Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt #19)

Treasure Of Khan by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genghis Khan conquered half the world, now another Mongolian looks to conquer the rest through oil but inadvertently runs into the one man who can stop him. Treasure of Khan is the nineteenth book in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series and the second written with his son Dirk, as the elder Pitt returns to centerstage in a mostly land based adventure.

During the second failed Mongol invasion of Japan, a ship is swept out into the Pacific by a series of typhoons and survive long enough to land in the Hawaiian Islands. Several years later, reconstructing an old Polynesian ship and an elderly navigator the Mongol leader returns to China and a personal audience with Kublai Khan. In 1937, a British archaeologist unearths a box containing a scroll to the location of Genghis Khan burial location, but it is stolen by his Mongolian assistant as the archaeologist evacuates before the advancing Japanese. A relatively small oil company headed by Borjin, a Mongolian who is bent on taking control of the world oil market and re-uniting the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia—where he has found significant oil deposits buried at unusual depths—with Mongolia, has stolen a machine which can create an earthquake. He uses the machine to destroy major oil production facilities through the world, crippling China oil supply in a matter of weeks along with the rest of the worlds. He then uses this shortage to make an offer to supply China all the oil it needs. He demands that Inner Mongolia be ceded to Mongolia, and China pay market price for the oil he will supply them, which he guarantees will meet the colossal demands of the Chinese economy. China accepts this deal, not knowing of the hidden oil deposits they are handing to him. Dirk Pitt intervenes to end the situation and discovers that the grave of Genghis Khan has been located by Borjin, whose father stole the scroll to the burial location, and used the treasures to finance his company. Off the Big Island, Summer Pitt discovers a 13th-Century Chinese royal junk that eventually leads to Dirk Sr. figuring out where Kublai Khan’s tomb is located on the island from the other scroll that the elder Borjin did not take.

The return of the elder Dirk to the main character and the focus on Summer not being the damsel-in-distress Hawaiian subplot was a new wrinkle after the previous book. Both the main and subplots were well-written and resulted in a quick page turning story that is one of the best in the series. Unlike the previous novel, Borjin and his siblings were not memorable antagonists especially compared to some that the Pitts have faced in the past. Besides this one blemish, this second father-son effort by the Cusslers is a great follow up to their first.

Treasure of Khan is a particularly good installment in the decades-long Dirk Pitt franchise coming off the heels of another great previous installment. The decision to have Dirk Cussler join Clive in writing the series as so far paid off in a rise in quality.

Dirk Pitt

Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A young woman listens to her elders and mentors that the man she loves is not a good—social—match for her and breaks her engagement, she regrets it ever since. Persuasion is the last completed novel of Jane Austen that was published after her death, which follows a woman who must interact with her former fiancée now a war hero.

