Thursday, December 31, 2015

Welcome to the 2015 Read 52 Books in 52 Week Challenge


Also the home of  Well Educated Mind, Around the World, A to Z, Dusty and Chunky  and various mini challenges.  

The rules are very simple and the goal is to read one book (at least) a week for 52 weeks.

  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. 
  2. Our book weeks will begin on Sunday 
  3. Except for our first week which will run from Thursday Jan 1 through Saturday Jan 10
  4. Participants may join at any time.
  5. All books are acceptable except children books.**
  6. All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc.
  7. Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2015.
  8. Books may overlap other challenges.
  9. Create an entry post linking to this blog. 
  10. Come back and sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" below this post.
  11. You don't have a blog to participate.  Post your weekly book in the comments section of each weekly post.  
  12. Mr. Linky will be added to the bottom of the weekly post for you to link to reviews of your most current reads. 
All the mini challenges are optional. Mix it up anyway you like. The goal is to read 52 books. How you get there is up to you. 

**in reference to children books. If it is a child whose reading it and involved in the challenge, then that's okay.  If an adult is doing read aloud with kids, the book should be geared for the 9 - 12 age group and above and over 100 pages. If adult reading for own enjoyment, then a good rule of thumb to go by "is there some complexity to the story or is it too simple?"  If it's too simple, then doesn't count.  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

BW31 - Analogical August

Courtesy of Pinterest and Beautyreform.com

Welcome to Analogical August and our theme of all things analogous and our author flavor of the month - Isabel Allende.  

Analogies, metaphors, and similes - oh my! 

 “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
― Truman Capote


If people were like rain, I was like drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska


 “A house without books is like a room without windows.”
― Horace Mann


Imagine my surprise when I went on line to look up analogical reasoning and got caught up in Stanford's Encylopedia of Philosophy.  Our theme this month will have us exploring trails that are long and narrow, wide and short or meandering through the backwoods and back roads, getting lost..... or found as the case may be. *grin*   Yes, I'm a fan of rabbit trails.  So whether you go the nonfiction or fiction route, you'll have much to choose from.

When you think of analogies, what authors spring to mind?  Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Tolkein or Bradbury? How about Rowling or our author flavor of the month, Isabel Allende.  



I've had The House of the Spirits on my shelves for quite a while, but as is the case with many of my books, never got around to reading the story. It is the first, her debut novel.  Since then, she has written over 20 novels, which have been translated into 35 languages and for which she has won many awards.  


The astonishing debut of a gifted storyteller, The House of the Spirits is both a symbolic family saga and the story of an unnamed Latin American country's turbulent history. Isabel Allende constructs a spirit-ridden world and fills it with colorful and all-too-human inhabitants, including Esteban, the patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess; Clara, the matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house and the Truebas; Blanca, their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father’s foreman fuels Esteban’s everlasting contempt, even as it produces the grandchild he adores; and Alba, the fruit of Blanca’s forbidden love, a luminous beauty and a fiery and willful woman.

The Trueba family's passions, struggles, and secrets span three generations and a century of violent change, culminating in a crisis that brings the proud and tyrannical patriarch and his beloved granddaughter to opposite sides of the barricades. Against a backdrop of revolution and counterrevolution, Allende brings to life a family whose private bonds of love and hatred are more complex and enduring than the political allegiances that set them at odds.


Check out her website for more information about her and her books, plus watch her TED talks on how to live a passionate life, as well as her foundation supporting women and children.

Join me in reading all things analogical and dive into one (or more) of Isabel Allende's magical stories. 


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History of the Medieval World
Chapter 35 Gregory the Great pp 572 - 604 

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

BW30 - Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley - Courtesy of Biography



It is the anniversary of the birth of British novelist Aldous Huxley, best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World.  He was a prolific writer and published many poems, short stories, essays, film adaptations and scripts.  Check out Somaweb.org, a compilation of links about Huxley and his philosophy, ideas, works and politics as well as all things Brave New Worldish.  Fascinating site which will keep you busy following rabbit trails for days.

