Review: Offa and the Mercian Wars, Chris Peers

Rating: 2 out of 5

This is in general an alright book, but entirely misleading in its title or content. Offa features in the introduction and then skips back in for about ten-twenty pages in the middle of the book, after which the author goes back to describing a general history of Mercia — more on this below. The book also comes across not knowing where it wants to lie on the scholarly spectrum with plenty of references to academic work and minimal evaluation of these.

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Review: Common Sense, Thomas Paine

Rating: 4 out of 5

This work presents a compelling case for independence as opposed to other methods of government and treats this in the local American context of the 1770’s. In some ways a thorough summation of this treatise is “we should because we can” which, though less elegant, essentially captures the spirit of the author while his economic claims often sound silly (though one must keep in mind that economic theories in the 18th century were considerably more primitive than now). Continue reading “Review: Common Sense, Thomas Paine”

Review: Sekigahara (2017)

It was with pleasure I noted during the opening scenes of this film that it is based on a book by Ryotaro Shiba, a true favourite of mine amongst writers. It was even better, therefore, that the movie jumped to a scene where the author narrated a story about the meeting of Ishida Mitsunari and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. These original scenes piqued my interest and turned this into a thrilling story which continued in a similar way. Continue reading “Review: Sekigahara (2017)”

Review: Farewell Address, George Washington

Rating: 5 out of 5

There are two sentiments in this well-known piece which echo through the years — the first is of the national hero who yet manages to apologise for whatever he may have done wrong, and the second is of his eternal wish to be equal to every other person in his nation.

Yet, for the modern reader a lot of the pamphlet is barely understandable — who now has heard of the conflicts between the USA and France in the 1790’s? I have a good grounding at this point for I just read Hamilton’s biography and got the inspiration to investigate this piece, which is definitely worth doing — Just be prepared for some background reading. Yet, I’ll emphasise… “Though … I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.” What a character!

Review: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hamilton, the arch-Federalist, is a typically maligned fellow in the history of these United States as it probably would have been called in his day. Mr Chernow has tried his best to bring him to life (and light) as well as to correct historical injustices, and in addition to the principal subject the reader is also treated to the story of his wife, Eliza, as well as the Federalist party though not in as many words. What we also see in these pages is the effort the author devoted to figuring out the motives of the various characters in the early republic as well as trying to objectively assess their contributions, and this makes for some very good reading.

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Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba”

Review: Citizen Clem, John Bew

Rating: 5 out of 5

I had barely no impression of Mr Attlee before I started this book — neither did I know much about Mr John Bew though his biography of Castlereagh has been in my “To Read” list since perhaps mid-2012. What I can say after finishing this biography is that Mr Attlee probably ranks amongst the top PMs to have ever governed in the United Kingdom while Mr Bew’s style of biography is superb, with just enough humanity to make the people live the pages they are written on.

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Review: Heroes, Stephen Fry

Rating: 5 out of 5

Most of us probably have some idea of various Greek gods and also their heroes — after all, who has not heard of Herakles or Odysseus? There are other names which could be thrown into this mix, but the point I am trying to make is that Greek mythology has permeated much of Western culture and civilisation to a very great degree. Therefore, it could be said that one should be a bit careful about which author’s take on these myths they should read — having experienced ‘Mythos‘ some time ago, I was keen to take up ‘Heroes’ as soon as I could — and I was not disappointed.

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Review: The Templars, Dan Jones

Rating: 4 out of 5

I have liked the idea of the Knights Templar from my early youth as probably many a lad interested in (military) history does/did. Not only is theirs a story filled with excitement; victories followed by defeats, and vice versa, but there’s also a very definite end-point, organised by the French King in his quest for money. This is a neater story — at least compared to the other well-known military orders — and therefore makes itself slightly more suitable to be treated as a continuous narrative. I think Mr Dan Jones delivers on this promise, but he could have done more.

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Review: Sharp Ends, Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 5 out of 5

Mr Abercrombie’s a true master — or at least that’s how some of his characters have turned out in these writings. Only one of the stories in this volume was not to my liming and that one featured Shy; incidentally, I had also read this story beforehand in a different collection. One out of thirteen is pretty good going, however, and the many features of this book in the Styrian and Northern lands make it absolutely worthwhile if the reader wants another glimpse into some characters of the main First Law series.

That said, there are also other characters in this book and indeed many from the main series make no appearance whatsoever. However, almost everyone written into this book absolutely deserves the time taken to read these stories for they provide a window into some human souls.

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