Tuesday, June 30, 2015

King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend


Rating: 4 Stars


First and foremost, any digging at this point to find Arthur will only result in conjecture. It's been too long and any evidence is almost certainly long gone. However, the author is convincing in that I'm now quite sure an Arthur did exist. Not as we think of Arthur in mythology now, the Once and Future King who will some day awaken and reclaim his throne, but a living, breathing warrior king who united his people (as best he could) against the invaders.

I found this a rather easy read and enjoyed it. I also enjoyed that the author didn't aim for one theory, ignore others, and make the evidence fit what he thinks. He explored several options, while naturally indicating which one makes the most sense to him. Nicely done.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic


Rating: 4 Stars


I don't think I'll ever stop being obsessed with Titanic. The teenager in me won't allow it. The problem is, whenever I read a book about the tragedy, I inevitably see the officers, crew, Mr Andrews, Ismay, and assorted passengers as portrayed in the movie, and not who they actually were. Darn you, James Cameron!

I've heard this one compared to 'A Night to Remember' quite often, and I've not read it yet - thought it's very near the top of my book pile. While I myself can't compare the two yet, I will say this book was well-researched and provided ample information, so that even someone like myself who knows quite a bit already, found out new facts.

I like that the author addresses the Californian specifically. It baffles me even 100+ years later that help was there within reach, all those people could've been saved. And yet the crew was too afraid of their tyrant of a captain to attempt a rescue. 

In the end, it is always the same, as is to be expected. Ismay is giving orders to Smith, she's going too fast, there's miscommunication over ice warnings, too few officers know the gravity of the situation, lifeboats launched half-full, and so on and so on. Even after all these years, it first make it any less tragic. All those people lost, men, women, and children, for no reason.

One thing I'd like to have seen was more pictures. I know there are several in existence outside of what was offered here - officers, etc., having seen them in other books. It's just nice to have a face to go with a name - otherwise those actors from that movie keep popping into my head.

It saddens me that eventually Titanic herself will disappear, the very last remnant of a bygone age. But she is where she should be, remaining where she sank, undisturbed for the time she has left,

Additionally: I made Eleanor listen to "My Heart Will Go On" today. She digs it. She does not dig my singing. Fair enough.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alias Shakespeare


Rating: 2.5 Stars


While Sobran makes a compelling case, he is entirely condescending throughout - often times making assumptions in the same way that he belittles Stratfordians for. It was a chore just to finish this one when muddling through that, which is sad to say, because Oxford himself is so intriguing - regardless of whether or not he is the man we know today as Shakespeare.

The evidence presented is certainly thought-provoking. While I personally will hold to my belief that Shakespeare was Shakespeare, I enjoy reading the evidence that anti-Stratfordians have to offer. Some make interesting arguments and present interesting evidence. Hopefully others do it in a less condescending way. This is not a terrible book as a whole, the most frustrating thing was not the theory, but the author himself. If the authorship question is of interest to you, give this one a try.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Pope's Jews: The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save the Jews from the Nazis


Rating: 3 Stars


I read less and less about the Holocaust these days, I just can't - it's seems to be that way about anything heartbreaking since I became a mom. It's impossible to not imagine it being your family, your child.

That being said, this was a complete 180 of anything I thought I knew of Pius XII. Granted, all I really knew if him was that he was 'Hitler's Pope' - yet that always seems strange to be, as Catholics were among the many groups rounded up by this murderous regime and sent to their deaths. Yet I never really questioned the moniker because it's been the loudest and really, only, viewpoint offered of him in my lifetime. This book will offer something quite different, and works to bring to light the plans and networks used by the Vatican to save as many Jews as possible.

Could he have done more? Of course. Many people could have and should have done more. But here we finally have an account of what was actually done - far more than 'nothing', as previously proclaimed.

As for the text itself, it's a bit slow in some places, and the sheer number of names can be overwhelming. A list of important players is offered at the beginning, but even that is useless at times if you go to look someone up and can't remember what their affiliation is, so you're still forced the read through every band until you find who you're looking for.

Certainly recommended for those interested in the Holocaust. While I can't say I'm 100% on board with this yet, and I may have to do further reading myself, it certainly portrays Pius XII far differently than what we've been taught.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chaucer's Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury


Rating: 4 Stars


One year. That's it. In that year all the pieces fell into, or out of, place. But either way you look at - and most will decidedly say out of place - without the events of 1386, would we have one of the greatest English works ever written? Would we revere Chaucer the way he deserves, as THE FIRST English author/poet? Maybe, maybe not. No doubt these humbling and likely humiliating events in 1386 wore on Chaucer, and it's almost tragic that he's never see the fruits of his labor, or even make a single penny off of it.

This is an interesting text, looking at Chaucer and the world he inhabited in 1386. It is by no means exhaustive - though how much can/will we ever know, 600+ years on? The author sets the scenes nicely, almost too nicely with plenty if addition information about the people moving around Chaucer at the time. You could argue it was too much 'other' information, not directly tied to Chaucer himself, but much of it set up important events to come. And with this volume itself being roughly only 255 pages, it's not as though it was a burden.

