Jeff Wilser: Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life

Two centuries after his death, Alexander Hamilton is shining once more under the world s spotlight and we need him now more than ever.
Hamilton was a self-starter. Scrappy. Orphaned as a child, he came to America with nothing but a code of honor and a hunger to work. He then went on to help win the Revolutionary War and ratify the Constitution, create the country s financial system, charm New York s most eligible ladies, and land his face on our $10 bill.The ultimate underdog, he combined a fearless, independent spirit with a much-needed dose of American optimism.
Hamilton died before he could teach us the lessons he learned, but Alexander Hamilton s Guide to Life unlocks his core principles intended for anyone interested in success, romance, money, or dueling. They include:
Speak with Authority Even If You Have None (Career)
Seduce with Your Strengths (Romance)
Find Time for the Quills and the Bills (Money)
Put the Father in Founding Father (Friends & Family)
Being Right Trumps Being Popular (Leadership)
For history buffs and pop-culture addicts alike, this mix of biography, humor, and advice offers a fresh take on a nearly forgotten Founding Father, and will spark a revolution in your own life.”

Ah, Alexander Hamilton. He has gone from historical obscurity to being our most famous founding father–as he rightly should be. It’s amazing, once you take a close look at him, how much A. Ham really contributed to every single piece of our government…for better or worse.

Hamilton really did write like he was running out of time, and he had so much to tell us. Jeff Wilser broke down some of his more prolific statements into a sort of Founding Father self-help book. It’s full of witticisms and insightful commentary, modernized of course.

It’s supposed to be the type of book Hamilton would have written if he would have had time to write such a thing. Of course, if he had…it would have been four volumes and probably would have included some kind of impossibly boring personal finance plan along with the life advice. I’m glad Wilser left that chapter out. As it is, the Guide is a funny way to take in much of the history we already know from Chernow’s massive biography, while singing along to LMM’s cast album. There’s no mistaking who the author is targeting here. Luckily…who ISN’T a fan of the musical at this point?

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Blogging for Books and Three Rivers Press provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Julia Baird: Victoria: The Queen

From International New York Times columnist Julia Baird comes a magnificent biography of Queen Victoria. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, Victoria: The Queen is a stunning new portrait of the real woman behind the myth—a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.

When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would begin to threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. Born into a world where woman were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty years old, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning. This sweeping, page-turning biography gives us the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times, a Victoria who endured.

OOOOOH boy. This book, like Victoria’s reign, is long and never ending. Except when it does end, it happens suddenly, without warning, and you’re left with half a book left of notes and annexation.

It was interesting reading this so soon after watching The Crown. Obviously two different queens entirely, different time periods, different manners, different ideals. But the same challenges, prejudices, ageism, and misogyny. I could certainly see how the groundwork for Elizabeth’s reign was laid by Victoria’s. But that’s a different story altogether. Back to Victoria…

There’s so incredibly much to be learned here. I really knew nothing about Queen Victoria before starting this, except that there is a whole group of people and culture named after her. Who knew that her husband was the main influence of that movement–not actually Victoria herself? My reading journal is filled to the brim with the new random facts I gained by reading this.

But, that’s also my biggest criticism too. Sometimes this book doesn’t seem like much of a biography of Victoria at all. Often I wasn’t sure if she even respected the Queen, and I feel like that is kind of a necessary qualification for writing a biography about someone. It’s hard to figure the author’s motivations. Did she want to write about Victoria, but lose respect after getting into the research? Was she just super into the time period and decide the Queen would be the best base? I’m not sure. At times it almost felt more of Florence Nightingale’s commentary on Queen Victoria’s lack of feminism.

Speaking of which, let’s be clear. Queen Victoria was NOT a feminist. Which was wholly disappointing to discover–and why I wonder if the author misses the respect needed to write the biography she intended. Albert was that husband that very much dissed woman’s suffrage and even though his wife was THE QUEEN, still managed to convince her that he deserved more power over her. The work felt bitter because of it, especially when Nightingale stuck her nose in.

As an informative biography, I think it’s extremely well researched. I found the details fascinating, and as usual I loved reading about a monarch I didn’t previously know much (or anything) about. However, there definitely seems to be a bias here. I am unsure if it was intentional or if the history really was colored that way, but there’s just some weird tone that I haven’t felt in other similar biographies. Hm. I need to think on this one.

