Okay, well. Despite my love of Harlan Coben novels, I was very disappointed with this sixth entry in the Myron Bolitar series. Unlike his previous worOkay, well. Despite my love of Harlan Coben novels, I was very disappointed with this sixth entry in the Myron Bolitar series. Unlike his previous work, "The Final Detail" moves along at a slow pace, with a murder mystery that isn't particularly interesting nor engaging. Worse, Coben fills the gap with dull character exploration that doesn't add up to much.
Rather than start fresh, the author chose "The Final Detail" as an immediate follow-up to his confusing, lackluster, previous novel, "One False Move." While this may have indeed been consistent with the developing story of the Myron Bolitar character, it also served as a reminder of the many missteps Bolitar took in the last book. Worse than that, "The Final Detail" also continues Bolitar's moral hypocrisy as a "righteous" man who occasionally dips into some not so righteous activity.
With Esperanza in prison, and Win much less fun to be around than usual, "The Final Detail" drags on and on without the joy present in Coben's prior works, such as "Deal Breaker," as well as his later works such as "Darkest Fear," and the terrific "Long Lost." What's missing is the intrigue, the fun, and the page-turning suspense.
Once you finally find out who did it, and why, and all of the reasons why this or that happened in "The Final Detail," it doesn't seem to matter, because the ride to get there wasn't that pleasurable, and the plight of everyone involved not that interesting. What a bummer. Oh well, even great authors stumble here and there. No matter, there's always the next one.
After Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard hit pay dirt with 2011's "Killing Lincoln," the team has consistently released a new "Killing" book each year. TAfter Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard hit pay dirt with 2011's "Killing Lincoln," the team has consistently released a new "Killing" book each year. The series relies on a basic template of reexamining history through simplified yet highly dramatic storytelling for the masses. The historic stories can be quite complex, yet the books are not. However, never underestimate the power of simplicity, especially in the hands of O'Reilly and Dugard. For that reason, among others, the authors' latest release, "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan," is a success on all fronts.
Just as I had with "Killing Lincoln, "Killing Patton," and "Killing Reagan," I was astounded by how much I did not know while reading "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan." I never knew exactly why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I never knew how vicious the Japanese military were with civilians and prisoners of war. I never knew about the complicated relationship between President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, nor the disturbing personal life of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, nor the horrifying details about the horrifying sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, nor the high drama involved with the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan" makes it its mission to fill in all the blanks, answer all of the questions, as well as enrich whatever knowledge you previously had about World War II.
My takeaway from the book was not just a greater understanding of what happened during the last world war, but also a deeper knowledge of what was at the heart of the World War, and perhaps all wars for that matter: Power, Honor, Pride, and Ego. Rarely are wars shaped by anything else. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was man who enjoyed his power, so much so that he ran for office even when he no longer was healthy enough to run the United States during wartime. General Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant, charismatic soldier, who also happened to have a massive ego, and a thirst for power. President Harry Truman was a man of honor, who prided himself on no-nonsense politics. Emperor Hirohito was man full of pride, and honor, who was looked upon by the Japanese people as a deity. It is these men who oversaw the rein of terror over the Pacific from 1941-1945...driven by Power, Honor, Pride, and Ego.
If I had one complaint, I would say that "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan' errors on the side of format. In all of the "Killing" books, there is an overabundance of maps that interrupt the flow of the narrative, and makes one consider that the author (or publisher) is possibly padding the books with filler due to the lack of written material. That said, some of the maps are helpful, and interesting, and I can't help but think that the authors never suffered for a lack of material.
Aside from the map issue, "Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan' serves up a strong and very compelling look at a horrible time in world history, when man fought against man in horrendous, horrible, and unimaginable ways, which scarred or destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children all around the globe.
"The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual" is a valuable resource for the improvisation students at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB)"The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual" is a valuable resource for the improvisation students at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) training center, as well as anyone who has an interest in learning the fundamental tools of the trade when it comes to performance improv. In 382 pages, UCB veterans Matt Besser Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh lay out the rules of what makes a good improv performance, and what exercises and games will help the improviser improve his/her craft.
As with many textbooks, "The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual" is not necessarily a fun, nor enjoyable read. It was written strictly as an easy-to-read learning tool, especially when read in tandem with attending classes at the UCB training centers in New York and Los Angeles. Though the tome does progress in complexity from one chapter to another, it was never meant to be read like a novel. Instead, the authors provide solid information that the student can jump to, or revisit when coming upon problems or issues of clarity that arise in the study and performance of comedic improvisation.
In addition to defining different types of long form improv (i.e. "The Harold," etc...), "The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual goes into impressive detail as to what specifically differentiates comedic improv from say, stand-up comedy, or straight drama. For example, an improv group must maintain a strong group mind, and not succumb to cheap laughs at the expense of another performer, or more importantly, at the expense of the reality of the scene. To succeed in improvisation, one must work at the top of one's intelligence, keep the work grounded in a consistent imagined reality. In other words, commitment to the scene is essential.