While you may not learn anything new from this one if you're already well-versed in the life of Chaucer, it's still an interesting read - in fact I read it in just an afternoon. Recommended for those interested in both the time period and the man himself.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities


Rating: 3 Stars


This text is by no means in any way a comprehensive history of Ancient Greece. Instead, it is truly an introduction in looking at 11 different cities that existed at one time or another in the Greek World and how they functioned, culturally, socially, militarily, etc. As my own knowledge of this time period is sparse, it was decent and not at all over-whelming. On the other hand, someone who already has a deep knowledge and background will likely not find anything useful.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why


Rating: 2 Stars


It's always kind of funny when an author plagiarizes himself. Having read several of Ehrman's books (recently), there are numerous times in this text where I could skim, because I had already read the EXACT SAME passage in any of the previous books of his that I have just read. Makes it hard to want to keep reading, when it just seems like he is taking bits from other books and making a 'new' book. Basically, he presents the same information in every single book, same ideas, themes, and theories, and just focuses on a different aspect in each of his books. So, the groundwork, the background is already there. He has to do minimal work to come up with the 'new' part to make this book different from that book.

Also! What! Is! With! All! The! Exclamation! Marks!

Seriously, it comes across as kind of condescending, as if Ehrman is saying, "Look here lay reader, you won't understand how important this idea is that I just stated for you unless I follow it up with a !! You need to understand and you won't if I don't point it out for you!!" Of course, I have added a second exclamation mark, so YOU can understand how important my statement is with the initial exclamation mark. Annoying, isn't it? But that is Ehrman, and to get through his books you either have to ignore it, or quit reading. He sometimes writes as though he thinks his readers won't understand. He ACTUALLY makes a point to say that there were no plans or cars or electronic printing options in the ancient world. Seriously? That was a point that needed to be made? Ehrman talks down to his readers a lot, so be prepared for that.

The title is a bit misleading, as it is not JUST misquoting things Jesus said during his ministry. Instead, this book looks at all the different ways and reasons that the Bible has been changed throughout the centuries. This in itself is interesting, and sometimes disheartening, because we will never know the REAL words, as scribes took it upon themselves to change the text - whether accidentally or on purpose.

I guess this book might be 'fascinating' for people who have never read any other work by Ehrman. To me, however, it was just a different focus on many recycled thoughts from his other books.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Stewart Dynasty

Rating: 3 Stars


So, up until the last line of the book, literally the last line, I wasn't sure if Ross actually LIKED any of the Stewarts he wrote about. Seriously. He spent 305 pages taking potshots at them throughout history. But then he gives us this, the very, very last line:

"Irrepressible in life, long after their mortal remains have crumbled to dust the remarkable family lives on in the imaginations of all who are fascinated by the extraordinary piece of work that is man."

So, at least he called the family remarkable?

Even so, he also called many ineffectual, even stupid. And can't forget sexual. Apparently pretty much almost all of them were quite, shall we say, amorous. Unfortunately however, the last generations proved to be far less so than their ancestors, and thus the Stewart line came to a quiet end in 1807.

I have felt a deep affinity for Scotland for a long time, yet have known relatively little of the kings who came before Mary Queen of Scots - herself a tragic and maligned figure who can't be solely blamed for her shortcomings as queen. She was, after all the darling of the French court and was doted upon for years before being basically exiled back to her country of birth thanks to her formidable former mother in law, Catherine de Medici. I found this to overall be a decent work of the Stewart family, though I can't say for certain how accurate it all is, as it is the first real study of the Stewarts I have done (besides of Mary herself so far). And there were certainly facts about Mary and her son James VI/I that are no longer considered correct - this text having been published in 1993. Certainly whole books can and have been devoted to individual monarchs of the House of Stewart, so I would consider this an introduction and not an in-depth look. It is, of course, difficult to provide EVERY DETAIL of 600+ years of a dynasty in 300 pages, but this is an interesting attempt to introduce them to new readers.

One detail I can't help but notice, though, one glaring omission: any mention of the King James Version of the Bible. Perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps I somehow missed it among all the milieu of James' court, but I do not recall it being mentioned. Kind of a strange thing, considering it is without a doubt one of the most important books ever published. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend


Rating: 2 Stars


I read Ehrman's books, not for his opinions but for the facts he presents in relation to the New Testament, of which he obviously knows thoroughly. However, our faiths differ greatly, again obviously.

His writing style is easy to follow, but there is so much background information here that he used word-for-word in other texts, that gets a bit tedious. And his habit of repeating himself also gets tiresome.

Here he presents Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene as both historical and legendary figures in an accessible fashion, giving each their due turn in the spotlight. I don't put much stock in the Gnostic Gospels, though Ehrman references them frequently. Nor can we really put a lot of faith in other gospels and writing excluded from the Canon as we know it today. But still this makes for an interesting read about three of the most important figures in Christianity - without whom it would not exist had they each not done their part after the crucifixion and in the ensuing years.


