The Alcatraz Coup by Patricia Loofbourrow

The Alcatraz Coup by Patricia LoofbourrowThis novella is the prequel to the Red Dog Conspiracy and lives up to the noir feel of those books. It’s a story for the current fans in many ways, and so gives a sense of what happened to bring about the world we find in the rest of the series. At the same time, with an open mind to the bigger picture, I think this is a good introduction to the series as well in that it provides interesting characters making hard decisions at the worst of times.

This story is both heroic and tragic in the way the transition between a corrupt government and a new one usually is. The Alcatraz Coup isn’t about the beginning when Benjamin Kerr created Bridges as an idyllic utopia but rather 300 years later when ideals are tarnished and a greedy heir apparent takes things into his own hands.

There is a price to pay for freedom, but rarely do regular people expect to pay that price. A school teacher’s concern for his students leads him step by step to a path where he must decide whether his own comfort is worth more than what letting the new king have his way will cost.

There are other ordinary folks involved in this coup, a recently widowed mother of one of the students, the single father of two who happens to be the head of the king’s guard, and a runner for the local gang among others. The main players are not special. They are people who care for more than their own selves and are more terrified of what they see the new regime becoming than what it will take to prevent this.

As a fan of the series, it is neat to see how things came together, the transition to control by the families 100 years later, and the origins of some very familiar names, but the tale itself is strong enough to stand on its own, with gut punch moments and twists that keep the story rolling. You do get to see the roots for some of the feuds between families later in the series, and it’s almost painful to know how they came into being.

I enjoyed learning how Bridges became the world as I know it for all the process saddened me. The hows and whys are both true to the culture and to human history while the characters, especially Xavier Alcatraz and Acevedo Spadros were well written. There are sweet spots, endearing interactions, and horrifying events throughout. The story never lets you rest easy in how things are going to come round, nor does it provide a simple answer to what is a very delicate proposition of getting people largely concerned for their own welfare to help. And all this while the king is becoming not just a tyrant, but one willing to slaughter hundreds just to have a scapegoat for the changes he wants to take place.

A powerful tale with more than a few uncomfortable life lessons mixed in.

P.S. I received this title from the author in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.123: Making Dishware

Pottery, in all its aspects, has fascinated me from childhood, watching the potters at Afghan and Iranian bazaars. Then, of course, there’s the archaeological connection from pretty much every corner of the Earth. However, it’s not often you get to glimpse the process inside a mechanized factory, where still so much requires the personal touch, which is why I’m sharing this fascinating look at how Spode Blue Italian dishware is made:

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5 Interesting Links for 05-19-2017

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Babies (Animals)

Pictures of 39 (when I looked) babies of unusual animals reminds us of the diversity of life on our planet. Besides, they’re adorable. Several remind me of a character of mine only a privileged few have had the opportunity to meet, but someday :).

Egypt (Archaeology)

Discovery of a giant statue gives evidence of the importance of the temple despite stripping during the Greco-Roman, Islamic, and historic Cairo eras. Continue reading

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The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History by Susanna Forrest

This book is a very difficult one to review, not because it has no value, but because it has too much. I have many pages of notes about interesting elements or things to mention, all of which would make this review far too long. I’ll mention the one weakness first so I can move on to all of the strengths: The author had a couple of places in the book where, rather than telling the narrative uncovered in person or through research, the actual research earned a place on the page. Rapid paragraphs offering names and dates along with a simple statement of the contribution failed to give me the context to engage with the information. This happened at least three times, one so much so I stopped reading for about a week before starting up again, but don’t let it discourage you as I believe the worst was also the last time. However, when paired with the reflective, philosophical narrative voice in the majority of areas, which brought the history, pre-history, and modern day to life, it seems a minor flaw.

The book follows what the author calls bridle paths through the history of horses and their interactions with humans. It involves a mix of history, mythology, quotes from primary and secondary sources, and personal narrative. I learned a lot through the reading, and had my own instincts about horses confirmed, but don’t expect a pretty, non-challenging account. This is more a philosophy and recognition book than a history. It meanders through time, jumping into the past and back when it suits what the author wishes to explore. Accounts of the author’s journeys to different cultures and situations cover horse reserves in Mongolia to auction houses that are only one-step removed from slaughterhouses to U.S. military therapy programs and more. Continue reading

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Things That Make Me Smile No.122: The Steampunk World’s Fair 2015

A musical celebration of The Steampunk World’s Fair 2015 for you to enjoy.

Threats (The Steamship Chronicles, Book 2)

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