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review 2017-03-12 10:17
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth - Wendy E. Simmons

In much the same way Simmons felt about her holiday in North Korea, I found her memoir of it both horrifying and educational.  I'm not sure I'd have been able to find the hilarity the way she did, had I been the one on the holiday, but I certainly appreciated her humorous perspective and her writing.

 

As she goes to great pains to make clear, she was there as a tourist; she does not pretend at any point to understand the political underpinnings of the tragedy that is North Korea.  This is a memoir of her holiday there, and her personal experiences during those 10 days, both the horrifying and the heart-touching moments.  Oh, and a LOT of Twilight Zone moments.

 

I have to say, I've had this book for awhile, but hesitated to open it because the cover gave me the impression it would be totally different that it is.  That cover photos is a photo Simmons took while there, when she was invited to a wedding reception on the spur of the moment.  That woman is the bride to be.  Knowing that gave this book a whole different spin in my head, and highlighted the comedy of the absurd that ran throughout those 10 days.

 

If you enjoy travel memoirs, and you're curious about the culture of a totally closed society minus any political philosophy, and heaps of swearing and humor, definitely check this book out.  I did not want to put it down from the moment I opened the cover.

 

ETA:  I have the print edition and it's loaded with great full-color photographs that just added that extra level of interest to the book.

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review 2017-03-11 01:07
Sinners (Monster Hunter Memoirs #2)
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners - Larry Correia,John Ringo

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot,, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads & Mobileread by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sinners
Series: Monster Hunter Memoirs #2
Author: John Ringo & Larry Correia
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 270
Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:


Gary Stu bangs an underage Elf [she was only 45] and when her vengeful trailertrash relatives chase him down, he requests a transer to the New Orleans MHI office.

 

Once there, the action is non-stop, the monsters relentless and the MCB are the good guys too. Magic is on the rise, for no reason anyone can tell and even two-bit sorcerers can suddenly raise powerful elder beings.

 

But even Gary Stu can't kill ALL the monsters. Shackleford the IV and Earl come into town with the Happy Face group to help out. But Mardi Gras is coming and things are going to go apocalyptic.

 

 



My Thoughts:


This was MUCH better than Grunge. Most of it was that Chad, otherwise known as Gary Stu, is just too busy to do anything else except narrate MHI adventures. Which means that there was only one theological reference [which was sketchy as all get out] and two cockhound stories about girls.

 

The rest of the book was totally focused on saving New Orleans from a huge influx of monsters. It was the type of story that I expect when I read an MHI book. Guns, carnage and death abound. Agent Franks gets involved near the end and I've always liked stories that included him, even before reading Nemesis (MHI #5). The end, where MHI, MCB [Monster Control Bureau] and even some civilians fight a horde of monster crawdads and just about everybody dies except Chad, Agent Franks and one or two others, was tough to read. It's never enjoyable reading about the destruction of the good guys.

 

I do hope the 3rd book comes out soon, as there are several instances of burrows appearing, people disappearing and vague references to some new power arising. The local Vampire Lord calls it a “tourist” and it is apparently what is causing the influx of power. But we don't get to that part of the story yet. It is referenced but the full implications and the real action concerning it haven't come about. Honestly, that is what I wanted to read about.

 

Looking at Correia's website however, it doesn't appear that the third book, entitled Saints, will be ready any time soon. He just turned in his parts of it to the editor and now the fitting together must commence. But after this book, I am looking forward to it. Unlike after the first book where I really questioned if I wanted to read this one at all.

 

To sum up. Good MHI book, lot less bad theology, lot less boinking of chicks and the inclusion of Agent Franks. Good stuff.

