Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Review of "Accidents: A Legal Misadventure," by Phillip Rohlin

 Review of

 Accidents: A Legal Misadventure, by Phillip Rohlin ISBN 9781478718543

Four out of five stars

Cast of weird characters in the legal profession

  This story features some very unusual, if not psychotic, lawyers. Tim is an expert in music; he is able to identify the specific press of a vinyl album after only a short time listening to it. He also once deliberately ate glass in his closing argument to prove to a jury that a plaintiff that claimed great bodily injury due to a few shards of glass in food was lying. There is Jackie (the Fatman) who regularly has his genitals tightly in his hand when he is in conference with clients or negotiating over the phone. The Fatman keeps lush plants on his desk so that clients he is in conference with cannot get a good look at him. The Fatman also forms a religion based on psyllium and chia seeds that successfully pass through his entire digestive tract. He carries a jar of those seeds with him and is quite proud of it. Rich is another lawyer that befriends a toothless woman called the Blooze, pimping her out for oral sex. He has found that negotiations with others go much better after they have had a round with the Blooze. Some of the females also discover that the Blooze has other talents as well.

 One of other characters is Doctor O, an M. D. that cooperates with the lawyers in sham personal injury cases and that refers to his large male anatomy as the Klaina. He makes sure that as many women know about it as possible so that he can make sure that as many as possible are eager to interact with it. Master Lee is an enigmatic martial arts expert that no one crosses without being subject to serious retribution. Levonne owns a car towing company, and he helps recruit clients for the unscrupulous lawyers and doctors to develop fraudulent personal injury cases. Henry Miller, the author of “Tropic of Cancer” also appears and he is known for his games of Ping Pong with beautiful young women where both of them are nude.

 Given this list of weird characters, the reader should be convinced that unusual things happen in this story, while the list above gives away a little of the storyline, there is lots more beyond that. All I have done here is set the stage.

Review of "The Abraham Lincoln Joke Book," by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

 Review of

The Abraham Lincoln Joke Book, by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Five out of five stars

Lincoln’s personality through his jokes

I first read this book when I encountered it in the library at my elementary school. To a young boy, it was quite amusing, and it also taught me some history of the man consistently ranked as the greatest American president. Lincoln was a humble man that constantly expressed his opinion of himself as ungainly and homely in appearance. A great deal of his humor was self-deprecating in nature, something that only accented his fundamental strength.

 As I read the book decades later my thought was that you can learn a lot about a person from the jokes they tell. If the jokes have a bitter tone and primarily ridicule others, then that person is generally petty and weak. The jokes that Lincoln told about himself were a verbal demonstration of the strength that he exhibited when he, more than anyone else, preserved the union at great cost.

Review of "The Case of the Calendar Girl," by Erle Stanley Gardner

 Review of

The Case of the Calendar Girl, by Erle Stanley Gardner

Four out of five stars

Many potential murderers make it fine Mason fare

 Perry Mason and Della Street are out having a quiet dinner and a man (George Ansley) approaches them with an unusual story. He had just left a tense meeting with a crooked politician on his palatial estate and when he was on the driveway a car came from the other direction, sideswiped him and then crashed. He went to the aid of the occupants and found a pretty young woman lying unconscious and in typical Gardner fashion, her skirt was up near her hips. Thinking she is unconscious Ansley starts off for help but hears her cry out before he can go to far.

 Going back, he finds her conscious and coherent. She insists she is unhurt and asks for a ride back to her residence. Ansley complies and manages to get a couple of kisses in before he drops her off. However, he has been thinking about the incident and is concerned about the legal ramifications, so seeing Mason at a table, asks for his assistance. Mason, Street and Ansley go back to the estate, looking for the car. At 11PM, the gates close and guard dogs are released onto the grounds. The dogs come after them, so Mason and company are forced to make a hasty retreat over the wall. This starts a convoluted series of events, as the politician is found murdered and Ansley is accused of the crime.

 There are several twists to the plot, as the chief aide to the politician constantly changes his story on the witness stand, and after hard cross-examination by Perry Mason, it is clear that Ansley could not have committed the murder. The person who becomes the prime suspect then hires Perry Mason to defend her and the case goes back to court. This time, the judicial finger of guilt is pointed in the right direction and the perpetrator is apprehended.

