Colleen J. (shukween) - Reviews

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1066 : The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
1066 : The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
Author: Andrew Bridgeford
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 11/29/2008
Helpful Score: 2


Bridgeford's work, 1066 The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry turns coventional tapestry thinking around to its mirror image. Specifically, he posits that the tapestry, long accepted as a Norman telling of the tale of the conquest and Battle of Hastings is not in fact told from the Norman point of view but rather is a work hidden with subversive clues in the embroidery that point to a designer of French, not Norman, sympathies. He weaves in sources that support this theory brilliantly, and asks penetrating questions. He excels at harkening back to what the designer's point of view might have been, rather than our modern view of events. It is an interesting and fairly quick read--a good balance between a purely academic work and one designed for mass consumption---and leaves the reader thinking. I recommend it.


1066: The Year of the Three Battles
1066: The Year of the Three Battles
Author: Frank McLynn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/9/2008


This is a scholarly refutation of the widely-held myths surrounding the Battle of Hastings--bring your best vocabulary. The author methodically sets the stage of the decades of events leading up to Hastings, giving the reader an exact picture of the other great warrior contemporaries of William the Conqueror--in fact he spends the first almost 200 pages in this effort. I am always particularly interested in good books on the Normans, as my own ancestor traveled to Hastings with William, and I've been to Bayeux to see the tapestry. I enjoyed this book for its detail and for its common sense approach to refuting many of the myths that surround the Norman conquest of England.


1453 : The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
Review Date: 11/1/2012


very nice review of the history of Constantinople. not dry, very readable.


Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 176
Review Date: 4/18/2008
Helpful Score: 4


I began this book with great anticipation, having enjoyed Atonement and Saturday greatly; I finished it not liking the abruptness of the ending. It is as well-written as expected, I just could not make the leap as to the major plot turn that leads to the ending. It is a quick read.


Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy, Joel Carmichael (Translator)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 42
Review Date: 11/12/2011
Helpful Score: 1


I've been on a kick to read classics I missed in school, and this one does not disappoint. Sometimes tough given the translation and lack of understanding of upper-class Russian customs of the era, it still remains a fantastic study of human nature and basic human needs. Well worth the long time to read.


The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn
The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn
Author: Janis Hallowell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 36
Review Date: 11/8/2008
Helpful Score: 1


This is a strange book--a quick read, basically a modern setting for the Bible's story of the Virgin Mary. She is 14, and is pregnant without having had intercourse; she develops a following and performs healings. Quite an interesting retelling of the tale...by its end, the reader is left wondering if it is divinity or madness...


An Arrow's Flight
An Arrow's Flight
Author: Mark Merlis
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 9/10/2008


The premise of this novel is intriguing: a retelling of the Neptolemus/Philoctetes myth that both of them must be present at Troy for the Greeks to win, finally, the Trojan War, but set in modern times. It is captivating at first, but as the novel wears on, it becomes a jarring context---overall, the novel reads like the memoirs of an aging, early AIDs victim uber-queen---light, chatty, little substance, and the historical backdrop starts to be just that--one dimensional like a high school stage play's cardboard, homemade backdrop. It is an award-winning novel, but other than offering a gay perspective (which by the way, I think might have stood on its own without the artificial historical context), I do not see its literary value.


As Meat Loves Salt
As Meat Loves Salt
Author: Maria McCann
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 46
Review Date: 7/9/2008
Helpful Score: 5


I very much enjoyed this dark novel. The historical detail is well researched and does transport one to the mid-1600's of England. The story is the inner struggle of a physically large man against his mental demons--quite a novel storyline, with some twists. If you love historical fiction, or psychological/erotic thrillers, this book will not disappoint you.


Aztec (Aztec, Bk 1)
Aztec (Aztec, Bk 1)
Author: Gary Jennings
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 60
Review Date: 10/13/2009
Helpful Score: 3


This novel, despite its years, is enchanting and captivating; I could not put it down, and rushed to read its sequel, Aztec Autumn. It immerses you in an imagined lost world, the Mexican peninsula before the Spanish conquest, and it paints a sophisticated and learned culture utterly destroyed by the heedless conquistadors. If you love well written, well researched historical fiction, or to learn about a long ago time, you will love this book.


