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review 2018-04-16 03:15
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Kristin Hannah's newest book takes place in Alaska in the 70s and 80s.  The land is wild, unpredictable, and harsh.  The Allbrights think Alaska will be their salvation, but for a family in turmoil, it will become the ultimate test of survival.

 

Ernt Allbright has returned from the Vietnam war a broken and volatile man.  After losing another job, he makes a rash decision to move his little family north, to Alaska, where he has been left property by a fallen soldier.  Here they can make a fresh start, live off the land and by their own rules.

 

Leni is thirteen and is the voice of reason in her parents' passionate and tempestuous marriage.  She hopes that the new opportunity will lead to a better life for her family.  Her mother Cora would follow Ernt anywhere, even at the cost of a relationship with her parents.

 

They seem to be adjusting well to life on the great frontier.  They have forged relationships with some men and women in the community that show them the ropes and how to survive.  Winter is coming and they need to learn how to prepare and survive the wrath of Mother Nature.  When winter arrives with dark days, Ernt's mental state suffers and he turns just as dark.  Life outside is nothing compared to life inside their small cabin.  The women are isolated—they are on their own with no one to save them so they must save themselves.

 

Hannah explores the resilience of the human spirit juxtaposed against the beauty of Alaska.  This is a story of love, loss, survival, and man against nature and himself.  I was completely caught up in the the story, it was absolutely riveting.  Hannah's writing is such a gift.  Her descriptions of Alaska were sweeping and vivid.  Alaska becomes a character and at times is the hero and other times is the villain.

 

The theme of survival dominates the story—the family are surviving the harsh winter and the women are surviving the harsh realities of living with a POW with post-tramatic stress.  Cora and Leni must carefully navigate Ernst's outbursts that lead to his explosive rage and violent outbursts.  Hannah does an incredible job in her execution—you hate Ernst for his abuse and yet you feel sorry for him because he is living with an undiagnosed mental illness.  The reader also flip flops with their loyalty to Cora—there is a level of frustration for staying with Ernst and exposing Leni to his violence, but on the other hand you pity her because she is a victim of domestic abuse.  

 

Hannah pens some dynamic supporting characters.  I just wish she would've come up with something more original than 'Large Marge'.  She creates a whole town of interesting personalities that are integral to the plot.  This is no small feat.             

 

The difference between 4 and 5 stars is because of the last part of the book.  There was a disconnect and I wasn't as invested in their journey by that point.  Without spoiling the ending, it didn't work for me.  I wonder if her editor made her rewrite it?  That being said, Hannah fans are going to love this book.

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review 2018-04-14 16:15
Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes with Fewer Calories and Less Fat by Dana Angelo White
Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes with Fewer Calories and Less Fat - Dana Angelo White MS RD AT

My husband bought me an Air Fryer for Christmas, man he is the best Santa ever. I really wanted an air fryer for a long time. The Air Fryer came with a small cookbook to get me started but I wanted more. So when I saw this book on Netgalley.com I requested it and was lucky enough to be approved for it.  I love to cook and try new recipes and this book helps me with my passion for cooking, plus 100 new recipes to try and I get to feed my family healthy while I am at it. 

 

The recipes are in categories: Breakfast, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. Each recipe shows a pictures, has a list of ingredients, step by step instructions, and nutrition counts. Each recipe is also under 500 calories per serving. 

 

I did make the chicken strips and they came out amazing. My husband loved them. I will definitely be making more recipes from this book. 

 

I received this book from the Author or Publisher via Netgalley.com to read and review.

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review 2018-04-13 15:53
The Ashes of London
Ashes of London - Andrew Taylor

by Andrew Taylor

 

The Ashes of London is set against the Great London Fire of 1666. There are two stories intertwined. A first person narrative from James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, who is tasked to track down the killer of a mummified corpse found in St Paul's after it has burned down, alternating with a third person account of Cat, an heiress whose father is in exile for treason who faces many of the hardships that women had to deal with in that era, rich or poor.

 

Cat is a strong character and intelligent. She has an aptitude for architecture that the role of women would usually squelch, but through a series of mostly unfortunate circumstances, she finds herself in a position to develop.

 

The changing perspectives actually work very well. There is a healthy dose of political intrigue and an element of mystery to be solved. The book held my attention and the last few chapters got into some tense action that had me glued to the pages. I'm glad I've got the sequel waiting for me because this was definitely one of my best reads this year!

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text 2018-04-10 19:42
Lists!
Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff
The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss
Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner
Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne
Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a geek. Like many geeks, I love lists; reading them, making them, debating them or flat disagreeing with them, I love it all. As such, I have quite a few books that are, basically, "best of" lists. I love these because they point me at good stuff I haven't experienced yet.

It struck me that there are many different ways to compile such a book, each with it's own benefits and drawbacks. So, here are a few different ways of doing it, with examples.

 

1. Utterly Subjective, Single Author

 

Example: The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss  The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss  

 

This style is probably the simplest: You list your favorite examples of a thing and explain why. This is the style I employ on this blog, and the style Ebert employed in his Great Movies series.

