This was on my library's list of recommended reading for first graders. I thought it was okay. The first grade readers at my house loved it and beggedThis was on my library's list of recommended reading for first graders. I thought it was okay. The first grade readers at my house loved it and begged me to pick up book 2 in the series next time I go to the library, so I guess whoever made the list knew what they were talking about. :-) ...more
I thought this was a cute book for beginning readers (it made me laugh). The beginning readers at my house thought it was okay.
Note for parents: At onI thought this was a cute book for beginning readers (it made me laugh). The beginning readers at my house thought it was okay.
Note for parents: At one point in the story, Clementine says that when she grows up, she wants to smoke cigars. So it might be useful to have a conversation about smoking/not smoking if your kids read this book....more
This book had ten chapters, most of them 10-15 pages long, each about a different Byzantine lady. (Included are women from the Byzantine Empire, EpiroThis book had ten chapters, most of them 10-15 pages long, each about a different Byzantine lady. (Included are women from the Byzantine Empire, Epiros, Serbia, and Trebizond.) All were aristocrats. No surprise there—not much survives from the lower classes of the late Middle Ages, though it would have been nice if more of a variety could have been included. The chapters are in roughly chronological order, which added to the book because many of the women were connected.
Most of the women didn’t have very happy lives. They were generally married off for political advantage. Some of them had good relationships with their husbands, but even those who had pleasant marriages had hardships like having to marry their daughters off to infidels or seeing their husbands or children killed by enemies.
A few things the book shows: women usually had no say when it came to choosing their husbands, but often rose to power and influence later in life, even if that power was normally exercised through a husband, son, or step-son. Also, living in a dying empire has some serious drawbacks (like when Mehmed II decided to eradicate all possible heirs to Byzantium and executed the husband and three sons of Helena Cantacuzene Komnene, last empress of Trebizond.) Religion and family were extremely important to most of the women, but some of them had to sacrifice one or the other or both in service to their empire.
I get the impression that the author did the best he could, given what information is available, but I would have loved more details about each of the women. I learned about the main events of their lives, but I don't feel like I came to know them....more
The first quarter of this book was kind of slow, and I almost stopped reading several times. I like history, and I like historical fiction, but this iThe first quarter of this book was kind of slow, and I almost stopped reading several times. I like history, and I like historical fiction, but this is a fictionalized biography. Some of the historical tangents slowed down the story, and while I enjoy learning about new time periods, because this one is fiction, I wasn’t sure how much of the information was real and how much wasn’t.
But the book was recommended by a dear friend, so I kept reading. And I’m glad I did. As soon as Semmelweis finished school and started trying to figure out how puerperal fever was spread, the book got a lot better. Eventually he figured out dissecting cadavers who had died of puerperal fever and then going across the hallway to assist women in labor at a large lying-in hospital in Vienna was a bad idea. So he made everyone start washing their hands. And instead of 30% of patients dying in childbirth, the rate dropped to about 1%.
Of course it’s easy for someone living in the 21st century to see how simple and obvious the solution was. But in the mid-19th century, things were a little different. Doctors thought it beneath their dignity to wash their hands. The women Semmelweis was trying to save spit at him because surely the hand washing was because the women themselves were dirty, thus the handwashing was an insult.
Semmelweis spent the rest of his life trying to convince midwives and doctors to simply wash their hands. It was a long battle with a few highs and many, many lows. The book was at times horrifying, given the condition of the hospitals and the ignorance and arrogance of so many of the doctors. At times the book was sad. But it was also inspiring as a story of how one person can make a tremendous difference. ...more
Johann Schiltberger was sixteen years old when he was captured at the Battle of Nicopolis. Because of his young age, he wasn’t massacred with many ofJohann Schiltberger was sixteen years old when he was captured at the Battle of Nicopolis. Because of his young age, he wasn’t massacred with many of the other Christian prisoners. Instead, he was enslaved. He served the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid, then Tamerlane, then Tamerlane’s son, and so on for thirty-plus years. Then he escaped and made his way across the Black Sea, to Constantinople, and then home to Germany. His life is the stuff epics are made from. Unfortunately, Schiltberger was quite likely illiterate, so this is what a scribe wrote down for him. It’s a summary of what happened. He goes into details about a few events, but for the most part, it just scratches the surface.
*Note: There are several kindle versions. One of them is scanned in and has random characters, the title, page, and footnotes thrown in with the rest of the text and is almost unreadable. If buying a kindle version, I recommend looking at the preview to make sure it's a coherent version....more
Greek fire, giant crossbows, and mangonels—interesting stuff. As with the first volume (on Western Europe), this book is standard Osprey: lots of infoGreek fire, giant crossbows, and mangonels—interesting stuff. As with the first volume (on Western Europe), this book is standard Osprey: lots of information and illustrations in a concise rather than narrative account. I found this one a little less organized than the one on Western Europe—I think because the book was organized by weapon type, so with each type of weapon, the reader it yanked around from Byzantium to India to Russia to Egypt. On the other hand, organizing it by geographic region might have had roughly the same effect, and probably would have necessitated repeating information on the various weapons. I guess the broad, scattered approach is a result of the broad, scattered topic. I’d recommend the book to readers with an interest in the subject, and give it 3.5 stars, rounding up for Goodreads....more
This is my sixth novel, and it comes out in April!
Oftentimes publishers and authors will tout something as an untold story. This isn’t an untold storyThis is my sixth novel, and it comes out in April!
Oftentimes publishers and authors will tout something as an untold story. This isn’t an untold story. If it were untold, what would I have used for research? But it does showcase an often overshadowed story, and I’m excited to bring this part of history to life for my readers.
This book is a little different from my previous novels. Most of those were historical suspense or historical romantic suspense. This one is more of a coming-of-age and going-off-to war type of story. Also, it’s told in first person (all previous books have been third person, at least by the time they made it to bookstores).
The story follows Lukas Ley, a recent high school grad who yearns to strike back at the Nazis, preferably from a fighter plane. Unfortunately, he fails his eye exam and ends up in the infantry. (Side note: I wrote the eye exam scene several months before I decided to get my own eyes checked. And I ended up having the same prescription that I wrote for my character. Crazy, huh?)
Lukas ships off to Europe, where he and his squad mates end up (view spoiler)[in the Battle of the Bulge right in front of the Bastogne Corridor (they’re in the 28th Infantry Division, 110th Infantry Regiment). Then Lukas ends up as a POW and has to deal with new types of challenges. He learns a lot about what happens when people are desperate, and a lot about friendship, hope, and endurance. (hide spoiler)] (Minor spoilers—the back cover copy says almost as much. But I’m hiding it just in case people prefer to be completely surprised.)
This is a stand-alone novel. Readers might recognized a few characters though, because the protagonist in this book, Lukas Ley, has a brother named Bastien Ley who appears in The Rules in Rome. You don’t have to read The Rules in Rome to understand Defiance, but if you’re planning to read both, The Rules in Rome comes first chronologically. And you might as well read both, because they’re both really good. ;-) ...more