 

 



 

 

 

  1. Review of MHM #1: Grunge

 

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review 2017-03-08 14:37
Review: Major Conflict by Jeffrey McGowan
Major Conflict: One Gay Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military - Jeffrey McGowan

I really enjoyed reading Maj (Ret.) Jeffrey McGowan's memoirs about being gay in the US Army during the Regan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. His story is more than about his sexuality; it is also a snapshot of a great shift within the military. He describes the Regan years as a military focused on one particular enemy (the Soviets) and flushed with money and equipment that gave service members a swagger and confidence in their careers. McGowan gets a front row seat to this as his first assignment is in Germany. As the Cold War ends, the Middle East wars begins; McGowan really grows up here in the desert as both a person and as a military leader. All the while, he is conflicted about his sexuality and his place in the military. Once Desert Shield/Desert Storm is over, he goes Airbourne at Ft Bragg; the military goes through an upheaval as well, as the Clinton administration comes into power. Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell becomes policy after much compromise, but McGowan really doesn't see a change in his fellow service members' perceptions of LGBT* serving (even thought they have always served!). McGowan becomes a commander of an unit that ends up putting him in the position between following the old guard and discharging a hard working private or risk defending said private and accidentally outing himself. He ends up defending the private and starts making his way toward leaving the military on his own terms.

 

McGowan had such a fresh voice and easy writing style; no matter where in the world he was writing about, you really get a sense of time and place. His heartbreak is real, but his growing confidence in himself to come out was something to root for. This was written and published 5 years before DADT was repealed.

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review 2017-03-05 11:39
Made for Goodness (And Why This Makes All The Difference) by Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference - Desmond Tutu,Mpho Tutu

In Made for Goodness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and international icon of peace and reconciliation, shares his vision on why we can find hope and joy in the world’s darkest moments by realizing that we were made for goodness, that we are wired so that goodness will win in the end. Archbishop Tutu is a spiritual leader and symbol of love and forgiveness on the level of Gandi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Made for Goodness, written with his daughter Mpho, is one of the most personal and inspirational books he's ever written.

Amazon.com

 

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Prize winner (1984) and a survivor of not only an abusive childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father, but also of the apartheid era in Africa. In this book, which he writes with his daughter Mpho (pronounced mm-POH, btw) who is also an archbishop, finally addresses the topic he's been asked about most over the years --- how does he manage to stay happy, given what he's been through? How does he continue to see good in the world and not lose faith in humanity? In under 300 pages of illustrative stories of hope and faith, he gives you your answer. 

 

Desmond's path has not been an easy one. Remember the alcoholic, abusive father I mentioned? He was actually principal of Desmond's elementary school in Johannesburg, South Africa when Desmond was a child. No escape for the poor kid! But he endured, survived and went on to become educated and highly respected within a career of service. By the time apartheid in Africa reared its ugly head, Desmond was a father himself. One of the quietest actions to signal the fight to come was when the lunch program was canceled for all black children in South African schools, though white students were still served. Then Prime Minster Hendrik Verwoerd's official statement on the decision? "We can't provide for all the children, so we won't provide for any." That moment was cruel enough but ohh if only the fight had stopped there! If you've read up on your history regarding this time, you're aware of the bloodshed that was to follow all across the country. 

 

Desmond takes up the position of archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. During apartheid, he serves as president of All Africa Conference of Churches. In the apartheid's aftermath, he becomes chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, dedicated to helping shattered families emotionally and physically rebuild their lives. His daughter Mpho worked alongside Desmond as a counselor to emotionally, physically or sexually abused women & children, rape victims and / or drug addicts. So you can guess, they were in the thick of it, seeing humans at their darkest, lowest emotional states. There must have been days where Desmond and Mpho had to have lost heart! This whole book is Desmond describing how they were able to stay strong in a world full of cruelty and depravity, dedicating themselves anew each day to building up rather than tearing down. 

 

Your whole life is holy ground.

~ Desmond Tutu

 

Desmond's work in South Africa, as well as time spent working in a refugee camp in Darfur, drove him to develop the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Tutu the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

 

Archbishop Tutu ends each chapter of the book with a prayer poem, giving the reader something to contemplate on, regarding struggles within their own life. If you wish to pray on something troubling you but don't know how to go about wording it, these can be a useful tool to help guide your mind to a peaceful place. Tutu hits upon some solid truths on the subjects of truth, faith and general perseverance through life. While his message did get a little repetitive in parts for me, I can't argue with the message itself. The man's been put through the fire and came out the other side an intact happy man. His words have been field-tested, you could say! 

