Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time, #11)Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knife of Dreams, the eleventh installment of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and the last he completed before his death, is a return to earlier in the series.  Throughout Knife of Dreams, events that had been boiling around many primary protagonists for several books finally came to fruition.  The Perrin-Faile-Shaido storyarc throughout the book led up to a combined assault upon the Shaido by Perrin's forced and the Seanchan in Malden.  Elayne's quest for the Throne of Andor came to a successful conclusion, but a perilous one for her going forward especially after an attack by the Black Ajah.  Mat's unusual courtship with Tuon came to a 'successful' conclusion, but not without battles not just martial.  Finally, Rand and Egwene continued on their respective paths to leadership though Egwene found herself undermining the White Tower from within as an 'lowly' novice while Rand continued struggling with his internal demons as well as unruly nobles just before a brutal meeting with Semirhage.

While there were negatives, one being unnecessary padding early in the book, they were quickly forgotten as events in the book picked up.  Of the last four books before Knife of Dreams, only Winter's Heart provided anything substantial (at least to me) while the others seemed mostly a collection of story lines with little happening.  With Knife of Dreams, events seemed to be building and three words kept on appearing, more so further along in the book, the Last Battle.  After finishing Knife of Dreams, it felt like the series had completed it's long 2nd Act and was gearing up for the 3rd and final Act.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Monster of Florence is the first true crime book I've ever read and while I knew it was about a serial killer and the investigation in catching the perpetrator that went off the rails, then I read the book and couldn't believe it. The first portion of the book detailed the killings themselves following Spezi's steps as he reported the happens in and around Florence with the crimes then the various investigations that led to interesting trials. The second portion of the book saw Preston enter the story and how his life was turned around by the Monster case especially from the hands of Giuliano Mignini. The Afterward of Preston's view of the then-developing Amanda Knox case in light of his own knowledge of Italian journalism and justice was very poignant when looking years back.

Although I have read about how many people didn't like the details Preston gave about his own experience with the Italian justice system, but I thought it helped highlight one of the problems plaguing the Monster case which seemed to be the point of the book. While Preston and Spezi have come up with a likely candidate for the Monster himself, the fact that they must battle decades old conspiracy theories seems the longest shadow that has cast itself over this case.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Angry Saints by George R. Knight

Angry Saints: Tensions and Possibilities in the Adventist Struggle Over Righteousness by FaithAngry Saints: Tensions and Possibilities in the Adventist Struggle Over Righteousness by Faith by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 1888 General Conference session in Minneapolis was both a triumph and humiliation for the Seventh-day Adventist church because of the issue debated at it, the atmosphere they were debated in, and the resulting conflict within Adventism itself for the last 125 years.  George R. Knight not only examines the issues and the course of events before and after Minneapolis, but also the major individuals involved in a thorough manner.  Published around the 100th anniversary of the Minneapolis session, this book is important for every Adventist to read, both new and long-time.

The issue at Minneapolis was a new interpretation of the law in the book of Galatians by E.J. Waggoner & A.T. Jones that emphasized righteousness by faith that was supported by Ellen White.  This interpretation of Galatians was opposed by G.C. President George Butler and Uriah Smith, the editor of Review and Herald, and their ministerial allies.  The atmosphere of the session was contentious, a carry over from the 1886 session, in which the "traditionalists" and the "reformers" fought over the meaning of basic Christian truths with those of supposed Adventist truths as the nation debated a National Sunday Law .  After Minneapolis, the two factions continued to clash with one another over the understanding that has continued in essence until the present day.

The denomination triumphed at Minneapolis because it rediscovered the need to emphasize the righteousness and justification of faith in Christ along with the Ten Commandments, including the seventh-day Sabbath.  Another triumph was the emphasis to return to reading the Bible over following the lead of denominational leaders and not investigating their teachings.  However the humiliations for Adventists are more pronounced, especially when one considered that 40 years after the Great Disappointment a member of the denomination could be an Adventist but not Christian.  Another humiliation was that denominational leaders were trying to emphasis human authority instead of the Bible to "protect" supposed Adventist beliefs and even wanted to create creeds to protect them.  But the biggest humiliation that two factions that sparred over the law of Galatians have continued in essence to the present-day resulting at times of a divided church facing potentially facing dangerous situations.

