This splended book took a while for me to get into because I couldn't relate to Andi, its deeply troubled teen protagonist, and I'm not sure I would h...moreThis splended book took a while for me to get into because I couldn't relate to Andi, its deeply troubled teen protagonist, and I'm not sure I would have continued had not my own teenaged daughter insisted that I do so. But once Andi discovers the Revolutionary-era diary of a teenaged girl (who was the young dauphin's companion), the story really gets moving and never loses its page-turning power.
Donnelly has done her homework and makes the French Revolution come alive.(less)
The American Civil War was a watershed in U.S. history, one of the country’s defining moments. But in many ways, the conflict is so far removed from 2...moreThe American Civil War was a watershed in U.S. history, one of the country’s defining moments. But in many ways, the conflict is so far removed from 21st century culture (it began 150 years ago next April) and is filled with so many details that to thoroughly wrap one’s 21st century brain around it can be a daunting task. Battles, commanders, weapons, camp life, the home front, not to mention the actual causes (was it slavery or wasn’t it?) can be difficult to completely understand if one is new to the study of this war. And as one who has studied Civil War music – 10,000 war-related songs were composed during the five-year conflict – this reviewer can personally attest to the mountains of information available on the conflict and the occasional need for a tool with which to sort through it all.
Enter Thomas R. Flagel’s book, “The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War.” Flagel organizes his book into lists of 10. For instance, the first chapter, entitled “Antebellum,” contains the following lists: “Top Ten Causes of the Civil War” (Flagel places slavery last but its influence, of course, permeates most of the other nine causes he mentions), “Top Ten States with the Highest Percentage of Slaves” (South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, sits at the top of this list), “Top Ten Events of Slave Life” (not a pretty picture: yes, they were considered property, not people), “Top Ten Abolitionists,” and “Top Ten Fire-Eaters” (a Civil War-era term for secessionists).
Those whose interests lean solely towards military issues -- ammunition, battles, and generals -- can find ample information in the chapter entitled “Military Life” as well as “In Retrospect” which includes “Top Ten Most Significant Battles,” “Top Ten Best Commanding Generals, “Top Ten Military Blunders,” and several others.
Each entry is composed of approximately three to six paragraphs but they include a surprising amount of information. And because the list idea is such a cleverly simple means of presenting Flagel’s accessibly-written facts, “The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War” is an excellent tool with which to initiate a personal study of the conflict -- while being a solid reference for those with some previous knowledge -- on the eve of the war’s 150th anniversary.
(This review also appears at BookPleasures.com). (less)
When Julius Seyler, a successful German Impressionist painter, found himself in Glacier National Park, Montana, during the summer of 1913, he encounte...moreWhen Julius Seyler, a successful German Impressionist painter, found himself in Glacier National Park, Montana, during the summer of 1913, he encountered – and painted – some gorgeous landscapes. And some Blackfeet Indians.
William E. Farr’s new book, “Julius Seyler and the Blackfeet,” the first full-length biography of Seyler, a painter seemingly doomed to obscurity by the two wars that followed his life-changing experiences with the Blackfeet, features more than 100 images, many of them Seyler's impressionist/expressionist paintings of the Blackfeet he met in the Glacier Park area.
In 1913, when Seyler had his first of two encounters with the Blackfeet, the American west – and its natives – had been tamed. Almost as soon as the wars with the Native Americans were over, an enormous nostalgia for the “old” west swept over Europeans and European-Americans, something Farr explains at length. The art of Frederic Remington and Charlie Russell, the novels of Owen Wister and Zane Grey, and Buffalo Bill’s traveling shows created a longing for a not-so-distant past, as Farr explains: “The American frontier was entertaining precisely because it was gone, buried beneath the concerns and experiences of a modern industrialized generation.”
The Great Northern Railroads used this nostalgia to pump dollars into their “See America First” campaign; i.e., before Americans traveled to Europe, they should see the beauties of their own country first, starting with Montana’s Glacier National Park, the centerpiece of the campaign. Cheated out of their land and living on a reservation outside the park, the Piegans -- the Blackfeet who had once lived and hunted in the Glacier Park area -- were now hired to give the park a Native American flavor. Dressing once again in traditional costumes, they were used as guides, encouraged to camp in teepees in the park and to entertain guests on the grounds of the park lodge with dances and stories.
