17 December 2013

Review of Profiles in Murder

Profiles In MurderProfiles In Murder by Russell Vorpagel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this out of curiosity for how profiling became a part of catching serial murderers, etc. The curiosity started, of course, when watching Silence of the Lambs, but was further fanned watching Criminal Minds and other such TV shows. If you are at all interested in the process of FBI profiling, this is a good place to begin reading about it. Vorpagel was one of the agents who first started profiling and brought it into regular practice by law enforcement.

View all my reviews

Get yourself a copy, here:

15 December 2013

I Choose to Live in Happiness

Life is too short to get caught up in other peoples' negativity.  Someone will always try to make you feel inferior, to feel like a loser, to feel like you are stupid.  It is up to you to allow these things to make you feel inferior, or like a loser, or to feel stupid.  Your thoughts are what will make you feel positive or negative, angry or not.

You can control your mind and you can train it to be positive in the face of the barrage of negativity from those who believe they are better than you, but are in reality hypocrites, because they don't even live up to their own professed values that they accuse you of failing to live up to.  And, yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition!

I will be happy and I will win!  Happiness comes from within.  I choose to let that happiness have the prominent place in my life.

I will live in love and compassion.  I will help as many other people to find happiness as I am able.  I know that I will not, indeed: CANNOT, help everyone.  But, I will in all cases, be myself.  If you can handle that, I appreciate it; if you can't, I will do it anyway!

I choose a happy life! :-D


29 April 2013

Review of Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog

The Power of the DogThe Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a long book, but the length (as Jane Smiley writes about in 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel) is a promise, not a threat.

The action is quick, the tension is high and the conflict is believable. There are neither purely good guys, nor completely evil bad guys. It seems like Winslow covered everything from family to feigned friendship, from faith to agnosticism, from obsession to oppression.

The War on Drugs plays a major role in this novel, as does the U.S.'s use of that travesty and failure to maintain a large distance from Communist countries: in other words, to keep them from moving in right next door.

Winslow's characters are both likeable and not. Some, I wanted to side with initially, only to rethink my loyalty later. It really is a great ride through the psychology of trying to reach a goal that may be, when all is said and done, unobtainable: e.g. the War on Drugs. It's like a war against dirt, it is never-ending and demands constant vigilance (which, if truth be told, is a waste of time, i.e. dirt will win). I'm not making a judgment on drugs (or on dirt, for that matter), but on the ways in which the U.S. has "tried" to stop the flow of those drugs. Billions of dollars have been spent, and many of those billions have ended up in the pockets of the heads of the very drug cartels that were the targets of this fiasco called a war.

Winslow does an excellent job of presenting the history necessary to tell his story without dragging in so much as to make it a boring read. He uses what is necessary, leaves out what isn't.

At the very least, this novel has made me think about the U.S. relations with our neighbors to the south in North, Central and South America. Was the War on Drugs really just a way for the U.S. to keep Communists from moving in right next door? Did the U.S. supply anti-communist fighters, who also happened to be part of the huge flow of drugs into and money out of the U.S.? Will you read this book and wrestle with your own questions about these issues?

That's all I can suggest: read it.

View all my reviews

Get yourself a copy here:
The Power of the Dog (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

23 April 2013

Review of The William Faulkner Audio Collection

The William Faulkner Audio CollectionThe William Faulkner Audio Collection by William Faulkner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent readings of great stories. Just wanted to fill in some of the gaps in my Faulkner reading. Spotted Horses was the longest story here, and it was not disappointing. As it usually does, "A Rose for Emily" gave me the creeps. What a fantastic, creepy, weird story.

Faulkner is one of my favorite writers; that's not to say that I always like his content or his word choice, but that's neither here nor there, in my opinion. The man could write, stringing sentences together out of that not long ago time when things were not as pretty as they are now, making those sentences sing with repetition and other strategically placed rhetorical devices, causing those words to sing together in a wonderful dark beautiful sad Southern symphony.

Or something. If you like Faulkner, I recommend this audio collection, narrated by Debra Winger (remember her?), Keith Carradine, and Arliss Howard.

View all my reviews

Get yourself a copy, here:

06 March 2013

Review of The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All the TimeThe Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many times while reading The Devil All the Time I thought of Flannery O'Connor, especially her "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Also, a couple of times Joyce Carol Oates's short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" came to mind. Both excellent stories, and I recommend them highly if you like The Devil All the Time. It's not so much in the way Pollock writes, he's not a copy cat, but has his own style and voice. It's more the content that reminds me of those other stories.
The novel follows the life of Arvin Russell: beginning with him and ending with him. The other characters, though initially seeming to have nothing to do with Arvin, all slowly become part of his story. I got the feeling of a drain swirling, with whatever is caught in that whirlpool moving ever closer to the center; in this case the center is Arvin. The characters are well written and the tension is pretty good and the chapters are fairly short: which means "I can get one more chapter in before I go to sleep." Then, four chapters later, I actually close the book. It kept me interested.
Pollock's novel is set in and around Knockemstiff, Ohio, which was new to me. And some of the description reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's novels set in Tennessee, especially the shorter ones, like Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, and Child of God.
I stumbled onto Donald Ray Pollock during some research for another author. I found that Pollock had won several awards and honors for his work and decided I would read something by him. I was not disappointed.
If you like the stories mentioned above, or other stories, such as The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant (recently adapted into the film Lawless), or Faulkner or McCarthy, then I would recommend The Devil All the Time. Now, that's not to say that if you don't like any of those I have mentioned, you won't like this book. The best I can say is: read it and see for yourself.

View all my reviews

Get your own copy, here:

26 February 2013

Free Speech is Illegal, Now?

Saw a rather disquieting thing this A.M. on Facebook and felt compelled to look into it because my bullshit meter was cranked all the way up and screaming.


