California Literary Review

Non-Fiction Reviews

Book Review: From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847-1928 by Julie P. Gelardi


March 15th, 2011

Following this betrayal, the Romanov dynasty was swept off the stage of history. Many of the family were arrested by the Bolsheviks and executed, some with a degree of cruelty and incompetence that beggars belief. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna were evacuated to safety, but the lives of both women were blighted by the near extermination of the Romanov family.

Book Review: Justice For Hedgehogs by Ronald Dworkin


February 17th, 2011

Dworkin believes firmly in “cooperative” interpretation, reinforcing ethical precepts with insights from history, literature and philosophy that have stood the test of time. Among the great philosophers, he summons Plato, Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Frederick Nietzsche to lend their voices to the debate.

Book Review: The New York Times Complete Civil War 1861-1865


February 7th, 2011

This collection of the Times‘ news coverage during the war is a must-have for Civil War enthusiasts and other American history buffs. It contains the power to astonish modern readers with its lofty rhetoric, constant editorializing in news stories and decisions on what was important to its audience. Those decisions are, in many cases, not what a modern newspaper would choose.

Book Review: The Big Policeman by J. North Conway


January 11th, 2011

J. North Conway’s new account of the law enforcement career of Thomas Byrnes, The Big Policeman, shows us what it took to bring some degree of order and safety to New York City’s streets in the Gilded Age. And he’s scrupulously fair to Byrnes, whose bare-knuckled approach to his job would never be acceptable to most modern Americans. He was a man of his age and, somewhat ironically, a cop who would introduce many of the basic techniques that almost all current law enforcement agencies still use.

Critics’ Picks: Best Books of 2010


December 18th, 2010

Our annual selection of noteworthy books.

Book Review: Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans


November 29th, 2010

Homans’ concluding remarks, cogent and powerfully expressed like the rest of Apollo’s Angels, are going to send some powerful shock waves through an arts community content to let ballet companies limp along on the receipts of last year’s Nutcracker performances.

Book Review: Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century by Tom Chatfield


November 23rd, 2010

One element of the gaming industry that will surprise some readers is the billions of dollars made by “gold farmers,” people who play online games such as World of Warcraft, and then sell the loot acquired in the game for real-world dollars to other gamers. China alone is estimated to have over a million of these gold farmer players working right now.

Book Review: How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell


November 10th, 2010

Born nearly five hundred years ago, Montaigne was one of the last great thinkers of the Renaissance. He can also stake a claim to be the first recognizable writer of modern times. Montaigne’s Essays are stocked with insights of such relevance, inspiration and humanity that they might well have been written yesterday – or tomorrow.

Book Review: All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and Me by Jeff Dunham


November 2nd, 2010

Jeff Dunham’s YouTube videos have been seen over 400 million times, his comedy DVDs have sold more than six million copies, and he’s been one of the top touring comedians for the past two years. Here’s the good thing–Dunham’s book comes across a lot like his audience-pleasing live shows.

Book Review: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow


October 8th, 2010

Nevertheless, it is a considerable shock to read indictments of Washington in the letters of Patriot leaders such John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Rush and even Thomas Jefferson. Though some of these remarks were valid criticisms of specific decisions on the part of Washington, the reality of his wartime situation stands in marked contrast to the adulation later heaped upon him. As Abraham Lincoln would experience during the Civil War, Washington was frequently distrusted and damned during his lifetime, often by political colleagues and fellow officers who should have known better.

Book Review: Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America by Erika Lee and Judy Yung


September 10th, 2010

For those who fell in the “only” 7 percent category, the decision to deport them was often a death sentence. Several wrenching accounts of suicide are featured in the book, including that of a Chinese woman, waiting to be deported, who rammed a sharpened chopstick through her ear canal into her brain.

Book Review: The Music Instinct by Philip Ball


September 1st, 2010

The amount of factual detail and insights that Ball brings to the themes under discussion is impressive in the extreme. On just one page, in the chapter dealing with rhythm, he weaves relevant examples ranging from Gyorgy Ligeti’s composition used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s electronic work, Kontakte, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Chinese zither music and songs by Australian Aborigines that are accompanied by the clicking of rhythm sticks.

Book Review: Chords of Strength by David Archuleta


July 7th, 2010

It’s no surprise that David has musical talent in his DNA. His father is a jazz trumpet player, his mother is a gifted singer, his grandmother sang in TV commercials and acted in a few movies (and was known in Utah as “the little lady with the big voice”) and his grandfather sang in a barbershop quartet. Talk about stacking the genetic deck!

Book Review: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings


June 29th, 2010

The next two years of the war for Churchill were a harrowing march through what his wife, Clementine called the “valley of humiliation.” Defeats in Greece, in the Battle of Crete and in North Africa in 1941 were followed by the Japanese capture of Singapore in February 1942. That same month, the daring “Channel Dash” by German warships under siege in Cherbourg to their home naval bases stung British pride to its core. Great Britain, the nation of Marlborough, Churchill’s warrior ancestor, and Lord Nelson was losing the war on land and sea.

Book Review: Myths from Mesopotamia by Stephanie Dalley


June 16th, 2010

I asked them why they, unannounced, wished to meet with the director and they told me that they had just discovered Noah’s ark in Turkey. As I had met a few others along the way conning people with this ark stuff I asked to see the proof. He immediately pulled out a black and white photo showing what looked like a rock cliff and asked, ‘What do you see?’ I looked at it closely and replied, ‘All I can see is that someone took a ballpoint pen and drew a photo of a ship on the rock face’. They replied, in that charming Tennessee accent, ‘Well, it’s a bit hard to see so we’all took a ball point pen and highlighted it for ‘y’all.’

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