The mattries37315 reading thread of 2017
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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.
Hi, Mattries! Welcome to the pub. May your year be off to a great start!
>1 mattries37315: Welcome to the pub! I've only read an abridged version of Don Quixote, but quite enjoyed it.
Welcome! It's always good to see new faces here and spy on what others are reading!
Welcome to our pub! Grab a PGGB and some CHEESE -- if you can get to the bar -- and happy reading!
>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.
That is the ONLY way I've been able to keep track of the couple of threads I'm following. Life saver :-D
>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 :)
>14 mattries37315: That's an eclectic list of titles you've chosen. Good luck with your plan.
>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.
>16 mattries37315: No apology necessary! It will make for an interesting year of reading for sure. Should be fun :)
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.
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.
Hi mattries37315, welcome to the Green Dragon! It's great to have an influx of new reading journals here.
>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.
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...
>25 stellarexplorer: I'll see what I can do about that in the future.
Just watch out for the "No Religion or Politics" policy here. Not sure how that works with posting of reviews.
>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.
>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.
>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.
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.
>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!
>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.
>34 mattries37315: Now that you mention it I agree, the definition of "dangerous" was stretched pretty thin!
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.
My current primary read is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume II (Modern Library) by Edward Gibbon.
I wonder if that GRRM story is published anywhere else. It sounds like it would be great for fans of the series.
>38 Narilka: Sadly it's only in the whole Dangerous Women anthology and Dangerous Women 1 right now.
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
>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.
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
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.
>52 mattries37315: I put off reading that one for a long time, but enjoyed it very much when I finally read it.
>54 MrsLee: I didn't know what to expect and was happy that I enjoyed it.
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
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.
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.
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.
>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.
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.
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
>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.
>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.
>64 mattries37315: I recommend HHGTTG when very tired. The humor makes more sense when your brain isn't firing on all cylinders...
>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.
>68 mattries37315: Yeah, being tired, or thinking like a 14 year old boy, really helps :-)
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.
>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".
>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. :)
>70 Marissa_Doyle: One never knows what has been put on YouTube.
>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.
>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.
>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...
>79 mattries37315: I saw computer-generated animation and instantly went to animation completely forgetting when it came out.
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.
>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?
>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.
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!
>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.
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.
>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.
>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.
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.
>90 SylviaC: I plan on checkout the radio play, hope that might be more to my liking.
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.
Sabbath Roots: The African Connection by Charles E. Bradford.
The Antichrist and the New World Order by Marvin Moore.
These are reviews of my last two Friday/Saturday "tame": Sabbath Roots: The African Connection and The Antichrist and the New World Order. The reviews themselves won't be put here because of the religious aspects of the books.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my reviews, feel free to comment here or there.
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.
Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.
Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.
The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.
Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.
The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature--more than not--very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.
Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck.
You are reading my favorite Steinbeck, although it has been a long time since I've read it. Hope you enjoy.
>95 MrsLee: My coworker recommended it me and I picked it up two years ago, it's just now gotten it on my TBR list. I'm hoping to enjoy as well.
>94 mattries37315: I haven't read this anthology but it sounds as though the quality is higher overall than the Dangerous women collection edited by the same team.
>97 Sakerfalcon: Even though I read only third of the overall collection for Dangerous Women, there is no question that Rogues is better. Story quality is fantastic and there are roguish characters all over the place unlike some missing dangerous woman in the other collection.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck.
In the fall and early winter of 1960, John Steinbeck packed up a camper-converted pickup truck and along with his dog went in search of America. Travels with Charley finds Steinbeck making a round trip around the United States with his dog, the titular Charley, looking to rediscover the voice, attitude, and personality of the characters he peoples his fictional work with. Yet like all journeys this one takes unexpected turns that the author doesn’t see coming.
Save prearranged meetings with his wife in Chicago and then in Texas for Thanksgiving, Steinbeck and his loyal canine Charley traverse various sections looking to get back in-touch with other Americans that he’s missed by flying over or traveling abroad. Quickly though Steinbeck learns that the uniqueness of speech and language was beginning to disappear into a standardize English in many sections of the country. He finds the Interstate and Superhighway system a gray ribbon with no color in comparison to state roads that show color and local character of the area. And his amazement about how towns and cities have begun to sprawl losing local character as they became mini-versions of New York or Los Angeles which includes his own home town in the Salinas valley, highlighting the changes the country had occurred to the nation during his life time alone by 1960.
Yet Travels with Charley isn’t gloom or despair, Steinbeck writes about the national treasure that is the various landscapes around the country that help give locals their own personality even in the face of “standardizing”. His interactions with people throughout his trip, whether friendly or hostile, give the reader a sense of how things remain the same yet are changing in the United States at the time of Steinbeck’s trip. But Steinbeck’s interactions and observations of this travel companion Charley are what make this book something that is hard to put down. Whether it’s Charley’s excitement to explore that night’s rest stop or Steinbeck’s amazement at Charley’s nonchalance at seeing a towering redwood or Steinbeck’s concern over Charley’s health or Charley’s own assessment of people, Steinbeck’s prose gives Charley character and lets the reader imagine the old dog by their side wherever they’re reading this book.
Written later in the author’s career, the reader is given throughout the entire book the elegance of Steinbeck’s prose that embeds what he his writing about deep into one’s subconscious. Though there is debate about how much of Travels with Charleyy is fiction or if an individual is a composite of several others or even if events are ordered correctly, what the reader learns is that Steinbeck’s journey is unique to himself as theirs would be unique for them as well.
Written almost 60 years ago Travels with Charley details a changing America through the eyes of one of its greatest authors, even today some of Steinbeck’s passages resonate with us in today’s cultural and political climate. But if like me you wanted a book by Steinbeck to get to know his style and prose than this is the book to do so.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading The Illiad the Odyssey by Homer.
>99 mattries37315: That sounds rather interesting. Did it hold your interest throughout? I often find travel-heavy stories to be a bit tedious at times, even when I enjoy them over-all.
I’ll be interested to see how you get on with The Iliad / The Odyssey. I’ve been tentatively considering The Iliad for one of my classic selections next year. I read it in high school and, similar to A Tale of Two Cities, I don’t remember anything about it except for my complete lack of interest.
>100 YouKneeK: It was hard to put Travels down when I had to go back to work that's how much it held my interest, it really never felt tedious though I think that's because Steinbeck cut out the last leg of his trip because as he stated earlier in the book (I'll be paraphrasing badly) "A length of a journey always varies, sometimes the trip ends before you return home and sometimes you return home but you're always on your journey." When he personally hit the wall on this trip, he stated it and told of his last little adventure when he was navigating New York City to get home.
I picked up this book my the retail store where I work (3 years ago), since I've decided to grab Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Poetic & Prose Eddas for some good classical mythology reading.
Reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school thoroughly disinterested me in anything connected with Charles Dickens.
The Great Dickens shall rise out of the Pumpkin Patch this halloween and smite you both for your vile unbelief!
Too bad the Great Pumpkin never did THAT in Charlie Brown...
>103 BookstoogeLT: What, no mercy for repenting of my misguided youth? :)
>104 YouKneeK: "The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath."
Except I'm not Portia. I am The Count of Monte Bookstooge! *dramatic reveal*
(well, except for the horrible imprisonment, super lurning skills and a veritable mountain of treasure at hand. But other than THAT, Dumas could have been writing about ME!)
Sorry Matt, it's been a long day and I'm letting off steam :)
>103 BookstoogeLT: "The Great Dickens shall rise out of the Pumpkin Patch this halloween and smite you both for your vile unbelief!"
I have only ever heard of the Little Dickens!
I shall make popcorn and pull up a chair to view this smiting.
>106 clamairy: Yeah, the Great Dickens, with hiding in the pumpkin patch all the time, isn't nearly so well known as the Little Dickens. He's kind of like Ctholho, Cthulhu's smarter but shyer older brother.
>99 mattries37315: Glad you enjoyed that, and your write up is terrific! I think Steinbeck would hate all of our strip malls and big box stores, same-o-same-o fast food places and such. It is getting difficult to find slices of individual places even in small towns.
I love Dickens. I read him with a passion. Really. *glances around*
>108 MrsLee: I didn't enjoy the required reading of Dickens in grade school, but I'm sure it was due to my lack of sophistication as a young reader. The enforcement of reading probably puts a lot of people off of any particular author.
I recently decided to take another stab at Dickens, and had a wonderful experience with Great Expectations. Next up is A Tale of Two Cities. I have a copy of Edwin Drood which I understand has been "completed" by another author - does anyone have any opinion of the original vs completed versions?
