Satire’s not dead. It just went home. To America that is.

America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide To Democracy Inaction

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$15.28 at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Hilarious, offend-all satire that still holds up 12 years after publication.

Cons: Not designed to be read cover to cover so it doesn’t flow the way a traditional book does.

(Note: This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Epinions.com)

There was a time when I was a regular viewer of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. In the early 2000s, before it became the cultural institution that it was until fairly recently, it was (along with The Onion) my one-stop shop for satire of current events and American politics. It worked especially well during an era of war, terrorism, idiots in charge, media talking heads focused on entertainment disguised as news, corporate cronyism and so on.

So when I heard in the early fall of 2004, that Jon Stewart and the cast and writers of the show would be releasing a book, I was excited. Having read Stewart’s 1999 collection of comic essays “Naked Pictures Of Famous People” I knew the man could write well and write funny. So I expected to see more of that hilarious Daily Show satire in book form. Upon buying America The Book, I was surprised to discover that in addition to skewering the news, it also skewers sacred cows throughout American history as well as the very concept of high school textbooks itself.

And I do literally mean high school textbooks. From the moment you open the cover of this 228 page tome, you will chuckle with amusement at the precise replication of one of those spaces for you to write your name and the condition of the book (Good fair poor bad) at the time you received it. But right below the conditions we see written: “We are fully aware that Dick Hertz, IP Freely and Haywood Jablome are not real people so please exclude them.” The book doesn’t stop lampooning textbooks there as it includes lots of charts, graphs, photo sections and end of chapter questions throughout.

This structural approach might be off-putting for some readers. It doesn’t quite flow the way a normal book does. But this wasn’t really designed to be read cover to cover.

It would’ve been easy to do a book full of cheap humor and cheap shots. Yet Stewart and his co- writers effectively alternate between biting satire and cheap comedy. For instance, in the president chapter, we see several charts ranking presidents according to various reasons such as fattest and best facial hair (the latter list includes Lincoln, James A Garfield and a Clinton with a beard Photoshopped on). Right below the facial hair chart is a commentary on “our worst president…Warren G Harding”. The blurb purports to go into the reasons why Harding sucked, before explaining that those reasons have been thoroughly documented in the annals of presidential history, thus making a good case for why reading history is important and providing plenty of laughs along the way. (For the record, the piece goes on to explain that Harding’s presidency sucked because it was a taint “the anatomical area between the anus and the testicles”.

A comment a friend made a couple days ago about how the rise of 24-hour news channels may have been the worst thing to ever happen to the American media inspire me to go back to the chapter on the media. The chapter opens with a picture of Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the movie “Network” and on the second one the opening of the chapter titled “The Media: Democracy’s Guardian Angel”. Turn the page and you are immediately confronted by a picture of various famous news people along with network logos and on the ensuing page, the REAL beginning of the chapter, which is actually titled “The Media: Democracy’s Valiant Vulgarians”. Later on in that chapter we see a flow chart shows the course of the American media from its founding to today. This chart shows how Time Magazine begat people which “turned the cause of investigative journalism into the search for the sexiest man alive”. The chart then shows that People begat Us Magazine, which answers any questions unanswered by People. Us begets Instyle which Begets Lucky “a magazine for retards about shopping”.

The prime problem with a lot of topical satire is that it has a sell-by date. Consider movies that specialize in it. There are a good many that do not last over the years (consider how totally out of date the 2006 movie American Dreamz, with it’s satiric shots at George W Bush and American idol, seems only ten years later). Only a select few, most notably Dr. Strangelove and Network, hold up just as well over the years.

Fortunately, America The Book still holds up. In fact, like the aforementioned Network, a lot fo it is even more relevant today in an era where reality TV culture dominates nearly every aspect of American life and a buffoon from one of those shows is the leading candidate for president. So this is one book that can still be read and enjoyed today. While The Daily Show itself may be a shadow of its former greatness, this books works alternately as a reminder of when it truly was the place to go to laugh at an increasingly ridiculous world and a good source of laughter in these harsh times.

Obsession In Death – J.D. Robb – not the best

Obsession In Death – J.D. Robb

 

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See it at Amazon 

(2.5/5)

Pros: character development

Cons: mystery a bit lame

Obsession in Death is the 40th book of the In Death series by J.D. Robb.  Like all of the books, we follow Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NY Police force as she catches one case after another. 

By this point, it’s the early 2060’s, and Eve is looking forward to a little vacation.  Until a couple homicides occur with a very personal connection to Eve.  The killer has left Eve a note.  These kills are a favor to Eve – their purpose: to take out someone who has betrayed Eve (in the killer’s mind).  Yes, the killer considers it their mission to take out Eve’s enemies and to prove their undying love/respect/admiration for Eve.

In general, I enjoy the In Death series.  Normally the mysteries are pretty intriguing, and the futuristic setting allows us to read about some fun technology advances.  Further, the series includes a host of characters who have truly grown on me – and have grown, themselves, throughout the series.  Overall, the series is a real pleasure to read.

That said, Obsession in Death is not the best of the bunch.

Frankly, I was bored.  The mystery is a bit weak.  Even the “big reveal” at the end was more of a whimper than a bang.  And worst of all, it’s solved more through a giant coincidence than any real detecting.  Sure, the team does what it can to try to figure out “who done it” but it’s a chance encounter on a street that really turns the case.  I find this lazy and just dull.

