I Know How to Pick'em by Lawrence Block
This story was a tease from beginning to end and frankly, it does not have a dangerous woman. Although Lawrence Block could argue semantics, I would respectfully disagree. The narrator is a man, the "dangerous woman" turns out to be nothing of the sort.
"Raisa Stepanova" by Carrie Vaughn
A female fighter pilot for the Soviet military fights for her country, her family, and herself against the Fascists and the Party. This dangerous woman at first only finds herself fighting against the Nazis and in a quasi-rivalry with another pilot, who beats her to becoming an ace. But Raisa's military career is suddenly in jeopardy when her brother goes missing in action, which to Comrade Stalin means he's a traitor. Suddenly Raisa is desperate to either earn esteem to spare her family or die in combat so her family will be taken care of because of their heroic daughter. Not only is this a "woman in a man's world" situation that is very believable, the action from Raisa's point-of-view in the cockpit gives the reader a glimpse into the action.
Throughout the later part of 1999, many programs were dedicated to showing the impressive change in the 20th Century over any other time in the previous 1000 years. Author Ian Mortimer thought this was presumptuous and decided to research to find which century of Western civilization in the previous millennium saw the most change. In Centuries of Change Mortimer presents the fruits of over decade worth of research to general audience.
From the outset of the book Mortimer gives the reader the scope and challenge about defining and measuring change, especially when focusing in specific 100 year periods. Avoiding the cliché answers of bright, shiny objects and larger-than-life historical figures from the get go, Mortimer looked for innovations of cultural, political, societal, and technological significance that fundamentally changed the way people lived at the end of a given century than when it began. Throughout the process Mortimer would highlight those inventions or well-known historical individuals that defined those innovations of change which resulted positively or negatively on Western civilization. At the end of each chapter, Mortimer would summarize how the ‘changes’ he highlighted interacted with one another and which was the most profound in a given century and then identify an individual he believe was ‘the principle agent of change’.
The in-depth analysis, yet easily readable language that Mortimer wrote on each topic of change he highlighted was the chief strength of this book. The end of chapter conclusions and identification of an agent of change is built up throughout the entire chapter and shows Mortimer’s dedication to providing evidence for his conclusion. Whether the reader agrees or not with Mortimer, the reader at least knows why he came to those decisions. When coming to a decision about which century of the past millennium saw the most change at the end of the book, Mortimer’s explanation of the process in how he compared different periods of time and then the results of that process were well written and easily understandable to both general readers and those from a more scholarly background, giving the book a perfect flow of knowledge and thought.
Centuries of Change was geared for the general reading audience instead of a more academic one. While I do not think this is a negative for the book, it did allow for those editing the book as well as Mortimer in reexamining his text to miss several incorrect statements on events and personages that while minor do to missing a word or two, just added up over the course of the book.
While looking at the progression and development of Western civilization is always a challenging process, Ian Mortimer’s Centuries of Change gives readers glimpse of how different types of innovations impacted just a 100 year period of time. Very readable for general readers and a nice overall glimpse for more academic readers, this book is a thought-provoking glimpse in how human’s bring about change and responds to change.
Upon the ascension of Jesus Christ, the focus of sacred history turned to the men he entrusted with spreading the message of the Kingdom of God to Jew and Gentile across the world. The Acts of the Apostles the penultimate volume of Ellen G. White’s Conflict of the Ages series in which the rest of the New Testament through the lives of the Apostles in how they were transformed into preachers and leaders of the new church and how they spread the World, upheld faith, and corrected error. In a little over 600 pages, the events in the book of Acts and the circumstances surrounding the writing of the Epistles and the book of Revelation are revealed in the context of sacred history.
