It didn't begin with the Internet. Frank L. Packard's The Wire Devils, which the University of Minnesota reissue describes as "A Classic Mystery Novel of the American Railroad" has a band of thieves more intent on robbing trains than on blackmailing politicians or running terror rings, and yet the techniques of hijacking the network (back in the day, the railroad's Morse telegraphs) and sending coded messages are familiar. And there is enough of the atmosphere of Railroad Magazine short stories and Bedwell and Dellinger fiction to make it as much a railroad story as an early twentieth century techno-thriller. That despite author Packard being a Montreal man more familiar with the New York Central and Hudson River than with the American West in which he set it, if the place names and previous locations of the principal characters are any indication. Quick read, and a change of pace from my usual fare for Book Review No. 16.
(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Have I really gone four months since last updating the Fifty Book Challenge? It's not for any lack of reading, perhaps it's that enjoying the Great Outdoors or Working on The Railroad are more compelling uses of my time.
Never mind all that. For Book Review No. 17 I offer Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States: 1492 - Present. The book is apparently a best-seller in collegiate history courses, perhaps out of some sense of offering differing perspectives, perhaps because it makes the usual suspects comfortable with their race-class-gender priors. Whatever. Professor Zinn, in an afterword, suggests that there's more to history than learning facts, and more than one way to interpret those facts. And in the text, he notes that the historian, or any other observer, ought not judge the behavior of previous generations against the standards of the current generation. That caution is particularly germane to a work that explicitly bases its criteria for telling the stories on some standards of the current generation.
( Collapse )
Perhaps, although the chronicle of failures of such movements that adds up to a bound volume of The Progressive or several chapters of People's History ought give readers pause. Or give professors who assign People's History reason to assign Mandeville's Fable of the Bees and Smith's writings on the society of perfect liberty and Mill's On Liberty at least a hearing.
(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
There is little chance that I would go back and review individual volumes, so I will just say there was a lot of demon fighting, addition of powers to the swords, love rivalry, etc. It got bogged down with repetition for a while, like she was just writing to continue the series rather than developing a story, but it started picking up again in the last handful of volumes as the series is rapidly moving towards its end (only four volumes to go). Major plot developments...Sango and Miroku have more or less committed to one another, planning to marry or at least settle down and have a bunch of kids if they survive the final battle with Naraku. Unfortunately, Miroku is hiding from Sango that he has worsening internal injuries from the battles they have already fought using his "wind tunnel", and he no longer really believes that he will be able to honor their commitment but wants to do what he can to ensure her survival. Kikyo finally died (again) with a purified soul, but that has injured InuYasha's heart, with her being his first and possibly strongest love, so, while there is no longer a love triangle per se between him, Kikyo, and Kagome, there is still not smooth romantic sailing. Also, our heroes are starting to realize that they are in fact from two different time periods and may have to make a choice of one or the other or separate in the near future, with the associated sacrifices. Shippo's just hanging out for the ride providing comic relief and cuteness, as always. Koga seems to now be out of the picture as a rival for InuYasha, now that he has finally been stripped of his Shikon jewel shards by Naraku. He has apparently retreated to live a quiet(er) life with his wolf clan. The biggest character development, I think and of course I am biased because he is my favorite character, is with InuYasha's older brother Sesshomaru, who was known for his overall cold detachment and outright scorn towards humans. He has already formed an unheard of attachment with a human by saving and more or less adopting Rin, the girl child. Then, he actually tried to avenge, while in a rage, the demoness Kagura (who was killed by Naraku once she had served her purpose to him), sacrificing his sword Tokijin in the process. That deepening of character convinced Totosai, the demon sword smith, to reforge Sesshomaru's heirloom sword Tenseiga into a weapon rather than just a utensil for healing. This introduces the power called "meido" which allows the sword bearer to cut a direct path to the underworld which pulls its target directly to the land of the dead. Sesshomaru was always a brilliant and powerful sword master, so he can perform the attack immediately but only partially. He sets out to train himself, which ultimately leads him to his demoness mother who passes on a clue from Sesshomaru's deceased father and leads him and his entourage into the underworld itself. The demons and Kohaku (who is travelling with Sesshomaru since Kikyo's death and is protected from death by his Shikon shard) are fine, but human Rin dies