Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012
It seems important to mention one's "creds" in writing reviews of Stephen King's "Guns" so I will start with mine: I served in the US Army, and was honorably discharged as a SGT/E-5. I qualified Expert with an M16 (the civilian equivalent is an AR15), and I'm still proud of that.
I also have a copy of "Rage", in the compilation of "The Bachman Books" that I purchased the year it was published, 1985. I remember reading "The Bachan Books" the same week I purchased it. I loved "The Running Man" and liked "Roadwork", and while the plot of "Rage" was intriguing, the writing was so sophomoric, it was painful. I found out later King wrote "Rage" while he was in high school, so there was an explanation. I read "Rage" once again, in 1996, when I heard Michael Carneal shot classmates in West Paducah, Kentucky. It sounded so much like the story I'd read 11 years earlier, I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining the similarity. I wasn't.
King's essay "Guns" starts with a scathing social commentary, "That's How it Shakes Out." It doesn't matter if the first station you've got programmed into your remote is FoxNEWS and Ann Coulter is your dream date, or if you are so far left you contribute frequently to KPFK: the media cycle for mass shootings is the same.
King argues forcefully - and sometimes vulgarly - for gun control. King is a gun owner himself, and does not want to disarm the country - but he does want assault weapons banned, and large magazines banned; and he wants background checks.
What King argues isn't new or innovative, but the writing is vintage King. There are phrases I remember from "The Shawshank Redemption" (the movie adaptation, not the original novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption") and the unabridged edition of "The Stand." There's also a theme in the first and last section of "Guns" that runs through "The Library Policeman" and "The Ten O'Clock People." The theme was chilling in the stories, and the probability it's a reality is startling.
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"Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath" (2009) invites comparison to Laura Hillenbrand's much more well known "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" (2010). "Unbroken" is the story of former Olympian Louis Zamperini, who was taken prisoner of war by the Japanese following 47 days lost at sea, and held as a prisoner of war for three years. "Tears" is largely the story of Ben Steele, taken prisoner of war after the Philippines were surrendered in early 1942, and held until the end of the war.
"Tears" focuses on cowboy-turned-soldier Steele, who volunteered for the Army Air Corps rather than be drafted. Steele was sent to the Philippines, under the overall command of General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur had a distinguished career, but he was at his inept, indecisive and arrogant nadir in 1941-42. The soldiers under his command still feel, even on the 21st Century, the humiliation of surrender.
Steele and his fellow soldiers - American and Filipino - were taken prisoner and force marched, mostly without food or water, 80 miles across the Bataan peninsula to a prisoner of war camp. Stragglers were bayonetted and left to rot in the jungle heat. No one is sure how many died during the march, but some estimates are more than 10,000. When they reached Camp O'Donnell, the prisoners worked as slave laborers while they were starved and beaten, and buried in unmarked mass graves when they dropped.
"Tears" also explains how the training and the structure of the Japanese military created the sadistic, sociopathic men who tormented Steele, Zamperini, and more than 100,000 other prisoners of war. There was a culture of contempt, brutality, and a complete lack of empathy that is condemned by professional military. I know - I am a US Army veteran.
If you have to choose between Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman's "Tears" and "Unbroken" choose both. If you can't, "Tears" has an overall perspective on military strategy and tactics; but Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" is exquisitely well written.
As I write this review, Steele is 93 and Zamperini is 96. Steele is a widely respected artist and speaker, and Zamperini is a frequent speaker whose life story, "Unbroken", is being directed by Angelina Jolie. Enjoy these extraordinary men while they are with us.
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I am a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead" (2013). I thought Lily Koppel's "The Astronaut Wives Club" (2013) would be the antithesis of "Lean In", but I was intrigued by a great review on NPR's Morning Edition. One of my earliest memories is of the January 27, 1967 fire that killed three astronauts on the launch pad, and I suddenly wondered how those wives had handled that.
Curious, and bolstered by Audible's no questions asked return policy in case I didn't like the AWC (as the members of "The Astronaut Wives Club" refer to the group) I decided to listen.
