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Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose

Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose by Scott Gustafson

Dozens of nursery rhymes, famous and not-quite-so famous. Quite good illustrations, of both humans and anthropomorphic animals.

Negotiating with the Dead

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

An interesting set of mediations on the writerly life.  The first one is most autobiographical, but the others deal with a lot of things.  Like the duality of the writer, who can communicate with the reader long after the flesh-and-blood being is in the grave.  The shocking moment when she ran across the sweet quote of the Everyman series in its context, which makes it much harsher.  The liminality of a writer's life.

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws by Paul I. Wellman

A tracing of crime from Quantrill's during the Civil War to the Kansas City Massacre.  It's not an overview of the era -- he traces some connections, rather -- though he does diverge quite a bit to explain circumstances.
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Kingdom Come, by Jane Jensen

Tough NYPD detective investigates murders in Amish country, gets tingles from hot Amish widower.


Kingdom Come

Berkley, 2016, 296 pages



In Kingdom Come, the first in a new mystery series from Jane Jensen, an ex-NYPD detective seeks escape in Amish country and finds darkness instead.

When a beautiful, scantily clad "English" girl is found dead in the barn of a prominent Amish family, Detective Elizabeth Harris knows she's uncovered an evil that could shatter the peace of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Even though Elizabeth's boss is convinced this was the work of an "English", as outsiders are called, Elizabeth isn't so sure. Now Elizabeth must track down a killer with deep ties to a community that always protects its own - no matter how deadly the cost.


At least there is no Amish Mafia.




My complete list of book reviews.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

A retelling of the tale. Set in Great Depression New York City. The seven dwarves are in fact seven little boys, street urchins. Amazing how faithful you can get in a (mostly?) mundane tale.

Art has its interesting aspects.
On October 14, 1912, as the presidential election campaign was in the home stretch, Theodore Roosevelt, was seeking a third term as President, this time as the candidate for the Progressive Party (better known as the Bull Moose Party). As he was leaving the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, on the way to give a speech at Union Depot, a fanatical former saloon-keeper named John Schrank emerged from the crowd brandishing a nickle-plated revolver and fired, striking the former president in the chest. In his 2013 work entitled Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance and the Campaign of 1912, author Gerard Helfereich tells the story of Roosevelt's run for a return to the White House, and the Bavarian immigrant who stalked the 26th President across the country before their meeting in Milwaukee.



In an extremely well-researched work, Heferich uncovers the roots of would-be-assassin Schrank's obsessive quest to prevent Roosevelt from winning another four-years as president. He traces the route traveled both by the candidate and his stalker as both crossed the country on their respective missions. While Roosevelt's activities were more publicized, Heferich uncovers and retraces Schrank's steps in exceptional detail, making the reader feel like an literal eyewitness to history. His account of the shooting and of the speech that Roosevelt insisted on giving after he had been shot is especially compelling reading.

This is an outstanding account of an episode of presidential election history that seems larger than life, much like the Bull Moose candidate himself. Although at times it seems that the author is taking liberties in speculating what some of the central characters were thinking or doing, he explains in an author's note how these conclusions are more fact-based than one might imagine. Helferich has produced a brilliant historic account of Schrank's attempt to end the life of the energetic and enigmatic former president that is a pleasure to read.

A Knight's Own Book of Chivalry

A Knight's Own Book of Chivalry by Geoffroi De Charny

A medieval knight discussing knighthood.

Bit different in structure than a modern treatment would be. Discusses what men-at-arms do in various ways, and how love ought to be secret (though he speaks of men who say they would not consent to be Queen Guinevere's love it were not known) and what sorts of virtues are and how they are important.

Killer Instinct, by S.E. Green

If Veronica Mars were an aspiring serial killer.


Killer Instinct

Simon Pulse, 2014, 272 pages



She's not evil, but she has certain…urges.

Lane is a typical teenager - loving family, good grades, after-school job at the local animal hospital, martial arts enthusiast - but her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick. Why? Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals - delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs.

And then a young preschool teacher goes missing - only to return in parts.

When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for "the Decapitator", the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer's identity before she - or someone she loves - becomes the next victim.


Serial killers and YA don't mix.




My complete list of book reviews.
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Miller, who was Catholic, foreshadows the devolution America as people become increasingly secular in his novel from 1959 A Canticle for Leibowitz.  Set in the 3100, A Canticle for Leibowitz addresses the onslaught against Catholicism that is relevant today.