Could have seriously done without the trite references to the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary. It was just kind of annoying - in between the smatterings of Ehrman being trite and condescending himself.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Rating: 5 Stars


I don't think the day will ever come that I stop loving Neil Patrick Harris. Really truly. This book proves that time again. He is so talented - acting, singing, magic-ing. Not to mention witty, handsome, and charming.

We all have that celebrity that we hope is just as wonderful in their everyday life as they seem to be in front of the cameras. For me, that's NPH.


This review is so short because I feel weird reviewing autobiographies. It's like you're reviewing their life. Just know: I dig NPH.

And just for good measure, one of the greatest opening acts from an award show, ever.

Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament


Rating: 2.5 Stars


Firstly, I do not read Ehrman's books for his opinions on Christianity. While he is a self-proclaimed agnostic, he is well-versed in Scripture. He knows what he is talking about when he he is reciting the facts of the Bible, and I appreciate that. I have learned a lot about the Bible from reading his books. But as a Christian with a faith that is growing stronger each day, I differ when it comes to many matters of opinion.

That being said, I am fascinated by the idea of how the Bible came to be what we know today, who decided what books made it and which ones didn't. I found this one interesting, but it is not necessarily what you call exciting. It presents several texts that were excluded from he New Testament, some very rightfully so. I must confess here that I skimmed the books that were clearly Gnostic.

Unfortunately some of the books are incomplete, so we do not know all their content, length, etc. Most of the time we do not even know who actually wrote the books presented. But they are interesting reads nonetheless - I especially find the book relating events of young Jesus' childhood and his exploits. It is certainly understandable that we would want to know more about Jesus as a child, or at any point in his life, really, but I think we can agree that it is likely not accurate or true.

This is not an easy read by any means - don't let my start and finish dates fool you. Some of the books are incredibly long and it difficult to discern the exact meanings. Each book is prefaced with an introduction, where and when it was found, and when historians generally believe it was written. While many times Ehrman gives a reason for why historians believe it was written at a certain time, but there are also several instances here he does not. This is troublesome, as if there is a reason historians believe it to belong to one century and not another, this should be stated.

That said, I found myself wanting to know more about the books, not just their content. Unfortunately after nearly 2,000 years, this information will likely continue to elude us.

I wavered back and forth between 2 and 3 stars. I like reading about these Scriptures because I am interested in how our Bible came to be. I don't necessarily agree with what these books say however, thus the reason for them  being excluded from the New Testament.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens


Rating: 2.5 Stars


Well, well, well, yet another book slanted completely toward Elizabeth. I had such high hopes for this one, but was sorely disappointed. And not just because of the dichotomy of how the author chose to (mis)represent her subjects.

First, I must be clear that Mary is certainly a flawed heroine. She made one poor decision after another upon returning to Scotland and pursuing the Darnley match. But she can hardly be faulted for the way she was raised - a Scottish queen from her first days, a French princess for nearly two decades, she was pampered and raised in such a way that she was always well aware of her status. But she was also often deprived of those she loved and who loved her the most - her mother, father in law, and husband all in short order. Family was important to Mary, so she naturally sought the guidance and protection of her self-serving half brother, Moray. She couldn't have know, but should have expected his treachery. And in further regards to family, one can only imagine her heartbreak at being all but abandoned by her only child, her beloved son. He too chose to protect his own ambition for the English crown, and had little motivation to help his wrongfully imprisoned mother.

As for Elizabeth, I'm not sure I even have the energy to deconstruct some of this utter nonsense. As I've maintained in other books about this topic, Elizabeth was an insecure, selfish, self-absorbed, manipulative, spoiled brat who knew full well the execution warrant would be served as fast as humanly possible; her counselors could not wait to get rid of Mary. Boo/hiss to Elizabeth. That's all the attention I care to give her.

As for the book itself, there are many issues. It jumps around for the majority of the first half or so and there's no consistency in the telling of events. This seemed to stop when Mary arrived in England. It is also beyond repetitive - this is not a complaint, it is a fact. If one needs that much information repeated time and time again, then perhaps something a little simpler to start with on the topic of these two would have been better.

Overall, highly disappointing. I'm wavering back and forth between two and three stars, how I wish goodreads allowed half stars! It had such potential but I just can't get beyond the obvious favoring of Elizabeth.

I can't say I recommend this one whole-heartedly. Perhaps for those who already have a good knowledge of the two queens and can see through the nonsense and bias in favor of Elizabeth.