Knight goes over all everything I have just stated in great detail, but I found the most important part of the book to me was the last chapter entitled, "The Continuing Possibility."  Within this chapter, Knight uses his own early experience as an Adventist as an example of the continuing problem that is can be seen in some Adventist churches.  Within the context of the preceding chapters, this final one puts the crisis in Minneapolis squarely into our time and challenges us to examine how we relate to Christ.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The tenth installment of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, Crossroads of Twilight, has been maligned from readers since it's publication and with understandable reasons.  The story arcs of Perrin, Mat, Elayne, and Egwene are given the emphasis throughout the book with only a touch of Rand near the closure of the book.  The majority of the book's time period leads up to and during the climatic final chapter of Winter's Heart before finally advancing when Egwene's story arc begins.  Though out the book, everything seems to be moving pieces into place for something big to happen but it never really materializes. In each of the last chapters for Perrin, Mat, and Egwene a dramatic turning in the plot happens but leaving the reader to wait until the next installment to find out what happens resulting in frustration.

Crossroads of Twilight is a mixture of positives and negatives, with the latter emphasized because of the two year wait and the fact that Prologue was almost a tenth of the book even though some of the bits within that were interest.  However, even though this book can be frustrating at times (my came in about three-quarters of the way through waiting for something to happen) it is a necessity to read as The Wheel of Time draws to it conclusion.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Review: It's True! It's True! by Kurt Angle

It's True! It's True!It's True! It's True! by Kurt Angle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kurt Angle's autobiography is a quick, enjoyable read about how the youngest child of a working class family rose to become an Olympic champion then become one of the biggest names in professional wrestling of the last two decades.  Angle opens up in detail about his family life while growing up and how it influenced him as he pursued his athletic dreams, the honesty in this section of the book really makes one realize how determined Angle became to be the best in the world.  The amateur wrestling descriptions throughout the first half of the book, especially in the detailing of individual matches, was THE highlight of the book for me as I learned about the sport.  The final half of the book details the first 18 months of Angle's WWF/E career and his growing pains, both good and bad, in the ring.  The insights Angle gives in this section not only opens up the business to long-time "smart" fans about the inner workings of the business, but also how an accomplished athlete like Angle critiqued himself throughout the process.  The only negative was that Angle repeated somethings a few times in the book and considering the short length of the book, it really stood out.  Besides that negative this was an enjoyable read and a recommended read.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

Winter's Heart (Wheel of Time, #9)Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Winter's Heart, the ninth installment of Robert Jordan's epic series, the author learned the lesson from his previous entry (The Path of Daggers) by having one of the myriad of character arcs from the beginning of the book develop over it's course so as to reach a conclusion at the end of the book.  This dominating character arc was the series' primary protagonist, Rand al'Thor aka The Dragon Reborn, who's dual goal was to kill those who had attempted to take his life at the end of the previous volume and to cleanse the male half of The Power from the Dark One's taint.  The other strong point of Winter's Heart is the return of Mat after being missed in the previous book, like what happened to Perrin in The Fires of Heaven.  Elayne and Perrin's arcs continue as well, though they are tertiary in the grand scheme of this book especially as Perrin's is partial seen through the eyes of his wife, Faile.

Jordan's return to having a dominating story arc that gives the book a beginning, middle, and end is big improvement over The Path of Daggers.  However, of all the story arcs given space in this volume only Rand and Mat's seem to have traction throughout.  Elayne's arc is broken up into several portions through the book while Perrin is gone after the first third of the book.  It seems that in correcting the problem Jordan had in The Path of Daggers, he messed up the transitions from story arc to story arc that were a plus from The Path of Daggers.

