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By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia by Barry W. Cunliffe

A rather technical book about the civilizations in Europe and Asia and their technological and cultural changes and exchanges.

Full of bits like the first evidence of wheels existing (on a pot found in Poland), the way Bactria had an unusual amount of Hellenistic influence, and other such details.
An American in Putin's Russia.

Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016, 240 pages

Long before the meteor strike, longtime NPR correspondent Anne Garrels had Chelyabinsk in her sights. More than 10 years ago, she began visiting the city in order to understand what life was really like in post-Soviet Russia, beyond the confines of the glitzy Moscow metropolis.

In Chelyabinsk, she discovered a populace for whom the new democratic freedoms were as traumatic as they were delightful. A closed nuclear city throughout the Cold War, Chelyabinsk was thrown into disarray in the early '90s as its formerly state-controlled factories were exposed to the free market. And the next 20 years would only bring more turmoil. The city became richer and more cosmopolitan, even as the forces of corruption and intolerance became more entrenched.

In Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia, Garrels crafts an intimate portrait of the nation's heartland. We meet ostentatious mafiosos, upwardly mobile professionals, impassioned activists, scheming taxi drivers with dark secrets, and beleaguered steel workers. We discover surprising subcultures, like the LGBT residents of Chelyablinsk who bravely endure an upsurge in homophobia fueled by Putin's rhetoric of Russian "moral superiority" yet still nurture a vibrant if clandestine community of their own. And we watch doctors and teachers try to do their best in a corrupt system. Through these encounters, Garrels reveals why Putin commands the support and loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they encounter from day to day. Her portrait of Russia's silent majority is essential listening at a time when Cold War tensions are resurgent.

Back in the USSR... not quite.

My complete list of book reviews.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

Or, the Whale

Moby Dick

1851, 720 pages. Available for free at Project Gutenberg.

The outcast youth Ishmael, succumbing to wanderlust during a dreary New England autumn, signs up for passage aboard a whaling ship. The Pequod sails under the command of the one-legged Captain Ahab, who has set himself on a monomaniacal quest to capture the cunning white whale that robbed him of his leg: Moby-Dick. Capturing life on the sea with robust realism, Melville details the adventures of the colorful crew aboard the ship as Ahab pursues his crusade of revenge, heedless of all cost.

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

My complete list of book reviews.

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn by Dana Simpson

The continuing adventures of a unicorn and her girl!
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Unicorn vs. Goblins

Unicorn vs. Goblins by Dana Simpson

Ah, titles. The continuing adventures of Phoebe and Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, very few of which involve goblins.
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Unicorn on a Roll

Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson

The continuing adventures of a girl and her unicorn.

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In Calabria

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

Beagle returns to the subject of unicorns for a very different take.

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Phoebe and Her Unicorn

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

Once upon a time, a girl skipped a stone across a lake, and hit a unicorn in the face. In gratitude (yes, that makes sense), the unicorn grants her a wish. A "something I can do for you" sort of wish, not a wishing ring sort.

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The Return of Sir Percival: Guinevere's Prayer by S. Alexander O'Keefe

A tale of adventure, honor, and peril as Percival returns from a quest to find the Holy Grail -- and what he finds in Britain is King Arthur dead, the Round Table broken, and the Queen nowhere to be found.

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Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith

The third book in the Cormoran Strike series.

Career of Evil

Mulholland Books, 2015, 492 pages

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past whom he thinks could be responsible - and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them....

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

A serial killer is mailing body parts to Cormoran Strike's office. Also, Robin is getting married.

Also by Robert Galbraith: My review of The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm.

My complete list of book reviews.
Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire by Neil Gaiman

Lovely title. Couldn't remember it fully when asking a bookstore clerk. He observed that it's impossible to remember and impossible to forget. . . .

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The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith

PI Cormoran Strike tries to solve the death of an author.

The Silkworm

Mulholland Books, 2014, 455 pages

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the number-one international best seller The Cuckoo's Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives - meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...

A compulsively listenable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

Authors love casting other authors as degenerates and murderers.

Also by Robert Galbraith: My review of The Cuckoo's Calling.

My complete list of book reviews.

Going Rogue

Going Rogue by Drew Hayes

The third book in the series.  Spoilers aheads for NPCs and Split the Party.

