Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book: The Bourne Deception

Highly recommend this Bourne sequel. If you read previous Bourne books, you will love this suspenseful thriller. Main characters: Jason Bourne, Moira Trevor, and Soraya Moore, director at Central Intelligence. This book is packed with action and it is definitely a reward winning read for lovers of thrillers with twists and turns. The book begins with a pact to kill Jason Bourne which nearly succeeds, and Moira and Jason make sure that he is dead to his enemies. Also,in the beginning of the plot, a jet is shot down over Egypt. Is it the work of the Iranians or is there another reason for why the jet was shot down and by whom.?
Strongly recommend that you read this book if you like suspenseful thrillers and Jason Bourne who has more than nine lives!

Grade: A

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book: The Christmas Pearl

Another excellent story. Definitely recommended.

Grade: A

Book: Land of the Mango Sunsets

Starting to really like Dorothea Benton Frank and her stories involving Sullivans Island. Excellent story. Definitely recommended.

Grade: A

Book: Summer by the Sea

I absolutely love Susan Wiggs, have since the 1st book I read by her. Definitely recommended.

Grade: A

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book: Middlemarch by George Eliot

I give this book an A- because I was so amazed at how all-encompassing it was. I had previously only read Silas Marner - taught it, actually, to many 10th grade English classes.
Middlemarch deals with the lives and loves of a typical English shire of her time. Dorothea has an idealistic attitude towards marriage - which she is disabused of by her hapless and too old husband. The banker is seen to have stolen money from his first wife and cheated her from a reunion with her lost daughter. Class differences are clearly delineated including the effects of the 'entail' system.

Grade: A-

Book: The Red Wheel (vol 1) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I give this book an A- because it is only a part of his major war cycle, The Red Wheel. And not one of the works for which he earned the Nobel Prize.
Solzhenitsyn used real German and Russian generals, dukes, czars, etc., but make up a colonel to tie various people and actions together.
The Russian army was so dysfunctional that it could not possibly have defeated the organized Germans. They telegraphed their plans without encrypting the messages, being
sure the Germans would never stay up at night to interpret them: they were wrong.
They planned to strike to the north then the west, etc. and sent their troops marching back and forth to no avail. They claimed victory when they had only retreated to a previously held town. They lied incessantly and tried to appear heroic in cowardly retreat. It is no wonder the author was up a big creek without a paddle. I heartily recommend.

Grade: A-

Book: A Rogue of My Own by Johanna Lindsey

This romance novel "A Rogue of My Own was disappointing. I expected more romance and intrigue with this period. Characters: Lady Rebecca Marshal who goes off to court as a maid of honor and the charming marquis, Rupert St. John. Lord Rupert is supposed to be involved in spy mastering and intrigue but the book really doesn't offer much of this intrigue to interest me. However, he does seduced Rebecca who is forced to marry him . However, they are at odds with each other and sparks do fly. Only lovers of romantic novels will probably read the book. I have read several of Johanna Lindsey's books and found this one to lack substance.

Grade: C

Book: The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver

Highly recommend this mystery by Jeffery Deaver. Familiar characters include: Lincoln Rhyme and his protege, Amelia Sachs. Setting: New York City. Lincoln needs all his skills as a criminologist to solve this crime. The murderer has a distinct tattoo of the Grim Reaper waltzing with a woman and his an expert at deception. This book is extremely suspenseful and is full of twists and turns. Lincoln also has an added interest in this criminal since he killed two of Lincoln's subordinates during a previous search. Do not underestimate this master of deception, and hopefully you can solve this crime.

Grade: A

Book: Fatal Secrets by Allison Brennan

Highly recommend this mystery by Allison Brennan. The setting is Sacramento, California. The main characters: Sonia Knight, an Immigration Senior Agent and Dean Hooper, an FBI agent. Both agencies are involved with bringing down the illegal operations of Xavier Jones. So Sonia and Dean are very much annoyed with this operation, and are forced to collaborate. Sparks fly and they become romantically involved with a dangerous mission going down. Not only is laundering involved with the criminal element, there is evidence of human trafficking of minors. This human traffickers hit home to Sonia who was rescued many years ago when she was very young but the images will always remain with her of what she experienced during the weeks of being held captive. This mystery is suspenseful and has a lot to offer to mystery lovers.

Grade: A

Book: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

As with most series, the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series is starting to run down. The tenth (and latest) is TEA TIME FOR THE TRADITIONALLY BUILT by Alexander McCall Smith and shows signs of being produced more because it is expected than out of the inspiration of a story. There are more--and more flagrant--red herrings than in the earlier books, as if it needed padding out. And the editing has gotten sloppy (assuming it has not been dropped altogether). For example, on page 20, Mma Ramotswe's appointment with Mr. Molofololo is at eleven o'clock; on page 29 it is at ten o'clock. (And why are some men "Mr." and some men "Ra"?) And who is writing the blurbs? "Irrepressible" is not an adjective I would apply to Mma Ramotswe--it is far too frivolous for her. On the plus side, McCall Smith does finally give the younger apprentice a name. But the thinness of the plot makes me think it may be time for McCall Smith to put this series on hiatus, at least until he has a stronger basis for a book.

(By the way, on page 48 it is "Mafeking" and on page 52 it is "Mafikeng", but this is *not* a typo--the first (on a tea tin) was the old British spelling, the second is the current South African spelling.)

Grade: C

Book: Merton of the Movies

MERTON OF THE MOVIES by Harry Leon Wilson is a satire of Hollywood in the 1920s, with our hero a gullible small-town boy who thinks that everything he sees on the screen is done with no doubles or tricks, that everything he reads in the fan magazines is true, and that everyone feels the corny emotions that so many of the films portrayed. Much of what is in the book is based on real people and events, and it is thoroughly enjoyable.

Grade: A-

Book: Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

Excellent story, again, about family, love and forgiveness. Definitely recommend.

Grade: A

Book: Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

Excellent story about family, love and forgiveness. Definitely recommend.

Grade: A

Book: Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C.J. Box

Very good--quite a few surprises. Would recommend.

Grade: A

Book: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

This was a comedy with many underlying social criticisms. The fickle relationships, although a result of magic, symbolize the ephemeral courtings of then (and now). Nick Bottom's transformation represented how lowly the working class was viewed. All seriousness aside, the play was fun to read with witty lines and constant change.

Grade: A

Book: King Lear by William Shakespeare

Written in Shakespeare's poignant prose, King Lear was a touching tale of family. The theme of overlooking those who care the most is not unheard nor is it uncommon. However, Lear's demise is especially moving because of the way his words evoke emotion. Cordelia's love for her father emanates from the pages while her sisters make you loathe humanity and its selfishness. No other Shakespeare has moved me as this one did.

Grade: A

Movie: Bandslam

Not only was this movie uneventful, it wasn't even inspiring. Everyone who begins a high school misfit ends up popular and achieving their dreams. If this transformation had been gradual or even done realistically, the movie may have been interesting. The one good thing about the movie was the music.

Grade: D

Movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

This movie was a disappointment because nothing really happens. The focus is on relationships and there is no fight scene. The main character, played by Radcliffe, is devoid of emotion. His expression remains the same whether he is angry, sad, or in love. Maybe I'm judging too harshly because I liked the book, but I just wasn't satisified with the movie.

Grade: C

Movie: Up

It was a Disney movie for all ages. I know quite a few people, young and old, who cried. It was sentimental but kept you laughing the whole time. I loved their transition from children to adults to old people. It was done smoothly in one song. Although a balloon house seemed ridiculous at first, by the end of the movie you were believing it. This was a great movie that I would want everyone to see.

Grade: A

Book: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I had high expectations for Hamlet after hearing its famous quotation over and over again. Although it was a good read, I was not enthralled by the story. Even the "To be or not to be" soliloquy was not as exciting as I thought it would be. Hamlet's lack of action or passion dampered the action that could have been. He spent more time talking than taking action. Also, the climax happens too quickly to make an impact.

Grade: B

Movie: The Day After Tomorrow

I recently saw this movie on TV and I was disappointed. From the reviews, I expected a much more fast-paced thriller. The phenomenon was incredibly done with special effects, but it was the acting that was a bit boring. I didn't connect with the characters and that is usually what makes disaster movies hit me.

Grade: B

Monday, August 31, 2009

Book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

This was my second time reading this book, and I enjoyed it much more this time around. The first time I read it in a rush to find what happens. This time, I read with more attention to detail and was able to distinguish many nuances I had previously missed. The characters were very well developed; I could sense the anger and sadness even when they were not explicitly stated. The story was packed with action, my favorite being the final feud between the good and bad wizards.

Grade: A

Website: Bing.com

I checked out Bing.com because I heard it was a vast improvement of Windows Live Search. However, nothing I saw want to make me switch from my regular search engine, Google. In addition, the results I got were not as relevant as those I got on Google for several searches. It may be an improvement but doesn't have anything that would want to make people switch.

Grade: B

Book: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The appealing aspect of this book was not the storyline, but angst of the antagonist, Shylock. The racial prejudices and stereotypes were, I hope, products of the time. Yet, no matter how base Shylock's request, I saw justice in his words. He may have been harsh, but the harshness was only a result of the undeserved criticism and slander he's received all his life. Expecting better from Shakespeare, I was shocked he concluded by converting Shylock into a Christian.

Grade: B

Book: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

It's the second book in a series by Libba Bray and was just as interesting as the first one. Set in Victorian England, it combines the strict customs and regulations of the times with the freedom and power of a spirit world only women can access. Being a big fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed the way the book gave you a taste of England in the 1600s with the adventure of a fantasy story.

Grade: A

Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was surprised I liked this book. It started off really slowly with new characters mentioned left and right. Many times in the book I was forced to refer to the lineage in the front to figure out where I was in the family tree. All of the male names repeat many times with their stories overlapping. However, by the end, this convoluted concoction sucks you in. I had to finish just to find out what happened to the last Buenidos.

Grade: A

Book: The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee

A long read, but recommended. This historic fiction novel brings you to 18th century England. A peek into the world of the young and privileged engaged in parties, love affairs, and the struggle of a young poet trying to make a name for himself.

Grade: B

Book: The Book of Mom by Taylor Wilshire

OK book about a mom going through therapy with her husband.

Grade: C

Movie: The Ramen Girl

Stupid start--but good teen movie. Great ending--happy. Totally non-conventional movie. Nicely done.

Grade: B

Book: Turquoise

My mom had it, which she had found in a library. Let's say I see why she bought it. :-D

Grade: A

Book: Golf in the Zone

It actually is the best book on golf I have seen considering how many there are. It has some foot positions, which is the hardest information to find.

Grade: A

Book: Baking with Julia by Julia Child

Much more down to earth than Mastering French Cooking. Saw PBS series and, yes, includes all the recipes one wants from the series. Great! Ideal cookbook for any library.

Grade: A

Book: Swimsuit by James Patterson

Typical James Patterson--Great!!!

Grade: A

Book: Small Change: It's the Little Things in Life that Make a Big Difference! by Larry and Susan Terkel

This book was a common sense approach to self-improvement! It was interesting and an easy read.

Grade: B

Book: Many Ways to Say I Love You by Mister Fred Rogers

A refreshing, wholesome book! Parents can put things into perspective after reading this one.

Grade: B

Website: Craigslist

Craigslist is an excellent website for buying and selling everything, from your toys to furniture!

Grade: A

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book: SPeak No Evil by Allison Brennan

Highly recommend this mystery set in San Diego, California. The victims cannot utter a word because their mouths have been glued shut. Imagine the terror they experienced after being drugged to waken up and have a sadistic killer raped and washed their bodies to remove any traces of evidence. Into this setting, the main characters are: Carina, detective and Nick, a sheriff from Montana who comes to the town to help clear his brother who is a suspect in the murders. Together they team up to collaborate to catch a psychopath. There are several suspects, and the book is suspenseful. Highly recommend this book to mystery lovers.

