Book Reviews: Rush, Librarians, and Sports

Banged a knuckle and yelled “Son of a–” Then saw a woman glaring at me with a kid, so I finished with, “Preacher Man.” (It pays to know music.)

On This Date
After an intriguing and thought-provoking intro, the book moves to one usually-long-forgotten historical anecdote a day, much more interesting than any one-small-page calendar. Some are more or less expected, even if the particular date wasn’t known, but the fun is in the topics that would usually have no right being in a serious history tome.
Some of my faves. . . okay, a lot of my faves:
March of Dimes (Wow!); Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer; Tokyo Rose; Lou Hoover; Edmund G Ross; Oppenheimer; Massacre on the Tuscarawas; Sherman and Johnston; Columbine; Jingle Bells; the low-altitude barrel roll in a 707; the birth of the Smiley; We Shall Overcome; Marshall wins Nobel Peace Prize; Jack Robinson and Pee Wee Reese (“someone with the guts NOT to fight back.”); Carson McCullers, Karen Blixen, and Marilyn Monroe walk into a lunch; Theodore Geisel (“He was a political cartoonist all his life, meaning he managed the difficult task of being amusing to kids and adults.”); Princess Bride (even Mark Knopfler gets a mention!); and “Surf music is just the sound of the waves being played on a guitar.”
Did not expect the author of a non-fiction history book to go meta, but in one entry he writes about Philadelphians booing their cricket team as a reason the capital was moved to DC. . . then, “Well, no, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.”
4/5

Rush: Album by Album
The title tells you everything you need to know: a bunch of Rush fans got together to shoot the breeze about each of the many studio albums. . . except these guys are either incredibly familiar with the band from working with them, or are musicians—some in tribute bands—music journalists, or similar.
Intriguing forward by the author, but then I’d expect no less when it comes to my favorite band. Oddly, the book isn’t all that long, even with tons of photos, from album covers to concert fliers to pages from comic books! (As graphic novels were called back then, kiddies.)
Not a fan of Dream Theater, but Mike Portnoy seems like a fun guy to hang out with: “The way most kids my age were staring at a Playboy centerfold, I was looking at a Modern Drummer centerfold and salivating over the whole kit.”
The one downside for me was a lot of musical verbiage that went way beyond my understanding, especially about drumming. Was also surprised by how short the Moving Pictures section was, considering everyone calls it the band’s seminal album. As I’m sure every reader/fan will think, they spend too little time talking about my favorites and too much on those songs I hardly ever listen to, if at all. Still, there are nice things said about The Pass and Bravado—yes, among my faves—especially Geddy claiming the latter is his fave to play live. There’s also a great feeling when someone says something I’d already thought of, such as the addendum in Ghost of A Chance. Most of all, the agreement of The Wreckers being such a beautiful song made me smile.
The last 15 pages or so list the contributors, offer a bibliography, and end with a pretty thorough index.
3.5/5

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like
Subtitled: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
When I started this I thought it would be quick and easy; boy, was I wrong. The format is a photo of a librarian followed by a short quote, with some longer articles to break up what eventually becomes monotony, though once in a while a cute line appears, like “ultimate search ninjas.” For those who have a stereotypical view of what librarians do—or look like—this will change that completely. Very few of the women shown here, for example, wear glasses, and even though I’ve only seen one with a pierced nose in person, there’s plenty of oddly-painted hair and such in here.
But it’s the longer stories that are the highlights. The doll-lending program has to be the cutest thing ever. Amy Dickinson and Cory Doctorow chime in with great articles, but if I had to pick a best, it would be the Montana Bookmobile.
There’s also a fascinating intro, in which the author says: “What made the library of Alexandria great wasn’t just the collection of books, but rather its intellectual raison d’être: the insatiable pursuit, creation, and dissemination of knowledge as a force to drive civilization.” Nothing more to say after that. . .
4/5

Battle of Arnhem
In what might be too short to even be called a novella, a veteran of the battle recounts his experience, filled with death, destruction, stupidity, and black humor. There’s tons of tiny details, some of them incredibly interesting.
“It was explained that, when we arrived, we would most likely be disappointed as all the fun would be over.” Wonder how often soldiers have heard that.
For such a short story, there’s a ton of detail. There’s also more to it than just the battle, as after his capture the author was taken to Dresden, along with 500 other prisoners, and was there for the famous firebombing.
But more than anything it gives you the grit and emotion of being that close to an enemy who’s trying to kill you just as bad as you’re trying to kill them. This is exceedingly rare in modern warfare; even as a former Marine I find it hard to imagine what these soldiers went through.
But some things never change, like the incompetence of staff officers, whom he disses over and over.
3.5/5

Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
Though it clocks in at 128 pages, it felt a lot longer. Formatted in tiny chapters, each section of prose is accompanied by a cartoonish painting with hard-to-read words in tiny script floating around the outsides. It mostly just states facts in a boring manner; every chapter starts with “she was born on” and then “she started to play.” They are good intros to each person, but the lack of style is such that I doubt it would inspire anyone to find out more. I realize this is for kids, but it underestimates the intelligence of its young readers.
The only chapter that I found remotely interesting—not that the women weren’t interesting, it’s the presentation that lacks—was about the final game of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, where over 90,000 spectators packed the Rose Bowl to watch the United States beat China in penalties. Why did I find this interesting? Because I was there.
3/5

;o)

Top 16 Books of 2016

Yes, I usually do 15, but couldn’t cut it down.
Only a slight blurb here, but I’ve reviewed them all, so throw the title in the search box to the right and have fun.

Red Flags
Fourth in a series, first for me, featuring a female race car driver solving her cousin’s murder at the Long Beach Grand Prix. The description of running a car at over 200mph at Fontana race track is exhilarating.

Unicorn vr. Goblins
Came out just as I discovered this comic strip, which is the only one I read every morning. A self-described “weird” little girl named Phoebe makes friends with a unicorn titled Marigold Heavenly Nostrils; hilarity ensues. Goblins show up too.

Man, I Hate Cursive
Mostly simple self-contained jokes, like “the Far Side.” Sometimes corny but always fun.

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn
Continuing adventures of Phoebe and her Unicorn, as described above. Always hoping for another appearance of Todd the Candy Dragon.

Motions and Moments
Third in a series full of essays featuring an American living in Tokyo. This guy notices more stuff than Sherlock Holmes.

Dark Crimes
The best of a giant spate of detective series coming out of England. Sophie is easily my favorite police detective ever.

When Crocs Fly
Pearls Before Swine is one of the comic strips I lost touch with when my morning routine got truncated, so it was fun to revisit this in book form. Do not read if you are at all allergic to puns.

The Only Pirate At The Party
Anyone who reads this space knows I’m a huge Lindsey Stirling fan—just look at the photo at the top—but I can guarantee that had I never heard of her this book, her autobiography, would still be on this list as an amazing accomplishment. Read it for laughs, for commiseration—especially if you’ve ever suffered through an eating disorder—for the feeling of good triumphing over evil, or any other way. It’s just fun.

Wynonna Earp
You don’t need to see the cable series—I certainly didn’t—to enjoy what might very well be the best graphic novel of the year, in which a descendant of the famous lawman fights evil both human and not, and looks great doing it.

Spaceman
Dr. Mike Massimino is more famous for making fun of Howard on The Big Bang Theory than for actually going into space, but hopefully that will change as there’s more awareness of this incredibly accessible autobiography. Since a lot of people treat astronauts like superheroes—and who’s to say they aren’t?—this book goes a long way into proving they’re just like you and me too.

Baba Yaga
The Russian legend used to scare children into behaving gets a beautiful treatment, with a witty heroine drawn so cute you’ll want to adopt her.

Photographs From the Edge
Art Wolfe is the consummate nature photographer, and in this book spanning his decades in the business he proves it once again. The first photo, of the arctic fox, is stunning, and a fitting opening for what you can expect after that.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
The other contender for graphic novel of the year, this story from the “reimagined” version showcases Uhura as well as some new cadets, most of whom are enjoyable to get to know, even the taciturn Vulcan who unfreezes after a while; it helps that she’s got gorgeous green eyes. . .

You Had ONE Job!
A collection of photos that shows Americans not taking their jobs seriously enough to avoid even the simplest of bloopers. Nothing you can’t find on the internet, but packaged here in one place without having to do those stupid slideshows used to show off more commercials.

City of Blood
Police force in Paris look into a time-capsule-type murder, which escalates into a hunt for a serial killer. Unlike most books and especially TV shows, it doesn’t take an hour or even a few days to solve; forensics, autopsy, and interviewing all need time, and it’s given here. Also helps that the lead is completely professional—despite a family illness—rather than dour or suffering an existential crisis.

