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The mattries37315 reading thread of 2018

The Green Dragon

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Edited: Jan 20, 7:51pm Top

Hello everyone and Happy New Year,

Last year was my first year in The Green Dragon, I really enjoyed it. Talked with several of you and hope to do more of that this year.

The first book I'm reading this year is Founding Myths by Ray Raphael, this was a Christmas present from my aunt and so I'm going to read it right away at the beginning of the year.

I'm starting a new "home" read plan this year. I'm going to reading two books at home in 10 page increments, at the very least, starting with Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions by Walt Whitman which I began last year but petered out in the fall. And along with Whitman I'm starting The Rise of the West by William H. McNeill. And on the weekends I'm going to continue with my "tame"/religious book reading, but focusing on Sam Campbell's Living Forest series that my mother read to me ~30 years ago so these will be a bit of nostalgia.

I hope to read 45 books in total this coming year and you can check out which books from my ever expanding shelves I hope to get through this year in my 2018 Reading Plan post linked below.

2018 Reading Plan

Jan 1, 7:21pm Top

Happy New Year and good luck with your reading this year. May you enjoy plenty of good books.

Jan 1, 7:24pm Top

>2 Peace2: Thank you and Happy New Year to you as well.

Jan 1, 7:28pm Top

Good to see you back. Have a PGGB and put your feet up.

Jan 1, 7:56pm Top


Edited: Jan 1, 8:16pm Top

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Jan 2, 6:33am Top

>1 mattries37315: Good to see you back for another year. I checked out your 2018 reading list and I see some familiar books on there; I look forward to finding out what you think of them. It looks like you’re also planning to finish up Discworld this year?

I enjoyed The Martian a lot and had mixed feelings on the Red Rising series, although I thought it improved as it went on. I’m planning to read Good Omens in mid-March with a small group from Goodreads. Foundation by Asimov is also on my list, but I’m not likely to get to it this year. Maybe your reaction will influence whether I try to get to it next year.

Jan 2, 7:55pm Top

>4 majkia: Thank you.

>5 BookstoogeLT: Thanks Buddy, I will hopefully be interacting on your thread this year as well.

>6 SylviaC: Thank you. Happy New Year and good reading in return.

>7 YouKneeK: Glad to be back. Yep, after beginning my read through of Discworld way back in 2014, it will be ending this year. I commented to someone else that it'll be weird once I'm finished the last book and don't have anymore to look forward to.

I've done my best to avoid film adaptation, though I have seen snippets here and there, but I'm looking forward to The Martian. I've heard three views on the Red Rising series: 1) Loved the series and couldn't pick a favorite; 2) Like yourself, thought the series improved with each book; and 3) Enjoyed the first two books and hated the third. Foundation trilogy was on a list of 30 books to be "well-read" (it was a TIME Facebook post that would be recycled every six weeks or so) has been on my shelf for three years now and I'm finally getting to it this year (hopefully), I haven't read that much sci-fi before now so because it's considered a classic of the genre I'm worried I'll "like" it because I'm suppose to or be too critical.

Jan 2, 10:15pm Top

>8 mattries37315: It felt weird for me when I finished Discworld, also. I always feel a little bit like friends or family have moved out of my life after I finish a long series, probably exacerbated by my tendency to binge-read a series. After you spend nearly every day with a group of characters for weeks (or more), it’s weird when they aren’t there anymore.

I’ll be interested to see where you fall with Red Rising!

Jan 3, 11:57am Top

Wishing you happy reading in 2018! I'll be following along.

Jan 3, 5:03pm Top

>10 Sakerfalcon: Thank you and I wish you happy reading as well.

Edited: Jan 3, 5:13pm Top

>8 mattries37315:

I'm in the #3 camp. I really thought the ending was poor.

Jan 3, 7:45pm Top

>12 suitable1: I've seen that Brown has released the first of new trilogy (I'm assuming), so before I even think of getting it I'll have to have a good opinion on his first three books.

Jan 3, 7:49pm Top

>8 mattries37315: I'm in camp #3 for Red Rising. But that was because of moral content and not plot, etc.

Edited: Jan 4, 7:58am Top

>8 mattries37315: I gave consistently high marks to each book in the Red Rising trilogy so I guess that makes me a #1 in your mini-poll. My only real gripe for the three books was that all the plot twists were heavily sign-posted so there were no real surprises in the stories.

Jan 4, 3:38pm Top

>14 BookstoogeLT: You're actually the reason for #3 because that's the review that made me worry.

>15 AHS-Wolfy: Sign-posted plot twists are a tad concerning, but if they are well-written I'm forgiving.

Jan 4, 6:19pm Top

>16 mattries37315: I think the series is pretty well-written, although I also found the plot twists predictable. The issue I had was that there was a definite pattern to events in the books and, once you’ve got that down, you know when a plan will work, when it will fail, and when you're scheduled for a Plot Twist. Reading the series over a period of time would probably help mitigate that. I read them one after the other, of course. :)

Jan 4, 7:46pm Top

Founding Myths by Ray Raphael

The story of the American Revolution is well known and thought of as gospel by average Americans, but is that story more myth than history? Ray Raphael in his book, Founding Myths, aims to tell the true patriotic history behind the stories told about the American Revolution.

Investigating thirteen prominent stories surrounding the Revolutionary era, Raphael attempts to put the actual people and events in context of their time while demythologizing the past. Some of the stories are that of individuals like Paul Revere, Molly Pitcher, and Sam Adams or such events like Yorktown ending the war, the Continental Army surviving Valley Forge, and the events before Lexington and Concord. While a few myths that Raphael covered have been demystified by some pop-history documentaries since before and after the publishing of this book and others that a well-read history enthusiast already knows are false, there was one that completely surprised me and that was the events of 1774 that led up to the Lexington and Concord.

Although I knew the actual history behind the myths Raphael covered, this book was still a pleasant read if you can persevere through the repetitious references to films like The Patriot and Raphael’s continual hyping of the Massachusetts revolution of 1774. While I understood the reference to The Patriot given its prominence around the time of the book’s writing but it could have been toned down. Raphael’s description of the events in Massachusetts in 1774 are really eye-opening but he keeps on bringing them up throughout the book and given he already written a book about the subject before this one it makes it feel like he’s attempting to use one book to sell another. Finally, Raphael’s brings up how the mythical stories he is writing about are in today’s textbooks in each chapter and while I think this was book information, it might have been better if he had moved that into his concluding chapter alone.

Founding Myths is fascinating reading for both general and knowledgeable history readers which is a credit to Ray Raphael’s research, yet there are pitfalls that take some of the joy out of reading this book. While I recommend this book, just be weary of the repetitious nature that I described above.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Founding Myths by Ray Raphael, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Evita by Nicholas Fraser.

Jan 4, 7:56pm Top

>17 YouKneeK: Save for when I read The Wheel of Time ever other book, I attempt to put several different books in-between books of the same series so I don't get series fatigue. So hopefully that'll mitigate what you described.

Jan 5, 9:21am Top

>18 mattries37315: I feel as though I should have read this while I lived in Philadelphia and was surrounded by this mythology! Given your caveat though I'm unlikely to track it down.

Jan 5, 10:42am Top

>8 mattries37315: I thought the Red Rising trilogy was really great. Very well plotted, I thought, and quite a different take on futuristic civilization, but certainly believable based on current societies.

Jan 5, 8:57pm Top

>20 Sakerfalcon: Yeah, the caveats make this a nice book to receive as a gift but not something you want to track down on your own.

>21 majkia: Thanks for your thoughts on the Red Rising trilogy. I'm approaching this series not knowing what to expect because of such divergent opinions but the setting you describe Brown creating sounds really good.

Jan 6, 8:20pm Top

How's Inky? by Sam Campbell

When a little porcupine becomes the topic of conversation people want to talk to you about, you either accept it or become annoyed. Nature writer Sam Campbell though thought the question, How’s Inky? the perfect title to title the first book of what would eventually become the Living Forest series.

Campbell wrote about the adventures of Inky the porcupine around his home in the animal sanctuary of Wegimind that he along with two other men supervised through spring, summer, and fall every year. Inky was one of five orphaned baby animals that the sanctuary cared for and helped to survive before releasing them into the wild. Although Campbell does talk about the other four animals, it’s Inky that is the one Campbell focuses on because of Inky’s view of life and what it can teach people.

How’s Inky? was not the first book Campbell wrote nor his first public exposure, which was a nature radio program first aired in Chicago in the 1930s. Known as the ‘philosopher of the forest’, this book shows why Campbell was given that moniker as his lessons from nature are written in a down-to-earth style that readers of all ages will enjoy. Campbell does speak of God as part of his lessons, but the book is does not ooze religion.

At a quick 127 pages, How’s Inky? is a fun read for all ages and highly recommended if you enjoy nature books and for a nice read for a rainy day.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of How's Inky? by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the new book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Jan 7, 9:06am Top

>23 mattries37315: Huh. I could have sworn I had that book and three others, but they are not to be found in my library. I checked my church's library, and they aren't there, either. Must have been before I was cataloging everything. I have a memory of reading it, but not being thrilled by it, but now I don't know why. Probably something about the author's voice put me off, because I don't have them anymore and I love books about nature.

Jan 7, 6:33pm Top

>24 MrsLee: When I first started reading the book, I had to get my mom's voice out of my head since the last time those books had been opened was when she had read them to me when I was 7 & 8 years old just before bedtime. But those memories essentially means what Campbell writes has to be really, really, really bad to make me not like these books.

Edited: Jan 9, 9:16pm Top

Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser

Having only lived 33 years and been in the public spotlight for the last six, one woman has become in the 60+ years since her death the most iconic and polarizing woman in her country without even holding political office. Nicholas Fraser in his work, Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron, navigates between the fantastical versions of her life to find the real woman and put her into the context of the Argentina of her time before during and after her life.

Given the multitude of circumstances that Fraser faced to get an accurate portrait of Eva Peron, including her attempts to cover up her family’s illegitimacy, the fact that he was able to give a full account of her is noteworthy. Because of her short lifespan, the book was never going to be long but Fraser also had to contend with explaining the political atmosphere through Eva’s life especially after she became the First Lady of Argentina. Along with all of that, Fraser had to contend with the legendary versions of Eva’s life from both pro- and anti-Peronist sources. Yet the last 30 pages of the book are some of the most fascinating because it details the myth-creating journey that her corpse endured for almost 20 years through several governmental changes before finally being securely laid to rest in Buenos Aires.

Although the sensational accounts of Eva Peron’s life make for the ideal basis for musicals and films, the truth is just as fascinating. Nicholas Fraser’s biography of the most iconic Argentine political figure of the 20th-century is as close to the truth of her life as one is going to get and still understand the political atmosphere without getting bogged down in minutiae that would have enlarged the book and drifted away from the subject of the book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney.

Jan 10, 8:36am Top

>26 mattries37315: I've been waiting to see what you had to say about Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron, and now it will go on my wishlist. I LOVE the musical, and that it hints at the darker things and the contradictions of her life and myth. Are there any photographs in the book? That may decide whether I purchase it for Kindle or paper.

Enjoy Beowulf! A couple of years ago I read Tolkien's translation and notes. Very interesting stuff.

Jan 10, 2:24pm Top

>27 MrsLee: Well, Fraser does address the musical but that's all I'm going to say since you're going to read the book. There are some photographs, but there at most 10 black & white reproductions on regular paper. Honestly, the photographs didn't add much in my opinion and you could go to her wikipedia article for better ones (also Fraser's work is quoted and used in said article).

I'm looking forward to Beowulf, the stuff in high school was only excerpts obviously and now I get to see everything.

Jan 11, 6:04pm Top

>26 mattries37315: I wonder if this is the book I read back in the '80s when I was at school (prior to a school trip to see the musical). I remember thinking what a fascinating woman she was. I think I'd like to read about her again, now with a more adult perspective.

Jan 11, 7:52pm Top

>29 Peace2: I have the 1996 edition that has a new introduction and epilogue because of the then upcoming release of the motion picture adaptation of Evita starring Madonna as well as a history of the musical's effect on pop culture's view of Eva Peron. It's original copyright and publishing date is listed as 1980 in the front of the book, so I would say it could be the same book you read just updated.

Jan 12, 9:30pm Top

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

The oldest epic poem in English follows the feats of its titular protagonist over the course of days and years that made him a legend among his clan, friends, and even enemies. Beowulf was most likely orally transmitted before finally be written down several centuries later by an unknown Christian hand in Old English that today is readily accessible thanks to the translation by Seamus Heaney.

The epic tale of Beowulf begins in the mead hall of King Hrothgar of the Danes which is attacked by the monster Grendel for years. Beowulf, upon hearing of Hrothgar’s plight, gathers fourteen companions and sails from Geatland to the land of the Danes. Hrothgar welcomes the Geats and feasts them, attracting the attention of Grendel who attacks. One of the Geats is killed before the monster and Beowulf battle hand-to-hand which ends with Beowulf ripping off Grendel’s arm. The monster flees and bleeds out in the swamp-like lair shared with his mother. Grendel’s mother attacks the mead hall looking for revenge and kills one of Hrothgar’s long-time friends. Beowulf, his companions, Hrothgar, and others ride to the lair and Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother with a giant’s sword. After another feast, the Geats return home and fifty years later, Beowulf is King when a dragon guarding a hoard of treasure is awakened by a thief and goes on a rampage. Beowulf and younger chosen companions go to face the fiery serpent, but all but one of his companions flees after the King goes to face the foe. However, the one young warrior who stays is able to help the old King defeat the dragon though he his mortally wounded. It is this young warrior who supervises the dying Beowulf’s last wishes.

This is just a rough summary of a 3000 line poem that not only deals with Beowulf’s deeds but also the warrior culture and surprisingly the political insightfulness that many secondary characters talk about throughout the poem. The poem begins and ends with funerals with warrior kings giving look at pagan worldview even as the unknown Christian poet tried to his best to hide it with references to Christian religiosity. Although some say that any translation deprived the poem of the Old English rhyme and rhythm, the evolution of English in the thousand years since the poem was first put down in words means that unless one reads the original with a dictionary on hand, this poem would not be read. Heaney’s translation gives the poem its original epicness while also allowing present day readers a chance to “hear” the story in their own language thus giving it new life.

Beowulf is one of the many epic poems that have influenced storytelling over the centuries. Yet with its Scandinavian pagan oral roots and Christian authorship it is also a melding of two traditions that seem at odds yet together still create a power tale. Unlike some high school or college course force students to read the Old England or so-so translated excerpts from the poem, Seamus Heaney’s book gives the reader something that will keep their attention and greatly entertain.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Making Money by Terry Pratchett.

Jan 18, 6:42pm Top

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

The financial sector of Ankh-Morpork is dire trouble and Lord Vetinari looks to his Postmaster General to solve the problem, however he doesn’t want the opportunity but somethings are out of his hands. Making Money is Terry Pratchett’s 36th Discworld novel and the second to follow the conman-turned-civil servant Moist von Lipwig who is beginning to pine for thrills and suddenly finds himself in the midst of them.

With the Post Office running as smoothly as possible and facing plain paperwork every day, Moist von Lipwig is looking for thrills and excitement in a variety of ways including scaling the outside of the Post Office and breaking into his own office. Lord Vetinari attempts to sell Moist on taking over the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint, but Moist is satisfied with his life. However Bank chairwoman Topsy Lavish changes her will to make Moist guardian of her dog, Mr. Fusspot, to whom she leaves her controlling interest in the Bank to. Suddenly Moist is taking care of a dog and running the Bank and Mint much to his annoyance and that of the Lavish family and Mr. Bent, the head cashier. Moist begins thinking about changes to the banking system but then is inundated with numerous challenges first from Mr. Bent, the Lavishes including one that wants to become Lord Vetinari (not Patrician just Vetinari), a former partner blackmailing him about his conman past, missing gold from the bank vault, and finally his fiancée arranging for an army of golems to arrive in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Moist past is exposed, though no one cares, after saving the city from the golems as well as using them to base his new paper currency and is still alive at the end of the book which is the least he wants out of each day.