This novel begins with Brother Francis, who is in isolation during Lent.  A stranger leads Brother Francis to a subterranean vault created by the founder of his order Isaac Edward Leibowitz.  After searching in vain for his wife Emily, Leibowitz founded an order of monks dedicated to preserving civilization by copying smuggled books of history; sacred writings; literature; and, science.  Brother Francis believes that Leibowitz wrote the documents his search uncovered, and that the skull belonged to Emily.  However, his superiors question the authenticity of these artifacts.  Brother Francis then fears that the beatification process of Leibowitz, already in place, may be threatened.  Eager that Brother Leibowitz achieves sainthood, Brother Francis obeys a summons to New Rome where the Pope resides.  Along the way, he is forced by a robber to relinquish his reproduction of scared manuscript.

Eventually, a secular regime dominates the country and wages an attack against Christian values.  What started as isolated incidents, the robbers lay in wait for travelers to New Rome, including Brother Francis, exploded into a federal policy of preserving power by force.  This regime even refuses to take responsibility for violating Divine and international laws by prevaricating when confronted with allegations of committing atrocities.  In time, victims of nuclear warfare compromise their faith by relying on euthanasia instead of God to end their pain, and the Catholic Church becomes an anomaly in an increasingly secular world.
Overall, Miller illustrates how society devolves as the role of Catholic values in daily life diminishes.  For instance, Miller uses discourse in Latin to emphasize the weakening presence of Christian principles, at least in America.  Latin, once the universal language in Catholicism, is now incomprehensible to many readers.  Furthermore, Dom Zerchi shows that members of the clergy understand the trials of those to whom they minister.  The clergymen grew up in the same world and experienced the same suffering.  However, they usurped their tribulations by deepening their relationships with God.
This novel is important for learning more about Catholicism plus the underlying reasons behind positions of the Catholic Church regarding euthanasia and nuclear weapons.
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: The Great Divorce: A Dream by C.S. Lewis
A chance bus trip took the author to Heaven with many other passengers.  When they arrived in perfection, they had the choice of staying or leaving.
Through dialogues, which are rich with imagery and metaphors, Lewis that clarifies tenants of Christianity and explain why people eschewing a better life.  In Heaven, love is a more enriching, encompassing concept than on Earth and worldly possession are worthless.  In defiance of logic, letting go of the lifestyle to which one became accustomed is too overwhelming for many people.
Finally, The Great Divorce: A Dream makes Christian principles easy to understand and glaring the hypocrisy of human nature.
In a book that is both concise (under 200 pages) and comprehensive, Professor Lynn Hudson Parsons dissects the fascinating election of 1828, considered to be one of the most pivotal presidential contests in the nation's history. In The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams and the Election of 1828, Professor Parsons considers both the forest (the rapidly changing political landscape) and the trees (one an Old Hickory from Tennessee, the other a Massachusetts Maple) and makes the case for how the 1828 election changed presidential politics forever, with its effects reverberating to this very day.

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The two combatants, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, were both very accomplished but also very flawed men. Adams was perhaps the most experienced, educated, intelligent and best trained man to become president up to his time, and entered the office with solid ideas, unwavering principles and a unique vision for the future of his nation. He was also aloof and out of touch with the common man. One historian quoted in the book described Adams as "a great man certainly, and possibly a very good one, but a President who had planned for the people, without ever trying to understand them." Jackson was fearless and strong-willed, and a champion of democratic ideals and of the continuance of the union, though uneducated, unforgiving of his opponents and at times violent. It is hard to imagine that at one time the two men had a mutual admiration for one another, and that when Jackson was criticized by most of the cabinet of James Monroe for his rash actions in Florida, it was Adams who came to his defense most strongly.

Then came the election of 1824 in which Jackson had finished first in the popular vote, but did not receive a majority of electoral votes. When Congress awarded the presidency to second-place finisher Adams as the result of what Jackson believed to be a "corrupt bargain" made with Henry Clay, the spark was created that would lead to one of the most explosive, heated and hated political rivalries in history.

Professor Parsons explores the background of each of these two fascinating historical giants as well as the times in which they lived. He explains the rise of political parties and factions in the wake of the so-called "Era of Good Feelings", and looks at the fractured election of 1824. He follows the candidates in the build up to their next meeting in 1828 as Jackson plans his political revenge and as Adams misreads the electorate and the political tea leaves in general.

In great detail (some critics might say, in too much detail at times) Parsons looks at how the campaign of 1828 was conducted and how many aspects of presidential campaigns that we take for granted today, came into being. These include things such as opposition research, negative ads, campaign fundraising, campaign songs and slogans, and getting out the vote. He also capably explains how Jackson's campaign team was able to devise correct strategies for each region of the nation as well as the mistakes that Adams and his campaign team made in failing to appreciate how some of their criticisms of Jackson backfired, how they actually endeared Jackson to the electorate and made them feel that he was really one of them. The book concludes with an epilogue that capably describes the political legacy left by each of these candidates and by this election.



