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review 2017-10-09 14:58
Review of A Self-Made Man by Sidney Blumenthal
A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809 - 1854 - Sidney Blumenthal

This is one of the more detailed history books I have ever read. This is the first in what will be a series of books that detail the political life of Abraham Lincoln. Countless books have been written about Lincoln, but what sets this book apart is the almost overwhelming details given about seemingly anyone of importance at the national and local (for Illinois and Washington, DC) levels during the years of the 1820s through the 1840s. At times it was difficult to keep all of the people organized in my head while reading, but I have to say that I learned more from this book than any book I can remember reading in a long time.

I think the author was very fair showing us Lincoln as he was, warts and all. At times he was very biased against some historical figures including John C. Calhoun (who he basically blames for everything bad that happened in the country during his time as a political leader) and Joseph Smith. If I was Mormon, I would probably be offended by the chapters describing the early years of the Mormons and their leader Smith.

I most enjoyed learning about the real divisions in the anti-slavery movements of the time. We always have the idea that all Northerners were abolitionists but as this book makes clear, the abolitionists were considered extreme radicals and there was a real difference between being an abolitionist and someone considered anti-slavery. Within those groups there were sub-groups and like any real political movement, no matter how important the cause, politics and ambition drove most of the decisions.

Highly recommended but only for those that have a deep knowledge of of the antebellum era coming into the book.

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review 2017-10-07 16:07
Stargate meets The Neverending Story
A Veil of Shadows: The Shadow Gate Chronicles Book II (Volume 2) - Michael W. Garza

The following book was kindly sent to me by the author, Michael W. Garza, who requested a review. This book is out now and you can get a paperback or ebook copy by visiting Amazon. :-)

 

You might recognize the author's name because I reviewed The Last Shadow Gate just a few months ago. Today I'll be continuing the series with A Veil of Shadows. The reader is reunited with Gavin and his sister Naomi right after they landed in the mystery world on the other side of the Shadow Gate. Our main characters are once again thrust into a divisive society on the brink of war but luckily they manage to find a few allies (one of which might come as no surprise to the reader). The world building continues with diverse characters such as the Treekin who reminded me somewhat of characters in The Neverending Story. If you're looking for a series that is full to the brim with characters, subplots, and moving parts of all kinds then I do believe you've stumbled across just the book for you. For me, it felt like there was just too much happening and the narrative could have been tightened up. While I appreciate the imaginative concepts that went into the creation of these characters and this world I don't think that I'll be continuing the series. Burgeoning fans of epic fantasy will however enjoy this immensely. :-)

 

What's Up Next: Hunger by Roxane Gay

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-10-01 01:00
500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights
500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights - Nicholas Patrick Miller

The upcoming 500th celebration of the Protestant Reformation has spawned numerous books focusing on the impact of the movement on particular facet of history.  500 Years of Protest and Liberty: From Martin Luther to Modern Civil Rights by Nicholas P. Miller is one of these books in which the author’s articles for Liberty are reproduced in an anthology to chronicle a link between Luther to MLK Jr.

 

The book is divided into four sections surrounding a central theme each reproduced article in that particular section can be related to.  The section introductions and the articles are all well written and fascinating reads especially for those interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues.  However in relation to the subtitle of the book, I found the overall flow of the book did not link Luther to MLK Jr.  The first and fourth sections definitely link Luther and to the present-day, but the third seemed to be just its own thing though very informative while the second is somewhere in-between.

 

So while the focus of showing a progression from Luther to MLK Jr., it thought it faltered enough to impact my overall rating, I still recommend this book to anyone interested in freedom of religion and separation of church and state issues.

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review 2017-09-29 00:34
Republic
Republic - Robin A.H. Waterfield,Plato

The writings of Plato have been one of the cornerstones of Western thought for two and a half millennia used for both secular and religious purposes, sometimes not as he intended.  Republic is one, if not the, most famous piece of Plato’s philosophical/political writings and the translation by Robin Waterfield for Oxford World’s Classics adds to the debate that surrounds it.

 

During a thorough 60+ page introduction to Plato’s text, Waterfield most significant translation is “morality” instead of “justice” for the Greek word dikaiosune because of the definition provided by Aristotle of the word.  With this word decision and with her discussion of Plato’s complete disregard to politics, Republic turns from a work of political theory into one of philosophy concerned about the improvement of an individual’s life and not that of a Greek polis.  Using the cultural terms and norms of his time, Plato sets out to express his belief that individuals can improve and better themselves outside the communal structure of Greek life.  This was a radical notion given that individualism—especially as we know it today—was not a part of respectable Greek political life, the individual’s life was bound up in the community and if they went off on their own it was dangerous to the civic order and with the relationship with the gods (the charge against Socrates).

 

While Plato’s overall thesis is thought-provoking, some of his supporting arguments via mathematics and his lack of details about how to improve one’s morality and thus goodness are detriments to Republic’s overall quality.  Although later individuals, in particular early Christian fathers, would supplement Plato with their own supporting evidence for those in the 21st Century these elements can be stumbling blocks.  Even though Waterfield’s translation provided to be very readable and her  notes beyond satisfactory, the constant flipping to the back of the book to read them and provide myself with the context to what she was saying while at the particular place in the text was somewhat unhelpful but footnotes at the bottom of the pages might have been worse.

 

Republic is one of the most significant pieces of Western literature and whether you approve of Waterfield’s translation or not, it is a very good was to look at a piece of text long-thought to mean one thing and see it as something completely different.

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review 2017-09-28 05:38
Podcast #72 is up!
The Royal Navy in the Age of Austerity 1919-22 Naval and Foreign Policy under Lloyd George - G.H. Bennett

My seventy-second podcast -- an interview with Harry Bennett about the shifts in British naval policy after the First World War -- is up on the New Books Network website! This one was a long time in coming, as I had originally recorded it in December; unfortunately, technical issues delayed the post-production process until now. I hope you enjoy the results!

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