“The Lord of the Rings: The Art of the Two Towers” by Gary Russel (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Art of the Two Towersstarstarstar

If you’ve already watched The Two Towers, you will not consider is surprising that the movie won the Oscar for best visual effects.  But should you be in any doubt (which is unlikely), or rather, should you wish to view the evidence again, then The Art of the Two Towers is the book for you.

The second in the series after The Art of the Fellowship of the Ring, this book takes you as close to the movie as possible, except for actually watching the movie in theaters or on DVD.  Filled with beautiful glossy, colorful photographs, paintings, and sketches, one can see how ideas like the tower of Orthanc, the different Orcs, and enemy forces, as well as characters like Gollum initially came to life.  There are many initial sketches and ideas of what they were thought to look like, and then a comparison with the final product that is featured in the movie.

It is a book that deserves to be on the shelf of any avid fan of the trilogy, as well as anyone who has an appreciation for art and color.  The Art of the Two Towers is simply a great book to own.

Originally published on April 21st, 2003.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” translation and introduction by Jack Zipes (Bantam, 2003)

Brothers Grimmstarstarstarstar

If you like fairytales and have always wanted to know where they originate, here’s your chance.  For the first time, a complete edition of the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm has been published in paperback form at an affordable price.  A handy reference tool, pleasant reading, and a book you can always turn to to read to your kids, all in one!

With an introduction on the Brothers Grimm and this specific translation, the book then launches into the countless fairytales told in their virgin form (warning, this may not only shock minors to hear the truth, but also the grownups).  There is a lot more blood and gore in the original tales that have not been Disneyfied for kids.  Split into sections of regular tales, “Omitted Tales,” and “Selected Tales from the Annotations of 1856”; this is a true gem to have on one’s shelf.  The book features a chivalric cover along with beautiful black and white illustrations throughout the book.  It is a present perfect for any avid fairytale lover.

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Originally published on March 17th, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How it Changed the Course of Civilization” by Ian Wilson (St. Martin’s Press, 2003)

Before the Floodstarstarstar

Everyone is pretty much familiar with the flood story from Genesis with Noah and his ark, but did you know the Bible isn’t the only text to have a flood myth within its pages?  There are flood myths from ancient Greece, Persia, India, even as far as Scandinavia and South America.  How do I know this?  Because I have read Before the Flood.

Ian Wilson takes a step into the ancient and prehistoric with this book, delving into the past no one is quite sure about; where historical fact begins to blur and fictional theory sharpens.  Wilson has done plenty of research (the lengthy bibliography vouches for this) into the many different flood myths scattered across the world to write this unique book, where they all come together.  He presents it in a logical manner, also revealing some contemporary flood myths that were perpetuated by ignorant scientists.

What is important is that Wilson treats the flood as a real event that happened, which is not surprising, since there are all these stories about it.  But he backs all his ideas and premises with scientific research that make them more believable.  Back when Genesis was written, there was no technology to validate the flood, but now Wilson has proven we are at a time to accept that a catastrophic flood of some sort did occur some ten thousand years ago.

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Originally published on March 17th, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs” edited by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, and John Lindow (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Medieval Folklorestarstarstar

The medieval, mythological and folklore historian has been waiting a long time for a book like this.  Have you ever read a little bit of medieval story or folklore and wondered exactly what its origin was, whether it was Irish, Welsh or English, Scandinavian or Eastern European?  This compendium has all this in a Norton anthology font-size that is simply jam-packed with details and information.  In encyclopedic form, it is a necessary reference tool for any historian, as well a compelling read for anyone interested in the subject matter.  It’s all here in one concise book that deserve a place on any shelf; fortunately it doesn’t take up too much space!

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Originally published on March 17th, 2003.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World 3000BC – AD 500 Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics” by Simon Anglim, et. al. (St. Martin’s Press, 2003)

Fighting Techniques of the Ancient Worldstarstarstar

There have been quite a few books written about wars and fighting, and there have also been many written about fighting and wars in the ancient world, but this book isn’t like any of them.  Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World does not intend to impress the reader with a biased account of how great the Romans, or Egyptians, or Persians were in battle.  The book is split into five simple chapters: “The Role of the Infantry,” “Mounted Warfare,” “Command and Control,” “Siege Warfare,” and “Naval Warfare.”

No bias at work in this book, just dutiful study, research and facts about how these ancient civilizations actually fought.  There are countless case-studies throughout the book that present a detailed account of what happened at a certain battle, like the Battle of Plataea between the Greeks and Persians in 479BC, or the Battle of Milvian Bridge between Maxentius and Constantine in 312AD.  With hundreds of illustrations and drawings of equipment and weaponry, many in color, as well as spectacular battle scenes and plans, Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World presents a new approach to ancient fighting: an appreciation of the skill of all civilizations, and not just one over the other.

Originally published on March 17th, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Sharks: A Golden Guide from St Martin’s Press” by Andrea Gibson, Illustrated by Robin Carter (St. Martin’s Press, 2003)

Sharks: A Golden Guidestarstarstar

Did you know that when you’re about to be bitten in half by a great white shark, its jaws actually extend out of its mouth for a better bite, while a protective coating covers its eyelids to prevent anything poking it in the eyes?  Sharks will probably be one of the most useful books that you will ever own if you like to go swimming a lot.  With the detailed description and colorful illustrations, you will be able to tell your mako shark bite from your tiger shark bite.

With a detailed introduction on how the giant dinosaur-sized sharks of the past evolved into the ones we know today – making it literally one of the oldest fish in the sea – as well as specifications on differentiating between sharks, the book is a useful tool for any would-be marine biologist.  And once you have this pocket-sized book you can show off to your friends about the Carcharaon carcharias you ran into the other day: they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about while you’ll know you mean at great white.

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Originally published on March 3rd, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Sons of Fortune” by Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin’s Press, 2003)

Sons of Fortunestarstar

Jeffrey Archer is a well-established English author, who has written such bestsellers as Kane and Abel and Honor Among Thieves, but his latest addition to the publishing world, Sons of Fortune, fails in many ways; maybe it is because he wrote it under the duress of incarceration?

For about a year now Archer has spent his time in prison because he was essentially embezzling money as a member of the House of Lords.  In that time he has written and produced a play pleading his innocence, and has written this book.  It is about two brothers (as many of Archer’s books are), but they do not know they are brothers, separated at birth due to the apparent stupidity and gullibility of the medical industry, as well as the necessity of one nurse to look good.  The result is these two brothers aspire to be politicians and eventually run for governor against each other, even though they are unaware that they are twins.

And this thin and coincidence-filled plot is not all that is wrong with this book.  The two characters simply excel in every possible way: doing great at school, getting the girls they want, getting the positions they want, and getting recognized for their brilliance, to the extent that it becomes sickening.

Sons of Fortune is a book that deserves to be set with the likes of those written by Danielle Steel and James Patterson, to be read by those who seek very little out of a book, but simply to divert themselves from their inane lives.

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Originally published on April 21st, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.