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A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir
A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir
Price: $13.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Approachable and Radical at Once...a winner, September 11, 2014
A Cup of Water Under My Bed: AMemoir by Daisy Hernandez (Beacon Press, 2014, 201 Pages, $24.96/13.99) is a coming of age memoir of growing up in a contemporary immigrant family encountering all the joys, problems, anxieties, opportunities, and risks of our complex and multi-layered society. Hernandez' luminous prose touches the heart while challenging the mind to expand and understand. She takes the reader to many places that challenge the comfort zone, especially of comfortable middle-class readers. Her subject matter ranges widely through the worlds of religion, sexuality, social mobility, education, race, class, immigration and self-knowledge to explore their implications for a young woman growing up in today's United States.

Daisey Hernandez is the child of parents who have come from Columbia and Cuba seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Speaking little English, clinging to their work ethic and family, they are torn from their roots while seeking to support themselves and their close knit families, both in the U.S. and at home. Daisy's father works as a maintenance man in textile factories, while there's still work in New Jersey, and then recedes into increasingly difficult to find labor as jobs leave for Mexico and Asia. Her mother works in clothing assembly, first in sweat shops and later at home. Daisy becomes the link to America for them as, once she enters school, she begins to increase her facility with English, learning that her Spanglish is neither English nor Spanish and finally, as an adult in search of her roots, returning to class to formally learn Spanish in written and proper spoken forms. She's a precocious and thoughtful child who finds wonder, mystery, and meaning in the world around her, composed of bewildering sets of values assailing her from all sides. She's fortunate enough to find people who recognize her talents and mentor her towards advancement and self-awareness, while drawing her further away from the roots that cling to her and to which she is both drawn and repulsed. Read the rest of my review on my blog. If you decide to purchase it, please consider using the Amazon portal there.


The 7th Woman (Paris Homicide)
The 7th Woman (Paris Homicide)
by Frédérique Molay
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.21
33 used & new from $6.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping French Homicide Detective in Gruesome Case that Becomes Personal....., August 31, 2014
The 7th Woman by Frédérique Molay translated from French by Ann Trager (Le French Book, 249 Pages, $16.95/$9.95) is a gripping police procedural with huge and successful elements of sheer terror built in as the plot races along to a not clearly seen, yet satisfying ending. Nico Sirsky is the Head of the Paris Criminal Investigation Division, referred to as le Crim throughout the book, an elite corps of high quality detectives supported by crack teams of specialists in a range of disciplines. As with any novel dealing with French government, understanding and learning to think within a vast and complex bureaucracy is part of the early challenge and fun of this book. As the story opens, Nico is visiting a physician for some pain in his stomach he has been experience, but on first impression is is overwhelmed by the beauty of Dr. Caroline Dalry, who examines him and prescribes further tests. On leaving Dalry's office, he receives a call from one of his subordinates informing him of the gruesome murder of a young woman.

Sirsky joins his team at a posh Paris apartment where to victim has been killed in a particularly brutal and obviously ritualistic fashion. Sirsky intuits a possible serial killer. Meanwhile, his life is complicated by conflicts with his ex-wife, the needs he feels to be fair in the shared custody of their son, as well as a prying sister intent on finding the right woman for him. His life is not made any easier by his growing awareness of his interest in Dr. Dalry. On Tuesday a second murder occurs, and on Wednesday still another, with each one beginning to suggest some personal vendetta aimed directly at Sirsky himself. He and his team work feverishly to solve the mystery as the murders continue and the noose tightens. To much explication would ruin the fun in this story. Suffice it to say that Molay succeeds in creating the kind of tension that, for me, becomes almost unbearable in a good crime thriller. The exquisite tension forces to to put the book down from time to time to give myself a break, while I'm also ineluctably drawn toward getting on with coming events driving toward a thrilling conclusion. Molay successfully drops successive clues to the reader while never tipping her hand completely. It don't get much better than that! Please read the remainder of this review on my blog. If you decide to purchase it, use the Amazon portal there. Thanks.


Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail
Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail
by Marcus Rediker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.31
46 used & new from $10.27

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Seamen. Slaves, and Pirates Helped Create Our Contemporary World, August 27, 2014
Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail by Marcus Rediker (Beacon Press, August 2014, 248 pages, $26.95/14.55) is a carefully written and meticulously documented history of how the social revolution of the past four centuries was fomented from below decks by sailors of all kinds. Perhaps disturbingly for some, it turns history as most of us are used to seeing it on its head by crediting the democratic and independent move towards revolution and freedom as originating and being powered from below. Those of us used to “great man” or “great events” views of history will find this book to be disorienting at first, However, as Rediker compiles his evidence that the sea was the ultimate source of freedom from the restraints of conventional hierarchy and lawfulness, and that the discovery of this grew from the treatment of the men (mostly) who plied the waves, the picture of the forces of freedom and independence coming from below makes increasing sense. At times the book seems to jump around in time, as Rediker selects incidents and actors in his drama of human discovery, but the ideas become increasingly palatable, if not self-evident, as the narrative runs its course.

Many of us have bought whole hog the story of the power and benevolent spread of civilization by dint of the spread of British sea power. The use of impressment, that is, the virtual legal kidnapping of farmers, fisherman, and workers of the streets and away from the farms of England to provide fodder for the crews of the British naval fleet from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century, has been mostly seen as a necessary evil. Either ignored or misunderstood, are the land-based riots and the ship's revolts by those forced into service at low pay under extremely harsh and dangerous conditions by both naval and commercial ventures. Riots undertaken largely by lowly workers in seaports and on board ships were greatly feared by ship's masters and municipal authorities, whose power was augmented by local and naval sanction....Please read the rest of this review on my blog. If you decide to purchase it, consider ordering it through the Amazon portal there.


Herbie's Game (Junior Bender #4) (Junior Bender Mystery)
Herbie's Game (Junior Bender #4) (Junior Bender Mystery)
by Timothy Hallinan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.30
76 used & new from $4.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Detective with a Difference...Junior's One of Them......, August 16, 2014
Herbie's Game (Junior Bender #4) by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime, July 2014, 400 pages, $25.00/12.99) jumped up and grabbed me in the first two or three pages and kept me with the story and the character all the way through, leaving me hungering for more. I will surely read back in Hallinan's absorbing series, as I eagerly anticipate #5, and have already ordered his newest release in the Poke Rafferty series, with which I'm also unfamiliar. Hallinan has come up with an engaging character based on a unique premise that delivers strong situations, weird and attractive subsidiary characters, and situations usually encountered from the "other" side. How so? Well, Junior Bender is a burglar. His clients all live on the edges of society participating in their own criminal activities with enthusiasm and professional elan.

Herbie's Game opens with Bender in the midst of a burglary as he carefully enters, assesses, and, just as he's about to quit, finds a box containing two mysterious pieces of jewelry, one a Cartier broach familiar to him, and the other a small construction of strange beauty that he can't quite identify. This seems strange as we learn that his greatest asset is his fine eye for quality. "Ever since my mentor Herbie Mott taught me the rules of burglary, I've practically salivated at the sound of something rattling in a small box" thinks Bender, as he hear's a car returning, pockets the box, and quietly leaves by the rear door just as the homeowner returns.

Soon the reader is led into Bender's strange world of killers, fences, fortune tellers, thieves, and other underworld characters, many of whom have figured in his life and share a bond with him. He discovers that his friend and mentor, Herbie Mott, has died under extreme stress while being tortured to reveal...something. Coping with a deep sense of loss at the demise of a man he considers to be a surrogate father, the man who taught him all he knows about his "business," Bender begins to trace a chain of messages leading to a contract murder through a series of "disconnections." Each disconnect is carefully designed to build a wall of intermediary steps between the person who initiated the contract and the killer who carried it out. Along the way the reader meets a variety of people living on the "other" side of the law. We quickly come to see them as complex, lively, scary, and even likable people who transcend the cardboard cutout villains populating much crime fiction. They're articulate and funny as well as dangerous. Bender is a sharp judge of the human condition, making many trenchant observations that stop the reader in mid-paragraph to consider the idea and the language used to describe it. This is a sign of really good writing....Please read the rest of my review on my blog and consider ordering it through the Amazon portal there.


