Book Review: Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party

So far this month, I’ve read two Andrew Jackson related books in order to, once again, celebrate Andrew Jackson’s birthday. For those of you who clicked the title because you’re interested or very, very not interested in Democrats, please realize that the Democrats of the 1820’s and 30’s have very little in common with today’s incarnation.

The Book

41sqii0vf6l._sx331_bo1204203200_Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party
Author: Robert Remini
1959
Amazon Link

I’ve been interested in Andrew Jackson ever since I first read about him in American History in high school.  I understand that he wasn’t perfect, and I definitely get that he’s controversial (in fact, that’s part of why I love studying him and his era). I also know I like Robert Remini’s style (at least his style in the 70’s and 80’s – it will be interesting to see if his style when he was younger will be the same or what he’s changed). I have no good book cover image because this is an obscure book for an obscure president.

Martin Van Buren may not have been one of the more memorable presidents, but he was vital in Jackson’s cabinet and Kitchen Cabinet. He was instrumental in shaping American politics into what we see today, and I needed to know more about him to get a better picture of the era.

Non-Spoiler Review

Counting this book, I’ve read 6 of Remini’s works. After I finished this one, I finally gave in and admitted it:

Remini’s one of my favorite authors.

One of the primary criticisms of Remini as a historian is that he too easily takes the viewpoints and sides of his protagonists. He definitely does that with Martin Van Buren, because it’s easy to see his pro-Van Buren tone and, simultaneously, Van Buren’s absolute sliminess. It was a fascinating look at a totally underrated American figure.

This was also the earliest of Remini’s works that I’ve read. Published in 1959, it’s almost twenty years older than the next-oldest Remini work I’ve read. The way the book reads has enormous similarities to the later works, and I can see a lot of how Remini formed his own thoughts on the historical context. I enjoyed that, too.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Van Buren’s role in making the Democratic Party is readily apparent even in high school history, but the depth pursued in this work is incredible. The scummy flip-flopping Van Buren had to do in order to maintain his Albany Regency political machine was especially interesting. He went from someone who thought Jackson was “incredibly dangerous” to a guy who came lapping at his feet, hoping to ride the coattails of the General.

Van Buren would also shoot himself in the foot if it meant keeping overall control of his machine. Remini was a master of storytelling, even if he was a historian, and he excellently built towards the climax of the Tariff of Abominations. Van Buren’s two-faced, evil machinations with that tariff gave the book something of a “Breaking Bad” sort of feel.

I don’t expect pretty much anyone reading this to be interested in 1820’s New York politics as much as me, but here’s been the review anyway.

Next week:

This is a 5-week month! What sort of Jacksonian machination is going to appear next? Stay tuned!

Book Review: American Lion

Let’s celebrate Andrew Jackson’s birthday with another book full of bloodlust and hatred for Calhoun and Clay. This Pulitzer-prize winning book has a fantastic reputation, and Meacham is one of the most famous pop historians of our day. I have no idea how you could possibly do justice to Jackson in a single volume, but oh well! Gonna jump right in!

The Book

519liaiuttlAmerican Lion
Author: Jon Meacham
2008
Amazon Link

Perhaps it’s because I believe Remini’s 3-volume work gave an appropriate, scholarly overlook necessary to appreciate Jackson’s full range of character, but I’ve been suspicious of American Lion since I saw it published in 2008 (I was in undergrad at the time). This book was a Pulitzer Prize winning piece, so it’s got the award chops to back it up, but will that mean its ability to interpret from a Jacksonian Era lens will be marred?

Anyway, when Trump was elected, Time magazine produced an issue dedicated to my main man Andrew Jackson, and the magazine was largely based off this biography.* My desire to read this book grew in proportion to my suspicion, and I really want to see how you can possibly incorporate much nuance in such a short space. Which Jackson will Meacham see in his reading of original documents?

