2021 Reading Plan (February Update)

Watching those metal birds fly, wondering why their wings don’t flap.

Hello,

February was a successful month as I completed three books and one story just like the previous month.  So far I’m on track to complete the full list this year, so let’s take a quick view at my stats.

Overall Total: 6/35 (11.4%)
Original List: 6/35 (11.4%)
Total Pages: 3292 (548.7)

The best book of the past month was James Longstreet’s memoir, though he was defending himself against the conspirators of The Lost Cause myth this agenda doesn’t take away from his first hand accounts of battles and campaigns during the Civil War.  While Unique America wasn’t bad, it technically was the “worst” rated book this past month but wasn’t bad as it was informative.  Invisible Man is going onto a books to be reread list that I have to make someday due to the issue I noted in my review, which is one of the more interesting developments I didn’t expect to happen this year.

So March sees me continuing to work on Hobbes’ Leviathan, which as of today I’m through Part One or approximately 30%, and plan for reading is going well so I will be sticking with it going forward.  With Unique America done, I’ve started a book for a home read that isn’t on the list and will try to get it done by April for the new Jenny Lawson (see below) book.  I’ve started Austen’s Mansfield Park, I’m through Volume I and due to my work schedule this week I might get further along than I would normally which means I might get more read this month than I thought before.  I’ll definitely get to the last Dirk Pitt novel that Clive Cussler wrote solely by himself, everything after it is co-written by his son Dirk.  And I think I’ll get to The New Emperors which if I remember correctly when I bought the book at McKay’s 20-odd years ago it is on Mao and Deng’s rule in China.  And I might get on to Emma by the end of the month, we’ll see.

Obviously no movie review this month as I got stuff read pretty quickly. With the both NCAA Tournaments going to happen this year and other things happening in March, I don’t see myself doing anything on the blog besides reading. However you never know.

That’s all for this month, talk to you later.

January
:Sense and Sensibility (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3) by Scott Lynch
A History of My Times by Xenophon*
Valhalla Rising (Dirk Pitt #16) by Clive Cussler
:Pride and Prejudice (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
From Manassas to Appomattox by James Longstreet
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Unique America by John Bahr, Eric Peterson, & Donald Vaughan*
:Mansfield Park (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt #17) by Clive Cussler
The New Emperors by Harrison Evans Salisbury
:Emma (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Best Served Cold (The First Law #4) by Joe Abercrombie
Black Wind (Dirk Pitt #18) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
:Northanger Abbey (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Truman by David McCullough
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
:Persuasion (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt #19) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
President McKinley by Robert W. Merry
:Lady Susan (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Complete Novels by Jane Austen
The Heroes (The First Law #5) by Joe Abercrombie
Artic Drift (Dick Pitt #20) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
A Country of Vast Designs by Robert W. Merry
Watership Down by Richard Adams
:A New Hope (Star Wars Episode IV) by George Lucas:
Crescent Dawn (Dirk Pitt #21) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Grant by Ron Chernow
:The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Episode V) by Donald F. Glut:
Red Country (The First Law #6) by Joe Abercrombie
Poseidon’s Arrow (Dirk Pitt #22) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
:Return of the Jedi (Star Wars Episode VI) by James Khan:
Star Wars Trilogy (Star Wars Episodes IV-VI) by George Lucas/Donald F. Glut/James Kham
FDR by Jean Edward Smith
Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt #23) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Edward IV by Charles Ross
The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Episode I) by Terry Brooks
Odessa Sea (Dirk Pitt #24) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
William Pitt the Younger by William Hague
Attack of the Clones (Star Wars Episode II) by R.A. Salvatore
Celtic Empire (Dirk Pitt #25)
Bobby Kennedy by Larry Tye

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson [April 6, 2021]

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

*=Original Home Read
^= Home Read
+= Random Insertion

Unique America – Strange, Unusual, and Just Plain Fun: A Trip Through America

Unique America–Strange, Unusual, and Just Plain Fun: A Trip through America by Jeff Bahr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Covering all 50 states, the book highlights roughly 300 attractions and events that are as the title of the book says “strange, unusual, and just plain fun.” Each chapter covers a different region of the country with each page dedicated to a destination—sometimes two if a location has a lot to show—beginning in one state of the region and then systematically going through each state until getting to the other end of the region. Whether looking for interesting destinations to sightsee or stay at, or just taking a trip through reading and using your own imagination, this is a nice resource to reference.

