I’m Not Sure How I Feel About That

Posted in Books, Movies on August 31st, 2014 by Brian

A Mack Bolan movie might be in the works.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

It will be tricky to convey that which sets the Bolan series apart from other men’s adventure novels–namely, the interior life that Pendleton gave Bolan and the philosophical asides about his motivations and whatnot.

Of course, I was not compelled to rush out and see the Parker film, either. Let’s face it, I’m not much of a moviegoer during these child-rearing years, and I worry about what modern Hollywood will do to informed 1960s era paperbacks. Because, face it, your general Hollywood type in the 21st century is less well read and less educated than your general paperback writer of the middle 20th century.

(Link via Ace of Spades HQ.)

Book Report: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (2012)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 28th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverFunny thing about the passage of time when you get older: longer and longer passages of time seem like a short time because, I guess, they’re a smaller percentage of your whole lifespan. Which is why, although I last read an Odd Thomas novel (Odd Hours four years ago and the graphic novel In Odd We Trust three years ago, it doesn’t seem that long. Perhaps it’s the diminishing number of books I’m reading these days; it’s only been, what, 200 books ago, not 450 books ago?

At any rate, I picked up this book from the discount rack at Barnes and Noble on a recent binge, and I’m reading them first out of my stack of thousands. Besides, the character of Odd Thomas is still engaging enough to give me warm feelings about them. Especially after three or four years pass between readings.

This book finds Odd Thomas and his pregnant protectee on an estate where the few employees are weird, and the fierce owner seems of two minds about helping Annamaria, the pregnant woman. He’s compelled to house her, but he’s not happy about it when she’s not around. Odd Thomas gets some apocalyptic visions and encounters some strange beasts on the grounds, which are shuttered tight at night. So Odd investigates and finds not an apocalypse waiting to happen, but strange things at Roseland nevertheless and evil that he must ferret out and guns he must fire.

The same quibbles I had with Odd Hourse I have here: Too much of the book is Odd thinking to himself. Too much riding the voice alone and not the events or the odd things. To be sure, some fantastic things occur, but I’m pulled out of it by Odd Thomas as much as I’m drawn into it.

So it’s okay, more straight ahead fantasy thriller than horror.

I see that I’m two or more books behind on the series, and I’ve had enough of it for now. According to current projects, I’ll finish the series sometime in my fifties. Okay.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Books Are Better In Bed Than Men Because… by Deenie Vin (1991)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 24th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverYou might have thought the depths of my book-reporting could get no lower than books comparing cats to men, but you have little imagination, gentle reader. Why, in my quest to rack up numbers for the sheer love of metrics, I have not even begun to critique coloring books yet!

I have, however, glanced through this book. It’s lower in quality than the cat books in both publishing (it’s a comb-bound book) and in tone. This one is a little more racy than the cat-loving books, and that’s to be expected, as it is entitled “in Bed”. But it’s a bit repetitive in quips, as the “you can read a lot of books and not be judged” motif appears several times. You will, however, be judged by how many times you hit the same punchline in a slightly different way to pad out a book.

So it might have been an amusing gift back in the day to give to your bookish friend, but most of the amusement is in the concept of the book and the gifting of it, not in the execution of the book or its reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: 101 Reasons Why A Cat Is Better Than A Man by Allia Zobel (1994) and Women Who Love Cats Too Much by Allia Zobel (1995)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 19th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverIt is inevitable: Every autumn, as football season comes around, I find myself behind my best pace from the past in book reading (2011, wherein I read 106 books). So I pick up little comic books and whatnot that I can flip through while watching football games. Which explains these books.

See, it’s only the Internet age that thinks cats are just now the centerpiece of lists, but in the olden days, little book forms of humor relating to cats (see also All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat and 101 Uses for a Dead Cat) were pretty widely available. They must have gone as gifts a lot of times.

