Tag Archives: history

Review: Notorious R.B.G.

RBGRecap: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is only the second woman to ever rule on the U.S. Supreme Court, and she made it to the top with good reason. As a hardworking Jewish girl from New York, she grew up in a time when women weren’t expected to have careers, but she decided she wanted more out of life than a husband.

Notorious R.B.G. started as a Tumblr page  whose creators then turned it into a book. The near coffee table-sized book details RBG’s rise to the Supreme Court — including her years in college and law school — as well as the feminist qualities that allowed her to build a career and a family simultaneously when women didn’t typically do that. The book includes photos, doodles and annotated Supreme Court decisions, more or less mixing biography with history book. It’s an interesting read for anyone who may want to learn more about law, the Supreme Court or just feminist badassery. For all those reasons, Notorious RBG totally worked for me.

Analysis: Okay, so maybe this book was given to me as a gift with me not having very much care for the Notorious RBG. And maybe this book was given to me even though I was clueless about the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsberg had famously became an internet sensation several years ago. But I was still intrigued, if for no other reason than RBG and I share two letters in our monogram (I was LBG before I got married) and she was a small, Jewish woman — like me. So I read it and was naively astounded to learn how truly prolific this feminist woman is. What she has done for our country’s judicial system, people fighting for their rights and women around the country and world is incredible. She is a true force to be reckoned with.

The writing style itself was nothing special. Some of the sections — though cleverly sectioned and titled based on Notorious B.I.G. lyrics — skipped around with the timeline of her life, and at points I found that confusing. A more linear timeline may have worked a bit better. Some of the explanations of the court cases also could have been simplified — though to be fair, details of court cases sometimes make my head spin, so maybe that’s just a personal issue? But mostly, it was funny, inspiring, easy to follow and transforming.

As women, we could all use someone like RBG to look up to. Now with my understanding and knowledge of her life and work, I can’t wait to read and follow the rest of her court decisions, dissents, and career.

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More Celebrities Penning More Books

mcncIt seems more and more celebrities are doing more than just their typical singing, acting, and looking glamorous. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, and Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman are all in the process of writing new books.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon are working on a holiday children’s book based on their twins, Moroccan and Monroe. Entitled Roc and Roe’s Twelve Days of Christmas, the book is geared toward children 3-year-old and up and offers a “unique spin” on the The 12 Days of Christmas.

Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman is also working on a book — his second — this one about 25 Americans from U.S. history that Offerman considers to be “Great Americans.” As you can expect, the still untitled book promises to be funny, with narratives told in a “unique, always humorous” way. This book comes on the heels of Offerman’s bestselling book Paddle Your Own Canoe.

What new celeb-penned books are you most excited for?

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Review: The Oracle Code

Recap: An archaeological dig in Afghanistan is where we find Professor Thomas Lourds and his friend Boris. Boris has recently discovered a set of scrolls, said to be the scrolls of Alexander the Great. But they’re written in ancient writing — writing that Boris cannot read or understand. That’s where Professor Lourds steps in.

Boris believes the scrolls will lead them to the tomb of Alexander the Great. But before Lourds can get a good look at the scrolls, their archeological group is attacked. Soon an all-out battle takes place, leaving Boris dead and Lourds to work alongside a young Russian newspaper reporter, Anna. It becomes clear to them that someone — particularly a Russian ex-military man — is after the scrolls and wants to see the two of them dead. To add to the hysteria, President Nevsky, of Russia, has invaded Ukraine, with plans to bring back the USSR.

Professor Lourds’ task of revealing the meaning of the scrolls has become a matter of life and death. Not to mention, it’s the only way he can honor Boris after he has died. But can he uncover the meaning? And do the scrolls, in fact, lead to the grave of Alexander the Great?

Analysis: The format, pacing and writing style in Charles Brokaw’s The Oracle Code is very similar to Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons). Even the character, Thomas Lourds, bears striking similarities to Robert Langdon — though the knowledge of symbols is replaced with a knowledge of ancient languages and mythology. While enjoyable, I couldn’t help but compare the novel to Dan Brown’s work.