 While this story is in many ways a typical Perry Mason adventure, there are enough potential murderers to keep you guessing which one did it. The final piece of the puzzle, where an apparently solid alibi is destroyed, comes very late, climactically determining the identity of the murderer. I enjoyed the story, it was interesting and the conversation Mason has with Lieutenant Tragg is one of the best moments in the Mason series. It portrays them as adversaries, yet clearly with a great deal of mutual and professional respect.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Review of "Tape It & Make More: 101 More Duct Tape Activities," by Richela Fabian Morgan

Review of

Tape It & Make More: 101 More Duct Tape Activities, by Richela Fabian Morgan ISBN 9781438003344

Four out of five stars

Challenging projects for the patient person 

 I have no doubt that each of the 101 projects with duct tape in this book can be done, but I have even more doubt that they don’t require a high degree of manual dexterity and patience. As a frequent user of duct tape, I have experienced the frustration of having it inadvertently fold over and then having to throw that piece away as there was no way I could salvage it.

 These projects vary in complexity from the making of baskets to reusable sleeves for hot beverages. The more difficult ones require the precise folding and cutting of the sections of tape to specifications, something that has always eluded me. Explicit directions, list of materials and sequential images of the steps of the process are included, so there is no ambiguity in what has to be done. Therefore, if you have the skills to do this sensitive work, you will find this book a treasure of exciting and perhaps even marketable products. The rest of us can only try.

Review of "Perish Twice," by Robert B. Parker

 Review of

Perish Twice, by Robert B. Parker ISBN 0399146687

Five out of five stars

Sunny pursues the case when told not to

 When prominent feminist Mary Lou Goddard hires Sunny to protect her from threats and stalking, she takes on more than what first appeared. It is quickly clear that Goddard is not being truthful when Sunny poses questions to Goddard about what she knows about potential perpetrators. The case quickly goes more sinister when one of Goddard’s co-workers is gunned down at the place where they work. Since the co-worker resembles Goddard, it appears to be a case of mistaken identity.

 Sunny quickly identifies the most likely stalker, but that lead seems to dead end very quickly in a manner that could resolve all issues. However, Sunny believes that the loose ends were tied up too quickly and even though she was fired by Goddard, she refuses to quit the case.

 The story is compounded by two simultaneous plot threads. Sunny’s older sister discovers that her husband is playing around with other women and Sunny’s best friend Julie, supposedly happily married with children, is engaging in an affair with a man that is simply not right for her. Therefore, in the midst of investigating multiple murders, Sunny is forces to play counselor and emotional support person to two people that she cannot decline.

 The story moves along fairly well, Sunny uncovers facts that take her into unexpected and very dangerous territory. The climax is an interesting and somewhat unique one. In a few pages, Sunny goes from bravely facing death to engaging in an action right out of the hapless female playbook. This is arguably the best Sunny Randall novel penned by Parker.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Review of "Starr Tracks: Belle and Pearl Starr," by Phillip W. Steele

 Review of

Starr Tracks: Belle and Pearl Starr, by Phillip W. Steele ISBN 0882897233

Five out of five stars

An injection of reality into the legends

 With a countless number of western books and many different movies and television shows with a western theme, many of the characters have become mythologized. Many of the stories of their exploits are more legend than fact. This alteration of history covers all types of characters, from the heroes to the outlaws to the women. One of the most famous is Belle Starr, sometimes called the “Bandit Queen.”

 Like so many of the outlaws of legend such as the James Gang, the origin of the story of the woman known as Belle Starr begins in Missouri during the Civil War. It was a state sharply divided between Union and Confederate sympathies and Starr was on the side of the Confederacy. When the war was over, many of the people that supported the Confederacy moved to the outlaw side of society.

 This book is based on the history of the family of Belle Starr. The sources were family records and interviews with the descendants of Belle Starr. It was interesting to learn that she in fact went by several names and had multiple husbands. At least it appears that way. There is also doubt as to who was in fact the biological father of her children.

 As is most often the case, the verifiable track of history is much less dynamic than the legend. Yet, what is revealed is a woman that provided some basis for the stories of her outlaw actions. For example, she wore very fancy dresses, rode sidesaddle and carried a pair of pistols around her waist. This book is based on facts, and is interesting because it is based on truth, not fiction.

