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Random Reviews for September 2015

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Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and the Inestimable, Mr. Von Hatch, library volunteer and patron.

Read a Book. It’s good for what ails you. Especially if what ails you is a dearth of reading! Need ideas?  There is no lack of ideas in our world and here are a few to pique your interest.

THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi

“Whiskey’s fer drinkin’ and water’s fer fightin'” All real Westerners know this to be the truth. This Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) novel takes us into the future where Nevada and Arizona are involved in a struggle for the water from the Colorado River that has not already been appropriated by California. Sound familiar? But this battle is not only being fought in the courts, but around the wreckage of Maricopa County with guns and knives. I know, I know, you saw it coming too. It takes a while to get all of the players figured out and the direction of the plot but it’s worth the effort. On a more personal note, it’s worth it to see Phoenix get what it deserves. Good, fun read.


This book answers much of the question, “what are the intern years of a new physician like?” The short answer is long hours, little sleep and much practical knowledge to acquire. The author of this book is a doctor and this is his story. Like many other complex professions, there is a huge gap between what you learn in school and what you need to know in real life and that is the purpose of the internship. The author provides the reader a pretty vivid picture of what it is like. There is a continuing debate in some circles about the downside of internship, i.e. sleepy almost Docs making very important decisions without benefit of regular working hours. This question is not raised directly but you can’t help but ask it yourself. Also included at great length is the fervor with which Doctors battle death despite cost, family consequences, and their unwillingness to deliver hard truths in a timely fashion. Like they invented the concept of death, thou shalt die. I hated this part.


Before you read this book, you must check out the trailer: The book is good for those who like scary books. Remember, it’s a Young Adult book so it isn’t too scary or is it? Read it if you dare!


I played a small role in the Vietnam War without giving it much thought. It wasn’t until years later that I became a student of that war and that era. I still have much to learn. This book was a revelation to me. I knew that something was going on in Laos and I remember hearing a great deal about the Plain of Jars. What it was, was a CIA sponsored and led war that lasted as long as the war in Vietnam. It is like the story of the war in Vietnam; mostly valiant efforts by the people at the pointy end of the spear and mostly despicable behavior by the people whose hand held the spear. This story may be a little sadder. But if you want to know about the little secret war that few people knew about then and fewer people know about now, it is important that you read this book because the same self-serving, duplicitous mentality is still strong with the people now holding the spear.


Mention Arab-Israeli peace talks to most Americans and you will get eye rolls and something along the line of “they have been killing each other for thousands of years, so what?” or “none of our business.” This book is an attempt to answer some of the questions and to persuade readers that it is in the best interests of America to be an active participant in this seemingly eternal mess. I was afraid the book would be a painful read, much like a text book. In truth it is a very easy read, not without humor or interesting stories. It is perhaps a hundred pages too long or I might have attention span issues. The author has spent most of his working life participating in ongoing Middle Eeast peace talks and lets us tag along while history is being made. Sometimes history is made even when no one seems to go anywhere. This book is not for everyone but if you think you are a student of modern world issues, until you read this one there is a hole in your education.

DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige

Have you ever wondered what happened to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz? Did she stay in Kansas? Did she get married and have children? Well Danielle Paige explains what happens, and it isn’t pleasant. I really enjoyed this modern twist to an old classic. Dorothy Must Die will have you running to get The Wicked Will Rise, to see what happens next!

THE CARTEL by Don Winslow

This book is a follow up to Winslow’s 2005 book called, The Power of the Dog, and it is the end of a story about the Mexican drug cartels. It is fact treated as fiction. The fact part continues to be with us. The drug cartels have not gone away. Winslow spent a good many years researching his topic and it reads like headline stories out of Mexico until it became too dangerous to report the news about the bloodbath that was Ciudad Juarez in the first decade of the 21st century. It’s a Mexican version of The Godfather except the Mafia comes across as a bunch of wimps compared to the Cartels. He does not fail to point out that there would be no drug cartels if there was not such a lucrative market on the side of the border. Very good book(s) on a number of levels.


