Sunday, July 31, 2011
The Psychopath Test : a Journey through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson. 275 pages.
Not so much a journey through, as a brief (but interesting)look inside the madness industry. Ronson gives us a look at some psychopaths, some psychologists, and some Scientologists in this engaging, readable account. I liked the subject matter and the author's style. I would have enjoyed reading more.
Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin, Fantasy, 1016 pages.
Martin's epic saga continues in the long awaited fifth volume. "Valar Morghulis" is the watchword for some of the characters. It means "all men must die". Martin drives home that point frequently, so try not to get too attached to anyone in the book, as bad decisions, angry gods, mad rulers, plague, warfare, and betrayal are everywhere in this world. Its a finely crafted world, one in which naked self-interest and betrayal will get you far. I don't know how or when this will all end, but I hope I live to see it.
My kids really liked this. But I consider a bunch of kids who refer to their club as the SS, and feel the best way to handle adult, male criminals is to meet them in a lonely patch of woods at night to be a little lacking as role models.
House Divided by Mike Lawson, 345 pages. thriller.
Joe DeMarco, son of a Mafioso, and "fixer" for the Speaker of the House, returns in the fifth, and best, of the series. Speaker Mahoney is out of the picture and DeMarco's close friend Emma is on a cruise, so when Joe is drawn into a shooting match between a secret Army-hit-squad and the NSA, he has to figure a way out by himself. A great series that keeps getting better.
The Internet is a playground : Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius by David Thorne
Thorne, and much of this book, can be found at www.27bslash6.com. He's very funny, and more than a little mean. I spent too much time feeling sorry for several of the people in the book who draw the author's ire (maybe not Shannon, cuz she doesn't seem to notice, and not Simon, but Lucius and John and maybe the goth). Those who ask for it, by sending unsolicited, poorly written, or crazy email to the author, are fodder for justified mean humor, though. A very funny book
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, 423 pages, fantasy.
I read this a couple of years ago and loved it. It has taken me a long time to get my kids to agree to listen to it. I'm glad that we listened to the audio, because Bahni Turpin does a fabulous job and has become one of my favorite readers. She does a great J-Lo (the invading Boov have unpronounceable names and may take common Earth names to put us at our ease). Twelve-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci writes a school essay about what Smekday means to her in the post-invasion days of 2013-2014. She recounts her adventures with J-Lo and their Booved-auto, "Slushious," as they travel across the land, avoiding Boov and Gorg, and trying to find Tip's mom.
Layered, weird, and funny, Smekday is great.
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, 304 pages, thriller.
Bazell's 2009 and thriller about an ex-mafia hitman turned medical student is even funnier on the second reading. I still find the shark tank and the knife fight won with the fibula a bit much, but overall this is a great read. Can't wait for Bazell' next book.
Before I started this book, I thought about why I liked the first book in the series so much more than later ones. I decided that it was because the first one was a caper, with lots of setup involving Vlad's friends. (It's been a long time since I reread it, but that's what stands out in my memory.) So the first main section of Tiassa was extra fun for me, because it is...Vlad setting up and carrying out a caper. I love Vlad's narrative voice. On the other hand, the later section, which features the narration style that Brust uses in the Khaavren books, reminds me of why I was never able to read The Phoenix Guards or other books in that sequence: the style is incredibly irritating. And, as usual after reading a new Vlad book, I feel like I need to go reread the whole series, because I'm sure I'm forgetting important details.
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I read several rave reviews of this book when it came out a few months ago, but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Morwenna is trying to adapt to her new life--crippled by a car accident that killed her twin sister, shipped off to a snooty English boarding school (she's Welsh) by the father she's just met, hoping that her mother won't find her.... Joining the local library, where she can get interlibrary loan books for free, and then joining the science fiction book club the librarian tells her about, changes her life again.
Anyone who was an avid reader as a teenager--especially anyone who grew up reading science fiction, as I did--should definitely check this out.
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I read GG as it's published online, but it's always a treat to read a complete volume in one sitting--the pacing feels so much different in book format than it does online. This volume ratchets up the interpersonal violence, but we also get some marvelous sparkiness (mad scientists Being Mad, that is), and crucial information about a supporting character that I've never liked but that I respect more now. Plus the Gil/Tarvek rivalry is particularly hilarious here.
I'm a huge fan of this series and encourage everyone to read it. That said, do not start with this volume!