At any rate, this one-two punch comes with a marriage for the author sandwiched in between. The first deals with how nonjudgmental a cat is and how a cat will never pressure a woman. Which is unlike any cat I’ve ever known. The second book covers such fecund territory as how badly a cat treats its owners and why they still put up with it.

So it’s about what you would expect, and it’s as amusing as the comics page of the newspaper. Perhaps it’s better if you’re a woman. Or if it’s 1994 again.

Man, we’ve got a whole football season of these non-thoughtful book reports to look forward to. And they’re even less amusing than the books themselves.

Books mentioned in this review:
 

Book Report: The Private Hell of Hemingway by Milt Machlin (1962)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 18th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverAs I mentioned yesterday, I got this book in Orlando last week. I mean, I already have a hardback entitled Papa on my to-read shelves, but I was in Florida (although not Key West), and I was not that excited about my other airplane paperbacks (a fantasy called Catswold and a history of Australia by a historian). So I bought this book.

And read it quickly.

The author is an acquaintenance of Hemingway (who often refers to himself as “the author” when he meets Hemingway, so we get some weird things where one sentence says Hemingway and the next says “the author,” and you have to figure out if the author is Hemingway or his biographer). The book came out in paperback in 1962, very quickly after Hemingway’s suicide, and it has a title that was the postwar equivalent of clickbait. Obviously, they’re trying to capitalize.

That’s doesn’t matter, though; this is a very readable biography of the author (Hemingway) starting from his youth in Illinois to his success in the thirties and then his later career. The book follows Hemingway to Europe for World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and then into Spain for his love of bullfighting. It talks about his marriages to his four wives and his wild lifestyle. It talks a bit about his books, but this is not a literary criticism by any means. The book covers his trips to Africa, including the one where his plane crashed and how it affected the end of his life.

Strangely, the book really doesn’t dwell on the end of Hemingway’s life much, and if there’s anything in the book that it might present as hell, it’s Hemingway after his plane crash. But the book only mentions it, and the book’s end comes pretty abruptly.

Still, it makes me want to read Hemingway again. I haven’t read a Hemingway novel in the ten years this blog has been running, apparently, since a blog search only shows a little literary recap and no primary sources (but plenty of instances where I compare people to Hemingway). On the weight of this book, I checked online for complete collections of Hemingway, and the only one I see is about $2000 for an Easton Press collection. I’m adding it to my Amazon wish list for your convenience, gentle reader.

Recommended. But it’s not quite what the title would have you think.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: August 9, 2014: BrightLight Books, Orlando, Florida

Posted in Books on August 17th, 2014 by Brian

Back when we were young, my beautiful wife and I would always look for a used bookstore in places to which we traveled. At some point, we got away from that. Well, at some point we got away from both traveling and from going to used bookstores when we traveled. That point might be called “childbirth,” and it’s possible we only got away from traveling.

Regardless, we went on an excursion recently to Orlando, Florida, and we got out of the tourist corner of the city to find the BrightLights book store in Fern Park. And as we did not drive to Florida, we were pleased to discover, after inquiry, that they would, in fact, ship the bulk of our purchases home for us so we didn’t have to transport them expensively on our plane.

It’s not like we got a whole lot:

Books from BrightLights Books

I got a trio of 3 ex-library books by John Ringo because I heard he’s a libertarian science fiction writer and they were only a buck each; a signed uncorrected proof of Robert B. Parker’s Wilderness; and a biography of Hemingway (not pictured because it’s a small paperback that I carried with me onto the plane and was not hence unboxed yesterday).

My beautiful wife got a set of The Teaching Company lectures for $14 and a couple other books in her interest areas.

It’s a good tradition, and since we’re starting to do these “family vacations” now, we’ll have to ensure we visit used bookstores wherever we go.

Book Report: Blood Silver: The Story of the Yocum Dollar by Woody P. Snow (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 13th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI spotted this book in Barnes and Noble while I was gorging on new books for some reason. I think I had a little time to kill, so I thought I’d go into the book store and let the children pick up a book or two, and suddenly I had a stack of books, including this one.

