30 March 2009

21. Term Limits

Term Limits by Vince Flynn

This was a pretty good book. I had some idea what to expect concerning the writing style because I have heard Vince Flynn mentioned in the past. Most recently I heard his name on the Rush Limbaugh show because Rush was giving away one of his books. (FYI...I think Rush is an arrogant ass who likes to say stuff just to be controversial) I knew that Vince Flynn was being compared to Tom Clancy, so I expected the writing to be a bit like him. It was.
This was Flynn's first book. I would think his writing would get better in the later books. He has published six more since then. For a first book he did pretty darned well. He told a good story and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. It is a thriller, so that is what is supposed to happen. I guess it would not be much of a thriller if I felt like I could put it down and walk away.
This story is about a US Government that is mired in partisan politics, full of self-serving politicians whose sole purpose is to get re-elected, and a country that is stagnating. To seriously simplify the story...some ex SEALs decide to fix it by killing a few members of congress that thy deem to be career politicians that are a threat to the real national security. Then the President's Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor decide they can use this to eliminate political rivals and sew up the next election for the President by spinning the story. The FBI, CIA and the Pentagon work together to solve the crimes.
There are two groups of terrorists. Good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorists that only kill there target and never their security teams (Secret Service, US Marshals, Marines, etc.) and terrorists that set of bombs that kill anyone in the area. Terrorists with the countries best interests at heart and terrorists that only care about their own political futures. Terrorists we like and should call them freedom fighters and terrorists that we don't like and should call them dirt-bags.
My opinion of that...it was a major flaw in the story. It seems that when the initial assassinations occurred (3 Senators and Speaker of the House) the press and the American public's overwhelming response was "Oh well, we might be better off with new blood anyway." THAT is total bull. There is no way we would respond like that to people killing members of congress. No matter how much we disliked what Congress was doing, assassination is not the way to send the message.
Assassination of elected government officials is completely anti-democracy. How can one say they are killing to defend the constitution and protect democracy when the very people they are killing are democratically elected? Yes, I know there are some far reaching arguments as to why this could be the case, but I do not agree. Don't re-elect them. That is the democratic way to change things that we feel are wrong.
How am I supposed to think that the "good" terrorists are OK, when I think the entire premise for their mission is faulty? So I couldn't. I had a problem with both sides. I ended up hoping the FBI/CIA team would win a total victory and everyone would end up in prison...yeah right. No such luck.
Also, I really didn't like the Chief of Staff character. He was verbally abusive and totally disrespectful to heads of government departments. He would belittle them in meetings and go on tirades. As the story went on he became a nervous and agitated sniveling whiner with no spine. Al this was completely overlooked by the President. It was just too hard for me to believe. Why would the President have a man around like that?
Overall I enjoyed the book. I will read more of Vince Flynn's novels. I will hope for some growth and will probably see it. He is not Tom Clancy, but it is written in that style, and the story keeps hitting like an assault rifle on automatic. Flynn is good and has potential to be an author I really enjoy reading. I will find more of his books at yard sales and flea markets. :-)

24 March 2009

20. Billyball

Billyball by Billy Martin

What a pisser this guy was.

I have always been a Red Sox fan. I never "hated" the Yankees though. I have always had a healthy respect for the team and it's accomplishments, but always wanted the Red Sox to whip their asses.
When I saw this book on the shelf it brought back some fun memories, so I made the purchase using my lunch money. :-)
The book is not written well. It jumps around from events of the 1950s to events of the 1980s. Sometimes it was strange how the leaps were made from managing Texas to managing Minnesota to managing the Yankees and then coming back to Texas to make the original point.
But...amidst the poor authorship are some really good stories and anecdotes. After all, the guy was a baseball player for perhaps the greatest team ever in their golden era, a controversial public figure, and a very interesting human being.
I loved reading the stories about Micky Mantle, Whitey Ford, George Steinbrenner, Joe Dimaggio, Casey Stengel, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, Charlie Finley, Don Mattingly, and so many more.
Do I know he was telling the truth about all this? Absolutely not. In fact, I rather doubt that it is all truth. While reading the book I definitely got a sense that Billy Martin was a bit paranoid. I am quite sure he has twisted the stories in order to justify, or try and convince the reader, that he was right and others are wrong.
Repeatedly throughout the book he would tell a story about how something turned into controversy in the press or he would have a problem with an owner, player or other manager. Each time one of these stories was told we would get the Billy Martin side of the event. We would get the story he wanted everyone to see...but I really doubt he was telling the truth in all instances.
The book seemed like he was justifying his actions over and over. He would give his reasons for making the decisions he made. Why did he bench a guy? Why did he bunt in a swing away situation? Why did he leave a pitcher in who was getting shelled? He would answer these questions. he wrote about his thought process in given situations and it made sense...but is it what really happened? I don't know.
Then there was the constant rolling out of statistics. I could not count how many times he would tell the reader the record of a team before he arrived, then the record while he managed them, and then the record after he got fired. He used this kind of stuff repeatedly to convince the reader he was god's gift to baseball team management. The problem was that he never understood why he was getting fired. He always blamed the owner, pointed out the mistake they were making, and then showed how much he improved the next team. If he had really improved the teams that much and that easily, why did they keep firing him?
There was one chapter where he defended himself against accusations of overusing pitchers until their arms were hurt. He spent the first half of the chapter pounding a point home that you can't measure pitcher use by counting innings pitched. You must use pitches thrown. There is a big difference between a complete game using 85 pitches and a complete game using 150 pitches. I understand that, and I agree. So why did he then spend the second half of the chapter pointing out how Ron Guidry was not overused because he only pitched blah blah blah innings in 1985 and blah blah blah innings in 1986. If innings pitched don't mean anything then why tell us how many he pitched? What were the pitch counts? He never said. This kind of stuff happened a lot in the book. I mean, it looked very obvious to me that he was just defending himself in things his detractors were saying about him.
The stories from the 1950s were excellent. I enjoyed reading that stuff very much. He played with legends of the game. Mantle, Dimaggio, Ford, Casey Stengel, Ted Williams, and a zillion others. He had a ton of stories. Even if they were embellished or half truths, I very much enjoyed them.
Should you read this book? If you are a baseball fan like me, sure. It was fun. If you don't care how many times he made Rod Carew steal home in one season or why he moved Harmon Killebrew from first to third and eventually the outfield then you may find a lot of this book to be the ramblings of a strange little man.