At times this book may seem a wee bit pedantic or too descriptive in its detail, but this is more of a testament to the author's commitment to accuracy and his desire to make the reader feel as if he or she is present at the moment. Overall this is a brilliant accounting and analysis that capably explains not only what took place in the clash of these political titans, but why it took place, and why its relevance endures to this day.

Torchship Pilot

Torchship Pilot by Karl K. Gallagher

I was a beta reader for this, and got a free copy of the final version, too. And there will be spoilers ahead for Torchship.

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The Man Behind The Iron Mask

The Man Behind The Iron Mask by John Noone

A review of the legends and the realities.

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Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack:  Book One by Ben Hatke

This does not say book one on the cover, but does on the title page.  (sigh)  May have a connection to Zita the Spacegirl.  And I'm pretty sure it's SF, not fantasy, though the character discuss the matter.

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The Liminal Wood

Bird Boy #2: The Liminal Wood by Anne Szabla

Consequences thicken from the first book.

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The Masked City

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Spoilers ahead for The Invisible Library.

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Readalong happening for The Thief

Hey bookish! Long time no post.

Wanted to drop a link to the readalong that's happening on the sounis community for Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief for anyone who's interested. It's the 20th anniversary of the publication of the book, so we're hosting a readalong. I've just put up the second part.

Here's part one (chapters 1-3), and part two (chapters 4-6).

Story

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

An  interesting book for the novel/short-story writer.  Especially given the parts where he discusses what you can and can't do in a movie that you can do in a novel, where you've got to flip it.

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Originally posted by authornwolf at 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi
For 13 hours, six security operators defended the Diplomatic Compound and on the CIA Annex in Benghazi from Muslim terrorists.  Zuckoff and survivors from the Annex Security Team recount the horror in 13 Hours.  The team consisted of Mark “Oz” Geist; Kris “Tanto” Paronto; John “Tig” Tiegan; Jack Silva; Dave “D.B.” Benton; and, Tyrone “Rone” Woods.  Silva and Benton are pseudonyms to protect their privacy.  Otherwise, all of the information comes from first-hand accounts or secondary sources.  13 Hours gives a brief history of Libya, which explains the volatile environment.

The purpose of this book is to be the single authority for what happened during those dreadful 13 hours.  The background information on each main character allows readers to know the men more as people.  The third-person narrative, and the objective tone makes reading the book feel like studying an official report.  However, the tone keeps 13 Hours neutral and requires readers to make their own conclusions.  Multiple theories are presented explain why certain events might have happen and prevent readers from drawing misconceptions.  This book also address how internal conflict between CIA case operators and the security team created more danger for all of them.  Moreover, readers learn how the Americans in Benghazi had to fend for themselves, until a local militia help them evacuate the CIA Annex.  Graphic details plus maps allow readers to visualize, without getting mired in too much jargon, tactics the operators employed to thwart waves of attacks from Muslim terrorist who fired military-grade weapons at them, along with where the attacks transpired.

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

The return of the Heartstrikers. Spoilers ahead for the earlier ones. Also, a warning that that over-all arc is picking up speed, so more of this book points ahead than the earlier ones.
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Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff

In which Jim Crow is more of a threat than Nyarlathotep.


Lovecraft Country

Harper, 2016, 372 pages



Critically acclaimed cult novelist Matt Ruff makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father, Montrose, goes missing, 22-year-old army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his uncle George - publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide - and his childhood friend, Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite - heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus' ancestors - they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn - led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son, Caleb - which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his clan's destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism - the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.


A better answer to Lovecraft's racism than asinine outrage over statues.







My complete list of book reviews.
American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division by Michael A Cohen is, on the surface, a recounting of one of the most fascinating elections in US history. But its message goes much deeper, as the author makes the case that the 1968 presidential election "fundamentally altered America's political trajectory" and was a pivotal event which changed political and voting trends that would affect the nation in all subsequent elections to come.



