Saturday, February 27, 2016

Atlantis and the Biblical Flood: The Evidence at Last?


Rating: 3.5 Stars


I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I so, so badly want Atlantis to be a real place and I don't exactly know why. Maybe it is because of my love for history and I want to believe not only that information about these long-destroyed, ancient places can survive centuries and come down to us now, but perhaps it gives me hope that what we do today will survive the centuries and be known to our descendants.

Considering the approach the author used and the theories he puts forth, I appreciate his background in geology. He has a lot of knowledge that gives him credibility as he explains this catastrophic occurrence that wiped out a huge portion of Britain and Ireland's Ice Age inhabitants. I must say so, the word 'megadeluge' got to be annoying because it was used constantly. I mean, I get it, that's what the occurrence was, but reading it repeatedly just grated on a nerve.

I enjoyed the research and the theories here, but I feel like this could have been two different books. The information regarding a mega flood took up the first 44% of the book and there was zero mention of Atlantis to my recollection. It made me wonder for a while if I had actually selected the wrong book on NetGalley, or somehow a different file had been sent to my Kindle. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that this flood occurred, given the geological evidence, but combining two major events in history seems almost impossible.

There are many positives however, once Atlantis does make its appearance around the 44% mark. There are a myriad of maps included to give the reader an idea of the locations he was referring to. My only gripe about this was that it would have been helpful had the maps been included where they were discussed, instead of being a link to click back and forth between. It would be easier in a print book to keep flipping to an Appendix, but not so much with the Kindle version. If there is a print version, I would love to see a copy and look at the maps in color, that would be very helpful.

The author also makes his case by comparing his idea for Atlantis being on the Celtic Plain with that of Minoan Crete, a popular accepted area where Atlantis may have once stood. I think this is beneficial for the readers, so they can see side by side the way each place is supported by Atlantis 'facts', and where it does not.

The author then deals with what can be considered as known facts about Atlantis, taken from Plato's writings. The author creates a scoring guide, again comparing the how each fact fits with both Minoan Crete and the Celtic Plain. I liked the scoring guide because it breaks up the information about Atlantis and allows the reader to examine it basically one sentence at a time. This also makes it easier to see if one theory holds up better than the other, as opposed to devoting separate chapters to each, forcing the reader to flip back and forth to compare. My issue with this approach is that when the author is presenting the information for the reader to score and judge, he offers his opinion with statements like, "I believe this is unlikely". This does not allow the reader to make up his or her mind on their own, as one assumes the author to be some kind of authority, and would thus sway said opinion. I did not actually take the time to assess these theories with the offered scoring guide, as I do not feel I know enough about the topic. I was interested though to see how the author did so.

After the author presents the reader with the opportunity to rate each theory given the evidence, he then goes on in the ensuing chapters to rate the information himself. I feel like this would have been the place where the author should have included those previous statements just mentioned where he puts forth his opinion. I was kind of disappointed to see here that the author only offered additional statements in his own scoring section as related to his theory.

Overall, I found this text interesting and am glad I had the opportunity to read it. This is the first I have really read of a location put forth outside of the usual suspects and perhaps a fresh perspective is just what is needed to eventually solve this mystery once and for all.

How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life


Rating: 4 Stars


I find books like this enjoyable because, no matter how I might imagine for myself what life would be like if I was a princess in Tudor England, it is much more likely I'd not have been a member of the royal family. Honestly, I know I am not that lucky - even if my name MEANS princess, even. So, I like these kinds of books because it is a glimpse at what my life would have been like in that time, and I can count my blessings once again that I was born safely in 20th century with all the modern conveniences like running water and a public education.

My interest in the book was shot almost immediately however, in the second sentence of the introduction when the author stated that her heart lies somewhere in the middle of Elizabeth I's reign. It is no secret my opinion of Elizabeth and I knew I would not be able to stand yet another author fawning over a monarch I hold in lower esteem than most people. While I will not go into all those details here of my lack of belief in Elizabeth's abilities, they can be found on other reviews for books specifically about Elizabeth that I have reviewed in the past.