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I loved the first book in this series, then didn't care as much for the next two. This one was all kinds of fun, though. Lots of balls in the air as Alexia juggles her job, her personal life, and her person (she's 8 months pregnant when the book begins). The solution to stopping the vampire assassination attempts was unexpected but enjoyable. Alexia investigating by pretending to be a servant seeking a new position while heavily pregnant was hilarious. And we find out some interesting backstory about one of my favorite characters. I had a hard time buying one aspect of the grand finale--c'mon, there's no way Alexia wouldn't know those facts about vampires--but overall it was so much fun I was willing to handwave the stupidity. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011
Batman: The Widening Gyre vol 1, by Kevin Smith, et al.; graphic novel; 200 pages
After the terrible reviews of Smith's last Batman story arc, I admit I was a little nervous about picking this up. However, this turned out to be a pretty entertaining look at the Dark Knight. In his afterward, Smith refers to this story as Batman's mid-life crisis: he sees Tim Drake "pulling a Nightwing" soon, and leaving his side to fight crime solo. Also, a new, younger superhero has started appearing in Gotham--maybe someone who could one day replace Batman? At the same time, Silver St. Cloud, one of Bruce Wayne's old flings (who knows about his double life as Batman), shows up, and starts making noises about getting serious about their relationship.
Yeah, when I sum it up like that, this volume sounds kind of lame. But Smith peppers the story with enough inside jokes and great one-liners to keep things interesting. My one complaint was that it was really, really weird to see Bruce Wayne smiling so much in this volume, but I see that changing in part two. Yes, there's a part two. And I promise, however bored you might get with the Batman-dating storyline, after the last panel in this arc, you're going to be dying for the next volume. I know I am....
Skin Hunger is two stories, told in alternating chapters: In one, Sadima is a gifted girl growing up in a world where magic has been outlawed. Her own hidden magical abilities make her an outcast in her own family, so she seeks out a small group trying to recover the ancient lost spells, and perhaps pass them on to future generations. The second story is that of Hahp, one of ten boys attending a school for wizard training, hundreds of years after Sadima's time. The training is brutal and needlessly cruel, and the boys (many of whom where sent there against their will), know that only one of them, if any, will live to graduate.
I LOVED this book. This was one of those where I got so wrapped up in the story, I failed to notice that I kept missing turns, or taking long routes so I could listen to just one more chapter. There's not a lot of action here, but the quiet personal stories more than make up for that. Lest I make this sound sappy, there's also a growing sense of fear and dread as we get to know certain characters, and realize just how determined/stubborn/crazy they are. There's a lot of deep themes explored here, too: love, abusive relationships, revenge, long-term exposure to cruelty and it's effects on the psyche. Things just kept getting darker as the book went along, but I was so wrapped up in the characters that I couldn't look away. I can't wait for the second volume to arrive.
I can't say I really liked this book for it's great story telling, most of it is translated from Korean, thus making it slightly confusing to read...after it's been translated into English. Even with the language barrier, the stories are still imaginative and creative. There's one story about a prince and princess that can turn into giant monster...wolves (for lack of a better term). They were sent to protect...something... WELL at least the illustrations in this book are to die for.
Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan, Lit Fic, 255 pages.
A wonderful book that is sweet without being maudlin or overly sentimental. Emily Maxwell is in her seventies, living alone since her husband died six years ago. Her best friend died a year or so ago, and now it is just Emily and her best remaining friend (and sister-in-law?) Arlene, driving carefully around town, adjusting to changes and quietly mourning what has passed.
A touching and well=written book.
I love UDON Entertainment Corporation, but I hate the fact that they are ALWAYS late with publishing works (I'm still waiting on my Monster Hunter Illustrations). Either way, they are good at content and Vent is no exception. Filling the 224 pages of this book are three very intrinsic stories and a load of tutorials on how to draw characters, cover pages and more. This book is very stylized, to the point of which I felt bad for breaking the spine (I like to take in everything). If you like slice-of-life stories and sci-fi westerns. then you might like this book.
Annie Fuller credibility scale (post- 6): 1
Annie Fuller credibility scale (post-volume 5): 2
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Lost in Shangri-la :A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff.
Lost in Shangri-la: a True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff, 384 pages.
