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Archive for January, 2012

Mystery Monday – Turn on the Heat

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

 

Turn on the Heat by A.A. Fair

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Published in 1940, Turn on the Heat is the second Bertha Cool & Donald Lam PI mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair. An untrustworthy client hires them to find a woman who disappeared around 20 years before. Another investigator who was poking around the case then gets murdered. Cool and Lam must find the missing woman, but throw sand into the eyes of the police to keep them from getting close to their client. The title, therefore, refers to law-school grad Lam creating confusion and distraction.

The plus is that the story gets tangled plenty fast as Cool and Lam scramble to avoid jail and charges as accomplices after the fact. Lam tries to protect Cool by keeping her out of the loop, but as usual she blunders into the thick of things anyway. Another positive is that in the Cool and Lam novels, more than the Perry Mason novels, Gardner examines the rough side of local politics: seedy cops, crooked politicians, co-opted news reporters, mean gangsters, and cowed citizens. As in the Mason novels, the killing takes second to the complex criminal scheme that goes bad and leads up to the killing.

The negative is that being elaborate, plot and incident may be hard to follow and at least some of the time make extreme demands on intelligence and memory. Another qualm I had – this time it wasn’t enough telling myself to make allowances for 1940s attitudes – was related to the tone when Gardner described female characters. The running joke in the series is that the females fall for Lam due to his gentlemanly ways and willingness to listen without handing out advice. But in this one the young woman swoons for Lam, unbelievably. Bertha Cool’s dependence on Lam to see them through to the end wasn’t consistent with her confidence, assertiveness, and toughness. The chuckling references to her pounds didn’t do much for me.

Still, I think the Cool and Lam novels are funnier, grittier, and sexier than the Perry Mason novels. Well-worth reading. I found 10 Cool and Lam mysteries in a used book store this past summer. It was the find of the year so far.

Books For Schools – Book Delivery Brings Smiles to Dunbar Elementary Students!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Dunbar Elementary Students


By Leslie P. (PBSLeslie)

 

Sometimes it is really nice to see something all the way to the end.  We had an opportunity to do just that this week when we delivered books to Dunbar Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.  We love our Books for Schools program, there’s no doubt.    Sending 25,000 new books all over the country this January is an amazing accomplishment.  But having the chance to actually see some of the students, and see their faces light up and the excitement in their eyes makes it really special.  As in “yes, that is a tear in my eye, now please hand me a tissue” special, know what I mean?

 

As I was describing the program and gift of books, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of engaging the children.  I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m really wowing these kids with my little speech today…look how happy they are!”  It turns out it was Deana who was wowing them as she (slightly behind me and to my left) was showing them all the different books we had brought with us.  There were “oohs” and “aahs” and lots of smiles.

Ms. Beck with a new stack of books!

 

Dunbar Elementary was featured in our November 2011 Books for Schools program, Paul Dunbar Elementary – Atlanta, GA and had a goal of 1,000 books.  They were nominated by the nonprofit organization, Everybody Wins! Atlanta, which serves the school by providing a weekly “Power Lunch” mentoring program and also a live Storyteller Program. The 1,000 books donated by PaperBackSwap (through our member’s generosity) will be used in the Power Lunch Program, according to Terri Beck, Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Atlanta.  She, along with Allyn Howard, Program Director, met us at the school to accept the books.  They were so thrilled to see all the books we had brought and declared them exactly what they needed for the mentor and student reading sessions!  Nicole Corely, who works at Dunbar Elementary as a program coordinator with Communities in Schools of Atlanta, was also there to welcome us and introduce us to the students.

 

Please know that your donations do make a difference and are appreciated! Along with our books, we are also sending an important message of kindness, giving, and the love of reading. Years from now these students may no longer have the actual books we sent, but with luck, they will still have this message in their hearts.