Review of "Johnny Bench: King of Catchers," by Louis Sabin

 Review of

Johnny Bench: King of Catchers, by Louis Sabin ISBN 0399205837

Four out of five stars

Perhaps the best catcher ever

 Catching is the most physically demanding field position in baseball. Not only does the catcher squat for over two hours, but they also control the game and must contribute offensively. From the moment he arrived in the major leagues, Johnny Bench proved to be a powerful force both offensively and defensively.

 He was one of the best at throwing out baserunners attempting to steal and was a major offensive force, leading the national league in homeruns twice and runs batted in three times. He also won 10 Gold Glove awards as the best defensive catcher.

 This book written at the YA level is a brief and entertaining history of his life up to the year of publication. Even as a child, Bench believed that he was destined to be a major league catcher. While this is not all that unique, many of my friends dreamed of being professional baseball players, Bench was one that achieved the dream. Like all players that are talented, there were times that Bench struggled early in his career. It was normal for him to question himself, yet he demonstrated that he had the skills needed to succeed. His honesty in admitting his difficulties is an inspiration to those that dream, yet doubt.

Review of "100+ Winning Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions," by Casey Hawley

 Review of

100+ Winning Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, by Casey Hawley, ISBN 9780764139123

 Five out of five stars

 How to smoothly answer the gotcha questions

  While an examination of the unusual interview questions provides some comedic relief, it is largely counterproductive in preparing someone for a professional non-technical interview. The questions that will make or break your viability are a test of your personality, genuineness and ability to flow into new molds of work environments. Many of the questions, such as “Say something negative about yourself” or “What didn’t you like about your old boss?” are virtual landmines. In asking those questions the interviewer is trying to determine if you are a complainer and if you will be foolish enough to state a deal-breaker.

 The questions listed and then answered, often several times, in this book are those tough ones that are designed to reveal your inner strengths and weaknesses. One must be prepared to make a smart, seemingly honest answer that does not appear to be rehearsed and sounds genuine. There is an art to stating an answer to a request to be critical that can be interpreted as critical yet sounds positive. That is a skill that is taught in this book.

 In a tight job market for professionals, doing well in the job interview is critical as there are others that will be your equal in terms of qualifications. This book will help you prepare for the hard questions where you need to put a positive spin on an answer to a question where a straight answer is wrong either way.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Review of "Old Capitol’s Ghosts," by Robert E. Belding

 Review of

Old Capitol’s Ghosts,  by Robert E. Belding

Four out of five stars

History of a building, few if any ghosts

 This book is improperly named. It is not a set of short stories about the apparitions and weird noises seen and heard in the Old Capital building in Iowa City, Iowa. The stories contain little-known facts regarding the creation and history of the building. Those stories are of themselves interesting to people that have been in the building, as I have.

 The stories begin when Iowa was still a territory and was governed from the west bank of the Mississippi River. It was not long before it was decided that the state capitol should be farther west due to the overall westward movement of the central point of the population. The very frontier town of Iowa City was a logical choice because steamships could travel up the Iowa River to that point. Therefore, the decision was made to make it the capitol, which would require the construction of a building capable of accommodating the office of the governor, the legislature and all other necessary components of the state government.

 The stories cover the people that governed in the early years, the people involved in the design and construction, as well as people that worked to make it an actual governing house. For example, a significant library of books for the time were transported overland so that there would be a variety of reading and reference materials for the government officials. After the state capitol was moved to the more centrally located Des Moines, the nascent University of Iowa began operating in the building. It is also noted that the University of Iowa accepted female students very early in its’ existence.

 None of these stories are those that make you laugh or even chuckle. The book is just a set of short stories that deal with many aspects of the history of what is now the central point in the University of Iowa and a museum.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Review of "Strawberry Point," by Florence Roe Wiggins

 Review of

Strawberry Point, by Florence Roe Wiggins

Five out of five stars

Enjoyable recapitulation of life in a small Iowa town

 Strawberry Point is an actual town in Iowa, and I have driven through it many times. I have also had breakfast in the historic Franklin Hotel referenced in this book. It is even more impressive than the description indicates.