What I found is that Brokaw took the action that existed in Brown’s Angels and Demons, but left out much of the analytical research and explanations of The Da Vinci Code. That was a good move on Brokaw’s part; it certainly kept the story moving. That being said, I found myself hoping for more explanation of Lourds’ work. Brokaw presented several scenes in which other characters comment on Lourds’ sleep-deprived state. He explains that he was up for hours working on the scrolls, and he shares what he learned from them. While it was great to finally learn what was in the scrolls, I wanted to know what Lourds was doing in those late-night hours to interpret them. How did he figure out the language and the scripture?

The last moments in the book also felt rushed, making it a bit difficult to keep up. The epilogue, however, does a good job of wrapping up the few subplots that the last chapter seemed to bypass, certainly leaving it open to yet another Code book with Thomas Lourds as the leading man and a historical mystery as the leading lady.

MVP: Anna, the reporter. A complex character with a shocking story line, Anna personalizes the story that’s otherwise about a set a scrolls. Her courage is commendable and her loyalty to getting the scoop admirable.

Get The Oracle Code on your Kindle for $2.99.

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370-Year-Old Book To Be Auctioned for Millions

It’s one of the oldest books ever published in North America, and now it’s going to be auctioned off.

According to Huffington Post, members of a church in Boston have recently voted to auction one of the original copies of the Bay Psalm Book, which was originally published in 1640. There are only 11 copies of the book left, and The Old South Church in Boston had two of them.

The Bay Psalm Book is expected to sell for between $10 and $20 million. But getting the okay for the auction didn’t go without a bit of controversy. Some were upset to see the church let go of the historic, valuable book. Nonetheless, an overwhelming majority of the church’s Board of Trustees voted in favor of the auction because it would take care of some of the church’s “critical capital needs.”

Nineteen pieces of Colonial jewelry will also be auctioned.


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New David McCullough Book On the Way

Just because history happened in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a point to remember it, right? Well if you’re an aviation enthusiast and/or a history buff, you’re in luck.

According to The New York Times, acclaimed historian and bestselling author David McCullough is planning to write a new book about the “social and cultural implications of early aviation beginning with the Wright Brothers and ending with Lindbergh’s Paris landing, according to his longtime researcher, Michael Hill.” The book isn’t expected to be published for another three years or so.

In the past, McCullough has written biographies about former presidents Harry Truman and John Adams and was recently featured on 60 Minutes, where he discussed the research behind his work and some specific historical events.

Since I saw the 60 Minutes piece on him, I’ve been dying to read all of his books — even though I’m not the biggest history fan. But a whole book on aviation seems like a stretch to me. Thoughts?

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Lost Bronte Story Published 170 Years Later

In terms of great literary classics, a number of authors come to mind. But some of the most famous of all just so happen to be sisters: the Bronte sisters. Charlotte (Jane Eyre), Emily (Wuthering Heights), and Anne (Agnes Grey) have made their marks on literature for all time. But what if a new Bronte story were published? Well, that’s exactly what happened.

In February, a Bronte expert discovered in a Brussels museum a short story written by Charlotte Bronte in 1842. According to this article by The Huffington Post, the story is written in French was a homework assignment for the then-teenager. Titled L’Ingratitud, it tells the story of:

“a thoughtless young rat who escapes his father’s protective care in search of adventure in the countryside and comes to a sorry end. The tale contrasts the solemn paternal devotion of the father with the reckless abandon of his “ingrate” offspring.” — Charlotte Bronte

And now it’s been published by the London Review of Books in both French and English. Nothing like finding an author’s short story 170 years after it was written.

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Review: The Tiger’s Wife

Recap: Myth, fantasy, and reality collide in this fictional story about a girl dealing with the loss of her grandfather as she travels through the Balkan countries. Natalia — a doctor — is there to help  sick, war-stricken children. But as she interacts with the children, priests, farmers, and fellow doctors, she remembers the stories her grandfather used to tell her, particularly the one about the tiger’s wife.

Her grandfather had a special love for jungle animals — especially the tiger — because of his obsession with Jungle Book. He used to  tell Natalia about the first tiger he ever saw, as a child in his small village. He told her the tiger had a wife — a deaf, mute woman who was accused of killing her very human husband, Luka. Along with this story, Natalia also remembers her grandfather’s tale about the deathless man.

All the while, war rages on in the Balkans. Natalia tries to help as many children as she can, while also attempting to make sense of what’s real in these fables and what’s not.

