Friday, March 31, 2017

Afternoon Tea (3/31/17)

Heartbreaking and fascinating: The High Price of Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Life

This series is great: Parenting by the Books: ‘Little Women’

The Hidden World Of Harlem’s African Braiders

Lady Jane Franklin, the Woman Who Fueled 19th-Century Polar Exploration

The Marsh Arabs of Mesopotamia

These Passionate Latvian Linguists Refuse to Lose Their Language

March Book Review: The Wages of Sin

(First - yes, Kaite Welsh and I have very similar names! We became friends on Twitter partially because of that - mutual friends thought it was funny - but so far as we know we are not related. Alas.)

I'm a big fan of historical mysteries, so I know there are a ton of good series out there, and it can get overwhelming. But I'm here to tell you that you should absolutely try Kaite Welsh's debut The Wages of Sin, the first in her series about medical student turned detective Sarah Gilchrist. There are a lot of "spunky Victorian lady detective" series, but the fact that this one is set in Scotland rather than England and that Sarah is among the first class of medical students at her university to include women sets this series apart.

One of my pet peeves with historical mysteries - and historical fiction in general - is when characters have completely modern worldviews, and especially when earlier feminist characters think just like contemporary feminists. Welsh does a great job of avoiding that trap here. Sarah's views are very progressive for her time, but this reads as organic to the character, her background and experiences and interests. For all her advanced views, Sarah is very much shaped by her time and culture, so she doesn't seem to be dropped into the story from the present day.

The mystery Sarah investigates arises naturally from her medical studies (and from her volunteer work at a clinic), which helps the narrative work, but it is also completely intertwined with important economic inequality and social justice issues of the time (and of... now), which adds heft to the novel. The reader learns what's really going on in various parts of Scottish society as Sarah herself does, which helps avoid preachiness, and the mystery plot is well-paced and complex enough to be satisfying without being unnecessarily ornate.

Sarah Gilchrist is a delightful, complex protagonist surrounded by interesting supporting characters, and I'm definitely looking forward to following them through more books. But I'm looking forward even more to returning to the fascinating world of late Victorian Edinburgh and seeing how the series develops through this time of social change.

(This review made possible by my Patreon supporters! If you'd like to see more reviews here, come join! I think we're only a few dollars a month from the next goal.)

Morning Coffee (3/31/17)

WHAT A WEEK. Time for some Friday happy links!

!!! I want to go to this: Inside the Mesmerizing World of Miniatures Coming to New York City

Wow, this is quite the concentration of people I like in one movie.

The Folger Shakespeare Library Will Lend Chilly Readers a Handmade Shawl

Well this is just DELIGHTFUL: Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, Wildly Close

In case you were concerned: Bo and Sunny Obama Are Just As Cute As Ever

HUH: Prosecco-Flavored Nail Polish Now Exists

Let's All Watch a Young Mary Berry Work Her Soothing, Sensible Magic in the 1970s. YES, LET'S.

Ooh: See the World’s Largest Collection of Fluorescent Rocks

I want all the candles.

5 fantastic Beauty and the Beast adaptations that go beyond Disney

Whoa, look at these 90s snack-themed doughnuts.

Let's make some spring pasta.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Afternoon Tea (3/30/17)

The rise of forensic science in an unlikely world—Hindi pulp fiction blockbusters

The True Cost of the Louisiana Purchase

The Masada mystery: Have archaeologists proven the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert or twisted science for political end?

I haven't listened to this podcast, but this piece has some interesting points about access and the changing nature of fame: 'Missing Richard Simmons' And The Nature Of Being Known

Guardians of a Vast Lake, and a Refuge for Humanity

The Supposedly Pristine, Untouched Amazon Rainforest Was Actually Shaped By Humans

Morning Coffee (3/30/17)

Pillars of the West Shaken by ‘Brexit,’ but They’re Not Crumbling Yet

The UK has officially begun the Brexit process. Here's what happens now.

The Marine Photo Scandal and the Cost of Indifference

An Alabama Prison’s Unrelenting Descent Into Violence

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ President Trump’s company pursues second Washington hotel

70 days in, Donald Trump’s presidency is flailing

The Offender of the Free World

Devin Nunes's botched effort to scuttle the Trump/Russia investigation, explained

Donald Trump’s belief that Obamacare is “exploding” is false and self-destructive

The Future of the Left Is Female

I'm mostly enjoying Reza Aslan's show Believer, but this makes some good points: Reza Aslan and the Risks of Making Religion Relatable

Forbidden love: The WW2 letters between two men

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Afternoon Tea (3/29/17)

Welcome to Afternoon Tea! It's a short list of interesting reading to provide you with a little break in your day.

Does Alexa Have Free Speech Rights?

This is a fascinating look at weddings in Iran: The Bride's Side

How Aristotle Created the Computer

TV’s Dead Zone: How the Cable Sector Is Killing Off Struggling Networks (The chart in this is amazing.)