 

 

L to R Nicole Corley, Leslie Price-Bennett, Allyn Howard, Deana Fulbright, Dunbar Students

 

 

VostromoScope – Capricorn

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

By Greg (VOSTROMO)

Ruling planet: Saturn
Symbol: Goat with a Fish tail (or as I like to call it, Who Spiked the Punch?)
Birthstone: Garnet
Element: You know those incredibly annoying unpopped kernels at the bottom of the microwave bag which you can’t see until you’ve stuck them in your mouth and started chewing and you could bust a tooth on them? Those things.

Capricorn. The most confused, ungainly astrological construct… the duck-billed platypus of signs, if you take away the elegance and grace. Cap… ri… corn. Even the name is awkward, like choosing a bottle of wine for the dinner at which you have a nagging feeling you may have misjudged your date’s sex.

And it’s an anagram of “circa porn” (which goes a long way towards explaining the likes of Jim Bakker or J. Edgar Hoover) — not to mention “I crap corn”. Goodness me.

From Wikipedia: “The constellation is located in an area of sky called the Sea or the Water.” M’kay. Be honest: did you know there’s an area of THE SKY called THE SEA? Of course not — you know why? BECAUSE THAT’S NUTS! But this zodiacal inner-ear dysfunction is evident everywhere: consider the symbol, the so-called “Sea Goat”. Goat — plus fish! FishGoat. Ummm… why is this anything other than what happened to Seth Brundle? Isn’t it what George Bush was railing against, and could he maybe have been right one month of the year? The whole point of goats is that they’re UP IN THE MOUNTAINS! Fish are DOWN IN THE OCEAN! Does nobody see this as something that needs quality psychiatric treatment, or some antibiotics? No wonder you have John Delorean (mega-successful businessman now synonymous with failure) and Mel Gibson (once a lethal weapon on screen, now a lethal weapon off).

And — hey — check it out: “It is the second faintest constellation in the zodiac.” Got that — SECOND faintest. You can’t even get that right. No wonder David Bowie keeps changing his appearance — he’s ashamed.

I’ll give you one thing, though: you are some fine-looking freaks: Bradley Cooper. Faye Dunaway. Ava Gardner. Cary Grant. Zooey Deschanel. Bob Denver. Donald Fagen. Jeff Bezos — aargh! — you see what happens when you try to walk a straight line in the crazy Capricorn world? It’s impossible.

Now to be fair, in your defense, you’ve got some brainiacs among you (Tycho Brahe; Louis Braille; Louis Pasteur; Stephen Hawking; Val Kilmer) and one or two people who have truly changed the world (until I can think of somebody you can at least claim George Foreman, who has helped millions manage to let the fat run off in those little channels).

Further, this sign’s bizarre mammalian ichthyosomatism does confer a singular advantage: it offers its sufferers the greatest likelihood that they will see a given topic from a variety of viewpoints — from goaty cliffside lookings-down to fishy peerings up from under the surface. Thus Capricorns often make outstanding writers: Asimov, Eco, Miller, Kipling, Salinger, Poe, and many others all went both ways. Others have commanding speechwriting and public speaking gifts (Martin Luther King, Larry Csonka) and many achieve success in areas requiring clarity of communication — it’s almost always a Capricorn you hear saying “Did you want to supersize that for a dollar more?” and “If your name isn’t on the list, your name isn’t on the list.”

So I guess the point is, Capricorn, like your poster child Muhammad Ali, you float like a… goat… and sting like a… fish… it can’t be done. I’m sorry.

Moving on.

*******

This month’s forecast: “Work It” will be cancelled. You will get something stuck in your teeth on the 21st that may be worth a large sum of money. Avoid giving birth while taking your driver’s test on the 31st.

 

Goat: A Memoir by Brad Land

 

Capricorn People by Aaron Fletcher

 

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

 

The Persistent Capricorn by Therrie Rosenvald

 

The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat by Claudia Bishop

 

Always on the Run by Larry Csonka & Jim Kiick with Dave Anderson

 

 

 

 

And for a walk down memory lane……

 

Fantasty Friday – Cugel’s Saga

Friday, January 20th, 2012

 

Cugel’s Saga by Jack Vance

 

Review byBowden P. (Trey)

 

Since Cugel’s Saga is almost 30 years old, I think I can be fairly liberal with spoilers. The book literally picks right up where Eyes of the Overworld left off – with Cugel on the very beach he started his quest with, though without Firx to encourage him. Instead of repeating his path in Eyes of the Overworld Cugel takes a different route (mainly because people’s memories are long). This odyssey takes him into the employ of a wizard digging for the scales of Sadlark a creature of the Overworld, and provides a Macguffin that is very useful throughout Cugel’s journey.

