Book Review – The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli

Title: The Prince and The Discourses
Niccolo Machiavelli, translated by Luigi Ricci, revised by E.R.P. Vincent, Intro by Max Lerner
Format: Paperback
Written: cir 1515 / 1532
1950, Modern Library College Edition (Random House)

The Prince is a political discourse which follows a literary genre of advice to princes on how to govern their territories.  Machiavelli’s was distinctive by taking a harshly realistic rather than idealistic approach to the genre.  (The Discourses were included in this edition, but I did not read them.)

I believe I picked up this battered copy of The Prince from a free book shelf and would recommend this edition if you chance across it.  There’s a lengthy introduction at the beginning which provides some biographical information on Machiavelli.  I normally skip those, but this one held my attention longer than most.  And The Prince is the sort of book that makes a lot more sense in historical context as it’s largely a commentary on history and current politics (in the early 1500s).

Frankly, it’s one of the more boring books I’ve read.  But I suspect that has a lot to do with my lack of detailed knowledge of Italian political history.  Machiavelli is frequently pointing to specific rulers as examples of his points, and not being familiar with them, it’s hard to tell if he’s being dry or sly in his commentary.  Someone on Goodreads had insisted The Prince was really a satire, and I was hoping to be able to determine whether or not this is so.  But without the historical context it’s hard to say.

The book itself is historically significant and Machiavellian ideas have influenced a number of leaders.  It’s not nearly as dark or unfeeling as I had thought it might be given its most frequently quoted line (“It is better to be feared than loved” which is only part of the sentence).  Out of context, it does sound awful.  In context, it’s fairly pragmatic.  Machiavelli also goes to great lengths talking about how important it is to have fair laws and not abuse the common people.  So I do think he was more realist than sadist.  But the reality of history is that political change often came with a good deal of violence.

There’s plenty of room to debate how pragmatically “good” Machiavelli’s ideas are.  They’re often circular and contradictory (which leads credence to the satire theory).  But I believe the book has endured for how incredibly quotable many of its sentences and paragraphs are.  Just as the spews of names and dry text would lull me towards sleep, a brilliantly insightful and well phrased line would emerge.  So there was certainly wit and intelligence in the writer, and while I’m glad to have read the book, I wish I had better context knowledge to understand it.

I’m going to give it a solid 3 out of 5, because I would strongly recommend it to the intellectually, politically, or historically curious.  But I have a feeling it would bore and annoy many readers.  Certainly not a good pleasure reading.

Book Review – Fruits Basket vol 4 by Natsuki Takaya

Title: Fruits Basket vol 4

Author/Illustrator: Natsuki Takaya

Format: Paperback

Published: 2004


Today I bring you the 4th volume in the Fruits Basket Series. Yes I am aware that I skipped right over the third volume but I figured I would save you yet another review of it brings me warm fuzzies and is good. It was true of the third book and there wasn’t much to review on it save to point out that we are introduced to more of the Shoma family and it was cute and sweet.   So I thought I’d skip ahead till I got something worth talking about and that was the case with volume 4.


To me this volume is packed with a lot of great things and ‘new’ characters who have to be mentioned and remarked on. The story starts with the bone chilling idea that Akito the head of the Shoma family is coming to visit the school. This is a huge deal as Akito is not painted in the best light in any of the book. Akito seems to be rather harsh and cruel from the beginning and for him to be at the school says a lot and you can see right off how this effects and bothers Yuki. There wasn’t much that came from the story save to show Akito’s cruelty a bit more and to show how much he affect Yuki.


After that even the story progresses forward Tohru meets a new Shoma family member know as Ayame who is the Snake. Ayame is the older brother of Yuki and I will say he is probably one of my favorite characters. He is a rather amusing character who cares for his brother despite the fact that there is a rift between them. It is really sweet to see how Tohru is trying to bring them together and I love the animated stories that Aya tells. It was amusing in manga form and even more so in Anime in my opinion, though both are amazing. I love the dynamic that Aya brings to the story and the characters.


There are other great chapters in this book that I absolutely love such as learning more about Momiji. All a worth read and highly enjoyable.   I would most assuredly give this book a strong 4 out of 5 pages. I think Fruits Basket is a cute series and a great way to break into Manga in my opinion as the story is good, and there is a great balance of humor and sadness with a good fantasy element thrown in. Needless to say I am looking forward to the next book in the series which is already waiting for me in my bag!

