Terrible things happen. There comes a point in many people's lives where they realize that the world is not small and safe. They realize that it is la...moreTerrible things happen. There comes a point in many people's lives where they realize that the world is not small and safe. They realize that it is large, unpredictable, random and terribly dangerous. For some people, the realization comes through watching others. For some it is a process of thought. And some come up against the danger, cruelty and randomness in their own lives without warning.
Terry is in a new place, starting a new life after turning her back on the rags of her childhood. She is eighteen years old, making it on her own, happy with her friends, her job, her dog... And then in one night her innocence is stolen, her trust is betrayed and she is trapped and despairing.
Terrible things happen. You can't bend the rules. You're on your own. The weaker always loses. Something Taken tells of this - and it also tells of a truth that we often lose sight of when we are transfixed by the cruelty and harshness of life: there are heroes. There are the Bright Ones who stand against the dark, who follow their hearts in defiance, sometimes, of the rules.
An old nursery rhyme talks about 'The Benders, the Breakers, The Menders and Makers'.
This is a story of a broken girl and how she comes through it. I found it moving.
There are some things that should be mentioned. This is a story of an eighteen-year-old girl, alone and vulnerable, who is used very badly. Harsh things happen, she is subjected to mistreatment. Brock's gift is that she can tell of a terrible experience and do it completely by recounting the character's sometimes disjointed impressions. She chronicles Terry's descent into hell, and (I will post no spoilers) and of the hand outstretched to her that brought her back.
I was struck by the power of Brock's writing, by her instinctive understanding of people. Her descriptions are very well done, and her characterizations do not falter. It is a powerful book.
This may be a hard book for some to read, for it touches upon difficult subjects, but ultimately it is worthwhile. (There are ways to preview books through Amazon and other sellers. If in doubt, try it out.)
I give this book five stars. It can be dark, it can be harsh, it is, as a whole, a very good book. (less)
Years ago, while reading about the American Civil War, I came across an item that I found very interesting even for that heartbreaking, fascinating time. I retired soldier, living on a government pension and in a home for retired veterans, had been discovered to be a woman rather than a man. This soldier had fought during the war, had suffered all the privations that were experienced by soldiers in that time, and had been mustered out at the end with an honorable discharge.
Naturally, the authorities were horrified and canceled the soldier's pension. A woman? She was not a real soldier - she was an impostor! I was not surprised to read of this. It was the late 1800's when 'women's work' was officially circumscribed and severely limited, regardless of what women of that era had to do to survive. I was thrilled to read that the 'disgraced' soldier's comrades rose up and came to her defense She WAS a soldier, they said. She fought alongside them, suffered all they suffered, and had her share in securing their triumphs. A woman? Well, they hadn't known. One man said that that certainly explained the soldier's modesty on the subject of going to the 'sinks' -a word for latrine. The pension was reinstated, as was her war credit.
This was not an isolated incident. Something like this happened more than once. And not just with women serving as soldiers. Anyone with imagination starts wondering Who would do this? How? What hindrances would they face? What temptations? And how would they feel.
Sweet Glory tells the story of one of these soldiers.
Jana Brady, from upstate New York, is an accomplished horsewoman, experienced with treating the ailments of humans and animals alike. SWEET GLORY follows her experiences s she joins a Cavalry unit - will she be able to get away and sign up in time? - learns about soldiering, becomes 'one of the boys' and finds a way, when it appears that her service must be at an end, to continue to serve.
I don't need to outline the plot of Sweet Glory. The narrative draws you in, and you follow it. I don't mind saying that there is a twist toward the end that startled me and made me think, 'How on earth will she get out of this?' You'll have to read SWEET GLORY to find out what I mean.
Lisa Potocar writes well, catching conversations in an authentic voice from that mid-Victorian era. Her characters have human emotions and conflicts - one scene shows the two sides in a post-battle truce caring for the wounded. It contains a very touching scene that had me choked up. A description of a cavalry clash, with fighting in a ditch, was deftly handled, the emotions of the combatants believable and realistic.
