Book Review: The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

For those of you not following along, I’m reading the Wingfeather Saga to mark the release of new collectable hardcover editions being released this year.

And so we come to the much anticipated final book in the series: The Warden and the Wolf King:

All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang. Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk. But when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are separated.

Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the continued improvement book to book, I found book four a satisfying conclusion to the series. It was a happy ending of sorts but not without some serious sacrifice. Quests, epic battles, twists and turns and some resolution (but not everything tied up in a neat bow).

I feel like this book had a complexity and intensity that the others didn’t which, again, is appropriate to the conclusion of a series like this. Some readers might have been hoping for an ending with less sacrifice or darkness but I think it gave the book a heft that it might otherwise have lacked. I will leave it at that so as not to spoil anything.

As I have noted frequently, highly recommend for younger readers. Would make a great read aloud for bedtime or a series for active readers looking for character development over multiple books.  As a number of readers have noted, it is best for parents to judge the emotional sensitivity of their children, this is listed as grades 3-7.  There is an emotional punch and real evil involved but nothing I found troubling.

If my kids were younger, I would definitely get the hardcover set.

Book Review: The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

For those of you not following along, I’m reading the Wingfeather Saga to mark the release of new collectable hardcover editions being released this year.  Specifically, books three and four being released today, October 6.

As I noted with book 2, the books seems to be getting better as we go. I enjoyed On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and found the second half of the book more engaging than the first, and that pattern continued with North! or Be Eaten.

And that pattern continued with The Monster in the Hallows.

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby, the Lost Jewels of Anniera, are hiding from Gnag the Nameless in the Green Hollows, one of the few places in the land of Aerwiar not overrun by the Fangs of Dang. But there’s a big problem. Janner’s little brother–heir to the throne of Anniera–has grown a tail. And gray fur. Not to mention two pointed ears and long, dangerous fangs. To the suspicious folk of the Green Hollows, he looks like a monster.

But Janner knows better. His brother isn’t as scary as he looks. He’s perfectly harmless. Isn’t he?

Each book builds on the previous; more history revealed, more surprises, more depth to the characters, etc.

Peterson continues to balance a focus on the inner lives of the children, Janner in particular, with the history and myth of Anniera. He adds in secondary characters that help flush out the details and color of the world he has built but also keeps readers on their toes with twists and turns.

The last third of this book in particular is pretty intense as the action and intrigue ratchets up. Things are barrelling towards the fourth and final book.

As I have said before, great series for young readers and particularly a read out loud or audiobook to share as a family.  But something adults can enjoy too.

Soldiers of a Different Cloth by John Wukovits

Military chaplains—if the person does their job correctly, they are some of the most underappreciated people in the military. John Wukovits brings his superb World War II knowledge to chronicle some of the University of Notre Dame’s clergy who served as chaplains in the U.S. military during World War II in Soldiers of a Different Cloth: Notre Dame Chaplains in World War II.

Wukovits highlights a few of the 35 clergy members from Notre Dame who served during the war. He pays particular attention to Rev. Joseph D. Barry, Rev. John E. Duffy, Rev. Henry Heintskill, and six missionaries caught in the Philippines at the beginning of the war (Sisters Mary Olivette and Mary Caecilius and Brothers Theodore Kapes and Rex Hennel, and Fathers Jerome Lawyer and Robert McKee).

Wukovits’ strength of highlighting the individual is in full display in the book.

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Book Review: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

I have some strong libertarian leanings, mostly on economics and size/scope of government stuff, and am a big fan of localism so I Was intrigued when I saw A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling on NetGalley.

I mean, it sounds like a pretty interesting story, right?

Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved road.

When they descended on Grafton, public funding for pretty much everything shrank: the fire department, the library, the schoolhouse. State and federal laws became meek suggestions, scarcely heard in the town’s thick wilderness.

The anything-goes atmosphere soon caught the attention of Grafton’s neighbors: the bears. Freedom-loving citizens ignored hunting laws and regulations on food disposal. They built a tent city in an effort to get off the grid. The bears smelled food and opportunity.

It turned out to be another book I would give 3.5 stars. The kind of book that makes you pause of a moment when you are reviewing it on Goodreads. You know, did you “enjoy it” or “really enjoy it?” I was somewhere in between I guess.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is a somewhat rambling portrait of small town New Hampshire through the lens of a group of libertarians seeking very limited government/interference and the habits of bears. In the style of narrative nonfiction, the author seeks to give the reader the feel of the people and communities while offering insight through history, science and even literature. It doesn’t take sides per se and offers a rather balanced perspective; letting the people and events speak for themselves for the most part. Although, he clearly prefers the bears…

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Book Review: Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales

I am not sure how I stumbled on Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales at NetGalley but I am glad I did.  I was able to get a digital review copy of the hardback book that will be published on Tuesday.

What is Mythopedia?

From the West African fable of Anansi the Spider, to Michabo, the magical hare who rebuilt the world and Tanuki, the sweet but troublesome raccoon-dog of Japanese folklore, Mythopedia is an encyclopedia of mythical creatures that covers legends, tales and myths from around the world.

Lovingly created by the illustration duo behind popular flipbook Myth Match, Good Wives and Warriors, this book contains pages upon pages of cultural folklore from around the world.

Organized by geography (The Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia & Oceania), it offers a basic overview of mythological creatures from all over the globe. Plus, colorful and imaginative illustrations.

Some of the creatures will be familiar (most likely those from The Americas and Europe but some from Asia and Africa as well) while others are strange and exotic (Grootslang: and elephant-snake hybrid; Aun Pana: a creepy monster fish from the Amazon jungle; or Encantado: a bizarre shapeshifting dolphin).