I'll leave you with the beginning of Chapter 1 of Brave New World

       
A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

"And this," said the Director opening the door, "is the Fertilizing Room."

Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absent-minded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration. A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director's heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse's mouth. It was a rare privilege. The D. H. C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students round the various departments.

"Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently–though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.

"To-morrow," he would add, smiling at them with a slightly menacing geniality, "you'll be settling down to serious work. You won't have time for generalities. Meanwhile …"

Meanwhile, it was a privilege. Straight from the horse's mouth into the notebook. The boys scribbled like mad.

Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn't arise; in this year of stability, A. F. 632, it didn't occur to you to ask it.

"I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs.

Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction–"the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months' salary"; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop onto the specially warmed slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa–at a minimum concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted; and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and its contents re-examined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized, it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.  (Yes, this seems like the world's longest sentence, but it isn't)

"Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.
One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.

"Essentially," the D.H.C. concluded, "bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding."

Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.

He pointed. On a very slowly moving band a rack-full of test-tubes was entering a large metal box, another, rack-full was emerging. Machinery faintly purred. It took eight minutes for the tubes to go through, he told them. Eight minutes of hard X-rays being about as much as an egg can stand. A few died; of the rest, the least susceptible divided into two; most put out four buds; some eight; all were returned to the incubators, where the buds began to develop; then, after two days, were suddenly chilled, chilled and checked.

Two, four, eight, the buds in their turn budded; and having budded were dosed almost to death with alcohol; consequently burgeoned again and having budded–bud out of bud out of bud–were thereafter–further arrest being generally fatal–left to develop in peace. By which time the original egg was in a fair way to becoming anything from eight to ninety-six embryos– a prodigious improvement, you will agree, on nature. Identical twins–but not in piddling twos and threes as in the old viviparous days, when an egg would sometimes accidentally divide; actually by dozens, by scores at a time.

"Scores," the Director repeated and flung out his arms, as though he were distributing largesse. "Scores."

But one of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay.

"My good boy!" The Director wheeled sharply round on him. "Can't you see? Can't you see?" He raised a hand; his expression was solemn. "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!"

Major instruments of social stability.

Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

"Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!" The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. "You really know where you are. For the first time in history." He quoted the planetary motto. "Community, Identity, Stability." Grand words. "If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved."

Solved by standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.

"But, alas," the Director shook his head, "we can't bokanovskify indefinitely."

Ninety-six seemed to be the limit; seventy-two a good average. From the same ovary and with gametes of the same male to manufacture as many batches of identical twins as possible–that was the best (sadly a second best) that they could do. And even that was difficult.

"For in nature it takes thirty years for two hundred eggs to reach maturity. But our business is to stabilize the population at this moment, here and now. Dribbling out twins over a quarter of a century–what would be the use of that?"

Continue reading here.

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History of the Medieval World - Chapter 34 
Mayors of the Palaces  pp 246 - 254

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

BW29: Something Completely Different - Oulipo







Have you ever heard of an Oulipo?  I was recently introduced to the form during one of my writing classes and found it quite intriguing.   Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle or OULIPO was founded by French Mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau in 1960.   Basically it is introducing a constraint while writing a poem, creating a short story, or a lipogram.  

 My first experiment with creating an OULIPO using Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken was a big failure. I tried the N + 7 route which is replace the major nouns with another noun which is the 7th one below it, in the dictionary. However the first line ending up being Two robbers diverged in a women. After I stopped laughing and got over my hot flash, tried a few variations but it just wasn’t working. Then I got the bright idea to take book titles and transform them into a story, but got as far as a weird poem.



Death Comes
Brightly Burning
Across the Endless River
On the Night Road.


Dark Shadows
In the Woods
Scream for Me,
On the Night Road.


Flashback
Phantom
Rainwater
Dark Harbor.


The Door Within
All Through The Night
Vanished
A World I Never Made.


Midnight
A Lethal Harvest
Watcher in the Woods
Shoot Him if He Runs.


Forgotten Garden
Born in Fire
Icebound
Thunder of Heaven.


