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Helen Graham, the enigmatic new tenant of Wildfell Hall, has a dark secret – but not the one circulating amongst local gossips. Gilbert Markham, who falls for the young “widow” will be shocked to realize her truth, which is revealed to him through her dairies. Mrs Graham has fled with her young son, Arthur, from a cruel marriage. Her writings tell the story of the physical and moral decay of her husband, his alcoholism, and their marital breakdown. In order to be spared the unbearable pain of watching her son be raised in his father’s image, Helen has done what was unimaginable to the Victorian woman and has fled both husband and home. Under an assumed name, she travels to a location that remains secret from all but her brother.

Not surprisingly, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – a hard-hitting critique of the position of Victorian women in society – shocked contemporary readers. Both critics and readers alike were stunned by its coarseness. Truthfully, though I am not a stranger to the plight of Victorian women, the novel still retains its power to shock, or in the very least disturb. A most memorable passage on a “confiscation of property”:

"My painting materials were laid together on the corner table, ready for to-morrow’s use, and only covered with a cloth. He soon spied them out, and putting down the candle, deliberately proceeded to cast them into the fire: palette, paints, bladders, pencils, brushes, varnish: I saw them all consumed: the palette-knives snapped in two, the oil and turpentine sent hissing and roaring up the chimney. He then rang the bell.

'Benson, take those things away,’ said he, pointing to the easel, canvas, and stretcher; ‘and tell the housemaid she may kindle the fire with them: your mistress won’t want them any more.'" (Ch 40)

But I do not wish to leave prospective readers with the impression that all is gloom and doom in The Tenant – such is not the case at all! Other central themes in the novel include the power of faith, forgiveness, repentance – and “the infectious theme of love.” (Ch 51) Highly recommended, particularly to lovers of Victorian classics.
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7 vote lit_chick | 108 other reviews | Mar 22, 2017 |
An exceptional narrative history of the early Arctic explorers (with the odd jaunt to Timbuctoo and Antarctica thrown in for good measure). Prompted by the Second Secretary to the Admiralty, Sir John Barrow, scores of classic stiff-upper-lipped British explorers set out to fill in the blank areas of the map. "What lay at the North Pole? Did Antarctica exist? Was there a North-West Passage? Where was Timbuctoo? What lay at the heart of Africa?" (pg. 9). With the Napoleonic Wars at an end, Great Britain was starting to flex its Imperial muscles. It was considered intolerable if "other countries should open up a globe over which Britain ruled supreme." (pg. 11).

Unfortunately, the ventures were often that peculiar mix of stout-hearted bravery and bumbling incompetence which those of us in Britain have long considered our hallmark, coupled with our habitual preference for 'muddling through'. As author Fergus Fleming remarks late on in the book, Barrow's men were stereotypical of the Victorian explorer: "a brave, patriotic chap, steadfast but daring, manly but emotional, confident but modest, willing to carry the banner of queen and country to the furthest reaches of the world; ready not only to face the void but to stare it down, and to do so in blind, cheerful ignorance." (pg. 374). Those of us in Britain have always been somewhat perversely proud of our incompetent failures as long as they have the redemptive quality of courage (witness the lionisation of Scott of the Antarctic, a spiritual descendent of Barrow's boys), and Fleming has provided us with a book chock full of them.

Only 19th-century Britain could have served us such characters. There is the officer who, having distinguished himself in the Sahara, is sent to the Arctic (pg. 106) and claims "he was better able to withstand the cold because he still retained the heat" (pg. 114). There are the officers who traverse the oppressively hot inner regions of Africa in full dress uniform, determined as they are to project all the pomp and power of Britain to the natives (pg. 179). There is the captain who, with his ship completely disabled in the Antarctic oceans by a clash with its sister ship, performs a sternboard (essentially reversing in neutral) in order to outmanoeuvre a fleet of mountainous icebergs (pp355-6). There are the countless, nameless, dauntless seamen who, as Sir John Franklin admiringly notes, enter "upon any enterprise, however hazardous, without inquiring or desiring to know where he is going or what he is going about." (pg. 127). And, overseeing it all, there is the extremely harsh taskmaster Barrow (who was annoyed when an early expedition returned home unscathed, because that "was not what exploration was about" (pg. 57)).

This is not to say that Barrow's Boys is solely a comical look into John Bull playing at explorer. Fleming often notes the very real effects of the poor planning, bureaucratic high-handedness and schoolboy-ish Boy's Own eagerness, not least the tell-tale knife scrapes on human bones indicating that a lost expedition had resorted to cannibalism. Some of the tales (most notably Franklin's two major expeditions and the horrific ordeal of McClure's crew) are positively appalling, and take some of the gloss off what would otherwise just be another ripping yarn. This is welcome, for Fleming offers a balanced appraisal of this era of exploration and the conditions endured. There are countless examples of the sheer indomitableness of the natural world, particularly in the ice lands, which – whilst it is not explicit – I interpreted as a necessary riposte to the hubris of an, here in the form of the British Empire. This means that you can marvel at the tales of derring-do and bravery, and feel patriotic pride in the endeavours of the King's and Queen's men to plant their piece of silk on new barren lands, whilst still accepting that Nature reigns supreme. Fleming allows us to, in effect, have our cake and eat it too.

I could go on and on about the events featured in the book, and there are countless adventures and anecdotes which are worthy of mention. But it is even more worthy to mention that Fleming has taken these stories and woven them into a brilliant piece of narrative history. He is a sympathetic storyteller throughout, imposing his own personality and humour on the prose without letting it get in the way of the facts and the history. It is a great example of the genre, right up there with one of my favourites, The Lost City of Z by David Grann (not coincidentally, also about a British explorer). Fleming's best quality is his eye for anecdote: there are innumerable bizarre events and occurrences peppered throughout the text, and if it took me longer to read Barrow's Boys than it would another book of similar length, it is because I was enjoying it so, so much.

If I have one criticism of the book, it is that the summation at the end (the last chapter, 'Riding the Globe', not counting the Epilogue) was rather too short. Fleming's conclusions are sound, however: for all their bravery and lunacy, Barrow's expeditions were also ones of futility. "Every single one of Barrow's goals had proved worthless in the finding: Timbuctoo was a mud town of no importance; the Niger had little practical application for trade; northern Australia was totally unworkable as the site of a 'second Singapore'; Antarctica was an inhospitable lump of ice; and the North-West Passage… was an utter waste of time. The Open Polar Sea, meanwhile, was not only not worth finding but not even there to be found." (pp422-3). And after all that, the North-West Passage would eventually first be sailed by Johnny Foreigner: the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Men had died, treasure had been expended, and for little gain in real terms. But it had fired the public imagination and began a love affair with exploration that encouraged the likes of Burton and Speke, Livingstone, Scott and Shackleton, and one which we can still see around us today (the discovery in 2014 of the wreck of the Erebus, one of Franklin's ships from his lost expedition, made headlines around the world). Despite everything, Barrow's boys embodied that primal desire for discovery, exploration and conquest which has driven human progress for millennia. And, as Fleming concludes (pp423-5), what a thrilling ride it all was. The same could be said for the reading of his book.… (more)
2 vote MikeFutcher | 4 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
Ghost stories (without any ghosts) religious fervour, spiritualism, acrophilia, passion, mystery and an uncanny weirdness set these tales apart, from anything I have read before. Algernon Blackwood makes his readers believe in events that probably exist just in the minds and heightened senses of his characters; does anything really happen? no nothing happens Blackwood repeatedly tells us in the longest story: “The Damned”. These stories are all about mood and atmosphere and the writing is fine enough for the reader to be caught up in the mysteries and then wonder at the denouement….. they linger afterwards.

The Regeneration of Lord Ernie is the first story and is set in an Alpine village. Hendricks is a tutor to the young Lord Ernie and they are travelling back to England after a year long European tour, where Hendricks has been trying to find something that will spark some life into his pleasant, amiable companion. The Alpine village is a last throw of the dice and Hendricks arranges for them to stay at a catholic priests house that he remembers from his own youth, and an unrequited love affair. It is the season of wind and turbulence in the mountains above the village where a tribe of mountain people take part in pagan like rituals. Their huge bonfires are clearly visible from the village and messengers arrive sporadically from the mountains to lure villagers up to their dancing rituals. Lord Ernie for the first time has found something of interest and the priest suggests that they hike up and observe the rituals for themselves the next evening. Lord Ernie is literally captivated and a fight ensues to summon him back down to normality.

The second story: “The Sacrifice” is also set in the high mountains. Limasson is a man who has dabbled in all sorts of religions and a series of personal tragedies has led him to the high mountains, which are the only places where he can find peace. He plans a series of solo expeditions to fully engage his skills and more importantly his mind. One evening at the hotel he meets a couple of other climbers who coincidently are planning to conquer an unclimbed peak that Limasson is thinking of tackling, they agree to climb together. There is a brilliant description of setting off in the dark of the early morning for a strenuous climb, but who are Limasson’s two companions, do they really exist or are they a fantasy invented by a man who is seeking some sort of answer to his life difficulties.

The third story: “The Damned” is the longest and is a curious tale of a haunting. Mabel Franklyn has been widowed for a year and her late husband (Samuel) was a larger than life lay preacher of hell and damnation. She is desperately alone in her large house and invites Bill and Francis (brother and sister) who are old friends to stay with her for a month. We observe the events through Bill’s eyes, who finds that he cannot settle in the house and sees that Mabel is both physically and mentally ill. Both Bill and Francis believe that it is the after presence of Samuel who is causing a psychic disruption and Bill has a feeling of layers of people damned through the ages who are seeking to drag down the current occupants of the house. This is the story where nothing happens it is all in the minds of the occupants and after a fruitless panic one night when a strange noise upsets everybody and Bill goes on a midnight exploration of the house things seem to settle down.