Rather than being a free-for-all explosion of made-up material, good improvisation comes as the result of hard work, strong discipline, and lots of practice. Rather than being an easy effort, the improv performed at UCB is actually very difficult, and it takes some effort to learn the rules, then forget about them. For that reason, "The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual" serves as a very useful resource for the improvisation student, reinforcing and clarifying the many things one learns and observes from the UCB classes, and improv shows.
**spoiler alert** Despite some logic issues, and a morally questionable finale, I could not help but enjoy Harlan Coben's 11th entry in his Myron Boli**spoiler alert** Despite some logic issues, and a morally questionable finale, I could not help but enjoy Harlan Coben's 11th entry in his Myron Bolitar series: "Home." The good in the novel far outweighed the bad, and better still, the author thankfully took a few risks, even altering the format of the series.
Out of boredom, or perhaps a desire to write something fresh for the 21-year old series, Harlan Coben, for the first time, used first-person narration scattered throughout "Home," and not from Myron Bolitar. After ten books, Myron's best friend Win got his very own chapters that he personally narrated. Better still, it worked wonders for the story. I only wish that the author featured Windsor Lockwood III's narration more in the book. It only appears a few times throughout. One could only imagine what an entire novel narrated by Win would be like.
On the plus side, Harlan Coben once again found a compelling case for Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cindy to seek their teeth into: an unsolved case of two missing boys, one of whom was Win's cousin Brooke's child: Rhys. There is a horrific and dangerous prostitution ring in London run by a disgusting ogre called Fat Gandhi. There are two sets of very rich but grieving parents with too much to hide. All this plus Zora, Terese, El/Al, and the reappearance of Myron's nephew: Mickey.
Was not happy about the whole Mickey Bolitar thing in "Home." To my chagrin, Harlan Coben's young adult series featuring Mickey Bolitar apparently filled in the gap between 2011's "Live Wire" and "Home." So, if one were to just read the author's adult books only, one would be missing out, as "Home" alludes to some shocking things that were only fleshed out in the Mickey Bolitar series, such as Mickey's father Brad returning from the dead! In "Live Wire," Myron's younger brother is declared dead, and ends with his funeral. In "Home," the author mentions only in passing that Brad Bolitar is back alive somehow, and that he's been alive for some time. Ugh. In other words, now I have to read the Mickey Bolitar series to find out what happened! No fair. Whatever. I also cringed a bit every time Mickey Bolitar and his friends got involved with the missing boys case. It felt too cross-promotional.
Was also not in love with all of the downtime pages in the novel, i.e. Myron with his parents, Myron chatting love talk with Terese. Endless jokes about Big Cindi, and Zora, and the fact that now that MB Reps has been sold, Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cindi's bond together feels less urgent, more happenstance, as if the author just through them in the book just to have them in the story.
Also, the reveal about what really happened to Patrick and Rhys made no sense. So....Patrick's mother Nancy thought it would be better to hide and dump Rhys's body in a ravine and send her 6 year-old son out of the country for ten years in hiding, changing his name and appearance and cause horrendous damage to her own family as well as Rhys's family rather than call the police? I guess she was...insane? THEN, Win reveals that cousin Brooke later murdered Nancy after discovering what she did...So...with drunk Dad arrested for kidnapping, and Mom now murdered...where does that leave poor teenage Patrick???
Look, I read "Home" in five days for a reason. Flawed as it may be, the novel is a page-turner, and always kept me guessing, and mostly kept me entertained. I'm mad that not everything in the story adds up. I'm mad that now I have to read three Mickey Bolitar young adult books to find out what's what between "Live Wire" and "Home." But whatever, if the writing was not good, I would not care. I care, what can I tell ya? ...more
**spoiler alert** When friends offer to loan me books they like, or admire...I always welcome the offer with open arms. The reason is twofold. On the**spoiler alert** When friends offer to loan me books they like, or admire...I always welcome the offer with open arms. The reason is twofold. On the one hand, I enjoy learning more about people by the type of literature they are drawn to. On the other hand, the challenge of diving head first into a novel (or non-fiction book) that one might not normally give the time of day to is both thrilling and scary. So to, when my pal Brian offered up "Trinity," a 1976 Leon Uris epic of Irish brotherhood, conflict, and bloodshed covering the late 19th and early 20th century Ireland, I was clearly up to the task.
...yet it was a challenge. In no less than 815 pages of historical fiction, the late Jewish author from Baltimore, Maryland waxes philosophical over the tragic plight of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland as if he was born and raised there himself. Uris's pages are filled with compassion for the put-upon native Irish men, women, and children who were forced to endure poverty, famine, and unspeakable working conditions in order survive under oppressive, Protestant, British aristocracy and rule.
As a means to tell his tale, Leon Uris choose to center his story on the fictional Larkin family of Ballyotogue, and its fiercest Irish rebel Conor Larkin. Larkin's great grandfather, and grandfather were heroes of the Catholic movement, men who fought bravely against the tyranny of British rule. Conor had rebellion in his blood at birth, and there was nothing anyone could do about it, even Conor himself. No matter what he did, who he loved, or how far he travelled, Conor could not get away from his love of Ireland, and his need to fight for the oppressed people who suffered every day from the cruelty of the British and British loyalist.
