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Lost Twin Cities
Lost Twin Cities
by Larry Millett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $25.80
63 used & new from $2.34

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old family photos, described lovingly, April 3, 2000
This review is from: Lost Twin Cities (Paperback)
Reading Lost Twin Cities feels like you've found that great uncle or aunt who can explain all the black and white family photos. This is a great example of the historian's art, a real case in which an author, by choosing a particular way to frame a set of information, calls a past world back to vivid life. It's a bittersweet pleasure to relive the life span of each historical building. Millet's approach is anecdotal, like that old relative's conversational voice.
Indirectly, this book also raises some natural questions about our country's urban development. The demise of the Twin Cities' streetcar system is particularly well described, for example. I could see a creative professor, teaching a lower level course on urban development, assigning this book as a text. (The same professor would also have students view "Chinatown.")
The book was also adapted for television by the local (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) public station. The program is quite entertaining, and catches the tone of the book pretty well.
Larry Millet has written a few Sherlock Holmes mysteries, largely as an excuse to present much of this same historical information in a livelier way. If you're considering which approach to take, stick to this. The mysteries are awful, extremely flat-footed and despiriting for an Arthur Conan Doyle fan; this is a wonderful book.


The Big Country (Widescreen Edition) [VHS]
The Big Country (Widescreen Edition) [VHS]
VHS
Offered by eSALESandSHIPPING
Price: $9.74
9 used & new from $1.90

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, fun, non-western of a western, March 31, 2000
This is an exceptionally fun, sprawling-big, bold William Wyler western. It has a fantastic, bold soundtrack, and it uses every inch of screen space inside those letterboxes. Gregory Peck makes a great western star, basically because you always see the civil gentleman behind the role. In some ways, this is a sort of anti-western. It isn't about gunfights and purifying violence through confrontation, anyway, that's for sure.
The performances in this movie are all winning. If you're going to idolize someone for having integrity, well, you may as well cast Gregory Peck. He's a little too good for words, maybe, but he plays the role with real humanity and a wonderful sense of humor. Jean Simmons, Chuck Connors, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives all turn in really lively, engaging performances in supporting roles. This is one of those films that makes you really curious about the lives of all the supporting characters, as well as about the protagonist. (Its only Oscar was for supporting actor -- Ives won.)
The cinematography's a pleasure too. This is a big, broad-shouldered movie, and it shows it.
Last but not least, this movie has a moral center, like any good western. Let's not give it any Nobel nominations, but there is a heart here, and it's not entirely without moral nuance.
I ordinarily swear away from this but... I've never seen an Amazon review that completely missed the boat as much as the "homoerotic" one for this movie. That take is... just bizarre. If you really do want homoeroticism from this era, try the Spartacus "director's cut." You may as well get what you're asking for, rather than projecting it where it isn't.


The Baron In The Trees
The Baron In The Trees
by Italo Calvino
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.34
200 used & new from $0.31

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charmed surrealism, historical fiction, March 6, 2000
This review is from: The Baron In The Trees (Paperback)
This is among the most graceful, least self conscious works of historical fiction I've run across. It's also a quirky sort of book, one that uses what I'd call surrealism not for its own sake but in well chosen measure in service of an actual story. (Imagine that.)
Baron in the Trees is essentially a surrealist retelling of the enlightenment in the person of a single obstinate child. You can fill in the blanks yourself by reading the title and some of the other reviews here.
I'd highly recommend Italo Calvino to anyone who appreciated Umberto Eco one any level. Calvino is much less dense and strikes me as playful where Eco is more intellectually engrossing.