The story begins seven years after the broken engagement of Anne Elliot to Frederick Wentworth, the middle daughter of Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall and a young undistinguished naval officer with a low social standing. Anne’s father and her older sister, Elizabeth, maintained that Wentworth was no match for a woman of their family and Lady Russell, a distant relative whom Anne considers to be a second mother, sees the relationship as imprudent for one so young and persuaded Anne to break off the engagement. All this happens when Anne’s younger sister Mary was away at school. The story begins the Elliot family is in financial trouble on account of their lavish spending, so they rent out Kellynch Hall and decide to settle in a cheaper home in Bath until their finances improve. Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s new companion, Mrs. Clay, look forward to the move; Anne is less sure. Mary is married to Charles Musgrove of Uppercross Hall, the heir to a respected local squire. Anne visits Mary and her family, where she is well-loved. As the war against France is over, the tenants of Kellynch Hall, Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia—Frederick’s sister—have returned home. Wentworth, now wealthy and famous for his service in the war, visits his sister and meets the Uppercross family where he crosses paths with Anne. The Musgroves, including Mary, Charles, and Charles’ sisters Henrietta and Louisa, welcome the Crofts and Wentworth, who makes it known that he is ready to marry. Anne still loves Wentworth, so each meeting with him requires preparation for her own strong emotions. She overhears a conversation in which Louisa tells Wentworth of Charles first proposed to Anne, who turned him down. This news startles Wentworth, and Anne realizes that he has not yet forgiven her for letting herself be persuaded to end their engagement years ago. Anne and the young adults of the Uppercross family accompany Wentworth on a visit to see two of his fellow officers, Captains Harville and Benwick, in the coastal town of Lyme Regis. Benwick is in mourning over the death of his fiancée, Harville’s sister, and he appreciates Anne’s sympathy and understanding. They bond over their mutual admiration for the Romantic poets. Anne attracts the attention of Mr William Elliot, her cousin and a wealthy widower who is heir to Kellynch Hall despite having broken ties with her father years earlier. On the last morning of the visit, the youthful Louisa sustains a serious concussion at the sea wall while under Capt. Wentworth’s supervision. Anne coolly organizes the others to summon assistance. Wentworth is impressed with Anne’s quick thinking and cool headedness, but feels guilty about his actions with Louisa, causing him to re-examine his feelings for Anne. Louisa, due to her delicate position, is forced to recover at the Harvilles’ home in Lyme for months. Benwick, who was a guest as well, helps in Louisa’s recovery by attending and reading to her, resulting in them getting engaged. Following Louisa’s accident, Anne joins her father and sister in Bath with Lady Russell while Louisa and her parents stay at the Harvilles’ in Lyme Regis for her recovery. Wentworth visits his older brother Edward in Shropshire. Anne finds that her father and sister are flattered by the attentions of their cousin William Elliot, secretly believing that if he marries Elizabeth, the family fortunes will be restored. William flatters Anne and offhandedly mentions that he was “fascinated” with the name of his future wife already being an “Elliot” who would rightfully take over for her late Mother. Although Anne wants to like William, the attention and his manners, she finds his character opaque and difficult to judge. The Crofts arrive in Bath with the news that Louisa engagement to Benwick. Wentworth travels to Bath, where his jealousy is piqued by seeing William trying to court Anne. Wentworth and Anne renew their acquaintance. Anne visits Mrs Smith, an old school friend, who is now a widow living in Bath under strained circumstances. From her, Anne discovers William’s true nature. The Musgroves visit Bath to purchase wedding clothes for Louisa and Henrietta—long engaged to a cousin—both soon to marry. Wentworth and Harville encounter them and Anne at the Musgroves’ hotel in Bath, where Wentworth overhears Anne and Harville discussing the relative faithfulness of men and women in love. Deeply moved by what Anne Wentworth writes her a note declaring his feelings for her. Outside the hotel, Anne and Wentworth reconcile, affirm their love for each other, and renew their engagement. William leaves Bath with Mrs Clay soon following him to become his mistress, ensuring that he will inherit Kellynch Hall. Lady Russell admits she was wrong about Wentworth and befriends the new couple. Once Anne and Wentworth have married, Wentworth helps Mrs Smith recover the remaining assets that William had kept from her. Anne settles into her new life as the wife of a Navy captain.

A lot of things happen in a short about of pages, but Austen’s writing made it all come together well. Anne is not the greatest protagonist that Austen has written but given she comes after Emma and Catherine she is welcome change especially since she is older than most, if not all, of Austen’s other protagonists. None of the other characters really stand out, but it was interesting that Anne’s younger sister Mary was written as the annoying character instead of the usual widowed or unmarried older relative.

Persuasion is a fine novel, while it is not Jane Austen’s best work it is not her worst either. While I would not recommend it as your first Austen novel to read, I would recommend it if you’ve enjoyed one of her best works.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

When the publication of a novel results in a major restoration effort for a centuries old Gothic church that features as a significant secondary character, it must be a special book. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Victor Hugo’s first novel that established him as one of the greatest French writers.

