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The mattries37315 reading thread of 2017

The Green Dragon

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Edited: Jan 25, 11:36am Top

Hi everyone,

I've decided to join my friends Bookstooge and YouKneeK here and I guess talk about what I'm reading will anyone that's interested.

So I'm starting off 2017 with Don Quixote (Barnes & Noble as my primary read, the book I take to work to read during breaks and lunch. My first home read, should be obvious why I'm calling it that, is The Acts of the Apostles in the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by Ellen G. White.

Jan 1, 6:20pm Top

Hi Mattries, I'm happy to see you here!

Jan 1, 6:43pm Top

Welcome to the pub :)

Jan 1, 7:08pm Top

Hi, Mattries! Welcome to the pub. May your year be off to a great start!

Jan 1, 7:18pm Top

>1 mattries37315: Welcome to the pub! I've only read an abridged version of Don Quixote, but quite enjoyed it.

Jan 1, 8:22pm Top

Glad to see you here.
Starred your thread.

Jan 1, 8:34pm Top

Welcome and happy reading!

Jan 2, 6:47am Top

Welcome! It's always good to see new faces here and spy on what others are reading!

Jan 2, 7:42am Top

Welcome to our pub! Grab a PGGB and some CHEESE -- if you can get to the bar -- and happy reading!

Jan 2, 8:03pm Top

>2 YouKneeK: Glad to be here, I've starred your thread.

>3 imyril:, >4 lynnoconnacht:, >7 Narilka:, >8 Sakerfalcon:, >9 hfglen: Thank you all for the warm welcome.

>5 MrsLee: Thank you for the welcome. I'm only 10% into the book, but I'm enjoying it so far.

>6 BookstoogeLT: Glad to be here my friend, thanks for reminding me about starring threads I went ahead and starred your latest.

Jan 2, 8:20pm Top

re: starring
That is the ONLY way I've been able to keep track of the couple of threads I'm following. Life saver :-D

Jan 3, 8:54am Top

>11 BookstoogeLT: I found after a few months that I starred so many that I also have to use the "Add To Favorites" function to be able to find certain reoccuring ones. There's just so much fun stuff to follow around here :)

Jan 3, 5:44pm Top

Welcome, >1 mattries37315:! I'm glad you found your way here. :o)

Jan 4, 7:56am Top

2017 Reading Plan

A few days late, but here's my primary reading plan for the year that I posted on my WordPress blog. My home reading is usually spur of the moment unless I've started a series like the Ellen G. White books.

>13 clamairy: Thanks clamairy, glad to be here.

Jan 4, 10:01am Top

>14 mattries37315: That's an eclectic list of titles you've chosen. Good luck with your plan.

Jan 4, 5:51pm Top

>15 Narilka: Well it's because my interests and reasons for reading are so eclectic. Having graduated with a history degree, any type of history is something I want to read and that includes some of the classics in the field as well as philosophical and political theory books. I love fantasy and so there is a lot there as well, but not as much as past years since I've read through a lot of what I have already. I am grossly under read in science fiction and have added those to my library. A few years ago I realized I need to start reading classics now instead of later, so I added those to my library as well. And finally I have all these books at home that I've previously read, but can only vaguely remember as it's been over ten years (twenty for some) since I first read them and decided to re-read then review them.

Sorry for the long replay and thanks for the luck.

Jan 4, 7:27pm Top

>16 mattries37315: No apology necessary! It will make for an interesting year of reading for sure. Should be fun :)

Jan 25, 11:41am Top

Don Quixote

It's been a busy morning as I've been writing reviews for my first two books of the year. The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Don Quixote that is the same here, feel free to leave comments or questions on this thread or on WP, which ever you prefer.

Jan 25, 11:45am Top

The Acts of the Apostles

My second review of the morning is The Acts of the Apostles in the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the link above goes to my Wordpress page. Since the book is on a religious subject, please leave all comments or questions there so as to abide by the group's rules.

Edited: Jan 25, 11:55am Top

I've finished both my primary and home books on the same day, today and tomorrow I'm starting my next books.

First off as my primary read is going to be Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer. This is Christmas present from my aunt who unbeknownst to her gave me a book by an author I've been wanting to read for some time. Although I've been wanting to read Mortimer's biography of Henry IV, which unfortunately can be purchased in the States (at least through Amazon), is other biographies of Roger Mortimer (1st Earl of March), Edward III, and Henry V (in 1415) would also be books I'd purchase or grab at my local used book store.

My home read will be the last book in Ellen G. White's Conflict of the Ages series, The Great Controversy between God and Satan- The Conflict of the Ages in the Christian Dispensation.

Jan 25, 12:02pm Top

Hi mattries37315, welcome to the Green Dragon! It's great to have an influx of new reading journals here.

Jan 25, 12:06pm Top

>21 SylviaC: Thank you, hope be posting more than I have been so far this year though that's what happens when you start off with two sizable books to begin.

Jan 25, 8:08pm Top

Good reviews!

Jan 27, 5:40pm Top

Jan 28, 10:42am Top

Hi mattries, very interested in the titles you are reading. I'm a passionate reader of history myself. Any chance of presenting the actual reviews here so one doesn't have to click a link to elsewhere in order to read them? For me at least that would make following your reading more accessible...