 This is the story of a girl that grew up in Strawberry Point during the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. At the start, indoor plumbing was generally nonexistent, and transportation was by horse or on foot. There were no paved roads in Iowa at the time, so what roads that existed were either dusty or muddy. When traveling, people specifically wore outwear for the sole purpose of collecting the dust and keeping it off their clothing.

 It was a time of great self-sufficiency, people made most of their own clothing, baked their own bread, churned their own butter and grew much of their own food. Home canning was generally a necessity if a family was to be fed over the winter. Entertainment was local, people played music and sang together, serving an essential social purpose.

 The people worked hard, yet they always found time for the social necessities of attending church services and having other large gatherings for socializing. The narrator’s father was a photographer and did business deals on the side. Therefore, her family was generally better off than most of the other people in town.

  This is a fun book to read, for it captures what life was like in numerous small towns in the Midwest a few years fore and aft of 1900. While many did not have a lot, few truly wanted for the necessities of life. Towards the end of the narration, the automobile and telephone arrive in town, harbingers of major changes that would soon take place.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Review of "Goodbye America," by Rita Malie

 Review of

Goodbye America, by Rita Malie, ISBN 9780978799571

Five out of five stars

Immigrant to emigrant to immigrant again

 When she is almost 90, Anna Baron tells two of her grandchildren the story of her youth. It is a very unusual one, her father Deddo left their native land of what is now Slovakia in 1912 and settled in Ohio, where he worked in a steel mill. At the time, Slovakia was a part of the empire of Austria-Hungary and was dominated by the Magyars or Hungarians.

 After two years, Deddo saved enough money to send for his wife Mommo and two children Mary and George. Anna and her sister Julia were born in America, so they immediately became citizens. In 1919 Deddo contracted the Spanish Flu and died. Distraught, Mommo decided that her family would go back to Slovakia, which was now a province of the new country of Czechoslovakia. The war had led to economic devastation in Europe, even where there was no actual fighting. The region that is now Slovakia was no exception.

 After some time in their shared struggles in Slovakia with relatives and in what was a foreign country to Anna and Julia, Mommo decided to move back to America. She left Anna in Slovakia until she could acquire the resources to send for her. While it was scary for her to travel to America, she was accompanied by her relative John. Once she is back in the United States, the story ends.

 This is an interesting tale of how a young girl managed to cope with several traumatic events in her childhood. Making two trans-ocean trips at such an early age was surely a major challenge. Losing some very close relatives that anchored her life further complicated things. Yet, at the age of 89, she was able to enthrall her two granddaughters with the story of her youth and how she went through becoming an immigrant twice.

Review of "Classics Illustrated: Great Expectations & Notes," by Charles Dickens and Michael Doylen

 Review of

Classics Illustrated: Great Expectations & Notes, by Charles Dickens and Michael Doylen ISBN 1578400112

Five out of five stars

Graphic Novel version of the classic book

 While others may pan the idea of a classic novel being condensed into a short graphic novel, I am not one of them. I have always believed that any tactic that encourages young people to study the classic works of literature is to be promoted. While there are some necessary weaknesses in the transference of a novel of over 400 pages into what is essentially a large comic book, the essence of the novel remains.

 It is difficult for modern young people to understand the strict social mores of Victorian England. Navigating the social structure of the time was hard for the participants that were not in the higher social classes. Britain was very class conscious at the time, with many normal human urges and behaviors rigidly suppressed. This novel, especially in the notes, helps explain many of the issues.

 If you read this book with some understanding of the times and what Dickens was trying to convey, then it will be very educational. For some, it will be the greatest of all persuaders, it will lead the reader to pick up and read the full novel.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Review of "Marxism: A Graphic Guide," by Rupert Woodfin & Oscar Zarate

 Review of

Marxism: A Graphic Guide, by Rupert Woodfin & Oscar Zarate ISBN 9781848310582

Five out of five stars

A basic explanation of what Karl Marx really said

 To nearly all people, their knowledge of what Karl Marx wrote and meant when the term Marxism was invented is derived from their exposure to the media and propaganda about the former Soviet Union. What was stated as the Marxist-Leninist philosophy and how it was implemented in the Soviet Union and the satellite states is their view of Karl Marx and his ideas.

