This was a short biography of Mathew Henson, an African-American explorer who joined Commander Perry on his journey to the North Pole. I read this forThis was a short biography of Mathew Henson, an African-American explorer who joined Commander Perry on his journey to the North Pole. I read this for a book club on polar exploration, and chose it mainly because of the race aspect. While Henson was with Perry every step of the way, and often did more of the actual, physical work, he wasn't acknowledged as more than Perry's "Negro manservant" for most of his life. Though just over 100 pages, it provided a very nice synopsis of the hardships presented by polar exploration in general, and of Henson's personal struggle to be respected and recognized on his own merits. Unfortunately, I somehow failed to miss when I ordered it that this was a book meant for grade school children, so it's definitely not very detailed, but it was still an interesting read....more
Read this for a Cold War-themed book club that I didn't actually get to go to, but it was still an enjoyable read. The author looks at the transitionRead this for a Cold War-themed book club that I didn't actually get to go to, but it was still an enjoyable read. The author looks at the transition of comic book characters and themes from the end of WWII through the first decade of the Cold War. A little dry in places, but definitely interesting to see how art and media mirror reality....more
Just...ugh. No. The concept had soooooo much potential, but it was horribly executed and completely unrealistic, even when you add in the "magic" of tJust...ugh. No. The concept had soooooo much potential, but it was horribly executed and completely unrealistic, even when you add in the "magic" of the "fairy godmother." Just no....more
Unfortunately this was not one of the better Elisabeth biographies I've read. Part of it is probably just the age of the book, as writing was simply dUnfortunately this was not one of the better Elisabeth biographies I've read. Part of it is probably just the age of the book, as writing was simply different in the 1930s than it is now. But my main issue was the focus on politics rather than the personal story. What I love most about Elisabeth is how a woman who SHOULD have been a completely political figure instead pushed everything away to focus on herself. This version - especially the first half - focused almost entirely on political situations. Worse, the author didn't give any context. He threw out the names and titles of men and women without any sort of explanation of who they were or why they were important. Some of them I knew from previous biographies, or just from history in general, but absolutely no background was given for any of them. This made everything doubly frustrating.
The last few chapters definitely improved. Rudolph's death was handled in an almost lyrical way, and the author did put forth a theory I'd never seen before, namely that he asked Marie to die with him specifically to make it look like a lover's suicide to spare Franz Joseph the public embarrassment of admitting he killed himself because they couldn't agree on politics. But again, much knowledge was assumed on the part of the reader.
As always, I never consider one of Elisabeth's biographies a waste, but this definitely wasn't one of my favorites....more
FINALLY! I was beginning to be distraught that this was going to be a dry year for books, but this thankfully proved me wrong. This book is basicallyFINALLY! I was beginning to be distraught that this was going to be a dry year for books, but this thankfully proved me wrong. This book is basically a Jane Austen-esq regency with one critical difference - the existence of a magic called glamour. Woven out of what the author calls "ether," glamour creates illusions so real that only by looking closely enough to see the threads woven in the air prove that they're a creation. Many of the characters pay homage to Pride and Prejudice, which is a lovely treat for fans of that book. The main character has Jane's steadfastness and sense of duty but also shares Elizabeth's wit, her younger sister is very much like Lydia, her parents are clearly modeled after Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, there's a Wickham-like rogue, and - my personal favorite - a tribute to Georgianna Darcy.
I highly recommend this to any fan of Jane Austen, or even just regency stories in general, especially if you don't mind some fantasy being thrown in. The characters are incredibly personable, the writing is VERY visual, and the plot flows extremely well. I've already ordered the next book in the series and I can't wait for it to arrive!...more
Another absolutely wonderful novel from Palma, who blew me away two years ago with The Map of Time. In his second book, Palma brings back his phenomenAnother absolutely wonderful novel from Palma, who blew me away two years ago with The Map of Time. In his second book, Palma brings back his phenomenal version of H.G. Wells, who experiences a true alien invasion that heavily follows the plot of his own novel, The War of the Worlds. However, as in The Map of Time, Palma reminds us that nothing is ever exactly what it seems, and the result is a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep even the pickiest reader satisfied.
What I love best about Palma's novels is his focus on the limitless possibilities of our lives. Whether he's dealing with aliens, time travel, parallel universes, or any number of "impossible" topics, he makes it so easy to believe that nothing is ever truly written in stone. Even when we're positive we know what's coming, when we believe completely that we understanding something, we can still be surprised and the world can still turn on its head. That kind of outlook on life really resonates with me, and it's wonderful to read such amazing books that deal with similar themes.