This account of the rescue of two Army Air Corp servicemen and one WAC from a remote mountainous area of New Guinea during the waning days of the war provides an interesting story that does not quite live up to the hyperbole in the title. After a C-47 transport plane crashes into a mountainside during a sight-seeing flight over an inaccessible valley in New Guinea, four survivors must hope that the air crews at the base on the other side of the mountains can find them before they all succumb to their wounds, starvation, jungle-type infections, or the supposed dietary habits of the locals. Once they are located by the US Army, someone has to figure out a way to get them out. The Army discards the possibility of using sea-planes, despite newspaper stories from several years back that told of an expedition to the area using sea-planes. The method of extraction the Army chose was cooler, riskier, and a bit unnecessary. An interesting story that could have been told in a shorter book.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
It wouldn't be summer if I didn't get a least a few volumes of Batman read. This one opens after the events of War Games (which I still haven't read, so I'm kind of in the dark on certain points of the story). Batman, Robin, and Nightwing have just returned after a year away from Gotham. In their absence, a recovered Harvey Dent has been tasked with keeping the streets safe. Upon Batman's return, however, someone begins brutally killing various members of the Gotham underworld, and all evidence points to Dent. Has Harvey gone back to the dark side?
Initially I wasn't too crazy about the art in this issue, but it grew on me as I went along. That's not to say it's without flaws: there are a few points where Bruce Wayne's outfit changes from panel to panel or, on the writing side of things, characters slip up and use the wrong name to describe someone. Still, this was a fun, if grisly murder mystery. Also of note: this is the story arc where Bruce Wayne formally adopts Tim Drake as his son. Awww.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Using the true story of one of Sudan's Lost Boys, Salva Dut, Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park has written a riveting account of Salva's journey from war torn Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, to Kenya, America, and back to Sudan. In alternating chapters with his story is that of a young Sudanese village girl named, Nya. The story begins when 11 year old Salva has to run from his school when gunfire announces the arrival of the fighting. Unable to return to his family and not knowing their fate, he joins a group of refugees walking east to Ethiopia. After braving lions, starvation, dehydration, a river crossing, and the desert he arrives in a refugee camp where he lives several years. Forced out at gunpoint, he then travels to Kenya and then is transported to the U.S. as part of a program to rescue Sudanese orphans. Nya's story is that of a young girl forced to walk many miles twice a day to get water for her family. The muddy water they drink nearly causes the death of her younger sister. Eventually her life is changed by the work of an organization begun by Salva Dut. This is a short book and a quick read but it is well worth it. Park is one of my favorite children's authors and she once again has produced a winner.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Would it be a blessing or a curse to be indestructible? How could this gift change friendships and romances if not history. An interesting premise that should intrigue even reluctant readers.
The third collection in this series opens with the suicides of three teens, each dressed as a deceased superhero. All three had recently returned from trips to Oregon, so Oracle dispatches Huntress to investigate (not completely solo: the metahuman Vixen is already undercover). Huntress uncovers a cult full of brainwashed teens, and when Oracle tries to hack in, she's hijacked by none other than Brainiac.
I felt like the Birds really came into their own with this story. They're starting to mesh as a team, and to overcome their differences. We got to see a little more of Huntress' personality in this book (previously, she'd been showing up, kicking butt, and vanishing again), which was also refreshing. There were two one-shots tacked onto the end of this story, including one in which Oracle chooses to move her base of operations out of Gotham, following the destruction of her clocktower. The frustrating thing is that the loss of the clocktower--a pivotal moment for Oracle and, I guess, the series--takes place in another series (I want to say it was in a Batman arc, but I don't recall exactly). We get a brief flashback in Birds, but the event itself is glossed over. I generally like the shared DC universe, but it would be nice if at least some of the major life-events for Oracle happened in her own title.
