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Kingfisher

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

It opens with a young man, a sorceress's son, who meets some knights and sets out to find his father.  And an inn that is falling to pieces but still has a diner going when he arrives.  And a royal court where the king decides to send his knights on a quest for a vaguely defined vessel -- magical but ill-recorded-- which, it turns out, also draws in the past of his illegitimate son.

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Beauty and the Beast Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

A solid thick collection of all sorts of animal bridegroom tales. And some other Search for the Lost Husband tales.

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NPCs

NPCs by Drew Hayes

As you may guess from the title, there's a certain amount of role-playing games involved in this fantasy. (NPC being short for non-player character.)

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The Rolling Stones, by Robert A. Heinlein

A family of wisecracking polymaths take a rocket ship to Mars and beyond.


The Rolling Stones

Charles Scribner, 1952, 276 pages



One of Heinlein's best-loved works, The Rolling Stones follows the rollicking adventures of the Stone family as they tour the solar system.

It doesn't seem likely for twins to have the same middle name. Even so, it's clear that Castor and Pollux Stone both have "Trouble" written in that spot on their birth certificates. Of course, anyone who's met their grandmother Hazel would know they came by it honestly.

Join the Stone twins as they connive, cajole, and bamboozle their way across the solar system in the company of the most high-spirited and hilarious family in all of science fiction.... It all starts when the twins decide that life on the lunar colony is too dull and buy their own spaceship to go into business for themselves. Before long they are headed for the furthest reaches of the stars, with stops on Mars, some asteroids, Titan, and beyond.

This lighthearted tale has some of Heinlein's sassiest dialogue - not to mention the famous flat cats incident. Oddly enough, it's also a true example of real family values, for when you're a Stone, your family is your highest priority.


Golden Age SF that shows its age.

Also by Robert A. Heinlein: My reviews of Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Starman Jones, I Will Fear No Evil, Farnham's Freehold, Orphans of the Sky, and Double Star.




My complete list of book reviews.

Books Read January 2016 (Books 1-7)

Below is a summary of my modest January reading with links to longer reviews in my journal. I did also read Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog but have delayed the review until I have finished its sequel.

Book 1: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill with illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez, 2013. 704 pages. Superb horror novel with Christmas theme.
Book 2: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, 2001. 242 pages. A Christmas tale chosen by our reading group as an alternative for those who avoid horror. Reviews of Books 1 and 2.

Book 3: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Tales of Alderley #1) by Alan Garner, 1960. Introduction, 2010. 50th Anniversary Edition. 320 pages. One of my favourite books from childhood. Review here.

Book 4: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2015. 494 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (17 hrs, 54 mins). Read by Robert Glenister. Latest in this superb private detective series. Review here.

Book 5: Harmony Black (Harmony Black #1) by Craig Schaefer, 2015. 315 pages. Entertaining urban fantasy. Review here.

Book 6: Steadfast (Elemental Masters #9) by Mercedes Lackey, 2013. 298 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (11 hrs, 37 mins). Read by Carmela Corbett. One of the weaker offerings in this series very loosely based on The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Review here.

Book 7: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood, 2012. 552 pages. Cambridge-based psychological thriller. Review here.

Monthly Bookpost, January 2016

For the first half of the decade, I tried to read pretty much All The Things that were fit to come out of Western Civilization from the earliest times until the death of Louis XIV. I was also struck by the number of books claiming to have marked the transition into the "modern era" at the start of each year I was reading: Augustine in 2013; Machiavelli in 2014; Descartes in 2015 and Jonathan Swift as I begin the present year's plan.

A lot of this included plenty of second and third tier writing that even I didn't care much for, especially during the years (centuries) when most of the stuff presented as nonfiction was about churchy stuff.

As we get into the era of the white wigs, the good news is that the church is losing it's power to kill people for heresy (which might change if, say, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz became President) and so, beginning with Swift and Voltaire, I'm reading a lot more wit and a lot less preaching. the bad news is, with the advances in printing, there are more books covering the last 300 years than any one person could read in five, even by giving up all other activity. So, my reading this year from the rest of the 18th Century should include The Biggest Stuff and some of the "of-interest" stuff, it's going to leave out a lot. If there's something written between 1714 and 1800 that you either think I'd really enjoy or want to hear my opinions about it, please do comment with a recommendation.

And away we go...