Conor Larkin was a man to be admired. Tall, handsome, and very strong, Conor was a supreme craftsman of iron, well read, and a patron of the arts. He was also a superstar rugby player of the highest order, admired by men, women, children alike. Conor Larkin balked about his position as oldest son, father's favorite, and inheritor of farm and estate. Instead, Conor marched to the beat of his own drummer, developed a trade all his own, traveled the world, and soon would devote the rest of his life to the Irish Republic Brotherhood.
As much as Conor Larkin's journey remained the center of "Trinity's core, Leon Uris also spent a considerable amount of time on the many characters surrounding Conor's life, namely the aristocratic Hubble-Weed family, Conor's siblings, various clergy, as well as the two loves of Conor's life: Shelley MacLeod and Atty Fitzpatrick. Oddly on the sidelines is one Seamus O'Neill, Conor's childhood friend and sometimes narrator of the story. It is here where the many of the problems of "Trinity" lie.
Despite the fact that Seamus O'Neill begins the novel with his own narration, and sets up the story, in the end Seamus turns out to be a minor, peripheral character who presence in the book only serves as a means to a end...the end being the further exploration of all things Conor Larkin. Seamus's presence is all over the first quarter of the story as Conor's closest buddy and partner in crime. Yet once Conor leaves Ballyotogue for Londonderry, and Seamus goes off to Trinity college in Dublin, we don't hear from Seamus again until much, much later in the story...and only on the sidelines, as a narrator, and journalist. Though his childhood self was fairly clear, the adult Seamus seemed to exist only in a Conor-formulated vacuum, with no life at all beyond Conor and the Brotherhood. As a result, his role as narrator meant nothing in the end, other than an author's literary device to help him tell a tale.
Also unsatisfying was the journey of the Hubble-Weed family. The author spent many pages chronicling the lives of Roger Hubble, Sir Fredrick Weed and Caroline Weed-Hubble, and also waxed on about Roger and Caroline's children Jeremy and Christopher. Leon Uris paid so much attention to the Catholic-hating Hubble-Weed clan that one could not help but think that this was all perhaps a set-up for some big showdown with Conor Larkin and people of his ilk. Nope. Sure, there was some sexual tension between Caroline and Conor, and yes...Conor used his access to the Hubble-Weed clan in order to execute his massive gunrunning plan for the Brotherhood, and yes, Roger Hubble was jealous of Conor Larkin's appeal to both his wife and son...BUT, where did it all lead to? Not much. Roger and Caroline separate after fighting over the fate of their lovable yet weak-willed son Jeremy. Then as an afterthought at the very end of the novel, both Christopher and Jeremy Hubble are killed in World War I in the Battle of Gallipoli.
The finale of "Trinity" was a letdown in general. Conor Larkin, Seamus O'Neill and (grumpy head of the Irish Republican Brotherhood) Long Dan Sweeney all die as a result of their successful bombing of the arsenal Lettershanbow. Though...was it successful? The author does not make it very clear, outside a mention of various explosions. As a result the finale felt rushed, and Conor Larkin, Seamus O'Neill and Dan Sweeney's deaths were not as powerful as they could have been. What did they die for exactly? What were the repercussions of the Lettershanbow attack? Do I have to read 1995's "Redemption," the sequel to "Trinity," in order to find out?
And what of that charlatan Protestant pastor Oliver Cromwell MacIvor? He was built up as such a villain over endless pages. I thought for sure there'd be some big Larkin verses MacIvor showdown, or least something showing MacIvor's evil plotting falling apart. Instead, offered up some quick prose and one tense meeting with Sir Fredrick Weed to resolve the MacIvor conflict for good.
Alright, so I didn't love the book, and felt shortchanged when it came down to character trajectory. However, I did very much appreciate the education provided in the story of all things Ireland, especially the depth of the Catholic versus Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland. This was a subject I was fairly ignorant to, and I enjoyed how "Trinity" inspired me to research Irish history, and learn of real-life people like Charles Stewart Parnell, Jean Tijou, and William of Orange, as well as places like Londonderry and Belfast.
I also really enjoyed selected scenes from the novel. Though I was not a fan of Leon Uris's story construct, I did enjoy his prose in general. There are some very interesting and engaging scenes within those 815 long pages in "Trinity." I loved when Caroline and Conor discussed Jean Tijou's artistry when he was restoring an iron gate at Hubble Manor. I loved many of the scenes featuring Roger Hubble and Fredrick Weed conducting their business and political maneuvering. I was moved at the plight of Conor's put-upon sister, the tragedy of the linen factory fire, and the sad tale of too many Irish men and women who suffered greatly from famine, and feeling of misery and hopelessness.
"For Ireland, there is no future. only the past happening over and over." It's a rich and deeply profound line from Leon Uris that perfectly sums up Irish history, and also the novel "Trinity" itself. Despite the 815 pages, and the many characters that appear throughout the novel, the book does not really have a story. Instead it has a past that keeps repeating itself over and over again, creeping up on the present in an effort to wipe out the possibility of a future. It's a sad, yet fascinating concept that permeates Leon Uris's novel, even when it fails to deliver the goods.