A Descent into Egypt is my favourite story of the five here. Again written in the first person; the unnamed speaker travelling in Egypt meets an old friend George Isley. George has just returned from an archeological dig where he has spent the last couple of years and the speaker has an impression that part of George is still out there amongst the ruins. He stays in the hotel with George who seems to need his company, but observes that less and less of the old George is evident, he seems to be lost in the landscape. The speaker is also affected and Blackwood ramps up the atmosphere with some fine writing describing the two men gazing out of the dinning room in the hotel:

“Across the glare and glitter of the uncompromising modern dining-room, past crowded tables, and over the heads of Germans feeding unpicturesquely, I saw—the moon. Her reddish disc, hanging unreal and enormous, lifted the spread sheet of desert till it floated off the surface of the world. The great window faced the east, where the Arabian desert breaks into a ruin of gorges, cliffs, and flat-topped ridges; it looked unfriendly, ominous, with danger in it; unlike the serener sand-dunes of the Libyan desert, there lay both menace and seduction behind its flood of shadows. And the moonlight emphasised this aspect: its ghostly desolation, its cruelty, its bleak hostility, turning it murderous. For no river sweetens this Arabian desert; instead of sandy softness, it has fangs of limestone rock, sharp and aggressive. Across it, just visible in the moonlight as a thread of paler grey, the old camel-trail to Suez beckoned faintly. And it was this that he was looking at so intently.”

A sense of danger and fear is evoked and when another character from their past: Moleson joins them and talks of the old religions and the sun worshippers; the speaker feels that George is barely functioning in the present; his mind is with the sun worshippers. Moleson breaks the introspection by playing the hotel piano, but his playing of popular tunes segues into a chant that evokes old Egypt and the three men are back under the influence of the past. They walk trance like out of the hotel into the desert and the speaker imagines his two companions expanding in size to take on the stone like qualities of the statues of the old Gods. Blackwood’s story brilliantly captures a sense of something different, something from the past that is taking over the minds of these men heightening their senses and feverish imaginings.

The final story Wayfarers is the shortest and its simple telling harks back to the subject matter of the previous four stories. A man is travelling in a motor vehicle on the way to a climbing expedition; there is a crash, he blacks out and wakes up in a familiar room. He is being nursed by a woman who is the love of his life but is married to his best friend, they kiss they declare their love. He slips in and out of consciousness and the woman becomes more remote, as his health improves from the bullet wound, she finally says that they must part for the time being. He awakes to find his mountain climbing friend by his bedside.

How much of these stories are in the feverish imaginings of the minds of Blackwood’s characters is anyones guess, but this goes a long way in building the mystery, however some excellent writing and observations of the natural world give them a unique feeling of time and place that provides tension and frisson to all that happens (or doesn’t happen). These tales may be a little slow for some readers and a lack of plot may frustrate, but I found them incredibly exciting in the way that they build levels and layers of mystery. I read this as part of my reading novels published in 1914 project, but I will certainly be dipping into more of Algernon Blackwood. A five star read.
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2 vote baswood | Mar 28, 2017 |
The Dark Flood Rises drew me in from the first lines: "She has often suspected that her last words to herself and in this world will prove to be 'You bloody old fool' or, perhaps, depending on the mood of the day or the time of the night, 'You fucking idiot." Fran Stubbs, in her seventies, is struggling to stay busy and relevant in a world that tends to dismiss the elderly. She still works, inspecting senior care facilities. Her work takes her all over England. She has also begun to care for her dying ex-husband.

In fact, a lot of Fran's friends are dying, a hazard as one hits one's seventies. In the course of the novel, we meet Fran's friends and connections, all aging in various ways. This wonderful novel shows the challenges as one gets older. Should one continue to drive? Should one move to a retirement community? All of these are questions that arise; each person answers differently. Toward the end of the novel, after the death of some friends, Fran wonders whether she can keep it up: "She's in despair, but she can't help but be a little interested in what is going on out there, and the manner in which it's being relayed to her. It's part of her and she's part of it. Her life has been full of failure and defeat and triviality and small concerns, and at times she fears it is ending sadly. Her courage is running out, her energy is running out. She has lived vicariously, in the small concerns of others. The larger themes are leaving her."

This is a wonderful, honest novel. It shows the variations of aging and gives one hope that one can age with dignity.
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2 vote BLBera | 3 other reviews | Mar 27, 2017 |
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is a stand-alone novel rather than part of his Cork O'Connor series. This book is a wonderful mixture of a coming of age story and a mystery with an extraordinary sense of place and time. It delivers the reader to the small town of New Bremen, Minnesota during the summer of 1961 as thirteen year old Frank Drum is about to learn how secrets, lies and betrayal can rip a family apart.

Frank is the middle child of the town’s Methodist minister. His mother is a beautiful and passionate woman who is particularly proud of Ariel, his older sister, who is set to leave for New York and the Julliard School of Music in the autumn. Frank and his younger brother, Jake look forward to their long summer vacation. Everything changes as the two brothers find the corpse of a hobo under the railway bridge. Through a series of tragedies the story unfolds in a slow, circular manner as eventually the family experiences a violent loss of it’s own.

At heart this is a meditation on the nature of grace in a time of crisis wrapped in the guise of a mystery novel but Ordinary Grace is written with such a quiet beauty and strength that this story of family, faith and empathy is lifted to a very high level.
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2 vote DeltaQueen50 | 98 other reviews | Mar 27, 2017 |
I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book while I was reading it. The story and characters held my attention and it was a short, fast read. Having finished it, I do wish there had been more meat to it. The story had a reasonably satisfying if bittersweet end, but there were things that could have been fleshed out better and I wish the book had a sequel or two. I’d really like to see the characters again and find out what happens next for them. It feels like I was with them for too short of a time.

The story begins just after the parents and older sister of the main character, Nobody, have been murdered. Nobody is a toddler when the book begins, oblivious to what’s going on, and the only reason he isn’t murdered with the rest of his family is because he has a tendency to escape his crib and wander off. Since the murderer left the door to the house open, Nobody is able to wander out of the house and up the hill to a graveyard where he’s protected and raised by the dead who inhabit the graveyard. The author was inspired by The Jungle Book, which explains the title.

One particular complaint I have now that I’ve finished is that the underlying motivation for the murder wasn’t explained sufficiently at all. We were given an explanation, yes, but it’s one that brings up more questions than it answers. There were also great secondary characters in this book, and I wish we had seen more of them and learned about them in more detail. That’s really my only complaint with this book. I really enjoyed it, but I was left wanting more.
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2 vote YouKneeK | 1,020 other reviews | Mar 26, 2017 |
Overall, I liked this read! It basically is about the "drug wars" between the United States and several countries, mostly Mexico, south of the border. And specifically, it's about agent Art Keller versus the Barrera family. It is a very thorough book, which is both it's strength and it's weakness. Strength because I really got into the characters. Weakness because it is very long, and sometimes feels drawn out and almost has too much information! The book also has a lot of political opinions on the war on drugs, at times too much for me to feel that it was really part of the plot, and more of the author wanting to get his opinion down on paper. Still and all, it is a good read and I did like how all the characters, and information, come together in the closing chapters! I definitely will read the next one!… (more)
1 vote Stahl-Ricco | 41 other reviews | Mar 29, 2017 |
Kate Burkholder's life is getting complicated, the bones of the man who assaulted her are found, Tomasetti has bought a house and would like her to move in with him (and honestly he's pushing too hard, she needs breathing space) plus her former best friend's family is destroyed by a hit-and-run. Kate has to investigate the tragic accident and a lot of the information isn't adding up.

Almost too much in one story, still interesting, though I didn't see the twist coming.… (more)
1 vote wyvernfriend | 29 other reviews | Mar 29, 2017 |
I had lots of reasons to think I would love this book:

- It’s set in a small Scottish town, early in the 20th century.
- It’s is a collaboration between sister authors I writers working together always intrigue me.
- It’s a Virago Modern Classic.

I did love it. I can’t say that its a great book, but it is a lovely period piece.

Alexandra Hope lives in Crossriggs with her father. He is generous to a fault, he loves to help people and to try new things but he rarely stops to consider practicalities; and so the family is rather poorer than it might be. She is bright, spirited and unconventional. Marriage doesn’t appeal to Alex, and she turned down a proposal from a rather dull man who was deemed a good catch; but that didn’t mean she didn’t worry about her family’s situation.

Her worries increase when her recently widowed sister comes home from Canada with her five young children. Alex loves her sister and adores her nieces and nephews, but she knows that she will have to find a way to keep the family afloat. Matilda is rather more conventional than her sister, but she is almost as oblivious to practicalities as her father and she blithely assumes that everything will be alright.

Alex finds that she can earn a little money by reading to the Admiral Cassilis of Foxe Hall, the family’s blind, aristocratic neighbour. She does her job very well and that leads her to other jobs that require a lovely speaking voice.

It also leads her to a friendship with Van Cassilis, the Admiral’s nephew. It quickly becomes clear Van has deeper feelings than friendship for Alex, but those feelings are not reciprocated. She knows that he is younger than her, she doesn’t think his feelings will last, and, most significantly, she has already lost her heart to another.

Alex is in love with Robert Maitland, another neighbour who has rather more money and social standing than the hopes. He is fond of her, he is her wisest counsellor and her moral compass, but as he is married Alex knows that her she can never speak of or act on her feelings.

I was inclined to like Alex. She was a wonderfully imperfect heroine; walking a fine line between idealism and realism; pride and humility; compassion and causticity; reserve and outspokenness.

There were so many characters that were so very well drawn. I’ve mentioned some of them already, I can’t mention them all, but I can’t leave out Robert Maitland’s Aunt Elizabeth – known as Aunt E.V by everyone in Crossriggs – who was a wonderful matriarchal figure, or Miss Bessie Reid, who was no longer young, who had to look after a very elderly aunt, but who still dreamed of romance.