The AWC is a fascinating study of a place (Texas) and time (late 1950's and the 1960's) where NASA created what appeared to be the perfect community to nurture astronauts into space and eventually to the moon. The wives, followed by Life magazine and hoards of hungry press, presented a convincing facade of suburban living , cooking streak-and-eggs breakfasts, wearing exquisite dresses, with carefully coifed hair. The wives were expected to be rocks of support, not letting their own families or the rest of the world know how frightening what their husbands were doing was.
The facade was just that - a mask, and the members of the AWC joined together to support each other and mortar the cracks that inevitably formed. While their husbands competed on making history in space (and sometimes on the ground with the number of 'Cape Cookies' they could bag), the AWC supported each other with ham loaf, tuna casseroles, jello molds, and chats over plenty of coffee and cigarettes.
Most of the AWC didn't work outside the home, but most middle and upper class women didn't at the time. Being an astronaut's wife was like being an unwilling star of an unrelenting reality show.
I had initially held the members of the AWC in disdain because they seemed to derive their identities from their husbands, but like other women of that era, they did not have the options we do half a century later.
The AWC was and is a space pioneer "Lean In" group.
The narration was a bit off - not everyone could have had a Texas accent - but the pace was good.
Audible, you're safe. I won't be returning this one.
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Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy's "Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus" (2012) was an unexpected convergence of my reading loves. "Rabid" combines biological science, history, mystery and science.
I expected a thorough discussion of Louis Pasteur, who discovered the virus that causes rabies (after first having to realize it was not a bacteria) and developed a treatment and a vaccine. That's there, in full detail, including the careful scientific protocol Pasteur used; the missteps; the scientific jealousies; and the vaccine skeptics that thrive even today. There's a discussion of the Milwaukee protocol of induced coma to treat rabies now, for people who don't realize they have been infected until it's too late to undergo the modified Pasteur treatment used today. That's the second half of the book.
The first half is devoted to the history of rabies. I didn't expect such a thorough survey and literary analysis of rabies in fiction. There are the obvious: Stephen King's "Cujo" (1981) and Fred Gipson's "Old Yeller" (1956), and the 1957 Walt Disney movie. The subtle literary origins are even more intriguing. Wasik and Murphy argue that Charlotte Bronte's "The Professor" (1857), Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" (1954) and Seth Grahame-Smith's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (2009) all owe their origins to rabies outbreaks. I am not sure that I agree, but it is an intriguing position: do some of the vampire legends of the last two millennia arise from rabies? The discussion of rabies in Zora Neale Hurston's "There Eyes Were Watching God" (1937) was so poignant I would have stopped reading "Rabid" and pulled out my text copy of Hurston's book if I hadn't been driving.
Johnny Heller's narration was good, although almost a little too chipper for the topic.
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I read Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1962) years ago and never forgot it. I've reread it several times, and always find something new in the story of a traveling carnival lead by Mr. Dark, whose followers are marked by tattoos.
I felt the same way when I listened to Stephen King's "Joyland" (2013), even though the plots of the books are quite different. The atmosphere is the same, and so is the sense of evil. The carnival rides play a key part in both.
"Joyland" is a regional 'Six Flags' type of amusement park, not an international destination like Disneyland. I loved the new 'carny' language I learned. Guess that makes me a 'greenie', but at least I'm not a 'rube' if I know the lingo. That makes this the perfect book for a patient parent to listen to/read if she's been drafted as chaperone on one of those long, hot summer days of not-quite-cutting edge rides, junk food, and sunburned children excited enough to throw up on her shoes.
"Joyland" is a true mystery. Solving the mystery does not rely on the supernatural elements in "Joyland", so mystery fans won't be disappointed by vague clues from beyond being the key to figuring out 'who dunnit'. Finding the killer was no easy task for Devin Jones, the protagonist (aptly narrated by Michael Kelly) and it isn't easy for the listener/reader either.
