Thursday, September 7, 2017

First Line Friday: William Marshal Edition


Happy First Line Friday!

I missed out on posting last week because things got a bit hectic here with some very good news - I am now working on a full-length biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine! I am so excited for the project and I hope I can do her story justice. Given the fact that we don't even know what she looked like, you can imagine how hard it is to come by information that we know for certain is 100% true. Slowly but surely I am plodding along and gathering more sources from her contemporaries - expensive investments but worth it in the long run. And, as one such investment, I would like to share a line this week from a book about another favorite medieval hero of mine.

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I have actually cheated a little and chosen two lines. The first is from the introduction by the translator, Nigel Bryant, regarding the fact that this biography is very special indeed. The second line/paragraph is from the actual text, written by its author. We do not know the identity of the author though we know it was someone from his household, commissioned by Marshal's son a few years after Marshal's death.

"The History of William of Marshal is the earliest surviving biography of a medieval knight - indeed, it is the first biography of a layman in the vernacular in European history."

and

"Anyone with a worthy subject should see he treats it in such a way that, if it starts well, it's carried through to a good conclusion - and that it chimes with the truth, irreproachably; for some are inclined to undertake such tasks with lesser intentions: they just want to run men down! And what is it that drives them? Envy - whose tongue, prompted by its bitter heart, can never stop sniping: it resents any sign of outstanding goodness. But to come straight to the point: my subject concerns the worthiest man who ever was in our time, so help me God - and may God grant me the grace and the wit to treat it so that it will give pleasure and enjoyment to all who hear it in the proper spirit."

Let me know what you think and/or leave a line of your own. Then, visit my fellow First-Liners to see what they have waiting for you this week.





Happy Reading!

Sarah

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Blue on Blue: An Insider's Story of Good Cops Catching Bad Cops

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Rating: 4 Stars

This book interested me for a couple reasons. One, I am utterly obsessed with New York City. Two, Law and Order: SVU is one of my favorite shows ever. And three, most importantly, I am deeply troubled about this growing divided between police officers and the public that seems to have been split wide open in the wake of the deaths of so many unarmed civilians, many of whom are young African American males.

The book is not perfect. In general it is fairly conversational and I liked that. It felt like I was sitting around with my grandpa and he was telling me stories about his childhood and this and that. Only it wasn't my grandpa, and the stories were about IAB catching nasty pieces of work who never should have been given the privilege of wearing an NYPD badge. But at times the writing feels a bit defensive about officer-involved shootings. I think most rational-minded people realize that the majority of police officers are honest, hardworking, good people who do their jobs with all the integrity with which they took their oath. The defensiveness was a by-product of trying to explain what it is like to be in a situation where you have a split-second to make what amounts to a life or death decision. I truly believe that the majority of the police officers in our country react the same way the author did, with thoughts of: Please don't make me shoot them, please don't make me shoot them, please don't make me shoot them. In the last few years, starting with the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, so many people have questions the idea of why an officer can't shoot to injure, instead of shoot to kill. The author explained that in the NYPD, the policy is 'shoot to stop'.

At the time of the author's retirement, only one other member of the NYPD had served as long or longer than him. He spent 20 years of his career with IAB, which makes for some fascinating and horrifying stories. It is hard to convince people to take a job that requires them to basically police the police, meaning some of their friends even. I can't imagine a more unenviable job but it is a necessary one, as this book proves time and again. It also amazes me that some of these officers could be so stupid as to think that they would get away with their crimes in the end. In fact, officers should always assume that when someone brings a shady plan to them, that it is really an Integrity Test. Unfortunately it won't, because there will always be bad cops, just like there are bad teachers, doctors, etc.

