Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

The Greeks by Philip Matyszak

The Greeks - Philip Matyszak

TITLE:  The Greeks


SERIES:  Lost Civilizations


AUTHOR:  Philip Matyszak




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781780239002



"This book is a portrait of Ancient Greece—but not as we know it. Few people today appreciate that Greek civilization was spread across the Middle East, or that there were Greek cities in the foothills of the Himalayas. Philip Matyszak tells the lost stories of the Greeks outside Greece, compatriots of luminaries like Sappho, the poet from Lesbos; Archimedes, a native of Syracuse; and Herodotus, who was born in Asia Minor as a subject of the Persian Empire. Stretching from the earliest prehistoric Greek colonies around the Black Sea to Greek settlements in Spain and Italy, through the conquests of Alexander and the glories of the Hellenistic era, to the fall of Byzantium, The Greeks illuminates the lives of the Greek soldiers, statesmen, scientists, and philosophers who laid the foundations of what we call “Greek culture” today—though they seldom, if ever, set foot on the Greek mainland. Instead of following the well-worn path of examining the rise of Athenian democracy and Spartan militarism, this book offers a fresh look at what it meant to be Greek by instead telling the story of the Greeks abroad, from modern-day India to Spain."




This book is short and informative, providing a broad, simplified, and somewhat bland, history of Greek Civilization, it's spread and influence.





Anyone out there?

The Persians by Geoffrey Parker & Brenda Parker

The Persians  - Geoffrey Parker

TITLE:   The Persians


SERIES:  Lost Civilizations


AUTHORS:  Geoffrey Parker & Brenda Parker




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781780236506



"During the first and second millennia BCE a swathe of nomadic peoples migrated outward from Central Asia into the Eurasian periphery. One group of these people would find themselves encamped in an unpromising, arid region just south of the Caspian Sea. From these modest and uncertain beginnings, they would go on to form one of the most powerful empires in history: the Persian Empire. In this book, Geoffrey and Brenda Parker tell the captivating story of this ancient civilization and its enduring legacy to the world.   
The authors examine the unique features of Persian life and trace their influence throughout the centuries. They examine the environmental difficulties the early Persians encountered and how, in overcoming them, they were able to develop a unique culture that would culminate in the massive, first empire, the Achaemenid Empire. Extending their influence into the maritime west, they fought the Greeks for mastery of the eastern Mediterranean—one of the most significant geopolitical contests of the ancient world. And the authors paint vivid portraits of Persian cities and their spectacular achievements: intricate and far-reaching roadways, an astonishing irrigation system that created desert paradises, and, above all, an extraordinary reflection of the diverse peoples that inhabited them.
            Informed and original, this is a history of an incomparable culture whose influence can still be seen, millennia later, in modern-day Iran and the wider Middle East.




This book provides a broad, simplified, and somewhat bland, history of Persia from the Achaemenid Empire to modern Iranian times.  Informative and short.



Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground - Jim Butcher

TITLE:  Battle Ground


SERIES:  The Dresden Files #17


AUTHOR:  Jim Butcher




"THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET SERIOUS FOR HARRY DRESDEN, CHICAGO’S ONLY PROFESSIONAL WIZARD, in the next entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files.

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever."




This book is hard to review without spoilers, so I will just stay that it was fast-paced, exciting, nail-biting and sad...

NOTE 1:  Peace Talks and Battle Ground should be read as one book.


NOTE 2:  The book comes attached with a charming little Christmas short story.

The Accidental Species by Henry Gee

The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution - Henry Gee

This is a beautifully written book about the spotty nature of the fossil record, evolution in general and human evolution specifically. Informative and entertaining.

The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal

The Original - Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson

TITLE:  The Original


AUTHORS:  Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal 


NARRATOR:  Julia Whelan



"Hugo Award-winning authors Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal team up in this exclusive audio-first production of The Original, a sci-fi thriller set in a world where one woman fights to know her true identity and survive the forces that threaten her very existence.

In the near future, humans choose life - for a price. Injectable nanite technology is the lifeblood that flows through every individual wishing to experience the world through the lens of their own theme. While death from mortal wounds is still possible, life is made easier in a socially liberated society where automation and income equality allow passion pursuits to flourish over traditional work. Renewal stations are provided to every law-abiding citizen for weekly check-ins, which issue life-sustaining repairs in exchange for personal privacy. But what becomes of those who check out, of those who dare to resist immortality and risk being edited under the gaze of an identity-extracting government surveillance system?

When Holly Winseed wakes up in a hospital room, her memory compromised and a new identity imposed on her, a team of government agents wastes no time stating their objective. With intent to infiltrate and defeat the terrorist group ICON, the agents tell Holly that she is now a Provisional Replica and has one week to hunt down and kill her Original for the murder of her husband, Jonathan. If she succeeds, she’ll assume her Original’s place in society. If she fails, her life will end. Holly’s progress is monitored by an assigned contact that feeds her information as she confronts the blank, robotic world around her, discovering that others view life through the theme of their own choosing.