So often sequels aren't nearly as satisfying as the originals, but not so in this case. I can recommend this book as highly as I did the first, and I'm already waiting on the edge of my seat for the conclusion of this brilliant trilogy....more
Read my book reviews and join in literary discussions over at my blog, A Crystal Moon!
I absolutely adore Teresa Medeiros. She’s absolutely everythingRead my book reviews and join in literary discussions over at my blog, A Crystal Moon!
I absolutely adore Teresa Medeiros. She’s absolutely everything a romance author should be. Her plots, while uncomplicated, still make the reader feel as though she’s getting more out of the novel than a smut-fest, her characters are wonderful, and I never leave her books without feeling like love truly does conquer all. This is the 10th book I’ve read by her, and I think only one really failed to meet my expectations. She focuses mainly on historical fiction, which is one of my favorite romance sub-genres, but I found her through one of her few time-travel stories, which is my absolute favorite type of romance. I’ll read almost anything you put in front of me.
I think what makes Teresa stand out more than other romance authors is the care she takes with her characters, and I do mean all them. She fleshes out even the most minor of her players, given them individual personalities and motivations. If the person has a name, they have a story, even if it’s just a small one. No character feels useless, and I really, really enjoy that.
The Pleasure of Your Kiss focuses on Clarinda, a Regency heiress on her way across the ocean to be a director of the East India Company. Along the way, her ship is attacked by corsairs, and she and her companion are sold into a sultan’s harem. Desperate to rescue his bride, her fiance, Max, hires his rapscallion brother, Ash, to save Clarinda from the clutches of the lecherous Arab. Ash almost refuses, wanting nothing to do with the woman who broke his heart years before agreeing to marry his brother, but he can’t just sit by and let her waste away in the harem.
During the story, we learn about Ash and Clarinda’s past, discover that the sultan isn’t precisely the ogre he is assumed to be, and Clarinda faces a difficult choice between two men who saved her life and the one man without whom her life has no meaning....more
You can read all my books reviews and join in general reading discussions at my blog, A Crystal Moon!
It’s been a long, LONG time since I’ve finished aYou can read all my books reviews and join in general reading discussions at my blog, A Crystal Moon!
It’s been a long, LONG time since I’ve finished a book and honestly not known whether it was good or bad. Ilium by Dan Simmons is such a book.
The novel’s description intrigued me from the moment I spied it on the shelves. A futuristic society has re-created the events of Homer’s Iliad on Mars, complete with enhanced “post-humans” buffed up with special technology to become gods. They’ve also resurrected historians from the late 20th and early 21st centuries who studied the original Iliad, their jobs being to report to one of the muses on whether or not this version follows the story’s path. Greek mythology and science fiction? Sign me up! Unfortunately, that’s only one of three concurrent plotlines, and trying to understand them all - much less put them together - is almost enough to drive one mad.
There are two things you need to know before going into this novel. The first is that Simmons explains nothing. NO-THING! As the book progresses, you start to be able to fill in some bits and pieces, but you won’t ever get all the answers (or even understand all the questions.) My husband read a few books from his most famous series, Hyperion, and this is apparently a common trait for his works. You’ve been warned.
The second thing you need to know is that this book is categorized as “literary science fiction” for a very good reason. If you want to have a fighting chance of keeping up with the plot, you need to have at least some basic knowledge of the following:
- Greek mythology - Homer’s Iliad and, to a lesser extent, Odyssey - Shakespeare’s The Tempest (and even better if you’ve read some of the literary commentary) - Shakespeare’s sonnets, especially those that pertain to the Dark Lady and Young Man - Marcel Proust (This isn’t as necessary, but it’s helpful in keeping up with banter between two of the characters)
There are smaller references, such as a group of “old style humans” being called eloi in honor of H.G. Wells, but those are the main ones.
Having an interest in science fiction is also a must, but don’t be too worried about whether or not you’re scientifically inclined. Since hardly any of the techno-babble is explained, it’s not like you’re missing anything!
If all of that sounds good to you, you’re ready to start the novel. I’ll try to avoid spoilers here, but some of it is so convoluted that it’s almost questionable what’s too much information and what’s simply inexplicable!
As I mentioned before, the book follows three storylines. What I consider the “main” one deals with the re-created battle between the Greeks and Trojans from Homer’s Iliad. The major character is Thomas Hockenberry, an historian who as been brought back to life as a “scholic” to observe the war. He compares current events with those from the story, and he reports any differences to his Muse. Unfortunately, things get complicated when Aphrodite pulls him aside and gives him a new task: Kill Pallas Athena. Armed with the Hades Helmet of Invisibility and a quantum transporter device, Hockenberry spies on the gods long enough to realize his is a suicide mission, and decides to take matters into his own hands...even if that means changing one of the most famous wars in literary history.