Woody P. Snow is a local radio personality; I catch bits of his show in the mornings sometimes. And, as you know, I’ve done a little research of my own into the Yocum Silver Dollar (well, I read Traces of Silver). I’ve thought about writing a piece of nonfiction about it, but not about writing a novel about it.

This book has a couple pages of modern day narrative to frame it: a diver finds one of the silver dollars in the lake and shows it to his grandmother, who told him stories about it but now is in the grip of dementia. Then, without ado, we go back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. James Yoachum loses his wife in childbirth, goes mad, and wansers into the wilderness. He eventually makes his way into the Ozarks and is rescued and later adopted by an Indian tribe. He wins the heart of the chief’s daughter and learns the tribe’s secret, and the source of its silver jewelry: an old Spanish silver mine. A fur company puts in a trading post, the area surrounding the trading post grows, but the citizens are left without a currency when the fur company moves out. Yoachum begins making the coins with the help of his brother and his Indian wife. All goes well until the United States Government moves in, surveys the land, and makes the residents pay for their land, and some try with the silver dollars.

It’s a decent, straight forward story, but it does suffer a bit the same way that Downton Abbey suffers: time passes, often in blocs of months or years, and nothing seems to change in the characters during the interim. It’s a minor flaw, but one nevertheless. The story ends thirty years after it begins, and at the end, one of the characters announces a pregnancy, and she must be into her forties by that time.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Brian’s read two historical novels this year set in the Ozarks. I wonder how he would compare them?” Well, friends, I’m probably the only one in the whole world who would dare compare Daniel Woodrell’s The Maid’s Version to Woody P. Snow’s book.

Here’s how they’re similar:

  • Both authors have “Wood” in their names.
  • Both books are based on historical (or perhaps legendary events).

Here’s how they differ:

  • Woodrell’s book goes backwards and forwards through time and jumps points of view. Snow sticks to the semi-omniscient narrator.
  • Snow’s prose is more straightforward than Woodrell’s.
  • Snow’s book does not have much in the way of unrelated asides or actions from characters who aren’t integral to the plot.

None of this is unexpected, of course, given their respective writing careers and goals. But it’s still amusing to consider comparing and contrasting the two.

Worth a read.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Far, Far Geekier Thing That I Did Than I’ve Ever Done

Posted in Books, Life on August 5th, 2014 by Brian

On the Facebook (that’s what we old timers call it, “the Facebook,” just like it was originally, although I’m far too old to have been on the Facebook when it was the Facebook), I follow Robert Crais, whose novels I’ve read (what, you don’t believe me?). He posted a link to a blog that posted photos of his office, and my eyes were drawn to:

Directly above MS. DISTRICT ATTORNEY is the Merry Marvel Marching Society No-prize I won for having a letter-of-comment published in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic book. I was thirteen. Years later, Stan Lee inscribed and signed it for me.

Whoa. A Spider-Man comic with a letter from Robert Crais. I had to have it. But which one was it? Read more »

Book Report: Voodoo, Ltd. by Ross Thomas (1992)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 28th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverIt seems like I read one Ross Thomas book a year, so I picked up this book. It looks as though my reading has been skipping through Thomas’s decades of writing, with my first read being 1972′s The Porkchoppers and my second being 1982′s The Mordida Man

Like the latter, this book is a straight ahead thriller, and it’s the third book using the same set of characters–but the first I’d read. I was going along, thinking Thomas’s books were all one shots and appreciating the wonder of the detailed back story he’d created for each of these characters until I researched it and realized he was rehashing things from earlier books. I don’t know if this soured me, but I think that the glimpses of the back story stood in for character development. The motives of some of them were unclear, but it was responses to earlier actions not covered in this book. Sadly, this was less effective.

The plot revolves around a London-based, American-run detective agency that is hired to find two hypnotists. The hypnotists were hired to consult with a Hollywood film actress arrested for the murder of her boyfriend, a wealthy producer. After consulting with her, the hypnotists vanished, and no one is sure whether they vanished because they found out something or if they are to blackmail the starlet with revelations she made while under oath.

