This just popped up on my "recommendations" page, and I'm shocked to see I hadn't added it among my books, because it's just about one of the funniestThis just popped up on my "recommendations" page, and I'm shocked to see I hadn't added it among my books, because it's just about one of the funniest things I've ever read. "Anguished English" has become a known catchphrase in my home. It's a little book chock-a-block with grammar bloopers, malapropisms, and not-quite-right translations that leaves you rolling. :)...more
So far I've read four Scottoline mysteries, in order, and one thing I can say across the board is that they're all great fun. Some more more "legal thSo far I've read four Scottoline mysteries, in order, and one thing I can say across the board is that they're all great fun. Some more more "legal thriller" than others, some are more believable than others, but I haven't met a one that hasn't had me turning pages non-stop from beginning to end, sleep and other plans be damned.
For sheer readability, Legal Tender does not disappoint. I think I read it in 5 hours. In a single sitting after coming home from work, no less. Scottoline can write a tight enough narrative that just keeps pushing you forward. There wasn't much of a legal mystery to be had here -- mainly it's a whodunit, with, of course, our dear heroine as the primary suspect -- and some of the plot devices were a bit over the top (view spoiler)[-- Honestly? No one recognizes the woman in the bright yellow car and the bright red hair all over town? Not even the half-dozen cops she ends up crossing paths with? No one? -- (hide spoiler)] but it's all in good fun. Talented, idealistic attorney Bennie Rosato is confronted with the death of a close colleague and all the circumstantial evidence points in her direction. She knows no one will believe her, and so she spends the rest of the book sleuthing on her own while coming up with creative ways to avoid capture. It's her scheme to outwit her pursuers and hide in plain sight that provides some of the most entertaining and believability-challenging moments of the story. Unlike other Scottoline novels I've read, the character development gets fairly short shrift, which is a bit of a shame, because she does that so well. There's also a minor romantic subplot, but the main fun of the story is the cat and mouse game. ...more
Absolutely classic Mary Higgins Clark, incorporating all I have come to expect from one of her books: an intriguing, page-turning plot, crisply writteAbsolutely classic Mary Higgins Clark, incorporating all I have come to expect from one of her books: an intriguing, page-turning plot, crisply written scenes, a fair number of plausible suspects to keep you guessing, and a perfectly frictionless reading experience that lets me blaze through the story in a single sitting.
I hadn't read a Mary Higgins Clark book in years -- and now, she's got so many of them I couldn't even begin to remember which of them I've read -- when a co-worker offered to pass along one she'd finished. As much as I love reading good non-fiction, and as many meaty titles as I've got waiting on my to-read shelf, sometimes you just need a simple, easy, fast-paced read to mix things up a bit. And I've learned that a Mary Higgins Clark book is guaranteed to be entertaining.
This one didn't disappoint, built around a surprisingly original plot conceit: a well-off, well-adjusted, well-liked young man simply walks away from his life one day, without warning or explanation. No trace of him can be found after his disappearance, but every year, once a year, he calls his family for the briefest of greetings -- on Mother's Day. Finally, after years of this, his sister decides she must renew the search for him, in the process uncovering more mysteries than she can solve, as her brother's case becomes intertwined with that of other people who go missing.
The resolution, when it comes, happens a bit too quickly, but nevertheless, caught me by surprise. Even for a lightweight mystery novel, I would prefer a bit more substance and content (see Tami Hoag) but I really can't complain too much about this one. I was looking for an easy, quick, fun read, and I got it....more
Yes, I really did read it, and yes, I really am admitting it here. On an unexpectedly lovely fall day, I decided to shake off the office with a lunchtYes, I really did read it, and yes, I really am admitting it here. On an unexpectedly lovely fall day, I decided to shake off the office with a lunchtime walk and wound up at a nearby branch of the public library, where I saw this displayed on a "new books" shelf. I found the idea of someone as young as Cheryl Burke writing her "life story" to be more than a little ridiculous, but on the other hand, I am a total sucker for that damn show, so I said "what the hell" and grabbed the book.
I do absolutely love Dancing with the Stars -- much as I dread to say so among some of the misguided egghead intellectuals of my acquaintance -- and Cheryl Burke is my favorite among the female dancers. She has phenomenal skill as a dancer, of course, but I also admire the seriousness about her art that comes through on the show. She has a special gift for teaching, as evidenced by the dancing transformations most of her celebrity partners on the show have made. And I especially appreciate the fact that she is not one of the dime-a-dozen tall, blonde, Barbie-doll women that Hollywood churns out, but rather a beautiful real woman.
I'm always rooting for her on the show, and I thought, if nothing else, the book would be a chance to learn a little bit more about her. Well, I wasn't wrong. I did learn a little bit more about her life -- emphasis on little. As a fan of the show and of hers it feels disloyal and unfair to criticize (and it's not really her fault, to a certain degree, since she really is so young to be writing this) but to be frank, with one notable exception, the book is really just a bunch of fluff with a few pictures in the middle. There's not enough story here to fill a respectably-sized magazine article, and even then it wouldn't have enough substance to land any higher than the "Parade" supplement in your local Sunday paper. Unless it was only meant as a promotional piece for her non-DWTS endeavors, Cheryl would have done better waiting a decade or two to try her hand at autobiography. I was particularly sorry that she didn't devote more time to her mother's story. Throughout the book, Cheryl often refers to her mother, who provides her with excellent career advice drawn from her own experience as an entrepreneur and independent businesswoman. Cheryl clearly values her mother's guidance, but it just seems there's a story with much more depth and interest waiting to be told about her mother's life.
The one thing Cheryl deserves a great deal of credit for in this book is her discussion of the sexual molestation she suffered as a small child at the hands of a family friend, who was eventually prosecuted and convicted. Cheryl, her sister, and a friend, both older but still both children, had to testify in court. It is so important for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to speak out and break the silence around abuse, especially as the perpetrators are always among the most trusted individuals around a family -- and so many times, they are family. Sadly, parents are often resistant to that truth, and find myriad ways to discount what they hear if children tell them about inappropriate behavior by trusted friends and family. It is only by getting that message out that adults can learn to really listen if children are telling them something they don't want to hear about a family member. I also appreciated that Cheryl wrote about her confusion and guilt she went through as a child too young too understand what was going on -- she quickly understood that something bad had happened, but could only feel that she had done something wrong somehow. Children need to be taught clearly about "good touching" and "bad touching", and that they should never feel bad or guilty if an adult's attention makes them uncomfortable; rather, it's the adult who is doing something wrong by breaking the "touching" rules. By sharing what is undoubtedly a painful part of her personal history, Cheryl takes an important step for prevention of sexual abuse.
This was the first real "grown-up" non-fiction book I ever read -- recommended to me while I was still in high school by my father, of all people. It'This was the first real "grown-up" non-fiction book I ever read -- recommended to me while I was still in high school by my father, of all people. It's an excellent chronicle of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, as it was first being recognized. Along the way Shilts documents the bias and indifference of the medical profession to the odd health complaints of a "subculture", the heroic efforts of a few lonely but committed stalwarts fighting an uphill battle to bring attention to this disease, and how the egos of medical professionals, the parochial interests of both the public health establishment as well as supposed advocacy organizations, and the vagaries of politics, among many other things, combined to exacerbate rather than ameliorate a massive public health calamity.
Young-uns encountering AIDS from the far, far safer perspective of the early 21st century will surely find this an eye-opening look at a truly scary and regrettable moment in our social history....more
The subtitle of this book is "A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks." Positioning a book as an essential reThe subtitle of this book is "A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks." Positioning a book as an essential resource for that broad a group is an immensely tall order, and one which surely invites dispute from absolute beginners who will find it not nearly basic enough, and serious fans who find the book far too elementary for their taste. Luckily for me, I seem to fall smack dab in the middle of target demographic. A semi-expert I'm not, but if I can muddle together the rest of the subtitle, I'd proudly claim the banner of "deeply serious beginner", and I found Watching Baseball Smarter to be a greatly informative and entertaining read.
I'm one of those fans who had been little more than casually aware of baseball for most of my life, until that day when something clicked, and what I thought was me keeping my boyfriend company as he watched the Phillies every night was actually me turning into a committed fan all on my own. I had always liked baseball, interested enough to enjoy going to a game in every place I've lived that had an associated major league club, but not enough to follow it regularly or, I realize now, even understand it well enough to know more than the absolute minimum. I do remember one summer when I was about eight or ten years old, staying in Costa Rica with an aunt whose cable TV offerings actually happened to include a single American TV station, WGN in Chicago, and largely as a consequence of parking myself in front of the TV to catch the daily reruns of Little House on the Prairie I also caught a whole summer of Chicago Cubs games -- but anything I might have learned by osmosis that season is long gone. So, as my life as a real baseball fan started to take off alongside the Phillies' 2010 season, I just wanted to learn more and more about the game.
I found Watching Baseball Smarter to be an excellent starting point. It covers the basics well, with chapters devoted specifically to pitching, hitting, fielding, etc., and provides a very good introduction to a lot of the details, rules, and statistics that aren't at all obvious to the casual fan. The author's style is light-hearted and easy to understand, and his voice is always one of a fellow fan. The book is not particularly long, and it's organized in a format that lends itself equally well to reading from front to back, or jumping around from topic to topic. There's also an extremely helpful glossary of baseball terms and slang -- great to have at hand while you're watching or listening to the game.
