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reader richard has commented on (28) products.

View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina
View from Lazy Point

reader richard, February 24, 2011

The Book Report: Carl Safina is an August Personage. He's a Guggenheim Fellow. He's a MacArthur Fellow. He's won at least two awards for literary merit in writing about science. He founded Blue Ocean Institute. He's been on the teevee, too! PBS, even Nightline! Here he chronicles the full twelve months of his year of environmental activism and study for our delectation and enlightenment.

My Review: I am not delectated and not particularly enlightened, and if I didn't owe a review to the publisher, I'd just quietly pass this dull, overwritten snoozefest to someone who's never read Silent Spring and therefore has no basis for comparison re: quality advocacy writing with a personal touch.

A note to editors: Capitalizing Species Names Is Like Having Your Eyelashes Plucked. It Starts Out Annoying But Ends Up Inducing Homicidal Feelings Towards The Perpetrator. A cedar waxwing is a cedar waxwing, not A Cedar Waxwing.
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Duck: An Outer Banks Village by Judith D. Mercier
Duck: An Outer Banks Village

reader richard, February 24, 2011

The Book Report: Academic and writer Mercier finds paradise on the Outer Banks in the form of Duck, NC, a dinky little dune burg between the mighty Atlantic and the estuarine remnants of a bay that got cut off from the sea by the inevitable actions of time and tide. She then sets about excavating as much as she can of town history, both black and white, to preserve and present the face of change in a sad little elegy to the Good Old Days.

My Review: I am uncomfortable with made-up conversations in this sort of book. An entire chapter on the largely unchronicled life of Duck's black folks contains imagined dialogue that makes me squirm. It's condescending, and I don't think for an instant that it's what they said, and why in the hell didn't the lady stick to facts and let the cutesy impulse go? She could, and maybe should, write a novel about the life of the couple she places at the center of the black world of Duck. Better still, let someone more ept do it.

But don't lard it in to the "growth has prices, always has and always will" book that you've got here, Dr. Mercier. It detracts from the real merits of the book as it is, and it isn't your forte, quite frankly. It's not really recommended by me for that reason, unless you're a fanatical enthusiast for the Outer Banks. (Guilty.)
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Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin
Murder on the Leviathan

reader richard, February 2, 2011

Diverting entry in an ongoing series. Erast Fandorin is a charming, nineteenth-century Russian James Bond if he was fathered by Nero Wolfe sleuth trapped on board a huge new luxury liner with a greedy, murderous genius who is after the world's greatest hoard of gemstones.

People die right and left as the sleuth, ineptly assisted by seemingly every passenger assigned to eat in his dining room, closes in on the inevitable identification of the killer/fortune hunter. Much entertaining diversion available, though the novice to the series can pick this volume up and start right here with no fear of missing a step. Akunin is a master of the enriching aside, the grace note that adds a little something to the series' fans' pleasure, but isn't required for the newcomer to understand to get the full impact of the story or the characters.

Genially recommended.
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The Turkish Gambit (Erast Fandorin Mysteries) by Boris Akunin
The Turkish Gambit (Erast Fandorin Mysteries)

reader richard, January 25, 2011

The Book Report: Erast Petrovich Fandorin, titular counsellor of the Tsar's Special Branch (secret police, ugh), finds himself in the thick of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. In a manner very like that of a skinny, stammering love-child of James Bond and Nero Wolfe, Fandorin arranges things so that the party responsible for the sudden and inglorious halt of victorious Russian armies to Constantinople, long the most urgent desire of Imperial Russian froeign policy, comes inevitably to light. His newly minted assistant, the silly and delightfully idealistic Varvara Andreevna Suvorova, takes the center stage for much of this wild, careening caper; a good choice for misdirecting attention, that, and yet the author *scrupulously* plays fair and puts all the clues before the reader...yet Varya's goosey honkings about irrelevancies and her young woman of middling class and wealth scruples, presented with great and genuine affection by the author, do screen the actual malefactor's malefactions quite neatly. One scene, a sword-fight, is particularly nicely handled; Varya's emotions of fear, disgust, and slightly tickled vanity (it's over her honor the parties fight) are so believable that it's hard to imagine the author hasn't had the same thing happen to him. (I doubt much that it has, though.) Quite a wonderful piece of writing (and translation), and not the only one.

My Review: All hail friends with reading addictions! My friend's praise tipped the scales for me, causing me to get these books. I don't regret this, though I am sorry that I waited so long. Still, that means I've got a lot of time before I run out of them! There are over ten in the series so far.

Very high-quality escapism, written and translated very ably, and presented in a point-of-view that's different enough to make the well-worn genre of lone wolf solves problems for Big Government, and then runs away from the limelight, feel fresh and new. Recommended to all who have a yen for solving puzzles...I didn't figure this one out until halfway through!
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The New Face of Small-Town America: Snapshots of Latino Life in Allentown, Pennsylvania by Edgar Sandoval
The New Face of Small-Town America: Snapshots of Latino Life in Allentown, Pennsylvania

reader richard, January 18, 2011

The Book Report: A series of newspaper columns written by a Mexican man hired to cover the largely Caribbean Latino population of the Lehigh Valley, this book offers a charming, if choppy and repetitious, insight into the new majority of American cities, the Latinos.

Sandoval was hired by the (Anglophone) owners of the Allentown Daily Call to report on the 25% of the local population that the paper was simply missing. Typically, they hired someone from Mexico! These are *not* the same culture, not even a little bit, and the local Puertoriquenos and Nuyoricans and Dominicans were a little bit wary of the furrin dude with the wild-assed accent. He won them over by dint of his reportorial chops, his charm, and the way he could blend into the woodwork or the crowd, depending on the situational need.

The organizational thread of the book is...well...not very organized. It's all over the town, even the Valley. But it's a collection of newspaper pieces! It's NOT A NARRATIVE, so don't read it as such and you'll find it ever so much easier to enjoy. The book is intended by the author and the publisher to provide an Anglophone audience with a short entree into Latino life and community thought. This goal should be froemost in any reader's thoughts to make the book a successful reading experience.

My Review: Well, Mr, Sandoval and I hail from the same part of the world: Nine miles from Mexico, on the Texas/Nuevo Leon border. He's quite a lot younger than I am, but he was a reporter for The Monitor, the Rio Grande Valley's newspaper of record, so I betcha we know people in common: The longtime mayor of McAllen, Othal Brand, is a cousin of mine, and lots of the staffers at the paper know my brother from his years reporting there. So I started this book with a lot of points given to the writer for commonality of experience.

In the end, that is what gave me the reason to give the man 3.75 stars. Really and truly, the book isn't all that; not because Sandoval is deficient as a writer, but because the origin of the stories is a newspaper. There isn't any problem with that, basically, but it really doesn't make for a deep and hearty stew of a read, rather a tasty, lightly buttered toast-point with a decent pate on it. Not bad at all! Just not something I'll charge about demanding others read instanter.

But do look into it if you're one of the many, many anti-immigrant idiots infecting the body politic. This is the story of your own ancestors, unless you're 100% Native American.
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