Invisible Man

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

In our digital age we might not think anyone is invisible but if we open our eyes, we will see those that have fallen through the cracks, now think about how it was 70 years ago for those who knew they were second class citizens. Invisible Man is the only novel that Ralph Ellison published in his lifetime, but upon its publication was hailed as a masterpiece.

The narrator, an unnamed black man who lives in an underground room stealing power from the city’s electric grid, reflects on the various ways in which he has experienced social invisibility during his life beginning in his teenage years in the South. Graduating from high school, he wins a scholarship to an all-black college but to receive it, he must first take part in a brutal, humiliating battle royal for the entertainment of the town’s rich white dignitaries. After years later during his junior year, he chauffeurs a visiting rich white trustee for the afternoon but goes beyond the campus resulting with horrifying encounters for the trustee upon seeing the underside of black life beyond the campus. Dr. Bledsoe, the college president, excoriates the narrator and expels him through giving him false hope of re-enrolling by giving him recommendation letters to trustees in New York. After learning this, the narrator attempts to get a job at a paint factory but finds everyone suspicious of him which leads to him getting injured. While hospitalized, he is given shock therapy based on misinformation that he purposely caused the accident that injured him. After leaving the hospital, the narrator faints on the streets of Harlem and is taken in by a kindly old-fashioned woman. He later happens across the eviction of an elderly black couple and makes an impassioned speech that incites the crowd to attack the law enforcement officials in charge of the proceedings. After the narrator escapes, he is confronted by Brother Jack, the leader of a group known as “the Brotherhood” that professes its commitment to bettering conditions in Harlem and the rest of the world. At Jack’s urging, the narrator agrees to join and speak at rallies to spread the word among the black community. The narrator is successful but is then called before a meeting of the Brotherhood and accused of putting his own ambitions ahead of the group, resulting in him being reassigned to another part of the city to address issues concerning women. Eventually he is told to return since his replacement has disappeared and to find him, which he does only to find him disillusioned then shot by a police officer. At the funeral, he gives a rousing speech that rallies the crowd but upsets the Brotherhood leaders due to them not having an interest in the black community’s problems. Without the narrator to help focus the community, other’s take advantage causing a riot. Getting caught up with looters, the narrator navigates the neighborhoods until he falls into an underground coal bin that he is eventually sealed in which allows him to contemplate the racism he has experienced. In the epilogue, the narrator decides to return to the world and that he is telling his story to help people see past his own invisibility and provided a voice for those with a similar plight.

I will be honest I will have to reread this book in a few years because I feel that early in the book, I was not connecting well with the narrative but that later changed especially as the narrator arrived in New York. The ‘trials and travails’ of the narrator while attempt to work at the paint factory and his treatment with the faux-Communists were eye opening given my current employment and some of the political events and or trends over the years. Ellison’s critical look at the African American societal and cultural divides in the South and the same in the North with prejudices in full display was eye opening and a reminder that to look at groups monolithically is a mistake both today and looking back at history. If I took away anything from this reading of the book, it is that.

Invisible Man is a book that needs to be read period. Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece, while I did not rate it “great” this time, is a book that I need to reread to full grasp everything going on in the narrative and appreciate its impact.

