Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review: Mr. Kill by Martin Limon

I got this book from AmazonVine.

I selected this book, even though I hadn't read anything in the Sergeants Sueno and Bascom series, because I was interested in learning more about Korea through a novel. The book certainly served that purpose since Sueno is an American soldier who wants to learn Korean culture. He also speaks the language. Bascom is sort of a lout who flaunts custom as much as possible.

The mystery is less successful, but interesting in the way that they must cooperate with the Korean police and military to determine who is responsible for rapes and murders on the Blue Train. The victims are Korean women traveling with children.

Also figuring in the story is an all-woman country band from Texas who feel they are being stalked and robbed. Sueno and Bascom are assigned to protect them as well as solving the Blue Train crimes.

I really couldn't get into this story. The characters, with the exception of Sueno and Bascom, were indistinct to me. The band seemed like a group of hysterical women and I felt no connection to them at all.

However, I'm glad I read it because of the picture I got of the scenery in South Korea as well as the way people near the U.S. military bases survive. I might even try another book in this series to see if I just chose the wrong one to start with.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. by Samuel J. Martin

I won this book from LibraryThing and although it has taken a long time to read it, I'm very pleased with it. Enough so that I will keep it.

It looks like a textbook, 10 x 7 inches, no dust cover, shiny hard cover with a portrait of Bragg on the front, and small print with occasional illustrations inside. Minor quibble: it could have used better proof-reading and the battleground maps are hand-drawn and not very helpful.

Confederate General Bragg was a controversial man. He was abrupt, didn't take crticism or even suggestions well, and in general was difficult to get along with. He could even be cruel, but he honestly cared about his men and they knew it. In fact, he always established his headquarters well back from the front lines because after seeing the men bleeding and dying at Shiloh, hearing the screams amid the chaos of battle, he simply couldn't stand to watch it again.

As I read this book, I was amazed that anyone could win the Civil War. Obviously, someone had to win, but with officers regularly disobeying orders, and foot soldiers going AWOL, no wonder Bragg was criticized so much for mismanagement of battles. He also had enemies who were plotting against him, such as Gen. Pope (an Episcopalian Bishop), Patrick Cleburne, Joe Johnston, and many others. Fortunately, Bragg and Pres. Jefferson Davis were old friends. More than once Davis saved Bragg from going down in flames. Many of the C.S.A. officers were veterans of the Mexican War, as was Bragg, and some of the hard feelings stemmed from that war.

This author set out to give an unbiased defense of Bragg. He didn't entirely succeed because his admiration for the man does define the text. He does include Bragg's many faults though, and the reader ends up with admiration for Bragg despite his faults. The end of his life at only 59 years of age comes after a period of time when he was unable to find work. He and his devoted wife suffered much in the aftermath of the war, even living in what had been slave quarters on his brother's farm for some time. It was a sad end for an honorable man who sacrificed everything for what he thought was a just cause.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Some of you know that I'm an alum of Rutgers, and when I was an RU student Penn State was a huge rival of ours. At that time I was always angry at the chant: WE ARE PENN STATE!

Times have changed. Since we've lived in PA, I've learned the story behind that chant. Back when segregation was still prevalent in the south, Joe Paterno and his team went to a southern campus for a game. On arrival they were told that the black players couldn't stay in the same hotel as the white players. Joe told them either the whole team stayed there or the whole team stayed elsewhere, because, "WE are Penn State!" Now I understand why that phrase is shouted with such pride.

I also understand the state's pride in Joe Paterno's long association with Penn State. The library is named after him because of the huge monetary donations Joe and Sue Paterno made to the school. He has brought enormous amounts of money to the school with his winning football teams, as well as the many excellent scholar/athletes he recruited.

Finally, Joe insisted on his team putting education first. He inspired kids to get good grades and graduate with a career in sight other than the NFL. He and Sue lived in a modest home near the campus where they had a round dinner table so there was always room for one more. His phone was listed and his door was open.

Now, finally, I understand about JoePa. I wish his wife well as Joe leaves his very classy, well-lived life behind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learning to be a Lefty

I'm STILL reading the biography of Gen. Braxton Bragg and enjoying it and, strange for me, also reading a mystery called Mr. Kill from Amazon Vine. Meanwhile everything is a huge project because of my immobilized wrist and hand.

Saw the doc Mon. and found that I can't get out of this until Feb. 2. Made a late afternoon appt. so we can go out to eat to celebrate and Dave won't have to cut up my food for me. :D

The main problems? Still not proficient in brushing my teeth with the wrong hand. So silly. Also having to put a plastic bag over my right arm to shower. Third, can't type as fast as my brain works. :)

The main benefit? Dave has to wash the dishes. I'm amazed he hasn't replaced our broken dishwasher. I thought surely this would do the trick.

Oh well, at least I don't have any pain - never did hurt since the surgery. And I'm healing well.