 That is really not the case, Karl Marx was writing in the nineteenth century when industrial workers were exploited by the capitalist class and had little or no recourse to poor conditions. He was not a technocrat, so he had no possible understanding of how technology would advance and how governments would step in and take a more pro-labor stance. This included the development of government sponsored retirement plans, pensions and oversight of working conditions.

 This book provides the reader with a more realistic explanation of what Marx in fact said and believed. As the two questions on the back cover state:

“Was Marx himself a ‘Marxist’?”

“Did Lenin and Stalin betray Marx and his ideas?”

 There are many reasons to conclude that Marx would not have concurred with what Lenin and Stalin described and practiced in the Soviet Union and proclaimed Marxism. After reading this book, you will understand the reasons to believe that Marx would not have approved of that version of Marxism and know more about what Marx really thought.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Review of "Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?," by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick McKissack

 Review of

Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?, by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick McKissack, ISBN 0590446916

Five out of five stars

A biography of a remarkable woman risen from slavery

 It is an unfortunate fact of history that only a few blacks were able to begin their lives as slaves and then somehow rise up to positions of influence and respect. Born into slavery with the name Isabella in the year 1797, she was freed in 1827. However, before she achieved her freedom, she suffered some of the worst abuses of slavery. She was beaten and had her children taken from her and sold off. Isabella also watched her parents suffer in poverty, even after they also achieved their freedom.

 Taking the name Sojourner Truth after she was freed, she became a powerful voice in speaking out against slavery and for the rights of women. Once, when a male member of the audience questioned whether she was in fact a woman, she unbuttoned her blouse and exposed her breast to demonstrate that she was in fact female. Sojourner rose to a position of great influence in the movement against slavery, even having an audience with President Lincoln.

 As the pressure to disclaim what slavery was really like for black people mounts, books like this become even more important. They explain to the readers what a total abomination slavery was. It also points out that there were many whites that were the spearhead pushing for the abolition of slavery. Sojourner was the recipient of many acts of kindness from people, without which she could not have been the force that she was.

Review of "Record-Breakers of the Major Leagues," by Lou Sabin

 Review of

Record-Breakers of the Major Leagues, by Lou Sabin, ISBN 0394827694

Four out of five stars

Fifteen great moments and stars of baseball

 While most of the great moments in the history of baseball were created by the stars, a few were by players that have no great notoriety. Both are included in this book. Hall of Fame players such as Lou Brock, Henry Aaron, Steve Carleton, Mickey Mantle, Tom Seaver and Willie Mays have features on their careers. Lesser known players that had one or more great moments are Gene Tenace, Sam McDowell, Ron Hunt and Cesar Gutierrez.

 Each of the fifteen entries describes the achievements of a player and has at least one photo of them in action. However, there is one major gaffe. On page 66 there is a picture of Don Drysdale throwing a pitch and the caption states that he is throwing a fastball past Bill Mazeroski. However, the batter in the picture is left-handed and Mazeroski was exclusively a right-handed hitter.

 This collection of short stories about fifteen baseball stars of the fifties, sixties and early seventies is a fun and quick read that will renew your interest in the history of the great game.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Review of "Long Shot," by Mike Piazza and Lonnie Wheeler

 Review of

Long Shot, by Mike Piazza and Lonnie Wheeler, ISBN 9781439150221

Three out of five stars

Great hitting catcher, a bit self-centered

 It can be convincingly argued that Mike Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time. He certainly put up the numbers while surviving the rigors of the most demanding position in baseball. He used the title “Long Shot” to emphasize how low he was in the draft of 1988, in fact he was the last player selected. Even Piazza admits that he was drafted by the Dodgers as a favor from Tommy Lasorda to his buddy, Piazza’s father.

 Yet, with the backing and encouragement he received starting from a very young age, there is no question that Piazza received favors that few prospects have been the beneficiary of. For example, how many teenage boys have received personal hitting instruction from Ted Williams? He also put in the hours of practice and study of the game, his father built a batting cage in the backyard so that he could practice hitting.

