Fans of the epic fantasy genre who appreciate complex, well-detailed and absorbing quest sagas will find Mannethorn’s Key the perfect choice for a long winter's night.
The story opens with an intelligent drakehawk bird who is being called back home via magic. It turns out that Ka is the decoy for bringing Grailborn to the wizard's door, and the reward for her loyalty is betrayal.
Algarth Willowbrow's kingdom is in ruins: Grailborn has overcome his wards, his magic tricks and drakehawk have failed, and all that's left is a secret that involves a costly compromise and a final encounter that will ultimately determine the fate of Drageverden.
In another world, former broker Bartholomew Waxman has also gambled everything and lost; but he's about to embark on a journey between worlds he never knew existed, on a quest that could change them both.
Can a wizard stripped of his powers and an unsuspecting human who has already lost everything amass a power between them that can save both realms?
One pleasure of Mannethorn’s Key lies in its ability to depict two very different worlds and purposes and bring them together in unexpected ways.
As Bart and Algarth consider their choices, breaches of tradition, and most of all, their failures, other characters enter the story that also have lost much and made decisions that conflicted with their interests.
Rage and revenge, a key hidden by Mannethorn that involves Bart in impossible circumstances, and mythical relics that explain much but are never found all make for a gripping story.
It should be cautioned that violence, swearing, and clashes on more than one level permeate the story line. These are always in keeping with the tale at hand, but add an extra dimension of spice and angst to the story that may stymie fantasy fans looking for clean action reading.
It should also be mentioned that Mannethorn’s Key is the opener to a series and only explores Bart's first day of experiences in Drageverden. More books are in order, and will likely flush out the story of guardians, spells, and dilemmas of a man who knows he is no savior, but seems to have been thrust into this unlikely role, with Mannethorn Lexipath holding the key to everything.
Readers of epic fantasy looking for a powerful winter read will relish the detail and world Simon Lindley has crafted here, which sets the stage for further books in the Key of Life trilogy.
There's little doubt about its contents, with a book named The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! This represents plain and simple thinking, and is a "nasty little book" that pinpoints federal government processes as the cause of forces destroying American society and democratic ideals.
Taxpayers in revolt receive a presentation that looks like an illustrated comic book coverage in many places, featuring large-size print and an approach that would seem to indicate its appropriateness for a younger audience; but which actually will prove accessible to busy adults who want more of a quick synthesis than the usual weighty political read presents.
Appearances aside, it should be noted that The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is a book most decidedly directed to adult American taxpayers, and is crafted in such a manner that even those with low reading skills or who are unfamiliar with statistics, math, or politics will find it enlightening.
There's no love of either Democrat or Republican leaders in this damning report: both receive 'F' marks, along with the government entities that have supported bureaucratic snafus and leaders that promote tax codes with sweeping debt attached to them. James E. Joyce maintains (and supports with facts) that were it not for the federal government's shenanigans, the average American would have $40K more in their pockets annually for retirement income.
There are many eye-opening accusations (supported by statistics and facts) that will give liberals and conservatives alike pause for thought - including that the current social security system is akin to a "federal Ponzi scheme" and should be replaced by a National Investment Retirement Fund. Joyce maintains that social security has been a dishonest scheme since its instigation in 1935, and advocates a better replacement vehicle on the state level. He points out that in 1935, "the average American died before reaching age 65." Now that longevity has increased, proponents of the system are trying to assure that the benefit age is adjusted so that those who pay into the system actually don't reap its full benefits.
It should be noted that professional editing would have made the book a smoother read. But as a counterpoint, this is intended as a comic book and, as such, is a more inviting way of comprehending many serious facts without the grammatical density of comparatively complex discussions of the subject.
The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is no light discourse, but a solid review that is purposely presented in a format that will lend to accessibility and inspection by even the busiest reader. After a section of admonitions and damning evidence, the meat of the book lies in a second section that details the 'Restoration of the American Dream'.
This may be a nasty little book; but truthful examination of a complex system is never a cozy read. Want to change things so that Americans can retire at 52 and lead a better life? The keys included here offer food for thought on making this process a reality.
