"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

LIBERTY'S EXILES: AMERICAN LOYALISTS in the REVOLUTIONARY WORLD (audiobook) by Maya Jasanoff

 



Published by Recorded Books in 2012.
Read by L.J. Ganser.
Duration: 16 hours, 10 minutes.
Unabridged.


In 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Loyalists (Americans who opposed the American Revolution and stayed loyal to Britain) had a choice to make - stay and ride out the anti-Loyalist bias in the United States or move somewhere else.

I
Guy Carleton (1724-1808)
n the two years between the last major engagement (Yorktown) and the official end of the war and withdrawal of British troops the British decided to evacuate any Loyalists that wanted to go to other parts of the British Empire. One of the biggest advocates of this position was Guy Carleton, the British commander in America after Yorktown who later went on to become the Governor-in-Chief of Canada. He had more to do with what happened in this history than any other single person.

The British government made an effort to make things right for these Loyalists. Not many Loyalists were completely reimbursed, but the fact that an effort was made was extraordinary for the day. In some cases, Loyalists were offered large grants of land, in other cases they were offered smaller grants of land and in other cases they were offered pensions and partial reimbursements for lost property. All of these offers were new innovations and a sign that the British government wished to honor the loyalty they had shown.

Some loyalists wanted nothing more than to start over, some looked to just work themselves up the British societal ladder, some wanted to get away from British society and some looked for a chance to get even with the Americans. 

There was a racial component to this as well. The British had offered freedom for any slaves that left their masters and joined their armed forces. The Americans pressured them to return the runaway slaves (including slaves from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) but the British refused to go back on their deal with the former slaves as a point of honor. However, those former slaves oftentimes were given less money and less land than white Loyalists when they arrived at their new homes.

The British tried to honor the commitments shown by the Native American allies as well, but not nearly as much. 

Loyalists ended up going all over the empire but mostly to Canada. There were several families that went to Bermuda and Jamaica and back to England itself. Several families of African descent moved to Sierra Leone in Africa as part of an experimental colony. A few went even further to India. 

The section on the Canadian settlement was, at first, interesting but it soon got bogged down. It was all relevant detail, but just too much for me. In fact, that's pretty much my review of the entire book.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: LIBERTY'S EXILES: AMERICAN LOYALISTS in the REVOLUTIONARY WORLD (audiobook) by Maya Jasanoff.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

CRIMEAN WAR: A HISTORY from BEGINNING to END (kindle) by Hourly History

 



E-book published by Hourly History in 2020.

Hourly History specializes in histories and biographies that take about an hour to read. In the case of the Crimean War (1853-1856), I think that's about right.

The war was the result of European alliance politics. Russia was looking to push into Ottoman territory. The Ottomans were considered to be pretty weak and certainly on the decline after centuries of being a major power. The Austrian Empire was a traditional ally to the Russians, but decided to stay neutral. The Prussians were just starting out so no one really cared what they did. Even though they had been traditional rivals for centuries, England and France decided that they had to intervene on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in order to stop Russia from becoming too powerful. 

The French and the English sent troops all of the way to the Ottoman Empire and then up into the Black Sea and landed troops on the Crimean Peninsula and the war was on.

The war itself is worthy of note for several reasons, including:

1) France and England worked together as allies. It was the beginning of what has mostly been the default position ever since;
2) Florence Nightingale's work as a nurse;
3) The Charge of the Light Brigade and the poem of the same name describing the futility of the attack and the by Alfred, Lord Tennyson featuring the line "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die";
4) Exposed the weaknesses of Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Those weaknesses led to revolutions within 70 years;
5) It was demonstrated that rifled weapons were vastly superior to older style weapons;
6) Trench warfare was introduced. This pointed towards what would be the signature fighting style of World War I sixty years later;
7) The media of the day was able to relatively quickly send stories back from the front due to new technologies;
8) Photography brought realistic views of the war back to the English and French public.

This book does a good job of explaining the war, the causes, the military results and the short term and long term results. 

I rate this e-book 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: Crimean War: A History from Beginning to End

Monday, January 16, 2023

THE DRIFTER (Peter Ash #1)(audiobook) by Nick Petrie

 



Published in 2016 by Penguin Audio.
Read by Stephen Mendel.
Duration: 9 hours, 10 minutes.
Unabridged.


Synopsis:

Peter Ash is a veteran that has seen multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan serving as a Lieutenant in the Marines. He is struggling with what he has seen and what he has done and is having a hard time integrating himself into the civilian world. It doesn't help that he has claustrophobia so intense that he has a hard time even walking into a building.