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The American Presidents Series are a series of brief (around 150 pages) essay-style biographies of all of the Presidents of the United States published by Times Books. (To date all books about all presidents have been published except for William Howard Taft and Barack Obama). The series was edited by former JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. until his death in 2007, following which this task was taken over by former New Republic editor Sean Wilentz. Past volumes in the series have been written by distinguished historians such as H. W. Brands, Robert Remini or John Eisenhower. In recent years, the series has turned away from academics in favor of journalists as authors of the biographies, and sometimes this has resulted in the failure to appreciate the distinction between history and politics.

Clinton farewell.jpg

In the latest volume, Daily Beast editor-in-chief Michael Tomasky tells the story of Bill Clinton, whom he correctly describes as "a president of contradictions". Tomasky rushes through Clinton's early life and antecedents before describing Clinton's odds-defying 1992 victory over incumbent President George H. W. Bush, a man whose record setting approval ratings of 1990 didn't seem to matter two years later. The author covers Clinton's two terms in office, describing how Clinton confronted daunting challenges both on the international front as well as at home on domestic issues. He tells the story of how Clinton governed at a time when control of Congress was ceded to a very partisan opposition party and how the former Arkansas governor was able to achieve extraordinary success in deficit reduction (and eventual surplus budgets), while compromising on social issues such as welfare reform, all by adopting the stance of a centrist middle-of-the-road Democrat. Tomasky describes how Clinton insisted on his relevance as President despite operating with a hostile Republican Congress and how his capable political skills allowed him to achieve much in this environment despite numerous and frequent challenges.

The most challenging aspects of the Clinton Presidency come from Clinton's own poor judgement and what Clinton himself describes as the "double life" that he tried to lead. It resulted in the public humiliation that came from the frank disclosure of his sexual indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky and was exacerbated by his efforts to prevent discovery of his folly, leading to his impeachment. A central theme of the book is the acrimonious partisanship that injected itself into the independent counsel process and into the impeachment proceedings, as well as into Clinton's dealings with Congress on a number of issues. Tomasky illustrates how Clinton was indeed a mass of contradictions, showing great skill and adeptness on issues such as international peace negotiation and management of the economy, while behaving poorly in his personal life and compromising his integrity. He also describes the perplexing issues facing a president, such as the competing problems involved in dealing with international terrorism and the foreign entanglements that present themselves when genocidal maniacs exist, as they did in Yugoslavia and Rwanda during Clinton's tenure.

Tomasky also writes an interesting account of Clinton's post-presidency that is current up to and including the recent election of Donald Trump. He is critical of some of Clinton's actions as a former president, an offers an interesting post mortem on the reasons for Hillary Clinton's defeat.

It is controversial for The American Presidents Series to chose to pass judgement on the legacy of recent presidents so soon after they leave office, when passions have not yet cooled and the conditions are not yet conducive for an objective assessment, and before the long-term impact can be properly understood. Tomasky has strong opinions on Bill Clinton, and even stronger ones on Ken Starr, and on Clinton's critics. Regardless, he does a good job of describing and assessing the many accomplishments of Clinton's presidency, and of how Clinton's negotiating skills and political street smarts enabled him to do so in spite of his opponents in Congress. For him to do so in such a concise volume is an impressive achievement.
Before Abraham Lincoln delivered his 272 word Gettysburg Address, the most famous pronouncement of a president was George Washington's Farewell Address, delivered following his decision not to seek a third term as Chief Executive. At over 8000 words it was not so easy to commit to memorization, but its principles remain timeless and available to any politico hoping to hitch his or her wagon to Washington's ever-shining star.

In Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations, Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon looks at the first President's valedictory, tracing the history of its creation and genesis, analyzing and dissecting its message, and examining how its message has been applied and ignored over the course of subsequent American history.

The book is divided into three sections. In the first, entitled "the Crisis of Creation", Avlon looks at how Washington decided to write and publish the farewell, how it was produced, with the aid of contributing editors Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, how it was almost published four years earlier, and how it was the product of Washington's leadership experience, both as commander of the Continental Army and as a two-term president, presiding over a factionalized administration.

The second part breaks the book down into "Washington's Pillars of Liberty", the six core principles of the address: (1) national unity, (2) the dangers of political factions, (3) fiscal discipline, (4) virtue and religion, (5) education and (6) a foreign policy of independence. In each of these areas, Avlon traces Washington's history and explains how his experience formed his opinion, and how the relevant sections of the address came to be composed.

In the final section of the book, "The Aftermath of the Idea", Avlon looks at how the address came to viewed by subsequent leaders to support seemingly alternate positions of isolationism and entry into war, and how the advice has been ignored, sometimes on principled grounds, and sometimes severely contorted, with the low point being when the American Nazi Party sought to present itself as Washington's disciples at their rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939, selfishly using it to convince America to keep out of the Second World War.

Avlon offers a very thoughtful and considered analysis of Washington's enduring message, and especially of how it has weathered the time since its publication in 1796. He explains that Washington's tenets were never meant to create a straight-jacket of absolutes to apply to every situation. As he explains, Washington understood that history was composed of life-cycles unique to their time, but always rooted in human nature. This book is quite academic at times, but as Avlon presents it, that's not a bad thing. Important governing principles should never be confused with fortune cookie logic, and Avlon provides the reader with an appreciation of the complexities involved in Washington's basic tenets, and of how these have weathered the test of time. This is a very careful and interesting examination of the fundamentals of government as Washington saw them, timeless, and at the same time evolving. John Avlon invites the reader to accompany him on a thinking person's excursion of them, with a view to understanding their importance today.

Pines, by Blake Crouch

Secret Service agent wakes up in creepy town, has to figure out WTF is going on.


Thomas & Mercer, 2012, 315 pages

Wayward Pines, Idaho, is quintessential small-town America — or so it seems. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in search of two missing federal agents, yet soon is facing much more than he bargained for. After a violent accident lands him in the hospital, Ethan comes to with no ID and no cell phone. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into his colleagues’ disappearance turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he make contact with his family in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what’s the purpose of the electrified fences encircling the town? Are they keeping the residents in? Or something else out? Each step toward the truth takes Ethan further from the world he knows, until he must face the horrifying possibility that he may never leave Wayward Pines alive…

After the Big Reveal, what then?

My complete list of book reviews.

Monthly Bookpost, January 2017

2017 is my tenth year of writing monthly book posts, and my seventh in going through Great Books Through History. This year will focus on the first part of the 19th century, with literature by Jane austen, the Brontes and Balzac; the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Hegel (both out-consumed by hume); the history of Guizot and Tocqueville; science by Faraday and Lobachevsky (the greatest who ever got chalk on his coat); economics of Ricardo and Saint-Simon; and enrichment in the form of period whodunnits by Barbara Hambly, Emily Brightwell and Anne Perry, and other historical novels by Patrick O'Brien and George MacDonald Fraser. It's the year the Durants finally peter out as historical guides and the Harvard Classics and Great Books sets start to thin out.

This is also the year I realize I'm going to be at this project beyond 2020. The books agreed on by scholars as "great" may diminish, but the volume of output just keeps growing with every year covered. I figure it will take me three more years to get to around 1920, and at least three more before I'm close enough to the end of the 20th Century to have crossed the line from "historical books" into just "reading books". Are Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood considered "historical"? I'll figure that out l;ater...anyhow, here are the books for January 2017.

Dancing with the Devil: Faust, Part 1, by JW von Goethe Collapse )

Truth Universally Acknowledged: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen Collapse )

Threes Rev. 4898: The Science of Logic, by Georg WTF Hegel Collapse )
The Regency Murders: A Free Man of Color, by Barbara Hambly; Mrs Jeffries Learns the Trade, by Emily Brightwell; The Face of a Stranger, by Anne Perry Collapse )

Trading Spouses: Couples, by John Updike Collapse )

Sturm und Emo: The Sorrows of Young Werther, by JW von Goethe Collapse )

If i's nae Scottish, i's CRAP! Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott Collapse )

Irish Twits: The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth Collapse )

Poldark: Warleggan and The Black Moon, by Winston Graham Collapse )

Gothic Awful: The Albigenses, by Charles Robert Maturin Collapse )

Find all of my previous Bookposts here: http://admnaismith.livejournal.com/tag/bookposts
Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Bishop Robert Barron
The deeper meaning of Catholic teachings come to life in Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith.  Passages from The Bible are interpreted in an understandable way.  Pictures on about every page illustrate pivotal scenes in Christian history.  Moreover, Barron gives short biographies of six Catholics from various backgrounds who exemplified the faith.  Barron also takes time to explain the history of Catholicism and how this branch of Christianity is unique.
At the end, one can develop a greater appreciation of Catholicism, which leads to a better understanding of positions taken by the Catholic Church.      
Produced by Faith is autobiographical, as Franklin shares how, by letting God direct his life, he became a Vice President at Columbia Pictures.  Franklin also explains why trusting God is essential to having a fulfilling career.
Franklin describes how God has a joyous plan for everyone.  However, like making of a movie, fulfillment requires completing phases of a journey to prepare one for handling success plus the additional responsibilities that accompany advancement.  One must be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally mature to have lasting accomplishments.
Overall, Produced by Faith is inspiring to those who struggle with adhering to their Christian beliefs in an industry where morals are compromised.  Franklin uses himself as proof that being firmly grounded in Christian principles is essential to having a lasting, fulfilling career.