Luckily that issue went right on by and I pretty much forgot about the author's statement when presented with the meticulously researched and richly detailed content of the book. I was surprised to find how much information was packed into the book, considering it comes in at only 289 pages. The author has divided the day as the title implies, from waking up through going to bed. Different aspects of daily life are addressed in much detail, from the subject of bathing, to the dress codes strictly enforced by class, food stuffs, education, work and play for both genders, and so on. I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable of the time period and even I learned new things that are not typically conveyed in the other books of the period that I read. It never ceases to amaze me what medical practice looked like at the time. The four humors is endlessly fascinating and there were several pages dedicated to this very aspect of life in the period. I learned more about that in his book than I have any other thus far. I didn't realize before how connected the humors were to digestion and such as well.

I did skip the parts completely that dealt with the blood sports like bear baiting. It holds zero interest for me to read about how cruelly these poor animals were treated. It is yet one more reason I am so glad that I was not actually born in that time.

My only real complaint is the abrupt end. Typically books such as these have some kind of conclusion but this one simply ended with the last chapter. Literally, the end of the book comes with this line, "Whichever bed you had ended up in, it was finally time to go to sleep - lying on your right side was considered healthiest!" (page 289). It just felt rushed, with no kind of wrap-up. It would have been a fine line if there was a conclusion beyond it, but it is a strange way to end an otherwise well-written book.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the time period, regardless of knowledge base.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White


Rating: 4 Stars


This book was gifted to me by the author, David Meredith, in exchange for an honest review.

I wavered back and forth between three and four stars. I would typically then just give it 3.5 Stars and call it good, but that did not quite feel right either because of the plot itself. I loved the idea of Snow White as an aging queen and what comes after the 'happily ever after'. So, four stars.

I know what some must be thinking - ANOTHER fiction novel?! Who is this person that has taken over Sarah's blog?! I briefly considered turning this one down for fear of the 'romance' aspect - that genre is simply not for me. What kept me interested however, was the story itself. Now, we are a Disney house here so that is the only version I know. I have never read the Brothers Grimm version, though I know their tales were much darker and even more violent. So, as long as you go into this story remembering that, you would be fine. Due to my Disney-love, I am naturally highly intrigued by stories that carry on where the originals left off.


Here we find Snow White as an adult and her daughter is about to be married. Yet Snow White finds no joy in the occasion, or any occasion for the last year, as her husband (referred to as 'Charming' throughout) has died. Snow White feels alone and abandoned by those she has loved and lost - her mother and father as a child, then her husband as an adult. Most of the dwarfs have passed on as well, all but one who now lives and works in the castle, helping run Court. Snow White eventually makes her way to an unused tower in her castle and comes face to face with her own life story - as told by the magic mirror that her evil step-mother relied on so many years before. Snow White relives these events and eventually finds her inner strength again to break herself from the melancholy she has been enveloped in since Charming died.

I loved the plot and only wish the story would have been longer. As Snow White realizes what she is still capable of and figures out that she can return to her life, even if it means without Charming, I wanted to then see more interaction between Snow White and her daughter. Even if we did not see Princess Raven's wedding, I would have liked more interaction between the two, to showcase Snow White's rediscovered sense of self and how she could instill that confidence in her daughter. I think this would be especially important, considering how it is explained that Snow White has had such an emotional withdrawal from her life for that year leading up to the wedding.

The scenes from the Mirror itself were well-chosen and well-done. I suppose there were many aspects of Snow White's life that could have been showcased, and the most heartbreaking was when Snow White and her father were discussing going to bring her new step-mother to their kingdom. I mean seriously, knowing what terrible trauma lay ahead for Snow White, it was just so terribly sad. I have a young daughter myself and always seem to over-identify with scenes involving little ones, in that I would be horribly devastated if that were my child going through what Snow White endured. A lot of emotion was evoked in the various scenes, from Snow White running away, to the very descriptive recounting of Snow White recovering from the poison while Charming takes care of her, to their wedding night.

I understand that Snow White was the main character and thus the focus, but there were truly times I wanted to punch her. No matter how many times the Mirror even told her how strong she was, that she survived, she weeped and wailed endlessly. Part of my annoyance with her perceived weakness might be due to the fact that these early Disney Princess versions (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) are not my favorite for this reason - they are not as strong as later princesses, and so I am inclined to be irritated with the character by default and is no fault of the author. (I am all about Merida, personally).