I believed in them all, and I believed in their village community.

The Hope household was poor but it was never dull. The children were bright and entertaining, the family patriarch – who would always by known as ‘Old Hopeful’ – was a welcoming host, and there were lots of lovely outings and much fun to be had.

The Findlater sisters must have taken such care over the characters, the community and the stories that they created. I loved them all.

I particularly loved the beautiful evocation of the changing seasons.

The story was beautifully positioned between two different eras. Much of it feels wonderfully Victorian, but Alex is quite clearly a ‘New Woman’ caught up in small town life,

The influences were clear. There are definite echoes of a particular Jane Austen novel in the characters and the relationships, and there were something in the style and in the drawing of the community that told me that the sisters must have read and loved Trollope too.

The writing style seemed fluctuate, the plot was rather uneven, but because there were so many good things, because I was so caught up, I could forgive that.

The story moved slowly for a long time, but in the later chapters all of the storylines came to a head.

Alex and Van fall out, and he makes a reckless decision that will have irreversible consequences. There’s a villainess in the mix here, and I’m afraid she was the one character I couldn’t quite believe in. Maybe because she came into this world from outside …

The unhappy loss of her friend, the pressure of the work she has taken on to support her family, takes its toll on Alex. Her physical health, her emotions and her mental health all begin to fray.

There was a suggestion that another relationship could change.

I saw an obvious ending, but there were one or two twists in the tail of this story, before it came to a conclusion that I hadn’t expected but thought was completely right.
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1 vote BeyondEdenRock | 7 other reviews | Mar 29, 2017 |
In some ways quite satisfying but in others quite generic and I think some of the leaps of faith he makes are interesting and I'm not sure that some of the cognates he posits are quite true, he could be right but he didn't convince me in the text. The final chapter about the "defeat" of Paganism and the "Triumph of Christianity" glossed over many of the pagan holdovers and while most of the information that we have about paganism in Ireland is from Christian sources, Irish Christianity has a lot of pagan influences.

It's a bit dry and lacks a lot of detail about the practice of paganism in the pre-Christian period, I didn't really find anything more over what I already knew and honestly the writing style left me reading it in small chunks.
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1 vote wyvernfriend | 3 other reviews | Mar 29, 2017 |
As an East Coaster, my knowledge of Hawaiian history is close to nothing. And yet it was New Englander's like myself who initiated the process that transformed Hawaii into a United States territory. Well, maybe not entirely like myself as they were missionaries who insisted that the indigenous Hawaiians should become industrious Protestants. Arriving in the 1820s, the New England missionaries would be followed by the industrialist who sought to raise sugar and the imperialists who sought naval bases. If you know anything about how things works with Americans and native populations, the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893 by a group of American business leaders seems inevitable. Vowell does an excellent job of piecing together the clashes of culture and swiftly changing alliances that occurred in this century of turbulent change that still leaves its mark on modern Hawaii. Like other Sarah Vowell audiobooks, the voices of historic figures are read by an all-star cast.… (more)
1 vote Othemts | 68 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
I've given this 3½*** – generously – for its contribution to Brontë studies, because of the relative paucity of studies of Anne; but the book suffers from excessive "academese." For example (p. 147),

This focus provides for a Bakhtinian approach to meaning that emphasizes the heterogeneity of social voices, of the multiple "selves" fashioned and invoked by individuals. In turn, a variety of poststructuralist theories has made it fashionable to dismiss the notion of an organic, unified self entirely and to adopt in its place the less essentialist concept of subject positions.

Once get past the academese, however, and there is interesting material on Anne's poetry (though in no way comparable to Janet Gezari's superb study of Emily's poetry, Last Things) as well as a substantial discussion of the use of Helen's (Wildfell Hall) diary.

Unfortunately, the citations to passages in the novels seem to be to the original T.C. Newby first editions, which isn't very useful to a reader who won't have access to such rarities. Frawley does use the 1979 Chitham edition of the poems, which likely will not be available to the average reader either; but in fairness here, there really isn't a conveniently available and authoritative collection of Anne's poems, in contrast with Janet Gezari's Penguin edition of Emily's complete poems.

For the sake of quibbling, I'll also note a couple of errors in biographical details. Emily and Anne did not in their Gondal juvenilia break off from Charlotte and Branwell's Angria juvenilia when Charlotte "left home to join the two eldest sisters at the Cowan Bridge school" (p. 26); the break occurred later, when Charlotte left for Margaret Wooler's school at Roe Head. In fact, when Charlotte and her two older sisters attended Cowan Bridge (and the two older girls died) in 1825, Charlotte was only nine, Branwell eight, Emily seven, and Anne five (ages approximate).

Also, I'm not sure I'd call William Smith Williams a "publisher" (p. 28) but, rather, an employee of Charlotte's publisher, George Smith of Smith Elder & Co.

More seriously, though, I don't agree with Frawley's assertion that Anne, by "traveling to London with Charlotte Brontë to prove her separate existence to a doubting publisher," was "actively and vehemently ... establish[ing] her own autonomous identity as an author" (p. 29). The trip by Charlotte and Anne to the Smith Elder offices was actually motivated by Charlotte's desire to prove to George Smith that she, Charlotte, was not the author of Wuthering Heights or Agnes Grey, which Emily's and Anne's unscrupulous publisher had claimed were written by the author of the best-selling Jane Eyre, exposing Charlotte to a complaint from George Smith that Charlotte had reneged on an agreement to furnish Smith Elder her subsequent novels. This isn't a mere quibble on my part considering that Frawley uses this episode to portray Anne as a self-assertive personality, a view that is important to the thesis of Frawley's book. In fact, though here I'm speculating, I suspect Anne accompanied Charlotte because the reclusive Emily positively refused to go along and Anne, generally a conciliator, was trying to keep the peace between her two older sisters.

In any event, 3½*** to Maria Frawley for her contribution to the relatively ignored Brontë sister, but only 3½*** in view partly of some factual errors but more seriously because of the book's tone of academese.… (more)
1 vote CurrerBell | Mar 28, 2017 |
(16) Not normally the type of book I read. A memoir of hawking (who knew people still did this?) intertwined with an exploration of the life of T.H. White, the author of 'The Sword and the Stone.' The author loses her beloved father suddenly and withdraws from life into the world of a goshawk she acquires to train. This is not just a whim and she has loved predatory birds all her life. This gets her thinking of a book called 'The Goshawk' written by White based on his not-so-great experiences training a hawk. The hawk and her examination of White's inner demons and connection with the wild and ferocious bird of prey help her find her way back to life.

This is really beautifully written for non-fiction. The hunting scenes are electric (especially after watching a few You-tube videos of goshawks in slo-mo) and the descriptions of weather, landscape, loneliness, feeling of inadequacy are well-done. A few things prevent me from rating any higher, though despite the imagery and descriptive power. I did not love the White interludes - I found Helen and Mabel much more engaging and struggled to see the parallels in their experiences. The transitions were abrupt and the reasons for the transitions not always apparent. I also wonder about the grief of losing a parent, I suppose I will know it one day and should not judge it before I do. I felt perhaps her reactions were a bit histrionic - I could not always make the connections - grief, a hawk named Mabel, a dead author who was a closet sadist, a hawk killing rabbits, I don't know . . . It didn't always work.

I am glad I read it though. I think of falconry as a quaint medieval pastime known about from old dusty scrolls written by monks about English lords. It never crossed my mind that people still did this. Could one really just order a hawk and set about to train it to kill squirrels in your back yard and sleep in your living room on a perch, muting onto a plastic tarp? Surely, not. . .
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1 vote jhowell | 135 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads & Mobileread by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dreams of Distant Shores
Series: ----------
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 290
Format: Digital Edition


Synopsis:

A collection of short stories and a novella showcasing McKillip's writing style and preferred story content.

My Thoughts:

The majority of this book is taken up with the novella, Something Rich and Strange. I read that back in '05 and wasn't very impressed then and this time around nothing improved. That is the reason for the 1 Star deduction.

Now, the rest of the stories, they were excellent. They were what I EXPECT from McKillip. My favorite was about an artist who draws the Gorgon's mouth and it becomes his muse, until it convinces him to fall in love with a real life girl who then becomes his true muse. Not being an artsy guy myself, most of the time I poo-poo stories dealing with art. However, this story, appropriately entitled The Gorgon in the Cupboard, drew me in and made the artist character sympathetic enough that even I was able to like him. The counter-story about the woman who becomes his muse, is poignantly sad and heartwrenching and provides a sad canvas upon which a happy story is drawn.

The Forward by Peter Beagle I could have done without. I am not a fan of Beagle, so his musings on meeting McKillip at various times came across as self-serving and very faux-humble.

If I ever read this again, I'll just skip the novella and concentrate on the short stories.

★★★★☆… (more)
1 vote BookstoogeLT | 6 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
If you love France, their food, their flavors, their wines and their zest for enjoying these things, this is the book for you. This is a foodie's roadmap to heaven via French delights. The author travels across the country meeting the famous makers of greatness, baking, cheese making, candies, wines all the delicacies and more. He visits the historical food landmarks, meets with the greats and discusses their philosophies on the specialty item they are famous for. It is a fascinating read for a traveler, foodie, or chef.
I have gift a few copies to friends, and mapped out the must stops for a trip to France. If I follow it I'm sure to gain excess pounds but I will enjoy everyone.
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1 vote TheYodamom | Mar 28, 2017 |
This story is about bullying, the destructive power that thoughts of revenge can muster, and the confusion in the minds of teenagers trying to discover who they are and where they fit into society and life in general. The bullying gets quite brutal so people of a nervous disposition might want to approach this book cautiously.

