Verily, A New Hope (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part The Fourth)

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope (William Shakespeare's Star Wars, #4)William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shakespeare and Star Wars come together to wondrous results thanks to the fantastic writing and imagination of Ian Doescher.  In 176 pages of iambic pentameter verse, stage directions, and some of the best Elizabethan clothed Star War characters ever seen, the reader finds one of the best adaptations of Star Wars ever.

The language is Shakespearean, but it’s very readable and understandable even if you’re not use to late 16th century language (even in quasi-form).  The original dialogue of the Star Wars film is covered excellently with numerous additional lines of soliloquies and speeches by a variety of characters added by Doescher to give the book it’s true Shakespearean element.  However these additions don’t take away from the film, they add to it by giving the characters a chance to express their inner thoughts that we never hear in the actual film.  The soliloquies are full of spoilers from the prequels along with foreshadowing for the sequels that seem to be Doescher’s shout out to Star Wars fans of all kinds.

I can’t say how much I enjoyed this book and how much I think Star Wars fans will like it as well.  If you’re a Star Wars fan check out this book and you’ll have a smile on your face as you imagine the film being transferred to an Elizabethan theater with all the action, adventure, and comedy taking place.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Hogwarts #3)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the third time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but the first since finishing Deathly Hallows and first time reading it critically. I’ve tailored this review in the following in mind: the intended audience for the book (much younger than myself) and it’s place in the series.

“Prisoner of Azkaban” is a little over a hundred pages longer than the first two books Rowlings wrote, but still features brevity and brilliant word choice that keeps the pace of the book going strong for her younger target audience without taking away from the more advanced plot. Having built a strong foundation in her worldbuilding of the Wizarding World, Rowlings grew the scoop of her narrative further back in time to when Harry’s parents attended Hogwarts.  Unlike the previous two books, the central focus is not on Voldemort attempting to return but the escape of his accomplice in murder of the Potters’ from the aforementioned Azkaban and the threat to Harry’s own life.

[SPOILERS BELOW]
Building upon the overall story in the first two books, “Prisoner of Azkaban” changes things up by not involving Voldemort directly in the plot but the results of his actions are ever present.  Like “Chamber of Secrets”, Harry encounters magic in the book though this time he’s the one doing the magic directly.  Once again Harry spends a good amount of time in the Wizarding World before returning to Hogwarts by staying at the Leaky Cauldron and exploring Diagon Alley, allowing the reader to explore with him.  Harry learns about Sirius Black in small doses throughout the book including why the Ministry and others are being overprotective.  Besides Sirius, the readers are introduced to Remus Lupin, Buckbeak, and the dementors for the first time though none of them will have a bigger impact than Peter Pettigrew.  The depth of the plot, the more mature content, and not-everything-is-made right ending of the book gave readers a sense of things to come while keeping the “innocence” of the first two books.  “Prisoner of Azkaban” is not where Harry’s story turns darker, but there is definitely a shadow.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a brilliant transitioning book, not as “light” as the first two and not as “dark” as the series would get, that stands up over time.  For many, including maybe myself, it is their favorite book of the entire series.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Film)

4.0 out of 5 stars A Stronger Film than Sorcerer’s Stone
The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second in the franchise, improves upon the better qualities of “Sorcerer’s Stone” and was able to avoid some of the determents that hurt the first film adaptation. Director/Producer Chris Columbus’ decision to film the first two movies of the franchise at the same time paid off with a second film that was just a tad better than the first.

Unlike the first film, “Chamber of Secrets” retained it’s faithfulness to the book without the unnecessary fat that bogged down the pace of “Sorcerer’s Stone”. As a result the film’s pace keeps the audience engaged with what is happening on screen and giving the film a more complete feeling. The back-to-back filming allowed the younger members of the cast to remain in character longer and present development from one film to another as they got comfortable with their role. The adult members of the cast continued their excellent work and the addition of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart was a brilliant casting decision.

The second installment of the Harry Potter franchise built upon the better qualities of the first film while avoiding the pacing issues the plagued making Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a great film you don’t want to look away from.

Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman

Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry TrumanWhistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman by Philip  White
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

The Whistle Stop Tour of Harry S. Truman has gone down in political lore on how to win an election as well as lose one.  Philip White in his book “Whistle Stop” describes the famous political tour from inception to conclusion, not only following Truman’s actions and the political team supporting him but events both domestically and internationally that influenced the race.

White begins his book by setting the stage for the 1948 Elections including brief description Harry Truman’s three years in office by spring 1948 as well as the 1946 Congressional elections and the consequences of the Republican sweep of both houses.  As the prospects for Truman’s reelection, let alone his nomination for the Democrats, grew increasingly worse White notes that Truman believed he would come out on top and that his chief aides had already begun laying the ground work for his Whistle Stop Tour by the creation of the Research Division, inspired by the one Thomas Dewey had created for his 1944 Presidential run again President Roosevelt.

Truman’s “nonpolitical” trip out West in early summer 1948 was described in detail as both President and his team created the blueprint for his fall campaign, even though his nomination wasn’t assured.  The three-way split of the Democrats with the far-left progressives of Henry Wallace and the segregationist Dixiecrats and its consequences are traced throughout the book, especially how in the end they resulted in Truman triumphant both at the convention and Election Day by focusing Truman’s rhetoric and shaping his itinerary.