The 18th Century Murders: Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon; The Shogun"s Daughter; the Iris Fan, by Laura Joh Rowland Collapse )

It Just Doesn"t Matter: Works of George Berkely Collapse )

Horse Sense: Gulliver"s Travels, by Jonathan Swift Collapse )

East Meets West: The Engineer of Human Souls, by Josef Skvorecky Collapse )

Familiar Guy In a Strange Land: The Martian, by Andy Weir Collapse )

Cultural Introduction: The Pleasures of the Imagination (English culture in the Eighteenth Century), by john Brewer Collapse )

The Great Full-Stop Shortage of 1662: Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe Collapse )

Find all of my previous Bookposts here: http://admnaismith.livejournal.com/tag/bookposts

Maelstrom, by Taylor Anderson


Maelstrom

Roc, 2009, 400 pages



Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the U.S.S. Walker, are once again at war. Having sided with the peaceful Lemurians against the savage, reptilian Grik, they now find themselves scrambling to prepare for the attack that is sure to come, searching for resources to support their forces - even as they look for allies to join their struggle.

Meanwhile, the Japanese juggernaut Amagi, also trapped in this strange world, is under Grik control---with her fanatical commander approaching madness. And soon they will have amassed a force that no amount of firepower and technology will be able to stop.As the raging conflict approaches, Reddy, his crew, his allies, and his loved ones face annihilation. But if there is one thing they have learned about their new world, it is that hope - and help - may be just over the horizon.


Still a swashbuckler of a book, but three books in and the war has barely begun.




Also by Taylor Anderson: My reviews of Into the Storm and Crusade.

My complete list of book reviews.

Torchship

Torchship by Karl K. Gallagher

A few centuries in the future, the adventures of a tramp spaceship from the Disconnect. . . .
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Book Review: The Bank War by Paul Kahan

Poor Andrew Jackson. Lately his legacy as president has been under attack, and rightly so. Not only was the 7th President a slaveholder, and an unapologetic supporter of slavery (not unusual for his time); he was also responsible for the unconscionable Native American removal policy (ably described and exposed in Steve Inskeep's excellent 2015 work Jacksonland, reviewed here). Adding to the list of Jackson's defects of character as President, author and historian Paul Kahan explains how Jackson ruined the US economy for spiteful and selfish reasons, leading to the "Panic of 1837", in his recent (December 2015) book The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, and the Fight For American Finance.



After Alexander Hamilton's First Bank of the United States failed to be rechartered in 1811, the nation soon learned the importance of having a national bank, especially when the lack of a national bank proved to be an impediment to fighting the war of 1812. The Second Bank of the United States was created in 1816 and in 1823 Nicholas Biddle became the bank's third and final president. Initially Biddle was politically neutral and was willing to work with whoever was in power to convince them that a strong central bank was important for the financial health of the nation. In 1829 the US Supreme Court, in McCulloch v. Maryland, had confirmed the constitutional validity of the bank, and the institution seemed strong and healthy.

Enter Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans and man of the people. No fan of the bank, Jackson was destined to clash with Biddle as the time for expiration of the bank's charter approached. When Biddle pressed Congress to recharter the bank in advance of Jackson's bid for re-election in 1832, the Bank War was on.

Kahan very capably explains the political and financial chess game played between the two protagonists which not only had political implications, but which also affected the economic security of everyday Americans. Jackson vetoed the bill to recharter the bank, sponsored by his 1832 election opponent Henry Clay, and he would later feel himself vindicated in this decision by his lopsided victory in his re-election bid (219 to 49 in the electoral college). Kahan explains Biddle's vain efforts to fight back and how the vindictiveness of both men hurt the economy, leading to lasting negative economic consequences for decades to come.

As Kahan explains, a conflict over banking hardly seems sexy or interesting, and yet it captivated a nation and led to battles in Congress, at the ballot box and in the media (where one Boston newspaper wrote the Bank's epitaph as "Biddled, Diddled and Undone"). Kahan also describes the personalities and allegiances of other key players of the time including future President Martin Van Buren, as well as Jackson's treasury secretaries Louis McLane and Roger Taney and Vice-President John C. Calhoun. The author also makes use of contemporary newspaper cartoons to give the reader a better feel for the issues of the day.



Kahan's strength is that he is able to explain these complicated issues so concisely (the book is only 160 pages) but so capably. He concludes, probably quite correctly, that the Bank War was second in importance to the nation's future only to the Civil War during 19th century history. He reminds the reader of a forgotten but important part of the nation's past and also ably makes the case that, rather than being a "man of the people" and a great champion of democracy, Jackson behaved more like a monarch, and in the end, Biddle wasn't much better. This book is interesting, well-written and intellectually very stimulating. It is a pleasure to read, especially for those with an interest in American political history and in American economic history.

Folktales of Japan

Folktales of Japan by Keigo Seki

A collection of folktales, including animal tales, fairy tales, and tales of tricksters or fools.  With notes about where collected, tale types, and motif types.

Many of the types will be familiar to those who have read widely in European tales -- Cinderella, Kind and Unkind Girls -- but the local color can produce a lot of effects, and a number of plot twists that are surprises.  Some tales are a bit coarse.

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler

A hard-boiled detective story about gangsters, rich people, dames, drunks, adulterers, and writers.


