The title of this book is "Pandemics and Peace: Public Health Cooperation in Zones of Conflict." On the 2nd to last page of the book, the author "remi...moreThe title of this book is "Pandemics and Peace: Public Health Cooperation in Zones of Conflict." On the 2nd to last page of the book, the author "reminds" the readers that, "...health can be used in other ways to encourage or facilitate international cooperation and conflict resolution...these forms of health diplomacy are not the focus of this study..."
This book is about 400 years of the Sackville (and later the Sackville-West) family and Knole, the house said family inhabited and/or owned for those...moreThis book is about 400 years of the Sackville (and later the Sackville-West) family and Knole, the house said family inhabited and/or owned for those four centuries. The history presented in the book, of the family, the house, and of England in general, was interesting, though the focus on the family raised a question in my mind.
The Sackville and Sackville-West family has its fair mixture of normal, boring, and eccentric characters. No more so than your average family, I feel. Which brings me to my question: Are history books written about families because the families are interesting, or because there's enough of a written account of the family to write a comprehensive history?(less)
Being a fan of "Fried Green Tomatoes" (the movie) and the episodes of "Match Game" where Fannie Flagg participated as a panelist, I was looking forwar...moreBeing a fan of "Fried Green Tomatoes" (the movie) and the episodes of "Match Game" where Fannie Flagg participated as a panelist, I was looking forward to reading one of her contributions to the written world.
Daisy Fay is a fun character whose humorous way of interpreting the occurrences of her life causes a more than a few laugh out loud moments as you read her journal (which is the format this book is written in).
Does the story have a huge purpose? Not really. Is there an overarching story arc that comes to a resolution? Perhaps not. Seeing the world through the lens of a smart-talking, "white trash" (her words, not mine) girl living in Mississippi in the 1950s, however, is a joyride.(less)
While reading this book, I frequently wondered why exactly Winchester decided to write this book. Toting to be a story about a murderer and the man in...moreWhile reading this book, I frequently wondered why exactly Winchester decided to write this book. Toting to be a story about a murderer and the man in charge of producing the Oxford English Dictionary, I think the book would have benefited from being a book about the Oxford English Dictionary with a chapter about it's insane contributor.
While the most prolific volunteer of the dictionary being a madman is fascinating, there's too little interaction (in my opinion) between Dr. W. C. Minor (the insane one) and Dr. James Murray (the professor) to make it the sole focus of an entire book. The Oxford English Dictionary was a massive undertaking, utilizing decades of productivity from its creators before culminating in its final version. It captured the English language and gave a root beginning for every word spoken. That is a fascinating story, and one that gets lost by trying to focus so much on the relationship between Minor and Murray.
On top of it all, Winchester utilizes impressive higher-than-SAT-caliber words throughout the entire book. While I understand the purpose of doing so (this is a book about a dictionary, after all), the quality of the sentence structure and level of writing skill weren't high enough to match the lexicon variety utilized by the author.
It's an interesting topic. But the only thing I really took away from reading this was the existence of the Forty Immortals (look them up; I had to).(less)
I have always been intrigued by the Salem witch trials (partly, I'm sure, due in fact to my own ancestral connection to one of the hanged)...moreFascinating.
I have always been intrigued by the Salem witch trials (partly, I'm sure, due in fact to my own ancestral connection to one of the hanged), though my exposure to information regarding this crisis has only ever been through pop culture references (e.g., "The Crucible," American history courses, etc.). So it was with a breath of fresh air that I devoured Norton's tome regarding the 1692 situation.
Mary Beth remains impeccably objective as she chronicles the events leading up to, taking place during, and following the Salem witchcraft crisis of 1692. The only assumptions she makes come from her deductive reasoning regarding facts (e.g., who someone was, whether someone lived in Maine, etc.); she leaves assumptions regarding the more "conspiratorial" aspects of the crisis (e.g., whether the afflicted girls were acting maliciously) to other Salem authors. Her research is detailed (the entire book is written in a font size you'd see used for footnotes in other writings) and she is able to write her findings in a narrative that flows.
What fascinates me most about Norton's work is the envelope of history in which she folds the crisis. The attacks by the Wabanakis on New England's frontier, the failed defense system of the Puritan militia, and the hype of pre- and co-occurring witchcraft crises all paint a canvas for how the Salem situation exploded and prolonged the way that it did. Her commentary on the feministic point of view of this situation (which needs to be in there as she is well known for writing on roles of females during colonial America) gives an interesting spin to the story, and one which I don't recall being brought up in any history class I took (apologies Mrs. Smith if you did, in fact, cover this).
This book is fascinating for more than one reason and I believe more people would delve further into history if there were more texts written in this style.(less)
I have a love affair with Philip Marlowe; I just cannot help it.
While genre-writers sometimes trend on having books that all seem similar, if and when...moreI have a love affair with Philip Marlowe; I just cannot help it.
While genre-writers sometimes trend on having books that all seem similar, if and when this happens with Chandler's mystery noir star it happens in a way that I don't care about. Each of his books are dark, smokey, gritty, hot, sweaty, and rough around the edges. "The Lady in the Lake" is no exception.
Perhaps part of my pure joy in reading this book is that I caught the set-up of the bad guy before Chandler spelled it out for you (something that happens for me only very rarely).(less)
I have been fascinated by the Romanov story for years, but always came across books recounting the final 78 days of the Imperial Family that sounded m...moreI have been fascinated by the Romanov story for years, but always came across books recounting the final 78 days of the Imperial Family that sounded more like conspiracy theories than historical contexts. Massie gladly changes the tide of my experience and provided a (for the most part) scientifically-backed story of the finding of nine skeletons in Siberia and the connection they have to the last Imperial Family of Russia.
It's hard to fight with science, and the focus Massie's book has on genetic sequencing and DNA matching gives him a certain credibility to tell this story the way he does. What is infuriating is not that the reader is left still unsure whose skeletons were found in 1991, but the amount of influence politics, infighting, and scientific egos played in deterring collaborative scientific work from getting done.
The book has multiple sections, with the most enjoyable of them focused on the impersonators of the "survivors." Hearing the tall tales of "Anastasia" or "Alexis," and the barrage of mental health issues all of the "survivors" suffered from, was telling of society's relationship with exceptionalism. I wish Massie had spent a bit more time in his book explaining why such huge followings and support of these individuals happened despite red flags and signs pointing to the contrary (ala Dolnick's "The Forger's Spell.").
Lastly, a character dictionary or a family tree or a social network would have been the most useful addition to this book. With so many different players, especially in the section around the Russian Emigres, names and places and relationship to the Ekaterinburg massacre get muddled and easily lost (and, to be honest, the Romanov clan likes to name themselves the same names, so it got to be a bit confusing).(less)
All of my favorite characters from 'The Hangman's Daughter' return in 'The Dark Monk' and they behave in ways similar, if not identical, to those in t...moreAll of my favorite characters from 'The Hangman's Daughter' return in 'The Dark Monk' and they behave in ways similar, if not identical, to those in the preceding novel. I chalk up points to Potzsch for his ability to keep consistent his characters across multiple novels; it's not always an easy task to accomplish.
'The Dark Monk' takes us back to the Priests' Corner in the Alpine foothills and into an intrigue surrounding murder, treasure, and history. While some of the components of this book seemed to be identical to those in 'The Hangman's Daughter,' Potzsch has given me such a fun and unique cast of characters in these novels that the familiarity is almost OK. The first novel dealt with a mystery created by Potzsch; in 'The Dark Monk' he follows down the rabbit hole of the Templar Knights which so many authors traveled down in the early 2000s; it's a storyline I could have done without.
The book was little lacking in creativity for my part (especially in how the bad guys are handled), but it in no way deters me from following up with Potzsch's 3rd and 4th Hangman's Daughter novels; I look forward to reading them.(less)
I read many reviews of this book prior to reading it, and each one claimed White's ability to write the greatest Arthurian story to date. I do believe...moreI read many reviews of this book prior to reading it, and each one claimed White's ability to write the greatest Arthurian story to date. I do believe they were right.
The story of Arthur goes well beyond 'The Sword in the Stone' and even the teachings of Merlyn; it was actually to my great disappointment that Merlyn vacates the story halfway through White's book. There are four components to Camelot's history. The Sword in the Stone, the first book, is as the Disney movie taught us (although Kay's not really a bully in the story and he and the Wart actually get along). The Queen of Air and Darkness, the second book, is about Arthur's rise to power, the establishment of the Round Table, and an introduction to Arthur's sister. The Ill-Made Knight, the third book, is the tale of Lancelot and Guenever and their relationship. The Candle in the Wind, the last book, is the tragic ending of Camelot and the great undoing of King Arthur (and promise of young Sir Thomas of Warwick.
This book is fantasy and fiction in some of literature's greatest writing. The characters are richly written and the trials and tribulations of Arthur and the Round Table are adventurous and moral in their teachings (although, honestly, I could have done with a few less pages of Lancelot's tale). White refers frequently to Mallory's writing of the Arthurian tale (I will admit my ignorance to this writing) which allows him to skip over many smaller details of the story. White also delves a little into human philosophy, ala William Golding in 'The Lord of the Flies.'
It's magical and insightful and, while not the easiest book to get through, a great escape.(less)
I have been to Lizzie Borden's house and taken the tour of the day her stepmother and father were hacked to death with an axe; it was one of the creep...moreI have been to Lizzie Borden's house and taken the tour of the day her stepmother and father were hacked to death with an axe; it was one of the creepiest tours I have ever been on. I have explored Fall River's cemetery, where the only claim to fame the now-sleepy town can make is that of the final resting place for Lizzie Borden. I find the story of the Borden tragedy fascinating, yet it was at times painful to get through this book.
To begin, it read like a high schooler's final history paper; there were many details but little narrative. Instead of investigating the story and journaling it back to us, Spiering seemed to just cut and paste ideas and concepts from sources and connect them with weak transitional sentences. The characters were never really developed, which allowed for most of them to get lost in retelling of the trial (turned circus) that flipped Massachusetts upside down.
Secondly, Spiering gives a potentially unique explanation for how Lizzie was charged and acquitted for the murders of her father and stepmother, and ultimately how the murders were committed; this version of the story is not backed up by any pertinent evidence, or really any chain of logic resulting from new combinations of old evidence. While Mr. Spiering may be well-versed in Borden-related information, I need more than his word in order to believe a theory.
Those items being said, I did appreciate the thoroughness of this account and can honestly say there wasn't a question I had that remained unanswered (other than the obvious 'So who really committed these acts?').
If you read this book, do yourself a favor and visit Lizzie Borden's house in Fall River and take the tour (and stay the night, if you're feeling brave) before you do.(less)