All the President's Yachts: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of FDR's Floating White House

A great interview about the late Bob Silvers: “He Couldn’t Conceive of a Life Without Being the Editor of the NYRB

Morning Coffee (3/29/17)

Now that the world is an unending hellscape of terrible news, I have a big backlog of links basically all the time. (Both because there's so much hard news and because the less urgent [and also more fun] stuff gets pushed back, though I try to fit in at least a few non-newsy links each day.) I figure more than about twelve links in a post will get overwhelming for you guys (maybe I'm wrong?), so... let's try something new! Morning Coffee will stay as it is, with a mix of current events and other stuff, so if you like that and don't want more, just keep reading what you're reading. But when I have a backlog I'm going to add in Afternoon Tea posts as well. They'll go up at 4pm Eastern on weekdays with a smaller batch of non-time-sensitive links, designed to provide you with a little afternoon break. Let me know how this works for you or if you have better ideas!

Trump is weighing a major escalation in Yemen's devastating war

Killing of a Hamas Leader Could Signal a New Conflict With Israel (Good thing we have Jared Kushner to solve this whole problem. Oh wait...)

Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians

Sigh: Donald Trump Claims U.S. Constitution Bars 'Apprentice' Star's Defamation Suit While in Office

Paul Ryan is just not good at his job!

Useful: The Devin Nunes/Trump/wiretapping controversy, explained

Who Should Pay for Evan Karr's Heart?

Regretful Trump Voters Are (Mostly) a Myth

Kiersten White is doing a new Buffyverse YA book series!

This is so important and also FASCINATING: How to revive Massachusetts’ first language

The Trouble with Innocence

DNA Reveals an Early American Dynasty Centered on Women

Friday, March 24, 2017

Morning Coffee (3/24/17)

I... well. Who knows what's going on with anything at this point, really? But I can offer some Friday Happy Links if you'd like a distraction.

I WANT TO GO THERE: There’s now a spy-themed bar in London where you have to crack codes to get cocktails

I wish this had been the most important political news of the week: This Adorable Pup Named Biden Just Got To Meet Former VP Joe Biden

Churchill trailer!!

New emoji are coming!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society cast is looking INCREDIBLE.

Ooh: Stunning 'new' cloud formations captured in updated atlas

Amazon is making a Victoria Woodhull movie with Brie Larson! (She was the first female presidential candidate, in 1872.)

Butterbeer ice cream?!?!

Let's have a The Royal We party.

Or run away to the Isles of Scilly.

I'm not convinced by this birthday cake mimosa idea but... you know, I'd try it.

The British Library's Medieval Manuscripts Blog takes a look at some Beauty and the Beast-adjacent holdings.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Morning Coffee (3/22/17)

What Donald Trump Doesn't Understand About Libraries

A must-read on the Gorsuch hearing: How Dare You Question Our Precious Nominee?

Why women wore Handmaid's Tale robes in the Texas Senate

Hillary Clinton: “I Am Ready to Come Out of the Woods”

Vindication: Nancy Pelosi was right: Democrats had to pass the bill so people could find out what’s in it

This is fascinating and heartbreaking: A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants (They're confiscating rosaries. Rosaries.)

'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death (This is very well done, covering the government, media, etc., and was so immersive that I spent a couple days catching myself thinking "Wait, DID the Queen die?" No. She's fine. She better be fine.)

Sad news for mystery fans: Colin Dexter has died.

So they're making a sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl in the Spider's Web, but it's based on the fourth book, which was written by another author, and it's going to have a new cast. And new director. So. Huh.

A ‘Triumphant Return’ for 17th-Century Tapestries

Uncommon Ancestry

Russia’s February Revolution Was Led by Women on the March

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Morning Coffee (3/7/17)

Wondering what exactly is in the Obamacare replacement bill that came out last night? Read Sarah Kliff.

And if you want to know about the new travel ban - God, so many terrible things came out yesterday! - read Dara Lind.

Related: "Donald Trump’s top advisers try to cheer up the sulking commander in chief by reminding him of their looming plan to endanger the lives of some of the most desperate and vulnerable people on earth."

HE'S A CITIZEN: Khizr Khan Reportedly Told His “Travel Privileges Are Being Reviewed,” Offers No Comment

The Supreme Court’s latest punt has big implications for transgender rights

Uh: Ben Carson: slaves were immigrants with dreams their family could find prosperity in America

In dramatic shift, White House suggests secret intelligence proves Obama wiretapped Trump Tower

This former British lawmaker is at the heart of the Trump wiretap allegations (There are some WILD details in there.)

Marines’ Secret Trove of Nonconsensual Nude Photos Is About Power, Not Sex

I think this is getting lost a bit among the "exclusively gay moment" stuff, but it's a big deal: Beauty and the Beast Will Feature Disney’s First-Ever Live Action Interracial Kiss

HarperCollins has a nifty new site to celebrate its 200th birthday.

The Bittersweet Taste of British Sicily