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NetGalley and Random House provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Alexander Hamilton

What’s your name, man?

Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. There’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait, just you wait.

Why yes, I did just sing that from memory. I *might* be a little obsessed. OK…more than a little.

GUYS GO LISTEN TO HAMILTON IMMEDIATELY I COMMAND YOU.

SON. CALL ME SON ONE MORE TIME.

Dammit. Sorry, I did it again.

As if my Hamilton obsession couldn’t get any worse, I just finished the 730 page Ron Chernow biography that Lin Manuel Miranda based his musical after. And by that, I don’t just mean he took a few facts from it, oh no. GUYS, I COULD MATCH THE RHYTHM TO THE ENTIRE BIOGRAPHY. Have you ever read a 730 page biography in rap? It makes it SO much more interesting. I wish Lin Manuel Miranda could teach us all of the history. We would understand so much more.

Hello, Mr. Next President, do you want to save the schools? This is what you need to do. Hire LMM to produce our curriculum. Post to the internet. Done. Teenagers will now be engaged. They will even create fanart.

But I’m getting away from the actual biography again. For the most part, it’s exactly the same as the George Washington one that I read several months ago. It’s very long and very dry. There is SO much research here, and he does a brilliant job. It’s a 730 page history, though, and while Hamilton is very interesting, there’s only so much you can do to make it not boring. And that is to get LMM to make a musical about it. Seriously, Chernow needs to kiss LMM’s feet for the amount of extra book sales he is getting out of this. I couldn’t find it anywhere because it was sold out.

Sorry. Sorry. The book. Right. It’s a solid biography. If you like biographies, read it. If you are interested in the founding fathers, read it. If you’ve previously read Ron Chernow’s work and liked it, read it. If you are obsessed with the musical…it’s going to be a toss up. Because I’m a book nerd and will read EVERYTHING, I say read it–but I also think there are a lot of musical nuts who may start this monster and just really not care for it at all. It’s a beast. Just know what you are getting into when you pick it up, and if you’re used to fiction and never read NonF, this may not be the book for you.

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Fulfills Bibliophilicwitch’s #BigBookChallenge

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The Woman Who Would Be King

As we approach the 2016 election with the first real chance we have for a female president–feelings for Hilary aside–it has been interesting to see just how uncomfortable the idea of a woman in power really makes people. And by people…well…you know what I mean.

There haven’t been many, proportionally, but the women who do make it to the top of the food chain always have fascinating stories to tell. And so I have been lining my bookshelves with them. Whether they are seeking notoriety for power’s sake, revenge against men who have torn them down, or they just want to make the right changes happen–these women put their stamp on our world in a variety of magnificent ways. MORE WOMEN AT THE TOP PLEASE!

The latest of these women to find their way to my shelves is Hatshepsut. in The Woman Who Would Be King, Kara Cooney tells the history of this ancient Egyptian woman who was not satisfied as the King’s Great Wife, or even High Priestess. No way. When her husband died, leaving his son, and her nephew, as his successor, rather than stay as his regent, she named herself Co-King. Senior Co-King, to be exact. During her reign, Egypt prospered, and she built an empire.

This book, of course, is fascinating. Hatshepsut isn’t well known–like Cleopatra or Nefertiti–as her nephew destroyed many of her statues and temples after she died. She also didn’t live her life with much drama. She was all business and ambition, and she was very pious. But oh how she ruled. She was no queen. Hatshepsut was KING and had all the power behind it. In ancient Egypt, that was a big deal. Hell, it’s still a big deal in 2016.

Definitely check this awesome woman out. Also, kudos to whoever did the cover design.

  1. She’s not whitewashed. This is a gorgeous, fierce black woman, just as she should be.
  2. They put a metallic overlay on the whole front so she positively glows.
  3. Seriously, it’s just gorgeous.

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Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.

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Washington

Every once in awhile, I have a book that I know is going to be a beast to read. It is long, it is dull. It is more like a text book than entertainment.