The story is set in Paris in 1482 during the reign of Louis XI. The beautiful gypsy Esmeralda captures the hearts of many men, including those of Captain Phoebus and Pierre Gringoire, but especially Quasimodo and his guardian Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Frollo is torn between his obsessive lust for Esmeralda and the rules of Notre Dame Cathedral. He orders Quasimodo to kidnap her, but Quasimodo is captured by Phoebus and his guards, who save Esmeralda. Gringoire, who attempted to help Esmeralda but was knocked out by Quasimodo, is about to be hanged by beggars when Esmeralda saves him by agreeing to marry him for four years. The following day, Quasimodo is sentenced to be flogged and turned on the pillory for two hours, followed by another hour’s public exposure. He calls for water. Esmeralda, seeing his thirst, approaches the public stocks and offers him a drink of water. It saves him, and she captures his heart. Later, Esmeralda is arrested and charged with the attempted murder of Phoebus, whom Frollo attempted to kill in jealousy after seeing him trying to seduce Esmeralda. She is sentenced to death by hanging. As she is being led to the gallows, Quasimodo swings down by the bell rope of Notre-Dame and carries her off to the cathedral, temporarily protecting her – under the law of sanctuary – from arrest. Frollo later informs Gringoire that the Court of Parlement has voted to remove Esmeralda’s right to the sanctuary so she can no longer seek shelter in the cathedral and will be taken away to be killed. Clopin, the leader of the Vagrants, hears the news from Gringoire and rallies the homeless citizens of Paris to charge the cathedral and rescue Esmeralda. When Quasimodo sees the Vagrants, he assumes they are there to hurt Esmeralda, so he drives them off. Likewise, he thinks the king’s men want to rescue her, and tries to help them find her. She is rescued by Frollo and Gringoire. But after yet another failed attempt to win her love, Frollo betrays Esmeralda by handing her to the troops and watches while she is being hanged. When Frollo laughs during Esmeralda’s hanging, Quasimodo pushes him from the height of Notre Dame to his death. With nothing left to live for, Quasimodo vanishes and is never seen again. Quasimodo’s skeleton is found many years later in the charnel house, a mass grave into which the bodies of the destitute and criminals were indiscriminately thrown, implying that Quasimodo had sought Esmeralda among the decaying corpses and lay beside her, himself to die. As the guards attempt to pull the embracing skeletons apart, his skeleton crumbles to dust.

This book is hard to judge, mainly because when the narrative and drama is going it is great but early on Hugo liked to focus on other things namely architecture then it was hard to read. While Hugo’s descriptions of Notre Dame are fantastic and are necessary considering its central importance to the book, however the history of Paris and its architecture was a tangent that slowed things down enough to make the book feel like a drag. Hugo’s characters were extremely well-written from the hypocrite Frollo to the love-sick Esmerelda to superficial jerk Phoebus and the book’s titular character Quasimodo.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame features a fantastic narrative, however some of Victor Hugo’s decisions early in the book make it struggle to get through as it veers away from any narrative flow. However, I did enjoy the book overall and would recommend it for people to read yet with a warning about things early so they are prepared to either endure it or plan skip parts of the book.

2021 Reading Plan (May Update)

Knowing you can strut around because people don’t want to eat you this time of year.

Hello,

May was a successful reading month with three complete books and another Austen story done.  Two of my three books were on my original list, but my third non-planned home read is keeping me on track for the year overall.  But let’s look at the stats real quick:

Overall Total: 15/35 (43%)
Original List: 12/35 (34%)
Total Pages: 7768 (517.9)

Technically based on stars the decision on the best book of the month would be between Jenny Lawson’s Broken and Liv Albert’s Greek Mythology, however its not that simple because David McCullough’s Truman is just a half-star off of a perfect score and given it’s genre that is a pretty high mark to me.  However, the worst thing I read was Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey which read like a Austen rip-off instead of an actual Austen novel.

