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Recent Reviews from Mr. V Hatch

Never dull reading: Random Reviews in Random order from 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 (in alpha-order, no less) to pique your interest.

13 SOLDIERS: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF AMERICANS AT WAR by John McCain & Mark Salter

(Yes, that John McCain) This book is made up of brief tales of citizen soldiers from each of our major wars. These 13 Americans could have been any 13 Americans who have gone in harm’s way over the past 240 odd years because so many others have done what they did. They refused to give into the logical feeling to turn and run like crazy away from the carnage that lay to their front and instead went to the sound of the muskets or the AK-47s. The rightness or not of the particular conflict seems not to matter as much as the dread of failing to be there for your comrades. There are no new revelations made in this book but its value is in the re-examination of the men and women who answer the call; citizen soldiers in the main, wanting to do their duty and return home to their interrupted lives. Most of them are able to do so.

THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS: THE GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST by Eugene Rogan

The White Man’s Burden is indeed a heavy load to pack around, particularly when considering the mess that is the Middle East. Granted, the residents of that region shoulder a significant responsibility for the seemingly nonstop high drama that provides endless headlines, pitiful refugees and mind numbing body counts. What had been the remnants of a centuries old Islamic empire was caught up in the intrigue of European empires as they jockeyed for position to expand their own interests. As Europe began it’s descent into war after Sarajevo, the Ottomans, who had their own interests to protect, began shopping around for European allies that would provide the best partnership for the powers in Istanbul. They chose Germany. One of the first results of that decision was to make the European War a World War due, in great part, to the size of the Ottoman Empire which reached from The Aegean Sea to the Indian Ocean and from the Red Sea to The Persian Gulf. Once upon a time it was much larger. It is estimated that the numbers of troops deployed by both sides in WW I to battle in the Ottoman area of operations lengthened the awful blood bath that was the war on the Western Front appreciably. It’s all in this book: The Balfour Agreement, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Lawrence of Arabia, the Armenian Genocide, and more. The duplicity of the great powers and their “allies” south of the Dardanelles make the Borgias and Medicis seem like bridge clubs. The events of this era are with us still, including the fear that arises at the word jihad.

IT IS ABOUT ISLAM by Glenn Beck

In this fairly compact dissertation about the dangers ISIS and others of their ilk present to, not only our country, but the non-Muslim rest of the world, Glenn Beck goes to great lengths to differentiate between Islam and Islamists. Islam being the religion practiced by most of the 1.5 billion adherents to the religion who don’t behead journalists and Islamists who do. Then he goes on to mostly lump them together. To be sure he is addressing a clear and present danger presented by a large group of terrorists who are Muslims. He then proceeds to indict the teachings of that religion and to state that because Muslims everywhere are bound by the teachings of the Quran they are mostly helpless to divorce themselves from its doctrines. Unlike Mr. Beck, I am no scholar of comparative religions, but I’m not convinced. Nor am I persuaded by his arguments that such well known events as the Inquisition, the bloody European wars that followed the reformation, and the finer points of the Crusades should be seen in radically different light than 9/11 and many other actions of Islamists. While this book raises many valid points, it also comes with the Glenn Beck world view. You have been alerted.

KILLING REAGAN: THE VIOLENT ASSAULT THAT CHANGED A PRESDIDENCY by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

As you might well guess, reactions to this book span the emotional globe. It seems to me that Dugard has done his usual, voluminous amount of research and no doubt did some cherry picking in order to make this book come in at just under three hundred pages. There seems to be a good deal of nitpicking about his cherry-picking but it seemed to me to be relatively even-handed. Most people don’t doubt the conservative creds of Mr. O’Reilly but the tone of the book struck me as well-balanced. The story of Ronald Reagan is a very intriguing American tale and makes for compelling reading from womb to tomb. For those of us who were alive and presumably paying some attention, the book reminds us of certain things, further explains some things, reinforces the virtues of the President that many wish to believe, and gives credence to the huge failings of the Reagan Presidency that many others devoutly insist upon. It’s an All-American book: you can have it your way.

KING SOLOMON’S MINES by H. Rider Haggard

As a young boy, I dreamed of adventures in far-off lands, of exciting treks and fierce battles, of dusky maidens…well, maybe not so much the maidens, and treasure beyond counting. Strangely enough I discovered this book and I read it. It fulfilled all of those fantasies and more and in a really strange form of English. It is the English of the mid-19th century as spoken in Africa by our hero, Allan Quatermain, big game hunter and explorer. He is given a proposition by a rich guy to go find the rich guy’s brother who is missing from a journey to find a fabulous treasure. He says, “OK,” and off we go into the unknown reaches of deepest Africa. Adventure ensues. What I didn’t really notice on the first reading was the attitude toward big game hunting and the racial attitudes of the White guys. Not that there are any surprises there but 150 years have passed and, hopefully, so have some of the attitudes. Be all of that as it may, it’s a pretty cool adventure yarn. Go ahead, live dangerously.

MISSOULA: THE RAPE AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN A COLLEGE TOWN by Jon Krakauer

When you read this book, you will want to run to the “first we kill all the lawyers” list and add a few new names. They will all live somewhere near Missoula, Montana. The sub-title to this book is: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Here are the stories of several women who were raped in or near the campus of the University of Montana, home of the Grizzlies. What follows is the search for truth and justice in the legal system of both the state and the university. The rapes for which they are seeking redress did not last very long; the violations visited upon them by the system lasted much longer. The debate about the numbers of rape taking place in our college towns, and elsewhere, does go on. The figures and attitudes examined by this author are fairly convincing. The events described in this book are about three years old and none of the convicted remain behind bars but many people are still serving time in their minds. Montana is in the process of changing their attitude about the handling of rape cases and the victims. But there are still tens of thousands of untested rape kits across the nation, which may indicate attitudes need to be changed in more places than Montana.

RAVENSBRUCK: LIFE AND DEATH IN HITLER’S CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR WOMEN by Sarah Helm

It is reasonably safe to say that most people have heard of Auschwitz, Dachau, and, perhaps, even Buchenwald, but Ravensbruck is rarely recognized by most of us. Ravensbruck was unique in that it was the only concentration camp that housed only women. Unlike Auschwitz it was not, strictly speaking, a death camp but if the brutality and harsh conditions found in the camp were killing you, there would be nearly nothing done to prevent your dying. First opened in May of 1939 as a concentration camp for undesirables, Gypsies, prostitutes, communists, and other groups, Ravensbruck was mostly a labor camp where its inmates wore worked to death. As time went on, the camp added medical experiments, gassing, mass sterilizations, and a crematorium to its available services. The systematic murder of the inmates continued to the last week of the war even as Russian and American troops were within miles. This is an awful book to read. It is awful to see what otherwise normal humans are capable of doing to one another. It is awful to see how callous international organizations dedicated to the well-being of mankind can be. It is awful to see how governments disregarded the carnage. It is awful to know that the world lied when we all said, “Never again.” In the shadow of this book, it is awful to contemplate words and deeds we are exposed to today. It is awful that the concept of “the banality of evil” is alive and well. And it is awful that this book might well serve as a distant mirror.

SATURN RUN by John Sanford and Ctein

I don’t usually do pop-fiction because everyone reads their favorites in any event and who cares what I have to say? Please, that is rhetorical and I’m not looking for an answer. This is a call out to all fans of Science Fiction wherever you are. A devoted Sci-Fi maniac wouldn’t touch John Sanford with a ten foot light saber but I’m telling you this book is worth your while. It has all of the meticulous plot movement of the Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers series but it all takes place in outer space and in the future. What more do you need? And I am pleased to report there are no “wantum mechanics” involved. I sort of had to take that on faith because I wouldn’t know quantum from wantum if I were sitting in a bucket of either. However I do know a bit about plot, suspense and character development and there are oodles of it here. It all starts with a decelerating object in the rings of Saturn and we ALL know that nothing in space decelerates unless it is a contrivance of some life form or the other. We are one and the source of this object is the other. Other what? You will find out near the end of this book I am trying to persuade you to read. And there is more. Be still my heart.

SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson

There are no Adams in this book, just the seven Eves. I waded into Science Fiction waters again and it was mostly pleasant but there be piranha, too. I found the premise of the book to be intriguing: the moon is broken into pieces and it is determined that there remains only a couple of years to get out of the building that will soon be burning, i.e., earth. This is accomplished by expanding the ISS…a lot. The earth burns up as predicted and there is much drama among the survivors, as they are incapable of modifying the behaviors that make mankind so very entertaining. This part of the drama ends with just seven survivors that, you might have guessed by this point, are all women. Seven women and a lot of high tech information stored in chips. Part of that information verifies the attitude held in some circles that men are mostly superfluous. Then, as we say in film editing, jump-cut 5,000 years into the future. We are still in the neighborhood of earth, still not getting along and eventually come to some sort of resolution…sort of. I found that part to be a bit underwhelming. This book runs to nearly 900 pages and the first 500 are ripping good, the next 200 worthwhile, and the last 200 akin to the last 10 minutes in the dentist’s chair. Are we done yet?

THE SHORT NOVELS OF JACK SCHAEFER by Jack Schaefer

Working the front desk at the library (many of my stories begin this way) I noticed the title, Shane along with a couple of others on a book and I was amazed because I didn’t know Alan Ladd had written a book. Another hole in my English studies as it turned out. Shane was the product of the mind of Jack Schaefer, as were a number of other Western type books, including Monte Walsh. I figured I would read Shane and let the others go. Didn’t happen. The other short novels of this anthology are, First Blood, a tale of reaching manhood, The Canyon, the quest of a young Indian for the Native American Dream, Company of Cowards, does being charged with cowardice make a person a coward?, and The Kean Land, a tale of shady land grabs that happened somewhere besides Arizona. The story of Shane and the image of encroaching society being opposed by the violent proponents of the status quo and the mysterious stranger who comes from nowhere to ensure the triumph of civilization almost made me put on my English Major hat. Fortunately for all of us I couldn’t find it, but that doesn’t prevent me from saying this is good stuff.

 

SINGLE HANDED: THE INSPIRING TRUE STORY OF TIBOR “TEDDY” RUBIN, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, KOREAN WAR HERO, AND MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT by Daniel M Cohen

In the midst of the current furor over immigration, here is the story of an immigrant to this country that exemplifies the potential these good folk bring to our country. It is the tale of Tibor “Teddy” Rubin, born in Hungary just in time to spend his early teen years as an inmate of the Mauthausen death camp. After its liberation by American troops, Teddy swore he would immigrate to the US and join the Army. As it happened, the confusion of post-WW II conspired to spit him out in NYC. Speaking almost no English, he was able to find work and eventually made his way into the Army. He made it just in time to find himself in Korea in the dark, first days of that conflict. For his feats of incredible valor, his commanding officer instructed the company First Sergeant to prepare the paperwork for the recommendation of a Medal of Honor. Not once but twice. The First Sergeant, unfortunately, was a hater of Jews, Negroes, and others of less than Aryan bloodlines, and the paperwork was never processed. Private Rubin, along with thousands of others, was taken prisoner in the ill-advised pursuit of the bad guys toward the Yalu River, where the bad guys were joined by other bad guys and the arms race turned south once again. Private Rubin then spent nearly 3 years as a guest of the Communist Chinese and survived. Many didn’t. He came home and then there was a really long trial to secure his Medal of Honor. It involved many twists and turns including anti-Semitism and disdain of soldier prisoners of the Chinese (think Manchurian Candidate). George Bush finally awarded the medal and it all ends happy ever after…sort of. This is riveting stuff. By the way, Teddy Rubin died this December. An American hero by way of Hungary.

TWO BOOKS: 1632 by Eric Flint and DARWIN’S RADIO by Greg Bear

My reading eyes very rarely see Science Fiction. An old chum of mine, whose eyes rarely see anything but, recently either twisted my arm painfully or smoothly convinced me (I’m not sure which) to give Sci-Fi a try. I did. I’m not unhappy I did. Book one: “1632” by Eric Flint. A tale of a small W. Virginia town that finds itself plunked down in the German countryside in the middle of The 30 Years War. The story is an interesting rewrite of European (therefore our) history. While reading this book I found myself returning time after time to Google to check the history of the era. The author is spot-on as near as I can tell. Fast moving, humorous, lots of little love stories and the good guys mostly win. The science of how this event occurred is in the preface. After reading the book, you’ll want to go back and re-read it. Book two: “Darwin’s Radio”, by Greg Bear. This one gave me a migraine. It has a lot of information about DNA, RNA and other scientific stuff at the beginning. To me it ruined the book as successfully as Melville killed(for me) the joy of reading about a white whale with way too much information about whales. Third’s the charm book: “Old Man’s War”, by John Scalizi. In the future, in several galaxies far away the armies of humankind’s descendants fight to keep the universe safe for our colonizers and crush the bad colonizers. This army is comprised of geezers. You have to be 75 to sign up and then the good times begin. You get a REALLY complete makeover that makes you a better man (or woman) than you ever dreamed you could be and off you go to boot camp and the deep corners of the universe. Space ships, exotic weapons, a little in the way of renewed hormonal life, conspiracies and the pursuit of truth, justice and the American way…all that I imagine Science Fiction to be and more. Good stuff. And that new bod under the 75 year old brain? Sign me up. Reminiscent of that old song,  “When you wish upon a star…”