The Name of the Rose: including the Author's Postscript
The Name of the Rose: including the Author's Postscript
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Paperback
404 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far more accessible than you think, March 6, 2000
This is long since recognized as a book that'll last and forever define its author, and I won't review it just to fawn at the shrine. I will, though, warn you not to become intimidated.
This isn't the daunting challenge some reviewers make it out to be. Name of the Rose is an engaging read, and you don't need to become bogged down trying to completely understand the religious and political subtexts in order to appreciate it. It's a splendid, enjoyable book if you approach it as one. Nobody's testing you later. Enjoy it.
Personally I find Adso and William of Occam, the central characters, to be closer to stock genre characters than they should be. This isn't a harsh criticism; just an explanation of that last star denied. (I've read this four times, too, so once for each star I guess.)
People who read Umberto Eco really should appreciate Italo Calvino too. Calvino is far sparer, if you want a graceful read for the park. Neither author's strength is characterization, and they have similarly quirky voices, at least as I read them.


Raj: A Novel
Raj: A Novel
by Gita Mehta
Edition: Paperback
111 used & new from $0.01

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flat, failed to connect for me, March 6, 2000
This review is from: Raj: A Novel (Paperback)
This is basically a fairly dry attempt at an historical epic. I'm familiar with Ms. Mehta's name, and had considered buying Karma Cola once. Here I'd hoped for historical fiction with a little edge to it. Nothing doing. No twists, no edge, no juice to the story at all for me. Even the travelogue-type descriptions withered for me.
This has all the trimmings of the engrossing saga, including the lovely cover, but I'm sorry to say it didn't go anywhere for me.


A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers: An Organic Guide to Choosing and Growing over 150 Beautiful
A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers: An Organic Guide to Choosing and Growing over 150 Beautiful
by C. Colston Burrell
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from $0.25

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent context and detail, February 26, 2000
C Colston Burrell seems to be a genuinely professional gardening writer, having written a general perennials book for Rodale too. I'm thoroughly impressed with this book, which does a very good job of placing species in both natural and garden contexts. It also gives adequate treatment to the basics of native garden care in some introductory chapters.
A Gardener's Ency of Wildflowers is not a comprehensive reference; I haven't seen anything I'd call a definitive reference out there on native gardening. Intelligently, Burrell chooses to provide very complete descriptions of a representative sampling of 150-some native plants. In side bars, he sends up other species in slightly less detail, contrasting them with the full description he started from. The format works well. Native gardening is still at the point where you need to do a fair amount of poking around yourself to know what's appropriate to your area and your garden, and this book is a perfect starting point for that process.
The other positive here for me personally was that Burrell is a Minneapolis author. I happen to also be in zone four, and really appreciated the fact that the book had a very healthy complement of species that are happy in northern gardens.
The one absence I noticed was any detailed description of propagating each species. Good nursery catalogs -- Prairie Moon's being one -- include information on when to plant each type of seed, how long to cold stratify it, and so on. Here you get more of a basic description of how fall planting works, in an introductory chapter mostly. After a couple of years with my own garden, I can tell you that isn't quite enough to go by.


Easy Care Native Plants: A Guide to Selecting and Using Beautiful American Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees in Gardens and Landscapes
Easy Care Native Plants: A Guide to Selecting and Using Beautiful American Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees in Gardens and Landscapes
by Patricia A. Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from $0.22

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, well written reference... with a few gaps, February 26, 2000
This is a good choice for the beginning native gardener who needs a sense of the range of native plants available. It's a pleasant browse, and provides a representative sample of the choices you might make with natives. I appreciated the straightforward tone of the writer, who studiously avoided the pretensions of some of the more unctious coffeetable books. Let's just say she's gardening in urban New Jersey, not in northern California, and leave it at that.
On the other hand, there are some gaps in Ms. Taylor's knowledge that make this a less than definitive reference. The short version is that she's often recommending a plant based on the sendup of an arboretum or public garden with which she's corresponded, and that sometimes she hasn't done the research to back that recommendation up. For an egregious example, she describes the American form of Bittersweet (Celastrus Scandens) in a way that clearly demonstrates that she doesn't know the difference between it and the invasive asian form. That sort of slip is a real problem, both philosophically and practically, for someone who's into native plants. Oops.
All in all, I'd say this is a useful book that gets you interested in the plants, but that you should do a healthy amount of leg work elsewhere before you plant. The research is half the fun anyway...
For another native plant reference, with less species but more reliable context and detail, try C. Colston Burrell's A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers.


