Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

Napoleon: A Life

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

If there was a gif that summed me up with this book, it would be this:

Basically, I literally know nothing about Napoleon. For most of the book, I legitimately thought that Napoleon was a part of the original Revolutionary government and then he weaved through to the top or was at the top for a while. That’s why I was always super confused when I read about Marie Antoinette and why they never mentioned Napoleon. All because I never really looked into post-revolutionary topics since I just like dear Marie.

This book, alas, is not for a noob such as myself. It’s about 1000 pages long and I listened to it. If I had been reading it, I may have given up and shelved it under a book I’m pausing for whatever reason. There were just so many names, some were important and some weren’t. It covered basically everything about Napoleon. I would have been much happier with a book only about his childhood or rising through the ranks or his downfall or his marriages and affairs. It came down to me literally knowing no names and having to try to get everything down.

My caveat is that this book is well-written. It truly is, and Roberts tackles this huge topic very well. Even though I had no clue who some people were, I could keep track of most things and make some connections to an earlier part of the book. The biggest thing was that this book challenged my view of Napoleon. I’ve always heard of him as a horrible man and no one really liked him, but, really, he seemed pretty decent and respected people no matter what rank they were. Sure, I don’t agree with his land grabs, but he wasn’t some demon antichrist I’ve heard for most of my life.

While I wouldn’t recommend this book for a beginner, I do think it’s something valuable that people who actually have background knowledge to read or have in their collection of books about him.

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Blogging + College = ???: Grad School, Part Two

(Caidyn)

Good news and bad news, guys. Which do you want to hear first? … Wait, you guys can’t respond so I guess I’ll go with good news.

I asked two professors if they’ll be my recommendations and both of them said yes! Now I just need to ask one more and I’m pretty sure he’ll say yes no matter what. Mainly because he’s my advisor and he ought to expect it from me.

Now, bad news. I’ve gone back on my earlier statement that I’ll only be applying to KU. All because one of my recommendations talked with me (she’s a huge proponent about psych students getting MSWs) and finally convinced me to look more into UMKC’s program. So, I may apply there as a back-up depending on what they want me to do.

That’s basically where I am. Went from one college to two, and now I’m at two out of three professors saying yes. I just need to sign some release forms so they can discuss academics and send them short paragraphs so they know my intention for college. However, I don’t have to do that for a few more weeks.

And now I’m going to go back to sleep because I’m beat.

Vanilla by Billy Merrell

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(Caidyn)

1/5
DNF at 9%

Hedwig disapproves.

I’m reviewing this book so quickly after DNFing because I want it off of my currently reading shelf. I don’t want it there and I’m getting rid of it as fast as possible. So, this book is currently unpublished, however, I don’t have an author or publisher to thank. I was sent this book by a blogger who read it, found it aphobic, and now her review got blasted around¬†as proof of its insensitivity by people who didn’t read it. So, thank you, Taylor, for sending this to me.

Basically, I saw controversy like with The Black Witch and I wanted to give it a try. I reached out to her and she actually sent it to me. Like The Black Witch, this isn’t my usual sort of book. I rarely read poetry and I’m not a huge YA fan. Unlike The Black Witch, this book deserves people to call it out for what it is.

The general plot is that Vanilla and Hunter (which are nicknames for them and they never get called anything else) have been dating since middle school and haven’t had sex yet. Hunter doesn’t like that and wants to do it. Vanilla doesn’t and is asexual… without (as far as I read) saying he is. It has lots of stereotypes and common beliefs tossed in about asexuality.

That’s not inherently bad. I’m all for people exposing those issues and even showing reader’s why they’re wrong. I’m also not averse to people not in the community writing in that voice. The thing is, you just have to do more research and sensitivity reading to find out if you’re portraying voices correctly.

Books need to expose and confront issues that they handle. This book did exposure well. Confrontation? Not so much.

My biggest issue with this book was that the author’s intent was confused. Was it okay for Vanilla to be an ace? Is it valid that he is? Is Vanilla unsure? Are their names supposed to confront how sexual people view aces and how some aces view sexual people? None of those questions were answered. What I was left with was feeling a touch triggered by the aphobia, especially since it wasn’t confronted. It felt as if the author didn’t have an opinion and sort of let it slide. Maybe he was trying to let the reader make up their mind about it… which isn’t fair or right since aphobia is rampant and not many people understand asexuality.

I didn’t read all of this book. I knew I couldn’t because of the way the topic was handled. Aphobia was presented and let slide and basically, it seemed like the author was saying it was fine by not addressing it. I don’t get the high rating for this book. It’s higher than The Black Witch as of writing this review. (Which doesn’t surprise me. Homophobia = bad. Aphobia = meh.)