Moist is one of the most original characters that Pratchett has come up with and like Going Postal, I enjoyed following his story. However, like the previous mentioned book this one is not up to the quality that Pratchett is known for. While Moist, Vetinari, and Adora Belle Dearheart were well written, the overall plot and the numerous subplots just seemed to meander. Pratchett attempted to avoid Moist doing exactly what he did in Going Postal by having him deal with other challenges, but they were a mishmash of ideas that didn’t seem to come together and pages were wasted with the Cosmo Lavish subplot that took up pages without really accomplishing anything.

Honestly, it was hard to rate Making Money because while I enjoyed reading Moist’s point-of-view, the overall plot of the book was just serviceable as it twist and turned based on the questionable subplots intertwined with it. If you are a first time Discworld reader, don’t read this book until you’ve sampled some of Pratchett’s other better quality writing. If you are a veteran Discworld reader then focusing on enjoying the point-of-view of Moist even though the book’s quality is just okay.


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

I'll next be rereading Mirror Image by Jeff Rovin.

Edited: Jan 20, 7:50pm Top

Too Much Salt and Pepper by Sam Campbell

If one porcupine made for a good book then Sam Campbell thought that two would be even better. In the second book of his Living Forest series, Too Much Salt and Pepper, Campbell describes the adventures and lessons surrounding the titular “porkies” Salt and Pepper along with wise ol’ Inky during a year at the Sanctuary of Wegimind.

The events of this book take place a few years after How’s Inky? as Sam and his wife Giny arrive at their animal sanctuary to discover the young porcupines Salt and Pepper eagerly awaiting them. The two “porkies” are friendly, funny, and very mischievous especially when they want to play. But as the year progresses, Pepper answers the call of the wild while Salt continued to want human companionship. Most the book centers around the week-long visit of Carol, a young friend of the Campbells, who wants to experience the nature they describe in their lectures. The experiences, stories, and lessons that Sam and Giny show Carol—along with a dose of porcupine mischievousness—as best they can in a week the lessons nature has taught them over the years.

With this book being twice as long as the previous Living Forest book, Sam Campbell fills it numerous stories of past adventures and misadventures while also detailing Carol’s weeklong stay during which occurs most of his famous philosophy. Campbell uses an older Inky to be the mouthpiece of his lessons and teachings to the intended younger audience of the book, yet Inky’s “woodsy philosophy” can be very instructive to adults as well while not being preachy.

Though a longer read, Too Much Salt and Pepper is wonderful nature read and I highly recommend it readers of all ages.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Too Much Salt and Pepper by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the new book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Jan 20, 9:16pm Top

All righr, you got me with that one. I love good nature writing and this sounds charming.

Jan 22, 10:04pm Top

>26 mattries37315: I'm so happy you're staying with us. I'll be following your thread. That Peron bio is certainly tempting! I enjoyed that Heaney translation of Beowulf myself.

Jan 23, 8:47am Top

>35 clamairy: And then there is the Thug Notes version on YouTube...

Jan 23, 9:26am Top

>32 mattries37315: yup that's pretty much how I felt about it too.

Jan 23, 9:27am Top

>36 MrsLee: *snork* Yes!

Jan 23, 8:21pm Top

Mirror Image by Jeff Rovin

Old guard elements in Russia look to reconstitute the old Soviet Empire, however their plans run into a stumbling block in the form of Op-Center and their Russian counterpart. Mirror Image is the second book in the Op-Center series bearing that bears the name of Tom Clancy, but was actually ghostwritten by Jeff Rovin. From the historic Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg to the streets of New York to the frozen wilderness of Siberia, the action spans across the world as forces and individuals battle to reignite or prevent a new Soviet era.

Nikolai Dogin, Russian Minister of the Interior and loser of the Presidential election, convinces his old guard coalition members to go along with “Plan B” which amounts to a military revolution to reignite the old Soviet Empire. One of his most important pieces in the newly created Operations Center (ROC), a Russian crisis management center exactly like Op-Center, but its head General Sergei Orlov might not be the figurehead Dogin hopes. The old guard’s plan begins with a bombing in New York to keep the United States out of Eastern Europe, but results in Op-Center zeroing in on its Russian counterpart that is Orlov and his second-in-command (a Dogin flunky) battling for control. Yet Dogin’s dealings with the Russian mafia prove his undoing as a shipment of drug money to pay off Polish, Belarussian, and Ukrainian officials becomes the focus of the ROC and Op-Center on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Written in the mid-90s when post-Soviet era Russia provided a lot of potential to the political thriller genre, Mirror Image took an interesting tack that could have provided an very good book however there was many unfortunate mistakes that made this seem a “set up” book for later events in the Op-Center series. The first was the blurb on the back cover of the book itself which stated the hardliners wanted to return Russia to the days of the Czar, within the first 15 pages of the book this statement is proven false and things are just starting. There are father-son issues dominating the Russian side of the book as Orlov and his son’s past that would play a major role at the book’s climax, which was very much telegraphed from the onset. An important character dies at the climax, which is pretty much telegraphed throughout his point-of-views. However, the most irritating thing with the book was that characters “magically” got information or knew things that the story didn’t support them knowing or characters didn’t act like they should of (Orlov not getting into contact with the new President seems to be the most glaring). Although most of the book seemed paint-by-the-numbers, the British spy network subplot was the best of the book.

Mirror Image seemed to be a book meant to add elements to the overall “world” of Op-Center to set up future stories as Rovin relied on telegraphing the story’s direction and creating in-story plot holes. While Sergei Orlov and British spy Peggy James are the two stand out characters, it’s not saying much because previously establish characters were in a holding pattern and other new characters were two-dimensional. This book could have been very good, it just average and almost subpar.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Mirror Image by Jeff Rovin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading A Brief History of Seventh-Day Adventists by George R. Knight

Jan 23, 9:26pm Top

>34 cmbohn: I hope you enjoy them as I have so far.

>35 clamairy: Thank you, it's good to be back and thanks for following me. I purchased the Peron bio over a decade ago for an aborted distance learning college course and it's been sitting on my shelf since, so it was an unexpected great read.

>36 MrsLee: >38 clamairy: Thug Notes of Beowulf was great, if you're interested check out Overly Sarcastic Productions Summary of Beowulf https://youtu.be/DcqMp_D5pdE

>37 reading_fox: Yeah, even though long-time readers have told me how much the quality falls off at this point in the series I still go in with an open mind. But it's getting harder not to notice the faults even as you're find things to like.

Jan 25, 7:35pm Top

A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Edited: Feb 6, 11:13pm Top

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

An Empire has begun to decline and one man had produced a plan to shorten the resulting Dark Age and found a Second Empire. Isaac Asimov based his “Hugo Best All-Time Series” on this premise, one man setting up a Foundation for the future of mankind but not telling his successors about how to bring the plan to fruition.

Foundation is not one story, but several connected together because of the grand plan by Hari Seldon who mathematically deduced the decline of the Galactic Empire and its future fall then came up with a plan to reduce the resulting Dark Age to only a 1000 years. Three of the five stories featured the two standout characters of the volume: Salvor Hardin, the point-of-view character in “The Encyclopedists” and “The Mayors”, and Hober Mallow, the point-of-view character of “The Merchant Princes”. It is through these two characters the reader gets an understanding of the political and social situations going on as the Empire declines and the Seldon’s Foundation politically evolve to meet the conditions known as Seldon Crisis.

Although Foundation is an interconnected collection of short stories, combined they create a history of a far off future of a declining Empire and an outpost meant to build up a future Second Empire for the betterment of all men. While some might think space science fiction is all lasers and space battles, Isaac Asimov showed that it could be political, religious, and economic forces on a large scale used by individuals to pave the way for a better future. It is because of this that many consider this a classic and frankly I can’t disagree.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Foundation by Isaac Asimov, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Jan 30, 5:58am Top

>42 mattries37315: I’m glad you liked this! I look forward to trying it someday, when I have time. :) I didn't realize it was a collection of related short stories.

Jan 30, 2:54pm Top

>43 YouKneeK: Neither did I, while reading it I felt like they were a series of short stories bound together. After finishing I checked out the wikipedia page of it and found out that yes they were short stories, a tad revised to flow naturally together as part of a book.

Feb 3, 7:53pm Top

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo--and Still-Mo by Sam Campbell

What happens when you decide to adopt five baby red squirrels? Based on the events in Sam Campbell’s Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo—and Still-Mo your life will definitely not be dull. This third installment of the Living Forest series like its predecessors follows the misadventures of titular squirrels and other animals in the Sanctuary of Wegimind that entertain and provide life lessons, but is different in that main story revolves around a friend of the Campbells.

The events chronicled take place over two years at the animal sanctuary run by Sam and Giny Campbell during World War II, most likely 1942-43. While the titular squirrels and their actions—especially early in the book—form a narrative thread throughout the book, the main person in Campbell’s narrative is his friend Duke. Visiting the sanctuary just before his deployment of the South Pacific and during a convalesce stay, Duke cares for the young squirrels when they first arrive at the sanctuary and is latter pivotal in finding most of them after they had left the island during the intervening winter. Yet his correspondence with the Campbells between his visits allows Sam not only relay the squirrels misadventures with one another but with other animals but Duke’s reaction to them, giving the reader a feeling of being a part of the experience ourselves.

Though being as long as the previous installment, this book’s focus on Duke and his experiences doesn’t take anything away from series focus on nature instead it provides greater depth to it. Campbell’s contrasting descriptions of Duke before and after his first deployment shows the affect that war has on an individual and how he relates to things especially those he loves. However Campbell also shows how nature can help those affect by war by providing a calming place to compose oneself, even if that individual knows he’s soon go back to “finish the job”. Religious faith, Christianity in particular, is talked about more in this book than the previous two books but not prominently and not until very late in the book close to end of Duke’s visit.

Although Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo—and Still-Mo is a little different from the previous two Living Forest books, Sam Campbell’s engaging writing of animals and nature is given a different focus during a very different era in U.S. history, though it’s still relevant today.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo--and Still-Mo by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Feb 6, 11:20pm Top

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

The wizards of the Unseen University love their food, alcohol, and tradition which Lord Vetinari exploits to ensure that the chaotic football matches taking place get under control. Unseen Academicals is Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld book and the last focusing on Rincewind and the wizards of the Unseen University, even though it seemed that they were of secondary concern throughout the book.

The wizards at the Unseen University find out that their budget is tied to a trust fund that only pays out if they play at least one football match a year, after realizing this means a change of diet they decide to play a game of football. This pleases Lord Vetinari who then asks the wizards to organize the sport so it can be taken from the street. But this changing of the game has an effect on the rest of the city, especially four workers inside the University whose lives and identities turned out to be tied to the success of the new version of football.

Although the wizards do have their share of point-of-views, Rincewind hardly appears in the book as well as The Librarian but the focus on Ponder Stibbons somewhat made up for it, they turned out not to be the focus of the book. In fact the most important character was Mister Nutt, an orc, who was “civilized” and was sent to Ankh-Morpork to change the minds of people about orcs. Yet Nutt was pushed into the background several times for his friends Trevor Likely, Glenda, and Juliet who had their own story arcs. All-in-all there was a lot of narratives that created the story, but it all felt unfocused especially when it came to the satire that felt more like painting the numbers than what Pratchett had previously done.

While enjoyable, Unseen Academicals is unfortunately all over the place with the narrative focus and set in and around the Unseen University the wizards took a back seat. Overall the book was good, but it just didn’t grab me and it didn’t make me laugh like previous books.


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

I'll next be rereading The Wars of Gods and Men by Zecharia Sitchin

Feb 7, 6:27am Top

>46 mattries37315: I remember being disappointed myself that Rincewind played so little of a role in that one.

Feb 7, 6:04pm Top

>47 YouKneeK: If another wizard like Stibbons had been the "main" character, I wouldn't have been as disappointed.

Feb 13, 9:43pm Top

The Wars of Gods and Men by Zecharia Sitchin

It seems that Earth has always been a battlefield, from today all the way back to the beginning of history humans have been fighting one another, or maybe we learned from others in prehistory? In the third book of his series The Earth Chronicles, Zecharia Sitchin examines ancient texts from cuneiform tables of Sumeria to Egyptian hieroglyphs to the Bible itself to reveal long memory and devastating results of The Wars of Gods and Men.

Sitchin begins the book going over the wars of the ancient world and how the chroniclers of those wars described that the gods intervened in those wars and determined the outcome, following this he went over the wars of the gods for supremacy of Earth from Horus against Set in Egypt, the generational wars of the Greek pantheon, and battles of the Indian gods. Sitchin then set about showing that all these tales of battles reflect events in prehistory of members of the ruling house of the extraterrestrial Anunnaki, fighting for supremacy of “heaven” (Nibiru their homeworld) and Earth, with the rivalry between royal brothers Enlil and Enki extending into their children and grandchildren. Soon these wars began to include the “gods” human followers joining them in battle after the beginnings of civilization in Sumer, Egypt, and the Indus valley. Sitchin details that some of the Anunnaki put their personal interests above their own families resulting in various alliances with cousins against their own siblings, and parents in some cases, which began a chain of events that led Abraham out of Sumer to Canaan and how Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated by nuclear weapons.

This book began as a more academic read like its predecessor, The Stairway to Heaven, but Sitchin quickly switched gears to more engaging prose as he brought forth his evidence for and the explanations of this theories. Sitchin did not rehash his evidence and arguments from the previous two books, only alluded to his findings so as to allow the flow of the book to progress along the line of thought he had focused on. Yet even though Sitchin did not rehash his arguments, he did contradict some of his findings in The 12th Planet in this book—namely with the identity of “ZU”—but did not state that further research had changed his conclusions which would have made a better book. However, the most intriguing part of the book was Sitchin’s discussion about Abraham, his family history, and his journey to Canaan especially in light of his theory that extraterrestrials were the “gods” of the ancient world (though he does not specifically name which Anunnaki sent Abraham on his journey).

The Wars of Gods and Men is a very intriguing, well written book with a theory and evidence that Sitchin lays out in an engaging matter. Even with the academic beginning and with some unacknowledged reversals in some Sitchin’s findings, this book gives the reader a worthy follow up to The 12th Planet that The Stairway to Heaven was not.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Wars of Gods and Men by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be rereading Politics by Aristotle

Feb 17, 8:53pm Top

A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too by Sam Campbell

Sometime over the years an inanimate object becomes something more than it is, whether it is a car or in the case of Sam Campbell a canoe. A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too is the fourth book of Campbell’s Living Forest ranges from the Sanctuary of Wegimind to the wilds of Canada’s canoe country featuring not only animal adventures but also the last year of the Campbell’s durable canoe, Buddie.

Sam and Giny Campbell return to their animal sanctuary in early spring 1945 and find their durable canoe, Buddie, in bad shape and because a concern throughout the book even though they’re able to repair it well enough. Recovering from the bad news of their canoe, they are happily surprised to find Still-Mo with a family only because they thought she was a male. Soon they learn their island home’s resident woodchuck has also become a mother. As they enjoy the new residents of the island, Sam and Giny have another new young neighbor boy, Hi-Bud, who met Sam in St. Louis years before and has moved close by. Throughout the spring and summer, Hi-Bud becomes a welcome guest and nature-enthusiast-in-training that the couple enjoys having over. Late in the summer they welcome their friend Sandy on leave from V-E Day injury before his deployment to the Pacific only for the war to end, suddenly allowing the three of them to take their long awaited journey to Canadian canoe country to find an isolated lake to observe and research animals without hardly any human interference. Unfortunately this is Buddie’s last trip as it’s damaged so much that after their return they decide to burn the canoe in a pyre at the end of the book.

Although the book is the a little longer than the previous two books, Campbell packs a lot of stuff in this book though in his usual engaging and easy reading prose. Like the last book, a war-experience soldier brings some of philosophical thought to the front especially as he now is looking towards his future post-combat. With young Hi-Bud, youthful exuberance brings out another kind of philosophical thought from Campbell that is very enlightening especially in connection with the imaginative youngster. There is religious faith is written about, though not as prominent as the previous book.

