The piped piper comes to a town in Uberwald, but finds that he’s late to the show that features cats, rats, and stupid-looking kids talking to one another. The twenty-eighth and first young adult entry of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents finds the residents—new and old, human and nonhuman—town of Bad Blintz figuring out the fine line between real life and a story. The aim to bring the same Pratchett humor that adults love to a younger audience is on target.
A mixed troupe of “rat piper” con-artists arrive just outside the town of Bad Blintz lead by a streetwise tomcat, who a clan of talking rats and a stupid-looking kid named Keith on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. But everyone is getting fed up with just going around and doing the same old thing, the rats want to find a home to build their society and the kid would like to play more music. Maurice is just interest in money and hiding the guilty for how he gained the ability to speak, but he found more than he’s bargaining for in Bad Blintz because something weird is going on even his talkative rat associate find disturbing. Soon the troupe find out that they have stumbled into a long running conspiratorial plan hatched from a surprising source.
As always, Pratchett connects his humor around a well-known fairy tale or story then completely turns it on its head when the same circumstances happen on Discworld even as the characters fight their own preconceptions when comparing “stories” to “real life”. The fact that he ably brought his unique style to a young adult market without losing any of the punch from the jokes makes this a very good book. Although some of the sections of the book were somewhat familiar to a long-time Pratchett reader does take a little away from the book, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for first time readers.
Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld foray into the young adult genre is classic Pratchett through targeted at a younger audience. I found it as funny as the rest of his series, but some of the plot points were simpler than his usual work for obvious reasons. However this minor fact doesn’t ruin a very good book.
Picking straight up from where Volume One ended with a seemingly chilling end, Elly Torres is face-to-face with their new employer not knowing what’s going to happen next. Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain (Volume Two) continues Elly’s pursuit of a job though she not only has to contend with her employer but also herself in the process.
Elly’s first encounter with her new boss and her first day on the job is on in which both she and her new boss get their first impressions of one another. To say the least it is an adventure of awkward situations and verbal gaffs, for both Elly and her employer, Dr. Vlad Stein. Attempting to create a viable and productive working relationship between the two is Stein’s chef, Serge, who continually explains the good Doctor’s eccentricities to the very imaginative Elly while urging Stein not to send another assistant running away as fast as they can with his gruff behavior. Unfortunately for Serge, he doesn’t know what’s going on in Elly’s head.
Like my review for Volume One, this short description only gives a hint of what transpires in Blood Stain’s second chapter. The continued focus is on Elly, but now that the story is in its central location Sejic begins giving some light on both Serge and Stein. While Elly’s characterization is further along than her two male counterparts, the development on all three is both intriguing and raises questions about how all of them will interact with one another as time goes on and what situations they’ll get into because of their own quirks and misunderstandings.
As a longtime fan of Sejic’s webcomic, it was once again a pleasure to get on paper a story I’ve enjoyed online for years. Blood Stain (Volume Two) is a continuation of a fantastically drawn story with intriguing characters both familiar and that one is just getting to know. If you haven’t already picked up Volume One then I encourage you to get both it and this volume, you won’t regret it.
A monochromatic festival of wonder and intrigue suddenly appears in your town and you can’t wait until the sun goes down to explore it. The Night Circus is a wondrous, fantastic journey into magic, romance, and the consequences of both. Author Erin Morgenstern brought forth engaging characters and a twisting plot that keeps the reader engaged throughout the book.
The central plot focuses on Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair, who are selected and groomed to compete against one another in the book’s titular location by their instructors. Throughout Celia and Marco’s competition, they struggle not with their feelings for one another but with “the rules” of the game and how a winner will be determined but as it continues on how their competition is affecting the lives of the circus performers and those connected to the circus. As the game continues, the two youngest members of the circus—twins, Poppet and Widget Murray—and their circusgoer friend, Bailey, become more and more important as both Celia and Marco look for ways to end their competition in the safest way possible.