*This is probably due to the fact that Jon Meacham is probably one of the most popular historians around today, and the other part is probably that Robert Remini died in 2013 and couldn’t have written the magazine article even if they wanted him to. Which I would have.

Non-Spoiler Review

I have a total and complete hard-on for Remini’s historical analysis. A the same time, I really, really liked Meacham’s delicious writing style. His ability to craft a sentence is phenomenal. He’s also got a really good grasp of storycraft and can turn what I thought were some of the more boring parts of the Jackson administration into a fascinating story.

One issue I had with this book was probably unavoidable. Because it was limited to one volume, Meacham chose to glance over Jackson’s early life. I think this is a misfortune because without knowing this information, Jackson feels relatively inconsistent in his political beliefs and stands. Meacham attributes what I think is too much to Jackson’s orphaning and experiences in the revolution, and not enough to his marriage, victory at New Orleans, and insane, bloodthirsty time working with the Blount faction. I personally don’t believe in attempting historical psychology, which Meachem definitely tried to do.

I enjoyed this book because it focused on some of the social aspects of 1820’s and 30’s politics that Remini basically glanced over. The Petticoat War was fascinating in this book, though I think Meacham could have done more to show Van Buren’s massive influence in the set of events. I absolutely loved his analysis of Emily Donelson’s recently unearthed letters on the subject, and I thought that was a great addition to the story. The way he incorporated Peggy Eaton’s memoirs and letters was fantastic. If nothing else, Meacham’s telling and analysis of the Petticoat War is worth reading.

In the end, though, I do think too much focus was put on Andrew Jackson Donelson, one of Jackson’s nephews and wards. Though Jackson was indeed the central figure, he didn’t really feel like the “protagonist” of the book as much as Andrew and Emily Donelson. I think this can be attributed to the new documents Meacham had access to (some of Andrew and Emily’s letters), but I still thought the book was somewhat scattered because of this.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones (because let’s be honest, I loved it despite all the above complaints)

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Oops I think I spoiled everything above.

Except guess what? I read the author’s notes, and my main man Remini helped edit. In 2008, I think there was no other choice. Mwahahaha! I knew you couldn’t leave that dude out!

Next week:

Another character/person in Andrew Jackson’s life that doesn’t get enough credit is freaking Martin Van Buren. Next week, I’ll try to do him a little bit of justice as I read Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party.

Which was written by Remini, btw.

 

Book Review: A Being So Gentle

Let’s be honest – this is a great book to read for Andrew Jackson’s birthday, because there was nothing and no one Jackson obsessed over more than his wife, Rachel. Rachel Jackson was extremely influential as a First Lady even though she didn’t live long enough to wield that title properly, and this is the first legit biography I’ve seen of her. I already know the love story of Rachel and Andrew is NUTS, so this is gon’ be gud.

The Book

51qsr2bcvtslA Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson
Author: Patricia Brady
2011
Amazon Link

Last year for March, I read the definitive Robert Remini biographical trilogy on Andrew Jackson. This year, I’m branching out a bit more and looking at a couple people associated with his presidency. Rachel Jackson was incredibly important to Andrew, and she should have been more important to the people he killed in defense of her virtue and honor. She was a quick-witted lady and skilled with running her husband’s plantation (God knows Jackson wasn’t terribly good at keeping money in his pockets), and she’s very underestimated in terms of historical importance.

A biography of her is inevitably going to be hard to write, though, because most of her writings were destroyed in a tragic house fire that occurred years after her death. Moreso than other ladies of her era, she must be discovered through secondary sources and other people’s eyes. That’s part of why I’m excited to see what historian Patricia Brady was able to dredge up.

Non-Spoiler Review

I was very pleased with how Brady teased Rachel out of the few surviving documents about Rachel. She did have to make a lot of suppositions based off what other people said about her in letters or based off some of the letters Andrew Jackson apparently wrote in response to her lost writings.