SWEET GLORY is not a long book. It tells the story of Jana's service with the army - how it came about, how it progressed, and how it ended - and what it did to her. Jana is a very 'together' young woman of intelligence and resolution. The story follows her timeline, and while it could have paused to dawdle over details of day to day existence, that was not necessary to the intent of the novel, which shows how a woman can engage in a war and emerge from it with her feminine abilities and characteristics intact and deepened by the experience. Jana uses her abilities and experience to cope ably with all that is involved in war.
Physically speaking, SWEET GLORY is a satisfying book. And it is pretty. The cover is beautifully conceived - note the top of the cover with a view of a lady's slippered foot descending a step - and below it a scene from a battle - the woman stepping into war. The typeface used is reminiscent of that you might find in a novel of that period.
I have no hesitation recommending this book for just about any age. I would have loved it if I had encountered it in when I was in elementary school. I graduated from college a long time ago and I enjoyed it. YA readers would enjoy it, too. There is a love story in it, but I don't classify this as a romance novel, though Jana's emotions are well handled. This is a reread, and I will be loaning it to my niece, aged fourteen, when I see her next.
I was given a copy of SWEET GLORY by the author as a thank you for some assistance with electronic media - blogs, postings and the like. It was a gift. I was not asked to review it, nor was it implied that I was expected to. I read it because the subject interested me, and I am writing this review to reflect my impressions.
This is, for me, one that I will reread. SWEET GLORY has won awards. They were well-deserved. Well done, Ms. Potocar.
It is the end of 'the long war' - the conflict between Greece and Persia that was one of the crucibles that helped to shape the modern world and moder...moreIt is the end of 'the long war' - the conflict between Greece and Persia that was one of the crucibles that helped to shape the modern world and modern thought. You are sitting in the afternoon light with some of your friends. One's grandfather sits down at the request of his children and tells the story of his life as you listen. It is quite a life, spanning that crucible period, dealing with those who set the events in motion, shaped them, were destroyed by them.
When the men of Plataea sent Myron to Athens, the storm was still a tower of darkness on the horizon, and we were blinded by our own desires. But the desires of men are nothing when the gods send a storm. The first drops of rain were falling, and only Miltiades knew how big the storm was. And he didn't tell us.
He is an old man, a noble in his home in Thrace. He likes his wine and he likes to tell a good story. He cautions the listeners that his memory may be at fault, but he promises to tell as faithfully as he can all that he saw and did. The story is shaped by the teller, and he is a man of his time - sometimes crude, sometimes heartbreakingly innocent, especially at the first. He faces the truth unflinchingly. He has lived a rough life and done many things that surprise his listeners. He does not apologize, though he understands their uneasiness.
Do we? The narrator is a man of his day, and he speaks to people of his day and age with mindsets far different from ours. He might speak of someone forcing a little slave girl to 'blow his flute', (the man was killed for this) and his granddaughter might blush at this - but this was a society that was closer to matters of life, death and sex than we are at this moment, and the story and the reaction are valid. Who are we to impose our current sensibilities on a story that is trying to be true to the past in which it is set?
'Killer of Men' is a term meaning 'Warrior'. Substitute 'Man of War' or 'Fighter' or 'Champion' and see if it fits better. Arimnestos of Plataea was trained by Calchas, a priest who tended the shrine of a great warrior and a Killer of Men. He was a Killer of Men, himself:
There is a passage, late in the poem, when Achilles is still sulking and Hector rages among the Greeks. And several of the lesser heroes form a line, lock their shields and stop Hector's rush. I remember him singing that whole passage softly... Calchas looked up, into the shaft of light, and his eyes were far away. "That's how it is when the lesser men seek to stop the better. You must lock your shield with your neighbour's, put your head down and refuse to take chances. Let the better man wear himself out against your shield. Poke hard with your spear to keep him art arm's length and refuse to leave the safety of the shield wall." He shrugged. "Pray to the gods that the killer finds other prey, or trips and falls, or that your own killers come and save you."
Arimnestos says "But you were one of the better men." Suddenly his eyes locked with mine and I could see him in his high-crested helm, his strong right arm pounding a lesser man's shield down, until he made the killing cut. I could see it as if I was there. "Yes," he said. "I was a killer of men... I still am. Once you have been there, you can never leave."