>102 YouKneeK: >109 Darth-Heather: I'm probably going to have to read Dickens again now that I'm an adult because that's what I've done with Steinbeck. I didn't enjoy The Pearl back in high school, but I loved Travels. I guess I'm going to have to use LT's recommendation system to figure out a good book to try in 2020 (I have a really big TBR pile on my bookshelves).
>103 BookstoogeLT: Tell the Great Dickens, "Bring It!"
>105 BookstoogeLT: *Smiling* No Problem Stooge *Filing away post in the back of mind with note entitled "To Pay Back"*
>108 MrsLee: Thank you very much. Don't worry The Great Dickens come Halloween, everyone knows his day is Christmas but he only goes after people named Stooge, I means Scrooge.
>111 mattries37315: Oh, your come backs were inspired! I'm sitting here chortling. Thank goodness Christmas is 6 months away!
The Iliad by Homer
The wrath of Achilles not only begins the oldest piece of Western literature, but is also its premise. The Iliad has been the basis of numerous clichés in literature, but at its root it is a story of a war that for centuries was told orally before being put down by Homer in which the great heroes of Greece fought for honor and glory that the men of Homer’s day could only imagine achieving.
The story of the Trojan War is well known and most people who have not read The Iliad assume they know what happens, but in fact at the end of the poem the city of Troy still stands and a wooden horse has not been mentioned. The Iliad tells of several weeks in the last year of the war that revolve around the dishonorable actions of Agamemnon that leads to Achilles refusing to fight with the rest of the Greeks and the disaster it causes in the resulting engagements against the Trojans. But then Achilles allows his friend Patroclus to lead his men into battle to save the Greek ships from being put to the torch only for Patroclus to advance to the walls of Troy and be slain by Hector. The wrath of Achilles turns from Agamemnon to Hector and the Trojans, leading to the death of Troy’s greatest warrior and the poem ending with his funeral.
Although the actions of Achilles and Hector take prominence, there are several other notable “storylines” one doesn’t know unless you’ve read epic. First and foremost is Diomedes, the second greatest fighter amongst the Greeks but oftentimes overlooked when it comes to adaptations especially to other important individuals like Odysseus, Menelaus, and the pivotal Patroclus. The second is how much the Olympians and other minor deities are thought to influence the events during this stretch of the war and how both mortals and immortals had to bow to Fate in all circumstances. The third is how ‘nationalistic’ the epic is in the Greek perspective because even though Hector is acknowledged the greatest mortal-born warrior in the war on both sides, as a Trojan he has to have moments of cowardice that none of the Greek heroes are allowed to exhibit and his most famous kill is enabled by Apollo instead of all by himself. And yet, even though Homer writes The Iliad as a triumphant Greek narrative the sections that have Hector’s flaws almost seem hollow as if Homer and his audience both subconsciously know that his epic is not the heroic wrath of Achilles but the tragic death of Hector.
The Iliad is the ultimate classic literature and no matter your reading tastes one must read it to have a better appreciation for all of literature as a whole. Although the it was first written over 2500 years ago, it shows the duality of heroic feats and complete tragedy that is war.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Iliad by Homer, feel free to comment here or there.
I'm continuing to reading The Illiad the Odyssey by Homer.
>116 suitable1: SPOILER!
hahahahaaa. Yeah, I think the expiration on spoilers for this is a bit past...
The Odyssey by Homer
The crafty hero of The Iliad is in the last leg of his long ten year journey home, but it not only his story that Homer relates to the reader in this sequel to the first war epic in literature. The Odyssey describes the Odysseus’ return to Ithaca after twenty years along with the emergence of his son Telemachus as a new hero while his faithful wife Penelope staves off suitors who are crowding their home and eating their wealth daily.
Although the poem is named after his father, Telemachus’ “arc” begins first as the reader learns about the situation on Ithaca around Odysseus’ home and the search he begins for information on his father’s whereabouts. Then we shift to Odysseus on a beach longing to return home when he is informed his long sojourn is about to end and he sets off on a raft and eventually arrives among the Phaeacians, who he relates the previous ten years of his life to before they take him back home. On Ithaca, Odysseus and his son eventually meet and begin planning their revenge on the Penelope’s suitors that results in slaughter and a long-awaited family reunion with Penelope.
First and foremost The Odyssey is about coming home, in both Telemachus’ and Odysseus’ arcs there are tales of successful homecomings, unsuccessful homecomings, and homecoming that never happen of heroes from The Iliad. Going hand-in-hand with homecomings is the wanderings of other heroes whose adventures are not as exciting or as long as Odysseus’. Interwoven throughout the poem with homecomings and wanderings is the relationship between guests and hosts along with the difference between good and bad for both that has long reaching consequences. And finally throughout Odysseus’ long journey there are tests everywhere of all types for him to overcome or fail, but the most important are Penelope’s both physical and intimate.
Even though it is a sequel, The Odyssey is in complete contrast to The Iliad as instead of epic battle this poem focuses on a hero overcoming everything even the gods to return home. Suddenly the poet who gave readers a first-hand account of war shows his readers the importance of returning from war from the perspective of warriors and their families. Although they are completely different, The Odyssey in fact compliments The Iliad as well as completing it which means if you read one you have to read the other.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Odyssey by Homer, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.
That's some pivot in reading material! :o) Hope you enjoy the Pratchett
>119 clamairy: Yeah and there is going to be more, strange pivots in the future ;)
>109 Darth-Heather: I read the original The Mystery of Edwin Drood and enjoyed it immensely. I also enjoyed a piece at the end of the book that described the history of people attempting to complete the work. As Dickens left no notes on the story I feel any completed version would be doomed to be unsatisfactory as I would still be left wondering how Dickens would have finished it.
>124 mattries37315: Metamorphoses is fun, and can be read as a collection of short stories. You'll recognize a large number of tropes that pop up time and again in fiction, appearing for the first time. I have to admit that I have had a soft spot for the book ever since my standard 8 (10th grade) Latin teacher gave me a copy of the first volume of the Loeb set as a "special Latin prize". Needless to say, you'll find the book on my LT catalogue to this day, fifty-some years later.
>124 mattries37315: I understand the need to shrink the TBR pile! I seem to be incapable of doing so myself, however.
>127 clamairy: ....yeah....that.... i think its more likely that I will get more shelves, than it is that I will reduce the pile.
>125 hfglen: Thanks for the information, you make me want to go out and buy it now...but it'll wait on my shelf for around 3 years.
>126 Sakerfalcon: >127 clamairy: >128 Darth-Heather: Yeah, I'm technically racking up more books myself, but I'm trying to fool myself saying these are books that I'll (eventually) read at home and not be my primary reading books. But for that to be possible, I have to actually read my "home" books which I'm not doing with Walt Whitman at the moment.
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
The Chalk is a place of sheep and shepherds but never a witch was known to be there, however that might have been incorrect. Terry Pratchett’s 30th Discworld novel, The Wee Free Men, is the second time he’s written for young adults but his writing and humor are top notch as well follow a nine-year witch Tiffany Aching going up against the Queen of Elves with only a horde of six-inch blue little men.
Tiffany Aching finds her family farm being invaded by monsters from dreams as well as a horde of little blue men, the titular Wee Free Men. Tiffany is very smart for her age and sees things as they are just like her grandmother, so when strange things pop up she uses an iron pan to beat them back. Although she later figures out that her grandmother was a witch, Tiffany has her first encounter with one in the form of Ms. Lick who tells her to be careful but not to tackle the problem on her own but when her brother is kidnapped by the Fairie Queen, Tiffany knows she’s going to need help while not sounding desperate. Tiffany’s help comes to her when the local clan of the Wee Free Men shows up looking for the new “hag ol’ the hills” because of the invasion of the Queen. Tiffany and the Wee Free Men invade ‘Fairyland’ and manage to return with her brother, a feat that Granny Weatherwax finds impressive for someone so young and untrained.
The Wee Free Men features Tiffany as the only point-of-view character, save from a narrator, which keeps the book fairly orderly when reading as well as being in line for a book for younger readers. The story itself is somewhat familiar for long time Discworld fans with the antagonist being the Queen of the Elves invading, but Pratchett changes things up with the use of dreams and the conflict as seen from a nine-year old. The cameo appearance of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at the end, sets up further adventures of Tiffany and connects her subseries with the Witches subseries with the hopes of seeing favorite characters in future books.
The second young adult and first Tiffany subseries book of the Discworld canon is a fantastic book; The Wee Free Men gives someone new for long time fans while introducing older characters for younger new readers. While it’s intended for a younger audience, older fans will appreciate Pratchett’s humorous fantasy writing with his twists and turns.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started rereading Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill.
Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill
In popular imagination the medieval period is a time of ignorance and superstition, fear and violence, and crushing religious intolerance of anything the Church was against. Mysteries of the Middle Ages is the fifth volume of Thomas Cahill’s ‘Hinges of History’ series, focusing on the individuals in the High Middle Ages who shaped Western society that we know today. Over the course of 300+ pages, Cahill sets out to give his reader a new way to look at the Middle Ages.
Cahill begins the book not during the Middle Ages, but in the city of Alexandria in Egypt looking at how the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions began their long processes of synthetization began before exploring how the Romans became the Italians as a way to differentiate between the Greek East and Latin West for the rest of the book. Then beginning with Hildegard of Bingen, Cahill makes the reader look at the Middle Ages in a vastly different way by showing the power and importance of 12th century Abbess who would one day be declared a saint then turned his attention to a woman of secular power, that of Eleanor of Aquitaine who held political power in a significant way while also allowing the developing “courts of love” evolve. This evolving form of culture spread into the Italian peninsula and influenced a young man from Assisi, Francis who would shift this emphasis of earthly love into spiritual love. The focus of the spiritual then shifted to Peter Abelard and St. Thomas Aquinas who became to emphasis the thoughts of Aristotle over those of Plato in theological discussions while Roger Bacon used Aristotle to begin examining the world around him and thus science that we see today. Yet the world around those during the High Middle Ages began to influence art and literature in both secular and spiritual ways from the Cathedral of Chartres to the works of Dante and Giotto would have influences even to today.
Although Cahill readily admits that he could have and wanted to discuss more individuals from a wider swath of Europe, he does an adequate job in showing that the Middle Ages were not what the popular view of the time period was believed to be. Cahill several times throughout the book emphasizes that the Middle Ages, especially from the 12th to the early 14th centuries, were not a time of stagnate culture that the humanists of the Renaissance began calling it. However, Cahill’s asides about Islamic culture as well as the Byzantines were for the most part a continuation of centuries-long mudslinging or a product of today’s ideological-religious conflicts and ironically undermined one of his best arguments, the role of Catholicism in shaping Western society. Cahill’s Catholicism was that of all the individuals he wrote about, who were Christians, not the Church and its hierarchy that over the course of the High Middle Ages became a point of embarrassment to both lay and cleric alike.
Mysteries of the Middle Ages shows the beginnings of the synthesis of the two strains of Western society, Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian, that Thomas Cahill has built up to in his previous four books. As a popular history it very well written, but its flaws of modern and centuries old prejudice undercut a central theme Cahill was developing and wrote about at the end of the book. Yet I cannot but call it a good book to read.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill.
Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill
One of the most pivotal periods of Western civilization occurred during the Renaissance and the Reformation, to culturally impactful events that overlapped one another across Europe. Heretics and Heroes is the sixth book in Thomas Cahill’s series “The Hinges of History” highlighting the artists and the priests that changed how Europe viewed creativity and worshipped God.
Cahill begins this volume talking about philosophical struggle over the ages between Plato and Aristotle, through it is the fourth time he has discussed this millennia-long debate during the series it allows Cahill to refer back to it in the text and gives the reader a basis to understand its importance during this era. Cahill continued setting up both the Renaissance and Reformation by highlighting moments during the Late Middle Ages, especially the effects of the Black Death, leading up to and allowed for these two important moments in Western history to occur. The ‘discovery’ of the New World by Columbus and rise of the humanists begin the look at the titular heretics and heroes that will dominate the book, using both events Cahill shows the changing trends in Europe just before both the Renaissance and Reformation completely change it. The Renaissance and it’s complete change of artistic creativity of the previous millennium is taken up first through the lives of Donatello, Leonardo, and Botticelli before focusing on its height and sudden stop as a result of the Counter-Reformation in the life of Michelangelo. Then, save for a brief look at the art of Northern Europe, Cahill turns to the Reformation of Luther and the Catholic Counter-Reformation with brief looks at the Reformed movements and the development of Anglicanism.
The entire book is packed with information in a very conversational style of writing which has always been one of the strengths of Cahill’s writing. As always with a popular history book, Cahill had to pick and choose what to focus the reader’s attention on while covering as much as possible about the subject he’s decided to write about. While Cahill is pretty successful at hitting the high points and pointing readers looking for information to the appropriate place to look, his personal opinions at times overwhelm the history and themes he’s trying to bring to fore. All history authors have their personal opinions influence their work; however Cahill’s armchair psychiatry and personal theological arguments that actually have nothing to do with the debate he’s writing about at that moment in the text. While Cahill’s personal opinions have been in all of the previous books of the series, this volume it seems to not be subtle but almost blatant.
Overall Heretics and Heroes is a fine addition to the “Hinges of History” series written in a very readable style by Cahill. However, unlike the previous books in which the reader was left with wanting more, the reader will be wishing less of Cahill’s opinion and more of actual facts. Yet even with this drawback and forewarning a reader will find this book very informative.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems.
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems
Edgar Allan Poe is best known for his dark and psychological poems and short stories that have had an influence not only American literature throughout the world not only in literature but television and film. Yet while a number of Poe’s work has stood the test of time and made a large impression, a lot more expose stereotypical tropes and themes that repeat so much that they lose impact to the reader.
Before I go through the problems I have with Poe, I’m going to spend a little time praising his better pieces. “The Raven” is obviously the best known of Poe’s poetry and arguably his best, even though you’ve might have read it or heard it read before just reading it again makes you appreciate it before. The three Auguste Dupin short stories, the precursors to the detective genre, are wonderful reads in which Poe’s deductive reason is used well in written form to create fascinating mysteries and solutions. Although I could go on, the last story I will mention is “The Cask of Amontillado” which is a fantastic revenge story in which the narrator has no qualms with it afterwards.
Unfortunately this unrepentant narrator in “Amontillado” is unfortunately the exception to Poe’s trope of the narrator going crazy with guilt and admitting his crime which is featured in many stories Poe wrote. Along with a young woman always dying and premature burials, Poe’s writing is fraught with these tropes that after a while exhaust the reader with the almost predictable way a trope takes over a particular story to end with the same way. While these trope takeovers are discouraging, the tendency of Poe to begin a short story with a philosophical discourse only for the narrator to suddenly go off on a tangent (usually on a murder he committed) that had nothing to do with the discourse at the beginning. Frankly these literary quirks, or crutches, that Poe used throughout numerous compositions get tiresome while reading the entirety of Poe’s work and make one question his supposed literary greatness.
If you a true Poe fan, this complete collection of his tales and poems are for you. However, if you are someone who wants the best of Poe then avoid this complete collection and find a smaller collection that gives his best.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Spy Schools by Daniel Golden.
How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities by Daniel Golden
The openness of American colleges and universities for thought and research is seen by academics as the keystone to higher education. However Daniel Golden writes in Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities this is seen as opportunities to recruit agents and cultivate operatives as well steal technological innovations both by our own intelligence agencies and those across the globe.
Golden divided his book into foreign and domestic intelligence agencies exploitation of American universities. The first focused how foreign agencies, mainly the Chinese, have been exploiting American universities need of prestige and tuition money to gain partnerships between Chinese universities and their American counterparts resulting in an exchange of students and professors. Yet the most important focus of Golden’s investigation was on how the openness and collaboration within American university labs opens up opportunities for individuals to funnel research, including those paid by the U.S. government and American companies, to their home country to be exploit by their own government or to patient and start up a business. The second half was on the complicated relationship between American intelligence agencies and universities, some of who encourage a relationship and those that do not. The aspect of conflict between secrecy and openness is seen throughout the latter half of the book with 9/11 playing a pivotal role in each side’s views. Unlike the first half of the book, this section is seen over the course of 60 years compared to more near 2000 but in a way to show that past is prologue.
As an investigative journalist, Golden uses extensive research and a multitude of interviews in giving a full history and the scale of a front in the global spy game that many in the United States haven’t been aware of. Unfortunately for Golden the timing of this book while on the one hand current and on the other potentially dated. Nearly all his interviews take place no later than 2015, but since the election of Donald Trump with a seemingly nativist groundswell behind him and student demonstrations against conservative speakers might have begun a fundamental shift that could drastically change how both American and foreign intelligence services are seen on American universities especially as a post-9/11 “tolerance” on campus changes to hostility.
Even though the subject Daniel Golden has written about could be in the midst of a sudden sea change, Spy Schools is still a book to read in at least to understand an important part of the global spy game. Although no up-to-date, the recent and long-term history is significant for anyone who is concerned about national security and foreign intervention in American affairs.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Spy Schools by Daniel Golden, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett.