"Joyland" is also a sweet coming of age story of love lost and love found, set against the backdrop of the most powerful love of all.
This book has some mild, not explicit sex. There is some violence, but it doesn't come near the violence in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. It's good for 'young adult' readers. For Stephen King fans, there are plenty of references to his other works - and it's fun to find them. However, the book stands on its own - you don't need to get the inside joke from King's "The Dead Zone" (1979) to love the story.
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I had a very , very long drive over a too short weekend, and I wanted to find a book that would keep me interested and awake. I'd found "The Bone Thief" by 'Jefferson Bass', and it was even more than I hoped for.
'Jefferson Bass' is the writing partnership of Jon Jefferson, a science writer and Dr. William Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the University of Tennessee'a 'Body Farm'. The Body Farm studies donated bodies to learn about decomposition to help solve crime. I've been reading non-fiction books mentioning Bill Bas and his work for years (like Mary Roach's Corpse), and fiction too (Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan series).
I expected some serious forensic anthropology in "The Bone Thief", and it was there. What was unexpected and fascinating was the through discussion of transplants and body donations. A great deal of the discussion was true, as the afterward explained
The story started out strong, but the mystery and solution was pretty formulaic, so that was disappointing.
The narration was good, and Dan Foren did a good job distinguishing the characters. I liked the southern accent he used for the main character, Dr. Bill Brockton.
This forensic mystery was good company for the long drive.
I ran across Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan's "A Face in the Crowd" (2012) while I was looking for King's more recent release "Joyland" (2013).
King and O'Nan are true baseball fans (they collaborated on 2004's "Faithful", the story of the Red Sox 2004 season) and catch the nuances of baseball fandom perfectly. Not baseball itself, but the diehard park going fan who wears the annoying foam finger and drinks watery beer at the park - and the diehard tv watching fan that times dinner preparation to the start of a game, and drinks a six pack in front of the television.
What if one if those at-home viewers was a not-so-nice old retired man living in Florida, who watches a game on tv and sees a loathed person far from his past sitting behind home plate, looking like he hasn't aged in the 60+ years since the old man last saw him? What if the next game, the old man sees a hated business rival buried years ago - and the rival is wearing the same suit he was buried in?
I suppose there is an argument to made that "A Face in the Crowd" is a morality tale, but I'd hate to reduce it to the level of a lesson: "A Face in the Crowd" is, to me, the story of a well-deserved haunting.
The plot was a little too predictable, which is why my rating is a 3. The narration was serviceable and not too memorable.
At the time I wrote this review, the story was only available as an e-book or on Audible. I am glad I found it and listened.
Now that I have your attention with the catchy title, a naked singularity is a black hole like state of extremely dense matter that can be observed from outside the hole. A black hole, on the other hand, is an extremely dense state of matter that cannot be observed because the black hole absorbs light. At least, that's what I think Hawking was saying.
When he wrote "A Brief History of Time" in 1988, Hawking didn't think naked singularities existed, but he discussed the theory anyway. He had a bet with an astrophysicist about it, and when Hawking conceded the bet almost 10 years later, I'm sure he came through with the promise he made in the book and got the guy a year subscription to Penthouse.
I'm on my second listen of the book already. I'm not sure if I understood even a quarter of what Hawking was saying the first time I listened, but I understood some concepts. The writing/narration was so lively and entertaining, I want to learn more.
I liked the way Hawking discussed the various theories of the Universe starting with Ancient Greece, and all the way to when the book was written. Hawking lays the foundation for physics, and especially emphasizes the importance of Newton's contribution of the concept of gravity. I also like the way he distinguishes theorems from proofs, and points out where theories aren't working.
It only mentioned a few equations, which was good - the last time I did any calculus was 25 years ago.
I was intimidated by this book because most of the science I read is biology , but I'm glad I took the plunge and listened.
I tried to read “Things Fall Apart” years ago, but I was stymied by the Ibo names and words. Chinua Achebe wrote in English, but there was so much in Ibo, it slowed me down. I wondered so much if I was thinking of the right pronunciations, I stopped reading it.