Analysis: In doing some research of The Tiger’s Wife, it’s clear that the book is praised and well-liked for Tea Obreht’s interwoven mythical stories, details about the Balkan wars, and her own personal journey. But I disliked the book for the same reasons it gets praise.

I found the various stories and tales to be confusing and jarring. In detailing Natalia’s personal journey, Obreht would suddenly go back to a tale about the tiger’s wife or the deathless man. It took time for me to realize that Obreht had changed focuses to another subplot. Each chapter seemed to be a short story in and of itself, giving the overall book a disjointed feel. It made it difficult for me to keep track of characters’ names and their connections to Natalia and her grandfather. I found myself regularly flipping back through pages and chapters to refresh my memory on certain stories and characters.

And what’s worse; to some degree, I finished the book almost feeling as though nothing had happened. The end was ambiguous, and the story never seemed to reach a climactic moment. I kept waiting for it, but it didn’t come. The biggest plot twist came during the tale of the tiger’s wife, but in my mind, that story was mostly a myth, not something to be taken seriously.

And on top of it all, Obreht’s writing was difficult to follow. Typically, a writer’s actual writing doesn’t bother me; it’s the content I like to critique. But in this case, I couldn’t be more perturbed by the author’s lengthy, complex sentences.

MVP: The deathless man. Of all the plots and subplots in this book, the story of the deathless man was my favorite. His mystery intrigued, and I also enjoyed the relationship he developed with Natalia’s grandfather through their various meetings over the years. This mystical man was the highlight of the novel for me; he was the only part that left me wanting more.

**Note: After doing more research, I’ve also learned that this novel is praised for its use of magical realism. But in my opinion, only a great writer can truly pull off that genre, and Obreht did not with The Tiger’s Wife.

Get The Tiger’s Wife for just $9.


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Review: The Lost Symbol

Recap: The Lost Symbol begins in much the same way all of Dan Brown’s books in the Robert Langdon series do: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is abruptly interrupted to respond to a symbol emergency. In this particular novel — the third and most recent in the series — Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon, requests that he give a speech at the United States Capitol. So Langdon flies to Washington D.C. But he’s in for much more than he imagined. 

He soon learns he’s been tricked. In fact, Peter Solomon has no idea Langdon is in town. And as Langdon attempts to find him, he instead finds his mentor’s severed hand, lying in the middle of the Capitol Rotunda. In a moment of chaos, Langdon learns Solomon has been kidnapped by a man named Mal’akh. Mal’akh tells him the only way Solomon will be spared is if Langdon locates the Lost Word and Mason’s Pyramid.

And so begins a new symbolic saga for Langdon, who must find the Lost Word, the Mason’s Pyramid, Peter Solomon, and deal with the CIA in its attempts to find the kidnapper.

Analysis: It’s apparent that Brown uses a specific guideline for his Robert Langdon stories. They all start the same and take Robert Langdon to another city on a quest to find or decode something. Always, there is an exotic woman involved — in this case, Peter Solomon’s younger sister and brilliant scientist Katherine — and the entire long-winded story takes place in the course of an evening.

Brown not only uses similar formatting in his novels, but common themes as well: religion, symbology, ancient art, architecture, and history. The same holds true in The Lost Symbol, in which the reader is taught about the world of Freemasonry. Also included is information about the architecture in Washington D.C. and the art that adorns it. You know when you’re reading a Dan Brown novel, it’s going to be  heavy. There’s a lot for the readers to wrap their heads around. And as overwhelming and intimidating as it looks, the background information is necessary in the long run.

In The Lost Symbol, Brown also focuses a lot on character development. Learning about Katherine’s Noetic science research and the many transformations of Mal’akh are particularly fascinating.

But there’s nothing like Brown’s pacing and storytelling. The short chapters help the novel move along quickly, and the major twist toward the end is breathtaking.

MVP: Katherine Solomon. Girl power! This woman is brilliant and kicks ass. She works well with Langdon to try to uncover the Ancient Mysteries and the location of her brother. There’s an underlying tone of romance between her and Langdon, but Brown keep its realistic. But most importantly, Katherine’s emotional ties to their work –namely, trying to saving her brother’s life — makes the reader feel for Katherine and the pressure she is under.

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