California Literary Review

Biography

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

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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.

A Watchful Eye On… Winston Churchill

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March 2nd, 2011

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, known best as the wartime Prime Minister, held in his distinguished career a number of other high positions, including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. Renowned as an orator and statesman, he enjoys a permanent place in Western history. The adventure and controversy pervading his professional life seem ripe for an enterprising screenwriter to pick.

The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier

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January 21st, 2011

This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

Tom Russell: American Primitive Man

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December 13th, 2010

Every Tom Russell song has something to say about the human heart. In each voice he invokes there are universal echoes of love, doubt, weakness, fear, restlessness and faith. The figure of the wanderer – whether soldier, cowboy, nomad, pioneer, outcast or pilgrim – passes again and again through his work.

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

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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

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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

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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: Chords of Strength by David Archuleta

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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: Unbillable Hours: A True Story by Ian Graham

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June 7th, 2010

It was an appeal on behalf of Mario Rocha, a Los Angeleno of Mexican descent, who in 1996, at the age of sixteen, had been convicted of the murder of another Latino youth, the result of a shooting that had occurred at a backyard house party. Rocha was given two consecutive life sentences, although he was in fact innocent.

Book Review: Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller

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May 10th, 2010

Pity Duane W. Roller, author of Cleopatra: A Biography. I can just imagine the initial conversation at the Oxford University Press: “We want you to write a biography of Cleopatra, sensuous queen of the Egyptians, famed figure of ancient history.” “Excellent, as Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University, I’d be thrilled to delve into a world of intrigue and shifting political sands.” “Good. But no sex, please, we’re British.”

Book Review: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro

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May 3rd, 2010

Beginning around 1800, the hunt started to find the “real” Shakespeare, the noble visionary who had exalted the spiritual struggles of humankind and celebrated the comedy of errors of our daily lives. In this engaging and well-researched book, James Shapiro charts the course of this pursuit of truth and beauty, arriving at conclusions that reflect both his insightful scholarship and common sense. Amassing an unassailable body of evidence, Shapiro proves that William Shakespeare of Stratford did indeed write the plays and poems credited to him, but not always as a solitary creative genius.

Book Review: Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman by Chloë Schama

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April 26th, 2010

A secret affair. A scandalous sex-filled trial. A tell-all novel. If it’s any consolation to Tiger Woods and Jesse James, they’re not the first to be stripped down to their Jockeys on a worldwide scale. Welcome, William Charles Yelverton, Victorian seducer.

Book Review: Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough

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April 15th, 2010

In the Nashville of the 1960s, songs were typically recorded in an hour or less and mistakes were kept in because they made the sound more “human.” Fussing over them any longer than that was considered “burning the beans.” After concerts, fees were paid in cash in shopping bags. In the course of recounting Wynette’s life, McDonough describes a cast of characters that no novelist could have invented without being accused of stretching the borders of believability.

Book Review: Jesus: A Biography from a Believer by Paul Johnson

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April 7th, 2010

Jesus of Nazareth started to preach and heal the sick when he “was beginning about the age of thirty years,” according to St. Luke’s Gospel. Of his early life during the first decades of the 1st Century, almost nothing is known. His ministry to the poor and troubled inhabitants of Galilee, Samaria and Judea lasted a mere three years. Then, after arousing the suspicion and anger of the ruling elite, he was crucified, died and was buried. In one of the strangest twists of human history, what should have been the end of the story was just the start.

Book Review: I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

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March 2nd, 2010

If the book were a movie, it would be rated R; the author’s got a dirty mouth (or pen, if you prefer) and hormones out the wazoo, and this book is not your mom’s dating guide. But for modern women it’s a refreshing and smart reassurance that they’re not alone in their woes.

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