There is one good part of the story, though.  At one point, it seems likely that the killer might turn her rage to one of Eve’s loved ones in order to garner more attention.  As Eve starts naming who might be endanger she is amazed at the sheer size of the list.  The Eve from 30 books ago would have had a much shorter list of those to whom she feels close.  But this Eve has quite a few people she genuinely cares about.  Even naming several people who only appeared in one previous book.  It was nice to have this “walk down memory lane” of Eve’s past cases, and to have Eve recognize just how many lives she’s touched in a positive way.

So, good job, on the character-development.  But the overall story was still a bit lame.  I don’t think anything will get me to abandon the series, but Obsession was just not the best.

 

Other books in the In Death series

Born In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death

Spying on Bertolt Brecht in East Germany

Brecht’s Lover by Jaques-Pierre Amette

 

Die Archivbilder zeigen den deutschen Dramatiker Bertolt Brecht als 20jŠhrigen (l) im Jahr 1918 sowie eine undatierte Aufnahme des Dichters (r) aus spŠteren Jahren. Brecht wurde am 10. Februar 1898 in Augsburg geboren. FŸr seine ersten StŸcke "Trommeln in der Nacht" und "Baal", die beide 1922 zur ErstauffŸhrung kamen, wurde er mit dem Kleist-Preis ausgezeichnet. Die mit dem Komponisten Kurt Weill verfasste "Dreigroschenoper" wurde 1929 in Berlin mehr als 250mal aufgefŸhrt und machte ihn international bekannt. 1933 flŸchtete Brecht vor den Nationalsozialisten ins Ausland. 1949 RŸckkehr nach Ost-Berlin, wo er mit seiner Frau Helene Weigel das "Berliner Ensemble" grŸndete. Bertolt Brecht starb am 14. August 1956 in Berlin an den Folgen eines Herzinfarkts. dpa (zu dpa-Themenpaket "100 Jahre Brecht" vom 2.2.1998 - nur sw)

See British edition at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: atmosphere, characterization

Cons: no solution for the enigma of Brecht

Jaques-Pierre Amette’s 2003 novel La maîtresse de Brecht became the hundredth book to win the Prix Goncourt. It was translated into British English in 2005 not as Brecht’s Mistress, but as Brecht’s Lover. The young and beautiful actress Maria Eich at no point in her assignment by the KGB (The German Democratic Republic’s Ministry of State Security [Stasi] was only officially formed in 1950, though continuing to co-ordinate with the KGB until 1990) to spy on Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), who has come to communist East Berlin after 15 years pereginations to Scandinavia and Hollywood is in love with Brecht, nor he with her. He uses her sexually and, for a time, promotes her career in the theater company, the Berliner Ensemble that he heads with his wife (used to his philandering with younger actresses) Helene Weigel. Maria’s KGB/Stasi handler, Hans Trow, is grateful for her zeal at copying every scrap of paper Brecht writes, including those he throws away. That Hans is in love with Maria is more plausible to me than that she is in love with him, but he is determined not to have sex with one of his agents, especially one whose assignment centers on keeping the sexual attraction of the most prominent cultural star of the East German state’s otherwise fairly dim firmament.

The novel opens with Brecht’s return to German soil in October of 1948. The “lovers” have little in common, including one-way (old to young) sexual attraction. “For Maria EIch, Germany was a new country, a series of green hills lined by birch forests, ruined motorways, clouds; for Brecht, it was a country to be rebuilt with money. A field for experimentation, a laboratory for an ideological revolution aimed at the younger generation. Neither of them had this country in common…. They would both eat at the same table, sleeping the same bed and never think the same thing at the same time.”

When that delight waned, by 1952, Hans Trow provided the forms for Maria to go to West Berlin, where her tubercular daughter and mother had been all along. She becomes a celibate teacher of German, most enamored of earlier German poets, Hölderlin and Heine, not paying much professional attention to the German poet she had lived with for four years. Brecht’s best-known plays other than the musicals with Kurt Weill were written in LA; he theorized and directed plays after returning to Germany, but wrote mostly poems and no major plays.

The novel captures the grayness of East Berlin and the dread of the whims of Stalin in his final years that even the secret police in far-away Berlin constantly felt. The title character is Maria, who is not an intellectual.

Though doubts have been cast (especially by John Fuegi) on how much of Brecht’s oeuvre was actually written by him, he was a gruff intellectual and an avowed Marxist, though of the heterodox Karl Krosch variety rather than a communist subservient to Moscow. Brecht’s most notorious support for the German Democratic Republic’s suppression of dissent came after the period covered by the novel, the GDR crushing of 1953 rebellion using Soviet military force. (He praised the regime for “safeguarding the socialist achievements,” even while living a life of relative privilege that included subscription western publications generally banned in the GDR.)

The characters in Amette’s novel are attempting to understand what Brecht really thought, especially about Stalinist communism. He chose to live (in comfort denied most residents) in the Soviet zone, but had an Austrian passport and Swiss accounts accruing his royalties. Many have considered him a hypocrite. I think that in a bipolar world he managed to prosper as a heterodox (usually) Marxist capitalist, and if he was a sexual predator, much of the prey, including Soviet-sponsored spies was willing to work with and submit to sex with him.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

One of the two perfect and nearly unmatched metal masterpieces. 100%

From all the things I’ve learned in life so far, time is one of the ultimate tests in determining the lasting value of a piece of art or entertainment. Morbid Angel’s debut album “Altars of Madness” came out in 1989, and to this day, many death metal fans across the globe still consider this one of the greatest albums the death metal genre has to offer. The time not only relates to this album’s release, but the time relative to my own experiences have helped me conclude it’s essentially perfect.

