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Reviews Written by
Mike O'Connor "Wordsmith" RSS Feed (Wausau, WI USA)

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Flickipedia: Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal, and Whim
Flickipedia: Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal, and Whim
by Michael Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
62 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars MOVIE GUIDEBOOK WITH A DIFFERENCE!, October 4, 2015
Michael Atkinson and Laurel Shifrin's FLICKIPEDA is a movie guide of a different color. Designed for armchair moviewatchers, it arranges hundreds of films by categories. So, if a viewer wants a flick on Mother's Day, basketball, grieving, spring break or reliving the 1940s, they can turn to that section of the book and find a selection of titles with short, pithy commentary.

A 2008 Chicago Review Press release, FLICKIPEDIA tops off at 338 pages. Along with the subjects above, Atkinson and Shifrin cover such topics as Halloween, 9/11, Chinese New Year, Snow Days, the Triple Crown, College Graduation, New Parenthood, Getting a Pet, Ms. Lonely Hearts, Mr. Lonely Hearts, Exotic Travel and so on. The flicks range from all the 'usual suspects' to lesser-known titles.

Anyone looking for PERFECT FILMS FOR EVERY OCCASION, HOLDAY, MOOD, ORDEAL, AND WHIM should hunt up a copy of FLICKIPEDIA. It should prove to be just what the (movie) doctor ordered. Recommended.

Encyclopedia of Pop Music Aliases, 1950-2000
Encyclopedia of Pop Music Aliases, 1950-2000
by Bob Leszczak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $69.05
40 used & new from $55.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Before They Became Famous!, October 4, 2015
Ever wondered about the musical successes or failures of your favorite pop artist or band before they hit it big as the Big Bopper, the Fifth Dimension, Steppenwolf or Stevie Wonder? Bob Leszczak's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POP MUSIC ALIASES, 1950-2000 supplies the straight skinny over 400 artists who recorded under various aliases before they grasped the brass ring. A 2015 Rowman & Littlefield release, Leszczak's book should delight rock fans of all ages.

Those 400+ artists are arranged alphabetically. The first entry being Barb Acklin alias Barbara Allen, the Fantasions; the last, the Zombies, alias Argot, Neil MacArthur. After an opening sidebar summarizing that artist's career, Leszczak presents a more detailed musical history of each. Entries run from a half-page to three pages in length. Most of the artists are American. A few entries feature an illustration of a 45 record issued by artists under their earlier moniker. I wish the book had included photographs of at least some of the artists but that's just me.

In any case, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POP MUSIC ALIASES, 1950-2000 is a fun, educational trip back through the first fifty years of pop music. It's the type of book you can read cover to cover or just pick a random page and jump in and discover lots of fun facts on, for example, the Rascals (AKA Joey Dee and the Starliters, Gene Cornish and the Unbeetables, Fotomaker and the Young Rascals). Recommended.

Air Combat 1945: The Aircraft of World War II's Final Year (Stackpole Military Photo Series)
Air Combat 1945: The Aircraft of World War II's Final Year (Stackpole Military Photo Series)
by Donald Nijboer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.95
11 used & new from $18.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Photo Album of Late-War Aircraft!, October 2, 2015
Donald Nijboer's AIR COMBAT 1945 is a 204-page photo log of Allied and Axis aircraft circa 1945. Featuring hundreds of (mainly) b&w and color photographs and artwork, it offers up a smorgasbord of warbirds sure to delight air combat buffs.

Nijboer divides his material into chapters on Great Britain, Germany, Italy, United States, Soviet Union and Japan. The images in each chapter are presented in no discernible order but feature well-reproduced, nicely-captioned photographs, many of which are full-page images. About 60% of the pix are new to this reviewer. One note in passing: the chapters are of widely varying length. Great Britain gets 52 pages; Germany, 32; Russia, only six!

In any case, warbirds enthusiasts will love this collection of shots of Spits, P-51s, B-29s, B-17s, Zeros, IL-2s, F4Us, Lancs, Ar 234s, B-26s, Ki-100s, Ju 88s, Fireflies, SM 79s, A-20s, Stukas, et al. A nice, fun page-turner of a book. Recommended.

The World's Worst Disasters & Mistakes
The World's Worst Disasters & Mistakes
59 used & new from $0.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Blunders, Catastrophes & Goofs, Oh My!, September 29, 2015
THE WORLD'S WORST DISASTERS & MISTAKES is a Brit import, combining three previous books on natural and man-made disasters/blunders/failures/etc. A 2014 Bounty Books release, it offers up interesting stories of those days "when things go wrong."