Arimnestos was trained to arms and set upon the long, difficult path. The path leads him through warfare - his Plataeans fight off a phalanx of Spartans under King Cleomenes, who gives them the tremendous compliment of asking for a truce to enable them to bury their dead. He studies under the philosopher Heraclitus, he is there to see the event that turns Ephesus against the Persians.
And he fights.
The old man remembers and tells the story as truly as he can, from the beginnings that made him a warrior to his return to the place he lost through another's treachery. He was not a 'mover and shaker' but he went with them, and he watched and listened. He tells his story in the voice of an old man, and it is a good story, well-salted by his thoughts and experience:
Is Achilles really a hero? He's as much of a bitch as Theognis, to my mind. Hector is the hero. And even he would not have made much of a farmer - well, perhaps I do mighty Hector wrong. Given a month of rain, Hector would not surrender or sulk in his barn.
Modern readers seem to want a formula. You don't read "The latest story by George Martin." You read, instead, "The latest George Martin." (I have Josephine Tey - The Daughter of Time - to thank for the illustration). It is not an individual product. It is something put out to fit the perceived wants of a class of readers. Pigeonholes, with the expected pigeons being duly produced to fit into them, safe and secure for the reader's enjoyment. No surprises. If the pigeon does not fit the specific hole we have set for it, if the pigeon is not what we expect, then it is worthless.
This is not a textbook on the Persian war (although Arimnestos, a historic character, is thought to be one of the sources of the histories by Herodotus - If you look carefully, you will see that he makes several appearances in the story wielding a stylus) nor is it a beginning-to-end account of the fighting as it happens, It is the story of an old man remembering his part in the greatest conflict faced by civilization as he knew it. It is about his telling of his experiences, told as though you are sitting there and listening to him.
If I had my way the Glossary and the Notes on Names would be in the back of the book, before the Acknowledgments. I have no other criticism.
I give this book five stars; it has earned them. Skill, language, character. Arimnestos, it seems, will be telling more stories. I think I will enjoy sitting in the sunset with him, sipping wine and listening to him. (less)
Love, honor, changes and new life This is an enjoyable and interesting read that draws on the Author's own ancestors' experiences with the oppression o...moreLove, honor, changes and new life This is an enjoyable and interesting read that draws on the Author's own ancestors' experiences with the oppression of Huguenots by Louis XIV. She has put a great deal of detail into the setting to produce a feeling of historic accuracy. The story of danger, oppression and change is handled well; the love story is one of sacrifice, honor and constancy over the years. I read this because I encountered the author in various discussions, and I found her articulate, wise and kind - the book is obviously the product of such a creator. It can be read in little sips, or you can plow through it, if you wish, and go back to read. I recommend it.(less)
This book is the catalog for an exhibit highlighting the Khalili family's fabulous collection of Meiji art including metalwork (bronze, silver, mixed)...moreThis book is the catalog for an exhibit highlighting the Khalili family's fabulous collection of Meiji art including metalwork (bronze, silver, mixed), pottery (Satsuma), porcelain, cloisonné' laquerware (both on furniture and in its own right) and some textiles.
The informational matter - the history of the period, the 'discovery by the west (at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia as a start) and the ways the work spread - is interesting, well-written and well-footnoted.
The photographs are breathtaking; print fidelity is excellent, and I have personally identified about twenty pieces that would look wonderful in my home, if the members of the Khalili family ever decide that they wish to give me a gift for some reason.
This is a book to read for edification and education, and it has served its purpose.
For me, however, it is, perhaps most importantly, a provider of moments of refreshment and beauty, a way to sip the true beauties of Japanese art from a period legendary for its perfection, a reminder of the intricacy of Japanese culture, and a journey through legend, lore and tradition.
The book is no longer being printed, but copies are available for a reasonable price (less than I paid some years ago). This book gets five stars.(less)
Good pictorial sourcebook. I bought this because of the visual information - the set-up of a military camp, the reconstruction of one of the big fortr...moreGood pictorial sourcebook. I bought this because of the visual information - the set-up of a military camp, the reconstruction of one of the big fortresses in Nubia. All very useful.
