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Pocket Kings
Pocket Kings
by Ted Heller
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.58
22 used & new from $1.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it, but plot doesn't hold together, May 2, 2013
This review is from: Pocket Kings (Paperback)
The reviews were good, and the subject matter was interesting. But I found the book very frustrating.

1) As an initial matter, so much of the book revolves around poker, but the writing about the poker play was ersatz to anyone who plays poker or online poker--like an incident where the narrator wins a big hand because he flopped a straight flush. (It is not the case that very big hands win very big pots.) I just got taken out of the moment every time the narrator wins thousands of dollars drawing to an inside straight or collecting with "9s and 5s" or claims to win "ten out of thirteen hands." A player might win a few big hands like that, but he's going to be broke much quicker. All I could think of was "Where can I find this mythical online poker site where playing like this idiot does can consistently win so much money?" The denouement no-limit poker game, which I won't spoil, is especially unbelievable.

2) Indeed, the denouement twist makes no sense, and requires a character to behave in a manner where he's investing tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time in a scheme that has no reason in advance to ever reach profitable fruition, even if we assume the bad guy is Professor Moriarity and Hari Seldon and Ricky Jay rolled into one. The scheme could have been cut off at any point by a character making any number of reasonable choices at over a dozen different decision-points.

3) Other plot twists require us to ignore matters we read about pages before: the narrator is in London, and a plot twist requires him to ask his wife to fax him a copy of his manuscript because he can't find his book in a bookstore--but we see him fanatically checking his Amazon sales ranking hourly, so why didn't he just order online? In other cases, the narrator is eavesdropping on people having cybersex at a poker table--but he is discussing the cybersex in private IM messages with another character. Why aren't the cybersexers using the same IM mechanism? Or the myriad number of software programs more suited to online communication than an online poker site?

4) Also mysterious: why someone who doesn't want to go to Atlantic City or Foxwoods or wait six hours for a flight to Las Vegas instead takes an expensive three-day cab ride to Las Vegas, and then cheaps out at a low-budget off-strip hotel. We see the narrator spending freely though it's never clear how he's both accumulating electronic wealth that's displayed at an online poker site as consistently growing and turning those virtual dollars into cash or avoiding visits from federal prosecutors curious about such financial transactions.

Perhaps all these contradictions are meant to be excused as the work of an unreliable narrator, but the narrator is self-deprecating in every other aspect (other than his self-regard for his writing), and complains about the exaggerations of a writer of a roman a clef and the James Freys of the world. I see several reviewers commenting on the satire of the nature of online identity, but someone familiar with the multitude of more elaborate real-life catfishing incidents played for much smaller stakes is hardly going to find the fiction here surprising.

I liked the irony of the narrator remarking on his trading on a more famous author's name; the satire of the publishing world is more vivid, but that might just be because I know less about publishing than about poker. The book was a quick read, but I was disappointed all in all, and found it grim reading for something so many people thought to be funny.


The Class Action Playbook
The Class Action Playbook
by Andrew Trask
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from $299.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Newberg, February 27, 2013
I'm already blurbed above, so a five-star Amazon review is perhaps redundant, but let me reiterate that this is the best practitioner's guide on the market. Neutral, concise, up-to-date, accurate. I regularly double-check it to make sure I don't miss anything.


Pearls Sells Out: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury
Pearls Sells Out: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pastis 5 stars, but Kindle editon 1 star, September 17, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Pearls Before Swine is one of three strips I read daily, and the only one where I've purchased licensed merchandise, and I enjoyed the first two PBS books I purchased. So I was looking forward to reading this on the Kindle so I wouldn't have to kill any trees. Big mistake. The cartoons are shrunk to an unreadable size, and are blurry when zoomed. It's also annoying to have to zoom each cartoon. Really inexcusable and has kept me from enjoying this as I would have liked. Get the paperback version if you're interested in buying this.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2011 7:04 AM PST


Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence
Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $13.99

48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable, but don't expect it to be "Crime Abstract 2011", May 14, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been reading Bill James since the 1982 Baseball Abstract, so I was going to read this, too.

Ironically, James is at his best in this book when he just has fun thinking outside the box and plays detective, challenging conventional wisdom on a variety of random crime cases. When he tries to play sabremetrician, however, the results are embarrassing. There's a murder-classification system that he must have created for data analysis, but then there's no data analysis--perhaps because he correctly realized there was little quantifiable about the series of anecdotes. He tries to create a 100-point guide to guilt or innocence, but the metrics are all pulled out of thin air and are entirely unpersuasive.

But it is good to hear James expose the emperor's clothes on a feature of the American justice system: how much it is a gameshow of obfuscation on both sides, and how little criminal trials have to do with the truth. There are the obvious examples of recent Los Angeles celebrity cases, but the book earns its keep when it explores the historical record with tales of the corruption of Clarence Darrow and other noted criminal defense attorneys.