The Wrath of the Great Guilds

The Wrath of the Great Guilds by Jack Campbell

The sixth and final book. Spoilers ahead for the earlier ones.

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The Girl Mechanic

Every now and then I find this book on my book shelf and every time it feels like the moment I found it at the bookstore back in 2009. This sturdy, pocket sized manual is many things - how to book, pattern book and a peek into people's lives and hobbies from the pages of Popular Mechanics. In some ways it's not a proper "craft book" as the patterns are quite small, but the ideas are often sound. As with many vintage craft and recipe books, the materials may have been renamed or are not as readily available today. You might have guessed that there is a "boy edition" but I'd be willing to bet that it is as gender neutral as this book.

I was surprised to see that the text invited girls to saw and craft with their parents help. The variety of crafts, toys and games is pretty astounding and I wish my parents had been more the maker type to build a few things from this book like the basement golf course or weaving loom. From braiding to mold casting, doll houses to a full size backyard merry go round, I can only imagine how many hours of fun these plans provided.

x-posted to craftgrrl and books

The Burning Page

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Third book for Irene and Kai and the Library. Spoilers ahead for the earlier ones.

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Team-Ups and Crossovers

Team-Ups and Crossovers by Marion G. Harmon

Astra goes world-hopping.  It's a collection of short stories, with some spoilers for the earlier ones ahead.
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Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier

Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier by Philip Smith, Joseph A. McCullough

More steampunk soldiers in an alternate history. . . a bit more alternate and a bit less steampunk, I think. (Also, the alternate path seemed a bit less plausible to me with the detail added.) Some interesting possibilities.
A Roman doctor in Britain.


Bloomsbury USA, 2006, 400 pages

Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on-his-luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. His arrival in Deva (more commonly known today as Chester, England) does little to improve his mood, and after a 36-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won't talk and can't cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar.

A few years earlier, after he rescued Emperor Trajan from an earthquake in Antioch, Ruso seemed headed for glory: now he's living among heathens in a vermin-infested bachelor pad and must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.

Who are the true barbarians, the conquered or the conquerors? It's up to Ruso (certainly the most likeable sleuth to come out of the Roman Empire) to discover the truth. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own.

It's like M.A.S.H. in Londinium.

My complete list of book reviews.

We Pulled Together-- And Won!

We Pulled Together-- And Won! by Deb Mulvey

A collection of reminiscences about World War II in America -- and to Americans aboard. On the lighter side -- insofar as that is possible, one of the stories being an account of a family huddled behind a mattress to protect themselves from stray shots and shrapnel at Pearl Harbor. Home front, war work, deployed aboard whether military or not. A lot of personal detail.
Fans of the alternative group They Might Be Giants will know James K. Polk as the man who set four goals for his single term as President of the United States, and met every one of them. The story that Polk created this famous to-do list originates from an anecdote told by historian and Polk administration cabinet member George Bancroft. But in Met His Every Goal: James K. Polk and the Legends of Manifest Destiny, research professor Tom Chaffin, editor of the soon-to-be fourteen volume series "Correspondence of James K. Polk" turns myth-buster and makes the case that the story of Polk's goal-setting exercise is probably apocryphal.

The story according to Bancroft goes that at the time of his inauguration, President James K. Polk recited four goals that he intended to accomplish during his single term in the White House: 1) acquire the Oregon Territory from the British; 2) acquire California from the Mexicans; 3) lower tariffs; and 4) establish an independent treasury. The first recording of this was made by Bancroft forty years after Polk's death, when the historian was in his eighties. But as Chaffin points out, Bancroft told several different (and inconsistent) versions of the anecdote of Polk's pronouncement, that Polk was sometimes reported to have said before his inauguration, sometimes after, sometimes to certain unnamed persons, sometimes to Bancroft alone, and there are other variances in the versions. The story is also inconsistent with Chaffin's rather thorough review of Polk's correspondence. Chaffin's sleuthing as a history detective makes a convincing case that Bancroft's story, while conducive to catchy song lyrics, is probably an embellishment, albeit one with considerable staying power, and one that has formed the bedrock of many favorable assessments of Polk's presidency.

