Monday, September 29, 2014

City Of Stairs


The city of Bulikov was once home to the gods. The worshippers there received special powers from their gods, and set out to conquer the world with the inspiration and powers gained from their deities. All this changed when the gods were mysteriously killed and the powers they gave to their followers started to disappear. The once grand city has been conquered by those it used to oppress. Shara is an agent of the new government, and has come to investigate a murder. Her investigation leads to more mysteries and she begins to suspect that some of the gods live still.

City Of Stairs was a fascinating mystery in a fantasy world. I was quickly pulled into this world and wanted to discover the answers to all the questions and issues raised early in the story. The author did a great job balancing the mystery with other elements of the fantasy world. The first few chapters might seem like there is a lot coming at you with the plot and the world building, but as you keep reading everything falls into place and you are absorbed into the world.

I enjoyed the complex world building in this book. There was the perfect balance between giving the reader an intriguing real world, and not loosing them with difficult and obscure details. I became engaged in this world, and was intrigued by all the in the ins and outs of everything in the story.

I liked the different characters and their very distinct personalities. You actually see some depth that does not always happen in a quick mystery or the stereotypical fantasy characters. They have flaws and personal goals and issues. I also appreciated that there are some strong female characters in this story.

This was the first book I had read by Robert Jackson Bennett, and I liked it. I hope all his books are of this quality because I want to try reading some more from this author. If anyone has read this or any of his other books I would love to hear what you think, and if you have any recommendations for his other books.

If you like reading fantasy books, I highly recommend reading this book.

**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books to review**

* Receiving a free copy does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of the book sooner than I would have otherwise gotten to it, or a book I might not have heard about otherwise.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Castle Waiting

Castle Waiting is the story of the castle in Sleeping Beauty. Surrounded by brambles that keep most people from coming to the castle it is waiting to come to life again. It must wait even longer when the inhabitants abandon it as life comes to a halt. Slowly adventurers, refugees, and misfits in society make the castle their home. They begin to make the castle alive again as they settle in and try to live their lives, with a few adventures along the way.

This series was recommended to me because I like fairy tale retellings, particularly The Fables series. I thought I would give it a try. The story started out interesting with an attempt at a humorous retelling of The Sleeping Beauty tale. After that, it began to tell the story of the various residents of the castle. This is where the story started to lose my interest. It does have fairy tale creatures, but there is no clear plot for these characters, and I could not see what story the rest was based off of, or what was intended for these characters.

It did seem to have the traditional fairy tale morals included such as: being tolerant of those around you, and helping those in need, but that seemed to be all that was really going on in over half the book. There is another book in the series, but I am not sure I will read it. Nothing really happened in this book. After several hundred pages I was still waiting for something to happen.

If you really like fairy tales you could try it, but it was not a book that I would really recommend.

Friday, September 26, 2014

While Beauty Slept

Elise Dalriss hears her great-granddaughter telling the tale of a princess in a tower who is awakened by a prince. It brings up memories of her past. Elise was the companion to the princess who slept in the tower, and she is the only one left who knows what really happened to the princess, and her kingdom. Elise worked as a servant in the palace, and became close to the queen, and later the princess. While Beauty Slept, is Elise's version of the events leading up to a princess sleeping in a tower when a prince comes to save her.

This was a darker version of the story of Sleeping Beauty. It brings a harsher reality to the tale. There is less magic causing problems for the characters, and more of a combination of tragic events that take over the lives of the characters. There was too much foreshadowing of the doom that is going to descend on the royal family. I think this was unnecessary, given that most of us know Sleeping Beauty is not always a happy tale, and bad things happen to the characters. It was distracting from the interesting plot.

I like that this story highlights how actual events can be changed as the story is repeated over time. Even taking on magical elements in the tale until it becomes a simple fairy tale that is commonly told. It gives you the feeling that the story is more of a history or historical fiction than a fairy tale. I thought that this added a lot to the book.

If you enjoy fairy tales and retellings of those tales, I would recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter in the seventeenth century. His painting Girl With A Pearl Earring, has fascinated people for centuries. One of the questions people have about it is: who was the girl in the painting? In this novel Chevalier creates an identity for the girl that sat for the painting. Griet is sixteen and goes to work in the Vermeer household as a servant. She is allowed to work in the studio, and is ultimately asked to sit for a painting. Vermeer's wife is jealous of the attention Griet receives from her husband. Griet must learn how to navigate the conflicting orders from the people she works for.