Heading into June I’ve started Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and am approximately 28% through it.  I have less than 140 pages left in Leviathan, out of 729, so I might be able to finish it by the end of the month or early in July.  After finishing Hugo will come the next Austen novel, which I hope will be better than the previous Austen read.  I’ll probably start reading the next Dirk Pitt book before the end of the month, but I don’t know if I’ll complete it before the end of the month.  I might do a movie review early in June, but it’ll depend on if I can get it written by a certain date.

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

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
February
: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
March
:Mansfield Park (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt #17) by Clive Cussler
The New Emperors by Harrison Evans Salisbury
April
Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America by Loren Coleman^
: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
The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster by Lyle Blackburn^
Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson*
:Northanger Abbey (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook by Liv Albert^
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

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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

Truman

Truman by David McCullough
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Born in Missouri a generation after it was the western frontier of the young nation, he led an emerging superpower into the atomic age at the end of the largest war in human history. Truman is all-encompassing biography of the 33rd President of the United States by one of the best biographers and historians of the past half century, David McCullough.

McCullough begins by quickly covering the lives of Truman’s grandparents and parents who relocated and lived on the frontier of Missouri beginning 40 years before his birth. McCullough then guides the reader through Truman’s childhood as his father attempt to succeed in various businesses with mild to no success while young Harry went through school and attempt to strike out on his own in nearby Kansas City until finally joining his family when they went working his maternal grandmother’s large farm that he would continue to work until he joined the Army in 1917 where he would see combat as a Captain of the artillery during the Hundred Days Offensive that led to the armistice. After the war, Truman opened a business that started well but failed during the recession of 1921 after which he turned to attention to politics and becoming a part of the Pendergast political machine. Successful in his first campaign to be a county administrative judge, he failed in reelection only to succeed in the next election to becoming the presiding judge which was a position he used to transform Jackson County with numerous public works that eventually gets him noticed by the new Roosevelt administration that eventually got him a position in the New Deal programs in Missouri. After Pendergast rejected Truman for a run for governor or Congress, he selected him a run for Senate in 1934 and Truman’s victory in the primary he was considered the Pendergast Senator not a Missourian. Through hard work during his term, Truman became a respected member of the Senate but when he went to be reelected, the Pendergast machine was in disarray due to various federal criminal trials and the Roosevelt administration didn’t support him, he was in a uphill battle. In a forerunner to his 1948 upset, Truman outworked his opponents and received support from the St. Louis political machine, which had opposed Pendergast’s Kansas City machine for decades, to a slim victory. During his second term, Truman became a national figure with his Select Committee to Investigate Defense Spending that investigated wasteful spending that saved roughly $15 billion that eventually would get him to be selected as Roosevelt’s 1944 Vice Presidential running mate that was essentially a nomination to be Roosevelt’s successor because everyone knew he would not live out his term. Truman’s nearly 8 years in office cover nearly 60% of the book that started off with his decisions and actions for the five months that dealt with challenges that no other President save Lincoln had to deal with. The challenges of a post-war America especially in the economic sphere led to a Republican takeover of Congress that many blamed Truman for, who used the loss to his advantage to stake differences between both parties that would eventually lead to his strategy for the 1948 Presidential campaign that led to him becoming President in his own right. Truman’s second term was dominated by his decision to military intervene in Korea that would lead to a confrontation with General Douglas McArthur that put civilian control of the military at stake, but also would continually lead to charges of Communist subversion of government jobs that reached a fever pitch with Joseph McCarthy. Once out of office, Truman transitioned to a regular citizen and began figuring out how to financially support his family, which eventually lead to Presidential pension laws for Truman and future holders of the office and creating the Presidential Library system that we know today. But after leaving office very unpopular, Truman’s popularity grew over the two decades of his post-Presidency so upon his death he was genuinely mourned by the public.