An apocryphal Chinese curse is said to translate into "may you live in interesting times" and 1968 was truly an interesting time. Lyndon Johnson was just completing the presidential term that he had earned following his 1964 landslide victory over the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. Johnson had quarterbacked many significant domestic legislative accomplishments in the field of civil rights as well as in medicare and medicaid and in other aspects of his "Great Society". But he was now struggling with the Vietnam War, a war that was not going as predicted by his military advisors. The war was now losing public support, causing Johnson's personal popularity to plummet. As Johnson realized that he could not win re-election in 1968, the political landscape changed remarkably, as politicians from all parties and ideologies struggled not only with how to confront the many problems facing the nation, but also with the riddle of how best to reach the enigmatic electorate.

Cohen first describes the race for the Democratic Party's nomination, profiling the main candidates. I especially appreciated his portrayal of Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, the first man to challenge Johnson, a man who was a walking mass of political and personal contradictions. The author also describes Robert F. Kennedy and his campaign, as well as Vice-President Humphrey, detailing the gross handicap that Humphrey faced by his inability to break with his President on the issue of Vietnam. Cohen provides a clear accounting of what happened on the road to the Democratic nomination, culminating in the deplorably violent Chicago convention.

He provides an equally fascinating account of the road to the Republican nomination, describing how Richard Nixon rose from the political graveyard to resurrect himself as the candidate that nobody loved, but everyone could live with. He also describes how and why moderate candidates like Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney failed to gain traction and how Ronald Reagan failed to take advantage of the conservative mood of his party and of the electorate. Cohen also describes the third-party candidacy of George Wallace; how and why it gained strength despite its obvious racist themes, and later why it faltered.

Cohen's account of the general election campaign is equally fascinating, as he describes how Hubert Humphrey stumbled out of the gate before recovering following a politically life-saving moment in Salt Lake City, nearly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, much like Harry Truman did twenty years earlier. But the icing on the cake is Cohen's post-mortem analysis of how the campaign of 1968 transformed both parties and how it influenced how subsequent campaigns were conducted. He details the lessons learned (and not learned in some cases) by the two major parties about how to best appeal to voters on core issues such as crime and personal security, how to make subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) racist appeals, and how to appeal to or frighten the public on the subject of social engineering. In reading this chapter, one can hear echoes of the 1968 campaign throughout all subsequent presidential elections and indeed in much of the rhetoric in this year's election campaign.

Though I don't necessarily agree with all of the conclusions that Cohen reaches, his ability to clearly explain what happened in the 1968 election campaign, what the psychological effect of the campaigns' messages on voters were, and how those campaign strategies influenced all subsequent presidential elections all make this an excellent book. Cohen has a wonderful talent in making the reader think about the significance of the 1968 election at a much deeper level than a simple what and when account might otherwise provide.

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I highly recommend this book for political junkies of all stripes and interest levels, as well for all history geeks, whether the field of history that grabs you most is politics, government or social thought.

City of Lightning

The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 2: City of Lightning by Kaja Foglio and Phil Foglio

Agatha adventures! Spoilers for earlier books ahead!

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The true-life story that was the basis for Moby Dick.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Viking, 1999, 302 pages



The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819 the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with 20 crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific, the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than 90 days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, and disease and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival.

Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents, including a long-lost account written by the ship's cabin boy, and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.


I was rooting for the whale.




My complete list of book reviews.

Celia's House

Celia's House by D.E. Stevenson

Forty years in the life of a family and a house. . . in 1905 the elderly Miss Celia Dunne is visited by her grandnephew Humphrey and tells him, contrary to the expectations of her oldest brother's son, she's living the house to him, and after him to his daughter Celia -- even though he has only a son and two daughters, neither named Celia.
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Understood Betsy

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

About a little girl, Elizabeth Ann, who was being raised by her great-aunt and first-cousin-once-removed, with the best of intentions. Except that one day, when they bring in a doctor and don't quite believe him when he says Elizabeth Ann is perfectly healthy, the great-aunt coughs, and the doctor diagnoses the great-aunt.

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A Book Of Magical Beasts

A Book Of Magical Beasts by Ruth Manning-Sanders

An atypical book for her, though they are all of magical beasts.

Several of them are purely literary, such as one from E. Nesbit that fractures the dragon and princess tale, and an excerpt from Prince Prigio. Some are poems. But a fair number are folks tales, like one about the mischievous Hedley Kow, the Golden Crab who married a princess, the frog at the Well at the World's End, and more.

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Darío Fernández-Morera

A historical work, discussing history before, during, and after the period.  Also the legal systems -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish -- that prevailed there (inside and outside communities).  In particular dwelling on the conflicts inside religious communities and between them.  An excellent survey that debunks a lot of myths.

The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien

The definitive American novel about Vietnam.


The Things We Carried

Mariner Books, 1990, 233 pages



A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.


Fiction and history blur together.