Jan 28, 1:48pm Top

>25 stellarexplorer: I'll see what I can do about that in the future.

Jan 28, 5:33pm Top

Just watch out for the "No Religion or Politics" policy here. Not sure how that works with posting of reviews.

Jan 29, 6:47pm Top

>27 BookstoogeLT: I won't post anything from the religious books I read, I'll link those like I did with Acts of the Apostles. The politics part is going to be tricky, because politics is interwoven into some histories and biographies like say of a particular election or politician.

If someone who has been here a while can give some clarification on the "No Politics" part of the policy that would be great. Right now I'm thinking that just a plain review of a book is fine, but if I and another person get into debating the policies or actions of an individual OR argue about the cause of a particular event was then that would be against the policy.

Feb 1, 9:34am Top

>28 mattries37315: I think you are on the right track. It's somewhat of a "you know it when you see it" situation because everyone has different sensibilities.

I have never hesitated to say what a book is about which I am reading, and like you said, if it is completely about religion, I simply state the title, whether I enjoyed the read or not, and not much else. If someone is curious, they can look up my review or message me on my profile. The same would go for politics.

Feb 1, 1:58pm Top

>29 MrsLee: Thank you for the response. If I were reading about contemporary politics the decision on how to proceed would be much easier, but given that it won't be the case I'm just going to proceed with what I described above and see how it goes.

Feb 1, 2:03pm Top

Centuries of Change

Throughout the later part of 1999, many programs were dedicated to showing the impressive change in the 20th Century over any other time in the previous 1000 years. Author Ian Mortimer thought this was presumptuous and decided to research to find which century of Western civilization in the previous millennium saw the most change. In Centuries of Change Mortimer presents the fruits of over decade worth of research to general audience.

From the outset of the book Mortimer gives the reader the scope and challenge about defining and measuring change, especially when focusing in specific 100 year periods. Avoiding the cliché answers of bright, shiny objects and larger-than-life historical figures from the get go, Mortimer looked for innovations of cultural, political, societal, and technological significance that fundamentally changed the way people lived at the end of a given century than when it began. Throughout the process Mortimer would highlight those inventions or well-known historical individuals that defined those innovations of change which resulted positively or negatively on Western civilization. At the end of each chapter, Mortimer would summarize how the ‘changes’ he highlighted interacted with one another and which was the most profound in a given century and then identify an individual he believe was ‘the principle agent of change’.

The in-depth analysis, yet easily readable language that Mortimer wrote on each topic of change he highlighted was the chief strength of this book. The end of chapter conclusions and identification of an agent of change is built up throughout the entire chapter and shows Mortimer’s dedication to providing evidence for his conclusion. Whether the reader agrees or not with Mortimer, the reader at least knows why he came to those decisions. When coming to a decision about which century of the past millennium saw the most change at the end of the book, Mortimer’s explanation of the process in how he compared different periods of time and then the results of that process were well written and easily understandable to both general readers and those from a more scholarly background, giving the book a perfect flow of knowledge and thought.

Centuries of Change was geared for the general reading audience instead of a more academic one. While I do not think this is a negative for the book, it did allow for those editing the book as well as Mortimer in reexamining his text to miss several incorrect statements on events and personages that while minor do to missing a word or two, just added up over the course of the book.

While looking at the progression and development of Western civilization is always a challenging process, Ian Mortimer’s Centuries of Change gives readers glimpse of how different types of innovations impacted just a 100 year period of time. Very readable for general readers and a nice overall glimpse for more academic readers, this book is a thought-provoking glimpse in how human’s bring about change and responds to change.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Centuries of Change, feel free to comment there or here.

Feb 2, 3:55pm Top

My current primary read is Dangerous Women 1 edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

Feb 4, 5:25am Top

>33 Sakerfalcon: I read the one-volume edition of the whole collection a couple of years ago. Some of the stories were terrific, and I don't remember any as being terrible. There were a couple that I didn't read though, as they were part of series that I hadn't read. Hope you enjoy it!

Feb 4, 2:09pm Top

>33 Sakerfalcon: I don't know how they divided up the collection, but out of the four stories I've read only one was terrible ("I Know How to Pick'em"). Of the other three, "Raisa Stepanova" was the only one so far in which it was from a woman's pov and could be described as 'dangerous'; "Neighbors" was the other woman's pov story and while very good, I discern the danger the main character unless it was how her grown up children now perceived her; and "Wrestling Jesus" was a very good story however it was a young man's pov and the 'dangerous' woman wasn't seen until near the end and was perceived that way by the young man's mentor.

I'll be honest, I got this book for GRRM's "The Princess and the Queen". My hope was that like the anthologies that contained his "Dunk & Egg" tales, the other stories would be pleasant surprises but featuring women who are dangerous in some fashion. So far, at least in the stories in this division of the anthology its more towards disappointment.

Feb 6, 9:22am Top

>34 mattries37315: Now that you mention it I agree, the definition of "dangerous" was stretched pretty thin!