 

Benefits: Ease of writing, pleasantness of experience, enthusiasm, easy to organize.

 

Drawbacks: No data to fall back on, personal exposure, not authoritative.

 

You don't have to watch, read, or listen to anything you don't want to, but people can attack you for your opinions (risky in the internet era). Still, it's a lot of fun to just gush about the stuff you love.

 

2. Attempted Objective, Single Author

 

Example: Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle  Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle  

 

Here, the author makes their best stab at an "official" list, compiling examples because of importance, influence, quality, or other criteria based on their own judgement.

 

Benefits: More comprehensive and authoritative, helpful creative/critical exercise.

 

Drawbacks: "Why this one and not...", exposure to works that one finds unpleasant, "important" works that don't hold up.

 

This kind of list is great for the author in two ways: They have to step outside of themselves, and it's a chance to dig into classics they haven't gotten around to (and any purchases are tax-deductible, because it's "research"). Still, they have to slog through some works they don't like, and will still be open to accusations of bias. Hell, they will be biased, no matter how hard they try to avoid it. This will also affect the passion in the writing. And they still don't have concrete data backing them up.

 

3. Subjective Take on Objective Data, Single Author

 

Example: The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff   The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff  

 

Gather data from various polls, interviews or other outside sources, compile a ranking, and then express your opinion of the various works, their placement, etc.

 

Benefits: Opportunities for snark, exposure to new works, not having to dredge your own brain.

 

Drawbacks: Frustration, works you may find awful/offensive, disappointment when some of your favorites are low on the list or absent altogether.

 

This one is just too much work for me, although it would be interesting to, say, watch and review every Best Picture winner, in order. Watching Crash again would be a chore, though.

 

4. Utterly subjective, Multi-Author

 

Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman   Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman  

 

Get a bunch of people to talk about their favorite works. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Benefits: Less writing, lots of discoveries, high enthusiasm.

 

Drawbacks: Logistical nightmare, missed deadlines, explaining the concept repeatedly.

 

Now I just need to find 100 people in the field who have enough time to write a piece, make sure there are no double-ups (two people picking the same subject), editing each piece, communicate with various agents/publishers, etc. If you prefer organizing to writing, not a bad choice, but keeping your ducks in a row can be a bear. Plus, there will be classics/"essentials" that no one picks, but you can blame your contributors for that.

 

5. Attempted Objective, Multi-Author

 

Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne   Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne  

 

You and a cohort come up with a list of classics, then divide and conquer.

 

Benefits: Lessened workload, interesting conversations, a united front.

 

Drawbacks: Arguments, resentment.

 

Doing an SF list but hate Heinlein? You can have your friend write that piece while you review that Ellison collection. Great, but what happens if one of you has a personal crisis? The other has to step up, leading to a potentially unbalanced workload. And the hashing out of the actual list can be both fun and frustrating, while dealing with each other's criticism of your writing styles just might suck. Just kidding, it'll be fine!

 

6. Subjective Takes on Objective Data, Multi-Author

 

Example: Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner   Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner  

 

Gather the pertinent data to compile a list, then get other people in the field to discuss their favorites from said list.

 

Benefits: Enthusiasm, less writing, hard data.

 

Drawbacks: Logistical issues, unpicked subjects.

 

Here, you have the same issues as #4, except you're backed up by data. But what if nobody really wants to write about something on the list? That falls to you, and can lead to some entries having all the verve of a high school book report.

 

 

Anyway, thanks for reading this list about books of lists.

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review 2018-04-08 16:08
Ireland and its relationship with the First World War
Ireland and the Great War - Keith Jeffery

The great Irish historian Roy Foster has argued that the First World War is one of the most decisive events in the history of modern Ireland, one with a profound impact on Ireland’s politics, economy, and society. Yet in spite of this the war remains an under-examined event, lacking the attention given to the Famine, the Home Rule campaign, and the Anglo-Irish War.

 

Given this deficiency, Keith Jeffery’s book is a welcome addition to the historical literature.  Developed from a series of presentations given in the Lees Knowles Lecture series at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1998, this book provides an examination of a number of aspects of Ireland and the war. In four chapters, Jeffery examines why Irishmen signed up for the conflict, the experience of the war, the impact of the war on Irish culture, and how Ireland has remembered the war. In doing so, he tackles a number of knotty questions and demolishes a few myths, addressing the complicated motivations behind enlistment, the dream of Irish Nationalist politicians to organize distinctively Irish military units, and the political complications within Ireland of honoring a war fought for the British – one that many Irish revolutionaries so resolutely opposed.

 

Supplemented with a useful bibliographic essay, Jeffery’s book is a valuable overview of a frequently neglected aspect of Irish history. Though hardly a comprehensive survey of the subject, it addresses many of the aspects of the war and its role in Irish history.  Until the war receives the specialized attention it deserves, this will remain the best starting point for understanding how the war affected Ireland and how the Irish people have grappled with its memory.

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