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Jeffrey Bluhm has commented on (44) products.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

Jeffrey Bluhm, June 6, 2015

This forgotten but fantastic episode of American history and Arctic exploration is brilliantly reconstructed and engagingly told by author Hampton Sides. Starting with the backgrounds of the wealthy but eccentric backer, James Gordon Bennett Jr., and the almost obsessively focused captain of the USS Jeannette, George Washington De Long, the story proceeds chronologically through their research into approaches to the Arctic based on the prevailing theories of the late 1800s, acquisition and preparation of ship and crew, and the cruise to Arctic waters. Once they become trapped in the ice, where they'd spend many subsequent months, we gain insight into not only how they staved off boredom and maintained discipline, but also how various crew members dealt, successfully and not, with the privations of their situation. When the icepack crushes the Jeannette and they begin their journey back south to try to find safe haven, the heroism of both individuals, and the crew as a whole, becomes evident. The passion of the worldwide public fascination with the undertaking is counterbalanced by the pathos of De Long's patiently waiting wife. While he did not bring back all of his crew alive, the parallels to Shackleton and Antarctic exploration put this story on par with such classic tales of exploration and adventure.
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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

Jeffrey Bluhm, June 6, 2015

I approached this book with high hopes as a story to share with (future) grandchildren. Perhaps I expected too much, but I found the content lacking, the characters not very engaging, and some elements (a girl beaten, even if specifics are glossed over, so badly that she her ears become deformed and her hearing impaired) distasteful. Time to look elsewhere...
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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Jeffrey Bluhm, May 25, 2015

If I had a Top Ten (? Bottom Ten) Worst Books, this would receive strong consideration for one of the top spots. Awful, awful, awful. There's about enough plot here for a short story, fleshed out to novel length with seemingly endless, and impenetrable, sophomoric philosophizing about Beauty and Art and Life and Death and....zzzz. Sentences longer than the last 5 minutes of an NBA game will have your eyes crossing as they search for the beginning, to start over again in the (false) hope that THIS time it will make sense. Then (semi-spoiler alert), when it's all slowly starting to come together at the end and you're starting to think maybe the hours you've invested haven't been completely wasted - BAM!! - one of the most senseless endings in all of Western literature. Monumentally bad - seriously, go find something else to read, there's no happiness between these covers.
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Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Skippy Dies

Jeffrey Bluhm, May 23, 2015

Despite the sad inevitability the title suggests, and delivers on even in the Prologue, this is a entertaining, if at times darkly so, novel. Numerous plot lines, both major and minor, intertwine seamlessly; the most amusing, because of the accuracy with which the author captures teenage boy relationships, dialogue, and humor, is that of Skippy and his friends. The excitement and confusion of a first crush is evident as well in Skippy's pursuit of Lori, and the melancholy of (teacher) Howard's middle-age crisis hits close to home for those of us at a more...mature stage in our lives. The characters are fully developed and, though I (thankfully) can't claim a boarding school background, the nature of such an experience, for both students and adults alike, seemed an accurate portrayal. Thoroughly enjoyable!
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The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo
The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

Jeffrey Bluhm, May 16, 2015

An engaging history of the Vidocq Society, an association of top professionals from the various disciplines involved in murder investigation, whose purpose is to examine cases that have gone unsolved for at least two years. It's very interesting to learn how forensic pathologists, forensic artists, and especially psychological profilers work, and how their disparate styles can complement each other. While the Society's 90% success rate is admirable, the author seems to hold little, if anything, back in describing crime scenes and what victims suffered, with numerous cases that plumb the depths of human misery and death. The writing style is at times over-the-top potboiler in nature, which can either amuse or annoy, depending on one's mood. Fascinating book, but be forewarned you'll endure many tales about the worst things one human being can do to another.
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