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Michael OConnor "Wordsmith" RSS Feed (Wausau, WI USA)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Books (Top Tens List)
Books (Top Tens List)
36 used & new from $13.09

5.0 out of 5 stars BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS...MY KINGDOM FOR A BOOK!, May 27, 2015
This review is from: Books (Top Tens List) (Paperback)
BOOKS; OVER 100 TOP 10 LISTS is a fascinating, informative guide to the world of literature. A 2014 Bounty Books release, BOOKS presents a wide-ranging guide to novels, stories, characters, plots, genres and assorted other topics.

A Brit import, BOOKS arranges its material in chapters entitled: Compelling Characters; Image That; Out of This World; Relativity; World of Books; and Page Turners. The 'Out of This World' chapter, for example, features lists for Top 10 Sci-Fi Classics, Top 10 Supernatural Spine-Tinglers, Top 10 Fantasy Worlds, Top 10 Modern Fables, Top 10 Stephen King Specials, Top 10 Vampire Tales and so on. Likewise, 'Compelling Characters' includes Top 10 Great Detectives, Top 10 Enduring Romantic Heroines, Top 10 Tolkien Characters, Top 10 Shakespearean Greats, Top 10 Masterful Males, etc.

The book is illustrated throughout with b&w and color photographs, book covers, illustrations, etc.

All in all, BOOKS is a literary treat and a fun read. Recommended.


Movies (Top Tens List)
Movies (Top Tens List)
by Rob Hill
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $9.00

5.0 out of 5 stars MOVIE LISTINGS SMORGASBORD!, May 27, 2015
This review is from: Movies (Top Tens List) (Paperback)
MOVIES; OVER 100 TOP 10 LISTS is a clever, informative guide to the silver screen. A 2014 Bounty Books release, it should prove to be catnip to movie buffs.

MOVIES, a Brit import, tops off at 288 pages. The 108 lists in the book cover the following topics and then some: Top 10 Antiheroes, Top 10 Twist Endings, Top 10 Slasher Movies, Top 10 Kisses, Top 10 Pets. Top 10 Performances Against Type, Top 10 Tough Girls, Top 10 Biopics, Top 10 Performances by Children, Top 10 Shoot-Outs, Top 10 Controversial Movies, Top 10 Androids, Top 10 Scene Stealing Performances, Top 10 Coolest Characters, Top 10 Heists and Top 10 Strangest Movies (That Are Worth Seeing).

The book is illustrated throughout with b&w and color pix.

MOVIES is the type of book that can be read from start to finish or you can just pick a random page and jump in and enjoy. Either way, it's a fun read. Recommended. .


Armchair Reader: The Amazing Book of History: Extraordinary Facts and Stories
Armchair Reader: The Amazing Book of History: Extraordinary Facts and Stories
by Jonathan W. Jordan
Edition: Paperback
83 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Facts for All Ages!, May 25, 2015
It was probably folly for the ARMCHAIR READER people to try and take on the UNCLE JOHNS BATHROOM READER behemoth but, what the heck, it was worth a shot. And it did produce some 'good reads' like THE AMAZING BOOK OF HISTORY. A 2008 release, it lives up to its EXTRAORDINARY FACTS AND STORIES sub-title by providing 500+ pages of fascinating info.

THE AMAZING BOOK OF HISTORY dishes up a smorgasbord of historical facts, figures and people in no particular order. It includes write-ups on King Ludwig I, Hollywood vs History, the Amber Room, Leprosy, the 'Black Sunday' dust storm, German spies in wartime America, daily lives of Neanderthals, America's never-to-be women astronauts, Oklahoma's land lottery, Great Obscure Quotes, TV inventor Philo Farnsworth, Pope Joan, Typhoid Mary, America's Gay(?) President, the straight skinny on Captain Bligh, Freemason history, etc., etc.

I was sorry to see the ARMCHAIR READERS idea go under. Whatever the publisher, they're great ways of increasing your knowledge. Case in point: THE AMAZING BOOK OF HISTORY. So, read, enjoy and learn! Recommended.


The Beatles
The Beatles
9 used & new from $4.30

4.0 out of 5 stars The Beatles Revisited!, May 25, 2015
This review is from: The Beatles (Hardcover)
For all those shaking their heads at 'yet another Beatles book,' take heart! THE BEATLES, THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR ALL BEATLES FANS is a keeper. A 2013 Igloo Books release, it's a well-done, visually delightful and enjoyable chronicle of the life and times of JPG&R. And it's the first Beatles book I've come across that incorporates an app logo that lets you access 'enhanced content.'

A Brit import, THE BEATLES tops off at 304 pages. It details the magic, music and mystique of 'the lads' in chapters on The Beginning: Lennon and McCartney, From Liverpool to Hamburg, Beatlemania, The Beatles at the Movies, Drugs and Epstein's Death, Let It Be, Lennon's Murder, The Beatles: A Legacy, etc. It has a pleasing mix of vintage and contemporary b&w and color images and lots of comments/sound bites from JPG&R, George Martin and other Beatle people.

