Category Archives: Reviews

Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella

51RICEgQ3aL__BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-bigTopRight0-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4BottomRight122_AA300_SH20_OU01_If you know me, you know I love baseball. I practically worship baseball. It’s like a religion to me. My team is the Detroit Tigers, but I love the game so much that I’m often happy to watch any teams. It doesn’t even have to be Major League teams. I’ll watch the minors, college, independents, even little league teams. And I like all things that have to do with baseball. Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, is one of my favorite movies. Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella, is the novel Field of Dreams is based on.

As is usually the case, the novel is not quite like the movie. There are plenty of differences between the two. But the movie is still an excellent adaptation of the story Kinsella wrote. Shoeless Joe is like the Baseball Bible. If you want to understand my insane love for baseball, read this book.  It talks about several interesting pieces of baseball history and, through dialog, it explains why baseball is so important to people like me. There’s also a very nice touch of humanity that is shared by several characters.

I absolutely loved this book.

 

The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham

518Y2XtUQWL__BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-bigTopRight0-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4BottomRight122_AA300_SH20_OU01_The Price of Spring is a beautiful but sad tale of a world that is broken. An empire where women are no longer able to bear children has never recovered from the last war with Galt. It’s up to the poets to make the world right again, or to do further damage. But with the old grammar lost, a new grammar must be made in order for a poet to bind an andat, a small god that from the moment it is bound must do the will of its poet.

Daniel Abraham‘s world develops in a way that makes me think of a blooming flower garden. At first it was all dark and murky, but as I continued along the world became brighter and more colorful. The characters were interesting and lovable, and there were scenes, especially one in the epilogue, that stirred my emotions.

I don’t want to reveal much about the story itself. It’s a rule I try to stick to when writing these little pieces about the books I read. But this is a good book, a fun read, and all the usual things I say about the books I enjoyed.

Inside the U.S. Secret Service (2004)

51VD4A3DDDLThere are a lot of documentary movies that bore me to tears, but National Geographic‘s Inside the U.S. Secret Service is not one of those movies. This movie is an excellent, very interesting and educational documentary. I’m glad I decided to watch it. I almost didn’t bother. I had tried to watch several other documentaries on Netflix that sounded interesting but turned out to be so dull I couldn’t finish watching them. But National Geographic did it right with Inside the U.S. Secret Service.

Inside the U.S. Secret Service is a close look at the agency that protects the President of the United States. The movie walks us through the history of the agency, some of the tactics the agency uses and how it operates. Of course there was a lot of information that could not be revealed. The Secret Service can’t have people knowing their secrets because that would very likely make their job more of a challenge than it already is. And make no mistake, the job of the Secret Service is extremely challenging. It’s hard not to appreciate the work these men and women put into protecting the President, his family and anyone else who requires the protection of the Secret Service.

I learned so much from watching this movie. This was something I needed to see, it gave me a new understanding of the Secret Service and the lives of the people they protect, especially the first family. Did you know that anytime you see the President walking across the White House lawn on TV, the bushes in the background have agents hiding in them, watching the President’s every move? No one can see the agents in the bushes, but they’re there.

The President and the first family receives a lot of death threats. We don’t hear about these threats much, but they are countless. Probably most of the threats are from people who don’t actually have the balls to carry them out, but there are enough threats from people who would assassinate the President if given the chance. Since the beginning of our country there have been assassination attempts on United States presidents. Four of those presidents were killed, others were wounded and several narrowly dodged the bullet. The Secret Service is necessary and critical to the President’s survival.

The movie also makes it clear that the agents are human and not the stone cold robots they’re often thought to be. Several agents were interviewed, as well as some of the former presidents and their children. They all provided insights on what it’s like to be in the bubble of protection. The Prisident is a moving target, under constant threat. The Secret Service makes it possible for the President to do his job.