UNDENIABLE: EVOLUTION AND THE SCIENCE OF CREATION by Bill Nye

If you are like me, when hearing about “string theory,” the “big bang,” and the idea of an ever expanding universe (what is out there where the universe is not?) you ask yourself, “Who thinks this stuff up?” This book by Bill Nye (yes the science guy) examines the notions of evolution – past, present and future. This book is not “Evolution for Dummies” but it is sort of understandable even to less than mediocre biology students such as myself. Mr. Nye does not address the concept of a divine creator but concentrates his energies instead on the exploration of scientifically verifiable evidence. In short, the how as opposed to the Who. Bill methodically builds his case and comes to his conclusions with clarity and wit. Mr. Nye had a sympathetic reader here, but for those who lean toward creationism I expect he would arouse a different emotion. He had a celebrated debate with Ken Ham, a prominent and vocal proponent of creationism, last year. The debate is available online if you have two and a half hours to devote to the cause… whichever one you champion.

WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE: THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE VIETNAM WAR by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner

Over There and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With anyone else but Me) are two songs from the great wars in the first half of the last century. But when was the last time you heard them? Don’t know of any songs from the Korean kerfuffle and if there were any they, like that war, have been forgotten. The songs that form the soundtrack for Vietnam are heard every day on “Golden Oldie” stations all over the country. Admittedly there are more Vietnam vets still with us, but just as that war ripped at the fabric of what we thought our nation was about, so did the music of that era shred what had gone before, musically. The lyrics, the presentation, and the actions of those who performed it were unlike anything that had gone before. You don’t have to like it, you just need to admit it. Accept I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag as the pulse of a huge chunk of the youth of America at the time and you’ll be onboard. This book covers many of the songs of that time, along with narratives by men and women who served and how the music touched them then and in many instances continues to do so. The authors had some idea of making a Top Twenty List and came to the conclusion it was an impossible mission. But they made a list of way more than twenty songs and by popular acclaim, Eric Burdon and the Animals’ hit, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place was number one, with a bullet.

ZERO: THE BIOGRAPHY OF DANGEROUS IDEAS by Charles Seife

I have yet to comment on a book I haven’t read. I’m breaking new ground today. This book caught my eye one day while I was toiling at the front desk of the library and iT sounded too interesting to not read. It was billed as the biography of a dangerous idea. How could I resist? The book begins with a bang. A billion dollar missile cruiser is brought to a shuddering halt when its computer system dies because a zero was not removed from the system after testing. Wow! Then the math starts. I should have guessed it would. I was an indifferent math student at best and this book beat me into submission in a hurry. Unlike the flea approaching the elephant with lust in his heart, I wept at my shortcomings but admitted them. And this, from the book cover, hints at my zero aptitude for this book and this concept. “Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything.” If that excites instead of terrifying you, this might be a book for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Random Reviews for September 2015

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.

THE REAL DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU SHORTLY by Matt McCarthy

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.

THE HAUNTING OF SUNSHINE GIRL by Paige McKenzie

Before you read this book, you must check out the trailer: http://thehauntingofsunshinegirl.com/ 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!

THE RAVENS:  THE MEN WHO FLEW IN AMERICA’S SECRET WAR IN LAOS by Christopher Robbins

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.

THE MUCH TOO PROMISED LAND: AMERICA’S ELUSIVE SEARCH FOR ARAB-ISRAELI PEACE by Aaron David Miller

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.

SHOT DOWN: THE TRUE STORY OF PILOT HOWARD SNYDER AND THE CREW OF THE B-17  SUSAN RUTH by Steve Snyder

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.

JUST MERCY: A STORY OF JUSTICE AND REDEMPTION by Bryan Stevenson

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.

GO SET A WATCHMAN Harper Lee

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.

RULES FOR OLD MEN WAITING by Peter Pouncey

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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Looking for Something to Read?

Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and Volunteers:

Looking for something to read? Check out these very short reviews that we hope will pique your interest.  The best of these reviews have been put forth by the engaging, Mr. Von Hatch. So many books, so little time.

We’d love to have your short reviews to include next time. Just ask us!

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving

I read “The World According to Garp” by John Irving- loved it. Saw the movie with Robin Williams and Jon Lithgow- what’s not to like there? Skipped “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” Just listen to the title! Are you serious? A dear friend, after some spirited debate about the value of this book, suggested that I might want to consider the book as opposed to extensive therapy. Pushy, pushy. In any event shortly after I began to read, I was amused, entranced, enchanted, and very involved in the lives of the people in the book. This is not an action book, although many exciting things occur; it is not a love story in spite of the fact that many of the characters love each other. What it is, is a wonderful portrait of interesting, vital and familiar characters. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad to be human and you’ll wonder at the fact that we all have some sort of redeeming value. You’ll see why you need to keep your friends close.

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

A definite 5-star rating. An amazing love story that took place at the dawn of World War II. It starts out with an elderly widow in a nursing home getting an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony for people who aided the escape of others during the war. Then the story begins… Fantastic!

REMAKE by Ilima Todd.

This is a coming of age book and is intended for the coming of age crowd. All of that aside it is a refreshing read that is able to transport the reader to those long ago years – if those years are long ago. The emphasis here, beyond young love, is the family unit which I thought too elemental. Then I thought of the reality that the nuclear family seems to be in some distress in our society. Perhaps this is a message that needs to be sent forth. It certainly can’t hurt. Good stuff for young and old(er).

SOLITUDE CREEK by Jeffery Deaver

Good, solid mystery thriller here as is usual for Deaver. The book is full of suspense. Has a great range of characters and a high “who is doing what to whom” factor. A very clever end. I was certainly scratching my head at the end wondering how I missed all of that. I’m no rocket scientist, but I generally have an idea about what the end might be. Katherine Dancer, our heroine, is easy to like and you underestimate her at your peril.

CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER by James L Swanson (Playaway)

This tells the true story of the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth.  It also gives us insight into who Abraham Lincoln as a man, father and husband and how his death affected people that were close to him.