Feb 6, 7:49pm Top

Dangerous Women 1

The first subdivision of the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois is a mix bag of both story quality and the interpretation of the phrase ‘dangerous women’. In seven stories across genres around the central theme of women who are dangerous, a reader is treated to see women in various ways only but is also forced to figure out if the women presented or alluded to are actually dangerous.

Of the seven stories featured in Dangerous Women 1 the three best at presenting both a very good story and dangerous women were Carrie Vaugh’s “Raisa Stepanova”, Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken”, and George R.R. Martin’s “The Princess and the Queen”. Just outside these three was Cecelia Holland’s “Nora’s Song” which had a very good story but was seen from the perspective of a little girl finding out how dangerous her mother is. These four stories were at the very beginning and the last three stories of the collection giving the anthology a strong start and finish.

However, the three stories in the middle suffered from a failure of either not being very good or not having a dangerous woman. Both Megan Lindholm’s “Neighbors” and Joe R. Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” were very good stories, but the danger posed by the women either featured or more mentioned then seen was hard to detect. But the weakest story of the entire collection was Lawrence Block’s “I Know How to Pick’em” which went from having potential to falling flat by the end.

Overall Dangerous Women 1 is a mixed bag of very good stories with strong female characters, just very good stories with no danger attached to any female character, and just plain bad all around. The best that could be said is in the end the reader is the ultimate judge.

Individual Story Ratings
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn (4/5)
I Know How to Pick’em by Lawrence Block (1/5)
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (2.5/5)
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (2/5)
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (4/5)
Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (3.5/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin (4/5)


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Dangerous Women 1, feel free to comment there or here.

Feb 7, 8:10pm Top

I wonder if that GRRM story is published anywhere else. It sounds like it would be great for fans of the series.

Feb 7, 11:10pm Top

>38 Narilka: Sadly it's only in the whole Dangerous Women anthology and Dangerous Women 1 right now.

Edited: Feb 22, 11:14am Top

The Great Controversy

I've finished my latest home read, The Great Controversy between God and Satan- The Conflict of the Ages in the Christian Dispensation by Ellen G. White the link above goes to my Wordpress page. Since the book is on a religious subject, please leave all comments or questions there so as to abide by the group's rules.

I'm going to focus on The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume II (Modern Library) until finished because of how dense it is.

Feb 22, 11:30am Top

>40 mattries37315: Just a quick revision/addendum to what I said above. While my focus will be Gibbon at work and home to finish it up, on Friday nights and Saturdays I'll be reading some "g-rate" books that have a more religious tint to them instead of hard fiction or history.

Mar 4, 4:53pm Top

Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough

Just finished a quick book Lighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson. Another "g-rated" book with a religious bent to it, so any comments please make there.

I'd also like to refer to you to the February Update of my Reading Plan. I haven't radically changed my reading plan for the year, just tweaked it some.

Mar 7, 9:57pm Top

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume II

The second volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 27 through 48 of the author’s vast magnum opus. Beginning with the reign of Gratian and ending with the reconquests of Heraclius in 628 A.D., Gibbons relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments that saw the ultimate split of the Roman Empire, the fall of the West, and the continuance of Roman tradition in the East centered in Constantinople before glancing at the lives of the next 60 emperors of Byzantium over the next 600 years.

The deterioration of the Rome picks up with the reign of Gratian and his eventual overthrow leading to the unification of the Empire under Theodosius the Great before its finale split with the inheritance of his sons and then their successors over the next 50+ years. Throughout the era of House of Theodosius, the various barbarian tribes made inroads into the Western Empire which included two sacks of Rome itself by the Visigoths and Vandals, as the long ineffectual reign of Honorius and his successors allowed the Empire to slip out of their fingers. In the vacuum arose the genesis of future European states such as England, France, and Spain while Italy declined in population and political cohesion as the Pope began to fill not only a religious but political role.

The Eastern Emperors in Constantinople, unlike their family and colleagues in the West, were able to keep their domain intact through military force or bribes to turn away. The bureaucratic framework established by Constantine and reformed by Theodosius was used to keep the Eastern Empire thriving against barbarian incursion and Persian invasions while creating a link to the Roman past even as the eternal city fell from its greatness. Yet as the Eastern Emperors kept alive the Roman imperial tradition while continually orienting it more towards Greek cultural heritage, the internal conflicts of Christianity became a hindrance to social and imperial stability leading to rebellions of either a local or statewide nature or allowing foreign powers to invade.

This middle volume of Gibbon’s monumental work is divided in two, the first focusing on the fall of the Western Empire and the second on how the Eastern Empire survived through various struggles and for a brief time seemed on the verge of reestablishing the whole imperium. Yet throughout, Gibbon weaves not only the history of Rome but also the events of nomadic peoples as far away at China, the theological controversies within Christianity, and the numerous other treads to create a daunting, yet compete look of how Rome fell but yet continued.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume II (Modern Library), feel free to comment here or there.

I've started reading Scars of Independence by Holger Hoock which I received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers.

Mar 11, 6:46pm Top

I've started reading The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson as my primary home read, yesterday and this morning I read A Bold One for God, a young adult biography of Scottish Reformation preacher John Knox.