Chaffin reviews the accomplishments and the miscues of the Polk administration and convincingly points out that Bancroft's delineation of the Polk administration may have made Polk appearing larger than life. But it may have also detracted from a proper assessment of Polk's presidency, both in achievements that he deserved credit for but never got, and for areas where he deserved greater scrutiny.

One caution about this book is that it is not very long. It is more like an essay than a book. It is 93 pages, of which about 20 or so are photographs. I read most of it while in a dentist's waiting room. Chaffin himself admits that the book is not intended as a thorough accounting of Polk's presidency, and yet in its brevity, it still manages to touch all of the basis of Polk's accomplishments as well as the times he fell short of his intended mark. Polkaholics may not appreciate how Chaffin takes some of the shine off of Polk's legacy, but Chaffin doesn't present as someone with an anti-Polk axe to grind. He is simply an intellectually honest historian who know his subject from having gone through the volumes of the man's writings. As the author points out, while Polk was guarded and kept his thoughts to himself for the most part, his untimely early death meant that his writings were not destroyed and therefore he left quite a body of writing, including a White House diary, from which scholars can discern what Polk really thought about most of the burning issues of his day. Chaffin has gone through these writings thoroughly.

It is hard to dispute his conclusions, and it is interesting to the reader for Chaffin to share his thoughts and assessments about the man who, for decades, was believed to have met his every goal. For those with an interest in antebellum American history, this is a worthwhile read.

Scout’s Law

Scout's Law by Henry Vogel

Action!  Adventure!  Airships!  Starships!
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The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner

The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett

More of Sir Pterry's not quite juvenilia. Light, funny, frothy off to the point of silliness, a lot of fun. Did some typographic fun and games with different fonts, bolding, increased size (or decreased) for selected words.

Dragon Day, by Lisa Brackmann

An Iraqi War vet's continuing misadventures in China.

Dragon Day

Soho Crime, 2015, 368 pages

Ellie McEnroe is an Iraq War vet living in Beijing, where she represents the work of cutting-edge Chinese political artists. She has one bum leg, a taste for dumplings and beer, and a sweet-tempered rescue mutt for a roommate. She also has Chinese Domestic Security on her tail and a dwindling number of Percocets to get her through her bad days.

And she's about to have some bad days. The immensely powerful - and occasionally homicidal - Shanghai billionaire Sidney Cao has asked Ellie to investigate his son's suspicious new American business partner. Ellie knows she can't refuse and is grudgingly swept up into the elite social circles of Sidney's three children: debauched Guwei, rebellious Meimei, and social climber Tiantian.

When a waitress is murdered at one of Tiantian's parties, the last thing Ellie wants is to get sucked into a huge scandal involving China's rich and powerful. But Ellie quickly becomes the most convenient suspect. She realizes she'll have to figure out who really did it - and even that might not be enough to save herself.

How the Chinese 1% play.

Also by Lisa Brackmann: My reviews of Rock Paper Tiger and Hour of the Rat.

My complete list of book reviews.


Cinderella by Ruth Sanderson

A lovely illustrated picture book version. The retelling combined elements from Perrault's and the Grimms'.

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Stoic wisdom from a dead emperor.


Published approx. 180 A.D.

One of the most significant books ever written by a head of State, the Meditations are a collection of philosophical thoughts by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180 A.D.). Covering issues such as duty, forgiveness, brotherhood, strength in adversity and the best way to approach life and death, the Meditations have inspired thinkers, poets and politicians since their first publication more than 500 years ago. Today, the book stands as one of the great guides and companions - a cornerstone of Western thought.

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness...

My complete list of book reviews.