One thing I was interested in was how far the both of them went in order to please the other. It is apparent that Andrew Jackson’s absences from home in order to murder the British and the Indians distressed his wife, but she also wrote letters and sent out dispatches to preserve his character while he was out. Unlike a lot of men (especially wealthy ones at the time), it seems Jackson did not abandon his wife for mistresses due to old age, weight, or unstylishness (because she worked the farm, she was tanned, at the time a big no-no).

Brady did a pretty good job teasing the life of a very reclusive person from the shadows of her husband’s popularity. Even so, it was very apparent that little direct information about Rachel survives, and much of the story was told with her husband in mind.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t think there’s much spoilers to be had in a historical book. I will say, however, that a few passages delighted me.

One was the passage in which Brady spoke of evidence the Jacksons were seeking fertility advice. That wasn’t something you really spoke of in those days, and the fact Jackson himself bought the books shows the level of distress they – and probably Rachel, especially – had over their childlessness.

Another interesting tidbit was about Andrew Jackson’s feud with John Sevier in the early 1800’s. This book had the added story about how Rachel didn’t want him to fulfill his duties as judge in eastern Tennessee, Sevier’s stronghold, but he went anyway and got very sick. A man came to warn him about a posse set to tar and feather Andrew. He advised Andrew to lock his door and hold up. Andrew got out of bed, went outside, and threatened the crowd which subsequently dispersed.

The book went into detail about how worried Rachel got over this issue, and it was intriguing how involved she was with Andrew’s exploits. He often wrote to her in pretty gruesome detail about all the murdering, and she’d reply with, “Oh, I love you, stay safe, I’ll pray for you,” and stuff like that.  

I found their loyalty endearing.

Next week:

I am excited to say my library FINALLY got a copy of American Lion, which is famous because it was written by John Meacham. I doubt it’s as thorough as Remini’s definitive work, but it’s an extremely popular and more modern analysis of Jackson! Stick around to see if I like that!

 

Reading List – March 2020

Last March, I took a weird turn and read a well-respected, seminal three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson by Robert Remini. It was one of my favorite reading months of 2019.

So we’re doing it again – Andrew Jackson month, go!

A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson – Patricia Brady

51qsr2bcvtslBy far, the most gripping and emotional part of the Andrew Jackson trilogy was in the middle of the second volume when Rachel suffered a heart attack and died. The Rachel and Andrew Jackson love story is so rife with excitement that it has been shown in film and lionized during the earlier parts of the 20th century, back when Jackson was SUPER popular. What’s interesting about this book is it’s a well researched biography of Rachel Jackson, and based off what I know about her that had to be HARD. Most of Rachel’s writings burned in a house fire in 1835, which makes it even harder to tease this woman’s importance, influence, and life out from under her husband’s accomplishments. Even so, she’s super important in Jackson’s life, and her story is one of the most interesting of the time.

American Lion – John Meacham

519liaiuttlThis is a more recent biography than the trilogy I read last year, so I assume it will contain analyses and morals of people more similar to those alive today. With Remini’s important work coming at a time when opinions on Jackson were shifting, I find it important to read something newer and see what happens. American Lion, published in 2008, saw something of a renaissance when Trump invoked Jacksonian imagery in 2016. Interest in Jackson rose, and John Meacham’s opinion was sought. Meacham is quite possibly one of the most famous history writers today (the other competitor I can think of being David McCullough), so I’m looking forward to reading my first work by his pen.

Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party – Robert Remini

41sqii0vf6l._sx331_bo1204203200_So, something I did last year after reading the Andrew Jackson books was write a fanfic. I’m not sorry. Either way, the Van Buren-based character became way more important in that book than I expected, and I considered his importance in the Democratic party and Jackson’s apex. Though Van Buren is mostly well known for being president during the crash of 1837 and only having one term, he’s incredibly important for his behind the scenes work as “The Little Magician” who ran political machines and many successful campaigns. 

Also this was written by Robert Remini, so can you blame me?