PRAYER: EXPERIENCING AWE AND INTIMACY WITH GOD by Timothy Keller

Keller ties the practice of prayer to the historical record of Christianity in the Bible and to stories from the lives of great Christian teachers to make the enigmatic concept of prayer more practical. This book encourages the thoughtful reader to move beyond the hurriedly offered prayers that are more like sending “tweets” Godward to a more disciplined, meditative method that allows prayer to effect change in the life of person doing the praying as he/she grows more familiar with the One to whom prayer is addressed.

THE BONE TREE by Greg Iles

The second part of the Penn Gage trilogy concerning racism, love, the assassination of JFK, heroes and villains, the righteous and the damned…what have I left out? A lot. But, Iles leaves out nothing and as the tale unfolds, the tension is ratcheted up to the point of “just leave the lights on dear. I’m going to be reading for a while.” This is not a stand-alone book. You must read “Natchez Burning” first. (For those of you saying, “Yeah… you gonna make me?” I say, “You’ll be sorry.”) It took me a while to get back in the groove as it’s been a while since “Natchez Burning” but, when I found my stride, it was all over until the end. Of course there was no end because “Unwritten Laws” is coming in 2016 and I can’t wait. If you are a thriller fan, it doesn’t get better than this.

WHIPPING BOY: THE FORTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR MY TWELVE-YEAR-OLD BULLY by Allen Kurzweil

How many of you have been bullied? Raise your hand. How many would now like to find that person and knock his/her block off? Raise your hand. It took Allen Kurzweil 40 years, but he finally got back at his childhood tormentor. He did not assault him physically, he did what journalists do: he researched and exposed his old enemy for what he truly was – a fraud. And aren’t most bullies? This book takes us places that we have only see on the silver screen. Think “The Sting” only with the bad guys running it. Our bully and his confederates run a scam that is breathtaking in its scope and audacity. The end of the book will be a bit of a disappointment if you are looking for our author to beat the crap out of the bad guy. This is not fiction, but it is intriguing.


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Start Your Summer Reading with One of These

Be an example to a child or teen by joining the Adult Summer Reading (SRP) program at Camp Verde Community Library and reading for pleasure. This year’s theme for adults is Escape the Ordinary, a sub-theme of the overall SRP: Every Hero Has a Story. The Library has weekly activities, reading challenges and encouragement to meet some local heroes, escape the routine, try something new, and become a hero yourself. Registration for SRP starts Wednesday, May 20!

Get started with your summer reading by selecting from these Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and our One Prolific Volunteer, Mr. Von Hatch:

THE ESCAPE by David Baldacci

There are few dull moments in any Baldacci book and this one may set some sort of record for twists and turns as well as a nicely convoluted plot. This is the third book of the series featuring the Puller brothers. It is not necessary to have read the first two, but it wouldn’t hurt. Our hero, John Puller, is an Army investigator who is assigned, against his better judgment, to investigate the escape by his brother, Robert, from the super-max facility at the prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Part of the thrill of the book is the how of the escape and part is trying to figure out the alphabet soup that is the nation’s intelligence system. It is scary to think that mess is anything other than fiction. I’ll leave that up to the reader, but first you gotta read this one.

ASHLEY’S WAR: THE UNTOLD STORY OF A TEAM OF WOMEN SOLDIERS ON THE SPECIAL OPS BATTLEFIELD by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

It finally dawned on someone important in the Army that our intelligence gathering capabilities in Afghanistan were ignoring half the population. Unless a man is blood kin or married to a woman, he cannot have any contact at all with the woman. This clever fellow figured if we had the services of an American woman to console, and talk to the women concerned, there might be a wealth of information available. Suddenly a lot of important people were thinking this was a great idea. The major problem was, the groups that needed the support of trained women were all door kickers and trigger men and in the U.S. Army. These are occupations and situations absolutely forbidden to women. Well, they made it work. How that happened and the stories of some of the pioneering women who made it happen is the topic of this book. It’s not long but it’s big. Mr. and Mrs. America, if you’re lucky, Ashley is your daughter!

DIE AGAIN by Tess Gerritsen

This is the 11th book in the Rizzoli & Isles series. I love the way the author catches your attention right off the bat by describing dawn in Botswana. What a beautiful picture she paints in your mind. The story, of course, is very intriguing. Either you like her writing and have already read the previous 10 or you might want to try this one and see if you like this type of fiction. Then go back and read the rest of the Rizzoli & Isles series.

I MUST SAY: MY LIFE AS A HUMBLE COMEDY LEGEND by Martin Short

This a must read for big fans of Martin Short. It’s not exactly rags to riches, but it is an engaging tale of a man who, according to some, is one of the comedic greats of our time. I am not counted among their number but I have laughed at his work. He has worked with people I consider to be his superior in the field of and he names them all and does have many amusing tales to report. In short, this is an entertaining read. As far as I am concerned his story rises to much greater heights when he relates the loss of his wife to cancer. For those of you who have trudged that rough road, your heart will hurt all over again for his pain. His comedy doesn’t do much for me but his story is a compelling one. And there really are a lot of laughs in this book.

ONE BULLET AWAY: THE MAKING OF A MARINE OFFICER by Nathaniel Fick

Nathaniel Fick was a Marine grunt lieutenant. One bullet away is the notion that one enemy bullet can make the platoon leader the company commander or the gunny become the platoon commander. This is a pretty gung-ho book about the training of a Marine officer and the subsequent war Lt. Fick attended in the early days of the Iraq war. Lt. Fick was in Recon. Recon is the Marine equivalent to the Navy SEALS. They are the point on the pointy end of the spear. The beginning of the war in Iraq was so vastly different from the end. Many people at that time thought we were doing the right thing and could be a force for good in that sad country. This book is a compelling look at that early war from the front seat of an un-armored Humvee in the dash to Baghdad.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley

The story takes place in 1959 when a group of black students are forced to go to an all-white school. The students think that all will go smoothly and book highlights the lies they tell themselves regarding desegregation. This is a powerful story told from the perspective of Sarah, a senior girl who was heading to college before she was sent to the all-white school where they believed that she wasn’t capable of intelligence because she was black. The story also brings in the LGBT topic which adds an interesting twist. The book has it all: the taunts, the insults, the shouts, the abuse, the fear she experiences. Despite the obstacles Sarah bounces back, so there is hope. I highly recommend young and old read it.

GHETTOSIDE: TRUE STORY OF MURDER IN AMERICA by Jill Leovy

This is a serious study of one murder in particular and several other ancillary ones in a small section of Los Angeles County. It reads like a fictional murder mystery but is a riveting account of one particular murder. Jill Leovy is very good at word painting. The characters (real people) are clearly defined, as is their role in this drama. On the one hand are the cops. Some are dedicated and caring in spite of the demographic of the neighborhood: largely Black, mostly poor, and well represented in local crime statistics. Others, of the Thin Blue Line variety, have little invested in the area. The attitudes of too many of the police are reflective of the national attitude about Black on Black murder. NHI- no humans involved. There are a number of good guys in this police story. One dedicated cop who continues to live in the same neighborhood he has always lived in sees his son murdered, and another dedicated cop eventually solves the murder. There is no happy ending in this book. It does pose the idea that the inability of the legal system to function for the people of these neighborhoods reflects the inability of our country to function as advertised for the same people. Some people will call the author a bleeding heart liberal, and they may be right. I don’t think we should dismiss the idea she might be right.

WHY WE LOST: A GENERAL’S INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS by Daniel P. Bolger

One more book about what we did right and what we did wrong in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This one was written by a, now retired, Lt. General. The book gives credit where credit is due, and there is a lot of that. There is much more blame than credit and it is handed out as well. America owns the greatest military organization on the planet but nation building is not a function of the military. Whomever we depend on for nation building appears as incompetent as those in Vietnam, nearly two generations ago. Micro-management from the political establishment and ineffectual leadership at the command level in the military, along with the “leadership” of the occupied nations combined to make impossible the mission the military had been given. This general doesn’t always sound like a general and that makes reading this book a bit easier. Because it’s not an easy book to read.

GRAY MOUNTAIN by John Grisham

Once again, John Grisham is encouraging us not to kill all the lawyers. He has proposed the names of a few sterling humans who are engaged in the practice of law in the cause of the greater good as opposed to the greater gain. The time of the book is the great melt down of 2008 and who can forget that? From a law firm in New York with thousands of employees to a small town in Virginia with not that many citizens, our heroine finds herself in a place that she never dreamed of being: in a courtroom. Grisham, as usual, creates villains beneath contempt and has the reader begging for their comeuppance, and the goodness of his good guys couldn’t be gooder. This is a fun read and if you liked A TIME TO KILL, chances are good you’ll be happy with GRAY MOUNTAIN.

THE WATER IS WIDE by Pat Conroy

Published in 1972, this is the second book written by Pat Conroy. He is most famous for THE GREAT SANTINI and PRINCE OF TIDES but his style and voice are evident in this short tale of his year teaching at an off shore island of South Carolina. The school is composed entirely of poor black students and the year is 1969. What follows is the collision of an Idealistic new teacher charged with educating largely illiterate students in a school governed by citizens more comfortable with 1869 than 1969 all of whom are caught up in the monumental changes of the Civil Rights Era. As is usual in Conroy’s work, there is humor and tragedy as well as a sense of the author’s attitudes about the human condition. If you have ever been a teacher or thought about being one, this is a book for you.

THE YEAR SHE LEFT US by Kathryn Ma 

The Kong women are in crisis.  A disastrous trip to visit her “home” orphanage in China has plunged 18-year old Ari into a self-destructive spiral.  Her adoptive mother, kind-hearted attorney Charlie tries to help but is rebuffed. Gran, a Bryn Mawr-educated daughter of a cultured Chinese doctor and brilliant sister Les, a judge who rules everyone’s lives, have problems of their own and are no help.  Four intertwining lives, told alternately from each character’s perspective, describe accomplishment, secrets, loneliness, and love.  The difficulty of assimilation of thousands of Chinese children adopted by Americans is graphically portrayed by Ari and some of her friends in this first novel by Ms. Ma.  A quartet of unforgettable characters set in San Francisco in present time.

THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

This is a time-traveling, mystical, head-scratching thriller from the author of the Alex Delaware series and it is a really fun read. It begins with a bizarre death in Prague in the 17th Century and moves to modern Hollywood where it becomes the concern of our hero, Jacob Lev. It is important to the story that our protagonist should be of the Hebrew persuasion because, after all, the Golem is part of Jewish lore. The tension mounts as Jacob travels the world chasing a murderer and the centuries collapse upon themselves as the villain is revealed. It’s pretty good stuff.

HOPE: ENTERTAINER OF THE CENTURY by Richard Zoglin

If you are of an age approximating mine, Bob Hope was likely one of your favorite stars. I say star because he did it all: vaudeville, radio, movies, television and many, many personal appearances. Having said all that, he was no saint, but he was a national treasure for many years. This biography seems to be an honest look at the life of a public figure who was an incredibly private man. I was particularly interested in the development and history of his Christmas time shows for American troops serving in difficult conditions. In my home the Bob Hope Christmas Special was required watching. In my life after home, I was in the neighborhood for two Bob Hope shows that were performed on Hill 327 near Danang, Viet Nam and went to neither. Looking at those decisions after all these years, I might have made an historical blunder. But I did see it on TV.

We work in the library. We like to read. True. We do read. A lot! However, none of us read nearly as much as the entertaining Mr. Von Hatch. Giving credit where credit is due… the best of these reviews have been put forth from his computer to ours.  We’d love to have your short reviews to include next time. Just ask us!

 


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Titles to Checkout and Read, View or Listen To

Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and One Prolific Volunteer that might pique your interest:

We work in the library. We like to read. True. We do read. A lot! However, none of us read nearly as much as the entertaining Mr. Von Hatch. Giving credit where credit is due… the best of these reviews have been put forth from his computer to ours.  We’d love to have your short reviews to include next time. Just ask us!

REVIVAL by Stephen King

Over the years there have been many books by Stephen King and they have all made him tons of money, but, truth to tell, some were fit for not much more than doorstops at the entrance to your library. I am happy to report that this one will make you fidget with anticipation, as you try to remain seated in your library. You know something really bad is coming because there is so little bad stuff in the early going. Of course, there are hints and peeks but nothing to really raise the hair on your neck. If you fail to be thrilled at the climax of this book then, perhaps, you need to search out that little hidden door in the wall.

EDGE OF ETERNITY by Ken Follett

I wish I could say that this book was the riveting conclusion to Follett’s Century Trilogy that I had hoped for but I can’t. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t this. It seems to me that the heroes and villains of the first two volumes who were so finely and brilliantly formed had disappeared and all that was left were their less than stellar offspring. Maybe that’s the real-life aspect of the book. For a while, I wondered if this was the same story. Having said all of that, I was deeply involved in the work. Follett is a brilliant story teller and this trilogy is an epic work. Perhaps it would have been better if I had re-read “Winter of the World” at least. If you are new to this series of books you MUST read them in order. Sorry to sound like your old English teacher, but there you have it. If you like fictional history and reading then this is a 3,000 page- or so- playground for you.