Paul Cornell has woven the supernatural spirits of the chalk downs into the story and used them to portray the forces in his tale.

This is a book that will help young people realise that they are not alone in the world and that the feelings they experience are not unique to them.
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1 vote pgmcc | Mar 28, 2017 |
Winter Crane is just biding her time in the small, isolated town where she lives. She can't wait to graduate and go on to college where she is determined to become a doctor. Right now, she living with her drunken, abusive father on what would be the wrong side of the tracks if her town were big enough for trains to go through. She is hiding from her father in an old hunting shack she's found when a boy who has been badly beaten stumbles in.

Lennon says that he came looking for a girl named Edie that he met at a concert. Winter knows Edie; she's her best friend. She's also one of a number of kids who have left town as soon as they could and haven't been heard from since. Winter's sister Cady is another of those who left without a forwarding address.

When Lennon disappears again, he leaves Winter wondering what happened to him and what happened to all those other kids who disappeared. She begins an investigation which gets her involved in the town's secrets. She is pretty much on her own until Lennon's brother Jude comes looking for him and, very reluctantly, teams up with Winter.

Lennon and Jude come from a very different background than Winter. They were adopted into an "old money" family and their father is a Congressman. But their family is rife with secrets too.

This story was creepy, action-packed and had great characters. I liked Winter's determination and attitude. I liked Jude who wasn't easy for us or for Winter to get to know. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thrillers.
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1 vote kmartin802 | 2 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
I picked up this book because all of the blurbers and online reviews exclaimed about Geyes' fantastic writing. And I always enjoy good, strong stories about the Great Lakes region, an area very familiar to me. My reaction to this book is ambivalent.

The story arc and the narrative as a confessional between Gustav and his father's companion, Bergit, after the father's (Harry) disappearance is compelling. It works in many ways...but is heavily reliant on dialogue...yet verbatim dialogue reported by someone who wasn't present is questionable (Bergit recounting Harry and Gus's conversation out in the wilderness is an example.)

But, there are many problems with this book. The author is at times compelled to give us too much inaccurate detail in areas where he hasn't done his research:

The scene where Harry bags a deer who has fallen off a cliff as a result of a wind gust....it is presumably late Oct. - early Nov. Two things are very wrong in this recounting: Gus says he can see the vestiges of the accompanying fawn's spots....those would be well gone by that time of the year. And the fact that the doe and fawn would be out in a wind storm. Deer bed down in unsettled windy weather to protect themselves from predators. The only way they would have been out in the open as described would have been if they had been flushed by a predator (wolf, coyote?) But no predator is written into the scene. As a result, this segment just seems like a hunter's tall tale, perhaps used as a metaphor for Harry's resentment toward his mother.

Then there's the gear....these two men have set off in canoes for the boundary waters area for the winter. That kind of trip requires that you keep your gear down to the necessities to keep the weight and bulk to a manageable level. Once Gus realizes that it's in his best interest to start finding a way out of the wilderness, voila'...he has cross country skis and poles! Where did those come from? Then later on, when he and Harry are struggling out of the wilderness in the snow...again, snowshoes magically appear!? Really? They packed along skis and snowshoes? The author would have done better to leave the skis out of the story...and just have the snowshoes.....or one of those items could have been found stowed in the cabin they came upon.
By the time the story gets to the firearms, I began to wonder if he just included a Ruger and a Remington for the alliteration.

In some instances there is too little information given to the reader about key relationships in the book:
Rebekah, the mother that Harry scorns, is ever present in the book though she has been dead for 22 years. The birth of Odd, Harry's father, is assisted by Rebekah when she is at least 15 years old. So how did Odd and Rebekah come together to produce Harry? There is no explanation for this disparate fact in this book. I gather that this is covered in an earlier book, Lighthouse Road....but this book is not touted as a sequel.

In others there is too much embellishment. For example, Charlie Aas's demise....at first we are led to believe that there would be two other people with him in the float plane. Then it turns out there is just Charlie....so why did those two other people get introduced into the narrative?

Sarah, Gus' wife, is introduced with a full CV at the end of the book...not only is she a wonderful mother, great cook, put herself through law school by the age of 23, and is now a judge. Why do we need all of this information about a minor character who shows up at the end of the narrative?

I do think Peter Geye could be a very good writer, worthy of all of the exclamation points in the blurbs. However to do so, he is going to need a very great editor.
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1 vote tangledthread | 6 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
A mystery kinda, an adventure, some souspense. This ex-P I.is at requent times TSTL (too stupid to live) and endangers those around him with his constant need to sleep.

But saying that I liked the book, it kept me interested and turning pages.
1 vote Bettesbooks | 4 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
A highly informative book on Schubert's famous song cycle (the greatest piece of classical music ever, as far as I'm concerned) by the eminent British singer Ian Bostridge. I admit I'd have preferred if he'd delved a bit deeper into the musicological side of things, but he makes up for that by putting his historical education to excellent use and presenting the reader with a wealth of information on not only Schubert's life and times but also on the broader context of early 19th century Austria.

Bostridge proceeds song by song and has something interesting to say about each of them, on a very wide range of subjects - whether he interprets Wilhelm Müller's poetry, takes a look at a song's structure, places it in a biographical context, considers possible political implications or elucidates it from his extensive experience of performing the cycle. This is no deep analysis and is not meant to be; rather it is someone who loves Schubert's songs and knows them intimately chatting about them in an almost conversational tone. I assume that there probably is not very much new here for the Schubert expert but for the layman it is a treasure trove of both information and insight. The author is not afraid to go off on a tangent, either, and his frequent digressions are just as rewarding as when he is staying on subject. The book contains many illustrations, too, although that part did not come across too well in my Kindle edition. As, judging by other reviews, the book is quite beautifully designed, too, I'm regretting a bit that I did not invest in a hardcover version, but the book was well worth it for the written content alone and is recommended to everyone who wants to explore the background of Schubert's Winterreise in more depth than the liner notes of a CD generally provide.
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1 vote Larou | 5 other reviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
3.5 stars

This was a sweet read about Johnny, a young heart transplant recipient and the sister of the boy who's heart he was given. I liked both Niamh and Johnny but I wasn't convinced by their romance, and I loved Emily, the girl who was in hospital with Johnny. Dealing with friendship, illness, grief, love and organ donation "Instructions for a Second-hand Heart" was a solid YA read.
1 vote HeatherLINC | Mar 28, 2017 |
A murder, human trafficking, sex slavery, terrorism in Seattle.
A quick read with engaging characters some a little on the edge of society. Enjoyable.
96
1 vote Bettesbooks | Mar 28, 2017 |
After Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, Garry Wills noted an intention to complete an overarching analysis of U.S. politics under the general title America's Political Enlightenment. The underlying theme was to be the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment upon North American political theory, and so upon its political landscape overall. The second in the series was Explaining America: The Federalist, which included a "Plan of the Series" and briefly identified four books.

It would appear the series was never completed. If not wholly abandoned, possibly the promised volumes on the Constitution and the Supreme Court transformed into a work on Henry Adams's history of the U.S. -- and into this work, Cinncinnatus, an examination not of the courts but of political culture. In any case, it's not clear how Wills understands Cincinnatus to fit with the series, as a digression or perhaps a pendant, or not at all.

Evidently Wills's arguments came under strong criticism among U.S. political scientists, perhaps in part accounting for the unfinished Series. I find his approach an exceedingly interesting way to learn about U.S. politics and history, both in the broad expanse of the American experiment, and in personalities such as Washington. Certainly I was little motivated by the orthodox approaches I learned in school.

//

The argument here is narrowly defined: first to describe how artists & propagandists "shaped a didactic image" of George Washington [xxi], and then to assess both the role Washington played in forming the new American Republic, and the public's expectations for that role [xxiv]. Wills relies on a discussion of myriad portraits of Washington in making this argument: that is, literal portraits on canvas and in marble or bronze, and also some storybook myths such as Parson Weems' tale of the apple tree.

Wills's assessment of Washington's own intentions involves a focus on three primary events in Washington's biography. Chronologically they are:
1 - Washington's resignation of his commission as Commander of the Continental Army
2 - His support of the new Constitution, despite its unorthodox genesis
3 - Washington's Farewell Address following his second Presidential term

The book is divided into three parts, each separately examining one of these three events and its meaning for Washington, and for U.S. political culture.

In Part 1: Wills first looks at Enlightenment principles (secularism, republican ideals) and applies them to Washington's habit of "giving up power as a means of gaining power". Wills then reviews paintings and sculpture to see how those principles describe Washington's public persona.

Part 2 jumps out of sequence and looks to the importance of Washington's Farewell Address, linking it to Washington's policy of Nonalighment and its relevance for National Character.

Part 3 examines Washington's decision to support the new Constitution, and yet reconcile it with the republican ideals already defined, which were publicly and deliberately taken up by his supporters, and purposefully by Washington himself.

Along the way, Wills provides many discussions of events, personality, and theory of public service & civic virtue, swirling around the symbol of American identity and ideal. Included are a great many colour plates and black & white reproductions of paintings and sculpture, to which Wills refers regularly.

//

The propagandist symbol, and the intentional actions on the part of Washington himself, coalesce around an American concept of Republicanism, "Roman but not Christian". [25]
• The ideal leader displayed a "considered reluctance to exercise power" [23], and was granted power for a limited duration, within a circumscribed ambit, and relied upon the People to be free of corruption (so their selection of a leader would not compromise these ideals).
• The Roman myth of Cincinnatus, the citizen soldier under orders but with individual genius to implement those orders, was taken up among Colonists as the embodiment of an ideal leader, leading eventually to the establishment of the Society of Cincinnati.
• The Society emphasised the importance of a social code in which ideals are acted out, and witnessed by the public, and so emulated (the "spectatorial" function). The love of glory as an Enlightenment ideal, and so fame being a laudatory goal for a gentleman. Instill virtue by depicting it, depict virtue and in so doing, realise it. Fame as the conspicuous reward for virtue. (Cato was an ideal alongside Cincinnatus, and one favoured by Washington.)
• The symbol and the Society itself were broadly influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment.
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1 vote elenchus | Mar 27, 2017 |
Jaycee Dugard was only 11-years old in 1991 when she was snatched from the street while she walked to school one morning. She was raped and imprisoned for 18 years before she got out with her two daughters, born to her at ages 14 and 17.

