Just Around The Riverbend: An Idiosyncratic Lit List

Ahoy Bookworms!

I’m feeling listy and rather nautical. Being the landlocked lady that I am, I have no access to an ocean. I do, however, get to drive to and fro over the Illinois River on the daily. Remember how much fun we had talking about books linked by wind? Let’s play that again, only this time, we’re using “river” as our linking word. On your mark, get set, ROW! (Ah, I kid. A little river pun for you.)

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1. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway: Time travel romance is totally my jam, so I loved the crap out of this book. You can travel through time (if you’re the right sort of person) on the river of human emotion. Hello, awesome concept, nice to see you! (my review)

2. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton: A glittery society party in the 1920s at a swanky English country estate lead to tragedy. The key to unlocking the mystery behind the debacle may lie in the memories of an elderly house maid. Part mystery, part love story, part servant life, this book has a little bit of everything. (my review)

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3. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi: I don’t know how often I can rave about this book, but let’s do it once more for good measure, shall we? Trudi Montag is a dwarf living in Nazi Germany. Trudi’s insider view of Nazi Germany on the home front combined with her outsider’s view of society as someone inherently different offer a stunning portrait of society, war, and love. Basically? This book kicks butt. Read it now.

What say you, Bookworms? Any fabulous “river” titles I’m missing out on? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission… Which will probably be spent on more books.*

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Halló Bookworms,

Today we’re going to Iceland. Yes, the land of Björk and that volcano that destroyed air travel for a time in 2010 (Eyjafjallajökull, say that three times fast!) Every blogger in all the land, it seems, read and adored Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and I could no longer in good conscience go about having not read it. Call it peer pressure. In any case, I just finished reading Burial Rites, and I’m going to tell you all about it. Whether you like it or not. Because I’m just like that.

burial ritesBurial Rites tells the story of Agnes. Agnes is accused of the murder of her employer and one of his associates. She was convicted of the crime with along with two companions, and sentenced to death. It’s 1829. And it’s Iceland. They didn’t exactly have a great prison system infrastructure, so they sent Agnes to  the modest family farm of a low ranking government official to await her execution.

At first the family is pretty freaked out at the idea of keeping a convicted murderer in their home. They live in an old-school Icelandic dwelling where everyone sleeps in a single room- a murderer in their home meant a murderer in their bedroom. Agnes isn’t really what they expect, though. She’s not some blood-thirsty knife-wielding psycho, she’s a woman well versed in farm work who never balks at the icky tasks. As time goes on, Agnes’s heartbreaking story slowly comes to light.

The novel is based in part on a true story- Agnes did, in fact, live. She was convicted of murder in 1829 and sentenced to death. Hannah Kent did a beautiful job of giving a voice to a person who would otherwise be lost to history. A gorgeous, heart-wrenching book.

I really enjoyed Burial Rites, but I’ve got to admit I fell down the Wikipedia rabbit hole several times while reading this. I know virtually nothing about Iceland, so I kept looking things up. My real stumbling block, though, was the names. Holy cow, Icelandic, man. Accent marks and umlauts and discordant groupings of consonants! I’ve heard that Finnish is the most difficult language to learn (that’s according to an eccentric English professor I once had) but Icelandic has got to be right up there. Wowza.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you know much about Iceland? What are your immediate associations with it? (Anybody who says D2: The Mighty Ducks gets 5 knucklepuck points!)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Bookish Accoutrements: Top Ten Tuesday

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s Tuesday again, and with that comes the opportunity to make a list… With a group. I’m a JOINER, see? (Well. A digital joiner. Maybe kind of. Whatever.) This week the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have challenged the book blogosphere to make a list of bookish things we’d like to own… You know, that aren’t books. This is bound to get ridiculous. Are you ready?!

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1. A personal library with sliding ladder. I don’t care that it’s impractical to live in a dwelling so large as to have a dedicated library. I don’t care that I read most of my books digitally. Maybe if I had my own LIBRARY, I wouldn’t need the digital storage space. And what’s a library without a sliding ladder?!

2. A Castle. Did I not mention that I wanted my library to be in a castle? Because I do. Castles are obviously the most bookish dwelling. (In place of a moat, though, I’ll install a lazy river for me to float around whilst reading my books. Nice right?)

3. This Alice in Wonderland necklace from Modcloth. Because Alice is my homegirl.

4. Cute Penguin Bookends. Why the heck not?

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5. A new booklight. This isn’t imperative at the moment, thanks to my GLORIOUS Kindle Paperwhite, but when I want to read a physical book in bed, I still use a book light. The one I have now is just okay… Maybe I’m spoiled by the back lighting I’m used to, but my current external booklight doesn’t seem to illuminate as well as I’d like.

