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In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir
In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir
by Richard B. Cheney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.44
373 used & new from $0.01

56 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New York Times WIll Choke..................., August 30, 2011
Week after week the NYT and their staffers will be faced with this book perched on their vaunted Bestseller list for weeks/months .................
I have not completed the book, when I do I will comment on the work, however a note to those of you who have such a visceral hatred for this man. (This excludes most of the "reviews" by people who have no intention of ever reading the book) Reading a book does not endorse the content, it does not give you the right to judge the person who makes the decision to read former Vice-President Cheney. I have read countless Autobiographies/Biographies of historical personages ranging from those I greatly admire, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, to those that I hope there is a Hell that they are slowly roasting in, like a Stalin or Hitler. To suggest that Vice President Cheney somehow compares to these examples of pure evil is too parade your ignorance and trivialize the truly dark periods of Human History.
Read the book and take reasoned positions based on your thoughts. Trying to one up each other with schoolyard taunts is infantile.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2013 1:25 PM PDT

Against All Enemies
Against All Enemies
by Tom Clancy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.95
339 used & new from $0.01

77 of 92 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I wish I knew..., June 15, 2011
This review is from: Against All Enemies (Hardcover)
The last time I read a, "Tom Clancy", novel was in August of 2002, it was "Red Rabbit. It was a terrible book and after 622 readers had commented it had a well-deserved and miserable rating of 2 stars. I decided then I was done with this author and that was before he decided he needed help putting out a novel in the form of a co-author.

I don't know what happened to this author who wrote, "The Hunt For Red October", and a string of other entertaining reads but he has either lost interest in writing fiction or run out of ideas. I have no idea how much of this book he wrote, whether he penned an outline or contributed heavily to what is presented to readers.

The facts are that he now cannot give us a novel without a co-author, the writing is terrible, and unlike his early work, this novel turns you away quickly, just the opposite of his Jack Ryan books. Again, why this is the case is pure speculation but the results are sadly evident.

Thankfully, readers are given the opportunity to sample the electronic version before being expected to pay a fee comparable to the hardcover, an absurd presumption on the part of the publisher.

Enjoy his early work, do not waste your time or your hard-earned money on this very poor work of fiction.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2011 2:05 PM PST

West of Here
West of Here
by Jonathan Evison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.95
214 used & new from $0.01

32 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 48 Sub-Plots.....No Plot, February 22, 2011
This review is from: West of Here (Hardcover)
Firstly, divide all reviews in to 2 groups, those that are posted prior to a book's release, and those that come after the official release to the buying public. Secondly, ask the following, did the reviewer purchase the book when released or were they given a Review Copy compliments of an Author/Publisher/Online retailer looking for a little good will.

I bought this book, and I regret the money I spent.

Hype is great if you benefit from it, it can be an anger generating event if you are the victim of it. This book literally has 48 little stories spread throughout the books contents most of which are never resolved. Even the premise of the book, the raising and finally the removal of a dam does not begin to rise as an afterthought until the book's halfway mark and as to whether it comes down?............who knows. Certainly not the reader.

What the author knows about the construction of the dam he could have learned in 30 minutes browsing Wikipedia, the unfortunate acid trip that one young member of the mass of characters experiences is treated with page after page of intricate detail that will, I would guess, be interesting for those who have had a similar experience. Pointless vulgarity and cruelty also make an appearence for variety I suppose, there is no other justification.

In the end this book is a collection of partial thoughts, storylines that go nowhere and were never worked out by the author and finally a tremendous missed opportunity. This book is a marvel of marketing.