Eye-opening, hard-hitting, and an excellent, compelling read; this book will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.
Four years before the Stonewall riots, one Bob LeBlanc informed Marine Corps investigators "you have no right to ask" when they asked if he was homosexual. He did so again a year before Stonewall. In 1975, for the first time in American history, a federal judge issued a restraining order against the U.S. Military to halt the court martial of Bob for allegedly being gay. Bob's final legal fights with the Marines in 1975 and 1976 would fuel the fledgling gay rights movement throughout the U.S., which has evolved into today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement - and yet until the publication of Silent Drums, these facts themselves were buried.
It can be said that Bob LeBlanc is the Rosa Parks of today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement.
Silent Drums: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome! is thus a military saga like few others, tackling overcoming adversity at the most unexpected of places: among the Marine Corps ranks. It centers on LBGT rights, gay marriage, and the experiences of one military man who struggled not on the battlefield against enemies, but against his own peers and an establishment which discriminated against gays long before "don't ask/don't tell" policies were enacted.
The biography of Robert Lyle LeBlanc is provided in the form of descriptions that read with the vividness of fiction and the immediacy of a social issues discussion, reaching beyond the usual nonfiction approach to immerse readers in a piece of military history that stems from one man's actions and an organization's changes. It remains true to its research roots, however. Pam Daniels spent three and a half years researching and confirming where Bob LeBlanc was during his two combat tours in Vietnam, before spending four and a half years writing, editing and publishing Silent Drums.
The book incorporates scans from actual Marine Corp documents, and even adds some of the reports he dictated to HQ during the fierce battles he was part of.
This is not to say that military action isn't a part of the story. Bob faced battles, struggles, life-changing brushes with death, and, forty years later, a witch-hunt affecting his service as a military policeman that seemed to belay everything he battled for and believed in, in his life.
Bob put his life on the line in Vietnam, serving his country. Now, at home, he puts his heart on the line and faces an enemy even more deadly than the Viet Cong.
Silent Drums exposes an aspect of military involvement that too commonly is hidden from the eye. Bob's story moves deftly between past and present experience as he faces various challenges in his life both within and outside the military, and as he fights the ban on gays in the military before the policy of "don't ask/don't tell" became established.
Readers who find his story compelling should be aware that the timeline jumps back and forth between different periods in Bob's life, and that his account reads with the third-person drama of fiction as it explores his world, his choices, and their lasting impacts. A thought or emotion can transport him back in time even as he's in his partner's kitchen cooking dinner, for example. Such jumps are nicely done and are not confusing; but they may stymie readers seeking a methodical, linear story line that stays true to its timeline and progression of events.
However, in choosing this special form of delivery, Pam Daniels assures that the connections between past experience and the choices and lives they've affected and created are clearly delivered. Readers also receive visuals which take the form of Marine command incidence reports, journal entries, and logs that support the battles and events that immerse Bob and his comrades in various struggles.
Silent Drums is not a singular story in any respect. It's not straight biography, military history, fiction or social probe; but incorporates all these elements in a powerful, hard-hitting and solid work of journalism designed to give readers much food for thought and insights on a relatively little-known aspect of military history and processes.
The result blends Marine Corp culture with a powerful story of dangers that come from unexpected places. As Bob adapts to and changes from his experiences and faces after-battle health issues that continue to threaten his life, a personal struggle for full equality in the military assumes a life of its own in a story which embraces and reflects the entire timeline of the LGBT civil rights movement.
This story of how a Vietnam Marine fought anti-gay attitudes in the military should be on the reading lists of anyone concerned about gay rights history in general and military culture in particular. It's eye-opening, hard-hitting, and compelling reading that will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.
Very highly recommended, Silent Drums is a portrait of courage operating on more than one level, and deserves a medal for its in-depth research achievements.
When two twelve-year-old children, Lucy and Paddy Hendricks, inadvertently run afoul of a well-laid plot in The Pirate of Janaconda Island, adventure begins and danger looms - but Lucy and Paddy aren't anticipating an action-filled summer. They feel they are being banished to a boring island with little to do on a "crummy rock heap in the middle of nowhere."