Aztec Blood (Aztec)
Aztec Blood (Aztec)
Author: Gary Jennings
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 1/10/2010
Helpful Score: 2


Third in the quartet of the Aztec saga, this novel continues the generational story of the once-proud Aztec line. The reader can feel the lack of Jennings' own hand in this one; the story does not hang together as tightly and is a bit more farreaching and far fetched. However, the saga's subject matter is so good and so interesting that the book is highly readable nonetheless.


Aztec Fire
Aztec Fire
Author: Gary Jennings, Robert Gleason, Junius Podrug
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 3/13/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Horrible!


Aztec Rage (Aztec, Bk 4)
Aztec Rage (Aztec, Bk 4)
Author: Robert Gleason, Gary Jennings, Junius Podrug
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.9/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 3/13/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Horrible, also!


Becoming Madame Mao
Becoming Madame Mao
Author: Anchee Min
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 59
Review Date: 12/28/2010


An interesting entry in the fiction emerging from China's long sleep, as expat nationals and dissidents begin to chronicle the events that the Western world has not seen. A worthy read, and certainly a believable look into the psychology of Madame Mao, this book spans the decades from the late 1920's through the '70's, and paints a picture of a woman lost who claws her way into the attention she so desperately craves. No way to know if it is a truthful account of her but no reason to believe it is not.


Beneath a Marble Sky
Beneath a Marble Sky
Author: John Shors
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 180
Review Date: 5/14/2011


Lush and lovely, this book is a great example of historical fiction done well. It traces the history of the building of the Taj Mahal, from the perspectives of the individual members of the royal family whose father built it. Great period detail, great emotions and realistic happenings, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read.


Black Ships
Black Ships
Author: Jo Graham
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 8/20/2008
Helpful Score: 4


This novel is based loosely on Virgil's The Aeneid, the tale of the last of the inhabitants of Troy after its fall and their journey to find a new land to settle. Graham 'fills in' the loose journey facts related by Virgil into a human tale of love, survival and new beginnings for this small, refugee population. It is a great premise for a story that is very human, and an interesting look at what daily life was like for people in 1200 BC. A good historical fiction read by a promising new author to the genre.


The Book Thief
The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 1034
Review Date: 2/5/2010


An amazing accomplishment for a 30-year old male author, this book offers a non-Jewish perspective on the Holocaust and living in Germany as it unfolded. An easy read for any reader, including the author's targeted young adult, this novel offers a second plane of themes and thought for the thinking reader. Words play a main character role throughout the story, popping up in new disguises everywhere. This book is truly a delightful read on many levels.


Broken for You
Broken for You
Author: Stephanie Kallos
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 33
Review Date: 7/9/2008
Helpful Score: 3


I really liked this book, it was an accidental read given to me by a friend. It's about two women who each need healing in their own way, and how fate brings them together to heal each other. It's given a modern setting with some historical flashbacks, which I loved---one of the women is quite young and the other quite old. I finished it thinking how much I liked it and wondering why it hadn't appeared on any bestseller or recommended read lists I follow.


Brothers
Brothers
Author: Yu Hua, Eileen Cheng-yin Chow (Translator), Carlos Rojas (Translator)
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/12/2011


A very delightful read for anyone interested in modern Chinese sensibilities. Yu Hua captures in his characters the country's struggles to blend old, traditional sensibilities with modernization and growth. I enjoyed the story of the two brothers as they each in their own way cope with China's increasing freedoms and work to build a life in a country where change is the constant. Sometimes stiff and almost silly in the translation, still a worthy read for modern Chinese thinking.


The Burning Land (Saxon Chronicles, Bk 5)
The Burning Land (Saxon Chronicles, Bk 5)
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 1/27/2012


Fantastic continuation of the Saxon Tales! Uhtred continues his battles across Anglecynn, begrudgingly serving as Alfred's chief warrior. He comes close in this volume to his Bebbanburg dream but not close enough...


Change of Heart
Change of Heart
Author: Jodi Picoult
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 480
Review Date: 10/14/2008
Helpful Score: 3


I wasn't sure what to expect, as this was my first Picoult read and she being so popular. I was pleasantly surprised. Picoult's writing style is very easy to read and light, but the issues she raises in this novel are anything but. She presents a death row prisoner without either the stereotypical drama and amazing but unlikely reveal of innocence, or the moral polarities that bisect this country's attitudes towards capital punishment. She makes the reader focus on the humanity of it, and on viewing an event of capital punishment from all angles, including the beneficial. I was so pleased that she never delved into the trite moralizing that could have been so easily done and must have been tempting at times. This is a poignant story with loose ends that make the reader think after the reading's done.


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