Normally I do not care for speculative historical fiction. I do not like it when historical events are drastically changed so those that are not familiar with those events will not recognize what is real and what is not. The circumstances of Girl With A Pearl Earring allow for more room for a fictional story to be written. Who the girl in the painting is not known, and we do not know a lot about Vermeer. This allowed for more believability in the fictional story.

This book captured my imagination. I thought the setting and details seemed realistic, although a few more details might have helped with that. I liked Griet's character. At times the story seems like it needed a little more to fill it out, but I still enjoyed the book. It does have a slower pace to it, so you have to be patient to really see the beauty in the story.

If you like historical fiction I would recommend reading this book.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Bosnia List: A Memoir Of War, Exile, And Return

Kenan was a young boy living in Brcko. He loved karate and had a good life. When he was eleven everything changed. In 1992 when war began Kenan and his family found themselves alone as friends and neighbors turned against them. The reason? Simply because they were Muslim. His karate coach showed up to his house with a gun demanding his family leave. This is a memoir of Kenan's escape from the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. It is also about his return many years later to his homeland, and his list of places to visit and people to confront while he is there.

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin Books as part of a promotional event for the book*. I was very interested in reading this book, because I know very little about what happened in Bosnia. It was the first book I have read about what happened there. It was very enlightening to read Kenan's account about what happened to him, his family, and their friends.

It is a very emotional memoir. You will read about horrific events, the author's struggles during the war and after, and the difficulty he had confronting the past. Reading this was brings up a lot of thoughts and emotions as you learn what Kenan went through and how he tries to find a way to make peace with what has happened to him. It has a lot of details about the events in Bosnia while making them very personal.

If you are interested in what happened in Bosnia I recommend reading this book.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book I would not have read as soon, or heard about otherwise.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

The Mouse Guard was formed to protect mice from the predators and the elements. The Guard protects those in their cities, but has other duties as well. They patrol the routes between the settlements, fight intruders, patrol the boarders, make new paths, and guide other mice while traveling. The mice in the Guard are dedicated to their order. This book begins with members of the Guard: Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam on a mission to find a missing merchant. They find more than they bargain for as they discover evidence of a traitor. They must stop the traitor's plot before the Mouse Guard is destroyed.

This was a great start to this series. I loved the introduction to the Guard, the personalities of the Guard members we are introduced to, and the art is gorgeous! The plot immediately pulls you in as you travel with these brave mice on their missions. I finished this in one sitting because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the brave members of the Guard.

I think fans of Redwall will enjoy this series. The first book is not as detailed as Redwall is, but it is a similar world. This might be a fun way to see if a younger audience would be interested in a story like Redwall. That does not mean Mouse Guard is just for a younger audience, quite the contrary. I enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

I recommend reading this book.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pride And Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet is the second of five sisters. Her father is a gentleman with a small income. Her mother lives for facilitating marriages for her daughters. Their lives are all changed when Mr. Bingley rents Netherfield Park, and brings his friend Mr. Darcy to a ball with him. The story follows the sisters as they fall in love, travel, face heartbreak, and learn about themselves and life in general.

 Pride And Prejudice is one of my favorite books. I remember being apprehensive when I first read this book as it had been built up so much as a great love story. I was delighted to discover that it is much more than a love story. It is a wonderful satire on people, behavior, and class in Austen's time. I enjoy the plot and how wonderfully Austen writes her characters. While Austen's novels always display an amount of wit, I think this book shows her at her best.

I have now reread Pride And Prejudice quite a few times, and always enjoy it. I like following these great characters as they evolve from their first introduction in the book. I always feel pulled into the time period. I admire how Austen is able to do this without going into great detail about every piece of clothing, location, or politics. I think this is a masterfully written book.

I really like this edition from The Modern Library Classics. It includes commentaries about the book from Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Margaret Oliphant, and others. I especially like the notes that explain some terms that are not used as often anymore. Now any reader that did not know what the difference between a barouche-box and a phaeton is, and why that seems important to the characters will understand a little better.

I highly recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Giver


Jonas lives in a perfect world. There is no pain, war, or fear. There is also no choice. Everyone in the community has their role assigned to them. At age twelve, when everyone learns what their job will be, Jonas receives a special assignment. He will be trained to become the next Giver. The Giver holds all the memories of pain, pleasure, war, famine--everything the community needs to know to survive. But these memories create a problem for the peace and order of the community. As Jonas learns the truth he realizes how different things really are from the world he has known, and he can never return to ignorance.