The Long Goodbye

Vintage Crime, 1953, 379 pages



Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He's willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty.

Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA's Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn't kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?


Philip Marlowe learns the rich are not like us.




My complete list of book reviews.
In February of 1861 over 100 distinguished statesmen from across the United States met at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. in an effort to reach a compromise that would prevent what would ultimately become the Civil War. The election of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party had led to excited tension in southern states where slavery was a part of every day life and where slaves were treated as property, not as people. In his 2015 work The Peace That Almost Was: The Forgotten Story of the 1861 Washington Peace Conference and the Final Attempt to Avert the Civil War, author Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, tells the story of that conference, giving the reader "a fly on the wall" perspective of the very sensitive and precarious negotiations which attempted unsuccessfully to prevent the bloody conflict that followed.



This book is exceptionally well-researched and unsparing in its detail. The author explains the events which led up to the conference, including the failed "Crittenden Plan" in which former Kentucky Whig John J. Crittenden proposed six constitutional amendments that he hoped would address all of the contentious issues between north and south. Tooley tells the reader about the participants, the city, the local clergy and churches, as well as the minutiae of the debate within the conference, the recommendations, and why the conference failed to achieve its purpose. Especially interesting is the activity of three presidents: outgoing chief executive James Buchanan, incoming President Abraham Lincoln, and former President John Tyler, who chaired the convention. It was interesting to learn how a number of other prominent leaders, some famous for their past, others famous for their future, participated in these historic meetings. These include General Winfield Scott, future Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, former first lady Julia Tyler, Commodore Robert Stockton and Roger Baldwin (who defended the Amistad litigants along with John Quincy Adams).

For me, two themes especially came to the forefront. Firstly, it seems so foreign and offensive to read how, at the time, it was perfectly natural for those in the south to see nothing wrong with the notion of one human being owning and enslaving another, based on the color of the enslaved person's skin. None of the natural revulsion and repugnance to this concept that we would have today for such an idea arises out of any of the rhetoric of the southerners, who constantly refer to the enslaved as their "property." It is even more astounding to think that the slaveholders saw themselves somehow as victims when they contemplated the prospect of any interference with the institution of slavery. Secondly, it was disheartening to think that, while the participants were well aware of the stakes that came with failure of their goal, many were still unwilling to compromise in the least. Reading about the debates is also a reminder that there have always been those who love the sound of their own voice, oblivious to finding actual solutions. The garrulous politician is not a creature of recent invention. There have always been such persons and probably always will be.

WillardPlau

Tooley is to be commended for his thoroughness both in his research and in his description of what transpired, and why the conference failed to meet its goal. This is an excellent account of a little known chapter in Civil War history. Last night I was thinking of how grateful I am to be living at a time when there are so many excellent historians who excel at their craft. Mark Tooley certainly exemplifies this.

12: Ship of Magic (2015 reviews)

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 12: Ship of Magic
12 SHIP OF MAGIC Robin Hobb (US, 1998)

This is the first volume in The Liveship Traders Trilogy.



The Vestrits are a family of traders whose fate is tied to a liveship: a magic ship with thoughts and its own personality.

I read the Farseer and the Tawny Man trilogies about 10 years ago, when I was still a teen in High School. Beyond the fact that Fantasy produces more crap than most genres, Robin Hobb has in many ways ruined the genre for me. Her books are so elegantly written, imaginative, and emotionally intense, that it has been difficult for me to appreciate the dreadful non-Robin Hobb realm of fantasy, where only George R.R. Martin seems to shine.

Ship of Magic is the perfect installment to a great Fantasy trilogy. It takes its time introducing complex characters, and fills the reader with wonder. The rest of the story gets even better.

4/5

Hungarian Folk-Tales

Hungarian Folk-Tales by Val Biro

A light collection of retold tales. Hungarian variants of some tales you will know if you are familiar with other European fairy tales, though none of the most popular ones. A number of tales of fools or clever men.

Folktales of the British Isles

Folktales of the British Isles by Kevin Crossley-Holland

A miscellaneous collection. Tales of fairies, fairy tales, ghost stories, tales of heroes, legends, jocular tales. . . .

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in need of recommendations

Hi everyone! I'm writing a grant proposal where I would be writing a novella based around misogyny and how it affects men, women, and everyone. What happens when a woman denies a man sex? How does he react? How should he react? I'm also hoping to make it an updated epistolary story by using Facebook and Twitter messages instead of the traditional letters.

I need recommendations for feminist novels or short stories dealing with these subjects. They don't have to be epistolary, but if you know of one, that would be amazing! Thank you so much.

Mary Barton: a review

Stars: 4/5

54620

Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life is the first novel by English author Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1848. The story is set in the English city of Manchester between 1839 and 1842, and deals with the difficulties faced by the Victorian lower class. It is subtitled ‘.

My Opinion: Continue reading Mary Barton: a review

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Christmas Journey by Anne Perry
A Christmas Journey illustrated the meaning of Christmas through the journeys of three English women through a harsh Scottish winter.  This book also revealed the elegant yet vicious aristocratic social customs of Victorian England.


The journey began when Gwendolen Kilmuir threw herself over a bridge shortly after being insulted by Isobel Alvie.  To redeem herself, Alvie made a journey of repentance to inform Mrs. Naylor that her daughter committed suicide.  Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould accompanied Alvie as a friend and to clear her own past.  The voyage is almost unbearable and full of surprises but strengthens their friendship.  Along the way, Gould- wondered how an insult drove Kilmuir to suicide.  Cumming-Gould eventually learned that the insult was more serious than initially thought.

Overall, this murder mystery also explored heart-warming themes, such as love; forgiveness, redemption; and, atonement that apply to society today.  Unlike other murder mysteries, A Christmas Journey focused on solving what secret, not which person killed the victim.


NOS4A2, by Joe Hill

A crazy psychic child-abductor vs. a crazy psychic biker chick.


NOS4A2

William Morrow, 2013, 686 pages



Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble...and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds her magic pitted against his - Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all...or die trying....


Joe Hill really is a chip off the old block.




My complete list of book reviews.

Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Opens with a prologue wherein a man has to save his newborn daughter from death -- and a necromancer.  And then to the girl herself, about to graduate from school on the other side of the Wall, out of the Old Kingdom and where the magic is weaker (though strong enough .  She is considering what to do after when a dark shadow appears -- carrying a sack.  It came from her father.  It brings the sword and the bells, all magical, he uses in his role as the Abhorsen, to combat necromancers and the Dead.  He must have been in great danger.

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The Frozen Menace

The Frozen Menace by Ursula Vernon

The continuing adventures of Danny Dragonbreath and his friends.  Trivial spoilers ahead.

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Three Chinese Poets

Three Chinese Poets by Vikram Seth

Three T'ang dynasty poets -- Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu -- in English translation. Some of the lovely imagery translates marvelously well.

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy (review)

Stars: ***** 2/5

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

The Woodlanders is a novel by Thomas Hardy and it was serialised from May 1886 to April 1887 in Macmillan’s Magazine and published in three volumes in 1887.  It is not well-known as are other of his books, but to the best of my knowledge it is regarded as one of Hardy’s major novels and, according to Wikipedia, it is considered Continue reading The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy (review)

Red Hills

Andrew Hardy’s “Red Hill: Migrants and the State in the Highlands of Vietnam” was dry but sometimes interesting reading. Both the French colonial and Communist governments encouraged ethnic Vietnamese to move into the highlands sparsely inhabited by minority groups. Both governments looked forward to greater economic development and political control over the area.

Neither were as successful as they anticipated. The migrants sent there weren’t taught how to grow local crops so would plant lowland crops with predictable failure. Malaria was a problem, and subsidizes for the migrants would sometimes run out before their farms were self-sufficient. But the local minorities groups usually helped the newcomers and people would learn from their mistakes. Some died, but half of the first wave of pioneers to my home state of Iowa died, too, from summer diseases and winter freezes.

Most of his data came from interviewing senior citizens who had participated in the migration, either has migrants or cadres. In the appendix he explains that a quantitative study is hindered by inaccurate record keeping. Early on, villages paid their taxes as a collective based upon population, so had incentive to lie about their numbers, and later on many cadres were more concerned about looking good on paper than the future needs of sociologists. His first chapter is mostly about the amusing difficulty of finding a particular village because its name had changed over time, conflicting stories about its location, and the road conditions.

Many Vietnamese ask me if I see any difference between themselves and Chinese, and now I do have an answer, not just from this book but a couple of Vietnamese novels I’ve read (in translation). I think Vietnamese are more concerned with consensus than Chinese are. They want to talk things out and come to general agreement. In the Vietnamese Communist Party, cadres were considered better at their jobs if they managed by persuasion than ordered by fiat.

Newt's Emerald

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Adventure in an alternate, magical Regency.

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Monthly Bookpost, December 2015

Gods as Suspects: City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett Collapse )

Oh the Thinks You Can Think: Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke Collapse )

The Restoration Murders: Murder on High Holburn; The Cheapside Corpse, by Susana Gregory; The Ronin"s Mistress; The Incense Game, by Laura Joh Rowland Collapse )

In Yo Face Chick Lit: Department of Speculation, by Jenny Offill Collapse )

Flights of Fancy: The Messiah of Stockholm, by Cynthia Ozick Collapse )

The Racing Game: Blood Sport, by Dick Francis Collapse )

High DEX/low WIS: Gifted Hands, by Dr. Ben Carson Collapse )

Shakespeare In Hate: Love Lies Bleeding, by Edmund Crispin Collapse )

