Rambling about books

Book review: North Korea Undercover, by John Sweeney

Award-winning BBC journalist John Sweeney is one of the few to have witnessed at first hand the devastating reality of life in the controversial and isolated nation of North Korea.

Posing as a university professor, Sweeney went undercover to gain unprecedented access to the world’s most secret state. He spoke to people who have seen the horrific dark side of the regime and saw things which have been hidden for years from the eyes of the western world: huge factories with no staff or electricity; hospitals with no patients; uniformed child soldiers; and the world-famous and eerily empty DMZ – the De-Militarized Zone where North Korea ends and South Korea starts – all framed by the relentless flow of regime propaganda from omnipresent loudspeakers.

Sweeney also visited South Korea and met defectors from the North who told him the other side of the story: gulags within a gulag state, dire poverty, blunted lives, hideous torture, effective infanticide of disabled babies, stick-limbed children dying of famine and mass graves of political prisoners that could only be dug when the spring thaw set in.

With the world’s eyes focused on North Korea, Sweeney’s timely account is a stunning piece of reportage from the country the author describes as the strangest place he’s ever visited. A combination of first person experiences, new and revealing interviews, and history, North Korea Undercover examines the country’s troubled history and provides a window into life there today. Goodreads.

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Rambling about books

Book review: A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson

Book cover from Goodreads

We’re dying from the moment we’re born.

In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. Goodreads.

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Book review: Mythology 101: From Gods and Goddesses to Monsters and Mortals, Your Guide to Ancient Mythology, by Kathleen Sears

Book cover from Goodreads

Explore the fascinating myths of Greek and Roman civilizations

The tales of gods and heroes are often turned into tedious discourse that even Ovid would reject. This easy-to-read guide cuts out the boring details, and instead, provides you with a thrilling lesson in classic mythology.

From the heights of Mt. Olympus to the depths of the Underworld, this book takes you on an unforgettable journey through all the major myths born in ancient Greece and Rome, such as Achilles’s involvement in the Trojan War; Pluto’s kidnapping of the beautiful Proserpina; and the slaying of Medusa by Perseus, the heroic demi-god. You’ll also learn all about the wonders of the world as well as the greatest creatures ever recorded in history.

Like Charon navigating the River of Wailing, Mythology 101 will guide you through the most glorious (and completely terrifying) tales the ancient world has to offer. Goodreads Continue reading “Book review: Mythology 101: From Gods and Goddesses to Monsters and Mortals, Your Guide to Ancient Mythology, by Kathleen Sears”

Rambling about books

Book review: Religion 101: From Allah to Zen Buddhism, an Exploration of the Key People, Practices, and Beliefs That Have Shaped the Religions of the World, by Peter Archer

Book cover from Goodreads

Discover the origins and traditions of world religions!With so many religions in the world, it isn’t always easy to recall each faith’s key influences, spiritual figures, and dogmas. Written in easy-to-understand language, “Religion 101” offers a fascinating–and memorable–glimpse at the sacred stories, traditions, and doctrines that have influenced today’s most popular religions. Goodreads

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Book review: Severed: A history of Heads Lost and Heads Found, by Frances Larson

Book cover from Goodreads

From the western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred brutal massacres, to the Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of Japanese opponents home to their girlfriends; from the memento mori in Romantic portraits to Damien Hirst’s platinum skull set with diamonds; from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores the bizarre, fantastical and confounding history of the severed head, and offers us a new perspective on our macabre preoccupations.

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Book review: The Rival Queens: Catherine de’Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom, by Nancy Goldstone

Book cover from Goodreads

Catherine de’ Medici was a ruthless pragmatist and powerbroker who dominated the throne for thirty years. Her youngest daughter Marguerite, the glamorous “Queen Margot,” was a passionate free spirit, the only adversary whom her mother could neither intimidate nor control.
When Catherine forces the Catholic Marguerite to marry her Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre against her will, and then uses her opulent Parisian wedding as a means of luring his followers to their deaths, she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family. Goodreads. Continue reading “Book review: The Rival Queens: Catherine de’Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom, by Nancy Goldstone”

Rambling about books

Book review: The Accidental Empress, by Allison Pataki

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27171870-the-accidental-empress

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world. (Goodreads synopsis)

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