Blink
Shadow of Doubt
Rivers Edge
Never Go Back.

 
Brilliance of the Moon
A Walk in the Woods
The Brink of Dawn
On the Night Road.

 
Infinite Days
The Silent Gift
Everything Beautiful Began Again.
On the Night Road.




I experimented with a serial sentences short story by  picking random books and plugging together a bunch of sentences. I gave myself a constraint. I started with ten books of varying lengths. Started with book one, chapter one, line one...book two, chapter two, line two, and so on up to line 25. Then I started over again at line one at chapter 25 and so on. I kept going until I ran out of chapters, setting aside books as ran out of chapters and continue until used up all the books. I juggled the sentences a bit in order for things to make a modicum of sense and was mostly successful. All from well known mystery authors.  Below is a shortened version because the original was 99 sentences.


The engine fired with a smooth rumble. The car remained still. The long straight highway just beyond the gas station cut across an alluvial fan that spread gracefully down the mountains to the desert floor. Score watched the deputy go to the escalade and circle his finger, silently telling the Breck woman to lower her window.

“Tell Red Hill to get the hell out of my way.” He sounded excited and definitive.


“I’m not leaving Leland.” She said.


“You don’t get it, do you? He’s up that tree. I left him two messages.”

 
And so had I. Two from Dorothy, confirming that she’d been able to rent all the equipment and uniforms I asked for.


“Right.”


“Oh man,” Jensen said. My uniform was identical, except that I was wearing a dark blue trucker cap that also said HVAC of Reston on the front. Careful he told himself. He popped the last of the fritos in his mouth.


***


Score looked at his schedule, swore under his breath, and wished he knew what the Breck girl was up to. Now that St. Kilda was off the board, arranging the downfall of the Clever Ms. Breck would be a pure pleasure. He sat down at his desk and fought against the kind of burp that made his eyes water.


Hastily, he said, “I’m kinda like—I like to leave that kind of stuff to others you know?”


“Yeah Grandpa Hank,” He confirmed.


He didn’t fancy his chances of walking away from that kind of op free, much less alive. Maybe he realized that things had changed in Washington, that the new administration didn’t want to do business with him. And just when they’re sure they’ve got it figured out, it’s over and they’ve been totally fooled.


“I want to present it to him as a complete package.”


“Got it,” Zach said. “But I’ll get back to you once I do.”


We left our interview room—which was beginning to freak me out a little, all those round watching eyes; I told myself this was a good sign—and went into the observation chamber to see how Sam was getting on.


“No I’m better now.” She waved an oak accordion file and fought back a sneeze. She placed a folder within easy reach of the table.


I nodded.


“She’s had a bad f’ing day, made all the worse by the fact her own brother wasn’t there when she needed him.”



My challenge to you this week is to create an OULIPO.  It can be a N + 7, a poem created from book title, serial sentences or whatever your imagination dreams up.  Find out more about OULIPO's here, here and here.   Have fun! 

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History of the Medieval World -  Chapter 33 Two Emperors pp 237 - 245 

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

BW28: Learning through History and Writing

Jonathan Wolstenhome
I've been knee deep searching for curriculum for next school year.  My son will be studying World History for 10th grade which means, like the picture above, I've been researching and following a lot of rabbit trails the past few weeks.  He loves history, especially the World War II era and has been following his own rabbit trails the past year.  I'm hoping to engage his sense of curiosity in regards to other eras as well.   I stumbled upon W.W. Norton's website and fell in love.  I discovered Worlds Together, Worlds Apart and after a short debate with myself decided to go for it.  Along with an Anthology of Western Literature.  *sigh*   

Since he loves history and loves to write, followed a meandering path to A Pocket Guide to Writing In History



As well as John Lewis Gaddis' The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past and Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers: A History of man's Search to Know His World and Himself.  Fortunately, he enjoys reading non fiction which has opened my eyes to some very interesting books which I would have never considered before. 

