Hamilton Takeover: Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow cover

Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: April 26th 2004
Rating: history has it's eyes on you

Much like everyone else on the planet I read this book because of the musical Hamilton.  Raise a glass if you have spent the last two years or so obsessed with it? Yeah, me too. Dense historical biographies aren't usually my thing. Which is weird; because when I do read them, I generally like them.

I false started this book a couple of times over the last few years.  I would start it, get interested, then get distracted.  It is a 750-page book that is incredibly detailed.  You have to make a commitment to reading it. I finally restarted it as an audiobook about three weeks ago, and that seems to have done the trick. I have about an hour in the bus to work each day. For a book that is this intensely detailed and exhaustive it is fast paced, entertaining, and engrossing.

First of all, the book in incredibly well researched. Ron Chernow was not phoning it in by any means. The book chronicles Hamilton's entire life. Which incidentally, were dramatic from birth to death and almost every moment in between. The sheer amount of primary source material that he must have waded through is mind boggling.  He shares theories, rumors, anecdotes, and either backs them up or disproves them with research. There is a surprising amount of gossip about Hamilton. A lot had to be cleared up. 

Most importantly, Alexander Hamilton himself comes across as a real human.  He was pessimistic about human nature, insanely driven, and never really knew when to let things go. He was a genius in many ways who also made terrible decisions. Reading this book made me recognize what a remarkable talent he was while at the same time being glad that I wasn't married to him. Even being friends with him was probably exhausting. Hamilton, in this book, is likable, and I was invested in his story, but I did want to sit down with him more than once and have an intervention. He had people who were against him, but he was his own worst enemy. It would be interesting to read a book about Adams or Jefferson to see how he looks from that perspective.

At a time when Jefferson and Madison celebrated legislative power as the purest expression of the popular will, Hamilton argued for a dynamic executive branch and an independent judiciary, along with a professional military, a central bank, and an advanced financial system. Today, we are indisputably the heirs to Hamilton’s America, and to repudiate his legacy is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.

We have such a strange rosy view of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers.  We forget that they were human.  Washington was a bore, Adams was unstable, Jefferson was was manipulative, and Hamilton was egotistical. They had contradictions. Slaveholders espoused the rhetoric of freedom. Immigrants went on anti-immigrant tirades. Credit was sometimes taken when it wasn't due. And yet, they masterminded the world first successful colonial revolution, peaceful transfer of power, and created a system that while it isn't perfect by any means certainly strives for it.

I am going to tell you what you really want to know: While reading the book can you match up songs with the chapters? Yes, yes you can.  For extra fun, add in the John Adam rap from the mixtape. If you are a fan of the musical, the American Revolution, finance, or in the story of a fascinating character this book is well worth the investment in time to read.

From Goodreads:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

Hamilton Takeover: Book Review: Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz cover

Alex & Eliza
by Melissa de la Cruz
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: April 11th 2017
Rating: Could have been better

I meant does it hurt when you hide every last shred of your individuality and self worth behind acres of silk and cups of powder and smiles that never, no matter how hard you try, reach your eyes?

I wouldn't say that this book disappointed me.  I didn't have high hopes for it.  But Melissa de la Cruz is a legit author, so there was potential.  But much like Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, Alex & Eliza has proven that writing about well-known and (at least to me) beloved characters and storylines are sadly not as automatic a home run as you might think. 

I would hazard a guess that if one has chosen this book, you are familiar with and enjoy the musical, Hamilton. Just to be clear this is not a book about that version of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton. This isn't a rip off of the musical.  It does feel as if it is an attempt to cash in on the musical's popularity. On the plus side, it is full of Hamilton references. If you are hugely into the musical, it was fun to come across them while reading.  

It is also not a novelization that adheres to the real character of the Hamiltons. Maybe it is the fact that I finally finished reading the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton this week that has made me overly critical.  However, there was a lot about colonial life, and especially colonial life as a woman that was not explained at all or the reality just did not exist. Sometimes, in historical fiction this is acceptable but when the main characters were real people I expect a certain amount of historical detail and accuracy. It isn't as if there is a lack of research material.

I think that the book would have been more effective to have the YA romance be about two separate but Hamilton family adjacent characters.  A YA romance-y Johnny Tremaine type thing. It would have satisfied my need for all things Hamilton but also avoided me picking it apart because it did not adhere to my vision.  Seriously, change a few names, and it would have been ready to go. Why do people not run these things by me so I can give my input? 