From the outset Morgenstern creates a wonderful, lively setting that instantly gets the reader into magical journey they are about to take. Through the use of three different temporal narrative arcs intertwined throughout the book, the whole history of the creation and running of “The Circus of Dreams” to the present-day. This creative decision produced an intricate story that while giving the whole picture of the story by the end, does unfortunately result in a reader missing some details that enhances the story making a rereading necessary. Yet, because of how good this book is, a reread in the future would be something to look forward to.
The magically wonderful tale that is The Night Circus is a festival to any reader. While the twisting, interwoven time period narratives create an amazing plot even while missing a few details in the first read; this book is solid in plot and characters making an engaging read.
The life and message of William Miller is one of the most important features in the history of Seventh-day Adventists. Paul A. Gordon’s Herald of the Midnight Cry focuses not only on the life of William Miller but also on the 1844 movement that his message inspired, and from its disappointment rose the future leaders what would become the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The son of unbelieving Revolutionary War solider and a preacher’s daughter, William Miller’s childhood and early adult life was one of conflicting thoughts on God and religion. Although his family’s home was a place for religious meetings, Miller’s questioning father had a profound impression on him as much as his mother’s faith. Only after witnessing events on the battlefields of the War of 1812 did Miller turn to examining the Bible and then fully turning his life to Christ. Once he did, Miller turned all his attention to the Bible at every spare moment and as a result realized that Christ’s Second Coming was coming soon, in “about 1843 or 1844”. But Miller did not reveal his thoughts to anyone until he had reexamined his conclusions and thought of any objections that would be put forward, only then did he start sharing his finds with family and friends even though God pulled on his heart to spread the news. Miller demurred as long as he could until God opened a door he could not avoid going through and beginning 10 years of preaching about the soon return of Christ and the need to gain a relationship with him.
Over the course of the next two-thirds of the little over 123 pages of Herald of the Midnight Cry, is focused on William Miller’s preaching and the general 1844 movement leading to the Great Disappointment and its aftermath. Although Miller is the central actor in the events, other influential participants are focused on as well in spirts turning this short biography into a history book as well. Yet this history is important for both Seventh-day Adventists and non-Adventists to understand the man central to the Millerite movement, who he was, and what he preached.
While the shortness of the overall book and the change from strict biography to a general history of the movement named after Miller counts against Herald of the Midnight Cry, I would be remiss by not at least endorsing this book for those wanting general information about the man and the movement. While Paul A. Gordon’s book is neither the best biography of William Miler nor history of the Millerite movement as a whole, there are those longer and more detailed in subjects, his book is a good introduction to both for those curious and those wanting to wet their knowledge.
I received this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.
The quaint, romanticized version of the American Revolution that many have grown up with through popular history and school curriculum is not the real life story that those living during those years experienced. In Scars of Independence, Holger Hoock looks past the good versus bad and underdog narratives so prevalent today to reveal the multifaceted struggle and very violent history of the American Revolutionary War from all its participants.
Hoock frames the American Revolution as not just a colonial rebellion, but first and foremost a civil war in which the dividing line of loyalties split family. The Patriot-Loyalist violence, either physical or political, began long before and lasted long after the military conflict. Once the fighting actually began, both the Americans and the British debated amongst themselves on the appropriate use of the acceptable violence connected to 18th century warfare and on the treatment of prisoners. While both sides thought about their conduct to those in Europe, the Native Americans were another matter and the violence they were encouraged to inflict or was inflicted upon them was some of the most brutal of the war. But through all of these treads, Hoock emphasizes one point over and over, that the American Patriots continually won the “propaganda” war not only in the press on their side of the Atlantic but also in Europe and even Great Britain.