As of writing this, it’s been nearly 11 years since I decided to become a proper metalhead, and this month marks 10 years since I bought and first listened to Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness.” I remember first getting this album vividly. I was a few months away from graduating high school, and especially relative to now, I was still pretty young as a metalhead. I popped this album in my car’s CD player on my way home from the local FYE and was floored by the sheer quality of songwriting, aggression, flashy musicianship, and sheer evil oozing from the music.

In that decade plus, I’ve digested tons of different metal albums from all the different niches under the heavy metal umbrella, and while there’s been a good amount that came close to matching this Tampa death metal classic, only one has matched this album in terms of quality (that honor belongs to the Nocturnus album “The Key”), and none have beaten it.

MUSICIANSHIP

If the musicianship on this album isn’t perfect, it’s as close as it’ll ever get. At the time this album came out, the death metal genre was gradually evolving into its own genre and not feeling as much like a more extreme offshoot of the thrash metal genre (examples of such “death thrash” albums being the likes of Kreator’s “Pleasure to Kill” and Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions”). “Altars of Madness” still displays some thrash influences, but also seamlessly fuses the blastbeat fury of the grindcore genre that was taking its own shape around the same time (best exemplified by albums like Napalm Death’s “Scum” and Unseen Terror’s “Human Error”). Combine the thrash influences with grindcore aggression and occult themes, out comes an album that obliterates anything in its path all the while displaying top-tier musicianship.

David Vincent handles the bass and vocal work on this album, and according to some sources, David had a cold at the time he was recording vocals for the album, and was forced to cranking out more raspy death metal vocals rather than lower-pitched growls. If that’s true, then I’m glad he was sick at the time because I can’t imagine this album being as awesome as it really is with different death growls. The raspy growls in this album perfectly match the tone of the guitars, as they enhance the nefarious atmosphere engrained in the instrumentation, and he’s largely intelligible in his vocal work. His bass lines aren’t as prominent in the album as they would be in an Atheist album (another band all death metal fans should check out), but they’re noticeable enough and they bolster the guitar riffs very well. However, listeners are treated to a neat bass solo at around the 2:04 mark of “Suffocation,” showing David’s skill on the instrument.

Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle are the two guitarists on this album, and both deliver top-notch riffs and guitar solos. Trey and Richard are talented in all the right ways; they can not only deliver mind-blowing guitar solos (particularly Trey), but they crank out catchy and fast, hard-hitting guitar riffs that’ll be stuck in your head for days. Their riffs are dynamic but at the same time, complement each other perfectly. Most of the songs have a perfect blend of slow and fast riffs (such as opening song “Immortal Rites”) while some others specialize in a narrower range of tempos (such as “Bleeding for the Devil” being an outright high-speed massacre and album closer “Evil Spells” being a mid-paced crusher). Both Trey and Richard dish out some of the coolest guitar solos you’ll hear in a metal album. Granted, they’re not quite as proficient shredders as Tony MacAlpine or Chuck Schuldiner, but they’re titan forces to be reckoned with in this department. Some of the best solos can be found in songs like “Chapel of Ghouls,” “Damnation,” “Visions from the Dark Side,” and “Suffocation,” but all of the songs on this album have excellent delivery on all aspects.

Pete Sandoval handles the drums on this album, and there’s a reason why so many metalheads consider him one of the best drummers in death metal; this man is a beast!! Pete delivers a nearly unparalleled massacre of the kit all the while not missing a single beat. Granted, many death metal bands nowadays have drummers that can outdo Pete in sheer technicality, but Pete is better because he actually has wits on how to make the songs good with his drumming. He’s fast and technical, but will vary the tempo and show some restraint in all the right places so that the listener can actually memorize and appreciate his excellent skills. All of the songs are excellent displays of Pete’s drumming skills, but I think his best work is on the song “Blasphemy.”

SONGS

Normally, I’d pick out the best songs here, but that’s an impossible task. All of the songs here are amazing from head to toe. All of the songs have their own nuances that make them killer in their own way, like the opening backwards riffing and chilling keyboards highlighting the breakdowns in “Immortal Rites,” the choppy, blasting fury and bass solo in “Suffocation,” the epic breakdowns in “Maze of Torment” and “Chapel of Ghouls” (with the latter being tastefully accentuated with keyboards), the occult ritual of the Ancient Ones in “Lord of All Fevers and Plagues” reengineered into a death metal format, the blastbeat-laden onslaughts of “Bleed for the Devil” and “Damnation,” the opening gunshots followed by a salvo of high-speed brutality in “Blasphemy,” and the blast of fury in the otherwise slower album closer “Evil Spells.” Name a song, and you’ll find plenty of awesome sonic elements to love in each and every one of them.

PRODUCTION

Tom Morris produced this album, and this was recorded at Morrisound Recording, which has become synonymous with the death metal rush of the late 80’s/early 90’s. The staff at Morrisound did an excellent job producing the album, as the instruments and vocals all come in clear. However, there’s a strong air of roughness that pervades the recording, all the while not making anything in the recording sound like crap. This greatly enhances the evil nature of the music and lyrics.