The two detectives get the old band back together. This band includes a former Secret Service agent they have to spring from a Phillipine prison; a con artist; and an aging fixer/procurer/scrounger. They rent a house in Malibu and begin their investigations.

As I said, I think ultimately, the author relied a bit much on the reader being familiar with the previous books in the series. Individuals really weren’t that well delineated in the text, and the ensemble plotted a bit behind the scenes against itself. Which was revealed a bit in the climax and beyond, but not so much in text. And the ultimate solution to the murder–which differs from the solution for the problem for which the agency was hired–was kinda tacked on and not integral to the main story arc.

The book wasn’t the best of the Thomas books I’ve read. It’s his penultimate work, and at the back of the book, they have the page to order a number of his other books. None of which I’ve read (yet). I thought this book was so-so, and I’m hopefully that reading his earlier work will show that it evolved to this book: that is, a straight ahead, indistinguishable paperback thriller whose predecessors, so to speak, were better.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: More Cat Tales Starring Hodge produced by Philip Lief (1981)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 24th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverAm I cheating in my annual book count by counting this book? You bet I am. I actually re-read this book.

I picked this up at a mall on the corner of Fond du Lac and Silver Spring back when it was a little mall with shops and everything. I was in middle school or high school, and by the time I was in college, the mall was just a record store (Mainstream) and a bowling alley at the other end. But for a moment in the 1980s, it had a five and dime in it, and I bought this book for a quarter or something.

At any rate, my oldest child has found my Garfield collections (which I also count). So I remembered this volume and got it out for him, and he was unimpressed.

It’s a collection of cat pictures with speech bubbles. And it’s a sequel to another book that apparently sold enough to warrant the sequel. But. The little quips are amusing, but not what I’d call funny.


You see, the novelty is that it’s cat pictures. With speech bubbles.

It’s the 80s equivalent of half the Internet. It’s a bit of arcana. And it’s amusing to me because the quips are amusing and because I remember being amused by this book when I was young.

But your mileage may vary.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Brave Ones edited by Marvin Allen Karp (1965)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 23rd, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book continues my recent trend of military history paperbacks, almost. The trend began with The Battle Off Of Midway Island and continued with Sink the Bismarck!. I guess the trend is also from nonfiction to fiction, as this is not a book about the actual exploits of US GIs. Instead, it is a collection of six short stories set in World War II and the Korean War.

The Collaborator tells the story of an ex-GI living in China when the Japanese invade. He is forced to collaborate with them, culminating in them using him as an infiltrator during an American invasion of a small island. However, their hold on him is broken, and he can finally get revenge.

The Soldier Who Had No Gun shows the story of a chaplain who accompanies a tired, dispirited platoon on a dangerous mission to flank a German stronghold and how he rejuvenates the group.

In The Trap, a British guerrilla war expert is in a plane shot down over a jungle. Pursued by the Japanese, he and his two American airmen have to sneak to safety, and the Brit learns a little something about guerrilla warfare from a native American.

Set in Korea, Night Attack covers a ROK assault on a thinly stretched American position immediately after a platoon sargeant is promoted to lieutenant, and his new platoon sargeant is another man passed over for the job.

In The Raid, a team of specialists is sent to a Japanese prison camp to rescue a submarine commander with knowledge of an upcoming assault. They are to extract him if they can, and to kill him if he cannot.

Operation Christrose tells about a fresh lieutenant coming to a quiet part of the front and leading his platoon on a scouting trip across the river–and into the camp of a German army massing for a surprise break out.

These stories appeared in men’s magazines and The Saturday Evening Post between 1944 and 1963, so between Right Now and 20 years later. They’re pretty vivid accounts and better reading than the normal pulp paperbacks I read.