Peter gets word that his best friend, the sergeant that served with him every step of the way, has killed himself. Ash is torn up over his death and sees his failure to keep up with his best friend as a betrayal on his part. He decides to try to make amends by approaching his friend's widow and his two young sons by offering his services as a carpenter to try to fix things up a bit. He knows that she won't take any charity so he tells her he is from a (fake) government program that sends out retired Marines to work on the homes of widowed Marines.

While he is dismantling their decrepit front porch he discovers two things:

a) the biggest, smelliest dog he has ever seen;
b) a beat up old suitcase containing $400,000 in cash and 4 bricks of plastic explosive.

His friend's widow has no idea why the money is there and wants nothing to do with it - but there is a man with a disfigured face and a big SUV spying on the house...

My review:

I stumbled upon this book series and I couldn't be more pleased. I have read all of the Jack Reacher books written by the original author and it fills that niche pretty well. 

I very much appreciated the portrayal of PTSD and how the Great Recession really hurt a lot of regular people and seemed to benefit the "to big to fail" financial institutions that helped cause it because of their foolishness.

The audiobook reader, Stephen Mendel, did a fantastic job. 

I am looking forward to continuing on with this series!

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: THE DRIFTER by Nick Petrie.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

GERONIMO: A LIFE from BEGINNING to END (kindle) by Hourly History

 



Published by Hourly History in 2020.

Geronimo (1829-1909) is the Apache leader that is famous for having fought just about everybody that encroached on his people's land. Later on, when he had surrendered he was shipped all over the place to different reservations.

That was pretty much the facts that I knew about Geronimo and I thought that I really needed to add more to that. After all, he is one of the few Native Americans that everyone has heard of. 

Hourly History write histories and biographies that you can read in about an hour. That can be a tough job for big topics in history like "The Industrial Revolution" or "The Roman Empire" but it is just about right for a short biography. 

Geronimo may have fought with the United States and was eventually captured by the U.S. Army (many, many times) but he was really angry with Mexicans. Mexico was his primary enemy because Mexican soldiers killed his family and friends while he was on a trip to a Mexican town to get supplies. 

From that point on, as the United States and Mexico encroached on traditional Apache territories, Geronimo fought both groups - but he focused on Mexico whenever he could.

The book comes up short with his years in captivity, except to note that, depending on the time period, the security went from severe to very, very lax.

I rate this e-book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here:  GERONIMO: A LIFE from BEGINNING to END (kindle) by Hourly History.

TALKING BACK, TALKING BLACK: TRUTHS ABOUT AMERICA'S LINGUA FRANCA (audiobook) by John McWhorter

 


Published in 2019 by HighBridge.
Read by the author, John McWhorter.
Duration: 4 hours, 19 minutes.
Unabridged.


The author and reader, John McWhorter
John McWhorter is, perhaps, the best known linguist in America (after Noam Chomsky). He has written about general rules of how languages over long periods of time, the evolution of English, the history behind English's biggest and baddest curse words, and more. Although he speaks in a formal tone, he has a knack for explaining fairly complicated things with everyday English and with lots of easy to follow examples.

In this book, the topic is what is commonly known as Black English. 

Many people think of Black English as simply "bad" or "slang" English - English with less verb conjugations, double negatives and the endings left off of lots of words.

McWhorter demonstrates that Black English isn't just random mispronunciations and made up words. Instead, it is a coherent system that has its own distinct grammar and vocabulary. Some of it is based on the Southern dialect (most obviously is "y'all") but it would be a mistake to think it is a Southern dialect variation. 

He also shows that phenomena like Black English is a normal thing with several examples from around the world.

McWhorter reads the audiobook version of his book himself. This is appropriate since he is a rather gifted lecturer and has done several of his own audiobooks in the past (see ones that I have reviewed here.) 


I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: TALKING BACK, TALKING BLACK: TRUTHS ABOUT AMERICA'S LINGUA FRANCA by John McWhorter.

Monday, January 9, 2023

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR: A HISTORY from BEGINNING to END (kindle) by Hourly History

 



E-book published in 2019 by Hourly History.

Hourly History is a series of histories and biographies that a reader can read in about an hour. Sometimes, that works out quite well. Sometimes, the topic is just too big to cover in an hour.

I think the Hundred Years War is one of those topics. 

Before I read this book I knew a few facts about the war: It was over dynastic struggles over the throne of France, the Battle of Agincourt, Joan of Arc.

Nothing in this book is incorrect, but I didn't really learn a lot more than I knew before. There is a parade of kings, royal family members and advisors - but there's rarely any detail that makes it interesting. For example, the book mentions an insane French king, but it does not mention that he believed that he was made out of glass and believed that he had to be careful that he would get bumped over and would smash to pieces. 


If you know literally nothing of the war, this is an adequate place to start.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here:  
THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR: A HISTORY from BEGINNING to END (kindle) by Hourly History.