skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
This time I'll be listing the books Goodreads recommends from my history shelf. On this shelf I have actual history books, biographies of historical figures and fiction about history. There will be a fair number of long-titled books.

Covering all of time from the Big Bang to yesterday )

Tends towards the bloody side of history, don't it?

As always, if you've read any of these, or heard some buzz, or have a book on the subject you'd recommend instead, go ahead and comment.

Don't forget I have a review blog at http://www.skjam.com

Incidentally, the book I'm going to be concentrating on next is on the history of Ferry Farm, George Washington's childhood home.
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
It's time for another look at what Goodreads suggests to me, based on what I've already read and reviewed.

This time, the shelf theme is "firstreads", books put up for giveaways to readers in the hopes of getting reviews. I've gotten a bunch of these by now, and reviewed every one. But since the process results in my getting semi-random books, the recommendations are likewise kind of off the wall. Also, you'll see a lot more of overly long titles in this one.

The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
After the Fact: The Surprising Fates of American History's Heroes, Villains and Supporting Characters by Owen J. Hurd
Amelia by Henry Fielding

Bayou Myth by Mary Ann Loesch
Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End: The Story of a Crime by Leif G.W. Persson
Body Movers by Stephanie Bond
Botanicaust by Tam Linsey
Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann
Burned by Thomas Enger

Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by Paco Underhill
A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
China Trade by S.J. Rozan
City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald L. Miller
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott
Death Angels by Ake Edwardson
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

Echoes from the Dead by by Johan Theorin
Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything by Daniel Goleman
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster
The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-loving New York by Richard Zacks

Last Days by Adam Nevill
Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
Mind's Eye by Hakan Nesser
A Most Peculiar Malaysian Mystery by Shamini Flint

The Nun by Denis Diderot

The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth

Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot
Seven-X by Mike Wech
Shakespeare Undead by OLori Handeland
Silver Smoke by Monica Leonelle
Snow Angels by James Thompson
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Studio Sex by Liza Marklund

Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It by Craig Timberg

Who Is Audrey Wickersham? by Sara Shrieves
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
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George W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I HeroGeorge W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I Hero by Mark Mortensen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Disclosure: I received this book through a Firstreads giveaway, on the premise that I would review it.

Everyone who served in a military in World War One is dead, and we're rapidly coming up on the centennial of the Great War itself. I expect we'll be seeing a flood of books, TV series and films on the subject. So it's no surprise that someone decided to do a biography of George W. Hamilton, one of the most impressive people involved in the war.

It's not as good a book as it could be, however. The problems start with the introductory material, which overdoes trying to sell the reader on why this book should be written about this person. Some of the famous Marine terseness would have served well here.

Major Hamilton did not keep a journal and did not get around to writing his memoirs, and very few of his letters are still in existence. To cover for this lack of primary source material, particularly in the earlier chapters, the author lists various historical timeline events that Hamilton might have heard about or been in the vicinity of. There's also a fair amount of attempted mindreading. "Hamilton would surely have been interested in..."

Once the book gets to Hamilton's war service, the book gets more solid--probably both because of the extensive documentation of events, and because it's the meat of the story. I'll just say that the subtitle of the book is well supported.

The disappointing and short post-war years are covered, followed by a "where are they now" segment for people George W. Hamilton was close to. There's a postscript that sounds like the author's attempt to start another attempt to get Hamilton the Medal of Honor (arguably, he was robbed.) Extensive footnotes, a fine bibliography and an index round out the volume.

The book is primarily intended for schools and libraries, and is retailing at $45 a pop; I'd suggest checking your local library for a copy and skipping straight to the war chapters.



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Aloha Oe

Jan. 25th, 2012 07:44 am
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Lost Kingdom: The Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial AdventureLost Kingdom: The Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler




Disclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway in the expectation that I would write a review of it.



This is not the happy story of how altruistic Americans freed the Hawaiian people from tyranny. (I'm sure there is such a book, somewhere.) It is, however, a well-researched look at the life and times of Lili'u, the last queen of Hawai'i.



Hawai'i's time as an independent kingdom was relatively short, with no one thinking to unite the islands before the coming of Westerners and the almost inevitable whittling away of sovereignity once the great powers of the Nineteenth Century took interest.



One can see that it wasn't just greedy white men's ambition that brought about the theft of power from the native Hawaiians, but a string of bad luck--if the royal family of Hawai'i had flourished, they might have been better able to stand up to economic and social pressures. If Lili'u's husband had been more compatible with her, and not died at a crucial moment, she might have gotten better advice. And if a war hadn't started at just the wrong moment, Hawai'i might not have seemed so important to annex.



I'd recommend this book to history buffs, those wanting to know more about Hawai'i, and school kids looking for something slightly different to do a book report on.



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skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Here's a list of the panels I've signed up for at ConVergence 2011-- actual schedule yet to be determined.

Comics and Manga - not just for Six Year Olds

Social Commentary in Comics

The Legion of Super Heroes

Beginning Gamemastering

Overexposed Characters

Femme Fatales of the Pulps

How the Pulps Saw the Future

Interesting Bad Guys

Terrorists of the Pulp Era

----

And one I suggested that may be scheduled if it gets enough interest...

_Retro and Historical Anime and Manga_

Description: Steam Detectives, Steamboy, Emma: A Victorian Romance and many other anime/manga titles look to the past, or a future that looks like the past. Come discuss your favorites, where they do well and where liberties have been taken.
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Unlike last year, there were no big surprises on Thursday morning, so I was able to get off to the convention in good order, despite again mistaking which bus goes all the way to the end of the line.

Registration and Harmonic Convergence (the music room) switched locations this year, and since I had my pre-registration card handy, that went smoothly. I never did spend much time in the music room, so I can't say if it sounded better than the previous location.

The first panel I was on was "Diversity in Comics", starring Dwayne McDuffie (perhaps best known to the general public for his work with Static.) Also appearing was M. Nicholas Almand, creator of "Razor Kid." I seized the moderator position (with the permission of the other panelists) and mostly spent my time getting out of Mr. McDuffie's way, as he was clearly the most experienced with trying to get diversity into comics.

I'd also prepared a handout on comics that did diversity well--I hope a few of them got kept. Most of the discussion was nothing new to anyone who's seriously looked at diversity issues in comics, but there were a few people there who hadn't done that yet, and I hope they learned something useful.

Then it was off to the Crowne Plaza so I could register, drop off my clothes, and rush back downstairs for the next shuttle back to the Sheraton. Still frustrated by the fact that you can look directly across the freeway from one to the other, but it's a couple of country miles to actually get there.

The shuttle was somewhat delayed, which was something of a pattern for the next four days. But I still managed to get back in time for the Mark Time Radio Show (a little off this year) and opening ceremonies. The pass-around game was "the Cone of Shame", which those of you who've seen "Up" will recognize.

After that, I attended a panel on "The Horrible Humor of Joss Whedon." Got to see lots of Whedon-related hall costumes.

I made a short round of party rooms and then retired for the evening.

Unlike last year, my hotel room faced the parking lot, and the opaque curtains, unlike the ones at the Sheraton, turned out to be mere decorations, so the light level in the room was a bit much. Turns out I can't sleep wearing a mask, or at least not without being much much more tired, so it was a while before I dropped off.

First panel next morning I attended was "Free Online Games." I got a long list, and plugged "Billy vs. Snakeman."

A bit later, I was on the panel for "Gaming Etiquette." That was a mix of handy tips and horror stories. (When the *player* is using his hand crossbow to make his points, it's a bad thing.)

Then it was time for "Humor in Superhero Comics", which had the presence of Christopher Jones, the creator of ConVergence's mascot Connie, and artist on "Batman Strikes" and "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink." Lots of fun discussion of favorite funny bits.

I spent some time at the "Shiny New Anime" panel, but left early as I'd seen most of the clips at the last convention, and I wanted to get autographs from the Cinematic Titanic cast (formerly the MST3K cast.) In line I met a fellow who'd come all the way from northwest Canada specifically for the CT folks, this being his first SF convention ever. We whiled away our wait time by discussing conventions and I told him about some of the fun stuff to do. (Most of which does not require drinking alcohol, but some of which is presumably enhanced by it.)

Next up, it was time for the "Old Time Radio" panel, and the moderator graciously allowed me to open the panel with my prepared "radio announcement" bit. I got applauded for it, which is a nice feeling! One of the panelists had started working as a radio station engineer back in the 1950s, so he had some very interesting stories to tell. Other than that, it was mostly plugging favorite shows, and suggesting places to acquire OTR at least semi-legally.

And my fourth scheduled panel of the day was "Manga & Graphic Novels", where we talked about the differences and similarities of US and Japanese comics. I ranted a bit about the cancellation of Shojo Beat--while admittedly I wasn't always impressed with it, it did fill an important niche in the market.

Last panel attended for the evening was "Fan Fiction", which had as always a number of fanfic authors on it, some of whom have done this panel numerous times. The topic drifted off into slash perhaps a bit too often, but otherwise it was an interesting and informative discussion.

I had almost no time for parties before retiring, and was only halfway through the House of Toast line before I had to bolt for the entrance.

Saturday morning I attended the "Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons" panel. They're not completely dead, but they're in pretty sad shape at the moment, when most stations would rather show infomercials.

