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review 2019-01-18 22:22
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire - Lawrence James

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed.  Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.

 

Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well.  Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries.  The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige.  The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries.  And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.

 

Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text.  James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it.  The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire.  Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.

 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments.  Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.

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review 2019-01-16 02:06
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF THE INCREDIBLE JOSEPHINE BAKER
Josephine Baker's Last Dance - Sherry Jones

Josephine Baker is someone I had known about since my elementary school days in the mid-1970s, when I first saw her profile in a calendar celebrating what was then Black History Month. I was fascinated to learn that she had gone to Paris in 1925 and made herself into a superstar in France and across the world. 

"JOSEPHINE BAKER'S LAST DANCE" was given to me last month as a Christmas gift. The essence of the novel has as a centerpiece, what was Josephine Baker's last great stage performance in Paris in April 1975. The author uses it as a springboard to take the reader back to Josephine's early years in St. Louis, where she was born in poverty in 1906. I very much enjoyed seeing Josephine as she grew and matured. Hers was not an easy life. There is much in the novel that conveys the struggles and abuse that she endured. America was then an unwelcoming and at times, brutal and dispiriting place for its black citizens. Baker gets into vaudeville as a dancer in her mid-teens and eventually, the gateway to stardom opens and Josephine arrives in Paris with La Revue Nègre . 

The only part of the novel I found fault was its description of Josephine Baker's service in World War II as an intelligence agent and member of the French Resistance. The time sequences which covered the early war years seemed at times nebulous and compressed. If the reader had little or no knowledge of how the French defeat to Nazi Germany impacted the country in June 1940, he/she would be led to think that the resistance movement to the Germans developed overnight. That was not true at all. There was, initially disillusionment and fear when the Germans entered Paris - which had been declared an open city by the French government - on June 14, 1940 - and compelled the French to sign an armistice 8 days later. It would be several months to a year before an incipient resistance movement began to take shape in France as the Germans solidified their power and authority there. 

There was also a mention in the novel which indicated that Josephine Baker made the acquaintance of the courageous British spy Krystna Skarbek, a Pole (aka 'Christine Granville') during the early days of the German Occupation. That is simply untrue. (I read a book in 2015 about Krystyna Skabek's wartime service --- 'Christine: SOE Agent & Churchill's Favourite Spy'. Krystyna Shabek did not get to France until the summer of 1944. Earlier, she had been engaged in espionage work since late 1939 in German-occupied Poland, the Balkans, and Egypt.) That is why I am taking away 1 star and giving "JOSEPHINE BAKER'S LAST DANCE" 3 stars.  Outside of that glaring, historical inaccuracy, it is a very good novel which brought out the real Josephine Baker in so many interesting ways.

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review 2019-01-15 20:30
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui by Makombo Bamboté
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui - Makombo Bamboté,George Ford

Like apparently most of the people who read this book, I read it for my world books challenge and wasn’t particularly impressed. It seems to be aimed at middle-grade readers (ages 9-12), and recounts the childhood experiences of a boy named Daba as he leaves his village in the Central African Republic to attend school in a larger town and spends his vacations traveling around the country with friends and relatives.

As you would expect, this is a quick and easy read that even includes some illustrations. It’s a pretty gentle story, including adventures such as attending a boarding school and tagging along for a crocodile hunt. However, it is disjointed, prematurely ending events that could have been exciting if fully-developed – like the crocodile hunt, which gets less page time than a neighbor telling the boys a story – and including more episodes than fit comfortably within its brief page count. It does little to immerse the reader in Daba’s feelings or experiences; in the second half of the book, he seems to fade into his group of friends, who are indistinguishable in personality and experiences (except for the French pen pal who somehow is able to fly to a Central African Republic town alone and spend the summer wandering from village to isolated village with the local boys).

Daba grows older – the book appears to cover a couple of years – but he doesn’t really have struggles to overcome or seem to change or learn more about life. At times, knowing the story to be based in some way on the author’s childhood, Daba’s portrayal even comes across as self-aggrandizing: a star pupil, always cool and confident, beats adults at games, liked by everyone except for one classmate who’s condemned by other children and adults alike. Meanwhile, for adult readers, the language is perhaps too simple, and some of the events are eyebrow-raising or could use more explanation (the pen pal trip, Daba’s being awarded a scholarship to study abroad without any apparent effort from him or consent from his parents, etc.).

At any rate, this isn’t too bad if you’re doing a world books challenge – Daba travels around his country, giving the reader a sense of the landscape and the culture in the places he visits, and quick reads are always valued for big challenges – but those searching for diverse books to give to the children in their lives would be better served looking elsewhere.

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text 2018-12-17 06:43
Interior Obsession- Top African American Interior Designers

 

Here at Interior Obsession, we offer you a professional and personal interior design experience. Because we understand each client’s spoken and unspoken needs, we create spaces that evolve with their lifestyle and taste. Our project management and technical drawing skills, ensure our projects are on budget, on time and align with your vision. So, when you are seeking African American interior designers in Los Angeles, then call us at 3107770025 or visit our website.

 

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review 2018-12-09 23:32
Book for Door 14 Hanukkah - "Binti Home" - love the writing - hate this publishing trend.
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

Let me start with a complaint so I can get it out of my system. I hate this emerging practice in Science Fiction to slice novels up into novellas and drip feed them to us.

I hated it with Murderbot and I hate it with Binti.

 

I was blown away by the first novella, "Binti" It deserved the Nebula and Hugo awards it won. It was a startlingly innovative novella about identity, about us and other, about fear and harmony, about how defining what it means to be alien also defines what it means to be human. "Binti" worked as a standalone, self-contained story.

 

It took two more years for "Binti Home" to reach us and, very disappointingly, it does not work as a self-contained novella. It's a sequel, so it can't be standalone but I did expect it to be self-contained. What I got is the second act in a three-act play.

 

It turns out it's a very good second act in what I'm sure will be an excellent novel but I wish the publishers had had the integrity to wait until the whole book was ready before publishing it. 

 

Ok, complaint over. 

 

There are lots of good things in this middle act of Binti's story.

 

It retains the freshness of the original novella. It doesn't reprise any of the previous action but carries straight on from where "Binti" finished.

 

It keeps the humour as well as the drama of the previous events and uses both to explore being alien. Here's what happens when Binti persuades Okuwu, an alien shaped like a massive jellyfish that moves through air rather than water an is always referred to as "it" to put cover its tentacles with  otjize, a mix of mud and oil that Himba women cover themselves with:

Covering them with so much otjize,Okwu told me, made it feel a little intoxicated.

 

“Everything is . . . happy,” it had said, sounding perplexed about this state.

 

“Good,” I said, grinning. “That way, you won’t be so grumpy when you meet everyone. Khoush like politeness and the Himba expect a sunny disposition.”

 

“ I will wash this off soon,” it said. “It’s not good to feel this pleased with life.”

"Binti Home" explores the issue of self and other from a new angle by following Binti's own physical and spiritual evolution from the Himba tribal girl she thought herself to be into something other and more than that.

 
When Binti returns home to restore her sense of identity as a Himba woman she is instead forced to confront the prejudices that shape her view of her homeworld and prevent her from seeing herself clearly. Binti's skill as a "harmonizer" is tested when she finds that it's her rapidly changing self that she needs to harmonize.
 

The tension builds. Revelations are made. Threats are introduced. Then the novella ends. Well, actually, it just stops.

 

So I'm going to stop as well. I have to go and read the third act, "The Night Masquerade", which I've just downloaded from the Kindle Store for the princely sum of £2.63.

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