Monday, September 26, 2016

Persuasion & Poems by Jane Austen

Title: Persuasion & Poems
Author: Jane Austen
Read by:  Alison Larkin
Publisher: British Classic Audio
Length: Approximately 10 hours and 15 minutes
Source: Review Copy from author Alison Larkin - Thank-you!

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel.  It often ties with Pride and Prejudice in my affections, but there is just something about Austen’s slim last novel that captures my heart.  Anne Elliot is a “spinster” at the ripe old age of twenty- seven.  Eight years before the start of the novel, Anne was persuaded by her neighbor, Lady Russell, to refuse a proposal of marriage from then Navy Lieutenant Frederick Wentworth.  At this present time, the once proud Elliot family has found itself reduced in circumstance.   They have to give up their family estate to a renter to live on reduced funds in Bath due to Sir Walter Elliot’s proliferate spending.  The renters, Admiral and Mrs. Croft, are none other than the now Captain Wentworth’s sister and brother in law.  When Captain Wentworth comes to visit, Anne finds herself longing for a different future.  Will Anne have a second chance at happiness?

Alison Larkin has an elegant voice with a slight British accent which is perfect for narrating Jane Austen’s works.  I found her to be completely engaging as I listened to this audiobook. She had unique voices for the different characters and really brought the tale to life.  I want to listen to some of the other Austen novels that she’s narrated.  I’ve always felt that Austen’s novels lend themselves perfectly to the audiobook format as Austen used to read her works aloud for her family’s entertainment.

This time through Persuasion, I was struck again on how well Austen creates characters and how their personalities are still identifiable in people I know and love today.  In particular, Austen captures perfectly in Persuasion that families are a complicated matter.  It’s interesting how all three Elliot sisters are so different from each other.  Elizabeth only cares about her looks.  In fact I really seemed to listen more to her and her father’s story this time through.  I love how Admiral Crawford has to move Sir Walter’s looking glasses from the dressing room as they were too much for him.  Sir Walter’s and Elizabeth’s world seems to solely revolve around their personal beauty and how they perceive the beauty of those around them. Unfortunately they only care about physical beauty and have no care for beauty within.  I’ve experienced this in my family with the constant talk of looks, people’s weights, etc. on one side of the family.  In fact, our Grandpa (who I loved a lot and was a great man) actually rated all of his granddaughters by looks.  It doesn’t help your teenage ego out when you discover this and that you are near the bottom of the list.  These conversations always annoyed me, “Have you seen so and so, they really gained weight!”  I can imagine how Anne feels in Persuasion wishing her family did not do this and actually wanted to talk about more serious issues, which in the Elliot’s case would be their lack of financial planning.

Anne does not do better with her sister Mary.  Mary has married Charles Musgrove, the eldest son and heir of Uppercross hall.  Mary is sure she is always ill.  She also seems unhappy about life in general and loves to complain about everything.  The Musgrove family is happy go lucky in particular, but they also get annoyed by Mary.  I love how Charles and Mary’s children sound like they are a bit wild and everyone blames each other.  Mary complains how Mrs. Musgrove gives them too much sugar which causes it while Mrs. Musgrove tells Anne that she only gives them too much cake as that is the only way she can keep such ill-behaved children under control.  Families are certainly complicated.  I felt like I could be Anne and can identify a Mary and the complaints of the family members in my own family.  Also like Anne, I know how it feels to have everyone share their conflicting thoughts with you.

Every time I read or listen to an Austen novel, I catch new items that I missed on previous reads.  That is what is excellent about a well written novel.  This time I really caught how oppressive Anne’s family was with different lines that I had missed in previous readings.  I also caught more onto the Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot meeting and Captain Wentworth’s feelings.  Although on previous reads I mostly focused on Captain Wentworth and Anne.  I love their romance.  This time through me feel like I got a better overall picture.  Captain Wentworth loves Anne – even though her family will not welcome him and will not be a fun family to hang out with at the holidays.