TRANSCENDENCE starring Johnny Depp

This movies is about a scientist who figured out how to preserve his essence in a super computer and does so after he is killed by a radioactive bullet. The best part of the movie is the fact that the viewer is unclear about who the good guy is and who the bad guy.  The story is told with very little judgment.  The movie is about cutting edge technology and good/bad right/wrong are unclear.  All we have are the facts and we are left to ponder them on our own or discuss and debate them with our friends and fellow movie viewers.  I would recommend it.

ALONE IN THE CLASSROOM by Elizabeth Hay

I found this book confusing (it could just be me!). It changed people and places rapidly and because I didn’t read continually but let a day or two pass, I found I had to go back and remind myself who was who, and at what time period I was in. I believe the story, at its core, is about a woman discovering why her mother was the way she was, in a roundabout way! Confused? Me too!

I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes

This is the last book of 2014 and it is a ripper! It is not often that after about two pages into a book I feel like my life will be ever cursed if I don’t hurry up and get it read. Well, here it is, Pilgrim (Slight nod to The Duke). This is the story of a super spy/master investigator and deadly foe to evil men everywhere. Have I mentioned it’s fiction? I have added one more name to my list of fictional super heroes. I’m not sure what name but that’s one of the cool things in the book. It’s a tale of our hero in search of a super bad guy who has resurrected one of history’s great diseases and is going to do in…guess who? Us. The USA. You may think you’ve heard it all before and you might have, but you’ve never read a better spin on the tale.

THE DARK WORLD by Cara Lynn Schultz

If you like a book that deals with alternate worlds you might be interested in this one. I found it enjoyable, a good read. It did keep my interest because it is girl meets boy, boy likes girls, girl likes boy and they fight demons. It was quite predictable.

LEVEL ZERO HEROES: the story of U.S. Marine Special Operations in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan by Michael Golembesky and John R. Bruning

This is the account of combat in Afghanistan at an outpost called FOB Todd. I was manned by NATO troops, Afghans and the Marines of Special Operations Team 8222. This Marine organization is rather like the SEALS or, if you prefer, Recon Marines with an attitude. Level zero refers to the amount of danger to be expected on any given mission. Zero meaning basically no risk. Unfortunately a very few meters from the entrance to their “camp” was the beginning of Indian country and zero danger went out the window. This book, and the others like it, should be read by everyone who votes and/or pays taxes. These men were doing what we as a nation asked them to do and we owe it to them and ourselves to listen to their stories

UNBROKEN: a World War II story of survival, resilience and redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

I am a late comer to this book. Most of the country knows it is the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner, POW of the Japanese during WW II, alcoholic, born again Christian, and very funny guy. It’s all true what most people say about this book. It is the tremendous story of an unbelievable life. I may be driven to read Seabiscuit now.

LONE SURVIVOR: the eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson

If you have read To Hell and Back, by Audie Murphy, you will be familiar with the style of this book. The voice is earthy, blunt and to the point. In a very straightforward manner, Luttrell tells the tale of becoming himself, of becoming a SEAL, and how he became a survivor. This story exemplifies the dichotomy of the world in which we live. We take great satisfaction in slaying our enemies, yet we agonize over the misery of their wives and children. We expect the children of the flyover part of our nation to win these nasty, little asymmetrical wars by rules made when war was organized, and when something goes wrong, as it surely will, we try, convict, and execute in the media any poor PFC who screws up. And the amazing part is that the boys from Texas or other places far from either coast keep doing it. That is the kind of guy who wrote this book. His motivations- duty, honor, and service- should be less rare in this country. Which is not to say that at times I did wince a bit. Thank you for your service.


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Random Reviews to Pique Your Interset

Are you looking for a gift for someone and you just don’t know what to get? Are you having a hard time finding something meaningful that is also affordable? Bring someone to the Library and spend some time finding just the right book, movie, or music to enjoy together. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as discovering that someone else enjoys an author, genre or series as much as you do. We have tools to help you make your choice and it will only cost you a little time.

Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and One Prolific Volunteer might pique your interest:

We work in the library. We like to read. True. We do read. A lot! However, none of us read nearly as much as the entertaining Mr. Von Hatch. Giving credit where credit is due… the best of these reviews have been put forth from his computer to ours.  We’d love to have your short reviews to include next time. Just ask us!

LINDBERGH: THE TALE OF A FLYING MOUSE by Torben Kuhlmann

If you want to encourage a child to think big and that anything is possible, like maybe becoming a famous pilot, this is the perfect book. A fine debut for this author. Great illustrations, for ages 4 and up.

FIVES AND TWENTY-FIVES by Michael Pitre

As a Viet Nam veteran, I am inclined to think my war is the only one that matters. I understand all that is wrong with that idea, but it’s the only war I attended. This book is about one of our two wars of the 21st century. It features Marines, as every good war book should. (I know something wrong with that idea, too). The feelings depicted in the book- devotion, alienation, fear, wonder, and many others-are portrayed vividly and honestly. People cannot begin to understand our returning warriors without reading their stories. The only thing you will miss is putting it all on the line every day. Perhaps we will become more humble when we glimpse the unbelievable things we ask our young people to do in our name.

WINTER GARDEN by Kristin Hannah

Two sisters have spent their lives trying to love an unlovable mother! Before their father passes away he makes them promise to find the reasons behind their mother’s bedtime stories. As the story goes on they are enlightened as to why their mother behaves the way she does. A very nice ending to a sad tale of human history that we tend to forget about!

NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING: AMERICA, THE TALIBAN, AND THE WAR THROUGH AFGHAN EYES by Anand Gopal

“…and no bad ones among the dead.” is the conclusion of an Afghan proverb. That is the general thrust of this book. The author is a journalist for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor who reported extensively on the war in Afghanistan and went deep into Taliban-controlled areas after he grew a beard and learned the language. This book covers the heady, early days of the war when the Taliban were convincingly defeated. Then came the years of being the backwater conflict to our agony in Iraq. The book follows the lives of 3 Afghans: a Taliban, an educated woman and a warlord. We see what happens to the three of them over the years from 2002 to 2012. If we need one more example of how America struggles at nation building, this is it. We are a wonderful nation whose vision for a wonderful world flounders badly when mixed with the reality and venality outside the town limits of Mayberry. Read it. Don’t get angry.