A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too while very much like the previous three books of Sam Campbell’s series, it is also different as it gives the reader an impression about how things changed for people after World War II ended as compared to when it was going on. If you enjoyed the previous books that Campbell has written you’d enjoy this as well.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Feb 25, 8:40pm Top

Politics by Aristotle

As Plato’s writings have been a cornerstone of Western thought, so have those of his pupil Aristotle through his own lectures and treatise sometimes agreed and disagreed with his teacher while shaping the views of millions over the millennia. Politics is one of the most important political treatise that has impacted society as it is studied alongside Plato’s own Republic not because they agree, but how they agree through different methods and disagree in conclusions.

Unlike the approach of Plato, Aristotle focused on the examples that the Greek political world knew of to determine the best approach for government of a polis. Classifying the types of government into six forms, three “ideal” and three “perverted”, Aristotle described them as showing their pros and cons in an effort to establish the “best”. Then his analysis turned to various functions of government from laws, offices, and how to pass or fill either. Yet, underlying everything is Aristotle’s insistence that human nature determines everything concerned with governance.

Politics, while thought-provoking and significant in its analysis and conclusions, is unfortunately not without its flaws. The biggest is Aristotle’s argument of natural rulers and natural slaves that is so opposite to the way many think today. The next biggest is that fact that the overall work seems like it is not coherently organized or even complete as many aspects that Aristotle says he will cover never appear and he writes about the bringing about his conclusive best government before actually proving what it is, though given his argument that the best government for a polis depends on how its population is constructed.

Aristotle’s Politics is at the same both thought-provoking and maddening especially given the soundness of his analysis and the disorganized state of the overall treatise. Yet it is one of the most important treatises of political thought of the Western world and is significant in political and historical terms as it has been influential for millennia.


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

I'll next be reading Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

Feb 27, 10:28pm Top

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation created by Hari Seldon has come through three crises and several social changes, but now it must face off against forces of Empire. Foundation and Empire, the second book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, follows how the Foundation and its citizen responded to threats from Empire—one it’s decaying predecessor and one from a budding conqueror.

Unlike like Foundation with its several short stories, Asimov’s second book featured two novellas entitled “The General” and “The Mule”. The first followed the Imperial war against the Foundation led by the titular general Bel Riose who looked to restore the rule of the Empire, but was stopped short by the Emperor who believed him to be using the war to build up himself as a usurper. The fallout of the war leads the Foundation citizenry to believe during its war with the warlord “The Mule” that eventually something will happen for the Foundation to win. But the Foundation falls to the Mule’s forces as its leadership learns that its next crisis was to be civil war. A small ship filled with Foundation survivors makes its way towards the old Imperial capital to find a way to stop the Mule and find that the Second Foundation might be the key.

Although some might believe the two novellas a better format than the several short stories of the first book, I am of a different opinion. The longer length of the stories unfortunately exposed Asimov’s characters as very flat and his writing somewhat formulaic, especially when it came to the identity of “The Mule”. Yet I have to admit that of the two stories, “The General” was the best because it only took up a third of the book thus protecting the characters from being over exposed. “The Mule” became tedious as the reveal of titular character took its sweet time, even as Asimov attempted to show the decay of the Galactic civilization.

While Foundation and Empire was not as good as the first book of the trilogy, there are still some nice passages and ideas that Asimov has written. Though I was intrigued to find out more about the Second Foundation after finishing the book, it was a long slog to get to that point.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

Mar 3, 8:28pm Top

On Wings of Cheer by Sam Campbell

The sudden reappearance of a friend you thought you would not see for some time or ever again is always a wonderful feeling and is what Sam Campbell begins and ends this book with. On Wings of Cheer is the fifth book of Campbell’s Living Forest series, the author details a year’s worth of animal adventures and personal interactions around the Sanctuary of Wegimind during all seasons of the year.

Beginning in the fall of 1946, Campbell begins the book by detail the surprise return of a red-winged blackbird named Cheer as announced by his young friend Hi-Bub after everyone believed the bird had flown south. The Campbells and Hi-Bub enjoy the company of their winged friend for a few more weeks before Sam and Giny head out for their lecture tour believing they wouldn’t return until the next year. However, Hi-Bub is full of schemes to spend more time with the Campbell as he instigates a private lecture for his sick friend and then surprises them with plans for Christmas, which they find out have already been arranged for them. During their surprise Christmas trip back home, they have a run in with Indian John who fascinates young Hi-Bub, and visit their Sanctuary cabin. After returning to the lecture tour, the Campbells return to the Sanctuary and once again enjoying the company of their animal friends both old and new. One of these friends is a transplanted bear named Old Charley, who enjoyed having fun with every human he can even if he scares some of them to death. Another is Hi-Bub’s dog, Hobo, who has a run in with a porcupine and later befriends a fawn named Speckles. Yet the book almost ends on a sour note when Hi-Bub and Sam witness a fawn they believe to be Speckles get shot by an arrow as the youngster is slowly approaching to take a photograph; only on the Campbells’ last night do they discover a very alive Speckles who plays with his friend Hobo.

With a 236 pages, this book is slightly shorter than the previous book that Campbell wrote though packed with as much animal tales and misadventures as any other book of the Living Forest series. Hi-Bub is an integral part of the narrative throughout the book, especially when it comes to his little schemes that Sam as no problem admiring and writes about them accordingly. The interactions with Indian John and the reign of terror of Old Charley are both interesting and hilarious respectfully. There are fewer philosophical teachings of Sam Campbell than in previous books and they appear earlier in the book, though they are still excellent.

On Wings of Cheer is both similar too and different from the other books of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series, as the same with animal and human tales plus misadventures but different in that all seasons were covered in the book. If you enjoyed other books of the series, then this one will be just as enjoyable.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of On Wings of Cheer by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Mar 4, 8:46pm Top

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

Anti-witch feelings are on the rise and rumors of old women being burned are in the air, unfortunately for Tiffany Aching she’s finding the Chalk getting infected and it could be her fault. I Shall Wear Midnight is the 38th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the fourth to feature the young witch Tiffany Aching, who is finding out that being a witch-in-training and being on her own are two different things entirely especially when the Cunning Man is after her.

Now 16 years old, Tiffany is now the witch of the Chalk doing everything that needs to be done from tending the Baron to looking after newest of babes. Then things seem to start to go wrong from a father assaulting his daughter to the old Baron dying in front of Tiffany and the nurse accusing her of killing him. Events transpire that Tiffany attempts to persevere through but she senses something is up, especially on her way to Ankh-Morpork when she meets a “man” that the Feegles fall through. Thanks to the Feegles, Tiffany spends a night in jail but learns witches all around are feeling pressure. Upon her return to the Chalk, Roland attempts to take out the Feegle’s mound and later has Tiffany detained but the young witch realizes that Roland’s fiancé is hiding a secret—she’s using magic—and confronts her getting the spell broken. As things return to normal in the Chalk, Tiffany must gear up to face the Cunning Man, a ghost of a witch hunter who’s hatred is infectious, even while attending a funeral and preparing for the new Baron’s wedding as senior witches gather and watch.

Building upon the previous three books to feature Tiffany, Pratchett continued the character’s growth by showing her face the everyday humdrum of the profession as the witch not a trainee, especially when something vicious shows up. Unlike previous books, the Feegles are more important minor characters than major secondary ones which focuses the book on Tiffany alone with her dealing with everything and everyone. Tiffany’s interactions with Carrot and Angua in Ankh-Morpork and the reappearance of Eskarina Smith, whose time traveling ability comes in handy in “assisting” Tiffany, just added to the quality of the book and connected various subseries together than just the same world.

I Shall Wear Midnight is a delightful return to the Disc and a somewhat return to form for Pratchett with a solid story that does not meander like some of the previous books of the series. Although a first time reader might want to get one of the earlier Aching books to understand some of what’s going on, any long-time fan will love this book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be rereading Games of State by Jeff Rovin

Mar 9, 9:50pm Top

Games of State by Jeff Rovin

The demons of hate are reemerging in the newly united Germany and finding root in various countries around the world linked through the shadowy recesses of the Internet and fueled by a businessman looking both for profit and triumph of bigotry, yet Op-Center must find a way to prevent chaos from exploding around the world. Games of State is the third installment of Op-Center that bears the name of its creator Tom Clancy, yet is written by Jeff Rovin. From Germany to the streets of the U.S. to southern France, the action and thrill are palpable as the race to prevent the rise of a new wave of hate.

Gerard Dominique, a French billionaire financier and computer game mogul, is uniting hate groups throughout Europe and the United States to destabilize numerous countries and allow France to once again lead Europe. Part of his plan is to use hate filled video games downloaded onto the Internet and well time hate crimes in various locations to bring about political and societal chaos. Yet the unplanned actions of other hate leaders resulting in a kidnapped young American woman needing to be rescued, the hate-filled enticement towards the son of Op-Center’s Striker team leader over the Internet, the unexpected meeting of Op-Center head Paul Hood with his former fiancée now a Dominique employee, and Dominique’s own hubris results in his plans failing to materialize.

Released in 1996, Games of State brought together many political and cultural threads to create the backdrop of very riveting political thriller with action-packed sequences as well. However well the set up and the ideas were, the use of formulaic tropes that are standard in one-hour TV dramas and paperbacks undermined the potential of a book. What was most disheartening was the ease in which I was able to see which newly introduced characters would result in instantly being important in a 100 or 200 pages just when they were needed, these and other plot twists decreases the enjoyment of the book. Though one can argue that my complaints are to be expected in this type of book, I would argue that one doesn’t mind if the tropes are written well.

Games of State had an intriguing plot idea, but was undermined by poor writing decisions that turned what could have been a good page-turner into an okay read. Though the book’s execution was poor, it was a better read than the previous Op-Center installment, Mirror Image, even with my rating being the same for the both of them.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Games of State by Jeff Rovin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading The Wonder That Was India by A. L. Basham

Mar 17, 9:02pm Top

Moose Country by Sam Campbell

Some adventures are great with a small group and some with a large, yet no matter the size of the group it’s the experience that means more than anything. Moose Country by Sam Campbell is the sixth book so his Living Forest series, as the author details happenings around the Sanctuary of Wegimind as well as a return journey to Sanctuary Lake with numerous friends both longtime and new in learning about the ways of the moose in the Canadian lake country.

Beginning the winter of 1947, Sam and Giny Campbell are taking time away from the lecture circuit and living in the town close to their home to allow Sam to focus on writing. However that doesn’t stop Sam and others from have misadventures nor witnessing interesting animal behavior to convince the couple—well Sam—to remake their Sanctuary cabin to live in all weather. Unfortunately the Campbells find their newly installed insulation being taken out by their island squirrels and their chimney inhabited by chimney swifts, which results in some uncomfortable living for weeks as they attempt to relocate the squirrels who keep on coming back to the island and not having a fire in the cold spring nights. But the Campbells keep their spirits up as they plan to return to Sanctuary Lake, that they visited in A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too, by themselves and much to the disappoint of Hi-Bub. But things dramatically change over the course of a few weeks, first the squirrels are successful relocated in an abandoned logging village and impending move Hi-Bub’s family results in them joining the Campbells for their return to Canada. The last half of the book details the week’s long trip to and stay at Sanctuary Lake with all the adventures associated around it.

This book is just a page short of the previous installments page count at 235. Yet as my recap of the book above shows Campbell packs a lot of stuff in that space, so much so I can’t really give a proper recap of entire book. The latter part of the book sees the return of Sandy and more adventures that include the family of Ray, Marge, and June who surprise visit the Campbell’s and Hi-Bub’s family at Sanctuary Lake with their newest friend, French-Canadian voyageur Ancient who’s insights into the nature of the moose comes in handy. Though Campbell is philosophical, there is not much of it as in previous books.

Moose Country continues Sam Campbell’s fine work emphasizing the wonder of nature and the uniqueness of animals in the wild. Though half the book is a natural travelogue towards a remote Canadian lake and the wildlife around it, the wonder of nature is brought through in Campbell’s prose that will make it enjoy this book just as you did previous ones.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Moose Country by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Mar 18, 2:28am Top

I loved I Shall Wear Midnight. It was great to see how Tiffany had grown into her role as witch.

Mar 18, 4:14pm Top

>57 cmbohn: Totally agree.

Edited: May 8, 9:20pm Top

The Rise of the West by W.H. McNeill

Covering approximately 7000 years of civilization over the entire world in less than 900 pages for a general audience is a tall order. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by W.H. McNeill was written over 50 years ago that changed historical analysis by challenging the leading theories of the day and influenced the study of global history ever since.

McNeill divides his narrative in three parts: the beginnings of civilization in Mesopotamia to 500 B.C., the cultural balance of Eurasia from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., and the era of Western dominance since 1500 A.D. Every corner of the world is discusses, but the dominance is in the Eurasia “ecumene” that feature the interaction between for the four great civilizations of the Middle East (including Egypt), India, China, and finally Europe (starting in Greece before slowly moving West). Throughout McNeill highlights the interplay between cultural, political, and economical factors of each civilization as well as how they interacted and influenced each other.

The interaction and influences between different civilizations to McNeill’s narrative as he challenged the theory of the rise and fall of independent civilizations that did not influence one another. Because of the length of both of the book and time frame covered, McNeill did not go into a detail history instead focusing on trends and important historical moments that may or may not involve historical actors like Alexander or Genghis Khan. Yet information is outdated as new sources or archaeological evidence has changed our understanding of several civilizations over the last 50 years.

The Rise of the West takes a long time to read, however the information—though outdated in places—gives the reader a great overview of world history on every point of the globe. W.H. McNeill’s well-researched book is not a dry read and in giving a good background on numerous civilizations giving the reader a solid foundation if they ever decide to go more in-depth on any civilization.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Rise of the West by W.H. McNeill, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll turn my attention to Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions by Walt Whitman, which I started up again earlier in the year but once again stopped after a few weeks.

Mar 25, 8:45pm Top

The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Basham

Even though Indian civilization has interacted with other civilizations over the millennia, there is still a mystery and allure about its history, culture, and religions that still fascinates. The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Basham is a classic interpretation of Indian culture that for over 60 years has been an introduction to the unique culture that covered a subcontinent up until the arrival of the Muslims.

Basham ordered the book by discipline first with history—both pre-recorded and recorded—followed by government, society, everyday life, religion, the arts, and finally language and literature. This allowed for a generally reader friendly book as Basham covered the history of the subcontinent and then used that background to show the societal and cultural developments. Throughout the book are numerous illustrations, drawings, and maps that showed the richness of the civilization. However, being over 60 years old some of the information is out of date and that is not all of the imperfections that future readers should know about. Basham’s writing style is somewhat dry in places and reading becomes as slog. And the illustrations while being spread throughout the book are not easy to find when referenced in the text.

However, even with this downside The Wonder That Was India is still a great introduction into Indian history. A.L. Basham’s enthusiasm is very evident as well as his expertise on the subject. I definitely recommend this book for dedicated history readers, but issue a word of warning to general readers.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Basham, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov.

Mar 29, 8:25pm Top

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

The completion of the original Foundation trilogy sees the masterplan of Hari Sheldon righted by his secret safety valve. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov sees first the Mule and then the First Foundation itself looking for Sheldon’s second institution because they felt it was a threat, while the Second Foundation attempts to keep the plan going forward.

The book is divided between two novellas, the first and shortest concerns the Mule’s search for the Second Foundation so he can destroy it and rule the Galaxy. He sends two men, one “Converted” and one “Unconverted”, to find his enemies and then follows them to the knowledge of both. Yet the Second Foundation had planned a trap for the Mule, who had deduced that his “unconverted” man was a spy which was planned. The Second Foundation psychologically changes the Mule’s mind from conquest into plan rule so he can die naturally. The second story takes up two-thirds of the book and set 55 years after the first with the First Foundation in knowledge of the Second, which endangers Sheldon’s plan. A group of anti-Second Foundation group meets on Terminus with a young lady eavesdropping to figure out how do destroy their rivals, through the actions of this young lady their conspiracy advances and a war between the Foundation and Kalgan is ignited by happenstance. The young lady is helped to Trantor and later sends a message to her father, who is able to apparently destroy the Second Foundation on Terminus and Kalgan. Only for the leader of the Second Foundation to explain to an apprentice the plan for them to disappear from knowledge so they can keep Sheldon’s plan safe.