The Acts of the Apostles presents the events of the book of Acts in an in-depth in how the Disciples of Christ became Apostles for truth and how Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle. As in in the Bible, the focus for much of the book is on the conversion of Paul and his ministry to both Jews and Gentiles on various missionary trips. At the beginning, the Church focused on presenting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to the Jewish community as the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy until the stoning of Stephen and shift to the Gentiles through the Holy Spirit and total rejection of the Jewish leadership. Throughout the discussion on Paul’s ministry to Jew and Gentile alike, the events surrounding and leading to his writing the Epistles that are contained in the New Testament are examined and the principles and lesson within them expounded upon. After Paul’s death, the lives of Peter and John are examined to enlighten the reasons surrounding and the lessons taught in their own Epistles to the church. And John’s time on Patmos in which God revealed to him through prophecy the culmination of sacred history.
The Acts of the Apostles is the fourth volume of the five-book Conflict of the Ages series and the last to fulfill cover Biblical events. This book shows the change in the character of the disciples to become champions of Christ and how a persecutor was transformed into proselyte, both show to believers raised in the Christian faith and those from without that Christ works to change everyone willing. In the last chapter, Ellen White transitions the scope of the Christianity from the Biblical record of sacred history to the events after the life of the Apostles done to her own day and then the climax of The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.
The first true novel, Don Quixote, has impacted not only the literary world but culture and society the globe over for over 500 years. The masterpiece of Miguel de Cervantes blends fantasy, romance, sarcasm, and parody in such an amazing way that it has captured the imagination of generations over and over again no matter where they lived. The adventures, or misadventures, of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza have made them icons for beyond anything Cervantes might have thought possible.
The narrative of the events of the knight-errant Don Quixote’s three sallies is widely known, though more so those in Part I than those of Part II. However, while the adventures of the windmills and the battle of the wineskins and Sancho’s blanketing are the best known it the events in Part II that truly show the modern narrative arc that Cervantes was only beginning to display in Part I. While Quixote and Sancho’s hilarious misadventures are just as funny in Part II as in Part I, through the challenges for Bachelor Carrasco to snap Quixote out of his madness and the machinations of the Duke and Duchess for their entertainment at their expense a narrative arc is plainly seen and can be compared to novels of today very easily.
Although the central narrative of Don Quixote is without question a wonderful read, the overall book—mainly Part I—does have some issues that way enjoyment. Large sections of Part I contain stories within the story that do no concern either central character but secondary or tertiary characters that only briefly interact with Quixote and Sancho. Throughout Part II, Cervantes’ rage at another author who published a fake sequel is brought up again and again throughout the narrative arc that just lessened the reading experience.
The cultural footprint of Don Quixote today is so wide spread that everyone knows particular scenes that occur in the book, mainly the charge towards the windmills. Yet Cervantes’ masterpiece is so much more than one scene as it parodies the literary culture of Spain at the time in various entertaining ways that still hold up half a millennium later. Although reading this novel does take time, it is time well spent follow the famous knight-errant Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza.
2016 is at an end and frankly I'm surprised how I finished the year. Instead of just reading 54 or 55 books for the year, I finished with 58! Personally I believe I completed 7 books this month to actually break my personal best total for books read. My total for pages is officially 27606, which if you remember my November update I had already passed by old record.
As for 2017, well given the last year here on BookLikes I'll be doing more stuff on my Wordpress page than here. If BookLikes makes a comeback then I might show up here more. Anyways, have a Happy New Year...
Within the realm of alternate history literature and scenarios, World War II is particularly prominent for fiction authors and historians to ponder on. In The Hitler Options: Alternate Decisions of WWII, ten military historians—which included book editor Kenneth Macksey—looked at scenarios which could have changed the course of the war towards the Third Reich and its Axis partners against the Allies or that the Allies could have decided to the detriment of the Nazis.
The scenarios ranged from the decision to invade England soon after the end of the Battle of France to the Axis securing the Mediterranean before turning to the Soviet Union to linking up with the Japanese to focusing on a jet fighter instead of a jet bomber. While eight of the scenario focused on decisions benefiting the Nazis, two focused on decisions the Western Allies could have made to fight the war differently. The two Allied focused scenarios, “Through the Soft Underbelly” and “Operation ARMAGGEDON”, were among best written in the book along with the Nazi focused “Operation SPINX”, “Operation WOTAN”, and “Operation GREENBRIER”.
