Plague!: A Review of The Great Mortality

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John     Kelly My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Compelling Melding of Science & History, with Lessons for Today

As I sit writing this review, the world is once again ravaged by disease (COVID-19) that is killing thousands around the globe and forcing millions of others to shelter in their homes and pray that this illness would pass over them. So, to say that reading this book about the Black Death, the plague that ravaged Europe
in the middle of the fourteenth century, is timely would be an understatement. The past can be both teacher and guide in times like these.

One of the great things about this book is how it is not just a recounting of death, though there is plenty of that to be had in these pages. The first few chapters and the afterword are devoted to understanding just what kind of a disease the Plague was. So, on top of reading a thorough history about how the Plague decimated t…

Moving On: A Review of Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders My rating: 3 of 5 stars One of the great tragedies to happen in the midst of the tragedy that was the U.S. Civil War was the death of Pres. Abraham Lincoln's young son Willie in early 1862. Distraught, Pres. Lincoln visits the grave of his son several times in the dead of night not long after the body is interred. Using this, George Saunders spins a ghost story about love and loss and how hard it is for both the living and the dead to move on.

Before you dive into this novel, it is important to note that Mr. Saunders does not follow the typical grammar conventions. For nearly every line of dialogue, rather than the typical "[dialogue]," said Mr. Smith you would find in a typical novel, Mr. Saunders uses citation, almost like what you would see at the end of a block quote in a non-fiction work of history or an academic paper. I found this to be both helpful and confusing. It was helpful because Mr. Saunders uses a large number of ch…

My First Encounter with James Baldwin: A Review of Go Tell It On The Mountain

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have never read any of James Baldwin's works before, but there has been a recent renaissance in interest in this seminal American author thanks to documentaries such as I Am Not Your Negro or movies such as If Beale Street Could Talk based on his works. I was a little trepidatious about picking up the work of an author I had never read before, but I was not disappointed. This is an incredibly powerful story about sin and hypocrisy, religious strictures and religious freedom, dark pasts and bright futures and though it took me a few pages to come around to this book, once I was in I was enthralled.
Set in Harlem church and community in the mid-1930s, this book follows a day in the life of a teenage boy named John who lives under the strict rule of his religious and proud step-father, Gabriel. Accompanied by his mother, Elizabeth, and his step-aunt, Florence, to church. While the congregants are singing and preach…

Thinking Through Changing Times: A Review of Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood

Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire by Matthew W. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Oftentimes historians and scholars are called upon to interpret the past, but they cannot always divorce themselves from the present. In this work of intense academic rigor, Matthew King explores the life and work of Zava Damdin, a Mongolian Buddhist monk at the turn of the 20th century living through China and Inner Asia's turn from the Qing era to socialism.
I must start this review off by noting that this is an academic work, which means that Prof. King uses the specialized language of his field of study to relay this story. As such, not only can this book be rather impenetrable to the layman, but it already assumes that the reader knows something of the history of this period in Chinese and Inner Asian history. It covers over the last decades of the Qing dynasty's reign over China and it's reshaping into the short-lived Republic of China. At the sa…

Safe Passage: A Review of A Long Petal of the Sea

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In recent years, the plight of refugees has been a routine part of the news thanks to the Syrian Civil War and the unrest in Central America that has been forcing people to seek asylum in the U.S. Unfortunately, too often the refugees’ stories have been drowned out by negative characterizations by the media and the current U.S. administration. In this novel, Ms. Allende does a good job of relating the tale of a couple of refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s and, by doing so, humanize the stories of all refugees.
Similar to other historical epics, this book covers almost sixty years in the life of Victor and Roser Dalmau as they flee Spain and start life over again in Chile. Though married, Victor and Roser do not start off in love with each other. It is a marriage of convenience in order to secure passage on an exile ship for Roser and her newborn son, who is the son of Victor’s deceased brother. Their ta…

#StayHome24in48 Readathon Live Blog

Sunday, March 22, 9:42 p.m.: Well, it's the end of another readathon.  I finished reading four books and started two others over the course of this readathon.  I must have finished somewhere between 300 and 500 pages in total, though I did not keep a specific count.  Not all of the books were that great (I'm looking at you Ulysses), but it is always a pleasure to get something finished.  I hope to do another readathon in the near future, but we will see how things turn out.  Thanks to everyone who has read this live blog and a special thanks to the bloggers at for putting this on.  See you all next time!
Sunday, March 22, 8:45 p.m.: Well, I finished A Long Walk to Water and I thought it was a very good middle grade read about the Sudanese Civil War, the plight of refugees, and the good things that they can do if given a chance to immigrate and prosper in America.  I gave it 5 out of 5 and I would recommend it, but just use some parental caution if giving it to younge…

God is Change Visualized: A Review of Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Earlier this year, I read Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower and was completely fascinated by this tale of a society that it is beginning to collapse. What struck me even more was how closely it resembled our current times, despite the fact that Ms. Butler wrote this book back in the early 1990s (Check out my review of Parable of the Sower). So, when I learned that this book was being adapted into a graphic novel by the same team that had created Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, I jumped at the chance. And, like that previous adaptation, I was not disappointed.

Damian Duffy and team don't try to reinvent the wheel with this adaptation. Indeed, with the exception of a few minor changes, they stick pretty close to the original story. So, if you have already read Parable of the Sower, you already know what to expect in terms of plot. What is truly joyous to discover in this book is the artwork and how the team…