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review 2019-03-24 18:16
The Moral Basis of Democracy - Eleanor Roosevelt,Allida M. Black,Carol Howard Merritt

The history of democracy starts this book off.  It is dry at first.  When Mrs. Roosevelt then goes into her idea of democracy and Christianity it gets much better.  I like how she corresponds how if we are living a truly Christian life we will think of the greater good of the community instead of the individual then democracy will happen because democracy is for the greater good of the community.  Democracy is where equality exists or at least a level playing field exists.  Differences in lifestyles will still exist because of people's skills, talents, and abilities but everyone has an equal chance in a democracy.  I also liked how she states that we have a way to go still (and it is just as true today as in 1940) because we think more of the individual than the community.  This is a book we all need.  It is a timely today as it was 70+ years ago.

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review 2019-03-18 01:34
Fred & Rose - Howard Sounes

I first heard of the Wests when the Appropriate Adult mini-series/movie came on cable here in the US.  It had Dominic West and Emily Watson, so it was good.  Therefore, when the eBook version of this book came up for sale, I brought it.  After reading a mystery that used the Wests as a plot point, I decided to read this book.


                The Wests, Fred and Rose, were murderers and rapists who targeted younger women and buried some of the victims in the yard of their house.  One of the murdered victims was their eldest biological daughter, and it seems that they were abusive to all their children.


                Sounes covered the story when it first came to light and this book looks not only into the case itself but also the background to both the Wests.  There is, also, background on their victims – which included a relative of Kingsley Amis.  With a few exceptions, most of the victims of the West faced similar living circumstance – abusive homes, issues with authority, and lower class.


                One wonders if this had anything to do with how long the Wests were able to carry on their murders.  Because while Sounes explains who the Wests were (he doesn’t really try to argue why they did what they did), he also details the failures one many levels of government systems and policing that contributed to the span of time the Wests were able to enjoy freedom.


                Part of the reason has to do with how Britain at the time saw victims of rape.  One of the victims of the couple survived and escape, she even pressed charges, but well, the result of the trial was maddening.


                When Sounes covers the background of the Wests, he does so with a sense of detachment.  He gives details of their past but does so with a lack of sympathy.  This does not apply when he is discussing the victims, which, quite clearly and understandably, get his sympathy.  His anger at the various institutions who should have done something is also palpable.


                At times, it does almost feel like Sounes is making too much of the Wests’ various sexual fetishes.  This seems particularly true about Rose, who because of her mental issues and change of behavior in the relationship seems to interest the author more than her husband.  The sexual issues are not described in a titillating way, but there is almost a sense of well, since they are deviant in sexual taste than it is almost nature that they became murderers.  I don’t think this feeling is intended and it could be just me.  Though I did fine myself wondering why if the Wests had such a vast collection of sex toys as noted late in the book, it wasn’t mentioned earlier (at least in terms of acquiring such a collection).


                The police who eventually collared the West do not get as much “page” time as the couple or even the victims.  This actually works for the best because it does not become the story of the dogged cop who kept to her guns.  Instead, the book functions in part as a memorial for all those victims of the couple.

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review 2019-03-08 06:51
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin

For my thoughts, go to: Confessions of a Book Freak

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review 2019-02-24 15:51
Knights of the Round Table - Searching for many unholy Grails
For the Killing of Kings - Howard Andrew Jones
When comes my numbered day, I will meet it smiling. For I’ll have kept this oath.
I shall use my arms to shield the weak.
I shall use my lips to speak the truth, and my eyes to see it.
I shall use my hands to mete justice to high and low, and I will weigh all things with heart and mind.
Where I walk the laws will follow, for I am the sword of my people and the shepherd of their lands.
When I fall, I will rise through my brothers and sisters, for I am eternal
 -- Pledge of the Altenerai

Howard Andrew Jones’s For the Killing of Kings is highly recommended for epic fantasy fans. Twice in the first half, I was completely floored by plot twists. The last third kept me from going to sleep. Haven’t had that much fun reading a book in a long time. This jumpstarts The Ring-Sworn Trilogy, a wild & fresh & furious epic.

Pitched as The Three Musketeers presented via the style of Zelzany’s Chronicles of Amber, it holds true. Indeed, the epic pacing is reminiscent of Zelzany; HAJ doles out action and backstory with precision. Since there are many more than three “musketeers” here, and it has more of a medieval flare, one could argue it is more of a “King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table” mashup. Instead of a singular Holy Grail, the Altenerai guard are spread out searching for many hearthstones of mysterious, spiritual, power—in this case, stones are not clearly holy.