The premise was interesting, the misleading descriptions that precluded the work were also intriguing. In the end this is an incomplete mess of what could have been a great read about a series of events that originally shaped this country and are continuing to change us today as many ill-conceived projects like the one barely mentioned in the book come down.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2011 9:09 AM PDT

The Last Temptation: A Novel
The Last Temptation: A Novel
by Val McDermid
Edition: Hardcover
80 used & new from $0.01

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Resonance Of Evil, September 19, 2002
This is the third novel I have read by Val McDermid. The first was, "A Place Of Execution", and it remains my favorite of the three. This newest offering, "Last Temptation", is a very good tale, but is definitely not for those readers who prefer to avoid the grisly details of murders, in this case those of a serial killer. There is also brutal violence with both men and women as victims, so read and be prepared. I don't find her descriptions to be gratuitous, just very graphic. He portrayals are probably much more accurate than generic description of violence that have become so prevalent and cliché that they are barely noticed. This author illustrates for the reader just how vile murder and violence are.
This author uses atrocities committed by a group in the 20th century that I generally have tired of reading, as they have become the crutch for any form of evil. It is a tribute to this lady's talent that she has found a more obscure practice of the Germany of the Nazi's to play a very valid role in this novel. She also represents the evil of this group through the effects they have had on generations that were not even alive when they practiced their atrocities. Their twisted science echoes through the victims to their descendents, and this adds an entirely new dimension to the resonance of evil.
The only aspect of the story I found troubling was the placement of the two main characters so close together while they were working on different operations. It makes the story work, but from the moment the situation is set, you know this is the Achilles heal that will bring the protagonists to the edge, or possibly over, to their detriment.
I don't read many books in this type of genre, but Val McDermid seems as though her work should have a much greater following than it does. If this type of work appeals to you, pick this lady's work up; you will be happy you did.

Diamond: The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair
Diamond: The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair
by Matthew Hart
Edition: Paperback
124 used & new from $0.01

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Is All Perception, September 16, 2002
At one point in the book there is a brief description of the opening remarks at an international gathering of diamond merchants. The featured speaker was explaining the two reasons diamonds have value, "vanity and greed". For those unfamiliar with the diamond industry and the control that DeBeer's has held over the prices of diamonds, the book's contents may be somewhat of a shock. The monopoly this company holds is so complete, the executives of the company cannot come to The United States for they are likely to be subpoenaed if they did. Events described in the book of major new diamond finds together with owners may greatly diminish DeBeer's hold on their monopoly, but they would likely still control 50% of the world's market.
Massive diamonds and a variety of stones that are rare due to their color understandably command whatever price a person is willing to pay. The diamonds that are on the hands of women throughout the world are extremely common, unless they are wearing a golf ball size rock like Elizabeth Taylor. One example the author shares of market manipulation is with a relatively small but perfect stone. When graded d-flawless a diamond is just as the description describes, the price is an entirely different matter. DeBeer's has manipulated the market so that at times such a stone would cost a person $10,000 and when they get greedy or angry, the price becomes $70,000. The price of this grade and size of stone will also change dramatically based on where you make a purchase, head to Tiffany's and you pay for their 5th Avenue location and their name. Head to a less flashy address in the same city, and you will save many thousands of dollars.
Matthew Park also covers a wide variety of topics related to these stones, the history of some of the most famous gems, the efforts to control the sale of stones that finance wars, and the people that are out searching and finding massive fortunes of their own. One particularly fascinating tale is of a young woman who finds an area that will yield billions of dollars of value in Canada. At 24 years of age it was her persistence to keep her father interested, and not walking from a site that brought the find to fruition. The other aspect that is covered is the art of taking a rough stone, and then cleaving and polishing it to a gem. One interesting example was the creation of, "The Centenary Stone". The man who cut and polished the stone took 3 years to create the masterpiece. He spent an entire year studying the rough before making a single move to change it.
This book will whet your appetite for reading more about this phenomenon, for the book covers many areas but does not have the length to cover them in depth. It was also unfortunate that all of the pictures of these remarkable jewels were in black and white, which did little to visually communicate how stunning they are.