From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America

From Manassas to Appomattox by James Longstreet
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

After spending years on campaign to win your new nation’s independence, after the war unsuccessful conclusion your former comrades bury you after you decided to support the victors. From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America was James Longstreet’s answer to the post-war criticisms leveled by those who created the Lost Cause myth.

Longstreet gives a quick overview of his early life, his time in West Point, and his service in the Mexican War before going into his resignation from the US Army and journey from New Mexico to Virginia to join the Confederate Army. As the title of the memoir indicates, Longstreet was a participant of the first major battle of the war at First Manassas and he described his own actions throughout the battle as well as the overall course of the confrontation. Longstreet would continue this throughout the book, but also added in his interactions with Lee, Jackson, A.P. Hill, and various Confederate government officials including President Jefferson Davis especially when defending his actions around Gettysburg which Lost Cause proponents claimed cost Lee and thus the South victory. Longstreet also talked about his strategic view of the war as the conflict progressed and viewed the situation in the West where the war could be changed for the better of the Confederates but found his superiors neither supportive before Gettysburg nor once allowed to help in the West undermining the efforts of Confederate forces. Longstreet’s detailed account of the end of the war in early 1865 brought the desperate fight in full view until the surrender before acknowledging that his friendship with General Grant started up again right after the surrender that helped him going forward in his life.

Given this was a memoir and a defense of his own actions against the attacks of those who were political motivated to raise up Lee and Jackson as part of the Lost Cause meant they needed someone to actively undermine them and thus caused the South to lose, one must think hard about what Longstreet is writing through this lens. While fighting for his own reputation, Longstreet was not afraid to show the human fallibility of both Lee and Jackson though not at the expense of their accomplishments nor to aggrandize his own except when the reputations of the troops under his command was at stake. Longstreet’s strategic view of the war, especially the West but also in the Gettysburg campaign, were a fascinating read and interesting to think about. If there is one criticism of the edition that I read it was with the battle maps included as they were hard follow given poor shading and small print which did not really distinguish between Union and Confederate forces.

From Manassas to Appomattox is obviously not an unbiased account of the war from the view of a Confederate general, yet James Longstreet unlike some other Confederates aimed to show the flaws of the Confederacy instead of creating a mythos of a Lost Cause.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sometimes first impressions are off the mark which causes all sorts of problems, either causing you are interest in someone who turns out not to be who you thought or missing someone who is your soulmate. Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s second novel as the explores the roundabout courtship of two individuals whose first impressions of each other put them off on the wrong foot.

