Category Archives: Reviews

Branch, by Gustavo Bondoni

branch1Branch, by Gustavo Bondoni, is a novella about the discovery of a new human species. They look and behave like the rest of us, but they’re not quite like us. The biggest difference is that our species and theirs cannot breed.

So, there is a team of scientists working in India, at the village where this new species lives. Most of the scientists are good, decent and sensible people, but one of them is a royal pain in the ass.

When India’s soldiers move to the village to assure the safety and secrecy of the villagers, everything is peachy until the doctor with the bad attitude decides to spread the word about the villagers being different from the rest of the human race. The news spreads around the world and soon there are thousands of bigots who think the world would be better off if this new branch of the human race is eliminated, in the name of God, of course.

A fun read. Some bits stirred my emotions.  Bondoni did it right.

June 1942: A Boy Out Of Time, A Girl Out Of History, by Quito Washington

51LfdolVS5L__BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-bigTopRight0-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4BottomRight122_AA300_SH20_OU01_1Not bad. Pretty damn good, actually. I usually don’t bother with self published books, but June 1942: A Boy Out Of Time, A Girl Out Of History, by Quito Washington, is one I’m glad I read. I’ll be honest, I think it could use a bit more editing. I spotted a lot of typos and there were places where commas should have been but weren’t. I also saw some point of view violations. But if you’re not anal about that stuff, this is a very enjoyable book.

I would say it’s science fiction with a mild blend of fantasy. Though there were times when I thought it was a ghost story, then I’d think it was contemporary fiction, but with some of the story set in the past. But in the end it came clear what this actually is and it was well played. The plot was strong, the story was convincing, the characters were believable.

Not bad.

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

untitledI’ve been behind on my reading. Finally got back into the motion and finished off William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet.

I pretty much already knew the story of Romeo and Juliet, though I never actually read the book. I’ve heard about the story and I’ve seen parts of the Romeo + Juliet movie from 1996, though I don’t think I ever watched it all the way through. So, I knew what the story was about, but I didn’t have the whole story down and I figure I ought to know it.

Shakespeare’s usual poetic play of words is in this book just as it is in every other book of his. Yeah, he was a crafty writer. I kept imagining that I was watching the play as I read. I would see the actors waving their arms about as they spoke their lines. Some bits made me laugh out loud and other bits struck an emotional chord. So, I say Shakespeare did it right.

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.