Monday, July 16, 2018

Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Audiobook: 38 hours, Book: 861 pages

This is the penultimate book in the Wheel of Times series.

Rand visits Egwene in the White Tower to tell her about part of his plan for the last battle and sets a meeting to discuss it. Egwene disagrees with his plan and tries to line up allies for her viewpoint.

While Perrin and his army are traveling they run into the Children of the Light. Perrin had several bad encounters with them previously. He submits to a trial by a neutral party and is found guilty with the sentence to be named by the head of the Children of the Light after the last battle. The two groups separate but Perrin ends up coming to their aid.

Mat is still in Caemlyn where he comes up with a plot to kill a supernatural assassin that seems indestructible. He also is working on a special weapon to be used in the last battle. At the end of the book, Mat, along with two companions, enters a mystical tower inhabited by snakelike and foxlike humanoids who are tricksters. They attempt to save the Aes Sedai Moraine. They thought she was dead but had found out that she was trapped in the Tower of Ghenjei.

I liked listening to this more than when I read it years ago. I still found parts of it lacking. For one, the ordering and intersection of the plots was jumbled. Secondly, I did not feel like the dialogue was true to some of characters considering I had read the series before and listened to it recently. It makes me wonder if Jordan had written most of the twelfth book but Sanderson wrote most of this one or I just noticed the difference more.

The Truth of Things

The Truth of ThingsThe Truth of Things: Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality by Marion Montgomery, 295 pages

In this book, collecting essays spanning four decades, Marion Montgomery argues that the modern world's rejection of transcendence has resulted in a wholesale flight from the Real into unreal abstraction.  In his view, the effects of this amputation of the spirit, brought about by an unholy alliance of pragmatism and narcissism, have been exacerbated by the decline of the academy as the result of its alienation from the community, brought about by the growth of specialization and a rootless cosmopolitanism all the more provincial because it is blind to its own provincialism.  This has led in turn to a "justice" divorced from truth and thereby distorted into injustice, with all human interaction reduced to postmodern power politics, the natural particularity of gifts denounced in favor of a artificial consumerist egalitarianism, the existing person displaced by the abstract individual, the actual community by the fictitious society.

Without proposing a definite program for reform, Montgomery does offer some hope for those who continue to see the value of ordered thought in relation to truth, and who therefore feel keenly the modern spiritual disease as a source of unease.  At the heart of his proposed recovery of reality is a cultivation of personhood through a reconnection with the human experience as distilled in the thought, literature, and art of the past, but ultimately predicated on a reverence for Being.  To carry out this vital task, Montgomery insists that the postmodern multiversity, shattered by specialization, ought to be reunited by a commitment to higher education - "higher" not because more difficult but because more profound, taught by teachers rather than technicians.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch

Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch (Bitch Planet (Collected Editions) #2)   by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer),  Taki Soma (artist), Valentine De Landro (artist)   144 pages

Since I enjoyed Volume 1 of Bitch Planet, I picked up this second volume.  It's not a direct sequel, as this batch of stories goes back to the past to explain what happened on Earth to create what happens on Bitch Planet.  I like that the characters are believable (flaws and all), so you get drawn in to their stories. The art helps the story flow and at times, can be a little jarring --- but then again, the story is jarring. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton    512 pages    read an e-galley

At a gala party, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed.  Again. She's actually been murdered hundreds of times and each day, Aiden Bishop has been too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day again and again, Aiden's only escape from this place is to solve Evelyn's murder.  However, he's hardly ever the same person twice, waking up in the bodies of different people over several days. If Aiden's not sure who he is, how can he find Evelyn's killer?

This is an atmospheric, intricately plotted and completely, deviously original story. Set in the early 1920s, the book reads like a Gothic tale, with characters who are darkly plotting against one another. The idea of having Aiden wake in different people's bodies really throws off any sense you might have of timeline until Aiden gets his own bearings. It's an interesting way to pace a story, for sure. That being said, if you put this book down partway through, don't wait too long before picking is up again because it can be difficult to find your own bearings (much less figure out who Aiden is)!.

