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review 2019-01-18 22:22
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire - Lawrence James

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed.  Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.

 

Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well.  Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries.  The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige.  The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries.  And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.

 

Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text.  James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it.  The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire.  Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.

 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments.  Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.

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review 2019-01-05 23:32
Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe--The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation
Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe--The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation - Chris DeRose

The future of the young United States hangs in the balance as two friends and rising statesmen travel the roads of eight Virginia counties to become a member of the first Congress under the newly adopted Constitution, depending on who is elected the new Constitution will succeed or fail.  Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe—The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation by Chris DeRose follows the lives of future Presidents James Madison and James Monroe lead up to the election the two men faced off in Virginia’s 5th Congressional district and why the result was important for the future of the nation.

 

The lives of the young Virginians James Madison and James Monroe were both different; one was sickly and served in legislatures during the Revolution while the other was healthy and a soldier during the war.  But there were similarities as well as both were wholeheartedly behind the success of the new nation and deeply troubled about the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, wanting those similar of mind to come together to bring changes.  After the failed Annapolis Convention, Madison coaxed George Washington out of retirement to the Philadelphia Convention and the result was a new Constitution that was sent to the states for ratification.  Monroe, though wanting a better government than the Articles, found the new Constitution too much and joined other Anti-Federalists in Virginia hoping to reject the new document in the face of Madison and the Federalists.  The heated Virginia Ratification Convention went back and forth before Virginia passed the new Constitution, but the Anti-Federalists stuck back in next session of the House of Delegates putting Madison in a seemingly Anti-Federalist district and convinced Monroe to stand for election against him.  If Monroe were to win, the Federalists who would be the majority would be without a leader and not support any amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights) that Monroe and the Anti-Federalists wanted thus possibly leading to a second Constitutional convention that would undo the new government.  However, Madison’s victory came about because of his support for a Bill of Rights especially his long support of religious freedom for dissenters in Virginia.

 

Coming in around 275 pages, Chris DeRose’s first book was a nice read with good research and nice structure to show the parallel lives of his subjects before their history defining election.  Yet the fact that the vast majority of my synopsis focused on the last half of the book shows that while DeRose had a nice structure he didn’t use his space well.  Several times throughout the book DeRose would insert his opinion on what he believed Madison or Monroe were thinking at some moment in time which came off looking amateurish that fact that wasn’t helped when DeRose would also insert asides alluding to current (as of 2011) political event several times as well.

 

Overall Founding Rivals is a nice look into the early lives of James Madison and James Monroe along with a crucial election they stood for with the new Constitution in the balanced.  While Chris DeRose did admirable work, it is still his first book and in several places it is never evident.  Yet with this caution it is still a good read for history buffs especially interested in this critical period in American history.

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review 2018-12-27 03:25
Boarding school satire
Molesworth - Geoffrey Willans,Ronald Searle

The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle (co-creator and illustrator) had been on my TRL for ages. I was intrigued by the illustrations that were depicted on the cover and its comparison to my dear Roald Dahl. This is a classic children's series (bound together in its entirety here) about a boy named Nigel Molesworth who narrates his time in a boy's boarding school called St. Custard's. Willans captures the spirit of boyhood in a private boarding school especially well owing to his being a Headmaster himself. (This is even funnier once you get to know Headmaster Grimes who is particularly fond of the cane.) This book is replete with bad spelling (evidenced in the title) and absolutely stunning illustrations by Searle who was a satirical cartoonist (perfect for this series). Molesworth and his buddies get up to many hi-jinks and shenanigans which are generally instigated by our hero. Amidst all of this tomfoolery Willans and Searle have taken jabs at the inequalities of the classes by showcasing the Head Boy Grabber as only being placed in such a prestigious position because his parents shell out lots of money. (The Headmaster is greedy and generally does all he can to cut corners most notably with the selection of food offered to the students.) If you can get used to the bad spelling, grammatical errors, made-up slang, and seemingly arbitrary abbreviations for everything you will see why this has held up as a true children's classic. It's witty, cutting in its bluntness, and in general everything I hoped it would be. 10/10

 

Source: Amazon.co.uk

 

I wanted to give a little taste for the delights that await you.