On a sort-of lighter note, Law and Order: SVU is one of my all-time favorite shows. I unfortunately had to stop watching it for two reasons: Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni, yum) left the force after season 12, and I had a baby which made it nearly impossible to watch a fictional show based on real crimes often committed against children. I could not handle it and cried buckets the first time I tried to watch the show as a new mom. And if you do not believe the tag line of 'ripped from the headlines', it is 100% true. The author recounted a tale of a suspect being arrested and beaten up by the four officers during transport to the precinct, where upon arrival two of the officers took him into a bathroom and one held him down while the other shoved the end of either a broom or a plunger (I can't remember which) into the man's rectum. This happened on an episode of SVU, though the motive and crimes surrounding this part of the story were changed. With some of the stories the author recounted, it was hard to not see Benson and Stabler as detectives within the narrative, even though yes I know they are fictional. It was also interesting to think about how Stabler always reacted every time IAB was afoot as I was reading.

Overall this is a good read about what it is like from the inside, investigating the very people who have sworn to protect the public. It is by no means an easy job, or a fun one, but it is a necessary one.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

First Line Friday: Pope Francis Edition


Happy First Line Friday!

This week I am sharing a line from a book that I am really hoping I will love, because I really kind of love the subject of the book A LOT. I am not Catholic, but I absolutely adore Pope Francis. I love his message and his position on so many social issues, and we are so lucky to have him in our world. At my imaginary dinner party, he would be seated between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Bernie Sanders, across from William Marshal and Dan Jones. Can you even begin to imagine these conversations?? It would be the best dinner party ever.

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"Many of us who have an interest IN our families' immigrant pasts have visited the port or THE town where our forebears arrived, lived, and struggled. We try to imagine the day of their arrival, the weather, the smell, the crowds, the anxiety. I have wandered the streets of Boston looking at the same sights my Irish maternal relatives must have seen; I have wondered what they must have felt when they read signs that said 'IRISH NEED NOT APPLY'."

Let me know what you think and/or leave a line of your own. Then, visit my fellow First-Liners to see what they have waiting for you this week.


Happy Reading!

Sarah

Cover Reveal: Bride of Glass by Candace Robinson

Cover Reveal The Bride of Glass by Candace Robinson


Today is the cover reveal for The Bride of Glass by Candace Robinson. This cover reveal is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Jenny Zemanek @ Seedlings Design Studio: http://www.seedlingsonline.com/

The Bride of Glass (Glass Vault #2)
By Candace Robinson
Genre:Urban Fantasy/ Horror
Age category: upper Young Adult
Release Date:September 1, 2017

Blurb:
Perrie Madeline is trapped in Vale's clutches as the Bride. Can Perrie find a way to escape her mental prison?

Maisie Jaser is on a rescue mission to retrieve her cousin and best friend, Perrie. Together, she hopes to bring down Vale and rid the world of the destruction he has caused.

Will Vale prevail?

The Bride of Glass is a mixture of humor, romance, violence, darkness, and hope.

You can find The Bride of Glass on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34861186-the-bride-of-glass

You can pre-order The Bride of Glass here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bride-Glass-Vault-Book-ebook/dp/B073PD4GY1/

First book in the series:
Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault
Some see it... Some don't...

You can buy your copy of Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault here on Amazon:

About the Author:
Candace Robinson is just your average hemiplegic migraine sufferer. Her days are spent writing, book reviewing and traveling through books. She live just outside of Houston, Texas, where it feels like the hottest place on Earth with the crazy weather. No, seriously, one day it's 30 degrees and the next it's 70 degrees! She resides with her husband and daughter.

You can find and contact Candace here:


Ain't it a beauty??

And if you need a reminder for what book #1 looked like:


Gorgeous, no?

Anyway, as you likely have surmised, today is the cover reveal for book #2 and I absolutely love them both. I was lucky enough to get a sneak-peek at the cover a couple weeks ago and I might even love the second one even more than the first. Despite the series not being my usual fare, I like the characters and the world Robinson has created for them.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God's Holy Warriors

I know, I know. I said I was going to wait until closer to the publication date. Patience has never been my strong suit.

Before we get started, let's take a moment and admire that cover, shall we?

