The Blade Itself (First Law #1)

The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1)The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to come out and just say it, The Blade Itself kicks off with action from various point-of-view characters whose storylines intertwine in an interesting and believable way.  Joe Abercrombie has created a world of fading, but still deadly magic with monuments from a legendary age made famous by legendary figures in which ordinary characters suddenly find themselves interacting with.  The narrative covers locations over three continents of the First Law world, in which we observe or learn three distinct cultures thus further building up the world.  But what most impressed me was not the book concluding with definite end, but instead “open ending” that made the reader yearn for Before They Are Hanged.

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Colonel Roosevelt

Colonel RooseveltColonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edmund Morris’ final volume in his biographical trilogy of Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel Roosevelt, is a fantastic conclusion about this colossus in American history.  Morris’ writing is an easy read and his research top notch thus making this a wonderful book for students of history of any age.  Though like the previous volume of this trilogy, Theodore Rex, the book seems to be stylistically divided in two with the first stronger than the second.

Beginning with a wonderful prologue describing T.R.’s African safari, the first half Colonel Roosevelt shows Roosevelt seemingly having all the power and prestige of the Presidency without being in office.  His 1910 tour of European, including being the U.S. special ambassador at Edward VII’s funeral, looks like a victory tour even now like it seemed to be then.  However, upon his return home Roosevelt starts to become disillusioned with this chosen successor William Howard Taft.  This disillusionment turned into disgust and Roosevelt aimed to unseat Taft only for the Republican establishment to prevent his nomination in 1912 resulting in a party split.  Even acknowledging defeat Roosevelt campaigned hard to score the best showing every by a third party candidate, showing up Taft in the process.

After 1912 not only does Roosevelt seemed to decline, but so Morris stylistic prose.  The second half of the book begins with the South American expedition that almost cost him his life, however it relating what happened Morris seems to give the reader an overview of what it about to happen to his subject and the style of the book starts to feel melancholy.  While Morris shows Roosevelt’s resolve to prepare the country for entry into The Great War, he also shows how Roosevelt was losing is once famous balancing between extremes.  The death of Quentin heavily foreshadowed almost in league with the stylistic change, Roosevelt’s own death.

The epilogue of Roosevelt’s funeral followed by the course of his place in history along with short biographies on his wife and family, is welcome stylistic change as Morris looks over the course of nearly 90 years to see how Roosevelt’s 60 year life is viewed and did so in great effect.

After the first two volumes of this trilogy it was hard for me to give this book only 4 stars, however the second half of Colonel Roosevelt saw seemed so much of a disconnected with the first half and the epilogue that it was jarring.  This stylist change could have been all in my own head as I knew where Roosevelt’s journey was taking him, but there did seem to be change especially in comparing the second half to the epilogue.  However, as I stated in the opening paragraph Morris writing and his research are first rate and I can not recommend this final volume of his T.R. trilogy enough.

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The finale of the Millennium trilogy is a satisfying conclusion to the story of Lisbeth Salander began in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Taking up where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest follows first Lisbeth’s struggle for first life and then her freedom with the assistance of Mikael Blomkvist and host of others.  The introduction of “the Section” from within the Swedish Security Service in the role as the antagonist helps move the majority of the story arcs along in an unexpected twist than what one assumes is going to happen.

The development of each established and newly introduced character throughout the book is not only well done, but welcome after devoting so much time invested in them.  The most important development is that of Lisbeth herself who transforms from someone uncompromising to someone who realizes her position as a full citizen after seeing all her demons expunged from her life, but only after a thrilling epilogue that wraps all the loose ends.

I can not express enough how much I love this book, but I read the last half of the book in just two days and as the title of my review states it hurt to put this book down when I had to.

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Theodore Rex

Theodore RexTheodore Rex by Edmund Morris
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Edmund Morris begins Theodore Rex, the second installment of his biographical trilogy, within hours of where he ended of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.  The prologue shows Roosevelt’s journey first to Buffalo then escorting his slain predecessor’s body to Washington for a public memorial.  Morris transitions to the main text of the biography when Roosevelt’s main duty as President changes from “Chief Mourner” to Chief Executive, and the book then be divided in two corresponding to Roosevelt’s two terms.

The first section of the book, detailed the first three and a half years of Roosevelt’s presidency and is the strong section of the book.  Morris not only relates Roosevelt’s innate political skill in dealing with older and more conservative members of the GOP in Congress he had to interact with, but also his belief that as President he needed to do things none of his predecessors had done including cultivating a relationship with the press on an unprecedented scale.  Morris’ goes into great detail about both domestic and foreign topics that Roosevelt dealt with, in particular battling trusts and Panama.  Throughout this period, Roosevelt also outmaneuvered any possible rival for the Republican nomination in 1904 then got elected in dominating fashion.

After the election of 1904, the book’s second section begins and there seems to be a shift that becomes noticeable as one reads.  While the first section of the book is full of action, the second is sedate by comparison.  As Morris explains in the book, because of the way Congress met basically all of 1905 was void of the anything meaningful happening on the domestic front while Roosevelt was active in foreign affairs.  But even though this in mind, the fact that not until late 1907 or early 1908 does there seem to be as much activity as what happens in the first section.  A important reason is that Morris’ touches upon Roosevelt most enduring legacy, his conservationism in establish national parks and monuments for future generations.

By the end of the book, Morris has imparted that the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt has transformative not only for the office but Constitutionally as well to the consternation of long-time legislators who believed Congress should have more power than the President.  However Morris never outright states this, instead he gives all the evidence of this throughout the book giving the reader a clear picture of this transformative period in American history.  If you are interested in Theodore Roosevelt, early Twentieth Century politics, or American history in general I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

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