Text is very general and basic (fitting the purpose of the book).(less)
Ancient Egypt is thought of, by many, as the dawn of history. This book takes you to a time that is before history, bringing to life names that we onl...moreAncient Egypt is thought of, by many, as the dawn of history. This book takes you to a time that is before history, bringing to life names that we only know from fragments, harking to a rhythm and image that is smoothed and darkened by time. And yet the author makes them human.
This is the very earliest period of dynastic Egypt, a time when the border between history and legend is blurred, when the kings and queens of that land seem to be gods that stepped down from the bowl of the sky and trod the land...
The author states: At the dawn of the great Egyptian dynasties, before any Pyramids were built and the camel was introduced to the Nile regions, certainly long before the royal title of Pharaoh came into use, Aha rules as the second King of the First Dynasty... H i8s triumph and tragedy plays out centuries before the Greek colonization of the Two Lands... To this day our vague answers are drawn only from relics and mummies of much later dynasties, their cities wrenched from the hot red dust driven into the verdant river valley for fifty days by the Khamsin, the dreaded Devil Wind of the Nile. In Khamsin, the reader is immersed in the life of the fertile Valley of the Nile, as flesh and muscle have been molded back onto those brittle bones...
She molds them well. We meet characters that catch the exotic cadences of the faraway times as we follow the fate of a life conceived in the beginning pages. We watch first one character and then another - the general of the Fourth Army of Amun, who is tender to his faraway wife, lusty with a woman of the desert, and crafty. (And I must remember never to go back to that time and agree to carry an important message...)
And we meet Ramose...
This is a story to savor, written lusciously, with care and enjoyment. I grew to love Ramose, to enjoy his dry wit and his wide-eyed mysticism. The writing is lyrical at times, so rare in a time of utilitarianism, and the Khamsin is in the background, lending its tone to the story.
I enjoyed this - and I rejoice to tell you that Ms. Borg has written another, arising from this but far, far in the future from this story. I think you will enjoy it, too. (less)
This is a very good sourcebook on dynastic Egyptian jewelry. There are plenty of photos and the text gives a good idea of methods, means and uses of j...moreThis is a very good sourcebook on dynastic Egyptian jewelry. There are plenty of photos and the text gives a good idea of methods, means and uses of jewelry, illustrated by line drawings from original sources (tombs, temples). The pieces used as illustrations cover dynastic Egypt; the quality of photography is superb. This one is in my own library.(less)
I bought this for my late father, who served as a radar officer during WWII aboard a Destroyer. He was proud of havi...moreI'll be writing at greater length.
I bought this for my late father, who served as a radar officer during WWII aboard a Destroyer. He was proud of having served in the 'Tin Can Navy', and this story - of the fight they put up in the absence of the battleships, of the individual and collective heroism and sacrifice - seemed to strike a chord with Dad.
I remember, once, saying to him, "You know, I don't know how your generation did it. Such a terrible danger, such hardships - but you faced the challenge and fought and were splendid. Simply splendid. I don't think we could do so well."
Dad smiled quietly at me and said, "We faced what we had to face. We had no other choice. You and your contemporaries would do just as well, I know."
Well, I don't know, Dad. I carried this book back with me after your memorial service, and I'll be rereading it and thinking it through. And I'll write a more extensive review.
...I'll tell you about it at Arlington later this fall...(less)
I encountered North Country Cache: Adventures on a National Scenic Trail while 'chatting' with other readers. The title interested me, I looked it up,...moreI encountered North Country Cache: Adventures on a National Scenic Trail while 'chatting' with other readers. The title interested me, I looked it up, read some sample chapters, and decided to buy it. I contacted the author to purchase a copy and found her gracious and humorous. I have never met her, except online the day I decided to buy this book. With that said, here is my review:
The title of this book refers to a 'National Scenic Trail' the North Country National Scenic Trail, which stretches from North Dakota and ends in Port Henry, NY, crossing North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The sections of the book with the individual essays/chapters refer to happenings and observations in different parts of the trail. A map with a star shows the location and general mileage of the hike.
So much for format.