Jackie Brown (1997)

51-hZL1wfXLI had heard of Jackie Brown. I’ve even seen bits of the movie here and there, but I’ve never watched the whole movie straight through until last night. First off, Quentin Tarantino is an artist. Every one of his movies that I’ve seen has a very elegant artistic touch to it. Think of Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Desperado. The angles of the pictures, the motions of the actors, the shuffling of the scenes, the twists of the stories and just the right amount of comedy, all of it comes together to make a brilliant work of art. It’s like looking at the painting of Mona Lisa and knowing that there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Samuel L. Jackson played the bad motherfucker again. Except in Jackie Brown, Jackson’s character, Ordell Robbie, was not quite as bright as Jules Winnfield was in Pulp Fiction. Ordell Robbie also lacked the degree of honor that Jules Winnfield had. Ordell Robbie was more of a bad, bad, bad motherfucker. Bad! Your dog shit on the brand new carpet kind of bad. He took several opportunities to remind us of that.

Pam Grier played Jackie Brown and the movie opened with her walking through the airport dressed in a stewardess uniform. Jackie Brown was the key character in a heist to steal a large sum of money. She was a tough character with a survivalist instinct that gets her out of trouble. Jackie Brown outsmarted Ordell Robbie and the ATF.

The movie ended with an emotional, not entirely happy note.

Triggers, by Robert J. Sawyer

 

Image2The President was shot. While the surgeons at Luther Terry Memorial Hospital fought to save the President’s life, a bomb at the White House went off. The White House and the hospital are only a mile apart and the explosion caused a brief power outage at the hospital. The outage messed up some of the hospital’s equipment, including a piece of equipment that one doctor was using to treat a soldier with PTSD. Now several people at the hospital can read the memories of another person. This becomes a national security issue because someone is reading the President’s memories.

Triggers, by Robert J. Sawyer, has clear and easy to understand prose. The story just kind of flowed to me. It was a fun read. The characters were believable, to the point where some of them made me so mad I wanted to smack them. There were times when I couldn’t help comparing Agent Susan Dawson to Cersei Lannister.

All of the characters were well done, but my favorite was Kadeem Adams. Kadeem stole the scene every time he was on stage. Although he was a point-of-view character, the spotlight wasn’t on him that much. But whenever the spotlight was on Kadeem, his performance was impressive as hell. I loved the things he said, the way he said them, the actions he took and how his personality really shined through.

Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley

untitledI have seen the movie, but that was back when there were still things you could fit a VHS into. Remember those? Well, that was a long time ago and I don’t remember the movie so well. I was curious about the story, so I decided to read the book. What a fine read it was. If you saw the movie and thought it was good, you ought to read the book. The book takes “good” to a whole new level. Walter Mosley‘s Devil in a Blue Dress is one of those easy to pick up and hard to put down books.

It’s 1948 in Los Angeles. Easy Rawlins is down on his luck. He just lost his job and his mortgage bill needs to be paid or he will lose his house. While drinking at a friend’s bar, Easy meets DeWitt Albright who hires him to find a girl. No one bothers to tell Easy how much trouble this girl is. Easy finds out that he’s not the only person looking for the girl, but by then several people have been murdered and Easy is a suspect. But it’s not only the cops he has to worry about

Escapement, by Jay Lake

jIn Jay Lake‘s Escapement Paolina Barthes is a girl of fifteen born and raised in Praia Nova, a small coastal village in the shadows a Muralha, or the Wall. Women in Poalina’s village never amount to much in the world where men see themselves as superior to women. But Paolina is an exception. She has a gift unlike any other. Not only does she understand machinery to the degree that she can repair things that her village depends on, she also figures out how to invent something more powerful than any weapon known to man. Realizing Praia Nova has so little to offer her, Paolina sets out for England where she believes she will find wizards who can teach her more than she already knows. But she never makes it to England. Trouble meets her along the way and she finds herself hunted by the British Empire and the Celestial Empire, as well as two secret societies, the White Birds and the Silent Order. All of them want her gleam, which is the instrument she invented that can do the work of God.