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UK Edition

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US Edition

As I have said before, I personally prefer the UK edition over the US edition. But I also understand the need to change it, as here in the US we unfortunately have morons running around wearing white hoods and co-opting this symbol and altering it to spread their message of hate, which I will not show as a comparison because I will not bother to give them any more attention than they have already received in the last week. Anyone who glances quickly at the UK cover might mistake a book about the Templars for a book about the KKK. I don't know for sure if that is the reason for the cover change, as covers are most often different from the UK to the US, this is just my own personal observation. If I am right, awesome. If not, awesome too.

Full disclosure: I received my digital copy of the US edition via NetGalley after I had mentioned on Jones' Facebook page that I requested it but was denied. He was gracious enough to listen to my complaining and asked Viking to get me a copy. I was content with that and devoured the book quickly. By the way, if you have not yet checked out one of his Facebook Live chats, where he gives away books and vents about various reactions he gets in regards to his hairstyles and colors, I highly recommend doing so. He's hilarious and that library of his is To. Die. For.

What happened next is even more awesome. The UK publisher, Head of Zeus, held a giveaway for five autographed copies of a limited edition proof of the UK edition. I was lucky enough to win one and I pretty much have not stopped smiling since.

See how pretty it is?

All this being said, the following review is my honest opinion and was in no way swayed by my receiving not one, but two copies of a book I had pretty much been dying to get my hands on since it was announced.

Now, on with the show!

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Rating: 5 Stars

I know what many of you might be thinking; there is no way I can be objective about a book by my very most favorite historian and this will basically be one long blathering-on about how the book is awesome and amazing and I that heart Dan Jones.

Part of that is true. I am going to tell you that this book is awesome and amazing. But not because I fangirl so much over Jones that he will probably have a restraining order by the time his St Louis tour date rolls around and I will only be able to shout at him from outside the bookstore fifty feet away, but because he is an incredibly talented writer. I challenge anyone to pick up one of his books and tell me it is not thoroughly researched, as well as written in a way that keeps you fully engaged as though it were a novel. Non-fiction is hard for a lot of people and I get it. I know I am kind of an anomaly in the blogger world in that I read non-fiction almost exclusively (at least in the part of the blogger world that I currently inhabit). For a lot of people non-fiction books, and history in particular, appear daunting because people think they are simply boring regurgitations of dates and places, with central figures often having the same name so that they are only distinguishable by I, II, III, and so on. The fantastic thing about the way Jones writes is that he conveys all of that same information, but he is a gifted storyteller. He brings to life each Henry or Edward, for example, in such a way that you can't help but remember their best and worst because he has made them stand out, each in their own unique way. This latest book is no different than his first four and I look forward to the projects he will work on in the future. (PLEASE please please do something specifically on Eleanor of Aquitaine, whether it is a traditional documentary or short docu-series in the vein of Elizabeth that you and Dr. Lipscomb worked on. PLEASE!)

My own knowledge of Templar history is a bit spotty, as is my knowledge of any of the Crusades besides II and III. Even then, my area of expertise involves Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard I on their respective journeys, unrelated to the various holy orders who called the Holy Land home. I have read books that mention the Templars and seen a documentary here and there, but my knowledge was largely confined to their devastating end.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by this book as it plots in quite a detailed way the humble beginnings of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem - easy to see why the name was shortened to the Knights Templar, eh? - to the height of their power and then swift fall. To avoid such overwhelm-ishness, the book is divided into four sections, presenting the various ways in which the order evolved. First, we see them as pilgrims in the first four decades of their existence from 1102 to 1144. Gradually that role then shifts to that of soldiers in the next section - though they were always prepared to shed blood for Christ. This specific section relays the following forty years, from 1144 to 1187. The third section recalls the Templars evolution into a third role, that of bankers and wealth managers to kings and aristocratic crusaders from all over their known world as the Templar fortune grew beyond what anyone could have ever dreamed. The role of world bankers grew between 1189 and 1260, eventually leading to their destruction. We see this all happen in the final section titled 'Heretics', which covers the final fifty years of the order's existence, from 1260 to 1311. It is quite a roller coaster ride that we are treated to and the journey is well worth it.

