Book Review – Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth

Tolkien and the Great War
John Garth
Hardback – 2003

The short version is that this is a biography of JRR Tolkien during his time just prior to and during WWI, and how his time in the trenches affected his mythology.

So I picked this book up because I love anything to do with WWI and I was hoping to actually get some cool WWI flavor out of this book. Also, I’m a fan of Tolkien.

Unfortunately, this book was clearly written by a scholar. And not that that is a bad thing, per sey, but sometimes the way the book was written really bogged down what the author was trying to say. Also, sometimes, the author sort of glossed over certain things that may not have been that important but that would have helped the book connect (for instance, they talked about referenced Tolkien’s kids a couple times, but didn’t even give us their names until the post script).

So, the bottom line is this – if you’re not a huge fan of WWI *and* Tolkien – all of Tolkien – or don’t need this for school, don’t read it. If you only like Tolkien for the Hobbit or LOTR, you’re probably not going to care all that much about this book – it only talks about The Lost Tales and the Simarillion. But if you are that fan of Tolkien that just can’t get enough, read it.

So, my rating… If this is your cup of tea, it’s a must read. But if you’re not already really into both of these subjects, you’re not going to enjoy this at all. And because of that, I’m not giving this a number.

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Book Review – Baby Names Made Easy by Amanda Elizabeth Barden

Baby Names Made Easy: The complete reverse-dictionary of baby names

Amanda Elizabeth Barden

Paperback

2009

Okay, so I got this book for purposes of writing and just because it was different.

The book is a really thorough book of baby names, meanings, related names, etc.  I loved that it even gave origin for related names in the additional list.  I’ve honestly never seen one where the names were this thorough.

The problem is that it was missing a lot of the things that I expect to see from baby naming books.  First of all, the beginning of the book, where you usually get baby naming tips was more a personal letter of why Amanda liked names so much and decided to make a book of her own, and the only tip was a suggestion of hers to throw convention out the window and instead of using sound-alike names (because people still name their kids Jerry, Terry and Larry; ahem), give them names with the same meaning, like Violet, Geneva and Oliver, which are all plants, tress and things that grow.

Honestly, this book is useless.  Maybe it’s interesting to see names that group together, but some of the several dozen categories have names that I wouldn’t saddle on a goldfish.  For instance, the mercy and forgiveness category – Bethesda, Carita, Charity, Clemencia, Clementine, Dara, Daya, Kai, Karuna, Maharene, Mercedes, Mercy, Mileta, Ruth, Sameh, Venetia and Venice for girls, Atif, Clement, Fordel, Kai, Kelmen, Miles, Milo, Rachman, Rafat, Rahim, Ransom, Rauf and Shafiq for boys.  That’s it, that’s the whole category.  Over half of which are so uncommon that my spellcheck is convinced I’ve spelled them wrong.   And really, does anyone know anyone who has sat around going “lets name all our kids after candy” (aside from the nicknames that Ashley Judd’s character’s kids had in ‘Where The Heart Is.’) who could use a book like this?

You can’t find a name you like and see similar names without looking through the back index and then going on to look them up in random places in the book.  So you can’t sit there and go “Okay, I want to call my son Will, what names could that be short for…?” without then going to eleven different pages to get meanings.

I’ll give her that she did her research.

But for usability, I’m giving this book a 2/5 and taking it back for something different.

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