A Bold One for God

Although he did not begin the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox has become its most identifiable proponent not only in the almost 450 years since his death but also during the last 25 years of his life. In A Bold One for God, Charles G. Edwards writes a brief 160 page biography of “a not-so-well-known reformer” that served not only God but his nation as well.

Edwards’ biography of Knox begins in his early 30s after his conversion to Protestantism and his interactions with martyr George Wishart and how the influential preacher told him to remain a tutor to his pupils until God needed him. In the reaction after Wishart’s execution, Knox was asked to preach by Wishart’s followers to lead their congregation after they had assassinated the Cardinal of St. Andrews. His accepts and his powerful preaching began his rise as a man of note in the Reformation movement in Scotland while also resulting in his imprisonment after the movement is crushed for a time. Over the course of the next 12 years, Knox serves as a galley slave before living in exile in England then Geneva and Frankfurt then back to Geneva with a brief visit to Scotland in-between. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland permanently and became a not only the leading Protestant preacher in the nation but also one with significant political power as he contended with the queen regent Mary of Guise then her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and then under the regents of the young James VI.

In the synopsis above, I have hardly scratched the surface of John Knox’s life and career. Unfortunately Charles Edwards did the same in this short biography as well. Although his intended audience is easy identifiable for young adults through his writing style and larger font, Edwards doesn’t treat his audience with respect by crediting them with any intelligence and made his subject less than what he was. Through reconstructed conversations and paraphrasing of others, Edwards endeavored to give Knox’s life more depth but only made the man appear simple and artificial to the reader which seemed to indicate a condescending attitude towards his readers.

While Edwards does give an accurate picture of the chronology and historical background of John Knox’s life that does not make up for the lack of depth and unintended sterilization of his subject. The lack of discussion of Knox’s first 30 years of life and the, most likely unintentional, patronizing attitude towards his readers severely undercuts the worth of A Bold One for God.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of A Bold One for God, feel free to comment here or there.

Mar 14, 6:07pm Top

Scars of Indepedence

The quaint, romanticized version of the American Revolution that many have grown up with through popular history and school curriculum is not the real life story that those living during those years experienced. In Scars of Independence, Holger Hoock looks past the good versus bad and underdog narratives so prevalent today to reveal the multifaceted struggle and very violent history of the American Revolutionary War from all its participants.

Hoock frames the American Revolution as not just a colonial rebellion, but first and foremost a civil war in which the dividing line of loyalties split family. The Patriot-Loyalist violence, either physical or political, began long before and lasted long after the military conflict. Once the fighting actually began, both the Americans and the British debated amongst themselves on the appropriate use of the acceptable violence connected to 18th century warfare and on the treatment of prisoners. While both sides thought about their conduct to those in Europe, the Native Americans were another matter and the violence they were encouraged to inflict or was inflicted upon them was some of the most brutal of the war. But through all of these treads, Hoock emphasizes one point over and over, that the American Patriots continually won the “propaganda” war not only in the press on their side of the Atlantic but also in Europe and even Great Britain.

One of the first things a reader quickly realizes is that Hoock’s descriptions of some of the events of the American Revolution remind us of “modern-day” insurgencies and playbooks of modern terrorists, completely shattering the popular view of the nation’s birth. Hoock’s writing is gripping for those interested in popular history and his research is thought-provoking for scholars. Another point in Hoock’s favor is his birth outside the Anglo-American historical sphere in Germany, yet his background in British history and on-off research fellowships in the United States has given him a unique perspective to bring this piece of Anglo-American history out to be consumed, debated, and thought upon.

Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth is a fascinating, intriguing, thought-provoking book on the under-reported events of the American Revolutionary War in contrast to the view of the war from popular history. Holger Hoock gives his readers an easy, yet detailed filled book that will help change their perspective on the founding of the United States by stripping the varnish away to reveal the whole picture.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Scars of Independence, feel free to comment here or there.

Yesterday I started reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Mar 20, 7:57pm Top

The Night Circus

A monochromatic festival of wonder and intrigue suddenly appears in your town and you can’t wait until the sun goes down to explore it. The Night Circus is a wondrous, fantastic journey into magic, romance, and the consequences of both. Author Erin Morgenstern brought forth engaging characters and a twisting plot that keeps the reader engaged throughout the book.

The central plot focuses on Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair, who are selected and groomed to compete against one another in the book’s titular location by their instructors. Throughout Celia and Marco’s competition, they struggle not with their feelings for one another but with “the rules” of the game and how a winner will be determined but as it continues on how their competition is affecting the lives of the circus performers and those connected to the circus. As the game continues, the two youngest members of the circus—twins, Poppet and Widget Murray—and their circusgoer friend, Bailey, become more and more important as both Celia and Marco look for ways to end their competition in the safest way possible.

From the outset Morgenstern creates a wonderful, lively setting that instantly gets the reader into magical journey they are about to take. Through the use of three different temporal narrative arcs intertwined throughout the book, the whole history of the creation and running of “The Circus of Dreams” to the present-day. This creative decision produced an intricate story that while giving the whole picture of the story by the end, does unfortunately result in a reader missing some details that enhances the story making a rereading necessary. Yet, because of how good this book is, a reread in the future would be something to look forward to.