Grade: A

Event: Moody Blues Concert at Radio City Music Hall on 8/20/09

Highly recommend attending a Moody Blues Concert. It now seems to be an annual event for the last 25 years. This rock and roll band has been performing for forty years and hasn't lost a beat. Their relatively new flute player is fantastic and adds another dimension to this band. They performed fan favorites such as : Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band, Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Lean on Me and end with the epic song: "Question". The acoustics at Radio City Music Hall were superb and the music just seems to be endless. If you are a Fan of the Moody Blues, highly recommend that you attend a future concert and if you are a Rock and Roll fan and a Baby Boomer, this concert is a must for you to add to your list of things to do.

Grade: A+

Book: Playing Dead by Allison Brennan

Highly recommend this mystery by Allison Brennan. Main Characters: Tom O'Brien, former cop who was wrongfully convicted of the murders of his wife and her lover 15 years ago, daughter: Claire, a fraud investigator who believed her father was guilty of these crimes, until she began her own investigations, Mitch, FBI agent who befriends Claire under false pretenses, and a psychopath killer who develops an obsession with Claire. Tom O'Brien was one of the convicts who escaped in a previous Allison Brennan's mystery. Although shot by one of the other convicts in the blizzard of Montana, he survived and only wants to prove his innocence to his daughter. The story begins with the disappearance of a law student who firmly believed in Tom O'Brien's innocence and had evidence to support his theory. Claire becomes involved in pursuing the law student's steps and discovers irregularities with her father's trial. Mitch is caught in a deception and wants to protect Claire as they follow the clues to this mystery. I highly recommend this book as well as other mysteries by Allison Brennan.

Grade: A

Book: Last Words by Mariah Stewart

Highly recommend this mystery book by Mariah Stewart. Main Characters: Mia Shields, FBI profiler from previous Stewart mysteries along with a Chief Of Police: Gabriel Beck who teams up with Mia to catch a very depraved serial killer. Mia's brother: Connor also makes an appearance in this book. Connor is a familiar character from an FBI family of agents. Setting: a quiet bayside community on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The plot begins when a missing female turns up dead wrapped in a plastic wrap. She was tortured, raped, chained, and was alive when wrapped up. The second murder victim turns up dead in the jeep of the Chief of Police, Gabriel Beck. Clearly this killer has no boundaries and is taunting the police /and Mia to catch him since he is so clever. I won't tell anyone the rest of the plot since it is filled with suspense and a race against time to catch this perverted, serial killer. Definitely a must read for mystery fans of Mariah Stewart.

Grade: A

Book: Tempting Evil by Allison Brennan

Recommend this mystery book as a summer read. The setting is a small rural community in Montana with a fierce winter blizzard approaching. Main characters: Joanna Sutton a mystery writer who has experienced heartbreak in the past with the murders of her husband and son by the hand of the boyfriend of her sister, Sheriff: Tyler McBride whose son's Boy Scout troop needs to be rescued in the blizzard. Added to this mix, is three escaped convicts. One of the convicts has an obsession with the mystery writer, Joanna and is heading towards the lodge. The sheriff warns Joanna to be award of strangers in the area, but the escaped convicts are already on the premises. The author , Allison Brennan describes the setting very vividly and you can almost hear the sounds of the storm with all the elements including the suspense. It was well done even though the ending was predictable.

Grade: B

Book: See No Evil by Allison Brennan

I recommend this mystery book as a summer read. Main characters: Julia Chandler, a district attorney, Connor Kincaid, private eye, and Emily, a troubled teenager suspected of murdering her stepfather. Julia is Emily's aunt who strongly believes that her niece is innocent of this heinous crime. Connor and Julia have a checkered history with some bad blood. Connor was forced off the police force and still harbors feelings of resentment towards Julia but also has romantic feelings towards her. Together, Julia and Connor investigate this murder which is complicated by a therapist who encourages his patients to go online with anger management issues. It is an online wish list where patients expressed not so nice thoughts about people who have wronged them in some way. There are several twists in this mystery.

Grade: B

Book: The Vinland Sagas

THE VINLAND SAGAS, translated by Keneva Kunz, with an introduction by Gisli Sigurdsson, are about the Vikings' attempts to settle North America. (The Penguin edition I read was translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, with the introduction by them as well, so it was almost an entirely different book!) Both editions include "Graenlendinga Saga" and "Eirik's Saga", as well as a long introduction on history, literature, etc., a glossary of proper names, and several maps. I have not seen the new edition; one suspects that there have been many discoveries affecting the belief in the accuracy or translation of various parts.