This changes when the kids experience a near-accident as soon as they arrive, enter a creepy old mansion that is to be their new home, and have the option of using a boat. As their anticipation of boredom turns to a series of adventures, threats, and intrigue, Lucy and Paddy go caving, become involved in a real-world treasure hunt, and face secrets that tie their house to a present-day mystery.
Advanced elementary to middle school readers will appreciate the intrigue and mystery which permeate this realistic story of two kids who find more trouble than they'd bargained for when they embark on a treasure hunt that places them at odds with other searchers.
Dialogue is well done, adult interventions and actions juxtapose nicely with the siblings' efforts, and young readers will become immersed in a series of puzzling clues that are riveting and keep readers guessing until the end.
Unlike some treasure-oriented mysteries for kids, Warren Firschein rounds out his the story with adult purposes and perspectives and a realistic approach where the kids don't always act independently, but have steady interactions with parents and outsiders alike.
The result is an engrossing mystery highly recommended for kids who live for tales of treasure and intrigue.
Rock Hudson Erotic Fire is based on some fifty years of information from Rock Hudson's friends, many lovers, and associates, proffering an in-depth biography which includes much information not contained in prior books about Hudson's life. This fact is especially surprising since over thirty years has passed since his death, and because so much has already been written about him that one might wonder at the need for yet another survey of his life.
Rock Hudson fans will find much to enjoy in this exposé about the iconic actor which gives information about his bisexuality and many lovers along with reconsiderations of his acting career, vivid life, and death.
The part that really stands out is the in-depth surveys of his relationships with men and women alike, revealing many aspects of a part of Hudson's world that other books have either glossed over or only lightly touched upon.
The result is an exposé that offers the depth and detail any avid Hudson fan should receive. It's especially recommended for prior enthusiasts and collections strong in Hollywood biographies.
Permeable Divide provides Ellen Rachlin's fourth volume of poetry and blends it with a philosophical observational style that is elegant in expression and rich in description and psychological insight. Take, for one example, the unexpected depth of 'Families': "Those slack wire acts that balance/by focusing near, love the sloped wire./First, there are the shakes of contorting bodies/then the hold while they juggle troubled kin/in each outstretched hand."
Readers are invited to reflect on various incarnations of what Rachlin describes as the "permeable divide", which consists of the gap between the living and a loved one lost to death, the rift between art and business, or the breaks that limit freedom and result in revolutions that may based be as much experiences of the past as the present.
Each poem is so different that this collection requires slow, careful, contemplative thought before realization sets in that each poem is actually interconnected, in a much broader sense. 'Divide', for example, also explores change, loss, and being lost in a different sense than 'Families' offered - yet, in a familiar way: "There is nothing to change/if you fit in/but that's the catch./To go from shore to mountaintop/you must adjust./The mind won't let go."
Permeable Divide captures confrontations with self, evolving efforts to change and grow, and how gaps are bridged or widened between life, death, and daily affairs in a succinct yet absorbing collection of images and ideas that requires slow, thoughtful reading from free verse fans and rewards these efforts with rich insights that linger in the mind long after the last poem is read.
Frankie plans on a special summer after he graduates high school, and is on track to enter college in the fall of 1939, but though he dreamed of adventure, he didn't anticipate adversity.
When his family falls apart, he finds himself on an ocean liner bound for Europe, involved in with man who may hold the key to a war looming on the horizon which will change not only Frankie's world, but everything.
Under the Maginot is a powerful saga that's hard to put down - and is just as hard to easily categorize. It could be called a 'gay novel' because the main characters develop a relationship that both changes and defines their lives, but it doesn't follow the usual sexually-charged descriptions of so many stories of gay relationships.
It opens with a torture scene made especially vivid through a first-person narration that pinpoints exactly how the protagonist came to be in this situation.
As Frankie's world changes, readers follow him through the madness that follows, from a life that begins innocuously to one involving an identity revelation, romance, a powerful landing in Europe at exactly the wrong moment in its pivotal history, and a German motorcycle odyssey through Maginot lines, war, a new boyfriend's secret political and military involvements, and ultimately, a test of faith, love, and self.