If you can get past the incessant use of f-bombs and the n-word, this is a really good book. Rapper Ice T (Tracy Marrow) tells his story from being an a child in Newark, losing both parents by age 7, growing up in L.A. South Central, joining a gang and committing crimes to becoming one of the first hip-hop mega-stars, battling Congress, the police, and the NRA over the song "Cop Killer," and his transition to movies and one of the most successful television franchises, "Law & Order." Ice pulls no punches in this book. His brutal honesty about gang life in the 70s & 80s and what gang life has become now is an eye opener to anyone who didn't grow up in that life. Basically, this is a tale of a boy growing into a man, making mistakes, and learning a lot of hard lessons along the way to his success as an actor, a father, and a husband. He now spends a lot of his time lecturing and speaking to organizations like the Boys' & Girls' Clubs in an effort to keep kids out of gang life. I liked this book and I like the man Ice T has become.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
This beautifully written juvenile book is the fictionalized story of Chilean born Neftali Reyes, better known as the poet Pablo Neruda. Neftali's father was virulent in his opposition to any artistic pursuits. When Neftali's older brother showed promise as a singer, his father denied him permission to study music and forced him into the business world. Neftali was always getting in trouble for daydreaming, collecting rocks, feathers, pine cones, and other things that struck his fancy. He was a gentle soul whose work hardened father did not understand and was embarassed by him even when others applauded his writing. His father's attempts to "make a man of him" cause him much pain and anguish. Things come to a head when an article he has written is published in the university magazine which reveals that Neftali plans to study poetry. His father takes all the notebooks and papers of his writings and burns them. It is then that he makes the decision to write under a pseudonym so his father will not know he is still writing. He choses the name Neruda from Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Illustrator Peter Sis uses his artwork to illustrate the fanciful thoughts and daydreams of young Neftali. They help to set the gentle, thoughtful tone of the book. Excerpts of Neruda's poetry are included at the end.
This arc ties neatly into the loose ends left from Of Like Minds: Savant is still loose, and Senator Pullman is still a threat, but things are on hold for the moment. Dinah is in Hong Kong to visit her dying martial arts instructor, who she loves as a father. However, her master's condition also attracts his other best student, the infamous assassin, Lady Shiva. At their master's request, Dinah and Shiva form an uneasy truce, which is strengthened upon finding that their master has been murdered. Their investigation points to the notorious Cheshire, a master of poisons, but Cheshire claims that she's been set up, and vows to help them track down the real killer. Meanwhile, someone has hacked into Oracle's systems, wreaking havoc with the superheroes of Gotham. Alone, and cut off from contact with the outside world, Oracle must track down the person clever enough to outwit her security.
On the one hand, I liked the drama of this arc: seeing Dinah have to work with two hated enemies, and seeing Oracle have to work things out with Huntress. I'll also add that the interactions between Lady Shiva and Black Canary are fantastic, and I hope there are more instances where they're working on the same side. The art didn't bother me as much as in the previous volume, but I will say this: Cheshire has, without a doubt, the most ludicrous costume I've EVER seen in a comic, and I've seen some pretty bad clothes (no, it's not the one you see on the cover). Also, Catwoman is in this book for a grand total of three pages, so I'm not sure why she made it onto the cover, but whatever... One of the best parts of this book was the flashback story to the original Black Canary, as Dinah investigates a similar case in the present. I liked it enough to overlook the horrible librarian stereotype that runs through it (cats, glasses, frizzy hair, no life, sleeps at the library--you get the picture). Then again, we've got Barbara Gordon being the ultimate in cool librarians for most of this series, so I guess I can let this one slide. Continuing this series later this week.
Monday, July 18, 2011
This short novel revisits the German village of Burgdorf, so memorably portrayed in Hegi’s Stones from the river, and features many of the characters who people the earlier book. Set on a single day, February 27, 1934, the first anniversary of the burning of the Reichstag, the book also flashes back in time to earlier events which have set the stage for what will happen on this day in the small town. Thekla Jansen is a gifted young teacher of a class of fourth grade boys. She is delighted to be working after waiting many years to practice her profession during the massive unemployment in Germany following its defeat in World War I. However her joy has a cost: she has replaced her own beloved teacher, who has lost her job because she is Jewish. Thekla buys little gifts and sets them aside to take to her, but somehow hasn’t found time to visit. Her students have been encouraged to join the Hitler-Jugend – some of them are conflicted about this membership by what they overhear from their parents, and some of what they innocently repeat could have serious repercussions. Thekla also has doubts but feels that membership in a group that offers hiking, bonfires, and comradeship has benefits that outweigh its connection to Hitler and his policies. By the end of the day, one boy’s fascination with the Hitler-Jugend will have tragic consequences and Thekla will have made a life-altering discovery about herself. How ordinary citizens got caught up in the stream bearing Germany towards the dictatorship of Hitler and the tragedy of the coming years is skillfully portrayed and thought-provoking. Which small rationalized choice is the decisive one? 272 pp.