Finally decided since he is so into history, to include a bit of Art history as well.  I don't know if any of you have reading books from the Dummies series. They are kind of hit and miss depending on the subject.  We recently started reading  Art History for Dummies after dinner and it's more enjoyable than Stokard's mammoth Art History book. Sorry Marilyn.  However, I couldn't resist getting Gombrich's The Story of Art:





For my own personal amusement and education, I am reading Dinty Moore's  The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers.  Yes, I know, quite wordy but what do you expect from writers. *grin*   

What have you been studying lately? 


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History of the Medieval World - Chapter 32 South Indian Kings  pp 231 - 236

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

BW27: Jubilant July - Charming and enchanting






Welcome to Jubilant July and our theme of charming and enchanting plus our author flavor of the month - Tracy Chevalier.

What does charming and enchanting make you think of?  Southern Belles, Fairy tales, bewitching vixens, dashing alpha males, or mystical, magical tales or fantasy heroes.   We could go any route - whether it be cozy mysteries, retold fairy tales, southern gothics or historical fiction to name a few.  See what tickles your funny bone and enjoy following a few rabbit trails. 

One of which leads us to Tracy Chevalier  who is currently working on a retelling of Othello as well as organizing events and editing a short story anthology in honor to and in celebration of Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday in 2016.  I think Chevalier is best know for her story The Girl with the Pearl Earring although she has written several novels including The Lady and the Unicorn and a story revolving around William Blake - Burning Bright.

Join me this month is reading all things charming and enchanting, plus I'll be diving into The Girl with the Pearl Earring. 


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History of the Medieval World - Chapter 31 Reunification pp 223 - 230

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

BW26: halfway there!



Can you believe we are halfway through the year already?  Amazing.  I am going to round out our Judicious June celebration with some legal non fiction. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a paralegal which lead to some interesting reading on ethics and law.  Heady stuff, always interesting to read, although a bit scary at times.  My studies lead me away from the legal field, however it taught to me always dig deeper and never forget to read the fine print.   Followed a few rabbit trails this week and discovered a few interesting non fiction books read by our chief justices and highlighted on the SCOTUS Blog book review.


Check out Ronald Collins book column on new and forthcoming books which is chock full of current and historical novels.
Nixon's Court

I've stumbled across quite a few fiction authors who were lawyers once upon a time and wrote about their experiences including Scott Turow on his first year in law school.




Then we have suggested reading lists for prospective and current law students which include the ever popular To Kill a Mockingbird along with Scott Turow's One L mentioned above as well as legal writing books, jurisprudence, historical and biographical.  Yes, your wishlists are going to just get bigger as you peruse these selections.  Have fun following a few rabbit trails.



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History of the Medieval World
 Chapter 30 The Heavenly Sovereign pp 215 - 222 

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

BW25: Summer is here!




Happy Summer!


Welcome to Summer and happy Father's day to all our dads.  I love Ella Fitzgerald and just had to share her rendition of Summertime.  Enjoy! 

Summer is a time to be lazy, rest and relax. Enjoy the beach, take a hike along the water or along a forest trail.  Maybe hit the road and explore or perhaps fly somewhere special with your special someones.  Or, we can just stay home and curl up with a good book or two or three.   I've had a couple weeks of my kid's summer lazies and already working up some summer lessons to keep us all from going crazy.  

So my task for you this week is to pick out one word that represents summer, get out your rusty, trusty thesaurus for a synonym and see if you can find a book in your stacks to match.  Have fun! 

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History of the Medieval World - Chapter 29 Pestilence pp 203 - 214

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

BW24: Bookish Birthdays and what not!



It's been a while for bookish birthdays and book news, so here we go:

June 13:  William Butler Yeats - Irish poet and Dorothy L. Sayers - mystery novelist

June 14:  Harriet Beecher Stowe - best known for Uncle Tom's Cabin and John Bartlett - Editor and best known for his Bartlett Quotations

June 15:  Brian Jacques - Redwall series

June 16: John Howard Griffin - author of Black like me and Joyce Carol Oates - American Author

June 17:  Everhardus Johannes Potgieter - Dutch Poet and Henry Lawson - Australian Poet

June 18:  Chris Van Allsburg - children story writer and Phillip Barry -  best known for Philadelphia Story.