Whatever the flaws, the last 34 pages of Winter's Heart can make up from some of them.  The last chapter, With the Choedan Kal, is one of the best (but not the best) that I've read in the series so far and by far the best since Book 5, The Fires of Heaven.  Overall if I could give Winter's Heart a 3 1/2 stars I would, however unlike The Path of Daggers in which I rounded down to a 3, but for the ninth installment I'm giving a 4.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Chronicles of the Crusades by Geoffrey of Villehardouin & Jean de Joinville

Chronicles of the CrusadesChronicles of the Crusades by Jean de Joinville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally I skimmed through this book almost a decade ago in preparation for my Senior History Oral Exam and only focused on the overall theme questions listed in my study guide at the time.  However this past week while actually reading Chronicles of the Crusades and found thanks to the excellent translation, a easy read and very informative on its subject matters.  Of the two chroniclers, I found Jean de Joinville the easier to read because of his style of writing.  Most likely the spread and evolution of romantic literature influenced Joinville's style of being more down-to-earth and slightly easier to read when compared to Geoffrey of Villehardouin, who was more matter-of-fact and somewhat "stiff."  However, just because Geoffrey's style is a little "stiffer" doesn't mean it's not easy to read nor informative about the establish and early years of the Latin Empire of Constantinople.  If you're interested about first-hand accounts of the Crusades, specifically the 4th and 7th, this is the book for you.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time, #8)The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The eighth installment of Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series, The Path of Daggers, continues the numerous storylines that feature the main characters of the epic but doesn't have a story unto itself.  The lack of a lone storyline contained wholy with it's pages makes The Path of Daggers a collection of various stories all of which feature the same theme: danger.  Although this is an interest approach to contain his epic series, Jordan's decision results in the reader finding it hard get involved in the book.

While the transition from one storyline to another was well done, none of the storylines seemed to reach out and grab the read as being the most important.  While Jordan's world building continues to be outstanding, the characteristics of some of his main characters or characters in general continue to frustrate though if one has read this far into the series you should have found a way to deal with it.

Finally, I will admit that due to outside factors that affected my reading schedule most likely had a direct affect on how I viewed this book.  I found it a step down from the previous three installments (The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, and A Crown of Swords) though if I could have given this book 3.5 stars instead of 3, I would of.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: The Story of The Moors in Spain by Stanley Lane-Poole

The Story of the Moors in SpainThe Story of the Moors in Spain by Stanley Lane-Poole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Though originally written and published over 125 years ago, The Story of the Moors in Spain by Stanley Lane-Poole is an quick, easy, and informative read.  Although the book is not up to the scholarship standards of today, Lane-Poole uses the sources at his disposal along folklore, traditional Spanish ballads, and romantic history written by Washington Irving to produce a most engaging book.  Lane-Poole always denoted in the text when he was going on either the folklore, ballads, or romantic history insertions for the reader as a way to bring history alive and when they were contrary to actual history he made note of it.

One of the biggest negatives of the book that one notices is that Lane-Poole engages in perpetuating the Black Legend that has tainted the perception of the Spanish since it's creation.  At the beginning and ending of the text, Lane-Poole laments that the Spaniards decided to reject the civilization of the Islamic Moors for the backwardness of the Catholic (note I said Catholic not Christian) "crusaders" then points out certain incidents that prove his point.  To be fair to Lane-Poole, one can not use today's standards to judge him and when a Christian showed "civilized" behavior and a Moor "uncivilized" he did point it out.  However, there was always the perception that these incidents were few and far between.

Even with this negative to the text, The Story of the Moors in Spain is an excellent way to begin learning about the Islamic period on the Iberian peninsula.  However this book should not be your last on the subject.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords (Wheel of Time, #7)A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Crown of Swords is a well balanced installment of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, especially when looking at it as part of the series' 2nd Act.  The book's various story lines pick up where they left off in the previous volume, Lord of Chaos, and either continue or come to a conclusion that quickly leads to a new one taking its place and either bringing together or separating the large cast of characters.  Unlike the previous installment, A Crown of Swords seems to be better paced as Jordan stuck with a story line for several chapters in a row until it came to an appropriate place to transition to another story line or for the next book.  Throughout the book, a variety of character developments take place with the most important happening with Nynaeve followed by Mat and Rand.

There were a few things that were somewhat of a drag, mostly the usual complaints one hears from longer time fans like in-depth detail on clothing, hair pulling by a certain character, the interactions of various women with one another, etc.  The one that continues to be a personal problem to me is that the climax at the end of the book seems rushed with all of it occurring during the last chapter of the book.  But since these "problems" or complaints have been present throughout the series an objective reader does get use to it.