How horrifying! I can’t even imagine. I vaguely remember hearing the name somewhere along the way, but don’t remember hearing what actually happened. (But then (sadly), there seem to have been a number of these, so I may also be confusing some of them). This book is not for the faint of heart, as it does go into detail on the sexual abuse – at least to describe the first time Philip did each of these horrible things to her, though later in the book, it wasn’t mentioned as much... certainly wasn’t described in detail later. And Philip’s wife, Nancy, was a party to all of this, right from helping him the day they kidnapped her!

Jaycee mixes what she remembers from when it was happening with reflections (at the end of many chapters) to describe what she thinks/feels as she looks back, and with journal entries from the time - one journal focusing on one of the many cats that she had while in captivity and one journal that goes through some of the last decade or so of her captivity. Some of the writing was simple – Jaycee only had a grade 5 education before she was kidnapped – but that didn’t detract from my interest to keep reading and find out what happened and how she got out. The end does focus on some of the recovery and reunion with her mom, sister, and aunt after she got out with her daughters.
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1 vote LibraryCin | 112 other reviews | Mar 27, 2017 |
This was a truly epic story. This story spans a lot of years and tells a sometimes brutal story. I was hooked by the book from almost the first page. I really couldn't get my mind to focus on anything besides this story until I had reached the end. It was a bigger story than I had expected with a lot of intricately woven layers. The characters were amazingly written and I found myself cheering for both Lada and Radu. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderful book.

Lada is the daughter of Vlad and she is fierce. The book opens at her birth and even as a very young child, Lada is brutal when needed. Her brother, Radu, does not share the same trait. In every way that Lada is brave and fierce, Radu is sensitive and needs protection. Her father is force to leave both Lada and Radu in the Ottoman courts and they fear that they may never see Wallachia again.

By chance, Lada and Radu cross paths with Mehmed as children and from an unlikely friendship. Mehmed is third in line to the throne of the Ottoman empire, a throne he knows he will most likely never hold. He keeps Lada and Radu by his side largely because Lada will not treat him as anything but her equal.

I enjoyed the characters in this story. Going into the book, I thought I would fall in love with Lada. Who doesn't love a fierce female character that can hold her own? She isn't pretty but she is brave. I did like Lada a lot but I was more taken with her brother's character, Radu. I didn't realize that there would be as much of a focus on Radu in the story as there was. Radu really grew as a character over the course of the book and he was a character that I found I had a lot of respect for. He was really as resourceful as his sister and could be brave when it was necessary. Mehmed is a character that really left me with conflicting feelings since there were things I loved about him and other things I disliked.

The setting of the story was perfectly written. I really could envision this place filled with uncertainty and brutality. The descriptions of everything from the Head Gardeners duties to life in the harem really helped to bring this world to life. I thought that the descriptions of religion in the story was well done and I liked that it was an important part of some of the characters' lives.

I would highly recommend this book to others. The story really has so many great elements from the historical setting, great characters, political intrigue, and even a bit of romance. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in this planned trilogy!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Children's - Delacorte Press via NetGalley
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1 vote Carolesrandomlife | 16 other reviews | Mar 27, 2017 |

Recent Firsts

"First" are first reviews for previously-unreviewed works.

I was torn between rating this book at 4 stars or 5. It really is a great book with a variety of different symbols in it, there are many symbols it is missing, for obvious reasons though, it would take a much larger volume. I absolutely loved the section with different types of cyphers, especially the Masonic cyphers, and the tables with the Greek, Hebrew and Rune alphabets. Still great for any ones collection, and I would strongly recommend it.… (more)
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  JCNeuman | Mar 27, 2017 |
Bertrand Russell

The Scientific Outlook

Routledge Classics, Paperback, 2009.

8vo. xxv+211 pp. Prefatory note to the Second edition by Bertrand Russell, 1949 [xxii]. Introduction by Bertrand Russell, 1931 [xxiii-xxv]. Preface by David Papineau, 2001 [vi-xxi].

First published, 1931.
Second edition, 1949.
First published in Routledge Classics, 2009.

Contents

Preface by David Papineau
Introduction

Part I. Scientific Knowledge
I. Examples of Scientific Method
II. Characteristics of Scientific Method
III. Limitations of Scientific Method
IV. Scientific Metaphysics
V. Science and Religion

Part II. Scientific Technique
VI. Beginnings of Scientific Technique
VII. Technique in Inanimate Nature
VIII. Technique in Biology
IX. Technique in Physiology
X. Technique in Psychology
XI. Technique in Society

Part III. The Scientific Society
XII. Artificially Created Societies
XIII. The Individual and the Whole
XIV. Scientific Government
XV. Education in a Scientific Society
XVI. Scientific Reproduction
XVII. Science and Values

Notes
Index

==================================================​

The title of this book is very accurate. Science is a matter of outlook. Sometimes phrases like “rational outlook” and “scientific method” are used, but they mean essentially the same thing: holding opinions for which there is some evidence to be true. This type of outlook may well exist in people who don’t work in the sciences, and it may well be absent in those who do. Indeed, as Russell immediately recognises, it is “in some degree unnatural to man; the majority of our opinions are wish-fulfilments”. Nor is it, or should be, exclusive and inflexible. As Russell describes it in a very balanced and beautifully poetic way:

The mind of the most rational among us may be compared to a stormy ocean of passionate convictions based upon desire, upon which float perilously a few tiny boats carrying a cargo of scientifically tested beliefs. Nor is this to be altogether deplored: life has to be lived, and there is no time to test rationally all the beliefs by which our conduct is regulated. Without a certain wholesome rashness, no one could long survive. Scientific method, therefore, must, in its very nature, be confined to the more solemn and official of our opinions.

Yet the title is also a bit misleading. Russell tries not so much to explore the scientific outlook, though he often mentions it of course, but rather to describe the essence of scientific knowledge and the impact of scientific technique on society. It’s essential to understand the difference between knowledge and technique in this context. Scientific knowledge is data that have been verified by sizable body of experiments and are therefore accepted as true (for now). This disinterested quest for better understanding of nature Russell considers equal, but not superior, to art. Scientific technique, on the other hand, is scientific knowledge which may have trivial intrinsic value but does produce great social consequences.

Part I is the meatiest and most rigorously philosophical section of the book. This is especially true of the last two chapters. Russell covered all this material in greater detail a few years later in Religion and Science (1935). But it’s always a pleasure to read his devastating sarcasm about those scientific theologians or religious scientists, both equally misguided, who tried to rehabilitate free will, God and the purpose of the universe on the basis of the Principle of Indeterminacy, thermodynamics and the quantum theory. Russell would have none of this, to put it mildly, wishful thinking. He takes as sparing partners eminent Sirs like Arthur Eddington and James Jeans, no less, and he makes short work of their half-baked arguments. He is equally merciless with their theological fans “who hold, apparently, that the demand for consistency belongs to the cold reason and must not interfere with our deeper religious feelings.” Nor do creative evolutionists receive any sympathy. Russell remains convinced that “the cold breath of scepticism”, however uncomfortable, is the only possible position for the rational man. There is no place for compromise:

While science as the pursuit of power becomes increasingly triumphant, science as the pursuit of truth of is being killed by a scepticism which the skill of the men of science has generated. That this is a misfortune is undeniable, but I cannot admit that the substitution of superstition for scepticism advocated by many of our leading men of science would be an improvement. Scepticism may be painful, and may be barren, but at least it is honest and an outcome of the quest for truth. Perhaps it is a temporary phase, but no real escape is possible by returning to the discarded beliefs of a stupider age.

[...]

It is not by going backward that we shall find an issue from our troubles. No slothful relapses into infantile fantasies will direct the new power which men have derived from science into the right channels; nor will philosophic scepticism as to the foundations arrest the course of scientific technique in the world of affairs. Men need a faith which is robust and real, not timid and half-hearted. Science is in its essence nothing but the systematic pursuit of knowledge, and knowledge, whatever ill-uses bad men may make of it, is in its essence good. To lose faith in knowledge is to lose faith in the best of man’s capacities; and therefore I repeat unhesitatingly that the unyielding rationalist has a better faith and a more unbending optimism than any of the timid seekers after the childish comforts of a less adult age.

Part II is mostly of historical interest, but that hardly makes it less interesting. It is fascinating, to say the least, to read how a man like Russell, no scientist himself but certainly a possessor of true scientific outlook, viewed the world at this precise time in history. Science was booming and had changed out of recognition since the time of his youth (Russell, be it remembered, was born in 1872 when Relativity and quantum theory didn’t exist), yet in the nearly 70 years since the Second edition of this book virtually every branch has been changed profoundly again (some branches, like genetics and molecular biology, have actually been born).

Many of Russell’s specific examples, for instance quotations from the venerable Nature, are today hopelessly dated. Yet sometimes his reflections are eerily prescient. It is startling to see – in 1931! – warnings about the limited amounts of raw materials, most notably oil. Equally disturbing are Russell’s gloom predictions about the future of the world forests. This could not have been written later than 1949 (!), when a few minor changes were made for the Second edition, but probably it dates from 1931, too. With the burden of hindsight, it is a terrifying thing to read. Russell also has some far from comforting things to say about the human animal’s love of power and how it can find a potentially disastrous outlet in modern scientific technique. But more of that in Part III.

Russell is even more visionary when he speculates – in pre-genetic times! – about modifications of the chromosomes that might produce physical and mental changes in the future individual. This is the essence of genetic engineering, and though today we know a great deal more about genes and genomes, Russell’s perfectly possible visions are still in the far future. In the “Prefatory note to the Second edition”, Russell mentions Brave New World (1932) in regard to his final chapters, not because he might have influenced Huxley, but because such novels have made more popular many of the same ideas which thus look “more than an individual phantasy”. In fact, Russell’s bold musings on genetic manipulation, even if they were added in 1949, are scientifically far more plausible than Huxley’s crude embryonic conditioning. If they were there in 1931, as seems more likely, then Russell’s flight of the imagination must be regarded as extraordinary.

I must say I also enjoyed Russell’s scathing attack on social Darwinism (Chapter 11). This pernicious form of pseudo-science was apparently still widespread in the 1930s. Russell makes no bones that Darwinism “as applied to politics has turned out to be far from scientific.” Famous phrases like “survival of the fittest” are found to have “ethical implications” which make them quite immune to scientific approach. All sorts of oppression and persecution, racial and not only, can be justified on the basis of this “pseudo-Darwinian philosophy”. Such theories may be persuasively argued and look logical (i.e. scientific), but they rest on false assumptions in the first place. Russell’s conclusion cannot be paraphrased without some loss of power:

On account of the ethical bias, one must view all Darwinian arguments on social questions with the greatest suspicion. This applies not only as between different races, but also as between different classes in the same nation. All Darwinian writers belong to the professional classes, and it is therefore an accepted maxim of Darwinian politics that the professional classes are biologically the most desirable. It follows that their sons ought to get a better education at the public expense than that which is given to the sons of wage-earners. In all such arguments it is impossible to see an application of science to practical affairs. There is merely a borrowing of some of the language of science for the purpose of making prejudice seem respectable.

Part III is the most speculative and the most controversial. It’s dystopian (non-)fiction with utopian elements, or vice versa. Russell has already prepared the stage in Chapter 11, in which he discusses in Huxleyan terms (cf. Brave New World Revisited, 1958) the most powerful propaganda weapons, namely education, radio, the press and the cinema (“The producers of Hollywood are the high-priests of a new religion. Let us be thankful for the lofty purity of their sentiments.”), but here he lets his imagination roam through the future and the so-called “scientific society”.

What’s that, to begin with? Russell defines scientific society as “one which employs the best scientific technique in production, in education, and in propaganda.” In other words, and much unlike earlier societies, this one is consciously building itself towards certain ends. He takes as modern examples Japan, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. The conclusions to be drawn from them, as might be expected, are not optimistic. Germany and Japan were not really scientific societies. They adopted childish superstitions (Nazism and Shintoism, respectively) which plunged into a disastrous war that undid all economic miracles achieved by scientific means. The Soviet Union was much closer to a true scientific state, and still very much in existence at the time of writing. Russell is wary of passing judgments on it or making any definite predictions about its future, but he seems more positively disposed than he was before (cf. The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, 1919) or would become later (cf. “Why I am not a Communist” in Portraits from Memory, 1956).

Put briefly, Russell’s scientific society of the future would substitute security for adventure. Obedience to the State, a World Socialistic State of course, would be the highest virtue. There would be no “nineteenth-century dreams” like equality and liberty, nor would “the anarchic system of private enterprise” exist at all. There would be a highly intelligent governing class and a moderately stupid governed class. The vast gulf between them would be created and maintained by rigorous scientific reproduction. Family and parenthood, except among the low working classes, would be more or less abolished. Children would be conceived mostly through “artificial impregnation”. They would be raised and educated entirely by the State. Sexual promiscuity would be tolerated if not encouraged, but most men and women would be sterilised to avoid unfortunate consequences. Put briefly, this is pretty much Huxley’s Brave New World. There is much pleasure in it, but no joy.

For much the greater part of Part III, I feel Russell is torn by divided loyalties. On the one side, he very much approves of using the most powerful scientific techniques to produce something as clean, orderly and efficient as Huxley’s Brave New World. On the other hand, he is appalled by the virtually limitless ways in which the power-hungry oligarchies can, and probably will, abuse their godlike control. I think Aldous Huxley felt much the same way. He began his famous novel as a satirical dystopia, but he ended it as a kind of reluctantly embraced semi-utopia. (This is not infrequent in artistic circles; so Maurice Ravel wanted “Scarbo” from Gaspard de la nuit to be a parody of Romanticism, but in the end it turned to be a tribute to it.) Both Huxley and Russell well knew that this kind of society comes at a high price. Both were, if not convinced, at least open to the idea that the price might be worth paying. Having described his own Brave New World, Russell offers this rather sardonic comment:

Whether men will be happy in this Paradise I do not know. Perhaps biochemistry will show us how to make any man happy, provided he has the necessaries of life; perhaps dangerous sports will be organized for those whom boredom would otherwise turn into anarchists; perhaps sport will take over the cruelty which will have been banished from politics; perhaps football will be replaced by play battles in the air in which death will be the penalty of defeat. It may be that so long as men are allowed to seek death, they will not mind having to seek it in a trivial cause: to fall through the air before a million spectators may come to be thought a glorious death even if it has no purpose but the amusement of a holiday crowd. It may be that in some such way a safety valve can be provided for the anarchic and violent forces in human nature; or again, it may be that by wise education and suitable diet men may be cured of all their unruly impulses, and all life may become as quiet as a Sunday school.

“I am, however, only prophesying a certain future, not advocating it”, says Russell at one place. At another, he admits he finds “pleasure in splendid individuals rather than in powerful organisations”, and in the future society he is describing there will be no place for such people. These confessions should be taken with a grain of salt. But Russell is nothing if not honest with his readers. In the final and very lyrical chapter, in which he traces the history of science from its idealistic origins as love of the world to its present corruption as love of power, Russell finally admits his ambiguous attitude: “The reader will have observed that features that everyone would consider desirable are almost inextricably mingled with features that are repulsive.” This is, of course, a matter of degree. If the world just described looks too bleak, this is because scientific technique is left to “rule unchecked” and “forms the whole culture of the holders of power”. Is it possible to combine the cold knowledge of the scientist with the colourful one of the mystic, the lover and the poet into a more balanced world? Ever the fearless optimist, Russell concludes thus:

All that is needed is that men should not be so intoxicated by new power as to forget the truths that were familiar to every previous generation. Not all wisdom is new, nor is all folly out of date.

Man has been disciplined hitherto by his subjection to nature. Having emancipated himself from this subjection, he is showing something of the defects of slave-turned-master. A new moral outlook is called for in which submission to the powers of nature is replaced by respect for what is best in man. It is where this respect is lacking that scientific technique is dangerous. So long as it is present, science, having delivered man from bondage to nature, can proceed to deliver him from bondage to the slavish part of himself. The dangers exist, but they are not inevitable, and hope for the future is at least as rational as fear.


The whole book is as beautifully written as anything and extremely thought-provoking on a number of levels and in a number of directions, but it does, of course, have some defects. They stem partly from the time of writing and partly from Russell himself. A case in point is his casual racism when he remarks – twice! (as Mr Papineau correctly observes in his Postscript) – that black people are of inherently lower intelligence but would be useful for hard labour thanks to their greater physical strength. Such opinions are regrettable, but they are not hard to understand. On the whole, Russell was way ahead of his contemporaries in many areas, but occasionally he was the victim of much the same prejudices. After all, even the greatest genius cannot altogether transcend his times.

Russell is also unfair to Darwin. In Chapter 1, he rightly puts him in the company of Galileo (whose “few proved truths banished the scintillating firmament of mediaeval certainties”), Newton (whose “triumph was the most spectacular in the history of science”) and Pavlov (“one of the great men of our time”), but then goes on to state, curiously, that Darwin’s cultural impact has not been matched by his scientific achievements since natural selection “is less in favour with biologists than it used to be.” This was written before the Modern Synthesis, so I guess the times may be held responsible for it. But when Russell claimed that natural selection is the “mechanism” of evolution and that Darwin was “mistaken” about the laws of heredity, he evidently wrote about things he didn’t really understand. Natural selection is not, of course, the mechanism of evolution: it is merely the driving force. And Darwin was not so much mistaken about the origin of hereditary variations (the real mechanism) as silent about them.

These quibbles (and a few others) aside, The Scientific Outlook has aged very well indeed. It makes for a fabulously stimulating and not a little entertaining read. Russell’s provocative, witty and crystal clear prose does not age at all. Neither does the content, however dated a few examples may be. Whether we are living in another age of scientific scepticism, as in the time of the first edition, or in another age of scientific optimism, as in the end of the nineteenth century, much of this book cannot fail to be relevant. Our societies today seem to develop, if they develop at all, in the chaotic way from pre-scientific times. But that doesn’t mean the horrors of the purely scientific society are less plausible in the future.
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  Waldstein | Mar 29, 2017 |
Super helpful! I appreciated the lively tone, also. It could have been a bore, but it explains Processing in simple and relatable terms.
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  hungrylittlebookworm | Mar 27, 2017 |
Five novellas from Dan Simmons on the themes of Love and Death. All five are interesting although some of the stories are stronger than the others.

"Entropy's Bed at Midnight" starts off well as a parent who has lost one child to an accident is consumed with ensuring his other child stays safe. The story builds on the dread of something to come, but then it just wanders off and ends, slightly disappointing.

"Dying in Bangkok", is a difficult tale to read, erotic and horror and vampires and HIV, combine to make a story you won't soon forget.