The key story arc focuses on the coming of age of the female squire Elenai, a soldier with burgeoning magic prowess. Her rise in the Altenerai (the Queen’s guard) is compelling. On her journey she mingles with the older members who still reel from the ambiguous ending of a war seven years prior; their commander was killed, and their Queen Leonara decided to make peace rather than annihilate the barbaric Naor enemies. The Queen spread the ranks out searching for hearthstones, and distanced herself from Altenerai traditions.

I list some of my favorite elements (Re-ordered and slightly disguised to avoid spoilers): a spellcasting system that linked nature to people (hearthstones); a sculptured horse worthy of Frazetta’s Death Dealer (or a woman of the similar ilk); a humanoid made of blood; a spooky ghost-town/village; the hidden content within the Chasm Tower; an unexpected, swift betrayal.

Humor: the expected banter between friends on the front line is well-delivered. Also, there are humorous cultures like the kobalin which are honor-driven furballs (reminded me of a matured, and more belligerent, Gurgi from Lloyd Alexander’s Pyrdain series)—if they like you, they want to kill you.

A diverse cast feels genuine and fresh. Despite a requisite dose of masculinity (via violence and “charmers”), women play a dominant role in the book; to wit, Queen Leonara rules over the city of Darassus, and Feolia is governor of Alantris. Elenai mingles with the disenfranchised Altenerai as she matures. The group listed below is ~50% female; a few in the group are sexually nonbinary (orientations are not a focus of the story, just low-key truths, matters of fact). 
1. Asrahn (m): Master of Squires, veteran 
2. Elenai (f): Young squire under Asrahn
3. N’lahr (m): Entombed Swordsman and war strategist; his sword Irion is part of a prophecy
4. Kyrkenall (m): Archer and mad poet; best buddy to N’lahr
5. Denaven (m): Veteran like Asrahn
6. Varama (f): Weapon’s specialists and scientist, emotionally cold (reminded me of a Star Trek Vulcan)
7. Rylin: (m) James-Bond-like, charming specialist 
8. Cerai: (f) Hearthstone seeking sorceress with artistic flare 
9. Rialla (f): Spellcaster and forger of weapons
10. Belahn (m): An aged crazy, protector of families
11. Decrin (m): Veteran 
12. Aradel: (f) Wyvern (ko’aye) riding, retired member
13. Kalandra: (f) MIA sorceress, searching for hearthstone and their origin
14. Renik: (m) also MIA, swordsman looking for hearthstones and their origin, may have heeded to a strange garden in Ekhem

A map was not necessary, but would have been appreciated. 

The role of the sword Irion in the plot is fantastic. It is a fun weapon to see in action. It certainly was fated to complete a mission instead of being locked up in a display case after a stalled war. However, the hope/myth behind its potential is referred to as “prophecy” which (a) seemed like a misnomer and (b) introduced a fantasy cliché. In a book in which many dozens of story arcs are interwoven, each having believable motivations/consequences, posing a fate-driven prophecy felt out of place. The prophecy seemed to originate in a relatively private setting in an impromptu ritual (not a public discourse or professed openly) and there was some mystery about its invocation (where did the inspiration come from to link the weapon to a particular individual).

More from HAJ:
The trilogy is well underway. During the Feb 2019 Ask Me Anything (AMA) on reddit, I inquired on the release schedule. HAJ returned: “First, rest assured. Not only is the second book written, it's going through final revisions right now… The third book is fully outlined and I had begun drafting…”

Howard A. Jones has long held a passion for action fiction and throughout his career has re-introduced readers to Harold Lamb, moderated Sword and Sorcery websites, and edited the Dark Fantasy magazine Blackgate and currently Tales from the Magician’s Skull & Perilous Worlds. 

Source: www.selindberg.com/2019/02/for-killing-of-kings-review-by-se.html
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review 2019-02-13 15:23
He needed training in how to deal with female co-workers.
The Woman Left Behind - Linda Howard

The blurb made it seem that she would spend a goodly chunk of the book getting herself back to the team or civilisation or whatever but actually it's only a few chapters in a story, though it is a pivotal point in the story for the heroines growth.

Levi Butcher leads a paramilitary unit of macho men and into this mix his boss puts a geek, and a female geek at that. She, Jina Modell, and the other geeks assigned to other teams, are unfit and would not be able to keep up with the team so they set about fixing that, trying to break her, but she refuses to break and becomes part of the team. After a few missions she ends up left behind and has to get to safety, ignoring pain and the fear of being trapped behind enemy lines.

It's interesting and the characters are well drawn, even if Levi Butcher comes across as being a bit of an ass sometimes while he tries to convince himself that the only feelings he has for Jina is that of a co-worker. I also had some issues with the resolution as it was a bit pat and easy. Still an interesting read with characters I was rooting for.

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