Absorbing adventures in ancient Greece, full of betrayal, friendship, mysticism and science.

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JOURNEY TO DELPHI

An entertaining debut historical novel that depicts tumultuous ancient Greece as seen through the eyes of a young, orphaned slave.

Damian is only 12 years old when his parents are killed and most of his village, followers of Orpheus’ gentle philosophy, are destroyed by marauders from another Greek village in the early sixth century B.C. He escapes with his tutors, but one of them sells Damian into slavery. At first, the young man performs menial labor on a construction site, but when his masters notice his skill at reading, writing, mathematics and running, he’s allowed to train for competitive races and work on building plans. After a spiteful master rapes and cripples Damian, the boy gets his revenge and escapes, and he’s eventually reunited with his beloved tutor, Lysis. The two travel to Delphi, Greece’s spiritual center, so that Damian may undergo ritual cleansing and serve as a tutor at Delphi’s school. He visits the famous Oracle, where he receives an enigmatic message that spurs him to investigate the meaning of his life. Debut author Iannella effectively presents the atmosphere of long-ago Greece, vividly describing its food, clothes, customs, landscape, religion and philosophy. (There are occasional missteps, including characters using the terms “okay” and “guys,” which readers may find a bit too modern, and eating potatoes, which didn’t make it to Greece until some two millennia later.) He also provides intriguing cultural discussions about the wisdom of sentencing prisoners to death versus banishing them, the real importance of good bookkeeping and the evergreen difficulty of teaching fractions. The novel also paints an engaging, well-rounded portrait of the tough-minded historical tyrant Kleisthenes; after an earthquake, for example, he goes where the fires are thickest, using his authority for the most good. The story perhaps supplies a few too many opportunities for Damian to play the hero, which might have been pruned to better effect. Damian’s adventures will continue in a planned second volume.

Absorbing adventures in ancient Greece, full of betrayal, friendship, mysticism and science.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-1467936392

Page Count: 366

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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