But…I make myself read those kinds of books every now and then. I feel they are important. And I don’t mean that to sound pretentious. They are important for me. I could care less if you read them. But my brain craves expansion–so even while I yawn and scan and swear that I’m going to quit…I force myself to read one more chapter, until I reach the end.

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Washington was such a book for me. A massive biography on our first president. 900+ pages kind of massive. It was a lot of Washington to take in. I was sure ready to be done by the end.

Ok. For the sake of review, I should stop and say this:  Chernow clearly did a great deal of research. And for fans of political/historical figure bios–they are probably going to find this fascinating. It would take my husband a year (or more) to read this ,but he would like it.

There’s a reason I stuck with it for all 900 pages. The information was interesting. Washington is kind of a ghost figure in our history–he’s there, and we know he’s important, but we don’t learn that much about him. Not like we do Lincoln or FDR or JFK.

Chernow covers everything in his book–childhood, his courting days, the entire scope of Washington’s military career, and of course–the founding of country and his resulting presidency. There’s a lot to read and learn about here, and while yes, it was long, I’m better for it.

I did find it dull and dragging, but I think that is more because I prefer books with plots than because the actual writing was bad. There was just so much information to take in. I’m also taking into consideration that I was reading this during a pretty crappy family moment, and I was trying to get it done before I had to go home to Indiana. I will say that it was a great book to absorb while not being able to devote myself entirely to a storyline, so there’s that.

If you enjoy this sort of book, and/or are interested in our country’s beginnings, I would say pick this one up. It definitely has merit.

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Killing Kennedy

Certain moments define a generation. They are the points in our history that we talk about forever, the stories we put in our books, the memories we tell our grandchildren.

For my generation, that moment was 9/11. I will never forget sitting in a testing room with 20 of my classmates, finishing early and hearing the buzz of the nervous teachers, then watching in horror when they turned on the TV.

Before that poignant day, I heard so many adults say, “I’ll never remember where I was the day Kennedy was shot.” And I always thought that was such a weird comment, but now I get it. Those memories really do live forever.

Until recently, the 1960s seemed so long ago. Camelot seemed so old-fashioned and unrealistic, and I was never really interested in that time period. It bored me to death, to be honest. But now, with civil rights issues suddenly exploding, the 1960s are no longer boring…they are happening all over again.

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My husband has been reading…or at least buying…Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Series, and so far has found them very interesting. I don’t lean quite so Right, so I was avoiding these, afraid that they would be a little too political for me. However, Killing Kennedy really didn’t have any political slant at all, for being a book about a president. Most of the base details I already knew, but it was interesting to ready about the finer points of what happened leading up to the days of the assassination and what happened after. The book was obviously well researched and well written.

My only real criticism is that the authors (not sure who did most of the writing) use the world “belie” waaaaaay too much. Seriously, it’s a weird word and they use it over and over and over again. I know. I’m nitpicking. But it stuck out at me.

If you like histories, this is a good one. It reminded me of the Pearl Harbor history that I read of FDR not too long ago. It wasn’t a full biography of JFK, just a moment in time. I won’t be so hesitant to read the other three O’Reilly books in the series now.

 

Counting this for PopSugar #43. It takes place in Dallas, which is not my hometown but it’s where I live now. My home town is a tiny town of 10,000 people.  #43. A book that takes place in your hometown.

WWW Wednesday 11/12/2014

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What are you currently reading?

Fairies by Skye Alexander

 

 

What did you just finish reading?

My Days with Princess Grace of Monaco by Joan Dale

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

Tolkien by Devin Brown

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Clash of Kings by George RR Martin

The Iron Locket by Samantha Warren

Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham

Tolkien

I told my husband I was going to do nothing but read this weekend, and since I’ve finished 3 books in 2 days…I think I’m doing pretty well!

When I first started getting into fantasy, I tried to watch The Lord of the Rings movies, and every time I did, I would get as far as the cornfield scene, and fall asleep, or get bored, and inevitably give up. Over and over someone would say “Haley, you would LOVE this, watch it!” But I just couldn’t get into them. And the idea of reading three volumes of that was just…ugh….no thanks.

But I kept seeing the excitement and obsession everyone had for Tolkien’s trilogy, and I just didn’t understand the fascination. What was I missing? And so, when I unpacked R’s book collection at our first apartment, and saw that he had not just LOTR, but also The Hobbit, I set out to conquer them. I was sure I’d hate it, but I had to know.

And then I couldn’t stop. I think it took me about a week to finish the four. And we watched the movies, of course. We haven’t gotten our hands on The Hobbit ones, and I’m dying to–we must, before December. (MARTIN FREEMAN AHHH WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN THESE YET).

And then I started learning more about where the myths came from, and reading online more about Tolkien. What a genius! I have a bunch of biographies tagged to read about him that I haven’t picked up yet, but the other day NetGalley sent me an ARC offer from Devin Brown, so of course I jumped on it.

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At first, Tolkien is a little choppy. Or maybe I should say, “listy.” Here’s an event or a place, and here’s the connection Tolkien used for his books. And Brown does that over and over for the first few chapters. But then, the bio sort of finds the flow once he gets to school and it gets better after that.

The subtitle of the book is “How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote the Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century.” That really tells you what you are going to get here. There’s not a lot about his nature walks or how he came up with his maps here–which is a little of what I was hoping for, since I’ve read about some of that online. This is very much about his days at school and his professorship, and his development into languages. There is a bit into his relationship with CS Lewis and his marriage, but none of this book is supremely personal or detailed. It’s also not a very long book–I read it in about 3 hours, starting last night and finishing this morning.

Tolkien is a very good introduction to the author. I very much want to know more now about the pieces of his life that were described here, and I will be reading more about this incredibly intelligent man.

 

Disclaimer:  I was given an ecopy of this book for review by NetGalley.

The Innocent Man

My husband has about a bazillion John Grisham books, so they make their way into my TBR list every now and then. I had expected fiction when The Innocent Man appeared next on the list, but nope. This was nonfiction.

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And the fact that this is a true story just royally pisses me off.

This is a story about two men, actually, who were tried AND CONVICTED, for a murder they did not commit. One was sentenced to life in prison, and the other, a man who was severely mentally ill, sentenced to the death penalty.

That’s horrible in itself, but that’s not even what made me so angry. Just the horrendous treatment of Ron, the abuse, the neglect. All of it. You have this bipolar, schizophrenic man in need of daily monitoring and he is repeatedly left to his own devices and constantly broken down and ridiculed. Grisham points out in almost every chapter where Ron will stop taking his medicine because he’s depressed or doesn’t understand what the medicine does (which is a symptom of his disease). And then he was in prison, the absolute abuse from the guards who knew how to push his buttons and make him collapse into a psychotic mess. Ugh. I just wanted to scream for someone to help him.

As far as writing style goes, I wasn’t a big fan. This was very reportish, not so much a story. There wasn’t much dialogue or live action, it was all very journalistic. Obviously I had very strong opinions about what I was reading, but it was a very boring read really. Also, Grisham kept going off on tangents about other cases and people out of nowhere. Unless you have a strong law background, those aren’t going to make a lot of sense.

This is probably a 2 star book for me. I have strong feelings about Ron for a few different reasons, but I didn’t really enjoy the book itself at all.

 

Half Broke Horses

I love Saturdays when I can lay around and read a book from beginning to end, and that’s just what I got to do today. Hubby is closing tonight, so I picked Jeannette Walls’ Half Broke Horses off my TBR shelf and pretty much didn’t move from my spot on the couch. There was a little Reds baseball in there, and after the game, I moved outside, where the light is now fading. I have about an hour left before he’s home…maybe I’ll open a bottle of something and stay out here. It’s gorgeous tonight.

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My little reading corner

 

Half Broke Horses is a very sweet, semi-biography of Walls’ grandmother. She classifies it as a novel, because while it is based in fact, the stories came mostly secondhand. It is written in first-person, in very short one to two page chapters. This is a very easy, engaging book about a life ranching in the Southwestern US. I kept comparing the life to The Thorn Birds, except cattle instead of sheep. It also has some parallels to The Grapes of Wrath–you will recognize the references to the Okies taking over California.

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I would definitely recommend that you add this to your list of nonfiction/memoir/biographies to read. It is a lovely story about an extremely strong woman fighting for her beliefs and her family in the face of many challenges. Lily Smith was a firecracker for sure.