 

What's Up Next: Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-12-21 19:57
When aliens meet the Internet
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel - Hank Green

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is a sci-fi sociopolitical commentary about the perils and pitfalls of Internet fame as well as social cooperation on a global scale. In Green's debut novel, April May finds what she thinks is an art installation in the heart of New York City so in true millennial fashion she enlists the help of her friend Andy to film their first interaction with what they dub as 'Carl' the robot. While this may be the first video of its kind with one of these robots it turns out that there is one in every major city in the world...and they're clearly alien to our planet. What follows is a realistic look at the arrival of Internet fame and someone completely unprepared to deal with the visibility and responsibility of such a mantle. Trolls, flame wars, sycophants, corporate deals, possible planet-wide destruction, and girlfriend drama are just a few of the myriad dilemmas that our main character finds herself facing. I didn't find April May to be a particularly likable or endearing character which made it difficult for me to feel any sympathy for her plights. I'm not certain but perhaps Green intended for the reader to feel rather indifferent towards her to illustrate how as a society we tend to place any kind of 'celebrity' up on a pedestal but like any human being they have faults and foibles. If that was his goal then he accomplished it I think. Some of the pros: I really enjoyed the shared dream aspect as it felt like a callback to The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time but I felt like it could have used more detail/descriptors instead of focusing so much on April's inner turmoils. I also liked how Green wrote about a topic that has only really been touched on in nonfiction formats (although Zoe Sugg's series Girl Online discussed it too) and couched it in a sci-fi framework. Some things I didn't love: Uneven attention to detail and the ending was less than stellar. (I'd go so far as to say it was crappy.) Overall, this wasn't the best sci-fi novel I've ever read (not by a wide margin) but it also wasn't the worst. For a debut attempt, I think it was pretty well executed and I'd be interested to see what he might create in the future. 4/10

 

I choose to believe this is an aerial shot of the shared dream. [End paper source: Noteworthy]

 

What's Up Next: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-12-17 23:58
Is Book 3 out yet?!
5 Worlds Book 2: The Cobalt Prince - Mark A. Siegel,Alexis Siegel,Boya Sun,Matt Rockefeller,Xanthe Bouma

At the beginning of the epic month of reviews (still going strong!) I talked about the first book in the 5 Worlds series and in a move no one could have predicted I now return with my review of 5 Worlds Book 2: The Cobalt Prince by Alexis & Mark Siegel with illustrations by Boya Sun, Xanthe Bouma, & Matt Rockefeller. If you haven't read that book then I suggest you skip today's review as it's bound to spoil a few plot points. The book picks right back up with the ongoing quest to defeat the Mimic who had overtaken the Cobalt Prince (ruler of the Toki people). We discover that the Toki are in fact the 'Chosen People' and that Oona and Jessa are in fact genetically altered Toki. *gasp* The last book focused primarily on the mythology surrounding the beacons while giving Oona room to discover her hidden strengths/magical abilities. Book 2 meanwhile covers a lot of ground with Oona and Jessa's past while delving further into the real deal between the segregation between the peoples in the different worlds. I really felt like the pace ramped up with this one and it was super interesting which makes it even more frustrating that the next installment doesn't come out until the spring of 2019. *grumbles* 10/10

 

I've had some conversations with parents who have kids reading this series and they've been telling me how much the kids are liking it and how much they as parents enjoy it also. If you're looking for a common denominator between you and the children in your life and books you can discuss together this is a great choice. :-D

 

Jessa in turmoil over her sister Oona[Source: Bam Smack Pow]

 

What's Up Next: Afterlife with Archie: Escape From Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Elfquest Archives: Volume 2 by Wendy & Richard Pini

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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