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Volkert Volkersz RSS Feed (Snohomish County, WA United States)

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Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon (Newbery Honor Book)
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon (Newbery Honor Book)
by Steve Sheinkin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.63
128 used & new from $6.24

5.0 out of 5 stars History that reads like a James Bond spy thriller!, February 17, 2015
This narrative non-fiction account of the development of the nuclear bomb during World War II reads like a James Bond spy thriller. While this amazing work is written for a younger audience, and received the Newbery Honor Award for its excellence, I found it gripping from beginning to end.

Here we read in rapid detail America’s race to develop the bomb before Nazi Germany, while sabotaging Germany’s efforts in places like Norway and Switzerland. At the same time Soviet Russia seeks out spies to steal America’s secrets in order to develop their own bomb. After Germany surrenders, President Harry Truman decides to use the bomb on Japan in order to force them to surrender.

With the conclusion of World War II, the Cold War with Russia grows as America and Russia escalate their race to develop bigger and better bombs. Robert Oppenheimer, often called “the father of the atomic bomb,” sought to avert nuclear proliferation after the war, much to the chagrin of President Truman.

The book concludes with the sober ramifications of a modern nuclear war, even on a smaller scale between countries like India and Pakistan.

I highly recommend this book to students and adults alike. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read with Dragnet-like intensity. While I’ve read a fair amount about this period of history, I learned many things I had not known before, and I liked the way the author tied together many seemingly disparate events.

The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
by Garth Stein
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.36
1304 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm afraid I can't get excited about this book, February 5, 2015
I'm afraid I can't get as excited about The Art of Racing in the Rain as my friends who enthusiastically recommended it to me. I did like the book, but did not love it.

Here's what I liked:

1. The story is told from Enzo the dog's perspective. He got the dog right. This was fun and unique.

2. The story takes place in Seattle and parts of Washington State, which is where I grew up. I have been to MANY of the streets, parks and places that he mentions, and he got that down perfectly.

3. The story has some heart-wrenching moments and the author successfully pulled me into them.

4. The author successfully weaves together three or four perspectives: the rise of the career of a car racer, the story of Eve's illness, and the story of the Enzo, the dog, and the ordeal of legal issues.

Here's what I didn't like:

1. The plot is fairly predictable. The book is more-or-less in two parts and in each section I knew where it was going long before it got there.

2. The book is littered with the F bomb and a few other profanities that just don't belong in a story of this kind.

3. The story is about (among other things) car racing. I'm afraid this is a "sport" that I've never cared for. It's loud; it wastes gas; it pollutes the air. I just don't get it.

4. Denny's religion (or philosophy) is car racing. It just makes me sad that people have replaced faith with something as spiritually shallow as car racing. Again, I just don't get it.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Martin Luther King Jr.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.50
92 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The most important speeches, each with a moving introduction, January 20, 2015
I just finished listening to the audiobook version of A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I did on the tails of listening to his Autobiography. In both cases, the audiobook version is to be preferred, because one gets to hear to the powerful resonating voice of Dr. King on these great sermons and speeches. There is as much to be gained from the delivery of these words as there is in seeing them on the page.

While many of these speeches and sermons are excerpted in the autobiography, here we get them in their entirety. And each speech is preceded by a preface by a renowned figure, such as Rosa Parks, Andrew Young, the Dalai Lama and Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was deeply impacted in some way by each speech.

Since I, like most people, have heard the “I Have a Dream” speech so many times, I was touched deeply by the last two speeches in this volume, “Beyond Vietnam” and his final speech, given the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, during which he eerily had a sense it might be his final words.

Since I give a talk annually to high school students about the Vietnam War, I will be recommending the “Beyond Vietnam” speech to any student who wants to learn more about why people chose to oppose that war. It is the best summary of the anti-war movement that I have ever heard.

I’m glad that I have devoured both of these books in the past two weeks and only regret that I did not do it much sooner.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Martin Luther King Jr.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.13
170 used & new from $2.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring first-person account of a great American leader for peace and justice, January 17, 2015
I just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which includes rare recordings of speeches and sermons of Dr. King. The book was edited by Clayborne Carson, and read by Lavar Burton.