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Polly Perks cuts her hair and leaves home to join her nation’s army to find her brother and bring him home; however her act of defiance against her country’s social norms turns out to have consequences geopolitically. Monstrous Regiment, the 31st book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the third of the Industrial subseries in which the vast majority of the book comes from Polly’s point-of-view in which gender, religious, and military issues play a big role in the narrative.
The nation of Borogravia is always at war in one neighbor or another, their god Nuggan is dead because they believe his Abominations more than him, and their ruler The Duchess is probably dead after not being seen for decades but is slowly becoming defied in replace of Nuggan. All of these things conspire to make Polly go to find her brother Paul in the Kneck valley and bring him home so that she doesn’t lose the family inn. After signing up, she and the rest of the new recruits become the new “lads” of legendary soldier Sergeant Jackrum but on the way to the front Polly finds that all the other recruits are also women having joined for their own reasons. Throughout the book, the regiment starts impacting the war on an international scale as the Anhk-Morpork Times details the adventures of the troop making them underdogs back home even as they oppose the alliance that Anhk-Morpork is a part of.
Although the geopolitical aspects of her regiments actions comes as a surprise to Polly, most of her concerns throughout the entire book is understanding a “woman’s role in a man’s world”, the insane religion they’re dealing with, and finally military culture between commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Pratchett’s use of real world issues into his fantasy world might annoy some readers but I thought it was handled well especially in his dry satirical style. The only really big irritation was that after a while the surprise of another woman-as-a-man in uniform lost its impact because you could basically guess who was going to be eventually revealed to be a woman, so it became less important and just Pratchett check off another reveal.
Monstrous Regiment deals with a lot of real world issues in a dry satirical style that Pratchett is famous for. Although the book’s long running gag of revealing women-as-men in uniform gets old and easy to predict as the book goes along, it doesn’t take away from the overall good quality of the book. If you’re a Discworld fan you’ll like this book but if you’re new to the series try another book first.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin
How did civilization begin seemingly out of nowhere? And how did humanity evolve so fast in comparison to what had happened before? These are the questions that Zecharia Sitchin set to answer in his book, The 12th Planet, in which he purports that he found said answers in cuneiform text dating from time of Sumerians over 5000 years ago.
Sitchin begins by going over the spurts of cultural development that lead to the beginning of Sumerian civilization and how modern man appeared so soon in terms of evolution to even develop the civilization that we are a part of. Sitchin then describes all the firsts that Sumer did in, many of them were not continuous since then through to our day, and then asked where the Sumerians learned this knowledge to he responded that the Sumerians learned it from the gods. Using the Sumerian Creation myth, Enuma Elis, Sitchin details the beginnings of the solar system including how a rogue planetoid entered the developing solar system and began circling the sun in a 3,600 year long orbit. This planet, named Nibiru, created havoc in the early solar system resulting in the asteroid belt and Earth, seeded with the building blocks of life from this planet. Eventually humanlike beings eventually developed technology to explore the solar system and find Earth habitable and with resources they needed. These beings, the Annunaki or Nephilim, began travelling to Earth and mining for resources but bringing with them their own politics and grudges that eventually led to the “creation” of modern humans then the Deluge in an effort to destroy them. But in the aftermath were thankful that some survived so they could help them rebuild their operations.
Sitchin’s work was one of a number “ancient astronaut” books throughout 1970s and his influence within the community is immeasurable still almost a decade after his death. Yet, this book is rife with many scientific errors related to astrophysics, celestial mechanics, cosmology, and plate tectonics to name a few and is out-of-date in human evolutionary thought. While those are big drawbacks, Sitchin’s focus on Sumerian & Akkadian cuneiform on the reported Annunaki influence on early Earth and human history is very interesting and thought-provoking even if you disbelieve it. This focus on Sumerian myth, or record of history, is the most important part of the book as well as it’s relation to other mythological traditions along with the Bible.
While many might discount this book because of the incorrect scientific propositions put forward and disagree with the “ancient astronaut” theory. The best argument for reading Zecharia Sitchin’s The 12th Planet is the focus on Sumerian history and myth, which is one of the oldest and little known compared to many other cultures. Agree or disagree with Sitchin, this book is just one you have to say that you’ve read.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Christianity (American Heritage Library) by Roland H. Bainton.
Christianity by Roland H. Bainton
The history of Christianity spans over 2000 years, across three then five continents, and numerous individuals doing their best to follow the example of Jesus. Roland H. Bainton’s Christianity is a survey of the history, theology developments, and impact of the faith has had on society over the length of its existence since the ministry of Christ on earth.
Beginning with the various cultural backgrounds that influenced the life of Jesus and the society he lived and teach in, Bainton writes an easily read survey of Christianity. Everything from the Apostolic Age through the persecution by the Roman Empire then its long progression of conversation through the Western Empire’s fall is covered very well. However with Rome’s fall, the book’s focus begins to be firmly placed in Western Europe—later to expand to the Americas—with all the culture, historical, political, and theological developments that are well-known to anyone with a general knowledge of the history of Western civilization. Given the book is less than 400 pages in length, Bainton’s having to choose the best way to get through the history of Christianity meant having to neglect the developments of East Orthodox, Oriental, and Coptic Christianity in favor to everything connected to Western Christianity.
Though not all facets are covered, Roland H. Bainton’s Christianity is a well-written survey that covers the basics of everything related to Western Christianity. For anyone looking for general information of Christianity, I recommend this book to you.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Christianity (American Heritage Library) by Roland H. Bainton, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela.
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Anyone who has learned anything about the Mexican Revolution knows that it was a complicated era in that nation’s history that just seemed to continue without end. The Underdogs was the first novel about the conflict even as it continued to grind on and written by a former participant Mariano Azuela.
The majority of the narrative follows Demetrio Macias, who finds himself on the bad side of the local chief and is burned out of his home before feeling to the mountains. Gathering his friends, Macias begins battling the Federales becoming a local then regional military leader. Joining with a growing Villista army around Zacatecas, Macias and his men achieve a remarkable feat during the battle that leads to victory and a promotion of Macias to general. The main reason Macias journeys to Zacatecas is an idealistic Federales deserter, Luis Cervantes, who conveniences the leader to join the growing Villista force. But after the battle, both men become disillusioned with the overall Revolution leading to simply leaving—Cervantes—for the United States or just keep fighting until the odds become too much—Macias.
This relatively short, well-written, yet seemingly disjointed narrative is considered the greatest novel of the Mexican Revolution because of this final aspect. Although this was Azuela’s first novel, it reads very well—in translation—and gives someone not interested in history a little knowledge about the defining moment in Mexican history if only in a brief glimpse.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
The young witch of the Chalk downlands goes begins her apprenticeship not knowing that she’s being stalked by a long-lived lifeform that likes taking over “hosts”. A Hat Full of Sky is the 32nd book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the second following Tiffany Aching and her friends the Wee Free Men.
A year and a half after Tiffany Aching took on the Fairie Queen with only an iron skillet; she’s finally going to learn proper witchcraft as an apprentice to Mistress Level, who apparently has two bodies. However that is the only thing extraordinary about Tiffany’s experience with Miss Level because instead of magic, she’s just doing chores and learning practical knowledge. Yet unknowingly Tiffany is doing magic as she has immense power in “borrowing” just like Granny Weatherwax, but unlike the area’s most renowned witch Tiffany doesn’t know how to defend herself from those wanting to borrow her. While Tiffany doesn’t realize the danger she’s in, the Chalk Clan of the Nac Mac Feegles keep an eye on their “wee big hag” and know what’s stalking her and go racing to the rescue with hilarious results. But in the end it’ll have to be Tiffany who gets her body back from this immortal foe.
The second book of featuring Tiffany and Feegles goes right into the story quickly while also giving information about both early on without taking away from the narrative or unnecessary exposition. One doesn’t need to have read The Wee Free Men to learn information about the Feegle’s culture as Pratchett also included a nice little “article” about them before the story begins, mainly to allay fears from parents that the Feegles are cussing in a children’s book. Frankly the only negative from the point of view of an adult is that one could see the major plot points coming, it was just how Pratchett would make them entertaining—which he certainly did.
While A Hat Full of Sky is a young adult book, Terry Pratchett’s satirical and narrative writing makes it a great addition to the overall Discworld series. Both new readers and longtime fans will have a good time reading Tiffany learning about being a witch.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started rereading Op-Center by Jeff Rovin.
Op-Center by Jeff Rovin
A terrorist attack in Seoul raises tensions on Korean peninsula with war looking likely, but a new federal crisis management team is task to figure out who and why before things escalate too far. Op-Center through bearing the name of Tom Clancy, who along with Steve Pieczenik created the story, was ghostwritten by Jeff Rovin about a government agency tasked with handling both domestic and international crisis.
Renegade South Korean soldiers attack an official celebration of the founding of the country implicating the North Koreans. Op-Center director Paul Hood suddenly finds himself appointed head of Task Force by a President looking for a big foreign affairs accomplishment; however evidence and a cyberattack complicate Hood giving the President a clear go ahead to launch a war. On the peninsula, a former Ambassador to the country and his friend in the KCIA take their own individual routes to lessen the growing tensions between the two sides. But the renegade squad is racing towards their next attacks—the North Korean barracks at the DMZ and Tokyo—and the only thing that can stop them is Op-Center’s paramilitary response team, Striker with Hood’s deputy General Mike Rodger along for the action.
Set roughly around the time of book’s publication a little over 20 years ago, the plot reads almost like alternate history today but still holds up fairly well. While the primary plot is very good, the subplots connected with different characters were more of a problem. Hood is torn between crisis in Korea and with this son’s health that makes him look sympathetic while his wife appears too needy given that she knew something like this could happen, Rodgers appears to be in a mid-life crisis wanting to get back to his glory days instead of being at his post, and many of the female Op-Center personal are painted broadly with a brush in various stereotypes that back when I first read the book as a teenager didn’t pop out at me but certainly did now.
While the characterization of many of the principal characters is bland, the plot and the action are very well written making this a quick and fun read for the most part. While at the time Rovin wasn’t given his due as the book’s author, he did a good job in setting up a series that would eventually reach 12. While Op-Center is not the greatest book within the action and thriller genres but those that like those genres will find it a good read.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Op-Center by Jeff Rovin, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading The Republic by Plato.
Republic by Plato
The writings of Plato have been one of the cornerstones of Western thought for two and a half millennia used for both secular and religious purposes, sometimes not as he intended. Republic is one, if not the, most famous piece of Plato’s philosophical/political writings and the translation by Robin Waterfield for Oxford World’s Classics adds to the debate that surrounds it.
During a thorough 60+ page introduction to Plato’s text, Waterfield most significant translation is “morality” instead of “justice” for the Greek word dikaiosune because of the definition provided by Aristotle of the word. With this word decision and with her discussion of Plato’s complete disregard to politics, Republic turns from a work of political theory into one of philosophy concerned about the improvement of an individual’s life and not that of a Greek polis. Using the cultural terms and norms of his time, Plato sets out to express his belief that individuals can improve and better themselves outside the communal structure of Greek life. This was a radical notion given that individualism—especially as we know it today—was not a part of respectable Greek political life, the individual’s life was bound up in the community and if they went off on their own it was dangerous to the civic order and with the relationship with the gods (the charge against Socrates).
While Plato’s overall thesis is thought-provoking, some of his supporting arguments via mathematics and his lack of details about how to improve one’s morality and thus goodness are detriments to Republic’s overall quality. Although later individuals, in particular early Christian fathers, would supplement Plato with their own supporting evidence for those in the 21st Century these elements can be stumbling blocks. Even though Waterfield’s translation provided to be very readable and her notes beyond satisfactory, the constant flipping to the back of the book to read them and provide myself with the context to what she was saying while at the particular place in the text was somewhat unhelpful but footnotes at the bottom of the pages might have been worse.
Republic is one of the most significant pieces of Western literature and whether you approve of Waterfield’s translation or not, it is a very good was to look at a piece of text long-thought to mean one thing and see it as something completely different.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Republic by Plato, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Gilgamesh and expect the review for it tomorrow.
The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell
Almost 4800 years after his reign in the city of Uruk, Gilgamesh is still remembered not only in his native land but now around the world even though his native language is long forgotten. In Stephen Mitchell’s English verse translation of Gilgamesh, the story of the demigod’s calming friendship with Enkidu and his quest to avoid his mortality.
The tale of Gilgamesh is not just about the king of Uruk, it is the tale of Enkidu and his civilizing by Shamhat, the friendship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh as well as their adventures, and finally the death of Enkidu that sends Gilgamesh in his vain search to stop death by asking the one man whom the gods made immortal. Yet while several aspects of Gilgamesh are similar to later tales of Greek and Germanic origin, there are clear differences as well especially when it comes to Gilgamesh expressing his fear in the face of very dangers and ends with accepting his own mortality in the end.
Unfortunately, the story of Gilgamesh that we have is not as complete as it was 4000 years ago. Several sections are fragmentary which Mitchell had to work around to make the book read well and keeping true to the narrative; in this he did a wonderful job. Yet, in a book that has around 300 pages only 123 covers the epic itself which while not dishonest is surprising about how short the tale is and how much analysis Mitchell provides the reader before and notes after.
Gilgamesh: A New English Version is a fantastic book both in the tale of the heroic demigod king and the translation done by Stephen Mitchell.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started reading Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
Also expect another book review post on a home read.
>142 mattries37315: I've been curious to read Plato's Republic since reading Jo Walton's novel The just city, a fantasy in which Athena and Apollo set out to create a society based absolutely on the principles laid down in Republic. If you haven't read that you might find it interesting. Your review is encouraging me to try reading Plato (though Walton recommends not starting with Republic but with something easier - would you agree?)
>146 Sakerfalcon: I saw The Just City and Walton's sequels to it being written about on Tor.com, they've somewhat intrigued me and it'll be on the TBR list some time in my life. I honestly Republic was my first work by Plato; but in addition to Waterfield's 60+ page introduction I learned about the Plato's thought process and various Ancient Greek cultural information via Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, three books by Thomas Cahill, and etc. So I already had some background knowledge preparation for Plato before starting, but if you don't have the same I would say suggest following Walton's advice and read some of his shorter works to get a sense of his writing style (though how the translator/editor arranges the book could impact this) and though process.
500 Years of Protest and Liberty by Nicholas P. Miller
The upcoming 500th celebration of the Protestant Reformation has spawned numerous books focusing on the impact of the movement on particular facet of history. 500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights by Nicholas P. Miller is one of these books in which the author’s articles for Liberty are reproduced in an anthology to chronicle a link between Luther to MLK Jr.
The book is divided into four sections surrounding a central theme each reproduced article in that particular section can be related to. The section introductions and the articles are all well written and fascinating reads especially for those interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues. However in relation to the subtitle of the book, I found the overall flow of the book did not link Luther to MLK Jr. The first and fourth sections definitely link Luther and to the present-day, but the third seemed to be just its own thing though very informative while the second is somewhere in-between.
So while the focus of showing a progression from Luther to MLK Jr., it thought it faltered enough to impact my overall rating, I still recommend this book to anyone interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of 500 Years of Protest and Liberty by Nicholas P. Miller, feel free to comment here or there.
This was a Friday/Saturday "tame" read that I only opened at home.
>149 Sakerfalcon: You're welcome and hope you good reading.
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Ankh-Morpork’s primary communication system has become inefficient and is losing money, so Lord Vetinari decides to reopen the Post Office. The 33rd book in Terry Pratchett Discworld series, Going Postal introduces a new ‘main’ character Moist von Lipwig who would have rather not be involved but once he was couldn’t get enough of his new profession.
Moist begins his first book by dying—or rather one of his con-artist aliases does—and is given a job offer by Lord Vetinari to run the Ankh-Morpork’s long defunct Post Office. Moist accepts then runs away only to be recaptured by his parole officer, a golem named Mr. Pump, who joins him as part of the Post Office staff with a long time employee and a young pin collector who has “issues” who live in the Post Office building amongst the millions of undelivered letters pile around the building. As Moist figures out how to slowly begin operating the Post Office, he finds himself at odds with the Chairman of the Grand Trunk Company who Moist recognizes as a conman in his own right. Through the staffing of volunteer pensioners and the hiring of other golems, Moist starts getting the mail moving and becomes a target on a hit list but avoids death. Now in a fierce competition, Moist outduels his opponents and as Vetinari’s masterplan to solve the continuing breakdown of the Clack system which the city and many other’s rely on.
While the overall plot and many of the characters are entertaining, there was something missing when it came to the satire and overall humor of the book. While “deregulation” of the economy and “finance” seemed to be a part of it, there was possibly an undertone of against a particular philosophy as well. Yet even without a seemingly overarching satirical theme the book wouldn’t have felt different if Pratchett hadn’t attempted to through in so much early 21st century parallels or shadowed references in addition to everything else going on. The humor and satire were there, but it just didn’t seem really laugh-out-loud funny with a few exceptions.
While Going Postal is not only of Pratchett’s best work, it is still an entertaining installment in the Discworld series that finds one looking forward to seeing what Lord Vetinari might have up his sleeve for his government employed con artist.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
I've started rereading The Stairway to Heaven by Zecharia Sitchin.
Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte & Dacia Palmerino
The life of Martin Luther, the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, has been written about for centuries yet now it can not only be written about but visualized as well. Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino is exactly what its title says about the man who sparked a change in history.
Depicting the life of Luther from his childhood to his death, the biography focuses on his time as a monk led up to and through his break with Rome. At 153 pages there is only so much that can be covered and only so much context as well through sometimes the visual aspect of the graphic novel does come in handy. While the short length of the book obviously foreshadowed only the barest minimum that could be covered on his life, yet the graphic novel aspect seemed to offer a way to enhance the chronicling of Luther’s life. Unfortunately the artwork looks like screen caps of a video game with so-so graphics with only a few great pages of art, usually at the beginning of each chapter.
The overall quality of the biographical and artwork content of Renegade is a mixed bag of a passable chronicle on Luther’s life and so-so artwork. While some younger readers than myself might find it a very good read and hopefully make them want to know more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, I found it a tad underwhelming.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte & Dacia Palmerino, feel free to comment here or there.
This was a Friday/Saturday "tame" read.
William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher
The galaxy is on the brink of war as old and new heroes race to find the last Jedi against vile agents of the imperial First Order in William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher. The first film of the sequel trilogy returns us the Star Wars galaxy 30 years after the fall of the Empire as its successor strikes reclaim the galaxy while attempting to destroy those that could stop it but instead of screen or adaptation is translated wonderfully into fantastic Elizabethan prose by Doescher just like Shakespeare might have done.
Though the search for the lost Luke Skywalker is the focus and driving motivation of the entire book, the struggle for one’s own identity is the central theme. Doescher’s fantastic soliloquies by Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren give depth to these new leading characters as they join long established characters of Han and Leia. One of the best surprises of the book is Chewbacca as Doescher “corrects” one of his oversights by “translating” the Wookie’s screams in the footnotes, which given the events during the battle of Starkiller Base is very poignant. The duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren is very well-written with good balance of Chorus lines and character soliloquies that brings about a very complete and compelling scene. And additional nice touches were the humorous lines of the Rathtars and great use of using the small amount of dialog for Snoke to great use.
The Force Doth Awaken is a return by Doescher and all Star Wars fans to what made the franchise fun, but unlike some Doescher embraced the very homage to the first film and used the similarities to great effect in this book. As Doescher like every other Star Wars fan must await the next film, those that love his work will be eagerly awaiting each William Shakespeare adaptation from him.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher, feel free to comment here or there.
The Stairway to Heaven by Zecharia Sitchin
The quest for immortality has a place in the myths and legends in nearly all the cultures of the world, is this a natural human longing or is it the result of the “gods” living among men for millennia? Zecharia Sitchin looks to answer the question through Sumerian, Egyptian, Biblical, and extra-Biblical texts and Middle Eastern stories and legends from Gilgamesh to Alexander the Great in his book The Stairway to Heaven.
The search for Paradise where the Tree of Life—or the Fountain of Youth or any other means to bring eternal youth or life—across cultures begins Sitchin’s second book in his Earth Chronicles series. Then he turns to those who claimed immortal ancestors which lead to recounting the tale of Gilgamesh and the afterlife journey of the Pharaohs to their ancestor Ra. All this builds to why all these tales are similar in their descriptions of locations to find the place where immortality can be found, the answer Sitchin proposes is the post-Deluge location for the Annunaki spaceport on the central plain of the Sinai Peninsula. In setting out his theory, Sitchin details the monumental architecture around Egypt and the Levant that not even modern equipment can create and how archaeologists have misidentified through mistakes, or maybe outright fraud, on who built them amongst ancient human cultures when in fact they were built by the astronauts from Nibiru for their rocketships.
Following the post-Deluge founding of civilization at the end of The 12th Planet, Sitchin focused on how the Annunaki rebuilt their spacefaring abilities after the destruction of their Mission Control and Spaceport in Mesopotamia. To do this he highlights the near universal search for immortality by humans and how it alluded to the new Spaceport in the Sinai that lead to the “realm of the Gods”. Yet in doing this Sitchin reiterated the same thing over and over again for a good third of the book, bogging down the overall text and could have been condensed down but would have made this 308 page book much shorter. But Sitchin’s argument that the mathematical relationship between numerous ancient cities, monumental architecture, and high mountains across the Middle East as well as stretching towards Delphi in Greece towards the end is the most intriguing for any reader, even if you are skeptical on Sitchin’s theories.
The Stairway to Heaven is not as well written as its precursor or its successor—if my memory is correct—as Sitchin needed a transition book and needed to fill it out. While not as “good” as The 12th Planet, this book gives the reader information important in following up the previous book and “setting” the stage for The Wars of Gods and Men.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Stairway to Heaven by Zecharia Sitchin, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading The Division of Christendom by Hans J. Hillerbrand.
Blood Stain Volume Three by Linda Sejic
Beginning on Elly Torres’ second day on her new job after her long first day in Volume Two, she doesn’t know what to expect next or in fact what she’s actually supposed to do. Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain Volume Three completes the first book of Sejic’s webcomic as Elly, Vlad, and Serge have to decide if they can get along with one another or not.
Waking up late in the morning, Elly nervously hopes that Vlad has not been waiting on her only the reader to find out that Vlad himself has overslept. As Vlad desperately attempts to get ready for the class he’s teaching, his demeanor and instructions to Elly just confuse her. So interpreting her duties as best she can, Elly thoroughly cleans his lab while Vlad embarrassingly falls asleep in the middle of his class. Upon returning an upset Vlad can’t believe the pristine condition and angrily tells Elly she overstepped her duties. While Elly wonders about her future, especially as her family’s situation isn’t improving, Serge argues with Vlad about his behavior over the years and later Vlad realizes how much better the lab is organized.
Unlike the first two volumes, the description of what occurs in this particular volume is straightforward as some sort of resolution has to be made about Elly’s character. In addition, the working relationship between Vlad and Serge comes to fore as it impacts Elly and is used by Sejic to give both characters more development. Given that this chapter ends the first Book, or story arc, of Blood Stain the final panel is somewhat predicable but only if you’ve read the first two books but it’s a rewarding final panel because of the journey we’ve seen Elly go on.
As a longtime fan of Sejic’s webcomic, it was a pleasure to have on paper the story I’ve enjoyed online. While Blood Stain Volume Three might be an ending, but it’s just the beginning of the story that is finished and there is more interesting that will be happening with Elly, Vlad, and Serge to come. So if you haven’t read either of the first two volumes, then I encourage you to check them out.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Blood Stain Volume 3 by Linda Sejic, feel free to comment here or there.
The Division of Christendom by Hans J. Hillerbrand
Christendom, the social-political-religious definition of Europe for nearly millennium was shaken at the right moment and the right place to rend it asunder for all time. In Hans J. Hillerbrand’s revision of his own work, The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century, the Reformation started by Martin Luther in Germany is seen first and foremost as a religious dispute that was not inevitable but due to political and societal factors as able to evolve until it became irreversible.
Hillerbrand began by setting the stage upon which Luther would burst onto the scene focusing not only on the condition of the Church, but also the political situation in Germany. Then Hillerbrand goes into what he calls “the first phase” of the Reformation in which Luther was the primary focus from 1517 to 1521, then after Luther’s stand at Worms the focus of the Reformation changes from a primarily religious controversy into one that politics begins to dominate in Germany. Yet, Hillerbrand doesn’t stop with Luther and Germany, as he begins describing the reactions to the German events in other territories before they lead to their own Reformation events. The Catholic Church’s response to the spread of Protestantism across Europe, the different forms of Protestantism besides Lutheranism, and the theological debates between all of them were all covered. And at the end of the book Hillerbrand compared the beginning of the 16th-century to the end and how each was different and the same after over 80 years of debate.
While Hillerbrand’s survey of the Reformation is intended for both general audiences and scholars, which he successes in doing, the epilogue of the book is what I believe is the best part of the text. Entitled “Historiography”, Hillerbrand discusses the various ways the Reformation has been covered by historians over the past 500 years and the trends in history as well. But in reviewing his own text, Hillerbrand emphasized the religious aspect that sparked as well as influenced the Reformation and the importance of the events in Germany which determined not only Luther’s but the Reformation’s fate in Europe. By ending the book on this note, Hillerbrand gives his readers much to think about on either to agree or disagree with his conclusion which is one of the many reasons to study history.
The Division of Christendom is a relatively, for 500 pages, compact survey of 16th-century Europe in which things both changed dramatically and yet stayed the same during a transformative time in Western history. As one of the foremost historians of the Reformation, Hans J. Hillerbrand knows this period of history as no one else and just adds to my recommendation to read this book for those interested in the Reformation.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Division of Christendom by Hans J. Hillerbrand, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire.
Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M.N. Eire
Half a millennium after a lone monk began a theological dispute that eventually tore Western Christendom asunder both religiously and politically, does the event known as the Reformation still matter? In his book Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650, Carlos M.N. Eire determined to examine the entire period leading up to and through the epoch of the Reformation. An all-encompassing study for beginners and experts looks to answer that question.
Eire divided his large tome into four parts: On the Edge, Protestants, Catholics, and Consequences. This division helps gives the book both focusing allowing the reader to see the big picture at the same time. The 50-60 years covered in “On the Edge” has Eire go over the strands of theological, political, and culture thoughts and developments that led to Luther’s 95 theses. “Protestants” goes over the Martin Luther’s life then his theological challenge to the Church and then the various versions of Protestantism as well as the political changes that were the result. “Catholics” focused on the Roman Church’s response to the theological challenges laid down by Protestants and how the answers made at the Council of Trent laid the foundations of the modern Catholicism that lasted until the early 1960s. “Consequences” focused on the clashes between the dual Christian theologies in religious, political, and military spheres and how this clash created a divide that other ideas began to challenge Christianity in European thought.
Over the course of almost 760 out of the 920 pages, Eire covers two centuries worth of history in a variety of ways to give the reader a whole picture of this period of history. The final approximately 160 pages are of footnotes, bibliography, and index is for more scholarly readers while not overwhelming beginner readers. This decision along with the division of the text was meant mostly for casual history readers who overcome the prospect of such a huge, heavy book.
Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 sees Europe’s culture change from its millennium-long medieval identity drastically over the course of two centuries even as Europe starts to affect the rest of the globe. Carlos N.M. Eire authors a magnificently written book that gives anyone who wonders if the Reformation still matters, a very good answer of if they ask the question then yes it still does. So if you’re interested to know why the Reformation matters, this is the book for you.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.
Just as an fyi, the first link isn't formatted properly and doesn't go anywhere.
They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims by Jay Milbrandt
One of the enduring founding myths of the United States is the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, and like all myths it was based on true events that were warped as time passed. They Came for Freedom by Jay Milbrandt explores how and why the Pilgrims came to the shores of Cape Cod as well on how they survived when other settlements failed.
The arrest and trial of one Henry Barrow, who defied the Anglican Church’s version of Christianity and maybe the authority of Queen Elizabeth by his dissent, the story of the Separatists who would eventually become the Pilgrims begins. Milbrandt followed the Pilgrims narrative through London, a small village in Nottinghamshire, to the Netherlands, and then across the Atlantic to Cape Cod. But alternating with that of the Pilgrims was the biography of Squanto, whose own life and adventures before the landing of the Mayflower led to him being a pivotal individual for the success of New Plymouth. Once the Pilgrims had landed, Milbrandt merged the two narratives together in a very readable detailed history that went up until the fall of 1623. Although Milbrandt continued his history until 1646, the last 20 years was just a glimpse of tidbits of historical importance.
At around 225 pages of text, Milbrandt’s efforts are particularly good considering that his primary sources were few and even those were slanted to give the colony of Plymouth a good impression. Although several historical inaccuracies did appear, they were mostly naming conventions and not detrimental to the overall book.
While short, They Came for Freedom is a good general history that gives the reader a sense of the real events that later became mythologized in American culture and folklore. Overall it’s a nice, readable book about a topic most American know little able.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims by Jay Milbrandt, feel free to comment here or there.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The world of Roshar thought it had survived its great cataclysm four millennia ago, but days are slowly counting down for when the next Desolation begins. Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series’ second installment, Words of Radiance, brings numerous characters together in the middle of the Shattered Plains as Roshar faces the beginning of the apocalypse as well the rebirth of it’s great heroic warriors that fought to save life.
Although the four main characters are once again front and center, but unlike the previous The Way of Kings it is Shallan Davar who dominates the majority of the book’s narrative either through her own point-of-view, flashbacks, or through the eyes of other major characters. Shallan and Jasnah are headed to the Shattered Plains by ship when it is attacked, Jasnah murdered, and Shallan dissolves the ship to save the crew and herself using her recently discovered Radiant abilities. Shallan continues to learn her new abilities as she travels through the Frostlands towards the Shattered Plain meeting several interesting people including Kaladin and the ringleader of Jasnah’s killers then takes her place as the agent of the group that killed her to learn what they know of the things Jasnah has been studying. Once at the warcamps, Shallan juggles multiple balls that eventually leads her out into the Plains at a critical moment to save the Atheli army.
Kaladin, Dalinar, and Adolin take up the vast majority of the rest of the book, essentially interacting a lot with one another or with Shallan once she gets to the camps. Kaladin’s is the major secondary arc of the book as he transforms the bridge crews into a guard force to protect Dalinar and his family while also continuing to deal with his issues with lighteyes and the responsibilities of his Radiant powers. Using his new position as Highprince of War, Dalinar along with Adolin attempt to combat the political intrigue of Sadeas and attempt to end the war either through peace or crushing the Parshendi in battle. Interlaced throughout the book are interludes that were dominated by the Parshendi general Eshonai and the Assasin in White, Szeth, whose own arcs help give an epic feel to the overall story while adding to the book’s main narrative flow.
While the length of The Way of Kings and the repetitive descriptions during scenes were my main complaint, Sanderson’s Words of Radiance were and wasn’t the same. The length of the second book is something to give pause (1300+ pages), the repetitive descriptions during the same scenes were cut out and narrative replaced it. Honestly, with more narrative then descriptions the length of the book becomes less noticeable especially once you’re a quarter of the way through the book but it’s always in the back of your mind.
Overall Words of Radiance is a very good book, building upon and improving over its predecessor and setting up anticipating for the read to see where Brandon Sanderson is going to take this series next.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be rereading The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
>162 Sakerfalcon: I'm glad to hear that too, as it is in my TBR pile :D Way of Kings took me about 200 pages to really get into, so I'm looking forward to continuing with the series now that I've invested so much brain space into this world.
I did get tired of the moving-bridges-around scenes though.
>162 Sakerfalcon: Yeah, with characters and the world already established Sanderson just started right off. The only thing that personally slowed me down was remembering all the cultural quirks like safe hand and free hand, etc. but after I re-familiarized myself things went smoothly.
>163 MrsLee: The Daughter of Time was the required reads for my History of England class back in 2003, I enjoyed it back then and I'm enjoying it again right now.
>164 Darth-Heather: The moving-bridges-around scenes were one of my main complaints about WoK because it felt like Sanderson was just filling space by describing the same thing over and over again specially when nothing different happened on runs.
There was nothing really like that in WoR at least to the magnitude of bridge-moving.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
A Scotland Yard detective is recovering in hospital with a broken leg and needs his mind distracted, what eventually gets him moving is the quandary on why the portrait of the reprehensible Richard III looked so different from the constructed popular history. In her 1950 Alan Grant mystery, The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey has her veteran detective investigate the mystery of the Princes of the Tower and if Richard instigated their deaths.
In a brief summary of the plot, a recovering and bedbound Alan Grant is battling boredom when his friend Marta Holland suggests he research a historical mystery. Knowing his love of reading faces, she sends him portraits of various individuals and he becomes intrigued with one of Richard III. Through the help of friends, acquaintances, and young American researcher Brent Carradine, Alan gathers information and tests out theories. After weeks of work and logical thinking, Alan comes to the conclusion that Richard did not murder his nephews and his bad reputation the result of Tudor propaganda.
Coming in at a brisk 206 pages, Tey’s novel is a quick paced mystery that doesn’t get bogged down in details that many non-history geared readers might feel intimidated with. However, for those seasoned history readers there are some problems with the book that come to the fore. Tey’s arguments in support of Richard and her theory (though Alan) that Henry VII murdered the Princes are not rock solid especially as pointed out by other authors like Alison Weir though in other areas Tey bests Weir even with a 40+ year difference between their publications and new primary sources that Tey didn’t have. There are other little mistakes, like calling the Buckingham conspiracy the Dorset-Morton plot, or completely ignoring the before mentioned Buckingham has a plausible suspect (though Paul Murray Kendall would do that a few years later).
Overall The Daughter of Time is a quick, enjoyable read that will either make you think about things more critically or simply think of it as a nice plot device.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Thud! by Terry Pratchett.