Monthly Bookpost, December 2016

HAMILTON: THE BOOK! The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton feat. James Madison & John Jay Collapse )

Frexit: Rousseau and Revolution, by Will and Ariel Durant Collapse )

The 18th Century Murders: Written in My Own heart's Blood, by Diana Gabaldon; The High Constable, by Maan Meyers; The Prince Lost to Time, by Anne Dukthas Collapse )

Rantin Rovin Robin: Poems and Songs of Robert Burns Collapse )

Pop'nfresh Gender Roles: On the Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin Collapse )

Dead Poetess Society: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark Collapse )

Point/Counterpoint: Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke; The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine Collapse )

What am I doing here? The Vocation of Man, by Johann Gottlieb Fichte Collapse )

Curmudgeon's Guide to Europe: A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain Collapse )

We're All Fucked: On Population, by Thomas Malthus Collapse )

The Handgentleman's Tale: The Gate to Womens' Country, by Sherri S. Tepper Collapse )

The Saga Continues: Jeremy Poldark, by Winston Graham Collapse )

Guns Don't Kill---Trolls Do! Men At Arms, by Terry Pratchett Collapse )

Kant Touch This: The Critique of Judgment, by Immanuel Kant Collapse )

Epic Epicures: The Physiology of Taste (or, Transcendental Gastronomy, by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin Collapse )

Poor William Says: Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn Collapse )


Well...that's my year in books, I guess. Join me next year for Jane Austen, Balzac, Schopenhauer, Tocqueville, Faraday, Kierkegaard, the Brontes, Patrick O'Brien, Flashman, and a whole lot of others centered around the next era.
Find all of my previous Bookposts here: http://admnaismith.livejournal.com/tag/bookposts

Monster Hunter Vendetta, by Larry Correia

Big galoot Chosen One saves the world, again.

Monster Hunter Vendetta

Baen Books, 2010, 656 pages

Accountant turned professional monster hunter Owen Zastava Pitt managed to stop the nefarious Old Ones' invasion plans last year, but as a result made an enemy out of one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Now an evil death cult known as the Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition wants to capture Owen in order to gain the favor of the great Old Ones. The Condition is led by a fanatical necromancer known as the Shadow Man. The government wants to capture the Shadow Man and has assigned the enigmatic Agent Franks to be Owen's full-time bodyguard, which is a polite way of saying that Owen is monster bait.

With supernatural assassins targeting his family, a spy in their midst, and horrific beasties lurking around every corner, Owen and the staff of Monster Hunter International don't need to go hunting, because this time the monsters are hunting them. Fortunately, this bait is armed and very dangerous.

More guns, black ops, zombies, and Old Ones.

Also by Larry Correia: My reviews of Hard Magic, Spellbound, Warbound, and Monster Hunter International.

My complete list of book reviews.

Molly's Game, by Molly Bloom

The "Poker Princess's" tell-all book about running high-stakes games with celebrities and billionaires.

Molly's Game

It Books, 2014, 272 pages

Molly Bloom reveals how she built one of the most exclusive, high-stakes underground poker games in the world - an insider's story of excess and danger, glamour and greed.

In the late 2000s, Molly Bloom, a twenty something petite brunette from Loveland Colorado, ran the highest stakes, most exclusive poker game Hollywood had ever seen - she was its mistress, its lion tamer, its agent, and its oxygen. Everyone wanted in, few were invited to play.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were won and lost at her table. Molly's game became the game for those in the know - celebrities, business moguls, and millionaires. Molly staged her games in palatial suites with beautiful views and exquisite amenities. She flew privately, dined at exclusive restaurants, hobnobbed with the heads of Hollywood studios, was courted by handsome leading men, and was privy to the world's most delicious gossip, until it all came crashing down around her.

Molly's Game is a behind the scenes look at Molly's game, the life she created, the life she lost, and what she learned in the process.

How the rich play poker, and why Tobey Maguire is a dick.

My complete list of book reviews.
Economic trainwrecks, worldwide.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

W.W. Norton & Company, 2011, 213 pages

From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Big Short, Liar’s Poker and The Blind Side!

The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.

The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.

The trademark of Michael Lewis’s best sellers is to tell an important and complex story through characters so outsized and outrageously weird that you’d think they have to be invented. (You’d be wrong.) In Boomerang, we meet a brilliant monk who has figured out how to game Greek capitalism to save his failing monastery; a cod fisherman who, with three days’ training, becomes a currency trader for an Icelandic bank; and an Irish real estate developer so outraged by the collapse of his business that he drives across the country to attack the Irish Parliament with his earth-moving equipment.

Lewis’s investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American listener to a comfortable complacency: Oh, those foolish foreigners. But when Lewis turns a merciless eye on California and Washington DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.

We are so screwed. There are no grown-ups in charge.

Also by Michael Lewis: My review of The Big Short.

My complete list of book reviews.

Steampunk Soldiers

Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms & Weapons from the Age of Steam by Philip Smith and Joseph A. McCullough

An amusing alternate-history work, framed as a collection of military uniform sketches and notes from the century before.