Book Review – Shadow Spell

Title: Shadow Spell

Author: Nora Roberts

Format: Trade Paperback

Year Published: 2014

So I have to eat my words – this series isn’t exactly like the usual Nora Roberts trilogy save for the basics. I set up the arc last week – ancient evil, three with powers who are destined to end him – and so this story picks up with Connor, the second of the three Dark Witches, several weeks after the events of Dark Witch. Cabhan (their nemesis) has been weakened but not defeated, and the circle must try again.

One of the things I’m enjoying most about this series is that Roberts has tried a different career for her protagonists (it’s usually a safe bet that it will involve horses – which Dark Witch did – or somebody owns a shop or a business of their own, or they’re a writer/firefighter/something else that doesn’t really involve being in an office day in/out). In this case, Connor is a falconer. Granted, he runs a little business, so it’s not too great of a deviation, but it is nice.

Another change is that while typically in a trilogy like this, we get the occasional glimpse of what originally set it into motion, but this series is actually allowing the present and the past to connect in a much more direct way. If not done correctly, this could be cringe-worthy, but in this case, it’s done perfectly.

On the romance end – this is a romance novel, after all – I enjoyed Connor and Meara’s connection. The way that it kind of comes out of nowhere – usually we get a hint that there’s something there in the first novel – threw me just a bit, but I enjoyed watching as they connected and overcame the objections their pasts threw up.

All in all, I’m giving this one a solid 3/5.

BOOK REVIEW – Tomatoes

Miriam Rubin
Hardback Cookbook

So, I’m actually working on an entire anthology of tomato themed stories, so when I happened on this book on display at my new library, I decided that I wanted to check it out.

This is a cookbook, but it starts out with a bit of history about the tomato.  It’s really interesting stuff, actually – for instance, the tomato was first cultivated with the Aztecs, not in Europe like everyone assumes, but weren’t widely popular until about 200 years ago.   The series itself is a southern cooking series, so they made sure to talk about the importance of the tomato in the south.

The second part of the book is all recipes where the tomato is a very important ingredient.

So here’s my problem – the recipes include everything from the wildly complicated down to the ridiculously simple.  One of them actually says to slice a tomato and serve it.  Ahem.  But there are NO PICTURES, which is my number one cookbook pet peeve.  And let’s face it.  If you’re so clueless enough that you need to be told to slice something and serve it raw on a plate, you need to know what a finished dish is supposed to look like, especially if it has a dozen ingredients.    USE PICTURES PEOPLE!!!

And I have to admit that when I saw there were no pics, I almost returned it without reading a single word.  Its that important to me.

But, I read the thing anyway.  (Remember, I said I’m doing a themed anthology.  I thought I might get something useful.)  And I have to say, I’m sad.  I mean, it’s clear that the author is in love with her subject matter.  And if this had been a non-fiction book about the tomato, I’d have read 5000 pages by this author.

Unfortunately, it’s not.  So I’m going to give it a 3/5.  As a cookbook, it just misses the mark.

Book Review – Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Format: Hardback

Published: 2013


After finishing Insurgent I was quick to pick up Alegiant and read it. I was excited for the read as I had enjoyed insurgent. So I delved in looking forward to getting lost in the book to be jerked right out of the story by the second chapter. Instead of the story being told in first person perspective from the eyes of Tris the story alternates back and forth from the eyes of Tris and Tobias. It is almost every other chapter that the voice changes in first person. Each chapter is marked with whose perspective the story is being told but taking the time to note that every chapter pulls you out of the story that is being told instead of getting lost in it. In addition to that if I got interrupted in the middle of a chapter it was difficult to determine whose perspective I was reading from unless I looked back a few pages at the chapter start.


Over all, I don’t mind changing perspectives in third person because that is easy to tell and the voice doesn’t really change just the scene does, but in first person it can be difficult to determine who “I” is. Honestly I feel the story in Allegiant suffered from the changing perspectives and in some ways it was a little necessary but a lot of times it wasn’t and I didn’t see the point of the change in perspective. Alternating back and forth I feel was a poor execution of telling the story. Honestly there are better ways of executing things if there is a need for change in perspective such sections, it still pulls a reader out of the story but not as frequently so one can go multiple chapters without being pulled out. Also a font difference would also help as it is a quick reference and easier to notice than stopping at each chapter to read a name to verify whose talking. Long rant cut short, this made me very cranky and frustrated me with the book.