I don’t know what to make of this book, even after slogging to the end. The Astral is a Brooklyn apartment building where poet Harry Quirk (the name is a give-away) and his Mexican-born wife, Luz, have lived their married life and raised two children, Karina, now a lesbian “freegan,” and Hector, who has recently joined a religious group, the Children of Hashem. Luz, convinced erroneously, from poems that she has found that Harry is having an affair with long-time friend Marion, has thrown Harry out. Harry still loves Luz and regrets the actual affair he had with someone named Samantha ten years earlier. Karina, who despite her alternative lifestyle seems the most grounded of the group, both tries to mediate between Luz and Harry and save her brother from the cult he has joined. Luz mostly acts hysterical. Harry, unable to write and mourning the poems Luz has destroyed, gets a real job in a Hasidic lumberyard so he can afford to move back into a tiny Astral apartment several floors below his wife. An intervention is planned to save Hector, who by now is seen as the second coming of Jesus and is being tested by walking on water, which he seemingly does. Has Luz been oppressed all these years by working hard both at her job as a nurse and caring for their home? Is Hector the Messiah, or just a duped kid set to marry the cult’s founder, a 48 year-old lapsed Mormon and former stripper? These and other questions are raised and left unanswered as the book coasts to a stop, divorce papers signed, on page 311.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The subtitle of this book "Wherein the supposedly virtuous Grover Cleveland survives a secret surgery at sea and vilifies the courageous newspaperman who dared expose the truth" pretty much tells what this book is about. I picked this after reading a favorable review and I'm so glad I did. I haven't been so engrossed in a nonfiction book in years. Matthew Algeo chronicled the events surrounding the diagnosis and removal of a large tumor from the roof of President Cleveland's mouth by Dr. W.W. Keen. The secrecy surrounding the operation, which took place on board a yacht while Cleveland was "on vacation," made this one of the best kept government secrets in history. In fact, no one knew of it other than Mrs. Cleveland, the medical team, the yacht owner, the steward on board, and one cabinet member. When one of the medical team breaks his promise of silence, journalist E.J. Edwards gets hold of the story and publishes the account. Denials from the White House, Cleveland's staff, and the other doctors involved along with staged demonstrations of Cleveland's well-being squash the story and turns Edwards into the "bad guy." What is more astounding than the secrecy is Cleveland's amazing recovery after a risky surgery performed in less than perfect conditions in an era where the idea of sterile procedure was in its infancy. Compounding the conditions was the stress Cleveland was under as the country was experiencing the "Panic of 1893", an economic depression surpassed in severity only by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many years later, after the deaths of most of those involved, Dr. Keen obtained the permission of Cleveland's widow to publish an account of the surgery and set the record straight. His article was published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1916. In it Keen vindicated E.J. Edwards and the article he had written so many years before. Algeo has written a very readable account which I found very hard to put down.
Rose discovers her particular talent at age 9 when she eats dinner and discovers her mother's unhappiness. Baked goods always reveal the most about the "maker" and Rose spends a lot of years trying to find and eat machine made foods. She develops the ability to tell where food is from and how it was raised. As she gets older, she has a bit more appreciation for her "skill". This book is really about the entire family and their interactions. Older brother, father and mother all have some quirky "issues" and some of their traits make for interesting situations. I was often struck by the perspectives of the characters when they thought about something that happened...like the father's plot to get her mother interested in him when they met at a garage sale. Ok, I feel like this entry is becoming more confusing as I continue and I'm not doing a good job of capturing what I liked about the book. Suffice it to say that the same "affliction" can be a gift of a curse, just depends how you look at it.
I admit I had some trouble getting into this collection. The art just wasn't doing it for me, possibly because I'm not a guy. For a series that's touted as a feminist comic, I found the art overly gratuitous, but I'm hoping that will be fixed later in the series. As for the story, once I got past the art I found myself enjoying Simone's writing, and the arc outlined in this volume.
First, I have to say that I like Simone's version of Oracle and Black Canary much more than Chuck Dixon's. They're much more well-rounded, and she starts the story after they've already met, so there's none of the awkwardness present in the early Dixon volumes. The dialog is much snappier, and the whole feel of the book is less dated. We get to see a lot more techno-gadgets, and Oracle really puts her library skillz to use in a way she never did as Batgirl. She also spouts one of my favorite quotes here: "When it comes to research, never bet against a former librarian." Love it!
