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22 August
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Blood of Tyrants: Chapter 4 – Chapter 6 *Spoilers*!

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Welcome back to our ongoing series.  I’m reading Blood of Tyrants and I would love it if you would join me and add to the comments below.  This week I read Chapters 4 – 6.  You can check out the schedule here.  I’m reading the book with a group of around 40 others on the goodreads group history book club.  You can join the conversation there as well.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Spoilers below…

Read more…

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06 August
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History Book Reading Group: Blood of Tyrants – Before Reading

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Blood of Tyrants Book

I’m starting a new book today.  I won it on a giveaway from the History Book Club.  If you would like to read along with me here is the reading schedule I will be following.  I’m starting the week one reading a little early today.  As with all books, when I start reading I first read the outer cover.

Back Cover

For Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency this means I’m reading reviews from other scholars.  All of the are promising.  My greatest concern with history books is that they will be dry so when I read the quotes on the back of the book I’m looking for ones like these:

  • “…page-turning historical thriller…”, says Amy Chua author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Day of Empire and World on Fire
  • “Logan Beirne demonstrates … this fresh and stimulating history of the American Revolution…”  James McPherson author of Battle Cry of Freedom and Crossroads of Freedom
  • In describing Washington: “…a long dead, white make, slave-owning aristocrat of the 18th century…” William Eskridge Jr. author of A Republic of Statutes and descent of George Eskridge the godfather of George Washington
  • “…prepare to be shocked, amazed and educated.”  Hon. Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law professor, director of Stanford constitutional Law Center and former federal judge

Not bad huh?  Sounds like good reading.  That last one I like a lot.  I might have to steal it!

Listen to the Author Introduce the Book

Another great way to be introduced to this book is to let the author doing the talking.  In the podcast New Books in History the host interviews authors about their new books.  Thats just what happened with Logan Beirne.

Watch Beirne discuss his book with William Eskridge Jr. on C-SPAN’s Book TV.

 

Inside Cover

After I read the front and back cover I move on to the inside cover, since this is a hardcover book, and I see the overview of the book.  As I read, how this book will go over just how Washington made the rules of war up as he went along, I wonder if he will discuss Nathan Hale the brave young captain that stepped forward to be America’s first spy.  I’m learning a little bit about him while I write the September newsletter.  If you are not already subscribed, its free and you can sign up on the top right of this page.

Lastly I take a look at the inside back cover which introduces us to the author and gives us his background.  As you would guess Beirne’s background is chalked full of awards and prestigious universities.  But I found the last paragraph the most interesting:

Logan’s passion for the Revolution is in his blood-he is the directly descended from Revolutionary War patriots and his family tree includes the “Fathers of the Constitution,” James Madison.  Some of Washington’s papers were discovered in a storage chest belonging to one of Logan’s ancestors.

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27 October
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Book Review: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

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As a whole I really loved Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. I thought it might be dry and boring. I was excited to get a free book no matter the subject. But I have always had an interest in the royal family, after all as Americans those are our roots, however old.

For me the book never got dry or boring it was never full of dates/names with out relevant and interesting stories. Overall, it was very well written! A hefty book to be sure, but Ms. Smith covered a lot of information very well and concisely, I thought.

I have a new interest in the royal family and can’t wait to see what happens next. I wish we had better coverage of all the news about them here in the states. If anyone has some links to share to good websites I would really appreciate it. Also, anyone “in-the-know” about the royal family could perhaps share a few more book recommendations? I am very interested in learning more about the next generation of royals that Ms. Smith covered in the last chapter.

I wish there had been more about each of the Queen’s children, but it was of course a book about her and not her children.

A couple of things that I found interesting about the queen.

Although the text seems to call out the fact that the queen is very cold not a very loving or personable individual, Ms. Smith went to lengths to try to say that was okay over and over again. I thought this was odd. Almost as if the author was defending the queen’s iciness.

Here is a questions for the group. Do you think the Queen was a good mom? For me I would have to say no, but is that really so bad, I mean for the kids yes, but is she a queen first or a mother first? How does her mother/leader role differ from that of the first lady here in the states?

Why doesn’t the queen give interviews or write a biography? Over again and again was the point that the British people needed to know her better, wouldn’t an interview/book do that?

Sally Bedell Smith: “Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch” from Radnor Historical Society on Vimeo.

Learn more about the other Royals.

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25 October
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Book Review: Enemies: A History of the FBI

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I didn’t have high hopes Enemies: A History of the FBI, I thought it would be dry based on its topic and thickness. However, I really like how the book was laid out, covering an era at a time and what was going on in the nation and how the FBI reacted to it. It made the book very easy to follow and a nice read. While I was not very excited about the story, it was not the first book I picked up when I had time to read, it was well written. It did have some fairly excited parts for me like when discussing spies especially. I wish there would have been more discussed about spies as that is very interesting to me. However, I realize that this would have left the book astray of its intended topic.

I learned a lot about the history of the FBI so the book succeeded in its goal. I had no idea that Hoover was such a large part of the agency. For the first 2/3 of the book I felt like I was reading his biography.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the FBI. I now feel I have a better understanding of one of our nations super secret agencies.

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12 April
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Everyone is talking about: Yuri Gagarin

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Today marks the 50th anniversary that humankind put a man in space. Everyone is writing about this online. I mean everyone. This is your one stop shop for everything online that is Gagarin. Jalopnik, a car blog, even has an extensive feature on their blog. National Geographic has a huge slideshow with really fantastic photos you need to check out. Boing Boing posted the below video with a link to NASA’s website where there is a feature on Gagarin too. Gizmodo did a great job with their article online too, maybe the best one I read today. Wired did a post about the photos that were altered of some of the soviet astronauts. Google of course jumped in and created a custom image for Gagarin.

Yuri Gagarin carried two personal items with him on his historic first spaceflight. First, cognac. Second, shark repellant. The shark repellant was in case he landed in the sea. Mary Roach via Twitter

Then there is the movie. Metafilter mentions it on their site. We touched on it briefly a few posts ago. The best site to learn about the movie is GeekDad. I’ll post the movie below.

Other articles found online:
Wired
C|Net
C|Net Photo Slideshow

Also, Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin the book came out today. I want to read this really bad, but for now I think I will just watch the movie. Enjoy everyone!

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