1776 by David McCullough

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review, David McCullough | 7 comments

1776 by David McCullough1776 by David McCullough

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover and ebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 386
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

My Thoughts:
I have read two other books by David McCullough and enjoyed them both. John Adams and The Great Bridge (about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge) were both chunksters full of detail and description yet extremely readable. That’s why when this book was released I bought a copy right away. Then it sat on my shelf until now. It’s not nearly as big as those other two books but for some reason I kept putting off reading it.

I’m so glad I finally read it. Ever since Hamilton took over pop culture and after listening to Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States it was a good time to continue my reading about the American Revolution. I learned a lot while reading this. While George Washington is a major figure in the book, it’s not about him. McCullough also includes the British and soldiers from all classes.

The focus is on three major battles (the siege of Boston, New York, and Trenton. There were both victories and losses for both sides during this year. Mistakes were made and luck seemed to randomly favor each side at different times. Unfortunately for Washington the losses seemed to coincide with the end of his army’s enlistments so not only did he have to take on the British he had to do everything he could to even keep his army from going home.

McCullough includes stories of the well-known people but he also has stories and letters from some of the common soldiers.

I enjoyed this one and have put my copy on The Hubster’s reading stack.

4 stars

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Chew Vol. 12: Sour Grapes by John Layman

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Comics, John Layman | 0 comments

Chew Vol. 12: Sour Grapes by John Layman
Chew Vol. 12: Sour Grapes by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory

Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #12 in the Chew series
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 184
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 12 is a compilation of issues 155-60 of the comic series plus a bonus one-shot.
From the back cover:

This the final story arc of Tony Chu, the cibopathic federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats. Mysteries are solved, secrets are revealed and lives are lost. Many, many lives. This is the end of the line for the New York Times Best Selling, Harvey and multiple Eisner Award-winner series about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals, and clairvoyants.

My Thoughts:
This series is weird, disturbing, violent and absolutely hilarious. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about without sounding completely off my rocker. But then again, several characters in this series may be completely off their rockers.

It’s been a weird and wild ride and I was looking forward to seeing how the author would manage to wind this up. Lots of bodies is one answer. Solving some mysteries is another. Leaving a few questions open was somewhat expected. A final page that was fabulous was wonderful.

The artwork by Rob Guillory is colorful and fun and manages to present some pretty bizarre and violent stuff in a way that isn’t completely gross. There is plenty of funny stuff in the background of the main action.

This series is just wacky and weird and slightly gross and funny and twisted and interesting.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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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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Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 in 2017, 5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Jeff Lemire | 2 comments

Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire
Descender Book Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire

Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Descender #3
Format: Comics Collected Edition
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 128
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 3 is a compilation of issues 12-16 of the comic series.
From the publisher:

One young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera from the creators of Trillium, Sweet Tooth, and Little Gotham.

My Thoughts:
I pretty much love everything I’ve ever read by Jeff Lemire and this series is no exception. This volume is a bit of a break in the action of the story but it’s a good respite. Each issue in this volume focuses on one of the characters introduced since the beginning.

In each case it’s the background and history up to the point where the story left off in book two. I enjoyed the background stories but I ended up feeling sad for almost all of them. These are some damaged characters and this applies even (and almost more so) to the robots.

The artwork by Dustin Nguyen is wonderful. It’s done in watercolors but it’s vivid and varied in all of the different settings.

The lettering in this series by Steve Wands continues to be as much artwork as Dustin Nguyen’s artwork

While the break in the story to explore some of the characters more deeply was nice, I’m counting the days until the next volume comes out in July.

I highly recommend this series.

a9741-rating_5stars Rating 5/5

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A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in 2017, 3 stars, Book Review, Jodi Taylor | 0 comments

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Ebook, Trade Paperback
Series: The Chronicles of St Mary’s #2
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: 2015
Pages. 307
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

In the sequel to Just One Damned Thing After Another, Max and company visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St. Mary’s—an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy history itself to do it.

My Thoughts:
I don’t get too worried about the ‘correct science’ of time travel stories and I was pleased to read this comment from the author at the beginning of the first book in this series:

I made all this up. Historians and physicists – please do not spit on me in the street.

It’s been almost four years since I read the first book in this series. I enjoyed the heck out of it and kept intending to pick up the second book but then suddenly it had been four years. Oops. I wish I hadn’t waited that long because there are a lot of references to things that happened in the first book that I didn’t remember that well. In fact I’m thinking of rereading it in the audio format. The important thing to know is do not read this book if you haven’t read the first (Just One Damned Thing After Another).

It’s a fun mix of science fiction, time travel, romance, workplace comedy, and a little adventure. The story is told by Madeline (Max) Maxwell with a good bit of sarcasm and humor in between the brushes with death.

The mission to the time when dodos were not extinct to bring some back to the future was hilarious. The observation of the murder of Thomas Becket was not funny at all. If you don’t mind books that can’t be pinned down to a genre or two, you should give this series a try.

It’s not great literature but it’s good light escapist fun.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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This Time Together by Carol Burnett – Audio Edition

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Audio, Book Review | 0 comments

This Time Together by Carol Burnett narrated by the authorThis Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett narrated by the author

Genre: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2010
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved and revered actresses and performers in America. The Carol Burnett Show was seen each week by millions of adoring fans and won twenty-five Emmys in its remarkable eleven-year run. Now, in This Time Together, Carol really lets her hair down and tells one funny or touching or memorable story after another–reading it feels like sitting down with an old friend who has wonderful tales to tell.

In engaging anecdotes, Carol discusses her remarkable friendships with stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Julie Andrews; the background behind famous scenes, like the moment she swept down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the legendary “Went With the Wind” skit; and things that would happen only to Carol–the prank with Julie Andrews that went wrong in front of the First Lady; the famous Tarzan Yell that saved her during a mugging; and the time she faked a wooden leg to get served in a famous ice cream emporium. This poignant look back allows us to cry with the actress during her sorrows, rejoice in her successes, and finally, always, to laugh.

My Thoughts:
This is a short but thoroughly enjoyable audiobook. I requested it the day that a friend of mine recommended it. I’m so glad I did.

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett show and have always enjoyed her work. It was nice to spend some time with her again. There’s no way anyone else could have narrated this.

This is a series of anecdotes from her life. Some are funny, some heartbreakingly sad. They are all enjoyable. If you enjoyed Carol Burnett’s show I encourage you to get your hands on this audiobook,

 

Rating
3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

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