One of the first things a reader quickly realizes is that Hoock’s descriptions of some of the events of the American Revolution remind us of “modern-day” insurgencies and playbooks of modern terrorists, completely shattering the popular view of the nation’s birth. Hoock’s writing is gripping for those interested in popular history and his research is thought-provoking for scholars. Another point in Hoock’s favor is his birth outside the Anglo-American historical sphere in Germany, yet his background in British history and on-off research fellowships in the United States has given him a unique perspective to bring this piece of Anglo-American history out to be consumed, debated, and thought upon.
Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth is a fascinating, intriguing, thought-provoking book on the under-reported events of the American Revolutionary War in contrast to the view of the war from popular history. Holger Hoock gives his readers an easy, yet detailed filled book that will help change their perspective on the founding of the United States by stripping the varnish away to reveal the whole picture.
Although he did not begin the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox has become its most identifiable proponent not only in the almost 450 years since his death but also during the last 25 years of his life. In A Bold One for God, Charles G. Edwards writes a brief 160 page biography of “a not-so-well-known reformer” that served not only God but his nation as well.
Edwards’ biography of Knox begins in his early 30s after his conversion to Protestantism and his interactions with martyr George Wishart and how the influential preacher told him to remain a tutor to his pupils until God needed him. In the reaction after Wishart’s execution, Knox was asked to preach by Wishart’s followers to lead their congregation after they had assassinated the Cardinal of St. Andrews. His accepts and his powerful preaching began his rise as a man of note in the Reformation movement in Scotland while also resulting in his imprisonment after the movement is crushed for a time. Over the course of the next 12 years, Knox serves as a galley slave before living in exile in England then Geneva and Frankfurt then back to Geneva with a brief visit to Scotland in-between. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland permanently and became a not only the leading Protestant preacher in the nation but also one with significant political power as he contended with the queen regent Mary of Guise then her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and then under the regents of the young James VI.
In the synopsis above, I have hardly scratched the surface of John Knox’s life and career. Unfortunately Charles Edwards did the same in this short biography as well. Although his intended audience is easy identifiable for young adults through his writing style and larger font, Edwards doesn’t treat his audience with respect by crediting them with any intelligence and made his subject less than what he was. Through reconstructed conversations and paraphrasing of others, Edwards endeavored to give Knox’s life more depth but only made the man appear simple and artificial to the reader which seemed to indicate a condescending attitude towards his readers.
While Edwards does give an accurate picture of the chronology and historical background of John Knox’s life that does not make up for the lack of depth and unintended sterilization of his subject. The lack of discussion of Knox’s first 30 years of life and the, most likely unintentional, patronizing attitude towards his readers severely undercuts the worth of A Bold One for God.
The second volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 27 through 48 of the author’s vast magnum opus. Beginning with the reign of Gratian and ending with the reconquests of Heraclius in 628 A.D., Gibbons relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments that saw the ultimate split of the Roman Empire, the fall of the West, and the continuance of Roman tradition in the East centered in Constantinople before glancing at the lives of the next 60 emperors of Byzantium over the next 600 years.
The deterioration of the Rome picks up with the reign of Gratian and his eventual overthrow leading to the unification of the Empire under Theodosius the Great before its finale split with the inheritance of his sons and then their successors over the next 50+ years. Throughout the era of House of Theodosius, the various barbarian tribes made inroads into the Western Empire which included two sacks of Rome itself by the Visigoths and Vandals, as the long ineffectual reign of Honorius and his successors allowed the Empire to slip out of their fingers. In the vacuum arose the genesis of future European states such as England, France, and Spain while Italy declined in population and political cohesion as the Pope began to fill not only a religious but political role.
The Eastern Emperors in Constantinople, unlike their family and colleagues in the West, were able to keep their domain intact through military force or bribes to turn away. The bureaucratic framework established by Constantine and reformed by Theodosius was used to keep the Eastern Empire thriving against barbarian incursion and Persian invasions while creating a link to the Roman past even as the eternal city fell from its greatness. Yet as the Eastern Emperors kept alive the Roman imperial tradition while continually orienting it more towards Greek cultural heritage, the internal conflicts of Christianity became a hindrance to social and imperial stability leading to rebellions of either a local or statewide nature or allowing foreign powers to invade.
