Books, TBR Challenge

Cora’s TBR Challenge Check-In

We’re through the first quarter of the year, fellow readers. Are you a quarter of the way through your TBR Challenge?

I’m not, but I’m starting to gain some ground. I’ve taken to listening to audio books while I’m playing Solitaire or crocheting something easy (I only started a few months ago, so I don’t make things with elaborate patterns). That’s gotten me through three audio books that have been waiting patiently for a couple of years for my attention: The Clockwise Man (a Doctor Who novel), and the first two installments of Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series (which are nothing like the movies, but read beautifully by David Tennant).

That makes me just 1/12 of the way to my target of 36 books this year, but it’s progress. And I can listen to audio books even when my chronic fatigue rears its ugly head, so that’s a plus. Here’s to a book-filled April!

Books, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge Check-In

Greetings fellow readers! I missed last month’s check-in getting ready for the Historical Novel Society’s conference in Denver (see the pictures–including shots of me in my new Regency ball gown during the costume pageant–here). And I nearly missed this month’s check-in because of a protracted argument with my internet service provider (I moved to a new town, my service didn’t).

But here we are, with five months left to go in this year’s Challenge. How’s your TBR pile doing? My print and kindle books have been languishing on my shelves and, since the move, in boxes, waiting for me to pay attention to them again. My day job has some slow times ahead, so perhaps I’ll be able to do some reading then. But I have to balance reading with writing time, and I have a story just itching to be told!

I did find regular blocks of time at that same day job to listen to the monstrous pile of audio books I’ve accumulated. Some people listen to music at their desks, but I’ve found that audio books are much more interesting to me (plus, I like to sing along with songs I know, and I really shouldn’t do that at work 😉 ). I’ve managed to (finally!) finish Outlander in audio form, and have begun Dragonfly in Amber. On deck waits Hamlet, Prince of Denmark read by the wonderful Richard Armitage, and the first two How to Train Your Dragon novels read by David Tennant, among a host of others. My ears are in for a treat!

Dragonfly audio

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: British Men: Bedtime Stories

If you loved British Men: Poetry and Prose, you’re in for a treat this week. Our Favorite really has nothing to do with history or romance, but it’s just too darn cute to ignore. The compiler describes the collection like this: “Loki, Sherlock, Mr. Thornton, Captain Wentworth, The Doctor. Enjoy.”

We will 😀

Tom Hiddleston and Cookie Monster

Books, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: Tennant and Cumberbatch in Mansfield Park

Mansfield ParkThey’re back!

Last May, BBC Radio 4 re-aired a radio play of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, in celebration of the novel’s 200th birthday. The cast included David Tennant as Tom, Benedict Cumberbatch as Edmund, and Felicity Jones as Fanny Price.

And now you can have a copy of your very own 🙂

Amazon UK has the CD in stock, while has a US release date of March 1. Can’t wait on the American side of the Pond? Audible also has it as a digital download, available now.


Books, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch read Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park is 200 years old this month, and BBC is celebrating! Beginning Monday, May 12, BBC Radio 4 will be re-airing a radio play of Jane Austen’s third novel that was first recorded in 2003, featuring David Tennant as Tom and Benedict Cumberbatch as Edmund. The 10-part broadcast will begin at 2:00 BST, and a new installment will air each day over the course of two weeks.

Not in the UK? Never fear, overseas listeners can tune in here.

More information can be found here.

David Bennedict

Books, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: British Men Poetry & Prose



My good friend Emily shared this with me earlier in the week, and I haven’t been the same since 🙂

For your listening pleasure, this week’s Favorite is a playlist put together by 8tracks user SADarcy. It includes a Pride and Prejudice excerpt read by Matthew Macfaddyen, Several Shakespeare sonnets read by David Tennant, and an excerpt of North and South read by Richard Armitage. Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch also feature prominently, and Kenneth Branagh and Alan Rickman make appearances as well.


Listen here.

See the full list of poems and excerpts here.




Friday Favorites, Society

Friday Favorites: The Waltz with David Tennant

Happy Valentine’s Day! How many of you are going dancing with your sweetheart this weekend? Or have read about a glorious waltz at a Regency Valentine’s ball?

How many of you have actually danced the waltz?

For those of you that haven’t, here’s a look at the modern process. Actors David Tennant and Jessica Hynes learn together for a scene in Doctor Who.


And here’s a look at the finished product, set in England just before the beginning of the First World War.


Five Silver Linings on a Very Dark Cloud

This is the time of year when people start talking about being thankful and counting their blessings.  Normally, that’s an easy thing for me to do—I’ve been pretty contented with my lot in life over the past year.

Until the rains came.

My father became very ill in October and spent several weeks in the hospital. I was slated to attend a conference for Math Teachers during that time, and after speaking with the doctors, decided Dad was stable enough for me to leave. It was only for 3 days, but he took an unexpected turn for the worse, and I spent half the conference on the phone with my sister discussing medical options and DNRs. I made it home from CharmCity just in time to receive the call from the hospital, and be with Dad when he died.

His passing coincided with the end of the marking period at school, so I was also Folder pilebombarded by stacks of papers that needed grading, and e-mails from parents wondering why assignments hadn’t been logged into our system. Every moment I wasn’t making funeral arrangements—or answering all those e-mails—I spent grading. I even enlisted the help of my mother, my sister, and my department chair in order to meet my deadline. And I did. Every assignment that had to go on the first quarter report cards got finished.