21 March 2009


This post has nothing to do with another book I read. It has to do with books from the past few months.

1. The Oliver Stone book, "A Child's Night Dream". I passed it on to a friend. He also read chapter one and quit, saying it was stupid. Then he passed it to another friend....guess what. I say three strikes!

2. "The Iron Tracks" by Aharon Appelfeld (my 2nd book of 2009) still creeps into my thoughts. I may have to go back and read that one again at some point. it has obviously made more of an impression on me than I gave it credit for.

3. I forgot to mention that Sherman Alexie used the word somnambulist in "Ten Little Indians".

19. Partisans

Partisans by Alistair MacLean

I picked up this book because it was written by the author who wrote the books that inspired the movies "The Guns of Navarone", "Force 10 From Navarone" and "Where Eagles Dare". He also wrote "Ice Station Zebra". I remember these stories. I watched the films when I was young. I recall them fondly. I decided the read this book for that reason.
It took me a while to think this story was any good at all. I read about 75 pages and kept telling my daughter that the book stunk. Then things started happening in the story that made it better. I can't put a finger on it exactly, but I not longer thought it was a crappy story.
I don't find anything special in MacLean's writing abilities. This book was not anything wonderful, but it was not poorly written either. Just average.
This is a spy/war story that takes place during World War II. Most of the action takes place in the Balkans (Yugoslavia, Bosnia, etc.) and involves Yugoslavian Partisans fighting against the Italians and Germans. It is supposed to have all kinds of twists and turns that surprise the reader. So many twists that it made it hard to follow at times, but it has the obligatory fairy tale ending.
I could not help thinking the same thing over and over while reading this book. The group of "heroes" in the book just seemed too self-assured all the time. It just didn't seem real. I kept thinking of a mixture of two famous characters. One of them being Sherlock Holmes. The other being James Bond. Why those two?
James Bond was always so cocky and self-confident. No matter what happened or what situation he was in, he was always so freaking cool about it. It was like he had some divine insight where he knew he was going to escape and everything would be just fine, so why worry about anything.
Sherlock Holmes was irritating in a different way. He always seemed to have things figured out before anything happened. He was always pointing out to others how he would take some obscure thing and turn it into an "obvious" deduction that solved a crime. He always saw things others missed and when he pointed it out the other people had to feel like they were stupid.
The characters in Partisans repeatedly got into situations where they should have been stressed or worried, but never were. They were too cocky and would say the stupidest things to the guy with a gun at their heads. When the guys were piecing together the twists it was done through conversations with others that always left the other character looking like a moron for not figuring it out themselves. The other characters must have thought these guys were super geniuses.
Something I did like about the story was that in had two main characters that were supposed to be very good looking females. So what, right? What I found interesting was that there were no romantic sections or the obligatory sex scenes that find their way into all kinds of stories. Were there opportunities? Yes. Those opportunities came and went without being utilized. I was glad because usually they have absolutely nothing to do with the story and are thrown in for no good reason at all.
I did find it irritating the way the characters were much too confident and overly convenient the way events unfolded. Does that mean the book sucked? I guess not, because I enjoyed it in the long run despite it's shortcomings.
I read this book expecting to read something like the old WWII films "The Guns of Navarone" and "Force 10 From Navarone". The first was made in 1961. It starred Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and others. I loved that movie. It had a small band of allied soldiers facing tremendous odds against an impregnable German fortress. This book came nowhere near my memory of that film. Then again, maybe my memory is glorifying something from my youth. It really doesn't matter much anyway. :-)