McCullough’s writing reads like a novel with his subject his main character and every other individual in a supporting character to reflect upon the protagonist. As I noted in my synopsis, most of the book covers Truman’s time in office that McCullough documents with detail and when doing a Presidential biography of the man who essentially had to deal with the end of the largest war in human history and the beginning of the Cold War is to be expected. With documentation of Truman’s early life not a prevalent, McCullough’s decision to turn a spotlight to his grandparents and parents at the beginning of the book and throughout Truman’s life added depth to the man and the also the area where he grew up and shaped him.

Truman brings the humble man from Missouri to life for those that have only seen him in black and white photographs and film, David McCullough’s writing hooks the reader from the beginning and makes you want to see how Harry S. Truman’s life played out in all facets.

Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook

Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook: From Aphrodite to Zeus, a Profile of Who’s Who in Greek Mythology by Liv Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For millennia, the gods and heroes of Greece have entertained numerous people and inspired authors and artists across genres, but not everyone today knows Athena from Artemis or the difference from Theseus and Perseus. Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook by Liv Albert is handy guide to the major figures of the mythos for those interested in knowing who is who.

Albert from the outset does not attempt to tackle every figure in Greek mythology or every myth, focusing on the most important and famous gods and heroes. With this in mind, Albert only focusing one story per entry, though many gods and/or heroes appear in multiple entries given their importance (i.e. Zeus in producing children and Hera going after them or their mothers). Except for individuals and events from The Iliad and The Odyssey, Albert retells the myths in a more balanced way most notably by calling out Zeus as a sexual deviant and Hera for her victim-blaming to name the two most prominent instances throughout multiple entries. Adding depth to the mythological retellings are roughly 25 illustrations by the amazingly talented Sara Richard whose art-deco influenced style gives the gods an ethereal appearance and mortals an unworldly quality.

Greek Mythology is a fantastic introductory book for those interested in the mythos of the ancient Greeks thanks to Liv Albert’s writing and Sara Richard’s art.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A young woman who believes fiction equals real life suddenly finds out that life is not a book, it’s worse. Northanger Abbey was the first novel completed by Jane Austen, but only published after her death.

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, one of ten children of a country clergyman, grew up a tomboy but by the age of 17 she is “in training for a heroine” and is excessively fond of reading Gothic novels. She is invited by the Allens, her wealthier neighbors in Fullerton, to accompany them to visit the city of Bath and partake in the winter season of balls, theatre, and other social delights. Soon she is introduced to a clever young gentleman, Henry Tilney, with whom she dances and converses. Through Mrs. Allen’s old schoolfriend Mrs. Thorpe, she meets her daughter Isabella, a vivacious and flirtatious young woman, and the two quickly become friends. Mrs. Thorpe’s son, John is also a friend of Catherine’s older brother, James, at Oxford where they are both students. Yet soon enough the Thorpes become possessive of Catherine as John undermines her attempts to spend time with Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor. Isabella and James become engaged. James’ father approves of the match and offers his son a country parson’s living of a modest sum, £400 annually, but they must wait until he can obtain the benefice in two and a half years. Isabella is dissatisfied, but to Catherine, she misrepresents her distress as being caused solely by the delay, and not by the value of the sum. Isabella immediately begins to flirt with Captain Tilney, Henry’s older brother. Innocent Catherine cannot understand her friend’s behavior, but Henry understands all too well, as he knows his brother’s character and habits. The Tilneys invite Catherine to stay with them for a few weeks at their home, Northanger Abbey. Catherine, in accordance with her novel reading, expects the abbey to be exotic and frightening. Henry teases her about this, as it turns out that Northanger Abbey is pleasant and decidedly not Gothic. However, the house includes a mysterious suite of rooms that no one ever enters; Catherine learns that they were the apartments of Mrs. Tilney, who died nine years earlier. As General Tilney no longer appears to be ill-affected by her death, Catherine decides that he may have murdered her or even imprisoned her in her chamber. Catherine discovers that her over-active imagination has led her astray, as nothing is strange or distressing in the apartments and is set straight by Henry. Catherine comes to believe that, though novels may be delightful, their content does not relate to everyday life. Isabella breaks her engagement to James, and its implied she is become engaged to Captain Tilney, which Henry and Eleanor Tilney are skeptical of and they turn out to be correct. Yet Catherine is terribly disappointed, realizing what a dishonest person Isabella is. The General goes off to London and the atmosphere at Northanger Abbey immediately becomes lighter and pleasanter for his absence, until he suddenly returns and forces Catherine to go home early the next morning in a shocking, inhospitable, and unsafe move that forces Catherine to undertake the 70 miles journey alone. Once home, Catherine is listless and unhappy. Henry pays a sudden unexpected visit and explains what happened. General Tilney, on the misinformation of John Thorpe, had believed her to be exceedingly rich as the Allens’ prospective heiress, and therefore a proper match for Henry. In London, General Tilney ran into Thorpe again, who, angry and petty at Catherine’s refusal of his half-made proposal of marriage, said instead that she was nearly destitute. Enraged, General Tilney returned home to evict Catherine. When Henry returned to Northanger, his father informed him of what had occurred and forbade him to think of Catherine again. When Henry learns how she had been treated, he breaks with his father and tells Catherine he still wants to marry her despite his father’s disapproval. Catherine is delighted, though when Henry seeks her parents’ approval, they tell the young couple that final approval will only happen when General Tilney consents, which he eventually does upon learning the truth.