As he comes to understand Ray's real goal and efforts, Frankie faces moments that promise to change his world as his journey provides readers with a gripping saga of horrible suffering, life's promises and potentials, and the realities of gay relationships in the 1940s.
The result probes relationships, gay survival practices, and war's effects on everything as it overlays Frankie's life and ultimately determines his future.
Under the Maginot is a spellbinding read, highly recommended for followers of gay fiction who want more depth and detail than the sexual encounters and ribald, racy descriptions offered in typical genre reads.
The Jimarian Bible explains the inner consciousness of both the author and Jimar, making a case for 'bigger picture thinking' as it points out that individuals may experience 100 years on the planet, so have numerous opportunities to make a difference in its evolution.
With that in mind, The Jimarian Bible moves on to explore not only underlying purposes in human life on Earth, but the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, and other major world religions and their guidance on the subject.
As chapters unfold, a wide-ranging discussion of belief systems turns into pointed considerations of self and moves into wider concerns, from an over-populated world and the risks and rewards of parenting to human psychology, expanding the underlying probe (why humans are on Earth) to consider how people interact with the universe.
Be forewarned: this is no light treatment. There are 10 books wrapped into this Bible, and each one addresses a different set of concerns. Each holds its own table of contents, making it easy to locate topics; and each moves from individual concerns to family, community, and social issues after building a spiritual foundation for the journey.
Its surveys ranges from how societies construct laws and administer justice to artistic portraits of experiences as influencers on the progress of humanity.
From 'holy constants' to the gods of man and choice, readers receive several things from The Jimarian Bible: a sweeping blend of spiritual application and social inspection, admonitions presented in large print and bold type that reinforce the more powerful points throughout, and an attention to details that link the microcosm of individual experience and purpose to the macrocosm of social and spiritual impact.
The ideal reader thus should be those already on a spiritual path that embraces social reflection and change - and one who is not stymied by complexity.
Some grammatical improvements would make for a smoother, error-free read.
Enlightenment is not a process of speed-reading or quick absorption - after all, other religious documents receive lifetimes of inspection and consideration. The Jimarian Bible deserves no less, and will benefit from the open minds and hearts of readers intent upon changing not just their lives and perspectives, but their purpose on Earth.
The Chaos of Change is political thriller writing at its best, and is set in America's near future, when states that see the collapse of federal power move to become more autonomous, and when a political move to dissolve the ineffective federal structure divides the country into three sovereign entities.
Thaddeus had a promising career in politics as the son of the former President of the U.S. before he saw the winds of chaos and fled to Alaska to live a solitary life away from his politically bickering family, but it's not long before government forces come looking for him, recruiting him as a negotiator between his Republican family and the liberals to the north, who are now butting heads over their new realms.
The elite team tapping Thaddeus for help is committed to avoiding a new civil war at all costs - and to bringing back a semblance of democracy in the face of chaos.
As the team and its members solidify their purposes and newfound political objectives, Thaddeus finds himself unwittingly drawn into a deadly game where lessons of the past are ignored and special interests manipulate worlds.
From a harrowing journey to the Federal North Pole to negotiations with the King of the South, J. T. Riggen provides an action-packed, politically charged set of questions that keeps readers thinking about this new America and its changed values.
Independent nations that strive for controlled havoc, CIA efforts to restore peace to a broken nation, and the potentials of a new community and technology that lure Thaddeus away from his isolation all coalesce in a riveting political adventure that will attract readers of survival fiction, political thrillers, dystopian worlds, and solid action stories.
The satisfying blend of fast-paced action and strong characterization makes for a fine story that's riveting, realistic, and hard to put down.
A Throne for Sisters is Book One in a new young adult fantasy series that opens with two teens stuck in a terrible orphanage. Sophia and Kate long to escape, and though they have a mutual goal and the shared experience of being unwanted in the world, each harbors different dreams of how they will find love once they leave the confines of their prison.