June 19:  Blaise Pascal - French philosopher and Thomas Buchan - Scottish Poet

June 20:  Vikram Seth - Indian novelist and  William Chestnut - African American Folklore



Flavorwire - 50 Essential Mystery Novels that Everyone Should Read

Addictive Books - Top 100 Thrillers of All Time

Worlds Best Detective and Murder Mystery Books

Mystery Novels from Around the World



Have fun following rabbit trails and adding to your wishlists! 

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History of the Medieval World 
Chapter 28 Great and Holy Majesty pp 193 - 202 

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

BW23: Legal Thrillers by Brad Meltzer

The Tenth Justice


You know how they say a writer's first novel isn't always the best.  Whoever they are, aren't always right. I'm a huge fan of thrillers ones that get your heart pounding, fingernail nibbling, break out in cold sweats action type of stories.  From John Grishman to Lisa Scottoline to Jeffrey Deaver to Dan Brown (hush now) to Dean Koontz and all those in between.   A few years back I picked up Brad Meltzer's first novel The Tenth Justice and it totally blew me away.  I couldn't put it down. 


Synopsis:  Twenty-six-year-old Columbia Law grad Brad Meltzer makes a firecracker debut with a novel that will challenge your expectations of the legal thriller. With dialogue as true as it is sharp-witted, characters as likable as they are familiar, and a plot so addictive it will keep you reading into the night, The Tenth Justice is the one thriller you and your friends won’t be able to stop talking about this year—from an undeniably original writer you’ll be following for years to come.

Fresh from Yale Law, Ben Addison is a new clerk for one of the Supreme Court’s most respected justices. Along with his co-clerk, Lisa, Ben represents the best of the fledging legal community: sharp, perfectionistic, and painstakingly conscientious—but just as green. So when he inadvertently reveals the confidential outcome of an upcoming Court decision, and one of the parties to the case makes millions, Ben starts to sweat. Big time.

Ben confides in Lisa and turns to his D.C. housemates for help. They offer up their coveted insiders’ access—Nathan works at the State Department, Eric reports for a Washington daily, and Ober is an assistant to a leading senator—to help outsnake the blackmailer who holds Ben’s once-golden future hostage. But it’s not long before these inseparable pals discover how dangerous their misuse of power can be, even when accompanied by the very best of intentions. And when a suspicious leak develops from within their own circle, Ben and his friends find themselves pitted against each other in a battle of shifting alliances and fierce deceptions that strikes to the weaknesses in their friendships, threatens to ruin their careers—and ultimately may cost them their lives.


Which then lead me to The Millionaires


The Millionaires


It started as the perfect crime. Then it took a turn for the worse.

Charlie and Oliver Caruso are brothers who work at Greene & Greene, a private bank so exclusive you need two million dollars just to be a client. But when the door of success slams in their faces, they’re faced with an offer they can’t refuse: three million dollars in an abandoned account. No one knows it exists, and even better, it doesn’t belong to anyone.

It’s a foolproof crime. More importantly, for Charlie and Oliver, it’s a way out of debt and the key to a new life. All they have to do is take the money.

But when they do, they discover they’ve got a lot more on their hands than the prize. Before they can blink, a friend is dead—and the bank, the Secret Service, and a female private investigator are suddenly closing in. What invisible strings were attached to that account? How are they going to prove they’re innocent? And why is the Secret Service trying to kill them? Trapped in a breakneck race to stay alive, Charlie and Oliver are about to discover a secret that will test their trust and forever change their lives.


Which of course then lead to The Zero Game:

Zero Game



Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler are playing a mysterious game. It’s a game almost no one knows about—not their friends, not their co-workers, and certainly not their bosses, who are some of the most powerful Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill.

It’s a game that has everything: risk, reward, mystery, and the thrill of knowing that—just by being invited to play—you’ve confirmed your status as a true power broker in Washington.