MISCELLANEOUS

As the icing on the cake, Dan Seagrave was contracted to make the cover art for the album. I’m glad it panned out that way because Dan’s extremely detailed painting of tormented, creepy, ghoulish faces perfectly matches the extremely aggressive and nefarious music contained in this album. Dan has cranked out many awesome album covers for the top-tier death metal bands back in the day, but this is one of his greatest works.

If you’re a fan of the horror anime Doomed Megalopolis, I would recommend listening to this album after watching that OVA series because the tone of the music perfect matches the tone of the anime.

FINAL WORD

I almost never give out 100% ratings, so this should give you an indication of how excellent this album is. If you’re a death metal fan or if you’re thinking of breaking into extreme music and haven’t gotten this album yet, GET IT NOW!! You won’t regret it at all.

Low Profile and Accurate – Brecknell Digital Postal Scale

Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale – Model # 311

Salter Brecknell 311 11-lb.Weight-Only Scale, 11-lb x 0.1 oz. capacity, 5-3/4 dia. Platform

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Tare, auto-off feature, comes with batteries, compact, lightweight, easy to operate

Cons: optional AC adapter not included

We needed a new postal scale at work.  All it had to do was accurately weigh items.  No fancy bells or whistles; I didn’t even need to know the amount of postage required.  I also wanted scale that didn’t hog desk space.  After some research, I bought the Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale – Model # 311.

Description

The Brecknell scale is termed “low profile” since it sits low on a flat surface.  Overall measurements are 9 1/2” x 7” x 1 1/2” high.  A round base measuring 5 3/4″ is the weighing area   Three push-button controls are to the right of the LCD display.  The LCD shows the weight in pounds and ounces or in kilograms and grams.  The scale will weigh items up to 11 pounds.  Four AA batteries are included.  Note that this scale does not come with an AC adapter, though there is a port for one.  It comes with a slim instruction pamphlet in multiple languages.  No calibration is needed at setup.

My Experiences

This Brecknell scale is simple to use and works well for us.  I placed it on my desk so that it is in a central location for anyone to use.  If needed, the scale is slim enough to fit in one of my desk drawers.  Since one of my job duties is to handle mailings and shipping, this scale comes in handy.  The scale is well constructed and sturdy.

The scale is also lightweight and easy to move if needed.  It is one piece with the battery compartment located on the bottom.  It was convenient that it came with four AA batteries.  I like that this scale has an off button to conserve battery power.  It also has an auto-off feature as a power-save backup.  When the batteries need replacement, the scale displays the letters LLLLL.  I’ve been using this scale for quite a while and have not had to change the batteries.

The three press-buttons include the off button, the On/Tare button, and a button to switch between pounds and kilograms.   For those who are not familiar with tare … the term refers to the weight of an empty container (ex: shipping box).  The scale weighs the empty container, and then the weight of the container with the goods being shipped inside it so that the actual weight of the goods can be determined.

I wasn’t sure how often we would use the tare feature, but several of our departments find it handy.  Place an empty container on the scale (such as a box).   Press the On/Tare button.  The scale then shows zero, eliminating the container weight.  Fill the container with the goods being shipped and place on the scale.  The net weight of the item is displayed on the LCD screen.  Remove everything from the scale, and the display shows a negative weight.  Press the On Tare button again to remove the tare weight and to return the scale to zero.

We find this scale accurate.  It was also one of the more affordable electronic scale options. The LCD numbers are large at 1-inch high.  The numbers are easiest to read when viewing them head-on; however, they are also easy to read if one is a bit to the left or right of the display.  Should you need an AC adapter, the instructions say it takes a 6-volt DC, 100 mA with center positive.

I’ve kept the scale clean by simply dusting it.  Should something spill on the scale, do not soak it, which can cause a short circuit.  The manufacturer recommends spraying a mild soap solution onto a cloth to wipe down the equipment.

Summary

This Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale was a great purchase.  Affordable, it is accurate and easy to use, plus the compact size fits on my desk.   I like that the design is slim, and the machine is lightweight.  Everyone who has used this scale is happy with it.

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy the day,
Dawn
http://dlstewart.com

Copyright 2016 Dawn L. Stewart

   

Postage Stamp Dispenser                                   DYMO Label Printer 450

Fifty Shades Again and Again

Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed 

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Buy Fifty Shades Darker at Amazon for as little as $10.42 
Buy Fifty Shades Freed at Amazon for as little as $8.60

(5/5)

Pros: Holds your interest in more than the sex vignettes.

Cons: Small print is still my nemesis. Reading in the bathroom for two hours causes your legs to fall asleep.

Having already read (and reviewed) Fifty Shades of Grey, I couldn’t wait to read the next two installments. I planned to write a separate review of each, but as I read Fifty Shades Freed, it didn’t make sense to write about these two novels separately. To do so, I might end up giving away plot points instead of writing a review.

What I would like to explore is the “I couldn’t put it down” phenomenon that began with Fifty Shades of Grey. I fell victim to that sensation, too. But I didn’t observe it in my husband when he read it. I’m not using my husband as an example of all men, nor am I an example of all women. Yet, there is definitely a difference as to how we responded to E. L. James’ writing style.