**spoiler alert** Snooze. What can I tell ya? Ian McEwan's "Nutshell" answers the question 'What if you took all of the great things about Willam Shak**spoiler alert** Snooze. What can I tell ya? Ian McEwan's "Nutshell" answers the question 'What if you took all of the great things about Willam Shakespeare's "Hamlet,"move the setting from Denmark to a woman's womb in London, and reduce it all down to a dull, uninspiring short novel?"
Laertes? Polonius? Friggin Ophelia? Not in this book. No Horatio either. Instead, the author placed his full focus on a poetic and well-educated unborn fetus with a taste for liquid spirits, a large, fat, dull publisher and general pushover that supposed to be the unborn child's father, as well a "Trudy" as the baby mama, and a "Claude" as the evil brother who conspires with the baby mama to murder the large, fat, dull publisher and general pushover, called "John." With all parties indifferent to the existence of the unborn child, there just isn't much at stake. If Trudy and Claude succeed in getting away with murder, the unwanted child will most likely be given away. If Trudy and Claude fail, the child will be raised in prison. Ho hum, who cares?
Worse, the author's prose set out for a strictly high-brow, over-educated crowd, with words, phrases and references to people, places and things that must be above my pay-grade. As a result, I felt disconnected from the novel, and was mostly bored. When the last page was read, I was glad to be finished with it. ...more
Very enjoyable account of the eventful journey of President Ronald Reagan, centered around the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. However, as witVery enjoyable account of the eventful journey of President Ronald Reagan, centered around the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. However, as with all of Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's "Killing series, "Killing Reagan" isn't so much a biography but more so a fact-filled tour of a historical event, covering the before, the during, and the after in the most entertaining way possible.
The key to all of the "Killing" books is that they are written as thrillers in an effort to appeal to the masses. They are not serious, in depth, richly detailed historical accounts custom made for elite educators and scholars. No. Instead, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard have crafted history books for the layman, the reader who may not have otherwise picked up a work of non-fiction covering politics, war, and accounts of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. In addition to making the material more digestible for everyone, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard also fill up their books with very interesting stories and facts that most people would not otherwise know.
Even though I certainly knew who Ronald Reagan was, and of his history as an actor, Governor, and later President of the United States, I was found myself surprised about how many things I did not know about the man, and the horrible 1981 assassination attempt. The fact that Reagan was a womanizer back in his Hollywood days surprised me, and I enjoyed learning about his transition from Hollywood Democrat to right-leaning, anti-communist Republican, in addition to his complicated relationships with Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. It was also a surprise to learn how near death Reagan actually was after being shot, and how much his health was failing him during his second Presidential term in the White House.
Despite the right-leaning authors, the book presents a warts and all portrait of Ronald Reagan. He was not perfect, and made many mistakes, however he was a strong and important figure in the conservative cause, and was a powerful President, who would not back down on any issue, and made it his business to stamp out communism and Soviet oppression throughout the world. Reagan's weakness was also his strength: his wife Nancy. As much as she enabled, empowered and inspired her husband, she also crippled him in terms of her commanding influence. Needless to say, the portrait of Nancy Reagan (as depicted in the book) is not a pretty one.
The book keeps a respectful distance from all things John Hinckley Jr., Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin. Hinckley's life is covered in the book almost as an afterthought, a tertiary detour from the tome's main focus: Ronald Reagan himself. It is perhaps the book's weakness. However, the authors do a reasonable enough job painting a portrait of a very sick and misguided man.
"Killing Reagan" succeeds in not only being engaging and entertaining, is also provides a fresh and rewarding view about Reagan himself. Though you may or may not agree with his conservative views and politics, one could not help but be impressed by the man, and how much he accomplished in his life, and as President of the United States.
When I first heard that Bruce Springsteen was going to publish his autobiography, I was cautious. Peter Ames Carlin wrote an authorized biography callWhen I first heard that Bruce Springsteen was going to publish his autobiography, I was cautious. Peter Ames Carlin wrote an authorized biography called "Bruce" a few years back that absolutely blew my mind it was so good. I figure nothing could top that, even from Springsteen himself. This was going to be just like Neil Young's overly self-conscious autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace" verses the far superior warts and all authorized biography "Shakey" by Jimmy McDonough.
When I later read that the title of Springsteen's autobiography was going to called "Born To Run" I shook my head in further disappointment. "Born To Run" may be Springsteen's song title, yet it had already been used as a book title thirty seven years ago by Dave Marsh in HIS authorized Springsteen biography (which I read much of when I was a teenager). So yes, with all things considered, I approached Bruce Springsteen "Born To Run" book with much trepidation. I mean, how good could thing be? The answer surprised me.
At its worst, Springsteen's prose resides in the same family as the rhetoric he used in too many interviews over the years. He writes poetically of big and small ideas, ideals, philosophies, dreams, visions and portraits that characterizes his songs and colors his means of expression. This is all well and good and intellectual, yet it rarely makes for good copy...at least for my money. Springsteen may choose this approach with his songs, and with reporters time and again, but for a autobiography, one wants, and expects more, much more.
