Book Review – Don Quixote

The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is a very interesting book. Considered to be the very first modern novel written, I can see why this book is regarded as being one of the greatest stories to be ever written. I read John Ormsby’s 1885 translation that is available on the Project Gutenberg. This particular translation has an archaic style of language, which I’m a big fan of. As for some strange reason I love reading non modern texts; this explains why I love The Silmarillion so much, but I digress.

I really love how this story is presented. I believe this is one of the main reasons why this book considered a masterpiece. The story is narrated by a narrator that used different compilations of many works written of Don Quixote; where the book itself is in the story.

This book has a lot of themes that it covers. There were many times while reading this book that I felt almost like I was reading a philosophy novel rather than a satire of Chivalric Romance from the 16th century. The general synopsis of this novel is the story of an elderly man who reads so many chivalric romance novels that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight-errant to revive chivalry and serve the defenseless, under the name Don Quixote of la Mancha. The novel is essentially his adventures that he had throughout all of Spain, with the companionship of his trusty squire.

What made this book really enjoyable to me were not the underlying themes that it covers, but the setting of the story itself. I know medieval Spanish history fairly well, and this book being the Renaissance era, post medieval world. I knew exactly how the story fitted into the time that it took place. I feel what makes this novel so special is that it truly portrays Spain at the heart of the Renaissance era.

I read an English translation, so I’m planning on eventually reading its original Castilian version. Perhaps my only complain of this book is that is way too massive, they’re certain topics that I felt were overly repeated. While on the other side of things, this book introduced me to other related works that I’m planning on already reading For example Amadís de Gaula, since we’re constantly reminded how Don Quixote modeled himself after him.

Book Review – Chronicles of the First Crusade

Chronicles of the First CrusadeThis is a very fascinating book. As the title suggest, this book is a collection of primary sources involved in the events known to history as The First Crusade. The chronicles are presented in a chronological order. With the bulk of the them coming from the crusaders themselves (or pilgrims as they called each other), with a much smaller portion belonging to Byzantine, Jewish, and Muslim sources.

It was very intriguing reading how the different factions of this conflict viewed each other. Mainly the problems between the Byzantines and the Latins. But perhaps the most striking was the Jewish component surrounding the events, and how it affected them.

I’m somewhat fairly knowledgeable of the history of the crusades, however reading these primary sources definitely gave me a much better understanding of the myths and legends surrounding The First Crusade. I don’t think the translations themselves were literal, since I found this book to be very easy to read and understand. Overall, this is an excellent book that gives you a full narrative of The First Crusade. It is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the history of the crusades.

Book Review – Warlords of Ancient Mexico

Warlords of Ancient MexicoThis book is awesome! Warlords of Ancient Mexico: How the Mayans and Aztecs Ruled for More Than a Thousand Years is a book that describes pre-hispanic warfare, why the city-state and kingdoms fought with each other and the politics surrounding them. Not giving any specific spoilers, religion and imperial expansion were the primary reasons. The book starts with the wars of the Teotihuacans with the Mayans, and ends with fall of the Mexica Empire.

I have a fairly good knowledge of how medieval European aristocratic ruling classes were structured. So it’s fascinating how incredibly similar medieval Europe and ancient Mesoamerica were. The privileges of being from a noble lineage is no different in Europe than in Mesoamerica. So much so, that it also contributed to military ranks. Drawing comparisons from a knight, and a certain native warrior, lordship and vassalage. In fact, the author includes many examples of major events in Mesoamerica compared to Europe. Like the fall of The Toltec Empire in the Mesoamerican world was almost equivalent to the fall of The Roman Empire in the European world, to name a few.

Mesoamerican warfare is the focal point of this book, but honestly if you’re just interested in learning about the vast amount of ancient kingdoms, then this book is definitely worth reading. Generally speaking, Mexicans have a distorted view of their pre-hispanic history (that’s another story for another day), so learning about the non-Aztec people was very enjoyable.

The only negative I have about this book is that it covers very little concerning the Maya world as it’s mainly focused on the Nahualt world in Central Mexico, though the Tarascan Empire is mentioned. After-all they were fierce foes of the Aztecs. I  would’ve love to read more about their unique and fascinating history.

Book Review: The Boy Crusaders

The Boy Crusaders
The Boy Crusaders: A Story of the Days of Louis IX by John G. Edgar is a historical fiction novel that takes place during The Seventh Crusade. The main protagonists of this story are two pious seventeen year old English squires that joined King Louis IX of France’s crusade to the Holyland.

This is a very well written and beautiful story. It is a tale of chivalry and friendship. The setting of this book and the events surrounding the story are for the most part historical accurate. Although there is one glaring significant event that does not lineup with the actual real life timeline, which is the Siege of Baghdad. As this happened years after The Seventh Crusade. This book does take into consideration some of the myths of the crusading era, for example there is an important (albeit similar) event that impacted the main story line, which involves the myth of The Children’s Crusade.

Overall, I want to say that this is a very uplifting story (which it is), but it’s hard not to feel sorrow given the end result of The Seventh Crusade. This book does an excellent job describing the failed military campaign.

Book Review – The History of the Crusades: Volume 1

The History of the Crusades: Vol 1

This is a really good on the crusades of the holyland. Considered to be one of the pioneered scholarly works on the crusades, this book does a great job describing these historic events. Written by Joseph Francois Michaud in French, and published in 1811, the English translation of this work on Project Gutenburg is absolutely fantastic. Although this book is technically a scholarly work, to me it didn’t really felt as such. It is very well articulated as it felt like it was being told as a story; good or bad, but captivating either way. Of the different books regarding the crusades in the Holyland, this book is by far the best that I’ve read thus far.