 While Piazza is an interesting baseball personality, the book is tainted by what is at times very close to whining. While his complaints about the media and fans in New York are founded, his prose indicates that he was being singled out. I have been following baseball and reading books about baseball for years and recall reading how the press and fans hounded Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and other stars. Mickey Mantle was booed a great deal in the first half of his career with New York. Piazza also has words of criticism of the way baseball teams bring along players from Latin America, helping them with translators and other aspects of fitting in. Given how much some of these players are worth and the fact that many are kids from very poor backgrounds, aiding those players is simply good business.

 While there are some high moments, I found the whining aspects annoying. Others that played in New York received far harsher treatment, by both the fans and the press.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Review of "Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud," by Mike Lupica

 Review of

Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud, by Mike Lupica ISBN 9780525535362

Five out of five stars

Lupica captures Sunny as she was done by Parker

 Robert B. Parker created some of the greatest characters in fiction and some very good writers have been employed to continue their adventures. In this case, Lupica has created a continuation of P. I. Sunny Randall, a tough, gunslinging detective that backs off from no one. Yet, she has a softer side that leads her to an analysist, none other than the great Susan Silverman, Spenser’s great love. This is an opportunity to have Susan a minor character in this story, where Spenser is only indirectly mentioned. Other characters well known from the Spenser novels are Benson, Quark, Tony Marcus, Vinnie Morris and their entourages. Sunny’s previous involvement with Jesse Stone is also mentioned, and in this case, by name.

 Sunny is now back with her ex-husband Richie Burke, although neither of them is sure where the relationship is going. When Richie is shot in a way where it is clear that the assailant was an expert and only wanted to wound him, Sunny takes on the case. Even though Richie, his father Desmond and Desmond’s brother Felix strongly push her away, she ignores them and bloodhounds her way in pursuit of the truth. Sunny also interacts strongly with local law enforcement officials where she asks them to seek out information when she cannot.

 The story moves quickly and has snappy dialog that is very reminiscent of that of Parker. It is based on a long-standing feud between the Burke criminal clan, and another led by Albert Antonioni. The clues to what is really going on are doled out in small parcels, there is a dramatic conclusion that is a bit surprising, but only in terms of who actually did what.

While no one can truly mimic the style of Parker, Lupica comes as close as possible in the literary sense.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Review of "Tom Slade With the Boys Over There," by Percy Keese Fitzhugh

 Review of

Tom Slade With the Boys Over There, by Percy Keese Fitzhugh

Four out of five stars

YA adventure with early scouts

 The American Boy Scout organization was started in 1910, so the scout depicted in this book published in 1918, was a very early participant. His name is Tom Slade, and he was the featured character in a series of 19 books. In this one, he is with his friend Archer, and they recently escaped from the Germans in the province of Alsace.

 The story has the two young men moving through the German-controlled territory where their goal is to get to neutral Switzerland where they can then travel back to Allied lines and rejoin the fight. Since they are in the province of Alsace that has been in German hands since 1871, there is still some strong French sympathy, so the two men receive assistance from some of the local people.

 Tom uses his skills acquired in his scouting experience to find wild food, escape from danger and plot a path to the Swiss border. The adventure is very early twentieth century YA and there is a great deal of anti-German and anti-Kaiser jingoistic rhetoric that sounds absurd to modern readers. Yet, it is fairly typical of the propaganda that passed for literature in that timeframe.

 A look back at the form and structure of the YA adventure stories of the early twentieth century, this book must be read with a mindset of acceptance of how such literature was written at that time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Review of "Star Wars Rogue One: Mission Files," by Jason Fay

 Review of

Star Wars Rogue One: Mission Files, by Jason Fay ISBN 9781405285032

Four out of five stars

A spy dossier on the theft of the Death Star plans

 Temporally established a short time before the opening of “Star Wars Episode IV,” the movie “Star Wars Rogue One” establishes the backdrop of the opening scrolled message of episode IV as well as the reason for the imperial ship chasing the smaller ship carrying the Princess and the two droids. This book is a companion in the form of an intelligence dossier describing the main characters surrounding the spy network that acquires the plans and the background of the weapon capable of destroying a planet.

 Each specific entry is small, so the information is limited. By itself, this book will not give you a great deal of information about the events in the movie. I have not seen the movie, although I did familiarize myself with it before I read the book. Yet, I was still uncertain at the end what role all of the characters that were not part of episode IV played.