Next up, I was on the "Justice League" panel, again starring Mr. McDuffie, and also including Daniel Wallace, who helped write the DC and Marvel Encyclopedias. Naturally, the majority of questions fell to Mr. McDuffie again, and we drifted off into the sad state of the comic book industry overall for quite a while. I was moderator for this one too.

Afterwards, Mr. McDuffie was in the AV room, doing live commentary on a couple of the cartoon episodes he wrote. I'd seen the JLA appearance in Static Shock before, but not the JLU episode "Epilogue." Some tidbits about the former--it was originally pitched as a Teen Titans appearance, but their show wouldn't be airing yet by the time it was scheduled, and as you can imagine, there would have been some serious character design issues. And it wasn't an attempt to boost Static's street cred, but the other way around, since the Static Shock show was the second-highest rated cartoon at the time.

Then off to "Farewell David Tennant", as the panelists reminisced about their favorite Tenth Doctor moments and looked forward to the last few Tennant appearances.

That was followed by "Writing Horror in the Age of Saw." The panelist were mostly horror writers, natch. One thing pointed out was that the literary horror market and movie horror audience are actually not as overlapping as the SF literary and movie audiences. Which causes some difficulty for the horror writers when they attend horror movie conventions. The important thing, panelists agreed, was that you don't need to put in gore if the story doesn't call for it, but you shouldn't skimp on the gore if the story *does* call for it.

And "Silent Movies Worth Your Time", with several suggestions of merit, though it can be awfully hard to find one projected at the proper speed. While in theory the final lost reels of Metropolis have been found, the film stock is in such awful shape that it may not be restorable.

I skipped the Masquerade to check out the Cinema Apocalypse room, which showed "Ip Man", a heavily-fictionalized biography of the man who would eventually teach kung fu to Bruce Lee. It's pretty good, but the version shown did not subtitle the intertitles that gave historical background, so I couldn't spot more than what year the next scene was taking place. (Mind you, "the Japanese invade" was pretty obvious from the action.)

I had just enough time to finally get some toast (and for some reason sushi) from the House of Toast before I needed to be ready for the shuttle bus. Which was then ten minutes late as it had swung by the megamall first. The other passengers were interested by the costumed people hanging out and smoking.

Sunday morning, I packed up and checked out of the Crowne Plaza, and after breakfast in the Consuite went to the anime room to watch the Detective Conan movie. It wasn't too much of a mystery, although one minor recurring character was a red herring. (Behavior very odd for that person.)

I picked up my winnings from the Art Show and Silent Auction (since several items are scheduled as birthday/Christmas presents, I won't talk about them here.) Speaking of the art show, I've said in the past that I don't really buy a plain photograph of a nude woman as SF/fantasy "art." I've come to the conclusion that just slapping a color filter on it (with a "fantasyish" caption) isn't really that much more of a qualification. Having her hold a sword is more of a step in the right direction.

The first panel I managed to drag myself to was "Tieflings are Not a Player Race", an examination of 4th Edition D&D. As you might guess from the title, this was not a completely optimistic panel, though it was admitted that the latest edition is a fine miniatures tactics game. (And as one of the folks in Alarums & Excursions mentioned, it simulates the Voltron Blazing Sword Effect well.)

After that, "Epic Storyline Fatigue", with the encyclopedia writer mentioned above. Please let "Final Crisis" be it for line-wide universe reboot events for a while, okay DC?

I dropped in on "TV Shows on DVD and Blu-Ray", which had a bunch of release dates. Sadly, you should probably stock up now while you still can, as it looks like discs are on their way out to be replaced with digital media.

And finally, my last panel, "What's Wrong With Japan?" As moderator (yes, again, let's face it, I like being moderator), I declared that the title of the panel was incorrect, and it would be "Different and interesting things about Japanese culture" instead. No one got up to leave the room, which I was pleased by. We had several people who'd spent extended periods in Japan, thanks to teaching jobs. (Our token Japanese-American panelist admitted he'd only gone for brief vacations.) After the first general question, "One thing you find interesting about Japan not directly connected to manga or anime", the anecdotes easily filled the time with minimal need for more prompting.

Between all of this, naturally, I spent a lot of time greeting and conversing with old acquaintances, making new ones ("Wait! I know you, you're on the internet!") and people watching. My nephew had managed to get the weekend off at the last moment, and got to see his first SF convention ever--perhaps he'll post about it in his own LJ. (hint, hint :-)

Sadly, the Sheraton itself was not running shuttles to the airport or Mall this year, so I skipped closing ceremonies to be able to catch the bus downtown. Still, I had a grand old time. (Next year, I do need to have a room in the hotel proper or Sofitel.)

And this morning, I went in to have my filling installed. Still can't bite anything until the crown is put in later this month.

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