While the five other scenarios were just as interesting, the style the author chose to write them undermined their overall effectiveness to some degree especially when compared those scenarios cited above as. Then ten scenarios came up a total of 216 pages, which came out to just barely 20 pages per scenario when excluding maps used for each. This short length for each scenario to be developed in my opinion hurt some of the less impressive scenarios and could have added depth to some of the best as well.
Overall The Hitler Decisions is a good book for those interested in alternate history, especially concentrated around World War II. Yet, there are some drawbacks with the relatively short length average of each piece that hurt some of the scenarios along with stylistic choices.
The first three published poetic volumes of T.S. Eliot career were a sudden surprise upon the literary community, but it was the third that became a centerpiece of modernist poetry. Published within a 5 year period during which not only Eliot’s style was refined but also influenced by his personal life and health. Throughout the rest of his career, Eliot would build upon and around these works that would eventually lead to the Noble Prize in Literature and a prominent place in today’s literature classes.
While I am right now in no way ready to critique Eliot’s work, I will do so in the volume it was presented in. While the publishers and editors wanted to present Eliot’s work with his personal Notes or footnotes in the back of the book to preserve the author’s intention of presentation, over the course of reading the exercise of going from the front of the book to the back to understand the footnotes became tiresome. And while reading “The Waste Land” I had three places marked in my book so as to read the poem and then look at Eliot’s own Notes and the publisher’s footnotes, which quickly became a trial.
This is a book I’m going to have to re-read over and over again for years to come to truly appreciate Eliot’s work. If you’re a better rounded literary individual than I am then this volume will probably be for you as it presents Eliot’s work in the forefront with no intruding footnotes at the bottom of the page; however if you are a reader like myself who wants to enjoy Eliot but needs the help of footnotes I suggest getting another volume in which footnotes are closer to the text they amply.
The question on how to view the physical changes of the Earth as well as how and if it effects civilization, dominates the discussion in Dr. Robert M. Schoch’s Voices of the Rocks. Looking through the geological record as well as numerous other sciences, Dr. Schoch puts forwards a different way to look at the history of the Earth and how mankind is affected.
The primary purpose of Dr. Schoch’s book is to propose a different way of viewing how natural laws and processes operate in the universe from the (then) dominate Uniformitarianism and the opposing Catastrophism. The result is a synthesis of the two viewpoints, uniformitarianism with periodic catastrophes which how now become dominate in scientific thinking, however Schoch attaches this synthesis with the Gaia hypothesis that at the time was still be debated but is now being included in larger scientific thought. Although this scientific terminology might seem daunting Schoch writes for the layman who might remember things for high school or college, but isn’t an expert.
Although Schoch’s main emphasis is scientific thought, the subtitle of his book “A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes & Ancient Civilizations” points to the fact that Schoch takes a look at human history as well. Schoch came to fame when he released his geological study on the Great Sphinx that dated it to 7000-5000BCE, much older than the 2500BCE that Egyptologists have dated it. Schoch defends his findings in the case of the Sphinx in terms for a layman but doesn’t go in-depth in detail and terminology as that is not his main purpose in the book. However, Schoch uses his study and the ensuing debate about the progress of civilization and societies to highlight how the rise and collapse of many cultures over time and around the world have been impacted by catastrophic factors both on Earth and from outside of Earth.
While Schoch admits that many of the theories about civilizations and events in Earth’s past are based on his interruption of the evidence proposed either by himself or others who’s work he agrees with, they are an invaluable read whether one agrees with Schoch or not. Yet Schoch also aims at debunking many, some would call them outlandish, theories proposed by von Daniken, Hancock, Stitchin, and many others by the same process of looking at the evidence. Overall while Schoch does incorporate a study of ancient civilizations and societies while looking at his overarching scientific premise, it is more a supporting role.