This is a great novel to introduce young readers to the dystopian genre. But that should not stop adults from reading this book if they have not done so yet. It is deceptively simple. There are the classic dystopian themes of the price of having the perfect world, the lack of choice, and the disillusionment such societies bring. There are also some interesting parts about relationships, growing up, and how memory affects us.

I like the subtlety of Lowry's writing. There are layers to this book that allow the reader to pull more from the book every time they read it. Even though I have read the book before, the story pulled me in, and I wanted to keep reading to discover what was happening with Jonas. I enjoy a book that provides a great story while giving me something to think about.

If you are a fan of young adult books or the dystopian genre I would highly recommend reading this book.

I have reread this book several times, but it is one I like returning to. I was thrilled when Alejandro chose this book for the Bookworms to read. It was Alejandro and Paige's first time reading The Giver, and I was excited to share this reading experience with them. Here are some of their thoughts on the book, there are some spoilers:

Q&A With The Bookworms Book Club

How many stars out of 5 would you give this book?
Alejandro 5
Paige 4 1/2

What did you think of the book?
Paige I liked all 320 pages of it. I thought it was a really good long book.
Alejandro I liked it.

What was your favorite part?
Alejandro When Jonas escaped going down the hill.
Paige When they family got Gabriel, because they saved his life because they were going to release him.

What does being released mean? Did it surprise you to discover what being released meant?
Alejandro It means being killed. That didn't surprise me when I read it later in the book.
Paige No. I didn't guess what it meant. I was very surprised it meant they died.

Would you like sharing your birthday with everyone born that year? 
Paige NO! I don't want to share it with people. I like the day being about me.
Alejandro I would not really want to share it with all the kids.

Why do you think they had the kids share their birthday?
Alejandro Maybe so they would all be the same. They all got the same gift too.
Paige That way no one is left out.

What job would you be assigned?
Alejandro A Doctor. I want to be a Doctor.
Paige Not a Birth Mother. They don't get to keep the babies, and they have to do hard work later. Maybe a Cook. I really like to cook.

Would you want to have people always watching you like they do in Jonas' community?
Paige Sometimes would be okay, like when you do your volunteer hours to see what job you would be good at. But not all the time, and not at home.
Alejandro I think it would be annoying. 

What do you think about people not making their own choices?
Paige People should make their own choices. If they choose bad, they can pay for it. I would want to be able to make choices about what to do and be able to fall in love.
Alejandro They should let people make choices even if they make bad choices. They can pay for it and choose not to do it again. The world is for whys and choices.

What do you think of the job of Giver?
Alejandro It is good because people can ask him questions if they have a problem, but it is too much pain for one person. Everyone should have a little because one person can't feel it all.
Paige I think his job takes a lot of courage. I think there is good and bad in his job.

Would you read the three books that come after The Giver? The other three books are: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.
Alejandro Yeah, I already started reading the other books.
Paige I don't know. I think I might.

What did you think of the movie that just came out based on The Giver?
Both: I really liked it!
Alejandro They changed some stuff, but it didn't really change the story. I liked it a lot.
Paige Yeah I loved it! I got all the books after seeing it.

Would you recommend this book to people?
Both: Yes! People should read it.

Thank you Alejandro and Paige for reviewing this book with me. I look forward to the next book we read together.

Monday, September 15, 2014

American Saint: The Life Of Elizabeth Seton


Elizabeth Seton was born to a prominent family in New York in 1774. She moved in the finest circles, and was acquainted with some of the founding fathers. She sailed to Italy with her husband Will looking for a cure for his tuberculosis. Elizabeth and her family were placed in a damp dungeon to quarantine them, as authorities in Italy feared the ship from New York might be carrying yellow fever. Will eventually died, and Elizabeth returned to America and joined the Catholic church. Catholicism was illegal in the United States at that time, and she received constant threats to herself and her property. She later began a religious order in the United States, and resisted male control over it.

I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads Program*. I was happy to win this book as I had never heard of Elizabeth Seton before, and had no idea that she was the first American born saint. I thought this was a good general overview of her life. It also gave me a basic idea of the different issues catholics faced in early American history. I would be interested in reading a book that delved deeper into her life and the issues she faced. I do think Barthel did a good job conveying the struggle she faced trying to decide if she should convert to Catholicism despite what her family and friends would think of her decision.

The first portion of the book seemed a little disjointed and vague. There were leaps from topic to topic, and quite a few names being introduced in order to try to illustrate where Elizabeth came from, and where she ended up. The time frame also went back and forth a lot as well. I thought there were too many threads being presented at once which made it difficult to follow at some points. The book was easier to follow as it went on and focused more on Elizabeth.

