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Timothy J. Bazzett "BookHappy" RSS Feed (Reed City, MI USA)

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Hank & Chloe
Hank & Chloe
by Jo-Ann Mapson
Edition: Hardcover
95 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A memorable love story, and I loved it., June 20, 2016
This review is from: Hank & Chloe (Hardcover)
I should admit up front that I read HANK AND CHLOE more than twenty years ago, but was just thinking about it again yesterday. It's that kind of book. It's a love story, with wonderfully realized characters, especially the two principals, with some unusual plot twists. I suppose you could call it chick-lit, but, as I remember it, it was much better than most. I found the book in a remainder bin, and I liked it so much that I went back and bought a few more and gifted it to friends. Set in the modern Southwest, it's just a great example of good story-telling - a love story you'll keep on thinking about, and maybe even still remember twenty years later. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

A Meal in Winter
A Meal in Winter
by Hubert Mingarelli
Edition: Paperback
56 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Stark, dark and disturbing. HIghly recommended, June 14, 2016
This review is from: A Meal in Winter (Paperback)
A MEAL IN WINTER: A NOVEL OF WWII, by Hubert Mingarelli (translated from the French by Sam Taylor), is a stark, dark little book, a novella, actually, at less than 140 pages. But it packs an emotional punch with its small story of a German Army unit garrisoned in an unnamed Polish village in winter. Their mission is simple, to find Jews and summarily execute them. The method was also simple: lay the victim on his stomach and shoot him in the back of the head. The Holocaust after all was not just camps, gas chambers, and ovens. Sometimes it was just a bullet to the head.

Mingarelli's novel seems almost as simple. Three of the soldiers have become sickened by their work as executioners, and convince their commander to let them become the hunters instead. So they set off into the woods to find some Jews. If they succeed, they will be relieved of that other, more onerous chore of killing.

The three do find a young Jew hiding in a hole in the ground in the forest. They bring him to an abandoned hut where they seek shelter from the killing winter cold, manage to build a fire and put together a meal from ingredients pilfered from the unit mess - a salami, corn meal, an onion, bread. And later they add a generous portion of 'potato alcohol' contributed by a lone Polish soldier who shows up with his dog. There are subtle elements here of Hansel and Gretel, the Last Supper, and Stone Soup, as well as shreds of Remarque's THREE COMRADES, shown in the relationship between the three soldiers, who argue over whether to turn the Jew in, or let him go. After they allow their prisoner to share their meager meal, that decision becomes even harder.

The unnamed narrator is one of the soldiers; the other two, Emmerich and Bauer, are both older, over forty. Emmerich worries about his son. Bauer seems unpredictable and dangerous. The narrator might be considered the conscience of the group. He is telling the story looking back, as he already knows what will happen to the trio come Spring.

These characters are as real as life, a pretty good trick in under 150 pages. And the story itself, despite its brevity, is very unsettling, with its young narrator trying desperately to come to terms with what he's done -

"I wanted to remember a prayer I could say ... but all that came to mind were odd words, just little remnants of prayers ... I couldn't remember a whole prayer, but I did what I could with those remnants."

Because this is a book about conscience, about consequences - a tiny slice-of-life look at genocide, at the Holocaust. I will recommend it highly.

(P.S. This review is based on a reading of The New Press edition of 2016.)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

Monte Walsh
Monte Walsh
DVD ~ Tom Selleck
Price: $8.29
48 used & new from $2.96

4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful film. Selleck, Carradine and Rossellini are well-cast. Highly recommended., June 11, 2016
This review is from: Monte Walsh (DVD)
Watched MONTE WALSH - the Tom Selleck version - a couple nights ago on TV. It's a stunningly beautiful film - the color and cinematography - and the story is a good one too, about the inevitable changes to ranching and cowboy-ing toward the end of the 19th century. Selleck and Carradine are great as a couple middle-aged cowboys trying to cope with their shrinking profession and the rapid impersonal changes brought on by corporate ranches. And Isabel Rossellini is perfect as a 'professional woman' and Selleck's love interest. (And it is positively spooky how much she now looks like her mother, Ingrid Bergman.)

