Monday, April 24, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? April 24th 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

Last week I only got one book read:
The Perfect Horse - Elizabeth LettsThe Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission To Rescue The Priceless Stallions Kidnapped By The Nazis
Elizabeth Letts
Ballantine Books
Copyright Date: August 2016
978-0345544803

The amazon.com product description:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

Praise for The Perfect Horse

“Winningly readable . . . Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton. . . . The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.”Kirkus ReviewsThe Perfect Horse raises the narrative bar. Applying her skills as a researcher, storyteller and horsewoman, Letts provides context that makes this account spellbinding.”Culturess

The Perfect Horse is an enthralling and moving story that I could not put down. This is a riveting and unique perspective on World War II.”—Molly Guptill Manning, author of When Books Went to War

“Passionately told and dazzling in scope, The Perfect Horse charges headlong into an unforgettable tale of World War II, when good men were given a final mission—to save beloved horses—at an hour when no one wanted to die. In Elizabeth Letts, the saga of World War II’s white stallions has found its perfect guardian.”—Adam Makos, author of A Higher Call

“Elizabeth Letts’s beautiful prose, woven together with meticulous research, takes you for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.”—Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless
One of those books that every time I picked it up, I couldn't put it down again easily. An excerpt from my review:
I have to recommend this book most highly. A gripping read which left me wanting to know more - perhaps to hunt down translations of Alois Podhajsky's books - I know I've seen his book on horsemanship (in fact, I have a copy sitting on my shelf), but didn't know he'd also written another book too.
I didn't end up picking up either of the books I said I would last week. Instead I'm currently reading:
Owlflight - Mercedes LackeyOwlflight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1998
978-0886778040

The amazon.com product description:
Apprenticed to a venerable wizard when his hunter and trapper parents disappear into the forest never to be seen again, Darian is difficult and strong willed--much to the dismay of his kindly master. But a sudden twist of fate will change his life forever, when the ransacking of his village forces him to flee into the great mystical forest. It is here in the dark forest that he meets his destiny, as the terrifying and mysterious Hawkpeople lead him on the path to maturity. Now they must lead the assault on his besieged home in a desperate attempt to save his people from certain death!
I've read Owlflight a few times now, and enjoyed the read every time. This is the first in a trilogy (typical for most of the Valdemar books until the last few years) and what makes it different from the rest is that this series is one where the main character isn't a Herald.

However, even though I've read Owlflight before, it doesn't look as though I've ever reviewed it here. Interesting. As an added benefit, this whole trilogy counts towards my Valdemar Reading Challenge.

I'm planning on reading the next two books in this trilogy this week:
Owlsight and Owlknight. Beyond that, I can't say.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday Snapshots - April 22, 2017

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. The rules of the game are:

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Personally, I find that this is one of the most fun memes that I've participated in. Not to mention that it's a bit of an incentive to get out and take more photos every week!

For this week I'm not posting new shots, but older ones - much older. I had a bit of fun over the last week scanning some photos from a trip I took fifteen years ago. These three were the best of the lot.


The temple of Athena Pronaia in Delphi.

A row of Corinthian style column capitals I found in Athens.

And, an iconic portion of a Venetian/Byzantine fortress. My notes says simply "Methoni" for this one, along with the fact that it's near Pylos.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue The Priceless Stallions Kidnapped By The Nazis - Elizabeth Letts

The Perfect Horse - Elizabeth LettsThe Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission To Rescue The Priceless Stallions Kidnapped By The Nazis
Elizabeth Letts
Ballantine Books
Copyright Date: August 2016
978-0345544803

The amazon.com product description:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

Praise for The Perfect Horse

“Winningly readable . . . Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton. . . . The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.”Kirkus ReviewsThe Perfect Horse raises the narrative bar. Applying her skills as a researcher, storyteller and horsewoman, Letts provides context that makes this account spellbinding.”Culturess

The Perfect Horse is an enthralling and moving story that I could not put down. This is a riveting and unique perspective on World War II.”—Molly Guptill Manning, author of When Books Went to War

“Passionately told and dazzling in scope, The Perfect Horse charges headlong into an unforgettable tale of World War II, when good men were given a final mission—to save beloved horses—at an hour when no one wanted to die. In Elizabeth Letts, the saga of World War II’s white stallions has found its perfect guardian.”—Adam Makos, author of A Higher Call

“Elizabeth Letts’s beautiful prose, woven together with meticulous research, takes you for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.”—Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless
A book that I raced through in about three days. Every time I picked up The Perfect Horse, I found it a real struggle to put down again.

Miracle of the White Stallions - DVDI was vaguely familiar with parts of the story thanks to the Disney movie, The Miracle of the White Stallions, but reading The Perfect Horse showed me that there was so much more. Yes there were the Lippizans - both the stallions and the mares, but also in danger were gorgeous Polish Arabians, Thoroughbreds and many other fine horses who had been looted from around German-controlled Europe. That was the part of the story I'd never heard about prior to reading Elizabeth Lett's book.

A lot of people say that animal stories are so often heartbreaking. Not this one. For the most part, the worst that happens to the majority of the figures in this book, both human and animal, is disappointment and some promises that never truly bear out.

Although this is a book about World War Two, as it focuses on a smaller part of the events - that surrounding the horses, it is not as dark as some. The book does touch on the greater events, however, at the same time, it also leaves them in the background for the most part.

The Perfect Horse is lavishly illustrated throughout - photos of the main figures, events and many of the horses so central to the story. The only potential complaint is that all the photos are black and white only. At the same time, it's very likely that the original images were mostly in black and white anyway - given the time period. It might have been a nice touch to include color photos of some of the central equine figures like Witez.

I have to recommend this book most highly. A gripping read which left me wanting to know more - perhaps to hunt down translations of Alois Podhajsky's books - I know I've seen his book on horsemanship (in fact, I have a copy sitting on my shelf), but didn't know he'd also written another book too.

New Book - Essays on the Lord of the Rings

One of my former co-workers recently published a book through Amazon titled Essays on the Lord of the Rings. Having read a couple of them, I have to say that he has quite the interesting perspective.

Essays on the Lord of the Rings - Patrick McEvoy-HalstonEssays on the Lord of the Rings
Patrick McEvoy-Halston
Independently Published
Copyright Date: April 10, 2017
978-1521032213

The amazon.com product description:
Series of essays on The Lord of the Rings, including two "reader's guides," as well as a foray into the fictitious possibility -- What if Saruman was right? The lead essay focuses on how LOTR is best understood as actually more anti-adventure than adventure; on how it never really lets you get too far outside your door, even as you find yourself amongst things as wondrous as Oliphants, wizards, Orcs and Elves. Think of this book as an attempt at good counsel so you don't go adrift to the unexpected wiles of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece.
As I said, he has quite the interesting perspective.

Monday, April 17, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

You know something? I look at that list there and realize just how old All Booked Up is sometimes. I started doing this meme back in the days when It's Monday! What Are You Reading? was hosted at J Kaye's Book Blog.

Anyway, I'm back in the game after a couple of months on hiatus (again). These days I'm somewhat sporadic with All Booked Up despite my best intentions. But, after a few months of struggling with one book, I've finished reading it, and I'm on to other books.

Books I finished reading last week:

Europe: Chained By History - Larry J. HiltonEurope: Chained By History
Larry J. Hilton
Newport Publishing
Copyright Date: December 2015
978-0996786119

The amazon.com product description:

A Plea for Europe to form a United States of Europe
Europe: Chained by History is a groundbreaking book that uses history to make a compelling case for Europe to form a United States of Europe--or risk seeing the European Union come apart individually.
Using the history of Vienna from its inception to 1938, readers are invited to observe Western Europe from within this ancient city.
  • Where did historic rivalries among European nations begin?
  • How did the Enlightenment affect Europe and the United States?
  • What persistent darkness allowed Hitler to lead the word in to a second devastating world war?
  • What will it take for today's European Union to survive?
Author Larry J. Hilton explores these questions, and more, by using fascinating details about what it was really like to live in Vienna from the the first century through the days of hyper-inflation after World War 1.
Thought provoking and well researched, Europe: Chained by History radiates hope even as it details the formidable political obstacles to European unity. In the end, a banking or ISIS crisis will force the issue.
An excerpt from my review:
It's rather interesting to see history as not just a case of "here's what happened" but also as a set of expectations for the future - thus the chains of his title. Definitely a different perspective of the past, and one that provokes a fair bit of thought. I think that I'm going to be digesting this book for a while.

I'm currently reading:

The Perfect Horse - Elizabeth LettsThe Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission To Rescue The Priceless Stallions Kidnapped By The Nazis
Elizabeth Letts
Ballantine Books
Copyright Date: August 2016
978-0345544803

The amazon.com product description:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

Praise for The Perfect Horse

“Winningly readable . . . Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton. . . . The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.”Kirkus ReviewsThe Perfect Horse raises the narrative bar. Applying her skills as a researcher, storyteller and horsewoman, Letts provides context that makes this account spellbinding.”Culturess

The Perfect Horse is an enthralling and moving story that I could not put down. This is a riveting and unique perspective on World War II.”—Molly Guptill Manning, author of When Books Went to War

“Passionately told and dazzling in scope, The Perfect Horse charges headlong into an unforgettable tale of World War II, when good men were given a final mission—to save beloved horses—at an hour when no one wanted to die. In Elizabeth Letts, the saga of World War II’s white stallions has found its perfect guardian.”—Adam Makos, author of A Higher Call

“Elizabeth Letts’s beautiful prose, woven together with meticulous research, takes you for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.”—Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless
I'm really enjoying the read - currently about half way through the book. As I noted in my previous post mentioning The Perfect Horse, I'm at least vaguely familiar with parts of the story, but there's so much I didn't know about too. I have to admit though that I'll be happy to be finished with this read simply to get away from the topic of the Second World War. Two books in a row on the subject (Europe Chained By History had a lot on World War Two and the lead-up to it) are a bit much I'm finding.

I'm planning to read at least one of the following:

Cold Welcome (Vatta's Peace) - Elizabeth MoonCold Welcome (Vatta's Peace)
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright Date: April 11, 2017
978-1101887318

The Amazon.com product description:

Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon makes a triumphant return to science fiction with a thrilling series featuring Kylara Vatta, the daring hero of her acclaimed Vatta’s War sequence.

After nearly a decade away, Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon makes a triumphant return to science fiction with this installment in a thrilling new series featuring the daring hero of her acclaimed Vatta’s War sequence.

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet—a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group’s survival but her entire home planet.

Praise for Elizabeth Moon

Trading in Danger
“A mix of space opera, military science fiction and human drama, this is an exciting and often touching novel.”RT Book Reviews

Marque and Reprisal
“Excellent plotting and characters support the utterly realistic action sequences: swift, jolting, confusing, and merciless. It’s a corker!”Kirkus Reviews

Engaging the Enemy
“Moon has created a richly imagined universe of different cultures, replete with intriguing characters and the sense of unlimited possibility that characterizes the most appealing science fiction.”School Library Journal

Command Decision
“One of scifi’s best military space series . . . confirms Moon’s place with Lois McMaster Bujold and David Weber in the top tier of turn-of-the-millennium military SF writers.”—Syfy

Victory Conditions
“Rip-roaring action and intriguing science and tactics distinguish Nebula winner Moon’s fifth and final Vatta’s War installment. . . . A fine and fitting conclusion to Moon’s grand space opera tour de force.”Publishers Weekly

Tempest: All New Tales of Valdemar
Ed. Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 2016

The amazon.com product description:

Twenty-four authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

The Heralds of Valdemar are the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors. They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages—and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. These inborn talents—combined with training as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, warriors, and more—make them indispensable to their monarch and realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horse-like Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. The Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, twenty-three authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

Join Elizabeth Vaughan, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Brozek, Brenda Cooper, Rosemary Edghill, and others in twenty-two original stories, including a brand-new novella by Mercedes Lackey, to Valdemar, where:

A Herald must crack an ancient code in a historic tapestry in order to arbitrate a dispute over land and lineage…

A Healer’s daughter flees the noble family that has trapped and enslaved her mother, and must seek help to free her mother…

A young woman who hides her clairvoyant powers from her town’s Karsite priests ForeSees a threat, and must risk revealing her Gift to save her community…

A Herald finds his assistant has been abducted by a man upon whom he had levied a heavy fine, and must foil the kidnapper’s plans to save his charge…

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Snapshots - April 15, 2017

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. The rules of the game are:
To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Personally, I find that this is one of the most fun memes that I've participated in. Not to mention that it's a bit of an incentive to get out and take more photos every week!

After a couple of months on hiatus, I'm back with one of my favorite photos so far.

Last month I had the chance to go back to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary for the first time in about five years. Among the far too many photos I took was this gem:

Spotted Towhee perched on a branch.

And then, last week I was lucky enough to get this shot:

Male Rufus Hummingbird

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Latest Books to Join My Collection - AKA Added to my TBR Pile

Although for the last few months I've been focused on reading Europe: Chained by History, it hasn't stopped me from buying more books. Some of them are books I've been looking forward to reading, others are simply books that caught my eye at the bookstore.

First on that list is:
The Perfect Horse - Elizabeth LettsThe Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission To Rescue The Priceless Stallions Kidnapped By The Nazis
Elizabeth Letts
Ballantine Books
Copyright Date: August 2016
978-0345544803

The amazon.com product description:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

Praise for The Perfect Horse

“Winningly readable . . . Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton. . . . The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.”Kirkus ReviewsThe Perfect Horse raises the narrative bar. Applying her skills as a researcher, storyteller and horsewoman, Letts provides context that makes this account spellbinding.”Culturess

The Perfect Horse is an enthralling and moving story that I could not put down. This is a riveting and unique perspective on World War II.”—Molly Guptill Manning, author of When Books Went to War

“Passionately told and dazzling in scope, The Perfect Horse charges headlong into an unforgettable tale of World War II, when good men were given a final mission—to save beloved horses—at an hour when no one wanted to die. In Elizabeth Letts, the saga of World War II’s white stallions has found its perfect guardian.”—Adam Makos, author of A Higher Call

“Elizabeth Letts’s beautiful prose, woven together with meticulous research, takes you for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.”—Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless
I spotted this one at the bookstore last month and couldn't wait to get into it. One of the many things about The Perfect Horse that caught my eye was that it is by Elizabeth Letts, author of The Eighty Dollar Champion, which I read last year, but apparently didn't review.

Miracle of the White StallionsThe second thing that caught my eye was a memory of one of my favorite movies. One I haven't seen in a couple of decades either: Miracle of the White Stallions, which I think covers the same story - though without the details I'm finding. I think I'm going to have to get a copy of this again sooner or later and re-watch it.

Yes, I'm a sucker for horse stories and the stories of the Lippizan Stallions are some of my favorites - though I'm also very partial to Arabians. 

So far, I'm finding The Perfect Horse to be well written and very readable - not to mention that it's turning into quite the quick read. I'm already about a quarter of the way through, and I only started reading it today (Friday).

The second book I bought recently was another almost-impulse-buy. A biography of Terry Fox.
Terry Fox: His Story - Leslie ScrivenerTerry Fox: His Story (Revised)
Leslie Scrivener
McClelland and Stewart
Copyright Date: 2000
978-0771080197

The Amazon.com product description:
Terry Fox, the one-legged runner from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, made an indelible impression upon people across Canada and around the world. An outstanding athlete with a stubborn and competitive spirit, he lost his leg to cancer at 19, but said “nobody is ever going to call me a quitter.”

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox set out from St. John’s, Newfoundland to begin the run across Canada that he named the Marathon of Hope. His ambition was to raise a million dollars for cancer research. It wasn’t easy. Initial support from communities varied from terrific to nothing at all. His prosthetic leg was painful to run on, and there were always traffic and extreme weather conditions to deal with. But, by the time he reached Ontario – a journey of more than 3,000 kilometres – word of his achievement had spread, and thousands cheered him and followed his progress. Terry’s spirits soared, and now he hoped to raise $22 million dollars – one dollar for every Canadian. He succeeded in this ambition, but the Marathon of Hope ended near Thunder Bay, Ontario on September 1, 1980. The cancer had spread to his lungs, and, after running 24 miles in one day, on the next he could run no further.

When cancer finally claimed his life in 1981, Canada mourned the loss of a hero, but the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope lives on. The Terry Fox Foundation raised more than $17 million in 1999, and support for the event nationally and around the world is growing.
I read a kids' biography of Terry Fox years and years ago and I've been saying for a while that I wanted to know more about him. The kick to actually find a book was that there is an exhibit in his honor opening at the museum soon - in fact it may already have opened this past week.

The final book I bought is one I've been waiting for for a while now, and it just came out a couple of days ago:
Cold Welcome (Vatta's Peace) - Elizabeth MoonCold Welcome (Vatta's Peace)
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright Date: April 11, 2017
978-1101887318

The Amazon.com product description:
Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon makes a triumphant return to science fiction with a thrilling series featuring Kylara Vatta, the daring hero of her acclaimed Vatta’s War sequence.

After nearly a decade away, Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon makes a triumphant return to science fiction with this installment in a thrilling new series featuring the daring hero of her acclaimed Vatta’s War sequence.

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet—a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group’s survival but her entire home planet.

Praise for Elizabeth Moon

Trading in Danger
“A mix of space opera, military science fiction and human drama, this is an exciting and often touching novel.”RT Book Reviews

Marque and Reprisal
“Excellent plotting and characters support the utterly realistic action sequences: swift, jolting, confusing, and merciless. It’s a corker!”Kirkus Reviews

Engaging the Enemy
“Moon has created a richly imagined universe of different cultures, replete with intriguing characters and the sense of unlimited possibility that characterizes the most appealing science fiction.”School Library Journal

Command Decision
“One of scifi’s best military space series . . . confirms Moon’s place with Lois McMaster Bujold and David Weber in the top tier of turn-of-the-millennium military SF writers.”—Syfy

Victory Conditions
“Rip-roaring action and intriguing science and tactics distinguish Nebula winner Moon’s fifth and final Vatta’s War installment. . . . A fine and fitting conclusion to Moon’s grand space opera tour de force.”Publishers Weekly
I'm most definitely looking forward to reading this one! Though I may need to do a re-read of the Vatta's War series first.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hooked On A New (Old) Series - Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Complete Series & MoviesI am now officially hooked on this series. I'd never seen any of it before, but I'm loving it now! In maybe a month we've gotten through the first two seasons and just started watching the third this morning. I think we're averaging about two or three episodes a day.

I'm loving the overall atmosphere and connecting arc of all the episodes - not to mention the characters.

The series premise is as follows (from the first season):
Babylon 5: Season OneIn 2257 A.D., the Earth Alliance places a massive space station, Babylon 5, into orbit around a planet in a neutral corner of a distant galaxy to serve as a refuge for anyone seeking sanctuary from the tyranny of the hostile federations that dominate the outermost regions of space. In this strange, exotic and dangerous world, humans and aliens strive to build a new and better future.
Elements of Babylon 5 remind me of Stargate SG1, which I watched my way through a few years ago - kind of want to re-watch some of them again too soon - but this is most definitely it's own series.