The Little Beach Street Bakery

by Jenny Colgan       Audio Book:  12 hrs.  33 mins      Hardback Book:  562 pages             

A fun read that will have the reader laughing out loud from the conversations the characters have.    A really great feel good story.    Lots of things happening throughout.   What starts out as Polly Waterford running away from the heartache of a broken relationship but finds a whole new life in a tiny seaside town in Cornwall.    She immediately fits right in and while not everyone in town is her friend from the get-go, she has such a great sense of humor and a heart that goes out to people and animals that she is one of those folks you just can’t help but like.    Her one particular foe in town proves to have many layers and once she learns of them – it leads to a whole new attitude.    The characters are so great in this story that the reader will feel like you are right there in the midst of all that is going on – when words can turn your thoughts to becoming almost tangible you know you have a good book.    I must warn you – all the food mentioned and the talk of breadmaking will have you wanting to partake right along with the folks there and actually that just adds even more flavor – pun intended – to the story.    I love these folks and I am on to the next book in the series so I can go back and visit with them some more.     And of course I fell madly in love with her Puffin friend, Neil.     I love it from beginning to end and highly recommend this book to anyone with the wanderlust to just get away sometimes.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Caliban in Grub Street

Image result for Caliban in Grub Street Knox RonaldCaliban in Grub Street by Ronald A Knox, 218 pages

In Caliban in Grub Street, the redoubtable Msgr Knox turns his attention to the religious opinions of the common Englishman of 1930, through a series of articles and essays published in the popular press, including works by such luminaries as Arthur Conan Doyle, Bertrand Russell, Hugh Walpole, and Rebecca West.  What he discovers is that most of them reject religion, but they do not do so because their reason demands it, but rather because they reject reason, or at least they deny that reason can be applied to matters of the spirit.  For Knox, this accounts for the modern preference for spiritualism over religion - spirituality being to religion what sentimentality is to emotion - and the fuzziness of thought found even among those who outwardly profess religion.  

Needless to say, Knox is emphatically not among those who reject either reason or religion, and it is a pleasure to follow him as he examines these journalistic efforts, uncovering their hidden inconsistencies, craven ambiguities, and patent nonsense.  For Knox's God is not only reasonable, but the source and ground of reason, and therefore also no lagniappe to a satisfying life, but the condition of all human fulfillment.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sean Wants to be Messi

Sean Wants to be Messi by Tanya Preminger; illustrations by Elettra Cudignotto   36 pages

I have to admit, that when I first saw this title, I had no idea what “Messi” was supposed to be. Turns out that Messi is a start soccer player (think Beckam), and eight-year-old Sean is obsessed with becoming like him.

The book opens with what could be a scene from my childhood, math issues. Adter second grade, I just didn’t get it. I can remember the frustrations my parents and I felt as I tried and tried to understand word problems (Let’s face it, nobody really cares when the two trains pass each other!).

This is a great little story on how one set of parents use soccer to help their child excel. One thing did bother me, though, was that Sean called his parents “Mommy” and “Daddy.” Without any younger sibling that the readers could see, this seemed to make Sean too childish. Therefore,  “Sean Want to be Messi,” which receives 4 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.

Mind Platter

 Mind Platter by Najwa Zebian   224 pages
Author Najwa Zebian is a Lebanese Canadian educator. That really has no bearing on this wonderful little book, but I thought it was interesting tidbit of info. I’m not entirely sure how to classify it. It is poetry? Self-help? Philiosphy? I believe it’s a bit of all.
I was first drawn to the cover. The cover is amazing and will have any reader picking it up just to check out the colors. Then once I got into it, I realized that this book was not to read in one sitting.  It should be read over a period of weeks, or months even. 

 Reading a poem/story/page a day, then reflecting upon it, can change lives.  “Mind Platter,” which receives 5 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.