Learning more about the nuances of the game, from superstitions and traditions to playing strategies that won't be found in any rule book, just enriches my enjoyment of the game. Although I've been through the book once and the season's now over, you'll be sure to see me reading it a second time come next March (opening day 2012 is March 28!) and I expect it to keep it nearby as a reference throughout the season
When Bruce Weber talks about traveling in "the Land of Umpires", he's not merely engaging in creative metaphor for effect. As his excellently detailedWhen Bruce Weber talks about traveling in "the Land of Umpires", he's not merely engaging in creative metaphor for effect. As his excellently detailed book ably demonstrates, the world of umpires and umpiring is something of a closed society, with much of its inner workings shrouded from public view, and like any closed society, what is known about it by outsiders is more mythology and misunderstanding than fact.
Weber's book is as much a guidebook to this world of umpires as it is a travelogue of his own visit. He describes not only the ins and outs of his training at a professional umpire academy, but also umpires' long slog to recognition up the career track, the interplay between officials and players and on-field staff, and the fraught relationship between the umpires and "baseball", that is, the baseball power establishment, with the conflicts, some more spectacular than others, between umpires and baseball, that have frequently flared up over time. Fervent baseball aficionados will relish the details that Weber provides, but even casual fans will be fascinated by this inside look at baseball from a rare and unexpected perspective.
It won't be surprising that what emerges is a decidedly sympathetic portrait of umpires as a class. But it's deserved. The reader quickly learns of the difficulties umpires face in their chosen career. It's one of hard, generally undervalued work, low pay, constant abuse from fans and disregard, at best, from management. The career path itself is a punishing one, from the daily ignominies of the most junior umpires at the bottom of the minor league hierarchy, to the relative comfort that comes with making it to triple-A life, to the much-wished for perks of the major league, to the ultimate pinnacle of the post-season.
To be sure, umpires are not angels -- there is some legitimately bad behavior that is tolerated, much, again, a result of the closed clubbishness of the job. Also, the lack of racial diversity in the umpire ranks, and the bald-faced opportunism of management in putting a diverse face on the post-season crews, is shameful. And the treatment that the very few women umpires that have come through the staff have faced is nothing short of appalling, a shocking outpost of neanderthalism in the 21st century.
Having said that, though, I gained a new respect for umpires through this book. The professionalism with which they, as a whole, approach their work, and their commitment to protecting the integrity of the game, is genuinely admirable. And no amount of instant-replay or on-field technology can overcome the fact that umpires are indispensable. They are an inextricable part of that amalgam of skill and history, tradition and chance, that beloved drama that is baseball.
So I've wrapped up another baseball season by finishing another baseball book, one I first picked up out of curiosity, mostly expecting it to be an enSo I've wrapped up another baseball season by finishing another baseball book, one I first picked up out of curiosity, mostly expecting it to be an entertaining look at the game from another angle beyond the rules and the stats. It is that, but rather than being a mere diversion The Baseball Codes has provided an essential stage in my baseball education. Learning about the unwritten rules, their evolution over time, and the history of their practice and their breach, does as much to help understand the game as getting into the details of the formal rules and stats.
Looking at baseball from the perspective of the codes transforms the beginner fan's understanding of the game. For example, some of the rules you might think you could intuit -- it doesn't take a big leap of logic to conclude that stealing signs isn't cool -- are actually far more nuanced in practice. It turns out that sign stealing is widely attempted and almost expected; as the saying goes, "if you're not cheating, you're not trying". The real offense is persisting in sign stealing once you've been caught.
Many of the other unwritten codes are more surprising -- such the intricate calculations behind the determination of which offenses merit retaliation, how that retaliation will be carried out, by whom, and when (which eventually leads to the realization that the beanball you just saw might not have been a response to some untoward showboating by the batter in his previous at-bat, but rather could be the consequence of some distant offense committed in another game, by another player, in another league altogether even).
I have only one aesthetic quibble with the writing, which is that when the authors provide a series of examples to illustrate a point, the transition between anecdotes is usually constructed as a variation on the theme of, "As amazing as X was, it wasn't anywhere near as shocking as Y". This stylistic tic is repeated so often it gets old, and intrudes on the flow of the narrative. In the grand scheme of things, though, this is a trifle. The detailed, exhaustively sourced Baseball Codes is a fascinating inside look at baseball that will hold the attention of casual spectators and seasoned fans alike.