The last fifteen minutes or so the audiobook switched to Jane Austen’s poems.  I must confess that even though I consider myself an Austen super fan, I’ve never read or listened to any of her poems before.  I found them to be quite interesting.  I wonder if there are more – I need to research this!

I watched the 1995 film version starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds after listening to this audiobook.  It is a perfect film – I love it.  Have you ever watched this adaptation?  What are your thoughts?  I love how Amanda Root shows throughout the film how Anne grows in confidence in herself and Hinds shows the inner depths of Captain Wentworth so well.

My favorite quote from this novel is Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne – which I consider one of the most romantic pieces in literary fiction.

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
Overall, Persuasion is a classic not to be missed and Alison Larkin is a perfect Austen novel narrator.
Do you enjoy Austen novels on audiobook?  If so, what is your favorite?
What is your favorite romantic scene in literary fiction?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F. P. Rose (TLC Book Tours)

I love the subtitle of this book, “What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life.”  As an environmental engineer, I am fascinated on the topic of infrastructure.  A little over ten years ago, I took a fascinating urban planning class at Marquette University in Milwaukee.  It really got me thinking about the way we build and maintain cities.  I also realized I am a “new urbanist” and prefer to live in an old house in the city and fix it up rather than to contribute the urban sprawl.  Try explaining this to my family who seem to think the only sign of success is building your own new house on a one acre plot in the country!  I also worked a lot at my previous job in the area of low impact development.  How can we develop our cities smarter using less concrete to make sure that water can infiltrate into the soil and build back into our groundwater supplies?

I was intrigued with the Well-Tempered City as it is authored by a premier urban planner and promised to take a look at the past to come up with innovative designs for the city of the future.  Rose argues that the five qualities of a well-tempered city are coherence, circularity, resilience, community, and compassion. The book is broke up into five parts to delve dep into the five qualities of the well-tempered city. The book is set up in chapters with many interesting subsections within each chapter.

I must admit that I found Rose’s prose at times to be a bit pretentious, especially at the start of the book.  He spent the intro waxing on about Bach and his way to tune instruments and how that relates to urban planning. I am a fan of Bach, but the engineer within me just wanted him to get on with his book.  Once he got into the fascinating history of mankind and city building through the millennia, I was hooked.

My background is water resources and I’ve actually given many presentations on my designs of low impact development areas in the mid-west.  This is basically the natural infrastructure section of this book and pretty much part II, resilience.  Rose did a great job of tying this to climate change and how green infrastructure is really the way the country needs to move forward.  I also loved how the book had an entire chapter about how water is a terrible thing to waste.  This book had a great discussion about wastewater treatment and also water quality overall.  A lot of this material I currently teach in my environmental engineering technology program, but there were a lot of great facts sprinkled throughout that I could use to enhance my presentations.  I already used some of the facts this week in class and there are a lot more that I can use in the future.

Overall, I found The Well-Tempered City to be an intriguing look at urban planning the past with a path set forward.  As an environmental engineer in education, it included a lot of great environmental information which I love to see as a major part of how to build the cities of the future.  Clean water and green infrastructure are the passions of my life and I’m glad to see them getting included in urban planning on a wider scope.  As an educator, the book has a lot of great points that I can refer to in class.  I always love to recommend relevant books to my students!

Favorite quotes:

“Healthy cities must have both strong, adaptable governance and a culture of collective responsibility and compassion.”

“In a time of increasing volatility, complexity, and ambiguity, the well-tempered city has systems that can help it evolve toward a more even temperament, one that balances prosperity and well-being with efficiency and equality in ways that continually restore the city’s social and natural capital.”

“When the purpose of our cities if to compose wholeness, aligning humans and nature, with compassion permeating its entire entwined system, then its ways will be ways of love and all its path will be paths of peace.”

What would you like to see in a city of the future?