I watched the video, in which the newscaster mentions the name of this LAW: H.R. 347.

So, here's what I found out:

  • This is old "news" from 2011
  • It was openly passed by the Senate
  • It is not as bad as these guys are making it out to be
  • It applies to certain areas at certain times

The following was found on ACLU's blog (you know if anyone is keeping an eye on this kind of thing, it is them, right?):
H.R. 347, the 'Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011,' expanded the Secret Service's authority to regulate protests in and around areas where persons under Secret Service protection are located. It could be abused to interfere with lawful protest.
It could be doesn't mean it will be or that it has been. This is just another ploy to slander the President, just like the birth certificate fiasco. Anyway, it would be scary to lose the right to protest, but the President doesn't have that kind of dictatorial power. Another article on the ACLU blog, dated 8 March 2012, states: "The truth is more mundane, but the issues raised are still of major significance for the First Amendment."  You should read the rest of that article, if you haven't already;  but a couple of important excerpts are called for:
It's important to note — contrary to some reports — that H.R. 347 doesn't create any new crimes, or directly apply to the Occupy protests. The bill slightly rewrites a short trespass law, originally passed in 1971 and amended a couple of times since, that covers areas subject to heightened Secret Service security measures. 

H.R. 347 doesn't directly address free speech zones, it is part of the set of laws that make this conduct possible, and should be seen in this context.

So, there really is not anything to get worked up about, is there? But, please, remember to check this kind of "IN SECRET," conspiracy theory stuff before scaring our pants off with it. Thank you in advance.

One of the first places I look when I even barely doubt the veracity of an issue is http://www.snopes.com. They discuss the origins of the fallacy in this way:
In February 2012, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent (as HR 247) approved by the House of Representatives by a lopsided vote of 399-3; the bill was then signed into law by President Obama.
It is an update to 18 USc 1752 - Restricted Building and Grounds, from 1971.

Another excellent source to check these things out is FactCheck.org. Especially if it is political in nature.
Here is the pertinent article, relating to this blog-post.

Think About It

31 January 2013

Don't Let This One Pass You By Unread

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the funniest books I have ever read/listened to, but it also has sad moments. I won't recommend listening to it while driving, as I did... I do recommend listening, however, because it is read by Alexie with all the pronunciations and accents of the reservation. A truly great, truly human book.

View all my reviews

Get yourself a copy and enjoy:

23 January 2013

A Heartbreaking Read...

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe if I had read it, instead of listening to the audio-book, it would have been better. But, reading through the other reviews ... probably not.

I really don't get how this can be recommended to me because I loved Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. They are nothing alike, in my humble opinion....

The parts that should have been sad, were presented as if to make the reader laugh. I didn't like that.

I can't really totally let this go, however. I hated The Waste Land for first 15 times I read it, too. It still isn't my favorite poem, but it has made into my definitely worth reading list, so.... maybe there's hope for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I'll keep ya posted, just in case you care....

Just for the record, I do like Dion Graham's reading voice. I think I listened at the wrong time, like I was not in the right place at the right time sorta thing. I'm about to read it (the actual paperback this time). So, this review may change.

View all my reviews

Get a copy, here, and decide for yourself:

17 January 2013

Review of The Robber Bride

The Robber BrideThe Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is not my favorite Atwood, but it kept me interested. Atwood does an excellent job of character building, almost Dostoevskian in the inner and outer depth and overall scope. Some of the action I have a little trouble believing, but Atwood does provide reasons, within her character development, for those actions (sometimes after the fact); they are just not the actions I would take or would, in most cases, expect someone else to take. I was a little disappointed, in other words, with how some of the characters reacted to the "antagonist," for lack of a better word. Personally, I expected (several times) this character to be beaten to unconsciousness or murdered, but alas....

If you are an Atwood fan, I don't think this book will disappoint. Like her of her works, it differs from the others, but still has the Atwood style, diction, beautiful language and excellent character development.

View all my reviews

Get your copy, here:

10 January 2013

Review of Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to SuccessOutlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of the other reviews cover it pretty well. What I liked about this book is that K.M. Weiland presents several variations on the humble outline.

Most people hearing the word 'outline' immediately remember I. A. 1. a. and all the indenting and if you have A and B, then you must have C and on and on.... THAT kind of outlining is a nightmare, and there is no way I could use it to get my stories straight.

K.M. Weiland also includes interviews with authors who choose to outline or not and why or why not. It's a neat feature, but wasn't important for me in making a final decision to outline, but it did seem to make it "Okay" if you decide that outlines only work for you under certain conditions, say.

Aside from a few cliché phrases the book is well-written, which one would expect from someone who teaches writing. The author takes a descriptive tone, rather than a prescriptive one, when writing about outlines; that is always refreshing when reading writing books. Weiland also gives examples of the benefits, which according to her conclusion in this book, far outweigh the cost in time and frustration if an outline is not used, i.e. if one is a "pantser."

K.M. Weiland also has a helpful vlog, which is how I first learned about this book. Check it out.

View all my reviews

Get yourself a copy, here:

04 January 2013

Yes, I Read a Memoir About Cary Grant. So?

Dear Cary: My Life with Cary GrantDear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant by Dyan Cannon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was okay, but I found it too much about Dyan Cannon and too little about Cary Grant. I guess I need a biography rather than a memoir. For what it is, however, it is well written and, I would say that if someone is interested in Dyan Cannon's relationship with Cary Grant, then this is the book. I mean, it is subtitled "My Life With Cary Grant," afterall.... and the emphasis is on her life, before and with Grant. Just not what I was looking for: that is, I was looking for more about Cary Grant. That said, I'll go read a biography and stopped yammering on in this review.

View all my reviews

To get your own copy: