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


I checked out 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

Movie: Agatha Christie's Seven Dial Murder

Boring. Totally British film.

Grade: D

Book: Seventh Well


Grade: A