I don't feel I have done as well with this review as others I have done on Mary before. I know there are many aspects of the relationship that I left out, the 'rivalry' so to speak, but it is just frustrating - and 400+ years later, what are we to do about it? I have so much sympathy for Elizabeth a child, but can not stomach her absurdity as queen. As much as Mary, Elizabeth is a victim of her own childhood. But this does not excuse the fact that she repeatedly looked for ways to 'be rid of' Mary, she signed the death warrant, then she laid the blame at everyone else's feet. Talk about hypocritical. She wanted Mary to be badgered into submission, promising a pardon if Mary would just admit she was guilty. But why would Mary? She had been held unjustly for YEARS. How many times was there talk of a face to face meeting, of help, and so on? Those actions never materialized and Mary had no reason to ever believe she would be free again. So, she embraced her death sentence and became a martyr. It is a tragic and unnecessary end for a queen who desired her freedom and was cruelly denied it by a government that had no right to hold her in the first place. Imagine if they had presented a united front together? How different history might have been.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nazi Women: The Attraction of Evil


Rating: 2 Stars


As I have stated in previous reviews of works of similar nature, I simply don't have the ability to read anymore about the Holocaust and WWII after having a child of my own. It is so hard to not imagine it could be your own child, and it makes me want to vomit.

That being said, I began this with some trepidation, not wanting to read about the specific atrocities these monstrous women committed, but more so looking for a kind of study on the type of women who were enthralled by Hitler and his Thousand Year Reich. Unfortunately, it seems that there was no type; it was about empowerment after what were honestly unfair reparations from WWI, a war Germany didn't even start. And these women apparently did not read the fine print, as Hitler and his cronies had no intention of truly empowering them to do anything more than cook, clean, and have perfect little Aryan babies.

Now, I am typically not one to support the notion of an eye for an eye, but I cannot express enough how disgusted and angry I am that so many of the women who worked in the camps especially were able to assimilate back into normal civilian life. They were murderers who escaped justice and I can only hope the rest of their lives were miserable.

The book itself reads kind of strangely. It is more like a collection of mini biographies of various women and their involvement in the Reich. There are sections devoted to Hitler's relationship to them, most fleeting, none actually important to him. I just can't understand how this pathetic, ugly (meant both inside and out) little man could have inspired such frenzies.

This is a very short volume and really is nothing more than a general look. For that I am grateful. I don't want to know any more about these women then I already do, specifically their cruelty and the acts they perpetrated on their youngest, smallest victims. However, for someone who may be able to handle this better than I without wanting to cry, it will be lacking.

One of the biggest distractions while reading were random snippets of text in bigger, bolded font throughout. It literally added nothing to the text, as it was not additional info or quotes or facts. It was simply a sentence taken from a regular paragraph and made bigger. It was not even always the most important idea from a particular page, and very early on I just quit reading them.

The pictures were interesting, but sometimes odd choices. I realize there may not be photos of some of the women anymore, but it would have been helpful perhaps if the photos were included in the section the woman was written about.

Overall, it is not a terrible work, though it is written about some of the worst people to ever live. These women were part of a regime that brutalized, tortured, and murdered millions of innocent men, women, and children. If anyone could ever be classified as sub-human, it is this group, along with their male counterparts, and most certainly not the people against whom they committed these crimes. But the work is also by no means authoritative. Additionally, there were sections at the end I just could not read due to their content regarding the camps. This would not be a terrible supplemental reading, but not one I would look to first on this topic.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tudor: The Family Story


Rating: 5 Stars


How refreshing to read about the Tudors from their true beginnings, and not simply Henry VIII's reign and beyond. There was so much I never knew about the family prior to Henry VII defeating Richard III at Bosworth, and I do consider myself fairly well-read on all things Tudor.

I was hesitant at first to read this however, because I've read previous books by de Lisle and found them to be rather slow moving. Not so here, I couldn't put it down even as her subject moved from Henry VII into familiar territory.

The family is fascinating, though whenever I read about Elizabeth I find myself wanting to pull my hair out and scream at her, "Get married already so your family's reign can continue!!!" Alas, no amounting of shouting at her ever works.

Speaking of Elizabeth, I've always had a soft spot for Elizabeth the child that I simply don't for Elizabeth the adult. I know part of this is because her mother is Anne Boleyn, whom I quite despise. The larger part though, is that her sister and predecessor Mary is often portrayed as the evil one, compared to Elizabeth's goodness. People seem to forget that Elizabeth had many more executed than did Mary - not to mention she had the nerve to execute a fellow monarch in her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.

The text it not always in-depth, but for the time span it covers, one can't expect that or this one volume might have become a thousand pages. But it does its job well, weaving a story through centuries to how this great dynasty came to pass.

1066: The Year of the Conquest


Rating: 5 Stars


So fantastically written, I easily could have read it cover to cover in one sitting. Even knowing the outcome ahead of time, the story is still so engrossing that you can't help but keep turning the page.

I quite agree with Howarth's assessment of the principal characters; how he'd have liked King Harold, felt sorry for Tostig, and been terrified of William. Echoing my earlier comment, I'm not sure why he disliked Edward the Confessor so, perhaps I need to read more about King Edward. Harald is quite an enigma to me still, and I'd like to read more about the "last of the great Vikings".