I read all three books while in the bathroom. The overwhelming majority of us read on the toilet but are hesitant to admit it. That’s okay, I’ll be the poster child for readers on the go. I would plan to read until my main purpose had been accomplished. James’ style wouldn’t let me put the book down. Chapters end and begin at pivotal moments – creating and resolving cliffhangers. Even when the chapter break wasn’t during a dramatic or sexually driven section, it was always in the middle of something interesting. There are natural scene breaks within each chapter that I used to help me switch gears and get off the pot. Most of the time I was able to do that, but only because I had to get dressed for an appointment.

Another habit of mine is to read one book from beginning to end. When I’ve tried read more than one book at a time, I would confuse characters and plots. This is just how my brain works, period.

My husband’s reading style is completely different from mine. He reads two books at a time – one serious, the other light. He typically reads non-fiction. His favorite place to read is in bed, but he’ll also read in the living room or spare bedroom. He never reads in the bathroom – not even the newspaper. I think his reading style makes him immune to the “I couldn’t put it down” phenomenon.

Another interesting factor in the Fifty Shades series is that it’s set in the United States. With the exception of a few chapters in Fifty Shades Freed, nearly all of the story takes place in Seattle and Portland. Along with this, there is a lot of product placement. Christian give Ana an Apple Notebook, iPad, and iPod; a Blackberry, and cars from Audi. Perhaps this is a trend in newer novels, but it serves its purpose. Reading the actual product brand name makes the extravagance of Christian’s gifts believable for me. I can understand that he’s so wealthy that big ticket purchases don’t make a dent in his wallet. We all know what it costs to buy technology, and most of us would have to max out our credit line to purchase more than one of these items in a year while Christian buys them all within a week or two. Moreover, he can’t understand why Ana has difficulty getting used to having all this and more showered upon her.

Their sexual vignettes are described in excruciating detail. I was often breathless after reading these sections. Every possible sex toy, whether for domination or just kinky enjoyment, is described from Ana’s perspective. She’s never seen any of these items, so we learn what they look like and feel like through her before we learn what their names are. Sometimes, they’re not named at all.

Despite all the sexual acrobatics, this is a love story between a woman who had to work for everything she had and a man who had everything money could buy except for emotional stability – a flawed Prince Charming. Christian’s possessive tirades are almost his undoing. Ana has learned to be submissive in the Red Room but fights Christian toe-to-toe when her independence is at stake. Ana’s rebellious nature is nearly her undoing.

Without giving anything away, it’s safe to say that we learn more about Christian’s family, Ana’s friends and family, and all the events that made Christian the person he is today.

Now for the husband/wife seal of approval:
We both enjoyed all three books in the Fifty Shades series. As for the sex toys, I discovered that there was a lot out there that wasn’t covered in 37 years of a sexually active marriage. My curiosity was piqued. My husband was not as curious about them as I was. I teased him a little about being stodgy, but for all my curiosity, I wouldn’t actually buy any of those things. It’s nice to think about the possibilities.

Actually, I started imagining how Ana and Christian would do it in their 60s. In one escapade, Christian tells Ana not to go to the bathroom beforehand. If Ana and Christian were 60 and 67, she wouldn’t have made it through the cuffing before bursting. He might have had his own prostate-driven emissions.

All joking aside, I wanted to see Ana and Christian grow old together. Fifty Shades Freed gives a small glimpse of their near future together through a series of epilogues. I don’t want to give anything away, but James does a great job of tying everything up with a ribbon. Instead of calling it a happy ending, I prefer to think of it as a happy beginning. The very last entry in the epilogue series is a pleasant surprise that I refuse to expose. Trust me, it’s fulfilling!

I realize that I’ve been bouncing around more than I would in a standard book review. Fifty Shades has that effect on me. There is so much more than a standard book formula. Ana and Christian are stuck in my head, along with everyone they know. If James decides to write about middle-aged-to-senior Ana and Christian, I’d be first in line for more.

Dogs don’t lie

Lyin’ Like a Dog

 

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See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: highly appealing, well written, fast paced, fun read

Cons: none noted

Richard Mason’s Lyin’ Like a Dog opens in a burst of words on 23 September 1945 as we find Richard sitting with his hound Sniffer, and musing about his birthday. In reality, it is the lack of festivity which is causing Richard such musings. With the awareness of lads his age, 12 today, Richard ‘fesses up that he is bent outa shape and sitting around feeling sorry for himself.

The framework for down home fun is set and actually is launched a page or so later on December 1944 when it snows on Christmas and Richard and his friend John Clayton Reed got to spend some time Christmas Eve with Uncle Hugh. Hugh was not their uncle, he was an old colored man living in a small cabin in the nearby woods. The boys carried groceries to from the store in town Hugh because he had trouble walking.

Plundering around the woods and down along the river bank, going to school, reading and re reading comic books, visiting Uncle Hugh and maybe, just maybe, getting to listen to a ghost story, Vacation Bible School and an evening revival highlighted with a truly unforgettable baptismal service conducted using the church baptistery; underscore some of the complications, troubles and unanticipated mischief a twosome of enthusiastic lads can get themselves almost without trying move the narrative along and keep the reader turning the pages.

Saturdays spent at the movies with other kids from school, perched atop the breadbox down at the grocery store jawing with friends are all a part of the chronicle. Scheming with best friend John Clayton to gain ownership of a hoped for one of a kind funny book having an upside down front cover to sell for big bucks, camping out in the woods when they were supposed to be camping in one or the other boys’ back yard, as well as angel food cake with pink icing and licking out the icing bowl are all a part of the tale.