From the start there are hints of the greater story-arc, even though there are also a number of episodes that more or less stand on their own. However, into the second season those stand-alone episodes become fewer and fewer, while the overarching arcs become stronger and stronger.

While the graphics are somewhat dated, the storylines certainly aren't. Peel away the alien facades and you will find the issues that we as a world are grappling with today like racism, fear of the "other", hatred, working conditions, poverty and so much more. Despite that, the stories told in the episodes are not simply allegorical in-your-face messages. Don't ask how many times we've found ourselves putting in another disc because we both want to know what's going to happen next!

Babylon 5: Season TwoThe Season Two finale was a good example of that. I'm really glad that we're watching now with the complete series in our possession. Waiting for the next season to start would have been a form of torture I think!

Moments of laughter mixed with absolute edge of the seat questions of what's going to happen next. If Babylon 5 was a book, I'd be saying it was one I couldn't put down. It's definitely the equivalent as a TV series!

Personal opinions here so your mileage may vary greatly, but I'm definitely preferring the Narns and their attitudes to those of the Centauri - at least those of the Centauri we've seen so far! Looking forward to seeing the moment when Londo truly realizes how badly his choices have messed things up and to see him trying to make amends.

Also looking forward to learning more about the Rangers and their role in things to come - have only seen a few episodes with them so far. I can't help but wonder what historical reference will come up next either - last one I saw and I still believe it to be an omen was the line about "peace in our time" on the signing of the nonaggression treaty between Earth and the Centauri. Somehow I can't see anything good coming of that at all.

Europe: Chained By History - Larry J. Hilton

Europe: Chained By History - Larry J. HiltonEurope: Chained By History
Larry J. Hilton
Newport Publishing
Copyright Date: December 2015
978-0996786119

The amazon.com product description:
A Plea for Europe to form a United States of Europe
Europe: Chained by History is a groundbreaking book that uses history to make a compelling case for Europe to form a United States of Europe--or risk seeing the European Union come apart individually.
Using the history of Vienna from its inception to 1938, readers are invited to observe Western Europe from within this ancient city.
  • Where did historic rivalries among European nations begin?
  • How did the Enlightenment affect Europe and the United States?
  • What persistent darkness allowed Hitler to lead the word in to a second devastating world war?
  • What will it take for today's European Union to survive?
Author Larry J. Hilton explores these questions, and more, by using fascinating details about what it was really like to live in Vienna from the the first century through the days of hyper-inflation after World War 1.
Thought provoking and well researched, Europe: Chained by History radiates hope even as it details the formidable political obstacles to European unity. In the end, a banking or ISIS crisis will force the issue.
It took me a while to get through Europe: Chained by History, but I think the read was worth it after all. I have to say though, that that was despite some of my first impressions thanks to the way it was formatted. Generally I'm not fond of books that use double-spacing and a larger font size, but that, I admit is a personal prejudice.

The author has taken an interesting route to his end conclusion, following a few particular threads through Austrian history for the most part, which had a mixed result for me. When I could really get into the book, I found it very compelling. I have to admit though that there were a few points at which I struggled, such as those describing Hitler and his life in Austria.

Initially I thought that the book was skimping on the details at times and I'm willing to debate the accuracy of a couple of those details - I'm very much interested in the Classical era, but the true point of the book comes much later in time: the seventeen-hundreds and later. That later period is also where the author shines and his true passion for the subject shows.

One of my favorite things about Europe: Chained by History is all of the snippets of day-to-day life the author includes, covering people of all sorts and through all the periods of time that the book covers, but particularly in the aftermath of World War One.  They really bring the impact of all the decisions made  - at all levels - home to the reader.

As I noted earlier, this is quite a dark book at times, and I found myself needing a break several times before I came back to it. Never was that due to the writing though, which was always clear and straightforward. Larry Hilton lays out his arguments clearly and then follows them up with well-thought-out points and a thorough use of history to prove them.

