Category Archives: Book review

The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral ReefsThe World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Richard Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It’s short, when you consider that half of it is photographs, but what photographs!! Stunning, jaw-dropping “wow” for some of the tiniest creatures in that world beneath. Dr. Smith is an incredible photographer. And he’s had access to some amazing reefs in his work, which he shares in here. He says,

I am drawn to animals that are easily overlooked or ignored, and I use underwater photography to share their beauty – hopefully imparting a greater sense of appreciation to people who haven’t been able to see these animals firsthand.

And that sharing is wonderful. Continue reading

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Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

Fatal Revenant (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #2)Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to be as doggedly persistent in finishing the series this time as Donaldson surely was in over-writing it. Tortuously tedious, agonizingly slow, maddening paralysis of yet another main character – there is little to root for in Linden Avery, and he does her no favors, and sadly immemorable… It turns out I did read this when it came out but only remembered one partial revelation and was only finally able to recognize the actual reveal when it happened. I recall little from the first reading and there is good reason for that.

Donaldson is the master of forbearing the utilization of a diminutive utterance when an obscure polysyllabic synonym will suffice. Oh, his obscurities are not archaic, but they are seldom used, and while a “trademark” the reader has no choice in accepting, they have long served to embellish his stories since his first trilogy. And his skill at description is distorted into parody. I’ve already said tedious, but it is an apt description that bears repeating. This book is hundreds of pages longer than it should have been. Peter Jackson stretched a short novel into three movies (yes, his fan fiction silliness added a lot of extraneous to an already good story), Donaldson stretched a long book into a ponderous tome.

Stoic companions. Paralyzed central character. Maddening internalizations. Even more maddeningly rushed denouement. Add in the introduction of a new set of players of varying and considerable powers, who profess an interest in the outcome of the play yet had no appearance in the previous two series when the outcome played quite dire, is troublesome (though uncharacteristically sparely explained away.) They seem to be contrivances to draw out an already overly long arc. Perhaps that is why the last trilogy has four books. [Note: I rarely summarize fiction plots, mainly because I think it unfair to the author (there are plenty of people who do for those on the hunt, and there is almost always a teaser blurb.) And I think it unfair to the reader who, like me, dislikes spoilers.]

I know I have only read 16 pages of the next book (that I recall, along with 47 words into it, Donaldson drops one of those trademarks), and I also know I remember not reading more. I need a break to concentrate on some educational reading, and two advance review copies, before I attempt the next. But this time, I will finish the series.

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Mentors: The Making of an Art Historian by Francis M Naumann

Mentors: The Making of an Art HistorianMentors: The Making of an Art Historian by Francis M Naumann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My commutes this year have been enhanced by lectures on concert music (The Great Courses lecture series by Dr. Robert Greenberg, ten Great Masters, Their Lives and Music), and when this came across in an email, I was happy to expand my arts education again. I received a review copy of this from Edelweiss, Above the Treeline. I had read Maxwell Anderson’s The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art Through a Museum Director’s Eye six years ago (must reread it soon!) and wondered if this might be a bit of seeing art through a historian’s eye. Not really, but engaging nonetheless. Naumann is forthcoming with his naiveties, candid with his relationships (be forewarned, he is open with some…adult…interactions), and while I didn’t get the full sense of his subtitle until the end, I did feel a privilege of his sharing of his mentors. Those mentors were Leo Steinberg, John Rewald, Beatrice Wood, and William Rubin, Robert Rosenblum and Robert Pincus-Witten. I’ll not pick much from his memories here…best to read about them yourself. Continue reading

Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie

Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to WarAppeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This might be my last review of a book received through the discontinued Penguin Books First to Read program. I requested 29 since 2015 and was selected for 19 (I might read one more that I was not selected for, thus the “might”) and I appreciate the opportunities.

Bouverie has composed an incredibly thorough relation of a narrow history of a particular time for a particular country, and particular players and their particularly disastrous choices of action. His political journalist chops are apparent…his research is extensive. For a reader not of his country, the insights were well received, including the acerbic observations throughout (on the future Edward VIII and his hands off opinion, Bouverie said “[l]acking intelligence and a sense of constitutional propriety, the Prince made his views clear …”) There are lessons here that are not being heeded in the country of this reader. I may draw crosshairs for finding parallels in a particular political party’s appeasement of the heinous actions and comportment of the current (as of this writing) elected executive. There are other observations that parallel today; one being:

I have the impression that the persons directing the policy of the Hitler Government are not normal. Many of us, indeed, have a feeling that we are living in a country where fanatics, hooligans and eccentrics have got the upper hand.
– British Ambassador to Berlin [Sir Horace Rumbold] to the Foreign Secretary [Sir John Simon], June 30, 1933

Continue reading