Overall, A Crown of Swords is a good read and I recommend you continue reading The Wheel of Time series with this book.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: Every Man A Tiger: The Gulf War Air Campaign by Tom Clancy

Every Man a Tiger: The Gulf War Air CampaignEvery Man a Tiger: The Gulf War Air Campaign by Tom Clancy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every Man A Tiger primarily covers the planning, the problems, and execution of the Gulf War air campaign through writing of Tom Clancy and it's commander General Chuck Horner.  Instead of giving a blow-by-blow account of the Gulf War's air operations from August 1990 to March 1991, Clancy and Horner decided to give background of not only it's commander (Horner) but of the U.S. Air Force that deployed to Saudi Arabia in the fall of 1990.  The quick, but thorough biography of Horner went hand in hand with a history of the Air Force especially on how the service almost collapsed during and immediately after Vietnam then how it was rebuilt into an effective fighting force by the time of the Gulf War.

This background information served well as Clancy and Horner described the planning of the Air Campaign, primarily how Horner along with other Vietnam veterans wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past as well as tackling the challenges of creating a Coalition Air Force.  Once the war started, the authors wrote about various challenges that Horner and his command faced throughout the six weeks of exclusive air operations before the ground war began.

The thoroughness of this process is a highlight of this book.  I have seen some reviews that dislike the biographical portion of Ever Man A Tiger and while I understand some of their compliants, however Horner's biography and the accompany history of the U.S. Air Force was integral in knowing why the air campaign was planned as it was.  I will admit that I did get bogged down at times when the details got too technical, but those times were few and far between.  Overall I recommend this book for anyone interested in an in-depth look at the planning and execution of military affairs related to the Gulf War or the Air Force.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review: Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time, #6)Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading Lord of Chaos, I was at a loss about how to describe and grade this installment of the Wheel of Time.  Upon finishing I came to the realization that Lord of Chaos marks the beginning of Act II of Robert Jordan's epic creation.  In Lord of Chaos many plot threads are begun throughout but only the primary plot of Rand dealing with the Aes Sedai, with the beginning of the Asha'men involved as well, comes to a conclusion.

Throughout Lord of Chaos there are many point-of-view characters to bring forth the various plot threads the book deals with.  Many POVs are from the primary characters that have told the story throughout the series along with several new characters that added to the narrative, though some just a paragraph long.  Because of all these POVs and plot threads, the climax of Lord of Chaos is very quick to take place.  In the last 200 pages, days are literal compressed as events lead to the dramatic battle that highlights the book along with the resolution to the Rand-Aes Sedai storyline in the immediate aftermath.  The one fault throughout the book wasn't the compression of the climax, it was the unnecessary retelling of events in the first five books by the primary characters.  While a few were important in terms of character development, the vast majority weren't and it took up page space that could have been used for something else.

Lord of Chaos is an important part of The Wheel of Time series, when you read it I recommend you view it as the beginning of Act II of Robert Jordan's epic tale.  Viewing Lord of Chaos as a singular book will hurt your appreciation of it, but viewing the book as part of a greater whole will only add to your appreciation.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review: The Making of Medieval Spain by Gabriel Jackson

The Making Of Medieval SpainThe Making Of Medieval Spain by Gabriel Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Making of Medieval Spain is part of a larger series on European History of short, yet informational volumes written in the early 1970s. Even though the histriography is dated and the volume is less than 200 pages in length, Gabriel Jackson did an excellent job of giving the reader a clear view of the complex political and religious history of as well as giving an good insight of the cultural developments occuring in art and literature.

While I would have preferred a more detailed political and diplomatic history, but the insight into the cultural developments occuring during the period Jackson wrote about and tied to more recent artist and literatry styles was appreciated. Also at many places in the text, Jackson identified the beginnings of practices the Spanish would use in their American colonies. And in the last pages of the book looked at the elements in Spain at the end of the 15th-century that would be used by other, mostly Protestant, nations to create the Black Legend that has presisted in viewing of Spain and Spanish-influenced cultures and nations ever since.