The book features the texts of THE WORLD'S WORST DISASTERS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, THE WORLD'S GREATEST MISTAKES and THE WORLD'S GREATEST BLUNDERS. The first section - WORST DISASTERS - chronicles such events as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Morro Castle shipwreck, London 'Pea-Souper' fogs, the Florence floods of 1966, the Las Vegas MGM fire, the Australian Bush Fires of 1983, etc. The second section - GREATEST MISTAKES - covers the baker who started the Great London Fire of 1666, the worlds' first driver/car crash victim, the curse of King Tut's Tomb, the R101 crash, the world's worst plane crash and so on. The final section - GREATEST BLUNDERS - provides details on Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the Herald of Free Enterprise sinking, the Challenger disaster, the Shroud of Turin, etc. Entries range from several paragraphs to ten pages in length. Vintage b&w photographs and artwork illustrate some of the entries.

While almost all of the entries found in the book are well-known, nevertheless it is a fascinating if sometimes saddening collection of "Stories of natural disaster or human error." Recommended.

Law Dogs: Great Cops in American History
Law Dogs: Great Cops in American History
by Lt. Dan Marcou
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.37
39 used & new from $10.37

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary American Lawmen Through the Decades!, September 27, 2015
Dan Marcou's LAW DOGS, GREAT COPS IN AMERICAN HISTORY details the life and times of over 30 American lawmen from frontier days to modern times. A 2015 Thunder Bay Press release, the book is a fascinating and inspiring tribute to brave men and women who have put their life on the line for their fellow citizens....and sometimes paid the full price.

LAW DOGS divides its material into chapters on: The Wild West, The Gangster Era, Presidential Security, Doing the Right Thing, Great Detectives and so on. It profiles such famous lawmen such as Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman, John Hays, 'Heck' Thomas, Frank Hamer and Frank Serpico along with lesser-known lawmen like 'Jelly' Bryce, J. D. Tippit, Katie Conway, John Dodson and Pierce Brooks. Some were local policeman, others were U.S. Marshals, still others were Texas Rangers, FBI, etc. Wherever and whenever they served, they displayed utmost courage and dedication when the need arose.

Though the stories of some of these individuals have been told previously, Marcou's book is, nevertheless, a fascinating compilation of bravery in action. It makes for compelling reading. Recommended.

The Beatles: Photographs from the Set of Help!
The Beatles: Photographs from the Set of Help!
by Emilio Lari
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.75
58 used & new from $12.45

5.0 out of 5 stars The Beatles on the Silver Screen!, September 27, 2015
Emilio Lari's THE BEATLES; PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE SET OF HELP offers up dozens of previously-unseen, color and b&w pix taken during the filming of their second film. A 2015 Rizzoli release, it should please fans of JPG&R.

Although I enjoyed THE BEATLES, I was a bit disappointed by the selection of images. Most were either taken during the Salisbury Plain sequence or were snaps taken of JPG&R in the apartment set. I was expecting - hoping? - for a greater variety of scenes/shots. The neatest shot in the book, in my opinion, was a series of candids taken of Paul and George in the backseat of a limo. Pail is steadily loosing it for some reason, breaking down in gales of laughter, while George' smile is getting bigger and bigger. Must have been some joke or perhaps one 'toke' too many!?!

In any case, THE BEATLES is a fun, appealing and nostalgic look back at a happier, more innocent time when the 'the lads' were in their prime, making great music and looning around on the silver screen. Recommended.

Apparitions: Architecture That Has Disappeared From Our Cities
Apparitions: Architecture That Has Disappeared From Our Cities
by T. John Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.11
52 used & new from $27.31

5.0 out of 5 stars 'Ghost Views' of Changing Cities!, September 26, 2015
I love 'then-and-now' photo books that show how cities have evolved over the years. T. John Hughes' APPARITIONS, ARCHITECTURE THAT HAS DISAPPEARED FROM OUR CITIES is a 'then-and-now' photo book with a difference. Rather than using side-by-side vintage and contemporary pix of various buildings/city blocks, he transposes a 'ghost' vintage shot over the contemporary pix to create a wonderfully appealing tribute to the ever-changing face of various American cities.

Hughes presents some 70-odd 'ghost views' of such landmarks as New Orleans' French Opera House, Chicago's Republic Building, Cincinnati's Music Hall, Philadelphia's Broad Street Theater, Madison's Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse, Seattle's Carnegie Library, St. Louis' World Fair, Pittsburgh's North Side Point Bridge, New York's Vanderbilt residence, Las Vegas' Landmark Hotel, Salt Lake City's Salt Palace, Charlotte's City Hall, Atlanta's Frances Hotel, Cleveland's 9th Street Pier, Milwaukee's Industrial Exposition Building and so on. My favorite view is that of San Francisco's Sutro Bathhouse but there are lots of other great shots. Since the photographs are presented in no particular order, you can just jump in at a random page and enjoy.

