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  • Arc Of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
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A Crack In The Edge Of The World by Simon Winchester

A Crack In The Edge Of The World

Geologist and writer Simon Winchester presents a book about the Great San Francisco earthquake that occurred on April 18, 1906.  Winchester goes to great lengths to explain how our earth is connected by the various tectonic plates, so that even an event occurring on one side of the world can lead to an event on the other.  I appreciated the author’s updates on the science of geology and how this helps our understanding of past.  At the same time, focusing on this singular cataclysmic event –  the death and destruction of San Francisco, helps the reader understand the greater impact of these occurrences on humankind.

I really enjoyed this book.  My only complaint is Winchester’s habit of going off on long tangents.  While many of these tangents were interesting, I felt it detracted from the focus of the book.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2006
419 pages

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King Of The Murgos by David Eddings

King Of The Murgos

From Goodreads: “In this second book of The Malloreon, Garion and Ce’nedra continue the quest begun in Guardians of the West. In their party travel the immortal Belgarath the Sorcerer, his daughter Polgara the Sorceress, and the little Drasnian, Silk.

Garion knows that it is the mysterious figure Zandramas who is responsible for the abduction of his infant son, and he and his companions journey many miles and encounter many strange beings in their search for him.

Their way leads through the foul swamps of Nyissa, ruled over by the Snake-Queen, and on into the dark kingdom of the Murgos, where human sacrifices are still made to the dead god Torak. Further on, however, even beyond those forbidding lands, they must face the ultimate danger – not only to themselves but to all mankind…”

Despite my tepid response to Guardians of the West, I decided to forge ahead with the second book in this series.  Unfortunately for me, it was more disappointing than the first.  This series is just not for me.

2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1989
418 pages

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Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Bittersweet

Set in Australia in the 1920’s, Bittersweet is the story of four sisters (two sets of twins) who thought that nothing could ever come between them.  As the girls all become nurses and enter the world of  1920’s womanhood,  the desire to break barriers without giving up love becomes first and foremost.  What they didn’t count on, however, was the sacrifices they would have to make.

I admit, I’ve never read anything by Colleen McCullough before, and my only forays into similar novels were historical fiction – emphasis on the historical.  I felt McCullough had too little history for my taste, and wrongly inserted 21st century feminist ideals into this book.  Still, the book was readable and I’ve no doubt many readers would enjoy it.  I would definitely categorize this as chick-lit.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015
384 pages

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The Fossil Hunter by Shelley Emling

The Fossil Hunter

Subtitled “Dinosaurs, Evolution and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World,” this wonderful work of non-fiction is the story of Mary Anning who, in 1811 at the age of 12, discovered a dinosaur skeleton at the cliffs of her English home town, Lyme Regis.  She became quite famous for her numerous discoveries over the years, as well as her expertise in the field.  This was quite remarkable, given her limited education and life of poverty.

I first learned of Mary Anning when reading Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, a work of fiction based on Anning’s life.  The Emling book, however, helps the reader fully understand the importance of Anning’s findings within of the context of the current science of the day, and the impact these findings had on religious teaching.  Emling presents the work as narrative non-fiction. It is well-researched and immensely interesting.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009
256 pages

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Guardians Of The West by David Eddings

Guardians Of The West

From Goodreads:  “Garion has slain the evil God Torak and been crowned King of Riva. The Prophecy was fulfilled—or so it seemed. While the strange child Errand was growing up in the Vale of Aldur with Polgara and Durnik, showing only occasional flashes of inexplicable knowledge and power, Garion was learning to rule and to be the husband of his fiery little Queen Ce’Nedra. Eleven years passed.

Then suddenly the Voice of Prophecy cried out a warning: “Beware Zandramas!” Not even Belgarath the Sorcerer knew who or what Zandramas was. But Garion discovered hints in a previously obscured part of the Mrin Codex. Worse, he learned that the Dark Prophecy was still waging its ancient struggle against the Prophecy of Light. Again, great evil was brewing in the East. And again, Garion found himself a pawn, caught between the two ancient Prophecies, with the fate of the world somehow resting on him.”

My first foray into the world of science fiction/fantasy was The Tales of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson.   I loved it so much I progressed onto Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and then the Tad Williams series, Memory Sorrow and Thorn.  I wanted more.  I picked up The Malloreon Chronicles and it sat on my shelf for years untouched.  This year I decided it was time to read some of those unread, dusty books.

So many times, those old books end up being fantastic.  With the first book, Guardians of the West, I didn’t feel that way at all.  It was slow moving, with too many new characters and back stories.  It was difficult to keep track.  Frank Herbert (and later, his son Brian), had a way of immediately presenting a narrative that hooked you in, slowly expanding the cast of characters that never made you feel overwhelmed or uninterested.  Not so with Eddings.  There were a couple of times when I felt engaged, but then there was a sharp shift in the story line and he lost me.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1988
438 pages

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

Gaiman came up with the idea to write a novel about changing culture – specifically American culture – where the old Gods are replaced by new ones.  He literally injects both types of Gods into the novel.  The old Gods are traditional ones from mythology and the new Gods are representations of technology, society and globalization.  Inevitably, there’s not room for the old and the new.  What’s coming?  War.

I loved the premise of this novel and I continue to enjoy Gaiman’s writing and thought processes.  I love how Shadow’s road trip is so descriptive, and the characters that appear throughout the book are bold and haunting.  That said, there were times I felt lost.  I didn’t always understand who each God was or why they were there.  Gaiman’s imaginative world is dark and strange.  It can be really, really, morose and repulsive.  On the other hand, there was enough of a compelling narrative to keep me reading.  I loved the ending, but there’s so many layers here – I may have to read it again in the future.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2001
635 pages

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