Due to length and have to be general in everything, I can only give this book 3 stars. However it is a nice introduction to medieval Spain to be sure.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: New Spring by Robert Jordan

New Spring (Wheel of Time, #0)New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wheel of Time prequel, New Spring, is a very good addition to the series written by Robert Jordan. I read New Spring after Booke 5, The Fires of Heaven, based off the recommendation of several WoT fans instead of after Crossroads of Twilight (Book 10) when the prequel was published. Considering that Moiraine and Lan are the main POV characters throught the book and that after the events of The Fires of Heaven, reading the prequel when I did made New Spring both enjoyable and bittersweet.

Obviously New Spring helps explain the motivations of both Moiraine and Lan when we first meet them in The Eye of the World, but it also gives us a view of the "normal" workings of Aes Sedai and the White Tower before the unusual happenings already seen in the series. Politics of the world are fully in view with Lan finding himself in the midst of the "biggest" political storm. If I were to find a bad thing about New Spring is that some of the material that Jordan wrote to expand New Spring from a short story to a full novel(la) seems to be just filler making the story bog down a tad.

Overall, New Spring is a good quality introduction to some of the "older" characters of the early Wheel of Time books and I fully recommend reading it, especially after Book 5, The Fires of Heaven.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: The Peloponessian War by Donald Kagan

The Peloponnesian WarThe Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donald Kagan, one of the foremost scholars of Ancient Greek history, wrote a concise but thorough history of the Peloponnesian War for a general audience based off his four-volume academic masterpiece on the same subject. From the start Kagan brings the reader to the time period of the war with enough background information that someone not familiar at all with Ancient Greece will understand the circumstances of the beginning of the war from each side's viewpoint. Throughout the work, Kagan brings in a modern military and political view to help examine decisions of either side that the ancient sources' explain as social virtue or vice. This supplement to the ancient sources helps give a fuller view of the decisions of the Athenians, Spartans, and their respective allies. If you want to learn about Ancient Greek history beyond Marathon or Thermopylae, I fully recommend this book.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time, #5)The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Fires of Heaven is a good quality installment in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, however it doesn't rise to the level the first four books of the series. The narrative changes from the Aiel Waste headed west and in Tarabon headed east with several locations in-between seen from the perspectives of various characters. But of all the characters, it was Rand al'Thor and Nynaeve al'Meara who dominated the majority of the book.

One of the good things about this book is that all the point-of-view characters help give great context of the world Jordan created, visiting many of the nations that have until this book only been names but given no in-person description. Another is the excellent described battle scenes that happen throughout the book, especially around Rand including the final fight of the book. And finally seeing the reactions to the coup in Tar Valon and the breaking of the White Tower.

Unlike the other four books, there are minor things that seemed to bring down the quality of this book. The first was the pace of Rand's POVs in which most of battles take place, the largest battle almost has the sense of being the climax of the book only for seeming to set up to the final battle. Then there was Nynaeve's narration, which at many times late in the book are a bit wearing especially as she comments on her traveling companions. And finally one of the primary characters is missing in this book and it's noticeable.

Overall the good vastly outweighs the bad, however the "bad" is more evident than the previous four books but not enough to not recommend.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: The Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion, and Culture in the Middle Ages by Georges Duby

The Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion, and Culture in the Middle AgesThe Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion, and Culture in the Middle Ages by Georges Duby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought Georges Duby's The Legend of Bouvines to learn about the impact this battle had on the history of France. Duby's does excellent work in bring out knowledge from the sources concerning the battle and giving an as accurate detail of the battle that he could.  Duby's also gives an account of the battle in the social and cultural, not just political, context that helps give the reader a full sense of how to view the battle.

However, while all those things are positives for the book, the major negative was how Duby's structured his book from beginning to end.  Duby's chooses to begin his book with the actual battle itself with political background interlaced throughout the account.  Then after the battle he starts shaping the social and cultural worlds in which the historical players came from then referring back to sections of the battle a particular point can be shown in action.  It wasn't until the end of the book which Duby's then discussed the "Legend" of this battle to conclude his book.

While all the information that Duby's research and prose brought forward was excellent, it lost a lot of it's impact with how he decided to give structure to his text.  Whether it is because the time at which this book was published (1973) or the historiographical conventions of the French, I do not know, but many days to found myself losing concentration on the text.  I can only recommend this book to more academically inclined historians.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English by Marjorie Chibnall

Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the EnglishEmpress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English by Marjorie Chibnall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard of The Anarchy before reading this book, and I knew the cliffnotes version of the battle between Stephen and Matilda for the English Crown.  However it wasn't until I read The Empress Matilda that I got a fuller view of the conflict and the woman who was central to the conflict.