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Abhorsen by Garth Nix

The continuation of Lirael.

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Lirael by Garth Nix

The second Abhorsen book, or rather the first half of one -- this one doesn't complete its story.
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Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

An enormous collection.

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In a book scheduled for release at a time when the author surmised that the United States might elect its first female president, author William Hazelgrove argues that the nation has already had a woman as its chief executive, namely Edith Bolling Wilson. Hazelgrove argues that the first lady (but second wife) of President Woodrow Wilson acted as de facto President of the United States, after her husband suffered a debilitating stroke in the fall of 1919 from which he never recovered. Mrs. Wilson's presidency in all but name only is the subject of Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson.

On September 14, 1919, while in Pueblo, Colorado, on a speaking tour promoting US membership in the League of Nations, President Woodrow Wilson complained of excruciating headaches that forced him to cancel the rest of his scheduled appearances. He returned to Washington by train, and his health appeared to be improving. But on October 2nd, the President was found unconscious on the floor of his White House bedroom. He had suffered a severe stroke that paralyzed his left side and rendered him barely able to speak. For the remainder of his second term in office, which would end on March 4, 1921, Wilson remained in his bed, unable to walk for most of that time, severely debilitated physically and declining mentally. Rather than cede power, a conspiracy followed to hide Wilson's condition from the outside world. Misleading or outright false reports of Wilson's condition were released by Wilson's physician Dr. Cary Grayson, and with the aid of Wilson's private secretary Joseph Tumulty, first lady Edith Wilson became both the gatekeeper for what information the president received, and the "decider" on matters that she considered that Wilson should not be bothered with.

As Hazelgrove shows, from a thorough research of Wilson's papers, from Mrs. Wilson's memoirs, and from other contemporary sources, the decisions that Edith Wilson made were not restricted to mundane or non-controversial matters. It was pivotal time in American history. The first world war had ended, but the Treaty of Versailles had not been ratified, as the Senate was divided over whether or not the United States should join the League of Nations and be subject to its constraints. Suffragettes picketed the White House. There were cabinet members, ambassadors and other high ranking government officials to be appointed or replaced, as well as a looming national railway strike and a perceived "red menace". Hazelgrove cites many instances of how many matters of national importance and even urgency were responded to with delay, neglect and inattention. He also makes the case that Wilson's incapacity prevented a compromise being reached on the League of Nations and how the first lady was in over her head about this important issue.

The books jumps back and forth in time to provide background to Wilson's presidency. At times this is an effective literary device; at other times it is an annoyance, as it is difficult to recall what happens when on the Wilson presidency time continuum. This distraction aside, the author hits all of the highlights of the Wilson administration, especially those for which the second Mrs. Wilson was involved in. He concludes with an interesting account of the lives of both Wilsons following the end of his presidency, before making the case for his claim that Edith Wilson was actually the first female president and performed the duties that the president is constitutionally bound to perform.


Hazelgrove has written mostly works of fiction in the past, and he uses this talent to make this book better by use of his considerable story-telling ability. Despite a very brief acknowledgements section at the end of the book, it appears clear that he has put considerable research into this book, adding specifics and substance to the generally accepted historical claim that Edith Wilson was "acting president" following her husband's stroke. He does so efficiently and in a manner that makes this book an enjoyable experience for the reader.

Bluebeard Tales from Around the World

Bluebeard Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

A massive collection.

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Many presidential elections are described as being "pivotal" or as ushering in a new style of campaigning. In The Carnival Campaign: How the Rollicking 1840 Campaign of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too Changed Presidential Elections Forever, Ronald Shafer tells the story of the presidential election campaign that meets the expectations of those superlatives and really did change presidential politics forever.

As the 1840 election campaign approached, Democratic Party President and political genius Martin Van Buren ran for re-election, in the wake of the "Panic of 1837", one of the worst economic catastrophes ever to occur in the history of the sixty-four year old nation, caused by the failed policies of Van Buren's predecessor and political mentor, Andrew Jackson. When the fledgling Whig Party nominated 67 year-old General William Henry Harrison as their candidate for president, Van Buren and the Democrats thought that they had a chance to hold on to the reigns of power as they mocked the elderly "Granny Harrison" as a dottering old imbecile from the backwoods who lived in a log cabin and sipped hard cider. Little did they know that their doing so would lead to one of the most epic political spin battles ever, and a presidential campaign with many firsts, one that would change the way that election campaigns would be fought from then on.

