Hamilton At War

downloadI received this free in exchange for a honest review. My views, however, are my own.

Title: Alexander Hamilton’s Revolution: His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff

Author: Philip Thomas Tucker

“Sell-out crowds every night enjoy the smash hit Hamilton on Broadway, which presents a fact-filled and entertaining glimpse into the patriot’s life. But very few of us know about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s trusted military advisor.”

If you thought Rob Chernow’s masterpiece Hamilton was just not detailed enough, then this book is for you. I’m a major fan of Alexander Hamilton – the guy was a genius and I’m glad to see him finally getting the credit he deserves. But even I was a little daunted by the level of detail in this new book by Turner.

I agree with his basic premise – we focus a lot of what Hamilton accomplished before and after the revolution, but sometimes overlook what he did while he was serving. This book deals mainly with the extraordinary relationship between Washington and Hamilton. They became an amazing team who Got. It. Done.

But while the book was insightful and like I say, I love the idea, the writing was often repetitive. He’d wind up saying things three times in one chapter. I don’t need that. I can remember what you just said. And then the level of detail – naming so many names, for instance – was really just too much. I would recommend this one for serious readers of American History and advise others to pass.

 

Wheat Belly

Wheat_harvest

Title: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Way Back to Health

Author: Dr. William Davis

I love bread. And cake. And cookies, and pasta, and brownies, and pizza, and pretty much everything made from wheat. And I’m fat. There you go! Proof, right there, that wheat is bad.

Except it’s not. Not proof, not conclusive. My weight has to do with a lot of issues, partly my diet, partly my age, my sedentary lifestyle, and my genetics. Only some of those issues are in my power to change. But what about that wheat? Is that the real problem?

According to Dr. Davis, wheat is the main culprit behind the obesity epidemic in the United States. And it is an epidemic. Weight, and waistlines, have increased steadily for the last 100 years. So has incidence of adult onset diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses. His main contention in this book is that modern wheat – not the historic stuff from 200 years ago – is to blame.

Wheat has changed, food scientists will admit that. Modern high yield wheat has drastically changed agriculture. Fewer farmers are needed to feed lots more people. He backs up his contention with fancy science facts that I couldn’t really follow, but I agree with him there.

Where I disagree is that while modern diets are terrible, wheat is not the only problem. He seems to think that it is. I would blame carbohydrates in general. Americans eat too many of them. I don’t eat much wheat anymore. I’m on a low carb, high fat diet, LCHF, or a keto diet. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I feel much better. (I’m still fat though. But I’m getting there!) But wheat is not the only problem. What about sugar?

He bases his book on the fact that he’s encouraged his heart patients to cut out the wheat products and they’ve all gotten healthier, but this is what’s called anecdotal evidence. Certainly celiac disease and general gluten intolerance is a major problem now, compared to 100 years ago. And modern wheat farming may be to blame. But what about getting them to cut out fast food? If they’re avoiding wheat, they can’t eat fast food, and maybe that’s responsible for their improved health. Maybe some whole grains would be just fine, as long as they’re not deep fried.

His writing isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, and he is really repetitive. He has a very definite style that will turn a lot of readers off. I can’t say I’d recommend this book to everyone. But if you’re trying to lose weight, I’d say it’s worth looking through. I wouldn’t buy it though. I got my copy from the library’s audiobook collection and I decided not to finish it. I got the idea about 100 pages in and I sure didn’t want to listen to the whole thing. Bottom line – do your own research and don’t believe everything you hear.

Criminal Tales

Title: The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession

Author: David Gann

Described as “a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism,” this book contains an amazing assortment of stories. From the opening story about the Sherlock Holmes fan who died in real life mysterious circumstances, to the final profile of a truly nasty criminal, this was a compelling read (or rather, listen, as I got the audiobook from my library. It’s not quite up to his book, The Lost City of Z, but it’s quite good. I think what I missed was something to tie all these stories together. These were pieces that appeared in print previously, so maybe there wasn’t really a thread that tied them together, but I think he could have grouped them differently or something. As it was, it was sort of odd. My favorite story was the one about the sandhogs, construction workers building a giant series of tunnels under NYC. Recommended, but not so strongly that you should add it to the top of your list.

