Thursday, February 19, 2015

Killing...

I have now read 3 of the 4 books by Bill O'Reilly in his assassinations series.  The latest is Killing Patton, which works on the theory that Patton's death by car accident was, in fact, no accident.


All three books read like fiction.  They are fast paced and character driven.  They are not complete biographies, they cover the last few years of their lives, leading up to their deaths.  The slowest one for me was Patton.  The war scenes dragged on and Patton was a bit... unlikeable.

My favorite was Killing Kennedy.  I think the authors' memories and emotions of that time were reflected in that book.  However, you will also find their political leanings coloring the description of Kennedy and his administration.  This seems to be the biggest criticism of these books from other reviewers.  Additionally, the authors suggest a conspiracy and cover up of his assassination. 

These are easy to read and move at a fast pace.  I recommend these to fans of popular history, though some on the left might not be pleased. I have not read Killing Jesus, the other book in this series. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Beat the Reaper

I occasionally will foray into the world of fiction and sometimes I am forced, like when my book discussion group chose Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.  Most of them didn't like it, but I actually did.

Beat the Reaper is about a man in witness protection who chose to become a doctor.  He is known as Dr. Peter Brown and works at "Manhattan's worst hospital."  Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn of Peter's past as a hitman for the mob.  I found it a stretch to believe that a hitman who killed dozens of people ended up a Dr. in witsec, but I went with it.  The flashbacks were full of violence and action which I don't particularly like, but I tried to imagine the scenes as a movie, like Goodfellas.  For some reason, that made the violent scenes easier for me to swallow.

In the present day, while under witsec protection, Peter walks into a patient's room only to discover that it's his former colleague from the mob.  One that wants him dead.  Peter promises to do his best to keep Eddie Squillante alive, but only if Peter's own life and new identity is spared.  However, chances of Eddie's survival are slim and the mob doesn't always stick to its word. 

This is a fast paced book filled with action and dark humor.  As with most fiction books, I skipped to the end to see what would happen, and still found myself engaged in the story.  I recommend this to readers of action novels, but beware of the graphic violence and strong language.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Man Who Killed Kennedy

I love a good conspiracy theory and the assassination of JFK is surrounded by many.  The Man Who Killed Kennedy by Roger Stone details why the author believes Lyndon B Johnson was behind the assassination. 

The book begins by describing LBJ as a womanizing sociopath.  Several sources confirm that he more affairs than Kennedy himself. (I guess some women are attracted to....power?)  He was crude and dismissive towards anyone who stood in his path to political power.  The times were different back then, and the press kept his personality undercover.  

The real question though, is why would LBJ conspire to kill Kennedy?  Among other reasons, Bobby Kennedy and LBJ despised each other, and a plan was put into place for Kennedy to dump Johnson in '64 and for RFK to indict him on corruption charges.  According to Stone, LBJ was able to partner with the mafia and CIA to orchestrate the assassination.  The author also calls into question the lone gunman theory.  With his massive amount of notes and his history as a close confidant of Nixon, Stone makes a compelling case.

So am I convinced by this theory?  Surprisingly, yes.  But then again, history can and is written and rewritten from different authors who all share the same evidence and sources.  Fans of 20th century history and/or conspiracy theories should enjoy this scathing book.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Andy Cohen Diaries

I wanted to read something light and funny to combat the cold dark days, so I chose this diary by Andy Cohen.  Honestly, if you don't know who Andy Cohen is, then stop right here.  You probably won't be interested. 

Andy is a television producer/NYC socialite/St Louis native responsible for the addictive Real Housewives series and several other Bravo shows.  He hosts his own late night show, Watch What Happens Live on Bravo.  This is a diary of his life from 2013-2014. 

I found myself breezing through this book, I think Andy is entertaining and he  spills a lot of gossip about celebrities.  He regularly hangs with Sarah Jessica Parker, the Seinfelds, reality TV stars, and Anderson Cooper.  It's kind of amazing how celebrities live, staying out til wee hours of the night, flying cross country every week, and taking vacations every month. 