Though I don't know if this actually is the Definitive(!) Beatles book, as the title claims, it is a nicely-done trip down memory lane. I picked up a copy at B&N for $9.98. Recommended.


Charles Dickens at Home
Charles Dickens at Home
by Hilary Macaskill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.10
63 used & new from $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Guide to The Domestic Life and Times of Charles Dickens!, May 21, 2015
Home and hearth were everything to Charles Dickens. The various apartments, houses, vacation homes and assorted domiciles he inhabited were a major part of his life and well-being and many of them found new life in his novels. British travel author Hilary Macaskill provides a wonderfully informative and thoroughly enchanting guide to Dickens' 'home life' in CHARLES DICKENS AT HOME. A 2011 Frances Lincoln release, Macaskill's book combines informed commentary with lush, evocative photography by Graham Salter and other, assorted period illustrations.

In his lifetime, Charles Dickens went from debtors' prison, as a youth, to comfortable, thoroughly English homes that befit his status as England's most popular author and world-famous celebrity. Indeed, he ultimately realized his childhood dream of a house in Kent! Macaskill takes the reader through a chronologically arranged tour of Dickens' abodes in England and abroad in chapters entitled: Childhood, Growing Up, Marriage and Domesticity, Dickens Away, etc. She gives the history of each site, the circumstances that brought Dickens (and his family) to that place, family life experiences and so on. The text is complimented by Salter's color photographs which portray each site. Vintage illustrations of many of those sites provide an interesting then-and-now perspective.

CHARLES DICKENS AT HOME is as much a portrait of the man as his residences. It is, at once, a fascinating travel guide and an affectionate biography of this singular author. Highly recommended.

*****
8,600 Helpful Votes!


Joseph Stalin (Heroes & Villains)
Joseph Stalin (Heroes & Villains)
by James Barter
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from $20.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of an Evil Leader...for Younger Readers!, April 6, 2015
If not for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin would have been crowned the most evil man of the 20th Century. Intensely paranoid, devoid of compassion and utterly ruthless, he murdered millions of his own countrymen, usually for little or no reason, and brutalized millions more. He was evil personified. James Barter provides a comprehensive portrait of this beast in human form in JOSEPH STALIN. A 2005 Thomson/Gale release, Barter's book is part of that firm's HEROES AND VILLAINS series.

Stalin had a brutal childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father. Unusually short, he had a withered left arm and a face pock-marked from smallpox, all of which produced taunts and mockery from neighborhood children. The cruelty that marked his adult life probably has its roots in childhood days, producing a cunning, cruel, aggressive personality. While studying for the priesthood(!), he became aware of and became devoted to Marxism. He became an ardent admirer of Lenin, seeing him as a father figure and using their friendship as a stepping-stone ever upward. With the overthrow of the Czar, Stalin began his slow but steady climb to power, maneuvering behind the scenes so that, when Lenin died, Stalin became unquestioned leader of Russia. Ahead lay countless purges, pogroms, disastrous agricultural programs, creation of the gulag system, etc. Stalin was equally as ruthless when war broke out, sacrificing whole armies to blunt Hitler's attack. Peace brought the enslavement of eastern Europe, the Cold War and more brutality. Mercifully, this monster died - or was murdered - in 1953.

Barter does an excellent job of charting the lines and times - and crimes - of Joseph Stalin. Younger readers will get a factual understanding of how absolute power can corrupt absolutely and the evil that men can do. Recommended.

*****
8,500 Helpful Votes!


Twisted History
Twisted History
by Howard Watson
Edition: Hardcover
5 used & new from $15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rogue's Gallery of Saints & Mostly Sinners!, March 31, 2015
This review is from: Twisted History (Hardcover)
Howard Watson's TWISTED HISTORY offers a guided magical misery tour to 32 of history's most famous psychos, crooks, creeps, charlatans, saints, sinners and assorted 'visionaries.' A 2015 Metro Books release, Watson's book offers entertaining, informative bios of some of history's lesser lights.

Divided into chapters on 'Treachery & Torture,' 'Saints & Sinners' and 'Murder & Mayhem,' Watson provides write-ups on such 'fun people' like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Joan of Arc, Bernie Madoff, Judas Iscariot, Blackbeard, Richard III, Al Capone, Lee Harvey Oswald, Pierre Laval and Vlad the Impaler. Write-ups range from four to six page with accompanying b&w and color photographs, illustrations and artwork.

History buffs will enjoy TWISTED HISTORY. It provides the straight skinny on thirty-odd famous - and/or infamous - men and women. Recommended.