I expected to have lots of time to read but everything else seems to take up that extra time. Still, I'll get there. Whenever I feel frustrated, I think about all the soldiers who have lost limbs, and stroke victims who have permanently lost the function in one side. I know this is only temporary; I can't imagine how they keep their spirits up. I have a new respect for them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Short and Sweet

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm awfully wordy. Just don't take time to write concisely, you know?

That is going to change for about ten days. I'm having a little hand surgery this afternoon and will then have my right hand immobilized for ten days because this involves a skin graft. Of course I'm right handed. Since I'm hopelessly clumsy with my left hand, a lot of things are going to be different, or at least difficult temporarily.

Oh well, at least I'll have lots of time for reading and then composing short reviews. Keep your fingers crossed that the graft takes; thankfully I'm a fast healer. Oh, and when you want a giggle, just think of me typing with my left hand, brushing my teeth with my left hand, and a horde of other things with my left hand.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shadow of Death by Patricia Gussin

I had been warned about accepting free Kindle books but I got several from a publishing company, and I read, enjoyed, and reviewed the first one of those, Dead Air. So I wasn't concerned when I decided, as a break from the long, small print biography I'm reading, that I would try the second one. Too bad, this one warrants the warning.

This one was almost a DNF. From the very beginning I was aggravated with the heroine. Laura Nelson is a med student, wife, and mother of two little boys. She is the star student of her class, so she is apparently a very smart young woman. However, this character is completely lacking in common sense and that gets her into more trouble than you can imagine. Plus, I expect a character, particularly the main character, to learn something, maybe even grow as a person through the experiences in the story. This one is practically the same at the end of the book as she was at the beginning.

The story is set in Detroit in the 1960s right after the major riots there. Laura's med school and hospital are in a dangerous part of the city. She leaves the hospital upset about a patient and his family, and should go through the buildings to leave by the door where security guards are posted to escort students to their vehicles. Instead, she stupidly walks around the buildings toward the student parking lot. Of course, you know what happens. She is violently assaulted by a young man with a knife who rapes her. She pulls a gun (an illegal one!) from her bag and kills him. Does she tell the police, her husband, anyone? No.

I was so irritated with her from that time on that I just couldn't drum up any sympathy for her. Add to that the countless coincidences in the book and you have a reader who won't be looking for any other books by this author. It's a shame really, since I do believe the author could have written a good book with a more believeable premise.

I did finish the book and there were a couple characters I did care about, but it was a close call. I do not recommend this book, free or otherwise. I'm happy to get back to my biography, a really good read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Do You Hate Destroying Books?

I've been beating myself up for several weeks now because I have old textbooks that I need to destroy and I have such a hard time actually doing it. No one, I mean really no one, wants these old, outdated textbooks, so I need to remove the hard covers and put them in recycling. Sounds easy and would clear room in my office, but can I do it? Nah!

You're all book lovers. How to you handle this kind of thing when there is literally no place to donate books? I'm in the same quandary about ARC copies of books. Can't give them away, can't sell them, must destroy them. They should be very easy to just toss in the recycling, but can I do it? Nah!

I'm getting better about donating books to book sales, and if I could find a nursing home or something that wanted books for their little libraries, I would happily donate to them. That's okay; I know someone will enjoy them like I did. But destroying them? Oh my.

So there they sit on my crowded shelves looking at me soulfully and making me feel guilty. I should, I really should - but as Sheila at Book Journey says, "Gah!!!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Chance to Read but Lots Coming Up

Life has been slightly chaotic around here for a few weeks and I haven't had much time to read. I'm slowly getting through a biography of General Braxton Bragg which is good and very well written, but it's long and has small print. Also coming up is Mr. Kill by Martin Limon and then Lillian Lorraine by Nils Hanson which is the story of a Ziegfield Follies girl.

Of course there are also my stacks and stacks of TBR books. I'm looking forward to getting to the next Peri O'Shaughnessy. I also have a big pile of fat books that I seem to put off in favor of shorter ones, even though I got those books because I definitely wanted to read them. Oh for more time to read.

We are adjusting slowly to my husband's retirement. In this cold weather he is staying indoors a lot so he's bored. When warm weather comes, he'll be busier but now all he does he threaten to move south. I have never wanted to have one house up here and another in the south, and I surely don't want to pay for two houses, so we aren't leaving here until we finish our remodeling and sell this place.

Meanwhile, our basketball season has its ups and downs: ups for women and downs for men. We have a very young men's team and they just keep losing. I have patience with them, but everyone else is complaining bitterly. It's still fun to go to the games though. Monday our opponent for a double header was Univ. of Maine where our great-niece plays basketball. Believe it or not, we had never met her so it was great to see her play and finally meet her. She's a beautiful young woman - no prejudice of course.

I really will have book reviews up soon. I've just started another mystery on my Kindle as well. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll arrange my time so I can read more.