If you are a fan of early American history or women's history, I recommend reading this book.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not alter my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book sooner than I would have gotten to read it, or a book I would not have heard about otherwise.

Saturday, September 13, 2014



Helena has always dreamed of living a normal life. She has been raised in a company of circus performers. She is drawn into a magical world by a haunting tune. It seems the perfect escape from her odd life, until she realizes this world is even stranger than the life she has left behind. She discovers anything can happen in this world, including having her normal life stolen by someone who has escaped from this world. If Helena is to return to her life, she must first save this realm from the chaos that is engulfing it.

This graphic novel is based off the original story MirrorMask. This is an interesting example of the screenplay being written before any novel version of the story. It is important to keep that in mind while reading this book. I have not read the screenplay yet, but I have seen the movie. This is a short version of that tale, and I really enjoyed it. The artwork is beautiful and creepy. It really pulls you into this magical world.

In some ways, the story reminds me of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, only with a slightly older girl. If you like that story, you might appreciate MirrorMask. To fully understand the depth of the story you would probably want to see the movie or read the screenplay first. There are certain plot points that might not be as clear without having more information. On the whole, I think most people will be able to follow the basic plot line. Also, this shorter version would likely be better for a younger audience than the more detailed versions of the story. It does not get as dark as the film does.

I enjoyed the graphic novel, and it made me want to read the screenplay and see the movie again. If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, I would recommend reading this book.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Queen In Winter

This is an anthology of short stories from four popular women authors who write fantasy or romantic fantasy novels. The main characters are females set in a fantasy world who must try to save themselves or someone else in their story. They are suppose to be strong female characters, with a little bit of romance thrown in.

The first story: A Whisper Of Spring by: Lynn Kurland

Iolaire is an elven princess who has been kidnapped by a mage prince who hopes to marry an elf of royal blood. He has already captured Iolaire's cousin, and killed her when she refused to marry him. Iolaire despairs of being rescued by her people, yet is uncertain if she can escape her magical imprisonment.

I felt mostly indifferent to this tale. I found myself not caring if the characters lived or died. It could have been a short version of almost any fantasy world and characters. I was hoping for something that would draw me in, and did not find it. I have heard that this is a short story from The Nine Kingdoms trilogy, and perhaps reading that trilogy first would have helped me appreciate this story more. I might have understood the world better, and it would have given the story more depth if I could connect it to a larger story.

The second story: When Winter Comes by: Sharon Shinn

This is the story of Sosie and her sister Annie. Annie has just given birth to a mystic baby, and is forced to leave home. Sosie must try to get her unwell sister somewhere safe, which is difficult with armed forces patrolling for mystics.

I was pleased to discover that this is a story set in The Twelve Houses series. It is the tale of mystics that are being persecuted in Gillengaria. I liked that side characters from the series were used in this short story, although they are characters we have met several times in the books. It was nice to read what happens to them in between their appearances in the series. Readers unfamiliar with the series will still be able to understand what is going on, but they will miss how this story connects to other plots,  and has more depth as it fits into something greater.

It is always a pleasure to return to this world.

The third story: The Kiss Of The Snow Queen by: Claire Delacroix

I loved the opening lines of this one. A magic mirror that is capricious and vengeful. What an awesome beginning! Unfortunately, the story went downhill from there. I found this tragic after such a promising start. Normally I enjoy retellings of mythology, but this version did not appeal to me.

The language did not seem consistent with the world or characters, and when you are in a short story you do not want to be jarred out of it. I also did not care for same stereotypical characters and issues. The main problem seemed to be trying to mesh to many different mythologies into one short tale. It made the story very confused. I did not care for this retelling at all.

The fourth story: A Gift Of Wings by: Sarah Monette

A wounded man and his body guard(who is also his former lover) are trapped in a remote inn during a really bad snowstorm. A murder occurs, and they discover that they are everyone's main suspects. They must work to find the real killer before the storm ends, or anyone else is killed.

It was an okay mystery, but not great. There was a lot going on for a short story. A lot of people, and a lot of past events to try to fit in while keeping the mystery moving forward.

I did not think this was the best anthology. The stories were not attention grabbing, nor did they make me want to read more by the authors. I chose this one because Sharon Shinn wrote her story in The Twelve Houses series, which I enjoy. The only thing these stories really had in common was some magic. The main characters were females, which is great except they did not seem that strong, powerful, or exciting.