Speer: The Final Verdict
Speer: The Final Verdict
by Joachim C. Fest
Edition: Hardcover
98 used & new from $0.01

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange Feeling Of Being Present But Unconcerned, September 13, 2002
Albert Speer has proved to be a lasting enigma for historians, and of continued interest to the public. This is not the first book written about Speer, and contrary to the title it will not be the last. I found the book to be well done, and while it does bring some new detail to the life of Speer it is not a book that provides any fundamental shifts in generally accepted facts.
There are at least two troubling issues that I found worthy of note. The first is a certain arrogance of the author during his introduction when he expresses the opinion that there has not been a proper biography written of Speer. The author is certainly an authority on Speer and had an unusual opportunity to work with and get to know the man as much or more than any other writer. I have read several biographies of Speer, and two of Speer's own works, and there is a great deal of biographic writing available, and it is not as lacking as the author suggests. Issue number 2 is that the author uses David Irving as a reference and also refers to him as a historian. David Irving has been the subject of books, and a man who was handed a miserable defeat in a courtroom in England that condemned him as a dubious historian but perhaps a good researcher, and confirmed that his views of Nazi Germany were largely revisionist and without documentary facts. David Irving may be a researcher, he may even gather accurate information, no where have I read of any legitimate historian grant the same honor and respect to Irving, in fact his is considered little more than a demagogue. His associations with groups that wish to minimize the Holocaust to the point of triviality, if they admit to it at all is well documented, and why Mr. Fest would quote him from all the available sources is a mystery.
The author describes Speer as a man with many abilities, but no qualities. This is one of the better summations of Speer that I have read. Others have also correctly characterized him, as John Kenneth Galbraith did, as a very intelligent escapist from the truth. And the words that head these comments are those of Speer himself.
The book is based on the premise that it is men like Speer that allow the rise of tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, and the balance of history's representatives of evil. That the tyrants are routinely produced by history, but only those who have a massive supporting cast that are willing to follow, that are willing to selectively see only what they choose to view, and who place ambition above all else, are necessary for the rise of such dictators.
The issue that continues to fascinate me is Speer's escape from execution at Nuremberg, He clearly cooperated with the allies to a degree that no other defendant did, and he at least gave the impression of remorse, and played a brilliant game of saying he was responsible for crimes that were committed, but not guilty as he lacked specific knowledge. This is the same charade that allows a defendant in this country to be found not guilty in a court of criminal law, and then to be held responsible in a court of civil law.
Speer deserved to hang as much as any of those who actually had the courage to accept their sentence without taking the coward's way out like the Reich Marshall. There is no question that his brilliant organizational skills, and his willingness to accept labor from anywhere that was collected by any means, allowed the war to continue for years longer that it might have without his talents. The idea that Speer knew nothing of the camps while being arguably the closest of friends and confidants of Hitler is preposterous, and it is amazing anyone was able to delude himself or herself otherwise.
The other concept I am tired of reading is of the alleged erotic but not carnal relationship between Hitler and Speer. Hitler had wanted to be an architect like Speer since he was a very young man. The two men shared a passion for building and art, and their age differences would suggest a father and son relationship, but taking it to the next level may be sensational, but again I find it tiresome, absurd, and a position that is prurient but unproven.
I enjoyed the book with the exceptions that I have noted, I don't believe the book broke any important new ground, and will certainly not be the last book about Albert Speer. The Germany of the Nazis continues to fascinate, and until it ceases to do so books will be continually written.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 26, 2014 4:57 PM PDT

The Crimson Petal and the White
The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michel Faber
Edition: Hardcover
270 used & new from $0.01

