Book Review – An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

ImpartialBLURB: Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then ‘The Origins of the Industrial Revolution’ somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson’s ‘Shatterproof’ ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now…

In this ‘Horrible History for Grown Ups’ you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; ‘Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends – oi, he’s nicked my bloody ox!’ Discover how England’s peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain’s kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn’t have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, ‘2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge’, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain’ fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

MY THOUGHTS: I found this title by randomly selecting the podcast We Are History, a relatively new addition to my listening agenda, by Angela Barnes and this author. It’s funny and informative, and available on a number of platforms (I use Podcast Addict on my android phone).

I listened to this title during my week’s commute to & from work on Audible, but again, the book is available from many different sources. This version is unfortunately abridged, but I didn’t notice that until I read someone else’s review after finishing (whoops!). That said, I enjoyed learning more about things I’d skimmed over in the past and also his irreverent but truthful view of some of the most obvious cock-ups in British history. An easy listen that might send you off onto another learning tangent or satisfy your need for one-off entertainment. Four stars.

WIP Wednesday #251 & bonus book mini-review

Morning everyone! This time last week I was absorbing the fantastic Becoming by Michelle Obama (audible version, which has the bonus of being in her voice and so with her intonations and emphasis). It was great, for work and playtime and transit time. The only obvious problem is of course the book hangover that results from a great read. Regardless of your colour, creed, race, status or whatever – this one will have some lesson to take onboard, even if it’s just that what’s on someone’s surface isn’t necessarily true. Look to their actions, and be empathetic. Remember that person next to you in the supermarket queue also has problems and prejudices, and work to minimise yours in such a way that others are enabled. Or at least, not inconvenienced or damaged.

Right. Onto the lighter stuff. Last week was the first relating to The Order of the Phoenix. I worked on the actual challenge points:

  1. Boring neighbour – 300 on something that can get boring – I used Mermaid of Atlantis’ borders and you’d think that would be straight forward. EHHHH no. Not when you look at the chart and count the BS line as where a ten block finishes…and it actually doesn’t! I had to frog 70-odd silk stitches (carefully!) and their corresponding BS line as I was two rows out. I’ve now started on the filigree corner for an Extra Credit task.
  2. Unapproved Magic – 300 on a project that’s been suspended for 5 months or your oldest WIP – Teresa Wentzler’s Tapestry Cat certainly qualified, as I started this in Christmas 2006! I worked in the Greek key sections on that top right corner and got in 600 back stitches. Boring but necessary.
  3. Dementor Attack – 300 on a project that has no faces –a new start, the Mill Hill Princess Carriage. As per, I’m making one for me and one for Ms Lou. I managed to get in all the stitching to be at the beading point – 758 stitches at work/training/travel.

This week’s challenge is around the address of 12 Grimmauld Place, the Black house that lies semi-hidden in London & is the home of the Order of the Phoenix. The options were either 500 stitches on WIPs 1 & 2, or 1000 on WIP 12. I’ve gone for the first option so there will be another session on Fairy Idyll and Tapestry Cat, as I just couldn’t face Guardian. I may or may not get this out – we’re leaving on a combo work/play trip tomorrow and neither of these WIPs is something I can take with me, FI being on the floor stand and TC being a complicated blend of multiple threads (plus white evenweave, eep!). At least there are large blocks of colour on the Mirabilia.

Bonus shot is of a mural we found in Point Chevalier, another suburb of Auckland. Not sure who the men are, perhaps the composers? But I liked it anyway.

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Have a good week!

(Audio)Book Review – Circe by Madeline M Miller

circeBLURB: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

 

MY THOUGHTS: After listening to only a portion of this title, it was easy to see why it was a recommendation on multiple book lists (NYT, Publisher’s Weekly, Boston Globe etc). It’s lyrical, engrossing, and suspenseful (even tho I’ve read the Iliad and roughly remember what happened). For me, the most interesting portions of the book were after the fall of Troy, when Circe’s isolation is removed by various turns and I wasn’t ready for the story to end.

I’ll be buying The Song of Achilles once I’m over this book coma as frankly, Stephen Fry’s Mythos isn’t doing much for me so far.

AUTHOR SITE: http://madelinemiller.com/circe/

Because, BEARS.

I’ll concede right now that I read a lot. And a lot of what I read isn’t worth reviewing, as I read to clear my head before sleep, or to drown out the chaos around me. This last two weeks with the cold virus has been awful and I haven’t retained a lot. Except, bears.

The latest Psy-Changeling book was released last week, and a couple of days later the e-book dropped into my Kindle. Oops. Oddly enough (given we live in a tech world and I’d also pre-ordered the audiobook for the same release date) Audible didn’t deliver that version until the evening. I will say it was harder than usual to work that day as all I wanted to do was hibernate. I should have taken a leave day and curled up – I would have had six un-interrupted hours in between the school run, so totally worth it. Next time!

BLURB: Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that’s exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.
 
Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence—her mind clear of all emotion—Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That’s what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious…and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.
 
Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed…

I really enjoyed this book. It’s the first in the Trinity story arc and so, so different a world from the first book, Slave to Sensation (2006!) yet still the same. Seeing a glimpse of some older characters settles my need to have linking books, and I can see a few of the issues that the three cultures need to resolve showing thru to what will form at least the next few books (note Nalini, you need to give us more than just the Trinity conclusion!!) but as ever, Nalini’s characters are not entirely predictable (bears!). The only thing that I found jarring was who the culprit was, and I can’t say more than that so early on in the publication life. Perhaps after I’ve re-read (or finished listening) that will settle on me. I can inadvertently not “grab” a meaning because I am devouring the book too fast & I suspect that’s the case here.

Because I don’t seek to fund this blog & I purchased these editions, I won’t give specific links but you can read an excerpt or look for local editions on Nalini’s site : http://nalinisingh.com/books/psychangeling-trinity-series/silver-silence/ 

Lastly – I much prefer the darker UK covers. Thankfully that’s what we get down here 🙂