The quality difference between this first Austen novel and the four that were published preceding it is astonishing, frankly because of how bad it is. Catherine is a coming-of-age young woman and acts like it, which is completely fine, however the overall story she is a part of reads like an Austen rip-off if not for the fact that it was written by Austen. The Thorpes are some of the least interesting characters Austen has written as well being some of the most loathsome though not on the level of Mrs. Norris while making Emma appear not so bad. The General comes off as a fool for believing one person say two opposite things and makes Catherine’s assessment of him as uncaring appears more accurate than Henry tries to countermand in the text.

Northanger Abbey shows some foreshadowing of Jane Austen’s style, but unfortunately it also reads like a bad rip-off novel as well that one can believe is written by the same individual that wrote her four great novels.

Broken (in the best possible way)

Broken by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Can a book be written that is both humorous as well as serious about mental health? For the third time Jenny Lawson, aka “The Bloggess”, answers yes with Broken (in the best possible way).

As with her previous book Lawson alternates between humor and seriousness, whether dealing with issues with her health or everyday events or just something that inspired her to write about. Always open about the challenges with her physical and mental health, Lawson mixes healthy self-deprecating humor with serious inspirational essays to those who suffer life her while bringing encouragement to all her readers. Essays about her life’s misadventures either on her own or with her family—primarily with her husband Victor—are hilarious and even make you laugh out loud. Other essays include Lawson’s unique ideas for Shark Tank and discussions with her editors about her writing style to name a few, all funny and enjoyable reads in themselves.

Having previously read Lawson’s other two books, I knew what type of book I was going to read and upon completion can say that it is as excellent as them. Lawson knows how to mix humor and serious issues, sometimes in the same essay and sometimes in separate ones, which means that no matter the material covered from reflections on mental health to chronicling medical treatments to her everyday misadventures at home or in the neighborhood or in town everything is written fresh and new from anything previously published. And frankly after the last year we all have had, not only the humorous essays are welcomed but also the encouragement for when we know we feel something wrong with us.

Broken (in the best possible way) shows the unique writing style of Jenny Lawson that has made a favorite of millions of reads on the Internet and on the page. This book can either be an introduction to Lawson for a first-time reader or a reacquaintance to a longtime fan of her books.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

2021 Reading Plan (April Update)

Future Roadkill?

Hello,

April was a successful reading month as I completed the first third of the year on a good note.  Of the four books that were completed, two were from my original list so I am a little behind on that front, however my overall numbers are good as you can see in the stats.