Sorrow Bound (Detective Sergeant McAvoy)
Sorrow Bound (Detective Sergeant McAvoy)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heated Thriller in Muggy Midlands of England, August 1, 2014
Sorrow Bound by David Mark (Blue Rider Press/Penguin, July 2014, 352 pg, $26.95/$10.99) is the third book in Mark's popular Detective Sergeant McAvoy series. This very readable book combines elements of the police procedural with character studies of not only the intriguing and likable detective Aector (Hector) McAvoy but other members of the special unit of the Hull police department he works in and the villains of the piece. The novel follows two plot lines, one apparently a continuing line, which is quite satisfactorily wrapped up in Sorrow Bound while leaving the reader eager to go back to the initial two books for more background on McAvoy (without making such a trip necessary) and waiting for the next installment to follow the other line. That's how good series detective fiction works.

Hull is a dreary run-down industrial city on the Hull River where it joins the Humber estuary. There's a heat wave dominating much of the action, leaving the characters sweaty and sometimes irritable. Protagonist Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy, who has a difficult time getting his colleagues to pronounce his name in the correct Scots pronunciation rather than calling him Hector, is a large, seemingly clumsy, stolid man whose look and manner belie his agile mind and analytical skills. The novel opens with Aector finding himself in department mandated therapy for some violence committed before the book opens. He's a person quite reluctant to reveal himself, while internally questioning what he's “supposed” to say while being eager to get back to the job at hand, solving the first of what will become several grisly murders. He's married to Roisin, an attractive and quirky girl of Gypsy background he rescued from a violent and dangerous situation when she was twelve years old. They have a child and are moving into a new home on the river. Strange mystery and violence arches over their background. Read the rest of this review on my blog and please consider ordering it from the Amazon portal there.


Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman
Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Biography of Seminal American Leader....Must Read, July 8, 2014
Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O'Connell (Random House, 2014, 432 pages, $28.00/$11.84) distinguishes itself for its unusual structure, great clarity, insight into a seminal figure in the creation of our country, and wonderful examination of the Civil War which, by focusing on the efforts of one of it's crucial leaders, brings the larger picture of the war into clearer light. This is one of the best biographies I've ever read, well deserving of the attention of anyone interested in the Civil War or the the development of modern America. I recommend it most highly! William Tecumseh Sherman led a complex, convoluted life. By breaking his life into three often overlapping components to deal with each separately, O'Connell does the reader a huge favor, providing clarity of vision to this intriguing, and often contradictory, character. Perhaps the most successful general of the Civil War, if not in all American history, Sherman participated in many crucial events of the nineteenth century: Indian removal and decimation in Florida and then the West, fighting to maintain the Union by waging total war in his march through Georgia and then north to Virginia, building the transcontinental railroad, and creating an unforgettable historical character. However his comments and focus were kept on larger strategic issues rather than on slavery, human treatment of Native Americans, or the nobility of the common soldier. O'Connell urges readers to judge Sherman by his behavior towards others rather than his remarks about them, and consistently points out the contrasts.

O'Connell chooses to illuminate Sherman's character and achievement through adopting an unusual structure. Conventional biography often begins with a rather long (and often mind numbing) discussion of the central character's genealogy, childhood, upbringing, and development before getting to the elements that created the character interesting to history or seminal events. O'Connell divides his story into three major sections: The Military Strategist, The General and his Army, and The Man and His Families. While in practice these categories may overlap and are not exclusive, they give him a chance to keep focused on the elements he wants to emphasize. By leaving much of the genealogy and family history to the third section, he makes that section more interesting and more relevant to the larger story. Such a turnaround may slightly challenge the reader, but may stand as a larger barrier to an academic researcher seeking a new interpretation of an important historical figure. O'Connell pulls this all off by providing lucid writing, keeping focused on relevant detail in each section, and adding clarity and focus to Sherman's life as well as the Civil War itself. This is a highly admiring biography which never hides from the warts on Sherman's character, giving it still greater credibility....Read the remainder of this review on my blog. Please consider purchasing it through the Amazon portal there.


