John Oliver Killen's tale of the life of the Youngblood family in Crossrads, Georgia from 1900 to the mid 1930s. Killens weaves a story of race, class...moreJohn Oliver Killen's tale of the life of the Youngblood family in Crossrads, Georgia from 1900 to the mid 1930s. Killens weaves a story of race, class, privilege, sex and suffering for this fictional family against a backdrop of WWI and the depression. Younglblood is very well written though Killens takes the reader through several slow periods that seem to drag on for an interminable period of time. I wondered as I read this book if the same story could have been told without taking the reader through pages of activity that did not seem completely necessary to the story. All in all this was a very believable work of fiction and a solid writing performance by Killens.(less)
Decision Points was a fairly easy to read book on the major decisions facing President George W. Bush faced during his eight year term as President. C...moreDecision Points was a fairly easy to read book on the major decisions facing President George W. Bush faced during his eight year term as President. Concentrating on his time as President enable him to gloss over or totally ignore some of the other areas in his political life that begged answers to questions.
As an example, he covered almost nothing about his time as Governor of Texas, where he was a champion of the death penalty and applied it liberally. He had one page in Decision Points where he had a discussion with someone about the death penalty and he used that age old reasoning of the death penalty being a deterrent to crime as his reason for backing and using it.
I do wonder however, what if Bush was right about Iraq and every other foreign policy decision he made. He followed faulty intelligence about WMDs to justify his invasion of a sovereign state and his constant pronouncements about bringing democracy to the middle east makes you wonder if he paid any attention to the history of the region, which has not been fertile ground for democratic governments.
His reasoning for the government involvement in the financial crisis in the early 2000s I think will prove to be a wise decision. He fell out of favor with conservatives because of it but Bush was not willing to let the country sink into depression, let General Motors fail, and basically allow a worldwide depression to take place. If there was any fault to be given to Bush it was his and his government's unwillingness to prosecute people who made the financial crisis a reality in the first place.(less)
William Least Heat-Moon's tome on Christopher Columbus is very different from the Christopher Columbus you learned about in high school. In fact you w...moreWilliam Least Heat-Moon's tome on Christopher Columbus is very different from the Christopher Columbus you learned about in high school. In fact you will realize in Least Heat-Moon's book that you really did not learn about Columbus in high school. He was a vain, driven, egotistical man who was full of every human flaw one can imagine. He was stubborn to such a point that when he sailed into the Caribbean Islands on the first of his four voyages to the New World, he convinced himself that he was not far from China or Japan and these islands were only outlying islands to those countries. In one voyage he was only 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean and in spite of being told by natives about the Pacific, he refused to explore any further.
Columbus was responsible for the introduction of rape, murder, disease, and the beginning of the extermination of a race of people who greeted him as friends but whom he always viewed as potential slaves. He was paranoid about the intrigues surrounding the Spanish court and his stubbornness prevented him from discovering the huge North American continent when he was only 90 miles from it in Cuba.
However, this would be a vastly different world if not for the courage and explorations led by this very flawed man.(less)
This was another excellent book from Jeff Shaara. Not much is written about the western theater of the war and the Union victory at Vicksburg has been...moreThis was another excellent book from Jeff Shaara. Not much is written about the western theater of the war and the Union victory at Vicksburg has been overshadowed by the Union victory at Gettysburg on almost the same day.
Shaara did a magnificent job of relating the battle from the viewpoint of frontline soldiers, generals, officers, and civilians. Shaara takes you into the trenches with the privates doing the fighting, into the caves with the civilians trying to survive, and into the meetings and tents with generals trying to help their side win the battle.
All in all an excellent tome from Jeff Shaara.(less)
Kevin Brockmeier's tome is a dark novel that answers the question of what happens after we die with 252 pages asking, what happens after we die. In Ke...moreKevin Brockmeier's tome is a dark novel that answers the question of what happens after we die with 252 pages asking, what happens after we die. In Kevin's world the dead are found in an unnamed city in an unnamed place where they remain until everyone who knew them in life dies. After that occurs the dead move on to another place unknown and unnamed. This city is well populated because a virus has killed most of the earth's population after the virus was spread initially throughout the world by a soft drink company. The story changes from the expanding, and later contracting city of the dead, to Antartica, where one of the story's main characters is working for the aforementioned soft drink company, while having no idea that the world she knew has distintegrated, nor why it has.
People in Brockmeier's city still eat, sleep, love, work, meet people they knew in life, and in the case of one blind man, remain blind. People ask the same question in the city of the dead they asked when they were living, what happens after we die? For religious believers this novel might be unsettling because most believers feel they go to heaven. Kevin's city is just a temporary stopping off place before movement to the next location after death, which goes unanswered in this book.
Every other chapter in the book was about the life and trials of a character working in Antartica. I thought the book spent far too much time on Antartica, penguins, and the polar ice shelf that could have been better spent exploring the city of the dead and the people in it. This made the book seem more like a Brief History of Antartica than a Brief History of the Dead.
This is a good book for research purposes regarding slavery and first hand testimony about it. However, all of the stories are essentially the same an...moreThis is a good book for research purposes regarding slavery and first hand testimony about it. However, all of the stories are essentially the same and about halfway through the book it becomes very monotonous.(less)
Ronald Utt has written a book that takes you right on the decks of America's navy and merchant ships during a war that has often been called the "forg...moreRonald Utt has written a book that takes you right on the decks of America's navy and merchant ships during a war that has often been called the "forgotten war" in American history. Reading Utt's book you are made to feel that you are on the deck of the Wasp and only good fortune has kept you from being maimed by shot and shell. You feel like you are marching into battle with Andrew Jackson at New Orleans or on the ground at Bladensburg, MD, just before the British routed the American militia.
Utt's book is well researched, quotes liberally from several historians who wrote about the American navy during this time period, and also quote from sources you might not ordinarily recognize, some of them being infantry foot soldiers.
All in all it is a well written and well researched tome.(less)
This is the second book authored by Madison Smartt Bell I have read. The first one, All Souls Rising, was so intense I have not yet gone back to the s...moreThis is the second book authored by Madison Smartt Bell I have read. The first one, All Souls Rising, was so intense I have not yet gone back to the second book in his trilogy about the Haitian revolution. However, Bell is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.
Nathan Bedford Forrest is brought to life during the civil war years and Bell shows him as a man of stark contrast, a man who at the same time is moral and amoral, compassionate and unfeeling, loyal to those who show loyalty to him, but able to kill a deserting soldier without thinking twice about it.
Forrest is shown to be a brilliant cavalry commander and tactician, who continuously defeated Union forces larger than his own by skill whenever able, or trickery when skill and tactics were not enough. Forrest was a rich, slave trading and slave owning man before the war. He was unlettered, profane, vulgar, and a man of vast contradictions. He allegedly treated his slaves well, but they were still his slaves. He offered to free any of them who worked as teamsters for his cavalry command and 45 of them took his offer, which led to the ironic picture of slaves helping to fight for a man who was fighting against the forces that would have freed them, while they were after their own freedom.
Not covered in the book was the historical fact that Forrest was the founder of the KKK, a group he later left, one reason being their knack for murdering blacks, who Forrest felt were like little children, not responsible for what they were doing.
Forrest was not the kind of man you would bring home to dinner or introduce to anyone you felt was sensitive in any way. But Smartt Bell's novel about him is first rate and one of the few to delve into the man General William Tecumseh Sherman wanted killed if it cost him 10,000 men and broke the federal treasury to do it.(less)