From digging in a swamp for scales, to a duel of wits with Bunderwal for a position in a merchant house, to a job as worminger (or worm wrangler) on a ship for that merchant house, to mutineer and caravaner, Cugel makes his way back to Almery. Of course, Cugel being Cugel, his desire for wealth, food, comfort and feminine companionship at low prices to free frequently lead him into trouble. Trouble for him, amusement for us.

After reading this and sitting on it for a few days I think I figured out what I like about the book and Cugel – they have some Shakespearean traits. From the dialogue to Cugel seeming an unlikely bastard of Falstaff and Trinculo (the clown from The Tempest). He also begins to become a bit heroic – perhaps in the same style Flashman is heroic with an eye on the larger prize.

It also makes a nice change of pace from Eyes of the Overworld, in that Cugel actually benefits and profits some from his schemes. Some profit, but its nowhere near his targets, still enough to keep him moving along (usually in front of an angry mob) and from abject poverty. He also seems to do his best when he is honest and polite, particularly in his dealings with Facumeil, Phampoun and Iuconnu. He even begins to take on some traits of Odysseus as well in these encounters. Because of this it also reminds me of some of the older fairy tales where the hero does best by being polite, honest and personable. Cugel can do this, and like other fairy tales, he manages to out clever himself periodically.

Anyway, it’s a good book, worth at least 3½ stars. I’d love to see a stage or film adaptation of this, with Harry Anderson in his prime declaiming for all he’s worth.

Likes:

  • Cugel. Like Falstaff, we can laugh at him and with him. And Trinculo, he gets above himself, but keeps things from becoming too grim.
  • Imagery.
  • Characters that were a match for Cugel.

Dislikes:

  • The ending. It felt abrupt, but there was room for a sequel.

Suggested for: Jack Vance fans and fantasy fans.

 

 

 

 

Historical Romance Review – Seduction

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Seduction by Brenda Joyce

 

Review by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

I had read all of Brenda Joyce’s mysteries and loved them, and was happy to get a chance to read one of her historical novels.  Ms Joyce truly is a journeyman writer of romantic fiction in its many genres.  I was immediately captured by the characters, Charles/Dominic and Julianne and their families.  This is my first 5 star of the year I started it after dinner and finished it by breakfast, which is always a good sign.

Seduction takes you on quite a ride.  Set during in the summer of 1793, you meet the Greystoke family of Cornwall in particular Julianne the youngest sister.  Intelligent and well read, a devotee of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, she is one of those in England caught up in the romance of the French Revolution.  Enamored with the humanitarian values the Revolutionaries espoused.  She is helped along in these beliefs by her radical leaning friend and hopeful suitor, Tom with whom she has started a correspondence society with revolutionaries in Paris.  While innocent in their inception these societies were dangerous clearing houses for information and a useful tool for spies.

When her brothers suddenly appear with a horribly wounded man, who they say they think is a smuggler, and wish for her to tend until they can get back.  Julianne is left in the dark as to his real identity, and left to make her own conclusions.  While in a raving fever Charles/Dominic speaks only in French and cries out a revolutionary slogan, and relives much of the horror he has seen, all this leads Julianne to think his is a wounded soldier of the revolution and that if her family finds out whom he really is they will turn him into the local authorities.  So begins a very interesting and page turning story that I found to be very well researched and true to the time period.

There is a group of writers that write a more historically accurate romance which borders on historical fiction, Ms. Joyce explains this in the afterward.  For me I like my historical romances to be well researched when speaking of actual events, getting the facts straight as she delves a little deeper into the politics of the time and the mindset of the characters in this book.  When dealing with spies and especially people who have lost everything and forced to run for their lives, nothing is black and white, Ms. Joyce deals with this beautifully and it was never boring, the love story was understandably complicated,  but there was no doubt that whatever happened it was meant to be.