Fowl Language
A collection from a comic strip about an anthropomorphized family of ducks, with the father having trouble raising the kiddies, or ducklings. The LOL per page ratio is pretty high, as a lot of these get more than just a smile or a chuckle.

;o)

15 Fave Books of 2015

It’s possible for a movie critic to see every movie released, though I couldn’t imagine doing it. It’s be a lot harder for a TV critic to see everything that came out this year, though probably not impossible. But there’s no way for someone to read every book or listen to every song released.
My point is this list isn’t the best books of the year; this is simply my favorite books of the 220 or so I got to peruse this year. And to make things so much easier for me, I won’t do them in any kind of order. . . um, they might be chronological, but not from best to worse or vice versa.

Included are links to my reviews as well as the author’s website.

AlphaStephen Brayton
Female private eye in Iowa martial arts her way through
the bad guys.

Random ElementsKate Donovan
Actress/wannabe FBI agent deals with stalkers, costars, and Machiavellian series creator.

Sweet GirlRachel Hollis
She’s sweet because of the food she makes, not her disposition, but one guy tries to change that.

Cold MoonAlexandra Sokoloff
FBI agent and vigilante serial killer square off for the third time.

InsiderOlivia Cunning
Young journalist goes backstage with metal band; love somehow ensues.

Investigating SherlockNikki Stafford
Everything you wanted to know about the show, just in time for the one-off.

Citizen of the Galaxy–Robert Heinlein
One of the famous author’s sci-fi classics done as an excellent graphic novel.

I am Sophie Tucker–“Sophie Tucker
You may not have heard of this over-the-top actress from the past, but after this you’ll never forget her.

Worrier’s Guide to LifeGemma Correll
All your worries laid out in graphic form so you can laugh at them, and yourself.

History of War in 100 Battles–Richard Overy
Excellent synopses of exactly what the title says.

Secret Kindness AgentsFerial Pearson
Teens learn to be nice rather than cynical; this one will warm your heart.
(bonus—her TED talk)

The Customer Service RevolutionJohn R. DiJulius
Why it pays to be nice to your customers.

Wrapped in PlasticAndy Burns
Just in time for the Twin Peaks reboot.

Jem and the HologramsKelly Thompson
Everything a graphic novel should be: fun!

The Silver ShipsScott Jucha
This first contact story is the best sci-fi of the year!

 

Almost there. . . if this was a top 20. . .

Beauty and Chaos/Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens–Michael Pronko
Pointed articles on all the little things that make Tokyo so fascinating.

Summer of FireKitty Pilgrim
A tour of Europe while trying to hunt down a killer (or just stay alive).

Field Marshall–Daniel Allen Butler
Definitive biography of the one and only Desert Fox.

The Future of SexLexi Maxxwell
If this is indeed the future of sex, it’s in good. . . hands.

;o)

Book Reviews: Modern Women, Actors, and Movies

“Good job.”
“Bad job.”
“Oddjob.”
“Goldfinger!”
The fact she understood a James Bond reference means she’s a keeper.

The Teller
In this present tense story—I can still hear Harlan Ellison in my mind grousing, “I LOATHE present tense stories!”—a naïve redheaded bank teller in Brooklyn steals the check of a man who was just run over on the street, over a million bucks. For around half the story it’s about her guilt, but then things turn much more sinister as she’s threatened by gangsters and then kidnapped into white slavery.
The best thing here is the characters, especially the teller and the white knight detective she improbably pairs with to settle things. It isn’t till near the end that we learn who the true antagonist is, and then there’s a psychological tug-of-war to see who comes out on top, with the lead changing hands often. Perhaps a little too much plot there, but overall a satisfying conclusion.
4/5

Woman Without Fear
A neurotic self-conscious woman is drinking in a bar the night before her big software presentation when a very confident chemist wants to try his experimental happy pills on her. Also a present tense story, though not first person, because you need to get the snail’s point of view. . . yep, you read that right; I learned a lot more about snails than I ever expected to, or wanted.
At around the halfway mark I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen: would she become addicted, or were they placebos? The fact that I was invested enough to speculate tells me how much I was enjoying this.
Despite her crippling anxiety and her love for snails the protagonist comes off as very likable, especially when she strikes up a friendship with the hotel maid, though I think the only reason this is part of the story is so the maid can take a pill and show it works for her too. But the writing style and setting—you never really leave the hotel—were a little below what I desire, though I would have still happily given this a 4. . .
Except for the ending: it’s incredibly ambiguous, and in conjunction with the relative shortness of pages makes me think the story was cut in half, thus setting up a sequel. There were many possibilities as to what really happened, which is fine for a next-to-last chapter, but readers expect the story to be neatly tied up at the end. I felt cheated, and will probably not be reading the sequel; this drops my grade to
3/5.