This first Volume, describes the events from Byzantium’s call for aid, to the events of the end of Third Crusade. One thing to keep in mind while reading this book is that some of the cities, battles and even some of the historical figures have different names. I’m not quite sure if this was a consequence of a direct literal translation to English. Regardless, a quick Google search will be necessary to help put into perspective which exactly what the author is describing.

Book Review – The Order of the Holy Sepulchre

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre: The History of the Catholic Order Established during the Crusades for the Promised LandThe Order of the Holy Sepulchre: The History of the Catholic Order Established during the Crusades for the Promised Land, is the second Charles River Editors book that I’ve read, and perhaps it might be my last. Much of the complaints mentioned for The Order of Santiago apply for this book as well.

This book is just an over simplified summary of the crusades in the holy land. It doesn’t really go into detail regarding the history The Order of the Holy Sepulchre from it’s inception to its current form. In fact it mentions the Order’s military role, which as far as I’m aware, unlike other religious orders; The Order Holy Sepulchre didn’t participated in the actual military campaigns. But rather as strict religious and chivalric order only. Whose only military duty was to guard to The Holy Sepulchre itself in Jerusalem, similar to the Citadel guards in The Lord of The Rings.

Given that Charles River Editors books are essentially available free of charge if you own a Kindle, I would not otherwise recommend reading them.

2020 New Year’s Resolutions

As tradition states for almost ten years now, here are my new year’s resolution in no particular order:

  • Lose the weight I gained in 2019
  • Linguistic studies
  • Obtain all AWS Associate and Professional (non-specialty) level certifications
  • Bible studies
  • Extend my knowledge of the medieval world
  • Practice meditation more

More HR Friendly Documents

AWS Certified

When I was let go on my last job, I decided I was going to take a one year off from all work. I also made the personal goal of getting all AWS Associate and Professional level certifications during my time off. This is in large part because I really dislike not being technically productive in one way or another even if I’m not working (This explains why I have a homelab and I’m always experimenting new tools around it).

By setting the goal of getting the certifications, I could held myself accountable (preventive measure from playing videos games all day!) during my one year sabbatical, at the same time improving my resumé so when the time come to search for a new job, having the one year off on my CV wouldn’t look to bad on the eyes of potential employers. Needless to say my plans didn’t turned as I originally planned. I accepted a new job offer just four months into my supposed one year sabbatical. Everything was not doom and gloom because I’m really excited on this new venture that I’ve taken, and I did achieve to get some certifications during my short time off:

Of all three exams I took, surprisingly I found the CompTIA Cloud Essentials to be the most difficult. This was mainly because much of the exam contents is a general overview of cloud computing concepts from ten years ago! On the other hand, working with AWS on a daily basis for over fours game me much exposure and knowledge to easily pass both the AWS Cloud Practitioner and AWS Solutions Architect Associate with not much problems. In fact, I found both exams being fairly easy.

I’m still planning on eventually getting the reaming Associate and Professional level AWS certifications, however it may a little more time now that I’m working full time.

Book Review – The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon

The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon

As a follow up to Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ, I opted to read The Book of Deeds by James I of Aragon. King James was a contemporary with King Fernando, and also like Fernando III of Castile, James I of Aragon was a great crusader king. This book is Jame’s autobiography written and narrated by him. In addition of having the distinction of being the only monarch to have written an autobiography, James also had the longest reign in all of the high and late middle ages. In this book we get to see why just about everything of Jame’s life was spectacular.

This book can be mainly divided into three parts, first we to start of reading about his parents, then we go into his troubled youth as the heir to The Crown of Aragon, and the different rebellions within his nobility. The second part, which is the bulk of his book is the content regarding his crusades on capturing the kingdoms of Majorca, Valencia, and Murcia. This is where we get to see why he is known to history as James “The Conqueror”. Finally, the last section is mostly regarding how he incorporated the conquered territory, and the problems he faced doing so.

The book itself is a literal translation from medieval Catalan to English, which to be honest I found it hard to read at times. Thus said, the book is fully annotated by the translators, providing more details that put into context what James is narrating. I would’ve probably understand more if I would’ve read a Castilian (modern) translation instead, but I would’ve not gotten the additional benefit of reading the translator’s annotations.

I’m a massive Tolkien fan, so seeing James’s devotion to Our Lady during dire times seemed similar to how the elves revered Varda in their times of need. Another thing that struck me, was reading about the division and even hostility between Aragonese and Catalan factions in Jame’s nobility and army. A division, albeit different that can be seen today in Spain over 800 years later.

Overall if you’re interested on learning about life in the middle ages, even if you’re not fully interested in the history of Spain, or in the crusades; this book is still a fascinating read and would highly recommend it.

Book Review – Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ

Saint Fernando IIISaint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ is a biography work that venerates one of histories greatest crusader kings. Fernando III of Castile and Leon has been canonized and recognize in the Catholic Church as a saint. So in this book we get to read about the life and deeds of Fernando III from a Catholic’s perspective.

It is important to note that this book is presented firstly as a religious novel, and not specifically as a scholarly work. It includes the different reconquista myths and legends (or miracles as seen by many) that may not necessarily be fully historically accurate. Thus said, I feel scholarly readers or students will definitely get something out of reading this book. The author did an excellent job portraying the different battles and military campaigns. He even included custom hand drawn illustrations.

James Fitzhenry is a brilliant writer, this book has lots of beautifully written passages. Not only can this book be seen a very good uplifting spiritual novel, but also as a wonderful piece of literature as well. Were it may even rival the famous Arthurian Legends.