17 March 2009

18. Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
I found this book an the shelf at a Goodwill store. I remembered Mike's reviews of some of Alexie's work and decided to spend the ninety-nine cents. :-) I am glad I did.
Sherman Alexie's style is very interesting. This was a collection of short stories. All the stories have Indian main characters and families. There is a ton of humor and sarcasm in the writing, and much of the humor is of the self-deprecating type. Alexie is an Indian himself. He would understand what it feels like to be an Indian in today's society. He understands the problems faced by these people, how they view events of the past, and how they "fit" into the culture. Who better to poke fun at it than an insider.
Why is it interesting? The humor I mean. I learned from it. Why are these jokes funny? Normally I would not chuckle at someone saying the things Alexie wrote. The difference is that I think he wrote this book, and maybe his other works, to show me that I am not aware of the problems faced by these folks and the perceptions of the "white" people.
For instance, he mentions how people think that all indians are somehow more spiritually connected to the earth, water, animals and the wind than other people. He points out that this, and I must admit my own prejudice in this way, is not true. Indian people are just people. Some spiritual. Some not. Some smart. Some not so much. Just like everyone else. The stereotypical drunken gambling reservation living unemployed guy wearing black and a cowboy hat is used in the book. It is used to point out that there are people who fit that sterotype, but most do not.
These are short stories. I really enjoyed a few of them. "The Search Engine", "Can I Get A Witness?", "Flight Patterns" and "The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above" were all excellent and eye-opening.
He covered a wide array of topics through these stories. Politics, religion, sexual-orientation, alcoholism, adultery, racism, relationships between parents and children, life on a reservation, and many more. Each story tackled different subjects. Some better than others, but always revealing more in the story than the events of the story itself.
I really liked how one Indian mother had instructed her 11 year old son. She told him that when a public school teacher said "Christopher Columbus discovered America", that he should run up to the front of the class, jump on the teacher's back, and yell "I discovered you!". See what I mean? It is wicked funny. It is sarcastic. It is actually quite hilarious. The problem is that the mother is correct. That is what I kept finding throughout this book. I was shown a few pieces of the world looking at it from a different angle. It could be a very different world.
I will read more Sherman Alexie works.
(Mike... If you want I will mail this one to you.)

07 March 2009

17. Big Fish

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
It is an interesting story full of the recollections of a son concerning his dying father. The stories are pure fantasy. The fairy tales of a child. Things that are not physically possible that make a child think of his father as something akin to god.
Anyway, the book was OK, but it never really was able to grab me and hold me. It seemed choppy and had no real reason for the events being described. It was fun and whimsical, but also disconnected and random.
Maybe I missed something. I don't know. I don't care. It was good enough for someone to make a movie out of it, but I never heard of the movie either. Could it have been very good? Probably not something I would want to watch anyway.
Samantha liked this book enough to read it twice in her life. Maybe she will comment and tell me what I am not seeing. Maybe I am just too old to understand? LOL
17 down...so the book served it's purpose. :-)
I forgot. This book used the word somnambulist. There it was, right near the middle, clear as day. It made me smile. That is the third book that had the word this year. It was used to describe the way the wife was walking while entering the room where her husband was waiting to die. This was a small but powerful positive for Big Fish. :-)

05 March 2009

16. The Man Who Moved A Mountain

The Man Who Moved A Mountain by Richard C. Davids

This book is the biography of a man named Bob Childress. The time was the early to mid 1900s. Bob grew up in Appalachia,a part of western Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The people and the culture was very rough. Moonshiners were everywhere. It was a violent place where people fought and killed each other as normal day to day activities. It was much like the old west I guess. Lawless in a way.

Bob Childress was raised in this culture. He was a drinker and a fighter. He was a man that many feared in the Blue Ridge area due to his physical prowess.

Bob grew to realize that the way the people were living was self-destructive. He understood why it was the way it was, but he also wanted to change it. he wanted to bring the people out of poverty and give them self-respect. He wanted them to be educated and god-fearing.

He moved away and became a Presbyterian preacher. He then returned to the Blue Ridge area and settled on Buffalo Mountain. He spent the rest of his life caring for the people there. Setting an example for them. Fighting for them. Fighting against them. Doing it in the mountain man way. He spoke out against many things that were ingrained in their culture. Drinking being a big one, and a dangerous one to take on, because moonshine was a highly profitable business. One thing that is for sure is that Bob Childress was a very bold and gutsy guy who cared very much for other people.

The book is not the best written thing I have ever read. It is just a biography. It is story after story of the things Bob Childress did. Much of it is from recollections of friends and family. Some of it is quite hard to believe, but may be true in some exaggerated sense.

Even if the stories are exaggerated, Bob Childress did a lot of good work in them thar hills. He helped the people there and the entire region changed. Good for him.

A pleasant read with some insight into an area that is steeped in tradition and superstition. It was fun to read about an area that I consider one of the most beautiful places in our country I have ever seen.

One thing I found especially interesting was the Primitive Baptist Church in this area. This church thought the preachers should be ignorant and uneducated. The stupider they were the better. These people couldn't even read the Bible that they were preaching about. Why? The people believed that if someone was that ignorant then whatever they said MUST have come from God. They were too ignorant to learn it and too stupid to make it up. Ugh. Needless to say, the stuff they preached was far from biblical at all.

This is a decent book if you run out of things that you really want to read. I enjoyed it, but I can't say I would put it at the top of any lists.