The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag MontefioreThe Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Genre: Nonfiction, History
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 744
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, with a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin, to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Lenin.

My Thoughts:
I have been fascinated with the Romanov Dynasty ever since I read Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra when I was in High School. Since then I’ve read his Peter the Great and I have his Catherine the Great on my shelf. Along with those I’ve read many other books about the more famous Romanov Tsars and their families.

The reason I bought this one was because it wasn’t just about the famous three. It was about all of the Romanov Tsars including the Greats and the not so greats.

This is a dense book. There is a lot of information and multiple generations of similar names so keep track of. Montefiore has broken the book up as if it were a screenplay with each reign ‘scene’ having it’s cast of characters listed at the beginning of the chapter. That was extremely helpful.

I was glad I read this in both print and ebook format. Much of the time I was reading I had the ebook open on my phone so I could easily switch between the main text I was reading and the footnotes on my phone. Then periodically I’d pick up the hardcover to look at the photos.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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The Western Star by Craig Johnson – Audio Edition

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Audio, Book Review, Craig Johnson | 2 comments

The Western Star by Craig Johnson narrated by George GuidallThe Western Star by Craig Johnson narrated by George Guidall

Genre: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Series: #13 in the Walt Longmire series
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2017
Length: 7 hours, 39 minutes
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Sheriff Walt Longmire is enjoying a celebratory beer after a weapons certification at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy when a younger sheriff confronts him with a photograph of 25 armed men standing in front of a Challenger steam locomotive. It takes him back to when, fresh from the battlefields of Vietnam, then-deputy Walt accompanied his mentor Lucian to the annual Wyoming Sheriff’s Association junket held on the excursion train known as the Western Star, which ran the length of Wyoming from Cheyenne to Evanston and back. Armed with his trusty Colt .45 and a paperback of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, the young Walt was ill-prepared for the machinations of 24 veteran sheriffs, let alone the cavalcade of curious characters that accompanied them.
The photograph – along with an upcoming parole hearing for one of the most dangerous men Walt has encountered in a lifetime of law enforcement – hurtles the sheriff into a head-on collision of past and present, placing him and everyone he cares about squarely on the tracks of runaway revenge.

My Thoughts:
The bad thing about catching up with a series is the year long wait for the next book. And now I’m at that point again. It’s a little more painful this time because there is some unfinished business in the story that will have to wait for the next book.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. One story is in the present and Walt is preparing to attend the parole hearing of someone he was involved in apprehending years ago. The other story told in flashback is about when Walt was a deputy and had just started working for Lucien. The two stories gradually converge and not only is the identity of the prisoner revealed, the reason for Walt’s doggedness in seeing that the prisoner wasn’t released becomes clear.

It was fun to see the younger Walt on a case and to also spend some time with the younger Lucien. I’m glad the story was not totally in the past because I like the supporting characters in the present-day story.

The Hubster and I went to see Craig Johnson at Powell’s. I was only a couple of chapters into the book at that point but he was good about not giving anything away. He said that he had too much story to fit into one book with this one so he had to find a way to split it into two books yet still have part of it resolved in this one.

Clearly I like this series since I’m still listening thirteen books in. George Guidall does a fabulous job of narrating these books. His voice characterizations are spot on and consistent.

As always with this series I highly recommend it and if audiobooks are your thing you should try that route. There is a progression to the books so you should really start with the first one.

Rating
4.5 stars 4.5/5 for the book

4.5 stars 4.5/5 for the narration

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The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel | 0 comments

The Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel GreenbergThe Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: 2016 Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 224
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle–and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

My Thoughts:
So many people I know and trust recommended this graphic novel that I just had to get on the waiting list at the library.

I am so glad I did. This is simply a wonderful graphic novel. The story and the stories layered within it are interesting, fun, sad, touching, dark and also humorous.

Also beautiful is the artwork by the author. It places the action firmly in a world created by the daughter of a god.

The stories Hero tells become stories within stories and are about the women. They’re part fairy tale and part feminist manifesto. Some are retellings of familiar tales but with changes that still make them new. They are also about the stories and the power of storytelling.

