Saturday, December 27, 2014

After the Downfall

by Harry Turtledove

Okay, so the last big Friends of the Library book sale was a bit of a letdown for me. I had prior obligations for both the Friday evening preview and the Saturday sale. Somewhat dejected, I headed down on Sunday, sure that everything had been picked over. It was, but since everything was half-price, I lowered my standards and grabbed just about anything that caught my eye. With a picture of a Nazi soldier riding a unicorn on the cover, After the Downfall was one of those books. It's the tale of Hasso Pemsel, a Wehrmacht officer who is mystically snatched from the fall of Berlin in 1945 to another world where magic exists and technology is at the medieval level. Shortly upon his arrival he uses his machine gun to rescue Velona, the human embodiment of a goddess. Through her gratitude he becomes her lover and a welcome guest of the Lenelli, a tall, blond haired, blue eyed race. These particular Lenelli are colonists, having come across the western sea to settle on a new continent. The natives, a shorter, darker skinned race named the Grenye, take exception to this, but what can they do against a master race? As the tale progresses, Hasso's role as an outsider combines with his experiences on the losing side of World War II to make him question the status quo and his own beliefs. It's not a great book, but worth the time to read.

Good waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter

by Barry Lopez

This one's a collection of tales of Coyote, the trickster in various stories from various Native American peoples. All of the tales are short. Some are interesting, some are pretty weak. As the introduction states, these tales were meant to be told by a storyteller, not read in a tome. I suppose I could have tried reading them aloud...

...but since I didn't, it's only waiting room material
LibraryThing link


Monday, December 15, 2014

Proven Guilty

by Jim Butcher

This eighth novel of The Dresden Files offers the first peek of Harry Dresden's new role as a Warden, an agent of the White Council of Wizards. He still doesn't see eye to eye with his new bosses and is now confronted with a challenge to protect the daughter of one of his friends amidst an invasion of fear-feeding creatures from the spirit realm. I had mixed feelings about the book. One one hand, it seems like the characters and stories are weighted down with too much angst and back story. As I struggled to remember all of the references I was tempted to just abandon the book and go reread one of the earlier tales. On the other hand, you gotta love Mr. Butcher's wit and his ability to write action sequences. So, yeah, I finished the book and will undoubtedly pick up novel #9...

Enjoyable waiting room material
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Sunday, December 07, 2014

William Howard Taft: An Intimate History

by Judith Icke Anderson

I was a bit disappointed with this biography. I've been reading biographies of all the presidents as an indirect but interesting way to learn about U.S. history. That's something that Professor Anderson doesn't cover overmuch. Instead she adds some psychology, attempting to shed some light on why a well liked and competent man could let himself be pressured into accepting the presidency and then do such a lousy job of it.

Taft's great ambition was to be a justice of the Supreme Court. He eventually made it, but only after years of being swept into politics, serving as Governor of the Philippines, Secretary of War and, of course, President of the United States. Why? Professor Anderson opines that it was his desire to please first his wife, Nellie, and later, Theodore Roosevelt, that led him to set aside his own ambitions and seek political office. Once in the White House, however, he started to follow his own path and ended up irritating all sorts of people.

The book's coverage of the years outside of Taft's presidential administration are somewhat sparse. I never got a good feeling of the times like I did with other biographies. The psychological angle was different, though I tended to be skeptical of psychological theories from 1981. Another interesting angle was the relative amount of space she devoted to Nellie Taft. I haven't seen so much text devoted to the first lady since I read a biography of The Madisons, over a decade ago. But when it comes to William Howard Taft, the coverage was definitely warranted. In the end, An Intimate History wasn't a horrible read, even though it didn't fit my own agenda.

Presidential waiting room material
LibraryThing link

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