Character Kings 2: Hollywood’s Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting
This is basically a series of interviews with a few of what are called “character” actors, those whose name you don’t know but as soon as you see their photo you think, “Hey, it’s that guy from that thing!” (BTW, I saw a documentary on Netflix with that title on the same subject, but there was no overlap in the actors chosen; perhaps they were in Character Kings 1, which I have not read.)
Though there’s plenty of great acting and Hollywood notes, I did get tired of the author asking the same questions over and over. It mostly consisted of “How did you get started in acting?” and “How did you get that movie?” which showed a lot of times it’s more about who you know than how good you are. I was surprised by how many different answers there were to “How do you audition?” with some being contradictory to the previous, but then I suppose you have to go with what works for you. There are tons of photos—how much does each photo weigh?—as well as a selected filmography, though it mostly consists of the films discussed, leaving off some I would have liked to have seen included.
3.5/5

We Don’t Need Roads
While I’m not a fan of Back to the Future the way I am, say, of Star Wars or Twin Peaks—since I’ve reviewed similar books here—I liked it well enough to give this a try. On the other hand, because I haven’t seen them over and over, there’s too many things I don’t remember, but that’s not the book’s fault. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge amongst the fandom, for example, that another actor shot about half of the movie before it was decided he wasn’t working out and was replaced by Mr. Fox. Probably even less known is the accident while filming a hoverboard sequence, which nearly cost a stuntwoman her life, but then it’s said that the studio tried to cover it up.
There’s plenty of photos here, but the best part is the interviews, especially Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, who according to this doesn’t do much publicity. Of particular note is the times Spielberg would go to the studio hierarchy to fight for something he believed in, not knowing the movie had an almost-blank check. Definitely a lot of fun even if you’re not a fan of the series.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Grow Up and Travel, Mysteries and Cookies

I’m gonna live forever. . . dammit, jinxed it.

How to Act Like a Grown-Up
The title says it all: short chapters dealing with the behavior that should be exhibited in situations as diverse as stores, cell phones, driving, Facebook, interviews, sex, voting, watching movies. Not only are the chapters short, the entire book is too, with certain passages repeated in large print, so it’s over pretty quickly. And why is the accompanying graphic a woman’s shoe?
I have no complaints about the text or the ideas. This is a well-written and meaningful book for our times, though it is sad to realize how much it is needed. Yet it’s for that very same reason that I doubt it will do much good. The author writes, “It’s no insult to find out you’ve been wrong. It stinks, but try to be happier that you learned the truth instead of bummed out that you were wrong.” This is the most important passage, because it personifies the hopelessly optimistic tone of this book. Everything is well said, and most people would benefit from reading it. . . but the problem is most people won’t read it because they don’t think they need it, and those who do read it will never admit any of this applies to them. The entire time I was reading I felt like this was all great, but no one is going to follow this advice. And that made me sad. . .
3.5 pushed up to 4/5

Silence
Whereas a few years ago Sweden became a hub for mysteries translated to English, now it’s Germany’s turn; this is the fifth or sixth I’ve read in the past year. The premise is simple: man finds photo, has daddy issues, piques a journalist’s curiosity. But of course things are never that simple, especially because there’s another narrative going on, taking place during World War 2.
For a while the journalist is the protagonist, but when she’s killed this turns from a history mystery to a murder mystery. The new lead is a small town cop derisively described as a “small-town sheriff” who talks to cats. Oh boy. . .
This could have easily been two separate stories, but thankfully they tied together very well. The last twist did indeed surprise me; nothing told me it was coming. And the killing of the journalist turned out to be. . . probably not a spoiler, but why take the chance?
Altogether a well-written book; setting and plot in particular stand out. The one place that could have been improved was the dialogue in helping to set each character apart, especially in the historical storyline; there’s a character guide in the beginning, but I was hoping not to have to refer to it as often as I did.
4/5