Here you're given a much more objective view of Harold and there doesn't seem to be much to dislike about him. Nor does there seem to be any indication that he'd have been anything but a fair and just King. You can't help but feel sorry for him, once he saw the papal banner that William carried, and given the terrible way in which he died. His behavior compared from Stamford Bridge to Hastings is so markedly different, one almost has to assume his confidence was completely gone and the he believes he'd already lost and that God was against him. You have to feel sadness too, for the numerous Englishmen who continued to suffer once William was crowned (though they certainly suffered before then as well, once Harold was defeated).

It's intriguing to think how differently England would have developed if Harold had won Hastings and William had been killed or at least been sent packing.

Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love


Rating: 4 Stars


There's a reason that this is the only biography ever written about Jane - there's barely enough info known about her to fill a chapter in a book about all of Henry's wives, let alone a whole book. That aside, Norton does well with what little information she has to go on. There are a lot of assumptions and supposings, but that's to be expected, given the lack of source material. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jane was a bit more involved in her own rise than previously presented.

I've always felt a bit sorry for Elizabeth - at least as a child. She lost her own mother at two, but surely remembered her for a short while at least and what information we do have indicates that Anne Boleyn was a devoted mother - as much as she could be, while still performing her duties as queen. That's why it's unfortunate to learn that Jane likely paid little attention to Elizabeth, and instead focused on Mary entirely. It makes sense, given Jane's devotion to Catherine, but still, Elizabeth was still a very young child who deserved to be cared for.

That tangent aside, it's a well-written book that's sheds a little more light on the queen we know the least about. At first I was annoyed by the title of Jane being Henry's true love, but discovered that is how Henry viewed her, after her death and was not just the author making grand statements. I do disagree with Norton's assumption in repeatedly saying Jane was safe once she'd given birth to a son. That is in no way true, and is only assuming the best possible outcome. If Edward had died in infancy, or at least before Henry, and Jane had lived, yet had no other sons, I have no doubt she would have been tossed aside like those who came before her.

The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War


NOTE: I see the title has been changed. The title of my blog post is the original title of the book. I am not sure when Butcher changed the book title, but I can imagine why. The book was more about Tim's journey following in Gavro's footsteps than about Gavro himself.

Rating: 4 Stars


I must first say I was a little disappointed by parts of this book. I began reading with the hopes of it being a biography of Gavrilo Princip, but soon realized there's simply too little information about him known for a full length book dedicated solely to him. I enjoyed the history of the land he called home, the place he loved and dreamed could be free from outside rule.

What I could have done without was Butcher's interspersing of stories during his own coverage of the war in the early-mid 90s. I don't feel it added much to Princip's story. It felt unnecessary and just filler - especially since the whole premise of the book was supposed to be following Princip's path as he moved toward infamy.

The thing is, and the reason I chose this book to begin with, I'm not sure I even recall learning his name in school when learning about events leading up to WW1. Simply, an assassin shot the Archduke and his wife, and so came war.

I feel a particular sadness for Princip's descendants, carving out their existence in the small village where Gavro was born. I like that he is referred to affectionately, that at least his family still remembers to carry in his name - especially because everyone else in his country seems to prefer to forget him.

I find the last know photograph of Princip on page 286 truly haunting. Here he is not angry or defiant, as he'd been described previously. He seems resigned to the fact that despite the twenty year sentence, he will die in prison. It is a sad end for someone who dreamed of bringing about such a change for his people, for them to be free.

However, it can not be forgotten that this action spawned not one, but two world wars. There is simply no way Hitler could have come to power had Germany not been so slowly and painfully dying under the weight of the reparations she was forced to make.

Still Princip could not have known that these few bullets would ultimately mean the death of millions over the course of the next 30 years, from WW1 through WW2. He was simply doing what he had always done, as he'd been described by those who knew him: he was the little guy, standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves, standing up to the bullies.

Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel


Rating: 3 Stars


I am very torn on this one. I read The Princess Diaries ages ago and it was one of my favorites. Then I recently read the rest of the series, while most were good (except 10, it sucked, be honest), they just didn't quite have the same oomph of the original.

So, the good: everything you would want to happen and everyone you would want to read about is in this book. There are very few new characters introduced, and aside from Olivia, none of them are very important. Mia and Michael get married, JP truly 'gets his' in the end, Mia's mom and dad get back together, etc. Tina, Lilly, Boris, even Lana, the group from high school are still a group. Still. Eight years after high school ended. (Seriously? I hardly talk to anyone from high school anymore. Not because I don't like them, but because between then and now we've all met other people, moved far away from one another, etc. There's even good friends from college I don't talk to anymore. Maybe it is because I am 32, not 26, but even still. Come on.)

Anyway, that section rapidly started digressing to the not so good, so I might as well get started: everything you wanted to happen and everyone you would want to read about is in this book. Everything just magically worked out and there were no loose ends.

I know, I know. But it IS a bad thing. All of the characters are the EXACT same people they were in every other book. And of COURSE I wanted Michael and Mia to get married - but expecting twins? Seriously?