Neither anticipates that the actions each must take to survive will bring each further from their objectives: Sophia's romantic dream of entering a privileged world, falling in love with a noble, and living the life of a court lady; or Kate's fiery passion to become a warrior woman, battling dragons and injustice alike.
In reality, what transpires places each at odds not only with her goal, but with the psychic link that joins their minds and enables them to feel connected to the only person in their lives who cares.
What they find in the world isn't hope, but a plodding form of despair that permeates the lives of people as much as overt oppression once ruled their own.
Caught up in war, court drama, and separation, the sisters must learn their own lessons about this strange new world, which is trapped in its own turmoil and its own definition of oppression. Each must make decisions about the course of her life which would seem to run contrary to all their dreams.
The story line is reminiscent of Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase, with its brooding world of pain and change and the plight faced by two orphans who challenge both the outer world and themselves; but A Throne for Sisters is less black and white in its presentations of who is the villain and who the victim under such circumstances.
One very satisfying feel to the plot lies in how the sisters' relationship to each other changes upon separation; and how they form their own identities in response to the choices and circumstances they confront in the wider world.
Another fine element is how Kate and Sophia evolve in response to perceived methods of reaching their goals. Kate refines her observations of persona, for example, and this is very clear and well-described.
Some other stories may sound similar; but in the end it's the evolutionary process of the characters and how they define and direct their positions in the world which makes the tale - and if A Throne for Sisters is any indication, this powerful opener to the series will produce a combination of feisty protagonists and challenging circumstances to thoroughly involve not just young adults, but adult fantasy fans who seek epic stories fueled by powerful friendships and adversaries.
The first striking thing to note about Inklings: Poems of the Point and Beyond is the depth of its images, which pull readers into each succinct poem like a snapshot captures the eye with colourful immediacy: "When the harnessed heads of the/Clydes shook, music/tingled the star-startled/night above, and whiskered/hooves sped along the back-/country roads like Pegasus/preparing for flight…"
Readers can see, feel, smell, and taste the scenes being observed, be it the "ear-curdling cry" of one Mrs. Bradley, who transmits her rage at being trapped in an elderly body to the entire village, or the photo of a beloved Gran who looks pensively into the distance on a Sunday morning, "while the Sunday jello cools on the veranda behind her", perhaps reflecting on how she came to be in this place and time, while a grandson looking at this portrait feels the transmission of all that is left unsaid: "I'm left/wondering what courage it took/to abandon your home and say/hello to a far country…".
As the collection evolves, it becomes clear that the "inklings" being described are the remnants of family and their physical and emotional legacies to the next generation and beyond. And what is an 'inkling'? Even this definition uses powerful poetic imagery: "An inkling is a tingle/in the brain, a sprout abruptly/unbudded, the beginning/of a word or more precisely/its first singing syllable…"
These are the moments that define our lives past, present, and future. Like Kodachrome, they are snapshots of what was, is, and could be. As the camera captures the image in its seconds of glory before it fades or transforms, so Inklings captures those connections in life and family before they evolve into something different, bringing free verse poetry readers along for a ride through metaphor and experience.
Succinct in presentation (every word counts) and compelling in its choice of images and life portraits, Inkling's strong voice and propensity for building striking analogy and metaphorical reflections makes it a top recommendation for any free verse reader who wants their poetry filled with astute observation tempered with the reflective powers of a superior attention to atmosphere and detail.
Mature teens and new adult readers will relish a more contemporary backdrop to the traditional coming-of-age story in A Few Streets More to Kensington, which is set in New York City in the 1990s and focuses on the evolving life of Artem, whose newfound position as an artist opens up a wealth of memories on how he got to this uncertain point in his life.
Alex Sheremet's descriptions are poignant and pointed as we view the world through Artem's first-person thoughts and observations, which often wind past, present and future into their threads, adding an overlay of powerful imagery to cement impressions.
Artem's journeys between memories of the past and attempts to navigate the streets of New York to understand his world bring readers along for a stroll through memory lane and the rough face of present-day New York.