Blue at the Mizzen (Aubrey / Maturin)
Blue at the Mizzen (Aubrey / Maturin)
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.79
386 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, imperfect, and somehow a suitable ending, January 10, 2000
Like many O'Brian devotees, I've been unable to wholly reconcile myself to the last four books or so. At some point, to say it succinctly, O'Brian began working by rote, or anyway that's how things felt to me.
I finished reading this final book two days before the author's death. Even before the news broke, though, I had come to accept this as the last in the series.
This book isn't perfect. It sometimes panders to my reverie for the series at its height.
It also, though, provides us with an incomplete, compromised, very human close to things. Maturin isn't happy, though he lives in expectation of happiness. Aubrey is older, and if he's wiser he's also not as bright a flame, so to speak, as he once was.
O'Brian might have described a conversation between Cello and Violin, ending with a muttered irresolute harmony as the daylight through the stern windows faded to grey. It ended that way.


Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders: From the American Chronicles of John H. Watson, M.D.
Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders: From the American Chronicles of John H. Watson, M.D.
by Larry Millett
Edition: Paperback
87 used & new from $0.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misses the mark, especially with Sherlock himself, January 10, 2000
I make a habit of rereading a few of the original, Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries each year in early winter. This year someone gave me The Ice Palace Murders for Christmas, so I've had the chance to read the new book with the master still fresh in my mind.
It's unfortunate, but this totally misses the mark for me.
Without delving into the failings of the plot, which I'd characterize as befitting a middling modern genre novel, I have to say this book fails to capture any measure of the style and charm of the Conan Doyle characters.
It also completely fails to make any capital of the sometimes deliciously subversive deductive moments that often carry the originals. Here Sherlock Holmes and Watson (and the shallow introduction Rafferty) simply blunder around asking the obvious people obvious questions. Sherlock cracks safes to get crucial documents. Hoop-de-doo. Several times Holmes is at a loss to make any sense of evidence around which some of the real stories made an entire mystery work. (Recall the newsprint warnings in Hound of the Baskervilles? Here Holmes dismisses Rafferty out of hand when it's suggested that a Garamond typeface might indicate something in a similar note. Gee, has the author even read the original?)
Even when this author tries to inject a note of the charm of the Conan Doyle stories, his attempt is flat footed. For example, Holmes deducts that a character has just come from a rendevous with a woman. Why? Well, he has a long red hair on his shirt, and there's -- get ready to be stunned at the obviousness -- lipstick on his collar. Hardly the 'Your washbasin is on the east wall, I find' we've all come to expect.
I was, to be shorter, thoroughly disappointed.


Landscaping for Wildlife
Landscaping for Wildlife
by Carrol L. Henderson
Edition: Spiral-bound
37 used & new from $1.70

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding; the place to start, May 18, 1999
I too was at a total loss until someone recommended this book to me. The little identification signs in the nurseries are often inaccurate with the little they do say, and they're coming from such a different ("if you want to prevent the birds from eating your berries, cover the entire tree in garish mesh") perspective, for the most part, that I never felt I was getting anywhere.
The only faults with this title all have to do with too much information. The many appendices might have been better integrated with one another. There are times when the plant tables involve an awful lot of flipping back and forth, and could have been more cleanly organized. Finally, the sheer number of species of plant involved make it impossible to do what many garden books do; often you're looking at a description like "TS" (tall shrub) and wondering what shape it is, how dense, and so on. I went to the web and used the latin names to find descriptions of everything.
You'll need to go from this book to other sources to be sure of the appearance of things, and consulting with the average nursery or landscaper will still be necessary to discover things like when to prune. But this is the place to start, without question, for anyone in the midwest.


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