When Seyler encountered one native while on a trail, he was fascinated and wrote: “Immediately the Indians stories of my boyhood came to life.” Seyler was adopted into their tribe and then painted and photographed them during the summers of 1913 and 1914.
Seyler’s style was his own and difficult to categorize completely but while he was influenced greatly by the 19th century Impressionists his work is also similar to 20th century Expressionism. His paintings are worked in very broad brush strokes and depict energy and emotion. The occasional pairing of photograph and painting in the book (Seyler occasionally worked from photographs) are helpful in order to understand Seyler’s artistic process.
The two world wars which followed Seyler’s western odyssey nearly destroyed his legacy but much of his American west art survived and can be now seen in this beautiful oversized book which will appeal to anyone interested in the American west and/or in late Impressionist art.
(This review was also published at bookpleasures.com). (less)
I'm not sure this is a four-star book but because I'm a life-long fan of Julie Andrews, yes I "really liked" reading through the details of her early...moreI'm not sure this is a four-star book but because I'm a life-long fan of Julie Andrews, yes I "really liked" reading through the details of her early life.
Andrews' tawdry upbringing (or rather, her being raised by an oft-tawdry couple, her "Mum" and step-dad Ted Andrews) is given just enough description to paint a picture but it stops short of drowning the reader in goo. And one cannot help but think that perhaps Andrews developed that slightly reserved, wholesome, and modest persona -- the one that is manifested through her writing -- because of this background.
Her childhood experiences with British vaudeville in its dying days is very interesting as is her transformation into a Broadway star via "My Fair Lady," her breakout role.
Those who are not die-hard Andrews fans might not be as engrossed with the book as I was, seeing that the writing is nothing special (not bad, though) and the book sometimes boils down to a series of chronological anecdotes regarding famous names, personal friends, and relatives of Andrews as she morphed into a star. However, the following readers will most likely enjoy it very much:
1) Dedicated Julie Andrews fans, naturally.
2) Entertainment history aficionados. Numerous chapters detail Andrews' experience with British vaudeville in the 1940's-1950's and later, her involvement with the late '50's-early '60's mega-Broadway hits, "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot".
3) British WWII history buffs. Alright, three chapters only, but they relate little Julie's reaction to the Blitz and I found them fascinating.
4) Vocalists. Yes, Andrews was gifted but she also worked very hard on developing then keeping her instrument in shape during her strenuous Broadway schedules and her dedication and discipline to her craft is inspiring.(less)
I think I'll write up a complete review for this one later (see below) but for now, 3.5 stars: everything you wanted to know about the SS -- maybe a l...moreI think I'll write up a complete review for this one later (see below) but for now, 3.5 stars: everything you wanted to know about the SS -- maybe a little more -- but were too creeped out to ask. The first half of the book basically explores the roots of Himmler's racial philosophies as he developed the SS and proves that his ideas didn't originate with "Mein Kampf."
The second half describes the specific activities of the SS during the war and Nazi occupation of Europe.
Yenne's writing is occasionally clumsy, sometimes repetitive, and includes a hokey turn of a phrase or two, but by in large it's a comfortable and intriguing read. He's definitely done his homework and with the book's plethora of sidebars and visuals, it's a very good reference tool for a thorough understanding of the SS.
Here is a more thorough review that is now posted on BookPleasures.com:
There have been many books written about Himmler’s SS, the organization that began as Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (“protection squad”) and ended up the multi-layered behemoth most responsible for war crimes in Nazi Germany. However, Bill Yenne’s book, “Hitler’s Master of the Dark Arts,” has a slightly different purpose than most of these: to show the background and origins of Nazi racial philosophy and how these philosophies made the SS tick.