Helping Daddy put in and, care for, the annual vegetable garden, embracing a bad miscalculation regarding a red pepper fresh from that garden, tug of war, gathering as a family around the radio to listen to Walter Winchell announcing the end of WW2, and, when one money scheme ends in disaster, another is quickly hatched; are sure to appeal to lads aged 11 and 12 years along with the generation who were themselves kids growing up and playing outside without TV and hand held game devices during the 1940s and 50s here in the US.

Running into trouble and facing possible harm to themselves during one of their forays into the woods culminates with the Richard and John Clayton become town heroes; while the work culminates with unease. Daddy has come home liquored up, again, and while Mama does not tie into him; Richard cannot quite put his finger on it, but he does recognize that there is something not quite right about the situation.

I definitely appreciated reading the escapades two pre-teen lads transmitted in the youthful jargon of storyteller, Richard Mason. The shenanigans and hijinks perhaps actually taken from the author’s life in rural Arkansas bring to this reader’s mind the tales my Daddy shared many evenings at the supper table concerning his growing up, in part, in rural Arkansas as sisters and I were growing up in rural California.

While my own growing up years was lived in the San Joaquin Valley, California during the 50s where we lived surrounded by cotton fields, grape vineyards and fruit and nut orchards and not swamp or woods; the big irrigation ditch carrying water needed for farming was the site of many adventure for 3 little girls and their friends as we too played outside without much supervision, or baby sitters and the like. We share tales told to parents only after we were grown and enjoyed watching Mama’s hair turning grey before our eyes.

The eleventh year of the lives of Richard and John Clayton introduced in book one of the Richard the Paperboy series, their friends at school and the little town of Norphlet, Union County, Arkansas takes place in the area just north of the Louisiana border where Union County, LA meets Union County AR. The setting is the troublesome WW2 period December 1944 to September 1945; time repeated during the 1950s as families gathered around the radio to listen to the evening news. Richard’s family listened to Walter Winchell report the war news WWII. During the 1950s families listened intently as Edward R Murrow told us of the events far away in Korea.

Lyin’ Like a Dog told in the first person, using local parlance, is a work having appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. This is a book reminiscent of Twain’s writings. While teaching 4th grade I read aloud daily and found girls and boys alike listened raptly as I read Twain and his Tom Sawyer adventures. Lyin’ Like a Dog will be placed in my Sub bag for reading a chapter aloud to students; should I received a call for classroom subbing in a classroom of 4th graders rather than my usual K 1 preference.

I had no problem visualizing or believing the antics Richard, John Clayton and others in the area experienced. Trying goofy, to adults, schemes generally centered on how to get rich, i.e. maybe bring home as much as $100!, beginning to notice girls, as well as the you can’t be serious!, activities including Vacation Bible School, revivals, a still out in the woods, jars of ‘shine, going barefoot, Big Chief tablets, a kid with a newspaper route, even the term colored man indicate another time and place many readers experienced during the early years of their lives.

Characters are well fleshed, locations are filled with imagery, names of the kids, John Clayton … both names used rather than just first name, Connie, Rosallie, plain simple names, and nick names Tiny for the big kid, Ears and the like are right for the time and place. Readers will be drawn into the tale from the opening lines as the storyline hijinks hold reader interest and keep the pages turning right on to the last when Richard ruminates over the carryings-on during his eleventh year and ponders Heck, I’m twelve now, and maybe I’m old enough to keep outta trouble…. But, naw, I can tell you right now if I told you that, I’d just be lyin’ like a dog.

 Highly comprehensible text, Lying Like a Dog will have a place in the home, library, school library, classroom and as an item in a gift box for birthday, Christmas or anytime.

Above all, I like the old photo c 1940s of a skinny kid, hands on hips, down at the calf pen, farm house in the background used as cover art.

I received a paperback ARC for review.

 Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend

 Amazon: About the Author

As a young boy R. Harper Mason lived on a small farm in southern Arkansas. He is able to vividly capture an era of American history, before air-conditioning, television and modern technology. His story reflects a time of brown sunburned feet, shirtless summers and very special country Christmases.

Mason earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in geology from the University of Arkansas. He worked for the King Ranch in South Texas, followed by an overseas assignment on well-sites deep in the Libyan Sahara Desert. Thirty years ago Mason started his own company, Gibraltar Energy in El Dorado, Ark. of which he is CEO and President. In the early 1990’s he was the president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and wrote a monthly column for them covering state environmental issues. Mason also wrote an environmental column which ran in newspapers around the state and hosted an environmental radio show, both called Natural Solutions.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly   martin

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Product Details and Shipping Information from Amazon

TITLE Lyin’ Like a Dog

AUTHOR Richard Mason

GENRE reminisce

 Product Details

Paperback: 200 pages

Publisher: Createspace (Feb. 22 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1439271399

ISBN-13: 978-1439271391

 

Well Worth The Read

Something Is Rotten in Fettig  a satire

 

fettig jpg

See it at Amazon   not yet on Amazon

(5/5)

Pros: well developed characters,  excellent writing,  fun writing style, highly readable,  caricatures abound;  this one is a keeper, and I rarely enjoy satire

Cons: none noted

Interesting read               Recommended                 

Jere Krakoff’s Something is Rotten in Fettig is a satire comprised of some 265 PAGES of prose offered as 60 chapters, a page with acknowledgements, a list of the cast of characters, a table of caricatures, and an Epilogue.

