Coriolanus

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The tragedy of Coriolanus was a play by Shakespeare that I had heard of and upon finishing it was surprised at how good it was. The titular character is a prideful Roman patrician showing only disdain towards the common folk, who likewise resent him even though he is a military hero. Coriolanus gains his ‘official nickname’ in a war against Corioli and his rival Tullus Aufidius. After his military success, Coriolanus stands up for election as consul and seemingly gets consent from both patrician and plebeians for the office only for the tribunes to conspire against him leading to his banishment. Coriolanus goes to Corioli to die at the hands of his rival, only to be embraced to lead a campaign against Rome. The only thing that stops Coriolanus is bowing to the pleadings of his mother, on his return to Corioli his pride leads to his murder by Aufidius and his conspirators.

Throughout the play, Coriolanus’ pride and resentment of the common people mirrored by the common people in their resentment of him is a strong theme throughout the play. In the end this prideful behavior is his undoing, but Coriolanus doesn’t explain his reasons for his disdain which is a plus as the audience knows from the beginning he likes to isolate himself from his fellow Romans. Coriolanus’ downfall is tied to his mother who encouraged him to stand for consul leading to his banishment and giving in to her to spare Roman leading to his death in Corioli, though his mother is spared this knowledge at the end of the play. Overall this tragedy stands up better than Hamlet with a titular character the audience understands from the beginning and remains himself throughout.

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Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

Tip GipTip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked by Chris Matthews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

GOODREADS FIRST READS REVIEW

The political give and take between “Tip and The Gipper” is the subject of Chris Matthews’ best-selling book. The host of MSNBC’s Hardball is gives a first-hand account of how the Democratic Speaker of the House worked with and fought against the iconic Republican President for six years.

Although Matthews writes about both men, his majority point-of-view is from Speaker Tip O’Neill who he served as chief of staff. However this doesn’t make the book a tale of the heroic O’Neill facing off with the villainous Reagan, instead it was of two men from opposite points on the American political spectrum who held true to their convictions while still finding room to compromise with one another. Matthews’ give insightful biographies of both men to hints about how both men thought when dealing with the domestic and foreign policy issues they faced.

Throughout the book Matthews does insert himself into narrative of events, since he was a part of the Speaker’s staff and author of the book this should is not an overall negative aspect of the book. The path Matthews took in his career leading to his position on the Speaker’s staff and many of his earlier exploits are interesting, but in the latter half of the book some of his own biographical items are just filler that didn’t need to be included. Unfortunately most of the second half of the book seems Matthews is trying to extend his book with examples between the end of 1983 to the beginning of 1986.

Overall, “Tip and The Gipper” is a fun, informative read especially when focused from 1981 to 1983. Matthew’s writing is engaging and keeps the book moving, even though the rough patches in the latter half of the book.

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Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World

Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban WorldCities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World by Tristram Hunt
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The legacy of the economic and political practices of the growth of the British Empire and the implemented of those practices in colonial cities are at the root of Tristram Hunt’s “Cites of Empire”.  Instead of looking at the British Empire as either a good or bad “thing”, Hunt examines how it grew and the impact it has on our world today while not forgetting the motivations of those who implemented the policies in the first place.

Hunt examines 10 cities connected to the spread of Britain’s empire around the world, giving each city its own exclusive chapter.  While each city is given its own history, Hunt shows how the British experiences in one city affected their decisions in others he was writing about.  The history of a particular city is not the only thing covered with the individuals who impacted it; Hunt gives the reader a wonderful portrait of the cultural, social, and architectural developments along with those who promoted them.

While Hunt’s descriptive writing of the architectural are wonderful, the text would have been enhanced with illustrations of some kind of the building he was describing (thought as I was reading an advanced reader’s edition of the book there might be some in for sale edition).  The maps at the opening of each chapter helped to place the buildings and other geographical issues into context if one got confused for any reason.  Although Hunt’s insights into the society of the cities he writes about, at times the information he writes feels like a redux of previous cities’ and so slowed my reading as thought back on previous chapters.

Upon finishing “Cities of Empire” I had a better sense of the imperial history of British colonization, a topic in history that I have personally wanting to know more about.  Although not perfect, Tristram Hunt’s book gives the reader a history of the British Empire and its legacy in the 21st Century without judging or defending as good or evil.  I whole recommend this book to those interested in the spread of British culture around the world.

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Pericles

Pericles by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The collaboration between Shakespeare and George Wilkins, isn’t bad but it isn’t really good either. Overall the journeys and misfortunes that follow Pericles are interesting, but frankly a little too long to get to the point or frankly the plot. Gower’s narration could have just been the story telling by itself to be honest. If I ever have the chance to see a stage performance or an adaptation on screen then I might change my mind.

All’s Well That Ends Well

All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

This play is hard to have a strong feeling about. The main plot is that of Helena winning the honor a noble-born husband by curing the French King, but her selection of Bertram whom she had grown up with as a ward to his widowed mother rejects her to go to Italy for war and whores. Helena follows his wayward husband and enlists other women to bed her own husband and force him to honor her. The comedic element of Parolles provides an interesting subplot, but the comedy went a little too much at times. Overall the play is jumble of things that really must depend on a stage performance or adaptation.

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“City of Bones”, the first book of The Mortal Instruments series, is based on an interesting premise however the overall book is essentially mediocre in plot and characters that are not well rounded.

Author Cassandra Clare envisioned a supernatural world hidden from the mundane world through various magical means, while an interesting twist on a well-used idea (not just by a certain author from Edinburgh), in execution it was a tad flawed.  Her main characters, Clary Fray and Jace Wayland, are annoying for various reasons but mostly being illogical and a 24/7 jerk.  While Clary finds herself going from normal teenager to learning her “hidden history”, she does some pretty stupid things that at time contradict previous actions and opinions she had just done or thought.  Jace from the start is a major jerk, who never seems to change, even with the major revelations at the end of the book.  Given their relationship development through the book, I wouldn’t equate it to Ron/Ginny it was more Luke/Leia and to be honest it’s hard to say who did the reveal better Clare or Lucas (if you can’t believe I just made that comparison I dare to you to watch Jedi again).

A lot of the “surprises” and “twists” in the plot were either plain to see, the reveal of who Clary’s real father is was pretty easy to guess and the character who turned out to be a werewolf was also easy to spot, while others were plainly botched and hard to read, the gay character reveal for instance.  While the main antagonist was able to get away with the prized item that drove the plot it left the story the open ended to be continued, however the epilogue with Clary’s interactions with Jace, Alec, and Isabelle was cringe worthy in parts.

Overall, my opinion of “City of Bones” is simply, meh.

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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I am going to be honest from the start, I found this play completely lacking in both coherent plot and characterizations of the titular roles. After seeing Shakespeare’s portrayal of Antony in Julius Caesar, I looked forward to seeing the character again only to find it someone completely different. Secondly Cleopatra seems a bit bipolar or schizophrenic as she both calculating and love sick, but the two don’t mess in the same character. The plot is all over the place and less than halfway through the play I was hoping Octavian would do everyone a favor and beat the two of them quickly to end the pain. I don’t think I want to see this play on stage or an adaptation.