 This book is part of the Star Wars storyline, so it is almost impossible for it to be uninteresting and entertaining. Yet, as the subtitle “Mission Files” indicates, the entries assume prior knowledge of the topic. Making it coherent is a heavy lift that was not achieved.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Review of "Baseball: America’s Pastime," by Paul Adomites et. al.

 Review of

Baseball: America’s Pastime, by Paul Adomites et. al. ISBN 9781680229844

Five out of five stars

Images of the events and personalities of baseball

 Coincidentally, I opened this book to page 37, where I read the following, “Brothers Felipe, Matty, and Jesus Alou played together in the New York Giants outfield in the 1960s but were never in the same starting lineup.” This was a surprise, as the New York Giants became the San Francisco Giants in the late 1950s.

 Despite such an obvious gaffe, this book is a joy to read. Most of the major personalities of baseball and major events since it became the major leagues are featured, albeit all briefly. There are images associated with the textual captions. There is no temporal order to the coverage.

 While not deep due to the breadth of coverage, this book is a fan jewel, one that can be opened anywhere and provide quick and easy entertainment.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Review of "Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill," by Reed Farrel Coleman

 Review of

Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill, by Reed Farrel Coleman, ISBN 9780399574979

Five out of five stars

Boston drug crime enters Paradise

  It is a few months after an adult son that Jesse did not know he had appeared with a great deal of anger against Jesse bottled up inside. His name is Cole and things have calmed down between them. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the local high school. A beautiful and popular cheerleader has died of a heroin overdose, and it seems clear very quickly that it is a warning sign rather than an outlier.

 As Jesse and his force investigate, they discover that there is an undercurrent of drug use at the high school. In most cases, it starts with a serious injury where pain medication is appropriate. However, due to unscrupulous actors in many areas, not all of which are in organized crime, the people have become addicts. The crime figures are ruthless in their operations, any form of real or apparent betrayal leads to being killed.

 Jesse follows the leads where they go, sometimes stepping on toes, and as is the case in the Jesse Stone novels he utilizes his contacts in organized crime. In this case, since Gino Fish is dead, his source is Vinnie Morris. There is also an underlying instance of domestic violence that is peripheral to the main story about the scourge of opioid drugs.

 The story has several threads other than the main one of the drug ring. There is Jesse’s relationship with Cole, Jesse’s relationship with a teacher at the high school, his relationship with alcohol, and the ongoing interactions with other people in Paradise. The dialog between Jesse, Suit and Molly is as snappy and toned as ever.

 This story is one that does justice to the Parker legacy in the continuation of Jesse Stone. One of the most flawed characters in fictional law enforcement, Jesse is tough and efficient, yet extremely vulnerable to one liquid substance. He uses that flaw in his dealings with drug addicts, for he finds it easy to understand their struggles.

Review of "Nazi Women: The Attraction of Evil," by Paul Roland

 Review of

Nazi Women: The Attraction of Evil, by Paul Roland ISBN 9781784047641

Five out of five stars

A gender-specific look at the Holocaust

 As the title implies, this is a book about the role women played in the mass crimes committed by the Germans under Nazism. However, it begins slowly, with a recapitulation of the purported sexual dysfunction of Adolph Hitler, his childhood as well as his misogynist beliefs. That is old territory and could have been reduced in a historical rendering of what women did during the brief existence of the Third Reich.

 Students of history will find nothing really new in this book, yet it is still important in a world where there are still vocal deniers of the Holocaust. While many women did engage in passive resistance to the Nazi movement and a few were active, there were more that were willing and eager direct participants in the organized killing of the undesirables.

 To understand this, all you have to do is read the quote from the unrepentant Nazi Traudi Schneider after she was tried and convicted as a war criminal. A camp guard that herded naked, terrified and helpless women and children into the gas chambers, she said, “With Nazism I was somebody. Afterwards, I was nothing.” No more accurate and concise statement of explanation of why the women and men of Germany went along with Nazism can be made.

 Even though the content of this book is not new, it demonstrates how vast numbers of people will set aside all moral bearings and compassion for others in order to “fit in” with what is happening around them.

Review of "Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit," by Kieron Gillen et. al.