Unlike the previous book in the trilogy, this book was written comparably well including both plot and characters. With a telepathic element in both stories, this helped the overall narrative and its myriad of “plots within and upon plots” in both. The point-of-view characters while not the roundest of characters were still better than most in Foundation and Empire, though the second novella “Search by the Foundation” is as long as “The Mule” in the aforementioned previous installment Asimov’s writing was noticeably better in handling the length. Though there was a little tediousness to the second novella, it was mild compared to the previous book and frankly the story moved quickly.

Reading Second Foundation reminded me of reading Foundation and why this trilogy is considered a classic of science fiction. Though Isaac Asimov isn’t a perfect writer, his ideas are engaging and this series shows that perfectly especially in this final book of the trilogy.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Snuff by Terry Pratchett.

Mar 31, 7:46pm Top

The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake by Sam Campbell

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the world’s greatest natural features and living in and around it are numerous species that add to its wonder, especially when you are a naturalist. The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake is the seventh book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest book series in which Sam, his wife Giny, and friends both new and old have interactions with animals both at the Sanctuary of Wegimind and the Grand Canyon.

The Campbells begin the book making a sincere pledge to one another not take in any baby animals, but then a trapper family sends them a letter asking for help. That help turned out to be taking in fawn named Zipper, then a few days later it was taking in Zowie a baby fox from the same family, next was an puppy abandoned right in front of them that they named Zanie, next was a baby skunk named Zinnia they saved from some dogs, and finally were seven beavers—the titular secrets—they hid in a secluded lake. The Campbells found themselves in a dilemma as they planned to go to the Grand Canyon to take film and pictures of animals around the natural wonder; luckily they were able to get their young friends Hi-Bub and Tony come to spend the summer at the Sanctuary freeing them to head to Arizona. While the Campbells are around the Grand Canyon they made friends with a Hopi named John Corn and his son Kona, who are instrumental in helping them get film and pictures of animals, when Sam remembers to take the lens off the camera. Meanwhile the boys sends numerous letters giving details about what was happening around the Sanctuary including interactions with one of the members of the trapper family—Bill—that make the Campbells nervous about the relocated beavers. Returning to the Sanctuary, the Campbells find the boys in good spirits and the beavers safe, and later learn that Bill had learned of the beavers and informed Sam so he could keep an eye on them as he’s rejoining the army thus making Sam change his impression of the man.

The book was as long as the previous few books in the Living Forest series at 236 pages, but this one was stylistically different. While Campbell’s own words featured the activities that he was a part of, the letters by Hi-Bub and Tony were quoted verbatim thus adding new voices for a non-insubstantial portion of the text while the Campbells were in Arizona. While animals were the main focus of the book, there were some important human issues that were faced with John and Kona missing their wife/mother, Hi-Bub struggling to find himself, and Bill’s own personal change of attitude towards animals. There is some classical Campbell philosophy, especially when it concerned Hi-Bub, but the focus on the book was nature and adventure.

The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake is another wonderful book by Sam Campbell that not only features animal and human antics and adventures in the Sanctuary but also the Grand Canyon. If you’ve enjoyed other books of the Living Forest series, you’ll also enjoy this book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Apr 5, 8:44pm Top

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Sam Vimes lives for being a copper, but Lady Sybil demands that he take a vacation and thus city-born and bred Vimes heads out into the countryside away from the action. Snuff is the 39th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as well the eighth and final book of feature the Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Yet even on vacation Sam Vimes cannot help finding crime taking place and then the fun begins.

Strong-armed to a vacation to his wife’s family estate, Sam Vimes begins walking around the country-side and interacting with the locals who don’t know what to think of Lady Sybil’s husband. Besides the common man, Vimes interacts with some of his “gentlemen” neighbors including Lord Rust who reminds him that his jurisdiction is only in Ankh-Morpork. His suspicions raised, Vimes is then clumsily framed for murder and is detained by the local constable, Feeney Upshot. Taking the young man under his wing, Vimes begins investigating the case especially when he finds out that the blood used was from a butchered goblin girl, a fact that makes Vimes want to find who is responsible. As the case progresses, Vimes and Upshot find evidence of goblin snatching and the smuggling of tobacco and troll narcotics then to the killer of the goblin girl who is guarding a new shipment of goblins. Vimes and Upshot race and catch up with a river boat then battle the lowlife smugglers for control of the boat during a vicious storm. Ending up in Quirm, Vimes leads the local police on a chase to a smuggler ship and find the man he was framed of killing alive and well then later catches the goblin girl’s killer when he tries to kill Young Sam. Vimes returns to Ankh-Morpork to discover the fallout from his investigation and then realize that he actually wants to go on vacation back to the country to relax.

Beginning this book, I didn’t know what to expect especially after the last Watch book, Thud! However, my unease was quickly forgotten as Pratchett kept the narration of the book almost entirely—at least 95%—from Vimes’ point-of-view which help keep the book focused unlike the previously mentioned book. The now six-year old Young Sam was a nice addition to the overall story as it not only added to overall enjoyment of the book, but also added to the solid foundation of Vimes’ fatherhood. The only thing that could be a complaint was that Pratchett sometimes wrote some sections twice as long as they should have been, which while not becoming tedious were after a while making me dart ahead to see when they would be wrapped up.

Snuff is a fun investigative romp around the countryside and down the river. It is a very quality send off for Sam Vimes in the Discworld series and if you’re a fan of this particular series of books by Pratchett and haven’t read it, I encourage you to.


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

I'll next be reading The Lost Realms by Zecharia Sitchin.

Apr 5, 8:51pm Top

>63 mattries37315: I’m glad you enjoyed this one. You’re getting really close to the last Discworld book, aren’t you? Two more?

Apr 6, 6:57pm Top

>64 YouKneeK: Yep, only two more to go and Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch then I'm finished with Pratchett after 4+ years of reading.

Apr 10, 9:26pm Top

The Lost Realms by Zecharia Sitchin

Any contact between the “old world” and the “new world” before Columbus—besides the Norse—has been font of speculation writers for decades if not centuries, but what if contact was orchestrated by an otherworldly source? The Lost Realms is the fourth book by Zecharia Sitchin in his The Earth Chronicles as he explores Mesoamerican and South American structures, hieroglyphics, and oral histories in conjunction with the same from Sumer to reveal their connection.

Beginning with the Spanish arrival in the Americas, Sitchin recounts their wonder at the structures and the treasures of the cultures they encountered, plundered, and destroyed in their conquests. He then transitions to determining “who the Amerindians were” and then analyzing their architectural achievements as well as the cultural histories that were displayed on their walls, comparing them to sites in Sumer and Egypt as well as noting their many similarities especially in astronomical alignments. Sitchin begins relating the mineral wealth that was not only historically located in both regions but are also currently still being mined even today. Finally Sitchin wrapped up his book by connecting events in Sumer, especially relating to tin shortage then sudden abundance, to those in the Americas as brought about by the “gods”.

As with previous books, this one began academically but unlike previous ones this one remained so for the vast majority as Sitchin thoroughly detailed the cultures and sites so as to give evidence for his closing arguments. Yet at times this academic approach became tedious with minute detailing that seemed more to be more word padding than anything else. However, this book was still the shortest of the series with less than 280 pages of text and with a bigger font than previous volumes as well. The final chapter of the book was the payoff as Sitchin used the evidenced he had brought—without repeating it which overwhelmingly helped—to argue for the Annunaki intervention in the Americas led by Adad (Viracocha) and Thoth (Quetzalcoatl).

My remembrance of The Lost Realm was completely different upon my rereading, but despite that the book’s detail is its strength while its minuteness is a liability. Sitchin’s argument for his theory is better presented with less redundancy that has plagued others. Overall this is a good book written by Sitchin to advance his theory.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Lost Realms by Zecharia Sitchin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight.

Apr 14, 2:44pm Top

Loony Coon by Sam Campbell

One cannot doubt that raccoons can be both a source of problems and of humor, but sometimes a raccoon comes along that takes it to extremes. Loony Coon is the eighth book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series which features the antics of the titular raccoon in question as observed by Sam, his wife, Giny, and their friends around the Sanctuary of Wegimind while also visiting an old timer who has is own private sanctuary with a domineering goose.

Sam and Giny visit “Coony Castle” after not seeing a raccoon regular at their cabin, Andrea, and discover that she’s giving birth to six babies though one immediately stands out with a floppy left ear and adventurous behavior—Loony. Although they express interest in all of Andrea’s family, it’s really Loony that becomes the focus of their attention as well as their newest human friends. Sonya Eck, a young fan of Sam’s, and her parents visit the Campbell’s home not only give their daughter a nature experience but to help her mother Dorothy to not fear animals which results in her own misadventures amongst the wildlife. The Campbells with new friends in tow visit another nature lover several times; Warden Olie, whose animal friends is second only to that of the Campbells though the goose Grandmaw might be the most domineering animal ever encountered in the series, features in a few humorous situations peppered throughout the book. The end of the book finds Loony, his mother Andrea, and a sibling sharing “Coony Castle” for the winter and Dorothy on nearly friendly terms with her daughter’s pets after a most interesting summer and fall.

Like the majority of the books in this series the length of this book is around 230 pages and is a blend of styles, from the familiar prose of Sam and using other’s stories to fill in content of the book. Unlike the previous book, Campbell’s words are used throughout however he invests more space for the stories of others though in his words. The dominating feature of the book is how baby raccoons develop, with Loony as the featured star, however the mission of Dorothy Eck to not fear animals is the strong secondary feature of the book that gives hopes to anyone who is intimidated by animals to learn that others have dealt with them. And the interludes with Warden Olie feature extreme fun while also helping give the book its’ usual element of forest philosophy.

Loony Coon is a wonderful mixture of nature related humor and adventure which is a special feature of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series. If you’ve enjoyed the previous books of Campbell’s you’ll enjoy this one, but if you’re knew of Campbell’s writing this might be a nice book to start with.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Loony Coon by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

Apr 16, 8:50pm Top

William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight

Due to the religious nature of this book, please go either my Wordpress page (link above) or to William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight so see my review of this book, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading The Martian by Andy Weir.

Apr 16, 9:03pm Top

>68 mattries37315: I liked The Martian quite a bit. I look forward to reading what you think about it after you finish!

Apr 17, 2:50pm Top

>70 mattries37315: Well I've been laughing the last hour at work because of how Mark ended his first conversation with NASA, so far I'm enjoying it. I'm a third into the book, so obviously challenges lay ahead but Weir has set a solid scientific background so any solutions will be believable.

Apr 17, 5:19pm Top

>70 mattries37315: LOL, I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far!

Apr 20, 10:24pm Top

The Martian by Andy Weir

One day you start the normal morning routine on a Mars expedition, but the end of the day you’re bleeding and alone on the Red Planet with everyone believing your dead. The Martian by Andy Weir follows the life and death struggle of astronaut Mark Watney on the surface of Mars as he attempts to stay alive and find a way to contact NASA to get him home.

On the sixth day of the third manned mission to Mars, an intense dust storm scrubs the mission but during the evacuation the mission’s botanist and engineer Mark Watney is seemingly impaled by a broken antenna and left behind. However luck would have it Watney has only a minor injury, but alone on the surface. Taking stock of everything left at base camp, Watney begins planning how to survive until the next mission to Mars and figuring out how to contact NASA, both of which he eventually does through not without significant challenges. Meanwhile NASA has had to do an about face on Watney’s status and begin to figure out how to save him, which means doing things as quickly as possible but results in setbacks and later teaming up with the Chinese to resupply Watney’s crew who “mutiny” by demand to get back to Mars to save their friend.

Weir created a science-based scenario with all the physical and elemental challenges that a stranded astronaut would face on Mars, as well as how it would happen. Watney’s easy-going persona, well as easy-going as one could get while stranded on Mars and hoping to find a way off, makes for numerous laughs that along with Weir’s very easy to read prose makes for a book that is hard to put down. Yet I can’t avoid some of the downsides to the book, namely the end of the book that is almost predictable from the outset and the somewhat manufactured drama especially concerning the internal workings of NASA to results in the crew “mutiny”.

The Martian is a very readable hard science fiction novel, the debut work of Andy Weir. The main character and Weir’s easy prose made this book hard to put down and made me linger reading “just one more page” at night, thus making this a book that I can’t help but recommend to both science fiction fans and general readers alike.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Martian by Andy Weir, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.

Apr 20, 11:14pm Top

>72 mattries37315: I’m happy you enjoyed The Martian!

Raising Steam was my least favorite of all the Discworld novels, but hopefully you'll like it better than I did.

Apr 21, 11:03am Top

>73 YouKneeK: I won't start reading Raising Steam until the 28th, but I'm not getting my hopes up. Moist is a character that I would have loved Pratchett write during Discworld's "prime", but alas he didn't.

I'm on vacation this next week and I'll be reading Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which I started this past week as my reading of Walt Whitman has gone nowhere (after Leaves of Grass "Death-Bed" Edition, no more poetry)

Apr 21, 2:42pm Top

>74 mattries37315: I hope you have a good vacation! Are you traveling anywhere, or relaxing around home?

Apr 21, 6:28pm Top

>72 mattries37315: I really enjoyed that one. I started his latest Artemis a couple of months ago but then had to put it aside. I need to get back to it.

Apr 21, 10:55pm Top

>75 YouKneeK: Thank you. I'm staying home because, well frankly it's cheaper than going anywhere and I'll be working on my practice novel.

>76 clamairy: If I have to force myself to stop reading and go back to work (I read at my breaks and lunch at work) as well as making me read it at home, it's at least a four star book if not four and a half. I haven't glanced at anything connected with Weir's second book, but after how much I enjoyed this one I'll consider it.

Apr 28, 1:58pm Top

Fiddlesticks and Freckles by Sam Campbell

Nature is always changing with and without the “help” of man, but sometimes the actions of some men negate those of others for both good and ill. Fiddlesticks and Freckles is the ninth book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series and sees the prominent return of an old friend in Bobbette along with her fawns, the titular subjects of the book, around the Sanctuary of Wegimind as well as new friends over in Hawaii.

Sam and his wife Giny spy their doe friend Bobbette in a large clearing with two fawns, each with their own prominent features one physical (Freckles) and the other in attitude (Fiddlesticks). The Campbells decide to make a study of the little family with observations and photos. While Bobbette is friendly, she is overcautious with her young, which becomes even more important when tracks and screams indicate that a cougar is roaming in the area after a several decade absence from all of Wisconsin. However, Bobbette’s caution is not only for the cougar but humans as well as unfortunately poachers violate the Campbell’s land and kill the doe leaving her fawns orphaned with bow-and-arrow and deer season still in their future. Sam and Giny do their best to feed the fawns as well as protect the Sanctuary from hunters violating the property lines, but the adventuresome fawns roam 15-20 miles around leaving the Campbells with high anxiety until winter comes roaring in. Throughout this time, the Campbells have been exchanging letters with a young friend in Hawaii they made several years before and decide to return to the islands to grab video and photos of the natural beauty of the soon-to-be 50th state. While the Campbells spend several weeks around the islands interacting with their young friend as well as previous friends and those newly made, they learn that the deer herds are in trouble because of record-breaking snowfall leaving in question of their orphan fawns were able to survive. Only in the late coming spring do they see the now yearlings reappear in the large clearing they first met them.

This book is just a tad longer than majority of books in the series at 243 pages, but is still not the longest of the series. Campbell’s own prose is used throughout the book unlike some of the previous books when letters from others were put into the text, the “return to form” appears just to be better for this book than anything negative from previous departures. While the looking-forward to and the actual trip to Hawaii are hinted at until the last several chapters trip actually takes place, the main focus is on the titular Fiddlesticks and Freckles and their adventures or more apt misadventures for the most part. Yet this book is different as Campbell spent more time describing his yearly struggle when the various hunting seasons come around.

Fiddlesticks and Freckles is full of the wildlife humor and adventures Campbell likes to write about, but unfortunately it also shows the terrible downside of interactions between men and wildlife. One might say this is a bit of a downer, but I think it’s a strength in this book as Campbell shows the challenges that everything in the Living Forest must overcome on a daily and yearly basis.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Fiddlesticks and Freckles by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll begin reading the next book in the Living Forest series next weekend.