I would only recommend this book to people who are already fans of one or more of these authors.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Melting Stones

Evvy is a stone mage. She used to be a street urchin in Chammur until she was found by Briar. She began her training, and is now leaving on a mission with Rosethorn to help save an island nation. Plants and animals are mysteriously dying on the Battle Islands, and it is their job to figure out why this is happening. Evvy has no desire to be on this mission where her role is simply to listen and learn. She wants to be actively doing things. With the help of her companion Luvo--the heart of a mountain Evvy discovers something important, and must hurry to save everyone on the island.

This is the second book in The Circle Reforged series. In this volume, Evvy's character develops a lot from the beginning of the book. I appreciated this and the insights it gave because she was rather immature at some points. I would have to remind myself she is only fourteen. I did like seeing her attitude about people and life begin to change. It was also interesting to learn about magic from her perspective.

I think this is a great series for young adults. It is refreshing to have strong female characters in a book for a younger audience that are well written. They are not unachievably perfect, nor are they completely helpless depending on others to save them. They make mistakes, learn, and grow as a regular person does.

If you have not read some of the other books and series, Melting Stones might be a little hard to follow at some points. You should be able to follow the story, but some of the references to past events might be slightly confusing. I would recommend reading the books that come before this one first. I preferred the other books in the series, but this one was not bad.

If you like young adult fantasy, I would recommend this book.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mummies, Cannibals, And Vampires: The History Of Corpse Medicine From The Renaissance to The Victorians

What are you willing to do to be healthy, or rejuvenate yourself? Mummies, Cannibals, and Vampires discusses corpse medicine, and how people thought it would cure many ills. Powdered mummy was thought to cure many illnesses. Blood from a healthy individual was also thought to cure many things. Some of the common corpse medicines that were used were: mummies-usually powdered, blood from either a living or dead person, urine, feces, ground up bones, breast milk, dried and ground up organs.

It was interesting to read that some people swore by corpse medicine while others clearly did not believe in it, or were too grossed out by it to use it. There are clear cases when the doctor did not tell the patient exactly what was in the medicine they prescribed, or gave it a different name. It was slightly appalling to read this when you realize you simply trust your doctor and pharmacist to give you what they are claiming is in your medicine.

I won a free copy of this book from Rutledge History*, and it was everything I was hoping it would be and more. There were times that I felt absolutely disgusted reading what went into some of these medicines. It was surprising that so many people were able to take these medicines without vomiting. Setting aside personal taste, even some of the doctors wrote of the horrible stench some of these medicines gave off. I learned a lot while reading this book, and had a great time reading it.

Mummies, Cannibals, and Vampires provides actual accounts of people drinking blood of both the living and the dead, people grinding up mummies to eat, and consuming flesh of humans in various forms all in the hope of becoming healthier or prolonging their own lives. At times it was a bit horrifying to read, but it was very well written. There was never a dull moment when reading this book.

I highly recommend reading this book.

*Receiving a free copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a book I would not have gotten to read as soon or heard about otherwise.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars

The group finally has found a place they might be able to survive. They have found a prison, and if they can clear out all the zombies it could be the safest place to live so far. They can keep other zombies from entering and finally have a place to rest and let Lori have her baby. The problem is, there are not just zombies in the prison. Some of the inmates have survived. The group led by Rick must decide if they can trust the inmates enough to let them stay. The alternative is sending them out into the world and almost certain death. The group grapples with these decisions as they attempt to make the prison safe to live in.

This is the third volume in the series The Walking Dead. I did like the added element of the prisoners to this book. It adds a whole bunch of new issues for the characters to deal with. They must decide if they will add the prisoners to their group or leave them to the mercy of the zombies, what to do when crimes are committed now there is no government, who decides the rules for the group, and who decides when they have been broken. The prison setting really helps the readers see how much this zombie infested world is affecting the main characters.

I am still not overly impressed with the character development. There is a little more distinction to the characters over the previous two volumes, but not a lot. I do not care for the way the women are written, and think this can and should be improved upon. The dialogue could also use improvement. I feel conflicted about this series. I really enjoy the show, but the graphic novels not so much. I keep reading it hoping to find the social commentary about the dilemmas people face when society falls apart that was the stated goal of the series. While there is a little bit of that, it is not meeting my expectations. I will continue with the series a little longer to see if it continues to improve. I am also curious to see how the show and the graphic novels are similar, and where they differ.