I loved it and I think you will too

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel | 2 comments

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil FerrisMy Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 386
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.

My Thoughts:
Thank you to everyone who recommended this. It was exactly what you told me it would be. A completely unique and fascinating graphic novel the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I was a little hesitant to read it because I’m not nearly as big a horror fan as the main character. I shouldn’t have worried. What she loves is the old classic horror movies and comics that I loved as a kid myself.

The layers to both the story and the artwork in this graphic novel are both complex and wonderful. This is a hefty volume but I didn’t want to put it down. I’m so glad I started it when I had plenty of time.

There is a second volume to this story coming and I’m stalking my library website in order to be on the waiting list early.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

The Princess Bride by William GoldmanThe Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman with illustrations by Michael Manomivibul

Genre: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover and ebook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: This edition 2013, originally 1975
Pages: 450
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment.

A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely adore the movie The Princess Bride. I had never read the book. The Hubster read it several years ago but for me it was one of those ebooks that got lost in my ereader. When we were in Ashland earlier this year we stopped in one of the bookstores and I spotted this beautiful hardcover edition with illustrations. I couldn’t resist. It was so beautiful I had to have it.

So now that I’ve read it I still adore the movie and I adore most of the book. The rest of the book was just OK.

Goldman has written this as fiction within fiction. This edition also has the introductions to both the 25th and 30th anniversary editions. Even those are part of the story within a story.

The parts I liked are the parts that are the story of The Princess Bride. I love that story even more. Reading it gave me a greater appreciation of how well Rob Reiner did with the movie. So much of it was perfectly translated to film. There things that are different of course but it’s still a fun and lovely story. I liked learning more about Inigo and Fezzik’s backgrounds.

The parts I didn’t like as much was the frame that Goldman built around The Princess Bride. He tells a fictional tale about himself hearing the book read by his father and later finding a copy for his (fictional) son. He presents his book as an abridgement of this fictional book. It’s all rather convoluted and layered and it’s fun but at times a distraction.

I’m glad I read this. The parts I loved mostly made up for the parts I only liked. I was not a fan of the epilogue with an explanation and story of the sequel Buttercup’s Baby. I think Goldman probably should have stopped at the end of The Princess Bride and left it at that.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for The Princess Bride parts and

3 stars 3/5 for the rest of it.

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The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in 2017, 4.5 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

The Frozen Thames by Helen HumphreysThe Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 185
Source: Library

The Book:
From the cover flap:

In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river.

So begins this breathtaking and original work, which contains forty vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the historic Thames froze solid. Spanning more than seven centuries—from 1142 to 1895—and illustrated with stunning full-color period art, The Frozen Thames is an achingly beautiful feat of the imagination…a work of fiction that transports us back through history to cast us as intimate observers of unforgettable moments in time.

Whether we’re viewing the magnificent spectacle of King Henry VIII riding across the ice highway (while plotting to rid himself of his second wife) or participating in a joyous Frost Fair on the ice, joining lovers meeting on the frozen river during the plague years or coming upon the sight of a massive ship frozen into the Thames…these unforgettable stories are a triumph of the imagination as well as a moving meditation on love, loss, and the transformative powers of nature.

My Thoughts:
This book was highly recommended by several friends on LibraryThing. I’d had it on my list for a while but finally checked it out from the library.

What a unique and interesting little book. It’s a small hardcover and only 185 pages long but there is a lot of information and emotion in this little package. I’m so glad I read it.

Each chapter is set during one of the forty times that the River Thames froze over. Some of the stories feature well known historical figures but most of them are either told by or are about people from the working classes. Some are emotionally touching like the one about two lovers meeting on the ice. He sees that she has the signs of having the plague but feeling he cannot live without her he embraces her knowing it means he will contract the disease.

Some of the stories feature interesting facts. When the weather was so cold that birds were freezing to death people took robins into their homes to live so that the species would not die out in the area.

One thing I found interesting was that several times there were “Frost Fairs” held on the ice. All the elements of a local fair but in the middle of the river.

This is a fascinating little book full of beautifully told vignettes. These are things that will never happen again because of the changes in the bridges and the dredging of the river it cannot freeze over any more.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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