Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior - A New History by John Man

Nonfiction / History  

320 pages / 1674 KB
5 Stars

I have read most of John Man's books, and thoroughly enjoyed them. As a historian, he knows how to do his research, as a travel writer, he knows how to make the places come alive on the page. If you're looking for a text book, go to another book. If you're looking for some interesting history and tidbits on Japan and the Ninja, this is the book for you.

There are footnotes scattered throughout. They are real footnotes at the bottom, or foot, of the page, not the abomination sweeping the publishing world called endnotes where you may or may not find them at the end of the chapter or book.

My biggest take away from the book was the difference between Ninja and Samurai. Ninja (who, by the way, preferred dark blue rather than black clothing) had the idea it was better to live and fight another day. Samurai prefer an honorable death at any cost.

Why, you may ask, did the Ninja prefer dark blue to black? It blends in with shadows better on a bright moonlight night. And most Ninja were farmers, and most farmers wore dark (indigo) blue clothing.

A lot of questions I had, some I hadn't realized I had, were answered in this easily read and very enjoyable book. Remember, this is not a textbook filled with dates and names and dry facts. Man is a travel writer, who is also a historian, and combines the two well. This book is a nice trip to Japan—both past and present and highly recommended.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Year 1000 --by R. Lacey & D. Danziger

The Year 1000 What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium – An Englishman's World —by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger

Nonfiction / History, England
240 pages
5 Stars

I truly enjoyed this book. It is not a detailed history, but more a 'History Lite,' of the times and people in the year 1000 in Engla-lond. Based on the Julius Work Calendar, it describes what went on in daily life month by month.

The authors are not historians, but rather journalists who did their homework. Perhaps that is why it is so readable.

The weather was considerably warmer, certain foods were available then, several common ones did not come on the scene for a few hundred years. Many towns and or villages were named with a suffix showing their origin as either English or Norse, and were often interspersed. The towns today carry the same names. Macbeth was a real king who also had better luck of keeping the Vikings out of Scotland than the English had of keeping them out of England.

Armies and battles were to be avoided at all costs, and when they could not be avoided, were relatively quiet. The farmer just a couple miles away would have been totally unaware of it and gone about his business.

Buttons did not yet exist but rudimentary brain surgery did. Dolphins acted as weather forecasters, at least on the coast and there was a recipe for Viagra that long ago;-)

If you want lots of dates and details and facts, just the facts, try another book by an Historian. If you want an enjoyable read with some interesting details, try this one, you'll like it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Courtlight Series Boxed Set (Books 1, 2, 3) —by Terah Edun

fiction / fantasy  

731 pages / 3539 KB
3 Stars

I 'bought' the boxed set for free. I got what I paid for. Terah Edun has a great imagination, and with a good editor, she'd have some terrific stories. She gets 3 stars from me because that's the average of an almost 5 star storyline and a 1 star grammar line.

The books almost read like a first draft, though I'll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Ciardis, our heroine, is an orphan and grows up scrappy in order to survive. A Companion comes to town and takes her to the Guild to be trained as another Companion. The training fell flat in many areas, Ciardis was always being told to watch herself, but no one ever explained HOW or WHY she needed to act, only that she needed to change. No one really explained to her (or the reader) what a Companion was, either. A Broodmare? A 'Trophy' wife? Someone to accompany the highest bidder to the ball? A Helpmeet? Lots of hints but nothing concrete. She reads the dossiers of her 'suitors' but what is she looking for? And why?

On her 18th birthday, her magic powers come to fruition. She is a powerful mage, and again, is not given the training she needs, just told she needs to behave herself.

Outside of the grammar mistakes on nearly every page, the biggest problem for me was there was no cost to any of the mages for the use of their magic. Only the Prince Heir, at the last, paid a price for his magic. Magic was so freely used in these stories it became, well, mundane.

There were characters introduced who disappeared, characters I would have enjoyed seeing more of, especially the dragons.

A lot of action, but not all of it explained well. A lot of Ciardis acting like a snot-nosed brat, a lot of her going off on her own. She doesn't grow much, and she doesn't pay much of a price for it. Oh, she's on the death list of someone, but we know she'll survive.

Some romance, but not a novel of romance. Ciardis, the orphan discovers she has a brother, and then discovers her mother still lives, but has lived while hiding in plain sight.

If you like high fantasy, don't mind some of the plot holes, and can deal with the grammar errors, I'll recommend this set, especially at the price. I think this author has a lot to offer, especially if she teams with a good editor.