I don't know how it took me up until now to find out about this series. I am a nut for children's fiction, although those who criticize the newberry aI don't know how it took me up until now to find out about this series. I am a nut for children's fiction, although those who criticize the newberry award for being too much about books that are written for children but are really more appreciated by adults have a point. For example, this book uses the word "obsequious" multiple times, which the vast majority of my high school students don't know. But this is just the sort of book that made me want to read more and more and get better at English when I was younger.
I am curious to go on the to the second one which is the one that one the newberry, and is supposed to be geared more toward an older audience. This book (and I believe series) finds a niche by tapping the Narnia series and other early twentieth century children's literature such as E. Nesbit or John Masefield, and combining it with the Arthurian legend. Good idea. That also reminds me that I still can't find that hardback Arthurian book that I read growing up, nor can I remember if that was a version of Morte D'Arthur or someone else's adaptation of the story....more
Not as good as the first one, and I will probably not go on to the third one. Still, I would say a commendable job of bringing out some unique ideas oNot as good as the first one, and I will probably not go on to the third one. Still, I would say a commendable job of bringing out some unique ideas of what it would have been like to live in the 14th century in England. For example, the main character has no real concept of how big the ocean is or about the surrounding lands outside of England. I think that probably is how it would have been for a young boy growing up in a small town in central England. Also, Avi did construct the characters well. The plot just didn't quite work, and the book was often needlessly violent. ...more
While this book rambled a lot (I am not sure how he got a lot of this through an editor--it sounds like my writing if I just sit down and crank out aWhile this book rambled a lot (I am not sure how he got a lot of this through an editor--it sounds like my writing if I just sit down and crank out a first draft and I was feeling particularly scattered that day), it still had so much stuff that I just love that it made it totally worth it.This would include history of the isles, mythology of the isles, geographical descriptions of the isles, and stories about the isles.
Anytime someone other than a historian can find a way to explore history I find it very interesting. The way that he and his colleagues have figured out how to use DNA to date and place things from thousands and thousands of years ago is very impressive and interesting, although I am sure even they would admit that there will be corrections over the years because this is such a new science.
Essentially, the point is that the large majority of people in the British Isles are descended from people who moved there after it became warm enough to after the last ice age (so roughly 8 thousand years ago). In essence, all of the disputes about who is Celtic, who is Saxon, who is Norman, etc. are essentially pointless because most everyone, on both the male and female sides (but especially the female) are descended from people who moved there long before recorded history.
A larger point that I take away from the book is that really all of our fighting about "race", "ethnicity", etc. is imagined. I mean, we know that nationality is totally imagined because it is clearly a product of the last 200-300 years or so, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that the other "more biologically related" parts of our identity haven't also been shaped by cultural context, etc.
Hang in there on this book, but if you just want to know his scientific conclusions, just read the last chapter....more
This book was definitely a disappointment, but not because of Nouwen. Last year, Amy got my a book in the same series, but from Chesterton. That one wThis book was definitely a disappointment, but not because of Nouwen. Last year, Amy got my a book in the same series, but from Chesterton. That one was arranged very well and the selections from Chesterton were always related to the advent/christmas/epiphany season. This book rarely had selections that related to the season at all. They also did not seem to be related to the particular scripture for the day. The actions for the day also seemed extremely arbitrary. Most of the Nouwen quotes were taken from speeches or from selections in a certain Catholic magazine, so I wonder if there were publication restrictions in terms of not being able to include selections from some of his more famous book. Anyway, as prolific as Nouwen was, he was nothing compared to Chesterton, so I can see how it would have been harder to find selections related to the season. But if there were so few, why try to publish this book? I guess because people like me would see it and think it would be good because the other ones in the series are good and because we love Nouwen. Our mistake....more
Read this one a while back in grad school. Great work of history. You would never know about all of the people exchanges in the Balkans if it weren'tRead this one a while back in grad school. Great work of history. You would never know about all of the people exchanges in the Balkans if it weren't for books like this. Nationalism has done so much to try to erase the memory of the way that the Mediterranean world really operated in the Ottoman times, and we would do well to learn from the way these people got along (for the most part)....more
A rollicking good tale that has all the marks of Gaiman's excellent storytelling. I must say, having read several of his more recent works, that he haA rollicking good tale that has all the marks of Gaiman's excellent storytelling. I must say, having read several of his more recent works, that he has grown to be an even better storyteller since this one came out in the late 90's. I also still prefer his works that are more geared toward a younger audience (Stardust, Coraline, and especially the Graveyard Book). Gaiman doesn't write horror, but he does like to explore violence and torture sometimes I bit more than I am really into. With most other writers though, it would be excessive or pandering, and it never is with Gaiman. It always fits within his overall story. He has always thought out his plots carefully, so things and characters come back and work well. But mostly, he can just write descriptions and dialogue so well that he could be saying most anything and you would be along for the ride.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the story surrounds an alternate universe "below" London. This is really an reason for Gaiman to explore London as a character, not just a setting. Gaiman has a love for London, even its darkest places, that comes out well in this story. He also has done his homework on London's history, and having read Bill Bryson's At Home recently, this history made even more sense to me.
Well done, yet again, to one of the finest contemporary storytellers....more
Enjoyed this book a lot. It is in the format of one of those time/life books with lots of asides mixed into the main text and no footnoting, but it isEnjoyed this book a lot. It is in the format of one of those time/life books with lots of asides mixed into the main text and no footnoting, but it is well written. Its main strength is how it addresses various aspects of life--common people (both men and women, married and monastic), religion, and rulership. A quick and fun read that I would recommend to anyone interested in Ireland....more
Well, depending on what you are looking for, this book may either be great or a disappointment. I am somewhere in between because of its extremes.
CahiWell, depending on what you are looking for, this book may either be great or a disappointment. I am somewhere in between because of its extremes.
Cahill does an excellent job, as usual, of bringing forth the lives of people of the past in a way that makes them feel real and interesting. His way with words, if often exaggerated, is a pleasure to read, and he manages to do what most historians cannot--write a book that you can actually get through and enjoy. His discussion in this book of St. Hildegard, Eleanor of Aquitaine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, Dante, Francis Bacon, Giotto, and others makes the book worth reading.
As for the downsides, first off, the book does not work in terms of a coherent and cogent argument about the roots of the modern world in the medieval period. This book is a series of sketches, not a comprehensive argument in which each chapter builds upon the last. Secondly, the number of asides that he (and his editors) allows himself to use history as a tool to bash President Bush and his administration is rather too many. I don't necessarily disagree with his points in and of themselves, it is just that I am not reading his book to hear his current political opinions. If you write a good book, your reader should be able to learn what your message is without you having to shout it directly at them. I feel like this book had significantly more snipes at the modern world than did How the Irish Saved Civilization--perhaps this is what happens to people once they turn 65 (it certainly has happened to my grandparents anyway, and I am counting on you all to prevent that happening to me when I get older).
Lastly, his bitter and pejorative railing against the Catholic Church in the concluding chapter was uncalled for. It just had nothing to do with the rest of the book. That, and one of the strong suits of his history is how he balances the good and the bad, but there was none of that in his discussion of the contemporary Catholic Church....more