While I have admired Dr. King most of my life, and I have read various books and articles about him, I had never taken the time to devour this great autobiography. And while there would be advantages to reading the print version, such as being able to highlight and meditate on his many memorable quotes, the advantage of the audiobook is in hearing the voice, and feeling the spirit, of this great orator and leader of the civil rights movement, as well as one of the first leaders to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

Some of the many thoughts that ran through my mind as I listened were:

1. This young man, who won an oratorical contest in junior high, continued to follow his dream to be a public speaker. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a minister or an educator, but he continued to develop his craft from an early age.

2. He pursued an education, all the way through his PHD at Boston College, and he interacted with the great thinkers from throughout civilization. He became an articulate and well-read man, and continued to develop his mind throughout his life.

3. It was his commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ that caused him to pursue equality and freedom for all, not just black Americans, but poor whites, and eventually for the impoverished of other nations.

4. In spite of the fact that he was stabbed by a demented black woman early in his career, and that if he had sneezed his aorta might’ve been punctured and he might have died, he continued to press on.

5. In spite of the fact that he received many death threats, he continued to press on. In one of his final speeches, you can hear that he believed his end might be immanent, but that didn’t stop him from being a “drum major” for peace and righteousness.

6. He persisted in his belief in non-violence, even in the face of his fellow civil rights leaders who began moving toward “black power.”

7. He traveled to India to learn more about how to practice non-violence from Mahatma Gandhi, who led his nation to independence through non-violent means.

8. To this day there are people who distort the story of Martin Luther King, accusing him of things that simply are not true. Simply devouring this great autobiography, and coming to grips with his thoughts, his spirit, and his story, would do much to set the record straight.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.00
207 used & new from $0.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of Patrick McManus at times, October 10, 2014
Bill Bryson reminds me of Patrick McManus at times. Much of his outdoors humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Bryson chonicles his endeavors to "do the Appalachian Trail" with his companion, an overweight recovering alchoholic who starts the trip ill prepared. They do the trail in sections, taking breaks at local motels and hostels, and sometimes skipping whole segements of the trail. Later in the book Bryson does some of the trail as a series of day hikes.

While I'll admit that I was disappointed that Bryson and his companion didn't walk the whole 2,200 mile trek, either as a through walker, or even as a section hiker, I still admire him for undertaking the task at all. Along the way he provides interesting, sometimes dramatic, narrative of their adventures, while also filling in with information on geology, history, topgraphy, etc.

I gave the book 4 stars largely because I got weary of hearing the "F bomb" used by his companion.

The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place
The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place
by Molly Caro May
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.00
58 used & new from $6.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An examined life while building a yurt in rural Montana, June 26, 2014
The Map of Enough - Review

I was given a copy of The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place because my brother and sister-in-law appear on several pages of this memoir as friendly neighbors of the author and her fiancé who were building a yurt in rural Montana. While I had visited my brother and sister-in-law on several occasions at their home in the hills outside Bozeman, I had more often listened or read their descriptions of the long, white winters and short growing seasons in the summer.

What I found in this memoir was true to what I had heard, but it gave me a more detailed description of a year and a half in this rugged environment. I also found the descriptions of my brother and sister-in-law to be right in line with the thoughtful people I know them to be.

Having said that, I found myself pulled into the journey of the author to find a place to call home after having lived much of her young life in several different places. I thought of the quote attributed to Socrates: "An unexamined life is not worth living." I enjoy reading the writings of individuals who choose to grow with life, to learn from their experiences, and to reflect on what they have discovered. I read this volume with the same fascination that I read A Walk Across America, by Peter Jenkins, many years ago.

Here I got to peer into a life experience very different from my own, by a woman of a younger generation, doing something adventurous and writing about it as she went. Molly Caro May writes well, describing not only her environment, the weather, the wildlife, the neighbors, the hard work involved, but she whittles away at her feelings and her memories of growing up in various locales. My only nit-picking problem with the book is that she used the Mongolian terms for the parts of the yurt as it was being constructed and I had difficulty remembering what was what. Maybe a short glossary at the back would've helped.

But at the heart of the book is the search for place, the search for self. As the book progressed I began marking memorable quotes. Here are a few:

"If you have lived so many somewheres that you have no somewhere to leave, then your journey might be finding a somewhere to simply be (page 208)."

"I hadn't climbed a tree since when, when, when. My hands gripped rough bark and sap, sticky sap, the smell of pitch and a break through small branches with my head...I hadn't ever felt the blood in my body match the sap flowing up and down the tree, rooting it down and rising it up. Roots held the tree up, yes, but the inside, cells drawn from other trees, faraway trees, from forests combed by humans and from forests no one would ever see--that made it grow into its destined shape and then fortune allowed it to tweak that shape. The tweak was necessary. Bloodlines teach us how to stand. Later, we have to teach ourselves to keep standing (page 248)."