I am glad to recommend this book and I thank the publishers and the folks at Net Galley where I obtained my copy. Seduction will be released February 2012.

Grab This Book Winner!

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

 

The winner of the Grab This Book contest is:

 

Ginger C. (1ging)

 

 

 

Congratulations to Ginger for Grabbing this copy of Unbroken. Your book is on its way to you.

Thank you everyone for your comments.

Stay tuned to the Blog for more chances to win books from Most Wished for Books on PBS.

Thesaurus Day – In Honor of Dr. Peter M. Roget‏

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

By James L. (JimiJam)

 

As reference books go, there are few, save perhaps the dictionary, that rival the utility of the thesaurus. It seems unlikely that anyone charged with even the briefest of essays has surmounted the task without the aid of this handy volume. In many ways, the thesaurus of today is little changed from that of the past. In others, however, the two may bear only a passing resemblance. Though many are familiar with any number of editions listing synonyms and antonyms aplenty, few may realize that there was once a time in which the word “thesaurus” applied to far more than literary compendia. In the 16th century, the word thesaurus–borrowed from the Greek thesauros, meaning “treasure store”–applied to any collection of valuable information. It wasn’t until the 19th century, and the now famous work of Dr. Peter Mark Roget, that the word took on the meaning still carried to this day.

Born on January 18th, 1779, in the West End of London, Peter Roget developed a proclivity for list-making by the age of 8. He later attributed this talent to his perceived deficiencies; a sufferer of chronic fits of depression, the lists were meant to aid him in overcoming shortcomings that resulted from this ailment. Though he had first begun his now-famous work in 1805, it wasn’t until 1852 that the first printed edition was released. This work, which was at the time titled Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, featured a structure very different from that of its modern descendants. Whereas the present day thesaurus is compiled in a dictionary format, the original work featured a method of categorization centuries old, and very similar to the system used by Aristotle. To this day, owing much to Roget’s original format, organizations such as Wikipedia still use this system of categorization.

       (Table of contents to the 1911 edition of Roget's Thesaurus) 

While we are all familiar with this hallmark of the classroom and study, Roget’s contributions to the world were many. Although these were clearly overshadowed by the reference book that bears his name, there is one in particular which also lives on, although in a drastically different form. As the story goes, it all began with a look through the blinds of his kitchen window. Roget was fascinated by the fact that, as carts passed along the lane outside, he could still perceive the uninterrupted image of their movement despite the vertical blinds hanging before the window. Attributing this phenomenon to retinal memory, in 1825 he penned a paper entitled “”Explanation of optical deception in the appearance of the spokes of a wheel seen through vertical apertures”. Lurking behind this verbose and technical title was the realization that a series of images, presented quickly enough, could give the illusion of consistent movement. This discovery led to the invention of the zoetrope in 1833, a slotted carousel with illustrations opposite each opening, which when spun created the first world’s first animations, and provided an essential step on the path to what would eventually become the science behind motion pictures. So, the next time you find yourself enjoying a movie, take a moment to recall Peter Roget, staring out his kitchen window.

 

The thesaurus, originally meant to illustrate the various shades and colors a given concept might contain, affords us opportunities to color our own worlds more brightly than we might. Why walk, for example, when we can perambulate, mosey, saunter or stroll? Do we merely talk, or do we converse, discuss, regale, and rhapsodize? Life is without question multifaceted, and to relate thoroughly what we see in it requires a language equal to the task. With Roget’s help, life, not fit to be merely beautiful, can be resplendent, alluring, radiant, exquisite, pulchritudinous, beauteous, lovely, and fair. On this, the 232nd anniversary of the birth of Dr. Peter M. Roget, look to the world for as many colors as you can find, and remember where you can turn for words apt to its description.

 

 

 

           
(There are many different ISBNs in the PBS data base for Roget’s Thesaurus. Here are just a few examples)
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