Marjorie Chibnall used impressive research to write an easy to read biography of the mother of the Plantagenet dynasty, who for a time was also the crowned Empress(-consort) of the Holy Roman Empire.  Chibnall's attempted to give the reader a full view of Matilda and her actions, though soon speculation is offered due to the lack of sources surrounding a particular event Chibnall does does offer evidence based on previously presented sources.

Overall this is an good biography and I recommend it.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time, #4)The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After finishing The Shadow Rising, I am comfortable in saying that is this book in which The Wheel of Time series became an epic series. Author Robert Jordan changes things up for the second book in row, first with Rand Al'Thor's return as a major point of view character and the second with all the major plot threads did not end together in the same location as the previous three books had done.

With Rand return as a major point of view perspective, we find him more confident in his role as the Dragon Reborn and learning to direct as well as react to events better than he had previously. Interestingly it is Rand, who had never interacted with an Tinkers or Aiel in the previous three books, that learns of their history as well as his own in the Aiel Waste. Along with Rand are Egwene, Mat, and Moiraine who's views of Rand's development round out the picture of a young man learning to use the One Power and if he is going mad or not. Perrin returns to Emond's Field with Faile, Loial, and three Aiel planning to turn himself into the Whitecloaks to save his village and family, by the end he has become a local hero and war leader. Then there is the hunt of the Black Ajah by Nynaeve and Elayne to the western shore of the continent only to find something even more dark than former Aes Sedai. And on top of all these major plots are the events taking place at the White Tower, the news of which hasn't reached any of the major characters.

With all these plot threads and new locations, it would have been easy for this book to become a mess. However this book was so good that I found it hard to put down when I had to get back on the clock. To me that is the best way to express how much I recommend this book.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society Under the Tudors by Christopher Haigh

English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society Under the TudorsEnglish Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society Under the Tudors by Christopher Haigh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher Haigh's book, English Reformations, begins by showing that before 1530 there was no strong undercurrent for the Protestant Reformation in England in fact the exact opposite was true as Catholic England was going strong. Unlike the general historical belief that once Henry VIII broke with Rome a Protestant England would be the result, Haigh shows it was never the case especially when documenting the reign of Mary I when the majority of the English welcomed a return to the Roman Catholic Church.

Haigh presents that development of a Protestant minority in England started when Thomas Cromwell brought Protestant elements little-by-little into Henry's decision to break with Rome then promoted them even after Henry's natural conservative religious views came into play. The Protestant minority truely came into being during the reign of Edward VI when his Protectors and Council systematically made the Church of England more Protestant. After surviving the reign of Mary, the Protestants overreached at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign when they tried to overhaul the Church of England in one-fell swoop instead of the step-by-step approached used by Crowmell and under Edward, and it was this overreached that most likely created the mixture of Reformed Protestant and Catholic beliefs that are present in the Anglican Church.

Haigh's conclusions and the evidence he presents shows that after all these "reformations" England was Christian, it just wasn't really majority Protestant or Catholic. And when considering the religious and political developments in Great Britain from 1603 to 1714 under the Stuarts along with the various colonies on the eastern coast of North America, this conclusion seems to be correct.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: Understanding Revelation in One Day by Roger Miller

Understanding Revelation in One DayUnderstanding Revelation in One Day by Roger Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first thing to know when reading this book is that it comes from the theological perspective of being a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA), which Dr. Roger Miller is. In the book nearly every verse of Revelation is put down in print and examined by using other verses found other parts of the Bible, particularly the Book of Daniel. When talking about this Dr. Miller himself described this book as a more a study guide then a truely in-depth study of the Book of Revelation and at the beginning of this book explains how a reader goes about interpreting Bible prophecies. The book is not without mistakes, which Dr. Miller has acknowledged can be found in his text, mostly with historical details and never to Biblical passages. Overall, this book is a good guide when delving into a Biblical study of the Book of Revelation.