 

One thing that Tutu stresses in these chapters that did really resonate with me is the need to be realistic with oneself. We should all be striving for everyday kindness for humanity, but also keep in mind you don't have to be a perfect saint. You will have days where you get angry, where you break down, where you feel like you're not doing enough or that your efforts are pointless because the world is just too damaged. To this line of thinking he gives the reader this in return:

 

There is a relief worker who resides in our soul. In each of us, there is a dignified Darfuri, one who can find occasion for gratitude and joyful laughter in almost any circumstance. To whatever extent we recognize and act on those traits, they are there and want to be expressed. We can always aspire to be more compassionate and more generous, not out of some dogged need to be good or to be lovable, but because to give love is our greatest joy.

 

I was also moved by Tutu's words on "ubuntu", the South African way of describing everything and everyone in the world being interconnected. 

 

Some of the hardest truth to take (though the guy is right!) is when he breaks down the idea of freedom of choice. Admittedly, an amazing gift, but as he points out... it comes with a caveat. Freedom of choice also means potential for people to choose wrongly or poorly, which will likely affect a great many people. Could be you, could be someone else. So then he says, if your life has been negatively affected by the poor choices of others, you THEN have the choice to CHOOSE to forgive them or carry the weight of that anger / sadness / disappointment etc within yourself for however long you choose. Freedom of choice doesn't always mean everyone wins, but it gives you the freedom to choose how you react to the options provided.

 

I did really love Mpho's stone exercise for releasing hurt feelings, so I thought I would share it here: Mpho says to take a small stone that can fit in a pocket (but some with noticeable weight to it), put it in your pocket and throughout the day tell the rock what is troubling you. Whenever you feel that hurt or anger bubbling back up, voice it to the rock. At the end of the day, find someplace to set the rock down and mentally set down your weighted mind with it. Then walk away. Leave the rock there and walk away with a lightened spirit. 

 

Worth a shot! 

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review 2017-03-03 20:54
The Fall of the House of Wilde / Emer O'Sullivan
The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family - Emer O'Sullivan

Not the easiest book to read, but it does provide a comprehensive view of Oscar Wilde and his family. And the author is correct, you don’t really understand Oscar the man without the backdrop of his famous family.

Unfortunately, I went into this expecting to adore Mr. O. Wilde, but I came away with my illusions dented, if not shattered. I kept wanting to shake him and yell, “That person doesn’t really care about you! Let him go!” or “Pay attention to your money, dammit!” I will probably regain my fondness for this brilliant man, but it was difficult to see how he fooled himself about so many things. After spending time in prison and penury, all for the sake of a man who must have been a narcissist, Oscar still didn’t “get it” and continued to think that loving the jerk was the thing to do. I’ve watched many women do the same thing, and it drives me crazy!

The whole family had money issues, i.e. they wanted to spend it, but they also wanted it to just magically appear with no effort on their part. I have some sympathy for them—I don’t want to go to work every day either. The difference is that I suck it up & go, whereas they tried marrying people, reissuing books, or just ignoring their lack of money until the problem was breathing down their necks. Oscar really didn’t stand a financial chance, as neither of his parents were dreadfully responsible with cash and he and his brother took that tendency to new lows for the family. To his credit, he endured a personally horrendous tour of North America, all for the money, but squandered that effort by spending the cash almost immediately.

It was also spooky to see how much Oscar’s marriage & affairs mirrored his father’s life. His father chose women while Oscar chose men, but the parallels beyond that difference were uncanny. We really do absorb patterns and behaviours from our families, don’t we?

Considering how small his output was, it is amazing how famous Oscar Wilde continues to be. There is absolutely no doubt that the man was a genius, even if he was a self-destructive one. I will continue to enjoy his many epigrams and his still-relevant & funny plays and try to purge some of my dismay with the realities of his life.

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