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Book Review: North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

For those of you not following along, I’m reading the Wingfeather Saga to mark the release of new collectable hardcover editions being released this year.  Specifically, books three and four being released on October 6.

Alas, rather than hardback I am reading them on Kindle so I am not getting the full effect of the new covers, maps, and illustrations by Joe Sutphin.  Kindle reading does make it easier to read in bed at night without disturbing my wife so it has that going for it.  And it does give me a sense of the added material even if not quite as grand as the hardbacks.

I am pleased to report that the books seems to be getting better as we go. I enjoyed On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and found the second half of the book more engaging than the first.

And that pattern continued with North! or Be Eaten

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.

In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest, the thieving Stranders of the East Ben, and the dreaded Fork Factory.

But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart. Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.

I think I enjoyed this second book in the Wingfeather Series more than the first because there was more action and much more of the larger picture was revealed.

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Audiobook Review: Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace

After I heard Chris Wallace on special Dispatch Live event with Jonah Goldberg, I put Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace, with Mitch Weiss on my TBR pile.

Not that I am particularly interested in WWI (military history is Jeff’s bailiwick) or the dropping of the atomic bomb, but because I was interested in seeing how Wallace made the subject interesting given we all know what happened and the issues involved have been debated too death.  I was curious to see what an old school, straight shooter journalist made of the history.

It turned out the easiest way to get a copy from the library was to listen to the audiobook narrated by Wallace himself. So when it became available, I grabbed it and started listening.

Not surprisingly, Wallace is a great narrator and the style and focus of the book work well in audio format.  Unlike some more dense and technical history, I found this enjoyable to listen to and easy to pay attention

As to content, I found it to be a compelling and informative look at the events leading up the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in August of 1945. It gives you the perspective not only of President Truman and other larger than life figures but also of a host of minor characters from scientists and military leaders to those who worked at Oak Ridge and Japanese citizens who experienced the destruction of Hiroshima.

The Washington Post:

Like John Hersey in his book “Hiroshima,” Wallace and Weiss humanize events too often reduced to technical or diplomatic arcana by telling their story through the lives of individuals. Truman is, of course, a major player, but so is Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that bombed Hiroshima, and his crew. Also profiled are the scientists at Los Alamos, like Robert Oppenheimer and Don Hornig, who built the weapons dropped on Japan. Ruth Sisson, one of the “Calutron Girls” at Oak Ridge, Tenn., ran a machine enriching the uranium used in Little Boy, the Hiroshima bomb. A Navy demolitions expert, Draper Kauffman, would have been among the first to land on the beaches of Kyushu had an invasion of Japan’s home islands been deemed necessary. One of the book’s most affecting stories is that of Hideko Tamura, a 10-year-old girl who was in Hiroshima on the day the bomb fell. Hideko survived the attack; her mother, Kimiko, did not.

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Book Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Despite listening to the audio book in 2016 I never went ahead and read the whole Wingfeather Saga series. With new editions coming out in 2020 I decided to go back and start from book 1: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson spins a quirky and riveting tale of the Igibys’ extraordinary journey from Glipwood’s Dragon Day Festival and a secret hidden in the Books and Crannies Bookstore, past the terrifying Black Carriage, clutches of the horned hounds and loathsome toothy cows surrounding Anklejelly Manor, through the Glipwood Forest to mysterious treehouse of Peet the Sock Man (known for a little softshoe and wearing tattered socks on his hands and arms).

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness presents a world of wonder and a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to discuss for its layers of meaning about life’s true treasure and tangle of the beautiful and horrible, temporal and eternal, and good and bad.

It held up well. While it is obviously a series for children, it is still an imaginative and engaging series with interesting characters and quality world building.  Plus, there is just enough whimsy and humor to make it fun but not hokey.

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Book Review: Doesn’t Hurt to Ask by Trey Gowdy

I work in the field of communications and politics has been an interest of mine since high school.  So when I was offered a chance to review Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade by Trey Gowdy I quickly grabbed if for my Kindle from NetGalley.

It was a frustrating read.  I enjoyed it in many ways but in others ways it was hard to get a handle on. As it does so often, it comes down to expectations and how much you enjoy a blending of genres and topics.  There is a lot of good advice about how to argue and communicate, and Gowdy has a light, humorous and engaging style, but the blending of memoir and self-help with a heavy helping of legal and political context undercut the clarity for me.

The publisher’s description was what I had in mind when I started reading:

You do not need to be in a courtroom to advocate for others. You do not need to be in Congress to champion a cause. From the boardroom to the kitchen table, opportunities to make your case abound, and Doesn’t Hurt to Ask shows you how to seize them. By blending gripping case studies from nearly two decades in a courtroom and four terms in national politics with personal stories and practical advice, Trey Gowdy walks you through the tools and the mindset needed to effectively communicate your message.

From this description, and the title and subtitle, it sounds like a book on communication and persuasion. And that is what I was most interested in learning about: “Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade.”

But it might more accurately be titled: “How to argue like a prosecutor.” Most of Gowdy’s approach to communication comes from that perspective; and the book is full of stories of cases he handled and of his experience as a Congressman acting as a prosecutor of sorts.

The connection between persuasion and these cases, however, isn’t always crystal clear or at least wasn’t to me. In other words, translating persuasion from the courtroom and the committee room to the kitchen table isn’t always obvious and intuitive. Perhaps, this is my anti-lawyer bias coming through…Continue reading →