Mundane Child Abuse: A Kestrel for a Knave, by Barry Hines Collapse )

Taming of the Vole: Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett Collapse )

Who peed in YOUR cucumber sandwiches? De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde Collapse )

How"d you like THEM Apples? Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, by Sir Isaac Newton Collapse )

Gateway to the Enlightenment: The Historical and Critical Dictionary, by Pierre Bayle Collapse )

Worldly Philosophy: Characteristics, by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury Collapse )

Clean All The Things: My Boyfriend Barfed in my Handbag, and Other Questions You Can"t Ask martha, by Jolie Kerr Collapse )

And there's one more year of Bookposts done, and my quixotic decade of classics half done, covering over 2,000 years from the earliest times to 1714. The other half has just 300 years and will need much more triaging of lesser works than the first half. In 2016, I cover the era of the white powdered wigs, as far as at least the start of the French Revolution, and hopefully completing the 18th Century. Exciting times are ahead.

If anyone has some favorite historical fiction set in the era, especially mysteries and books not set in Europe (Laura Joh Rowland's Japan has been a godsend in not limiting my reading to the west, but non European historical mysteries are proving hard to come by), please share your recommendations. I intend to read the Outlander books, and am familiar with Keith Heller, Maan Meyers, James McGee, and the ones by Lillian de la Torre featuring Johnson and Boswell as Holmes/Watson. At least one Anne Dukthas time travelling book is set in the 18th century as well. What else? And what books do you want to make sure I don't leave out?

Thank you for reading. Always.

Find all of my previous Bookposts here: http://admnaismith.livejournal.com/tag/bookposts
The Frog Prince and Other Frog Tales from Around the World: Fairy Tales, Fables and Folklore about Frogs by Heidi Anne Heiner

Tales about frogs.  Starting with two equal opportunity sections:  frog princes, and frog princesses.  With their differing plots.
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The Story of my Life

I just finished reading "The Story of my Life" by Clarence Darrow, perhaps the most famous lawyer in American history. His defense of a teacher who taught evolution instead of the Bible in school is probably the only court case that has had two movies made about it.

While the intelligence, good spirits, and charm of Darrow leaps off the page, he never quite digs into any particular law case as much as I would like. Some chapters would make a good primer for the labor conflicts before WWI. Even by today's standards, he would be counted as a liberal and probably be a Bernie Sanders supporter, so it's remarkable how little our political situation has changed in America over the last 100 years.

I did skip over his arguments about God and religion, since they ran on rather long and while they might have been cutting edge arguments when he made them, they are old hat now.

Books Read December 2015 (Books 115-127)

Below is a summary of my December reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 115: Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22) by Janet Evanovich, 2015. Unabridged Audiobook (6 hrs, 27 mins). Read by Lorelei King. Latest in this long running series.
Book 116: Christmas Cravings (Greediy Yours Series) by Emma Hamilton, 2015. 98 pages. Christmas themed chick-lit. Reviews of Books 115 and 116.
Book 117: Home From the Sea (Elemental Masters #8) by Mercedes Lackey, 2012. 400 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (12 hrs, 14 mins). Read by Kate Reading. Sea-themed instalment in this Edwardian fantasy series. Review here.
Book 118: Matter (Culture #8) by Iain M. Banks, 2008. 620 pages. Excellent imaginative science fiction. Review here.
Book 119: Thunder in the Sky (Amelia Peabody #12) by Elizabeth Peters, 2000. 619 pages. Unabridged Audio (17 hrs, 7 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. A very satisfying instalment of this excellent series. Review here.
Book 120: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, 2013. 246 pages. Powerful fantasy by a master of the genre. Review here.
Book 121: Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon, 1991. 863 pages. Engaging historical romance as a 20th Century English woman steps back to 18th Century Highlands. Review here.
Book 122: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, 1962. 274 pages. Alternative history in which Axis won WWII. Review here.
Book 123: Shopaholic to the Rescue (Shopaholic #8) by Sophie Kinsella, 2015. Unabridged Audiobook (9 hrs, 27 mns). Read by Clare Corbett. Concludes story begun in Shopaholic to the Stars. Review here.
Book 124: Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by Liz Williams and Trevor Jones, 2011. 128 pages. Amusing memoir. Review here.
Book 125: Obsessed (Lizzy Gardner #4) by T. R. Ragan, 2014. 370 pages. Book 126: Almost Dead (Lizzy Gardner #5) by T. R. Ragan, 2015. 367 pages. Book 127: Evil Never Dies (Lizzy Gardner #6) by T. R. Ragan, 2015. 354 pages. I had an end-of-year marathon with this gripping crime series. Reviews of Books 125, 126 and 127.
Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales from Around the World: Fairy Tales, Myths, Legends and Other Tales about Maidens in Towers by Heidi Anne Heiner

Towers, damsels in distress -- rescues, not necessarily successful.

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my top six reads in 2015

My favorite books of the year.
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Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: Advent of Dying by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie
Finding her loyal secretary Suzanne Barnes murdered outraged Sister Mary Helen.  Even more appalling, her murder occurred during Advent, a time of high expectations for the birth of Jesus Christ.  No one knows who could have murdered Barnes, and no one know much about the reclusive victim.  Thus, finding the killer depends on knowing Barnes’ past.  As Sister Mary Helen launches her own investigation, she discovers that the quiet young woman had led a troubled life that followed her many miles to San Francisco. 

Meanwhile, Kate Murphy-Bassetti grapples with deciding whether to become a mother or continue being a detective.  Her husband Jack Bassetti longs for a baby and hopes his wife will share that vision.

Using vivid details, Sister O’Marie illustrates the winding streets of San Francisco, the fickle winter weather, plus the juxtaposition of a mother who gave up the baby she loved and a mother who has every opportunity to keep her baby.         

11: Le Cote de Guermantes

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 11: Le Cote de Guermantes
11 LE COTE DE GUERMANTES (Eng. Tr.: THE GUERMANTES WAY) Marcel Proust (France, 1920)

This is the third installement of In Search of Lost Time.



The narrator is now fully a part of Parisian society, where politics and art are discussed in the most fashionable salons.

This third volume is the most political so far, as the Dreyfus Affair is discussed everywhere the narrator goes. The shallowness and hypocrisy of the aristocracy are also starting to reveal themselved to the narrator, who becomes increasingly disappointed with society.

4/5

10: Lord of the Flies

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 10: Lord of the Flies
10 LORD OF THE FLIES William Golding (England, 1954)



Following a plane crash, a group of young boys find themselves on a desert island without any adults.

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this classic. Lord of the Flies is a solid commentary on human instincts, violence, and leadership. While it can be a little tedious to read  an entire novel written the way children speak, Golding's story is powerful precisely because it deals wit children.

3/5

9: Empress Dowager Cixi

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 9: Empress Dowager Cixi
9 EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI: THE CONCUBINE WHO LAUNCHED MODERN CHINA Jung Chang (China, 2013)



A biograpy of the woman who ruled "behind the veil" for decades.

Years ago I read Anchee Min's novels about Cixi, Empress Orchid and The Last Empress, and absolutely adored them. So I felt it was high time for me to read a proper biography.

Jung Chang is the acclaimed author of Wild Swans, but she's been heavily criticized for the controversial arguments in this book. Cixi is traditionally seen as an evil empress whose pride was the cause of many lost battles. Yet Chang sees her as a revolutionary ruler.

As I'm far from being an expert in Chinese history, it is difficult for me to have an opinion about the issue, but after a bit of research on the internet, I realized Chang is not the only researcher who seems to defend her. So are the arguments as controversial as some claim? Not sure.

3/5

Conversations of Socrates

Conversations of Socrates by Xenophon

Plato was not the only one who wrote about Socrates.  And this gives a rather different view. . . .

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As the architect of the successful GOP campaigns of 2000 and 2004, Karl Rove knows a thing or two about presidential election strategy. He uses this unique point of view in his look back at the 1896 Presidential Election Campaign which pitted veteran Republican politician William McKinley against the newly-minted Democratic Congressman William Jennings Bryan.



It was a campaign full of similarities and great divergences. Both men were mid-westerners (McKinley of Ohio, Bryan originally from Illinois and representing Nebraska), both drew heavily in support from working Americans: McKinley from labor, Bryan from farmers. Their differences were more glaring. McKinley was a civil war veteran, Bryan was barely old enough to be President. McKinley was a plodder, while Bryan was a gifted orator. McKinley was a protectionist, supportive of a high tariff, while Bryan was a "silverite", advocating for changes to the monetary system that would make silver the dominant metal behind the US dollar, instead of the gold standard. McKinley campaigned from his front porch, while Bryan traversed the country giving campaign speeches in almost every state, travelling a distance equivalent to about two-thirds of the circumference of the planet. And despite the country having a Democratic incumbent president (Grover Cleveland), McKinley was seen as the candidate of the status quo, while Bryan was portrayed as the candidate of change.

As Rove points out, this election is often overlooked because of its focus on issues considered to be boring by many: currency and tariffs. But in fact at the time these were issues which captured the interest and passions of the nation and which divided both parties, with pro-silverites and gold standard supporters to be found in both parties. It was an election in which the issues caused many voters to abandon past party loyalties.

Rove explores the background of the major candidates, the races for each party's nomination, the convention bartering and nomination fights, before comparing the respective campaign strategies. He looks at how the candidates campaigned, how the parties fund-raised, how convention bruises were soothed, and how each party got their message out to voters. In a detailed post-mortem of the two campaigns, Rove compares what each campaign did right and what each did wrong (both made their share of mistakes) before finally attempting to fulfill the promise of the book's title in explaining what he sees as the relevance of this turn of the century campaign to modern day politics.