Retro TV
Retro TV
by Ian Collis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.28
47 used & new from $17.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TV Shows We Loved!, March 26, 2015
This review is from: Retro TV (Hardcover)
Ian Collis' RETRO TV should be catnip for aging baby boomers like moi. This 2014 New Holland Publishers release offers up scads of b&w and color photographs and brief text on dozens and dozen of fan favorite TV shows from the 1940s to the mid-1980s.

RETRO TV tops off at 288 pages. The book is divided into chapters on 'The Fabulous Fifties,' 'The Swinging Sixties' and so on. Most of the shows covered are American but there are a few Brit shows, such as 'The Avengers.' as well. The first entry is 'I Love Lucy;' the last, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.' In-between are write-ups on shows such as 'Lassie,' "Hopalong Cassidy,' 'Beat the Clock,' 'Twilight Zone,' 'What's My Line,' 'Sea Hunt,' 'The Tonight Show,' 'Naked City,' 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' 'Have Gun Will Travel,' 'The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,' 'Combat,' 'General Hospital,' 'Arrest and Trial,' 'Family Affair,' 'I Spy,' 'Wild, Wild West,' 'All in the Family,' 'Welcome Back Kotter,' 'Donny and Marie,' Little House on the Prairie' and 'MASH.' Write-ups range for a 1/2-page to two pages.

Collis' book is informative, entertaining and a fun read. All baby boomers and TV buffs in general will enjoy this magical mystery (TV) tour. Recommended.


Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes
Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes
by Wendy Holden
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.80
107 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the 'Hiya, Pallie' Facade!, March 15, 2015
Though there have been many biographies of Dean Martin written, few can touch MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS in terms of being an 'up-close-and-personal' look at one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century. Dean Martin had it all, huge success in the music, TV and movie industries; scads of adoring fans; undreamed-of wealth; show-biz friends galore. Yet, as his daughter Deanna reveals in her critical yet affectionate biography, there was a darker side to the public 'lovable lush' façade.

Deanna Martin maintains her dad was a great man but not a great father. For reasons unknown even to his family, Dean was an intensely private person who rarely let anyone - even his wives or kids - into his inner reaches. In public, he could be convivial and endlessly charming. In private, he could be affectionate and even playful with his kids. But then, he drew the curtain down and retreated into his private world. At the end of his life, he was still a loner, beloved by family, friends and fans but still a loner.

Deanna does a good job of relating her father's life and showbiz career. Dean deserted his first wife and four kids, which included Deanna, for trophy wife 'Jeanne' who became mother to the four. Her dad later remarried several times. As documented in MEMORIES, it made for a life of often unfulfilled hopes and expectations since Dean might be there for the kids or, more likely, was too busy with his career or golf.

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS is quite a revelation. Dean Martin was probably the ultimate entertainer - suave, debonair, witty, charming with a slightly mischievous air and possessing a wonderful voice. Whatever his failings, he generated much happiness and joy in his songs, movies and TV shows, which is probably the finest legacy such an intensely private individual could leave. Recommended.

*****
8,450 Helpful Votes!


F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat Aces of VF-2 (Aircraft of the Aces)
F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat Aces of VF-2 (Aircraft of the Aces)
by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.34
64 used & new from $11.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Navy Fighter Squadron at War!, March 3, 2015
Fighter Squadron Two was one of the Navy's top fighter squadrons of World War II. Credited with 262 air kills, VF-2 had more aces than any other squadron, 28 out of 40 pilots downing five Japanese aircraft. Thomas Cleaver covers the combat exploits of Fighting Two in F4F WILDCAT AND F6F HELLCAT ACES OF VF-2. A 2015 Osprey release, Cleaver's book is #125 in that firm's AIRCRAFT OF THE ACES series.

VF-2 traces its beginnings to 1921 and Combat Squadron Four. In 1922, the unit became VF-2 and spent the pre-war years flying Curtiss Hawks, Boeing F2Bs and F4Bs, Grumman F2Fs and Brewster Buffaloes. In early 1942, Grumman Wildcats were acquired and VF-2 took part in early Pacific combat ops, scoring 17 kills before being disestablished in July 1942. A new VF-2 then stood up with LtCdr Bill Dean as CO. Flying Hellcats, the squadron, paced by aces like Dan Carmichael, Carl Hargreaves, Art Van Haren and Dean himself, rang up another 245 kills. By war's end, it was the third ranking VF squadron in the Navy.

Cleaver does a fine job of relating the life and times of this illustrious squadron, utilizing many first-person reminiscences and combat reports. Navy fighter squadrons have never gotten their just due and books like Cleaver's help redress that oversight.

The text is complimented by Jim Laurier's usual fine profile artwork with a delightful mix of pre-war biplanes, chunky F4Fs and deadly Hellcats.

Air combat buffs will enjoy F4F WILDCAT AND F6F HELLCAT ACES OF VF-2. It's an informative, exciting chronicle of a sharpshooting VF unit at war. Recommended.


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