My complete list of book reviews.
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: Tales of the Islanders by Charlotte Bronte
Tales of the Islanders is a collection of adventures the Bronte siblings developed while playing with their toy soldiers.  The siblings unleash their vivid imaginations through stories of mythical creatures, lavish castles, and journeys through dark forests. 
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See is filled with several themes and precise descriptions of Europe from the 1930s to the 1970s.  One major theme presented in the title.  The title inspires hope to shine light a beacon of light in darkness like God always overcomes Evil.  Another major theme is that war only brings suffering to both sides, which is emphasized with graphic details of death and sadness.  A third theme is that humans are connected to each other through their actions.  A fourth theme explores how childhood affects adulthood.

This novel is primarily about Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig, two children who grow up in pre-World War II Europe.  LeBlanc is a French girl who becomes blind at six-years of age.  Still, she has a happy childhood with her father in Paris.  Werner, a child prodigy, lives with his sister Jutta in an impoverished German orphanage.  The siblings keep each other company until Werner is sent to serve the German army.  Despite stark differences in their upbringings, the worlds of LeBlanc and Werner repeatedly collide through radio frequencies.  Despite the chaos of World War II, a love story unfolds, proving that nothing can extinguish the greatest treasure in life.  Additionally, Doer proposes that even the vilest human beings will exhibit compassion.  First, Werner protects a member of the French Resistance, despite is indoctrination of revealing opposing forces.  Second, Frank Volkheimer, who served with Werner, delivered the personal effects of a fallen fellow soldiers to his survivors.

LeBlanc is the most perceptive character.  Though unable to see military planes flying overhead or those around her fleeing their homes, she smells gasoline from those aircrafts and overhears hushed conversations about the war.  Her other senses also guide her through streets, make her aware of human nature plus the changes around her.  Aware of something terrible afoot, she asks direct questions about what is happening and feels dreadful about the future.

Werner senses that his role in the German army promotes evil but does nothing to stop the horror until his life is threatened.  Yet, Werner constantly compromises himself to avoid working in the coal mines where his father died.  His only hope for a different fate is uncovering enemies to then be annihilated by tracing their radio signals.

The other surviving characters are emotionally lonely in their struggles to overcome wartime trauma throughout adulthood.  They relive behavioral patterns from childhood.  Jutta becomes an algebra teacher who marries an accountant.  Their son particularly likes playing with his train sets.  Calculating numbers and mathematics were common themes for young Jutta, whose brother excelled in mathematics and science.  Werner spent hours teaching himself physics and trigonometry or fixing radios.  Light is present in multiple forms, the most powerful of which was invisible.  For instance, radio signals allowed Werner to locate enemies, though he could not see the air waves.  Through imagery, readers can vicariously feel the fear of being discovered; the pressure Werner imposes on himself to be valuable; the horror of anti-Semitism; the determination of LeBlanc to survive; and the anguish of war victims.  Overall, the female characters are more resilient.  Foremost, LeBlanc survives the German occupation of France.  Plus, Madame Manec, with whom LeBlanc lives while in hiding, organizes a group to defy the German army.

The Cold Cold Ground, by Adrian McKinty

An Irish Catholic police inspector investigates murders during the Troubles in the 80s.


The Cold Cold Ground

Seventh Street Books, 2012, 320 pages



The Cold Cold Ground is the start of a major new series from Adrian McKinty, author of the acclaimed Falling Glass, Fifty Grand and the DEAD trilogy.

Featuring Catholic cop Sean Duffy whose outsider status in the mostly Protestant RUC makes it as hard to do his job as the criminals he’s fighting, this is the start of a new series set in Troubles-era Belfast. A body is found in a burnt out car. Another is discovered hanging from a tree. Could this be Northern Ireland’s first serial killer, or another paramilitary feud?


More Belfast noir.




My complete list of book reviews.
Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War and the Right to Dissent by Ernest Freeberg is not so much a biography of the book's main individual subject as it is a brilliant and insightful history and analysis of the right of free speech during the period immediately prior to, during, and after the first world war. The book centers around the life of American Socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs, the former union leader, one-time Indiana State Senator, and five-time candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. The book spends little time on Debs early life and antecedents, taking us instead into the time leading up to the Great War, when President Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War" only to renege on that promise after he is re-elected.

