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review 2018-06-04 21:57
The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov
The Good Life Elsewhere - Ross Ufberg,Vladimir Lorchenkov

An absurdist, darkly humorous story about impoverished villagers trying to escape Moldova to go work in Italy. This isn’t as tightly-plotted as your typical novel, but it’s a short and quick read following the misadventures of several unfortunate Moldovans in the late 2000s. Many of the situations are over-the-top, satirizing the situations of would-be migrants and the intensity of their desire to go to Italy. The humor is really dark though, much of it involving death. I imagine this book would be funnier and more meaningful to Moldovans, but as a foreigner I did feel able to appreciate it, and it is an easy read.

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review 2018-02-22 15:49
And To All A Good Night (Life Lessons, #1.5) - Kaje Harper

and to all a good night by kaje harper
This book starts out with Mac and Tony and it's near Christmas and this year if Tony doesn't show up in FL at his moms for the holiday she will come find him.
She knows nothing of his love for Mac. We learn of the cases at the homicide dept that Mac is handling.
The cases and leads to solving them are discussed and things fall into place.
They are able to talk every day but try to keep busy while apart from one another.
What I really like about this book as this is not my genre is that the sex scenes are not explicit and are just mentioned-no details.
Looked for more from this author but again it's not my genre but appreciate the style of writing and I enjoyed the book.


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review 2017-10-18 01:46
The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames - Kai Bird

"THE GOOD SPY: The Life and Death of Robert Ames" is a book with a dual character which tells a history of U.S. diplomatic and espionage activities in the Middle East during the Cold War. First, it is a story about a most remarkable CIA officer, Robert Ames, who devoted the whole of his 23 year career in the Middle East to helping develop and secure peace in that troubled region through engaging with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at a time when the U.S. disavowed any contacts with it. And it is also a story of the evolution of U.S. Middle East policy between the 1960s and the early 1980s. 

Reading "THE GOOD SPY" rekindled some of my earliest memories of the Middle East from the 1970s. And for that reason, it was both refreshing and a much appreciated learning experience to receive from Kai Bird fuller accounts and analyses of events as diverse as the Black September murders in Munich during the 1972 Summer Olympics; the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975; the courage Egyptian President Anwar Sadat displayed in his attempts to make peace with Egypt's erstwhile enemy, Israel, which culminated in the Camp David Accords of 1979; and the 2 tragic events of 1983 in Lebanon which profoundly altered the U.S. approach in dealing with what is now (as was then) a seemingly intractable conundrum in the Middle East. 

"THE GOOD SPY" is a book I recommend to anyone who wants to understand why efforts to obtain peace in the Middle East have proved illusory since 1948. It also gives the reader insight into the sincere efforts of Bob Ames (he was one of the CIA's premiere Arabists who spoke fluent Arabic and loved the people of the Middle East and its varied cultures) to help provide a platform from which Israelis and Palestinians could establish ways of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation - and the realization of the 2-state solution and a lasting peace.

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review 2017-02-28 09:53
One Sip at a Time- Keith Van Sickle

   This is a series of anecdotes, penned by an English-speaking American dabbling in life in France. It is an easy to read, short book with the capacity to raise a smile, if not to add a great deal to one’s own understanding of the entente cordiale. The author’s joie de vivre is infectious, even if one is sometimes left a little nonplussed about quite why.

   As the author points out himself, his and his wife’s, um- no actually, his, difficulties with a very different culture and language, provides the colour to this book. Note well, that the author declares himself as anything but some bilingual Québécoise superhuman. Van Sickle is the average, and more usually male, voyager who struggles in anything but a native lingo. Well, that’s the picture he paints. I suspect that in reality, he is the sort of person that brings enough of himself to any social situations to compensate for those that make little positive impact, whatever language is being manipulated. He certainly has the confidence to point out his insufficiencies to his reading audience, which does help draw one into his ‘sips’.

   In the connections that make up the thin thread of connective story we see the couple dip in and out of ‘francophone’ culture, in varying, if generally geographically close, locations. The book is not so very different from a couple of dozen books written by British and Irish individuals that have tried escaping the perpetual grey for the nicer bits of France. So this doesn’t add much in the way of knowledge to anyone that has read any of these, nevertheless, this book is well worth a read if one has any sort of interest in ‘French-English’ détente. This is lightweight draft, from a bonhomme raconteur that can only appeal to the many Anglophones that have faced the torture of trying to use school level French for real communication. So yes, definitely, this reviewer is amongst its natural audience.