Ike and Kay

Ike and Kay by James MacManus   327 pages

History is no stranger to men, and women, having affairs. Sometimes it becomes common knowledge (I’m thinking particularly of JFK here), and sometimes it stays closeted in the past. History has left two memoirs by Kay Summersby (from the mid 1970s), that leave no doubt that she and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower fell deeply in love during his time in England, North Africa, and France.

It all began in England, where Eisenhower was sent in May 1942 on a fact-finding mission. Kay Summersby was an ambulance driver reassigned to become Ike’s driver. It was her job to chauffer him to and from wherever he needed to go.

They took an immediate liking to each other. As time passed, the two became closer. When Ike had to go to North Africa, he insisted that Kay come along as his driver. In fact, he insisted that she go wherever he went: lunches with Churchill, meetings with Roosevelt, or drinks with other generals under his command. They spent quiet evenings alone playing bridge. She bought him a puppy and found him a cottage so he could rest more easily than in hotel.

Ike even went so far as to have Kay granted American citizenship and had plans to bring her to the States after the war. But there was one large hole in his grand plans: his wife, Mamie. When Army officials learn of his plans to divorce, they step in, knowing that great things lie ahead for the man who led the Allies to victory over the Nazis/

Historic fiction writer (most of the time, he does have a couple of contemporary novels under his belt) James MacManus has taken an historic footnote and created an atmospheric, compelling novel that was almost impossible to put down, even though readers know how it ends.  The novel did get off to a slow start for about the first 50 or so pages, but don’t get discouraged. It’s worth the read.  “Ike and Kay,” which receives 5 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.

The year of reading dangerously

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller     352 pages

Andy Miller liked his job. He loved his family.  He liked to read, but he had no time for reading (at least that's what he kept telling himself).  However, he knew there were books he meant to read, books that he had always meant to pick up. Making a determined effort, Andy made a list and worked his way through it, reading all kinds of literature, and embarking upon an odyssey of reading.

I read this book at someone's suggestion and for the most part, enjoyed it. It's interesting to read about someone's take on books that I have not read or read, including ones that are on lists like "books everyone should read."  Sometimes, the book was a little dry.  However, I found the author to be engaging and the book wasn't just about him and his reading, which was nice.

Admittedly, I have not read some classic books. While I studied literature in school, at this point in my life, I read books I want to read.  There are a lot of books out there, so I don't want to spend time reading a book that's on a list, or to say "Oh yes, I've read Moby Dick."  I haven't read Moby Dick. I don't find the story sounds that appealing, I have no problem admitting I haven't read it . . . and I just don't want to.  I have no problem with people who have read that book and absolutely love it --- but I'm not going to read something because I think I should.  I do enough of that at work and if I take a class, so I'd rather read what I like.  Which is one of the nice things about being a grownup -- I may read what I like.  With a glass of wine if I want to and completely ignore the vacuuming for a hour or two.


Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor   audiobook - 2 hours; 90 pages

Binti is the first of her people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in her galaxy. However, to accept the full scholarship is to leave her family and travel to a place with strangers who don't share her ways or respect her customs. However, Binti is determine to go to Oomza University and be surrounded by people like her, with a hunger to learn as much as they can.  She anticipates leaving her family and traveling will be difficult, but she doesn't anticipate what happens partway through her trip. The Meduse, an alien race that is legendary for their ruthfulness, attacks the ship Binti is traveling on. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse and they are determined to kill everyone in retaliation.

If Binti has any hopes of surviving, she needs the gifts of her people and her own intuition and bravery.

I have read another book by this author and really liked it, and the review of this audiobook was good --- and it was GREAT!  Robin Miles, who reads this audiobook, is fantastic.  The story really pulled me in, but Miles made everything come alive.  My only complaint was that I wished I was reading the book along with listening to the audiobook because sometimes, a word would be pronounced and I would wonder about how it was spelled.  This is a great story that weaves together culture, tradition, exploration of relations between different groups of people (in a way that many people can relate to), but it's also about bravery, trusting yourself, and relying on reasoning and intelligence.  I liked that Binti is a girl who is eager to keep learning as much as she can, and who reasons through problems in a thorough way.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine (Bitch Planet (Collected Editions) #1)
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author) (Writer),  Taki Soma (Illustrator), Valentine De Landro (Artist), Robert Wilson IV (Artist) -- 156 pages

In a future society, a woman's failure to comply with patriarchal overlords will result in her being exiled to the worst penal planet in the galaxy.  When the newest group of prisoners arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will they fight each other and the internal politics of Bitch Planet?