The second plot focuses on “old style humans” in the distant future, I’m guessing somewhere around the 30th Century or so. This Earth is carefully controlled by enhanced or “post-humans” who limit the population to an even million. Everyone lives for Five Twenties (or 100 years) and then ascends to a higher plane to join the post-humans. When that happens, another child is allowed to be born to replace the missing person. These humans lead extremely simply lives, do not know how to read or write, and spend most of their time transporting or “faxing” to one another’s homes for parties. Their every need is taken care of by robotic servants, and if they die unexpectedly, they are reconstructed and returned home. But Harmon, a man one year away from his last Twenty, longs for something more, and he and two companions come across the mysterious Savi, a woman who survived the destruction of the rest of the human race 1400 years prior. Together, they embark on a search to discover what became of those humans, and what they discover leads to a radical restructuring of their identity, to say nothing of their lives.
The final plot deals centers on two sentient automatons called moravecs - basically super intelligent robots with human-like thoughts and feelings. The two main moravecs, Mahnmut and Orpho, are particularly interested in human literature and spend a lot of time bantering back and forth about the merits of Shakespeare and Proust. They are ordered to embark on a mission to Mars, where excess quantum teleporation has been disrupting the fabric of time and space, and while there they encounter a slew of gods who want them killed, a scholar trying to alter the destiny of the entire Greek and Trojan armies, and a host of statues that somehow resemble Shakespeare’s character Prospero.
The plot sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I certainly thought so. But Simmons seems to almost take pride in his lack of explanations. Perhaps he’s just a huge fan of Clarke’s Law, but some background would be nice! I’m fine with being thrown into a world as long as something about it begins to eventually make sense, but that’s really not the case here. It’s been a really, really long time since a book has confused me so much. Half the time I don’t even know what planet the characters are on, thanks to all the teleporting!
Strangely enough, however, I already want to read the second book, which concludes the series. Based on reviews I’ve read, I don’t expect to find too many answers, which is unfortunate. But the book ended right on the cusp of a new war, with the entire plot of the Iliad suddenly thrown out the window, and I’m too much of a lover of Greek mythology not to want to know how it turns out. It’s just hard to slog through 700 pages when you don’t understand three-quarters of what’s going on XD Part of the appeal might simply be its uniqueness. I’ve certainly never read a book even remotely like it before. And a few of the characters do grow on you after a while. I found Hockenberry in particular to be endearing, and his dry wit and sarcasm is rather infectious.
I honestly don’t know if I’d recommend this or not. I suppose fellow lovers of Greek mythology would probably enjoy it, but I just can’t make any promises. ...more
This book was...ok. It's always a bit hard to judge someone who is writing both their own autobiography AND a biography of someone else, and this wasThis book was...ok. It's always a bit hard to judge someone who is writing both their own autobiography AND a biography of someone else, and this was only compounded by the fact that the author clearly had something to prove.
I read this book simply because I'm on a quest to find all the English books available on Empress Elisabeth, and this one is rather unique in that's it was written by her contemporary (Countess Marie Larisch was her niece). One would hope, therefore, that it might be a bit more accurate than others, but - based on my own impressions as well as what others have said before me - that sadly doesn't seem to be the case. While I feel as though I was able to see Elisabeth's personality more clearly, Marie insisted on propagating every single romantic rumor ever attached to the empress' name. Not only that, she either believed herself or truly wanted to believe that Sissi had at least two children out of wedlock, which has been disputed by every single history I've read, even her most virulent critics. (I find it especially hard to believe because she accused Elisabeth's final and favorite daughter, Marie Valerie, to be one of these child, and she physically resembles Franz Joseph the most of ALL her children!) While it's absolutely likely that Elisabeth engaged in heavy flirtation with several men, the idea that she actually betrayed her marriage vows is highly unlikely. Besides that, she has a well-documented aversion to physical intimacy and pregnancy, so it's just unrealistic to assume this actually happened.
Considering the other purpose of the book, which was to assist in clearly herself of being Prince Rudolph's accomplice in his murder/suicide at Mayerling, I think it's safe to assume Marie was attempting to show that she lived in a world filled with masks and deceit, and she was no worse than her imperial aunt. And while this may in fact have been the case, I just feel like she made up as many conspiracies as she could in order to take the heat away from herself.