The one Korea story, and the Korean veterans I saw speak at a recent memorial dedication, have brought to mind how forgotten that war is. Whereas World War II continues to throw off films and culture and whereas the Vietnam War overserves as a metaphor, you don’t get a lot of fiction or film out of the Korean War. And what a brutal place it was to fight.

So I enjoyed this short collection and really see myself going on a 20th century war tear here for a bit.

Books mentioned in this review:

Instapundit Makes The Millennium Allusion

Posted in Blogging, Books on July 21st, 2014 by Brian

Instapundit alludes to Millennium:

JOHN VARLEY, CALL YOUR OFFICE! No, really, he should be demanding royalties from this guy: Ukraine rebel leader claims Flight MH17 was filled with already-dead bodies.

My review of the book here. And, yes, I’ve seen the movie. Three times.

Book Report: The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard (2004)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 19th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is the third of the three in the Conan set by Robert E. Howard.

This volume includes:
“The Servants of Bit-Yakin” wherein Conan climbs into a hidden redoubt with a temple in it. Priests seek audience from an oracle within the temple, and a faction has brought along a woman to act as the oracle and to order the priests to put Conan to the death. Conan, of course, has other plans, including collecting the mythical jewels said to be in the temple or nearby.

“Beyond the Black River” which takes place in the wilderness at the Pictish frontier. A shaman of the Picts is getting ready to lead the clans against settlers in the area, and Conan and some others try to delay them enough for the settlers to escape.

“The Black Stranger” A nobleman has brought his retinue to a coast of the Pictish wilderness to escape someone pursuing him. One day, pirates show up looking for a treasure rumored to be nearby, and the nobleman might have to ally with two competing bands of buccaneers to escape his pursuer. Then Conan shows up with knowledge of the treasure, and he plays all ends to get a ship of his own.

“Man-Eaters of Zamboula” deals with an inn and a town with a deadly secret–at night, certain savages collect those out-of-doors and those unlucky enough to stay in a particular inn for a grisly feast. And Conan finds himself in that room.

“Red Nails” finds Conan pursuing a woman warrior who has fled from their mercenary crew after fending off an unwanted advance with deadly result. Conan and the woman find a strange city on a plain where a society has degenerated to two warring factions opposing each other from different sides of the large building that is the city.

So these plots, again, are more complicated and less repetitive.

It’s interesting that these, the last of the Conan stories, often take place on the frontier and Conan takes on a certain Natty Bumpo/the Deerslayer vibe to him. I wonder how much Howard wanted to do that. Of course, in the writing chronology this holds true, but in the chronology of Conan’s life, he is not relocating further and further from civilization, and certainly not for the same reasons.

So I was a bit sad to have finished the Conan stories. I mean, I’ve got the other Howard things to go through sometime (after I buy them), and there are some non-Howard Conan books to read. But not the original. Not the original.

And Howard did all this by the time he was 30. Sometimes, when I was young, I thought I’d like to live the pulp writer lifestyle, banging out these works for a couple hundred bucks a throw and living in a seedy apartment while I did so. I never did make many sales. As a matter of fact, by the time I was 30, I’d only sold a single short story for five bucks to a magazine made on a photocopier. Ah, well, I guess I still have a chance to make it as a pixulp writer if I turn my mind to it.

And good reads like these Conan stories are just the thing to inspire one to become a writer.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard (2004)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 18th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is the second in the three books that make up the complete set of stories that Howard wrote featuring Conan the Cimmerian. As you will remember, I read the first, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian in January.

This book features three tales:

“The People of the Black Circle” features Conan carrying off the queen of a country to use as ransom for some of his followers. She’s seeking revenge on a band of magicians for the death of her brother, and as Conan and she flee from a magician following them, they team up to defeat the magicians.

“The Hour of the Dragon” is the only Conan novel, and it tells the story of how Conan loses the kingdom of Aquilonia and works to get it back.

“A Witch Shall Be Born” talks about a female ruler deposed by her presumed dead twin sister who was left to die at birth because she had a witch’s mark upon her. Instead of dying, she goes onto become a witch and impersonates her sister, a benevolent ruler, until Conan puts a stop to it.