Sweet Girl
Admitting I read this rom-com is seriously gonna cut into my macho cred. . . oh, waitaminute, I don’t have any! Never mind, as you were.
Like a confection, I enjoyed this book in two large bites. The best way to describe Max, the main character, is to say that if I had met her in real life I would have turned around and run away as fast as possible. And kept on running. Reading about her is much safer, though I still cringed a few times at how she lets her anger, ego, and stubbornness rule her decision-making, mostly to hide her insecurities and her past.
She starts off as a bartender—when all the alcoholic description popped up I let out a little groan—but conversely this made it easier to accept all the food stuff—no pun—when she gets a job managing a famous pastry chef’s operation. Okay, I’d probably try the pretzel and potato chip brownie, but that’s it. Everyone has her jumping through hoops, but for once she wants something bad enough to keep her mouth shut and work to achieve it.
The other plot is the romance, with a guy whom she at first can’t stand—of course, wouldn’t be a rom-com without that. Other than the reveal of who the “competition” was at the end—saw it coming from the moment she arrived—it was a fun ride, and I figure it’s extra good because I didn’t care for all the food stuff—again, sorry—yet still loved it. I’m going to give Rachel Hollis a big compliment, or rather two, by comparing her to a couple of my favorite authors, Caprice Crane—though not to her level of snark—and Meg Benjamin.
5/5

Fifteen Minutes to Live
The title is misleading, but in a good way, writing-wise; in the reality of the story it’s just as sad.
If you’ve seen the movie “Memento” you know what’s at play here; interestingly, this book came out before the movie, but I’m not sure about story on which the movie was based. In this one it’s a woman who’s suffering from the inability to make new memories, plus she can’t remember anything after high school, which is why she runs off to the guy who was her boyfriend at the time.
There are several subplots that play into her illness, the most important one having to do with a predator teacher. There were parts that left me confused, as confused as the characters; most of it was okay, but it really left me gasping for comprehension at the end until it was explained, but my point is I shouldn’t have needed the explanation. This drops the score from 4 to 3.
The characterization of her illness is well done, at least I would imagine it is without researching the subject. There were many disparate characters, most of which were well-written. And it was kinda fun for me to read a story that basically took place in my backyard, not just Southern California but the Pasadena/Glendale area.
Though I was annoyed to find this is actually from 1998; President Clinton and Daryl Strawberry are mentioned.
3/5

The Amazing Journey
Like a lot of kids, Austin goes on a long vacation before starting college; unlike them, he goes with his father. A trip through Hawaii, Korea, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, London, and Paris makes up this book.
As always, it’s the small touches that sell a travel memoir. I had a good laugh at the obsequiousness of the Chinese tour guide, and mentioning, “This is Mr. Wong. He will be our driver. He is one of the very best.” Yeah, they do that a lot in China, and though I didn’t enjoy my trips there, this was a great moment. Particularly liked his description of the base camp of Everest, seeing the giant mountain without its usual clouds; been there, both literally and physically. What made that section difficult to read was the knowledge that the poverty of the area just got worse, considering the giant earthquake last week.
Always reminded of the diversity of views when I found myself thinking the opposite to his remarks about London and Paris, especially about wandering in each city and its museums. It would have helped if someone told him there was a back door to the Louvre, but he found another way.
What was intriguing was his mention of a few incidents like his eye-stare with a Chinese soldier and his defense of a poor horse, which gave off more of a “look at me, I’m such a good person!” vibe. His son also exhibited a dangerous amount of ego in not telling about his illness, but I suppose in a way that simply makes them more human in the reader’s eyes.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Los Angeles, Russia, and small town mysteries

Did everyone in the magnificent City of Beautiful Angels enjoy those last few days of cloudiness and one rain shower? I sure did, as I am already dreading this coming week of 90 degrees.