"Sleeping with Teeth Women", predates Simmons novel "Black Hills", but you can see his love of the Sioux already in this novella, and he is able to create a fascinating story about an Indian boy who somehow stumbles into seeing visions of the white man conquest of his people. Moving, interesting and powerful.

"Flashback" is the only S.F. story. Similar to the novel of the same name, Simmons creates an all too real story of what would happen to America if a drug was available that allowed someone to "flash" to that memory. Interesting premise, however, just like the novel, it would have been more interesting to keep the politics out and focus on the impact of the drug on America.

"The Great Lover" is a masterpiece of horror describing the WWI battle of the Somme's, where over a million men lost their lives for no apparent reason. Haunting, horrific, and grisly, Simmons describes a poet trapped in the trenches as his grasp on sanity slips and slowly fails amid the tragedy of war.

Worth reading, as Simmons, as always, writes powerful stories of love and death.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Joel Rosenberg ends his Guardians of the Flame series with a pretty good finale. It wraps up the loose ends of the previous two books pretty well, and how the loose strings get tied up is pretty interesting.

The series as a whole was worth reading, although I felt there were several novels that added virtually nothing to the series, there were other books that were quite good fantasy reads.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
A quick easy read that gets its point across in a moving way. Three people are trapped in a building during an earthquake and each finds themselves with supernatural gifts that allow the spreading of God's word to those in need if they work together.

However, by the end of the book they come to realize that the gifts they had aren't necessary to spread the Word, the power of the message and normal human abilities is all it takes.

Effective message delivered well.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Trovärdigt och Hedström har ett bra driv i både handling och språk. Inte den allra bästa i serien men alltid en trivsam bekantskap.
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  Mats_Sigfridsson | Mar 29, 2017 |
Again, this book was... fine? It didn't do what I wanted it to do, which is not a hit against the author, but I would say it's a terrible title honestly, very misleading as to what it's about. I think the experiences and stories were interesting and maybe had it been organized as like an oral history of the aftermath of Matt Shepard's death, I would have found it more intriguing, but honestly any "analysis" was lost amid Loffreda's attempts to do the entire story "justice." I would say it wasn't a bad book, just not intellectually stimulating (but also not super relaxing.)… (more)
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  aijmiller | Mar 29, 2017 |
Football nightmare Dominic Polidor
By Matt Patterson

This book is one of my favorite football books. It’s about a boy named Keith Stedman, was one of the best wide receivers,if not the best, on the Bucks team. Every human makes mistakes. For Keith, one of the mistakes that he made was on what was a undefeated Buck team. The Bucks had one last drive to make an undefeated season. The quarterback threw a perfect pass down field to Keith, but then Keith dropped the ball. It was over for the Buck’s season and the Buck’s suffered for the rest of the offseason, but for Keith it was the worst. For most of the Buck’s were past the time, but for Keith and a kid named Larry, it stayed with them. Larry keeps telling the Buck’s that Keith will choke like last season because Larry wants to have the starting job this season. Keith is depressed that he choked and now never wants to play football again. Keith’s friends, Cody and boy, were helping him to recover from this choke. After enough of convincing Keith, he decided to go back to the Bucks once again. At the first game Keith was doing great, but once again the same scenario happened. This time Keith was ready and he won the games for the Bucks. The nightmare was over.


Again this book is one of one of my favorite football books. James Patterson did a great job of explaining Keith’s depression. He also showed how it would feel to be in a football game and how it would feel if this has happened to you. I would recommend this book for middle schoolers because it’s similar to how we would talk to each other. It also shows how to learn the basics of football to beginners. On a scale of one through ten, this book would be a 9 and a half because I wish there were a couple more hundred pages to see what happens to Keith after the nightmare.
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  dominicp.bg3 | Mar 29, 2017 |
Could have been easier to follow.
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  hungrylittlebookworm | Mar 27, 2017 |
This book is about an elephant that gets into a bathtub and his friends start joining him, which are different animals. In the realm of it all, the more animals join in, the more the water disappears. They go on an adventure as they all enjoy each others company in the bathtub. In the end there is no water left to go on an adventure.
  jzsolorzano7 | Mar 29, 2017 |
When I was a Boy Scout lo these many (many, many) years ago I was first introduced to Brinley's Mad Scientists' Club through installment stories in "Boys' Life" magazine and I loved them. Here the original stories have been bound into a single collection. While they are a bit dated in technology they are still wonderful stories especially for teens and young adults. I don't know what that says about me since I still love them! The gang of boys uses science and technology to haunt a house, rescue a downed Air Force pilot and cause a general uproar in their sleepy little town of Mammoth Falls. But it's all in good fun and it is all about serving others. Now so many years later I am enjoying them again in this volume. Still a great read!… (more)
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  Al-G | Mar 28, 2017 |
Honestly this book was disappointing in that the themes talked about were the old standbys of abortion, slavery and nazism. There was very little regarding the effect of religion on core family, the church on the communities, the moral affect of faith/religion on the west, the impact of western civilization on the rest of the world.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
This is a wonderful collection of Swedish superior houses with great architecture and art works. The examples of very old wallpapers still in use are awe inspiring. Having restored several old houses in the Midwest, I would love to see these myself. OK, on my bucket list!
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  kerrlm | Mar 29, 2017 |
The author discusses the similarities and differences she found when her Catholic family moves into a neighborhood with many Orthodox Jewish families.
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  mojomomma | Mar 27, 2017 |
I loved this book because of the photographs and the educational story. The photographs in this book are of Weimaraner's dressed up as humans. It gives the book a funny twist and makes the dogs have a human persona. This is very unique. I also like how the author incorporates an educational aspect about farms into the story. Overall, the purpose is to inform.
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  adietr3 | Mar 27, 2017 |
Good collection of science Fiction stories from the late 70s. Some probably undeserving of a prize, but thats what you get when you rely on fans to vote.

Others of these entries though are true classics and worthy of reading, they include Zelazny's "Home is the Hangman", Niven's "The Borderland of Sol", Triptree Jr's "Houston, Houston Do you Read", and finally Ellison's "Jeffty is Five".
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Books 4 and 5 actually improve the series by focusing less on Karl and more on his son Jason. This makes the books more interesting as the adventures they get involved in seem more real somehow without having a warrior around that wins every fight by just busting in and chopping heads off.

The weariness of the characters start to show, the reality of life starts to catch up with some and all in all its a pretty quick fun read.… (more)
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
This is the second part of Bowen’s [Prince and Heretic] about the Prince of Orange (1533-1584). Because I am so interested in the history, I was enthralled with the first part, giving it five stars. Perhaps the writing wasn’t up to that, but my enjoyment of the book definitely was. Here in the second part sees William up through his murder in Delft.

A few things troubled me in the two parts. (1) The use of a seer to foretell the deaths of the brothers. Even though the author had the hindsight of history, that didn’t seem to belong. Would intelligent people in that time have had anything to do with that kind of nonsense? (2) One gets to read way more about fashion at the time than any but a researcher could stand. (3) Use of the second wife’s handmaid to provide the narrative throughout the story. Whether the style of writing in the 1910s when this book was published, or just an awkward device, it resulted in sections like this:
”She walked slowly along the causeway, thinking of her own story interwoven with the great events among which she moved, of the Prince, whose life had come so near to her yet from whom she was for ever separated, of the nation coming, with throes and agonies, into being about her, of whom she was part, yet in which somehow she seemed to have no interest.” (kindle location 9961)

Overall, I found the first installment to be better written, though I very much enjoyed this second part, too. It’s the story, itself, with which I am fascinated.
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  countrylife | Mar 27, 2017 |
Patriots in Petticoats is a fact-driven book for younger readers about women who supported the cause of, and even fought in, the American Revolution. It features a table of contents, bibliography, a timeline, and an index. Twenty-four heroines of the Revolution are categorized into eight chapters according to the nature of their service. The text includes side-bars and illustrations.

While it may seem like a strike against this book that it shirks narrative for a somewhat uninspiring recitation of facts, arguably this straight forward, entirely apolitical presentation of the material serves to avoid pigeonholing. Because of this, the book is able to serve as a good jumping off point for young girls being raised in conservative environments who might not have the opportunity to read overtly feminist literature. The extremely neutrality of the text is, therefore, ultimately a good thing.… (more)
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  EBolles | Mar 29, 2017 |
I didn't realize when I picked up this book that it's actually a novelization of the film. As many times as I saw the original film as a kid, I don't think I ever saw the sequel, so I don't have the same nostalgia for it, and it's definitely different to the original book, which I just finished reading and is thus much fresher in my mind than the film, which I haven't seen in thirty years or so.

The first chapter was a real disappointment, as just right off the bat it had a totally different feeling than the first book. Not only were many key points different (which to Key's credit, he did do his best to try and explain away, such as "oh, we'd thought Uncle Bene was dead but he survived" and "while we were gone Tia learned to speak vocally", but there was also a weird overuse of scientific terms for their powers that just felt out of place.

But as I continued reading, I got sucked into the story and the annoyances faded away and I did end up enjoying it. Though the addition of a psychic goat who helped save the day definitely made me feel like yeah, this is an old Disney movie all right.
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  kyuuketsukirui | Mar 28, 2017 |
Very good condition. Minor wear at corners of cover and minor fold marks. Owner's name in ink and some underlining and notes in ink in first few pages.
  algrimshaw | Mar 29, 2017 |
This book is about Japan. It is a country rich in history and tradition. The country is a leader in technology. The Japanese flag is white with a large red circle in the middle. The circle represents the sun. The Japaneses call their country Nihon, which means "source of the sun" , and it's also known as "Land of the Rising Sun". The Kanto Plain, on the island of Honshu, is the largest area of flat land in Japan. Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, and this volcano hasn't erupted since 1707.
I thought this book was very interesting, but I couldn't get all the facts down since there is a lot. I would recommend this book for people who are interested in Japan. I learned a lot from this book, even though these facts were small and simple. I enjoyed this book and I can tell my family what I learned. I would rate this book 4 1/2 because I'm not a big fan of non-fiction. All and all, this book was good. And now I know more about Japan.
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  AmandaU.B4 | Mar 29, 2017 |
Interesting book, and a bit surprising. Half of the book is dedicated to Columbus and the other half to Cortez.