Just outside the village of Meryton in Hertfordshire during the Regency, bachelor Mr. Bingley arrives in the neighborhood in a rented residence, where he, his family, and friend Mr. Darcy interact with the Bennets at a local ball. Bingley friendly manner earns him popularity and becomes attracted to the eldest Bennet sister, Jane. Meanwhile the richer Darcy’s prideful demeanor is instantly disliked and the second eldest Bennet, Elizabeth, overhears him stating that she is not attractive enough to tempt him makes her prejudice against him. After Jane falls sick during a visit at Bingley’s and Elizabeth cares for her, Darcy changes his view of Elizabeth while Bingley grows fonder of Jane. The Bennets’ cousin and entailed heir Mr. Collins visits one of the Bennet girls, but after Elizabeth rejects him Collins marries her best friend Charlotte. A charming army officer, George Wickham, arrives in Meryton and relates the bad blood between Darcy and himself confirming Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy. Soon after a ball that the Bingleys hold, they depart for London with no plans to return dashing the expectation of Jane marrying Bingley resulting in her visiting the Bennet’s Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London. Months later Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins in Kent where she meets Darcy’s wealthy aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who expects her nephew to marry her daughter, only for Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, visit Lady Catherine at the same time. Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth how Darcy recently saved a friend, presumably Bingley, from an undesirable match which obviously upsets Elizabeth. Later, Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, declaring his love for her despite her low social connections. She rejects him angrily, stating she could never love a man who caused her sister such unhappiness, Darcy brags about, and further accuses him of treating Wickham unjustly, which Darcy dismisses sarcastically. A day later Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter that explains his disagreements with Wickham that results in his attempt to elope with Darcy’s 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her considerable dowry. Darcy also writes that he separated Jane and Bingley due to Jane’s reserved behavior, sincerely believing her indifferent to Bingley, and because of the other members of their family. Elizabeth is ashamed by her family’s behavior and her own lack of better judgement that resulted in blinded prejudice against Darcy. Some months later, Elizabeth accompanies the Gardiners on a tour of Derbyshire during which they visit Darcy’s estate Pemberley after Elizabeth ascertains that Darcy is absent only for him to return unexpectedly. Darcy is exceedingly gracious and later invites Elizabeth and the Gardiners to meet his sister, and Mr. Gardiner to go fishing. Elizabeth is surprised and delighted by their treatment, connecting well with Georgina much to Darcy’s delight. However, Elizabeth receives news that her sister Lydia has run off with Wickham and informs Darcy before she and the Gardiners depart in haste. After an immensely agonizing interim, Wickham agrees to marry Lydia. With some veneer of decency restored, the couple visit the family and Lydia tells Elizabeth that Darcy was at the wedding. Though Darcy had sworn everyone involved to secrecy, Mrs. Gardiner now feels obliged to inform Elizabeth that he secured the match, at great expense and trouble to himself. She hints that he may have had “another motive” for having done so, implying that she believes Darcy to be in love with Elizabeth. Bingley and Darcy Meryton neighborhood. Bingley proposes to Jane, who accepts. Lady Catherine, hearing rumors that Elizabeth intends to marry Darcy visits and demands she promise never to accept Darcy’s proposal. Elizabeth refuses and the outraged Lady Catherine leaves. Darcy, heartened by his aunt’s indignant relaying of Elizabeth’s response, again proposes, and is accepted.

I don’t know why, but this Austen novel connected more than Sense and Sensibility whether it was because of Elizabeth or the overall story I don’t know. Elizabeth Bennet read as a more rounded character than either of the Dashwood sisters with both agency and a willingness to change. The latter is also true of Mr. Darcy, who changes his view and attitudes to Elizabeth’s family as well as doing things at the beginning he would not have done before. With a few exceptions, the rest of the characters in the novel are a tad two-dimensional although well-written individually and narratively, which has a nice progression from event to another.

Pride and Prejudice might be Jane Austen’s most popular novel and after reading it I can tell why, Elizabeth Bennet is an instantly relatable and likeable character that grows throughout the book through a narratively enjoyable progress.

2021 Reading Plan (January Update)

Taken October 6, 2020

Hello,

January saw me start off 2021 strong with three completed books and one Austen novel read over the course of the month.  Of the three completed books, two were from my primary list and one from my home reads.  Here are the stats so far:

Overall Total: 3/35 (9%)
Original List: 3/35 (9%)
Total Pages: 1653 (551)

The best story of the month was The Republic of Thieves, though I personally thought the flashback portions were superior to the present day narrative but overall I enjoyed the book and I’ll give a reason why I selected this over Sense and Sensibility below. The worst book of the month Valhalla Rising, which was full of retcons and just match the quality work Cussler did in earlier books.

This past month was unfortunately rough, work is not particularly going well for anyone–the store isn’t closing or anything, it’s just a lot of things hitting at once and one of them isn’t the virus–and the essential uneasiness that I personally felt for most of the month due to experiencing my first coup even with though it thankfully failed.  These combined items just put me in a funk in the days after January 6 especially since I had to unfriend people on Facebook–some of which I had been friends with since elementary school–for supporting overthrowing the Constitution, which coincided with my finishing Sense and Sensibility.  While I enjoyed the novel, finishing it when I did in the mental funk I was in made it hard to review–notice that the review is essentially summary more than review–for a few days and is hard to think about even now as I don’t want to remember that mental space.  Meanwhile starting The Republic of Thieves was the exact opposite as it allowed me to escape especially during breaks at work, which has given it a more positive vibe in my mind.  Sorry for getting into the present political climate, but I needed to get out of my system and hopefully I won’t have to address it again for a long, long time (hopefully).

