Winter in the Blood by James Welch; 1974; $14.00; 138 pages; Penguin Books, New York, NY; 978-0-14-310522-0; Checked out from the Multnomah County Library, Hollywood; 10/17/14-10/20/14
A couple of days in the life of an Indian on a Montana reservation. His father and older brother have died and left him alone with his Mother and Grandmother. He stumbles around the range and a nearby town chasing women, dreams and his own past. He encounters all kinds of people who wish to take advantage of him. Most of the book leads to a twist and a remembrance of his brother and his death.
Did I enjoy it? No, it was one of the most tedious books that I have read, the last 10 pages were the best part of the book.
What is with the title of the review? It reminds of this quote I found, Writers are now producing fiction not for readers who enjoy novels, but for other writers and certain critics and perhaps only for themselves.
From Enemy to Friend, a north Vietnamese perspective on the war by Bui Tin; 2002; 191 pages; Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD; 1-55750-881-X; purchased from the Title Wave Used Bookstore; 10/15/14-10/17-14
Published in the form of an interview this memoir by Bui Tin covers his involvement in the Vietnam War as a part of the Army, and then his part in the reunification of Vietnam as a journalist and his eventual disillusionment with the government of Vietnam and his relocation to France. He remains a vocal critic of what the government is doing in Vietnam. He shows insight into the causes of the conflict in Vietnam with various other countries prior to the involvement of the United States, and what the original thoughts were in seeking independence. He shows why the North acted the way they did and how various hard liners have refused to give in even today. He speaks to mistakes made by both sides in the conflict and why the Vietnamese people were fighting so strenuously, how the governments on both sides made mistakes in their understanding of each other. Also how other communist superpowers made promises to the North and then reneged on them. He disagrees with the reeducation camps and how the communist government is only taking half measures in rebuilding and the governments mistrust of the United States.
Did I enjoy it? Yes I had been searching for a book from this perspective for awhile (and will continue to) and enjoyed reading it. Multiple perspectives are always a good thing I think.
What is with the title of the review? We each bring our inherent bias to any subject we look at. The Vietnam has been looked at from so many different perspectives that sometimes it seems like another version of Alice in Wonderland as she went through the looking glass.
Beowulf, A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney; 2000; $25.00; 213 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY; 0-374-1119-7; Borrowed from Pat Jussila; 10/14/14-10/15/14
I recently read a book about 100 must read thrillers, which began with The Iliad, The Odyssey and Beowulf as thrillers. These were books that I hadn’t read before, so when I asked my friend and former English teacher Pat Jussila to recommend a translation. This is the one that she recommended by Pulitzer Prize Winner Seamus Heaney. Beowulf travels from his country to help the Swedes in their battle against the monster Grendel. He becomes friends with the king of Swedes and does battle with Grendel, defeating him barehanded by ripping his arm off. The king adopts him as one of his own. Beowulf then has to battle Grendel’s revenge seeking mother and defeats her barehanded also. The king of the Swedes rewards Beowulf and his men handsomely before they return to their own land. Once he is there he with an assist from a younger knight defeats a dragon and becomes king of his own country. He lives a long prosperous life and is revered by all his people.
Did I enjoy it? Somewhat, but it was weird to read a story in “verse”. Beowulf was heroic but his battles with the monsters and the dragon were anti climatic, there wasn’t much too them.
What is with the title of the review? Since this was a translation, the old English was on the left hand page and the new on the right hand page so all I had to do was read the right hand page. So even though the book is 213 pages long, I only read 106 pages, but I got the whole story.
The Sky Is Not The Limit, Adventures of An Urban Astrophysicist by Neil de Grasse Tyson; 2000; $23.95; 191 pages; Doubleday, New York, NY; 978-0-385-48838-6; checked out from the Multnomah County Library, North Portland; 10/12/14-10/14/14
Since 1967 Neil de Grasse Tyson has known that he wanted to be an astrophysicist, he was only 9 years old. In 1967 I had no idea what I wanted to and I am whole year older than him. He pursued that goal with a dogged determination world wide, traveling all over the world and visiting all kinds of observatories. He faced some resistance among some people from a wide range of backgrounds, but his own family was super supportive. He details his travels through the various schools and universities that he attended to complete his PhD in astrophysics. He occasionally lapses into geek speak and reminds us that he is the smartest guy in the room. He alternates between speaking to the common man and speaking to others at his level (ya know, Stephen Hawkings and Sheldon Cooper), he can be humorous and self deprecating at times, but definitely knows that he is the smartest guy.
Did I enjoy it? I enjoyed parts of it, but other parts of it were dry and boring, full of equations and geek speak.
What is with the title of the review? Neil de Grasse Tyson is super smart and probably one of the smartest guys ever and if the room was the size of the state of Texas, Neil would still be the smartest guy in the room.
Personal, A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child; 2014; $28.00; 353 pages; Delacorte Press, New York, NY; 978-0-8014-7847-7; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Hillsdale; 10/9/14-10/12/14
Someone has tried to assassinate the President of French and the only thing that stop them was a new composite material that stopped a bullet. There are only a certain number of snipers who could have made the shot and one of them had been apprehended by Reacher when he was a military policeman. Reacher is brought in to try and find him again, to figure out what his plan is and to try and stop him. He is faced with interference from all kinds of intelligence agencies from around the globe even perhaps the United States. He has to face someone even bigger than himself along with English and Serbian gangsters. Reacher manages to put it all together and realizes what has really been going on and brings everything to a conclusion.
Did I enjoy it? Yes it was a wild ride that took Reacher around the world and gave him a chance to use his detective skills as well as just beat the crap out of some people.
What is with the title of the review? Reacher travels around the country and happens to pass through Portland on his way to Seattle where he is pulled into his latest adventure. Wish Lee Child would set one of the stories in Oregon.