again and, it turns out, cannot be saved more than once by Tenseiga. For the first time in his life Sesshomaru experiences the helplessness and despair of permanent loss and grief, and in the midst of his loss learns compassion, saving all the lost souls trapped in the underworld. It is the "compassionate heart" which allows him to expand his meido and bring his comrades out of the underworld. Sesshomaru's mother, recognizing his sadness over the loss of Rin while not really understanding it, uses her power to return Rin's soul from the underworld, as a gift to her beloved son, but reminds him that the lesson is that life is meant to be limitted, which is why one must be wise when chosing to take it. The meido is now quite large but not a full circle as hoped, and as Sesshomaru continues to search why it is incomplete, a demon adversary approaches him saying that the power was stolen from him by Sesshomaru's father and that Tenseiga itself is no real heirloom but a discard of the unwieldy meido power from the original and only sword wielded by his father, Tetsusaiga. The information deeply wounds Sesshomaru's ego, which was already sore from doubts about his father's apparent favoritism of InuYasha, the younger, half-human son. The partial truth of what he was told is confirmed when InuYasha arrives and in joint (if not cooperative) battle against the adversary the two swords resonate and form a perfect meido. Sesshomaru comes to realize that he was meant to develop the meido only to return it to Tetsusaiga and, thus, InuYasha, in its complete form, and feels that he was left nothing from his father. Begrudgingly and without telling InuYasha what he is doing, he honors his father's wishes by first testing InuYasha's capabilities as a "true heir" then shattering his sword Tensaiga on Tetsusaiga, allowing its power to be consumed. Tensaiga returns to being a healing sword which Rin safeguards for him when it is abandoned in Sesshomaru's despondancy. Now unarmed, Sesshomaru is attacked by countless demons trying to increase their status by defeating such a powerful, but (in their dreams) defenseless demon. This culminates in Sesshomaru being forced to fight the evil spirit from the Shikon jewel itself when it comes to collect the final shard in Kohaku's back. Even with InuYasha and crew's arrival, it looks pretty bad for Sesshomaru, when Sesshomaru finds the power within himself to "level-up" to a "great demon" status, surpassing his father and, in the process, gaining a sword created from his own power, Bakusaiga, along with the reappearance of his left arm, lost in battle with InuYasha over Tetsusaiga, per Totosai proving that he has finally moved past coveting his brother's sword and his past resentments and become a complete and powerful demon in his own right. I'm just pretty happy that he has been in every volume and seems like he will be to the end. I always saw good things in you, Sessh! (excuse the fangirl moment)
This is the classic tale of Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. I would recommend finding a copy with the original illustrations. These aren't horrible, but if you are going to go classic, you should go all the way.
book 194: The Boy with a Drum by Eloise Wilkin
Cute, rhyming story of a little boy walking along to the beat of his drum and all of the animals that decide to follow in line. The pictures are adorable, too.
book 195: The Animals' Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum
The story of Jesus' birth told by some barnyard animals.
book 196: Walt Disney Presents The Little Mermaid by Michael Teitelbaum
Okay short-version, movie adaptation.
Some nice basics about Navajo culture. I was surprised that Big Bird came across kind of pushy, but maybe they were trying to indicate he was overly excited.
book 198: The Little Red Hen by Anonymous
I have always liked the morality of this story, kind of..."you reap what you sew", although I have to admit that it didn't feel as black and white as it once did when I was a child, as I have added complexity and experience to my belief system. It's still a good, basic, and still entertaining teaching story, and this version has nice clear and colorful illustrations.
book 199: The Snoring Monster by David L. Harrison
This is a good father to son tale about things that go bump, but don't have to be scary, in the night. I think it might mean more to a parent, maybe even more so to a dad reading to a kid.
book 200: Oscar's Book by Jeffrey Moss
I love Sesame Street's Oscar, in spite of himself, and always have. This has all of Oscar's "charm" and the additional humor of him "interacting" directly with the reader. I'd say I'd love to give him a big squishy hug, but he honestly probably smells pretty bad.
book 201: Richard Scarry's Busiest Fire Fighters Ever! by Richard Scarry
These guys are bumbling fire fighters. I've never read Richard Scarry before, but I think I've seen some of these characters pictured in other books. So, I suspect he basically has created a little world and just tells bits of that world in his books. I don't know. It's too simplistic for me. Maybe it would be more interesting if you read other of his books.
book 202: The Bunnies' Counting Book by Elizabeth B. Rodger
This is a pretty good counting book with pictures of bunnies and more that you can count on each page. The pictures and story premise is cute, and I was impressed that they even included a couple high numbers towards the end in case a more advanced kid wanted to try.