Overall Schoch’s handles the science very well, his handle on history and societal elements he brings up is unfortunately not so good with many glaring mistakes that even a causal reader will catch. Schoch’s writing style is very fluid and keeps the reader engaged throughout the text, even when his mishandles either history or ancient cultural references. I came to this book with an eye towards the ‘ancient civilization’ in the subtitle in researching for a story I’ve been planning to write for over a decade and while I didn’t get exactly what I was expecting, the scientific information and Schoch relating of his own theories or the theories of other established scientists more than made up for that. Yet I can neither recommend nor warn people way from this book because my purpose for reading is something different from the norm.
The Gods are on notice as the greatest heroes of the Disc are headed for their heavenly abode on a quest to return the fire stolen by the first hero, except there’s a catch. The illustrated Discworld novella The Last Hero is the twenty-seventh in the humorous fantasy series written by Terry Pratchett and assisted by artist Paul Kirby. And once again Pratchett follows his first protagonist Rincewind racing to save the world.
Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde have left their imperial possessions on the Counterweight continent and are heading for the home of the Disc’s Gods with the gift of fire first stolen by the legendary First Hero, unfortunately the old men are planning to blow the place to smithereens which would have the unfortunate side effect of destroying the Disc. To the rescue is Leonardo da Quirm, Captain Carrot, and a reluctant Rincewind—who only joins because if he didn’t he’d find himself on the journey by some horrible twist of fate—traveling the quickest way they can get to the abode of the Gods, over the Rim and through space. This short story is given a remarkable boost with the illustrations of Paul Kirby who brings to life so many great characters from all over the Disc, as well as two new secondary characters. Yet not only do characters get a stunning portrayal but so does the geography of the Disc as well in stunning pictures that makes you just want to stop reading and stare at them to take in all the details.
The novella itself is pretty straight forward unlike a regular Discworld novel in which little sidebars populate the narrative to humorous effect, but with The Last Hero the illustrations more than make up for that. While considered a part of the Rincewind series, the Disc’s worst wizard is more a tag along character in a story dominated by usually secondary characters. However for longtime fans this won’t be a problem given the story and the amazing illustrations.
I received this book via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.
Total Football burst into the popular consciousness with the Dutch national team at the 1974 World Cup led by Johan Cruyff. In Cruyff’s posthumously published autobiography My Turn, the former player and manager talks about the course and evolution of his entire life in football as well after his time actively involved in the sport.
Cruyff is upfront from the outset that he won’t recount every big match, for him the important thing was the development of technique and the evolution of getting better by learning from successes and failures. However, Cruyff’s explanation of his development as a player as well as the style he both played and coached are a fascinating read in which the results of certain matches come in to play. Cruyff’s stories about growing up at Ajax from a ball boy then through the developmental system give a insight about how talent is developed over in Europe, especially once he explains what he took away from how talent was developed in the United States when he played in the NASL. Yet, the most interesting stories were Cruyff’s time at Barcelona and the politics of Catalonia and Spain were a literal culture shock to him and his family.
The latter part of the book covers Cruyff’s most “controversial” time in football, his managerial tenures at Ajax and Barcelona as well as the shakeups to both clubs that he was an advisor for to bring them both to prominence. Cruyff is upfront about his thought about his loathing of boardroom managing the pitch in place of the pitch dictating the boardroom. For Cruyff this direction from on high, especially at Ajax is one of the reasons that the style of Total Football that he advocates is no longer seen in Dutch football as both technique and fundamentals instilled at an early age are never truly developed because of the increasing change of trainers and development personal because of agendas of non-football individuals who have an agenda of their own. This critique of money interfering goes handed in hand with Cruyff’s explanation of his preferred style of football as well as a rather informative explanation of the tactics of football is easy to understand even for those uninformed about the game.
Although My Turn seems to have been cut short by Cruyff’s death in March 2016, it is still a wonderful read for anyone interest in football or sports biographies.