In short, APPARITIONS is a fascinating, fun guide to evolving city architecture. Recommended.

Tail End Charlies! Navy Combat Fighter Pilots at War's End: USS Intrepid CV-11
Tail End Charlies! Navy Combat Fighter Pilots at War's End: USS Intrepid CV-11
by Roy D. Erickson
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from $14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Navy Fighter Pilots in Action!, September 16, 2015
Roy Erickson's TAIL END CHARLIES provides a fascinating, well-illustrated look at the exploits of Navy fighter pilots flying combat aboard USS INTREPID in 1945. A 1996 Turner Publishing release, it details the bitter air combats fought in the final year of the Pacific War.

As the Americans steadily advanced towards the Home Islands, USN fighter pilots found continual opportunities for air combat as the Japanese resorted to mass kamikaze attacks. VF-10 and its sister unit, VBF-10, aboard CV-11, were in the thick of action. Erickson does a nice job of relating the various air combats waged by these units including missions where pilots like Al Lerch downed seven(!) enemy aircraft in one flight. The book benefits from first-hand reminiscences by aircrew and lots of photos of pilots, planes, etc.

In short, TAIL END CHARLIES shines an appealing light on late-war USN fighter combats. It should delight air combat buffs. Recommended.

8,950 Helpful Votes!

Vanished: Planes That Disappear
Vanished: Planes That Disappear
by Chris McLeod
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Flights That Went Terribly Wrong!, September 6, 2015
Chris McLeod's VANISHED: PLANES THAT DISAPPEARED is a special one-off magazine on aircraft that went missing. Published in Australia by Wilkinson Publishing in 2015, it's part of their 'Mystery Series.'

VANISHED tops out at 128 pages. It details over 100 'aircraft missing' incidents including Malaysia Flight MH 370 lost in 2014 , Air Asia Flight QZ 501 also lost in 2014, Amy Johnson's 1941 disappearance, Glenn Miller's loss, Leslie Howard's shoot down, Amelia Earhart, the disappearance of the Hawaii Clipper in 1938, the 1958 'B-47 'Broken Arrow' mission, Steve Fossett's death in 2007, D. B. Cooper's 'take the money and run' escapade, Bermuda Triangle crashes, KAL 007's shoot down in 1982, etc. The book is well-illustrated with vintage b&w and color photographs, maps, diagrams, etc.

While some of the flights in VANISHED have been covered previously, sometime even in book-length form, McLeod's book, which sells for $17.99, offers up a comprehensive, well-illustrated smorgasbord of aviation vanishings sure to interest plane buffs. Recommended.

Review #2,250!

Extreme Animals: Tallest Smallest Fastest Heaviest Highest
Extreme Animals: Tallest Smallest Fastest Heaviest Highest
by Dominic Couzens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.54
28 used & new from $17.41

5.0 out of 5 stars CHARMING BOOK OF ANIMAL RECORDS!, September 3, 2015
A follow-up to his 2011 EXTERME BIRDS book, Dominic Couzens' EXTREME ANIMALS is a wondrous, informative and well-illustrated guide to extremes in nature. Anyone interested in smallest/largest/tallest/heaviest/highest/tallest animal facts should delve into Couzens' book. A 2015New Holland release, it will delight nature lovers of all ages.

Couzens divides his material into chapters on Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, Insects, Land Invertebrates and so on. Each chapter then presents a smorgasbord of animal records. Each is illustrated with a color photograph of whatever animal holds that 'honor.'

Here are some records/record-holders from the book:

World's Ugliest Animal (Blobfish); Fastest-Flying Bird (Peregrine Falcon); Smallest Mammal (tie: Bumblebee Bat/Etruscan Shrew); Noisiest Insect(Micronector Scholtzi); Most Remarkable Defense (Horned Lizards); Largest Spider Web (Darwin Bark Spider); Most Cold-Tolerant Insect(Polypedilum Vanderplanki); Sharpest-Shooting Fish (Archer Fish)' Strongest Bite (tie: Saltwater Croc/Great White Shark); Largest Egg (Common Ostrich); Largest Bat Colony (Bracken Bat Cave); Deepest Dive (Beaked Whale); Largest Extinct Reptile (Sauropods); etc.

In short, EXTREME ANIMALS is a delightful, appealing guide to the natural world. Full of fun facts and gorgeous images, it's the type of book you can read cover to cover or just pick a random page and jump in and enjoy. Highly recommended.

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