May 4, 11:10pm Top

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Once it had been a dream, it had been nearly realized before being abandoned, and many lost their lives looking to harness it until one young man succeeded. Raising Steam is the penultimate book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, as Moist von Lipwig helps along the technological marvel of locomotion created by Dick Simnel that is monetarily supported by Harry King and pushed by Lord Vetinari early on especially to reach Uberwald which becomes imperative as the Dwarfs verge on civil war.

Young Dick Simnel saw his father killed while trying to control steam, but after years of reading and later technological tinkering he succeeded in creating a locomotive engine and a means to use it on rails. Dick then heads to Ankh-Morpork and the wealthy Harry King to get support, which the latter is happy to do. Soon train fever hits Ankh-Morpork and Lord Vetinari calls on Moist von Lipwig to utilize the invention to the betterment of the city, in no uncertain terms. Like always Moist’s mind begins seeing the possibilities in the new technology and begins helping Dick and Harry come up and implement ideas, but soon Vetinari begins pressing Moist to get things moving faster. All the while, dwarf society is splitting between fundamentalist and pragmatists resulting in attacks on such technological marvels as the clacks and the new railway. Then after the fundamentalists launch a coup when the Low King is at summit, it is only with the railway that the “King” is able to return to put down the coup and change dwarf society.

While I enjoyed the character of Moist in his previous two books, this book was not really a Moist von Lipwig book though he was the main point-of-view. In fact this book very much needed the reader to know the events that happened Thud! and Snuff, which were both Watch driven books especially as Sam Vimes featured heavily in the latter part of the book. The story was not bad, but the twists and turns were predictable and some random scenes were in fact plain random as they never played in the overall plot of the book. There was a hint of Pratchett attempting to make a commentary on religious fundamentalism with the acts of terror, but because of political climate of the time he wrote he watered it down a lot. However, the biggest drawback is that the humor was lacking especially as Pratchett included every person or group that have been featured prominently in the series, save the Witches, almost as if he wanted to show them on last time just in case.

Raising Steam is not the worst Discworld book—Eric—and it is close to being one of the best. Honestly, the story is fine, but seems to take longer than necessary. In previous books the reader could forgive this fact because of the great humor, but as stated before that is lacking. This book is for long time Pratchett fans and anyone interested in getting into Discworld is encouraged to find an book in the first three-quarters of the series to read first and work their way to this one.


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

I'll next be reading Acts of War by Jeff Rovin.

May 5, 7:43pm Top

>79 mattries37315: I’m happy that you at least seem to have fared better with Raising Steam than I did. For me it was a combination of not being very interested in trains, a subject discussed at great length, and being annoyed at how out-of-character I thought Vetinari was in this book.

One more Discworld book to go!

May 8, 9:28pm Top

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Sometimes you want to forget very embarrassing things that happen in your life and a few of those times you’ll ask your friends to pretend it didn’t happen, now think about that being the majority of your life. Jenny Lawson, aka “The Bloggess”, recounts her life from childhood through school, romance, marriage, and motherhood in her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir.

Lawson starts off the book by throwing the reader into the deep end of her humor and really doesn’t let them resurface until after finishing the book. Beginning with her childhood in Wall, Texas, Lawson goes through her quirky life from one embarrassing moment to another especially since her own father was a quirky taxidermist whose business was in the backyard AND that was before she even started school. Misadventures in high school—mainly dealing with a cow—and college follow, and it is in the latter where she meets her husband in which the most hilarious moments of her life begin. And through her marriage with Victor, the birth of their daughter, and move out into Texas countryside the misadventures only continue with predictably hilarious, yet embarrassing results.

It’s hard to really evaluate a humorous memoir, except grading it on the content of its own humor. Honestly, given how much I looked forward to reading this book each day and the fact I had to stop reading out of either laughing or just being embarrassed at the author’s own embarrassing situations means it succeeded. Yet on top of that is Lawson’s faux notes from her editor(s) just add to the overall experience of the book. And the added bonus chapter of the paperback of notes from her promotional tour is a cherry on top of everything.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a hilarious memoir of a woman who owns up to her embarrassing moments, cherishes them, and knows they made her who she is. Though this wasn’t the first book by Jenny Lawson that I’ve read, yet now I can see why it became a bestseller and has led to a few more books by Lawson.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, feel free to comment here or there.

In a few days I'll turn my attention to a work by Tacitus.

May 9, 10:10am Top

Acts of War by Jeff Rovin

Decades of repression by several nations has led to a unprecedented unification of militants looking to create a nation for the Kurds and their plan is so audacious that it could result in a war ranging from the Arabian Sea into Eastern Europe and possibly the fracturing of NATO, Op-Center must manage to contain this crisis even as members of their own team are held hostage. Written by Jeff Rovin, but named for Tom Clancy, Acts of War is the fourth book of the Op-Center series which sees a well-planned attack by Kurdish militants send Turkey and Syria on the verge of war as the action spans from Eastern Turkey to the streets of Damascus and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

A four-man team of Syrian Kurds cross into Turkey, attack the Turkish guards then are able to commander a military helicopter that they use to destroy the Ataturk Dam. Nearby General Mike Rodgers heads a small team testing the first Regional Op-Center—ROC—that will allow for better crisis management, deciding to scout the attack on the Dam with a Turkish liaison officer, they are captured by three of the Kurds which leads to the capture of the ROC when they attempt to rescue the duo. Meanwhile the strike of the Dam has cause Turkey to mobilize it’s forces south to the Syrian border, the Syrian mobilize theirs to the north, Iraq begins making moves towards Kuwait, and other nations begin stepping up their military including Greece which might ally itself with Syria. With a possible general war in the Middle East about to break out the President sends Op-Center head Paul Hood to Damascus to negotiate with Syrian President. Hood sends Op-Center’s military team, Striker, to Israel so as to set up a rescue of the capture ROC before the President decides to destroy it and the hostages in a missile strike before the Kurds can use US intelligence for the rest of their plan, including a coordinated attack in the heat of Damascus which puts Hood in the crossfire. Through both luck and the calling in of various favors around the region, Op-Center is able to resolve the crisis before it escalates into general war but not without a price.

Released in 1997, Acts of War used the volatile political landscape of that time—and save the good relationship between Israel and Turkey of now—as the setting for this action thriller. Unfortunately a lot of the book comes down to the stupidity of General Mike Rodgers’ essentially boyish need to be a cowboy instead of an actual military officer and then his actions against the Kurds while being a hostage the endangered all the other hostages before murdering a Kurd who tortured him after he had been captured by Striker. The positives of the book such as the well thought out plan of the Kurdish militants to create a general war, the Israeli spy of Druze descent who scouts the Bekaa Valley and helping the now Brett August lead Striker team’s action in combat, and the analysis the various nightmare scenarios of a general war in the Middle East are all outweighed by everything dealing with Rodgers, including a Presidential pardon for killing said Kurd with no ramifications like say retiring, negates everything.

Acts of War, like several previous Op-Center books, has an intriguing plot idea that is undermined by poor writing though amazingly for different reasons than previous book. Yet this book is a rather frustrating and somewhat disappointing read, more so than Mirror Image, because it shows Jeff Rovin is knowingly doing bad writing on an element in one book when he’s showed before or shows later that he knows how to write good on that same element.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Acts of War by Jeff Rovin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading City of God by St. Augustine.

May 10, 12:17pm Top

>81 mattries37315: I bought her Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things for my Kindle a couple of years ago but just haven't gotten to it yet. I'm very happy to hear she's as funny as I'd hoped, though.

May 10, 8:13pm Top

>80 YouKneeK: I've thought about it some and I think Vetinari tried his best not to show too much enthusiasm for trains but he couldn't help himself just like a lot of other Disc characters, at least that's what I chalked it up to.

>83 clamairy: A word of caution on Furiously Happy, Lawson talks about her dealing with her mental health issues with a humorous yet serious way. It's funny don't get me wrong, but I found that reading the book through a chapter a day was best (at least for me).

May 12, 5:55pm Top

>81 mattries37315: That's on the TBR pile (somewhere!). I may have to rummage and bring it closer to the top!

May 12, 6:26pm Top

Beloved Rascals by Sam Campbell

Just like humans, the animal world is filled with rascally species that just make you shake your head in frustration and laugh at their antics. Sam Campbell writes about both animals and humans in the tenth book of his Living Forest series, Beloved Rascals, as he and his wife Giny interact with a variety of said rascals from their own Sanctuary of Wegimind as well as in and around Canada’s Banff National Park.

The return to their island home begins on a somber note for the Campbells as they drive past a fire in the woods that is slowly growing, they get help and provide service of food and water for the numerous firefighters, forest rangers, and game wardens battling the blaze. After rain ends the fire, the Campbells continue their journey home sadden by the loss of animal life and one burned crow, named Midnight, they intend to help mend. Soon Midnight is joined by a pair of baby raccoons, a pair of porcupines, and an infant hare that escaped from a wolverine. But the forest fire make the Campbells nervous and after a group of campers led by a guide they trusted left an open fire going on their property they post ‘No Trespassing’ signs. But then a southern family, the Meadows, shows up excited to be near Sam Campbell and at the Sanctuary after unknowingly passed a downed trespass sign on their way to the Sanctuary. However, the Campbells are impressed by their visitors excellent camping skills—though tenderfoots, they studied numerous books for proper camping etiquette—and their twins sons enthusiasm that they allow the family to stay after the Meadows find the fallen sign and apologize. The Meadows appearance and enthusiasm for nature allows the Campbells to head to the Canadian Rockies—Banff National Park—to photograph and film wildlife as well as interact up close and personal on occasions with both animals and humans. One of the latter is the local legend, Klondike, a former miner who is rumored to have a pet three-legged grizzly, but is notoriously hard to find.

Like the previous book, Beloved Rascals comes in slightly longer than the rest of the series at 244 pages making it the second longest of Campbell’s books. As usually Campbell’s engaging prose makes the activities and misadventures of the numerous animals chronicled come alive in a very easy to read way. The Canadian trip and the foreshadowing of Campbell’s meeting with Klondike pepper the book, but it does take away from the other things Campbell writes about resulting in a good balance. But like the last book, Campbell laments that the actions and carelessness of others is slowly making him cut off the Sanctuary for other people in an effort to protect the land and the animals.

Beloved Rascals is quintessential Campbell with wildlife and human misadventures in the forests of North America, but once again shows the downside of human carelessness as well. Spanning from the familiar Sanctuary to the spectacular Canadian Rockies, this book allows the reader to experience both sorrow and joy of the animal life in North America.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Beloved Rascals by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll be reading the penultimate book in the Living Forest series, Sweet Sue's Adventures next weekend.

May 12, 6:27pm Top

>85 Peace2: Whenever you get to it, I hope it enjoy it as much as I did.

May 18, 11:22pm Top

Sweet Sue's Adventures by Sam Campbell

The length of a mother skunk’s time with her young is less than three months, but even in those three months you can learn a lot. Sweet Sue’s Adventures is the penultimate book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series, yet unlike all of the other books in the series this one completely different.

Sam Campbell takes the reader on a journey of six hikes to a nearby farm and follow the adventures of a female skunk just before she gives birth through to the raising of her big family to when they leave, all of that under three months. However this time, Campbell writes in such a way that the reader becomes an active participant of the narrative like a student going out with an old-timer to learn instead of relating a variety of events around the Sanctuary of Wegimind or another location that his wife and he travelled to. Yet the information learned about the skunk like its eating habits, the raising of it’s young, and the warning signs before it sprays you with its pungent odor are extremely interesting.

As stated before, Sweet Sue’s Adventures is a completely different book than its predecessors. The first was the change of narrative style as noted above, the second was that instead of being easy to read for all ages this book was aimed at younger readers specifically, and third was the inclusion of 48 black-and-white photographs of Sue and her litter instead of the occasional illustrations. Being the shortest book of the entire series at around 120 pages with photographs and wide spacing made this a very quick read, though informative.

Sweet Sue’s Adventures is a quick lite read aimed at young readers about an animal that is stereotyped as always smelling. While it is completely different from previous Living Forest books, Sam Campbell packs it was information that is suited to his target audience. Though adult readers and probably first time readers might find it juvenile, for experienced readers of Campbell it’s a nice quick read on a rainy day.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Sweet Sue's Adventures by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll be reading the final book in the Living Forest series, Calamity Jane tomorrow.

May 19, 2:01pm Top

Calamity Jane by Sam Campbell

A year in the life of a raccoon, particularly a female, is challenging and then there are the kits one must raise and teach to survive before winter comes and the cycle starts again. Calamity Jane is the final book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series, focusing on the year in the life of a raccoon introduced in Looney Coon yet in a different style than the rest of the series.

Campbell begins Jane’s story with her emerges from a several weeks long nap in mid-February to get out and about, eat some, and meet other raccoons especially one big male in particular. The book then shifts into spring as Jane reemerges on the hunt for food as quickly and as much as possible before having to feed her four kits. Taking up most of the book, the spring is when young kits are in the most danger first because they rely on their mother and then when they’re eyes open they begin exploring much to their mother’s fear in some cases. Eventually Eno, one of Jane’s kits, begins living with a nearby farmer and his family after a misadventure but later reconnects with his mother and siblings. The most shocking turn of events is the apparent death of Jane when hunters enter the Wildlife Refuge she lives in and attack her, though by then she had weened her kits off of needed her and able to survive on their own. But later that fall, Jane returns after proving harder to killer than the hunters expected to the joy of the farming family. The book ends back in the winter with Eno not comfortable his human family’s sleeping habits and heading back to his old home to get some much needed sleep with his siblings and mother.

Like Sweet Sue’s Adventures before it, Calamity Jane is written differently than other books in the series. Focusing on Jane and her kits, the book follows them in a style meant for young readers. With the addition of over 50 photographs, this book is definitely for young readers than readers for all ages. Given that Sam Campbell passed away the same year as this book was previously published, one wonders if his health changed the way he wrote the last two books of this series though interesting information for nature’s citizens isn’t diminished.

Calamity Jane like its predecessor is a children’s book to get them interested in nature and giving them a wonderful introduction to Sam Campbell’s writing so they can be interested in the other books in the Living Forest series.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Calamity Jane by Sam Campbell, feel free to comment here or there.

May 23, 9:08pm Top

Agricola and Germnay by Tacitus

Every one of Roman’s greatest historians began their writing career with some piece, for one such man it was a biography of his father-in-law and an ethnographic work about Germanic tribes. Agricola and Germany are the first written works by Cornelius Tacitus, which are both the shortest and the only complete pieces that he wrote.

Tacitus’ first work was a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who was the governor of Britain and the man who completed the conquest of the rest of the island before it was abandoned by the emperor Domitian after he recalled Agricola and most likely poisoned him. The biography not only covered the life of Agricola but also was a history of the Roman conquest of Britain climaxed by the life of the piece’s hero. While Agricola focused mostly one man’s career, Tacitus did give brief ethnographic descriptions of the tribes of Britain which was just a small precursor of his Germany. This short work focused on all the Germanic tribes from the east bank of the Rhine to the shores of the North and Baltic Seas in the north to the Danube to the south and as far as rumor took them to the east. Building upon the work of others and using some of the information he gathered while stationed near the border, Tacitus draws an image of various tribes comparing them to the Romans in unique turn of phrases that shows their barbarianism to Roman civilization but greater freedom compared to Tacitus’ imperial audience.

Though there are some issues with Tacitus’ writing, most of the issues I had with this book is with the decisions made in putting this Oxford World’s Classics edition together. Namely it was the decision to put the Notes section after both pieces of writing. Because of this, one had to have a figure or bookmark in either Agricola or Germany and another in the Notes section. It became tiresome to go back and forth, which made keeping things straight hard to do and the main reason why I rate this book as low as I did.

Before the Annals and the Histories were written, Tacitus began his writing with a biography of his father-in-law and Roman’s northern barbarian neighbors. These early works show the style that Tacitus would perfect for his history of the first century Caesars that dramatically changed the culture of Roman.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Agricola and Germany by Tacitus, feel free to comment here or there.