Each section recounts the hike, and since what is going on inside your head at any given moment is a valid part of an event or activity, Ms. Young has that feature, as well. This is part of what makes this book such an enjoyable read: Ms. Young (I'm going to refer to her as 'Joan' from now on) has an active and retentive mind and a gift for observation and expression. An example is this bit from page 126 where she makes some observations regarding the economic impact of a (well known) hiking trail on the local community (hit: hikers will come to the community to purchase supplies and such):
It is interesting to observe the evolution of urban centers as their primary ode of transportation changed. Where the canals came first you now often see a row of very old storefronts that face on some dismal ditch, or perhaps just an odd linear depression which no longer connects with anything. Sometimes the railroad lines followed the same rights-of-way as the canals, and then there might be a newer set of buildings just a block away, but facing the same corridor...
Interesting thought. I tend to be very observant, but I hadn't thought of that.
Each hike that she takes, whether a day jaunt or over several days, is a story complete in itself, presenting issues specific to that hike. Chapter 41 - SHE WHO BUILDS FIRE, starting page 211, speaks of a hike in Ohio. She wanted, she said, to translate the title into Native American, but the choices were troublesome and she kept them in English. She tells of the hike, which goes past Cedar Falls (nice photo inserted - more on that) and ends with a rather damp camp and the comment by her buddy that it would sure be nice to have a fire; too bad it'll be impossible to start one. She offers to do that, is told it's too damp, goes ahead, and...
Nevertheless, in just a few minutes we are squatting around a bright fire holding warm cups of coffee and chocolate. Buddy (the trail pup who was brought along) nuzzles close to enjoy a warming hand on his back. Soon there is a fine blaze going, sustained by rolling three large logs in toward the center of the fire. Whenever their ends crumble to coals I roll them in a little more.
Taking a long sip of his drink, Rich sighs contentedly. "I'll have to give you a new name," he proposes. "I think I'll call you 'She Who Builds Fire."
Joan's descriptions are enjoyable; she writes very well. Gray layers of shadow and fog soften the hard edges of the day as we spend a cozy night at the Klondike shelter.
She hikes with friends and acquaintances, with a trail pup (Chip, who passed on and was given a wonderful tribute) and she encounters people. Reading her account is like listening to an articulate friend tell what happened while on a jaunt.
I mentioned a photo of Cedar Falls. This book is full of photos - good ones that illustrate the walks, things that caught Joan's attention, that point up her writing. Page 221 - 223 contains The Song of Hiawatha's Friends (faked me out) complete with photos. My only criticism is that the photos would be more visible on slick paper. But then the whole book would have to be printed on slick paper, since there is a wealth of photographs, and I like them all.
All in all, Joan Young has put together a complex book that satisfies on many levels. It is a book that can be read in sips, that you can keep by your chair to sample, or else plow through. It is thoughtful, and it is effortlessly written (that's hard to do). If I were to compare this to any others I'd read, I'd have to say that it reminds e of Edwin Way Teale's work, my favorite being Autumn Across America. I also find myself remembering Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
This is an excellent book, well worth the five stars I've given it.(less)
I understand that Laurie Colwin is a classic. Her writing style is good, and there seems to be a smile in there. Years ago I inteacted with her daught...moreI understand that Laurie Colwin is a classic. Her writing style is good, and there seems to be a smile in there. Years ago I inteacted with her daughter on a message board (Cooking Light, as I recall) and I wanted to read her books. I found this in a used book store and brought it home in triumph.
She writes well. Good recipes, enjoyable voice. She died too young.(less)
this is an amusing piece of fluff that has me chuckling from the moment the main character (who is British) gives her reasons why paying in American d...morethis is an amusing piece of fluff that has me chuckling from the moment the main character (who is British) gives her reasons why paying in American dollars in America doesn't count as splurging (the money might as well be Monopoly bills!)
I couldn't get into this book. The research was superb, McCullough's writing stile is good, but somehow I had trouble continuing. I finally put it asi...moreI couldn't get into this book. The research was superb, McCullough's writing stile is good, but somehow I had trouble continuing. I finally put it aside. I may try again later.(less)