6. A Bookish Scarf. I like wearing scarves, they’re a fun little accessory. I’d like a bookish one. I’ve seen one that contains the text of Pride and Prejudice that I covet. COVET.

7. Bookish Drinkware. What better to use to sip your coffee while reading than a bookish mug? I mean, really. And, you know, if you wanted to be super awesome, you could order one from my Zazzle store.

I should probably stop there. I mean, I already told you I want a castle complete with library, sliding ladders, and a lazy river. I think that’s about all the crazy the internet has time for today.
What about you, bookworms? Anything bookish you’ve had your eye on lately?
*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission. I may not, too. It all depends on the link. Just so you know and all. Legalities.*

How I Was April Fooled by The Princess Bride

Hey there, Bookworms!

I am typically a curmudgeon about books that become movies. I am often underwhelmed and find myself keeping score of what they changed to adapt the book to the screen and why Hollywood was wrong for doing it. Things were all kinds of different for me when it came to The Princess Bride. I have seen the movie about a zillion times, starting when I was a kid. I didn’t realize it was adapted from a book until waaaaay after I’d perfected my “INCONCEIVABLE!” I was curious, though, so I decided I’d tackle the book version, formally titled The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman. (It’s quite a mouthful.)

I’ve mentioned that I’m pretty gullible, right? If Goldman had been playing an April Fool’s prank with this book, I’d totally have fallen for it. Goldman begins the book by saying that he isn’t writing the story, but abridging a classic work of literature his father read to him while he was recovering from pneumonia as a child. He claimed his father was a Florinese immigrant, that the tales within the book were at least partially true (if not a bit embellished, as such tales often are), and that he was merely paraphrasing another’s work. I THOUGHT that Florin and Guilder sounded like fake countries, but my knowledge of Europe is not infallible. They could very well have been countries at one point once upon a time and then been swallowed up. I mean, Poland lost its “I’m a country” status plenty of times throughout history, the poor dear.

Despite my innate gullibility, it wasn’t long before my BS meter started pinging, and I turned to Wikipedia. Not only is there no original work by S. Morgenstern, there’s no Florin or Guilder (they sound familiar because they used to be currency.) Heck, even the wife and son Goldman claims to have are fictional. The Princess Bride was actually inspired by stories Goldman used to tell his daughters, and he masterminded the whole thing, fake countries and all. Well played, Goldman.

I deserve the mocking. (Source)

I deserve the mocking. (Source)

After I stopped feeling like a nincompoop, I settled in to enjoy the story. The bulk of the action plays out very similarly to the movie- it’s a pretty faithful adaptation. The Grandfather and Fred Savage bits are indeed quite different, but it still totally works. Fabulous example of book to movie done right, if you ask me. If you haven’t seen The Princess Bride or read the book, you should probably stop what you’re doing right now and go do one or the other. How does one go through life without these critical cultural references? I mean, there’s FEZZIK, the coolest soft-hearted giant ever! (The coolest soft-hearted half-giant is, of course, Hagrid.) Evil Humperdink and the 6 fingered Count Rugen. Miracle friggin MAX! Westley and Buttercup and their grand romance… “As you wish…” Siiiiigh. And of course, there’s this:

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REVENGE! (source)

Just read it. Or watch it. Okay? If you need MORE reasons, check out Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity and her fabulous post (and more GIF-y goodness) 10 Life Lessons from The Princess Bride.

I know a ton of you Bookworms have seen and/or read The Princess Bride. Tell me your favorite moments! 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. You would NOT be committing a blunder to do so, though I don’t recommend getting into a land war in Asia.*

Bookish Boombox (Part 2) An Idiosyncratic Lit List

Howdy Bookworms!

It’s been a while since I put together a Mix Tape Masterpiece for y’all, so I think it’s about time. If you’re interested in how this went last time, you can check it out here. Are you ready?

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1. Real Happy Family by Caeli Wolfson Widger = “Celebrity Skin” by Hole. Could this song BE any more perfect for this book? It’s the quintessential Hollywood wannabe anthem! It’s also proof that I’m sort of stuck in the 90s. (my review)

2. The Remedy by Thomas Goetz = “The Remedy” by Jason Mraz. In fairness, the only thing the book and the song have in common is a title. However. I can’t see the title without getting this song stuck in my head, so for me, they’re a pair.

3. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty = “Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads. Because amnesia. No really. Alice loses a good chunk of her memory and wanders around being pretty confused. It just goes with the song, you know? (my review)

What about you, Bookworms? Do you have any songs that just BELONG with certain books?

 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission.*

Ballerinas, Y’all! (Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead)

Bonjour, Bookworms!

I feel like greeting you in French because ballet lingo is all in French, and today, we’re talking about le danse! When I saw Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead in the Netgalley catalog, I requested it IMMEDIATELY. I have a soft spot for dance, what can I say? I spent most of my childhood dancing (not well, mind you, but dancing none the less) so I couldn’t help myself. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. No ballerinas were harmed in the reading of this novel. 

astonishmeAstonish Me centers on  a dancer named Joan. She’s in the corps (AKA, the background) of a professional ballet company without much hope of advancement. Ballet is a cruel mistress, and genetically perfect feet, hips, turnout, and stature can dictate a dancer’s future regardless of effort, and our dear Joan was stuck in the shallow end of that gene pool. Joan’s dancing career is second only to her personal life on the suck-o-meter. She is recovering from a bad breakup with her impossibly talented ballet boyfriend, who has replaced Joan with a gorgeous Russian prima ballerina… A rebounding Joan decides to take a trip to visit the boy who worshiped her in high school (Jacob) for an ego boost. Aaaaaand she winds up pregnant.

Joan relinquishes the ballet life in New York and settles into family life. She marries Jacob, who is still infatuated with her. She tries to adjust to the life of a suburban wife, but soon is called again by ballet. Joan begins to teach dance lessons, sculpting both her son and her neighbor’s daughter into impressive dancers. She watches as they are enveloped in the world she loved and lost.

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You guys, this book was SO GOOD. It had family drama with a dash of politics and a heaping side of ballet. All the neuroses and the ugly calloused feet! The obsession and the dedication and the struggle with mediocrity! The love and the hate and the drugs and the madness all wrapped into one glorious story. If you have any interest in ballet, dance, or just one heck of a good story, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Astonish Me

Because I lack pride, boundaries, and I still have an affinity for tutus, I’m including this little ballerina Katie retrospective for your viewing pleasure. Forgive my lack of photography skills, I was trying to snap cell phone pictures of prints in an album, because I am the laziest person on planet earth.

Dance was, as I’ve mentioned, my #1 recreational activity as a kid. What about you, Bookworms? Any other adolescent ballerinas? Soccer stars? Little League sluggers? Show choir? Tell me about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

 

Offbeat Books: A Top Ten Tuesday List

Happy Tuesday, Bookworms!

You know what I love about Tuesdays? Making lists with the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish! This week we’ve been tasked with making a list of some of the most unique books we’ve read. This should be fun!

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1. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: Dude. This is about a family that runs their own amusement park centered on wrestling alligators. Oh yeah. A rival amusement park that is designed to simulate Hell features prominently. Offbeat? Quirky? Unique? I think so! (my review)

2. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: I have to admit that this book wasn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s got quirk in spades. A family so intent on creating a family of oddities that they experiment with radioactive isotopes during gestation? Complete craziness, I tell you! (my review)

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: The most wondrous ride through a magical circus that has ever been! I love the crap out of this book, it’s gorgeous and lovely, whimsical and poignant. (my review)

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4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: How sweet was this book? Don isn’t your typical leading man, but the love story was just a delight. Rosie and Don and cocktail mixing FTW! (my review)

5. Room by Emma Donoghue: I thought this book was innovative. Telling the story of a kidnapping and subsequent captivity at the hands of a madman through the eyes of a child? Fascinating perspective. (my review)

6. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster: I didn’t read this as a kid, but I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t. So much wordplay and fun and learning! It’s imagination taken to the next level!

7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: How much more imaginative can you get than creating an entire alternate universe in London’s subway tunnels? Gaiman mingles mythology and legend in the craziest ways. Weird and fabulous. (my review)

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8. Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky: Oooooh this book! It’s tough to describe this one, but it sure is a crazy ride. I’m not just saying that because I was blurbed in the paperback… But I was BLURBED in the paperback!!! (my review)

9. Flight by Sherman Alexie: This book takes teen angst to a whole new dimension… Like literally, because the protagonist gets all time-travely and metaphysical. (my review)

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: I really loved this book! Getting inside the head of Christopher who suffered on the Autism spectrum was fascinating. (my review)

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What about you, Bookworms? What are some of your favorite weird, unique, quirky, crazy reads? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

Hello Bookworms,

It’s Monday again (how does this keep happening?!) The good news? You don’t have tuberculosis. (I hope.) Yes, folks, I just finished reading some of the germiest non-fiction this side of the 20th century, and it was fascinating. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I was offered a copy of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz, I knew I had to give it a shot. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Honesty rules.

theremedyThe Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis begins with Dr. Robert Koch hacking off limbs during the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Koch, among others, began to realize that some of the post-surgical infections they’d been encountering could be prevented… You know. If the medical staff washed their hands. Germ theory was fledgling and had plenty of detractors who still insisted on sticking leeches to people to balance their humors. Gross, right?