Thankfully, with "Born To Run," Bruce Springsteen delvers the goods with surprising clarity, humility, and packs his book with deep insight. Yes, the book does have a fair amount of ponderous ideology and low impact self-consciousness, yet it also has a treasure trove of stories and shockingly candid confessions that more compensate for its shortcomings. In other words, the good parts of the book thankfully make up for all the bad.
Choosing a mostly linear approach, Springsteen traces his Irish-Italian family roots to make way for the not-so-solid ground he was born in. Spoiled rotten by is doting paternal Grandmother Alice, Bruce Springsteen was a star in his own home before he ever even picked up a guitar. His father, Douglas (on the Irish side), was a strong, sad, distant, angry, blue collar worker who liked to drink and smoke. His mother, Adele (on the Italian side), was a happy-go-lucky lady who worked for years as a legal secretary and adored her three children: Bruce, his younger sister Virginia, and his baby sister Pam.
After watching Elvis Presley perform on the Ed Sullivan show, Springsteen was transformed by the power of rock n' roll. At 14 he watched The Beatles play the Ed Sullivan show and was transformed by the possibility of rock n' roll. Next thing you know, teenage Bruce had a guitar, then a band, then another band, than a moderately successful East Coast band called Steel Mill. However, band democracy didn't suit the young Springsteen. He wanted to be General, Commander In Chief, and benevolent dictator all on his own terms. He wanted do whatever he felt like doing, just like he did when he was a child with Grandma Alice. THAT'S the life he wanted.
Trusting his own vision, Springsteen met the right people, who introduced him to more right people, and the next thing you know...he's a signed artist on Columbia Records. He puts his faith in his manager, Mike Appel, produces two strong, yet low-selling records. Then he writes the song that puts Springsteen on the map: "Born To Run." Magazine covers, money and fame follow, yet Springsteen ends up broke, and tangled up in an unpleasant lawsuit that keeps him out of the recording studio for three years. Surviving that, Springsteen makes another great album (1978's "Darkness on the Edge of Town"), tours to pay off his bills, then goes broke again making his 1980 double-album "The River." After a successful world tour, Springsteen releases the strong yet uncommercial "Nebraska" album in 1982. Two years later, Bruce Springsteen hits the "Big Big Time" with the release of "Born In The U.S.A., upping his rock n' roll success into massive pop superstardom that remains to this day. BUT...there's more to the story that just music, fame, and fortune.
Springsteen's home life was a constant source of stress and conflict growing up. His arch nemesis? Douglas Springsteen, his father. The author has written many songs relating to his complicated relationship with his father: "Adam Raised a Cain," "Factory," "Independence Day," "My Father's House," "Walk Like A Man" and many more. With his book "Born To Run," Bruce Springsteen beautifully paints a vivid portrait of Douglas Springsteen, and their long, tangled dance that lasted from birth until his father's death in 1998. There is a lot of love there, as well as heavy amount of pain. Douglas Springsteen was a damaged soul, whose mental illness ranged from depression, bi-polar disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia. Sadly, the author also admits to suffering from severe bouts of depression that would leave him endlessly in tears, or bedridden for days.
It is this brutal, emotionally honest tone in "Born To Run" that lifts it above and beyond anything Neil Young tried to do with his "Waging Heavy Peace." For a rock superstar to allow himself to be THAT vulnerable in a commercially published work is striking, and also incredibly moving. To read Bruce Springsteen's thoughtful, and very personal analysis on (what he thinks are) the limitations of his own singing voice is just incredible. I know Bruce Springsteen enjoyed Eric Clapton's brilliant 2007 autobiography "Clapton," in which the iconic guitarist expressed the same type of fascinating, candid vulnerability. Perhaps this was an influence.
In addition to all of this, there is the music, and the stories, and the stories behind the music. I loved reading about Springsteen use of pennies to pay the toll for Manhattan's Lincoln Tunnel in 1972. I loved reading about the dynamic and drama of the E Street Band, learning about the love and resentment Springsteen had for his brothers-in-arms over the years. I loved reading about Bruce Springsteen's rarely mentioned early influence: Tim Buckley, plus his ongoing love for all things, Elvis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Animals, The Who, and more. The author's chapter about playing with The Rolling Stones in 2012 is priceless.
Alright, Peter Ames Carlin's "Bruce" is arguably the better book, in that it lays out Bruce Springsteen's life, warts and all, with a controlled, well-researched, wild abandon. However, Springsteen's "Born To Run" offers up something that "Bruce" does not have: an emotional nakedness and sensitivity that is strong and intimate that one almost forgets that the author is a highly talented superstar, multi-millionaire rock n' roller who lives a fantasy life beyond the realm of the majority of mortals on this Earth. Yet as expressed most eloquently in "Born To Run," Bruce Springsteen is a human being after all...
Priscilla Warner had everything a woman could ask for. She had a successful career for many years. She had a loving, long-lasting marriage, along withPriscilla Warner had everything a woman could ask for. She had a successful career for many years. She had a loving, long-lasting marriage, along with two healthy children. She had friends, money, and lots of love in and around her. So why was she still having the panic attacks that have haunted her since she was a teenager? If only Priscilla could achieve the joy, peace, and tranquility of a Tibetan monk, her life would be so much better. Such is the question, and the journey of Priscilla Warner's "Learning to Breathe: My Year-Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life."