"Maybe homeplace is wherever you end up when you are adult enough not to overcontemplate, when you've been there long enough that memory embeds and you let go of the other lives you had once imagined (page 257)."

"We all have a learning moment as children that only focuses into meaning once we are older (page 275)."

"When our tracks were, as suspected, covered by morning, I stood by the yurt and understood that there was no great map that would steer me to what place or self might be enough. If we put something on the map, it gains importance. If we cut something out of the map, it loses importance. If something is off the map to begin with, it doesn't exist. We map out our places. We are creating new maps all the time (page 278)."

"I had never been placeless. Someone is only placeless when place has been taken from her. Instead, I had been simply without a place (page 279)."

So I recommend The Map of Enough as enjoyable memoir, a journey and an examination of life, a glimpse into a year-and-a-half in rugged western Montana, and as a mirror by which one can examine one's own life.

Three Cups
Three Cups
by Mark St. Germain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.50
38 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom for children on how to handle money, May 28, 2014
This review is from: Three Cups (Hardcover)
This is an enjoyable, and short, picture book for the purpose of teaching children how to use their money wisely so they can go on "an adventure." The three cups are for savings, spending and charity.

This is very similar to the way my father raised us when he said 10% goes to savings and 10% goes to charity. The rest is yours to spend (or save up for later) as you choose. This book does not dicate the percentages, but does give some helpful tips for parents at the end. I like this book and will probaby buy copies to give to young parents in the future.

Mister Sandman (Piano Vocal, Sheet Music)
Mister Sandman (Piano Vocal, Sheet Music)
Offered by Elma's Music
Price: $5.65
6 used & new from $5.00

3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK, April 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was hoping to find the full harmony version of song with all the vocal parts. This version does not have it. It's OK if you're looking for melody, lyrics and chords.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2014 9:55 PM PDT

Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)
Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)
by James (Music) / Same (Lyrics) Keyes
Edition: Sheet music
2 used & new from $1.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, April 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This arrangement does not contain the background vocal parts, which is what I was looking for. It's OK, if you're looking for lyrics, melody and chords to the Crew Cuts version of the song.

10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
by Philip Caputo
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from $8.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the Vietnam War accompanied by large photographs, April 9, 2014
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War Review

This well-written, concise and clear, account of the War in Vietnam is written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author who also a veteran of the war. This volume is richly illustrated with full-page black and white (and some color) photographs on the right, and few maps, with accompanying text, sidebars and smaller photos on the facing page.

In most cases each chapter is one full page (a few extending to a second page). They follow a chronological order, while dealing with a single aspect of the war per chapter.

After a three-page introduction, the first chapter deals with communism. At first a young reader might wonder what this has to do with the war, but it is an essential backdrop to what follows.

The “origins of the Vietnam War” are covered early in the book, starting with World War II and French colonization, and then going on to the dividing of the country.

The bulk of the book deals with the American military buildup, the escalation of the war, various key battles, and the view from the perspective of the American involvement. The growing media coverage, notably that of television reporting, an the increasing opposition to the war, get fair treatment. The author blames the loss of the war on failures by President Johnson, as well as the sensationalized TV reports.

The volume wraps up with the Paris Peace talks, the “Pentagon Papers” and Watergate, the fall of Saigon, the MIA issues, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a brief discussion of Vietnam after the war (up to 1995).

At the end of this volume is a glossary, which will be essential for young readers, except one term I looked up was not listed. A helpful bibliography is listed, but it primarily consists of military titles, and nothing about the home front or the antiwar movement.

While it took me less than a day to read this informative volume, I found myself spending almost as much time looking at the photographs as I did reading the text. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

It appears that the intended audience for this book is high school, and possibly middle school readers. But as a adult who lived through those times, I found it engrossing to revisit and reflect on what happened. Much of it I was too young to understand at the time, so this book helped to fill in some of the gaps. Having said that, there are many military terms and acronyms tossed around, it does get a bit confusing at times. And while the maps are certainly helpful, a few times when I looked for locations mentioned in the text, I could not find them labeled on the facing maps.

But all in all, it is a good read, and one that I would recommend.

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