The Columbus history was excellent, full of details, with most of the information reported by first or second person accounts. I feel that the book put the proper emphasis on why Columbus was so driven and placed him within the proper historical context.

The Cortez book was good, but difficult at times as the author described in quite a bit of detail the human sacrifice practices the Aztec used. It was quite a trudge to motivate myself to continue to read. I'm unsure why the author felt it necessary to use such vivid details.… (more)
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
A fascinating guide to some of the most remarkable natural wonders on our planet, this is a book which captivated me when I was a young kid. I read it again today, partly for nostalgia but also because it is really good. It has lots of interesting facts and evocative photographs of each wonder. Both as a kid and now as an adult, I am quite taken by the beauty of many of these places and hope to visit them at some point in my life. The Norwegian fjord of Sognefjord, the Königssee lake in the Bavarian Alps, Milford Sound in New Zealand and the Iguaçu Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border have always been at the top of my wish-list of places to visit, simply because as a kid I was entranced by their beauty and tranquillity as captured in this book.

It is not a traveller's guide, and focuses more on the geographical and geological side of how these wonders were formed over millennia. This is what I am most fascinated by: the awesome power of nature in forging these striking places. The sheer scale of the Grand Canyon has always been staggering, and consequently Arizona has always been high on my wish-list, particularly as it is also home to other intriguing wonders detailed here, including Meteor Crater and Monument Valley. One can never cease to be impressed by how our world was formed, and the human imagination cannot truly comprehend the true might and force of tectonic plates crashing together, forming mountains, never mind the changes wrought over millions of years by rivers, like the mighty Colorado forging the Grand Canyon. Though Rupert Matthews, the author of this atlas, sticks to facts and figures, he nevertheless conveys this, the awesome power of nature, very well and allows you to marvel and indeed wonder at these phenomena.

The author also draws on anthropology and archaeology to address the human impact on these natural wonders, and there is an awareness of environmental and conservation issues which is earnest but, refreshingly, never preachy. Matthews just demonstrates how remarkable these wonders are and, simply by virtue of their beauty, power or uniqueness, you reflexively agree with any attempt to ensure they remain unspoilt. He also notes, through the text and also extremely helpful diagrams, how these wonders have formed and how, over time, they will change. Niagara Falls, for example, will in about 25,000 years have retreated fully into the Great Lakes. Lake Baikal in Russia (or the USSR, as the atlas - showing its age - refers to it) will in a few million years split Asia into two. It is stuff like this which really gives you an appreciation for the changing nature of our world and an understanding of just how small a space humankind occupies on a timeline of the Earth's existence. The natural phenomena that this atlas describes really show you that the world was undergoing mind-boggling changes long before we were here, and will long after we are gone. Our race will be witness to just a tiny moment of that evolution, but it is fascinating for us to even contemplate such changes.

These were the kind of thoughts that were swirling around in my head while I was reading this book, and I imagine it is a book that will give any reader an appreciation of the staggering power and beauty of the natural world. Overall, the atlas was an illuminating guide to a choice selection of natural phenomena, which will engage any reader in feelings of awe and wanderlust.
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  MikeFutcher | Mar 28, 2017 |
A terrific sample of short stories ranging from the late 40s to the 70s. A well rounded mixture from authors as diverse as Larry Niven to James Triptree Jr,.

Highly recommended.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Bill James, as only he can, has written one of the definitive baseball books. The book is split into an examination of the game broken out into decades, and a section on the best players, by position, in the game.

Fascinating stuff, as James gives glimpses of how baseball was played in the past, and the players playing in it.

Even though this book is superceded by the equally good, "The New Bill James Baseball Abstract", it has plenty of meat to offer that is different than the newer book.

A classic I've read many times.
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  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
After Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, Garry Wills noted an intention to complete an overarching analysis of U.S. politics under the general title America's Political Enlightenment. The underlying theme was to be the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment upon North American political theory, and so upon its political landscape overall. The second in the series was Explaining America: The Federalist, which included a "Plan of the Series" and briefly identified four books.

It would appear the series was never completed. If not wholly abandoned, possibly the promised volumes on the Constitution and the Supreme Court transformed into a work on Henry Adams's history of the U.S. -- and into this work, Cinncinnatus, an examination not of the courts but of political culture. In any case, it's not clear how Wills understands Cincinnatus to fit with the series, as a digression or perhaps a pendant, or not at all.

Evidently Wills's arguments came under strong criticism among U.S. political scientists, perhaps in part accounting for the unfinished Series. I find his approach an exceedingly interesting way to learn about U.S. politics and history, both in the broad expanse of the American experiment, and in personalities such as Washington. Certainly I was little motivated by the orthodox approaches I learned in school.

//

The argument here is narrowly defined: first to describe how artists & propagandists "shaped a didactic image" of George Washington [xxi], and then to assess both the role Washington played in forming the new American Republic, and the public's expectations for that role [xxiv]. Wills relies on a discussion of myriad portraits of Washington in making this argument: that is, literal portraits on canvas and in marble or bronze, and also some storybook myths such as Parson Weems' tale of the apple tree.

Wills's assessment of Washington's own intentions involves a focus on three primary events in Washington's biography. Chronologically they are:
1 - Washington's resignation of his commission as Commander of the Continental Army
2 - His support of the new Constitution, despite its unorthodox genesis
3 - Washington's Farewell Address following his second Presidential term

The book is divided into three parts, each separately examining one of these three events and its meaning for Washington, and for U.S. political culture.

In Part 1: Wills first looks at Enlightenment principles (secularism, republican ideals) and applies them to Washington's habit of "giving up power as a means of gaining power". Wills then reviews paintings and sculpture to see how those principles describe Washington's public persona.

Part 2 jumps out of sequence and looks to the importance of Washington's Farewell Address, linking it to Washington's policy of Nonalighment and its relevance for National Character.

Part 3 examines Washington's decision to support the new Constitution, and yet reconcile it with the republican ideals already defined, which were publicly and deliberately taken up by his supporters, and purposefully by Washington himself.

Along the way, Wills provides many discussions of events, personality, and theory of public service & civic virtue, swirling around the symbol of American identity and ideal. Included are a great many colour plates and black & white reproductions of paintings and sculpture, to which Wills refers regularly.

//

The propagandist symbol, and the intentional actions on the part of Washington himself, coalesce around an American concept of Republicanism, "Roman but not Christian". [25]
• The ideal leader displayed a "considered reluctance to exercise power" [23], and was granted power for a limited duration, within a circumscribed ambit, and relied upon the People to be free of corruption (so their selection of a leader would not compromise these ideals).
• The Roman myth of Cincinnatus, the citizen soldier under orders but with individual genius to implement those orders, was taken up among Colonists as the embodiment of an ideal leader, leading eventually to the establishment of the Society of Cincinnati.
• The Society emphasised the importance of a social code in which ideals are acted out, and witnessed by the public, and so emulated (the "spectatorial" function). The love of glory as an Enlightenment ideal, and so fame being a laudatory goal for a gentleman. Instill virtue by depicting it, depict virtue and in so doing, realise it. Fame as the conspicuous reward for virtue. (Cato was an ideal alongside Cincinnatus, and one favoured by Washington.)
• The symbol and the Society itself were broadly influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment.
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1 vote elenchus | Mar 27, 2017 |
A very well written book by a professor of history on his recollections of World War II's final months.
This book is interesting since does not fall into pure history, memoir, nor fiction as a literary category. It transcends several genres much like several of the more renowned Vietnam war works do. It is a hybrid which he calls "feigned history."
Manuel did not see front line combat duty so his reflections are from a rear echelon intelligence officer who has time to mock the tragic deaths of others and philosophize on the self serving rationalizations of the Germans. His summations are still fairly accurate although one does need to know a little about WWII history to appreciate this short work (135 pp.). This book was published in 2000 but will probably be forgotten which is too bad since it's quite good. The author is a Boston Jew and his account weaves in his own feelings about the holocaust. Manuel has a bias against Christians. He writes thus about a German Catholic officer which may be fabulous since Catholic clergy were often sent to concentration camps late in the war: "I really could not endure it any longer. My conscience plagued me day and night. I sought refuge in a confessional box and asked the chaplain about my responsibility. 'O father, shall I continue to send these boys to their death when I know that it is futile? I do not believe anymore'. And the priest refined my duty. 'My son, doesn't you remember the rules? Just obey. You are not responsible. It is not for you to determine. It is for you to obey and in turn be obeyed and so turn the wheels of obedience that there may be order and light and darkness and a world. Responsibility rests with your superior and his superiors and so on through channels until the highest. Go, my child, with an ashy heart and fire your weapon in clear conscience, for in the eyes of the judge you are blameless'. And so it was. I had my honor, my conscience, my obedience, and my salvation. Now my duty is done."
This may have happened as the German officer stated but not likely. As the war came to a close everyone came to see it as every man for himself. If the futility of men as cannon fodder was an issue then the war was by then lost. If the pangs of guilt were afflicting this officer's conscience then the winnable war was a thing of the past. In any case, this seems to be included as it showed the moral superiority of the Nazis as coming from a religiosity close to something attributed to pseudo Catholicism. But in reality, Hitler had no affinity with the Roman church since it never endorsed the idea of a Fuhrer over and above the Pope.
A book jotting down all the rumors that swirled around the German staff officers once they saw the Americans would easily destroy the German Axis forces.
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  sacredheart25 | Mar 29, 2017 |
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