In a concise but efficient 237 pages, Shafer describes the backgrounds of the candidates, how the Whigs' "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign turned the Democratic Party attacks on their candidate into a very successful appeal to populist sentiments, pitting their candidate, the "common man" from humble beginnings, against the aristocratic and prissy Van Buren. Never mind that the spin bore no resemblance to reality. Shafer explains how this winning campaign strategy originated, how it changed the way elections were fought, and how the two campaigns battled it out in the news media, in fundraising and in getting out the vote. Especially interesting is the story of how Harrison broke tradition by becoming the first presidential candidate for a major party to take to the stump and campaign for himself (a response to counter negative media attacks on his courage, physical condition and his intellect). Also of interest are the presence of phony news stories containing the most malicious attacks on the candidates, as well as how women became involved in a political campaign for the first time, even though they wouldn't get the vote for another eighty years. Shafer also writes an interesting chapter on contemporary methods of voter fraud practiced by both parties, and on campaign financing practices badly in need of reform. He also describes the transition to Harrison's presidency, his brief (31 day) administration and the aftermath of Harrison's early and untimely death.

Shafer has produced an excellent book about a presidential election campaign, choc full of interesting detail, and never too wordy or verbose. He has selected one of the most interesting election campaigns ever to write about. The combination of efficient, entertaining and informative writing coupled with interesting subject matter and interesting times make this one of the best books written about presidential election history, not only of this year, but in recent memory.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast by Mahlon F. Craft, illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft

Of which the second is the important thing. The tale is the familiar one, and the illustrations are gorgeous. No bad notes in the lot.
Gift of the Winter King

Naomi Kritzer is the winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for her short story "Cat Pictures Please".

There are 11 stories in this collection, each with a short introduction and comments by the author. Like any anthology some stories appealed to me more than others. Most of them were fantasy or sci-fi. Well worth the $2.99 price for the ebook on Amazon.


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

The trilogy continues. . . spoilers ahead for the first.

If you remember, Zaphod said they would go to the title restaurant for lunch.  When this opens, they are trying to get the Heart of Gold there.  Then they are attacked by a Vogon ship, begining the adventures, which involve a cup of tea, the Total Persepctive Vortex, the restaurant, a completely black ship with a half-built teleport device, Marvin being depressing, elevators with psychological problems, a ship full of useless people, and more.

Book Review: Shaken by Tim Tebow

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: Shaken by Tim Tebow
Using verses from The Bible, personal accounts, and others’ inspirational stories, Tebow reminds readers that setbacks are starting points for a brighter future.  Those starting points include using personal experiences to inspire others going through similar difficulties, avoiding future mistakes, or handling subsequent challenges with greater ease.

Instead of basing self-worth on others’ opinion and material acquisitions, one must remember he or she is a child of God.  People may say hurtful things, which can leave one feeling devastated.  Material acquisitions are ephemeral and there will always be something greater to attain, leaving one feeling inadequate.  Having a positive perspective is essential.  One must believe that God have wonderful plans for His children.  To better appreciate those plans, God puts one through adversity.  Moreover, to fulfill those plans, God blessed His children with unique talents.  One must not let difficulties consume him-or herself.  Therefore, one must have faith in God and remember that setbacks are only parts of His plans.

The first-person perspective allows Tebow to have a conversation tone with readers, which makes his insights more personal and applicable.  Throughout the book, Tebow credits God blessing his life, whether those blessings came from loyal family and friends, inspirational acquaintances, or being signed by an NFL team.  Tebow also reinforces his insights with Biblical passages.

Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger

Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger by Ralph E. Hayes Jr.

The adventures of an anthropomorphic raccoon IN SPACE!!!
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Dickens' first book about poor, angelic urchins on the streets of London.

Oliver Twist

Originally published in 1838, available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Born to an unmarried woman who dies after giving birth, orphan Oliver Twist seems destined to slog through a dismal life in the workhouse. A rebellious cry for more gets Oliver banished, and ultimately lands him on the dismal streets of London. The young outcast finds refuge with Fagin and his band of thieves before fate intervenes and puts Oliver in the hands of a kindly benefactor. It is likely that Dickens's own early youth as a child laborer contributed to the story's development. Oliver Twist has been the subject of countless film and television adaptations.

Please, sir, I want some more.

Also by Charles Dickens: My reviews of A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and The Pickwick Papers.

My complete list of book reviews.
Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner

All the fairy tale cats you could desire. . . .

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