There are a few technical things that bothered me - a lot of exclamation marks. Again that may be a personal preference, others probably won't be bothered by that. Also, I primarily read non-fiction so certain verb-age seemed out of place given the time period I think this was supposed to be occurring in. Most people do not read as much non-fiction as I do though, so again that kind of thing will not be as obvious to others. I am probably a bit tougher on fiction than most. At one point it was also mentioned that one of the courtiers was wearing a powdered wig - it was my impression before that point that the story was taking place prior to the use of such wardrobe style.

Overall I would recommend this one for (ADULT) lovers of fairy tales. There is more violence than sex, which I am good without both, but the story was still well-done. Just be prepared that this is NOT related to the Disney version of Snow White. Seeing what happens after the story ends, so to speak, is such a great concept and the author did a nice job with the story.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Royal We


Rating: 2 Stars


Fair warning - spoilers abound. I will not censor myself, so read at your own risk if this book is something you are interested in,

The book was painful to read, so this review might be painful as well. I guess that's fair. So, let's get started.

OMG, Sarah read some fiction!

Yes, every once in a while I need something a little brainless and I thought this would fit the bill perfectly. Since I was around ten years old and discovered princesses were still real (I mean, my name does mean 'princess', so you can imagine my delight when I discovered that this was something I could still aspire to be) and I fell head over heels for Prince William and loved any royal information I could get my hands on over the years. I always felt a bit bad for ginger Harry, thinking how tough it must be even at a young age to not only be the spare, but to be the less attractive of the two. Boy, did things change fast and I am now proud to admit that Harry is quite easily one of the most beautiful men alive, ginger hair and all. So, you see, I am the prime audience for this book. A love for all things royal, a major crush on a prince, it seems a perfect fit.

Except it is not, because this is one of the most painfully boring books I have ever read in my entire life.

As I was reading, despite the name and nationality changes, I could only see the main characters as their real-life counterparts - Bex/Kate, Nick/William, Freddie/Harry. This would have been as asset, or at least NOT a liability if anything actually happened in the book, but it was always Bex just TELLING about Nick, it felt like. Nick and Bex are completely flat and one-dimensional, and I could not tell any of heir friends apart except by gender. Seriously. Cilla/Gaz/Joss might as well have all been one person. Clive stood out of course, and it was terribly easy to guess who was behind the whole The Royal Flush business. Why wouldn't it be Clive? And of course I read that story line somewhere before - in Meg Cabot's A Royal Wedding, where JP does the same thing to Mia. Except right after I thought that, I realized this book came out first, but both books are just ridiculous, so whatever, it doesn't even matter that they are nearly identical in that regard.

The reason I consider this a liability is because it is such a drag to think William and Kate might actually be THIS boring in real life. I know it's not like they're super exciting - that's Harry's job to be grabbing headlines I suppose, but I can not reiterate this enough: nothing ever really happens. There are spots of actions, there are some witty lines, but having the book play in my head with the images of William, Kate and Harry as the characters - dull.

The only character I liked was Freddie, and that is not just because I have a serious jones for Harry. Freddie is the only character who does anything, who changes, who has any depth. And he doesn't really even change that much, but we see a deeper side to him outside of just being this hard-partying prince who sleeps his way across continents.

Bea and Gemma was so completely random and out of the blue. Bea talks of hooking up with Freddie, and Gemma dated Nick, then Clive sort of, but nope, LESBIANED. Wtf?! How would NO ONE else have ever known that they were dating?

I briefly touched on this before, but for a book that comes in at 454 pages, there is not a lot going on. There is a lot of Bex telling about stuff, but not a lot of anything actually happening. And the timeline was also very weird. You kind of forget that the book is broken up in sections by year and you wonder how all these things Bex tells about happened and then you realize, duh, eight years have one by. It doesn't flow well and it is clunky and plodding and dull.

Know what is totally cheap? A dramatic event to get the pair back together. Bex's dad DIES, and as soon as she is back in England, there is Nick waiting for her at her apartment and they're back together, because grief banging is a thing. Or whatever.