Personally, I say give this book a hard pass. There are other books that confront aphobia and the reality of being a romantic ace better than this one.

Blogging + College = ???: Networking

(Caidyn)

Another edition, right? I hope everyone had a great weekend, and everyone from America has a great three day weekend!

The topic I’m going to touch on this post is networking. As in, getting your shit together and making nice with people even if you don’t want to. This is difficult for me.

On the inside, I’m an angry old man. I’m sure that Chantel will vouch there. I am an angry old man who will shout at children to get off my lawn. (Actually, I almost have a few times.) See the above man. Bobby Singer is me on the inside. I might be smiling, but, really, I’m channeling him.

I think people are stupid.

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I’m sarcastic.

I swear too much.

I can be a bit mean.

So, obviously, this is a challenge for me. However, I did it on Thursday and I’m planning on doing it some more next week. I chatted with, by accident, three different professors from my minor, which is Religious Studies. One I scheduled to see since I haven’t seen her for a year and I love that woman. We talked for a good hour. The next two were by accident. My prof for Jewish Faith was by the copier and we started talking since it’d be awkward to just stop when I had time to talk. We talked about the class, then a professor I had last semester and am going to use as a reference (I just need to inform him that I am since he offers it every time I see him) came by.

So, there we are, in the middle of the hallway. Pulling out our phones to show each other our dogs and then me lifting up my shorts to show off my tattoo of my late dog’s paw.

And then, as I said, I have to do this at least twice more this semester.

Basically, I have to ask two more people to be my references. I feel like I’m going to die. And now Bobby is shouting at me.

It just really sucks, but this is a part of being an adult. You have to be nice and make friends, otherwise, you won’t survive. Although I hate it, I’m good at it. I’m a great student and I try to be nice to all of my professors, which means that they like me. Hell, my advisor was so impressed by me during a chance meeting (all because I was able to talk about fMRIs) that he offered then and there to be my advisor.

So, I guess that I’ll be okay.

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Now, serious talk. Are there any topics that you guys would like to touch on? Seriously, I’d love to hear what you guys would want to see from my experience and what’s worked for me on them. Feel free to leave a comment and your request will probably be a part of this series.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

(Caidyn)

4/5

Personally, when I think of religion, this is what I think of. The fundamental good of it, all the ways that they draw people together and accept them no matter what. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are prime examples of that. They really exemplify the love and compassion, all while showing immense happiness no matter what. Even in the bad times, they show joy and acceptance, all while fighting for change. However, the people who do bad get the most press rather than these people, giving religion a different look.

Joy is so important to live your life. I try to live like that, to have as much joy as possible. Half the time when I’m talking about things that upset me, I’ll throw in a joke and find a way to laugh at it. I accept it and I’m not going to stop fighting for a change, but there’s no point in being upset. Having happiness in your life really improves it. I could cite so much research on that one little thing. It’s hard to find, though, in the world we live in. This book is a great introduction to this through an interreligious dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, two widely different religions that come together.

This book brings up a lot of concepts, but I’m only going to touch on a few.

For me, compassion is key. I’ve had a love of the topic since I read Pema Chodron last year. She’s an amazing author and if you haven’t read her, I’d highly suggest it. She brings in so many base concepts and ideas to live by. Yes, she weaves in religion, but you can take that out and still find truth in it. Compassion leads to so many things since, to properly practice it (and, by that, I mean a specific Buddhist practice that I won’t get into here) you have to first love yourself. That brings joy. Then, you extend compassion to friends and family then to people you feel neutral about to people you somewhat like and even to people you don’t like. It grows your joy, being able to see how we’re all the same with the same wants.

The next two are humility and humor. I see them as very combined because to have humility, you have to find humor in things. And to find humor, you need to be humble. I always laugh at myself. Not a day goes by when I, much like Tutu, make a self-depreciating comment about myself. It sets off the situation and keeps me from getting on my high horse. Then, I also admit when I don’t know something. I don’t like pretending. I’ve done that enough in my life to know it’s not for me.

Now, as I said, the world is a very different place. It’s full of hate and sadness. Just when I was listening to this book, Hurricane Harvey was on the news. Not to mention the transgender ban from the military. Or the white supremacy battle. I hate to say this and agree with Trump, but there is hate on both sides of this. We do need more people like the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. Self-change leads to changing the world.

I completely recommend this book. I recommend the audiobook more so since the man who compiled these dialogues narrates it, and there are two other people who read as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. It adds a lot to the listen, not to mention that there are so many practices at the end (mainly Christian and Buddhist) that you can find out what could work for you since most really aren’t that religious.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Dragon Teeth

(Caidyn)

4/5

I haven’t read much of Crichton’s work. The only book I’ve read was Jurassic Park and, well, I loved it. The writing, characters, and science was great. Perhaps not completely accurate, but I still loved it. This book simply sounded like it. I did no research on this book before jumping in. Author, title, and cover really drew me in and I was happy to keep it that way.