Some of Rove's conclusions make good sense while others invite debate. Rove soundly makes the case that candidates for president must confront the central and controversial issues of any campaign and can not be successful in dodging them, as McKinley learned when he first tried to ignore the currency issue before realizing that he had to confront it. He also illustrates the importance of candidates confronting their own perceived weaknesses as well as attacking the perceived strengths of their opponents. He is less convincing when he tries to make the case that victorious candidates must take the high road, giving examples of when McKinley did this, in contrast with Bryan who tried to drive a wedge between the working class and the eastern moneyed interests. While this is certainly what Bryan did, it is difficult to imagine that the McKinley campaign was devoid of any negativity or fear-mongering about the goals of the silverites. Finally, Rove attempts to argue that disparity in fund-raising does not equate with campaign success, but this argument is less convincing when once considers the extreme imbalance of fundraising in the 1896 campaign in McKinley's favor.

This book drew recent attention in a twitter war between Rove and leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, when the latter called the book boring. It is true that the issues of bimetallism and protectionism through high tariffs are not the sexiest ones imaginable, and they provide difficult subject matter for any author. But in 1896 these issued managed to fire up the passions of the American voters and made for some interesting political strategy. Rove tells this story capably and in doing so, produces a book which will provide interesting reading for political or history junkies and for anyone with an interest in election campaign strategy. Rove is certainly correct that there are lessons which can be studied and learned from the 1896 campaign that continue to have application and relevance today and in the 2016 campaign.
Adam Bede


As I am sure you already know the name George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, who decided to sign her books using a male name because at the time women were thought to be incapable of serious writing. Adam Bede was first published in 1859 and it is the writer’s first novel.

The plot is based on...

Continue reading Adam Bede: a review







Book cover




Nightwoods is Charles Frazier’s last novel and to tell you the truth I was not aware that it existed until I walked into the bookstore and I saw it staring at me. Needless to say, that although I was looking for something else, I good not resist and I had to buy it on the spot, which I did. I mean Cold Mountain is one of my most favorite books, so how could I possible resist the new Frazier book?

Continue reading Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier

Top Books Read in 2015

Due to the fact that I was writing my dissertation this year, I didn’t manage to achieve my goodreads goal, which was to read 27 books in 2015. However, I did manage to read some really interesting and worth reading books, some of which I was meaning to read for a long time, and I guess that should count for something.

9. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins





moon



One of the books I always meant to read was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I am a sucker for good detective stories and mysteries (I totally blame Agatha Christie for that), so I really do not have an excuse for not having read all these years the novel that started all.
Continue reading Top Books Read in 2015

The Grateful Dead Tales from Around the World

The Grateful Dead Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

Fairy tales about the grateful dead figure, and some plays and a literary work on it. Includes a study of the trope.

Some repetition from the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Also, I thought the plays rather weak, since they only have a small portion of the traditional tales. But a larger number of variations, since the grateful dead can feature as a helper in just about any story.
Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali, and the Artists of Optical Illusion by Al Seckel

An interesting view of a fair number of artists who engage in trompe l'oeil, double images, impossible perspective, and a lot of other optical tricks. One even works in fonts to produce such things as "Teach" that is reflected as "Learn". Also sculptures that produce shadows or reflections that reveal the significance, or -- from the right angle -- show "impossible" perspective.

The Nightingale


The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah
2015, 440 pages
Date finished: 12/22/15

I love when a book can make me feel such extremes. Extreme anger, extreme disbelief, extreme sadness...
It has been so many years since I read a WWII book, that the atrocities all seemed new, stinging, and painful. Parts of it reminded me of Ellie Wiesel's Night, which I had forgotten most of until this book sparked some memories of that novel.
I enjoyed experiencing this story through the eyes of these sisters because I learned different ways women played a role in this war, while also becoming attached and invested in the characters. I am also glad that stories are still being written about such a difficult subject. We live in an instant gratification era, where there is so much now always coming at us from all digital angles, there is little attention paid to the then. But the past has valuable lessons for us all. And this book serves as a sharp reminder of that.

Lost Battalions

In “Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality,” Richard Slotkin examines a fundamental contradiction within American history, the reality of America as a discriminatory, multi-cultural society and the ideology of America as a white, Christian nation and land of equal opportunity. It also reminds me a lot of today’s politics, with both racial and religious bigotry (just different religions) and the abandoning of veterans once the government didn’t need them anymore.