   Van Sickle seems to be particularly keen on making the Swiss, the people of my adopted nation, the butt of several stories. He, and of course his misses, his linguistic enabler, lived for a while in the Swiss Romande Canton of Neuchâtel. While en Suisse, we are more inclined to find the butt of humour amongst the people of the ‘Hexagone’ that is truly French, and particular amongst thsoe fine residents of Paris that feel only they can speak la langue française. Certainly, in that superior capital, not even the people of the once officially independent province of Provence are recognised as speakers of anything close to acceptable French.

   Worth a read during the bon voyage.



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review 2016-11-06 00:00
Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy
Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy - Mike Love,James S. Hirsch

Second only to the Beatles in terms of the number of books detailing the histories of the two respective bands, The Beach Boys have been explored from nearly every possible angle. It might seem a memoir from Mike Love might be redundant, but it’s instead a needed corrective to many a previous volume.

That’s largely due to articles and books that started in the ‘70s that created the myth of Brian Wilson being the single tortured “Genius” of the band with the other members mere chess-pieces to his brilliance. Worse, it was then the stories began that if he had had more support and less obstruction from the other Beach Boys, Brian’s projects, especially the legendary Smile, would have been given to a hungry fan base eager for whatever Brian came up with. While Brian’s father Murray is justly the most vilified figure in the saga, Mike Love has been reviled for decades for supposedly being the Beach Boy who opposed Brian’s creative evolution.

In Good Vibrations, Love builds a very convincing case of self-defense. For one matter, he details his own contributions to the band’s catalogue of hits, especially their lyrics. As with many a previous chronicler of the music of the Beach Boys, he discusses the turmoils of the troubled Brian Wilson and shows how it was drug abuse and mental issues that derailed Wilson’s creativity, not squabbles with his bandmates.

Song by song, album by album, Love traces the output of the band highlighting the contributions of everyone in the band, with a noticeable lack of anything positive to say about Al Jardine. He acknowledges the early dominance of Brian in the studio and Love’s leadership of the band on the road. He credits Carl and Dennis Wilson for their input over the years and sadly repeats the stories of their declines due to drug abuse. All the Beach Boys are seen, warts and all, as being a dysfunctional batch of boys not especially good in their romantic relationships. No surprises here.

Naturally, his discussion of the court case that finally validated his songwriting claims doesn’t put Brian in a very favorable light. The duels continued through the 50th reunion tour, but Love asserts interference from non-band members and legal obligations is what led to the tour’s sad end, not some personal ego trip on his part.

I personally think Love’s memories of his time with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rikikesh is the best description of the Maharishi’s ashram I’ve read to date. I too have long thought Love’s involvement with presidents Reagan and Bush put him in the Republican camp, but he claims to be apolitical and the issues he worked on such as environmental concerns were more liberal than conservative. The story of the Beach Boys, of course, includes many sad chapters including Dennis Wilson’s involvement with Charles Manson and the control Eugene Levy wielded over Brian. It’s amazing the group maintained any life at all over the last 30 years.

True, no one should take the book as the unvarnished truth, as Mark Twain would put it, and Love is sometimes rather thin on explanations especially discussing his disastrous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech. It’s impossible to argue with his conclusion that it remains the music, the “sonic oasis” as he calls it, that made Beach Boy music so universal, long-lasting, and meaningful to listeners over four generations.

If you’re among those who have seen Brian as the victimized hero and Mike Love as the vainglorious villain in the Beach Boys epic, Good Vibrations will contain many revelations and surprising perspectives. If you’re a Beach Boy fan and are willing to put your preconceptions aside, Good Vibrations is an indispensable read. Let me suggest reading the audio edition, read by Love himself. You get a hint of his personality with all his short laughs punctuating some of his observations. I’m very glad to have spent this time with one of the most important lyricists and rock stars of my generation. There’s no reason to be in either the Brian or Mike camps of supporters—we should be grateful we had them both, along with Carl, Dennis, Al, and Bruce Johnson.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Nov. 4, 2016 at:

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