One of the things with this book is that the plot and characters are one. It follows the tale of William Johnson, a rich boy who decides to take a bet to go with a professor to find fossils. At first, Johnson (as he’s called throughout the book) is so annoying. He’s a cocky, rich student at Yales who crashes things for fun. However, he goes through such a radical change. He becomes a determined student in order to even go on the hunt, then he gets caught up in the hunt for bones in the West.

The book was very fast paced at first. I enjoyed getting to know Johnson as a person, seeing him develop and grow. Then, there were Indians and soldiers and crazy rivalries between paleontologists. However, it got slower from there. The journey back, if you can call it that (and not in a bad way) wasn’t as interesting for me. It got better right at the end, but it never quite regained the pace it had.

Another downside for me was that there were so many semi-important characters as the book moved on. I had hoped for more to come back around or for them to stick around, yet most just didn’t except in memory. The only other two main characters, outside Johson, were Cope and Marsh, two very really people.

This book was based on fact. Cope and Marsh were two men who hunted bones and had a very real hatred towards each other. Founding on that relationship and the things they did to each other was fascinating. I came into it having a slight hint that I had heard those names before — couldn’t place them, but I had heard their story — so it brought such a great blend of history to this that it felt I was reading nonfiction at times. Crichton really was meticulous in this book and it shows.

Really, what this book made me do was want to read more of his work. And it makes me sad that I couldn’t have enjoyed him more while he was still alive. He’s a great author and this book impressed me more than Jurassic Park did because of such a dynamic main character and the fantastic way real personalities worked into this book.

Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions That Forged Modern Europe by John Julius Norwich

Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions That Forged Modern Europe

(Caidyn)

3/5

As most of you guys know by now (if you follow my reviews, that is), I have a thing for Tudor England. Most of my knowledge is based around Henry VIII. I’m going to abbreviate most of the king’s names, so Henry is going to be known as H8 for this review. What I know of Francis I (F1) and Charles V (C5) is all based around H8. Like, I know things and how they’re related to England, but not their own kingdoms. I actually had no idea who Suleiman was.

What I liked about this book was that it was a super compact overview of four men who held great sway in the world. As Norwich said, it was the last time that’s ever really happened. It was a Greatest Hits CD for the four of them. It was also well-written, making it easy to understand when it could have been very dense. Norwich made this book read for anyone.

However, a lot of what I had issues with came to be the liberties and misinterpretations Norwich took that coincided with what I thought was good. I have quite a few examples that I jotted down in my outline of this review. He made it seem as if Katherine of Aragon (H8’s first wife) had a stillborn son because she rode on a horse to oversee an army. He fell into the trap of C5’s mom, Juana, was insane when that probably wasn’t the case. Anne Boleyn (H8’s second wife), apparently, lost H8’s love in 1534 and that’s also when Jane Seymour (wife three) came onto the scene. Pretty sure that’s not completely accurate. Jane and Katheryn Parr (H8’s sixth wife) also were the only “good” wives he had. Anne Boleyn also apparently possibly could have committed adultery due to her personality when she was an extremely pious woman.

All that I’m trying to say with that long paragraph is that he’s inaccurate with his recounting. That, for me, throws into question everything with F1, C5, and Suleiman. He lost credibility for me.

For all this book is, it’s good for what it is: A compact overview that takes simple explanations.

Soleri by Michael Johnston

Soleri

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

The only reason I heard about this book was because of Emma, over at Thoughts of a Brown Eyed Girl. It’s pretty funny because soon after we started talking, she asked if I wanted to read it because, somehow, she knew about my weird interest in Egyptian history, mainly around Cleopatra VII. When I was a kid, I really knew most things about her. I still know a lot more than I should, but sometimes I have to look up little things online to be sure I’ve got my facts straight.

The whole reason I’m mentioning Cleopatra is because this book is largely based off of King Lear and Cleo herself. I caught more nods to Cleo than Will, admittedly. There are five points of view from the same family, highlighting various tensions between them. All of them fit somewhere into Cleopatra’s family, something that I just loved. There was Arko, the father and king. Sarra, the mother and priestess. Merit was the older sister who wants power (reminding me of Cleopatra or her older sisters). Kepi is the younger sister who doesn’t exactly want power, but wants it outside of herself. Finally, Ren is the one and only son, the heir to the throne.