This middle volume of Gibbon’s monumental work is divided in two, the first focusing on the fall of the Western Empire and the second on how the Eastern Empire survived through various struggles and for a brief time seemed on the verge of reestablishing the whole imperium. Yet throughout, Gibbon weaves not only the history of Rome but also the events of nomadic peoples as far away at China, the theological controversies within Christianity, and the numerous other treads to create a daunting, yet compete look of how Rome fell but yet continued.
The long life of Seventh-day Adventist preacher John N. Loughborough saw many in the world and in the development of the Adventist movement from William Miller to the Seventh-day Adventist church. In Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough, Ella M. Robinson recounts the service of one of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s first ordained ministers and pioneer into many fields of ministry not only through his owns words but her interactions with him when she was a young girl growing up.
Born in upstate New York, John N. Loughborough was the son of a carpenter and deacon of the local church and throughout his early life was always around hard work and Christian fellowship. Soon after losing his father at age seven Loughborough went to live with his grandfather and the family joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller soon afterwards. Even before the Great Disappointment Loughborough learned that some ministers would not tolerate Biblical beliefs contradicting human traditions. Soon after beginning his own life-long service of preaching at age seventeen, Loughborough encountered many of these worldly ministers as well as the challenges and triumphs that came preaching the word. Within several years of beginning his preaching career, Loughborough was convinced of the Seventh-day Sabbath and soon encountered other Sabbath-keepers within the Adventist movement, James and Ellen White. Along with the White, John Andrews, and many other church pioneers, Loughborough and his family would cross the United States to bring the ‘midnight cry’ to those that hadn’t heard it. But Loughborough wouldn’t find the fruits of his efforts only in the immediate locations where he preached, but across the country and then around the world.
The nearly 170 pages of text, albeit in large font, and the composition quickly denote this book for teen as well as relating the time when it was first published over 50 years ago. Although primarily a biography of J.N. Loughborough, Robinson related many side incidents surrounding him that added to the overall book. Robinson also illustrated the development of the Seventh-day Adventist church through Loughborough’s own career not only to show his importance but also how all the pioneers of that time sacrificed and contributed to building up of the church.
Lighter of Gospel Fires is an informative, yet short biography of church pioneer J.N. Loughborough that is an easy read for teens who are not interested in having to read a dry book. Ella M. Robinson not only relates the life of the longtime Adventist preacher, but also looks into how the Seventh-day Adventist church had developed by the time of Loughborough’s death. Although not perfect, this book is a nice Sabbath read that I would have loved reading when I was a teen.
The allure of lost treasure fascinates everyone, yet no many try to actually find it. Charles Armistead retells his time looking for such In Search of the Golden Rainbow with his father, great-uncle, and several business partners. Yet while searching for gold, Armistead learns lessons about life and death.
Covering a period of nine months, Armistead describes his time while searching for a lost Mexican mine in the Oregon Mountains of New Mexico. Over the course of 96 pages, Armistead relates many adventures and mishaps throughout in a smooth transition from one to another. Yet because of nearly 40 years between the events and the writing only the incidents that made the biggest impression and the details both Armistead and his father could agree on were included in the book. Although the book is clearly written for a teenage audience, its short length is a major downside and something I didn’t realize way back when my mother read me this book when I was a child. While the book does have a religious message as well, Armistead doesn’t “preach” throughout it instead only bring in a religious message into the book at an appropriate connection to the events he is retelling.
In Search of the Golden Rainbow is over 35 years old, yet it is still an enjoyable read. Armistead’s writing style provides a quick and easy read of his time looking for lost gold while also finding some spiritual truths. If I had decided when I was a teen to read this book for myself instead of relying on my faulty childhood memories, I would have enjoyed it not only for the adventure but also that Armistead relayed spiritual lessons in a conversational way and not highhandedly.