Book Source:  Review Copy as a part of the TLC Book Tours

About The Well-Tempered City

• Hardcover: 480 pages • Publisher: Harper Wave (September 13, 2016) In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—a visionary in urban development and renewal—champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century. Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity—and by 2080 will be home to 80 percent of the world’s population. As the twenty-first century progresses, metropolitan areas will bear the brunt of global megatrends such as climate change, natural resource depletion, population growth, income inequality, mass migration, and education and health disparity, among many others. In The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—the man who “repairs the fabric of cities”—distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for designing and reshaping cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity. Drawing from the musical concept of “temperament,” Rose argues that well-tempered cities can be infused with systems that bend the arc of their development toward equality, resilience, adaptability, and well-being, to achieve ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature. While these goals may never be fully attained, if we at least aspire to them, and approach every plan and constructive step with this intention, our cities will be richer and happier. A celebration of the city and an impassioned argument for its role in addressing important issues in these volatile times, The Well-Tempered City is a well-reasoned, hopeful blueprint for a thriving metropolis—and the future. Add to Goodreads badge

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Peter BuckleyPhoto by Peter Buckley[/caption]

About Jonathan F. P. Rose

JONATHAN F. P. ROSE works with cities and not-for-profits to plan and build affordable and mixed-income housing and cultural, health, and educational centers. Recognized for creating communities that literally heal both residents and neighborhoods, Rose is one of the nation’s leading thinkers on the integration of environmental, social, and economic solutions to issues facing cities today. For his work as founder of the investment, development, and urban planning firm Jonathan Rose Companies, he has received awards from the Urban Land Institute, the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among many others. With Diana Calthorpe Rose, he is cofounder of the Garrison Institute and the creator of its Climate Mind and Behavior program. Find out more about Rose and The Well-Tempered City at

Monday, September 12, 2016

In a Strange City by Laura Lippman

Baltimore’s most famous son, Edgar Allan Poe, has inspired the mysterious Poe toaster to honor the anniversary of his death each year by leaving three roses and a partial bottle of cognac on his grave.  In 2001, Baltimore detective Tess Monaghan has an odd client, John P. Kennedy, enter her office requesting that she determine the identity of the Poe toaster as he has stolen a valuable object from Kennedy.  Tess refuses to take the case, but can’t help but attend the annual event with her boyfriend Crow. This year there are two Poe toasters and one of them ends up dead.  Who is the Poe toaster?  Who was the murderer?  Who is John P. Kennedy and what object did he want?

I’m a fan of the Tess Monahan books, but I’ve read the last few in the series.  I was happy to be able to review this reissue of a previous entry in the series.  At this point Tess and Crow are a relatively new couple and are restoring their house together.  Tess is new as a PI and is flustered by this case.  She wants to solve it for personal curiosity more than for a fee of any kind.  The plot has many twists and turns and kept me riveted.

I was always intrigued by the Poe toaster and loved to read about him every year.  I was sad when he stopped this annual event.  I looked it up while reading this novel and it appears the original toaster passed on his mantle to someone else and this new toaster stopped in 2010.  Lippman also mentions this and recent Baltimore events in a very intriguing afterword.

I love how this novel was a love letter to Baltimore and also a look at greed.  At the heart are several people trying to obtain rare objects and sell them for high prices to others or keep them for their own sake.  Why do we as a society place so much value on “things” and want to keep items that remind us of our youth?

Overall, this was a great entry in the Tess Monaghan series.  I especially loved the Poe connection, the love of the City of Baltimore, and the look at society’s materialism.  I look forward to reading more in this series!

My favorite quotes:

“What is the difference between a ritual and a routine?”

“Former co-workers weighed in with the usual noninformation: ‘quiet guy,’ ‘kept to himself,’ ‘dependable.’  Just once, Tess would like to read a story where someone said, ‘He was a jerk, and we’re not the least bit surprised someone finally offed him.’”

“Evil isn’t particular about its personnel.”

“The standards for public discourse had fallen so alarmingly in recent years that anyone could say anything on the airwaves, especially if the target was dead.”

Do you collect items and esteem them?  (I do – books!)

What is your favorite Poe poem or short story?  (Mine is Annabel Lee)

Book Source:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and balanced review from William Morrow.  Thank-you!