If you like the series The Walking Dead, you will probably like this one.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Duel With The Devil

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are rivals in everything from politics to winning cases in a courtroom. Almost as shocking to the city of Manhattan as finding the dead body of Elma Sands in a well, is the teaming up of the two rivals to defend the man accused of killing her. Burr and Hamilton are determined to make sure Levi Weeks gets a fair trial before the mob follows through with their threats to kill this supposed murderer. Collins provides the details to the teaming up of some of two talented lawyers and rivals in this real murder case.

There are three main parts to this book. The first introduces us to the events and people involved in the case. The second part deals with the trial. And the third part tells us what happened to the people involved in these events when the trial was over. Although I found the information about New York around 1800 interesting, I still thought the first part dragged a little bit. I found the second part to be the most interesting part of the book. I liked reading about an actual trial in early American history, and was very interested in learning how the case would turn out.

I did think there could have been more balance in the different story lines. Also, the two competing stories of the murder and the Hamilton and Burr teaming up did not seem to flow together as well as I had hoped. The writing was very interesting, but sometimes the order events were placed in made the events more confusing than they needed to be.

I will also note that the title and cover suggests that this book is about Hamilton and Burr's duel. While it is mentioned in the book, that is not the focus of Duel With The Devil. I think a clearer title would help people make a decision about reading this book.

I read this book as an ebook on my Nook. I had no problems reading it that way. The only minor issue I had was with the page count to the end of the chapter. It would tell you the page count to the end of the section and not to the end of the chapter. This was not a major problem, but it did make it harder to find an easy place to pause my reading.

If you like early American history or mysteries, I would recommend trying this book.

**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books to review**

*Receiving a free copy does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book I would not have gotten to as soon, or have heard about otherwise.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Many people have heard of Jesus of Nazareth. Usually, it is from a religious perspective. Here, Aslan examines what we know about the historical figure Jesus. If there is one thing that is undisputed from various records and accounts, it is: Jesus was crucified. The question must be asked: what was a crime the Romans would crucify a person for? They would crucify a person for insurrection against the Empire. How does this line up to what we know about Jesus the religious, peaceful figure?

I found the explanation of events from their historical context to be very interesting. There was a fascinating comparison of sources from the Old and New Testament and historical sources. Alsan explains how the gospels were written at least seventy to one hundred years after the events they are about, and uses historical records to provide context about Jesus' life, and why he was killed.

One of the most interesting portions to me was the near the end of the book after Jesus died. James and Paul are in conflict about what direction this movement should go. James wanted to keep everything more in line with the Law of Moses, the way Jesus had presented it. Paul wanted to separate from traditional Judaism and be more Roman. I would like to learn more about that period.

I thought that Zealot was an excellent biography. The presentation was very clear and engaging. I think even people that would not typically read a lot of history would be able to easily follow this book. One point that is important to make about this book is what the author intended. In several interviews I heard with the author, he states that the book is not about tearing down people's faith or beliefs. It is about examining an important world figure from a historical perspective. I think he accomplishes that goal. He examines what was happening in history at the time and place Jesus lived. Aslan is able to present his thesis in a tone that is not dismissive of other people's beliefs.

I highly recommend reading this biography.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The House At The End Of Hope Street

Alba is wandering around Cambridge England. Her love life is not going well, and she is having problems with her academic career. She might even be facing an abrupt end to her studies. She is naturally distressed, and does not know what to do. While wandering, she finds herself in front of number 11 Hope Street. An older lady named Peggy invites her to stay on the condition she turns her life around in ninety-nine days. Alba decides with the way her life is going, why not? The house is not a regular one. Alba discovers through talking pictures on the wall famous people such as: Beatrix Potter and George Eliot have stayed there when they needed help too. Alba hopes if they could find help in this house, perhaps she will as well.

I won a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads Program*. I found the synopsis of the book really intriguing. A magical house inhabited by an older woman using mysterious forces to help people who have lost hope discover it again. Combined with a lot of literary references along the way, what's not to love? I was very curious to learn more about this world. It sadly did not meet my expectations. The plot was very slow, which is not necessarily bad, but it was so slow nothing ever happened.

It was difficult to identify with any of the characters beyond the love of books Alba displays. It seemed to be a rushed hodgepodge of hopeless people, with things suddenly turning out alright in the end. I did not really get to know any of the characters. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if there had been more focus on the house and how it helped people, and with more emphasis on the magical portion of the story.

I thought there was a lot of potential for this book, but it did not follow through. I would recommend reading a different book.

*Winning a copy of this book does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book I would not have gotten to as soon, or heard about otherwise.