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

Book Review: What Words May Come

Kevin’s blog is a wonderful place to just chill out and bask in an ever-changing feed of poetry, pictures, and little stories.

The Book

41lpbrmcfsl._sx322_bo1204203200_

What Words May Come
Author: Kevin D. Parish
2019
Amazon Link

Kevin Parish runs a great blog/website where he talked about this book and its imminent publication last year. His announcement included notice that the first copy went to his mom which, due to my own sensibilities, was a big deal to me. So, after effusive feelings and impulse decisions (not that I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise), I’m looking forward to this collection!

Non-Spoiler Review

One of the best parts about this book was that it was thematically on-point and stayed focused the entire time. Though Parish explored many facets of personal faith – from doubt and sacrifice to joy and friendship – the poetry did remain on the topic of a Christian faith journey throughout. I liked this because when I read each poem (I tended to read one or two a day), I had a fair idea of where each was going and what sort of poem I could expect. At the same time, there was enough variety in style and rhythm that I never felt like it was droning on and on.

As well, I found the order of the poems interesting. Even though it seems Parish put them in A-Z order, the opening with “A Blank Piece of Paper” was perfect, and each poem after seemed to build on the last. Was it a happy accident of having such tight theme? Maybe.

Downsides are relatively few. Probably the big one is that I don’t think it would be suitable for a non-Christian who feels either animosity towards or disinterest in the Christian faith. Parish is in no way insulting or overbearing, but the connection between his poetry and faith is ever-present, and this may make some readers uncomfortable if they’re unprepared and not interested.

The other downside is that the book is short, but the price is higher than I would expect. It was worth it for me because I definitely wanted to read Kevin’s book, but I did blink at it a few times and think about how I could have bought 2 other indie books (much longer ones) for the same price. While I have no doubt that he put in the work and deserves the boost, it did seem a bit off to me.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I usually do with collections, I will choose 3 poems to talk about more specifically. My favorite, one that sticks out from the rest, and my least favorite.

Favorite: Sparrows
So, part of this being my favorite is my liking of Matthew 6:26, which this poem clearly invokes. It also clearly references other natural imagery in the bible, such as the deer in Song of Solomon 2:9, and the rainbow of Genesis 9. The short poem does, in fact, mirror a lot of the feeling of Song of Solomon in its love-like admiration, but it invokes the feelings of significance from Matthew and the commitment of Genesis. At the end, he wraps it into Jesus’s sacrifice, keeping the package tight. It’s just an all-around great poem, in my opinion. ***None of this analysis was confirmed with the author as intentional, so you may want to check the comments and see if I’m way off base.***

Standout: Mary
So, as a Baptist born, raised, and spanked in the South, anything that starts off with “Mary” screams of papism. And we know what that means.

Either way, I thought this poem was filled with complexity – such as a fear of being young and pregnant, of actually being the mother of God (wow) – that I have to give it applause. This wasn’t what I expected from a super-Christian take on things, but it fits perfectly into the theme and feel of the collection.

Least Favorite: S.A.V.I.O.R.
I just dislike acrostic poetry pretty much across the board. When I realized this was an acrostic, I just kind of coughed and plowed through. Sorry to everyone who wanted me to give you something more vivid and useful.

Next week:

I’ve got an exciting new book from an author the WP world here may not have seen yet: S.J. Linton’s Clara! Stay tuned for that!

Favorite Books of 2019

Lucky for me, there’s 5 Mondays this December, which allows an excellent chance to look back at the pile of books (36! Huzzah for me!) I’ve had the privilege to read in 2019!  Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:

Favorite Book On First Read

650Without a doubt, my favorite book this year was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you are a fantasy or a history buff, you should read this absolutely exquisite work. It’s so good that I don’t even feel jealous of the author, just ever so grateful I was able to read the book. 100%, totally recommend. If I hadn’t already given away my copy in earnest effort to get someone to read it, I’d give you mine.