The magically wonderful tale that is The Night Circus is a festival to any reader. While the twisting, interwoven time period narratives create an amazing plot even while missing a few details in the first read; this book is solid in plot and characters making an engaging read.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Night Circus, feel free to comment here or there.

Today I started reading The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents as part of my read-through of Discworld.

Mar 21, 5:18pm Top

Blood Stain (Volume Two) by Linda Sejic

Picking straight up from where Volume One ended with a seemingly chilling end, Elly Torres is face-to-face with their new employer not knowing what’s going to happen next. Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain (Volume Two) continues Elly’s pursuit of a job though she not only has to contend with her employer but also herself in the process.

Elly’s first encounter with her new boss and her first day on the job is on in which both she and her new boss get their first impressions of one another. To say the least it is an adventure of awkward situations and verbal gaffs, for both Elly and her employer, Dr. Vlad Stein. Attempting to create a viable and productive working relationship between the two is Stein’s chef, Serge, who continually explains the good Doctor’s eccentricities to the very imaginative Elly while urging Stein not to send another assistant running away as fast as they can with his gruff behavior. Unfortunately for Serge, he doesn’t know what’s going on in Elly’s head.

Like my review for Volume One, this short description only gives a hint of what transpires in Blood Stain’s second chapter. The continued focus is on Elly, but now that the story is in its central location Sejic begins giving some light on both Serge and Stein. While Elly’s characterization is further along than her two male counterparts, the development on all three is both intriguing and raises questions about how all of them will interact with one another as time goes on and what situations they’ll get into because of their own quirks and misunderstandings.

As a longtime fan of Sejic’s webcomic, it was once again a pleasure to get on paper a story I’ve enjoyed online for years. Blood Stain (Volume Two) is a continuation of a fantastically drawn story with intriguing characters both familiar and that one is just getting to know. If you haven’t already picked up Volume One then I encourage you to get both it and this volume, you won’t regret it.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Blood Stain (Volume 2), feel free to comment here or there.

Mar 22, 11:13am Top

Herald of the Midnight Cry

Last weekend I got behind on putting up notices on my reviews, here's the last one I haven't put a notice on. This was my Friday/Saturday "tame" read Herald of the Midnight Cry by Paul A. Gordon. The review itself won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the book.

The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review, feel free to comment here or there.

See you tomorrow with my review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents after I finish the book.

Mar 22, 11:38am Top

>47 mattries37315: Glad you enjoyed The night circus. Your review makes me think I should reread it soon.

Mar 22, 7:00pm Top

>50 Sakerfalcon: Thanks, good to know my review had that effect. If you do reread it soon, let me know so I can check out your review.

Mar 24, 9:01pm Top

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

The piped piper comes to a town in Uberwald, but finds that he’s late to the show that features cats, rats, and stupid-looking kids talking to one another. The twenty-eighth and first young adult entry of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents finds the residents—new and old, human and nonhuman—town of Bad Blintz figuring out the fine line between real life and a story. The aim to bring the same Pratchett humor that adults love to a younger audience is on target.

A mixed troupe of “rat piper” con-artists arrive just outside the town of Bad Blintz lead by a streetwise tomcat, who a clan of talking rats and a stupid-looking kid named Keith on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. But everyone is getting fed up with just going around and doing the same old thing, the rats want to find a home to build their society and the kid would like to play more music. Maurice is just interest in money and hiding the guilty for how he gained the ability to speak, but he found more than he’s bargaining for in Bad Blintz because something weird is going on even his talkative rat associate find disturbing. Soon the troupe find out that they have stumbled into a long running conspiratorial plan hatched from a surprising source.

As always, Pratchett connects his humor around a well-known fairy tale or story then completely turns it on its head when the same circumstances happen on Discworld even as the characters fight their own preconceptions when comparing “stories” to “real life”. The fact that he ably brought his unique style to a young adult market without losing any of the punch from the jokes makes this a very good book. Although some of the sections of the book were somewhat familiar to a long-time Pratchett reader does take a little away from the book, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for first time readers.

Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld foray into the young adult genre is classic Pratchett through targeted at a younger audience. I found it as funny as the rest of his series, but some of the plot points were simpler than his usual work for obvious reasons. However this minor fact doesn’t ruin a very good book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, feel free to comment here or there.

I've started rereading Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill

Mar 25, 9:55pm Top

Home to Our Valleys! by Walter Utt

The Vaudois were a little Christian group that throughout the Middle Ages were not considered “orthodox” by The Church resulting in persecution and attempts to wipe them out, however after the Protestant Reformation they were considered important to many prominent Protestant leaders throughout Europe especially after Louis XIV influenced the Duke of Savoy to attack them. Home to Our Valleys! is the retelling of the Vaudois’ return from exile during the onset of the War of the Grand Alliance by author Walter Utt using the official account of Vaudois leader Henri Arnaud as well as numerous primary sources from around Europe.

The Vaudois home valleys were in the Piedmont region of Italy, then known as the Duchy of Savoy, right next to the border with Louis XIV’s France. Their exile as the result of French influence on the Duke of Savoy just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, made them refugees in Switzerland and German lands alongside the Huguenots. It was these combined refuges that came together in a 1000 man strong force that left Swiss territory into Savoy marching for home, a journey that included a sliver of France jutting into Savoy territory. Although this force avoided major battles, it continued to win minor skirmishes before reaching their home at which point their campaign turned into a guerrilla action against French forces operating in Savoy territory.