An Extremely Goofy Movie (1999)

untitledSometimes I’m just in the mood for something more colorful, and what’s more colorful than cartoons? I went on Netflix and looked through the Children & Family movies that Netflix recommended.  Most  of them were animated movies, some by Disney and some by other production companies. There were several I had already seen and several more that I hadn’t. I decided to watch An Extremely Goofy Movie. I remember A Goofy Movie and I liked it, so I thought I might like an extremely goofy movie.

And I did. It was quite ridiculous, but enjoyable. It was just right for my numb mind. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything smart. I wanted something fun, relaxing and… ridiculous.

In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Max is grown up. Can you believe that? How long ago was Goof Troop? I used to watch that, even though I was well into my teens around the time it was airing. So, Max grew up, along with P.J. and Bobby. He’s in college, though he never did lose his passion for skateboarding. In fact, Max, P.J. and Bobby are a team competing in the college’s X-Games.

Goofy, after losing his job, decides to go back to college and get a degree. Max, of course, is horrified when his daddy shows up in groovy 70’s garment and sporting an afro the size of a beach ball. That might have been the style back in the day, but it isn’t quite fitting for Max’s 1999 college paradise. Needless to say, Max isn’t thrilled to have his dad on campus with him, you know, because his dad embarrasses him.

Goofy quickly becomes popular when he accidentally does some awesome stunts on a skateboard in front of the school’s X-Gamers and fans. Max, eager to have his dad out of his way, encourages Goofy to join the team of his rivals. And things get more crazy, ridiculous and fun from there.

At one point in the movie, Bobby asked a very interesting question. “Hmm?” he said. “Do you ever wonder why we’re always, like, wearin’ gloves?”

That prompted me to go looking for the answer on why cartoon characters often wear gloves. Turns out the tradition started way back when Mickey Mouse starred in Steamboat Willie. Disney had problems drawing Mickey’s hands and found it easier to draw them with gloves. Also, in the day of black and white pictures, it was hard to see the character’s hand gestures or what they were touching, etc, and I guess the white gloves helped with that. Some studios just wanted to keep that tradition going.

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Someone from The Collectionary emailed me and expressed an interest in featuring this blog entry on their very popular Goofy Facebook Page. The Collectionary is a company that promotes items for avid collectors and they have a department for Goofy items. I couldn’t see any reason not to go for it. In exchange for their featuring my blog entry, I’m linking to their site.

Goofy

Orchid Carousals, by Lucy A. Snyder – with Kaysee Renee Robichaud

2Lucy A. Snyder, along with Kaysee Renee Robichaud, mixes science fiction, fantasy and erotica in the recently released  collection Orchid Carousals.

These are erotica stories, but don’t confuse them with outright porn. Most of them have something built around the scenes where sex happens. To me, they are more like romantic stories with sexual scenes that are stronger than what is in most romantic stories. I have no complaints.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

untitledjjhI have seen The Lord of the Rings movies, but I haven’t read the books yet. Because I know The Lord of the Rings story began with The Hobbit, I decided to read that first. The Hobbit is a children’s book, but it’s quite fine for adults. Adventurous and entertaining. Bilbo Baggins is the star character. In The Hobbit he is much younger than he was in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf is there too.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo meets Gandalf for the first time, along with a group of dwarves. Gandalf and the dwarves talk Bilbo into leaving his quiet, peaceful home and coming with them on an adventure through the wild lands to the mountain where the dwarves’ ancestors once lived. There is a dragon guarding a heap of gold that the dwarves want to reclaim and they promise to give Bilbo a share. The journey is long and dangerous. Along the way they encounter trolls, goblins, giant spiders, things like that.

It’s a strange world and there’s lots of singing. Most important, we find out how Bilbo came by the magic ring that is the cause of so much trouble in The Lord of the Rings. So, if you ever wondered about that, The Hobbit is the book to read.