The death of the Apostles brought an end to the sacred history recorded in the Bible save for the prophecies of the future in the Books of Daniel and Revelation, however the message of the Gospel and the history of the Church continued. The Great Controversy, the final volume of Ellen G. White’s Conflict of the Ages series in which the history of the Christian Church is chronicled from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of sin and the recreation of Earth. At almost 700 pages, the events of the last two millennia are touch with special emphasis on the Reformation, the message of 1844, and the climax of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan at the end of time.
The Great Controversy focuses entirely on the Christian Age with White beginning the history with the how Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire yet at the same time was watered down with the influences of paganism and other errors. Yet White emphasizes that like Biblical Israel, even though the majority of Christians worshiped—unknowingly—in error, some still held to the truth of Scripture. Then over the course of the next 250 pages, White describes the Protestant Reformation from Wycliffe through the Pilgrim Fathers arrival on the shores of the New World. White then transitions to the events leading up to Great Disappointment of 1844 and the Biblical explanation for the significant event that occurred in Heaven. White explains how the Great Controversy is effecting those living not only when she first wrote the book but to the reader today and how it our decisions will effect where we stand during the events she describes at the end of the book with the second coming of Christ and the destruction of sin.
The Great Controversy is the last of the five-book Conflict of the Ages series and is a mixture of non-Biblical history as well as explanations of the prophetic events of Daniel and Revelation that have and yet to occur through to the end of sin. This book shows that God’s message of love through His law is still relevant today as it was from the beginning of Genesis and before, even with the attempts by Satan to undermine it or simply overthrow it for his own vision. As in even book in this series Ellen White wants the readers of The Great Controversy to know that the present world of sin will not last and there will be an end, yet it is up to the reader to decide where they will stand in relation to Christ and Satan.
The first subdivision of the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois is a mix bag of both story quality and the interpretation of the phrase ‘dangerous women’. In seven stories across genres around the central theme of women who are dangerous, a reader is treated to see women in various ways only but is also forced to figure out if the women presented or alluded to are actually dangerous.
Of the seven stories featured in Dangerous Women 1 the three best at presenting both a very good story and dangerous women were Carrie Vaugh’s “Raisa Stepanova”, Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken”, and George R.R. Martin’s “The Princess and the Queen”. Just outside these three was Cecelia Holland’s “Nora’s Song” which had a very good story but was seen from the perspective of a little girl finding out how dangerous her mother is. These four stories were at the very beginning and the last three stories of the collection giving the anthology a strong start and finish.
However, the three stories in the middle suffered from a failure of either not being very good or not having a dangerous woman. Both Megan Lindholm’s “Neighbors” and Joe R. Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” were very good stories, but the danger posed by the women either featured or more mentioned then seen was hard to detect. But the weakest story of the entire collection was Lawrence Block’s “I Know How to Pick’em” which went from having potential to falling flat by the end.
Overall Dangerous Women 1 is a mixed bag of very good stories with strong female characters, just very good stories with no danger attached to any female character, and just plain bad all around. The best that could be said is in the end the reader is the ultimate judge.
Individual Story Ratings
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn (4/5)
I Know How to Pick’em by Lawrence Block (1/5)
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (2.5/5)
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (2/5)
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (4/5)
Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (3.5/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin (4/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R..R. Martin
The Targaryen civil war known as ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ was mythologized in Westeros by bards for almost two hundred years before the events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. “The Princess and the Queen” offers the history of first great Targaryen civil war through the death of one of the titular characters, but unlike other Targaryen civil wars or rebellions that threatened the dynasty this one features dragons on both sides.