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 19th Century Without A Restrictive Corset, September 12, 2002
Michel Faber is a wildly inventive and unbridled writer. His first novel, "Under The Skin", was a truly unique first novel that I enjoyed and rated highly, and his collection of short stories, "Some Rain Must Fall", was also a decidedly unique trip. I agree without reservation that this can be characterized as the 21st century's first 19th century novel. The players in this work may roam the same streets of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, but their experiences never crack the barrier of a PG-13 level of experience. There are no bounds for this tale; it is as vivid, as detailed, and as raw as the streets and society it describes were. I think virtually every reader will find some or even many descriptions uncomfortable, but they are not gratuitous, they are just graphic and unnervingly detailed.
The narrator that brings you along in their colorful, hazardous, and unseemly wake, is absolutely wonderful. The places you are brought, the sights you see, and all else that assails your senses at least as often as it pleases them makes for one amazing read, at times almost overwhelming. However this is what Michel Faber does, he is detailed without a care, and if that means getting in the reader's face with unpleasant truths he marches forward without hesitation. He does not intensify the positive and minimize the negative. Reality can be gruesome, and he shows this time period in England without any of the polishing of a Merchant and Ivory production. This book takes place not only in the eye of the mind, but all the other senses as well.
This is a massive work, but what makes it different is that it does not cover a score of generations. This writer does not present a landscape, and if he did it would be the size of a painting by Alfred Bierstadt, measured in feet not inches. For example, you know everything about the character Sugar, there are no holes, nothing that is missing that causes the reader to question why she is who she is and how she got there. The detail is amazing but never overwhelms. William Rackham creates a life that seems to be the most ill conceived arrangement imaginable. But Faber makes it work because he brings you so far in to William's head that the absurd world he creates is the only one a man with his mind could assemble.
Faber's work is not like any other author. The world he documents, modifies, and creates, has an intensity that others who have tackled the genre have not explored. This is not a criticism of those that have gone before him, if Dickens had gone this far he never would have been published.
This author requires the reader to develop a new type of comfort with his unique cadence and use of language. Of his three books I found this easier to follow, and I do not think this is because I had read his previous work. In fact I would suggest that for those that are new to his work that you start here and work your way back. The experience will be well worth your time.

Blood of Victory: A Novel
Blood of Victory: A Novel
by Alan Furst
Edition: Hardcover
188 used & new from $0.01

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of His Better Tales, September 12, 2002
This is the first novel that I have read of this author's work in hardcover. "Blood Of Victory", is the newest work from Alan Furst, and it follows the issue of all of his previous novels in soft cover format. I have read all of his tales and have found him to be a very solid, consistent writer. His publisher is amongst the shrillest when praising and promoting his work, and I do not know that this helps. Whether or not Alan Furst joins the ranks of writers like John LeCarre is up to readers not his publicist.
All his previous works have included questions for discussion at the book's end; this book does not although I would guess the soft cover will. One of the points that have always been raised is that the protagonist in his books always is alive at the end of the novel. I believe this is becoming a problem for Mr. Furst does not write about the same character in a series of events, rather a variety of characters experiencing events in a common time period. His stories inevitably include great risk to his primary characters, and when he removes the possibility of the mortality prior to the book's start, he removes an element of suspense. Since his genre involves clandestine work prior to and including World War II, the missing element cannot fail to become a handicap. He also has several reference points that he mentions in many if not all his books. While these elements are repeated they are not critical to a given book, but they can cause a reader to feel they are out of step with some crucial detail or event.
The plot this time centers on the oil fields of Romania, their critical importance to the German war machine, and the variety of attempts to prevent the flow of oil via the Danube. This issue was very real during both of the 20th century's world wars, and Alan Furst uses these historical events to very good advantage.
Mr. Furst has an excellent command of the political history of his chosen time period, and this makes for credible reading that is also well crafted by a talented pen. I have enjoyed his books and will continue to read his work in the future. I hope that he decides to allow for more uncertainty in his work, and by doing so maintain a higher level of tension for his readers.

Limeys: The True Story of One Man's War Against Ignorance, the Establishment and the Deadly Scurvy
Limeys: The True Story of One Man's War Against Ignorance, the Establishment and the Deadly Scurvy
by David I. Harvie
Edition: Hardcover
41 used & new from $0.48