Part biography, part self-help educational tool, "Learning to Breathe" examines any and all efforts by the author to take back her life after years of suffering from anxiety and trauma. Much is made of Priscilla Warner's Rhode Island upbringing, with two loving, yet not particularly effective parents who pretty much left Priscilla on her own. Her father suffered from a severe depression that haunted him until his death. Her ailing mother was a brilliant yet narcissistic artist. Due to the lackluster parenting, Priscilla's maternal instincts kicked in at an early age, and she was left mothering both of her siblings, as well as her parents. The pressure was enormous, as was the anxiety.
In her effort to become a peaceful monk, Priscilla Warner journeys through a series of lectures, retreats, massage treatments, various therapies, books, doctors, mentors, pastors, rabbis, various forms of meditation, as well teaching from the Dali Lama himself. In the process of healing, Warner takes a deep look inside, carving away at the fog of anxiety that covered up the immense joy and compassion inside her. Though the journey was filled with peril, it was also filled with peace, discovery, laughter, generosity, gratitude, serenity and immense joy.
In experiencing Priscilla Warner's journey to peace, there is indeed value in the wisdom and knowledge she gains in the process. The gift of giving, the pliability of the brain, and the joy of lovingkindness to oneself as well as to others are all great lessons to learn from. However, the lessons could have made a much deeper impact if the book were easier to digest as a whole.
As much as I appreciated the idea of "Learning to Breathe: My Year-Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life," in practice I struggled to get through it. The effort by Priscilla Warner is sincere, and heartfelt. Yet the book itself is a bit of a dull read, with little to no dynamic to it. Instead of having some form of narrative build-up that captures your attention, the book simply approaches each new chapter with a "then I did this, and then I did that, and then I did this..." type of approach. As a result, it was far too easy to put Priscilla Warner's book down, and far too difficult to pick it up again. In the end, I just wanted to get "Learning to Breathe: My Year-Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life" over with. Oh well. Great lessons, not-so-great class.
As a man who knows very little about NFL football, aside from watching a few games on television, this 2005 John Feinstein expose on the Baltimore RavAs a man who knows very little about NFL football, aside from watching a few games on television, this 2005 John Feinstein expose on the Baltimore Ravens was an eye-opener, and also damned good. In "Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL," Feinstein expertly takes the reader inside the life of a pro football team from Draft Day and training camps, all the way through the last game of the season..and beyond.
As an NFL team has less than 20 games per season, and given the fact that the official football season is a relatively short four months in duration, the author wisely choose to place his focus on one team alone, rather than explore all of the NFL franchises at once (as Feinstein did, with mixed results, in his 1993 tome "Play Ball"). The Baltimore Ravens were chosen because the author had an inside track being a Maryland resident with connections to the team. Also, the Ravens story IS a great one.
The former Cleveland Browns came to Baltimore in 1996 after years of being without a team when their beloved Colts left for Indianapolis. With one Super Bowl win (in 2000) to their name, the Ravens were still a fairly new franchise when Feinstein choose to cover their 2004 season. It was a sound choice, as the franchise was going through a transformative period, with lots of growing pains.
Art Modell, the longtime owner of the Browns-Ravens, as well as his son David spent their first season simply as "guests" of the team in 2004. The new owner was a young, billionaire entrepreneur named Steve Bisciotti, and the story of how he became owner of the Ravens is indeed an interesting one. John Feinstein did an excellent job going through all of the details of the complicated transfer of ownership, as well as the politics involved.
From the beginning, like any good author, Feinstein sets up the major characters of the story so that they become locked in your psyche as the story progresses. By the time the book reaches the half-way mark, you really KNOW these people, and can even predict their actions. Owner Steve Bisciotti, head coach Brian Billick, general manager Ozzie Newsome, controversial offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, special teams Coordinator Gary Zauner, controversial star middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the legendary Deion Sanders as star nickelback, defensive back Corey Fuller, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, young quarterback Kyle Baller, cornerback Chris McAlister, and placekicker Matt Stover all feel like friends by the end of the book, as the reader is allowed the privilege to peek inside their lives, and journey along with them through the many difficult trials and tribulations an NFL team must face throughout a single season.
There is drama EVERYWHERE in "Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL." From Draft Day forward, Billick and his staff are forced to deal with difficult temperaments, raging egos, sensitive souls, violent outbreaks, and at the same time strategize and coach a 53-man roster through (at least) sixteen very difficult games through the football season. The owners, the coaches, the players all have one goal in mind: the Super Bowl. Each year, every year, that's what the Ravens, and every other team in the NFL strives for. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem. Assistant coaches want to be coaches, coaches want to be coordinators, coordinators want to be head coaches, head coaches want to win, or perhaps become General Managers. Players want to win, but they also want contracts, and security, and money, and good health.
An NFL team is only as strong as its injury list will allow. Of all sports played, football is probably the worst when it comes to players getting injured on the field. Injury is part of the sport every season, yet it still hits a team hard when their starting players get on the injured list for weeks at a time. With such a short season, EVERY game counts.
