Archive for April, 2015
My eyes better but not normal. These are books I read before my eye problems.
Two light readings of mystery novels, both continuations in a series I mentioned last time. Mary Connealy’s Pride and Pestilence [Thorndike Press, 2009], #2 iin Maxie the Mouse Mystery. The only thing harder to write than a popular first novel is a popular second novel, especially in a series. This certainly isn’t the Great American Novel but I liked this better than the first in the series because there’s less emphasis on the silly mouse and more emphasis on a mystery. I’m Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley [Thorndike Press] is a successful entry into a very difficult category of Christmas book in a popular series, typically a fun but forgettable book. That’s true here but it’s still a well-written novell with an interesting main character and an emphasis on science.
The Grain Brain Cookbook by David Perlmutter [Little, Brown and Company, 20144] is a cookbook to a book I didn’t read but this book has a summary of the current gluten-free obsession with modern wheat. I find their argument silly and ill-founded but I have a daughter that’s truly allergic to wheat since childhood and I’m trying to eat lower-carb so I still cruise the GF books. My daughter wasn’t impressed with the cookbook, finding the recipes typical, but she is also paleo and allergic to dairy, which I’m not. I liked the book because it’s use of dairy made it more do-able to my daily menu. Nice pics, always a plus in cookbooks.
From the Land of Silent People [Doubleday, 1942] by Robert St. John, a WWII correspondent for the Associated Press who witnessed the fall of Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. The most fascinating part of the book is that is was written immediately after his escape from the clutches of the Nazi’s, who weren’t fans of his writings. Thus, he didn’t know the outcome of the war and especially of the takeover of East Europe by the Soviet Union. It’s quite heartbreaking to read of the national pride of, say, Bulgaria, when you know the country will see be a satellite slave nation of the Communist empire or read of the beginning of the Yugoslav resistance when you know that Tito turned out to have cooperated with the Nazi’s while playing up his role of hero resister. I was also struck by the similar circumstances of his desperate escape through the treacherous mountains of Yugoslavia in cars that often slid off the roads into ravines or hung precariously over icy precipices. It was reminiscent of the charming Mrs Polifax series. Remember when she escaped from Albania over the Yugoslav mountains?
There’s no charm in this book, though. People were tortured and murdered and families were in despair to leave, but few were that fortunate. The bombing by the Luftwaffe to soften up the area for infantry and tanks is chilling, as is the evacuation of Greece and Crete by the British, a sad chapter of the Brits, who tried to have an impact everywhere and by land, sea, and air, only to be outplanned and outnumbered by the Nazi’s in the early phase of the war. Wee can never forget that not only did the United Kingdom fight alone against the Nazi’s for more than a year and fight for nearly two year with the weakest of allies of France , Poland and the Low Countries but when Hitler attacked Russia, that nation promptly demanded assistance from its pitifully overstretched former enemy, the UK. Stalin and his troops were allies of the Nazi’s, Mussolini’s Italy and Imperial Japan until the moment Hitler turned on Russia. How many British or members of the Commonwealth died because of the Russian-Nazi alliance There’s no way of knowing.
This is an excellent book by a brutally honest writer, well worth your time but it helps if you know some WWII history and geography.
I haven’t posted for a week because of a recurrent eye infection. I’ve dealt with this for many years and the problem gets worse but I know how to work with it – compresses, artificial tears, prescription eye drops and antibiotic creams. It seems to me that anything not worked out when you’re younger, whether it’s an annoying medical problem, money, a job, emotional handicaps or relationships come back to haunt you full force when you age. Recurring eye infections is not such a big deal, I’ll be fine soon. Computers are the worst for eye strain.
At Powerline, they think it’s a joke on Minnesota, which has such a rivalry with next door Wisconsin. As a UK fan, I know it’s an inside joke on Kentucky. We know everyone hates our basketball program but we don’t much care since it goes with the territory of a legendary basketball history and a phenomenal fan base. I sometimes think there’s an issue of cultural elitist snobbery – witness the success of that stupid book about racism which the author later was forced to admit he never heard from coach Adolph Rupp or any players but hey it makes such a nice story -but Kentucky fans have a history of ignoring the haters. Plus we know there’s plenty of dirt at other college programs, people love to stick it to Kentucky, Why shouldn’t we love our basketball? If there’s real dirt, we’ll get rid of the dirty folks and pay the price but we’ll still come back to support our program.
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/04/not-politics-basketball-worse-an-inside-joke.php and http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/03/goose-sky-and-monster-mash-all-time-kentucky-basketball-greats.php
Extreme in the sense of extreme fun fluff and extreme dry academic. First the fun:
Of Mice … and Murder by Mary Connealy [Thorndike Press, 2008], the first in the Maxie the Mouse Mystery. A little romance, a little serious reflection, a little fun, a little mystery, a lot of silliness but not offensive. An easy read and I’ll probably read another in the series by an author that makes no pretense of her fun goals.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley [Thorndike Press, 2009], the first in the Flavia de Luce mystery series. A little fun, quite a bit of wit, more mystery, more serious self-reflection, and an altogether better written novel at a higher level of required attention and intelligence. I’ll definitely read the second one soon.
Triumph in the Pacific, edited by E G Potter and Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz [Prentice-Hall, 1963], a book I couldn’t finish due to the yellowed pages messing with my asthma. The book has an excellent reputation and it’s another reminder – as if I needed one – that time passes on, not only for people but for books as well. I’ll try to get a better copy from another source but I’m seeing the situation of aging books as a problem more and more in WWII areas.
Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell, [Bethany House, 2005,2014] an addition to the information on the last voyage and terrible tragedy of the stalwart and much-loved USS Indianapolis, torpedoed on July 30, 1945 right before Japan surrendered. The story of the doomed shop is fraught with numerous other ironies, including that the last mission was to successfully deliver top-secret atomic-grade plutonium to the island of Tinian for the atomic bomb soon to be dropped. Out of 1,196 men aboard, only 317 survived, some killed by the six torpedoes, some by drowning, some by dehydration, some from injuries, and some by shark attacks because the ship’s mission was so secret no one knew it’s route or where and when it was expected to turn up anywhere so no one searched for the men in the critical first days. This book has a definite Christian overtone and shares the opinion of most survivors that the Navy screwed up by leaving them there and especially in his scapegoating of their Captain McVay. The book is written by a survivor and is taut, touching, tragic but ultimately uplifting.
Bible and Sword by Barbara W Tuchman [NYU Press, 1956], a book I’ve long intended to read. If you know anything about this Pulitzer-Prize winning author, you know this book is academic, dry with a few notes by the author, well-researched and thorough. It records the history of Britain in Palestine from the 600’s to the Balfour Declaration and touches upon the creation of Israel. Although this book does occasionally show bits of Western Christian bias, it is an important book of history and equably exposes the hypocrisies, mistakes and ugliness of that Western Christian culture that contributed to the mess of the Israel-Palestine problem today. It’s a difficult read, I’d advise it only for those sincerely interested in the history of that area but if you are interested, it’s a must-read. A caution: t takes a long time to get to 20th century conflicts so if that is your main interest, you may first want to go to some of her other books.