Exposure
When’s the last time you saw a paparazzo as a hero? Yeah, me neither, though I hesitate to use that word for him; let’s go with protagonist instead. This is a far-reaching—timewise, anyway—story about a photojournalist who burned out on shooting the ugly things in life—I can totally relate, the same thing happened to me—and reinvents himself as a celeb stalker. . . and don’t ask me if I can relate to that, because I can’t, not even close. A not-at-all-concealed expy of Princess Diana’s death leads to blackmail, which takes him into the orbit of a Hollywood star. . . at which point things change dramatically, leading into whole different genre, the chase/escape spy thriller.
At first you’re not even sure if he’s a paparazzo or an assassin, which I think is a statement by the author, considering how he wrote that part so ambiguously. And it wasn’t till Channing Tatum and Robin Williams’ death were mentioned that I knew it was present-day and not completely written as the past. I did like the settings, though, from Paris to Brazil to Germany but mostly Los Angeles; it always makes me smile when a place I know well is mentioned, such as Pepperdine University in Malibu.
It’s an intriguing choice to have the lead character be such an anti-hero from the very start, since it was difficult to muster any empathy for him. Thankfully his actions, even while doing the most despicable of photography jobs, do redeem him enough to sustain the rest of the book. And isn’t it the point of a story to see personal growth in the characters, especially the protagonist? Well done.
And I will always be grateful to anyone that can educate me on something I knew nothing about but immediately grabs my interest, in this case German dueling clubs.
So if you have intense distaste for photographic leeches like I do—I frequently say that comparing a paparazzo to a real photographer is like comparing a porn star to an Oscar-winning actress—I advise you to stick with it, you’ll be rewarded by the end. If you like the ‘razzis or don’t care either way, then just relax and enjoy it.
4/5

Mortom
Guy dies and leaves his house to a cousin he didn’t like, along with a puzzle that he knows the cousin won’t be able to resist. Small-town secrets and an inevitable psycho complicate things.
I’ll be blunt: it’s just incredibly hard to enjoy a book with no, or incredibly few, likeable characters. Probably the nicest was the gas station attendant, and how often has anyone said that? Except for him and Debbie—no, not even her—everyone in this story is an asshole; Debbie, while in general being nice, does the most despicable thing of all. Even the librarian’s a bit of a jerk. The best moment for me was when the lead’s sister comes right out and calls him an asshole, and all he does is laugh it off, saying she’s right. By that point I didn’t need to be told.
From the start there was nothing outright suspenseful going on—except a dad rat—yet it was still giving me the wiggins. The plot itself is Machiavellian, if somewhat convoluted, though I’d have to say pretty much everyone got what they deserved. The thing that most annoyed me is that despite being injured and having terrible things happen to his sister, the protagonist—like above, no way am I calling him the hero, even more so here—didn’t change at all, continued being a world-class asshole. I don’t require redemption, but I can’t help but wonder what the point of the book was when the characters don’t grow.
2/5

Rise of the Enemy
Who said spy stuff in Russia was over?
I knew going in that there was another book in the series before it, but lately I’ve read a few where that didn’t matter, so I didn’t worry about it much. There was enough told here to make me understand what had happened previously by chapter six, and even piqued my interest enough to want to go back to that one later.
There are two timelines interwoven: flashbacks to the recent past, where the spy is captured and tortured by the Russians, and the present, where he’s escaped and trying to find out just what the hell is going on. Soon enough they merge.
The spy’s background is reminiscent of David Morrell’s Brotherhood of the Rose, though without the twins thing. The plot reaches the point where he doesn’t know if he can trust even his father figure, and certainly not the people around him, so that us-against-the-world mentality takes over. A lot of the story, and some of the action, takes place on trains; having been on Russian trains, which aren’t as bad as third-world trains but not quite Amtrak—not counting the spiffy tourists ones between St. Pete and Moscow—it wasn’t that hard to imagine the particular setting, though I’m not sure how most readers would fare on that. More to that point, setting it in a city no one’s ever heard of—as I’ve said, I’ve traveled through Russia and have a degree in geography—could have worked but I don’t think did here, as most of the description was generic.
Still, overall this is a well-written one-man-against-the-world thriller. However. . .
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is obviously a sequel, and just as obviously I have not read the first one, so I don’t know how that ended. I can tell you that this ends in a cliffhanger, an obvious setup for you to buy the next one if you want to find out the real ending. Since it cuts off before paying off the story just read, in my opinion it’s a particularly egregious and strictly monetary move that irritates me no end and forces me to drop this from a 4 to a 3.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: War, Worrying, Seattle, and Star Trek

Last time it was a sprained ankle that kept me at home reading all day (websurfing not included). This time it’s a possible torn knee ligament that’s got me zooming through my booklist. I don’t think this is what people mean when they say “I wish I had more time to read.”