Looking to February, I’m currently reading Pride and Prejudice which I’m enjoying.  Due to the stuff listed above I’ve spent more time reading Unique America and I’m way further along it in than I had planned.  I’ve started Hobbes’ The Leviathan as my next home read and I don’t expect to finish it in February but my plan to get through Xenophon worked so well that it’ll be how I read this book so it won’t be like previous years.  Most likely I will be starting James Longstreet’s memoir, but given it’s length I don’t know if I’ll finish it before the 28th.  So I might see about doing a movie review.

That’s all I have for this month, talk with you later.

:Sense and Sensibility (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3) by Scott Lynch
A History of My Times by Xenophon*
Valhalla Rising (Dirk Pitt #16) by Clive Cussler
:Pride and Prejudice (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
From Manassas to Appomattox by James Longstreet
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
:Mansfield Park (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt #17) by Clive Cussler
The New Emperors by Harrison Evans Salisbury
:Emma (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Best Served Cold (The First Law #4) by Joe Abercrombie
Black Wind (Dirk Pitt #18) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
:Northanger Abbey (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Truman by David McCullough
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
:Persuasion (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt #19) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
President McKinley by Robert W. Merry
:Lady Susan (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
The Complete Novels by Jane Austen
The Heroes (The First Law #5) by Joe Abercrombie
Artic Drift (Dick Pitt #20) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
A Country of Vast Designs by Robert W. Merry
Watership Down by Richard Adams
:A New Hope (Star Wars Episode IV) by George Lucas:
Crescent Dawn (Dirk Pitt #21) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Grant by Ron Chernow
:The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Episode V) by Donald F. Glut:
Red Country (The First Law #6) by Joe Abercrombie
Poseidon’s Arrow (Dirk Pitt #22) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
:Return of the Jedi (Star Wars Episode VI) by James Khan:
Star Wars Trilogy (Star Wars Episodes IV-VI) by George Lucas/Donald F. Glut/James Kham
FDR by Jean Edward Smith
Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt #23) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
Edward IV by Charles Ross
The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Episode I) by Terry Brooks
Odessa Sea (Dirk Pitt #24) by Clive & Dirk Cussler
William Pitt the Younger by William Hague
Attack of the Clones (Star Wars Episode II) by R.A. Salvatore
Celtic Empire (Dirk Pitt #25)
Bobby Kennedy by Larry Tye

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson [April 6, 2021]
Unique America by John Bahr, Eric Peterson, & Donald Vaughan

The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

*=Original Home Read
^= Home Read
+= Random Insertion

Valhalla Rising (Dirk Pitt #16)

Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A plot to monopolize North American oil and natural gas production leads to terror attacks on two ocean liners that have newly installed revolutionary engines that will destroy the oil industry as we know it, the only man to stop this plot is of course Dirk Pitt. Valhalla Rising is the sixteenth books of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series that finds the Pitt and NUMA attempt to foil this diabolical plan while attempting to find the secret lab of a reclusive scientist.