Overall Total: 12/35 (34%)
Original List: 10/35 (29%)
Total Pages: 6123 (510.25)

The best book of the month would have to go to Best Served Cold and while I enjoyed the books by Coleman and Blackburn, the first standalone book of Abercrombie’s First Law world just on another level of enjoyment no matter how big of jerks the characters were.  The worst was easily Emma, frankly any other book I read this month had to be horribly written to even get close to how much I disliked this Austen novel and it’s main protagonist, the future busybody aunt that will be the bane of her nephew and nieces existence.

As I’m posting this, I’m sadly enjoying the last full day of vacation in which I only wrote book reviews and read Leviathan at my regular schedule time.  For some reason this month I had a hard time motivating myself to write book reviews that I almost decided to give up on the blog, but I found the energy to get things going as you can tell in the last two weeks.  Though I planned on checking out some movies and TV series that have premiered the last few months, I only watched Godzilla vs. Kong (don’t expect a review) while the rest of the time I watched a lot of YouTube videos that I hadn’t watched from my subscriptions in the last few months.

Looking at May I’ve been deciding on how I’m going to start the month.  The few days at work I read Jenny Lawson’s Broken and am just a little over halfway through, but according to my schedule I’m due to read Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  Given that I’ll be getting to McCullough’s biography of Harry S. Truman, which is BIG, I’ll probably finish Lawson then read Austen before tackling Truman.

That’s all for this month.

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
February
: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
March
:Mansfield Park (The Complete Novels) by Jane Austen:
Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt #17) by Clive Cussler
The New Emperors by Harrison Evans Salisbury
Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America by Loren Coleman^
: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
The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster by Lyle Blackburn^
: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 Khan
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

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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

The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster

The Beast of Boggy Creek The True Story of the Fouke Monster by Lyle Blackburn
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

One night in early May 1971 brought attention, a lot unwanted, to a 500-person town that eventually became apart of the cultural zeitgeist thanks to surprise blockbuster. The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster by Lyle Blackburn examines the events of 1971 and the surprising aftermath as well as the events long before and up to the present-day to give context to those of early 70s.

Before his examination of the string of incidents, Blackburn gives a physical and cultural background of the Fouke, Arkansas region before incidents that brought the little town to the national monster zeitgeist. Then Blackburn goes right into the 1971 incidents using newspaper accounts and interviews of those directly involved or who investigated them in the aftermath including local law enforcement officers to examine all of them. Blackburn then goes back to previous sightings in time over the course of the previous half-century that occurred in the nearby but equally small Jonesville, including those that involved the family of Smokey Crabtree. Blackburn then examines the events leading up to, during, and aftermath of the filming of The Legend of Boggy Creek including its surprise box office performance—leading to horrible sequels—and cult classic status even today. Blackburn then transitions after the “heyday” of the 1970s to explore if there had been anymore sightings and relating many of them through to and past 2000. The last fifth of the book is dedicated to examining theories of what, if anything, the monster could have been from misidentification to an unknown bipedal ape as well as any incidents of hoaxes, particular with the three-toe foot tracks.

Aside from Florida’s Skunk Ape, Fouke Monster is the essential Southern Bigfoot within the cryptozoological community. Blackburn keeps his focus on events directly in Fouke or connected with it from sightings and interactions to the guerilla-style filmmaking of the surprise smash hit that is based off events within the community. As stated above, Blackburn only really goes into analysis and speculation at the end of the book as the primary focus is on those events in 1971 that created the phenomenon and then if there were any similar events before and after the 70s heyday. The most important thing I found in the book is that Blackburn took years researching this book and traveling to the area so often that it appears those in the community that were suspicious of his motives realized he was not there for a hatch job on the community and were willing to be interviewed, some of them relating events for the first time to an ‘outsider’.

The Beast of Boggy Creek is a thorough look into the early 1970s cryptozoological and box office phenomenon as well the history before and after those defining events. Lyle Blackburn writes in an engaging style the clearly brings the events and facts to the reader so they can come to a informed conclusion of their own.