It's interesting to see all of the points where things might have gone differently if different choices had been made being pointed out. Often-times when I read history I see the books as simply following the events that happened. Larry Hilton does that, but also points out some of the other choices that could have been made to lead to different futures. Some of those choices could still be made even today - and that's the point of his book.

It's rather interesting to see history as not just a case of "here's what happened" but also as a set of expectations for the future - thus the chains of his title. Definitely a different perspective of the past, and one that provokes a fair bit of thought. I think that I'm going to be digesting this book for a while.

Europe: Chained by History is a book that I accepted for review purposes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Snapshots - January 7th 2017

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. The rules of the game are:
To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Personally, I find that this is one of the most fun memes that I've participated in. Not to mention that it's a bit of an incentive to get out and take more photos every week!

All photos are new ones this week. I got out earlier in the week to do some birdwatching and photography - finally able to really test out the new 80-400mm lens, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results. Any remaining annoyance is pointed firmly at my need to improve my own skills, and not at the equipment (I need to learn to use manual focus properly - so as to ensure that the focus is on the right part of the bird (head and eye) rather than the branches around the bird or the wing or tail).

Anyway, these are the three that I'm most proud of:







All three were taken somewhere I'd driven by several times and not realized what it was. Buttertubs Marsh, Nanaimo.  I'm definitely going back there. It's a beautiful little walk - though the path was pretty icy this week. Lots of different birds too.

I saw some kind of hawk-type bird flying by, a male red-winged blackbird, spotted towhees, dark-eyed juncos, chickadees and assorted sparrows like the ones above. Not to mention a couple of American robins. What the heck. I'm going to add one more photo today:


I can't forget about the squirrels either. We saw quite a few of them. No waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans) though. Not too surprising as the whole marsh was frozen more or less solid. I definitely want to go back through the year to watch the wildlife change as the birds come and go with the seasons.

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is one of the longest lasting book-memes I know of. I've been a participant since the days it was hosted over at J Kaye's Book Blog, and then on Book Journey. Now It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted at Book Date.

The idea of It's Monday! What Are You Reading is to share the books you read last week and also what you are currently reading. I've discovered the hard way that it's a dangerous meme for your TBR piles as frequently I end up adding books to my wishlist thanks to the intriguing descriptions and reviews that others share.

For a week involving the holiday season, I got more reading done than I'd expected:

Hand of Isis - Jo GrahamHand of Isis
Jo Graham

The amazon.com product description:
Charmian is handmaiden to Cleopatra. She is also an oracle, gifted with ancient memories that may hold the key to preserving Egypt. Through blood and fire, war and peace, love and death, she will face a desperate struggle that will remake the future of the world.

Shortlisted for the Locus Best First Novel Award, included in The Amazon Editors' Top Ten List in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2008 and the Locus Recommended Reading List, with starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, Jo Graham is one of the most exciting new voices to come out of historical fantasy in recent years.
An excerpt from my review:
I can't recommend Hand of Isis enough to any historical fiction reader, and many fantasy readers. I'm almost certain that if you enjoyed reading any of Katherine Kurtz's historical fiction novels or Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, you'll enjoy reading this one, and Jo Graham's other novels as well. 
The second book I read (finished it late last night):

The Laughing Corpse - Laurell K. HamiltonThe Laughing Corpse
Laurell K. Hamilton

The amazon.com product description:
The early Anita Blake novels find new life in trade paperback-as perfect collectibles for long-time fans or as great ways for new readers to sink their teeth into the series.
In The Laughing Corpse, a creature from beyond the grave is tearing a swath of murder through St. Louis. And Anita will learn that there are some secrets better left buried-and some people better off dead...
These books are as close to horror as I care to get.

An excerpt from my review:
Anita Blake is quite the character though. Stubborn, sure of herself, and determined to do the right thing. She's not about to wait around for someone else to take on the tough tasks. Or for someone else to do the unpleasant jobs - and there are a few of those in this book. Instead, if that's what she's got to deal with, she's going to do so - and do it to the best of her ability - even if that scares her.