Disclaimer: Currently Dr. Roger Miller is presenting his study of Revelation in the Adult Sabbath School I attend. Also I went to high school, 12 years ago, with two of his daughters though he and I never meet at that time.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time, #3)The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When one sees the title, The Dragon Reborn, one instantly thinks that Rand al'Thor will once again provide the majority of perspective of how the story is viewed by the characters. However, Robert Jordan throws the readers a curve by hardly allowing us to see through Rand's eyes until the climax of the book. As a result The Dragon Reborn gives us a grander sense of the story that Jordan is writing as Egwene, Perrin, and Mat dominate the book to show that as the whole epic progresses they will have a majority impact on events.

While some that have reviewed this book dislike the turn from Rand, I think it was a masterful move because we learn that the Dark One's forces are growing in numbers and dangers from Black Ajah to more Foresaken on the loose. Focusing the majority of the book on Rand would have made these revelations come out of the blue without much explanation or forced into exposition. Instead we're treated with Egwene navigating the World of Dreams, Perrin's internal battle with his wolf-self along externally with Faile, and to finally see things through Mat's eyes and get his perspective of everything that has happened. None of these dominating new points-of-view undermine the story

Given how fast I raced through this book and how fun it was to read, I recommend this book!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Review: The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age by Simon Schama

The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden AgeThe Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age by Simon Schama
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew Schama from his A History of Britain series via BBC/History and I have been interested about the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, so that's what brought me to this book. My usual history reading were usually biographies or general histories, so a book dealing with cultural attitudes was something new for me. Overall it was very informative and Schama gives ample examples with engravings and prints thus showing his thorough research. But during some sections, it was a grind to read so much so that I was barely making a dent in the book as time went on. I started this book at the beginning of March and instead of getting through by the end of the month, I still had a ways to go. After taking a break to read a fictional work, it took me only 8 days after picking this book up again to finish. But don't let my own troubles dissuade you from purchasing this book, the insight into Golden Age Dutch culture gives one a basis in viewing Dutch's political, diplomatic, and military decisions during Europe's early modern period.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Review: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2)The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin in reviewing Robert Jordan's The Great Hunt? Starting almost on the heels of The Eye of the World, the action begins almost immediately for Rand Al'Thor as he wants to leave his friends for there own safty because of his ability to channel, only for events to change his plans. Throughout the book Rand is in a continual struggle to define himself while trying to save the same friends he wants to leave behind. While Rand continues to be the primary protagonist/point-of-view character, others come more into shape such as Perrin, Egwene, a commander of the Whitecloaks, Min, and the evil Padan Fain that help better bring Jordan's world into shape.

As the second book of The Wheel of Time series, The Great Hunt not only is an excellent book by itself but also adds to the story arc that makes you want to read the next book in the series right away.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: A Search For Identity: The Development Of Seventh Day Adventist Beliefs by George R. Knight

A Search For Identity: The Development Of Seventh Day Adventist BeliefsA Search For Identity: The Development Of Seventh Day Adventist Beliefs by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few years ago I joined a start up Sabbath School class dedicated with understanding the 28 Fundemental Beliefs, being a fifth-generation Seventh-day Adventist it was important to me to understand the beliefs that had shaped my family's history. At the beginning of the year we decided to look into how the denomination's beliefs, or understandings of beliefs, developed from the Great Disappointment in October 1844 to the present-day thus leading to us to this book to study in our exploration.

George R. Knight cames it clear at the beginning that his book is for the general Adventist audience and will provide an informed overview of the issues defined the theological development of Seventh-day Adventism, he succeeds tremendously. Knight's writing style makes for easy reading and his dividing up of the 150-years into four eras helps keep things very organized.