The one thing I did absolutely love about this book was that, during her life, Marie transcribed a lot of Sissi's poems and journals, and she quotes them frequently, especially in the second half of the book, and thus far this has been the best source of direct quotes I've found, at least in English. This, of course, is assuming they're accurate and not enhanced, but they really do "sound" like Sissi, so I'm inclined to believe they're true. For these excerpts alone, I'd recommend this book to any lover of the empress. Just take the rest of it with a very large grain of salt....more
One of the shorter Elisabeth biographies I've read, but still interesting. The author is actually known for her traditional romance novels, which explOne of the shorter Elisabeth biographies I've read, but still interesting. The author is actually known for her traditional romance novels, which explains why she focused so heavily on Elisabeth's personal life, rather than getting into the deeper political implications of her actions. The book was, for the most part, historically accurate, though her novel writing was clearly evident in that she often included dialogue that she could have no idea ever existed. However, she was very clear when she DID quote actual wording by indicating the letters and diary entries where such conversations were receded, which was a nice change from other historical fiction books I've read.
Because of it's shorter length and the complete focus on Elisabeth's personal life, there wasn't really any new information to be found, but I will say it's the first bio to put forth the notion that Luigi was specifically looking to kill her, as opposed to the Duke of Orleans (who he claimed was his original target) or that he was after any royal personage in general (which is much more likely, given his temperament). She suggested this to be the case because Elisabeth always traveled incognito and hid behind her fan, so how else would Luigi recognize her if he wasn't looking for her? In actual fact, the false name she used while traveling was so widely known by this point that everyone recognized it, and despite her attempts to hide from the press, her physical features were so unique that - again - she wasn't fooling anyone.
This was also the first book to actually end with Elisabeth's death. Most continue on for at least another chapter or two to outline Franz Joseph's sorrow, his interactions with Franz Ferdinand, and the coming of World War I. In some ways I felt it ended too suddenly because of this, but it certainly fit her focus on Elisabeth alone.
Overall, I'd recommend it to people interested in her life, but not as a first biography. She glosses over too much due to the shortness of the book, often throwing out names that people unfamiliar with the time period wouldn't recognize. (She even did this with Elisabeth's second child, Gisela! She mentioned her birth but not her name, and then suddenly it just started showing up like it had always been there.)...more
This is without a doubt the most unique book I've read in a loooong time. I almost gave it four stars, just because it took me a while to get into it,This is without a doubt the most unique book I've read in a loooong time. I almost gave it four stars, just because it took me a while to get into it, but in the end, I had to give it five just for being so spectacularly different.
The book is divided into three sections. No spoilers, I promise! In the first, a man is about to commit suicide because the love of his life was murdered by Jack the Ripper. His cousin stops him by showing him an advertisement for Murray's Time Travel, and tells him they might be able to go back in time to save her. Along the way, they also meet up with H.G. Wells, whose recent novel The Time Machine has London obsessed with the idea of traveling in time.
In the second half, a woman who feels stifled by Victorian notions of what's appropriate for her sex decides to visit the year 2000, courtesy of Murry's Time Travel. She intends to separate from the group and remain there, with the hopes of meeting the brave captain responsible for saving the human race from a deadly war against giant automatons. When her plan fails, H.G. Wells helps reunite her with the captain.
And in the third half, H.G. Wells is thrust together with Bram Stoker and Henry James, when a time guardian from the future warns them that a thief is currently traveling through time to steal the works of famous authors, kill them, and pass them off as his own. It's up to Wells to harness all his time-traveling abilities to save them and their manuscripts.
Honestly, the book is simply amazing in its creativity. There is SO MUCH I didn't see coming, which is always a nice treat. The writing seems spotty at points, though this is a translation from the original Spanish, so that may account for some of it. Also, the author tends to break into the narrative at points and make omniscient comments, which I know some people find annoying. Finally, some parts of the books are extremely gory, especially in the first section when he deals with Jack the Ripper's murders. But I've never read anything like this, and it just blew me away. It's apparently the first in a trilogy, though I can;t find much about the up-coming books other than a potential title for the second one, but I will definitely be buying it.
In short, this book is highly recommended for just about anyone. There are so many genres wound up in it that I really think anyone would enjoy it. Plus, his characterization of H.G Wells was nothing short of amazing!...more
Ugh, I hate to say it, but this was just bad. No character development, no real plot, and the sex wasn't even that good XD It's doubly horrible becausUgh, I hate to say it, but this was just bad. No character development, no real plot, and the sex wasn't even that good XD It's doubly horrible because I feel like it had a lot of potential, but nothing ever came of it. Things just happened with no real reason and no connection....more