I have never seen the earlier Lee Marvin version of MONTE WALSH, but now I'd kinda like to watch that one, just to compare. And I'd like to read the book too, by Jack Schaefer. I've read his most famous book, SHANE, of course, but never this one. This film is a damn good one. Highly recommended.

As Good as Gone: A Novel
As Good as Gone: A Novel
by Larry Watson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.72
56 used & new from $8.81

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Watson. Very highly recommended, June 11, 2016
I've been a Larry Watson fan for close to twenty years now. Regrettably, I haven't read all of his books, but have read five - MONTANA 1948, JUSTICE, WHITE CROSSES, ORCHARD, and AMERICAN BOY. Every one was simply terrific. And AS GOOD AS GONE, his latest, has not changed my opinion of Watson in the least. He may be one of our best practioners of the novel currently writing in America.

Kirkus says this one "Deserves a Clint Eastwood performance." Well, yeah, maybe - if ol' Clint could shed a couple decades. He is one of my favorite actors too, but he is 86 years old now, whereas Watson's hero, Calvin Sidey, is only in his sixties. But I must admit, I too envisioned Clint in the role, thinking back to his performance in GRAN TORINO, wherein he played the crotchety and embittered old widowed veteran, out to right neighborhood wrongs. Yeah, Kirkus. I can't really disagree. Clint!

Sadly, however, AS GOOD AS GONE gives off some mixed signals. The "cowboy way" of taking care of things, we learn, simply wont work all of the time anymore. Not in today's society. And yet, Calvin Sidey still manages to cut something of a heroic figure as he attempts to 'fix' the various problems of his son's family, snaring the affections and loyalty of the lonely widow next door at the same time. You can't help but root for the old guy, even though you know he might be wrong.

Watson has woven a complex tale of love, loss, grief, and abandonment, as well as a kind of half-assed attempt at redemption, with a little 'senior sex,' blood and violence, all set in 1963 Montana. The action encompasses only a couple of weeks, but expertly inserted flashbacks, flesh out the family history admirably. It is a story that kept me turning the pages late into the night. This is Larry Watson at the top of his game, the height of his powers. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for His Killer
All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for His Killer
by Brian Castner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.04
74 used & new from $4.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, page-turning murder-mystery-war-story investigative reporting. Well done., June 9, 2016
Brian Castner's new book, ALL THE WAYS WE KILL AND DIE, is decidedly different from his first book, THE LONG WALK, the highly successful memoir of his military service in Iraq, and the myriad difficulties of reentry into civilian life. KILL AND DIE is instead a triumph in investigative reporting, as Castner methodically attempted to find the man responsible for the death of his close friend, Matthew Schwartz, who was, like Castner, an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) technician. Schwartz was killed in Afghanistan in 2012 when his massive armored vehicle triggered an IED.

Castner's years-long hunt for "the Engineer" who makes those IEDs reads like a murder mystery rolled into a war story, and calls to account the many atrocities and killings committed in the course of these seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other parts of the Mideast. Castner delves into the fields of explosives and bomb-making, drone warfare and its pilots, biometrics, medicine, amputees and prosthetics, and military contractors (including contract killers). He takes you inside the small 'family' of EOD bomb techs, and Special Forces troops, exploring where some of these young men were at the time of 9/11, giving credence to the fact that this global war on terror is indeed being fought, these many years later, by "babies."

Judging from the extensive chapter notes, glossary and bibliography, it is obvious that Castner has done his homework. I have been trying valiantly to keep up with the flood of writing coming out of the current wars, and it was gratifying to find we'd read some of the same books - Doug Stanton's HORSE SOLDIERS; Anand Gopal's NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING; Elliot Ackerman's GREEN ON BLUE; Adrian Bonenberger's AFGHAN POST and others. But there are some other very intriguing titles in the bib which I have not read. I made a list.

