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review 2017-10-27 17:02
Monroe overload
James Monroe: The Quest For National Identity - Harry Ammon

Though published over forty years ago, it is easy to see at a glance why Ammon's biography of James Monroe has never been bettered. This is an exhaustive examination of the political life of our fifth president -- and an exhausting one. Ammon goes through Monroe's life with a thoroughness that makes this a book an excellent source of information about Monroe, but at the price of making it an excruciatingly dull read at times. If you want to know everything there is to know about Monroe's political career or about diplomacy in the Federalist Era, then this is your book; otherwise, I would recommend either Noble Cunningham's The Presidency of James Monroe or Gary Hart's short biography of James Monroe in the "American Presidents" series.

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review 2017-10-10 22:37
The Princess: The Bride Quest #1 by Claire Delacroix (1998-08-10) - Claire Delacroix

This story took some time for me to get into. The concept was good. The story was sweet. The characters were interesting, Luc more than Brianna, and the conflict was strong. You don’t see who the villain was until the very end. Brianna was a bit silly and spoiled acting in the beginning until Luc starts to see the real her. It was like once he saw her depths was when the reader was also able to see that how she behaved, in the beginning, wasn’t the real Brianna. I did have trouble sticking with this one though. There weren’t a lot of tense moments or emotional turmoil until the very end, when their love and the seal to the one Keep Luc wanted from the very beginning, was revealed. The best part of the story was the mystery of who was the murderer, where the real Rose was located, and who was next to die or be harmed. I did enjoy the mystery and watching the characters solve the crimes committed. I needed more from my female lead character and the passion was kind of lacking until after the marriage. This definitely has an old romance vibe about it. Less passion more fairy tale, which is enjoyable, but a bit tame.  I have read the Bride Quest II trilogy and enjoyed them, so I will definitely see what the other two books in this original Bride Quest series has to offer.

A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and my comments here are my honest opinion.

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review 2017-09-08 16:39
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe - Kij Johnson

I really enjoyed this novella. It is in dialogue with a short story by Lovecraft, which I have not read, but you don’t need to read that to enjoy this. And fortunately for me, this is fantasy, not horror. It is set in a portal world clearly conceived as the stuff of nightmares, with monsters, shifting natural laws and an angry sky; if this were made into a movie the horror would be inescapable. But through the eyes of a protagonist who hails from that world, these are simply facts of life, evoking no fear or disgust.

Vellitt Boe is a professor at the Ulthar Women’s College. She had an adventurous youth before going to college and settling down, so when a student runs off to the “waking world” (ours), putting the college in danger, Vellitt sets out on a quest to retrieve her. It’s an engaging story, written in Johnson’s smooth-flowing style that makes the book feel as much like literary fiction as fantasy. The world is highly imaginative, brought to life with a texture that must be Johnson’s own. And Vellitt is an interesting and endearing character, with a quiet toughness and the good sense one would hope for from a middle-aged adventurer.

This could easily have been expanded to a full-length novel, and I’m unsure why it wasn’t: Johnson takes some shortcuts through the waking-world portion, and the end is really the beginning of something else, providing little resolution. But it succeeds in telling a good story, while responding to the sexism and racism that was apparently rampant in Lovecraft. Sometimes Johnson is quite pointed in this, in other places subtle: Vellitt is apparently a woman of color, but the only indication I saw was the description of her hair. And when she arrives in the waking world, she remarks on the large numbers of women there, a clever dig at male-created fantasy worlds populated overwhelmingly by men.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed and would recommend this, along with Johnson’s other works, particularly Fudoki. I haven’t seen a bad book from this author yet, and look forward to more!

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text 2017-08-19 02:04
The Reading Quest
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan,Carolyn Nowak
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Nature Abhors a Vacuum (The Aielund Saga) - Stephen L. Nowland

I totally missed the official signup for this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Reading Quest

 

I found it on Habitica, actually (apparently I am weak and will do anything for XP, including actual adulting), and it seemed very neat. Currently I am three and a half books in, working on the Rogue path, and quite enjoying the fact that I am working off a vague plan for my reading. We will see how long that lasts, since I am weak and easily distracted by random books, but the quest for experience points may keep me on my chosen path.

 

I'm going to need to do some major cleaning around here, since I may have gotten distracted from Booklikes for a bit.

 

Has anyone else seen this? Anyone manage to sign up in a timely manner and thus be eligible for prizes? Anyone else just going to do it anyway?

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review 2017-08-19 02:04
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.

 

My first sign of trouble was the much vaunted "the underground railroad is an actual railroad!" scene (I'm assuming that is not a spoiler since it is blatantly stated in every single synopsis, though it might have been a better scene if it wasn't?). It smacked of magical realism. Generally, I want to smack magical realism, so I should probably not be surprised that this didn't work for me, but I was still hoping to get some sense of awe from it. I didn't.

 

Overall, that was my real problem with the book: I didn't feel awe. I didn't feel much of anything. I've had more visceral reactions to textbooks about this time period. One of the "main" characters disappears partway through the book and it's somehow no big deal.

 

Our main character, Cora, has basically no emotional response to anything that happens throughout the novel. Some extremely horrific stuff happens throughout the novel. It is a novel about slavery. It is a novel about the racism that was common at the time period even of people who were not slave owners. There are murder and executions and beatings and horrible things happening. Cora remains alarmingly aloof from it all.

 

I'm almost inclined to think that this is somehow an intentional choice, that she is there to serve as author mouthpiece throughout. She has occasional bizarre knowledge (at one point she casually mentions how difficult life is in Ireland at the time period) and while she makes excellent points on several occasions, she makes narrator-style points comparing white life to slavery life aloud to moderately racist people, who never seem to respond. It feels like she's talking to the readers instead of the characters she's interacting with.

 

Maybe that is all more magical realism--I'll be completely honest and admit I don't get the genre at all--but it didn't work for me. I wanted to be right there with her in this brutal time period, and not only was I not there, she didn't seem to be there most of the time. Everything remained clinical throughout, and with a story like this, set in a time period where everything was horrifying, I was hoping for more.

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