I'm currently reading only one book this week - and I did actually read a hundred pages or so of it last week so it still counts.

The Fiery Cross - Diana GabaldonThe Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon

The amazon.com product description:

The dazzling fifth volume of Diana Gabaldon’s extraordinary Outlander saga, featuring 18th-century Scotsman James Fraser and his 20th-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser’s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge.

Born in the year of Our Lord 1918, Claire Randall served England as a nurse on the battlefields of World War II, and in the aftermath of peace found fresh conflicts when she walked through a cleftstone on the Scottish Highlands and found herself an outlander, an English lady in a place where no lady should be, in a time—1743—when the only English in Scotland were the officers and men of King George’s army.

Now wife, mother, and surgeon, Claire is still an outlander, out of place, and out of time, but now, by choice, linked by love to her only anchor—Jamie Fraser. Her unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead—or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes....

Grand, sweeping, utterly unforgettable, The Fiery Cross is riveting entertainment, a vibrant tapestry of history and human drama.
There are a few books that I'm planning to start reading this week:

Europe: Chained By History
Larry J. Hilton
Newport Publishing
Copyright: 2015
978-0996786119

The amazon.com product description:

A Plea for Europe to form a United States of Europe
Europe: Chained by History is a groundbreaking book that uses history to make a compelling case for Europe to form a United States of Europe--or risk seeing the European Union come apart individually.
Using the history of Vienna from its inception to 1938, readers are invited to observe Western Europe from within this ancient city.
  • Where did historic rivalries among European nations begin?
  • How did the Enlightenment affect Europe and the United States?
  • What persistent darkness allowed Hitler to lead the word in to a second devastating world war?
  • What will it take for today's European Union to survive?
Author Larry J. Hilton explores these questions, and more, by using fascinating details about what it was really like to live in Vienna from the the first century through the days of hyper-inflation after World War 1.
Thought provoking and well researched, Europe: Chained by History radiates hope even as it details the formidable & political obstacles to European unity. In the end, a banking or ISIS crisis will force the issue.
This was a book that I accepted for review - the first one in quite a few years.

Tempest: All New Tales of Valdemar
Ed. Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 2016

The amazon.com product description:

Twenty-four authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

The Heralds of Valdemar are the kingdom’s ancient order of protectors. They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages—and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. These inborn talents—combined with training as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, warriors, and more—make them indispensable to their monarch and realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horse-like Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. The Heralds of Valdemar and their Companions ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, twenty-three authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique voices to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this beloved fantasy realm.

Join Elizabeth Vaughan, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Brozek, Brenda Cooper, Rosemary Edghill, and others in twenty-two original stories, including a brand-new novella by Mercedes Lackey, to Valdemar, where:

A Herald must crack an ancient code in a historic tapestry in order to arbitrate a dispute over land and lineage…

A Healer’s daughter flees the noble family that has trapped and enslaved her mother, and must seek help to free her mother…

A young woman who hides her clairvoyant powers from her town’s Karsite priests ForeSees a threat, and must risk revealing her Gift to save her community…

A Herald finds his assistant has been abducted by a man upon whom he had levied a heavy fine, and must foil the kidnapper’s plans to save his charge…
This one is the first book I'm planning to read for the Valdemar Challenge that started yesterday.

The third book I'm planning to start is the third book in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series:

The Circus of the Damned - Laurell K. HamiltonThe Circus of the Damned
Laurell K. Hamilton

The amazon.com product description:
First time in trade paperback: the third novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

In Circus of the Damned-now in trade paperback for the first time-a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war. Jean-Claude, the Master Vamp of the city, wants her for his own-but his enemies have other plans. And to make matters worse, Anita takes a hit to the heart when she meets a stunningly handsome junior high science teacher named Richard Zeeman. They're two humans caught in the crossfire-or so Anita thinks.

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