The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis

I’m going to assume that you know the basic story of the Donner Party.  Just in case, here is the Wikipedia article; it’s fantastic. I also had a pretty good grasp of their story before reading Michael Wallis’s recent book about them, The Best Land Under Heaven. So, did I learn anything? Was the book worth reading? Yes, and mostly yes. The full extent of what … Continue reading The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

This review contains spoilers. You’re welcome. A book about the Donner Party ought to be a page-turner.  The Wikipedia article on them is fascinating reading.  Take what is already an inherently compelling story, add in a supernatural element and you should have a very entertaining book.  That’s all I was expecting.  Something unnatural is stalking the Donner Party, an evil they cannot see, killing them … Continue reading The Hunger by Alma Katsu

A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements

Jonathan Clements book A Brief History of the Vikings is very old school history, very one event after another.  Lots of successions of rulers and records of who won and who lost various battles. It was just the thing to pass the time I spent last week riding the ferry boat back and forth between my home and San Francisco where I was taking a class … Continue reading A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements

Three Projects This Week

I had a productive week this week–completed three projects in my studio, even though I spent way too much time binge watching season four of Unreal.   You can skip season four of Unreal by the way, even if you are a big fan like me. They really should have stopped after three.  And I should have known since it was one of those reduced-to-just-eight-episodes seasons. The first … Continue reading Three Projects This Week

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Heathcliff is Miss Havisham. I don’t know how many times I have read Wuthering Heights, but it’s been a few.  More than three at least.  I’m a fanboy. I read it again on Monday as my way of celebrating Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday.  I honestly thought there would be more hoopla; maybe a public read-a-loud somewhere. But if it was going to be just me, then … Continue reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer

Out of ten members two loved it, three hated it and five liked it in an ambivalent sort of way. Most people had serious trouble with at least one of the characters and a few plot elements. I always say that if the group is arguing over something like the finer points of California’s community property laws, then there’s a bigger problem with the book. … Continue reading The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer

Recovering Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

One of my sometime hobbies is bookbinding. Over the years I have gotten pretty good at it thanks to many courses at the San Francisco Center for the Book, Kevin Smith’s many volumes on non-adhesive book binding and lots of practice. Last year, one of the instructors at SFCB mentioned that paperback books published in the 1960s and 1970’s were often sewn together rather than … Continue reading Recovering Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding by Dorothy Ko

I often tell my students that reading is like swimming, the only way to get better at it is to do it.  Which is only partially true.  If you really want to get better at swimming, and at reading, you need to push yourself to perform at a higher rate than you typically do. Sometimes, you need a coach. Sometimes you need to challenge yourself. … Continue reading Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding by Dorothy Ko

Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall

None of this is true, what we were told in history class if you’re my age,  but the story goes like this… When Moctezuma, the Aztec Emperor met Conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1519, he thought the Spaniard was the god Quetzalcoatl returned to fulfill a prophecy ending the empire.  Though he had just  a few soldiers with him, Cortez was able to use superior armor and guns … Continue reading Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall