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All reviews - Books (80) - Music (40)

The Iliad review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 9 September 2013 07:44 (A review of The Iliad)

If over 600 pages of lyrically-rendered death, blood, and mayhem sound like your cup of tea, than you'll definitely want to read this. People get eviscerated, skewered, decapitated, hewed, trampled, hacked, cleaved, etc, and it's all really very poetic. I just wasn't wildly enthusiastic about it.


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Slayer of Gods review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 8 September 2013 12:04 (A review of Slayer of Gods)

I've really enjoyed the Lord Meren series.. up until the last 2 books, that is. The writing, which had previously been assured and engaging seemed to go rapidly downhill like a lumber truck with a brake problem. I found myself cringing, wondering whether the series was going to conclude successfully or end up in flames at the bottom of a ravine. (It did the latter, unfortunately.)

It's as though the author suddenly got sick of Meren & company and simply went into a rush job ending in the last 2 books. It's a shame because these characters have been nicely developed over the course of the series.* We know how smart they are, or how smart they should be. However, the major mystery arc of the series gets wrapped up in such an unsightly and ramshackle way, that it absolutely requires the characters we know and care about to drop a bunch of IQ points all at once. Especially poor Meren, who we've followed faithfully all this time. He ends up looking like a chump and the author treats the readers like chumps too. We all deserved a bit better than that.

* Except for some of the same annoying stock female characters which seem to be on a rotational basis.


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Drinker of Blood (Lord Meren Mysteries) review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 8 September 2013 11:17 (A review of Drinker of Blood (Lord Meren Mysteries))

This book should be where the Lord Meren series takes off, because this is where he starts getting very close to finding out who killed Nefertiti. The murder mystery of Nefertiti has been an underlying plot weaving through all the books, percolating in the background during Meren's various other investigations. The young pharaoh Tutankhamen is especially driven to figure out what happened to her, as she was like a mother to him. The emotional stakes are high, the suspense has been building through the whole series... so why does this book seem so darn pallid compared to its predecessors? It just isn't engaging at all. The writing itself seems about twice as formulaic as usual and certain things are repeated more than they need to be. Could have been much better.


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Eater of Souls review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 8 September 2013 09:40 (A review of Eater of Souls)

Ancient Egyptian sleuth Meren finds himself on the trail of an unknown killer in the gripping 4th book of the Lord Meren mysteries. To make matters creepier, the killer seems to resemble a particularly nasty monster from Egyptian myth. A solid addition to the series.


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Murder at the Feast of Rejoicing (Lord Meren Mysteries) review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 7 September 2013 10:44 (A review of Murder at the Feast of Rejoicing (Lord Meren Mysteries))

In this installment, Lord Meren is involved in a top secret mission on behalf of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, but his plans are hampered by family drama of the worst kind. Now he's stuck with having to solve a murder among his own kin, no easy task. Yet another solid outing for the Lord Meren series.


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Murder at the God's Gate (A Lord Meren Mystery) review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 7 September 2013 09:52 (A review of Murder at the God's Gate (A Lord Meren Mystery))

Book #2 in the Lord Meren mystery series is yet another capably executed whodunnit. It moves quickly and confidently through twists and turns in the pursuit for certain murderous individuals, and you're never entirely sure where those turns will take our world-weary hero.
As usual the complicated relationship between the boy king and Meren is a highlight, as well as the solid period details of Egyptian life and courtly intrigues.

The hippopotamus hunt made me nervous.. (It is never a good idea to mess with hippos.) and a certain scene with cobras was satisfyingly unsettling. Worth a read.


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Murder in the Place of Anubis (Lord Meren Mysteries) review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 7 September 2013 09:23 (A review of Murder in the Place of Anubis (Lord Meren Mysteries))

Enjoyable and well-executed gritty detective tale from the Egypt of Pharaoh Tutankhamen's reign. Somebody finds a freshly-murdered stiff in the undertaker's sacred workshop and it's up to Lord Meren,Pharaoh's chief investigator to figure out who committed such a downright sacrilegious act. He's aided in his quest by his adopted son, Kysen, and the story switches smoothly between their two vantage points as they head toward a showdown with some satisfyingly unsavory characters. Looking forward to reading more of this series.


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The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World Knowledge Trilogy (3) review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 6 September 2013 10:41 (A review of The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World Knowledge Trilogy (3))

The first two books in Daniel Boorstin's Knowledge Trilogy, The Discoverers (about science) and The Creators (about art), are both outstanding examples of comprehensive history done well. They're weighty books, but the fascinating information and engaging writing do much to offset their intimidating girth.

This third volume and final volume, The Seekers, is half their size and unfortunately about half as interesting. (Granted, Boorstin's a very interesting writer, so half as interesting in a Boorstin book is still more than interesting than most). Never-the-less The Seekers reads more like an afterthought.

The first part of the book covers the Hebrew prophets, Greek philosophy, and Christianity. The second part is mainly about politics and the dynamic thinkers in that area, and the last bit leans more toward sociology. Most of the individual chapters are engrossing, though there are a few sections that lose momentum. In addition, transitions between different subjects are not as smooth as in the other books. The religious portions don't quite glide smoothly into the philosophical portions, and the general theme of the book seems slightly ambiguous.

Still, the Knowledge Trilogy is like a trip through a sumptuous library with the benefit of a savvy, witty tour guide who knows all the books by heart. The Seekers is the weakest entry, but would still brighten anyone's bookcase. (I just can't help but wish there were more historians with the ambition and the voluminous erudition to write stuff like this.)


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The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 5 September 2013 11:31 (A review of The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination)

A very ambitious yet fascinating exploration of art history. Boorstin doesn't stop at the visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, etc); he also covers literature, music, and dance. Although I wished for illustrations in a few places where specific artworks were discussed, the sheer deluge of wonderfully meticulous story-telling made up for it.


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The Discoverers review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 5 September 2013 10:19 (A review of The Discoverers)

This is an engaging and beautifully well-written history of science. Basically, imagine some of the most fascinating essays and magazine articles on science you've ever read, stick 'em in a 700 page book, and you have The Discoverers.

For those who actually want details on just how much this book covers, here is the shortest summary I could come up with:
- Humankind's first attempts at astronomy and time-keeping. (The history of clocks was probably my favorite part of the entire book, though the competition was quite fierce.)
- Geography, exploration, navigation, and the inventions of maps and atlases.
- The controversial sciences of Copernicus and Galileo, and the unpleasant reaction of the religious authorities.
- The first explorations into the world of microbes and the rather ghoulish beginnings of anatomy & medicine (another of my favorite parts).
- Isaac Newton and the formation of the long-titled Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. (There are some anecdotes in this part that give one the impression that Newton was not a particularly nice guy.)
- The history of zoology, botany, taxonomy, and the theory of evolution.
- Musings on human memory from Homer to Freud, the history of libraries (we can thank the monks for that), printing & book-making, and those illustrious and odd writers of the first generation of dictionaries.
- A history of history (because people used to just make that stuff up before Herodotus came along & he still made a lot of stuff up), archaeology, museums & preservation, anthropology, economics, & statistics.
- Finally, the end of this incredibly wide-ranging work summarizes progress in atomic theory (up to 1911, that is).

Anyway, I left out quite a bit, but you get the idea. And how many gob-smacking fun-facts and anecdotes are available to wow your nerdy friends and compatriots?
A plethora, folks. This book is fantastic. Go stuff your brain.


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