And what about this whole JP thing being the stalker? How did he go from being the random guy who screamed about corn being in the chili, to this douchebag psycho? It just doesn't make sense, because it is one thing to be a high schooler who is kind of just in it for the fame of dating a princess, to continuing to sulk and stew about it for eight years. It was pretty obvious once JP was introduced as the Lezarres-Reynolds guy that he was RoyalRabbleRouser. However, I had forgotten his last name was Reynolds, so it did not occur to me until this point.

The bummer is, Mia has not really changed. She still makes terrible decisions and by now, having been a recognized princess for 12 years, should know better than to go traipsing off to her half-sister's school when her family is already in the news non-stop. She did exactly the opposite of what she knew she should do and she always in hindsight realizes how poor her decisions are.

Mr. G dying sucks. He was a good guy and loved Mia's mom a lot. It bums me out for Rocky - who was one of the main (and only) reasons I laughed throughout the book, what with his farting/dinosaur obsession and all. No one seemed terribly upset about his death though it had only been a year. I mean, it wasn't as though it had JUST happened, but everyone seemed very blase about it. I specifically chose to not read any reviews of the book or even the summary before starting, and it was still plain as day that Mia's mom and dad would get back together by the end.

And speaking of her dad, seriously, what a mess! A constantly inebriated ruler of a small foreign country? I can't imagine for one second why he had, at one point, been losing so terribly in the polls.

I wish it would have been a straight novel, instead of Mia STILL talking about writing in her journal in the bathroom. She's an adult now, as are many of us who met her so many years ago. I get that the journal angle is her 'thing', but it just seemed awkward that it was most definitely a novel that just had dates scribbled at the top to make it SEEM like it was still a journal.

So, all in all, this was a hot mess of a book. It was exactly what I expected, because it had to have a happy ending. I just wish it had not been so predictable. And I can't shake the nagging suspicion that the only reason Cabot REALLY wrote it was to bridge to the Olivia series, which incidentally reads A LOT like the early Princess Diaries books. Though Olivia seems less high-strung than Mia.

I wanted to love this book, and maybe I can because it is exactly what I expected. But that doesn't mean it was GOOD.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Eleanor of Aquitaine

So this is a little outside my usual postings, but I just had to share an experience I had today because it was so unusual and unexpected and awesome - at least to a history nerd like me:

I was selling some items at Half Price Books, so while I was waiting for an offer on said items, I gravitated toward my usual section, world history. A few minutes there and I found two books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, one I had read and one I hadn't. I'm still perusing the shelves when an older man enters the section and is looking at the books about Russia. We strike up an conversation that turns to genealogy and he says he has recently found in his research that twenty-six generations back, his wife's grandfather is Henry II.

Yes, THAT Henry II,

As in, Mr. Plantagenet himself, Duke of Anjou, King of England, father of Richard the Lion Heart.

And thus making this woman's 26-times grandmother...

Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I was actually speechless for a moment. And for those who know me, that's kind of a big deal. I could not believe it. I then showed the man the two books I was holding, and talked about Eleanor and Henry and Richard and John for about ten minutes, also mentioning my daughter is name after Eleanor of Aquitaine. How random! And my trip to the store had been totally impromptu; it was fate! I know it may not seem like a big deal to some, but this was so cool to me. This man had not only traced his wife's lineage back almost 1,000 years, he had married into the Plantagenet family! Okay, so they don't GO by that name, but you know what I mean. I asked if he remembered off the top of his head which child of Eleanor and Henry his wife's line came from, but he did not recall. There are many options, as many of their children survived to adulthood and had children of their own. I wish she had been at the store with him, but I probably would have just freaked her out, being all crazy with the knowledge. Still, this was a pretty neat thing.

The Eleanor of Aquitaine books I purchased thanks to my sweet offer for all the seasons of Law and Order: SVU I sold:

770556 I haven't read this one yet. So excited, because I almost didn't see it, it was kind of hidden!


159296 ...which I have already read. However, I am collecting every book about Eleanor of Aquitaine that I can find, in order to have a nice collections to give to my own Eleanor when she is older. Plus I never get tired of reading about pretty much the most B.A. woman in history.

I got a couple other books as well, thanks to my sale, books OPL does not currently own. I am very excited for all the extra reading. You know, on top of the 40 (max) I already have checked out from said library.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Buffy and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale


Rating: 3 Stars


Firstly, I think this would have been better had it been written after the show ended. Leaving out season 7 was kind of huge. Joss made it pretty clear that 7 was the magic number, so we knew that was likely when the show would end.

As I said in a recent review of another Buffy-related book, I'm way stupid in love with this show, though it's been off the air some 10 years. It's even kind of awkward typing that sentence, but whatever. But that is why I take issue with the very last essay in this book. According to the authors of, "Feeling for Buffy", it's just another entertaining show that's pretty much just about sex.


I'm pretty sure, not.

