Thursday, December 8, 2016

Booke review: Double Deuce by Robert B. Parker

Year published: Double Deuce was published in 1992
Date I finished reading:  December 5, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Rating: A
Review:  Double Deuce is the 19th novel in the Spenser series and it's one of my favorites.  When residents of the "double deuce" a notorious housing project in Boston that got its name from its address of 22 Hobart Street ask Hawk to rid the project of gangs, he brings Spenser in for assistance.

There are the usual complications and violence, but the reason it's one of my favorite of the Spenser novels is because we learn a lot about the main characters and, in particular, about Hawk and how he became who he is and the price he paid for doing so.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Book review: Pastime by Robert B. Parker

Year published: 1991
Date I finished: Reread finished on December 3, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Rating:A

Review:  I am back to my plan of rereading the whole Spenser series. Pastime is the 18th in the series and its one of my favorites so far.

10 years (and quite a few books) ago, Spenser rescued Paul Giacomin from neglectful parents.  Paul is now a man.  His mother is missing and he comes to Spenser to find her. This starts off simply enough - she has apparently run off with her latest boyfriend.  But things get complex because the boyfriend is connected to criminals - in particular, to Joe Broz. 

This lets Parker add a lot of the regular characters to Pastime.  Of course we have Hawk and Susan, but also Vinnie Morris and Joe Broz. 

And, as often, Parker uses the mystery as an opportunity to muse on bigger topics.  Here, his focus is on relationships between parents and children.  We learn about Spenser's own relationship with his father and uncles; about Joe Broz' relationship with his son and about Paul's relationship with his mother. The first relationship is a healthy one, the latter two are not.

Recommended.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What are you reading? December 3, 2016

Books 

  • The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois.  A good annual "best of" book. On p.181  (no pages read).
  • Tips on Cardplay by Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is one of the best bridge writers alive.  Play is the worst part of my game.  This book also includes some tips on defense. p. 138 (no pages read this week).
  • Watson's Play of the Hand at Bridge, the classic book on play. On p. 113 (no pages read this week).
  • A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek, it's a combination of physics, philosophy and art. The question is whether the world can be regarded as a work of art. On p. 70 (5 pages read this week).
  • How to Reassess your Chess by Jeremy Silman.  A really good chess book. p 32 (no pages read).
  • How to Reassess your Chess Workbook also by Silman and the companion to the above. On p. 45 (2 pages read). 
  • The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb.  A history of philosophy from its Thales to the Renaissance.  This is a really good survey, I think. Gottlieb writes very clearly and uses analogy and humor to help. page 374 (44 pages read this week).
  • I finished John Quincy Adams by James Traub.  A bio of our 6th president, an unjustly neglected figure.(Link goes to my review)
  • I started and finished Winner Take All by Barry Eisler.  The third book in the John Rain series.  Spies, assassins, fun stuf.
  • I started Pastime by Robert B. Parker, another in the Spenser series, which I am rereading in order.  Now on p. 44
  • I also started A Wicked Company which is about the radicals of the Enlightenment - especially Diderot and Holbach.  Fascinating.  On p. 77.

Periodicals

Your turn

Use the comments to tell me what you are reading and what you think of it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book review: Winner take all by Barry Eisler

Year published: Winner Take All  was originally published as Rain Storm in 2004.
Date I finished reading: December 2, 2016
Genre: Thriller
Rating: A

Review:  Winner Take All is the third novel in the John Rain series.

John Rain is a Japanese-American.  He likes whiskey and jazz and Tokyo.  He's got an unusual profession: Assassin. At the start of Winner Take All he has moved to Brazil and retired.  But the CIA wants to hire him again, to kill a middle eastern arms merchant.  He takes the job.  But it turns out to be more complicated than he thought, and involves (as usual in these novels) a beautiful woman, treacherous CIA agents, Rain's friend Dox (a sniper who he met in Afghanistan) and more twists than a corkscrew.

Good stuff!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book review: John Quincy Adams: Militant spirit by James Traub

Year published: 2016

Date I finished reading: December 1, 2016

Genre: Biography/history

Rating: A-

Review: John Qunicy Adams is relatively little known.  This is a shame, as he was a remarkable man, as this biography by Traub demonstrates.  He was an easy man to admire but a hard man to love; in one sentence Traub describes him:

Nothing could be more characteristic of Adams than this combination of erudition, ingenuity, hyperbole and spleen.
Adams was stern with everyone, most of all himself.  He was a pessimist and a man who often said that he was not built for happiness and well-suited to drudgery. He endured many tragedies including the death of two children (one as an adult) and a sister.  Several times people he trusted betrayed him.  And he persevered. And when he left the White House, his best years were ahead of him because he made his mark when he became a congressman (yes, after being president) and fought the slaveocracy that ruled the House at the time.

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Interesting words: Redux

Redux is an interesting word.  I read about it in The Word Detective.  It sounds like it means "reduced" or perhaps summarized or something like that.  But it doesn't. Redux means "brought back" or "revived".  According to Wikipedia, it is mostly used in literature, film and video game titles, and was made much more popular when John Updike published Rabbit Redux in 1970.  Google's ngram viewer shows that the use of redux has had a lot of peaks and valleys, peaking in 1806-1808, then again in 1904, then there was a long decline in use and, indeed, a resurgence after 1970 that, so far, shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, one could say "redux redux". But it's never been really popular - the peaks are at about 0.0000045% of all words, or about 1 in every 22 million words.

One unusual thing about redux is that (unlike nearly all adjectives in English) it is used only after the noun it modifies. Another unusual thing is that it has no comparative or superlative form (the -er and -est of most adjectives). It comes from Latin reducere "to lead back or bring back" - the same root as reduce, which changed its meaning later on.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Balloon Joke

This is a joke I made up  when I heard that people with nonverbal learning disabilities (which I have) do not have a sense of humor.


A guy is flying in a hot air balloon, and he's lost. He lowers himself over a field and calls to a guy "Can you tell me where I am and where I'm headed?"

"Sure. You're at 41 degrees 2 minutes and 14 seconds North, 144 degrees 4 minutes and 19 seconds East; you're at an altitude of 762 meters above sea level, and right now you're hovering, but you were on a vector of 234 degrees at 12 meters per second"

"Amazing! Thanks! By the way, do you have Asperger's Syndrome?"

"I do! How did you know that?"

"Because everything you said is true, it's much more detail than I need, and you told me in a way that's no use to me at all."

"Huh. Are you a clinical psychologist?"

"I am, but how the heck did you know that???!!??"

"You don't know where you are. You don't know where you're going. You got where you are by blowing hot air. You put labels on people after asking a few questions, and you're in exactly the same spot you were 5 minutes ago, but now, somehow, it's my fault!