But there's more going on here than a walk through social situations and dangerous streets: an attention to introspective detail and dark, brooding encounters between prejudice, purpose, and people brings A Few Streets More to Kensington to life in an unusual manner powered by reflections that are thought-provoking and reveal Artem's evolutionary process.
By now, it should be evident that A Few Streets More to Kensington is as much a work of literature as fiction. Readers should anticipate crass language and conflicts, gritty street life, young love and life's lies, and Artem's urge to escape, change, grow, and even explore paths that are obviously dark and dangerous routes.
As Artem searches for elusive purpose to life, a better world, and connections, he discovers and forms a new life. In returning full circle to school, Artem finds his past, present and future coalesce as he organizes not just his room, but his mind.
Literature readers who relish coming-of-age sagas will find A Few Streets More to Kensington more than a cut above the typical new adult story, with entire worlds embedded into a tale of evolution and transformation that is as much about graduating as a person as it is about life's inevitable progression.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons presents a history of the origins of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and the hit they had in 1927 with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose history has, surprisingly, been 'lost' until now.
Basically, if it weren't for Oswald, Disney may not have evolved to become the powerhouse it is today - but that journey was anything but linear. It involved Oswald's initial rejection, his eventual acceptance, and how Disney lost the contract to their first major character; only regaining the twenty-six Walt Disney created Oswald cartoons (and returning Oswald to his proper place in Disney history) six decades later.
Oswald's happy-go-lucky demeanor and his clever ability to come out on top of any situation predated Mickey's evolution and reflected creator Walt Disney's approach to life itself.
So how did Walt's first major animated success result not only in losing the contract, but in Oswald's journey into animation obscurity for so many years? Disney fans will quickly come to realize this story isn't just about Oswald's evolutionary process, but about Walt Disney's own evolution as he furthered his animation efforts and created the foundations of what was to become his more famous Mickey Mouse character.
From legends and realities to common animation practices of the day and how cartoons are 'lost' over time, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit packs in visual embellishments, from animation frames to vintage photos, in its efforts to trace Oswald's history through copyright synopsis, surviving film documents, and episode reviews.
Packed with illustration as it is, readers almost don't need the rare vintage Oswald film in order to enjoy this recreation of historical record that offers such in-depth discussion about Oswald's adventures and evolution.
Recommended for Disney fans, prior Oswald enthusiasts, and animation history readers alike, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons fills in many blanks and offers specifics about animation processes, legalese, and the process of researching and recapturing lost cartoons, and is a 'must' for any collection strong in Disney characters and history.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me presents an unusual protagonist in the form of half-Kenyan seventh-grader Nala, whose mother is in a wheelchair. Nala has an unusual condition: mosquitoes don't bite her - ever.
This, in and of itself, wouldn't seem to be a big deal; but her friend's father is head of a large drug company, and when he discovers the truth about her during a school project, she becomes involved in a mosquito research effort that brings her to her family homeland, Kenya, to consider mosquito reactions in her father's family.
A kidnapping, the plight of peoples affected by deadly mosquitoes that carry malaria, and the quest for a new insect repellant that holds the power to change lives contributes to a book that reaches far beyond the story of one girl's strange condition and into the social and political struggles of an African nation.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me may sound complicated for a middle-grade read, but its insights are perfectly tailored for ages 9-12; from its discussions of sickle cell anemia and other health challenges to circumstances of poverty, health, and a personal hunt for truth and identity.
It also excels in painting a vivid portrait of desperate people who will do anything to save the lives of loved ones, blending family encounters and issues with bigger questions of economics and problems which arise when business interests clash with social conditions.
Heady reading for kids? Yes; but when packaged in the form of an adventure and exploration, these issues come alive, making Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me an unusually thought-provoking read highly recommended for young fiction readers who will receive more than action alone.
The majority of Vietnam stories take place mid-war after the fighting has begun. Relatively few start in the early phases of the war, when soldiers were professional Army enlistees who viewed themselves differently, and whose experiences were substantially dissimilar from soldiers who followed in their footsteps. 13 Months in Vietnam reveals those early years as it follows a squadron who travels the country in 1963, before the major shooting begins.
