Saturday, July 28, 2018

Review: The Other Woman

The Other Woman The Other Woman by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gabriel Allon returns to do battle with the Russians again in another exciting novel by Daniel Silva. The usual cast of characters make their appearances, though the focus is mostly on Allon and Graham Seymour. There are several twists and turns in the plot that keep you guessing and thinking. Silva does a masterful job of weaving in real history and current events into his fictional world. I always enjoy reading his Author Notes after the novel to see what is based on real life and what is made up.
My last thought after finishing this was when is #19 coming out?!

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Review: Sports: The First Five Millennia

Sports: The First Five Millennia Sports: The First Five Millennia by Allen Guttmann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an ambitious project: telling the history of five millennia of sport—and doing so in about 350 pages. And ultimately, it is unrealistic. There is a lot of interesting and fascinating information here, but it is, necessarily, too often superficial, without sufficient context, and skimmed over. There are passages where it turns into the proverbial just one damned thing after another. Dates and names fly at you, interspersed with occasionally amusing or telling anecdotes. As much as I liked the idea of tracing the history of sport from prehistoric communities up to today, there was just too much information with too little space.

There are, nonetheless, many positives to the book. The author, Allen Guttmann, does a good job of including multiple perspectives. There is very rarely any sense that he has an ideological ax to grind. Guttmann also makes sure to bring in sport from a broad range of differing social classes and groups. The role of women in the history of sport was frequently highlighted—though obviously there are many more opportunities in the modern world for women in sport, women have in nearly every culture and every era been involved in some kind of sport.

I most enjoyed the first part of the book where Guttmann focuses on the sport of ancient cultures. He looks, of course, at the Greeks, but also cultures across the globe. He discusses various theories about how sport developed in these societies: from what they evolved and how they become what we might recognize as sport. This is the most interesting and recommendable part of the book. The discussion of sport in the middle ages was also intriguing. Where things start to get bogged down is when Guttmann moves more into the modern period.

Guttmann is a widely respected historian of sport, and I am certainly going to look at his more focused books. I am not sure I’d recommend this book, however. It unfortunately comes too close to turning into a fleshed out timeline.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: The Old Testament

The Old Testament The Old Testament by Amy-Jill Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series of lectures on the Old Testament is very good as an overview to the history of the text and the different interpretative approaches to the Old Testament. Levine brings together, at different points, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular understandings of the texts. This is not a religion or theology course; there is no presupposition of the divinity of the text, but such a view, for those that have it, is not incompatible with Levine's discussions. Though I am sure those with particular views about the meaning of the Old Testament will disagree at lots of points, Levine doesn't present her interpretation as _the_ definitive one. She acknowledges the reality of many traditions and interpretations.

In 24 lectures, one can hardly get too deep into the books and stories of this text, and Levine acknowledges through out the series this limitation. Nevertheless, in the aspects she discusses, she is able to convey much of the meaning and the history.

Personally, I would have liked even more on the history of these texts, and their comparisons to other texts of the region and period. That's really a different course though.

I wish Levine had more courses at the Teaching Company--ones that individually delved more deeply into select books of the Bible. Her style is pleasant, she cares deeply for her subject, and she has an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge of it.

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Review: A New Dawn

A New Dawn A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For fans of Rebels, this is a great way to spend more time with Hera and Kanan, and to see how they first met. Like Rebels, it gives you a look at the beginnings of the rebellion. Miller also introduces Rae Sloane who goes on to play important roles in the Aftermath trilogy. She is a fascinating character. An imperial, she is not corrupt. She is ambitious, but not blindly so. She is committed to the law and order ideology of the Empire and this guides her character from A New Dawn up through the end of Aftermath. This makes her a great antagonist. She is not a monster like Vidian, Vader, or Palpatine. Sloane is understandable. She is competent, intelligent, and has a kind of integrity.

The book is a little slow to get going as it introduces the characters and the setting, but the story picks up to an exciting conclusion.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: Dance for the Dead

Dance for the Dead Dance for the Dead by Thomas Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second novel in the Jane Whitefield series refreshingly doesn’t follow the same plot structure as the first novel. Jane still guides "people out of the world” but the reasons for the hiding are quite different, and the manner in which Jane goes about it is also different. The story has some rather dark and brutal parts. Jane continues to be an intriguing protagonist. She shows more vulnerabilities in this novel, but is still just as tough, intelligent, and component. Highly recommend this series.

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