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One of the first casualties of the war becomes freedom of speech, as censorship is ramped up under the guise of preventing internal dissent from becoming an aid to the enemy. Eugene Debs and the Socialists are opposed to the war, and especially the draft. They see the war in terms of the class struggle they are fighting in which poor men go off to die in wars so that rich men can prosper. Wilson and leading members of his cabinet are able to convince Congress to pass the Sedition Act, legislation that drastically limits what critics of the war are able to say. As government censors are able to shut down the socialist message using post office censorship and arrest of those advocating open resistance to the draft and other opposition to the war, often on questionable or spurious grounds, Debs is able to initially avoid arrest. But as public pressure mounts from supporters of the war, Debs is arrested following a speech he makes in Cleveland, the tone of which, the author argues, one must contort to find offensive to the law.

Freeburg provides an interesting account of Debs' trial, his conviction, his sentencing and his appeal process. Much of the book describes Debs' life in prison, first in Moundsville, West Virginia, and later at Atlanta Penitentiary. A remarkable aspect of the story is how Debs is able to win the respect of the wardens of both institutions as well as of the inmates, even though political dissenters were considered to be a lower caste in the prison system at the time. Debs is described in near-sainted terms as he is allowed to work in the prison hospital and is allowed liberties not offered to other inmates. Remarkably, he is even allowed to run for President as the nominee for the Socialist Party while still bearing the label "Convict 9653".

Meanwhile, as the war concludes, the issue of whether or not those imprisoned under the Sedition Act should now become pardoned becomes one that divides the nation. Freeberg describes the efforts to win Debs release, first from the Wilson administration, and later from his successor Warren Harding. This begins at a time when Wilson's Attorney-General, Mitchell Palmer, mounts a war against the "red scare", also at a time when the world witnesses the Russian Revolution and its results, with mixed opinion, and at a time when many veterans resent the dissenters, while others assert that free speech was what they were fighting for in the first place. It is a time when the socialist cause fractures, and when many have differing views of the future of the labor movement. This vast difference of opinion makes a political fence that is difficult for those in office to straddle.

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I chose this book with the intention of learning more about the fascinating life of Eugene Debs, but in the end, found my interest captivated by the author's outstanding account of the history of free speech during this crucial era and his careful study of this complex issue. Freeburg fairly presents all of the arguments espoused both by those seeking to defend the limits placed on speech and by those who viewed these limits as unreasonable and extreme. This includes politicians, judges and lawyers, academics, journalists, soldiers, those in the labor movement, and citizens in general. I hesitate to say that this book will be of special interest and value to those with an interest in the right of free speech, because in reality, that subset should capture all of us.
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting by Dr. Wayne Dyer

Most importantly, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer proves that God exists and is the Source.  This book also serves as a practical instruction manual for turning wishes into reality.  Drawing from real life examples, some of which are personal, and ancient teachings, Dr. Dyer explains the power of our minds.  Dr. Dyer also provides a variety of free and simple exercises for manifestation.  Overall, the book is highly recommended for those serious about their aspiration, logical, and easy to understand.  

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux by Heather King

A Shirt of Flame is a biography of Saint Therese and an account of the spiritual evolution King underwent while she changes careers and overcame other hardships. King explains how she found strength in trials Saint Therese endured from childhood to her violent death. King describes how she found the courage to end a career she loathed and find joy after the demise of past relationships after reading about Saint Therese. By relying on their Catholic faith, both ladies prove that God not only gives us the strength to overcome any challenge in life but uses adversity as a gateway to freedom from suffering. King also describes that, through her evolution, she attained an unparalleled rapture found only in communion with God.

A Shirt of Flame is an inspirational account of two ladies who deepened their faith while seeking a better life and were rewarded beyond imagination. Saint Therese achieved her goal of sainthood. King established a fulfilling career.

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: 'Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick
Death, suspense, and romance combine to create an intriguing mystery story about triumph over tragedy, in which two scorned lovers are presented with an opportunity to experience true love.

Calista Langley resigned herself to helping others find companionship or romantic connections, after her former lover Nestor Kettering ended their engagement and married a more endowed woman.  Suddenly, Kettering resurfaces to win her affections again and end his loveless marriage.  At the same time, Langley receives tokens of mourning left by an unknown intruder.  Desperate to save her life, Langley reluctantly accepts the services of renowned novelist Trent Hastings, whose crime-solving skills acquired from writing detective stories may be of assistance.  Together, Langley and Hastings risk danger in the streets of London to uncover her mysterious stalker.  Meanwhile, Langley the growing independence of her brother Andrew, and Hastings tries to forgive himself for his past mistakes, along with the woman who broke his heart.

One theme is that, even after emotional pain, romantic longings linger like glowing embers, ready to be reignited.  Quick also educates readers on Victorian social customs, particularly those associated with funerals, and reveals how those rules got broken.
A war veteran turned P.I. investigates the alleged suicide of a supermodel.