Andy uses self deprecating humor and sarcasm throughout the book, keeping it light and fun.  He also talks extensively about his newest love affair...with his rescue dog Wacha.  Wacha really helps Andy "think about something other than myself."

I recommend this book for reality TV fans and readers of celebrity biographies and memoirs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Dogs Love Us

Do dogs love their humans like humans love their dogs?  One dog lover and neuroscientist decided to find out.  Gregory Berns' book, How Dogs Love Us is about his research into the canine mind.  To find out how dogs "felt" towards humans, he and his team of researchers had to design and conduct several experiments with their dogs.  The first and hardest part was training a dog to enter an MRI machine, and then, sit still long enough to get an accurate reading.  They measured brain activity when dogs were presented with certain stimuli, such as sweat from their human beings. 

What did they find out?  I don't want to spoil it, but, I think any dog lover will tell you that dogs do love their humans.  They reciprocate certain emotions shown towards them.  For example, the dogs that were presented with sweat samples had parts of the brain activate only when presented with their particular owner's smell.  

As a dog lover and owner of two overly protective corgis, I can corroborate his findings.  If you are a dog lover as well, check this one out to learn more about the ways your dog relates to you.  If you are a cat lover, well, don't hold your breath.

Visit the author's website here

Friday, January 2, 2015

Walking with Jack

I am sent dozens of books for review on a monthly basis.  I am a bit of a picky reader, so I found one that I thought my dad might enjoy as he is a golfer.  Below is his review of this book.



 Walking with Jack; A Father's Journey to Become His Son's Caddy by Don Snyder is a book I read primarily because of the back cover recommendation from John Feinstein, author of the great golf book, A Good Walk Spoiled.  Unfortunately, this one wasn't quite "up to par."
First of all, I thought the story was unique and very interesting- a middle-aged father going into training in the hope of becoming his college-aged son's caddy on a professional tour. Snyder's narrative of his time in Scotland learning how to caddy was the most entertaining part of the story. The writing was excellent and made the experience quite vivid.
Secondly, the criticisms noted by others who have reviewed this book on Amazon are fair, particularly those related to the experience Snyder had when was caddying for his son.  The overly sentimental and emotional tone surrounding his son was a bit much.  I found it hard to relate.
Overall, the story was not so much about golf, Scotland, and caddying, as it was a memoir of a man's relationship with his son and his attempt to create a unique and special bond with him. This may appeal to a broader audience than just golfers, but was not quite what I was hoping for. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere is Lucas Mann's personal narrative of his experience following the Clinton Lumberkings, a single A minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, through the course of an entire season. It is not a day by day account of the games and players so much as it is the author's observations and perceptions of the players, the fans, and the city of Clinton, Iowa, viewed through the context of the historical and economic history of the city, as well as the author's personal background.

Mann provides an interesting history of the city's birth, growth and decline into what it is today, a working class town with a subpar reputation (and about 25 minutes from my hometown). This city is one in which the current team of young, unpolished, inexperienced itinerants of professional baseball are laboring to leave behind in order to move up the developmental ladder.
Along the way, some players are seen as probably having reached the zenith of their professional baseball careers and will soon have to pursue alternative careers outside baseball. Some players are seen as having an opportunity to advance to the next level or two, but not of making it to "the show;" too few players are seen as having the most realistic potential to realize their ultimate goal.

The transitory nature of minor league baseball, particularly at low level single A level, is set against the long standing loyalty of a core group of baseball fans who, despite the economic downturn experienced by the city, stayed and found some consolation and stability in the team which continued to play in their city through some rough years. Although the team can and does change from season to season, even from month to month, these steadfast fans chronicle the team season to season, year to year, in their own ways. In doing so, they are able to accept and adapt to the change they have experienced in their own lives and in their own city.

Overall, the book was an interesting read and thought provoking far beyond the context of minor league baseball. It's an interesting view of a city, its minor league baseball team, and its fans.