Despite the changes in perspectives, I still read the book because I wanted to know what happened and it was still a good story that kept my attention as far as stories go and toward the end I was locked into the book and was ready to murder a person for interrupting me in my reading as the story picked up and had enough action that changing perspectives was not a bit deal. Overall the book was a pretty good read, and I will give it a 4 out of 5 pages. If the story wasn’t as good as it was the formatting would have forced this book into a 3 out of 5 but the story saves the book keeping at a strong rating and something I would say is a good read but I would warn about the changing POV’s as that can be annoying.

Book Review – Dark Witch

Title: Dark Witch

Author: Nora Roberts

Format: Trade paperback

Year Published: 2013

I enjoy romances. The happily-ever-after, the sure-fire knowledge that my heart is not going to be yanked from y chest and stomped on… (and then sometimes I’m WRONG, book-that-I-have-blocked-the-title-from-my-mind-but-am-still-mad-at).

When I was heavy in my romance-reading ways, I devoured Nora Roberts’ books. (Unlike what I first tried to type, I did not devour Nora Roberts.) Going back to them, however, the books are very heavily formulaic. I do enjoy reading them, still – they’re totally brain candy – however, I’ve found that once I’ve read them, I very rarely want to reread them. (And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why the library is my friend.)

This book was the first in a classic Nora Roberts trilogy – girl, who has never really fit in where she was, arrives at a new place and immediately feels like she’s at home. There she meets her cousins – usually a brother/sister combo, but occasionally they’re also cousins to each other), and immediately connects to them. She also meets and falls for a friend of the male cousin. In addition, the female cousin will have a close female friend that will eventually end up linked to the male cousin, and there will be another friend of the male cousin that she once had a torrid affair with that ended badly. There’s some sort of supernatural problem that requires all six involved to resolve. Occasionally one of the women will be a mother, but the father will either be dead or uninterested and the male interested int eh mother will eventually adopt the child/ren as his own.

So obviously I knew what I was getting into with this series. Here’s the specifics: Iona is coming from America, and already knows and can use her magic in small ways (this was a welcome change from other series, as the woman moving into town usually had no idea she was magical). She also knows the story of the Dark Witch, her ancestor, who gave her life and passed her powers on to her three children. (As a side note, the names of the children threw me. They were far too contemporary for 1263.) Iona arrives in Ireland (another big theme) and meets her cousins, Branna and Connor. They immediately make a connection and then the trouble starts – the dark force that their ancestor gave her life to defeat is back, and they’re the three that must stop him.

I enjoyed as Iona learned to control her powers, and I liked that she wasn’t the typical ‘fish-out-pond’ heroine that appears in these trilogies. She’s new to the land, yes, and somewhat new to her power, but she owns in. (I also really enjoyed that when she got nervous she babbled, as that made her seem less like a typical romance heroine and more like an actual human.)

The big fight of the book felt a little bleh. You knew going in that they weren’t going to win (how could this be a trilogy if they did, after all?) but it was missing something.

Still looking forward to the next two (waiting on my couch now), so I’ll give this a 2.5/5 – not going to win any awards, not going to wow anybody, but perfect for when you want to shut your mind off.

Book Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers

AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ILLUSTRATORS: Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli, etc
FORMAT: Graphic Novel/Comic Collection

This collection covers Guardians of the Galaxy 1-3 and 0.1, and also Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1, and has bonus artwork in the back as well.

So, the story starts with Star-Lord’s origin story, where we meet his mother and find out who his father is, etc.  Then we have Star-Lord in space with the rest of the Guardians.  Earth is in trouble, they have to protect it, etc.  Oh, and Iron Man shows up.

The comic is a little different from the movie – for starters, the origin story is different, because Cancer makes a better movie apparently.  And I can totally see where the idea for the movie came from in this comic, although the comic is a little different.

But that’s not a bad thing.

Honestly, if they had been more true to these comics, I think the movie would have been better.  Iron Man was an interesting addition, and I kind of liked it.

I’ll give this one a 4/5.

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