Romans: Salvation for "All" by George R. Knight
This was my Friday/Saturday "tame" read Romans: Salvation for "All' by George R. Knight. 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.
Thud! by Terry Pratchett
Whenever long bloody feud between dwarfs and trolls heats up the cry, “Koom Valley”, springs up just before both sides decide to fight the next one but now it looks like it’s in Ankh-Morpork but not on Sam Vimes watch. Thud! is the 34th installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and seventh in the “Watch” subseries focusing Sam Vimes pursuing culprits across the Ankh-Morpork and beyond to bring them to justice, no matter the species.
A dwarf demagogue is killed and a troll is the only witness, all of this as the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is approaching with tensions in Ankh-Morpork between dwarfs and trolls reaching a boiling point. After Sam Vimes learns that the murder was supposed to be hidden from him, he leaps to action to solve the murder as well as not sending both species into war. Unfortunately Vimes has to contend with a new vampire member of the Watch, an auditor, and always making it home by 6 to read to Young Sam. And then the case begins to involve mystical elements, really annoying Vimes especially as they travel to Koom Valley in pursuit of justice.
Although the overall plot was well thought out, especially concerning Vimes there were problems. The various secondary arc, the humor, and quality of writing were noticeably not up to Pratchett’s earlier standards and ranged from bad to passable.
Although Thud! isn’t the best of Pratchett’s work nor the best in the Watch series, it is still a good read for any fan.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Thud! by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett.
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
The turn of the seasons seems like a dance orchestrated by nature to be both seamless and purposeful, but what if someone cuts in when she isn’t supposed to? Wintersmith is the 35th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the third in the subseries featuring witch-in-training Tiffany Aching. Unfortunately for Tiffany she finds out that when you succumb to the rhythm of the music, you find yourself in a Story and have to see it through.
Tiffany has been training with 113-year old Miss Treason, who uses subtle “special effects” to impress people, when she is taken to witness the dark morris one night. The dance that welcomes the winter draws on Tiffany and she joins in, unfortunately she comes face to face with the Wintersmith—winter himself—and he falls in love with her believing she is the Summer Lady. The problem is as time progresses, Tiffany starts exhibiting traits of the Summer Lady while the Wintersmith believes to successfully woo her, he must become human. Unfortunately Miss Treason isn’t able to help Tiffany through things as she passes away and Tiffany goes to train with Nanny Ogg as well has help Annagramma figure out how to be an actual witch in taking over for Miss Treason. In the end, Tiffany realizes she has finish things with the Wintersmith with a kiss to finish the dance.
Throughout last several books in the Discworld series, Pratchett has delved into various themes that touch upon real world issues except in the Aching books. Like the previous two books of Tiffany’s subseries, Wintersmith focuses on characters, world-building, and plotting. Although a tad older Tiffany’s continued development is seen throughout, Pratchett spends time growing the character of Annagramma while also enhancing the reputation of Granny Weatherwax. Even though this is the 34th book in the series, Pratchett is still able to world-build the Disc with elemental forces and psychological dispositions of people in various parts which are different and also the same. And finally the plotting which was well executed writing that began with a bang then suddenly took you to the quiet beginning of the story and progressing steady as you waited to find out how Tiffany was going to “end the story”.
The Tiffany Aching subseries is Pratchett giving young adults an introduction to the Disc with is interwoven strains of fantasy and humor. Wintersmith is a fun, easy read that gives even adults a fresh look at their favorite series.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz.
>171 Sakerfalcon: Yeah, Pratchett's (Discworld) YA books are always something I look forward to reading because none of them have disappointed and the main reason is that he isn't "writing down."
Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz
Atlantis has tantalized Western culture for millennia, but only since the 19th century has the topic of its existence become a touchstone of controversy between “believers” and “deniers”. Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz is a book in support of the mid-oceanic Atlantis over Mediterranean candidates or being a legend. Purporting to use the latest scientific and archaeological evidence—albeit in the mid-1980s—Berlitz looks to give strong proof that Plato’s Atlantis was real.
Bringing forth ruins and cultural evidence from both sides of the Atlantic, Berlitz began his argument by attempting to show a shared connection between numerous cultures across the world that seemed to be influenced by the same source. Then he became chronicling the scientific discoveries of unwater ruins, dismissed by scientists as natural phenomena, that prove ruins of an ancient civilization having existed in the mid-Atlantic. While a surface reading of this material is thought-provoking, Berlitz’s misunderstanding of geology undermined the book back in the mid-80s. The science of plate tectonics is the biggest problem with Berlitz’s book and the fact that his understanding is so wrong would make you shake your head.
While there are a lot Berlitz’s theories that just don’t stack up, he did expression layman ideas that surprisingly have begun to be debated within the scientific community though for reasons close to Atlantis. The first is that cataclysms can and do occur within the geological record, but his thoughts and evidence are nothing compared to Dr. Robert M. Schoch’s. The second was suggesting that an impact event occurred at the end of the last Ice Age that caused a sudden melting of ice, while scientists are beginning to believe an impact did occur it actually resulted in sudden cooling instead of heating. Yet these two ideas do not make up for all the incorrect assumptions Berlitz’s writes.
Atlantis: The Eighth Continent is packed full of cultural information from around the world that is its major appeal along with two ideas by the author that are now being debated by scientists but not to prove Atlantis. Frankly the evidence doesn’t prove Atlantis in the mid-Atlantic, but it’s a curious read nonetheless.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Ancient Mysteries by Rupert Furneaux.
Ancient Mysteries by Rupert Furneaux
The enigmas of history have spawned theories, either scientifically based or plain conjecture. In Ancient Mysteries, Rupert Furneaux attempted to answer timeless questions covering the world through the use of science.
Furneaux covered over 30 “mysteries” that covered such subjects as Atlantis, several monumental architectural structures around the world, Biblical mysteries, several ethnic groups and cultures, mysteries centered in Britain and the Americas, hoaxes, and “soon-to-be” 21st-century enigmas. Through all of them Furneaux attempts to give a description of why the topic in question is a mystery and then over the history of theories before giving as “definite” answer as possible.
Unfortunately for this book, Furneaux used scientific conclusions 20 years old by the time the book was published which are even more out-of-date today. Yet, not all of his answers were based on science through they were not far out theories which he pretty much attempted to dismiss as much as possible. For several topics, Furneaux attempted to straddle the line between “scientific consensus” and far-out theories, so mixed success at best and just plain bad at worst.
The background information Furneaux gives for each of the topics he writes about, though definitely not up-to-date, is the best part of the book. However, the out-of-date science, the occasional stretch of the science that Furneaux, and sometimes condescending tone the author uses in some topics makes he want to caution people away from this unless they are really well read in history.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Ancient Mysteries by Rupert Furneaux, feel free to comment here or there.
I'll next be reading Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner for my last book of 2017.
Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner
The story of Western Civilization centers in Europe but begins over 8000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt and seems like a daunting task to cover in less than 300 pages even if one only goes to the end of the Middle Ages. Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of society from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt through the Greeks and Romans, the Middle Ages, and the beginning of the European Renaissance.
Kirchner spends less than 30 pages covering the Fertile Crescent and Egypt through 3500 years of historical development before beginning over 110 pages on Greco-Roman history and the last 130 pages are focused on the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. This division clearly denotes Kirchner’s focus on Europe in this Western Civilization survey, though one cannot fault him for this as even now knowledge of the first three and half millennia of the historical record is nothing compared to the Greco-Roman sources, yet Kirchner never even mentioned the Bronze Age collapse and possible reasons for its occurrence. The highlight of the survey is a detailed historical events of Greece and Roman, especially the decline of the Republic which was only given broad strokes in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college. Yet, Kirchner’s wording seems to hint that he leaned towards the Marxist theory of history, but other wording seemed to contradict it. Because this was a study aid for college students in the early 1960s, this competing terminology is a bit jarring though understandable. While the overall survey is fantastic, Kirchner errors in some basic facts (calling Harold Godwinson a Dane instead of an Anglo-Saxon, using the term British during the Hundred Year’s War, etc.) in well-known eras for general history readers making one question some of the details in eras the reader doesn’t know much about. And Kirchner’s disparaging of “Oriental” culture through not only the word Oriental but also the use of “effeminate” gives a rather dated view of the book.
This small volume is meant to be a study aid for students and a quick reference for general readers, to which it succeeds. Even while Kirchner’s terminology in historical theory and deriding of non-European cultures shows the age of the book, the overall information makes this a good reference read for any well-read general history reader.
The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner, feel free to comment here or there.
This is my 62nd and last book for 2017, see you all in 2018 and look for my new thread.
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