I also do not understand the whole Bex and Lacey dynamic. Being twins, they are dependent on one another petty much their whole lives. Through the whole beginning of the book Bex has this idea that she is in Lacey's shadow, that's why she does the study abroad, blah blah. But then it turns out Lacey is the one feeling like she is actually the one in Bex's shadow? It was just so contradictory and made no sense that they both felt like that, since neither of them never seemed to do anything noteworthy enough to elevate one above the other. Again, whatever.

There are tons of loose ends that are not tied up. Or, maybe they were but I was skimming at the end. It is a sad testament to the book when I am skimming for Freddie, just so something HAPPENS. I mean really, this story is supposed to be about Nick and Bex and their roller coaster romance and break up and marriage, but Nick is barely even in the story and Freddie was the only interesting character. Even Bex herself was dull, no matter how much drinking and partying and whatever she was doing.

Have at it if you like, perhaps you will get more out of it than I will. Consider yourself warned. The ONLY reason I even gave the book two stars was because of Freddie. Without him I could not have made it through this whole thing. I am so glad Bex did not take him up on the "let's run off together" offer. Don't worry, this does not make him the bad guy. It makes sense in the story, if you choose to read it.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium


Rating: 5 Stars


The Anglo-Saxon world in England holds a special place in my heart and I am forever fascinated by the likes of Alfred and Aethelstan. It never ceases to amaze me how Engla-land is the same physical place that would in the future be ruled by the likes of Henry II, Edward IV and Henry VIII. This is a wonderful little gem of a book that did not disappoint, despite coming in at 200 pages. My concern with slim volumes such as this, especially when dealing with a topic near and dear to my heart, is the potential for lacking detail and misinformation - the gossip is always better than the actual story (at least according to the Dark History series, I suppose). I was pleasantly surprised by how much detail was included and the consistent referencing to contemporary sources provides further validity to the presentation. And of course, I was glad to see several appearances by Alfred, despite his death a century before.

The text begins with an explanation of the Julius Work Calendar - a calendar that has somehow, against all odds (and Henry VIII"s rage and ambition), come down to us from the year 1020. A photograph is also included of the January page, of which my only complaint is that it is in black and white and I'd very much like to see color photographs of the pages. The authors give a brief description of the calendar and its purpose - noting the abundance of holy days and high days marking the pages. They likely conclude this document was of most religious importance, and could have been an instructional manual for monks who had recently joined the order.

Following, the book is divided in twelve chapters, by month. The cover page for each chapter includes a reproduction of a drawing taken from the corresponding page of the original calendar. Again, in this instance I would have liked to have seen the actual page, to examine it in color. A particular instance I enjoyed in the January chapter included the discrepancies having to do with when Easter was to be celebrated and also the debate over dating the birth of Christ. It has never occurred to me before that idea of zero was not in use, as this was not needed in a world which still counted by Roman numerals. The authors point out that since zero was not an accepted concept, dating was off by a year due to missing that 12 months from 0-1. They the address how Dionysius then mis-dated Christ's birth, based on when Herod died, pointing out that Christ was likely born in at most 4 BC, perhaps further back. As a result, the so-called Christian calendar is slightly off, though I think at this point no one is terribly concerned about it anymore - can you imagine trying to change centuries of thinking? Quite simply, not possible. So we accept these inaccuracies while keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Something I have mentioned in previous books about this era include my interest in how words and names have evolved. This volume covers this as well, how Angla-lond/land evolved in to England, Angle-ish to English, etc. I also found this quote to be of interest:

"The Anglo-Saxons could swear to do something, or could swear by something, but there is no record of them swearing at anything at all" (page 31).

The author mentions with this that the curse words we know today likely came from Holland in the later Middle Ages - though I would like to know more about how this conclusion was reached and what documents might still exist to show this exchange of cultural information. He also says that no obscenities occur in Anglo-Saxon documents that survive. This is interesting to think about, but one must also consider the fact that of the documents that do survive, much of the material was written by scholars and monks. Curse would would likely have been at odds with the subjects they were writing about, though perhaps I am off the mark in my own conclusion? This is something I would like to learn more about and will be in search of information about this soon.

