A powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities commit...moreA powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities committed under Stalin are too often lost in the shadow of the Holocaust (in US survey history courses, at least--we still have a tendency to try to justify the fact we were allied with him), so I'm glad for this book and the reminder it serves. It's written in first person, in a simple, declarative style; for the most part it works, but not always. The narrator, Lina, often sounds too young even for a 15/16-year-old; a lot of her figures of speech are childish and clumsy. Towards the end of the book the author resorts to telling, not showing, and a lot of the plot points feel rushed and skimped as a result. (view spoiler)[For example: what happened to Kretzky? Are we supposed to assume he deserted? Where exactly did he go, if so? (hide spoiler)] The end itself came all at once; I could have done with a bit more resolution. But all-in-all this was a strong debut effort, full of likable and well-rounded characters, faithful to the grimness of its setting without being hopeless.(less)
Read for a class. Definitely not my preferred time period, but it's immensely readable. Not only is Silbey's analysis keen and straightforward but he...moreRead for a class. Definitely not my preferred time period, but it's immensely readable. Not only is Silbey's analysis keen and straightforward but he does an excellent job navigating the confusing, often-contradictory political landscape of the 1840s. He clearly delineates Whig and Democrat party lines, then just as clearly shows how the various political players adhered to or strayed from those lines, as the political landscape changed from the old two-party system to new sectional parties. Silbey’s discussion of Texas itself is disappointingly brief; the intriguing implications of the Texan Republic’s overtures to Great Britain are largely neglected, and Silbey spends little time considering Texan attitudes towards annexation. But this is a streamlined, coherent explanation of how sectional disputes in the 1840s could set the stage for serious national conflict in the 1860s.(less)
Disappointing. Quite well-written on a technical level, but very little character development over the course of the story; at the end, none of the ch...moreDisappointing. Quite well-written on a technical level, but very little character development over the course of the story; at the end, none of the characters have grown or changed in any way. I wanted more resolution, especially of Caius' story. Also, I found the relocation of Polycarp from Smyrna to Rome to be unnecessary (why not just invent an analogous character?), and Polycarp's relationship with Regina to be a bit odd (father-daughterly, except with a weird sort of sexual tension going on?).(less)
Insightful analysis of the patristic writings on Christianity and the Roman army. Helgeland examines chronologically each of the church fathers who ad...moreInsightful analysis of the patristic writings on Christianity and the Roman army. Helgeland examines chronologically each of the church fathers who addressed the issue, coming to the conclusion it was the army's religious traditions (the sacramentum and the cult of the standards in particular), and not the violence inherent to military service, that posed a problem for early Christian apologists: the early Church was by no means universally pacifistic.(less)
**spoiler alert** A quick read, and admittedly entertaining, but unfortunately it just ended up reinforcing my dislike for female protagonists. I didn...more**spoiler alert** A quick read, and admittedly entertaining, but unfortunately it just ended up reinforcing my dislike for female protagonists. I didn't find Celaena to be "strong"; I certainly didn't find her to be witty (most of the one-liners made me cringe a little). The only thing to cross Celaena's mind in the opening few pages, as she's dragged out from the mines after a year of hard labor, is how respectively attractive Chaol and Dorian are (Chaol, at least, isn't constantly described as "heart-breakingly handsome," as Dorian is--though Celaena's quick to make clear he's still quite handsome in his own way). Thereafter, Celaena never interacts with either of them without making some mention of their toned muscles or other attractive physical traits, or internalizing about how she wants to kiss (and be kissed by) one or the other. She's recently lost her supposed true love, witnessed the brutal deaths of her own parents, undergone unspeakable brutality herself--but you'd never guess it from the way she acts around the guys. I'd have liked to see some deeper conflict there. I have no problem with the guys themselves (I quite liked Chaol, in fact), or even with the concept of a love triangle (I haven't read enough recent YA to be sick of it yet), but the way the romance is handled, Celaena just comes off as shallow and flippant, not at all as the strong, independent woman she's supposed to be.
The romance aside, there are other problems with Celaena's characterization. One plot development in particular I found jarring, because it contradicted everything that had been previously established about Celaena's character--as a hardened assassin desperate for freedom, she gives up a chance to escape out of a sudden sense of honor, because she feels obligated to win the competition fairly and squarely? That took me right out of the story; it felt like the author realized she wouldn't have a plot if Celaena acted in a manner consistent with her established characterization at that point.
On a technical note, I found the head-hopping uneven and awkward. I was never quite sure whose perspective I was supposed to be sharing; a scene that started out in Dorian's head could quite suddenly shift to Celaena's--and yet it didn't really feel like true omniscient viewpoint, either. I had to reread several passages because I couldn't figure out who was supposed to be talking; dialogue from Character A was sometimes interrupted mid-paragraph by a description of Character B's actions, giving the impression Character B was doing the talking. And there are a few clunky passages ("She was of surprisingly average height"--what does that even mean? And "She moved around behind the chair back" could simply be restated as "She moved behind the chair"). Overall, I felt another editing pass wouldn't have gone amiss.
Better than Poison Study, if only for the fact there were no gratuitous rape scenes (though it does similarly suffer from a few unfortunate anachronisms in word choice). And it'd be a lie to say I wasn't engaged by the plot. But it could have been so much better.(less)
In-depth but engagingly presented. Shean does a nice job synthesizing four centuries' worth of material on the Church's relationship with the Roman ar...moreIn-depth but engagingly presented. Shean does a nice job synthesizing four centuries' worth of material on the Church's relationship with the Roman army.(less)