Knight begins by showing the theological thoughts that shaped the demoninations founders and pioneers before they joined the Millerite movement in the late 1830s and early 1840s leading up to the Great Disappointment, as well as the idea of "present truth" in which God would reveal further truth as time passes thus resulting in them NOT developing ironclad creeds. Knight then examines three eras in Adventist theological development in which the demonination seemed to concentrate on what Adventist, Christian, and Fundementalist in Adventism. From 1844 to 1885, the denomination developed the distinct Adventist pillars that made Seventh-day Advenists different from other Christian denomination and how they evangilized. However, Advenists seemed to forget they were Christians and from 1886 to 1919 the denomination struggled to re-emphasize what was Christian. As they did so they entered the liberal and fundementalist Christian debate wholehearedly on the fundementalist side that from 1920 to 1950 resulted in the creation was what some Adventists today think as 'historical Adventism" that the denomination still struggles with today. From 1950 onwards, Knight explains that all three themes (Adventist, Christian, and Fundementalist) in Seventh-day Adventist theological development have been interacting with one another resulting in issues arising or re-emerging creating polarized camps on one side or another.

Throughout the book, Knight gives the views of the denomination's leadership and how Ellen White viewed the issues that arose while she was alive. However I want to strongly point out that Knight doesn't cite Mrs. White as being the authority in the answer to an issue discussed in fact he strongly points to Mrs. White's on words that the answer would be found in the Bible and the Bible alone. Knight's use of Mrs. White will upset both the left/progressive and right/conservative wings of Adventism thus showing he is using her in the correct context and one that she most likely would have approved. And throughout the book, Knight recommends books if the reader wants to explore more in-depth a particular issue or position covered.

I strongly recommend this book to every Adventist, especially younger Adventists in high school. This book was first published in 2000 and if I had known about it when I was a senior in Collegedale Academy/freshman at Southern Adventist University it would have helped answer a lot of questions that began with "Why" that it took a long time to find answer.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since the mid/late 90s I've always been drawn to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series because of Darrell K. Sweet's distinctive cover art that has set the series apart from other fantasy titles. It wasn't until recently that I decided to look inside those covers, but after reading The Eye of the World I wish I had sooner.

The slow-to-moderate pace at the beginning of the book by Jordan shows the layback lifestyle of the Two Rivers region of his world where the majority of his characters come from. Once the action hits the road, the action picks up to a furious pace that only relaxes when the group comes to rest at towns that grow progressively larger. When the group is forced to split up, Jordan takes the opportunity to give an enlarged view of the world he's created as well as give better character development as the narration expanded from just one character's point-of-view to three.

Throughout the story, from the prologue to the climax, the significance and use of magical "One Power" is expanded upon by Jordan as well as it's implications. Those implications result in how characters interaction with one another, especially when it comes to gender roles compared to other fantasy stories. And the end of the book these implications of the use of the One Power provide set up for future books.

One last point is how Jordan misdirects who the ultimate villian(s) are at the climax of the book, including during the book's end game. Several aspects of the evil side of Jordan's world were exposed, though not explored in-depth, but well enough to give the reader a sense of what the protagonists are up against.

On it's own The Eye of the World is a great story. But as the first book in what will turn out to be a 14 book series, it's introduces just enough to want you to come back to see what else will happen. Like I said in the first paragraph, I should have read this book sooner.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American ConsensusBefore the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought Before the Storm after reading Perlstein's Nixonland expecting it to be not a prequel, but the first of what will most likely be multi-volume history of the rise of the conservative movement in the United States. Before the Storm not only fulfilled, but exceeded those expectations as one learns the roots of conservative ideas and how slowly they were put into words to that could be consumed by the average American one day. Before the Storm is also about how the conservative movement found their standard-bearer in Barry Goldwater, who was reluctant to take up the call and when he did surrounded himself with those unequal to the task of a national political campaign. But as Perlstein shows while Goldwater's official campaign failed, the political operatives that has set-up his nomination before being discarded had established themselves in "unofficial" citizen groups planting the beginnings of an army to be reaped later by Ronald Reagan.

If one could find faults it would be that Perlstein didn't give an in-depth description of the 1952 GOP Convention that conservatives always pointed out as being stolen from them, it was referenced many times but never delved into.

To those wanting to understand our present political landscape, I recommend this book to know how it developed in the past.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blog Introduction

Hello everyone, this blog will be a place were I'll write as the description says "reviews of television, movies, and books with occasional opinions on sports."  This blog is connected to my YouTube account also named The Channel of Matt Ries, this location might be updated more considering I'm still new with webcams.  I have another blog, To Wear a Crown, which is an alternate history timeline of The Wars of the Roses that I'll occasionally talk about on my YouTube channel.