The Cuckoo"s Calling

Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 455 pages



A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: his sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.


In which J.K. Rowling proves she can write something other than Potter.




My complete list of book reviews.

Orphans of the Sky

Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

A classic of the science fiction genre, a defining one for the trope of generation ship.

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James G. Blaine was one of the leading politicians of his era. He represented his adopted state of Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1863 to 1876 (serving as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1869 to 1875) and then represented the state in the United States Senate from 1876 to 1881. He served as Secretary of State on two occasions under three separate presidents and in 1884 he was the Republican Party's candidate for President, losing New York State (and thus the presidency) by just over 1000 votes. In this 2006 biography of Blaine entitled Continental Liar From the State of Maine, Neil Rolde, another former Maine politician, captures the many contradicting dimensions of the man who was probably the most polarizing political figure of the Gilded Age.

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Rolde begins with an account of Blaine receiving the news of his nomination victory before embarking on a cradle-to-grave examination of Blaine's life. And what a life it was, commencing with his childhood and youth in Pennsylvania, his migration to the Pine Tree State where he became a successful newspaperman, and a prominent force in the emerging Republican Party. He traces Blaine's career as a Congressman, Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate and as a gifted orator and political leader. His analysis of the 1884 election, which Blaine narrowly lost to Grover Cleveland, provides an intelligent analysis of the events which influenced and swayed the voters.

Rolde ably explores the glaring contradictions in Blaine's life. And there were so many of them. On the one hand, Blaine championed policies benefiting the working man (such as high tariffs) while befriending men of great wealth and captains of industry. He was tolerant of Roman Catholicism (his mother was a devout Catholic) unless it was more politically advantageous not to be, and he was always on the periphery of some financial scandal and quick to offer an innocent explanation. (Even his good friend James Garfield concedes that he never fully trusts Blaine). Even amid numerous accounts of Blaine's idyllic family life as a devoted husband and father, Rolde hints that the flirtatious Blaine may have had extramarital dalliances.

Rolde provides a very entertaining and complete profile of the man who was the most fascinating and complex political figure of his era. He concludes this well-written bio with a well-articulated assessment of Blaine's life and career, and of Blaine's place in history. After a thorough examination of Blaine's life, the author concludes that it is difficult to know what to make of his complex subject. This is a very readable account of an interesting subject living in interesting times, making for an excellent historical biography.

The History Of England

The History Of England from the reign of. Henry the 4th to the death of. Charles the 1st. By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian by Jane Austen

One of her juvenilia. As usual, extremely funny and light-hearted. She had satire down pat early.

Mentor

Mentor: A Memoir

I have mixed feelings about Tom Grimes’ memoir. First off, I checked out the book because I was curious about his relationship with the “mentor” Frank Conroy, but Conroy was less of a mentor than a patron, giving Grimes more scholarships and job opportunities than actual advice, at least as Grimes as written it. I wanted more about how Conroy made him a better writer, if in fact he did. It’s hard to tell since both of their careers were built upon a relatively short track record of publications, each with one very respected book but as a rule their other books didn’t earn out their advances.

Sometimes I found Grimes’ complaining about his career, which is more successful than mine, annoying, while other times I felt sorry for how his publisher screwed him. The most interesting part of the story turned out to be Grimes’ mental break down, a slow descent into paranoia that I wish had been more fully integrated into the general narrative rather than given a chapter of its own. When I worked in Chongqing I had a supervisor who screwed up so often I really had to force myself to remember that he was probably just an idiot instead of out to get me, the primary proof being that the other teachers had similar complaints.

Grimes also does a good job of describing how it feels to be addicted to writing, how it can become your identity as much as any other absorbing profession. Without writing, I’d feel like just another cog in the machinery; fortunately I’m in the educational machine so I have plenty of opportunities to help people get on with their lives, running the rat race while I feel like I’m sitting still. Sometimes I like it that way, sometimes I envy my students for having a fresh start to their lives. For me, a fresh start is a blank page.

The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Which opens with our heroine, Irene, stealing a book by a necromancer and, after dealing with some gargoyles and other complications, getting it back to the title library, which spans all the universes and keeps books safe.
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Masks and Shadows

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

An alternate history featuring Haydn and Prince Esterházy, and also a secret society that dabbles in alchemy and worse -- which works.
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If you haven't read any of the Arthur Beauchamp novels by William Deverell, you should. Deverell, a former prominent Vancouver criminal defense counsel, brings his wealth of experience from the courtroom onto the pages of his novels in some of best mixtures of courtroom drama and exciting suspense and his latest novel, Sing a Worried Song is no exception.