The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front-Page Bail Bondsman
The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front-Page Bail Bondsman
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars NY Bail Bondsman meets needs of celebrities, the mob, and real family...., June 20, 2014
The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front-Page Bail Bondsman by Ira Judelson with Daniel Paisner (Touchstone, June 2014, 273 pages, $26.00/$11.89) is an (almost) tell-all book which tells the story of a street-smart middle class hustler who, after years of drifting, falls into the opportunity of a lifetime when he discovers, at age 30, that the largest bail bondsman in the New York metropolitan area is his uncle who is willing to back him as he learns the ropes in the bail bond business. Bail bondsmen occupy a unique position in the criminal justice system, as they are the people who provide the money that insures the court appearance of people accused of crimes within the criminal justice system. Because of their importance in this process, they appear to be nearly untouchable by the hosts of people who rely on their efforts to get them out of jail while they await trial. Thus, Judelson has numerous stories to tell about the famous, the notorious, the guilty, and the innocent. He carefully names names in those cases that have become part of the public record and (wisely) protects the identities of those who might have the will and ability to hurt him should he bandy their names about. Judelson emerges as a smart, careful, shrewd judge of character who can juggle the conflicting demands of an often misunderstood and potentially dangerous profession with the multiple demands of suburban family life in contemporary America. All this makes Ira Jedelson an interesting character and
The Fixer a good read. In the end, however, the nagging question of his reliability as a narrator remains.

I'm not usually a great fan of autobiographical collaborations, however, in The Fixer co-writer Daniel Paisner keeps the book pointed in the right direction, turning this ghost written project into a masterpiece of the genre. He captures Judelson's voice and maintains it throughout the text, making the language street-sounding enough to seem authentic while maintaining focus, drive, and interest in this narrative – no mean feat considering that Judelson describes himself as ADHD in the beginning of the book, an academic and professional mediocrity without any real thought of obtaining steady, gainful employment until Uncle Phil falls in his lap, he sees the possibilities for both gain and excitement, and embarks on a career leading to plenty of adrenaline and more money than he ever imagined. He moves from being a pretty small-time hustler to serving as the go-to person for getting people out of jail in the convoluted world of New York's business, celebrity, and criminal communities. The stories of people arrested and in need of immediate bail is inter-related with Judelson's home-life, where he sees himself as a devoted father and husband who must hustle every moment to keep bread on the table. This conflict, so familiar to career oriented people, dominates the book and keeps it interesting. The other element keeping the reader driving forward through this breezy narrative is the high level of interest in the stories Judelson tells and the potential for danger always hanging in the background. The famous names always popping up also work to keep the people who read The Post, The Daily News, and People Magazine interested and involved. Please read the rest of this review on my blog and consider buying it through the Amazon portal there....


At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton
At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton
Price: $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pirates of the Caribbean Real...and nasty, June 15, 2014
At the Point of a Cutlass by Gregory N. Flemming (ForeEdge (the University Press of New England), 2014, 256 pages, $26.90/$14.99) tells the story of Phillip Ashton, a cod fisherman from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who, in 1722 was captured by the pirate Edward Low, a man more vicious and arguably more successful than the better known Edward Teach, famed as Blackbeard. Attacked and captured from his fishing schooner off the coast of Nova Scotia, the nineteen year old Ashton, was subjected to incredible verbal and physical abuse by the captain and crew of Low's ship in order to force him to sign the ship's articles and thus declare himself a criminal along with them. By refusing to sign the articles, he preserved his innocence against charges of piracy, should he ever once again gain his freedom. This harrowing tale of the ending stages of the so-called Golden Age of Piracy uses Ashton's tribulations and eventual triumph as an organizing focus for an important element in the transition of New England from a Puritan colony to the birthplace of the American Revolution in a time of turmoil, violence, and changing values.

The story of Philip Ashton, by itself is pretty slim stuff for a book about piracy or an important moment in American history. Combined, however, with the contexts of a region and world changing from one dominated by religious squabbling into the more recognizable mercantile/political world of the American Revolution illuminates the changes through the experience of one man. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was just over a century removed from the small band of Pilgrims seeking to establish a Puritan theocracy on the unprepossessing shores of rocky New England. Towns along the coast like Marblehead were a source of intrepid fisherman combing the Grand Banks for the rich food source of cod, a fish in those days much larger than anything we would imagine today. Fishermen, manning small boats far out at sea fished, caught, salted, and packed barrels of cod for export to England and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a large, colorful, and vicious group of anti-social (perhaps psychopathic) ships' captains ruled the waters with violence exceeding even the unpleasant norm of the sea world. They ransacked, captured, sank, and destroyed literally thousands of Spanish ships transporting wealth home, English merchants plying the triangle trade from New England to the Carribbean, to Great Britain, and colonial loggers working the forests of what is now Central and South America for the rich lode of logwood, a source of a rare red dye. These pirates, with a penchant for violence reminiscent of today's most vicious gangs, ruled by using senseless violence, destroying everything they could not carry off. Eventually, Ashton escaped Low's small maritime empire onto a small island off the coast of Honduras. Read the remainder of this review on my Blog and please consider using the Amazon portal there to order it.....