Pro tip, though: get an e-book version. The binding on the paperback is a little weird and can make your experience slightly less enjoyable.

If you allow re-reads, I would have to say this book is competitive with Ancillary Justice, which I still think is probably on of the best books I’ve ever read, but perhaps less fun that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Favorite Indie Book

This feels like such a dangerous category to even have! First, let me say that so many of my fellow bloggers have written great books. More so than anything, what I’ve found to be important in finding a great Indie Book is to look at how dedicated the author is to the craft. A good blog/website is HIGHLY indicative of a good book to follow.

51om2i6e0kl

That being said, I think my favorite Indie Book this year was Diane Wallace Peach’s The Melding of Aeris. While many books could boast powerful storylines and well-written prose, what continues to stick out about Aeris is the extraordinarily clever world and detailed magic system. The feel is post-apocalyptic, but it doesn’t go into detail as to why the world is such. I had a lot of fun reading it and would recommend to those looking for a way into the indie book scene.

I feel like if I do runners up, I’d just be listing off a bunch of bloggers’ books!

Favorite Series

One of my goals this year was to read more series, and I’ve read several. However, I’ve got to limit my choice to just one!

And, no doubt in my mind, it was the Robert Remini Andrew Jackson trilogy. This trilogy is a fantastic set of biographical works that incorporates both feelings from back in the day when everyone was racist and ideals from a more modern, critical era. Though Jackson was a lunatic, Remini shows you his charisma, wit, and drive in such a way that he becomes more coherent. I’ve always enjoyed studying Jackson, though, so I’m inevitably a bit biased.

Also I’ve read this series in the past, so I feel like I cheated a bit by choosing them here. A good runner up would be the Imperial Radch trilogy, but I think it suffers from having a weak second entry.

Favorite Classic

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t read too many true classics. For that reason, I’m including somewhat recent science fiction and fantasy classics.

dracula1st

Even so, I’d have to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. I didn’t go in expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tension, the depth of character, and creativity with the subject matter. I think it’s a great read for anyone interested in expanding their experience with fantasy and classics. Don’t be afraid of it just because of the Twilight craze!

A Couple I Explicitly Didn’t Like

I don’t want to talk about Indie books I didn’t like. If you want to see me rip Indie books, you’ll have to go to my Reviews Page and find them yourself. Part of this is my belief that Indie Books, if done right, should explore niches traditional publishers are afraid to go down – niches that might not be for every reader.

I was sad that I didn’t like Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I thought the premise looked really cool, and I very much enjoyed some of the short stories she’d published in other places. I thought the book didn’t explain itself well, and I could never root for the main character. It also came off as tone-deaf in a post 2016 world. 100% worst thing I’ve read this year.

Without anything coming close to Trail of Lightning in terms of sheer dislike, I moved on to thinking about disappointments. Though I enjoyed the book by the end, I was disappointed with The Warrior’s Apprentice. After having read two other novels by McMasters-Bujold, I expected more from this book. I also got more from the books following The Warrior’s Apprentice in the series. I think she tried to fit too much in the novel, and it ended up being an overwhelming tapestry of exciting stuff. It was also her first publication, so that inexperience probably didn’t help.

 

 

Book Review: The Alienist

I was flipping through some of the audiobook selections at my library, and I came across a curious book that had a sci-fi sounding title and a –

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD IS THIS A THEODORE ROOSEVELT FANFIC

Renting the shit out of this.

The Book

51jxil0exalThe Aleinist
Author: Caleb Carr
1994
Amazon Link

I hadn’t heard about this book, but I was pretty little when it debuted in ’94 (which means I’m older now, btw).  Regardless, I was looking for sci-fi about aliens and stupid computers thought this was what I meant.  I was disappointed to see it was about the 1800’s.

But then I saw it was supposed to have Theodore Roosevelt as a character.

Y’all know I’m a complete and total sucker for presidents.  I had to read this thing.  I checked that audiobook out, regardless of any regret I may later feel.