However, I'm starting to wonder if I should be reading Nightwing alongside this series; this volume was full of references to things that happened off stage, presumably over in Nightwing's title. Again, I'm hoping this is something that will lessen as this series goes on.
I truly loved this collection of essays. Partly because I'm young and confused, and Gould sets up her essays so they're a rocket through her college life and twenties. I don't go to as many parties, and I certainly don't um..."imbibe"...the way she does, but what makes her stories interesting, relatable, and touching is not partying or drinking/smoking, a memoir of which I see walking down the street every weekend called, "I'm A Stupid College Dude."
The way Gould describes her inner confusion, her relationships, and her personal brand of turmoil is honest and jagged and familiar. She manages to identify the little light in ourselves that is completely unique, and thus universal. I sat on a park bench Saturday night reading for hours until I finished her book. And when I did, I was sad. I felt like I had spent a couple hours talking to a friend, and that friend was getting up off the bench and calling it a night.
I wonder what an older reader would think. The writing style is really original and punchy without being some New Agey assault on the English language. I think it's a good read even if your college days are far behind you. Or your just-out-of-college-without-a-job-days. Or your long-term-boyfriend-gone-after-six-years-days. Or "whatever."
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I'm just going to start out this review with a warning: Don't read this if you haven't read the first book, White Cat. The best part about the first book is the twist at the end, and since that twist affects most of the plot of this book, there's no way I can write this review without giving away something. So if you plan to read this (and why wouldn't you? This is Holly Black we're talking about!), start with the first book, and save this review for later.
Okay, now that the newbies are gone, I just have to say that this book rocked. Not quite as much as the first book, but this book suffers from the middle child syndrome so common to the second book in a trilogy: all the characters have been introduced, but there's no real conclusion to the story; in fact, there can't be, since much of this book is just setting up for the third (I'm assuming this is a trilogy, since that makes the most sense; of course, I would love to see Black flesh out this world a little more with another story set here, but I'll take what I can get). Anyway, the plot: Cassel is back at school, and so is Lila, still reeling from the effects of the curse laid on her at the end of the White Cat. Meanwhile, Cassel is approached by federal agents with disturbing news, and an offer he can't refuse: help them track down is brother's killer, and they'll grant him protection from the mob families clamoring for his abilities. But Cassel was born and raised in a crime family--can he really sell out his own people?
The cons here weren't quite as spectacular as in the first book, or maybe I was just on my guard, so I saw them coming this time. Even so, I had a lot of fun watching a con artist at work (and "artist" is the right term for what Cassel and his family do). I just have to say that the wait for the next book is going to be way too long.
The author seems to think the news that wealthy organizations and governments are dominating the world is somehow news. This has been obvious to many for a long time. Now that I've made my slightly disparaging remark, let me continue by saying this book fascinated me with carefully researched examples and situations that seem to get at the crux of what it means that companies in the US are owned by foreigners and the state of business, investment and economy in the US and the world is changing. The changes don't look to hold a lot of improvement for our country but we have only helped them along and sold ourselves out. I particularly read with interest the chapter about Norway's Government Pension Fund that played a part in toppling Iceland's economy (really in was only a matter of time, Iceland was being really crazy). Norway isn't on a lot of our lists when it comes to economic power houses but they have brilliantly invested their oil revenues instead of spending every penny...I mean to say that they are brilliant BECAUSE they have invested, not so much that they have always made wise investments. Anyway, enough details. Weiner has done a great job with an interesting topic.
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This is Mark Richard's story...sort of. Not really a biography but a series of events from his life. He spent a lot of time in the hospital for "cripple children" due to hip problems that doctors attempted to fix with a series of operations and full body casts. At one point they put "nails" in to hold things together. Years later when the nails were working their way out and becoming apparent through his skin, a doctor decided to remove them with local anesthesia only. The description of that operation was absolutely amazing. Of course nothing went as easily as originally thought and the sounds of the doctor wrestling with the nails and trying to pull them out of his bones sounded a lot like removing nails from old wood. Everyone in the room was a bit grossed out but his description is just so straight forward...of course I can't find the line right now to quote it here. Anyway, an interesting and enjoyable book.