I thought this was a pretty good story.  I liked the strong feminist take, where a woman can be incarcerated for being overweight, or outspoken (or probably someone that a guy in power finds annoying).  It's a scary idea, especially when you consider that this kind of thing happened here, in our own country, although not to this extent.  It wasn't too long ago in our history that women could be sent to mental asylums because the men in their lives found them too outspoken, or too depressed, or too problematic.

What I also liked about the story is that even though it's pointing all kinds of double-standards and issues, there's humor here.  I liked that in every issue, there's a page with fake ads like you'd find in a regular comic book (or in the back of some women's magazines).  It's humor, but with a nice sharp edge.

Snowy Owl Invasion!

Snowy Owl Invasion!  Tracking An Unusual Migration by Sandra Markle                    Hardback Book: 48 pages                   

Due to global warming and the ecological environment change going on in the frozen tundra of the arctic circle,  food supplies of the snowy owls, predominantly in the arctic – lemmings (small rodent like creatures) have been diminishing so the snowy owls have been migrating further south for food supplies in the last 6+ years.    Whereas previously it was extremely unusual to see a snowy owl around the great lakes, or in upstate New York now snowy owls have been spotted quite often in Washington D.C.,  sightings have been reported in Missouri and even as far south as Florida!    The snowies are coming!
The bad news is these beautiful birds tend to congregate around airports in urban areas.    Bad for the birds and the flight crew.   Maybe they think the planes are big birds and if they are there it must be full of good sources of food, whatever their reasoning, they are having to be caught/trapped and moved to other areas.    The funny thing is, the birds tend to return to the airports.   Snowies are coming down from the arctic so they aren’t worried about flight distance.     Two groups of scientists and volunteers have have joined to form Project SNOWStorm and are capturing as many of the snowies as they can and have raised funds to pay for GPS tracking devices to check the actual migration pattern of each individual bird.   Each unit weighs about as much as 8 quarters and is about 3 inches long by 2 inches wide and is mounted on the snowy’s back via straps attached to the birds under their wings and looks like they are carrying a backpack.     Prior to the GPS units, snowys were trapped and tagged with metal rings etched with where they were trapped, when, their weight and height and who did the trapping, now with the GPS units, which are powered by solar energized batteries by the way, can be tracked at any time as long as the batteries are up and some birds go off the grid for a time then turn back up with the memory in tact showing where they have gone, the location, date and time the unit either went out of range – too far up in the artic terrain for cell towers to transmit their locations or if the solar batteries were not receiving a charge for some reason, ie. the bird fluffed its feathers up over the unit blocking the sun from reaching it or up in the arctic during the winter season of 6 months of twilight (no sun).    Fascinating read on the urbanization of former wild life.    The birds stand about 24 inches tall and make a formidable presence sitting atop buildings, perching on towers, etc.      The scientists are logging information constantly on their whereabouts, the new eating patterns as they move into new territories with differing fare (ducks, geese, rabbits, rats, muskrats, voles etc.).    The GPS trackers have observed that even when a snowy’s migration pattern goes over the Atlantic Ocean of the great lakes, the St. Lawrence River, the Miississippi River the birds tend to not really seem to care much for fish and will tend to hunt land animals instead.   A beautifully illustrated book with lots of good information.   I had never really thought about the migration of birds and animals with the depleting food supplies of the arctic lands diminishing forcing them to search further south to sustain themselves, hence why polar bears, black bears, moose, etc. are seen turning up in towns, more and more in North America, Canada and the U.S. as game either is hunted to extinction as temperatures rise and new feeding patterns and breeding locations become necessary for survival.     Excellent book.   I highly recommend this one.