Yes, sex and sexuality play their own roles and are themes, just like many other aspects of our daily lives. But to say that's ALL Buffy is about, and to end the book with this essay, when the couple dozen previous essays show otherwise, it's truly disrespectful to the reader and fan.

I'm not saying this opinion is invalid or wrong. It's an opinion. There are people who don't like the show after watching just one episode, or having watched none. There are people who THINK they know what it's about, "like, vampires and stuff?" who insist I will really like shows like 'Supernatural', because they know I like Buffy (I simply nod and smile at those statements). But to put together this (mostly) interesting collection of essays about one of the greatest television shows ever, and then end with that? Seriously? Ridiculous.

There are other minor issues I took note of through various essays along the way - some getting facts or quotes wrong. I just feel like if you're enough way stupid in love with this show to write essays about it, like those who would read said essays, you ought to know what you're talking about.

If I recommend this book, I might say read that essay first, the one that trashes the show and reduces it to the likes of whatever teen garbage is on TV now (I don't know, because I'm not a teenager anymore and I also only use Netflix). That way you get it done and over with. Otherwise it's just a crappy surprise at the end of an otherwise (mostly) interesting read about a show worthy of study.


In regards to the comment above that mentioned 'Supernatural': I didn't mean this is a terribly offensive way. I am sure it i a perfectly fine show it its own right. And Jensen Ackles is yum. But assuming one who loves Buffy would just love any random shmandom show about things that go bump in the night is kind of ridiculous. I know the people who say this are well-meaning, but they have never watched Buffy. It's far more than just demons and ghoulies. I promise. Give it a watch - and more than one episode!

What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as a Spiritual Guide


Rating: 4 Stars


I should begin by saying I am not what you would refer to as a 'casual fan' of BtVS. I am one of THOSE; I know every episode name, can recite them in order (I have a tendency though to block out parts of season 6, forgive me), can quote the show verbatim, and - somewhat embarrassingly - in high school I stayed home 'sick' one day just to catch a radio interview of David Boreanaz on the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show on KDWB. Yes, I skipped a whole day of school for a 10-15 minutes interview. Years later, Mom admitted she knew I wasn't sick, and why I stayed home. My mom rules.

Okay, now that the craziness that is me when it comes to this show is clear...it'll be somewhat understandable why I could only rate four stars - as a stickler for correctness, some of the quotes and their context were just not quite right. That being said, the message of the book is still clear, and a valuable one. I just am very particular when it comes to a show and characters I loved so much (and who are we kidding, I STILL love Angel.)

I feel like this might be geared more toward fans similar to me, or at least those with more than a passing interest. The casual fan may not even recall some of the situations discussed, though many are obvious and the 'big ones'.

All in all, I definitely recommend this one.


I came across as kind of crazy, I realize, but Buffy fans ARE kind of crazy, so, there's that. I'd like to say that for those who never watched Buffy I get why we look crazy. But if you give the show a chance, you'll see how fantastic it really is, how so many of the monsters are metaphors for things we all experience in real life, and what a genius Joss Whedon is.

I forgot to mention the interview included in the end with Eliza Dushku, who played Faith. This was really interesting to read, especially because I STRONGLY DISLIKED Faith, even after her redemption, because I couldn't forgive her, even if all the characters she tried to kill could forgive her. But Eliza, as a person, I dig. The interview was a treat, but was hardly focused only on the topic of the show and its spirituality. They did discuss Eliza's own background, coming from the Mormon church previously and why she chose to leave it, and what she believes now.

Fans of the show will also appreciate the rundown at the end of the book of each season, Scoobies, and Big Bads.

Man, I miss this show. I can't wait until E is old enough to watch it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Well Hmmm. Kinda Neat!

So Goodreads has all kinds of lists about users and you can see where you rank both worldwide and in your own country in terms of being a top user,  top reader, top reviewer, most popular reviewer, best reviews, top librarian, etc. Well, I just stumbled on the fact that I am currently in the Top Reviewers this week at #68 in the U.S. and #133 globally!

Now, this doesn't REALLY mean anything, it just means I have posted quite a few reviews this week - 36 to be exact. It may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the #1 Reviewer this week as posted 366, it seems like nothing. (Seriously, 366? Are they REALLY reviews, or quick one-liners? Perhaps I will have to investigate...)

Either way, it was just something kind of neat that made me smile. You know, because I am competitive and like recognition for accomplishments - yes, reading and reviewing is an accomplishment in my world!

Now, if I were to go back and give a single-line review for every children's book I have read with Eleanor so far, I think I could move up pretty quickly...

The Maya


Rating: 2 Stars


It's always a bummer when I think I am really interested in a topic and then after one book about said topic, I am completely unsure if my interest is waning or if the writing is just that dry/dull/etc.