My next home read will be Orbit of Discovery by Don Thomas.

Jun 2, 2:02pm Top

Organizing for Mission and Growth: The Development of Adventist Church Structure by George R. Knight


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Organizing for Mission and Growth by George R. Knight, feel free to comment here or there.

Edited: Jun 3, 9:03pm Top

City of God by St. Augustine


Due to the religious nature of the above book and my review, please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of City of God by St. Augustine of Hippo or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Typee by Herman Melville.

Edited: Jun 13, 11:45am Top

Typee: A Peep of Polynesian Life by Herman Melville

While known today for vengeful captain chasing a white whale, Herman Melville’s writing career began with a travelogue of his adventure on the Nuku Hiva and was his most popular work during his life. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is a semi-autobiographical book that Melville wrote about his approximately 4 week stay that he “expanded” to 4 months in the narrative.

Melville begins his narrative when he describes the captain of the “Dolly” deciding to head to the Marqueas Islands and then events surrounding the ship’s arrival at the island as well as the actions of the French who were “taking possession” of it. Then Melville and a shipmate named Toby decide to ‘runaway’ to the valley of the Happar tribe and execute their plan when they get shore leave. Climbing the rugged cliffs of the volcanic island, they hide in the thick foliage from any searchers but realize they didn’t have enough food and soon Melville’s leg swells up slowing them down. Believing they arrived in the valley of the Happar, they make contact only to find themselves with the Typee. However the tribe embraces the two men and attempt to keep them amongst their number, but first Toby is able to ‘escape’ though Melville can’t help but think he’s been abandoned. Melville then details his experiences along amongst the cannibalistic tribe before his own escape with assistance of two other natives of the island from other tribes.

The mixture of narrative of Melville’s adventures and the anthropological elements he gives of the Typee make for an interesting paced book that is both engaging and dull. Though Melville’s lively descriptions of the events taking place are engaging, one always wonders if the event actually took place or was embellish or just frankly made up to liven up the overall tale. The addition of a sequel as an epilogue that described the fate of Toby, which at the time added credibility to Melville’s book, is a nice touch so the reader doesn’t wonder what happened to him.

Overall Typee is a nice, relatively quick book to read by one of America’s best known authors. While not as famous as Melville’s own Moby Dick, it turned out to be a better reading experience as the semi-autobiographical nature and travelogue nature gave cover for Melville to break into the narrative to relative unique things within the Typee culture.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Typee by Herman Melville, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett.

Edited: Jun 13, 8:27pm Top

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Endings are sad no matter if it happens suddenly or you know it’s been coming for some time, but all good things come to an end. The Shepherd’s Crown is the final book of Tiffany Aching journey into mature witch as well as the 41st and last Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. Not only was this the last book, finished before Pratchett’s death, but saw the biggest development in the series ever—warning spoilers below.

While Tiffany Aching continues work as the Chalk’s witch both see and Jeannie the kelda feel something is about to happen, which it does with the death of Granny Weatherwax in Lancre that sets off a chain of events. Granny leaves everything, including her steading, to Tiffany thus making her be seen as “first among equals” amongst witches. But the death of Granny results in a weakened barrier between the Disc and Fairyland as many elves seeing the Queen as scared and cautious after her defeat by Tiffany years before and it only grows when they learn goblins have been accepted in human society and that iron—railways—now rule the land. The Queen is usurped by Lord Peaseblossom who begins raiding into Lancre and the Chalk, which adds to Tiffany’s burden of covering two steadings in to locales that becomes a bit easier when a Geoffrey leaves his noble family and travels to Lancre to become a witch and turns out to have some talent—for a man. Gathering together witch allies, the Feegles, elderly men looking for a fight, and the deposed Queen to battle an invasion, Tiffany uses the power in the Chalk to defeat Peaseblossom—who killed the Queen in battle—then summon the King of the Elves—who kills the usurper for killing his wife—to prevent them from ever returning. Afterwards Tiffany knowing no witch can replace Granny give the Lancre steading to Geoffrey then builds herself a hut from the bones of her own grandmother’s hut to have an official residence of her own.

Pratchett did not complete this book as he would have liked to as Neil Gaiman stated in a later interview and the clues were there for a more emotional ending and closure for fans, but this unfortunate missed opportunity does not detract seriously from the book. On the whole, the plot and character developments were nearly perfect with the only except of Mrs. Earwig who felt like she had more to be developed but that Pratchett hadn’t had enough time to provide it.

The Shepherd’s Crown is a book of endings for numerous reasons and because of that some people do not want to read it, especially those who have been fans longer than I have. However eventually I hope those people will eventually read Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld book and see that even right up to his own meeting with Death that he strove to create something that made you think and show your emotions.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin.

Jun 13, 5:44pm Top

>94 mattries37315: Congrats on finishing Discworld! I’m glad you enjoyed the last book.

Jun 13, 7:28pm Top

>95 YouKneeK: Thanks, took four years (May 23, 2014-June 12, 2018) but it was worthwhile.

Jun 13, 8:05pm Top

>94 mattries37315: I'm glad you liked it, and it's a great review but you might want to hide some (a lot) of it behind a spoiler veil! :o)

Jun 13, 8:39pm Top

>97 clamairy: Thanks for reminding me, I forgot to add that.

Jun 19, 7:53pm Top

Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin

How advanced in thought and science were the ancients? And is modern science catching up on what they knew? These questions are the basis of Zecharia Sitchin’s Genesis Revisited in which he looks back at the scientific developments since publishing of his book The 12th Planet (up until 1990) to show that his finds in that and subsequent books are being proven.

Organized in a well throughout manner, Sitchin begins each topical chapter—save the final two—looking at the scientific consensus and findings that have been advanced since the 1976 publication of his first book. Then after laying the foundation going back to the Sumerian texts that he first wrote about to show that modern science is now replicating the knowledge of the earliest civilizations that was brought to them by the Anunnaki of Nibiru. The last two chapters were focused on more “recent” developments, particularly the Phobos 2 incident and the sudden cooperation between the United States and the USSR in space particularly in regards to Mars.

Obviously the biggest flaw of this book is that it was published in the fall of 1990 meaning that there has been almost 30 years of advancement of scientific knowledge that has made some of this science discussed in the book outdated. Yet I have to give Sitchin credit for keeping things simple when explaining his theories by only hitting the high points and then referencing the reader to his earlier books for a more in-depth look. This allowed Sitchin to focus on the modern science more in each chapter as a way to compare it to his theories of Sumerian knowledge. Although the last two chapters contain some speculation of (then) current events they don’t diminish from Sitchin the achievement of staying focused so as to bring new readers to his books.

Essentially Genesis Revisited is a book that allowed Zecharia Sitchin to reach new readers who had not heard of his previous books as well show is long time readers new evidence that confirmed what he had been writing about. Although the book’s science is now dated, for those interested in ancient astronauts it’s something they might want to check out.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading The Stuart Age by Barry Coward.

Jun 20, 1:42pm Top

Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission by Don Thomas

From the beginning of the 20th-Century the state of Ohio has seemingly been on the forefront of manned flight from the Wright Brothers to Neil Armstrong to the flight of an “All-Ohio” crew of STS-70 aboard the shuttle Discovery. Don Thomas in Orbit of Discovery relates the entire history of the mission from his assignment to the crew to the post-mission events as well as the event that is it best known for, the woodpecker attack that delayed the launch.

Thomas begins his book with the sudden halt in his pre-flight routine when a love sick woodpecker drilled holes in the foam of the external tank forcing weeks of delays that put him and the other four members of the crew spinning their wheels. This pause allows Thomas to give an account about how he personally got to this point through his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to his course of study in school to achieve that dream then his three time failures to join the program until finally succeeding on this fourth try. He then goes into his time in the program before his flight on the shuttle Columbia and quick turn assignment to Discovery soon after his return. Thomas then related the year long process of training and preparation for the mission until the sudden halt in the process when a woodpecker used the external tank to attract a mate. After NASA was able to repair the foam, the mission returns to normal save for the humor inclusions of Woody Woodpecker throughout the flight in space and the numerous post-mission events that Thomas relates in detail.

The uniqueness of the mission’s delay as well as the fact that the crew was entirely made up of astronauts from one state—well one was given honorable citizenship—made for a good hook for any general reader who might have an interest in the space program. Thomas with the assistance of Mike Bartell gives a very reader friendly look into what it was like to be an astronaut and the course of shuttle missions from assignment to post-flight events without becoming bogged down in technobabble. At the end of the book is included an appendix for profiles for all the astronauts that came from Ohio which is in the spirit of the book and adds a nice bit of history for those interested.

Overall, Orbit of Discovery is a well-written and easy to read book that gives a first-hand account of everything that went into a space shuttle flight. Don Thomas’ own story of his journey to finally getting to the program adds to the account in allowing the read to see how much dedication goes into becoming an astronaut. For those interested in any way in the space program, this is a highly recommended book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Orbit of Discovery by Don Thomas, feel free to comment here or there.

My next home read will be Myths of Adventism by George R. Knight.

Edited: Jun 30, 5:35pm Top

Myths of Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues by George R. Knight

Myths pop up everywhere from history, to religion, and in the understanding of someone’s writing. George R. Knight writes in Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues about numerous issues that influence the thinking of Adventists educators and administrators.

Knight tackles 19 “myths” related to Adventist education, institutions, and thoughts over the course of 250 pages. Beginning with myth related to “Historical and Philosophical” issues including those surrounding Ellen White, Knight clears up historical inaccuracies and puts Mrs. White’s writing not only in the context in which lines are written but what was going on at the time that made her write certain statements. Knight then turned his attention to “Institutions and People” focusing on such issues the interplay between home and school, human nature, and intellectualism in Adventist education. The largest section of the book about “Curriculum and Methods”, Knight focused on sacred and secular topics, Bible as textbook, literary subjects, religious instructions, in-classroom environments, and recreation and manual labor.

As a child of a retired Adventist teacher, I appreciated this book in seeing what my mother had to face over the course of approximately 35 years of her career. Knight’s research and writing are fantastic throughout the book giving the reader amazing insights in how myths are given life in numerous fields and situations. However, my problem with this book is not with Knight but with the publishers who in designing the book and blurbs made this book something it wasn’t. The front cover blurb literally says, “A thoughtful look at misconceptions about Ellen White and Adventist life that have long caused controversy in the church” but nothing about education which is what the book is about and instead makes it appear it’ll be about numerous other things about Adventism. Though Knight attempts to shield the publishers for their decision in the preface, it’s unfortunately makes the reader realize they might have gotten hoodwinked.

Overall Myths in Adventism is an insightful look at the cultural clashes in Adventist education by a writer that knows how to do research in Adventist history and education. However even though George R. Knight is fantastic, the decisions of the publishers to make this book appear to be something that it’s not is very annoying and future readers need to know about it.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Myths of Adventism by George R. Knight, feel free to comment here or there.

My next home read will be Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson.

Jul 4, 9:52am Top

The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 by Barry Coward

After the act of the Tudors, how would the Stuarts follow up in ruling England? Barry Coward covers the history of England between 1603 and 1714 in The Stuart Age giving the reading a comprehensive look at the developments across religion, economy, politics, and government while trying to dispel old assumptions and highlight new research.

Coward begins and ends the book with looking a statistical view England, at first looking how England developed through the early Stuarts to 1650 and then through the Interregnum and late Stuarts until the Hanoverian ascension. The vast majority of the book covers the narrative flow of history of the period from the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England after the death of Elizabeth to the death of his great-granddaughter Anne with all the twists and turns that happened within the domestic political arena that saw numerous failed attempts at Scottish union to disagreements between monarchs and parliament and finally the dispossessions of monarchs from the throne through execution and invited invasion then dictating who can take the throne. Plus add in the events in Scotland and Ireland that played important roles at critical times that shaped events in England that made the century what it was.

The book is first and foremost an overview of the era with Coward attempting to give the events that took place their proper context in the evolution of government or religion or anything else related to “modern” Britain. In doing this he set aside many myths about the era especially in the context of their times, he also gave context between “court” and “country” political establishments especially in relation to developments on the continent, i.e. the rise of absolutism and centralized government. However, one of the drawbacks is that Coward would bring up other historians and juxtapose their theories on events without just simply making his own mark on the interpretation of the events. Another feature which was lacking was that the military campaigns of especially the English Civil War, but also the continental wars, weren’t highlighted much especially since the Civil War was only covered in one whole chapter yet as an overview book it wasn’t unexpected. And finally, as this edition of the book—the 2nd published in 1994—is almost 25 years old further research and debate has been missed out on.

The Stuart Age does its job fantastically well by giving an overview of the entire Stuart era that like other parts of English history seemed to be overshadowed by the proceeding Tudors. Barry Coward’s layout of the period gives the reader perspective of the statistical elements of history that will influence the later narrative of the political and military events that make of the majority of the book then the aftereffects of those events on the same statistics, though slow in the beginning pays off and make this book pop. If you’re looking for an overview of this period in English history, then you should consider this book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Stuart Age by Barry Coward, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Ulysses by James Joyce.

Jul 7, 7:56pm Top

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

Traveling from the palace of the Azish emperor to the carved out city of Yeddaw, a young Knight Radiant stalks her would be executioner even as a danger to her world stalks the land. Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer is a tale from the Stormlight Archive set in-between the second and third volumes of the main series as it shows the how Lift, the titular Edgedancer, and a long surviving Herald react to the Everstorm.

Feeling confined and unsure, the adventurous theft Lift travels to the city of Yeddaw to find more Radiants before they are murdered by Darkness. The teenager displays her Edgedancer talents to draw the attention of her would be executioner while also exploring the city and trying to figure out its people. Her tactics pay off as Darkness learns she’s in the city and she follows him to discover what he knows only to find out that Darkness has Radiant apprentices of his own including a man in white. Eventually Lift is forced to use her connections with the Azish emperor to find out who Darkness is searching for only to discover that his apprentices had made a mistake and that the unlikeable woman Lift has had several encounters will is his target. But it is during their confrontation that Lift convinces Darkness, the Herald Nale, that the Everstorm hitting the city means a new Desolation has arrived.

Although this book comes in at roughly 270 pages, the first 58 being a reprinting of Lift’s Interlude in Words of Radiance, the small hardback volume that it appears in makes it seem longer than it is. In a postscript, Sanderson wrote that this novella was needed before both characters appear again in Oathbringer thus meaning for that anyone reading the series this short little story is something they might want to quickly read. Given it’s short length, Sanderson packs a lot into it as he wants to describe the city of Yeddaw as well as continue to develop Lift—who he is not shy in saying he enjoys writing—in both her understanding of who she is and in giving readers hints about what the “Nightwatcher” gave her instead of her request to remain 10 years old.

Edgedancer is a quick, fun read about young adventurous character looking to figure herself out and in the process helping an age-old hero begin to regain his focus on what the world of Roshar needs. Even though you’ll need to have read earlier volumes of the Stormlight Archive to understand the magical system and world it take place in.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson, feel free to comment here or there.

My next home read will be a work by Tacitus.

Jul 7, 9:11pm Top

>103 mattries37315: That's good to know for when I finally tackle the Stormlight Archives - read it between books 2 & 3.

Jul 8, 4:51pm Top

>104 Narilka: Yes, read it between 2 & 3. If you read it really soon after Words of Radiance (book 2) then you can skip the first 58 pages (if you want) since it's just a reprint of an Interlude in that book.

Jul 15, 9:25pm Top

Thanks very much for the review on The Stuart Age, I've been looking for a good book to read on English/UK history, though this one might be a little focused to start. It still sounds great.

Jul 16, 8:08pm Top

>106 Karlstar: You're welcome. I might recommend Alison Weir's The Wars of the Roses, I read it back in college (which I'm meaning to reread it) and something I always refer back to when doing research in that era.

Jul 16, 9:20pm Top

>107 mattries37315: Thanks again!

Jul 17, 11:45am Top

>102 mattries37315: & >107 mattries37315: Alison Weir's books are quite good.

I am waiting for that Ulysses review! I read it (as in my eyeballs passed over every page) while in graduate school. I have been mulling over the idea of giving it a second shot in audiobook form.

Jul 17, 3:05pm Top

>109 clamairy: I "finished" it today. I say "finish" because at about the halfway point I had gotten so confused that I just said, "#%^ it, I'm skimming the rest." Don't expect a particularly long review.

Edited: Jul 17, 3:37pm Top

>110 mattries37315: Yup, that was my experience! If I hadn't had a professor who kept telling me what I was "supposed to be seeing" I wouldn't have comprehended a thing. Even then I was mostly lost.

Jul 17, 5:22pm Top

>111 clamairy: Yeah, I read the introduction carefully and having already read the Odyssey thought I was prepared as well as can be expected without an annotated edition BUT I was wrong.

Jul 17, 6:06pm Top

>112 mattries37315: There are annotated editions? Oh, that might be worth an investment some day.
(What a silly question. Of course there are.)

Jul 17, 6:12pm Top

Note to self: Wait until I have more classics under my belt before trying to tackle Ulysses! It sounds challenging…

Jul 17, 9:37pm Top

>114 YouKneeK: In retrospect I might have looked at reading other modernist books from like Joseph Conrad, Frank Kafka, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and even William Faulkner--who I have two books on my shelf waiting to be read--that were published before or after Ulysses. From things I've seen while doing research the last two days in prep for my review, Ulysses is "the" novel of literary modernism (look it up on Wikipedia).

Jul 17, 10:04pm Top

Ulysses by James Joyce

The life of the everyman in a single day in Dublin is the basic premise of James Joyce’s Ulysses, yet this is an oversimplification of the much deeper work that if you are not careful can quickly spiral down into a black hole of fruitless guesswork and analysis of what you are reading.

Joyce’s groundbreaking work is a parallel to Homer’s The Odyssey though in a modernist style that was defined by Joyce in this novel. Though the primary character is Leonard Bloom, several other important secondary characters each take their turn in the spotlight but it is Bloom that the day revolves around. However any echoes of Homer are many times hidden behind Joyce verbosity and stream-of-conscious writing that at times makes sense and at times completely baffles you. Even with a little preparation the scale of what Joyce forces the reader to think about is overwhelming and frankly if you’re not careful, quickly derails your reading of the book until its better just to start skimming until the experience mercifully ends.

While my experience and opinion of this work might be lambasted by more literary intelligent reviewers, I would like to caution those casual readers like myself who think they might be ready to tackle this book. Read other modernist authors like Conrad, Kafka, Woolf, Lawrence, and Faulkner whose works before and after the publication of Ulysses share the same literary movement but are not it’s definitive work.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Ulysses by James Joyce, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman.

Edited: Jul 17, 10:09pm Top

>115 mattries37315: I've read some Conrad & Kafka, and several of each of Woolf's, Lawrence's and Faulkner's books. While most of them may have had me scratching my head occasionally, nothing I have ever read* has left me as lost and bewildered as Joyce's Ulysses. Oddly enough the other things of his I've read were wonderful, and not bewildering at all.

*Admittedly I now bail out swiftly on anything with "stream of consciousness" in it.

Edited to add: >116 mattries37315: Very nicely stated.

Edited: Jul 17, 10:12pm Top

>117 clamairy: Thanks for the heads up. Admittedly I was letting everyone else know what I wish I would have done when I gave that advice about reading other authors, but hindsight is 20/20.

Thought to be honest if you wanted a cliffnotes version of my review it would be, "I came. I read. I failed." But I decided to make it look nicer than that ;)

Edited to add: Thank you.

Edited: Jul 17, 10:23pm Top

>118 mattries37315: If that was your first taste of Joyce and you want something short and much more palatable I would suggest a short story of his called The Dead. It should be available through Project Gutenberg, and it's incredible. (Dark, but incredible nonetheless.) It's also included in just about any anthology of his shorter works.

Edited to add: I understand completely if you never want to have anything to do with him again. ;o)

Jul 18, 8:14am Top

>119 clamairy: I have almost 270 books in my TBR pile, so he'll just have to wait.

Jul 19, 12:39pm Top

I read Ulysses twice back in my 20s. I was really into that kind of thing then. I do think it's genius, but I would never try reading it again. The older I get, the less patience I have for people trying hard to impress or just breaking the rules for the sake of it.

OTOH, I have promised myself I will reread Infinite Jest when Venus Williams retires. (I'll just skip most of the footnotes.)

Jul 24, 9:11pm Top

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

The Apocalypse has arrived, but the fabled battle of Armageddon will not take place in the Middle East it’ll be in Oxfordshire unless a demon and an angel get their way. Good Omens is from the combined writing of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett who take the well-trod path of end of the world novels and stand them on their head.

The demon Crowley is tasked with delivering the Antichrist to his family and ensuring his evil education, but his love of humanity makes him come clean to his friend, the angel Aziraphale who comes up with the brilliant plan to have both Good and Evil influence the child growing up. On the child’s eleventh birthday, Crowley and Aziraphale find out that there had been a mix up at the hospital and they race to find the Antichrist along with Heaven, Hell, and the Four Horsemen who are gathered from around the world. And in the little town of Lower Tadfield, Adam Young and his gang (Them) as well the witch Anathema Device and the witchfinder Newt Pulsifer have their own roles to play in the Final Battle as it draws nigh.

The combined talents of Gaiman and Pratchett work seamlessly, especially when the reader learns at the end of this particular edition of how the two worked together, and create a fantastic satire of the end of the world and all the tropes that go along with it. Though the humor is good, some of it is a bit dated and so some jokes fall flat which is the only downside to this really good book.

If you are either a fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett and haven’t read this book yet, then I highly encourage you to do so. Good Omens is the perfect blend of both authors and you’ll find it highly enjoyable, save for the few out of date jokes. If you’re simply a fan of satire, then give this book and its riffing of a certain supernatural horror film from the 1970s a good read.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be rereading Balance of Power by Jeff Rovin

Jul 29, 6:41pm Top

Balance of Power by Jeff Rovin

With ethnic tensions suddenly boiling to the surface, Spain looks like it might go the way of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union or be kept together by a strong man in the image of Franco until Op-Center is put into the crossfire. Balance of Power, the fifth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin, ghosting for the titular Tom Clancy, once again finds Op-Center operatives in the middle of an international crisis but this time one of their own is set up with deadly consequences and vengeance is on everyone’s mind only to find that taken away by a man who allowed the attack to happen in an effort to forge Spain in his own image.

Sent to Madrid to help negotiate between two ethnic factions of the country, Martha Mackell is murdered by an assassin contracted by the very people she had been sent to help. The men who ordered her assassination are then killed on the orders of the Spanish Chief of Staff who is looking to become the next Franco by inciting ethnic riots around the country, especially in his native Castile. With one of their own killed and a NATO ally tilting between violently separating and a totalitarian regime, Op-Center must do everything in their power with the help of local Interpol officers to contain the situation. Yet Director Paul Hood must also confront a situation in his marriage while Darrel McCaskey, Op-Center’s FBI liaison deals with his old love interest an Interpol agent who decides to take out the would be Franco herself which complicates things with Striker and McCaskey personally.

Released in 1998, Balance of Power uses the tensions in Spain which resonates today given the situation in Catalonia and effectively conveys the tensions in the country. Unlike the previous book in which a character’s stupidity—General Mike Rodgers—basically drove the plot, it was conspiracies against conspiracies with independent human actors fighting for their country, honor, and more driving the plot which was a vast improvement. Maria Corneja, McCaskey’s ex and Interpol agent, is the most prominent secondary character and while she was fine overall, yet if you had changed her name to Mario (Italian I know) and “she” to “he” nothing would have changed—save the romantic angle—but to say Corneja was a man with tits would be going too far. While there were little things here and there that seem like tiny plot holes, nothing really stood out as completely awful but if I were to choose the worst part of the book, it’s once again Paul and Sharon Hood’s marriage which has been choreographed to be doomed since the first book.

Like several books before it, Balance of Power is another Op-Center book with an intriguing plot idea but for once Jeff Rovin writes the characters and narrative to carry it instead of undermining it like the three previous installments. While it’s not the greatest action thriller, it’s a solid story with interesting characters which is considerably better than all the other books in the series maybe even including the original Op-Center.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Balance of Power by Jeff Rovin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll will be finishing up reading Abraham's Other Son by Philip G. Samaan.

Jul 31, 4:54pm Top

Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity by Philip G. Samaan


Due to the religious nature of the above book please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of Abraham's Other Son by Philip Samaan or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll be reading Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight

Aug 3, 11:33pm Top

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight


Due to the religious nature of the above book please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

As I am on vacation this next week, I have no fixed plan for what I'm reading next, but when I return to work I'll start reading Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Aug 4, 5:22pm Top

The Histories by Tacitus

The death of Nero begins a Roman bloodletting that Augustus had thought he had completely ended as four men will within a year claim the title Emperor. The Histories by Tacitus follows the aftermath of Nero’s death as a succession of men claimed the throne until the Flavians emerge to return the Pax Romana.

Tacitus begins his work with those who had prospered under Nero worrying for themselves while the rest of the populace celebrated and setting the stage for the eventual assassination for Galba and the rise of Otho, who the former had passed over as his chosen successor. Yet at the time of his death Galba was facing a mutiny on the German frontier that had installed Vitellius as their choice as emperor, a task that Otho took to quash and retain his own throne. The invasion of Italy by Vitellius’ legions brought war to the core of empire for the first time in almost a century and witnessed the defeat of Otho’s forces before he committed suicide. The rise of Vitellius brought Vespasian, the leader of the legions fighting the Jewish War, into the fray as he accepted the proclamation of his legions as emperor and soon found the supporters of Otho and others joining him. After the crushing defeat of his forces, Vitellius attempted to abdicate but the Guards wouldn’t let him resulting in his death by Vespasian’s soldiers. On top of civil war in Italy and the final phase of the Jewish War under Titus, a Gallo-German uprising at first claiming support for Vespasian became an invasion and rebellion that took numerous legions to suppress and the aftermath would be alluded to in Tacitus’ own Germany.

Although The Histories are incomplete, from the beginning Tacitus brings his aristocratic ideology and politics in focus early by showing only someone with political realism and firm hand on the legions can prevent civil wars and the rioting of the masses. The writing is quick-paced, going hand in hand with the rapid succession of events but Tacitus does give excellent portraits on the prime actors in this historical drama the played across the Roman world. The only thing a historian would have against Tacitus would be the twisting of the chronology to suit his own purposes. Yet like Agricola and Germany, my biggest complaint is how Oxford World Classics edition is structured with the Notes at the very end of the piece and making the reader use two bookmarks so they could go back and forth.

The Histories, the first of Tacitus’ two large scale historical works, shows the horrors of civil war and the according to Tacitus the dangers of leader who cannot control the legions and masses. Even though the we are missing over two-thirds of the overall work, the portion we have that covers the Year of Four Emperors shows the breakdown of society in vacuum of strong leadership that is important not only in that time but throughout all of history including down to our own time.


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

I have not decided on what my next home read will be.

Aug 4, 8:23pm Top

>125 mattries37315: Have a great vacation! I look forward to learning how you fare with Lord of Light. Hopefully better than I did, because it was my lowest-rated book of the year (so far) at 2 stars.

Edited: Aug 5, 2:03pm Top

The Book of Acts by Wilson Paroschi


Due to the religious nature of the above book please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of The Book of Acts by Wilson Paroschi or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading William Shakespeare's Jedi the Last by Ian Doescher.

Aug 5, 1:57pm Top

>127 YouKneeK: Thank you, after the last week at work I really need it. Even though I know the big element (Hindu mythology in sci-fi setting), I have no idea what to expect which is both good and bad. However I doubt it'll rate lower than my review of Ulysses.

Aug 6, 7:12pm Top

William Shakespeare's Jedi the Last: Star Wars Part the Eighth by Ian Doescher

The fallout from the First Order’s destruction of the New Republic’s capital and the Resistance’s destruction of her enemy’s superweapon even as they look to bring Luke Skywalker back in William Shakespeare’s Jedi the Last by Ian Doescher. Beginning almost immediately after the previous film, the middle installment of the sequel trilogy finds the First Order looking to takeout the remnant of their opponents only this adaptation is not on screen or a book but on the stage in Elizabethan prose as Shakespeare would have written.

Adapting The Last Jedi was definitely the hardest Star Wars film that Doescher had to deal with because of the how awful the Rian Johnson written-direction film is. There is only so much Doescher could do to make this adaptation to make it readable, unlike The Phantom of Menace in which he only had to develop Jar Jar Binks. He had to salvage so many poorly written characters, including those long established like Leia and Luke as those newly introduced, that to even have this published in a timely manner meant he could only polish them so much. Since this is a review of the adaptation and not the film, I will applaud the excellent work Doescher did in making the at times bad dialogue into some more passable, the continuation of footnoting translations of Chewbecca’s few lines, and great narratives for the fight scenes. However I must also commend Doescher for the wonderful easter eggs in reference to James Bond, Rogue One, and yes the sly acknowledgements that Johnson underdeveloped or ruined so many characters in particular Rey.

Jedi the Last is the most controversial film of the franchise and Ian Doescher did the best job he could in making it into a passable stage play in the style of William Shakespeare. As a result my rating is celebration of Doescher’s hard work and like the rest of the Star Wars fandom we look for to what he must deal with in Episode IX.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of William Shakespeare's Jedi the Last by Ian Doescher, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll will next be reading Kings & Queens of England & Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry.

Aug 7, 10:26am Top

Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry

Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry is a 96-page concise reference book about the monarchs of England, Scotland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. Though is primarily focused on the monarchs of England (and successor unions) with each ruler getting their own individual article from 1066-to-present, while the Scottish monarchs were only briefly covered in comparison. Not all the information given in monarch articles is correct, at least to those readers well versed in history, but overall the book is a good reference book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll will next be rereading Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard.

Aug 7, 10:26pm Top

Need More Books from Women Authors

I'm appealing to my Wordpress followers and friends here on LT to help me make a list of female authors that I haven't already read or will read (aka I have a book they wrote waiting to be read on my shelf) AND what work to read from that author.

Please take a look at the link above and comment either there or here as any help is much appreciated.

Aug 8, 9:03am Top

>132 mattries37315: I'm sorry, I couldn't figure out how to leave a comment on your site. If you don't want this here, I will delete it for you, just let me know.

Dorothy L. Sayers both her fiction (murder mysteries of the Golden Age style) and her non-fiction (mostly theological writings, or classical education) are terrific and challenging.

Laurie R. King I love her follow up on the Sherlock Holmes stories with Mary Russell. Her other books are very well written, but too dark for me.

Amy Stewart Her nonfiction books about nature are funny, the best one I've read yet is The Earth Moved: on the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, her fiction is not quite perfect, but I've only read the first Girl Waits With Gun which was interesting in that it was based on a true story.

Ellis Peters if you haven't read her murder mysteries, you might like them. I appreciate the practical theology of the monk, Brother Cadfael.

Margaret Frazer another mystery writer with the sleuth being Dame Freviesse (don't know if I spelled that right), a nun. She also has a series with Joliffe, a player in the medieval days.

Aug 8, 10:29am Top

>133 MrsLee: Thank you for recommendations and suggestions. I've updated my list based off them.

Aug 8, 3:03pm Top

Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard

A small-town basketball team is playing against teams from the big cities looking to shock the state of Arkansas. Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard follows a little Class B team that’s decided to play against the big boys of Class A for the state championship, unfortunately not only do they have those teams to contend with but also their own internal struggles.

Taken from the perspective of their 23-year old rookie coach Floyd Bentley, the Cedar Grove Falcons arrive at Talbott State University trying not to be overawed by the big arena or facing the defending state champions in the quarterfinals. But after their upset victory, season-long tensions among the players boil up to the surface after Floyd’s inexperience with such a big event occurs. Over the next two days, Floyd attempts to get everyone back on the same page on the team even as they achieve another upset and then battle for the state championship that comes down to the final shot.

While the game action is well written, the basic set up at the beginning of the book—primarily how a team could go up a Class and the tournament still have the correct amount of teams—quickly raised questions followed closely by Floyd’s “mistake” which didn’t make much sense if you looked hard at it. The internal divisions were not bad, but they did strain the narrative somewhat.