But as Matthew and Harris quickly discover, the Zero Game is hiding a secret so explosive, it will shake Washington to its core. And when one player turns up dead, a dedicated young staffer will find himself relying on a tough, idealistic seventeen-year-old Senate page to help keep him alive…as he plays the Zero Game to its heart-pounding end.

  So, if you love thrillers and books about law and lawyers and judges, be sure to check out Brad Meltzer. In addition to writing books (including nonfiction, children and comic books), he also hosts Lost History on H2 and Decoded on the History channel.


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History of the Medieval World
Chapter 26 - Invasion and Eruption pp 180 - 185 
Chapter 27 - The Americas pp 186 - 192 

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

BW22: Judicious June

Josephine Walls Libra


Welcome to Judicious June and our theme of all things prudent, perceptive and perspicacious and our author flavor of the month - Alexandre Dumas.

We are taking a total 180 away from the cunning and conniving of Machiavellian works to concentrate on the sharp and savvy, the bright and brainy, the clever and the crafty. The door is wide open open for courtroom and legal thrillers, mystery and detective novels, as well as historical and classic novels.

Which leads us to Alexandre Dumas. He is a french historian, author and playwright who is best known for his stories - Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask as well as an assortment of other stories. Dumas was born on July 24, 1802, in Villers-CotterĂȘts, France, to Marie Louise Labouret and General Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie. His father was the first black general in Napoleon's army, nicknamed the 'black devil' by Bonaparte and his exploits are the basis for The Three Musketeers.


Join me in reading all things legal and thrilling and the works of Alexandre Dumas.


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 History of the Medieval World 
 Chapter 25 Elected Kings pp 172 - 179 

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

BW21: G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Happy Birthday to G.K. Chesterton, an English writer who was born on May 29, 1874 and died at the age of 62 on June 14, 1936. He has written many essays on democracy, religion, philosophy and religion as well as writing.  Today I'll leave you with his essay "The Ideal Detective Story " originally printed in Illustrated London News October 25, 1930


There has been some renewal of debate on the problem of the problem story; sometimes called the police novel, because it now consists chiefly of rather unjust depreciation of the police. I see that Father Ronald Knox has written a most interesting introduction to a collection of tales of the kind; and Mrs. Carolyn Wells, the author of an admirable mystery called “Vicky Van, ” has reissued a study on the subject. There is one aspect of the detective story which is almost inevitably left out in considering the detective stories. 

That tales of this type are generally slight, sensational, and in some ways superficial, I know better than most people, for I have written them myself. If I say there is in the abstract something quite different, which may be called the Ideal Detective Story, I do not mean that I can write it. I call it the Ideal Detective Story because I cannot write it. Anyhow, I do think that such a story, while it must be sensational, need not be superficial. In theory, though not commonly in practice, it is possible to write a subtle and creative novel, of deep philosophy and delicate psychology, and yet cast it in the form of a sensational shocker.

The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool. At the end of more philosophic works he may wish to feel a philosopher. But the former view of himself may be more wholesome – and more correct. The sharp transition from ignorance may be good for humility. It is very largely a matter of the order in which things are mentioned, rather than of the nature of the things themselves. 

The essence of a mystery tale is that we are suddenly confronted with a truth which we have never suspected and yet can see to be true. There is no reason, in logic, why this truth should not be a profound and convincing one as much as a shallow and conventional one. There is no reason why the hero who turns out to be a villain, or the villain who turns out to be a hero, should not be a study in the living subtleties and complexities of human character, on a level with the first figures in human fiction. 

It is only an accident of the actual origin of these police novels that the interest of the inconsistency commonly goes no further than that of a demure governess being a poisoner, or a dull and colourless clerk painting the town red by cutting throats. There are inconsistencies in human nature of a much higher and more mysterious order, and there is really no reason why they should not be presented in the particular way that causes the shock of a detective tale. There is electric light as well as electric shocks, and even the shock may be the bolt of Jove. 