The titular characters were Rhaenyra Targaryen, eldest child of King Viserys I, and Viserys’ second wife Queen Alicent Hightower, mother of Viserys’ eldest son Aegon. These two dangerous women were rivals for one thing, the succession to the Iron Throne. Through oaths and proclamations Viserys had designated Rhaenyra as his heir but Alicent championed the right of her son Aegon to succeed as was Westerosi custom of sons over daughters. For years this feud was building up as Viserys grew older and everyone awaited his death with unease as it felt like a battle for the Iron Throne was sure to follow, a battle that would pit Targaryen dragons against one another.
Written as a history by an archmaester of the Citadel, Martin gives an account of ‘the Dance’ noting first the political intrigue by Queen Alicent and her father to crown her son as Aegon II, then the war of letters and ravens to gather support by the two claimants from all the great lords of the realm before inevitably blood was shed then gushed from almost every corner of the realm. Yet, while some of the narrative reads like a dry history some others describe the action of battles in such a way as to make your imagination view two or more dragons battling one another over sea and land, fighting to the death.
Although the military actions in “The Princess and the Queen” are dominated for the most part by men, it’s the decisions by Rhaenyra and to a lesser extent by Alicent throughout the conflict that make this civil war unlike any other in Westerosi history. Yet, the biggest result of this civil war wasn’t which line of succession won out but that at the end the Targaryen’s greatest claim to the Iron Throne was lost, the dragons. This factor alone has repercussions down to the time of the events of A Song of Ice and Fire in which dragons return to the world.
“The Princess and the Queen” is not like other ASOIAF related short stories, like Dunk & Egg, this is a vivid retelling of history of events that surprisingly do connect with George R.R. Martin’s main series as well as the novellas of Dunk & Egg. As a fan not only of ASOIAF material, but also an avid reader of history I really enjoyed this piece by Martin, even though it is actually much less than he originally wrote of the events of this time. But because of the heavy lean towards male characters in a collection focused on dangerous women, there is some downside.
Nora's Song by Cecelia Holland
Young Eleanor, or Nora to her large family, is enjoying being a little noble born girl exploring little creeks and grass with her little sister Joanna when her big brother Richard founds her so they can greet their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. But this day starts the process of how Nora views her family, from how her parents treat one another and how they scheme behind each other's backs and how they treat her siblings then her. For those how know history, the dangerous woman in this story is well known yet seeing from the pov of a child it's well down.
3 1/2 STARS
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott
A husband and father slowly begins looking at his wife's behavior differently than he had previously in their relationship after their daughter goes missing. As newspaper reporters and the police officers begin questioning his wife's story, only ever so slightly does he begin to think she's responsible. Then suddenly one night she remembers details that had slipped her mind and soon they are reunited with their baby daughter. But one night he walks into his daughter's room to find his wife looking at her with an expression that makes him very worried. This is a great story with several twists at the end as to whom is the dangerous woman in this story.
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale
Marvin gets beatin' up by some neighborhood bullies and is saved by an old man, after doing some working out during the summer he confronts them again only to get beatin' up again. Once again the old man saves him and decides to have Marvin for someone to work out again. Over the course of time the old man becomes like a father to Marvin and it's to the old man that he turns when Marvin's mother choices her boyfriend over her son. Throughout the story the old man gives information to Marvin about an upcoming wrestling match he has with an old rival, Jesus, and the reason two old men are fighting. A woman, a seductress, and possibly one with mystical powers. The story is great, but the 'dangerous woman' only appears at the end and sits to watch the match with only one line.
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm
Sarah Wilkins sees her now crazy neighbor Linda Mason walking out in the middle of the night in her slippers talking about going away and asking Sarah to go with her. After refusing Sarah never sees Linda again and begins thinking about how much their neighborhood had changed while battling her son about her living situation. Soon Sarah starts noticing how different the neighborhood is in the fog and who appears out on the street in the night. Sarah begins battling her children about her own future and decides to head out into the fog to find her own path and surprising Linda. A good story, yet the 'dangerous' of Sarah is questionable.
2 1/2 STARS