Something Is Rotten In Fettig wittily satirizes a legal system that is very similar to our own and is practiced in a fabricated nation simply called Republic. The author adroitly names and uses a varied assemblage of distinctive player including lawyers, witnesses, the court system and judges, as well as trials and jury behaviors to deride countless of the activities we often see played on the evening news, or during trials themselves thought so noteworthy that they must be filmed in real time for the nation to consider.

The narrative begins with reader’s introduction to Leopold Plotkin around whom the tale unfolds. The infamous kosher butcher has been accused of Crimes against the Republic. From his pro bono lawyer, Bernard Talisman, right on to parents who have already packed his personal possessions, to his uncles who have promised to visit him in prison every third weekend and to The Monthly Contrarian a little read journal who, while considering Plotkin a hero, however had declared in editorial: “Regrettably, there is no realistic possibility for an acquittal” right to Plotkin himself; it appears that everyone seems to think Plotkin will be convicted.

Krakoff presents the travesty wreaked by local legal officials upon one of the neighborhood kosher butchers, Leopold Plotkin, a fellow who harbors a nearly pathological distaste for strife when the man unintentionally foments a predicament of such magnitude that he is propelled into a clash with every area of government.

To complicate matters Plotkin rebuffs every effort undertaken to force him to disengage his supposed transgression. Plotkin and his family are introduced and some of the background for Plotkin’s behavior is presented before the reader becomes a courtroom spectator as Plotkin is put on trial by a deceitful Prosecutor General.

The reader learns more of Plotkin and the varied characters peopling the work: there is Prosecutor General Umberto Malatesta’s Opening Rant, Plotkin’s Childhood Education under the tutelage of librarian Hinta Gelb and his Venturing out with Ana Bloom before the reader embarks on a whirlwind in which Plotkin is Conscripted into the Butcher Shop, gets Arrested, is Imprisoned in Purgatory, is visited by family and friends and is Exiled along with Chicken Plucker.

Indicted by a Secret Blind Jury leads to Plotkin’s arrest by the National Constabulary, before he is delivered to the infamous Purgatory House of Detention where he is to be housed with lunatics and other miscreants of the state until such time as his trial and expected guilt are determined.

The reader becomes an onlooker into the Trial of Plotkin as the Jury is selected and empaneled, opening Sermon and Rant, umm statements, are offered, witnesses testify, Prosecution and Defense offer closing Diatribes and the jury deliberates and finally offers a verdict.

Interspersed throughout the book are marvelous, author drawn, pen and ink caricatures of many of the characters introduced in the work. My personal favorites of the caricatures are those of his uncles Moishe and Misha Plotkin and the one of Ana Bloom.

Characters are well developed, many are despicable, again something many may think of some of the so called experts we may hear talking, perhaps as rants about a particular case in the public view on television.  This fast paced work is filled with good writing, presented in highly readable prose. The author has woven a thoroughly enjoyable view of some of the behind the scenes machinations we may have thought do take place as we read of cases in the morning news or we may have watched when one or another case is thought to be of earth shattering, public must see, necessity to broadcast via TV.

On the pages of Something is Rotten In Fettig the plotting and maneuvering taking place by the prosecution, authorities and others in their determination to find Plotkin guilty of something, whatever that might be in or out of what the laws of the society may be; tends to remind the reader of some of the shrieks of guilty, and justice must prevail as a suspect is all but tossed over a cliff before ever actually being arrested for the particular crime which has so outraged the populous.

All in all I found Something is Rotten In Fettig to be a very enjoyable, easy to read, simply fun work.

I received an ARC for review; I do not keep all books I receive, this one is a keeper.

Happy to recommend Something is Rotten In Fettig for readers who enjoy satire, and for those who may never have read a satirical work; this one may whet the appetite for more!

I hope writer Krakoff is busy working on his next satirical offering, and creates more of his marvelous caricatures.

About the Author  : From the book’s back cover:   Before writing Something is Rotten In Fettig author Krakoff was a civil rights attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington DC, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Mississippi and a legal aid program in Pittsburg.

Something is Rotten In Fettig, says the author was inspired by people, places and events he encountered while litigating, and a lifetime of observing both the best and the worst of the human condition.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly   martin

http://www.AuthorsDen.com/mjhollingshead

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Product Details : I do not yet find Something is Rotten in Fettig listed on Amazon

Title: Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire

Genre: Satire

Author: Jere Krakoff

Illustrator: author

Pages: 276

Line/Publisher : Anaphora Literary Press, 2015

ISBN-10: 1681141973,

ISBN-13: 9781681141978

 

Available     Paperback

So Pretty in Pink

Hoppity  Ty®  Beanie Baby®

 

hoppity bunny

See it at Amazon 

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: Ty product,  collectible,  cute as can be

Cons: none noted

Ty® Beanie Babies®’ Hoppity Bunny measures 8 x 3.7 x 0,8 inches of plushy polyester fabric. Hoppity is a honey of a sugar pink rabbit having bright black eyes, triangle pink nose and pink whiskers. Around her throat is a small pink ribbon tied in a bow.