For example, Chapter 5 of "Eirik's Saga" mentions Thjodhild's Church, but the 1932 excavations of Eirik's farmstead at Brattahlid/Kagssiarssuk found no such building. So people used this as an example of the inaccuracy/unreliability of the saga. Then in 1961 a workman digging in Kagssiarssuk found remains and when that area was excavated, a very small medieval church was found which is now believed to be Thjodhild's Church.

There is definitely some humor in the sagas: "They stayed there [Straumfjord] that winter, which turned out to be a very severe one; they had made no provision for it during the summer, and now they ran short of food and the hunting failed. They moved out to the island in the hope of finding game, or stranded whales, but there was little food to be found there, although their livestock throve. Then they prayed to God to send them something to eat, but the response was not as prompt as they would have liked." ["Eirik's Saga", Chapter 8] Perhaps the best-known, though, is "[Eirik] named the country he had discovered Greenland, for he said that people would be much more tempted to go there if it had an attractive name." ["Graenlendinga Saga", Chapter 1]

Grade: A-

Book: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

Will Durant is best known for his eleven-volume "Story of Civilization". THE GREATEST MINDS AND IDEAS OF ALL TIME (ISBN-13 978-0-743-23553-2, ISBN-10 0-743-23553-3) is a collection of his essays from various sources. Unfortunately, many of the things Durant says do not enhance his reputation as an historian. For example, he says that reason allowed us to defeat the dinosaur. We
did not defeat the dinosaur, by reason or otherwise. While he wrote before the discovery of the KT layer that led us to the knowledge of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, he should have known that they died off millions of years before reason arose. He also extrapolates from the idea that general intelligence is required for progress to the idea that genius is required for progress, which is not necessarily true. (Durant definitely subscribes to the "Great Man" theory of history.)

He also says things such as "[Bach] also had time to have twenty children." This is hardly an accomplishment per se. Now if Mrs. Bach had written all the music as well as having twenty children.... (My point, in case it is not clear, is that merely to
father twenty children requires very little time.) He talks about "the educated man" and "masculine poetry" as an ideal, and so on. He rhapsodizes ancient Greece was a glorious civilization, but then talks about how Rome was defeated by slavery without ever explaining why slavery was okay in Greece.

His list are at times idiosyncratic. His "Ten Greatest Geniuses" are Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Nicolai Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Immanual Kant, and Charles Darwin. His "Ten Greatest Poets" are Homer, King David, Euripides, Lucretius, Li Po, Dante, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Walt Whitman.

When talking about the "Ten Greatest Achievements", he says that measuring progress should be objective, not subjective, so we cannot define it through happiness. Then he defines progress as "increased control over the environment/external world." It is not clear that this is any less subjective. (The achievements are speech, fire, the conquest of animals [both domestication and the
ability to kill predators], agriculture, social organization, morality, tools, science, education, and writing/printing.)

The audiobook version has a whole set of additional problems. The reader mispronounces many words and names, including Flaubert, Goethe, and As(h)oka. But even more, listening to an essay which is primarily a list of "the hundred books necessary for a good education" does not give one much chance to retain the information. These turn out to be mostly texts and overviews--not "The Great
Books"--and one suspects many of them are either outdated, unavailable, or both.

As I said, although the brief biographies et al are somewhat informative, I do not think that this book enhances Durant's reputation.

Grade: C

Movie: Love Made

It was hilarious! Cute! I would recommend it.

Grade: A

Movie: BBG Boys

I don’t remember the exact title but it was definitely something different. I watched it due to someone who wanted to see it and different is the best apt description.

Book: Countdown to Terror

It is shocking in that one has to think in these views. But it does show how people with power believe that, after all the years, they can be strong enough to hold the fort cuz of who they have become.

Grade: B

Book: Gotcha!

Romance book in its best. Enjoyable fast read as all books by this author.

Grade: A

Book: Minerva Cries Murder

Written by Mignon Franklin. Ballad, as in all her mysteries – it is well done. Enjoy.

Grade: A