It is, as I have said, very largely a matter of the mere order of events. The side of the character that cannot be connected with the crime has to be presented first; the crime has to be presented next as something in complete contrast with it; and the psychological reconciliation of the two must come after that, in the place where the common or garden detective explains that he was led to the truth by the stump of a cigar left on the lawn or the spot of red ink on the blotting-pad in the boudoir. But there is nothing in the nature of things to prevent the explanation, when it does come, being as convincing to a psychologist as the other is to a policeman.

For instance, there are several very great novels in which characters behave with what might well be called a monstrous and terrible inconsistency. I will merely take two of them at random. By the end of the book we are successfully convinced that so very sympathetic a woman as Tess of the D’Urbervilles has committed a murder. By the end of the book we are (more or less) convinced that so very sympathetic a woman as Diana of the Crossways has betrayed a political secret. I say more or less, because in this latter case I confess to finding it, so far as I am concerned, an example of less. 

I do not understand what Diana Merion was doing in the TIMES office I do not understand what Meredith meant her to be doing; but I suppose Meredith understood. Anyhow, we may be certain that his reason was, if anything, too subtle, and not, as in the common sensational story, too simple. In any case, broadly speaking, we follow the careers of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Diana of the Crossways until we admit that those characters have committed those crimes. 

There is no sort of reason why the story should not be told in the reverse order; in an order in which those crimes should first appear utterly inconsistent with those characters, and be made consistent by a description that should come at the end like a revelation. Somebody else might first be suspected of betraying the secret or slaying the man. I suppose nothing would have turned Hardy aside from hounding Tess to the gallows, though it might have been some gloomy comfort to him to have hanged somebody who had not murdered anybody.

But many of Meredith’s characters might have betrayed a secret. Only it seems possible that they might have told the secret in such an ingenious style of wit that it remained a secret after all. I know that there has been of late a rather mysterious neglect of Meredith, to balance what seems to me (I dare to confess) the rather exaggerated cult of Hardy. But, anyhow, there are older and more obvious examples than either of these two novelists.

There is Shakespeare, for instance: he has created two or three extremely amiable and sympathetic murderers. Only we can watch their amiability slowly and gently merging into murder. Othello is an affectionate husband who assassinates his wife out of sheer affection, so to speak. But as we know the story from the first, we can see the connection and accept the contradiction. But suppose the story opened with Desdemona found dead, Iago or Cassio suspected, and Othello the very last person likely to be suspected. 

In that case, “Othello” would be a detective story. But it might be a true detective story; that is, one consistent with the true character of the hero when he finally tells the truth. Hamlet, again, is a most lovable and even peaceable person as a rule, and we pardon the nervous and slightly irritable gesture which happens to have the result of sticking an old fool like a pig behind a curtain. 

But suppose the curtain rises on the corpse of Polonius, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern discuss the suspicion that has immediately fallen on the First Player, an immoral actor accustomed to killing people on the stage; while Horatio or some shrewd character suspects another crime of Claudius or the reckless and unscrupulous Laertes. Then “Hamlet” would be a shocker, and the guilt of Hamlet would be a shock. But it might be a shock of truth, and it is not only sex novels that are shocking. 

These Shakespearean characters would be none the less coherent and all of a piece because we brought the opposite ends of the character together and tied them into a knot. The story of Othello might be published with a lurid wrapper as “The Pillow Murder Case.” But it might still be the same case; a serious case and a convincing case. The death of Polonius might appear on the bookstalls as “The Vanishing Rat Mystery,” and be in form like an ordinary detective story. Yet it might be The Ideal Detective Story.

Nor need there be anything vulgar in the violent and abrupt transition that is the essential of such a tale. The inconsistencies of human nature are indeed terrible and heart-shaking things, to be named with the same note of crisis as the hour of death and the Day of Judgment. They are not all fine shades, but some of them very fearful shadows, made by the primal contrast of darkness and light. Both the crimes and the confessions can be as catastrophic as lightning. Indeed, The Ideal Detective Story might do some good if it brought men back to understand that the world is not all curves, but that there are some things that are as jagged as the lightning-flash or as straight as the sword.


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History of the Medieval World - Chapter 24 Resentment pp 165 - 171

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