In the early 11th-Century, a fleet of ships from Iceland sail past Vinland to the entrance of the Hudson Bay and find sanctuary in a large underground cove that has a passage almost to the palisades above and is carved out by the explorers. The resulting settlement only last a few years before a conflict with the Native Americans results in its destruction. In the 1880s, a US Naval ship is destroyed by a metallic sea monster that has portholes in which the captain sees man face looking out at him. In 2003, Dirk Pitt spearheads NUMA efforts to rescue passengers on two ocean liners that were targeted by an oil and natural gas cartel’s CEO that wants to discredit the revolutionary magnetohydrodynamic engines installed on both by a reclusive genus scientist—that dies in the first liner’s disaster—to help his efforts control all North American oils resources and supplies then to shut out foreign oil. Along with figuring out where the deceased scientist’s lab was Pitt must deal with a plot to destroy the World Trade Center with a natural gas tanker while Loren Smith must deal with bribed officials to investigate the evil CEO in a Congressional hearing. After evidence from St. Julian Perlmutter found in Jules Verne’s home, Pitt finds the cove found by the Vikings that not only contains their longships but the actual Captain Nemo’s Nautilus with a prototype of the revolutionary engines that the reclusive scientist deciphered and improved. At the end of the book when Pitt attempts for the third time to propose marriage to Smith, he is interrupted by the surprise arrival of his until then unknown children, twins Dirk Jr. and Summer, by Summer Moran.

Let me start with addressing the WTC plot first by saying this book was originally published in August 2001, a mere three weeks before terror attacks so Cussler was not attempting to profit off a real-life situation. As for the actual events in the book and of the overall series, there are a lot of retcons throughout this book that void the events in Raise the Titanic! and add to the events of Pacific Vortex, especially the former with the introduction of the Pitt twins that were set up throughout the book by Cussler having Dirk think about how he was getting old. As to the actual narrative of the book, I found this book not up to Cussler at his best. The main antagonist is really the CEO’s terror cell leader who I did not mention above because he is not memorable compared to other characters that he shares traits with throughout the overall series. Honestly, this is more an investigation into the reclusive scientist’s life with stopping an evil plot as a side quest type of deal.

Valhalla Rising is a book that read like a mishmash of plots and events that were intended to build to the future of the series, but also discredited events from the previous books. This is the penultimate book that Clive Cussler solely wrote himself before his son Dirk would become his coauthor, which makes one wonder if the quality of this book and the next made his publisher want to give him help. Overall, not this is not the worst book of the series—far from it compared to the very first books—but things throughout the novel felt off.

Dirk Pitt

A History of My Times

A History of My Times by Xenophon
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War ends suddenly with seven more years to go, one man decided to pick up the history and its aftermath which for centuries many readers were grateful for.  A History of My Times by Xenophon sees the end of the Second Peloponnesian War and follows the aftermath of that devastating war which saw hegemony move from Sparta to Thebes.

Xenophon begins his history right where Thucydides’ left off and the first two books of the work cover the last seven years of the Peloponnesian War, which saw the return of Alcibiades to the Athenian military and the resultant Athenian naval victories before his second exile and the rise of the Spartan navy that led to the fall of Athens and the establishment of the 30 tyrants allied to Spartan hegemony. The internal politics of Athens took centerstage as the reign of the tyrants resulted in a civil war that saw the restitution of Athenian democracy. Book 3 looks at Spartan politics and the campaign of King Agesilaus to Asia Minor to fight the Persians. Book 4 sees the Persians bribe Sparta’s traditional allies and enemies to unite to attack Spartan hegemony as well as end Agesilaus’ campaign. The resulting Corinthian War continues through Book 5 when both sides accept terms by the Persian King in the so-called “King’s Peace”, however five years later a Spartan general captured the Theban acropolis resulting in Sparta controlling the politics of the city until a band of exiles retakes the city and begins reestablishing the Boeotian League with the resulting Boeotian War. Book 6 sees the end of the Boeotian War and Spartan hegemony with the Battle of Leuctra, which inaugurates the short-lived Theban hegemony. Book 7 sees Sparta and Athens ally to battle Theban hegemony even as the former is convulsed with internal rebellion and outside Peloponnesian resistance allowing Thebes to invade the Spartan homeland. The work ends with the second Battle of Mantinea which was a tactical Theban victory but strategic defeat that saw the end of Theban hegemony with all the major powers of Greece weakened from decades of fighting.