Normally I dog-ear pages, underline key passages, and make note while reading books like this. But the truth is, I found KILL AND DIE such compelling, page-turning stuff, that I forgot to do any of that, so my copy remains pretty pristine. And it's a signed copy, so I'm kind of glad I didn't mark it up. It's a keeper - moving, crystalline prose of the highest order, and well worth revisiting. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA

Dog Songs
Dog Songs
by Mary Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.83
210 used & new from $0.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, June 7, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dog Songs (Hardcover)
Mary Oliver's DOG SONGS is a pure delight to read, particularly if you have had the good fortune to share your life with a dog or two - or perhaps even several, over a lifetime. Oliver has obviously done so, and she immortalizes a few of her favorites here: Percy, Ricky, Benjamin, Luke, and Bear. Her 'conversations' with Ricky, in pieces like "The Wicked Smile" and "You Never Know Where a Conversation Is Going to Go" made me smile. And "Every Dog's Story," about doggy nightmares and finding "a safe place," rings true and familiar. Just yesterday afternoon our little Emmy ran for her own "safe" place - a soft-sided 'cat cube' under a chair in the darkest corner of the guest room - when a frighteningly loud thunder and hail storm passed through.

The Benjamin poems were especially affecting, both because of that dog's mysterious fears (brooms, kindling) from an unknown previous life, and also because of John Burgoyne's marvelous pen-and-ink drawings of that Beagle-like face and form. A dog who looked so much like my Daisy (1997-2011). And for anyone who has lost a loved dog, "Her Grave", "Percy (2002-2009)", and "The First Time Percy Came Back" will surely choke you up.

The two short essays here, "Ropes" (about a time when dogs "roamed freely") and "Dog Talk" (an elegy to Ben and Bear and their wolf-like origins and instincts) are also especially effective, especially if you can remember those days when dogs were free to come and go about town. I was reminded of Willie Morris's lovely little memoir, MY DOG SKIP.

I've wanted to read DOG SONGS ever since it first came out. Now I have. It's a little book; you can read it in about a half hour. But it will be one of those books I'll come back to many times, I'm pretty sure. I see now why it was a national bestseller. Its subject, its charm, its deceptive simplicity. Loved it!

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

One Child Reading: My Auto-Bibliography
One Child Reading: My Auto-Bibliography
by Margaret Mackey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $60.00
23 used & new from $52.11

4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly research, yes; but also a delightful trip back to the 1950s. Thanks for the memories, Margaret., June 4, 2016
Two words in Margaret Mackey's book title grabbed my attention: "reading" and "[b]ibliography." Because one: I am an insanely avid, lifelong, voracious reader; and two: I am one of those odd people who, if a book has a bibliography tacked on at the end, I will actually read it, in hopes of finding yet another book I might enjoy. The other thing that grabbed me was the implication, in the word "auto-bibliography," that this might be, at least in part, a memoir. (I love a good memoir.)

ONE CHILD READING: MY AUTO-BIBLIOGRAPHY, is actually something much more ambitious than a reader's memoir. It is in fact a rather scholarly study of reading and how we learn - with extensive notes and, of course, a bibliography. In it, Margaret Mackey looks closely at all the factors that shaped her life as a young reader. She explains her undertaking thusly -

"This project would be deceptive if it simply portrayed a literacy growing out of the interrelationships between a girl, her books, and her landscape . My literate life was also shaped by human decisions, committee meetings, fundraising activities, and hard physical, intellectual, and social labour, all expressed through particular institutions."

That said, 'landscape' was indeed important in Mackey's development and progress as a reader. Born in Nova Scotia, Mackey grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland, an isolated island city situated on the easternmost edge of North America. So there is much here about the history of St. John's and Newfoundland itself - how it became a part of Canada, and yet remained somehow separate, maintaining something of its 'otherness,' for many of the years of Mackey's youth. Her father, a WWII veteran, was the principal of the school Mackey and her three younger brothers attended, so it is perhaps not surprising that Margaret quickly became a 'bookish' sort of child. And this is the part of her story that kept me reading. Because, while I know that ONE CHILD READING is an important work of academic research about literacy, Newfoundland and the Canadian system of education, it was the books and the other forms of media - music, radio, and television - that most intrigued me, having been myself both a bookish kid and a child of the fifties, as Mackey was.