In this case, I think it is that the writing is just that dry and I felt like I was reading a textbook. Now, before you say, "But it's non-fiction!" I should point out that I read non-fiction almost exclusively these days and have for quite some time. And this...I just could not get interested in it. Even the pictures started to look the same after a while, and that in itself is sort of depressing, because usually maps and pictures are a welcome relief when the writing is too bogged down by the author's extensive knowledge. I realize that one would like their non-fiction writers to be knowledgeable and I appreciate the fact that Coe is beyond well-versed in his knowledge of the Maya. However, there is just SO MUCH that it is almost too much. Perhaps the problem is I have very little background knowledge of my own and thus my very shaky foundation can't hold what was delivered in this text. Unfortunately, due to its dryness, that foundation is not much sturdier now that I've finished the book than it was before.


I want to reiterate that the content itself, the facts and knowledge contained in this book, are certainly great. Coe certainly knows his stuff. I always struggle when rating books below 3 Stars, perhaps because it is hard to truly judge someone who has clearly sent the time and put in effort to make the best product they can. It was just hard for me to keep focused while reading this one, I had to take breaks often otherwise I might have given up altogether, simply because I found it to be  very dry read. If the Maya are of interest to you, please do not let this deter you, as you might find something different than I did.

Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places


Rating: 2.5 Stars


I absolutely loved the Chernobyl chapter - I'm strangely obsessed with Chernobyl - but everything else, eh. Blackwell is a good writer, but I just could not get interested in most if the other places he wrote about. I definitely could not stomach all of the last chapter about India's most polluted River and I'm quite okay not having read the whole thing. Chapter 4, 'The Eighth Continent' was interesting - something I knew absolutely nothing about prior to giving this a read.

Overall, I'd say pass unless you, like Blackwell, see all the beauty in these places. And want to read about pooping outdoors.


This sums up Blackwell's thoughts about these polluted places pretty nicely, and why they are intriguing to him:

"I love the ruined places for all the ways they aren't ruined. Does somebody live there? Does somebody work there? Does anybody miss it when they leave? Those places are still just places." (page 226, hardcover edition)

I really want to visit Chernobyl and I know that sounds weird, but where else can you see time literally stop? Okay, so the looters kind of ruined it a little, but Prypyat was once a bustling city and within 24 hours, the lives of these citizens were changed forever. I just can't even comprehend. And also, I am kind of a nerd for ghost hunting, and Destination Truth investigated there in season 3. Although after seeing the ABYSMAL Chernobyl Diaries a few years ago, I don't think I'd be brave enough to be there at night.

The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe


Rating: 3 Stars


This is a strange book and that makes it difficult to review in the classical sense. There is a wealth of information in general and I found that information very interesting. It was hard to follow at certain times in that the book is arranged by topic instead of chronologically, but overall was not a hindrance. My main issue comes from the chapters themselves, where we start out on the topic give in the chapter title and then leaps and bounds later, we land on entirely different topics. Some were much more tightly woven together than others, which leaves you sometimes with the sense of having skipped pages, when in fact you did not.

Despite that issue, I'd still recommend giving this one a chance. As I said, there's a ton of interesting info - perhaps just not quite all the info you're expecting.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother


Rating: 3 Stars


I am really struggling to review this one. Especially as the Gnostic discussion grew more frequent in the last ten or so pages. I will have to think a while longer and hopefully give a decent review in the future. I can say that I enjoyed the set-up, the 'what daily life was like' aspects. But the parts relating to Mary herself, someone we can never really know anything about besides what the Bible provides? I am feeling disgruntled but can't yet put it exactly into words.


After having some time to think, I think I am better able now to put my thoughts into form.

This book is kind of maddening.

It says it is a biography of Mary, Mother of Jesus. It is not. It is a bunch of hypotheticals about what could have happened to Mary, what life was like for a peasant girl growing up in a small village, and certainly not an actual biography of the real Mary. I am not sure what I expected when I picked this one up, because I logically knew that any trace of Mary has long since disappeared in the last 2,000 years. But I was curious, I wanted something more, some brief facts if even that, beyond what the Bible alone tells us. But on the other hand, the Bible should always be enough. Except, when you love history so much - especially ancient history - sometimes it just isn't.

Reading Goals Update

Not doing too shabby...

Goodreads: 128/200 read for the year

OPL Summer Reading Program: 10 hours met; 7/40 read for the summer

The Shakespeare Thefts


Rating: 4 Stars


Despite some issues with the author's writing style, this was a quick, interesting read.

Oh, what I wouldn't give to own a First Folio.


Okay, so I realize that review was severely lacking in anything that actually resembles  real review. But it is so lovely and romantic to think about the Bard's words still being accessible to us today, recorded for posterity by men who knew him personally. I found Rasmussen and his team's work interesting, but after a brief introduction into their roles, they all but disappeared, much like many of the Folios they seek. I found the anecdotes interesting, my favorite was 'The Pope's Sticky Fingers'. I'm highly intrigued by the copy in Japan that, at the time of printing, they've been unable to yet see up to point of publication in 2011.

As a side note, I appreciate that there was no discussion about the identity of William Shakespeare. I believe he is the man who has been presented through the ages, not Bacon, not anyone else. It is a debate I don't much care for anymore.