This book is absolutely indispensable. Cohen guides the reader through the pitfalls of the US health system, and demonstrates convincingly how crucialThis book is absolutely indispensable. Cohen guides the reader through the pitfalls of the US health system, and demonstrates convincingly how crucial it is for patients to learn to be their own best advocates in a medical system that is largely stacked against them.
Cohen covers topics as extreme as careless misdiagnosis and grievous medical errors, as maddening as the disproportionate and harmful influence of pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies driven only by their bottom line, and as mundane as the typical long waits and rushed appointments of the everyday doctor's appointment.
And it's all done in a casual, easy-to-understand, supportive tone. Cohen uses a lot of real examples, from the many people she has come across in her role as CNN medical correspondent, as well as from her own personal experience. She also arms the reader with a collection of important tools, including a worksheet to use to prepare for medical appointments, a guide to reliable and unbiased web resources for learning about your diagnosis, suggestions for reaching out to relevant experts, and even approaches to finding and reading medical literature about conditions and treatments.
After reading this book, anyone should be able to stride confidently into their next encounter with the health care system. It's absolutely essential reading, and I recommend it to everyone....more
If you were to judge by the existing scholarship on the U.S. civil rights movement, you could be excused for thinking that not much of any interest haIf you were to judge by the existing scholarship on the U.S. civil rights movement, you could be excused for thinking that not much of any interest happened in Arkansas beyond the desegregation of Central High School in 1957. While that signature struggle is obviously well known, it is also true that the biggest swath of scholarship on the civil rights movement is focused on other places. That is a grand shame, because as important as the headline events in those places are, they still represent only the tip of the iceberg of the massive social change happening in the South in the 1960s. The great bulk of the iceberg – that which, so far, has remained largely under the surface – is the demanding and often perilous day-to-day work of committed activists and local people in lesser-known but equally challenging locales.
Until now, this important era in Arkansas and civil rights movement history has been woefully underexplored. But that is all about to change with the publication of Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas. This much-needed volume, a remarkable collection of academic articles, first-person accounts, and primary sources on the critical work undertaken by the activists of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Arkansas in the 1960s, is sure to become a milestone zero in scholarship on the civil rights movement in Arkansas, the point from which many future roads will emanate. It is hard to imagine that from this point onward any serious scholarship on movement history in Arkansas will not include early reference to this one-of-a-kind book.
Arsnick is as notable for the organization of its contents as it is for its subject matter, and the editors are to be commended for their especially well thought out approach to the material. Part I collects the (regrettably few) scholarly articles currently available on Arkansas SNCC all in one place. These provide a basic survey of notable names and events that serves as the background for the more detailed portrait of the era that emerges through the personal stories and recollections of participants in SNCC work in Arkansas, presented in Part II. For this reader, these individual narratives and interview transcripts are the high point of the book, providing a wonderfully multifaceted view of the history, as different details and perspectives on some significant actions – such as the risky attempt to desegregate a local McDonalds restaurant – and people – including a certain memorably-named FBI agent, Agent Smart – appear in multiple retellings. Lastly, following this section is an excellent compilation of primary-source materials in Part III, which illustrates events as they happened through contemporary field reports, personal correspondence, and local news articles.
In telling the story of SNCC in Arkansas, Arsnick’s focus is not limited to the student organizers, white and black, northern and southern, who came from outside Arkansas to advocate for change. It also tells the story of local leaders and ordinary people moved to action, people who, unlike many of the SNCC workers, would have to spend their lives among the whites they were confronting, and who had the audacity to step out of line and challenge the system at great risk to themselves and their families. While this focus reflects SNCC’s emphatically grassroots vision, it also speaks to the care taken by the book’s editors, who have not fallen into the easy (and, sadly, far too common) trap of framing the history of the civil rights movement as essentially one of a few influential leaders.
In short, Arsnick represents a meaningful step forward in Arkansas and movement history, and should inspire much new investigation and writing in the future. The primary sources used here indicate just how much more is there to be discovered in the available archives. And the personal narratives of movement participants capture vitally important perspectives. At the very least, the book ought serve as a timely reminder to historians that the recollections of these veterans themselves are a significant resource simply waiting to be explored.
One final note: Readers of Arsnick have access to a special additional resource. The book’s 2011 publication was celebrated with a symposium at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, timed to coincide with the city’s commemoration of the first Freedom Riders bus to arrive in Little Rock on July 10, 1961. To our great good fortune, parts of this symposium were filmed by C-SPAN and are available for viewing on the C-SPAN website here (Panel 1) and here (Panel 2). These feature panel presentations by many of the book's contributors and participants of the movement in Arkansas. To see and hear them tell their own stories is a unique opportunity that should not be missed.