One of my main gripes about this book (aside from my suspicions of it being a cash cow job) is that Melissa de la Cruz are the female relationships in this book.  So many things are ripped off from the play that it saddens me that the sister relationship was not fully developed in this book. But there are many irritating YA tropes to be found:
1: pretty but doesn't know it
2. not like "other girls."
3. she is SOOO smart
4. but modest
5. and selfless
6. but feisty! "Let's be mean and sassy for no reason."
7. nonconformist but also a daddies girl
8. hate to love- but like for no real reason?
9. big misunderstanding

So, you might like this if you are a huge fan of either the musical or the Treasury Secretary himself as well as romance you might enjoy this book. If you are looking for a dense historical novel about the American Revolution or the Hamiltons, it would be best to avoid this. I found it disappointing and in the end utterly tedious. 

From Goodreads:

blurbTheir romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Top Ten Best Books I've Read In 2017... So Far

Top Ten Best Books I've Read In 2017... So Far.png
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by the Awesome people over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by the Awesome people over at The Broke and the Bookish.

So far 2017 has been a damn good year for books.  For this Top Ten Tuesday I am including any book that I have read the first half of this year. Mostly because I don't really care about publication dates.  #rebel 

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia cover

Eliza and Her Monsters
by Francesca Zappia 

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: May 30th 2017
Rating: Full review of Eliza and her Monsters

“There are monsters in the sea.”

Francesca Zappia is one to watch.  I loved Made You Up and I thought that Eliza and her Monsters was even better.  It is a wonderful examination of introversion, anxiety, love, and fandom. I read on twitter this morning that The Monstrous Sea is going to become a thing and I am now thoroughly overexcited.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys cover

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: kind of a spin off...
Published: February 2nd 2016
Rating: Full review of Salt to the Sea

“What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking within us?”

This book is super plot driven rather than character driven. Which normally isn't my favorite but works here.  There is a sense of inevitability to the driving narrative. I read it in one sitting and immediately bought a copy for my mother.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson cover

by Tiffany D. Jackson

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: January 24th 2017
Rating: Full review of Allegedly

"My crime was more psychotic. I was the nine-year-old who killed a baby.  Allegedly. That's the word they used."

I cannot even.  This book actually caused something to short in my brain. A couple months later I am still thinking about it.  The definition of haunting.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas cover

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: February 28th 2017
Rating: Full review of the Hate U Give

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” 

This is a serious book about an incredibly important topic that also manages to be warm, funny, and relatable. I am going to continue to shill this book until everyone on earth has read it.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli cover

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Yes-ish?
Published: April 11th 2017
Rating: Full review of The Upside of Unrequited

“I mean, here’s the thing I don’t get. How do people come to expect that their crushes will be reciprocated? Like, how does that get to be your default assumption?” 

So much relating. It makes me think of high school Tara, and that maybe I was too hard on her.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor cover

Strange the Dreamer
by Laini Taylor

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Published: March 28th 2017

“I think you're a fairy tale. I think you're magical, and brave, and exquisite. And I hope you'll let me be in your story.” 

Dancing on the edge of purple prose. Just how I like it.  This is such a beautiful book.  Fairly tales, the power of books, and a sweet love story. I need the sequal.  Like two months ago.  Why do authors do this to me?  

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern cover

The Night Circus
by Erin Morganstern

Goodreads Amazon
Series: nope
Published: May 24th, 2012
Rating: Full review of The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” 

A unique voice and concept. Incredibly visual writing. Prose that is so plush and beautiful it almost seems as if you could rub your face in it like a fur coat. 

I want a movie. I never want that. This book just begs for it.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe cover

A List of Cages
by Robin Roe

Goodreads | Amazon
Published: January 10th, 2017
Series: no
Rating: Full review of A List of Cages

“Why is time like that? Why does it slow down in the places you don’t want it to, but it speeds away when you’re happy?” 

So much melodrama. And I loved it. Be prepared to cry. Ugly cry. More than once. Also shout out to male friendship!

You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner cover

You're Welcome, Universe
by Whitney Gardner

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: March 7th 2017
Rating: Full review of You're Welcome Universe

"I’m not better than friends, I want better friends. I want friends who are all in, all the time. It can’t just be all on your terms. You have to care, care about more than just yourself."

A Deaf, POC main character with some behavioral issues. It sounds as if it would be muddled but it is sharp as a tack and just an all around great read. I am not an artist so I am always intrigued by stories with artistic characters. 

A Darker Shade of Magic   by V.E. Schwab cover

A Darker Shade of Magic  
by V.E. Schwab

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published: February 24th 2015
Rating: Full review of A Darker Shade of Magic

“I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

Yes, the concept is complicated. Sort of parallel universe Londons that certain people can travel between. Magic and the awesomeness that is Kell. Thank God, there are three more books. I am not ready to leave this world any time soon.


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