Monthly Archives: March 2013

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories

A good selection of short stories. Some stories are bizarre like “The Barn at the End of Our Term” where former presidents are reincarnated as horses in a stable; to the very good “The New Veterans. This book may make me a fan of short stories.

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Book Review: Challenge

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Beautiful prose, set in Greek revolution, with characters that I could not care about… It may have been great for 1920, but it does not age well.

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Book Review: Growing Up Me: A Memoir in Poems

Growing Up Me: A Memoir in Poems

An interesting collection of poems that lead up something I was not expecting. Steeeeve an descriptive early poem in the book that sets the stage for later poems. I started by doing what I do quite a bit with books of poetry. I opened the book to a random page and read the poem there. I opened to “Crush”. I thought this should be good. I read it, felt a bit confused and read it again. “Oh, I get it!”

Poems about childhood and coming to age with some discovery on the way. Written chronologically the poems take you the poets early life. I won’t say what that discovery is, but it well worth the read. If you know who Frank Kelly is, then you know the discovery. If you don’t, like me, well you learn as you read. It is a Very well done and tastefully done too. A book that can be enjoyed by the vast majority readers.

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Book Review: Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Not very many books that I sit down with and read straight through that same night. Simply an amazing book. It reads like a horror story, small thing wrong like “insect bites”, numbness, progressing to seizures and madness; unfortunately it is all real and fortunately survivable. I honestly can’t remember when I was this drawn into a work of non-fiction. Amazing book.

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Book Review: Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come

Runaway consumerism at its best…or worst.  A massive mall, a shooter, political rallies, hooligans, and uncontrolled consumerism.   Only from the mind of J.G. Ballard.

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Book Review: Millennium People

Millennium People

Middle class rebelling against what it created. Molotov cocktails made with Perrier bottle and regimental ties, “Bonfire of the Volovos”, the book picks up on the most endangered sector of society trying to free itself from the world it worked for and created…or could it just be something meaningless.

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Book Review: Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956

It’s really hard to believe that its been twenty-four years since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. I remember following the news on CNN at the United States Mission in Geneva, Switzerland. A communist Eastern Europe seemed to be a permanent fixture just weeks before.

Applebaum does and excellent job describing the Eastern Europe after WWII. She brings some excellent points to history. Terrorized by the Nazi’s then liberated by the Soviets. Why weren’t people anxious to go to the West? People remembered that France and England did little to prevent the Nazism in Poland and Eastern Europe. The Soviets were liberators, or so it seemed for a short while.

Nationalism in stateless communism is compared to medieval Europe where there were nationalities, but first and foremost everyone was Catholic, much the same vision was planned for Communism in Eastern Europe.

Promising starts turn bad quickly for Eastern Europeans. Progress is slows to a stop. West Germany recovers and prospers while East Germany falls behind. Free elections end up as one party systems. Although official policy is not “one party system” but the consolidation of many parties to form an anti-fascist front.

Applebaum, once again, does an outstanding job. Not just repeating history but breaking the book into sections: Economy, High Stalinism, Homo Sovieticus, Youth, Radio, and other topics. Topic driven history works well to present a full picture of Eastern Europe in the dozen years after WWII. Extremely well documented with a copius amount source material. A very worthwhile read.

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Book Review End Game

ENDGAME - Poetry of Retirement

I really didn’t know what to expect from book of poetry on retirement. I hit fifty this year, and retirement is something much more on my mind today than it was twenty-five years ago and something I hope to be enjoying within the next twenty fives years.

The book is divided into four sections: Spirit, Mind, Body, and the author’s notes. The three sections break down very well the idea and thoughts of retirement. The Author’s Notes provide insight to the poems and the authors thoughts and ideas in prose. I found this quite useful and enlightening.

One thing I found is that the normal flow of how I read poetry did not seem to work; the usual flow and speed just did not seem to work. Rather I found it much better to read a few words, pause and move to the next line instead of trying to flow things together. If you read the poems in the way that you imagine an retired person to speak… no hurry, no urgency, but slow well thought out ideas with an educated pause between each thought, everything comes together well. Remember you are not reading a young poet who thinks he has everything to tell. You are reading a mature poet who knows what exactly to tell and what to leave out.

The topics vary and contrast. From online poker playing to ocean surfing. The choice between the black path and the white path. To the cheesy “Big 6-0”. Grady Means pulls together a variety of messages and feelings about retirement and the sudden loss of a lifetime of routine. Endgame is a good collection of poetry mainly for those approaching retirement age. Those in retirement already know it, those in their twenties and thirties don’t think that far in to the future.

All in all a very good collection on the the subject being covered. Endgame may not be for everyone, yet but it will be soon enough.

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Book Review Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

An incredible book. I majored in history as an undergraduate and there is a very limited amount I remember of the Civil War. I remember battle names, cities, some of the major players, and little else. This book takes things to a personal level for the major players: Lincoln and his Cabinet. Interactions, friendships, and hardships are played out. Do you know who Hannibal Hamlin is? Well unless you pay attention to the book you may still not know after reading it; mainly because he had no real role…even as Vice President. This book is pretty much the mirror image of what I learned…fascinating book. Highly recommended

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