One of the knocks I had on the first book was that the stories were a little formulaic and repetitive at times; with this book and the three stories within it, Howard has concocted some more elaborate plots that are difficult to sum up in the single sentences above. Which is good.

Not only am I continuing to be impressed with this series, but I think I’ll pick up some of Howard’s non-Conan work. Maybe with Christmas’s gift cards.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Sink the Bismarck! by C.S. Forester (1959, 1979)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 15th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverSuddenly, I’m on a World War II naval battle kick, first with The Battle Off of Midway Island and now this book. What a contrast they make.

This book, originally titled The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck but retitled after the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! came out went through quite a number of printings; this paperback is still in print 20 years after the original and 38 years after the events depicted in it. What kept it alive? Past generations’ interest in actual history? The movie in heavy syndication on television that had not fragmented into a billion channels? Perhaps both, maybe neither. But I’m prone to idle speculation.

The difference in naval doctrine is stunning. Although I’m no naval military history expert, the book might capture a turning point in naval operations. The Bismarck is a big battleship with big guns that knocks out a British battleship (the Hood), and then goes around the Atlantic for a couple of days. Will it harry shipping? Although that might have been the idea, it does not engage shipping and starts making a beeline for France when it’s clear that the British aren’t cowed and are actively hunting it. This might represent the 19th century way of naval war.

The British, on the other hand, bring the house. They have a number of cruisers, a carrier, and whatnot working together to target the single battleship. This is more akin to what we’re used to in modern warfare and, indeed, reflects more of the strategy of the battle of Midway that will come only a couple years later.

I’m probably over simplifying it, but the claim seems valid to my layman’s eyes.

The book is a partially fictionalized retelling, as Forester recreates conversations that he can most assuredly not have access to. It does make this book approachable and readable, but not academic history. The book clocks in at only 118 pages, too. Remember the days when paperbacks were only 150 pages? Heck, I remember the days when hardbacks were only 180 pages. But then price inflation meant they had to make them fatter to justify higher prices–compare to portion sizes at restaurants–but there was something to be said for a quick, informative read like this. Back when people read.

It’s worth a read. I might even want to see the film now to see the movie-ized version of a fictionalized historical incident looks like.

Books mentioned in this review:

Another Book Report Compare and Contrast

Posted in Books on July 11th, 2014 by Brian

Joe liked The Executioner #7: Nightmare in New York far better than I did when I read it last year.

On the other hand, I liked it a lot better than I liked Nightmare in Manhattan which I reported on ten years ago. Back when I put some thought and words into my book reports.

Book Report: The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 9th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI bought this book as part of a recent new book buying frenzy (see also The Curmudgeon’s Guide To Getting Ahead). I was eager to read this book after seeing it on the blogs and in the Wall Street Journal because it sort of tracked with an idea I had, oh, about twelve years ago.

I remember distinctly walking into the foosball room at the start-up where I worked and explaining that, before we send men to Mars, we need to start littering Mars with things that those men can use in case of trouble. It was right about the time the mission with the rovers Spirit and Opportunity were launched, and I was probably reading some science fiction at the time.

At any rate, this book details a single astronaut’s struggle to survive on Mars after a sudden sandstorm threatens the mission and his injury and apparent death cause his crew to leave him behind as they evacuate. He has only a habitat designed to house six people a limited number of days, two buggies, six potatoes, and his own ingenuity to make the best of his situation and hopefully hold out for some sort of rescue.

The book is a little heavy on the science and the engineering of his predicaments and solutions, but the voice of the fellow keeps it moving along pretty well. Eventually, NASA discovers he’s still alive, and they get to communicate with him when he drives to the Mars Pathfinder and reclaims its radio–see how it meshed with my pre-foosball musings?