OPEN HEART by Elie Wiesel

It is not unusual for an 82-year old man facing emergency open heart surgery to reflect upon his mortality and examine the nature of the life he led. In the case of Elie Wiesel, his relationship with death began when he was fifteen years old and got off the train at Auschwitz. Elie and death remain intimate to this very day. His ruminations on life, death, what’s important and what’s not are inspirational. Read it now and avoid the rush in the surgery waiting room. Tiny book. Hugely important.

ALAS BABYLON by Pat Frank

Come on Baby Boomers, one and all. You must read or re-read this book. It is written in the era of the birth of the concept of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction). You remember that. Duck and cover, fill the bath tub with water and so forth. The huge monster in the closet. Tell your children or grandchildren, to forever abandon their silly Zombie-fueled apocalypse and go with the biggie: civilization vanishing in a mushroom cloud. That’s scary because it’s real. With the exception of The Bible, the Boomers invented apocalypse. Return to yesteryear (or maybe this year) and relive the good old radioactive days.

BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and WALKING DISASTER by Jamie McGuire

Abby Abernathy and Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox are both in for a challenge. Abby’s is trying not to get involved with people that represent her past. Travis is only interested in relationships that represent the one night stand kind. Did this book catch my attention? Yes it did. The subject matter may not be for everybody but for those who like books about relationships, these two will satisfy that.

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt

So far, I have read it twice, and I giggle each time! If you ever wondered what your crayons thought as you were coloring a Christmas tree, a Valentine, or just an ordinary, everyday picture, this book will give you the answers! I was in agreement with most of the letters that the crayons wrote and wonder how Duncan settled the dispute between Yellow and Orange? Your kids will love this story and I am quite sure you will relate to it too!

THE MASTER AND THE MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov

This Russian novel, written in the era of Joseph Stalin, is remarkable for at least two reasons : 1) It has the usual Russian lit characteristics, irony, satire, political intrigue, and hypocrisy…but it is funny as well. 2) The survival of the author. A favorite of Stalin, Bulgakov, died a natural death, a miracle in and of itself. It must be noted that almost none of Bulgakov’s works were performed or published before his death in 1940. The book is comprised of three parts that work very well together. So if you’re looking for something shorter than “War and Peace” (and funnier, too) with which to impress your friends, choose this one. And, if there is a long introduction, as there was in this volume, do not read it. It will be written by some frustrated English major who is jealous of Bulgakov’s talent and he won’t even say if he likes the book.

“WE WERE ONE” SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH THE MARINES WHO TOOK FALLUJAH by Patrick K. O’Donnell

This is the chronicle of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment or, in the short hand of the Marines: Lima 3/1 and the second battle of Fallujah that began in November of 2004 and sort of ended in January of 2005. Although geopolitical forces far beyond their pay grades brought the players to this point the reason they fought had nothing to do with the world stage, but had to do with the smallest unit, the fire team. Four men whose lives depended on each other, who were closer in many respects than their own brothers. The author is an historian and it is noticeable. He does as good a job of bringing the reader into the fight as close as possible. As you can imagine, you can’t imagine it. In the grand scheme of things Fallujah is a minute battle when compared with Waterloo, Stalingrad and Yorktown, but we also remember the Alamo, and Thermophile. Combat is at the squad level and this is it.

THE FIRST EMPEROR OF MARS by Bradford Gordon

Set in modern times, the story is a unique combination of science fiction and political intrigue.  Mr. Gordon blends this combination well.  The science is not too technical and the politics are believable.  It is an easy and enjoyable read and leaves me wondering, about Mr. Gordon’s next book.  I am looking forward to it.


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Random Reviews in Random order from Random Library Staff and One Prolific Volunteer

We work in the library. We like to read. True. We do read. A lot! However, none of us read nearly as much as the entertaining Mr. Von Hatch. Giving credit where credit is due… the best of these reviews have been put forth from his computer to ours. So… very short reviews that we hope will pique your interest. We’d love to have your short reviews to include next time. Just ask us!

Note: if you are wondering why we don’t compile lists of new books anymore, it’s because now you can get to that information from the Library’s Online Catalog. Look for the “New at Yavapai Libraries” box and click on the link of your choice to see the new titles that have been added for the month.

BLOOD ACES: the wild ride of Benny Binion, the Texas gangster who created Vegas poker by Doug J. Swanson

I like poker. I like draw and stud poker. I am a terrible poker player. I can’t stand Texas Hold-em. Having that confession out of the way let me say that this book is a straight flush. Billed as the wild ride of Benny Binion, the Texas gangster who created Vegas poker, this biography hits the jackpot. It is the Horatio Alger story of a dirt poor Texas boy who made it big by dishing out beatings and murder to build himself a gambling empire or two all the while counting governors and other high ranking politicians and upstanding citizens as his dear friends and vice versa. The book is written in a casual style with a fair amount of humor.

THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT” the assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L Swanson (Playaway MP3 Audiobook)

Unbelievable! Well presented. It felt like you were there when it actually happened. I felt that he presented it in an unbiased fashion. He also presented information that I had no knowledge of.

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

I was expecting more. What I got wasn’t bad but I think I’m a little long in the tooth for this one. The concept that to get your own memories and own your own life comes at a high cost is not new. I don’t wish to minimize the importance of becoming aware of this concept. As Sammy sang, “I gotta be me.” And that’s a good thing. There is also a certain amount of pain involved. So for those of you who are of an age to begin the task of discovering who you are, this is a terrific book. You can never be too young or, I suppose, too old for this. And good luck to all of us.

GLORIOUS by Jeff Guinn

I don’t dislike Westerns, I just rarely read them and, while I find them mildly entertaining, I rarely get very excited about them. This book is big exception to that rule. It is fairly lengthy, unlike many books in this genre, and has a intricate plot line and extensive character development. Those of us of a certain age have seen this movie but this is a more updated version. Think “Unforgiven” as opposed to “The Good, Bad and the Ugly.” The tale is about a man drifting into a nothing kind of town in the wilds of Arizona Territory. He has a past, everyone has a past and because of the greed of a local rancher none of them might have a future. Throw in a three sided romance and rumors of wild Apaches in the hills and the possibility of a major silver discovery and you’ve got yourself a genuine, shoot-em up oat-burner.