Overall Tournament Upstart had a good premise but the young adult narrative quickly falls apart if looked at too closely. It’s not bad, but I’ve read other of Dygard’s work that I find better.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll will next be rereading Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard.

Aug 8, 9:29pm Top

Here’s my attempt. I’m putting it here since it’s so long! These are all female authors that have stood out to me in the past few years, and that I didn’t see on your list of authors read/planned to read. A couple of them were already suggested to you, so I’m just seconding them. :)

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Carol Berg. She writes epic-fantasy-style books, but they’re usually duologies or trilogies rather than being a huge series commitment. I’d be hard-pressed to pick my favorite out of the 7 books I’ve read, but I’m leaning toward her Lighthouse Duet which starts with Flesh and Spirit. That duology has a companion duology, Sanctuary Duet which I also really enjoyed. Sanctuary was published second, but they could really be read in any order if one appeals more than the other. I also loved her Rai-Kirah trilogy which starts with Transformation. That was my first experience with her writing. Don’t let the horrible cover or the amusing but completely off-base review at the top of the Goodreads book page deter you if you notice those things. :)

I noticed you had “Olivia Butler” on your list. Did you mean “Octavia Butler”? If so, she’s a great one to add. I really enjoyed her Xenogensis trilogy (starts with Dawn) and Kindred which is a standalone book. Kindred is probably the more accessible story. I tried but didn’t care for Wild Seed.

I’ll second Bookstooge’s recommendation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. Although I enjoyed all 6 of them, not just the original trilogy. :)

N. K. Jemisin writes some great fantasy, but I’m not sure if she’d be to your taste. The Fifth Season is the start of a trilogy she completed pretty recently.

I’ve only read one book by her so far, but I was really impressed with Touch by Claire North and I've heard good things about some of her other books.

I also really liked Naomi Novik which I see you’ve added to your list. I’ve read both Uprooted and her entire Temeraire series which starts with His Majesty’s Dragon. I loved all of them but, if I had to guess, I would say Temeraire would probably be more appealing to you.

I loved, loved The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Its sequel, Children of God, was also quite good.

I also really enjoyed the only two books I’ve tried by Catherynne Valente, her Orphan’s Tales duology which starts with In the Cities of Coin and Spice. The books are kind of fairy-tale like, but in a dark-ish and interesting way. The books tell a series of stories nested within stories nested within stories, ranging from 5-7 layers from what I remember.

I’ve also been impressed by what I’ve read so far from Jo Walton. I really liked her Thessaly trilogy that starts with The Just City. It’s a combination of ancient Greek mythology and philosophy which might appeal to you considering some of the classics I’ve seen you read. I also enjoyed her standalone Among Others quite a bit.

Aug 9, 9:45am Top

Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard

The Barton High Tigers’ head coach is injured and everyone is worried who’ll be the coach for Friday’s upcoming game, enter the student manager. Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard follows Beano Hatton as he is propelled from nobody student manager to acting coach with all the pressures of school work and getting players to follow his lead, all while figuring out how to actually coach and prepare for a game.

Except for the first chapter, the narrative follows Beano Hatton beginning for being called to the principal’s office for the first time in his life—though not the last he’d have that week—and being asked to coach the Tigers football team against rivals Carterville. Except for telling his best friend Danny to cover for him as student manager, Beano keeps quiet until the Principal gives the team the news and hands it over to Beano. What follows is an awkward, stressful week as Beano figures out how Coach Pritchard scouts and makes up game plans while at the same time attempting to get the team to follow his lead, easier said than done with the star quarterback having an issue with him. But once Friday night comes and the ball is kicked, Beano has to manage the game.

From kickoff to the final whistle, Dygard writes a convincing flow of a football game which after the narrative build-up before and through the game of Beano making coaching decisions makes for a thrilling last third of the book. The first two-thirds of the book reads like a made-for-television young adult movie, but actually good. Though some of Dygard’s dialogue and words choices are a little off, they would be far superior to what one would hear and see on the aforementioned movie. The only other fault would be Dygard basically not having Coach Pritchard not have any notes on upcoming opponents which sounds far-fetched even for a little town high school coach with a staff of one.

Game Plan is one of those young adult sports books that is simply a good read that can be done in a day because it draws you in and frankly is nearly perfect for a book of its genre. Thomas J. Dygard hits all the right narrative keys to make this book keep the reader interested in how a nobody student manages to gain enough confidence of the football team to lead them through the last game of the season.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard, feel free to comment here or there.

Aug 9, 2:34pm Top

>136 YouKneeK: Thank you so much for the recommendations and suggestions. I've updated my list based off them, though as some things on my list are different based on my research here on LT (mainly Butler--yes Octavia--, Jemisin, and Walton).

I apparently forget to include Kate Elliot on my list so if you have recommendations I'd appreciate it.

Aug 9, 8:46pm Top

>138 mattries37315: I had actually considered listing Kate Elliott, but my experience with her has been a little uneven. A couple years ago, I read her Spiritwalker trilogy, starting with Cold Magic. I enjoyed several aspects of it, but sometimes it didn’t hold my interest and it was a little too romance-y for my tastes. I gave all three books 3.5 stars.

My first experience with her work was several years ago when I read her Crossroads trilogy, starting with Spirit Gate. I really liked that. I remember it as being more complex and interesting, but I also had much less fantasy under my belt at the time so I’m not really sure if I can trust my memory of it.

Aug 11, 1:29pm Top

>139 YouKneeK: I'm going with Spiritwalker do to the alternate history aspect plus magic and apparently steampunk. It'll be something different and I'll chance the romance.

Thanks again.

Aug 11, 9:01pm Top

>140 mattries37315: I hope you enjoy it!

Aug 12, 7:37am Top

>138 mattries37315: re: Elliott
I've only read her Crown of Stars 7 book series. Chances are though, if you do/don't like the first 2 books in that series, it will hold true for the whole thing.
I couldn't finish her crossroads trilogy and didn't even bother to try the spiritwalker.

Aug 12, 2:11pm Top

>142 BookstoogeLT: If I like the Spiritwalker trilogy then I'll probably try the Crown of Stars series, but getting my hands on all seven books is a pain in the butt even at my usually used book store.

Aug 12, 6:05pm Top

>143 mattries37315: Not worth buying. I ended up selling all my hardcovers after finishing the final book :-(

Aug 12, 7:11pm Top

>144 BookstoogeLT: The last I saw they were like $0.95 (mass market paperback) or so and trading them in after reading is always a possibility. But we're talking years in the future. I still have ~250 books I need to read now not to mention the books I've made note of from my appeal.

Edited: Aug 16, 8:01pm Top

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

The hope of a prosperous future of human colonists on an alien world who for generations have believed they were looked out for and ruled over by the gods, is one named—among other things—Sam. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny follows the struggle of one individual to throw off the tyrannical rulers of a colonized world posing as Hindu deities that he’s known for years and the strange allies he makes along the way.

The deathgod and technological mastermind Yama finds the soul of Sam from the ionosphere of the colonized planet that remnants from Earth settled centuries before. Sam has through numerous names and plans slowly undermined the rule of ‘Heaven’, those crewmembers who over the centuries have fought the indigenous lifeforms of the world to make a place for man and then ruling them as gods as they used genetic manipulation and technology to gain powers. Though not originally opposed to his fellow crewmembers, their sudden radical shift from benevolence to tyranny makes him rebel. Through the years, Sam becomes the Buddha and as a way to undermine the hope of rebirth, then he unleashes the Rakasha that he had bound through his powers, then when given the opportunity he spreads his message in the Celestial City of the gods before being “killed”, then after stealing a body from another god about to be reincarnated he kills two high leaders then leads an allied army to battle the gods in which he loses and his soul is sent to the ionosphere. After his return Sam leads another army, this time in league with the gods to face an insane crewmember with a zombie army that ultimately leads to Sam’s goal of the colonists allowed to determine their own fates.

Zelazny’s story explored some really big ideas of technology, politics, and religion throughout the book that intertwined with one another as the narrative progressed to build the world. Yet at many times the world wasn’t built enough and leads confusion at important parts of the story that hurt the overall quality of the book. While Sam and a few characters are developed, many others really aren’t which hurts the overall quality of the book as well. But the biggest personal frustration was that the two big battles of the book aren’t impressive as the language wanted to give the impression of, it was a letdown after the long buildup of Sam’s plan. These three issues are both good and bad for the book, which makes me feel that if this book had been longer to develop more of the characters, the description of the technology, and more battle details.

Lord of Light is based on the imaginative idea of human colony being ruled by fellow humans who pose as Hindu deities and a man who decides to let the colonist develop on their own. Roger Zelazny’s writing style isn’t perfect and while I have problems with the book, if I had choice to reread the book.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works by Anselm of Canterbury

Aug 18, 6:54pm Top

Laying Down the Law by Keith Augustus Burton


Due to the religious nature of the above book please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of Laying Down the Law by Keith Augustus Burton or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

I will be reading Anselm of Canterbury on weekends due to it's religious nature until I've finished that book.

Aug 29, 10:54am Top

The Major Works by Anselm of Canterbury


Due to the religious nature of the above book please either go to the the link above to my Wordpress page that has my review of Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works or the book page here on LibraryThing, feel free to comment here or there.

I next be reading Lamarck's Revenge by Peter Ward thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

Sep 3, 7:43pm Top

Lamarck's Revenge: How Epigenetics in Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present by Peter Ward

The slow progress of Darwinian evolutionary theory seems to be lacking evidence in the fossil record, but a paradigm shift maybe in the offering as epigenetics might explain why evolution happens so fast that potential fossil specimens can’t be put in the strata. Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics in Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present by Peter Ward attempts to show that epigenetics should be incorporated into the understanding of current evolutionary paradigm thanks to new evidence thanks to various disciplines.

Ward puts forth that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first described what is now being call “epigenetics” in his explanation of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, but do to unfriendly colleagues and later Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection Lamarck became a scientific laughingstock for over a century and a half. However, Ward states that as DNA became to be understood and brought into consideration in its role in evolution the ideas of Lamarck began to return to study and now needs to be incorporated into the paradigm of the theory of evolution. Ward then goes through the history of life, especially focusing on the sudden expansion of life and body forms after the great mass extinctions, as well as the history of humanity from the Ice Age through today and our possible future.

Unfortunately instead of a straightforward emphasis on Lamarck’s ideas, epigenetics, and how it can be seen in how evolution has progressed for a general audience, Ward decided to hero-worship Lamarck so much and attacking several scientists but particularly Darwin that the first quarter-to-third of the book was slow grind until he finally focused on epigenetics and discussing evolution through that prism. However because of the amount of pages spent deifying Lamarck—Ward literally, though admittedly with sarcasm said Christians should worship Lamarck not God—and demonizing Darwin that Ward had to rush all over the place in explanations about how life evolved and developed while implying assertions without backing them up.

Lamarck’s Revenge while giving this reader a better knowledge about how the history of the world is seen through evolutionary theory, is nothing more than a book by an agenda driven author akin to current political pundits and lowest-class of pop historians. If fact because of Ward’s bias, I don’t even know if my new knowledge is actually accurate but in any case my new limited understanding of epigenetics would have been better served if he had decided to focus on that instead of wasting page space on the deification and demonizing of long-dead scientists. As a general reader I don’t recommend this to others.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Lamarck's Revenge by Peter Ward, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler

Sep 5, 7:54pm Top

Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler

A mysterious area at sea just off the coast of paradise, a missing advanced Navy submarine, and a dashing Air Force pilot that loves the sea and women just seems like adventure. Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler was the sixth Dirk Pitt book published, but was the first story written by Cussler featuring Pitt that he finally relented in having published and as all the classic elements that signify a book in the series.

A new advanced Navy submarine is taking its shakedown cruise when its commander decides to investigate an anomaly of both weather and sea floor, the sub disappears and resulting search finds nothing. Six months later, Dirk Pitt is on vacation in he spots a communication capsule from the missing submarine and after delivering it to Naval base is seconded from NUMA to 101st Salvage Fleet and learns of titular Pacific Vortex in which 38 ships have disappeared. Bringing both a fresh expression and information he’s learned from a local native Hawaiian, Pitt deduces that everyone has searched in the wrong area and a potentially lost island might be near where the ships are. In the resulting search, Pitt and the Navy find the sub but can’t begin salvaging because they are attacked forcing them to retreat. The attack continues on Oahu as the daughter of the admiral heading the 101st is kidnapped and Pitt almost murdered by the leader of the mysterious group. The Pentagon decides to strike the area with missiles to destroy not only the sub but any threat from the area in the future, but Pitt mounts a rescue mission for the admiral’s daughter and the sub before the strike. Unfortunately his plan fails, but luck allows both the rescue of the sub and admiral’s daughter to workout but not without a sacrifice on Pitt’s part.

Overall this is a quick paced book that keeps the reader engaged with its action and doesn’t slow down even when exposition occurs in the text. While Pitt himself is fleshed out, other characters are for the most part two-dimensional though given the type of book this is. Obviously there are a lot of clichés throughout the text, but even Cussler is smart enough to flip some on their head especially when book’s antagonist chides Pitt for thinking he can trick him into telling him his evil plan. The classic car and legendary location that connects to the sinister plot are the primary motifs that this series is known for that make major appearances showing that from the beginning were always there. The biggest flaw is that given what occurs later in the series about events taking place in this book, there is a major plot hole.

Pacific Vortex! is good adventure story that has shades of James Bond, but is very much something completely different. This first adventure of Clive Cussler’s character Dirk Pitt, it does not have to be read first or sixth but whenever you decide to if you’re reading any books in the series. If you’re into adventure, thrills, and quick books to read this is one to consider.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be rereading When Time Began by Zecharia Sitchin.

Sep 11, 11:14pm Top

When Time Began by Zecharia Sitchin

The mysteries surrounding Stonehenge have filled countless books, but what if there were other ancient megaliths just like it around the world? When Time Began is the fifth book by Zecharia Sitchin’s of his The Earth Chronicles examining the correlations between the calendars from cultures around the world and how they all appear to be related to beginning around the same time period, culminating in Mankind entering its first “New Age”.

Sitchin began with a recounting of “the beginning of time” according to his research when Nibiru entered the solar system then later when the Anunnaki arrived on Earth and finally after the Deluge. Then focused turned to Stonehenge, its construction and astronomical alignments along with when they occurred. He then transitioned to showing other circular astronomical designs from around the world, beginning in Sumer but also in the Americas before turning his attention to their significance to the politics of the Anunnaki especially concerning the numerous separate exiles of Thoth and his brother Marduk/Ra. Building off the his work in The Wars of Gods and Men and The Lost Realms, Sitchin explains that the events leading up to the end of the Sumerians were caused not only by the politics but astronomy and religion which were one and the same. And the aftermath was not only the end of the Sumerians, but also that of a “unified” religion and the birth of national deities.

Unlike the previous books, Sitchin mixed his usual academic approach at the beginning of his books with his own theories and explanations creating a different feel this book compared to his others. Another aspect is that this book felt more of a “continuation” of the two previous mentioned books as Sitchin adds more evidence for this theory on the colonization of the Americas as well as give more details leading to and the aftermath of fall of Sumer. Yet this last aspect is where the flaws of the book are the most pronounced as, even without an added quarter-century of archaeological discoveries the errors are hard not to miss take notice of with or without an open mind.

The information and theories proposed in When Time Began have stuck with me since I first read it and caused me to misremember things in other books. Zecharia Sitchin continued to build his theory on the foundations of his previous books, but unlike them the errors were a little harder to ignore in this particular installment. If you have read his previous volumes by all means read this one as well, however be warned that some conjectures and theories are simply incorrect unlike others that can be reasonably debated.


The link above goes to my Wordpress page that has my review of When Time Began by Zecharia Sitchin, feel free to comment here or there.

I'll next be reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Sep 12, 6:26am Top

>151 mattries37315: We already talked about it early on in your thread, but I’m very much looking forward to finding out where your opinion falls on Red Rising!

Group: The Green Dragon

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