Friday, August 30, 2013

The Silk Road, A New History

The Silk Road, A New History –by Valerie Hansen

304 Pages
Footnotes / Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: No*
4 Stars

This is a well-written book about a subject that has long intrigued me, The Silk Road – which really wasn't. At least it was not a single road, it was several roads, and none of them were called The Silk Road. The term Silk Road was given to the various caravan routes in the late 1800s, if I remember correctly.

Ms. Hansen has obviously spent a great deal of time researching her book, and writing it. She takes us from oasis to oasis, and tells us who and what really travelled on the various roads. They were not major routes for huge caravans carrying silks and spices and valuable gems. Instead, they were, for the most part, used as routes from one oasis to the next. Caravans were usually quite small, travel was hard and dangerous.

China, and the various kingdoms kept track of who and what entered and exited their territories. All people, animals, and goods were recorded, as well as detailed itineraries of where they were going, where they would stop, what their business was. Most of the trade was local.

There are several maps, which I found fascinating to read, and will go back to them often. I would hate to try to read them on an eReader. In fact, they would be difficult to impossible to read on one, I think, unless one read them in sections and not as a whole.

The illustrations are well done, and explained. There are drawings, black and white photographs, and several plates of color photos, which I found almost as intriguing as the maps. It would be a shame to lose the beauty in an ebook.

*My biggest complaint is the lack of footnotes and the use of endnotes. I really hate having to flip and flap the pages to find what chapter I'm reading, then find the damn endnote that I'm looking for to see if it's merely a citation or something worth reading, then go back to the page I was reading in the first place. Unfortunately, she used her endnotes for both citations and interesting information, much of which I missed because I got too frustrated with the flipping and flapping. I rant on the subject, and I know it, but I can find no socially redeeming value to endnotes. (Some ebooks are hot-linked to the endnote/footnote, but frequently they are not linked back to the text, and hitting the 'last' button doesn't get you their either.)

Anyone interested in the history of the Silk Road will find this book fascinating. Especially if they don't read in bed, like I do, and don't mind double bookmarks to easily find the endnotes. (My bookmarks kept falling out.)

Catawba: Omens, Prayers & Songs

Catawba: Omens, Prayers & Songs – by A. Poulin, Jr.

32 Pages
Footnotes / Endnotes: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
5 Stars

This is a small book of poems published in 1977 by The Graywolf Press, Port Townsend, Washington. It is, unfortunately, out of print, but there are used copies to be found, and they are worth the effort to find.

In his prefatory note, Voice of a Language That Is Gone, Mr. Poulin wrote, "These are neither translations nor workings of original poems. Rather, I look upon them as "given poems" written while I was reading Frank G. Speck's Catawba Texts (Columbia University Press, 1934; A MS Press, Inc., 1969.)"

When I first heard of this book, I despaired of ever finding a copy, and when I did find it, I was thrilled beyond measure, for I am part Catawba, and this book has brought my people and me closer together.

One of my favorites is Melon Patch. I think it, or the poem opposite, was the favorite of the person who owned it before me, for the book opened to that page when I unwrapped it. If you enjoy poetry and Native American culture, look for this book.

Melon Patch

the land was good
I planted a melon patch
I drove sticks all around it
someone came to steal my melons
all my sticks turned into snakes

Friday, August 16, 2013

Billy The Goat Helps His Father

40 Billy The Goat Helps His Father –by Dustin Ross

Children's Book
Color Illustrations
Suitable for eReaders
5 Stars

I've gone years without reading children's stories, and suddenly I've read two in almost as many days. I'd forgotten how wonderful they can be.

Dustin Ross has come upon a great protagonist, Billy the Goat, and it looks like there will be several in the series as he Helps His Father, Meets the Dentist, and more.

In this story, young Billy wants to know where people go when they go to work, so his father takes him to work the next morning and explains how he is an electrician and what his job is. He explains to Billy it is a dangerous job for those not trained, and that electricity should be treated with respect.

Dustin does not lecture in this book, just shows, in his gentle and whimsical style, the teaching of children about life. His art is delightful and fun, and every page is in color.

If you have a child you read to, this is a marvelous book. Some of the words may be a little 'old' but in my opinion that's pure goodness. And if you have a child who reads, this one is perfect. Books should always stretch the imagination and the mind and reinforce good manners.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Winds of Change

The Winds of Change –by Orland Ned Eddins

Novel, Historical
336 Pages
Footnotes / Endnotes: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
4 Stars

This is the sequel to Mountains of Stone, which was a delightful surprise. The story goes to page 255, the rest of the pages are interesting little statements of trivia for the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, Mountain Men, etc.

Winds of Change is about the end of life as The People new it, how the white man would come, and came, to change their way of life forever.

Broken Knife is the protagonist, and learns through a vision from his deceased Indian father, Lame Bear, that great change is coming, and he must help The People. He does not specify tribe, and Broken Knife and his wife, Whispering Wind, befriend many of The People from different tribes.

Broken Knife's paternal grandfather, a Marquis in France, died and left him a title and fortune, which he uses to benefit The People as much as he can. There is a lot of history packed into this novel, and at times it becomes difficult to read. A bit like trying to drink champagne from a fire hose. It tastes great, but is almost too much too fast.

Mr. Eddins uses footnotes liberally, which I appreciate not end. (I hate endnotes with a passion!) The footnotes are used for short, informative explanations of things such as place names. He uses the old names in the story, and tells us in a footnote what/where it is today. Since I am planning a road trip through much of that territory next month, I found the footnotes of particular interest.

I do with the Addenda had been placed at the end of the book rather than at the ends of the chapters. Although very interesting, they often were of a later time, and tended to throw me out of the narrative somewhat. I also wish he had used the services of a good Copy Editor. The placement of the Addenda and lack of copy editing is what brought this from a 5 Star to a 4 Star. Still, I highly recommend the book, especially if you are interested in the history of 1811-1812 in the Far West.

One note about both of the books I've read by Mr. Eddins that is, in my opinion, worthy of note, is that he treats The People (Indians) with a great deal of respect and empathy but does not make them victims of the times.

Like Mountains of Stone, if you buy this book from the author, you will receive a DVD of magnificent photography of the area in the story.