dyes used, like manganese black, red ocher, Egyptian Blue, yellow ocher, Tyrian Purple, cinnabar, black ink, gold leaf, green earth, ultramarine, cochineal, logwood black, cobalt, lead white, indigo, Indian yellow, madder red, graphite, and mummy brown. She then discussed the modern (1850s until now) explosion in color possibilities with colors like mauve, Prussian blue, manganese violet, chrome yellow, and cadmium yellow.

The stories were entertaining, informative, and contained interesting trivia. The book is targeted at tween or teens, and it's more a story of ongoing developments in color and their uses than a who-what-when-where-why history focused on the pigments. Overall, I'd recommend this entertaining and informative book to those looking for a quick look at color history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Men of War by Alexander Rose

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Men of War:
The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima
by Alexander Rose

ISBN-13: 9780553805185
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Random House
Released: June 2, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
In the grand tradition of John Keegan’s enduring classic The Face of Battle comes a searing, unforgettable chronicle of war through the eyes of the American soldiers who fought in three of our most iconic battles: Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. This is not a book about how great generals won their battles, nor is it a study in grand strategy. Men of War is instead a riveting, visceral look at ordinary soldiers under fire.

Drawing on an immense range of firsthand sources from the battlefield, Rose begins by re-creating the lost and alien world of eighteenth-century warfare at Bunker Hill, the bloodiest clash of the War of Independence—and reveals why the American militiamen were so lethally effective against the oncoming waves of British troops. Then, focusing on Gettysburg, Rose describes a typical Civil War infantry action, vividly explaining what Union and Confederate soldiers experienced before, during, and after combat. Finally, he shows how in 1945 the Marine Corps hurled itself with the greatest possible violence at the island of Iwo Jima, where nearly a third of all Marines killed in World War II would die.

To an unprecedented degree, Men of War brings home the reality of combat and, just as important, its aftermath in the form of the psychological and medical effects on veterans.

My Review:
"Men of War" details what battle was like for soldiers at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. The book came across as extensively researched, and the author quoted from many diaries and letters written by those who actually lived through these battles. He gave an overview of the battle then went into detail about what weapons the soldiers had, what damage those weapons did, what the battle experience was at various locations or in various situations (like for the defending infantry and for the attacking infantry), what the experience of the wounded was like (including the medical care of the time), and how they coped after the battle. Though I understand why the author included this level of detail, I could have lived with a "the mortar pulverized the body" description rather than the graphic, detailed blood-and-guts version we got. This was not a book I could read before going to sleep.

I felt that the author gave a balanced view of the battles and tried to present the attitudes they had toward the experience of battle at each time period rather than imposing our modern views on them. I freely grant that I haven't read every battle book out there, but this is the first time I've read a good, reasonable explanation for why the British acted as they did at Bunker Hill.

Overall, I found this book very worth the time of reading it. And it's dense, so it took some time. I'd recommend this informative book to anyone interested in what the experience of battle was like in these battles.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.