The overall subject of the book was very interesting, but was undermined by Utt’s decision of how to tell this story. At times the book read like nonfiction then as historical fiction, going back and forth throughout. This inconsistency is what really drove my rating of this book so low because while after thinking long and hard that for the most part this was a nonfictional account of the Vaudois with apparently reconstructed conversations between individuals as best guessed by Utt.

The fact that I had to debate what type of book this was while reading it and a while afterwards, took considerable attention away from content Utt was writing about. The subject matter in Home to Our Valleys! is very interesting, but was lost in the style of writing that Utt chose to write in making the overall book underwhelming.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Home to Our Valleys!, feel free to comment here or there.

Mar 27, 9:37am Top

>52 mattries37315: I put off reading that one for a long time, but enjoyed it very much when I finally read it.

Mar 27, 2:53pm Top

>54 MrsLee: I didn't know what to expect and was happy that I enjoyed it.

Edited: Apr 1, 8:43pm Top

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture. But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold.

Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures. Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings. The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists. Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know. Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today.

Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book. Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization. Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today.

For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy. Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today. While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill, feel free to comment here or there.

I've started reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III (Modern Library) by Edward Gibbon

Apr 1, 8:45pm Top

Prairie Boy by Harry Baerg

The life on the Canadian prairie a hundred years ago was one of adventure and hard work for a boy growing up, even without school to worry about. In Prairie Boy by artist -author Harry Baerg writes about events over 9 years of his life on and around his family farm in central Saskatchewan in an engaging autobiography geared towards young adults.

Beginning with purchase of his family’s farm outside the town of Waldheim in 1917 when he was 8, Baerg writes about many features of life over the next 9 years until his family left for British Columbia. As an avid nature writer, Baerg’s descriptions of the wildlife around his farm and his family’s farm animals are very well done as well as chores surrounding the latter. His descriptive illustrations, in both words and images, of various activities brought to life how farmers a century ago dealt with daily life without the technological developments that would occur over the course of the rest of the century. Baerg spends time on both his schooling and how modern inventions slowly started coming into town and into their family’s life, making one realize that even the faintest resemblance to our world today was barely visible a century ago.

Coming in under 130 pages, Prairie Boy is a very quick read but very informative and entertaining. Although intended for a young adult audience, Harry Baerg’s autobiography of his time growing up is something adults looking for an relaxing read would find interesting.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Prairie Boy, feel free to comment here or there.

Apr 8, 10:06pm Top

Blood Brothers by Philip Samaan.

This is a Friday/Saturday "tame" read, but there is no touchstone so here is the book on LibraryThing. The review itself won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the book.

The first link goes to my Wordpress page that has my review, feel free to comment here or there.

Apr 16, 2:48pm Top

The Millennium Bug by Jon Paulien.

This is a Friday/Saturday "tame" read of The Millennium Bug. The review itself won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the book.

The link goes to my Wordpress page that has my review, feel free to comment here or there.

Apr 16, 3:25pm Top

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson contains a sizeable sample of the total works of the reclusive poet, who only came to prominence after her death. Containing 593 poems separated into five different themes, roughly a third of her overall productivity, this collection gives the reader a wonderful look into the talent of a woman who hid her art not only from the world but also her own family. Besides nearly 600 poems of Dickinson’s work, the reader is given a 25 page introduction to the poet and an analysis of her work by Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon who helps reveal the mysterious artist as best as she can and help the reader understand her work better. Although neither Wetzsteon’s introduction and analysis nor Dickinson’s work is wanting, the fact that this collection gives only a sample of the poet’s work is its main and only flaw.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, feel free to comment here or there.

My primary home read will be Leaves of Grass (Barnes & Noble Classics) by Walt Whitman which I'll be starting next week.

Apr 17, 4:21pm Top

>60 mattries37315: Coincidentally, I have a copy of this same Dickinson book on the way. Your review makes me really look forward to it! Btw, Leaves of Grass is a special favorite of mine; I hope you enjoy it.

Apr 17, 11:07pm Top

>61 Darth-Heather: Thank you, I'm glad to hear it. I don't know which edition of Leaves of Grass you read, but the B&N Classics has both the First and "Death-Bed" Editions so I'm interested to see the work(s) for itself.

Apr 22, 2:29pm Top

National Sunday Law by A. Jan Marcussen.

This is a Friday/Saturday "tame" read of National Sunday Law. Normally this is where I would say the review itself won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the book, however because of how bad this book is I want everyone to know that the review--both on my Wordpress page (where in the above link goes) and here on LibraryThing (via the touchstone)--is short and written in the first person, which I try to avoid as much as possible.

The link goes to my Wordpress page that has my review, feel free to comment here or there.

Apr 27, 7:10pm Top

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume III

The finale volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 49 through 71 of the author’s vast magnum opus. Beginning with the Iconoclast controversy in correlation with rise of the Vatican and Holy Roman Empire in the 8th century and ending with a description of the causes and progression of the decay of the city of Roman in the 15th century, Gibbon relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments in both Europe and the Middle East ultimately led to the end of Byzantine Empire with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and the state of the city of Roman at time of the Roman Empire’s complete end.

The majority of the 22 chapters deal with the rise of Islam and the resultant political and martial effects that would ultimately determine the fate of the Byzantine Empire. Although beginning with the Iconoclastic controversy that began the schism of the Christian church as the bishop of Rome rose to power in the West, Gibbon used those developments to launch into how Islam rose in Arabia then spread across not only areas once under Roman control but also their long-time Persian rivals in the aftermath of the reconquests of Heraclius. While detailing the internal struggle within the Caliphate period, Gibbon reveals how Emperors attempted to combat this new faith and military force to increasing little effect has time went on.

The thorough retelling of the numerous political changes throughout Asia that affect the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire shifted the focus away from the ‘Roman’ world to locations as far east as China, but revolutions of people in these areas would play into the fortunes of Constantinople. Also playing into fate of Byzantine was the barbarian Christian West that the Emperors called for aid not only from kings but the Pope as well. Unfortunately the resulting Crusades and mercenary arms that went East would inflict a mortal wound to the Empire in 1204 thus beginning a centuries long death spiral that only lasted as long as it did because of internal revolutions with the growing Ottoman Empire until 1453. This dreary recounting of the end of Byzantium is mirrored by Gibbon in his recounting of the history of the city of Rome itself throughout the Middle Ages until the fall of the New Rome in the East.

This finale volume of Gibbon’s life consuming work revealed the struggle of the Eastern Empire of Byzantium to continue against a succession of Islamic powers and its ultimate demise thus completing the fall of the Roman Empire. Yet in retelling the eventual fall of Constantinople, Gibbon paints a huge picture for the reader about how events both near and far away from the Bosporus affected the fortunes for both good and ill of the New Rome. And in recounting the history of the city of Rome throughout the Middle Ages, a reader sheds a tear with Gibbon about the loss of the monuments of both Republic and Empire due to the necessity or vanity of the people of Rome after for the fall of the Western Empire.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III (Modern Library) by Edward Gibbon, feel free to comment here or there.

I've started reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide of the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Apr 27, 8:54pm Top

>47 mattries37315: That's a wonderful review of The Night Circus. I really enjoyed that one, and like >50 Sakerfalcon: I plan on a reread eventually.

>60 mattries37315: I have an Emily Dickinson collection as well but haven't read any of the poems for a couple of decades. I wonder if it's time to listen to them instead. Thanks for the prodding.

Apr 27, 10:27pm Top

>64 mattries37315: Is this your first time reading Hitchhiker’s? I read it maybe 20 years ago and didn’t care for it, but that was before Pratchett warmed me up to the idea of satirical, ridiculous stories. Maybe someday I’ll try it again and see if I like it better.

Apr 27, 10:49pm Top

>64 mattries37315: I recommend HHGTTG when very tired. The humor makes more sense when your brain isn't firing on all cylinders...

Apr 28, 5:13pm Top

>65 clamairy: Thank you, both The Night Circus and Emily Dickinson were both wonderful reads, the former is on a must reread (sometime in the distance future) and the latter has gotten me itching to find the collection with everything she's done.

>66 YouKneeK: Yes, this is my first time. I've had the book since April 2014 and I've finally gotten to it in my queue. I'm almost finished with the first story and having read Pratchett doesn't seem open me up to Adams humor just yet except for a few smiles here and there.

>67 BookstoogeLT: That could be the trick because as I said above in reply to YouKneek, so far I'm not getting Adams humor quiet yet. I have about 12-13 pages left in the first story, this is the omnibus, and right now I'd probably give it 2.5 stars.

Apr 28, 5:18pm Top

>68 mattries37315: Yeah, being tired, or thinking like a 14 year old boy, really helps :-)

Apr 28, 5:23pm Top

If you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend the original radio play of HHGTTG--especially since that was how it was originally conceived (the novels came later.) It's just a lot funnier.

Apr 28, 8:59pm Top

>70 Marissa_Doyle: I remember a college friend boasting about having recorded every episode of HHGTTG on 32 tape cassettes. This was in the 1970s. I have listened to it on CD.

My first hardcopy of the novels was a volume containing five novels and entitled, "THHGTTG: A Trilogy in Five Parts".

Apr 28, 9:11pm Top

>71 pgmcc: They first broadcast on WGBH radio in the Boston area in the summer of 1981, just before I left for college...and I think I probably still have the tape cassettes I made of them somewhere. I made my first friend at college when another student on my hall, a Brit, burst into my room shrieking, "Hitchhiker's Guide! Hitchhiker's Guide!" because she'd heard me playing it as she passed by my door.

Yup, introduced my kids to it via a CD. :)

Apr 28, 9:55pm Top

>70 Marissa_Doyle: One never knows what has been put on YouTube.

Apr 29, 4:51am Top

>68 mattries37315: I first met HHGTG in its first TV incarnation, circa 1981. I thought it brilliant, though the computer-generated animation would by modern standards be desperately clunky. Underlining the gag about digital watches being cool.