Mackey dwells at some length on the paucity of good reading material in the St. John's of her childhood, and how, when there was nothing else available, she turned to the newspapers and magazines that came into her own home. She remembers "Dick Tracy" in the Sunday funnies - "a must-read" - but says she never read the 'soap opera' comic strips like "Mary Worth" or "Rex Morgan, M.D." (I read them all.) She read "Joe Palooka", "Blondie" and Jiggs and Maggie in "Bringing Up Father." (Me too - all of 'em, as I said.) Her parents discouraged the reading of comic books, but she retains vivid and pleasurable memories of reading (on summer vacations in the homes of friends) Donald Duck, Superman, Archie, and Scrooge McDuck comics. I have my own childhood memories of spending rainy summer afternoons sprawled on the concrete floor of my neighbor's garage, reading and trading and discussing comics with my brothers and friends. Superman, in fact, prompted us all, one afternoon, to tie towels around our necks and, shouting loudly, "Up, up and AWAY!", we would leap off the roof of that same garage. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

The magazines her mother subscribed to - LADIES HOME JOURNAL, McCALL'S and READER'S DIGEST (as well as their Condensed Books) - populated our house too; and, like Mackey, I dipped into most of those magazines, including the regular "Can This Marriage Be Saved" feature of LHJ, which, Mackey suggests, contributed much to her education about marriage and the adult world in general. She also remembers the JACK AND JILL children's magazine, which our family also subscribed to. (We also got BOYS' LIFE and WALT DISNEY COMICS in the mail every month.) After graduating from the Honey Bunch, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames series books (for me it was the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift), she loved the Gilbreth family tomes, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN and BELLS ON THEIR TOES, as well as Skinner's OUR HEARTS WERE YOUNG AND GAY. Check. Me too, Margaret. But she also loved the mysteries of Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rhinehart, which I never got into. At that age I was becoming more curious about other 'adult' offerings, like the just-published LOLITA, for example.

There is also a section here about 'family libraries' and 'hand-me-down' books, which immediately brought back Booth Tarkington's PENROD and PENROD AND SAM, discovered in my grandmother's glass-front bookcase; or the far-north novels of Owosso author James Oliver Curwood, and the westerns of Zane Grey, found in my other grandparents' house.

Mackey writes too of Christmas programs and seasonal music of the past - songs that became part of family tradition. She writes of early TV programs too, like CBC's KINDERGARTEN OF THE AIR, which brought back the sights and sounds of ROMPER ROOM and DING-DONG SCHOOL, watched with my younger siblings. And HOWDY DOODY and the Roy Rogers and Annie Oakley television series, which we both remember watching, Mackey in St. John's and I in Reed City.

I was especially touched by a comment made early on by Mackey about being back in St. John's researching this book, how -

"... no matter how interesting the files, I would be impelled to put down my notes and go outside to walk the old streets of my childhood once again ... On every return visit after leaving home for good in 1970, I have felt one overwhelming sensation about being back in the city: 'my feet are happy here.' ..."

Yes. I know that urge, and I know that "happy feet" feeling. Upon reading this comment, I thought back on the well-worn routes I walked as a child here in my home town, which I left for forty years, and then returned. Those familiar paths I walked throughout my youth - to school, to the library, to the movies, to church and other places. I am past seventy now, but I am walking those paths again, though many of the old destinations are no longer there. There is a hint of sadness in thinking of those long-gone places, but my feet? Well, they are still happy, maybe just to be still walking, period.

I know that ONE CHILD READING is meant to be more than just a walk down memory lane, and it is much more than that, most certainly. And yet, while I know that scholarship and literacy will be richer for the extensive and careful research represented here, I still want to thank Ms. Mackey for taking me on that walk. It was a pure pleasure. I will recommend this book highly, and not just for library collections, but for any child of the fifties who loves books and reading. Thank you, Margaret.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet
Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet
by Lewis B. Puller Jr.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.11
92 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Will make you weep. My highest recommendation, May 31, 2016
I was thinking of this book yesterday, Memorial Day 2016. FORTUNATE SON: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LEWIS B. PULLER, JR. won the Pulitzer for biography back in 1992. In it, Lewis Puller (son of the famous Marine Corps General 'Chesty' Puller), tells the story of how he was severely maimed as a young Marine lieutenant in Vietnam in 1968, and his long struggle back to a tenuous health and a kind of acceptance. In an encounter with an enemy mine, Puller, who was highly decorated for his service and injuries, lost both legs, his left hand, and part of his right hand. At one point during his long recovery, he weighed only 55 pounds. But he persevered in his determined struggle to survive and went on to marry, have children and become a respected attorney.