The Bone Witch

Title: The Bone Witch

Author: Rin Chupeco

Tea’s sisters are both witches, so it’s no surprise that she has magical powers. What was surprising was when she raised her brother from the dead. I thought this book was a rather difficult read. I got lost and muddled in the middle of the book. There was so much build up in the book that while the setting was very interesting, eventually I just got bored. I don’t think I would read another book in this series.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty Good Urban Fantasy

Title: A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers #4)

Author: Rachel Aaron

Setting: alternate Detroit

SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES

I’m assuming that when you read #4 up there, you know I’m going to comment on the rest of the series up until now, right? Just checking.

Do you like dragons? Do you like the idea of dragons living among humans in today’s world? Then you should check out these books by Rachel Aaron. The series starts with Nice Dragons Finish Last.  Main character Julius is, as you might guess, a nice dragon, which makes him a liability in his clan. His mother decides to get rid of him. Lucky for Julius, he meets an aspiring mage named Marci. Unluckily, she’s in trouble with the mob about then. It’s a fun series. I really liked the first book, but I feel like the author is losing her steam a little bit here.

This one starts immediately after #3, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. In that one LAST SPOILER ALERT! I’M SERIOUS! Marci has died, Julius took control of the Heartstrikers clan away from his ruthless mother, and most of the clan has dispersed to their own lairs.

That’s when the Chinese dragons show up. They want to take over the clan. Julius is not happy – he didn’t work as hard as he did to set up a dragon council just to give control to some outsider – but unless he comes up with a plan fast that’s exactly what he’ll have to do. Fortunately, Julius can always come up with a plan.

My biggest complaint in this one was that there was so much talking! So much discussion, over and over and over, about how we’re all in terrible danger unless we do something fast. So let’s talk about it for another 2-3 pages before we do anything, right? How about no. How about you cut to the chase and do something! I still really like Julius as a character, but we hardly got to see him be awesome at all. And why have a book about dragons if they’re not going to be awesome all over the place?

If these do sound like fun, they are available from Amazon through Kindle Unlimited for free. You should definitely start with book 1 though. It really was fun.

You Call This a Joke?!

35653858Title: The Luckless (The Second Age of Retha, Volume 1)

Author: AM Sohma

When Kit starts her new submersion video game at the VR arcade, she’s surprised to find herself not in the science fiction world she expected, but back in the fantasy themed world of Retha. It seems her cousin, who works for the company, decided to play a little joke on her by sticking her in the wrong game with a joke character – a elf dancer with virtually no attack skills and precious little defense either. To make it even harder, he sort of branded her as an outlaw.

But the joke turned serious when the game system malfunctions and Kit, along with hundred of other players, are all trapped inside the game. The only way out is to win, and Kit’s chances are pretty much negligible unless she is able to team up with some stronger characters.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I have a weakness for this genre, lit-RPG fantasy. Ready Player One by Ernie Cline is one of my all-time favorite books. I also loved Omnioptia Dawn by Diane Duane and Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell. So this one was right up my alley. I loved the idea of Kit being stuck with this frivolous character when she’s fighting for her life. It made the stakes that much higher.

This book is written by KM Shea, under a new pseudonym for her sci-fi books. Like her fairy tale books, this is clean for sex and language – in fact, conventional swearing is not possible in the game, with a funny story there – but there’s not much romance in this one yet. There’s a few hints, but nothing at all so far, which is fine too. I give this one 4/5 stars.

How well can you know someone?

Title: Everything’s Fine

Author: Janci Patterson

Kira and Haylee are best friends. They’ve known each other forever, and they don’t have any secrets. Do they? After Haylee kills herself, Kira is left wondering just how well they knew each other after all.

Kira is devastated and confused. She knew Haylee was depressed, but she never expected this to happen. Now she’s wondering what kind of friend doesn’t notice something so big. Maybe Haylee’s journal would help explain why she did it, but it’s gone missing.

Everyone else seems just as puzzled, but Kira can’t help feeling she’s the only one who really misses Haylee. Kira can’t stop life from going on, but between Haylee’s parents, gossipy kids at school, and Haylee’s cousin, no one else understands.

I picked this up since Janci is a fellow Utah writer. If you have teenagers, it’s a bit harrowing. And if you have teenagers with mental health issues, it’s really going to hit home. I think that teenagers or young adults would get into this book too. It was a very quick read.