Non-Spoiler Review

I really enjoyed this book, though at times it got a bit graphic for my rather tender tastes.  I think what kept me engaged was their interesting techniques, not all of which worked (and some of which I found absolutely ludicrous from a technology perspective).  The main character, John Malone, was really a good perspective to write the book from.

One thing that I found very satisfying was the representation of characters that weren’t white men.  While it was apparent that white men were the power brokers in the world, the agency of boys, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals was not overlooked.  The character of Sarah, especially, was done so very well.  I think Carr did great with characters from a wide swath of backgrounds, and I think people should read this book for that reason if nothing else.

Also, the historical elements were fantastic.  Sometimes it felt like Carr put things in just to include historical references (for example, the characters ate at Delmonico’s and described the restaurant in detail like 5 times).  They met people like Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and Jake Rhiis. It felt a bit forced at times, but still it added to the overall effect of the book.

Overall, I would recommend, but there are some rough places that aren’t really for the faint of heart (and probably surpassed my own abilities).

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The story was really good.  The main characters used psychology – at least what was available in 1896, with a little help from having an author in 1994, to determine the characteristics of a murderer, find him, and stop him from continuing his spree.  It was deeply complex, intriguing, and full of action.  The emotional twists and turns were astounding.

The only low point in the book was, if you ask me, a bit at the climax. Kreizler, the titular alienist, quit the investigation when his girlfriend was killed by a mob boss.  He then came back at the end, almost deus ex machina, and solved the case.  As well, the mob boss was following him and ended up being important in the final showdown. To me, that final coincidence felt a bit too large, and it ignored a lot of the contributions of Sarah and the Isaacsons.  It wasn’t a bad way to do the climax, but it didn’t quite feel satisfying to me.

Supposedly there are follow up books, and I’m intrigued enough by this one to think they might be worth reading.

Next week:

This is a 5-Monday month, and what timing!  Next week, the 30th, I’ll be making a post describing my reading journey.  And what a journey!  I’m excited to share what may be my most successful reading year in a LONG time.

Reading List – December 2019

This year has just flown by!  And, what’s more and just as exciting, I’ve done a great job with my reading schedule!

As a reward, I’m reading ‘Whatever the hell I please’ this month.  So here’s a hodge-podge of stuff, fresh from what I want to do.  🙂

The Robots of Dawn – Isaac Asimov

51p4stbegul._sx301_bo1204203200_If you’ve followed me for long, you know I’ve read all the previous books in Asimov’s Robot series.  You also know that I’ve liked them all, and you know that I’m aware Asimov’s later works kind of go off the rails and start doing crossover-fanfic level of stuff.  Well, I think this entry is where that starts, but I felt like trying anyway.  Screw it.  Let’s see if this one’s as bad as the Foundation series where the crossover fanfic type stuff starts happening.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

51vsfbzlu2blI’ve never read this sucker before because my high school was weird and we had waivers to avoid reading anything our teachers didn’t want us to read. I think we read The Chocolate War instead, or perhaps Something Wicked This Way Comes. Either way, this book is supposed to have a lot of messages about censorship, writing, and thought. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I think I need to read this in order to be up to par compared to my well-read cohorts.

The Alienist – Caleb Carr

51jxil0exalI thought this one looked pretty legit when I came across it on accident at the library.  And what’s more?  IT HAS THEODORE ROOSEVELT.  One of the few ways you can convince me to read a book faster would be to include Andrew Jackson.  Anyway, this is about solving a series of gruesome murders during the time Roosevelt was police chief of New York.  It seems like it’s pretty diverse, and I’m a bit excited to see where this weird book goes!  I hope it’s like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in some of its qualities!

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read next year, and those slots will be opening before you know it!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Talamk an Eisc: Nordic Landing

Sometimes, I’ll see threads on Twitter where people will advertise their books.  I’ll go through these lists of indie books and see if anything strikes a fancy.  And let me tell you – I’ve clicked on HUNDREDS of those book links, and I’m still pretty picky about what I choose.  This one looked very interesting.

The Book

51dqwgwwmtlTalamk an Eisc: Nordic Landing
Author: K.D. Carter
2017
Amazon Link

I was on a major history-obsession bender when I saw this being promoted by the author on Twitter.  I’m not really sure, beyond the historical backdrop, why I bought this – I think the title is actually pretty terrible, since non-English words are usually a turn-off for me (they don’t tell me much about the contents of the book).  Still, it looks pretty action-packed, and I hope the author pressed a lot of love and research into the pages.

Non-Spoiler Review

Eh… I wasn’t as impressed with this as I had hoped.  Perhaps I had too high expectations going in. Perhaps I felt mislead by the summary on Amazon.

  1. Big issue #1 is this book contained no fantasy elements. I’m fine with that, but it shouldn’t have been teased in the summary if there were no fantasy elements.
  2. So, you’re now thinking this was historical fiction. Thing is, it’s not very well researched. For instance, THERE WAS TEA. LOTS OF TEA. How was there tea?  The first westerner to discover tea was Marco f*cking Polo. Also, the book had coexistant Celts, Irish norsemen, and churches, but that doesn’t actually work out well from a history standpoint. It depends on the definition of Celt, I guess.
  3. The war and cool stuff in the Amazon summary barely comes up in the story. The enemy who is trying to stir sh*t doesn’t seem necessarily bad, just lucky to have ended up with a literal gold mine.  I could never bring myself to believe the good guys were actually good and the bad guys truly bad, not when the good guys were just as into rape and murder.
  4. This felt like a story someone wrote based on their AD&D: Vikings Edition game.  The summary describes them as “a Farmer, a Merchant, a Warrior and a Thief,” but you might as well say “a Barbarian, a Fighter, a Bard, and a Rogue.”  No single character was followed closely enough to make me like them, and the team was so dysfunctional I liked them about as much as I liked the Fantastic Four.
  5. The plot contained a whole bunch of traveling. Oh, and see the spoilers for more plot issues.
  6. The formatting wasn’t great.  There were several editing issues, and the line spacing and indentations were all over the place.  I know it’s minutia, but I find things like that usually indicate the overall quality of the piece.
  7. No Oxford commas.

Discoball snowcone ratings on indie books I didn’t like show up only long after my book review posts are ‘dead.’ I do not leave review with low star ratings on Goodreads or Amazon unless there are already 20+ reviews.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Ok… I’m just going to summarize the plot, beginning to end.  You decide if I have a reason to dislike it. WAIT FOR IT.

The regent calls farmer Bas to complete a mission with master swordsman Scaran. Declan, enemy of the regent, has a lot of gold and a new, destructive weapon: a black powder that burns. Bas and Scaran must stop Declan from pursuing more power.

The regent demands they take Elise, the traitor who brought intelligence about the weapon, along on the mission. To prove her claims, Elise convinces master thief Raven to show the burning powder to the regent. While doing so, Raven is discovered as a murderer and also pressed into service against Declan, the enemy duke.

They then hate each other and travel for about 50% of the book. Scaran gets a letter that his boss is murdered, but it’s too late and he can’t go back. All that matters here is they eventually get to the town where Declan lives.

While Bas and Raven scout, Scaran threatens to kill Elise. She escapes him using a sleeping potion, then immediately gets captured by Declan and is threatened with being raped to death.  Lucky for her, Raven finds out that Declan plans on raping Elise to death, so she gets mad and starts killing soldiers as a distraction. During the distraction, Elise poisons Declan, theoretically killing him. We still don’t know why Declan was worse than their own regent, save for the fact he has money. The four escape on ponies and seek refuge in a church. (Note: this is about 80% of the way through.)

Waking in the middle of the night, Scaran declares, “I know who murdered my boss!”