 Review of

Doctor Aphra and the Enormous Profit, by Kieron Gillen et. al. ISBN 9781302907631

Five out of five stars

A scoundrel in the spirit of Han Solo

 One very legitimate criticism of science fiction shows such as the original Star Trek and original Battlestar Galactica was that the focus remained on humans. With an entire galaxy of possibilities to select from, the plots of the episodes remained largely human-centric. That was not the case with Star Wars, with the most memorable scene in episode IV being the one where Luke and Obi Wan meet Han Solo and Chewie in the cantina.

 This book is one of a series of books and graphic novels where the imaginations of the creators go well beyond the former bonds in the development of non-human characters as well as nefarious human ones. Doctor Aphra is a human female whose sole goal in life is the raking in of enormous profit. She has few, it any, scruples and she is well-versed in dealing with the most ruthless elements in the galaxy. Her sidekick is a Wookie known as Black Krrsantan, a former champion of the gladiatorial contests.

 Aphra has recovered an artifact known as Rur Chrystal, it contains the consciousness of an ancient Jedi in the form of functional artificial intelligence or AI. Aphra summons the main criminal masterminds of the galaxy to engage in a competitive bidding process for the Rur Chrystal. Normally ruthless competitors are brought together in one location. With so much at stake that involves an ancient Jedi entity, it is only natural that the Emperor and his powerful lord become aware of the event and force themselves in.

 The dialog is snappy and witty, in general far superior to that of the seven main Star Wars movies. There are many curves in the plotlines, as few of the characters stay in their initial lane. It is a great story, once you complete your read, there is a strong urge to research other books featuring Doctor Aphra and purchase them.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Review of "Ignition City," by Warren Ellis

 Review of

Ignition City, by Warren Ellis, ISBN 1592910874

Five out of five stars

Dystopian story about space travel

 This science fiction story has many unique and sobering characteristics. In it, humans have gone into space, but almost everyone has lost interest in what was once a great dream of humans. It is 1956 and when the story opens, France has just passed a law where there will be no more space launches from French soil. The space port in France was the last one in continental Europe and it seems certain that Britain will soon be closing their last one.

 Mary is the daughter of an astronaut and an astronaut herself and she wants to get back into space. When her father dies, she travels to Ignition City, the last spaceport on Earth, in order to settle his affairs. It is an artificial island in the equatorial Atlantic and under the control of the United States. What makes this story unusual is that Ignition City is a filthy place, filled with despair. It would seem contradictory that a spaceport would be like that, but the author makes the story work.

 Mary is a tough woman, facing down dangers at gunpoint. She is willing to use her weapon and she is capable of communicating with the crablike creatures that are clearly alien. Using her wits, brains, her father’s contacts and an itchy trigger finger, she manages to get a group together that might have the collective technical skills to get back into space.

 The common approach to space travel in science fiction stories is to make it optimistic, a positive take on the future. Ellis does the opposite, a world is created where there is extreme indifference to space flight and how all the people that could build craft capable of going into space have fallen on hard times. Technology is a powerful force in the human world, yet we too often assume that it is here to stay. There are many possible scenarios where the human species decides to give up complicated aspirations and space programs are one of the most likely to be rejected.

Review of "On the Fourth Day of the Narcissus Month," by Kenji Miyazawa

 Review of

On the Fourth Day of the Narcissus Month, by Kenji Miyazawa ISBN 4763123122

Five out of five stars

 A look into the culture of northern Japan

 Kenji Miyazawa grew up northern Japan where the winters are harsh. Therefore, it is natural that his stories would feature mythical creatures of snow, ice and strong cold winds. The characters are Snow Boy, snow wolves, a child and Old Snow Woman. The main descriptions are of how these creatures move and function in a harsh winter environment.

 The form is very much that of a fairy tale about the environment, which is familiar, but the approach is distinctly Japanese. There is no danger to the humans other than that from the elements. They talk to each other in pleasant, helpful tones. It ends with a child out in the elements being rescued by his dad after that child interacted with Snow Boy.

 It is a story that must be read slowly in order to discern the subtleties. It is a fairy tale that gives insight into how Japanese in the regions where the weather is wintry look at and rationalize their surroundings. The goal of publication was to further the interaction between cultures and in this case it was a success.