In his introduction of the book, George Cawkwell essentially said this history of Greece by Xenophon was a memoir that was circulated amongst his friends who knew all the details of the events Xenophon was writing about. Meaning that modern-day readers like myself are totally in the dark and basically Cawkwell would have to fill us in with his footnotes thanks to other sources from the era that essentially showed that Xenophon was an Athenian-born Spartan partisan and Agesilaus’ fanboy. Though Xenophon mentioned his adventure with the Ten-Thousand expedition against Artaxerxes II, he does not go into it given he had already written the Anabasis and given full details though it might be a better read then this book.

A History of My Times for centuries was thought to be “the” history of the end of the Peloponnesian War and the early 4th Century B.C., but after other sources came to light it turns out Xenophon left a lot of things out. This does not mean that the book is totally worthless, however it needs to be read critically.

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3)

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The journey of Locke and Jean find themselves facing off with their “Sister” in an election game overseen by some of the most powerful people on the planet. The Republic of Thieves is the third book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequence which see the first appearance of the Lady Bastard herself and Locke’s former lover facing off with the duo.

The book begins with flashback to the first meeting of Locke and Sabetha, the woman that he has been in love with throughout the series but who has not been introduced until this book, when they are still part of the Shade’s Hill gang under the Thiefmaker. Locke falls for her but does not get to see her often then learns from older children that Sabetha drowned, and he will never see her again. Throughout the book in a series of flashbacks Locke and Sabetha as a part of the Gentlemen Bastards through their early years and finally how they became a couple while playing actors in a production of the book’s title, The Republic of Thieves. The book’s present narrative begins weeks after the previous one with Locke is dying and Jean is working to save his life, including kidnapping a physiker that brings down a local gang on them that takes everything they have. Afterwards a Bondsmagi by the name of Patience appears and offers the pair a deal. They can work with her faction of the Bondsmagi to rig elections, in favor of the Deep Roots Party, in exchange for money and Locke’s life. They agree. The Bondsmagi carry Locke to the ship to Karthain on which they perform the healing. When completed is Locke is alive and hungry, it is now that they learn that Sabetha is working for the other side, the Black Iris party, and has been there a few days. Upon their arrival in Karthain, the two sides play several childish pranks back and forth. Locke is tricked by Sabetha and he and Jean awaken on a luxurious boat. Locke and Jean barely escape this boat by cutting off a small boat and escaping to shore. After a multiple day journey back to the Karthain, Locke and Sabetha make a truce for the safety of themselves and Jean to prevent issues and ensure a good show for the Bondsmagi. The elections continue and near the end Patience explains to Locke and Sabetha that Locke may be an ancient Bondsmagi who successfully moved from one body to the body of a child. The cost of this was the plague mentioned in previous books. The election result is 10 – 9 in favor of the Black Iris party. One of Locke’s schemes plays out and a key Black Iris member changes his position to neutral making the result 9 – 9 – 1. Locke, Jean, and Sabetha escape the fallout to a safe house. Locke awakes in the night to find Patience there and Sabetha gone. Patience explains that Locke may or may not be the magi, but she will not tell him. Sabetha has left after learning about this. Jean appears and Locke tells him he will respect Sabetha’s wish for space and will only go after her if she would wish it. The epilogue gives a story about the Falconer and his journey regaining power. The epilogue ends with the Falconer killing his mother, Patience.

This book was hard to judge because I was more interested in the flashback narrative of the young Gentleman Bastards’ first con as actors in Espara than the present-day political contest between the Bastard Brothers and their Sister. That is not to say that the political game was not interesting but compared to the early adventures of the Bastards the election felt more like it was set up for the Bondsmagi plot, though the introduction of Sabetha was nice especially as she will be important later in the sequence most likely. And the purported origin of Locke could either be very interesting or a big misdirection which will be interesting to see play out.