With her newly implanted combat and deduction skills, Holly fends off both attacks by terrorists and doubts about her own trustworthiness as clues lead her to her Original - and to the truth about Jonathan. In the end, one body remains and one walks away. Although questions persist, one thing is certain: Life will never be the same.




An entertaining romp through a possible future world.

Ancient Persia by Matt Waters

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE - Matthew Waters

Matt Waters provides a detailed but brief historical overview of the Achaemenid period, 550-330 BCE. The author also examines the many interpretive problems historians face in constructing and understanding its history, especially since much of the history of this period is gained from Greek, rather than Persian sources. Interesting and informative. For a less scholarly text, try Persian Fire by Tom Holland.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien as Narrated by Gollum

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien, Andy Serkis

TITLE:  The Hobbit

AUTHOR:  J.R.R. Tolkien

EDITION:  2020 HarperCollins Audiobook

NARRATOR:  Andy Serkis
The new audiobook of The Hobbit as read by Andy Serkis (the guy who did Gollum) is absolutely brilliant.  There is nothing else to say, but to go out and listen to a copy.

The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

The World According to Physics  - Jim Al-Khalili

This is an introductory text to physics that provides a brief outline of relativity, quantum theory and thermodynamics, with a lot of personal anecdotes by the author.  It's ok, but I'm not sure how much a novice will understand from this simplified explanation of physics.

The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

The Hiding Place - C.J. Tudor, Richard Armitage

Creepy, well told story with a smattering of paranormal. Lovely narration by Richard Armitage.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi - Susanna Clarke
<!--block-->The novel starts with an interesting and mysterious setting, with somewhat flowery writing... and then nothing happens for the first 30% or so of the novel.   After that, "things" start happening.  It's an interesting novel with a great concept, but not a great execution.

The Discovery of Troy and its Lost History by Bernard Jones

The Discovery of Troy and its Lost History  - Bernard E. Jones

Interesting. The name game doesn't really give me warm, fuzzy feelings and can be a bit confusing, but the geography and obscure historical references are interesting and suggest that the author is on to something. The maps really could use a scale bar. I do have questions though...

Hopefully someday soon, Bernard Jones will get around to producing the The Voyage of Aeneas of Troy as mentioned on his website.

PlanetFall by Emma Newman

Planetfall - Emma Newman

The novel started off decently - nice writing and a mystery - but by the 40% mark it started to get bogged down. The secondary characters came across as flat. Then the switching between past and present without divulging anything relevant just started to irritate me. The last quarter was just silly and the ending was rushed. So, an ok novel if you have the time to waste.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern

This is a rather convoluted novel where you have to pay attention so you don't miss anything important. I liked this novel, but I didn't love it. There was something missing - I was quite happy to read further to find out what happens but I didn't really feel passionate about the characters.

Darwin Comes To Town - Menno Schilthuizen

Darwin Comes to Town  - Menno Schilthuizen

Schilthuizen takes a look at how the urban environment influences the evolution of animals and plants. He shows that evolution can happen rather quickly, within a few generations, rather than over thousands of years. He also shows that humans are a part of the environment and not separate from it. Each chapter is fairly short with numerous fascinating examples, making this a quick and interesting reading experience. Also recommended: Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris D. Thomas


Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations - Charlotte McConaghy

TITLE: Migrations


AUTHOR: Charlotte McConaghy





"Franny Stone has always been a wanderer. By following the ocean’s tides and the birds that soar above, she can forget the losses that have haunted her life. But when the wild she so loves begins to disappear, Franny can no longer wander without a destination. She arrives in remote Greenland with one purpose: to find the world’s last flock of Arctic terns and follow them on their final migration. She convinces Ennis Malone, captain of the Saghani, to take her onboard, winning over his salty, eccentric crew with promises that the birds she is tracking will lead them to fish. As the Saghani fights its way south, Franny’s new shipmates begin to realize that the beguiling scientist in their midst is not who she seems. Battered by night terrors, accumulating a pile of letters to her husband, and dead set on following the terns at any cost, Franny is full of dark secrets. When the story of her past begins to unspool, Ennis and his crew must ask themselves what Franny is really running toward—and running from.".





Beautiful, lyrical writing for a poignant and melancholy story. I did, however, find the world building a bit flat or incomplete and not particularly realistic in terms of specific details, and a bit too preachy. No way are ravens and gulls going extinct due to climate change if humans are still around (unless the whole planet turns into an inferno or ice-house) - the birds thrive on human garbage and habitats.