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Deverell's protagonist, former criminal defense barrister Arthur Beauchamp, has long since retired from the practice of law, but through a literary reminiscence, readers are taken back to the one and only case in which Beachamp prosecuted, a retrial of a fratboy charged with a thrill killing of a Vancouver street performer, whose first trial ended in a hung jury. Many critics say that Deverell writes some of the best and most realistic courtroom scenes, and it is hard to dispute that in this story. The trial has many roller-coaster like twists and turns, culminating in surprising conclusion. The second part of the book fast forwards to the present day, when Beauchamp is enjoying his retirement on a fictional Gulf Island filled with many quirky and colorful characters. Calamitous circumstances draw him back into the courtroom of the impatient Provincial Court Judge "Haywire" Hayward to defend a well-like local islander facing a serious drug charge. As this is occurring, more frightening things are happening that place Beauchamp's life at risk. Suddenly the 1987 trial has a strong relevance to Beauchamp's idyllic current life, building to a strong finale that combines the comedy of life on little "Garibaldi Island" with all the thrills and suspense of the best quality of mystery writing.

Deverell is very strong as an author when it comes to character description and development and his writing has a very huge Elmore Leonard-like quality to it. The supporting cast in this novel includes another former defense lawyer now more interested in the sale of magic mushrooms, the island's local women's softball team who call themselves "Nine Easy Pieces", a dope growing con man of a mechanic and his unwitting sidekick, and the two-man local RCMP detachment who have their own unique brand of dysfunction.

In the afterward to the book, Deverell explains how the plot of this story mirrors one of his real-life experiences and that is an interesting part of the book in itself. Overall this is a brilliant work of fiction that will have the reader both amused and entertained. It is hard to put down and will make for pleasurable reading for any mystery fan, especially those who enjoy some courtroom drama injected into the mix.

Dreams of Distant Shores

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

A collection of her stories.  The style is as wonderful as always, but the stories themselves were uneven.  There's the novella Something Rich and Strange, about a couple and the sea creatures that come to them, and "The Gorgon in the Cupboard" about an artist and a model, which were the best.
In his 2016 story 36 Hours to Save the President, author Alan Trock mixes history and fantasy in equal proportions as he tells the story of a California dentist and Lincolnphile who is magically transported back to April of 1865 and is given the opportunity to prevent history's most famous assassination. The story's protagonist, Alex Linwood, bears a strong resemblance to the author, extremely knowledgeable and well-read in all things Lincoln. In the story he enjoys a vacation to some of the nation's most prominent historical locales, retracing some of Lincoln's most famous steps, before fantasy intervenes and he finds himself in Washington on the day before Lincoln's assassination, given the assignment set out in the book's title.



The author has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Lincoln, and this comes through loud and clear when reading this book. (I wish I had read this book before visiting Springfield, Illinois several years ago, as I now know that I missed some of the more interesting places). The book combines suspense with a retelling of the events leading up to what occurred in Ford's Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865, as Alex Linwood navigates the unfamiliar world of 19th century Washington D.C. while trying to work out how to accomplish the daunting task he has been given. It is no easy problem to solve, as the story discloses, and as the reader wonders how the dilemma will resolve itself, the story builds to its unique ending.

This is a pleasant, enjoyable and non-laborious read that will especially appeal to those with an interest in Lincoln and his assassination and those who appreciate when historical fiction has been well-researched for contemporary accuracy. The author's passion for his subject comes through very strongly, and we even learn how that passion came about. For those of us who enjoy history as well as intelligent science fiction, this book fits the bill perfectly.

Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz

A "valiant girl" with a brain tumor takes on a mother-raping Nazi.


Ashley Bell

Bantam, 2015, 560 pages



Who is Ashley Bell? From number-one New York Times best-selling author Dean Koontz comes the must-listen thriller of the year, perfect for listeners of dark psychological suspense and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Brilliantly paced, with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious storyline, Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.


Mary Sue and her little dog too.




My complete list of book reviews.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Hmmmm. . . . I don't think I'm very fond of this book. Though it had some wonderful moments of gem-like perfection. . . I don't think it worked as a whole.
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Return

Return by Aaron Becker

The triumphant conclusion of the trilogy! Yes, you do want to read the first books first to lead into this sweet wordless tale.

Again, the little girl can't get her father to play and so goes through the door to the wonder-world. This time, her father notices and follows. Her being unappeased is interrupted by the villains of the first two. Problems ensue, leading to an excellent conclusion.

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