Apr 29, 8:18am Top

>74 hfglen: My kids gave me the VHS tape boxed set of the TV series. It was great. I preferred the TV Marvin to the one in the later film. I was glad to see the original Marvin making a cameo appearance in the film.

Apr 29, 3:58pm Top

>74 hfglen: >75 pgmcc: I had only known about the radio show and the 2005(?) film, didn't have a clue about an animated TV series. Thanks for the information.

Apr 29, 4:26pm Top

>76 mattries37315: The TV series was not animation. It was actors. You should try to get a look at it. The Vorgons are great, and their poetry is...

Apr 29, 5:48pm Top

>73 mattries37315: No, one never does... ;)

Apr 29, 6:35pm Top

>79 mattries37315: I saw computer-generated animation and instantly went to animation completely forgetting when it came out.

Apr 29, 6:40pm Top

The New World Order by Russell Burrill

This was my Friday/Saturday "tame" read The New World Order: What's Behind the Headlines? by Russell Burrill. The review itself won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the book.

The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review, feel free to comment here or there.

Apr 30, 4:38am Top

>77 pgmcc: Very true. There were only clunky animation inserts when someone refers to the actual guide. Pete, I agree about the Vogons, but were they any better than Marvin, or Slartibardfast, or many others?

Apr 30, 10:58am Top

>81 hfglen: Marvin is my favourite character.

Apr 30, 7:41pm Top

>82 pgmcc: I'm into "Restaurant" and Marvin is getting to be my favorite as well, along with Zaphod, but then again most of the story is revolving around him as well.

May 1, 3:56am Top

In the TV series the episode in the Restaurant was a classic, the interaction between Arthur Dent and the Dish of the Day being particularly memorable. (And a good way to raise a serious and probably unresolvable issue.) And the MC, Max Quordlepleen, will forever be the over-made-up individual on the TV in my mind. Enjoy the story!

May 2, 3:13pm Top

>84 hfglen: Thank you. Now I'm going to start hunting through YouTube to find episodes to watch, mainly because just reading that scene in the Restaurant was fantastic.

May 12, 4:13pm Top

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.

The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.

Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2.5/5)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3.5/5)
Life, the Universe, and Everything (3.5/5)
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (2.5/5)
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (4/5)
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, feel free to comment here or there.

I've started reading Night Watch by Terry Pratchett.

May 12, 6:46pm Top

>86 mattries37315: Although I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more, it’s nice to see somebody else who didn’t care for it all that much. I remember that I read an omnibus, but I can’t remember if it had as many stories as your version did. It all kind of blurred together and I only remember vague bits and pieces.

May 12, 9:17pm Top

>87 YouKneeK: Thanks. It's just one of those things, sometimes you hear and see people liking a series or franchise but when you check it out it happens to be not for you. I have to say that Restaurant was the best story in my opinion because it was the funniest and, save for the ending out of nowhere, best written. Oh well, read and learn.

May 13, 5:52pm Top

>86 mattries37315: and >87 YouKneeK: I abandoned the series before the end because it just didn't hit the mark as being funny for me - I think I made it through the first two and that was enough.

May 13, 7:01pm Top

It's impressive that you persisted to finish the entire collection!

I really liked the first three when I was in my 20s, but by the fourth one I felt he had dragged a good thing out too far. I tried rereading the first one a couple of years ago, and couldn't make it past the first chapter. Tastes change.

I did enjoy listening to the radio play recently, though.

May 13, 9:12pm Top

>90 SylviaC: I plan on checkout the radio play, hope that might be more to my liking.

May 18, 7:54pm Top

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

The past and future of Ankh-Morpork revolve around the efforts of His Grace Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Night Watch, the sixth book focusing on the City Watch and twenty-ninth overall book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds Vimes dealing with his wife about to give birth, the deaths of two of his two officers and chasing the man responsible, then finding himself in the past playing the mentor to his younger self during a time of revolution.

Sam Vimes loves being a copper, but not so much His Grace when things have to be official, but after a magical “accident” caused by the Monks of History to send him 30 years into the past Vimes must make sure history happens like it did when he was a 17-year old newbie. Becoming his mentor Sergeant John Keel and second-in-command at his old Watch House, Vimes attempts to bring about the past he remembers so his “present” remains the same. Unfortunately for Vimes, a genius yet insane killer Carcer was brought back with him and has his own agenda—chaos and murder. Add in a revolution hitting Ankh-Morpork and Vimes is in for some very stressful days.

This isn’t the first time that Pratchett has done a little time travel in a Discworld novel, but it was the first in which it was the primary element in one. Vimes becoming the heroic mentor to his younger self, is somewhat cliché but Pratchett uses Vimes own grim view of the world to an advantage as starts to become imprinted on young Sam. Yet, Vimes existential fretting about messing up his future does get tiresome after him doing it so many times in the book that it almost seems that Pratchett was finding ways to take up page space.

Night Watch is an action-packed installment in the Discworld series that Pratchett writes fantastically with Sam Vimes as the protagonist, even with the overused existential fretting. Once again I’ve found a Watch book bringing out the best of Pratchett and the entire Discworld setting, I can only hope the other two books of the subseries will be the same.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.

I've started reading Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner R. Dozois.

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