The Lost Battalions are an African-American battalion and a battalion of mostly Catholic and Jewish immigrants and sons of immigrants, both from New York and shipped over to France to fight in World War One. Both of them were promised that proving their manly worthiness and willingness to fight for America would lead to political reforms at home, which obviously didn’t happen. During the war, hyphenated American war heroes were trumpeted by the press to create a sense of national unity, yet after the war African American veterans were lynched for wearing the uniform, MPs were instructed to bully black soldiers in France to remind them that they were returning home to Jim Crow laws, and Jewish veterans found themselves treated more or less the same as before the war as well.

The political elites had spent over a century using race and religion to justify white, Protestant rule, even going so far as to refer to themselves as “Nordic” instead of white so they could discriminate against Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans. But then faced with a war they could not win, or even participate in, without unprecedented levels of manpower, they had to figure out how to recruit the very peoples they had not allowed into the military before, mostly because they didn’t want to train blacks and immigrants in the use of weapons and tactics or admit to themselves that hyphenated Americans could be real men. So the Roosevelt Progressives and Wilson’s administration had to come up with a temporarily color blind way of defining American national identity, one that harkened to previous standards of vigorous masculinity represented by Teddy Roosevelt, but once the war was over all pretense was dropped.

But when WWII came around and the nation again needed to prepare for total war, lessons had been learned. Jewish and African-American leaders demanded reforms up front, not promises for later. And after the war, veterans were not so readily abandoned or even cheated out of benefits.

One of Slotkin’s more interesting theories is about how blacks and immigrants were forced to justify themselves as citizens in the language of the oppressive upper class. They had to adapt the negative stereotypes and turn them into positive images. Jews talked about how the hardships of their history had prepared them to be tough soldiers, or African Americans used jazz to improve French-American relations. Despite the best efforts of American officers, the French accepted African American soldiers as colleagues and probably awarded them more medals for valor than our own military did.

8: Martian Time-Slip

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 8: Martian Time-Slip
8 MARTIAN TIME-SLIP Philip K. Dick (US, 1964)



Mental illness in a martian colony.

While this may not be Dick's masterpiece, Martian Time-Slip is certainly one of his most inventive novels. Using the common SF theme of Martian colonization, Dick manages to insert fascinating commentaries on mental illness (which he addresses even more directly than usual) and education.
I thoroughly enjoyed the dark sense of humor.

3/5

Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy

Tom Sawyer for the damned, or Ulysses in Tennessee.


Suttree

Vintage International, 1979, 471 pages



No discussion of great modern authors is complete without mention of Cormac McCarthy, whose rare and blazing talent makes his every work a true literary event. A grand addition to the American literary canon, Suttree introduces readers to Cornelius Suttree, a man who abandons his affluent family to live among a dissolute array of vagabonds along the Tennessee river.


The very witch of fuck.

Also by Cormac McCarthy: My reviews of Blood Meridian: or The Evening Redness in the West, No Country for Old Men, and The Road.




My complete list of book reviews.

Oom Razoom

Oom Razoom, Or, Go I Know Not Where, Bring Back I Know Not What: A Russian Tale by Diane Wolkstein

A light retelling of a Russian fairy tale. One where the marriage of the hero -- to a blue pigeon that turned into a woman -- is how things start, because the tsar then sends him off to get -- well, you can guess from the title -- to leave his wife alone and defenseless.

Nice illustrations, too.

Corsair, by James Cambias

Captain Black the Space Pirate vs. an overly-ambitious Air Force officer and deprecated terrorists.


Corsair

Tor, 2015, 336 pages



In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT, where Schwartz is sneaking into classes, and have a brief affair. David is amoral and out for himself and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating.

Nearly 10 years later, David is setting himself up to become a billionaire by working in the shadows under a multiplicity of names for international thieves, and Elizabeth works in intelligence, preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth's economy, shipments from space are dropped down the gravity well into the oceans.

David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters. If David can nudge a shipment 500 miles off its target, his employers can get there first and claim it legally in the open sea. Each one intuits that the other is their real competition but can't prove it. And when Elizabeth loses a major shipment, she leaves government employ to work for a private space company to find a better way to protect shipments. But international piracy has very high stakes and some very evil players. And both Elizabeth and David end up in a world of trouble. Space pirates and computer hackers...James L. Cambias' Corsair is a thrilling near-future adventure!


It almost reads like hard science fiction, unless you know a little bit of science.

Also by James Cambias: My review of A Darkling Sea.




My complete list of book reviews.

Cinderella Tales from Around the World

Cinderella Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

A lot of Cinderella tales. Including Donkeyskin tales, Cap O' Rushes tales, One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes tales, and some random tales with Cinderella motifs

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Sleeping Beauties: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

Sleeping Beauty variants.  Snow White tales -- a lot more of them.  "More Sleeping Beauties" -- that is, tales that feature enchanted sleepers.  And some additional materials.

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Twelve Dancing Princesses Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

Not entirely accurate a title.  Lots of twelve dancing pricnesses, but also quite a number, in other sections, that run on some of the same motifs.   From many regions.
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