Reviews.

Marooned on Mars

Book Pocket Review, Title The Martian, Author Andy Weir, Rating 4.0,

The Martian

Andy Weir

Pocket Review

This 21st century Robinson Crusoe tale works because the lone marooned astronaut's effort at survival on Mars is framed around the question: how would a dogged but highly knowledgeable engineer solve the existential crises that cropped up, and live yet another day?

History, Reviews.

The smartest Nazi

Book Briefly Noted, Title Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Author Albert Speer, Rating 4.0,

Spandau: The Secret Diaries

Albert Speer

Briefly Noted

Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect and Reich Armaments Minister, kept a diary while he was in Spandau prison following his conviction at the post-war Nuremburg trials. These diaries provide a fascinating, hooded glimpse of the 'smartest man' in the Nazi leadership. At least, smart enough to evade the death penalty at the Nuremberg Trials ...
Reviews.

Stuck at twelve

Book Book Review, Title In the Woods, Author Tana French, Rating 3.5,

In the Woods

Tana French

Book Review

Rather than mainly a rational whodunit, Tana French's In the Woods is a psychological drama, an intricate set of well-executed character studies embedded in the story of a police investigation into a child murder.

History, Reviews.

Napoleon

Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts. My early view of Napoleon was as a cartoon figure: A megalomaniac who tried to take over the world. I recall looking down at Napoleon's tomb in Paris in the company of my brother Craig, the two of us mocking his immense sarcophagus and elaborate surroundings, wondering aloud why the French would semi-deify such a bloody tyrant. The typical American republican conceits aside, we were woefully uninformed about much of the life of Napoleon.
Literature, Reviews.

A good man cannot be found

Book Book Review, Title A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Author Flannery O'Connor, Rating 3.0,

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories

Flannery O'Connor

Book Review

Within Flannery O'Conner's famed short story collection, a good man is not just difficult to find, but impossibly so. Thank God I am not Flannery O'Connor. I would not trade her ability to tell a story, and she is uncommonly good in some ways, for her brutal and dismissive view of the world. Harshness, of circumstance and character, forms her viewpoint; what is also redeeming finds little place in her stories.
Literature, Reviews.

Heart out of darkness

Book Book Review, Title Heart Of Darkness, Author Joseph Conrad, Rating 5.0,

Heart Of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

Book Review

In Joseph Conrad's classic novella, Heart of Darkness, the sailor Marlow serves as the author's version of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, compelled to tell his story of conscience to whatever audience he finds. The story he tells is indeed dark, and indeed about the heart, albeit mostly the lack thereof. Conrad takes apart the European colonial enterprise, particularly the carving-up of Africa in the nineteenth century, and strips bare all of the tales of adventure from those times and places, along with the high-flown language of imperialism which was used to mask the utter barbarity of the undertaking.
History, Reviews.

Trent: Too little, too late

Book Book Review, Title Trent, Author John W. Malley, Rating 3.0,

Trent

John W. Malley

Book Review

Trent: What Happened at the Council, is a well-researched and well-told history of the Council of Trent, the mid-sixteenth-century Counter-Reformation centerpiece which produced the Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation.  This account is carefully grounded in the complex politics of its times, placing the history of the Council in the balance- of-power tug-of-war, not just between reform movements within and without (Protestants) the Church, but among the nascent Ottoman Empire, the English Reformation, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal States and the French monarchy.