Another note on language - it was in this time period that all humans were referred to as menn and mann was the word for human. So, there are two conclusions we could draw from this. Either the Anglo-Saxons had a much better grip on gender-equality than we do today, or they were elevating the status of men over women and encompassing both genders into one term. It might be easy to dismiss this as the latter, were it not for the abundance of wills from this time period in which fathers time and again left money and property to maintain to eldest daughters. 

There are plenty of amusing details included here, such as the fact that even 1000 years ago, chicken soup was recommended for its "soothing and restorative powers." A-MEN! There's nothing I like more than homemade chicken noodle soup when I'm sick, how neat that this is something that has not changed since early times.

The authors also discuss life for the monks in the monasteries and daily life there. As monks were discouraged from speaking vocally throughout the day, they often communicated  during meals and such with a variety of some 127 gestures and signs. The monks are compared baseball coaches in our time, albeit asking to pass the salt instead of signaling to steal third. It is an amusing image to conjure, the men at their tables, hands waving about as they speak without speaking. I'd like to see the document containing all 127 signs, though many are described here in the text.

In all, this is neat month-by-month look at this far-away time that almost seems unreal now in its simplicity. I can't imagine living in a time without noise of a large city - though I would very much like to experience it. To have no traffic noise, no neighbors blaring televisions and music, no hum of a refrigerator. Life would certainly have been both easier and more difficult at the same time. Highly recommended read.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders


Rating: 4 Stars


I love these kinds of books - which might be a strange thing to say about a book that is primarily about the author's trek around the country to take in the many sites, memorials, and monuments dedicated to the men who have been president. But this is a great combination of history, travel, and witty quips - all things I enjoy. Despite the risk of being called kind of morbid, this was a fun jaunt through the afterlives of these men and a good look at how we remember our great, and not so great, leaders.

I have recently begun to learn more about presidents who are not named Washington or Lincoln. I admit my knowledge of many presidents is scant at best, as my interest in history typically lies across the ocean on those lovely little islands that make up the UK and Ireland. But here I was, able to repeatedly have my interest piqued, not only because of the sometimes strange stories about the presidents who had to be buried multiple times due to attempted body-napping (Hey Lincoln), but because I realized just how little I knew about the likes of Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, and Chester A. Arthur (and that's just how he likes it!)

The book starts as it should - with a good look at Washington. You really can't help but feel sorry for him even 200+ years after his death. He first served as a general and didn't really want to be president the first time around. THEN, not only does he serve one term, but he is all but begged to serve a second. It's really as though the belief was that the country would have fallen apart without him. Given the nasty campaigns of those who followed, that may very well have been true. But, even after his death, Washington could not be left in peace. He said he did not want to be looked at or held up as greater than anyone else, yet even then the country just could not let him go.

A curiosity I found was the fact that President Garfield's assassination is the only one not marked by some kind of memorial. I mean, you say "Ford's Theatre" and EVERYONE knows what you are talking about. Granted, Garfield is less well-known, but it seems almost disrespectful that someone elected to the highest office in the land would not have a memorial, even a marking on the floor, to commemorate the event. I did a little more research into this topic and found some interesting information in a historical aspect, but it still seems odd to me that not only would President (Teddy) Roosevelt have the train station demolished without the permission of Congress, but would do nothing to at least mark the spot in some way.

After a while, in reading about some of these stories, I felt pity for many of these men more than anything else. While I am still learning more about the political parties and ideologies of them as politicians, they were still people. On one hand you have William Henry Harrison, who some critics were incredibly harsh on in life and in death. He took so much grief from his opponents and wanted to show them that he could do the job he had been elected to do, and it ended up costing him his life a month into the presidency. That alone gave his critics even more ammunition that he was never up to snuff. On the other you have President Taft, who was a target because of his weight. While yes, he was easily the heaviest president to hold office, the things he accomplished still seem to be overlooked, as he is remembered only as 'the fat one'.