Chop Chop: A Novel
Chop Chop: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $10.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of the Kitchen...Love, Loss, Redemption, May 30, 2014
Chop, Chop by Simon Wroe (Penguin Press, 2014, 288 pages, $26.95/$12.99) is a coming of age and reconciliation novel set in a marginal restaurant called The Swan in Camden Town, a trendy portion of the borough of Camden in London. Monocle, the narrator, fresh out of a mid-grade university with a degree in literature, finds himself estranged from his estranged parents, at loose ends, and looking for a job. He lands precariously at The Swan as commis (the lowest rung on the fine kitchen ladder), a bar with a full kitchen and a staff of misfits, in almost every sense of the word. The book is, at times, very funny, in an often dark sort of way, and sad, as we follow the lonely outcast Monocle seeking to find a real self. Overlaying the life and times of a restaurant chef lies the mysterious, soul-destroying death of Sam, Monocle's golden-boy older brother and the decline of his parents' marriage, as his father, once a professional golfer descends into lassitude and gambling, eventually deserting his once wealthy wife. This first novel contains much promise within a carefully structured and compelling story of love, loss, and redemption.

The Swan is inhabited by a group of damaged men and women brought together in a kitchen that may be the last resort. The chef, Bob, is a sadistic bully who punishes with fire and ice while kowtowing to the Fat Man, the evil bully whose danger and mystery bring raw danger to the entire operation. Ramilov, Racist Dave, Dibdin, and the beautiful and mysterious Heather round out the cooking staff while two, perhaps, south Asians populate the plonge, the washing area. The Fat Man appears periodically to consume huge amounts of the menu without either joy or appreciation. The rumor that he may be a restaurant critic keeps the staff serving him their best. Meanwhile, Monocle watches, observes, and learns the ways of the kitchen, many of which sent me to the thesaurus or Wikipedia to sort out their functions. At home, Monocle's parents continue to decline, sunk in Sam's loss and their own inability to deal with the world, until Monocle's father leaves home and moves into his tiny room with him. Please read the rest of my review on my blog and consider purchasing it through the Amazon portal there.


A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good baseball reading despite some of Will's cuteness...., May 24, 2014
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at 100 Years by George Will (Random House, 2014, 226 pages, $25.00) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of Wrigley Park, one of the last remaining old baseball parks, and the ongoing futility of the woebegone Chicago Cubs, a baseball team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 and not appeared in it since 1945. Despite a storied early history and plenty of fine players who have graced Wrigley Field, this is an unparralled record of futility, which is belied by the ability of Wrigley Park and the Cubs to bring customers through the gates to enjoy an afternoon, during years of day baseball long after lights were installed elsewhere. Will is most often noted as one of the deans of newspaper column writing, his conservative take graced by elegant writing and, often, close analysis. Beyond that, his passion for baseball in general and the Chicago Cubs in particular is unmatched. He is an elegant writer, filled with both facts and insights in both areas. A Nice Little Place on the North Side is an intriguing, yet maddening, work which presents a good read, although it does not reach the excellence of his previous baseball book, Men at Work. I haven't read his other baseball book, Bunts.

Will has a marvelous eye for detail, an penchant for history, and an ear for the unusual circumstance. He uses all three qualities to good effect in this book. Nevertheless, their's a maddeningly strange feel for the unusual coincidence that I found reminiscent of Bill Stern (1907 - 1971), one of my childhood's most treasured catalogers of the strange and unusual in sport. As Stern might have, and perhaps even did, Will tells who the Cubs player was that played in the last game in which Babe Ruth hit a home run and the first game in which Henry Aaron his his first home run (Answer: Phil Cavaretta). Other pieces of interesting trivia are the intriguing relationships between Jack Ruby, Ray Kroc, and Ronald Reagan, with Wrigley Field. He also tells about the famed double play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance, who weren't as good as the poem that tells their story and wouldn't even talk to each other. If I remember correctly, Stern told this story, too. Will's writing is always elegant, cultivated and sometimes convoluted, as he explores the nooks and crannies of being a Cubs fan with insight and depth from the perspective of a fan as well as a Princeton Ph.D. who also attended Oxford University. Please read the remainder of this review on my blog and think about buying it through the Amazon portal there.


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