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review 2017-12-07 00:24
Shocked how terrible the book is.
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

I've had this for several years and thought it would be a good time to read after watching 'Crown Heights' (which follows the story of a man jailed for a murder he didn't commit). It seemed like an excellent companion (even if they are not about the same men). 

 

Author Bryan Stevenson takes the reader though the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative, which defends the poor, the wrongly condemned, the people who are most likely to be victimized by the justice system. And in this story is of one Walter McMillian, a man on death row for a murder he didn't commit. Which is what the back summary told me and is the story that I thought was going to be told.

 

Instead the book meanders and tells the stories of others who are caught in the same or similar awful circumstnaces. Stevenson isn't very good in weaving the stories together. I thought the subject matter would be something that would definitely keep my interest given how horribly and horrifyingly common this is (plus the other problems with the justice system). Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a book like this but I do not understand the other reviews who say the writing is otherwise good. It was unbearable to get though and I had to begin skimming early because I just did not find the text holding my attention.

 

There is merit to the book and maybe this is another case where I'm totally wrong and the multitude of awards this book has is completely deserved. I do think Stevenson brings to light many important issues that are never given the proper attention and the justice system really isn't as great and dandy as far too many people seem to think it is. But it just felt like this was not the right vehicle or that Stevenson was the wrong person to tell the tale.

 

Maybe it just wasn't for me. Another book that I'd recommend is 'The New Jim Crow' although that is not specifically or exactly about the same topic. I bought this but wish I had borrowed it from the library instead. 

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review 2017-12-05 18:29
Mice Templar Series - Series Review
The Mice Templar, Vol. 1: The Prophecy - Bryan J.L. Glass,Michael Avon Oeming
The Mice Templar, Vol 2.1: Destiny Part One - Bryan J.L. Glass,Michael Avon Oeming,Víctor Santos
Mice Templar Volume 5 - Bryan J.L. Glass Mice Templar Volume 5 - Bryan J.L. Glass

When I was in college, I started reading the Redwall novels by Brain Jacques.  I know that I was reading below my reading level, but to say that I had read Watership Down at a very impressionable age would be an understatement.  So, give me animals doing human things or close to, and I will at least try the story.  Therefore, later in college when I discovered William Horwood while on a trip to the Netherlands, I was like WTF, why isn’t he published here in the US.  Bastards.

 

                Mice Templar is like Redwall in that it focuses on mice.  That’s about it.  There is more blood, there is more violence, there is less feasting, there is more death.  It is Anime and not Disney.

 

  Mice Templar relates the story of Karic of Cricket’s Glen and his friends and family as they struggle to make sense of a dark world, where light is not.  Karic’s home is attacked and his family and friends taken or killed.  Those that are taken are to be sacrificed in the capital.  Karic is determined to save those he lives, and so answers in the affirmative when he determines upon a course that will change not only him, but his world.

 

                The world of the Mice Templar is based on various European myths and history.  There are connections to Joan of Arc, to various Norse sagas, and Arthurian legends.  But it is also connection to the Dark Ages, for the mice’s world seems to be on perpetual darkness, there is not day.  Even the inclusion of the Maeven, female mice warriors, has historical precedent.  (To be fair, the inclusion of female characters who are actually truly active takes a bit, yet it is played off quite nicely in the end).

 

                One of the main themes that the comic series explores is the question of story telling and destiny.  Our lives are stories, and most humans convey wisdom don history though stories.  Kari is willing to take on the quest, but does he lose himself in the process?  He becomes a symbol to more than just mice.  But is that symbol something to be feared or to be worshiped, and for how long?  We tend to blame the English for the death of Joan of Arc, but the French were also culpable. 

 

                Part of Karic’s struggle is to reconcile the Templars who are split almost along the lines of the time of two popes, though more on a secular level than anything.  The mouse who becomes Karic’s closest friend, Cassius, has been tramlined by this war, and both Karic and his childhood friend Leito almost reenact over the course of the series.

 

                But what hangs over the story, one of the themes is the idea of story and the power of story.  It forces the reader to confront how story telling plays a role not just in history but in setting us on the paths we chose as well as how we view questions of faith.

               

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review 2017-11-30 21:17
The campaigns of the "Great Commoner"
William Jennings Bryan, Vol. 1: Political Evangelist, 1860-1908 - Paolo E. Coletta

Among failed presidential candidates, few have the iconic stature of William Jennings Bryan. Though frustrated in his three campaigns for the presidency, his championing of the issues of rural Americans made “the Great Commoner” a hero to millions. Paolo E. Coletta’s book, the first volume of a three volume biography of Bryan, covers his early years and his political career through his final attempt to become president.