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Million, August 21, 2002
That is the estimated number of men aboard ship that died during the 300 years proceeding the year 1800. Three hundred years is a long time, but the rate of death is comparable to the rate The United States lost soldiers each year during the Vietnam War. The deaths of 6,600+ men per year for three centuries are a staggering number. David I. Harvie explores the history of the preventable disease that killed so many in his book, "Limeys", a work that will probably be enjoyed by a great many people. The book is part history, part politics, part science, and a great deal of preventable tragedy.
The sickness known as scurvy was responsible for up to 75 percent of deaths on lengthy sea voyages. More sailors died from disease than in combat with an enemy, weather, or bad navigation. As early as 1747 Dr. James Lind conducted testing that anticipated methodologies hundreds of years ahead of their time that demonstrated steps to overcoming the problem, even though the actual Vitamin C that was the key was not identified until 1932. It was in this year that the hexuronic acid and Vitamin C were identified as one and the same, and this critical element was finally renamed ascorbic acid.
The human body is fantastically complex. Unfortunately this same amazing machine does not produce Vitamin C unlike many other animals. This inability has been responsible for millions of deaths, and remains a killer to the present day. Large population transfers in the form of refugees generally suffer horrendous numbers of dead. Lack of Vitamin C is not the sole cause, but it remains as deadly as it has ever been, while at the same time remaining so easy to prevent.
I think most people have heard of scurvy and also have a variety of ideas about who was responsible for finding the key to a cure. What may be less familiar are the centuries that it took to adopt the cure once it was known, and the intentional choices repeatedly made to not provide the food to protect the men who manned these ships. This book is filled with charlatans who peddled worthless cures, which were at times even deadly, and made a fortune selling them. They were able to do so as those in the military and government often stood to gain from quack products, as opposed to providing fruit that would ensure the safety of their men. This history is easily among the worst examples of those in positions of power placing next to no value on human life.
This is a fascinating story, well thought out and shared, and should be of interest to anyone who is inquisitive.

This Side of Brightness: A Novel
This Side of Brightness: A Novel
by Colum McCann
Edition: Hardcover
81 used & new from $0.01

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Work, August 20, 2002
Colum McCann has written a beautiful book with his work, "This Side of Brightness". Beautiful in this case may seem odd, but I would use the word here as I would use it to describe a work by John Steinbeck. Human nature and behavior often has trouble rising above decent much less beautiful, but a talented writer can bring painful lives and experiences to paper in prose that is wonderful to read. The pain that is documented is not minimized, rather written in a way that allows the truth to remain unvarnished, and the prose to be rendered by an artist like Mr. McCann.
I have read about the men who dug the excavations for the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge, but never for the hundreds of miles of tunnels throughout the boroughs of New York. Tunneling is an extremely dangerous occupation, and if possible is even more hazardous when tunneling under water. The men must work in highly pressurized rooms in order to keep the river from collapsing in upon them, and yet the pressure cannot be so great that the air violates the walls of the chamber blowing outward as opposed to being crushed. The book documents a true story of men that were literally pushed through the walls of the tunnel they were digging until ejected in to the river and then being blown out of the water. To live through such an experience has to rank with the most remarkable stories of survival.
The book shares two lives that are revealed in parallel as far as narrative, but are intertwined in practice. The lives of both men are occupied at various times by living/working underground, but ultimately one life is spent and finally ends beneath the river, while for the other it is a refuge that ultimately allows him to emerge once again to life above ground leaving his demons buried.
The author also explores prejudice in a variety of forms, and from the book's very beginning shows prejudice and racism for the absolute stupidity it is. Men of various color and ethnic backgrounds enter a vicious working environment where they not only work together but are willing to risk their lives for each other. Black, white, Irish, Italian, Polish, none of these characteristics have any meaning when below ground, once returned to the surface every vile behavior associated with race, and religion once again is in full blossom. Church leaders reinforce the worst and most ignorant tenets of institutional stupidity; de facto Jim Crow rules dehumanize its victims.
Colum McCann does not shy away from any topic of traditional controversy. He takes the reader through generations of a family begun by a white wife and her black husband, their children who are born in to a world that hates them even more than their all black father, if that is possible.
There is one issue I am unclear on and it stems from a quote on the jacket of the book. Frank McCourt writes of McCann's, "having been there", when he writes about homeless living under the city. My question is whether the author did live there for a time while writing this book, or whether he actually was homeless for a period of time. In either event it took courage to live there as an observer, and if the latter, both courage and a willingness to share a desperately difficult and personal part of his life.

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