Witness to Revolution

Title: Red Fire: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Author: Wei Yang Chao

Setting: Beijing, China 1960s

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a witness to history, to watch these watershed moments take place in front of your eyes? From what I’ve read, the answer is – terrifying. Wei Yang Chao was a witness to one of the biggest revolutions in history, especially if you go by the sheer number of people involved. He attended one rally that included over a million people, and the prospect of violence at every turn. He was lucky to survive.

This book  is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution in China. Chao was there after the Summer Palace was destroyed. He was a witness to the rise of the Red Guard. He saw teachers and other “enemies of the state” tortured, sometimes to death. His own parents were victims of a “struggle session” as soldiers his own age smashed through the house and beat his parents.

This was an incredible but grim read. To me it was nothing but terror and abuse, as the country fell into chaos. But Chao was more caught up in the struggle. At times, he wanted to fight against the class enemies, but when people he respected became targets, he would question why this revolution had to be so violent.

I would definitely recommend this book. I knew little about this time, so I found it darkly fascinating. It’s not for everyone. It is violent. But it’s an important record of real life.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Life by the Sea

This is an encore review. Enjoy!

Title: The Sea for Breakfast

Author: Lilian Beckwith

Setting: Scottish highlands, about 1950s

Lillian Beckwith goes to live in tiny Bruach, a village in the Scottish highlands. This is her second book about her adventures there, but I hadn’t read the first and figured everything out just fine.

It’s just a string of stories, relating to her life in the village, one day cutting peat, one day taking her cow to the bull, one day trying her hand at lobstering. Underneath all her adventures are a sense that this is the life. It’s hard, it’s dirty, it’s different from everything she expected – but it is real.

Some of the stories are fictionalized a bit. She uses dialect to try to convey the accents of the villagers, which can be a little confusing to read. There is a very brief glossary at the back, but I was still a little stumped as to some of the words. But it made for very relaxing, funny, lighthearted reading. Most of her books are out of print, but if you happen to find one, they really are lovely books.

 

Robin Hobb, Breaker of Hearts!

30688013I love Robin Hobb. She’s an amazing writer, and from all accounts, a genuinely nice person. But she must have a mean streak somewhere, because she sure is good and making her characters – and through them, her readers – suffer! I’ve been reading the latest trilogy, Fool’s Assassin, Assassin’s Quest, and Assassin’s Fate. They have, like her other books, totally consumed me. I think these are her darkest yet, and some of the stuff was hard to get through, but I *had* to keep reading.

But they’re hard to review. These are the last three of a series of (depending on how you count it) up to 16 books, so if you’re interested or if you’re somewhere in the middle of the series, I don’t want to give anything away. Besides, I don’t even know where to begin. With this trilogy? With the series before it? Who can tell? Instead I’m going to offer my list of why I love – and hate – Robin Hobb.

  • FitzChivalry Farseer. Also variously known as Boy, Holder Tom Badgerlock, Bastard, and a host of other names. Fitz, you stole my heart from page one. You are so amazing at practically everything you do, but so dumb sometimes. You are full of self doubt and the first to blame yourself, but when someone you love is attacked, you are fierce.
  • Nighteyes, the wolf. Some of the best scenes are with Nighteyes. I would have read the book just for the two of them, Fitz and the wolf.
  • The Fool. Also known as Beloved, Amber, Lord Golden, and more. What a great character. It’s just not fair that Hobb created THREE amazing friends like this, all in one series. This is how I want to write.
  • The villains. Hobb’s villains are generally not of the slightly bad sort. They are just plain evil. Sometimes it takes a while to realize it, but they are so thoroughly bad. She has plenty of characters who are more gray, but the black-hearted ones are very very black.
  • The worldbuilding. Wow, the time she must have spent and the thought that must have gone into this. There are TWO complete magic systems, several completely different cultures, it’s just awesome.
  • The length. Robin, you are such a tease. You nearly killed me with that last book. Where we ever going to find out what happened? And then that brings me to
  • The cliffhangers. See, I was smart enough to wait to start the series until it was done. I thought. But then you wrote three more books. And I had to wait! Not fair, Robin, not fair at all.

So if you’ve heard of Robin Hobb and you’re wondering if you want to give her a try, all I can say is be prepared to add A LOT of books to your TBR pile. But you will not regret it. 5 tremendous stars and a bunch of used tissues. You broke my heart.