And all the while, I had the worst migraine I’ve had in years. It lasted a total of two months, and I’m still feeling the after effects. It was so bad that, during all that grading, I could only read a couple of papers before my vision went blurry from the pain. I shouldn’t have been reading at all, or even out of bed, but I did what I had to do. After the marking period deadline passed, I spent a week in bed in a dark room and another several days learning to be upright again. When I went back to school I kept the lights off, and had my students do all the reading and writing. And they were wonderful! They kept each other quite. They came to me with questions so I didn’t have to be on my feet and moving around. They told me silly stories to cheer me up. And I continued to improve.

Then, of course, I was pulled out of class to meet with the principal and superintendent. That’s when I found out I no longer had a job. I didn’t recover from the migraine fast enough, they told me, and couldn’t be an effective teacher. These people–who were supposed to be my professional family–decided it would be easier to cut me loose and find someone else. Not only did they completely sever my means of financial support and health insurance, but they hurt me personally. These people had promised to support me, and instead they turned on me.

After all that, what could I possibly have to be thankful for? Silver linings on clouds that dark are hard to find.


But I found five:

1. Family  They drive me crazy most of the time, but my mom and stepdad are there when it counts. I’ve been living with them since my return to Michigan a year and a half ago, and was just about to sign a lease on my own apartment when I lost my job. They didn’t even bat an eyelash—I just wasn’t moving out. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and all the wifi I can use for as long as I need it.

2. Friends  I tend toward introversion, but my friends (both in person and electronic) have been massively supportive. They check in on me to make sure I’m okay, but give me space to be alone when I need to. They offered advice as well as condolences when Dad’s time came. And the best part: hugs, in real and virtual form. I’ve needed a lot of hugs these past months, and my friends were always there to provide them.

3. Doctor Who  No, this isn’t just a cheap way to get in a pic of Matt Smith and David Tennant. The Doctor, his companions, his enemies, and his adventures SmithTennanthave been like aloe on a sunburn for me. The show is smart, witty, funny, and exemplifies character development—all of which kept my mind occupied and soothed my soul as life became more and more overwhelming. Plus, the trips to Victorian England—complete with Matt Smith in a frock coat and beaver hat—were especially fun for this history geek 🙂

4. Audio books  I discovered audio books over the summer as a means of distraction as I attempted to exercise away the extra pounds I carry. The rest of the time I prefer the written word to the spoken one. But over the last couple of months reading has been impossible. Lying in the dark with a crushing pain in your head is also rather maddening—a person can only sleep so much.  What else can you do? Well, if you’re like me, you pull out the old iPod and listen to a book. It didn’t matter what the book was, it was something for me to focus on instead of the pain and frustration of being incapacitated but still conscious. I don’t think I retained much of the stories, but just having them available kept me from going crazy.

5. Flannel sheets and fuzzy blankets  This time of year, when the temperature is dropping and the snow is accumulating, I start to miss my former home in Miami. And, to be honest, I complain about it more than I should. But as much as I liked it, there was one thing the MagicCity could never provide: the comfort of flannel sheets or a fuzzy blanket on a cold night. Add a soft pillow and a pet or two to the mix, and you’ve got an evening that relaxes the body like no humid tropical night ever could. Plus, no giant cockroaches to worry about 😉

So those are my five silver linings in an otherwise dark autumn. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: Shakespeare Uncovered

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were a hot topic during the Regency. Love them or hate them, most educated people had read them (or pretended to). But in this day and age, Shakespeare is something crammed down our throats in school, something we endure like a bad dentist appointment. Wouldn’t it be nice instead to parse out a play, have it make sense, and enjoy the process?

Now you can!

PBS produced a six-part series called Shakespeare Uncovered earlier this year. Each episode follows a renowned actor as s/he researches one of The Bard’s plays (or pair of connected plays), consulting historians, Shakespearean scholars, and other actors in an effort to find the meaning and the heart inside the story.

Shakespeare Uncovered

As much as I can appreciate the talent Shakespeare clearly possessed, I’ve never been a fan. But watching this series helped me to look at his works from a historical and a literary point of view, helped me to get past the fudging of facts and mind-numbing word games. I really enjoyed the whole series, and I learned a lot too!

You can catch the whole series on Netflix or on PBS’s website.

Books, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: David Tennant Reads…Everything

If you are a fan of audiobooks–or David Tennant–then this week’s Favorite is a special treat.

David Tennant

Best know as The Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who, David Tennant has had an extensive audio career as well. He’s read everything from children’s books to Shakespeare’s sonnets to James Bond, in a variety of accents. Don’t believe me? Check out the list of his performances, complete with synopses and audio clips!

Here’s a sampling:

Excerpt from The Beast of Clawstone Castle, in which we hear David’s best American accent–not bad, except for his pronunciation of “Potomac” 🙂

Excerpt from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in a very English Bond voice.

Excerpt from From Shakespeare With Love (Sonnets 154 and 18) in David’s natural Scottish accent.

If you’re interested in other sexy voices reading audiobooks, check out my post about Richard Armitage and his foray into Georgette Heyer novels.