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Showing posts from February, 2020

Review: Joan of Arc: A History

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Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Throughout history there have been figures that have risen meteorically only to come crashing to earth very quickly. In all of medieval European history, no figure rose so dramatically or fell so quickly as Joan of Arc, the teenage peasant girl who claimed to hear voices from angels and saints and rallied the battered French forces against the invading English. And despite her precipitous fall, few other figures from this time have endured in popular imagination. So, who was she, what exactly did she do, and was she the real deal or a delusional peasant? In this book, Helen Castor seeks to inject some flesh and blood into this enduring myth.
If this is your first time reading about Joan of Arc, it is important to note that this book is not a straight, cradle-to-grave biography. This book rather puts Joan in her historical context by going all the way back to the invasion of France by that equally famous figure from this pe…

God is Change: A Review of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Once again, I find myself being drawn to bleak speculative fiction and books don't get much bleaker than this. I've heard it compared to George Orwell's 1984 and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and truly this is one of the great modern classics of dystopian fiction that feels a little too prophetic for comfort.
Set in 2024 Southern California, America is right on the edge of societal collapse. Rule of law is virtually non-existent, politicians promise to restore the country's greatness, but everyone is let to fend for themselves. Living in the middle of this is Lauren Olamina, a teenage girl born with hyperempathy, the ability to feel another person's pain. As the world and her walled-off community continue to crumble, Lauren rejects the religion her father and begins to develop one of her own based on the central idea that God is change. When her walls are breached, Lauren and her fol…

Quantum Heist: A Review of Randomize by Andy Weir

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Randomize by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andy Weir seemingly shot out of nowhere to become one of the biggest contemporary sci-fi authors with his book The Martian. With his blend of realistic science and dark humor, I fell completely in love with it and recommended it to so many people. I even loved the Ridley Scott movie adaptation that came out later. When an author becomes an overnight sensation, the next questions people ask is what will they write next and will it be just as good as his first work. While I have yet to read Mr. Weir's sophomore novel, Artemis (I'm getting to it!), after reading this short story, I do believe that Mr. Weir's narrative powers will hold up just fine over a long and promising career.

Set in a Las Vegas casino in the near future, Mr. Weir relates a tale of a high-risk, high-reward heist. The thieves though are not a bunch of hardened master criminals straight out of Ocean's Eleven, but a brilliant husband and wife team with an int…

Pig’s Rule: A Review of Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Animal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the current political times we live in have gotten darker and darker, like many people I keep finding myself coming back to classic dystopian novels to gain insights and even inspiration. There are plenty of classics to choose from, such as Brave New World and The Handmaid's Tale, but I recall being truly frightened by George Orwell's vision of totalitarianism in 1984. So, I am a little ashamed that it has taken me so long to get to this wonderful novel about revolution and the slow slide back into tyranny that can result.

Taking place on a farm in the English countryside, operated by the cruel and incompetent drunk Mr. Jones, Orwell relates a simple tale of farm animals fed up with their oppression who, though talking about it for some time, join together to overthrow their oppressor in an unplanned moment of anger. Finding themselves free human oppression for the first time, the farm animals write down a list of rules t…

Bully for America! A Review of The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the most persistent and pressing problems in recent U.S. history has been the ever widening gap between the rich and poor, the growing power of large corporations at the expense of workers, and the government's inability (or unwillingness) to address the problem seriously. Populist candidates on both the political right and left have gained a great deal of traction by criticizing our current state of affairs. As we face another election where the fate of Progressive politics for the next generation will be on the line, it is good to turn back the clock to a period in U.S. history and see how extraordinary leaders in politics and the press arose to meet a similar challenge. Fortunately, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin does all that in this excellent examination of the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the muckraking jo…