Would You Rather….

Sarah of All the Book Blog Names are Taken has tagged me in a survey/game thing! I’m  tasked with answering her questions and then posing some of my own.

1. Would you have rather have been at court with Eleanor of Aquitaine during her estrangement from Henry II and chat with her on occasion, or be under house arrest with her for fifteen years until Henry II died and Richard I freed her?

If I’m stuck in 13th century England, I’d rather not be under house arrest. Court sounds more fun.   I’d be reluctant to get too chummy with Eleanor, anyway.  She’s not exactly safe!

2. Would you rather have lived at the court of Henry II or Henry VIII?

Henry II has St. Thomas Becket, but Henry VIII has St. Thomas More. It’s a hard choice, but I think I’ll go with ‘Enry the Eighth purely because I’m more familiar with Tudor England rather than Plantagenet England.

3. Would you rather have been Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, or Jane Seymour?

Definitely Queen Catherine. I’d be more likely to return to Spain than to hang around England being noble and miserable, though.

4. Would you rather be forced to read the last chapter first of every book you ever read for one year, or have the last chapter be missing entirely?

I read mostly nonfiction, so it wouldn’t matter too much — reading the last chapter first might actually be helpful, in terms of summarizing the book for me before I begin.

5. Would you rather have a friend who always loses books you lend them, or only returns them water-logged/with food or drink stains?

Oh, god. Lose the books rather than destroy them, please. At least a lost book can be found!

6. Would you rather have your favorite book turned into a movie/tv show, or your fave movie/tv show turned into a book?

I absolutely want to read Deep Six: The Continuing Adventures of L.J. Tibbs, the fictional novel that’s mentioned in NCIS, written by one of the detectives about the team’s cases. So if that counts — also, Breaking Bad would make an amazing novel.

7. Would you rather be a professional reviewer or famous author?

Famous authors make loads more money, provided they don’t pull a Jane Austen and become famous only after they’re dead.

8. Would you rather be able to visit your favorite book and talk to your favorite characters once, or visit whenever you wanted, but only as an invisible observer?

Most of the joy in visiting a place like Port William (Jayber Crow, Hannah Coulter, The Memory of Old Jack, etc) would be in the personal connections, so absolutely let me visit and talk. I could sit a spell in Jayber’s shop

9. Would you rather own a bookshop or work at a library?

I work at the library, and I imagine owning a bookshop is more stressful. On the upside, you’d get more people actually interested in books (most library visitors are after computers and services, at least here), and easier access to coffee.

10. Would you rather only read physical copies or ebooks for an entire year?

Ebooks, easy. 20 boxes of books given to Goodwill last year and they’re still all around me.


As part of the rules, I’m supposed to invent my own list o’ ten and then tag ten people.  I don’t know that many who haven’t been tagged, though,  and I can’t  think of ten questions I actually like,  so I’m just going to drop three and let Whosoever Wills answer them!


Here’s my list!

1. Would you rather read by yourself, or in a cozy crowd like at a coffee shop or bookstore?

2.  If you were imprisoned by an eccentric  and told you would only be released once you’d written a volume  for their collection, would you rather write poetry or prose?

3. If you suddenly became the main character in a novel, would you rather it be one written by Stephen King or Dean Koontz?   (Or, cheating from the format;  if you could be the main character in anyone’s novel, who would be the author?)


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18 Miles

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and its Weather
© 2018 Christopher Dewdney
272 pages


Maybe it’s a life spent watching the skies for signs of tornadoes talking, but few everyday things strike me as more dramatic than the drama overhead  —  the goings-on of this ocean of air in which we live. 18 Miles  is an enthusiast’s guide to understanding a little of what goes on above, and its effect on us  — past, present, and future.  Dewdney begins by exploring the various layers of the atmosphere, then examines its internal drama: clouds, wind,  precipitation, storms, and more. The book wanders a bit toward the end,  reviewing moments in which weather has influenced history.   18 Miles is unusual for a science book in that its subject has been of interest to all humans, at all times and places —  and  that universal interest is expressed here through the frequent and much-appreciation inclusion of poetry and art.  The author’s own prose is artful in itself,   often stirring  the spirit as well as stimulating the mind.   When I looked up the author to see what else he’d written,  I was not overmuch surprised to see that he’s published volumes of poetry. Although it lost strength as it progressed, there’s much to appreciate in 18 Miles.
I previously shared some excerpts from the book; they may found here.

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Hooked on this writing

I’m presently reading 18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather, and loving the writing.    In advance of a review, I’m sharing some of my Kindle highlights:


Insubstantial factories of infinite forms, clouds are both ephemeral and powerful, and though conjured out of practically nothing, out of ungraspable mist, they can shake the earth with thunder if they have a mind to.

You’d never guess it but we live in a world flatter than a sheet of paper. Shrink the Earth to the size of a basketball and our atmosphere would be as thick as a layer of food wrap. The oceans likewise. Two of the most critical elements for our survival, water and air, are relatively scarce commodities. We are like microorganisms living in an evanescent fluid film, a dampness that would burn off like morning dew if the sun increased its solar output by just 15 percent.


“The Line Storm”, John Steuart Curry

In fact, at any given moment, there are about 2,000 active thunderstorms worldwide, and the human population has no control over them whatsoever.

A summer thunderstorm starts life as a cumulus cloud cruising over fields and rivers and lakes. It’s a case of wandering lonely as a cloud, certainly, but a cloud with megalomanical tendencies.


At noon in the second week of February, something spectacular happens. The sun erupts above the horizon, For the first time in months, pure, unadulterated sunlight strikes skin, floods through windows and blinds eyes in an almost painful wound of light. This first sunshine, a day lasting only a few minutes, is spring in its purest form — raw and crystalline. The ice-hoary dwellings of Grise Fiord, like buildings long-submerged under the ocean and covered with coral encrustations, glow orange in the light, and every peak of the low hills surrounding the bay also glows with the same orange fire. Apollo’s flaming chariot has arrived, and burning deep inside his golden brazier is summer itself



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Farewell and adieu, ye fair English book-reads


So ends another April, and with it — Read of England.   Perhaps this April should have been watch of England, since I did re-watch Fawlty Towers (for the 856th time, I think), began exploring Sherlock and Outlander, revisited most of my favorite Rowan Atkinson sketches ,  and finally watched the Downton Abbey movie.   Although I couldn’t eat any authentic British biscuits, a tea-loving friend of mine and I did bake scones and enjoy a few Sunday teas together .   This corona business has been awful for diets – -everyone is baking and snacking during Netflix binges, myself included. And it doesn’t help that my coworkers keep baking!

We did plain, cranberry, and chocolate-chip.


The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great,  Benjamin Merkle
The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Joanna Arman
The Making of the British Army, Allan Mollinson
A Brief History of Life in the Middle Ages, Martyn Witlock

Historical Fiction
The Bright Blue Sky,  Max Hennessey
Cruel as the Grave,  Sharon Kay Penman
Outlander,  Diane Gabaldon

“The Lady of Shalott”, Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Enoch Arden”, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Outlander is technically still in progress.  Now, if you’re slow-blinking at me for reading a romance novel when romance is one of the things I like least in books,   I blame two female friends for preying on my historical interests.  The basic premise (a woman thrown back into 18th century Scotland) was enough to lure me in, or at least distract me from continuing with Narcos, Better Call Saul, and Waco.    It’s not a series I’ll be continuing in, I wouldn’t think.   I also FINALLY sampled a bit of Tennyson, at least something beyond his “Charge of the Light Brigade”.   Enoch Arden was beautifully tragic, and I was surprised to realize  one of  my favorite paintings is based on “The Lady of Shalott”.    There were also a few books I didn’t get to, some of which may pop up as May goes on, including a history of the Plantagenets.    Also in May, expect a fair bit of science.


Finally, “May the Fourth be with you”. I was going to do a Star Wars books post, but then I realized I haven’t read that much Star Wars literature of note, the exceptions being the Darth Bane trilogy and Matthew Stover’s excellent movie novelization of Revenge of the Sith.




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COVID Diary #6


As the expiration date for the governor’s stay-at-home order approaches, we in the Heart of Dixie have been waiting expectantly to see what will happen. The governor declined to open early last week, when the states surrounding us did, and maintained that Alabama’s re-opening would be data-, not date-driven.      Three days ago  we received the new ‘safer at home’ order, which is a ..very slight relaxing of the rules.   Retail is now re-opened, though entertainment venues, gyms, and hair salons remained closed, and restaurants must hold the line as far as takeout-only.   The changes strike me as minimal, with only the opened beaches striking me as a point of concern: I think people will swamp them just as in Georgia they’re currently swamping the restaurants and hair salons.  Retail is less problematic…. I can’t see people storming the gates of Books-A-Million and BassPro Shops at the moment. (Actually,  depending on where you live, BassPro was probably still open — two thirds of their stores never had to close. God himself can’t cancel turkey season.)


Two weeks ago the library staff began pondering what a phased re-opening would look like. Our plan, in the event of re-opening, was to open only for three hours in the afternoon, the rest of the day being reserved for our curbside service, and to sharply restrict the number of people in the building, and their time using the computers, in conformity with whatever the governor declared.    We’ve removed chairs so that no one can sit within the six foot radius of another person (going from 40+ computer stations to 15), and would be closing the building an hour before our official closing to enable deep cleaning.   All staff and all visitors would be required to wear masks and gloves, and the librarians have been making masks to give to those who have not been able to find any. We’re also covering the keyboards and mice  with plastic film,  some of which can be cleaned after every use and some of which will be disposed of after every use.  All this seems to comply with the governor’s new rules, but we’ve decided to follow her example, insofar as caution is concerned, and so we won’t  try this restricted opening until May 18th.