I appreciate that as Carlson regales us with these tales of the departed, he remains respectful and thoughtful in his explorations of their lives after death. He is not making jokes at the expense of the former presidents, he makes intelligent observations in funny ways and makes the histories interesting (though, to be fair, I always think history is interesting. I mean that this is the kind of book that would interest even those who find history on the dull side). I'd also like to thank him for continuing to keep my interest in Nixon, as a recent book about the White House did as well. Previously Nixon had been nothing more than a disgraced president who seemed weasel-like and slippery and a guy who resigned to avoid punishment. But more and more I am intrigued by him and look forward to discovering more of who he was through further reading.

Overall, this exactly the kind of weird US tour I would go on myself, and will eventually drag my daughter along on - though I hope she will WANT to go, too - and I am glad to have this volume as a starting point for our own trek to the tombs and monuments and grave sites of the former presidents. Really great read, a lot of fun, highly recommended.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The First Podcast is Up!

Sarah's Book Nook Podcast

In this one I discuss the wonderful 'St Marks is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street' by Ada Calhoun. Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice, from Student Elections to the Supreme Court


Rating: 5 Stars


I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fantastically written, insightful read for young people about the power of voting. The author begins by addressing the history of voting by both the populous and the Court, key issues involving voting such as if it should be mandatory, barriers to voting, and so on. A time line of key SCOTUS decisions is also given then delves into the Supreme Court and a variety of cases that were for the most part decided by the slimmest of margins. Along the way each issue is followed by section entitled "Talk, Think, and Take Action" where the author asks some great thought-provoking questions for young people to think about. I feel like these questions are so important, so readers are not just reading the material but engaging with it and really figuring out what it means to them and how they might use these ideas in their communities. Within part one the author also gives a background of how SCOTUS works, how they decide the cases heard, the dynamic of the justices, and so on. This background is important, as I know myself I did not begin to really understand how SCOTUS worked until my senior year in high school in an AP Government and Politics (AP GAP) class.

Part 2 introduces a variety of cases. Each one is presented on its own, but follows the same formula. First, the key issue of the case and a brief summary related to the amendment concerning it. Then there are the facts of the case, how the court responded and the judgment it handed down, the Justices' own words regarding the ruling, a 'what if...' had the decision gone the other way, cases related to the one addressed, then the 'Talk, Think, and Take Action' section which again asks great, insightful questions to get readers thinking about how they get involved with the issues related to the case. Finally the case section ends with 'closing comments' and further reading and resources.

The book does a fantastic, thorough job in laying out each case without overly simplifying or talking down to the audience. I feel like that is so important, because young people often deserve a lot more credit than they are given. While our government is complicated, we have to ensure that the next generation understands how it works, that their votes do matter, so they can participate and be productive members of society. Apathy is about as dangerous a disease as anything when it comes to voter participation. This book goes a long to help readers see how easily a SCOTUS decision could have gone one way or another by just one vote. ONE VOTE. At 18 we each have one, we must use them.

Interspersed throughout the sections and cases are 'Did You Know?' facts related to the issue being addressed. I thought these were great additions to the text and will help the reader further understand the material. My only complaint really has more to do with this being an ARC on my Kindle than the content. The main text was light to begin with, so the 'Did you know?' was even lighter to differentiate the two. Hopefully this will be remedied when the book is released, though it would likely not be an issue for physical copies of the text.

My final thought is that when it comes to politics, government, and voting, it is difficult to be unbiased. However, that is exactly what the author strives for and is quite successful. The instance of addressing the issue of high school proms and students wanting to bring same-sex dates comes to mind. I like that the author does not inject his opinion into the issue. Instead, here and in many other instances, he uses phrases like, "whether you are for or against it..."

While this material might be a bit over the heads of my 4th and 5th graders, I think it is certainly something I could use with some of my 6th graders. Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Battleship Arizona's Marines At War: Making the Ultimate Sacrifice, December 7, 1941


Rating: 4 Stars


I picked this volume up at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii when Grandma and I were there in 2010. To be at the monument, to be in this place, to see the remains of the Arizona is beyond words. It was very humbling and I have included a few photos at the end of the post that I took that day at the site.