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDAR by Leslye Walton

I chose this story because I have never read a book quite like this one. Ava was born into a family that has relationship issues, and if that isn’t hard enough to cope with, Ava was born with wings! A very interesting story of the Lavender family and Ava’s growing up! She struggles with adolescence and finding her place in the world, as her mother struggles with her own issues and memories. In summary, I am thinking this is a fantasy book with a few good twists and turns!

THE SON by Jo Nesbo

The author of the Harry Hole series of mystery thrillers, has written a standalone book. A really good book. If you have read some of the Harry books you will know a little when I say this is Harry on steroids. Good set up of the major problem that needs resolution, crazy buildup of tension, and an ending that will have you talking to yourself. It did me, at any rate. If you read Nesbo, get this one now! if you don’t read Nesbo, start.

WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee burke

This book takes Burke away from his beloved Louisiana swamps, but not too far. The tale of two WW II veterans and friends starts with a chance meeting with Bonnie and Clyde, moves to The Battle of the Bulge, and ends up in Texas after the war. The pair discovers a radical new way to weld steel and become major players in the oil business. Much anti-Semitism and intrigue follows. Remember the Bonnie and Clyde connection because you will need it at the end.

CLAPTON: the autobiography by Eric Clapton

In a way, this is another celebrity tale – all of the misdeeds, excesses, name dropping and eventual return to grace. It is all of that but this tale meant a bit more to me because I am a big Clapton fan from Cream to this day. I believe that this book was written more for the benefit of Eric Clapton than for you and me. It is part of his recovery. He has worked very hard in the past couple of decades to not be that guy anymore. When his son, Connor, went out the window many of his sins were paid for. His good works are many and his fans are legion.

THE DEAD AND THOSE ABOUT TO DIE: D-Day the Big Red One at Omaha Beach by John C. McManus

There are only two kinds of people on this beach: the dead and those about to die. The beach was Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 and the words were spoken by an officer of the 1st Infantry Division, The Big Red One. This book is a look at the activities of this division during the first 24 hours of the Normandy invasion. The 1st has been overshadowed in historical coverage according to the author and this is his attempt to help balance things out. His depiction of the awfulness of that day is superb. For history fans or fans of the bravery humans can exhibit. This is almost the only way we can learn of these events because most of the people who were there are very old and some of them are still very young.

TIBETAN PEACH PIE by Tom Robbins

A friend of mine, upon hearing of the death of Kurt Vonnegut, went back and re-read all of his works. Tom Robbins, thankfully, is not dead but after reading HIS memoir, sort of autobiography I want to go digging into the dusty corners of my library, get my copy of “Another Roadside Attraction” and read all of Tom’s books again. I was just back from Viet Nam and out of the Marine Corps and I wanted to switch to the Peace, Love, Hope and Dope Party. I was prime soil for the seeds of fancy that Mr. Robbins was sowing in those turbulent times. As I quietly nibbled at the crust of the respectability pie, Tom was a great escape from 15 second sound bites, and supposedly bright people saying and writing “busted” when they are describing something that is broken. I am an English Major – and I apologize to taxpayers everywhere who paid for it via the G.I. Bill – so I am one of those people who insist that words have meaning; they also have color, tempo, quivering rifts from the base section. They are hippopotamuses in tutus. They are albino cobras lying in wait for the next poodle. They are things you learned at your Mother’s knee. They are what you need them or want them to be, and ain’t they fun? For those of you blessed with keen perception and the ability to recognize foreshadowing when you see it, I am about to say what you already know. Read this book. Then get your copy, dog eared or brand new, of “Another Roadside Attraction” or “Even Cowgirls get the Blues,” take some deep breaths, and let ol’ Tom take you for a ride.

LAST WORDS by George Carlin with Tony Hendra

The Hippy Dippy Weatherman is dead and the world is a much less vibrant place. I realize many people think only of the 7 words you can’t say on TV and dismiss George Carlin as a potty mouthed sort of comic. That is hard to deny but if you are a fan of language – the idea that words have meaning – you can’t help but love his observations of how we misuse and otherwise abuse our native tongue. Carlin was guilty of many mistakes in his life and he owned up to all of them and used them as humorous moral stories. This book is his story in his words and might make you go look through all of that dusty vinyl you’ve been hauling around and find one of his comedy albums or find somewhere you can get one of his HBO concerts. Or transport yourself back to NAU in the early 70’s when he was the opening act for Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids.

UP COUNTRY by Nelson DeMille

Every now and again I find myself reading a book by an author who has a sizable body of work and I wonder how I managed to not read this person before. Here’s another. This book was suggested to me by a friend and I was drawn to it initially because there is a strong Viet Nam war element to it. Well there was all of that and a terrific story line to boot. The story is about revealing the facts of a murder that happened during the Tet Offensive in 1968. One US Army officer murdering another. How this came to be a big deal 30 years after the fact and who is doing what to whom come together to keep the reader turning pages as fast as you can. Is there a surprising ending? Why would I bother with this if there weren’t? A word of advice: do not get the large print version unless you love 25 lb. books.

FOURTH OF JULY CREEK by Smith Henderson

The jacket notes for this book are, of course, laudatory and full of high praise. I recognized none of the names. They may have been pseudonyms. They certainly did not reflect my feelings about the book. Not that my perception of the book is any more valid than the next person’s, but I like mine more. The book is kind of about an anarchistic child welfare worker in Wyoming whose clients are the children of seemingly murderous end of timers. He is also looking for a young girl who is the product of a loveless, dysfunctional back ground. She is a runaway learning what she must do to survive on her own. She is his daughter. The style of this book is rather frenetic, the characters are hard to like or empathize with, and it’s hard to see where it is all going. And when I got to the end I wondered why I made the trip. Other than that, it’s OK.

THE ZEALOT by Simon Scarrow

It’s a Western where the hero wears a skirt; where slingin’ iron means throwing a spear and decimate really means to kill 1 out of every 10 people. That’s right, our heroes are Roman Centurions. In spite of giving our heroes very humane, civilizing traits that strain credibility somewhat, the author creates a pretty believable environment and entertaining characters. Our good guys are a pair of Legionaries who have a long history together and come close to finishing each other’s sentences. There are a number of books in this series and I may have to check out some of the others. If you like the idea of westerns but don’t like gunfire and cow crap, this series might be for you.

THE SKIN COLLECTOR by Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme is rolling in on another convoluted mystery. I you are a Rhyme devote then I don’t need to tell you much. I will tell you that there is a little more on the surprise plate than usual in this book. If you are unfamiliar with the works of Deaver and his characters that work with the wheelchair-bound Rhyme, you could do worse than check a couple out.