Last night I visited Walmart to pick up some groceries and was annoyed by the outside loudspeakers declaring that loitering inside or out was strictly verboten.  Inside,  I noticed there were new stickers on the floor informing people they could only enter aisles from certain directions, to create one-way traffic.    Though I understand the purpose,  the atmosphere  all this creates is ominous. I half-expected to have to present my papers to some humorless individuals wearing Hugo Boss uniforms.    Amusingly,   the policy was adopted by Walmart corporate about a month ago, but my local store is only just now putting it into effect.

It seems like we’re at the end of the beginning — though I imagine it will be some time yet before we approach the beginning of the end!





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British Historical Fiction

This is an index post of historical fiction set in Britain that I originally published in November 2016. I’ve just updated to keep it current. The order of books is roughly chronological.

Ancient and Legendary Britain
Stonehenge, Bernard Cornwell
The Winter King: A Story of Arthur, Bernard Cornwell
Enemy of God: A Story of Arthur, Bernard Cornwell
Excalibur: A Story of Arthur, Bernard Cornwell

Roman Britain
Under the Eagle, Simon Scarrow
The Eagle’s Conquest, Simon Scarrow
When the Eagle Hunts, Simon Scarrow
The Eagle and the Wolves, Simon Scarrow

The Birth of England: Anglo-Saxons and the Viking Era
The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell
The Pale Horseman, Bernard Cornwell
Lords of the North, Bernard Cornwell
Sword Song: the Battle for London, Bernard Cornwell
The Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell
Death of Kings, Bernard Cornwell
The Pagan Lord, Bernard Cornwell
The Empty Throne, Bernard Cornwell
Warriors of the Storm, Bernard Cornwell
The Flame Bearer, Bernard Cornwell
War of the Wolf, Bernard Cornwell
The Sword of Kings, Bernard Cornwell
Hood, Stephen Lawhead
Scarlet,  Stephen Lawhead
Finn Gall, James Nelson (IRISH EXTRA)
Dubh-Linn,  James Nelson. (IRISH EXTRA)

High Middle Ages
Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Acquitaine, Alison Weir
In a Dark Wood, Michael Cadnum
Here There Be Dragons, Sharon Penfield
Cruel as the Grave, Sharon Penfield
The Archer’s Tale, Bernard Cornwell
1356, Bernard Cornwell
Heretic, Bernard Cornwell
Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell

Tudors, Stewarts
Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen, Alison Weir
The Other Queen, Phillipa Gregory
The Lady Elizabeth, Alison Weir
The Marriage Game, Alison Weir
Armada, John Stack
Come Rack! Come Rope!Robert Hugh Benson
Innocent Traitor, Alison Weir
Fools and Mortals, Bernard Cornwell

Age of Discovery and Early Empire
A Conspiracy of Paper, David Liss
A Spectacle of Corruption, David Liss
The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, Bernard Cornwell
Redcoat, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Tiger, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Triumph, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Fortress, Bernard Cornwell

England against the World: the Napoleonic Era
The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower, C. Northcote Parkinson
Young Hornblower, C.S. Forester
Captain Horatio Hornblower, C.S. Forester
Commodore Hornblower, C.S. Forester
Lord Hornblower, C.S. Forester
Hornblower and the Hotspur, C.S. Forester
Hornblower during the Crisis, C.S. Forester
Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, C.S. Forester
Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brien
Sharpe’s Rifles, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Eagle, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Trafalgar, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Havoc, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Gold, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Escape, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Fury, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Battle, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Company, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Sword, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Enemy, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Honor, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Regiment, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Siege, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Revenge, Bernard Cornwell
Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe’s Christmas, Bernard Cornwell
Rifleman Dodd and The Gun, C.S. Forester

…and thereafter
Gallows Thief, Bernard Cornwell
The Scarlet Thief, Paul Fraser Collard (Crimea)
Aces over Ypres, John Stack (WW1)
The Bright Blue Son, Max Hennessey (WW1)
Enigma, Robert Harris (WW2)


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Some favorite bits of corona culture

This is just a quick post to share some of my – — well, it’s there in the title.  Presented in the order that they come to mind.

“One Day More”

Sh%t Southern Women Say in a Pandemic”

“When this thing’s over, I hope that woman stays six feet away from me.”

(This is part of a series which I’ve linked to before.)

“Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask”

“Gee, Dr. Fauci” to the tune of “Gee, Officer Krupke”



I think there’s a limit to the amount of embedded videos in WordPress, so I’ll limit it to those four — but I also enjoyed “Do Re Mi – COVID-19“, and of course John Krasinki’s wonderful “Some Good News”.

Feel free to leave links to your own favorites below!


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