Typically I do not care for reading about the military aspects of war. I know it seems kind of an odd statement to make, since what would wars be without military? I do not really find battle plans and weapons descriptions of interest, I care more about the human aspect, the people involved - how society and culture were impacted by the battles. There are exceptions to every rule however and Pearl Harbor is my exception. I realize this was was a (not so) surprise attack and not a battle, but we certainly fought back as best we could in those early morning hours and this is one of the most important events in our nation's history.

I like that this short volume did not just focus on the attack itself but the marines assigned to the Arizona. We get to know them first, which is almost more difficult, as the majority of them did not survive that day. We see photos of them in uniform with their unit, and then recreational-themed photos - such as the sports teams they belonged to on-board, like bowling or basketball teams. This is so important to events like this, to remember the human element of the story and not think of these men who made this sacrifice are purely a number. They were real men, doing what they felt was their duty to their country and they deserve this honor and respect.

Seeing the photos during and after the attack are heartbreaking. You know there are men trapped inside these ships, you know the outcome, and it is devastating. The accounts described within were almost too much and I had to skim some parts - men so burned that their skin fell off at the touch, and such. I did not realize prior to this that recovery efforts were begun to remove the bodies once the dust had settled so to speak. I thought it had always been intended to leave the ship as a grave. 46 bodies were recovered but it was soon realized that it was a better decision to leave these men entombed in the ship and to not disturb the grave site. 

I feel like after having been to Pearl Harbor, I have a much better understanding of what happened and how it happened. It is different seeing something in person, vs just knowing it through photographs. I feel like I know the place much better now and have a much better understanding of why this attack was so successful for the Japanese.

This is one I would highly recommend to those with an interest in Pearl Harbor and World War II, or interest in general in major events in US history.

Here are a few photos from my trip to Hawaii with my grandma in 2010. All photos were taken by and belong to me.

The anchor recovered from the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu, 2010)

On our way to the USS Arizona Memorial from the dock (Oahu, 2010)

Maps make all the difference when you are actually standing in front of what is being shown on the map (Oahu, 2010)

One of my favorite shots once at the memorial site (Oahu, 2010)

The men of the USS Arizona who lost their lives December 7th, 1941 (Oahu, 2010)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Kings & Queens of England, a Dark History: 1066 to Present Day


Rating: 1.5 Stars


I will keep this short and not so sweet because this book was not good. I try not to, but I sometimes can not help but take offense when I see historical figures I love so dearly and/or highly respect either much-maligned or simply presented wholly inaccurately by an author who could not bother to do five seconds of research. I like the 'Dark History' series in general, though it is nothing spectacular and you will find no new information contained in them. But what I found here was worse. This book was gossipy and sensationalized. it was poorly written and riddled with inaccuracies. There is nothing 'dark' about this history that is flat out wrong in many places. She refers to Catherine Parr as Henry VIII's "Finally, an enduring love" as one heading, which is laughable, considering she wanted to marry Seymour all along. Anne of Cleves was apparently "ugly, skinny and loud-mouthed" - news to me since I did not know you could be a loud-mouth in a country where you did not even speak the language. She is especially nasty to two Scots in particular, Mary and then her son James VI. First, Mary is described as being an, "ignorant, foolish, indiscreet airhead" who "managed to do almost everything wrong and was certainly not the queen 16th century Scotland needed." This could not be more wrong. Without a doubt, Mary made some very stupid decisions. But by all accounts in the short years she did rule, she worked to maintain a balance between her Protestant-turning country and herself. Much has been written about Mary not enjoying her studies but that does not make her an airhead and she was still well-spoken and educated. Her son James does not fair much better. The author refers to him as "creepy", with "spindly legs" a tongue "too big for his mouth...He drooled. He did not wash very often...He looked scruffy because he dressed so badly." It has been documented time and again that James looked oddly in his dress due to the many layers he wore to protect against an assassin. Yes, apparently his tongue was awkward and he was awkward but come on. All this book amounts to is a trashy gossip magazine in hardcover form. PASS!

New Badge!

Just saw today that I earned a new badge on NetGalley - Top Reviewer! This means I have had least three of my submitted reviews published on the the specific book's page. Pretty neat! Check it out to the left!