A series of connected stories following the lives of a group of medical student then doctors. I downloaded this book thinking it was something completely different...in fact, I thought it was a non-fiction medical book. I was pleasantly surprised by the stories and characters and was easily sucked into this book in the good way when you really care to see how things turn out. The doctors are Canadian and there is one story I found very funny about an emergency room doctor who was explaining that a dermatological issue (rash) that had been around for 4 years is NOT an emergency and that the hospital didn't even have a dermatologist on the emergency rotation. "Dermatologists like to sleep." the doctor explained. Of course the patient was trying to get everything they could out of the system and didn't want to wait for a referral. Ended up really liking the book even though I wasn't sure about it when I started. This has been made into a mini series by HBO Canada. Doesn't look like it is available in the states....yet.
Friday, July 15, 2011
As it says on the cover, this is the book about the real events that inspired Spielberg's movie Munich. I chose to read it for another reason. As a fan of Daniel Silva's "Gabriel Allon" series of thrillers, I wanted to know more of the real background events that inspired the creation of Silva's character, a Mossad assassin. I was in junior high school when the Black September terrorists attacked the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics occurred. What I remembered was that the athletes and some of the terrorists died at the airport. What I did not know was how all attempts to save them were botched by the German officials and police in such a horrendous way or that one of the athletes might have survived if anyone had bothered to see if any of the athletes in a burning helicopter had survived being shot. He died of smoke inhalation, not gunshot wounds. The book documents "Operation Wrath of God", Israeli's revenge on the Palestinians for the massacre. This operation was charged with seeking out the Palestinian terrorists responsible for planning and carrying out the massacre and assassinating them. Included is the horribly botched case of mistaken identity in Lillehammer, Norway, where Israeli agents gunned down an innocent man in front of his pregnant wife and then were caught by authorities and tried. In some of the Silva novels references to "we don't another Lillehammer affair" pop up and now I know what they mean. In response to some of the assassinations, there were more terrorists attacks. However, the audacity some of the Mossad attacks led to the mythology that they were unstoppable even when they had done nothing. This book is interesting, horrifying, maddening, and depressing. Who are the good guys in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? I don't think there are any. I'm sure I'll be criticized for saying it, but, in my opinion, both sides are equally to blame.
This is one of those "I'll read it someday" books. When a copy happened to land in the children's department, I decided that this was as good a time as any. Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, uses different types of seashells as metaphors for aspects of the lives of women and occasionally men. While there is much here to appreciate in this slight volume, there was much that annoyed me. Of course, it is easy to recommend that women take vacations away from their obligations of home and family to recharge when you are wealthy and have your own beach house in Hawaii to escape to. Lindbergh's ideas that children are the ultimate purpose of woman is also irksome. That being said, this gentle book has much to make it worth recommending. She stresses the importance of creativity and taking time for creative pursuits (once again, much easier when you have great amounts of leisure time). I found her comparison of stages of marriage to the knobby calcifications on an oyster shell to be interesting. The addition of a ninth chapter, added twenty years after the initial publication, addresses the changes in society in that twenty years. All in all, it's a nice book, not terrific, not awful...just nice.
I have to be in a certain mood to read an entire book of poetry at one sitting. This book is so good I couldn't put it down (and subsequently overslept the next morning-but still made it to work on time). Myers, who has written so many award winning juvenile books, was inspired by Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology. The result is a collection of poems about his hometown of Harlem. Each is written in the "voice" of a different person: a church deacon, English teacher, student, salesman, hairdresser, boxer, mechanic, etc. The only person who appears more than once is "Clara Brown" whose "Testimony" is in six parts. Also included are vintage black & white photos of Harlem residents. It is a book for reading, re-reading, and savoring.
These poems give a flavor of Harlem in the days of the Cotton Club, rent parties, and jazz. Some are humorous, some touching, others sad. At least one, the story of a soldier, newly returned home who was attacked and blinded in the assault, is based on a true story. While all are excellent, I admit to liking some a lot more than others.
In "William Riley Pitts, 42: Jazz artist" a man laments the death off his young son:
"Sometimes I sit and wonder
What the boy could have been..."
And "Delia Pierce, 32: Hairdresser" who gossips while claiming she doesn't:
"And I could say something about them
But I'm not the kind to talk behind nobody's back"
My favorites are "Betty Pointing, 64: Clerk" who still loves her husband of forty-six years:
"He asked me why I smile when I say 'I love you.'
I don't know why I smile--I just do."
"Mali Evans, 12: Student":
"I'd like to be old one day
Like Mrs. Purvis with her gray
Hair like a halo around her black face..."