The son of a local politician, Bryan grew up in Illinois in a strongly religious household. After college he embarked upon law school and a career in the law, moving to Nebraska in 1883. Though successful as an attorney, his true passion was politics, and he won election to Congress in 1890 as a Democrat. There he became a staunch advocate of agrarian issues, calling for tariff reductions, the establishment of an income tax, and the free and unlimited coinage of silver. Bryan soon found himself at odds with Grover Cleveland over the silver issue, and decided to leave Congress in 1894 in a futile pursuit of statewide office.

 

A powerful orator, Bryan’s continued advocacy for silver coinage even after leaving Congress made him a contender for the 1896 Democratic presidential nomination. His famous and impassioned “cross of gold” speech at the convention captured the imagination of the delegates, who chose him as their party’s nominee the following day – at 36, the youngest presidential nominee in American history. Though Bryan campaigned vigorously, he was defeated by the Republican nominee, William McKinley, in what proved a historic turning point in national politics.

 

Despite his defeat Bryan continued his political activism. He remained true to the cause of silver, and when Cuba’s status became a national issue Bryan advocated its independence. Defeated again in a rematch with McKinley, Bryan nevertheless maintained a visible presence with highly profitable speaking tours and the publication of The Commoner, a weekly journal espousing agrarian political issues and Jeffersonian principles. Coletta argues that during this period Bryan was a prophet of progressivism, endorsing the emerging political mood for which much of his own advocacy had paved the way. His concerns about the excesses of capitalism prompted Bryan to run for the presidency a third and final time in 1908, in a campaign that ended in a frustrating and perplexing defeat at the hands of William Howard Taft.

 

First published in 1964, Coletta’s book represented the first scholarly biography of Bryan. Based as it was on considerable archival labors, it remains an essential source for anyone seeking to understand the course of Bryan’s iconic life. Yet the lack of a systematic analysis of Bryan’s life based upon the research Coletta undertook is a serious disappointment, as readers are forced to draw their own conclusions from the details the author provides. Because of this, anyone seeking an introduction to Bryan would be better served turning to Robert Cherny’s A Righteous Cause or Michael Kazin’s A Godly Hero, both of whom have built upon Coletta’s work to provide an understanding of Bryan’s considerable legacy as a politician and activist.

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text 2017-10-30 00:59
Exciting November New Releases TBR
Mustard Seed - Laila Ibrahim
The Austen Escape - Katherine Reay
Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd) - Jen Turano
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge
Perennials - Julie Cantrell
Secrets of Cavendon: A Novel (Cavendon Hall) - Barbara Taylor Bradford
Moonlight Over Manhattan - Sarah Morgan
A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole
Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto - Bryan W. Van Norden,Jay L. Garfield
The Diamond Empire (A Diamonds Novel) - K'wan

I'm super excited for these reads. It's a good variety. I have very high expectations for A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole. I will need to read the first book (I do have it) An Extraordinary Union. I read The Diamond Empire last month and loved it! I gave it 4 stars. K'wan knows how to draw you in and keep you there. Moonlight Over Manhattan will be my first read by Sarah Morgan. So many readers love her books. Since I'm familiar with the works of authors Jen Turano and Katherine Reay I know these will be awesome. Over the years I've seen the works of Barbara Taylor Bradford in bookstores and have been curious about her writing. Finally, I can see why she's so beloved. The big book of the month is Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race. This book has been read widely and is being promoted everywhere. Overly hyped books scare me and I usually try to keep them for some time to not be influenced by frenzy.

 

 

November 1

 

Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation by David W. Blight

 

A Tangled Web: Mata Hari: Dancer, Courtesan, Spy by Mary W. Craig

 

 

November 7

 

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

 

Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim

 

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

 

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

 

Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto by Bryan W. Van Norden

 

 

November14

 

Perrinials by Julie Cantrell

 

 

November 21

 

Secrets of Cavendon by Barbara Taylor Bradford

 

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

 

 

November 28

 

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sara Morgan

 

A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole

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text 2017-10-16 21:50
Self-Pubs That Shine
The Book of Kindly Deaths - Eldritch Black
Rewinder - Brett Battles
Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper - J.L. Bryan
Paladin - Sally Slater
Haven - A.R. Ivanovich,Michelle Ivanovich
Nightfall Gardens - Allen Houston
Marking Time - April White
Slumber - Samantha Young
Timebound - Rysa Walker
Nefertiti's Heart - A.W. Exley

Most of us these days are aware of the flood of self-pubbed books and how difficult it can be to find a gem in the sea of mediocrity.  We often see reviews of the sub-par and/or reports of unethical marketing schemes or unprofessional behavior on the part of some authors.

But some of us who have stuck a toe or two into those waters have come across a few gems.  I thought it'd be good to share a few self-pubbed & small press books I really enjoyed and that I feel stand well among their trade-pubbed counterparts. 

So here are a few I've discovered that I am proud to recommend.

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