White does not neglect the Republicans, both presidential contenders and Congressional leaders, in his book.  Truman’s congressional opponents, primarily conservative Robert Taft, rhetorically countered the President more than his eventual opponent New York governor Dewey did during the campaign.  However the ideological divide between the moderate Dewey and Taft led to a less than unified party that was confident in victory leading into the fall campaign with disastrous results.

The dominate part of White’s book is the Whistle Stop Tour itself including numerous speeches by Truman throughout his crisscrossing of the nation.  The daily stressful schedule Truman endured and put his political team, as well as reporters, through was described in detail.  White contrasts Truman’s campaign and speeches to that of Dewey, who unlike the President did not explain his position on issues.  The most remembered part of Truman’s campaign was his attack on the “do-nothing” Republican Congress that is always positioned as the enemy of the interest of the average man and the use of the Turnip Day Special Session of Congress by Truman framed the campaign the way he preferred.

White’s book is not the first covering Truman’s campaign or the 1948 Presidential election nor does it fully cover everything in detail.  However a first time reader of the subject, like me, will find it a fascinating and informative introduction to the postwar period of politics that will wet one’s literary appetite to learn more of Harry S. Truman, Thomas Dewey, Robert Taft, and the post-FDR era of political history.

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Guards! Guards! (Discworld #8, Watch #1)

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Guards! Guards!” is a entertaining page turner with it’s mesh of twisted tropes, hilarious characters, and engaging plot.  Terry Pratchett’s first Guards book seems to be where he begins hitting is stride as a fantasy humorist.

Pratchett introduces the hero-versus-dragon plot as well as the numerous no-so-hero material veteran guards dealing with an enthusiastic recruit to Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch (Night squad).  The veteran-versus-rookie dichotomy is given a humorous spin in the Criminal Guild run city that soon finds it’s only hope of salvation from the a new King Dragon in the detested Watch.  Pratchett misdirects the reader into believing the 6’6″ dwarf Watch recruit Carrot (he’s adopted) only to turn the attention to Captain Sam Vimes who begins investigating incidents related to when the dragon first appears.  The new characters are wonderfully portrayed and several previously seen but never full developed characters are given space to be fully rounded out while not taking away from the overall story.

As I got closer to the end of “Guards! Guards!”, I found it increasingly harder to put the book down during my work breaks and lunch, which to me is the sign of a book that I have to read again and again in the future.

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Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

MythologyMythology by Edith Hamilton
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The stories of Greco-Roman gods and heroes permeate our culture in some form or another, in Edith Hamilton’s anthological collection ‘Mythology’ all the original tales are presented in a concise and readable fashion for those discovering them for the first time.

Taking her material from poems and plays from Greek and Roman writers, Hamilton structures the books chronologically through the various ages detailed in Greco-Roman mythology and keeping everything linked together through family relationships.  At the beginning of every chapter Hamilton describes her process of choosing the source, or sources, of the tale giving the both the introductory reader and the knowledgeable one the basis for the next tale they are reading.  The mythology of the Greco-Roman world and it’s place in both Greek and Roman culture are described in general detail that gives the reader a sense of how each perceived the world around them.

The minor inclusion of the Norse mythology at the end of the book was the biggest failing of the book, Hamilton gave cultural reasons for including but it felt both incomplete and an afterthought.  Only Balder’s story was discussed and nothing of the adventures of Thor or others.

Edith Hamilton’s lifetime of research and teaching of Greek and Roman poetry and plays results in a very readable book of Greco-Roman mythology.  The book is definitely for casual readers along with those starting their journey into the overall world of Greco-Roman mythology and is not a substitute for reading The Iliad, The Odyssey, or The Aeneid.  If you fall into either of these two categories I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I would look somewhere else if you’re interested in Norse mythology.

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City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3)

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The original intended finishing installment of The Mortal Instruments, ‘City of Glass’ reads like the finishing volume of a bigger story but unfortunately all the problems of the previous two books continued plague Cassandra Clare’s story.

The book revolves around Valentine’s endgame by attacking the Shadowhunter capital of Alicante in the hidden country of Idris, which Clary and the reader see for the first time.  The overall plot reads well, however the twists and turns along with the character interactions were more often than not just bad.  The relationship between Jace and Clary did resolve itself in the predictable fashion thanks to a surprising new secondary antagonist allied with Valentine along with Jocelyn waking up and talking with Clary.  The antagonist relationship for most of the book between the Clave and the Downworlders given what happened during Valentine’s previous coup attempt was one of two big plot holes, the second was the sudden disappearance of the other surviving Shadowhunters from Valentine’s boat in the previous book which affected a major secondary character’s story arc.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out things that were well done, the first of which was the character of Simon who kept on growing throughout the book even though his story arc was marred by the second big plot hole.  The second were the fight sequences, the ones that didn’t involve Clary, which kept my attention whenever they occurred and had me looking forward to more than a lot of the character interactions.

Before I finished, maybe even before I started, ‘City of Class’ I had decided this was my last Mortal Instruments book.  I gave the series three books and the completion of the first ‘trilogy’ story arc, keeping my opinions open.  However the problems first seen in the ‘City of Bones’ continued and only got more obvious as the series continued and it has become too much for me to continue.

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