While I enjoyed the characters, I did think that a few things were needed. Sarra’s point of view needed more development and backstory to it. Merit’s was too male centered for my liking when there was far more to her character than various men. Ren got really dull. The only perspective I liked the whole time was Kepi’s, but even then I was hesitant towards the beginning because I didn’t like the way it started but her ending was fantastic.

As for the plot, it just felt like a whole lot of set-up for nothing. I was intrigued from the start, but it died down and stayed low until the last fifty pages. That annoys me the most when a lot could have been done to foreshadow things properly. I don’t think that the book weaved everything together as well as it should have, something I was worried about for a while with how many perspectives there were. At the end, there was a lot of head scratching done since it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I never had an “aha!” moment.

At the end of the day, I’m definitely going to move onto book two since I loved where it left off for everyone. However, I’m going to have to reread it to catch all of the details that hinted at foreshadowing.

Blogging + College = ???: New/Final Semester

(Caidyn)

So, this is going to be a new series I’m thinking of trying out. Basically, chronicling my final semester of school and maybe giving some tips on shit. I’m thinking this could be a once a month thing unless I get inspired by something once a week to knock out a post.

As you can tell from the title, I’m starting yet another semester of college. It feels like I’ve been in college forever. Three and a half years. I am a senior.

And, scarily enough, I’m fucking graduating in December. December 16th to be exact.

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Fucking trust me, man, I am terrified. It means that I will technically be a qualified adult holding a degree in higher education. It means that I could get certified and start a career. It means that I will be looking at graduate schools later this semester. (And having to apply to said graduate schools.)

Thinking about it gives me a mild panic attack sometimes because I’ll literally be doing all of those things at once. Researching schools, at least two applications per school I apply to, bugging professors to get reference letters done, contacting the schools to find out what they need, maneuvering financial aid, possible interviews, finding out when applications are done. On top of being a full-time student and working part-time, both of which are already super stressful on their own.

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This post is meant to be me saying that I’ll probably be on here less. Not a lot less since I need to read to keep myself sane. (Chantel and I are also trying to make a habit change to make us read more, yet another thing we’re going to rely on each other to keep.)

Luckily, I don’t have to do all of what I described above at once. I’ll be a full-time student and a part-time worker no matter what, but graduate school can wait. I’m going to have an appointment with a professor who knows a lot about the area of study for my master’s degree, so I’m going to ask her questions about the two programs I’m considering and to see if she can put me in contact with people who have recently graduated from or are currently in both programs. Then I can contact the school about applications and when to apply.

I just have a bad habit of looking at everything I need to do and think I need to do it all at that second rather than piecemealing it out into something more manageable. Which causes me a lot of stress and anxiety, especially when I need to focus on my first week rather than things I can’t even start doing things about yet.

That’s my life right now in a nutshell.

Any wishes of good luck or sending some sort of good vibes my way would be appreciated. And, any comments or suggestions (or even topics wanted for me to write about) would be appreciated! This is new for me, so I’m trying to sound it out. Anything you guys have to add would be great.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

(Caidyn)

5/5

“I remember a friend of mine once telling me that we hate what we fear in ourselves.”

Thank you to Netgalley for letting me have an advanced copy for an honest review. All opinions are mine and mine alone. And also any quotes given are liable to change by publication.

I think that this is the easiest five stars I’ve given this year. Or close to the easiest. I’ve read five previous John Boyne books, which have ranged from finding it iffy at best to loving everything about it. Even in this book, at the back with the About the Author section, they called this “his most ambitious novel yet.” And I wholeheartedly agree.

What strikes me as amazing about this book is that it’s a family drama… yet not. It spans from 1945 to 2015, beginning with the birth of Cyril Avery to his unwed teenage mother in post-World War II Ireland. Then, it begins down his life as he discovers who he is and what the world is. It tackles prejudices back then to now in Ireland, at times reading like an Irish history of people who were like Cyril who had the world against them from the start.

Yet, it was also a comedy. There were times where I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to wake my whole house up. The characters had so much humor to them when it could have been such a dark story, lending it to be almost a black comedy since there were so many sad parts mixed in with the hilarity. It read like life does. Happy moments, sad moments, and the moments in between.

All of the characters were amazingly flawed. Boyne never backed down from showing them in certain lights or from having characters make comments, even about Cyril. He let this be honest, something that I appreciate. I’m pretty sure that I cried over every single character in this book at least once and, trust me, there were a lot of characters given how many decades this book covers.

This book definitely takes the place of my favorite John Boyne book. It was exactly what I needed without knowing I needed it. Admittedly, the only reason I requested this was because I generally like John Boyne. I already know I’m going to buy it. Usually, I just keep the digital copies of ARCs in case I want to reread it, but I know that I need a beautiful hardcover to display in my room.