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review 2018-12-12 13:00
BECOMING written and narrated by Michelle Obama
Becoming - Michelle Obama,Michelle Obama,Penguin Books

 

I don't know what to say about this book other than the following:

 

I found Michelle Obama to be an impressive and an interesting person.

 

She's classy, (she could have said a lot more unflattering things about many people. She didn't.)

 

She's a great narrator.

 

She loves her husband and kids with all of heart and shows it with her actions.

 

Political campaigns cost even more than I thought. (And I still can't help but think that money could be put to better uses across this country.)

 

I found it to be such an inspiring read I'm not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes more than once. At the same time, this book unintentionally made me nostalgic and sad. It is my opinion that a lot of the good accomplished by the Obama administration has now been undone. (The Paris Climate Change Agreement, among many other things.)

 

I highly recommend this book to those who want to know more about Michelle Obama, (whether or not your admire her), from her own mouth.

 

*Comments and/or questions regarding this BOOK or this somewhat of a REVIEW are more than welcome, positive or negative.*

 

**Comments regarding political views not associated with this book or review will be deleted.**

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review 2018-12-11 09:24
Asgard to Valhalla, Heather O'Donoghue
From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths - Heather O'Donoghue

A really interesting survey of the impact Norse mythology has had on culture from the time it was first written down in Iceland onward to the present day (or at least the date of publication, earlier this century).

 

First off there's a look at what we know about Norse myth from written sources and archaeology, noting the problems and uncertainties associated with each and the vast yawning absences in our knowledge that look to be forever irreperable. The most important stories from the written stories are outlined - necessary information for the next part of the book, which surveys how Norse myth impacted all aspects of culture, social, political, artistic in a progression from the 13th Century to the 21st.

 

O'Donoghue restricts herself only to the "highlights" in order to fill in trends and register the most impactful social and artistic movements. This is no doubt essential for a book aimed at a popular audience, with a length restiction, however, I could have wished for both more detail and a more comprehensive discussion, at the risk of ending up with a longer and more academic book.

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review 2018-12-10 01:29
Covert action and its overt impact
Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy - Rory Cormac

For decades now James Bond has vied with the queen as the personification of Britain for the rest of the world. This is perhaps more appropriate than many realize, for as Rory Cormac documents in his book covert action — a term denoting activities ranging from propaganda efforts to direct political and economic manipulation —has emerged in the postwar era as a prominent tool of British foreign policy. His book describes the development of this approach, as well as its successes in failures in achieving British goals in an era of imperial decline and global eclipse by the postwar superpowers.

The employment of covert action was not something that the British embraced at first. Though Britain has a long history of intelligence activities, Cormac notes that it was not until the Second World War that the British professionalized their efforts. In the aftermath of the war, the Foreign Office took over the direction of intelligence activities abroad, a move with important ramifications for their subsequent employment. Though the first foreign secretary to exercise this control, Ernest Bevin, was initially reluctant to utilize covert action, deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union soon led to its employment in response to Soviet aggression. Often in close cooperaton with the Americans, British covert activities increasingly became a preferred tool of achieving British aims, albeit not always successfully.

This was true as well in the areas of Britain's former imperial control. Here British leaders were far less reluctant, seeing covert action as a useful means of maintaining influence in areas long viewed as part of their sphere of influence. Over time, however, the use of covert activities proved increasingly controversial politically, and nowhere was this more true than in Northern Ireland. With the ongoing Troubles the region soon became a hive of intelligence activity in the aftermath of the army's failure to restore peace, though many of the activities operated in a grey zone legally. By the end of the Cold War, though, covert action was nonetheless established as a useful tool for achieving Britain's goals abroad, one employed down to the present day.

Cormac's book offers a highly enlightening overview of an often little understood dimension of British foreign policy. While many of the details may be familiar from the reporting of journalists and the headline-grabbing revelations of memoirists, Cormac's archival digging and inter-connective analysis exposes the degree to which covert activities have established themselves as an essential tool of policy execution. Though stronger in its earlier chapters (reflecting perhaps the greater abundance of information available to him), this is nonetheless a book that will be enjoyed by students of both the history of British intelligence and of postwar British foreign policy. By shining a light into these long-shadowed activities, Cormac has helped us to better understand the role they have long played, even if it was unappreciated both and the time and for decades afterward.

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review 2018-12-03 01:56
Joan Of Arc's inspirational life story shines through in this unique novel told entirely in verse
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc - David Elliott

This book is exquisite. ‘Voices: The Final Hours Of Joan Of Arc’ has brought life once again to one of the most unforgettable and extraordinary female warrior icons. Everyone knows her name, but do they know her story?

 

Told in verse, in different medieval forms of poems, ’Voices’ is so unique (some stanzas are shaped like the subject that is ‘speaking,’ ie the sword or the crossbow). David Elliott has written such a compelling account of Joan’s short life from her beginnings in Domrémy, to her visions of the Saints, the battles she led against the English, and her eventual capture and execution. The encroaching ‘Fire’ poem that repeats throughout the novel is particularly clever and impactful.

 

Back then in 1430 France (when she was captured and put on trial), Joan was viewed with suspicion and as an affront to the Crown because she dressed in armor and wanted to ’look like a man’. She didn't believe she should have to stay at home ’to sew and mate’ when a war was being fought, simply because she didn't want to, never mind her sexuality. Her story has always been known as one of the earliest examples of a woman standing up against misogyny, against a patriarchal system that didn't make sense to her, and because her beliefs simply wouldn't allow her to sit down and accept what was happening around her.

Joan’s voice and perspective come through clearly in the novel as brave and courageous, with the right bit of stubborn. She questions the system and pursues her objectives, which give the novel an obvious ambiance of inspiration throughout. I only really wanted more from the novel when it came to the trial and perhaps the very end of her life.

Joan became a Saint after her death and was declared a martyr for everything she gave for ’God and country’. I did appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book; it seems this work was a labor of love and I enjoyed reading about its inception.

 

Joan of Arc is a historical figure who is infamous because of the brave, short life she lived, with such a tragic death, and I think Elliott has written something brilliant here that can draw many people in to learn more about her.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40796139-voices
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review 2018-11-30 21:03
Fun romp
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Very easy and fast read. It would have been the type of book I would have adored as a kid in that liminal space where high reading skills put you beyond children's books but maturity does not really afford you adult reads. So yeah, classic adventures for the win.

 

The devise of telling the story from the third limited of a character other than the Scarlet Pimpernel allows for a show of his BAMF qualities that would have sounded boastful otherwise, so that's another good bit.

 

Most of my gripe comes from the ever moronic woman (I'll leave the political and racial alone this time). We are constantly told she's the cleverest woman in Europe, but either that's a huge fail of informed quality, or the author was taking the mickey on it by drawing a contrast of what the world says of a characters intelligence vs what happens behind curtains of a person's life. Still, the fact that she's absolutely useless and most times an obstacle, continued to bother me. I thought the story would redeem her when she decides to go to France, that we would be shown her being resourceful and clever and see her save the day right alongside the Pimpernel. Hell, for a bit there I was prepared to be blown out of my mind by a turn of the XX century female author writing a woman saving the hero. Alas, no dice.

 

The other bit that is a bit weak (beyond several un-reveals, duh), is the constant over explaining. Orczy does an excellent job of showing the pieces so that you can puzzle it out. It is a pity she wastes pages and belittle her readers intelligence by spelling it all out yet again in expository dialogues and what not.

 

Anyway, if you are not nit-picking like I've been, it is good entertainment.

 

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