You know what else everybody did that was super gross? Spit all over the place. Back in the day, hawking loogies in public was a fact of life. People were just barely starting to understand germ theory (thanks to scientists like Koch and his frenemy Pasteur) so nobody thought about spreading disease with all the spitting. It was the perfect environment for the breeding and transmission of one of humanity’s oldest foes, Tuberculosis.

TB was no joke. It accounted for something like a third of all deaths, and nobody could quite pin down how it was transmitted or how to treat it. Dr. Koch’s research into Tuberculosis allowed him to identify the microbe that caused TB, which was a huge breakthrough. Shortly after this discovery, Koch claimed to have discovered a cure. A CURE FOR CONSUMPTION! A miracle!

Enter Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know him as “Sir” and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doyle was first a doctor. He was fascinated by germ theory and Dr. Koch’s experiments. Dr. Conan Doyle made the trek to Berlin to observe Koch’s work, but came away troubled. Was this “remedy” indeed curing Tuberculosis, or was it little more than snake oil?

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis was an enjoyable read. I learned all sorts of gross medical details and scientific tidbits. I never realized just how widespread TB had been, or how recently the medical field was revolutionized by germ theory. Very interesting stuff. For me there was a slight drawback, though. Because this book was so chock full of science and factoids and microscopes, it took me quite a bit longer to read than my typical fictional fare. I think it was just a lot more to absorb for my atrophied brain. In any case, it was a good read, ESPECIALLY if scientific non-fiction is your thing.

Tell me Bookworms… Do any of you find you read non-fiction more slowly than fiction? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens: My Favorite Things Party!

Greetings Bookworms!

You know how I’m always raving about my IRL book club, My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors? I’m about to rave some more.  This month, in addition to our discussion of Reconstructing Amelia (my review) we decided to do a “My Favorite Things” party. We took a page out of the old Oprah handbook and decided to share stuff we love with each other. Each member purchased enough of her “favorite things” for everyone attending.

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Smile for the Internet, ladies!

Fun right?! Since none of us live on Oprah’s budget, we couldn’t go around buying everyone cars. We decided to cap the spending limit on each favorite thing to $10. Each participating member purchased 6 of her favorite $10 things to share, and got 6 of the other’s favorites in return. Soooo… You wanna know what we love, right?!

  • “A” is a big fan of bubble baths, so she hooked us all up with some delightful Ulta bubble bath… But what bubble bath is complete without Ghirardelli chocolate squares? No bubble bath I want to be a part of, I’ll tell you that much. Aaaand because our book club apparently has a severe lip balm addiction (more on this later), she added a tube of Burt’s Bees to the stash.
  • “C” is super adorable right now, with her teeny tiny baby bump. One of her favorite things was a colorful paring knife. (Don’t piss off the pregnant lady, she will cut you!) She also included a big old Ghirardelli chocolate bar, because, well. Chocolate. (I should probably mention that “C” is pretty much the sweetest gal ever, she would not, in fact, cut anyone. That’s part of why it makes me giggle so much, her tiny-ness and her Southern accent… The idea of her wielding a knife against anything other than a vegetable is pretty hilarious.)
  • “K” hosted this shindig in style! Her choice of favorite thing is a set of wine sealers- they seal out the air and keep the leftover wine fresh! Because leftover wine… That’s a thing… I think? Seriously though, these ROCK.