The first volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers the first 26 chapters of the author’s epic historical work. Beginning with the death of Domitian and ending with Theodosius I’s treaty with the Goths and early reign, Gibbon’s spans nearly 300 years of political, social, and religious history on how the great empire of antiquity slowly began to fade from the its greatest heights.
The history of the decline of Rome actually begins by showing the nearly century long period of rule of the “Five Good Emperors” as Gibbon shows the growth of absolute power of the Principate was governed by able and intelligent men. With succession of Commodus Gibbon illustrated what the power of the Principate would do for an individual who was a corrupt and tyrannical ruler. Gibbon’s then examines the political and military fallout of the death of Commodus with the declaration of five emperors in less than a year and rise of the Severan dynasty by conquest. Gibbon reveals underlining causes of era of the ‘Barracks Emperors’ and what historians call, “the Crisis of the Third Century”.
With the ascension of Diocletian and through him the rise of the House of Constantine, Gibbon explores the political and bureaucratic reforms began and developed that would eventually divide the empire in his view. After Constantine’s rise to sole emperor, Gibbon then delves into the early history of Christianity before its adoption by the founder of Constantinople. Beginning with Constantine, the last half of this particular volume as the history and theological developments of Christianity as a central narrative as one of the contributing factors of the decline of the Roman Empire.
Although the description above might make one pause at starting the heavy work, Gibbon’s style and prose make history come alive with every word and gives the reader a sense of the grand scale of historical forces while not overwhelming them. While every reader will have their own verdict on if Gibbon’s arguments and interruptions of history are correct, each avid history lover will find this opening volume of Gibbon’s magnum opus an engaging beginning in examining how one of the foundation stones of Western Civilization came to its political end while passing on its laws and culture to Europe.
The whole of sacred history is centered on one individual, Jesus Christ, either through the prophecies and sacrificial meanings of the Old Testament or the good news of His life and message in the New. The Desire of Ages is the seminal work of Ellen G. White’s Conflict of Ages series in which the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is examined in great detail to show the love of God for man. Through over 800 pages of wonderful, engaging writing the 33 years of when the Son of God walked shoulder-to-shoulder with man.
The Desire of Ages is not a strict chronological retelling of the Gospels; instead it is a more in-depth look into the life and teachings of Christ to reveal the love of God for man. Yet, while White focuses on Christ’s mission to save man and show the true nature of God she does not shy away from explaining the challenges Jesus faced during His ministry. The Messianic expectations of Jewish culture before, during, and after Christ’s life were fully explained by White and how throughout His ministry it hindered his efforts to turn hearts to the Father. Alongside the cultural expectations was the hatred of the religious establishment that saw Jesus as a threat to their authority even though mean thought He might be the Christ. And finally the hardest burden Christ dealt with was His disciples whose earthly expectations and resulting disappointment continually saddened their Teacher.
The Desire of Ages is the central volume of the five-book Conflict of Ages series just as Christ is the central pillar of sacred history. For many, including myself, Ellen White’s book on the life of Christ is best spiritual book on His life outside of the Bible because of the in-depth perspective she writes and expounds upon. At the end of the book as heaven rejoices at Jesus triumphant ascension to rejoin His Father as our mediator, White reveals how the disciples returned to Jerusalem just as joyously knowing Christ reigned with His Father. Through the Acts of the Apostles the good news of Christ would begin to be spread around the world.
Well unexpectedly November was my most productive month as I completed 8 books! My total for the year is 51 books, which is currently my third most I've read in year with 31 days still to go. My overall total of 24658 pages is my highest total all-time over last year's 24655 pages.
Overall I'll be able to read 4 books from my original 40 that I started the year with, but given that 5 of the books I didn't plan on reading were free via LibraryThing I'm okay with that. My plan for December is finishing the three books I'm currently in the process of reading. I might squeeze in an unscheduled REREAD after I finished Decline and Fall, Vol. 1 if I have time by the end of the year. Right now I'm looking at a total of 54 books, maybe 55, which would be my second highest total for a year (57 last year).