They then travel back to where they started, hunt down Correigh (who hadn’t been mentioned by name before as far as I remember), and kill him for murdering Scaran’s boss.  Once they figured out it was Correigh, they had to entrap him and make sure it was him, then definitely kill him rather than bring him to the king for justice. The party then broke up, and everyone went their own way. Raven changed her name to Brenna.

Did you catch what I disliked? If not, here it is:

  1. The main problem was swept under the rug quickly
  2. The plot changed on a dime with a guy waking up and remembering a problem that had barely been mentioned before
  3. Tons of needless rape and murder that didn’t really add to the plot

Next week:

Next week I’ll be reading A. Rinum’s The City of Saints, a sci-fi tale about cyborgs! Good times!

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die – How Well Have I Done?

I saw this on Hannah J. Russel’s book blog. I decided to see how well I did!

Title

Read?

Author

To Kill A Mockingbird Yes Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The Diary of a Young Girl Yes Anne Frank
1984 Yes George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Yes J K Rowling
Lord of the Ring Trilogy Yes J R R Tolkein
The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald
Charlotte’s Web Yes E B White
Little Women Yes Louisa May Alcott
The Hobbit Yes J R R Tolkein
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Jane Eyre Yes Charlotte Bronte
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
Animal Farm Yes George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye J D Salinger
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Yes Mark Twain
The Help Yes Kathryn Stockett
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Yes C S Lewis
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief Markus Zusak
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Night Elie Wiesel
Hamlet Yes William Shakespeare
A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
A Wrinkle in Time Yes Madeleine L’Engle
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Yes Douglas Adams
A Christmas Carol Yes (Was Scrooge in a play, actually) Charles Dickens
Of Mice and Men Yes John Steinbeck
The Secret Garden Yes Frances Hodgson Burnett
Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare
The Handmaid’s Tale Yes Margaret Atwood
Brave New World Yes Aldous Huxley
The Little Prince Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Where the Sidewalk Ends Yes Shel Silverstein
Wuthering Heights Yes Emily Bronte
The Giver Yes Lois Lowry
Anne of Green Gables Yes E M Montgomery
Macbeth Yes (Def fave Willy Shakes play) William Shakespeare
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Yes Mark Twain
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Yes J K Rowling
Frankenstein Yes Mary Shelley
The Bible Yes Various
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Steig Larsson
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
The Fault in Our Stars John Green
The Colour Purple Alice Walker
East of Eden John Steinbeck
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
Catch 22 Yes Joseph Heller
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
The Stand Stephen King
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Watership Down Yes x like 12 Richard Adams
Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Ender’s Game Yes Orson Scottcard
Great Expectations Yes Charles Dickens
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Yes J K Rowling
The Old Man and the Sea Yes Ernest Hemingway
A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
The Princess Bride Yes William Goldman
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Yes Roald Dahl
The Life of Pi Piin Elama
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet
Les Miserables Victor Hugo
The Scarlet Letter Yes Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dracula Yes Bram Stoker
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Yes J K Rowling
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
The Raven Yes Edgar Allen Poe
The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
Outlander Diana Gabaldon
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Good Earth Pearl S Buck
The Time Traveler’s Wife Yes Audrey Niffenegger
The Odyssey Yes (if reading it in Latin counts) Homer
Celebrating Silence Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
And Then There Were None Agatha Christie
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
The Thorn Birds Colleen McCullough
The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls
Mockingjay Suzanne Collins
The Things They Carried Yes Tim O’Brien
The Road Cormac McCarthy
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Siddhartha Yes Hermann Hesse
Beloved Toni Morrison
The Story of my Life Helen Keller
Phantom Tollbooth Yes Norton Juster
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler E L Konigsburg
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As of 4/29/2019, I’ve read 47 of the 100 books. Granted, a lot of them I read in high school, so I don’t remember a ton about them. Still – as a good Southerner, I should have read Gone with the Wind! Shame!