Needless to say, I got a lot out of reading "Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL." John Feinstein did such a great job, that even a non-sports fan like myself could still find himself engaged and entertained throughout the book's journey. It was sad to see the journey end as I finished the book today. I'm going to miss my friends....more
Though reading self-help books can sometimes feel like a chore, the good ones are worth their weight in gold. Donna Stoneham's "The Thriver's Edge: SeThough reading self-help books can sometimes feel like a chore, the good ones are worth their weight in gold. Donna Stoneham's "The Thriver's Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead" is pure gold indeed. In a short span of pages, the author delivers valuable words of wisdom that transcend the book beyond the notions of "bad, or good" in terms of content, and dare I say...entertainment value.
In very articulate terms, using engaging real-life stories as examples, Stoneham outlines what it means thrive, as opposed to survive. Thriving involves many things, including altering one's perception, being humble, taking more control of one's life, and have a healthy amount of gratitude in one's daily existence in order to fortify one's life, as well as the lives of others. Being grateful is the key to thriving.
"The Thriver's Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead" offers up so many pearls of wisdom, that I found myself highlighting several notes in the book, something I rarely ever do. Stoneham uses a very insightful quote by Physicist Max Plack: "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" to shed light an important step towards thriving: altering one's perception of people, places, things, and events. In other words, one could look at something with a narrow, negative point of view, which has no benefit at all other than making you feel bad, OR...one could approach the same thing with an entirely positive approach, which benefits you and the world. There really IS a silver lining to every cloud.
This goes hand in hand with the most important key to thriving: gratitude. In appreciating what one has, and what is in front of them, one can achieve not only a state of true presentness of being, but also an enlightened sense of one's life, which in turn can lead to a joy than can affect others in a positive way as well. It's not so much the power of positive thinking, as much as it is the strength of stopping to smell the roses, take in one's blessings, and pay it forward as you go about your life.
In addition, Donna Stoneham discusses the specific role we have in our own life, and whether we are happy in that role or not, or is it something we want to change, to "get on the right bus" to where and who we want to be. Another key is to understand that we get more by giving more. We are better off living under "What I can I offer to the world?" rather than "What can the world give me?"
Again, I never feel comfortable reading self-material, and the experience of reading "The Thriver's Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead" may not have been a fun time. I even dreaded reading the book at times. However, like any good medicine, Donna Stoneham's book offers value far beyond the notions of what tastes good, or what is fun to read. "The Thriver's Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead" is excellent medicine, that I believe too many of us really need....more
**spoiler alert** Well, I am not sure what to make of "Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold" by C.S. Lewis. As I only discovered at the very end of the n**spoiler alert** Well, I am not sure what to make of "Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold" by C.S. Lewis. As I only discovered at the very end of the novel, its title is not misleading. "Till We Have Faces" is literally a retelling (re-imagining?) of the Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis' Cupid and Psyche mythological story from "Metamorphoses," which dates back to the 2nd Century A.D. Lewis seemed to have recast the story, as well as its context, retelling the story in a specifically mutated form.
In the land of Glome, there lived a tyrannically King named Trom, who bore nothing but daughters. The oldest daughter (Orual) was considered ugly by the King, and was often given men's work. Yet Orual was very smart, and learned. She was faithful to the Goddess Ungit, who was worshipped in Glome, and also took much education and guidance from the atheistic Fox, a Greek slave her father had in his court. The second oldest daughter, Redival, is a pretty yet petty and selfish harlot. The third, and most cherished daughter, Psyche, is more kind, and sweet and beautiful than anyone in Glome.
Mistaking Redival's considerate selflessness for mythical healing powers, the people of Glome begin to worship Psyche as a Goddess. When disease and famine took over Glome, Psyche was blamed as the cause. At the Priest's suggestion (and with the King's approval) young Psyche is offered up as a sacrifice to the God of the Mountain, son of Ungit. The loss of Pyche devastated Orual to her core. With the help of the loyal knight Bardia, Orual visits the Mountain later, only to be surprised to find Psyche very much alive and happy, however...
Orual is horrified that Psyche's joy, and claim to a grand palace made by her mysterious, unseen, husband (God of the Mountain) is nothing more than a young girl being abused and manipulated by a cruel mortal mountain man. In an act of selfishness disguised as love, Orual forces Psyche to shine a light on this being who claims to be "God of the Mountain," in order to see his face, and reveal who he really is. When the "God of the Mountain" discovered what Psyche had done, he banishes her from his palace, and forces her to endure years of misery wandering lands...or is Orual just imagining it all?
For the rest of her days, even through her successful rise to becoming a feared and beloved (and veiled) Queen of Glome, Orual tortures herself with an unhappy, celibate existence, filled with hopeless love, pride, jealousy, and a firm hand in ruling the people of Glome. It is only when she nears death, does Orual come to terms with her life, and her ongoing battle with the way of the Gods.
