Showing posts with label Book Review 2018. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Review 2018. Show all posts

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sucks to Be a Settler in 1860s Kansas


Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal Of Susanna Alderdice In The Kansas Indian War by Jeff Broome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historian and author John H. Monnett notes in the Forward that "over the past two or three decades it has not only been unpopular but unwise to write about the period of Indian resistance in American history in terms other than pro-Indian. Monnett goes on to say that, "Ubiquitous in these histories . . . is the obligatory litany of sins committed by white missionaries, Indian Agents, politicians, military leaders, and Protestant reformers . . . to write otherwise [is] to invite charges of racism."

Acknowledging brutality on both sides, the book concerns itself with the fate of white settlers in Kansas attacked by Cheyenne (and Sioux) warriors during the period 1867 - 1869. In particular, we learn of the destruction of the Alderdice family by raiding Cheyenne in 1869. Author Broome draws heavily on narratives contained in federal Indian depredation claims filed in the National Archives.

As settlers sadly discovered, the government would—allegedly—pay for stolen livestock but not gang-raped wives, or four-year-old children festooned with arrows. Depredation claims were often denied for technicalities, or because Congress failed to appropriate money.

I thought the book a bit thin on the actual details of Susana Alderdice's ordeal, though we're invited to grimly speculate based on the treatment of other female captives.

Overall, an interesting work detailing the fate of innocents, their stories adrift in a backwater of American history.

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Friday, February 09, 2018

Kaiju Rising in Time for Pacific Rim II


Kaiju Rising: Age of MonstersKaiju Rising: Age of Monsters by Tim Marquitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Strange beasts' abound in this illustrated collection, offering the kaiju-aficianado a Godzilla-sized selection of monstrous tales.

Among these giant creature short stories, one may sample homages to "The Lottery," alt-histories, several Pacific Rim type punch-ups, peppered with a number of post modernist tropes and themes. Out of 23 stories, the gold to pyrite ratio is high, though the total amount might've been pruned to avoid kaiju fatigue.

My favorites included "A Turn of the Card" by James Swallow where there's more than mayhem afoot when clashing kaijus battle in the rubble of London. In Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam's "The Flight of the Red Monsters," a woman keen for vengeance finds revenge comes in different colors. And "Big Dog" by Timothy W. Long shows us how war makes for disparate companions aboard a kaiju-combat machine.

And here comes Pacific Rim II.

  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chi Running, The Shallows and Fr. Elijah


Two reviews, no waiting as I slowly hone my critical style. The Shallows could be an absolutely life-changing book if I can focus long enough to remember the contents.

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I haven't mentioned running in a good long while. 2018 marks the third year in a row of easy 3x a week runs after my knee surgeon pronounced me benched for good back in '09. I credit the Chi Running program as it taught me how to land with minimum impact on my weak knee. Despite the exercise, I've noticed a tendency to put on weight, starting around Halloween when I eat most of the Trick or Treat candy. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive with gastronomical goodies, then I start losing weight in January by giving up sweets and carbs. Disney would call such a pattern the Cycle of Life. I would call it the Cycle of an Ill-Disciplined Fattie.

Oddly enough, I've discovered I can walk at a faster sustained pace than I can run. So, for now, I"m walking briskly around a local golf course, pausing only to pick up the odd golf ball sliced onto the bridal trail by form-challenged duffers. A pleasant mid-week to all.



  The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainsThe Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skim more, ponder less as "the transformative power of new communication technologies alters our neural pathways." Using studies to bolster his point, the author holds that our minds are changing as they adapt to an ocean of easily-accessible information streaming over our phones and computers. This alteration threatens users' ability to think deeply or analyze because the "Web has scattered attention, parched their memory or turned them into compulsive nibblers of info snacks."

Neither luddite nor scold, Carr reasons calmly that our technologies are changing us to better adapt to their nature. According to research, both young and old Web surfers find their neurons and synapses effected by heavy Web interaction, resulting in "shrinking vocabulary [that becomes] hackneyed and formulaic with less flexible syntax."

Carr feels we are seduced by Internet "benefits of speed, efficiency and desirability." Losing the knack of deep thinking "the tumultuous advance of technology could . . . drown the refined perceptions, thoughts, and emotions that arise only through contemplation and reflection."

Having experienced the drawbacks of prolonged Web usage, Carr explains what actions he took to focus enough to write this book, and offers hope that a more aware approach to the Internet may be on the horizon.

Written seven years ago, this book is accessible to the general reader, and remains increasingly relevant today.


View all my reviews Elijah in JerusalemElijah in Jerusalem by Michael D. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Carmelite Father Elijah once again attempts to unmask a rising world leader who may well be the antichrist. Picking up where "Father Elijah: An Apocalypse" ended, the hunted priest enters Jerusalem as a fugitive, wanted for a murder he didn't commit. Accompanied by fellow Carmelite Brother Enoch, Father Elijah finds himself pitted against spiritual and temporal forces, his own doubt, and the depressing knowledge that his mission may end in failure and a gruesome death.

With intriguing glimpses into the play of good and evil in human souls, the book often digresses into the backstories of seemingly incidental characters. And while these encounters propel Father Elijah forward to his destiny, they often slow the narrative in what is a fairly short book.

Still, this sequel is a fascinating, compelling window into Catholic eschatology as well as the power of faith, obedience and prayer in the face of hostility and disbelief.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Foundation Features My Prostate Cancer Story


RelaxingWhiteNoise
Written by award-winning science writer Janet Farrar Worthington, this article addresses the incontinence problem many men face post-op from prostate cancer surgery. I'd say the story was a pisser, but why overdo matters?

Here's an excerpt of the article from the website of the Prostate Cancer Foundation:

"Incontinence after Radical Prostatectomy sucks. But for nearly all men, it goes away. For the very small percentage in whom it doesn't, there is help.

JP Mac (John P. McCann) is an Emmy-award winning animation writer who worked for Warner Bros. and Disney, and a novelist. he is also very funny. 

So, when he wrote a short ebook about his experience with prostate cancer — including his diagnosis in 2014 at age 61, the rush to find the right treatment and get it done before his health insurance was going to expire, his laparoscopic-robotic Prostatectomy and the complications afterward, and his five-month battle to recover urinary continence after the surgery — he could legitimately have written a soap opera, or maybe even a tear-jerker; but he didn't.

Instead, his ebook has a title that sounds like 1950s pulp fiction: They Took My Prostate: Cancer, Loss Hope. It's not "Prostate Cancer Lite." and it doesn't minimize what he or anyone else has gone through to get back to normal after radical prostatectomy. Far from it; in fact, his 'short, hopeful essay' is a testament to what it takes to recover from this difficult but life-saving surgery: a balanced perspective, a good sense of humor, a great support system, and plain old hard work and persistence."

Read the rest here.

No Star Like a Ghost Star


Ghost Star (Ghost Star Adventures)Ghost Star by Roger Eschbacher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Galen Bray faces trouble by the gross. Pursued by the murderous alien Mohk, he pilots his space craft down an interstellar rabbit hole only to discover a lost civilization, his past and his destiny.

This book seemed designed for younger readers, with some of the characters a tad thin. Also, the familiar archetypes peopling this thriller might've been tweaked to separate them out from the usual space opera tropes of warrior women, clever robots, and evil-for-evil's-sake villians.

Nevertheless, the story's alien characters and locations are well-handled by the author who keeps his world accessible to the reader. In addition, there's action aplenty, a likable protagonist, droll humor and enough twists to keep the narrative speeding along. A fun, enjoyable read.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Boyle Book Broaches Environmental Issues


When the Killing's DoneWhen the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who owns the animals? Is it possible to restore an island to a pre-human state? Such as are a few of the questions raised in this story of Park Services employee Alma Takesue and activist businessman David Lajoy as they battle one another over the eradication of rats and pigs from the Channel Islands off the California coast.

Boyle's work is multi-generational, layered, well-researched. This provides a depth to the narrative that often diminishes the characters' concerns and squabbles in comparison to the unrelenting power of nature dominating the world of the story.

Plenty of twists and turns enliven a rapidly moving plot. Boyle's sense of the absurd lightens the mood at key moments. This is a powerful book, underscoring life and the will to live.

View all my reviews

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