Legacy by Michelle E. Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received an electronic review copy of this from the publisher through Book Sirens in exchange for a review. Disclosure: I like visual steampunk – creations of a largely amateur following (though there are some that are quite professional in their imagining), and haven’t been too moved by movies or shows that purport to be steampunk. I’ve listened to and acquired some of a taste for the aural incarnations of genre. What I find lacking is written forms that I can enjoy. So I requested this because the description called it “An unforgettable steampunk fantasy novel set in Victorian England.” Well… I must have missed something because there were only slight hints at steampunk. Fantasy? Yes. Steampunk? Not really.
I did not know this was published in 2016, but that’s the copyright on my review copy, though on Goodreads, there is a note of “first published March 16th 2015”. When I logged it, I saw “The Legacy #1”. Turns out there are five more in the series (so far?) This is good because I found this one to be a little light. Light on the fantasy, though better than average on the story. And I thought it was light on development and backstory. At times it seemed as though I’d missed a first book, but that would be this, so that wasn’t it. [As a rule, I don’t like to summarize fiction in my reviews because I don’t want to spoil for any potential reader. There are usually plenty of plot summaries out there is one is so inclined.] The villain is over the top without that backstory, and the fantasy elements are few. Some are so vague – I expect those to be resolved in the sequels, but if a reader didn’t want to continue? There was a surprise that was completely unanticipated…I’ll leave it for the reader to learn when it appears.
[Edit: I forgot to mention…]…there are some alternate history items that are interesting to me. Enough said there.
So…not what I expected, not as advertised (I do not know if that was publisher blurb or some reviewer who really doesn’t know steampunk), but intriguing and engaging enough that I will check out the next. I appreciate the opportunity to review.
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Surrealism: Inside the Magnetic Fields by Penelope Rosemont
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read a book on “the making of an art historian”, then read Peter McGough’s memoirs of an artist in the 1980s, (he covered more years than that) and this popped up as a recommendation. I have an affinity to surrealism in the visual art form (more on non-visual below…), being partial to Magritte and Dali especially, so I requested a review copy of this, which was granted by the publisher through Edelweiss.
I guess I need to read more about surrealism because I had a hard time buying some of her narrative. Living with an artist, knowing many artists, even engaging with many artists over the past decade, politics is always present, but I’ve never thought it drove an entire genre. I may be wrong, but my inner primitive brain tells me no. I think Ms. Rosemont trafficked in anarchical circles and just happened to art at surrealism as well. Continue reading
Appeasement: 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
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I admire anonymously the monumental efforts like those of people at Media Matters, who endure hours upon hours of the likes of Fox News so that the sane of us don’t have to watch to see what nonsense is being spewed at any given instance. And then there is Ms. Merlan, who takes such to extremes, diving into the belly of so many beasts to write this she has to have brain bleach on autorefill. Hat’s off and bravo. There have always been conspiracists and their theories – whacky, out there, unreal. I semi-argued in frustration with someone some years ago who thought the feed from the International Space Station was faked, as was the moon landing (it was faked, of course, by Stanley Kubrick, but he always liked to shoot on location 😉 ). Sadly, she wasn’t the only person I’ve known who believed that mind-boggling gem, and I know anti-vaxxers, some who think fluoride is poison brainwashing, and a few Deep Staters and birthers just for starters. The fallout from 2016 is alarming enough that when I saw this, I requested and was sent an Advance Reader’s Edition from the publisher through LibraryThing.
Ms. Merlan calls this “a surreal time”, where the subcultures she writes about are “achieving a hallucinatory new level of fame.” In the western hemisphere, conspiracies have been around since the Euro-occupants (my term) got here. She says
Conspiracy theories tend to flourish especially at times of rapid social change, when we’re reevaluating ourselves and, perhaps, facing uncomfortable questions in the process. In 1980, the civil liberties lawyer and author Frank Donner wrote that conspiracism reveals a fundamental insecurity about who Americans want to be versus who we are.
Well, one need only look to religions to see the same thing. Continue reading