Hoppity is especially appealing in pink. Only her tail is presented in white. Her large flappy ears indicate she is a lop type rabbit with ears drooping on either side of her head rather than standing erect.

Hoppity a popular Beanie for collectors and her companion Beanie Babies Floppity and Hippity make up the Bunny Trio. Surface wash only.

Born 3 April 1996, Hoppity’s poem reads:

Hopscotch is what she likes to play

If you don’t join in, she’ll hop away

So play a game if you have the time,

She likes to play, rain or shine!

All in all she is a perfect addition to my growing collection of Beanies.

For several years I used Beanies in my First Grade Classroom, as theme setters for holidays and the like. And, Beanies were used as sentence and story starters for Little Folks who might be stumped for what to write about.

As with other Ty Beanies I find the plush used to be soft, eyes are bright shiny, seams are well sewn, arms, legs, ears are secure and well attached. Pliable, poseable toy is filled with small pellets, and can be set on desk where Hoppity will sit, gazing, and will not tumble or sag.

Ever since 1993 Ty Inc., has fashioned 400+ different Beanie Babies in a diversity of sizes from wee softies appearing as a McDonald’s happy meal toys, to large Beanies measuring about 8 inches.

Hoppity holds appeal for boys and girls, and adults alike. Hoppity is intended particularly for those like and perhaps collect bunnies as do children and many adults.

Hoppity with the wee plastic eyes and nose is not recommended as a pet toy or for small children.

Ty Inc., established in 1993 when Ty Warner of Illinois produced his initial small critter shape, cloth bag, packed with small white, pellets sent to the market place has become a key contender in the toy race.

Beanies are available on Amazon, and I find them often at thrift and jumble shops as well as garage sales. If buying at jumble shop, yard sales and the like be careful to always check to be sure the Trademark Ty Beanie, heart shaped tag is in place to guarantee purchase is a genuine Ty product.

Recognized the world over; Beanie Babies, some might say they are filled with joy as well as pellets, are an over-the-top iconic, well-loved character in the toy market. Well made, sturdy seams to assure no bits on the floor, and for most of the softies having sewn nose and eyes, no pieces to swallow or otherwise cause harm, then again they are not indestructible. Ty Beanie Babies are some of the best loved toys adored by children and collected by adults everywhere.

Happy to recommend Ty Beanie Babies’ Pink Plush Hoppity.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly martin

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NOTE: Ty® Inc. is an American PLUSH ANIMAL Toy Company based in Westmont, Illinois.

The most famous line of products produced by this company are the BEANIE BABIES®, on the other hand, Ty also manufactures other lines of stuffed toys. The Ty logo is a red heart with the lower-case letters “ty.” A tag is found affixed to all Ty stuffed toys, and inside each tag is the name of the toy and a 4 line poem about it.

Since 1993, the year when Ty Inc. was founded; the company has mass-produced nearly 400 assorted Beanie Babies.

My personal introduction to the world of Beanies® was 1996 when long lines of adults could be seen extending across the restaurant and out the door, and at times down the sidewalk of local McDonald’s® eateries. Teenie Beanie Babies® Smaller, fun versions of Beanie Babies were included in McDonald’s Happy Meals®.

Several subsequent promotions took place with various wee Beanies available.

The lesson taught by Ty Warner, sole owner of Ty Inc., the company behind Beanie Babies may be do what you enjoy, do it well, promote and diversify.

My personal favorites continue to be the Teenie Weenies gathered from McDonalds children’s meals.

 

Ty Inc

280 Chestnut Ave

Westmont, IL, 60559 United States

Invisible by James Patterson – doesn’t hold up

Invisible by James Patterson

 

pic1

 

See it at Amazon 

(3/5)

Pros: twists and turns

Cons: doesn’t hold up under careful scrutiny

My first thought, after finishing James Patterson’s twisty Invisible was “Cool!”.  But then I sat down and really thought about it, and realized that the turns and twists in this novel were more “gimmick” than cleverly thought surprises.

There’s a serial killer out there.  One who drips pure evil.  And he’s smart beyond belief.  To the point where he’s been getting away with his murders because no one even knows he’s out there.  He leaves the crime scenes looking like tragic accidents.  No one has a clue that a crime’s been committed.  So no one’s looking for our bad guy.

No one except Emmy, a research analyst with the FBI.  She’s the only one who thinks something is “off” about these accidents.  Getting others to believe her is near-impossible, until she finally finds proof that convinces the mucky mucks that there’s a killer out there.  Of course, knowing this, and catching the guy are two entirely different matters.

So that’s the premise, and what follows is pretty typical.  Slowly find clues, figure out who and what you’re dealing with, set a trap, etc. 

But Invisible comes with a few twists.  No, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  I’ll just say that the author wanted to inject some “surprise” into the tale and he did so.  And that’s always a fun thing for the reader.

But, if you then go back and examine the story with a magnifying glass, you’ll find a few inconsistencies, some plot holes, and some things that are just a bit hard to swallow.  In other words, if you want to really enjoy Invisible, don’t be a detail-oriented hard-nose, like me.  Because the story just won’t hold up to careful scrutiny.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about the level of violence depicted in this book.  Granted, books about serial killers always contain murder and mayhem, but Invisible by James Patterson (and David Ellis) goes a bit beyond the norm in this regard.  It is not for everyone.

 Also by James Patterson:

Four Blind Mice
Kill Me If You Can
Mistress

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