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review 2017-12-13 22:53
Mixed bag.
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White H... Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years - David Litt

Despite everything going on and not really sure if I wanted to read a memoir so recent, the title made me smile. This is the story of Litt's work in the White House from the joys and pains, the highs and the lows, what it's like to work in the White House and to work with the president himself (as you probably can tell, he served in the Obama administration). Litt reviewed another book and had written elsewhere and seemed genuinely funny and endearing. The book would certainly seem the same.

 

Litt was with Obama starting with the 2008 campaign and wouldn't leave the White House until 2016. In between we watch him on the campaign trail, managing speeches, trying to figure out the President's voice, being a front row witness to history as well as managing the daily grind of both the campaign trail and then in the administration. Some of it is genuinely hysterical as to what could go wrong and what it was like to try to get the most powerful man in the world to deliver this speech as written or seeing first-hand some of the highest or lowest or most emotional times (good and bad) in the White House. 

 

And sometimes it's not great. The book feels like a mixed bag. There are times when Litt had me riveted by the campaign anecdotes and what it's like trying to work for President Barack Obama, etc. Sometimes it's extremely tedious. Sometimes it all comes out in a jumble, like Litt is telling us anecdotes after fun story but it isn't a coherent narrative. It's almost like Litt has a really great second or third draft or something where there is a structure that could emerge if maybe an editor took another go at it to hammer it out.

 

I enjoyed some of it and am grateful for the work he and the other staffers and the administration (and President Obama of course!) have done. It'll be interesting to see when more of his staffers come out with their memoirs and see how they, the Obamas themselves (really, these books really only want their stories so much more), etc. will view his administration. 

 

It's not for everyone but if you're curious as to what it's like to be Sam Seaborn (except in real life) this could whet your appetite. Might make a good reference for presidential scholars or people specifically interested in the Obama administration but I'm glad that this was available at my library.

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review 2017-12-12 21:32
My eighty-first podcast is up!
Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic - David Head

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview David Head about his book on the Americans who engaged in legalized piracy during the Latin American wars of independence. Enjoy!

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review 2017-12-11 23:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads (Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night and Yuletide)
The Poetry - David Shaw-Parker,Christina Rossetti,Ghizela Rowe
Goblin Market - Christina Rossetti
A Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh,Ric Jerrom
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

 

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

 

  

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night Read: Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti's best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina's elder brother, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

  

 

Yuletide Read: Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk's.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody's favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

 

Perry's writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection -- I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hingeing on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better -- and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

 

  

 

Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus Read: Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh's native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday's book joker.

 

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy -- the story is set in the 1940s -- but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of "5th column" shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) -- secretary in tow -- as well as, arriving on the day after the "accidental" death that very probably wasn't an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

 

Upon revisiting the mystery -- thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom's excellent narration and portrayal of the characters -- I found the story's inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

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text 2017-12-11 19:38
12 New December Books
Year One - Nora Roberts
The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries - Mimi Matthews
One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning (The Final War) - David Moody
Winds of the Forest (Forestborn Book 1) - Dele Daniel
If the Fates Allow - Killian B. Brewer,Lynn Charles,Erin Finnegan,Pene Henson,Lilah Suzanne,Annie Harper
Gun Kiss - Khaled Talib
Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace - Jennifer Chiaverini
The Girl in the Tower - Katherine Arden
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters - Ursula K. Le Guin,Karen Joy Fowler
Taming the Alpha (Balls & Chains 2) - Amara Lebel

Winter is here. The days are getting shorter, the weather's getting chiller and we cannot find a better way out of this situation than hiding under a blanket with a book pile nearby. If you're looking for some new titles for your December reading, have a look at the following 12 new releases and let us know what are you reading this winter season.

 

 

Year One by Nora Roberts 

A stunning new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author—an epic of hope and horror, chaos and magick, and a journey that will unite a desperate group of people to fight the battle of their lives. 

 

Preorder ->

The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries by Mimi Matthews 

From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest—and most poignant—animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens. Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. Preorder->

 

 

 

One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning by David Moody 

In One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning, David Moody returns to the world of his Hater trilogy with a new fast-paced, and wonderfully dark story about humanity's fight for survival in the face of the impending apocalypse.

 

 

New release & Giveaway

Winds of the Forest by Dele Daniel 

In the only surviving part of the earth sits the post-apocalyptic West-African kingdom of Nayja. In the only place where humans still exist lives four tribes, the Kingfishers, the Ammirians, the Rowans and the Arnazuris but one tribe is dominant and must remain so.

 

 

If the Fates Allow by Annie Harper 

During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.

 

 

Gun Kiss by Khaled Talib 

A stolen piece of history, an abducted actress and international intrigue… When the Deringer pistol that shot Abraham Lincoln is stolen and ends up in the hands of a Russian military general, covert agent Blake Deco is tasked by the FBI to head to the Balkans to recover the historical weapon. Meanwhile, the United States media is abuzz with news of the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood movie star, Goldie St. Helen. 

  

 

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini 

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker illuminates the fascinating life of the world’s first computer programmer Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—a woman whose exceptional contributions to science and technology have gone unsung for too long.

 

Preorder->

The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong by Jonathan Dimbleby 

1 July 1997 marked the end of British rule of Hong Kong, whereby this territory was passed into the hands of the People’s Republic of China. In 1992, Chris Patten, former chairman of the Conservative Party, was appointed Hong Kong's last governor, and was the man to oversee the handover ceremony of this former British colony. Within the last five years of British rule, acclaimed journalist Jonathan Dimbleby was given unique access to the governor which enabled him to document the twists and turns of such an extraordinary diplomatic, political and personal drama. Preorder->

 

 

Taming the Alpha by Amara Lebel 

Welcome to Balls & Chains, a BDSM Club for gay men. Cross the threshold and see the worlds of humans and shifters collide as these alphas dominate, and betas submit.

 

 

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden 

A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

 

 

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine 

Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away. Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text.

 

 

No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s online writing, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her unceasing wonder at it: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”

 

Happy reading!

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-10 13:05
John Puller is trying to find his mother's killer
No Man's Land - David Baldacci

No Man's Land is the first book I read of the John Puller series. It is really good with all the good detective story elements. 

 

Paul Roger is an ex-con and a killer. He is in search for the person who caused him his suffering and his lost of humanity. 

 

A seemingly unrelated story, Paul Puller's father, a general was accused by his wife's old friend for killing her 30 years ago. His son John is trying to find out who really killed his mother and cleared his mother's name.

 

The two person, Roger and John met at a bar when there was a shootout. John saved Roger's life. 

 

While we are at it. Roger is a military experience with extra strength and fast healing capability. Like a Wolverine but without the claws. But instead of good, he was also turned into a killer. 

 

Once their paths crossed, they found they had a common enemy who tried to killed both of them to stop them what their investigation. 

 

The rest is a lot of some NDE and shooting. 

 

Some other minor characters who are involved in this mess. A good story. Might try another one from this series. 

 

Enjoy.  

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