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  • “E” is as big a flower nerd as I am, so I wasn’t surprised she brought in something that grows. Her favorite thing was lucky bamboo, which is the most difficult house plant to kill. I swear. Leave it in a vase with water and it will live FOR-E-VER. I’ve had a stalk in my office since 2006, yo!
  • “M” loves her some lip balm, as do the rest of us. Her choice of favorite thing was a 4 pack of Burt’s Bees lip balm. As luck would have it, nothing in the 4 pack was the same scent as the tube “A” brought everyone, because variety in lip balm? That’s like getting a new pack-o-Lip Smackers when you’re 13. (Or 30… Joules sent me a set of Disney Princess Lip Smackers last year for my birthday that I use on the regular.Un-ironically.)
  • “J” is all about the hidden talents. She’s a flipping scientist (no lie) who plays the harp, sews, and knits like a boss. She knitted each of us a little blue bag made of THE SOFTEST YARN EVER. (I think she said it was silk bamboo yarn, but I’m no yarn expert.) It took her a week to knit each one, which shocks me because it’s got some really impressive fancy stitches going on. Girl’s got skills. She also included a container of Bath & Body Works foaming hand soap, which THRILLS me, because that’s the only hand soap we use in the Gingerbread House.
  • Oh yes. And then there’s ME, isn’t there? Well. I love having fancy finger nails. I’m not great with the fine motor skills, so I suck pretty hard at painting my nails. It doesn’t stop me, but sometimes I want my nails to look great and artsy. When I do, I bust out some Sally Hansen nail polish strips and go to town with the nail art, so I brought a package for everyone. I also included an EOS lip balm (I told you we have a problem) because I’m OBSESSED with it.

Have you ever done anything not-so-bookish with your book club? I want to hear all about it, Bookworms! Spill!

*I linked to some of our favorite things on Amazon, in case you want to check them out. I’m not sure I got everything perfectly right, but I tried. If you decide to buy anything I’ll get a small commission, but mostly I just want to push lip balm at you. LIP BALM!*

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Hey There Bookworms,

I loooove me some Emma Donoghue. You might remember that from me going on and on about Room (review) and Astray (review), so it won’t surprise you to hear that when I found out Emma Donoghue had a new book on the horizon, I had to get my grubby little hands on it. I typically get the books I review (at least as far as ARC’s go) through Netgalley or publisher pitches. This is the first book I’ve ever reached out to the publisher and downright begged for. Luckily, the very sweet representative from Little, Brown, & Company obliged me and sent me an advanced copy of Frog Music. (Thanks Meghan!) *Even though I’m super grateful that I was sent a free copy of this book, my review will remain honest and whatnot. But for heaven’s sake, it’s an Emma Donoghue, it’s not like it was going to suck anyway.*

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Frog Music takes place in 1876 San Francisco. Blanche is a French circus performer turned burlesque dancer/prostitute living the Bohemian life with her  layabout paramour and his buddy. The city is in the grips of a record breaking heatwave AND a smallpox epidemic. After a short acquaintance with the enigmatic Jenny Bonnet, Blanche’s world is rocked when Jenny is shot dead through the window of a railway saloon. (That’s not a spoiler, y’all, it’s like the first scene.)

Jenny Bonnet was a heck of a character. She was repeatedly arrested for wearing pants. Yup, back the day, dressing in “men’s clothing” was grounds for arrest. Crazy, right? Jenny was a frog catcher by trade. She delivered these frogs to San Francisco’s many French restaurants. Because frog legs are tasty… To people who aren’t me. (I don’t much care for them, but to each their own, I say!)

And Blanche? Absolutely fascinating. I don’t know why I’m always so enthralled by tales of prostitutes, but they’re all so dang varied and interesting. The girl ran away to join the circus, emigrated to the US, and became one of the most successful (ahem) entertainers in San Francisco. Her friendship with Jenny put Blanche’s life on a completely new trajectory in ways Blanche never saw coming.

The craziest thing about this story? It’s TRUE! Well, it’s based on a true story, and I read the author’s notes at the end- this novel was very thoroughly researched. Jenny Bonnet was indeed a woman murdered in 1876 San Francisco. She was in the company of Blanche, a burlesque dancing prostitute. Her murder was never officially solved, though the list of suspects was not short. Was it an enemy of Blanche? An enemy of Jenny? A random drunk who liked shooting people through windows? Very mysterious.

You guys, this book was AWESOME. I could not put it down, I simply had to know all the sordid details of Blanche and Jenny’s lives. I had to know about the smallpox epidemic sweeping the city. I also had to get a visual image of Jenny’s Highwheeler bicycle (though I prefer the term “Penny-Farthing” to describe the contraption.) Can you imagine trying to ride that thing?

File courtesy Wikimedia Commons, author Dave Hogg.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, author Dave Hogg.

Tell me, Bookworms. Is there a particular type of character you’re drawn to in books? Am I the only one who is absolutely enthralled by ladies of the night? (In a non-sexual, purely literary sort of way. It’s hard to talk about hookers without sounding pervy.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*