On the positive side, Yenne provides an exhaustive background of the philosophies of Teutonic racial superiority (dating back to the mid-19th century) and an in-depth background of the German philosophers whose belief systems included – among other things -- the embrace of pre-Christian pagan religions (hence the word “occult” in Yenne’s title) and whose philosophies young Heinrich Himmler devoured. Yenne shows how Himmler, determined to transform his belief in “Aryan” superiority into a dogma, promoted archaeological digs and anthropological studies of living Tibetans and created the “Ahnenerbe”, an organization devoted to proving Aryan superiority.
The Ahnenerbe’s sub-organizations (there were more than 50) are listed in a sidebar, which gives the reader a clear sense of how doggedly determined Himmler was to "prove" his point. Speaking of sidebars, there are many extremely informative ones scattered throughout the book and, coupled with the plethora of illustrations also included, they make Yenne’s book a visual and illuminating treat (if one can use that term when discussing the history of such an aberrant and abhorrent organization).
On the down side, however, the text is often peppered with somewhat corny suppositions. That Heinrich Himmler believed himself to be the reincarnation of Heinrich I, the first king of Germany is an interesting fact but Yenne should have let it go after stating it once. He doesn’t: he keeps bringing it up throughout the text as if he himself believes it. When discussing Himmler’s marriage, he mentions: “As Himmler might have observed, though, this was actually not his first marriage. His first wedding had occurred 1,022 years earlier in 906, when, in his previous life as Heinrich I, he had married a woman named Hatheburg, whose Saxon father was Count Edwin of Merseburg.” At the end of this sizeable paragraph, which describes the noble lineage of the Heinrich I’s bride, Yenne finally provides his reason for including this information: “Heinrich Himmler was no doubt pleased to lay claim to such a majestic and most Aryan pedigree through his belief in reincarnation.”
A paragraph with a fairly interesting dip back into Himmler’s imagined ancestry, yes, but when the justification for its inclusion rests on phrases such as “As Himmler might have observed” and “Himmler was no doubt pleased” the reader can see that Yenne is no longer stating facts.
These types of suppositions are located more in the first half of the book, however, and the writing, while occasionally clumsy throughout, also contains some solid information. In spite of the book's flaws, “Hitler’s Master of the Dark Arts” manages to clearly illustrate the philosophies of the little man behind the pince-nez who orchestrated the Holocaust and his cadre of Black Knights who carried it out.
I read this many years ago and it was a complete stunner, absolutely mesmerizing. A slave finally stands up to his abusive master, flees the south, ob...moreI read this many years ago and it was a complete stunner, absolutely mesmerizing. A slave finally stands up to his abusive master, flees the south, obtains an education and is then able to clearly articulate the plight of the slave. Incredible story, more stunning than fiction.(less)
Before I finished this book today, John and I walked over to the Haymarket monument (it's about two miles from our house). So there are many thoughts...moreBefore I finished this book today, John and I walked over to the Haymarket monument (it's about two miles from our house). So there are many thoughts and emotions churning around in my head as I seek to write this review and I won't be able to do them justice in the five minutes I have. Maybe later.
But just to say this: Averich's book is incredibly detailed, leaves nothing out, and is immensely readable.
My opinion of the martyrs is that they were nigh-saints who possibly talked up violence a tad too much. Their trial was one of the greatest shams in legal history, their conduct during the trial spotless as they were condemned by the very worst of men merely for expressing opinions regarding the rights of workers and the justified use of violence (which they themselves didn't partake of).
The best condemned by the worst. An incredible story of epic proportions.
I wish their story was more generally known.(less)
I bought this when it first came out, which is unusual for me, but I had some extra B-day money and I'd already read "The Kennedy's and the Fitzgerald...moreI bought this when it first came out, which is unusual for me, but I had some extra B-day money and I'd already read "The Kennedy's and the Fitzgerald's" and was quite fascinated with the whole Kennedy thing. Plus, I'd just give birth to my first and only daughter and thought that buying this book would be appropriate somehow, gender-wise.
I recall that it was quite well-researched, well-written, and that it didn't disappoint. There was some interesting info regarding the relationships between the women as well as illuminating descriptions of them as individuals.(less)