Is nothing sacred?! My personal account at the library was hacked and an unauthorized book placed on hold in my name (Ha, ha!). And I want to sincerely thank the international criminal for doing so. This is another story from the pages of the volumes written by the Greatest Generation. Steve Snyder has put together the story of his father, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Belgium in February of 1944. The story is typical of young Americans caught up in the war. It is the story of their training and of the movement of the war. It is not only the story of his father and crew, it is the story of the many Belgians who risked their lives to hide and care for the American fliers. Included in the story is the German pilot of the FW-109 who shot them down. This book is easy to read, has a mostly happy ending, and you will be delighted to add it to your literary pleasures. Thanks, Nancy.


Harper Lee’s new “old” novel was released this summer. There are cries that the Atticus Finch portrayed in Go Set a Watchman is not the same brave, humanitarian lawyer we know and love from To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus’ creative, impassioned defense of Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a white girl in the Jim Crow south, establishes the fact that his chief accusers are lying, yet the all-white jury returns a verdict of guilty. All of this fictional drama took place in the courthouse of the fictional Alabama town of Maycomb. The courthouse in the movie was the courthouse in Harper Lee’s real hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Not only was this courthouse the scene of a fictional miscarriage of justice, it was the scene of a real life legal travesty. The story of Walter McMillian and what happened to him in that courthouse is one of a number of stories presented by Stevenson in this book that examines awful miscarriages of justices that seem to happen all too frequently. I know “hang ’em high” is a common and vocal cry heard from sea to shining sea in this country and perhaps it has its place, but there is a rottenness in our judicial system that should not be ignored but frequently is. If you are a death penalty fan then you really need to read this book. It may not change your mind, but it will expose you to an eloquent voice from the other side. Be brave. If truth and justice are on your side, how can you be wrong?

ISIS: THE STATE OF TERROR by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger

ISIS is here. Get used to it. This book traces the history of what we have come to call ISIS or as its members prefer, The Islamic State. This book reads much like a textbook and in most respects it is. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, need to go to school on this organization and its place in the hierarchy of terrorist groups. This need falls into the category of, know your enemy. Americans in particular have a notoriously dismal history of knowing and, more importantly, understanding the groups we have chosen (or had chosen for us) to be our enemies. The general history of ISIS, their deliberate use of social media to transmit their atrocities world-wide, their brilliant use of social media as a tool of recruitment and propaganda, and their ultimate goal (at least right now) should be required reading for any country alarmed by the success of this organization. ISIS is a complex organism and complex remedies are in order. It has been suggested that, “ISIS is the crack cocaine of violent extremism…” You remember crack cocaine: the drug that seemed to shake the foundations of the Republic back in the ’80s. We declared war on drugs then and nobody has pronounced mission accomplished yet. Be ready to see those black flags for a while.


I believe I know why, after such a grandiose build up prior to its release, this book sort of vanished from literary sight. The reviews I have seen are modestly positive and some, of course, refer to senility and greed. The latter motivations don’t relate to the quality of the book which I think is slightly more than modestly good. I don’t think it is brilliant in the manner of To Kill a Mockingbird but what it does is hold a mirror to the face of all of us from 60 years ago. I can hear many of the same arguments put forth by Atticus regarding the status of the Negroes coming from the lips of people I knew and loved. My father for example. I think the idea that even the sweetest among us harbor bigoted ideas is hard for people to accept. It is the accepting, in our loved ones, of something so contrary to our image of our world that makes us want to shun the theme of this book. Hopefully the nature of our population has changed considerably in the last half century. The writing in this book is not refined or polished but neither is the tale.


After the death of his wife, Robert MacIver feels his feet are set upon the same path and he makes rules to follow to govern the time remaining. He is an educated man and an author. He is writing a story of men in WW I, reminiscing about his own service in WW II, and the war in Vietnam which claimed his only son. That loss is a theme in war is obvious. He is also grieving the passing of Margaret, the passion of his life. As the book and his life draw to an end, it seems that the knowledge that surpasses all understanding is his and, as we all will, he takes it with him. The passion between him and his beloved is so soaring that it makes you question your own passions. These loves always exist in novels but this one makes you feel that they might in real life as well. His most graceful move was the exit.


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