The first thing to note is that because of this pre-war story, the action is quite different than the usual Vietnam-era saga. Although it is penned by an enlisted soldier who spent 13 months in Vietnam traveling from Saigon to near the North Vietnam border, and is thus based on true events, it also incorporates a sense of place, people, and social and political perspectives which are quite different from the typical in-country story line.
The soldiers who enter Vietnam in this story are teens on the cusp of adulthood: as such, they carouse, have ambitions and dreams about the wider world, and demonstrate a perspective that involves much more than their roles in Vietnam, which slowly unfolds as circumstances change.
In a way, 13 Months in Vietnam is more of a classic coming-of-age story than a tale of military experience: readers can see the protagonist and his buddies growing, learning, and changing before their eyes. Of course, Vietnam is their focal point, and there are battles and cultural conflicts; but there are also moments of comic interlude even in the heart of danger and plenty of descriptions of evolution amidst a tour of duty that grows ever more challenging to the close-knit group.
At first the boys respond to the action with excitement. It's almost like TV - immediate and interactive; yet seemingly distant. It takes a series of events turn the boys from a tight-knit group to a close-knit company where the reality of death sinks in, overcoming the thrill of seeing action. As they imbibe and relive experiences, there are plenty of moments of reflection and growth.
Are they really protecting liberties and American ideals? Or is something else happening?
More so than most novels about the Vietnam era, 13 Months in Vietnam offers an often-intimate, realistic perspective of how boys turn into men and the thought processes that careen from excitement to hard realizations about individual choices and their impact and life and death.
Readers who seek a gritty, first-person perspective that fully embraces the evolutionary growth of boys to men under battle conditions, and who want a better-rounded view of the culture and experiences of Vietnam than battle scenes alone, will find 13 Months in Vietnam more than fits the bill for a thought-provoking, extraordinary survey of responsibilities, worries, and the culture and social atmosphere of 1960s Saigon.
Marie Bashkirtseff was no ordinary 19th century woman. Her aristocratic Ukrainian family moved to Paris, where she was privately tutored and blossomed into a young woman who spoke many languages, played numerous musical instruments, and longed for a stage career, but turned her hand to painting. She soon began exhibiting her work at the notable annual Paris Salon, the premier venue for artists.
As if this weren't enough, she was also a philosopher and writer, and her journal of some 20,000 pages has been pared down here to supplement Joel L. Schiff's survey of her amazing artistic prowess in Portrait of a Young Genius: The Mind and Art of Marie Bashkirtseff.
With such a palette of genius to choose from as far as what to profile, it must have been a real challenge to adequately represent Marie Bashkirtseff's many abilities in the confines of a single book. How many others dream of founding an art school for women (just one limitation of her sex that she railed against) in the 1800s, for just one example?
One doesn't expect fierce rivalries to enter the portrait of a woman of these times, but this, too, reflects Marie's abilities, fiery personality, and determination, fueling a biography that traces more than her genius alone and placing it in historical, social, and psychological perspective.
Given these disparate facets, it would have been impossible to adequately represent Marie's world through standard biographical third-person exploration; which is why Schiff adopts an unusual mode of presentation: he begins with the usual biographical survey of her life, but then allows her own voice to speak in a second section which profiles a single journal excerpt (in English translation from the original French) on each left-hand page, juxtaposed with one of her art pieces on its facing page. (It should also be noted that vintage photos and illustrations pepper the rest of the survey, as well, adding visual emphasis to an outstanding woman's world.)
While Portrait of a Young Genius will undoubtedly find a place in artists’ collections, it would be a shame to see its audience limited to artists alone. Women's history holdings, especially those strong in biographical portraits of extraordinary individuals whose stories have largely been lost over time, will find Portrait of a Young Genius a 'must have' addition, not only capturing this young woman's life, but synthesizing its meaning with a sense of her times and the limitations imposed upon women.
Portrait of a Young Genius is very, very highly recommended for its multi-faceted approach and wide-ranging discussions, designed to keep readers immersed to the end and involved in the life of a woman they likely have never heard of before, but will come to intimately know and deeply admire.