I appreciate the epilogue that Jones included, specifically addressing the issue of the Holy Grail in relation to the Order. He notes that through fictional work from the period, "The Templars had been transformed for the first time from a crusader militia into the guardians of the mythical Holy Grail" (page 405, UK proof). This is accompanied by a footnote that the Grail was in fact a medieval invention in relation to various Arthurian romances and not an actual object from the Last Supper. Sorry, Indiana Jones. I'm bummed too.

In addition to this wealth of information of the Templar story, we also get supplemental material to help complete the picture. This includes maps, notes on names, brief bios of major players of the time (Hey Eleanor!), the popes (no antipopes) through those centuries, the kings and queens of Jerusalem, and finally the names of every Master of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem. As one would expect from Jones, the notes section and bibliography are extensive and light the way for anyone looking to further read up on the subject.

I have purposely been a bit sparse on details from the book, as we are still roughly a month out from the book being available for public consumption. I don't want to give away a lot of these fascinating details because I do hope you will discover them for yourselves. If you care to see the notes I took as I was reading, you can see them on Goodreads. I also hope that any silliness that sometimes accompanies my discussion of Jones and his work does not deter you from picking up this book, or any of his others (yes, I do understand in reality that we are not BFFs. Yet.) The story alone is worth it, as their rise and fall was spectacular indeed (to steal from the subtitle of the US edition.) But the way in which Jones' writes will keep your attention the whole way through. Highly recommended.

UK Pub Date: September 7th
US Pub Date: September 19th

Thursday, August 17, 2017

First Line Friday: Bible Edition


Happy First Line Friday! Technically it is still Thursday because, well, it is. It is 8:20 PM on Thursday night as I am typing this and by tomorrow I will be exhausted because let me tell you a major truth: there is NO tired like first week of school tired. AND next week will be the worst of it, because the first three days of this week were meetings and working on our classrooms. Students started today. Next though...I'll be lucky if I can keep my eyes open by Wednesday. I hope I can though, because next week my church is starting our new small groups for the fall and I AM SO EXCITED because we are reading this book, which my first line comes from this week:

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"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

I first attempted to read the Bible cover to cover in seventh grade. I made it through Deuteronomy before I gave up. I know the New Testament much better than the Old Testament and I am looking forward to this one, plus I get to be in a small group lead by my pastors, who are pretty much two of my most favorite people on the planet.

Let me know what you think of the line, and/or leave a line of your own. Then, visit my fellow First-Liners to see what they have this week. We have several new members who have joined in the recent weeks, make sure you check them out!


If you want to join in on First Line Friday, let Carrie know!

Happy Reading!

Sarah

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Obamas

FYI: I'm not going to debate anyone about my opinions on President Obama. Don't bother with that nonsense around here. If you want to talk about the book, cool. I'm not doing political debates on my book review blog.

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Rating: 1 Star

So I wonder if, in an attempt to appear unbiased, the author realizes just how far she went out of her way to make the Obamas nearly unlikable. I absolute love the Obamas, and if Barack could have run for a third term, I'd have voted for him. Michelle is one of the top five people on my list for best shopping buddies. But if I did not know anything about them, and I had only this book for knowledge, I would think Michelle was angry all the time, super controlling and unwavering in her opinions, never one to compromise with anyone. And Barack - a pompous introvert? Really? The author's little play with his supposed 'I told you so" looks was ridiculous. I have never seen two people more in love, more electric, more everything. 

I guess the author thought she was being so sly with her 'sources' but ultimately this is poor writing at its best, or worst, however you want to look at it. The author tries the, "look at me with all the insider knowledge" garbage, and it comes off as abrasive and condescending. Do not bother with this one.