Achebe died earlier this year, and I wanted to know the book. For me, “Things Fall Apart” was much better as an audio book. I do not know if Peter James Francis knows Ibo, the language of the Igbo people, but he pronounced the names, words, and phrases without hesitation. I stopped worrying about how to say the names, and enjoyed the story.
With a title like “Things Fall Apart,” though, you know things are not going to end well in this book - and they do not. “Things Fall Apart” was set in Africa, and Okonkwa, the protagonist, is not ‘Westernized’. Okonkwa has three wives and clings to traditions, trying to redeem what he believes is a wastrel of a father. The epic tragedies of William Shakespeare come to mind, although the story and the setting are half a world away. My heart broke listening to this book - and that was only 1/3 of the way through.
I talked to my son, who is a sophomore in high school, about this book. He’d had the same trouble I’d had reading the book in print that I did, and listened to an audible version while reading the book for his English class. He thought it was helpful, and after his A+ in that class, I agree.
Neil Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller. I read Gaiman’s 2008 “The Graveyard Book” aloud to both of my children the year it was published. They were 11 and 8. I worried a little about the start - Bod’s parents are murdered in the first chapter of “The Graveyard Book“ - but I’d heard most kids were fine with the book. I read the book, and decided to go ahead with it. They loved it.
My kids are too old to be read to now, so if I want to hear Gaiman instead of just reading him, it’s Audible. So, I had to sacrifice and listen to Gaiman drolly narrate “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”, a short and snappy tale of a naïve American college student who, with the help of an unhelpful walking guide, wanders into the English hamlet of Innsmouth and has a couple of rounds of Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar with some locals.
Gaiman‘s “Shoggoth’s” pays tribute to American author HP Lovecraft (1890 - 1937). Shoggoth is a Cthulian monster described in words so complex and obscure, Lovecraft would have been accused of misuse and abuse of the Thesaurus function in his word processor.
At the same time, Gaiman reminds me of Douglas Adams’ (1952 - 2001) Arthur Dent in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series. Gaiman’s confused American is described with the same kind of dry British wit and amusing take on an innocently bewildered tourist truly out of place.
I really liked the short story, and I’ll buy the Audible of the book it came from, “Smoke and Mirrors.”
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I am a civil trial attorney in Los Angeles. In the last three years, I have gone to court appearances in Van Nuys and Glendale where there have been fifty or more foreclosure hearings in a single morning. One or two attorneys handle them on behalf of multiple banks. A few homeowners show up, and every once in a while, the homeowner has an attorney.
“The Fifth Witness” is set against this backdrop, and the ever-scheming Mickey Haller has figured out a way to make money from the crisis. Haller’s back in his Lincoln and driving the city, signing up four or five clients a day to fight their foreclosures in civil court.
Haller’s first foreclosure client is Lisa Trammel. Haller has what attorneys refer to as “client control problems”. Trammel talks too much, seeks out publicity, confides her legal problems to random people, and calls Haller’s office several times a day, ranting at his staff.
Months after Haller has successfully forestalled the foreclosure, Mitchell Bondurant, an officer in the bank trying to foreclose on Trammel’s home, is killed. Trammel is accused, and Haller takes on her criminal defense.
There were some minor legal procedural points I noticed in “The Lincoln Lawyer”, “The Brass Verdict” and “The Reversal” that I found jarring as an attorney, but wouldn’t bother someone who isn’t familiar with Los Angeles courts. The procedural and evidentiary errors in “The Fifth Witness” were so egregious that I got mad while I was listening to the book, thinking “That would never happen!” I had to suspend my professional experience to enjoy the story, but setting that aside, I did like the story.
The narration was good, and Adam Grupper continues to develop the character’s voices.
This is my Mickey Haller review 4 of 4. The next in the series, “The Gods of Guilt”, comes out in December 2013. I hope Connelly’s careful with the law in the next one - I don’t want to get so annoyed I stop listening to the series.
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