So I really liked the book, although it could have been a touch shorter and some of the setbacks seem thrown in to lengthen the book or to pad it out. Of course, Mars is a hostile place–it’s not the kind of place to raise your kids–so I imagine the survival of the fellow is the improbable portion of the story. But it’s a good story.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 7th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI bought this book because all the cool kids were reading it, and by that, I mean someone on some blogs mentioned it. It sounded like something that might interest me, so I got it.

It’s a book that aims at the Elements of Style for professional behavior and thoughts of millenials coming into the workplace without a sense of etiquette and how to work with others in adult jobs. At least, that’s the way blogs have pitched it to me. It has that, of course, as a bit of a sandwich among a big portion of how to write and think well. So I was taken a bit aback by how much of the book was about how to work at a think tank and less about how to behave in the workplace.

Because, brothers and sisters, that first part is something that was kinda lacking the last time my visage darkened a workplace lo those eight years ago. (Have I been a freelancer that long already? Yes, yes I have.) I can’t imagine they’ve gotten better as that next generation has come up.

But this book didn’t ultimately resonate with me because its focus is split like that: workplace rules and writing well. Murray says this came about as a collection of intranet postings of his at the think tank where he works, and that shows a bit.

I’d hoped I’d get a two-fer on this book and get to review it for my other blog, but meh. It didn’t impress me that much. And although you, gentle reader, get a couple of paragraphs blatted all over your monitor for every book I read, the professional blog only gets things that will fit and that impress me. So take that as my final word on it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Battle Off Midway Island by Theodore Taylor (1981)

Posted in Book Report, Books on July 6th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverThis book is a young adult history book. About World War II. Whoa, we are looking at an artifact here, aren’t we? Nowadays, it seems from the news that all young adult books are sparkly vampire dystopian fantasy bestsellers because adults read them or gritty real-world-of-fevered-dreams fests of sex and drugs that teenagers really deal with in books that teenagers read because they’re told to and only become news stories when someone wants to remove them from a school reading list.

I mean, in 1981, someone expected young readers to read about American history? Like battles and stuff, not about how America sux? I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it. And this book is touted as the first in a series.

At any rate, I only remembered the basics of the battle before reading the book: Big deal, many Japanese carriers sunk, turned the tide of the war. Given that I know that much, it’s clear I’m not a 21st century young adult.

The books is short–135 pages–and it really only gives an overview of the events after the Coral Sea battle, where the Japanese hoped to lure out the remainder of the American fleet to destroy it, but the Americans had broken the Japanese code and managed to get the drop on them. Then, through (and sometimes in spite of) sacrifices and ill-fated bombing runs on the Japanese carriers, the Americans break the Japanese fleet.

It’s not a jingoistic book, and it’s not an academically detailed book, but it does blend striking moments with the ebb and flow of the engagement, so a (young adult) reader isn’t overwhelmed but does get a sense of warfare. Except when talking about the pilots, one does not realize how young these guys are.

So I enjoyed it and read it quickly, and I’ll be honest, I come out of it knowing only a little more than I had before–knowing which American carrier sank during the engagement and whatnot–but every little bit makes me a bit smarter, so I’ll take it. Combining this book with a recent viewing of The Karate Kid Part II sent me to the globe to relearn some of the topography of the Pacific Ocean, and I’d forgotten where Okinawa is in relation to Japan and where Midway Island(s) is relative to Hawaii. So the book has done me some good indeed.

I’m almost interested to the other books in this series.

Books mentioned in this review:

That’s Not A Library, This Is A Library

Posted in Books on July 3rd, 2014 by Brian

While we’re on the subject of things I found in WSJ magazine, here’s a photo from one of the palatial estates and vineyards the magazine regularly features:

One of the many libraries

The caption is:

BOOK SMART One of the three libraries at Harlan Estate house dozens of volumes on winemaking through the ages.

You know what we call that at Nogglestead? A bookshelf.

And they have three such libraries at the estate. Why, they might have a hundred books!

(Contrast with this four-year-old photo essay on the Nogglestead library.)