The book is entirely readable, but it's less a coherent book than a series of anecdotes: your eccentric uncle shooting the breeze about things he wants to talk about on the subject of crime and crime books. One gets the sense that the book wasn't published because it was finished, but it was finished because it was time to be published. So we see themes raised and dropped without rhyme or reason; the organization is chronological. Chronological, but not systematic: for example, the Stanford White case is disposed of quickly with the assumption that the reader already knows about it. (I don't, so I felt let down.) Some crime books get extensive reviews; others don't. As others have noted, it feels insufficiently edited.

I don't regret purchasing it, as I enjoyed reading it, but I can see the potential for disappointment. Don't think of it as a Baseball Abstract revolutionizing the field; it's more like the baseball books James wrote in the 1990s with Rob Neyer where the two dug through the historical archives to tell interesting anecdotes about baseball players in an alphabetical catalog that ended before it even got to the letter B: entertaining in places, inconsistent with spotty insights, and not remotely complete.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2011 2:30 AM PDT


Lawyer Barons
Lawyer Barons
Price: $16.49

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark book, May 14, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Lawyer Barons (Kindle Edition)
How much do I like this book? I got a free review hardcopy, and I ended up buying the Kindle version so I could always have a searchable version with me as a reference.

Professor Brickman is one of the few scholars commenting on the striking problem of legal ethics that lawyers tolerate lawyers cheating their clients out of small fortunes to an extent they would never tolerate any other business cheating their customers--which is especially ironic given that attorneys are supposed to have fiduciary duties to their clients. (The opening account of Mary Corcoran, and how an appellate court shrugged when an attorney took her for $140,000 without winning her a penny is alone worth the price of the book.) Brickman lays out a compelling case for the distorting effects of contingency fees, their effect on tort law, their incentives for extensive mass tort fraud, and the failure of the judicial system to police the conflicts of interest inherent in class actions.

Brickman marshals evidence to an extent no previous author has before. A reader is almost getting two books in one: a readable account of the problem that one can read straight through without ever flipping to the back, and then an extensive set of detailed footnotes and appendices for those looking for further scholarship. Any aspiring legal academic or law student looking for paper ideas can mine these footnotes for several full careers worth of further inquiry in this understudied area.

I'm not sure I entirely agree with Brickman that contingency fees are entirely responsible for the distorting effects he describes (and Brickman, to his credit, acknowledges the benefits as well as costs of that fee structure), but the abuses he describes across the system should concern all attorneys and academics who care about the huge discrepancy between theory and practice.

Anyone looking for a book that is a kneejerk polemic against "greedy trial lawyers" will be disappointed. Many of the reforms Brickman suggests will not just transfer wealth away from lawyers, but from defendants to genuinely injured victims. But if we're looking for the tort system to fairly compensate the injured without punishing the innocent, Professor Brickman's analysis must be considered.

Since I've started my non-profit project in 2009, I've seen remarkable instances of attorneys putting their interests ahead of their clients. (Disclosure: one of Brickman's lengthy footnotes discusses one of my cases.) I will be citing this book frequently in my litigation on behalf of consumers and class members. Let's hope judges listen.


Generic Compatible Ink Cartridge Replacement for Epson T044 (4xBlack, 2xCyan, 2xMagenta, 2xYellow, 10-Pack)
Generic Compatible Ink Cartridge Replacement for Epson T044 (4xBlack, 2xCyan, 2xMagenta, 2xYellow, 10-Pack)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not Epson compatible ink., May 23, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My Epson CX4600 refused to recognize these cartridges. I'm still waiting to hear if I'm going to get my money back.


Race For The Galaxy
Race For The Galaxy
Price: $24.11
44 used & new from $18.00

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular game, December 22, 2007
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Race For The Galaxy (Toy)
The sensation of the 2007 Essen convention, this is a card game for two to five players with tremendous replayability. If you're familiar with San Juan, the game is similar: you have a deck of cards that can either be played on a tableau or used as currency. Each card has a cost (that can be modified by existing cards on the tableau) and grants certain powers and scores. The idea is to play cards that build your powers that can then be translated into victory points. But, unlike San Juan, every player has a different starting point; there is an additional level of complexity and strategy from the variety of cards available. Like San Juan, there are many different ways to win. The space theme is nicely done, and expansions are expected. Scales nicely: it's as fun with two players as with four, though strategies are slightly different.

I think the symbols on the cards are intuitive, but I've seen inexperienced gamers complain about the number of symbols. The symbols are color-coded and would be unreadable to the color-blind.

Less than a few months after its release, RftG's rating already in the top forty all time on the Board Game Geek website, which is unheard of.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2013 4:26 PM PDT


Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences
Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences
by Peter W. Huber
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.00
94 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read book, October 7, 2006
This book should be mandatory in tort law classes and for legislators. Even if one doesn't agree with the arguments and points made, one cannot discuss tort law intelligently without being able to address Huber's critique.


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