Yesterday is Dead
Former reporter now detective leaves San Francisco for his old hometown of Seattle to help an old buddy who thinks he’s in danger. Then his ex-wife shows up, and he meets a Bohemian painter who wants him to do more than pose nude. . . why must life be so complicated? he sighs.
As it turns out, this is another old novel now being re-released, I assume for the first time in electronic form. As someone who’s spent a lot of time in Seattle, there were some niggling moments of wondering, but when you have the hero be a veteran of the Korean War it’s pretty obvious. Another note later about Hong Kong about to be handed over to the Chinese confirms this took place in the late 90s. On the other hand, for once, this doesn’t really get in the way of the story, which is a pretty good if not great hard-boiled detective novel of the kind I used to devour years ago. 4/5

Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2
As often happens with these comic books/graphic novels/painty stories, this is a collection of previous releases. . . except this isn’t as much of a painty thing as the others. I remember the old photobooks, some of them Star Trek, taken right from the episodes, but in this circumstance the “art” is actual photographic faces or bodies of the characters badly added to background drawings. I didn’t find this visual Frankenstein appealing, especially since the body positions at times look somewhat unnatural.
On to the stories. The first one, involving quite a number of guest characters from the original series, is frankly horrible. In addition to reading like a bad fan fic with pictures, it begins with the character speaking aloud to himself, even when around other people, instead of the more traditional thought bubbles. Considering in later stories this is not present, it makes the mistake all the more glaring, but really, there was nothing that could have saved this story. 1/5
The second story is a callback to Captain Pike’s Enterprise, and brings back Number 1. It also makes great use of Scotty, and though in the end the story was rather bland, it was magnitudes better than the first. 3/5
Thirdly is a short piece about Spock’s former fiancée, dedicated to her actress, who recently passed. Too short to really opinionate.
Lastly is a sequel to the Doomsday Machine, picking up right where that left off. Like the second it’s not really much of a story, barely more than an idea, with too much of a coincidence at the end of three million years to make it anywhere near believable. 2/5.
In the end this was quite disappointing, even if got better after the disastrous start. Not-so-simple math tells me it all comes out to a 2/5.

The Worrier’s Guide to Life
Hilarity starts right away with fetuses worrying about their looks and body types, including pierogi, broken slinky, and badly drawn dolphin. Then there’s the ye olde video games like Harpsichord Hero and William Burke, Tomb Raider. And I’d give anything to meet the Un-Tattooed lady, pierced ears or not.
A lot more hits than misses, even for a guy who had no idea why some female things were funny. So I’d imagine it would be even funnier to women, especially those who would identify with the author, if not admit it. Though it isn’t too obvious, I surmised she was British from a few of the drawings. I also surmised that this might be a weekly, or even daily, comic-strip-like deal, and a little research proved it was, so you can continue to enjoy it after devouring this quick read, as I will. 5/5

History of War in 100 Battles
Despite how relatively short each chapter is, it takes a while to read through. And this isn’t like most books of its kind where half of it is taken up by notes and bibliography.
With my preferences it was obvious “Deception” was going to be my favorite par—Trojan Horse, anyone?—and it was. Overall there were two types of occurrences that made me enjoy this: finding out about battles I was unaware of, and reading a new version, sometimes with a completely different take, of those I did know. The author must be commended for including not just the ancient world, such as Greece and Egypt, but something as out of the box as the fall of Tenochtitlan to the Spanish in the 1500s. A must read for fans of history who know that war isn’t always won by superior numbers. 5/5

Code Name: Infamy
From the beginning it’s obvious that this is not the first of the series, as the main characters are deposited in this story as though the audience is already familiar with them. In general this didn’t have much of an effect, though at the start it made for a little rough going. . . yet I’m sure fans of the series would be annoyed if there was a bunch of exposition they’d already heard, so it cuts both ways.
This is a story of a crazy Nazi general who can’t accept the failure of WWII and goes to the Japanese to help him get his revenge on the US before Japan goes under as well. The heroes are OSS agents whom, as mentioned above, seem to have been through adventures before, considering their rapport. It’s obvious that the author is a aeronautics buff even before reading his bio-blurb at the end, as we have plenty of fliers here, including early aircraft-carrier-based planes. There’s a new submarine as well, not to mention nukes.
The best parts involved the personal moments of the heroes, from the carrier pilot having doubts about his ability, or will to continue fighting, to one of the OSS officers meeting a prostitute in Chile and instantly falling in love, to their little hot tub party on Iwo Jima. They made up for the awkward feeling at the beginning of how I’m supposed to already know these people.
3.5 rounded up to 4/5

;o)