Warning: If you have a soul, this book will make you weep. It is perhaps one of the most moving memoirs of war and its consequences that you will ever read. I read the book nearly twenty years ago, and when I picked it up and looked through it again yesterday, I remembered my near-visceral reaction to Puller's painful and heart-rending story.

There is a sad epilogue to this book. In 1994, after a long battle with alcoholism and addictions to painkillers for his still painful war wounds, Lewis Puller died of a self-inflicted gunshot. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington. His story, FORTUNATE SON, remains as a testament to his courage. I salute you, Lt Puller. R.I.P. This book should be required reading for all members of Congress. Sadly, it is not. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA

Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin
Price: $11.79
61 used & new from $7.53

5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE this CD. Thanks, Willie, May 25, 2016
Baring my redneck roots. Got this at Meijer last week. Have played it several times. It's best with headphones. Willie's plaintive old voice, the Gershwins' gorgeous melodies and lyrics, beautiful arrangements that highlight the harmonica of Nelson's longtime band member, Mickey Raphael, his sister Bobbie on piano and B-3 organ (and producer-arranger Matt Rollings too), and, of course, those silky gut string guitar solos from Willie himself, played on his faithful 'Trigger.' Cyndi Lauper and Sheryl Crow team up with Willie for duets on "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "Embraceable You," respectively. These tunes suit Willie to a 'T". Not a clinker in the bunch. Hard to pick a favorite, but maybe the opener, "But Not for Me." Love, love, love this CD. Thanks, Willie.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

The Secrets of Flight: A Novel
The Secrets of Flight: A Novel
by Maggie Leffler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.59
81 used & new from $3.03

5.0 out of 5 stars loved it, May 24, 2016
Maggie Leffler, according to her bio, is a writer AND a doctor. Elyse Strickler, her fifteen year-old heroine, dreams of being both. Her other heroine, eighty-seven year-old Mary Browning, has been many things in her long life, including a pilot. Yes, there are two distinct voices in this delightful and moving novel - one that of a young girl whose life has barely begun, the other that of an old woman who wonders if hers is nearly done.

I wanted to read this book initially because of its subject of flying, and women pilots during the Second World War, the WASPs. And yes, there's plenty in here about flying and the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, founded by famous aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran. But the novel is more about the Secrets than the Flight of the title. Leffler has obviously done some major research in putting together this moving and complex story about Jewish families and emigrants, anti-Semitism and quota systems. And she's also given us a wonderful window into the little known history of the women pilots who flew millions of miles in support of the war effort.

The two seemingly separate stories of Elyse and Mary slowly but surely coalesce into one as Leffler skillfully manipulates the various plot threads of a Jewish family in wartime and a modern 21st Century family, both suffering from growing pains and the pressures of their own particular times. And she's got the settings of Pittsburg and wartime Sweetwater, Texas, down to a 'T.' And a sterling cast of well-defined supporting characters round things out beautifully. I was just so impressed with the way the author brought it all together.

I suspect THE SECRETS OF FLIGHT will be marketed primarily as a women's book, and that's okay, because, yeah, it is an historical romance and a love story, as well as a jarringly contemporary girl's coming-of-age story. But I hope William Morrow will make at least some attempt to court male readers too, because ... well, because I'm a guy, and I LOVED this book. Of course, I am over seventy, so probably a lot of the annoying rough edges of guy-dom have worn pretty well down by now, so ... Well, okay, go after the "old guy" audience, okay? Because if you don't well, you're going to miss out on a lot of appreciative readers.

One more time. I LOVED this book! My compliments to author Maggie Leffler. If you're looking for an absolutely delightful page-turner, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

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