This was a Barnes & Noble free ebook that I downloaded. I was intrigued by the imperial Russian influences hinted at in the description. I was notThis was a Barnes & Noble free ebook that I downloaded. I was intrigued by the imperial Russian influences hinted at in the description. I was not disappointed. In fact there was a fair bit of Russian or Russian-ish language throughout the book. In fact, I do wonder if a non-Russian speaker would have picked up on the meanings of the words and names for things, but it wasn't a problem for me. I enjoyed that aspect quite a bit.
Having recently watched (although not having read) Game of Thrones, I was struck by similarity in genre -- definitely fantasy evidenced by the magical elements of the world inhabited by people who commune with spirits in a parallel spirit world and masted ships which fly though the air in a three dimensional way similar to ships on the sea -- but also with a feeling of historical fiction, telling a story of rival dynasties and arranged marriages and conflicts between the aristocracy and the oppressed peasantry-other.
I think I will definitely read more of Beaulieu. Although I found some of the narrative a little hard to follow at times -- especially during action scenes -- I was incredibly impressed with his ability to describe a setting, particularly by capturing light, smell, and sound. I was often struck by the perfection of a description, actually stopping to marvel: "I know exactly what that sounds/smells like!" The rhythm of his dialog was good, as well. If for nothing else, I would recommend this book on that alone. It is a treat to experience writing like that....more
This book reads like a novice writer's first draft. The dialogue is corny. The characters are one-dimensional, one-trick ponies. The narrative is repeThis book reads like a novice writer's first draft. The dialogue is corny. The characters are one-dimensional, one-trick ponies. The narrative is repetitive, as if the author's story blocks included the same details in multiple places, and at least one time a scene in which a proposal occurs starts by calling the character the fiance -- before we know he's the fiance. Ugh. (I attribute this failure to the editor.) The symbolism of names and common props are hit-you-over-the-head obvious. I could go on, but I won't.
The only reason I finished it was to find out what the final con was going to be, and even that didn't provide a payoff. I should have quit this book....more
OMG, I finally finished this book! The subject matter was interesting and compelling, but Diamond's writing is TERRIBLE!
Diamond's thesis is that civilOMG, I finally finished this book! The subject matter was interesting and compelling, but Diamond's writing is TERRIBLE!
Diamond's thesis is that civilizations become powerful and dominant primarily because of their ability to become food producers based on their origin's geography, rather than because of inherent racial, genetic, or even cultural factors (although culture eventually plays a part in established civilizations). Geography factors in several ways: the availability of original/native plants and animals suitable for domestication; the orientation of the continent (N-S vs E-W); the continuity of similar ecosystems through which to spread agriculture; the lack or presence of geographical barriers (mountains, deserts, jungles, open ocean) to exchange of ideas (language, writing, technology, innovation). Thus Eurasia benefited in all of these factors, whereas Africa and the Americas, and the large islands/small continents (New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand) did not.
Diamond takes you on a long, rambling explanation of these ideas, sometimes repeatedly depending on the focus of any given chapter. His writing style itself is a weird mixture of philosophical treatise and informal lecture. I rather imagine an eccentric, introverted professor-type giving a lecture, totally unaware of anything. If you hang in there you'll learn a lot, but it's sometimes hard to follow or it gets lost in asides.
I liked several things about this book: the thesis is compelling; the discussion of how linguistics and genetics and archaeology can tell us about the origins and movements of civilizations is amazing (again, I lament my missed calling to linguistics); and Diamond didn't focus only on the big civilizations of Europe, China, and Egypt -- he was able to draw examples from a wide variety of historical examples. Reading this book really has affected my perception of modern civilizations, in particular in regard to the domestication of plants and animals. It also made me think about recent trends back toward local agriculture, and whether that is sustainable for large, complex civilizations (which incidentally informed my thoughts about the post-apocalyptic survival story in Dies the Fire. I also enjoyed reading both the epilogue (addressing "why Europe and not China" in the geographically lucky Eurasian continent) and the Afterword (written for the 2003 edition).
There is a television (National Geographic) presentation of this material which I recently watched, to compare it to the book. The video is a 3 hour series which addresses 1) The rise of agriculture and the concept of East-West geography; 2) Guns and Germs, specifically focusing on the Inca conquest scenario; 3) Africa, which has had a very interesting mix of good and bad luck, and continues to struggle with germs.
Having seen the video, which was interesting, I decided to raise my rating of this book from 3 to 4 stars. The book, despite Diamond's sore lack of a competent editor, covers the thesis much more thoroughly, with a lot of useful details and examples. It continues to affect my world view. Interestingly it also colors my thinking on how one might set up a completely fictional world (think, fantasy/sci-fi), in terms of geography and the power of civilizations based on that geography....more
A very quick read and an interesting true crime story set against a backdrop of late Victorian, early industrial, immigrant dominated New York City anA very quick read and an interesting true crime story set against a backdrop of late Victorian, early industrial, immigrant dominated New York City and the advent of sensationalist, around-the-clock "journalism". A rollicking read....more
If I had rated it halfway through, I would have given 3 stars. But the last 3 stories won me over. The emotions were genuine and relateable and made mIf I had rated it halfway through, I would have given 3 stars. But the last 3 stories won me over. The emotions were genuine and relateable and made me sympathize with Olive and all her flaws.
I added this to my list in a fury of searching for stories about small towns. I think that Crosby, Maine feels a bit bigger than my own small town, but perhaps only just. I think it captured a lot of what makes small towns good and bad, but only in moderation -- neither the extremely good (community support) nor the extremely bad (prejudice to the point of ostracism).
I would recommend this book to older adults who have the long view of family and relationships. That view is not something I've encountered before in my reading and that was novel for me.
I enjoyed Strout's descriptive writing, throwing in just the right details of color, light, and sound at just the right times. The narrative style of mingling present action with flashback or recollection was somewhat difficult for me to follow at times -- only jarring at the point of transition -- and I think that was made worse in the sections which I listened to as opposed to read. The only narrative element I didn't really like or learn to appreciate was how the stories ended rather abruptly with feeling resolved at all....more