As nice as story, as it was, I can't say I really understood what "Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold" is actually about. I was directed toward the novel within the context (I assumed) of it being an allegory related to Christianity, as in C.S. Lewis's Narnia chronicles. I suppose, one could take from the author's prose the notion that the Kingdom of Heaven as well as the Gate of Hell reside in all of us, and our existence depends on which place we choose to reside in. Psyche's joy was indeed her own, as was her pain and punishment. The other message perhaps is the notion that we should not seek answers from the Gods (or God) on why things happen (or don't happen), but rather that God IS the answer to all questions asked. There is also something that could be said about the benefits of trust and faith verses fear, selfishness, and jealousy, as well as the appreciation of mystery and wonder verses an intellectual, scientific demand for all places, things, concepts, and beings.
I can't say that I thoroughly enjoyed "Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold," yet I did not dislike it either. I was somewhat intrigued by the mystery of Psyche, and the plight of Orual, with her self-veiled appearance. However, the story didn't pay off in the way I had hoped it would. If anything, I did appreciate the depth of C.S. Lewis's words, even when I did not understand them. I am not even sure I understand the title of the book, which may signify...well, I just don't know. ...more
**spoiler alert** Very disappointing third book in Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)'s Cormoran Strike Series. Whereas Galbraith's "The Cuckoos Calling" a**spoiler alert** Very disappointing third book in Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)'s Cormoran Strike Series. Whereas Galbraith's "The Cuckoos Calling" and "The Silkworm" were both interesting, compelling reads "Career of Evil" is a dull, plodding melodrama that never seems to end.
Unlike the author's previous two page-turners, "Career of Evil" spends the majority of its time focusing on the soap opera-like love triangle relationship between Cormoran Strike, his partner/assistant Robin, and Robin's insecure fiancé Matthew. Matthew hates Stike, and deplores his fiancés career choice. Robin fights with Matthew often. Meanwhile, Strike tries to distance himself from the actual feelings he has inside himself for Robin, for fear of mucking things up. With Robin and Matthew's wedding approaching, the tension between the three is palpable, and arguably...understandable.
However, Robin's massive insecurity plays such an enormous part of "Career of Evil," that is wears out its welcome fast. To make matters worse, Galbraith outs Robin as a rape victim, to help further enhance her doubt and insecurity. Robin's charm, work-ethic and talent for investigative work made her a terrific foil to Cormoran Strike in the previous novels. This time around, Robin is just plain annoying.
I hated Robin's self-righteous attitude, when it came to doing (and NOT doing) what Strike asked her to do. Her naive yet defiant stance on directly confronting Alyssa about Brockbank's abusive depravity of young girls was just stupid. This idiotic act overshadowed anything to do with Robin's noble intentions to save a young girl from abuse. The whole act felt out of character for her, and felt false.
"Career of Evil" is also very repetitive, with the main plot dragging on and on and on with very little variation. Also annoying was the fact that the serial killer was immediately identified as one of three men whom Strike had ruined in one way or another. For the majority of the novel, Strike, Robin, the police, are all repeatedly returning to the same three suspects over and over again.
Okay, yes, the author pulls it all together in the end, with a clever twist that went beyond anyone's guessing. Yet it was way too little, and much too late for it to make up for the novel's consistently slow pace, and paper thin story.
**spoiler alert** What can I tell ya? I'm a sucker for a good mystery thriller. Though a bit slow at times, Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)'s second nov**spoiler alert** What can I tell ya? I'm a sucker for a good mystery thriller. Though a bit slow at times, Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)'s second novel, "The Silkworm", brings back the troubled yet brilliant handicapped private detective Cormoran Strike (as well as his highly capable assistant Robin Ellacott) to great affect with yet another page-turner of a thriller.
This time around, Strike finds himself immersed in the London publishing world on the hunt for a writer-killer. That's right, an established (though not successful) controversial writer named Owen Quine has been brutally and viciously murdered...seemingly without cause. Given his eccentric and quarrelsome manner, Quine had few friends and fewer fans, often disappearing for days at a time without notice. After an extended absence, Quine's put-upon wife hired the one man she knew could find her husband: Cormoran Strike. A man of principle and justice, Quine took on the case with gusto, not having any clue what he was in for, nor any indication as to who exactly he would be dealing with.
"The Silkworm" provides a very compelling journey for Cormoran Strike to travel on...from a disemboweled body, to angry police officers, to a hard-as-nails literary agent, a sweet-natured book editor, an awkward and irritable book publisher, a "vainglorious" star writer, an indifferent widow with a handicapped daughter, a violent transgender woman, and a complicated past involving Oxford, jealousy, AIDS, and suicide. Strike, needless to say, had his work cut out for him...and them some.
As with Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)'s first novel ("The Cuckoo's Calling"), the writing is so vivid that one could easily picture each and every character of the book. There was never any question as to who was who, or what was going on. The reader may not have known who the real killer was as the story progressed, but Galbraith/Rowling paints such an engaging and fascinating picture that one could easily trust in the author to get where the story needed to go BEFORE revealing who the villain was. The way Galbraith/Rowling writes, one is left thinking that ANYONE could be the murderer right up until the very end.
True, there were times I found myself impatient with the author's over-indulgence on her two beloved lead characters: Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. In particular, Robin's repetitive life with Matthew (away from her work with Strike) tested my patience a bit. However, Galbraith/Rowling more than made up for it by the last quarter of "The Silkworm," where it became more and more difficult to put the book down. Needless to say, looking forward to reading the next one....more