The Republic of Thieves felt like both a prequel and continuation of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequence with underlining plot thread that will no doubt become important in the future of the series. This interesting combination does not make the book bad but does not make it feel like a united whole either. However, at the end of reading I’m still interesting to see what Locke and Jean will do in the future.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The death of their father puts two sisters’ futures in doubt, but good things might come to those who wait. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen is the first published novel of her literary career, though initially anonymously, but has been a favorite with readers for over two centuries.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the two eldest daughters of Henry Dashwood’s second marriage whose lives and futures are diminished when he passes, and their elder half-brother John takes over the family estate then is persuaded by his greedy wife to not help his sisters and stepmother financially. The Dashwood’s sister-in-law Fanny does not like Elinor due to the relationship between her and her brother Edward Ferrars believing Elinor is after Edward’s future inheritance. The sister’s mother looks for a different place to live when a distant cousin, Sir John Middleton offers a modest cottage for them to reside, which is happily accepted. Once established, Sir John begins inviting his cousins to his house to interact with his various friends that include 35-year-old bachelor Colonel Brandon and the young bachelor Mr. Willoughby as well as his family, his wife Lady Middleton and talkative mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings. Marianne falls for Mr. Willoughby and believes they are nearly engaged while perceiving Colonel Brandon coolly, while Elinor navigates hopeful matches incubated by Mrs. Jennings before a visit by Edward in which he very. Weeks on, Sir John brings his other distant cousins of Mrs. Jennings, Anne and Lucy Steele, to his home for a visit. During which Lucy and Elinor become friendly when Lucy lets her know she is engaged to an Edward Ferrars that Elinor presumes to not be her Edward, but evidence proves the reverse. Mrs. Jennings convinces Elinor and Marianne to accompany her to London whereon arrival Marianne writes several letters to Willoughby, which go unanswered until after meeting him and his fiancé at a dance that results in a letter from Willoughby that curtly cuts off all communication with her while including everything she sent and gave him. Brandon arrives soon after and relates to Elinor that Willoughby seduced, impregnated, then abandoned Brandon’s young ward, Miss Eliza Williams resulting in Willoughby’s aunt disinheriting him thus leading to his engagement to another woman, so Marianne knows of Willoughby’s true character. The Steele sisters come to London through an invitation of Mrs. Jennings, but upon meeting John and Fanny Dashwood they are invited to their London house. Anne betrays Lucy’s secret engagement to Edward to Fanny resulting in them being cast out of the house while Edward is ordered by his wealthy mother to break off the engagement, but he believes it dishonorable and is disinherited. Admiring Edward’s conduct, Brandon offers him the clergyman’s income for the Delaford parsonage so he can marry Lucy after he takes orders. Mrs. Jennings takes the Dashwood sisters to her second daughter’s home where a still distraught Marianne takes a walk in the rain and becomes dangerously ill so much so it’s believed her life is in danger and a visiting Brandon volunteers to bring Mrs. Dashwood to Marianne. Willoughby arrives, revealing to Elinor he genuinely loved Marianne and is miserable which elicits Elinor’s pity because his choice made him unhappy but is disgusted by how he talks of Miss Williams and his own wife. Marianne recovers from his illness and is told of Willoughby’s visit which results in Marianne realizing she would never by happy with Willoughby’s immoral, erratic, and inconsiderate ways. She values Elinor’s more moderated conduct with Edward and resolves to model herself after her courage and good sense. Edward later arrives and reveals that, after his disinheritance, Lucy jilted him in favor of his now wealthy younger brother, Robert. Elinor is overjoyed. Edward and Elinor marry, and later Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, having gradually come to love him. The two couples live as neighbors, with both sisters and husbands in harmony with each other.

Overall, my first Austen novel was a good read as I found the main characters readable and the secondary characters full of interesting quirks and backstories though Lucy Steele’s manipulative and scheming that slowly comes out throughout her appearances. If there is a good starting point when reading Austen, it appears her first published novel is perfect.