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review 2022-11-18 20:48
The Night They Nicked Saint Nick - Carl Ashmore

Derek Brundle loves Christmas. All of a sudden Munkle, a member of S.E.S (Special Elf Service) appears at his bedroom window knocking to be let in. Derek lets her in, and she tells him she needs his help. Derek is baffled. How can he help her? He's only seven years old. Turns out he is needed for a special mission as Santa is missing. Why was Derek chosen for the mission? Will they be able to find Santa?


I enjoyed this story. I laughed as Derek and the elves go searching for Santa. Seems like there are things Derek does not know about his life and finds out from the elves. Also, he learns things about Santa that debunks what we have grown up knowing. Naturally, there is a villain--a truly hiss-worthy villain but I know Derek has the tools (and the brains) to defeat the villain and his minions.


This is a great story for the Christmas season. It is fresh and imaginative. Your elementary school kids will enjoy it and so will you. It will probably become a family tradition to read each year.

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review 2021-07-07 13:29
Book #915 - 370,581 Pages Read
The Fall of Damnos (Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Battles Series) - Nick Kyme
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review 2020-09-23 12:46
Eugene Debs and the arc of American socialism
Eugene V. Debs: Citizen & Socialist (Working Class in American History) - Nick Salvatore

In the first two decades of the twentieth century the Socialist Party appeared to be a growing force in American politics. As Socialist agitators and newspaper editors denounced the evils of the expanding capitalist system, organizers mobilized laborers into unions and Socialist candidates throughout the country won offices at the city, state, and even federal level. Yet by the early 1920s the Socialist Party was in a decline even swifter than their rise, with its membership riven by infighting and marginalized by the increasingly conservative mood of the nation.


No figure better personified the trajectory of the Socialist Party’s fortunes during this era than Eugene Victor Debs. As the party’s five-time nominee for the presidency of the United States, Debs was buoyed by rapidly increasing voter numbers during his first four campaigns for the office. When he ran for the final time in 1920, however, he did so from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta thanks to a wartime conviction for sedition. It was a testament to Debs’s appeal that even while incarcerated he received over 900,000 votes, though as a percentage of the vote is was little more than half of the total he had received in his last bid for the office. No subsequent Socialist party candidate was ever able to improve upon that result, however.


In his biography of Debs, Nick Salvatore makes it clear that a major reason why none of Debs’s successors could duplicate his achievement was because none brought what he did to the party. As a longtime labor leader, Debs possessed an unmatched credibility with working-class Americans, his sacrifices on behalf of whom was part of his appeal. Yet as Salvatore explains, the basis of Debs’s approach to socialism was far more complex than that. The son of French immigrants, Debs left school at an early age to work for one of the local railroad companies. In 1875 he joined the Brotherhood of Local Firemen, and quickly distinguished himself with his tireless activism on the organization’s behalf. It was as a union leader that Debs became nationally famous, as he worked to establish an industrial union in response to the growing centralization and corporatization of the railroad business in Gilded Age America.


The demise of the American Railway Union (ARU) in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike in 1894 convinced Debs of the inadequacy of unionization as a response to business concentration. While in jail for violating a federal injunction, Debs began reading texts advancing socialist ideas. Upon his release, Debs pushed the remnants of the ARU to join with others to create a new political party advocating for socialist policies. Debs’s prominence as a labor activist made him a natural choice as their presidential candidate in 1900, a task he accepted reluctantly but threw himself into with determination. Salvatore devotes as much attention to history of the Socialist Party during this period as he does to Debs himself, detailing the infighting that shaped its development. As he had as a labor leader Debs stayed clear of factional disputes, preserving his appeal within the fractious party but at the cost of allowing the personal and ideological disagreements to fester.


Though Salvatore describes the issues that divided Socialist Party leaders, he emphasizes that these were of secondary concern to Debs. Unlike the doctrinaire approach of many of its members, Debs grounded his Socialist advocacy in the Protestant theology and republican ideology he had inculcated since his youth. By positing socialism as the path towards realizing the nation’s democratic and egalitarian ideas, he made it far more appealing to American voters than abstract theories ever could have been. Coupled with Debs’s bona fides as a labor leader and his earnest and effective style of speechmaking, he became the party’s greatest asset for advancing its vision for a better tomorrow.


Yet Debs was far from the only critic of industrial capitalism in these years. As Salvatore notes, other presidential candidates were also denouncing its excesses and offering political solutions in an effort to win voters. While each election seemed to bring the Socialist Party closer to a breakthrough, the 1912 presidential election proved a high-water mark for their fortunes. As Progressive era reforms and the outbreak of war in Europe shifted the public discourse to other matters. Debs’s criticisms of the Wilson administration eventually resulted in his arrest and conviction, while his subsequent prison term proved detrimental to his frail health. Released after President Warren Harding commuting his sentence, Debs spent his final years as a shadow of his former self, trying to navigate a fractured socialist movement that struggled for relevance in the Roaring Twenties.


By situating Debs’s life within the context of the developing capitalist economy, Salvatore conveys insightfully the factors in his subject’s own transformation from a respected trade unionist and promising Democratic politician into the leading Socialist figure of his age. As a result, Debs goes from being a marginal political figure in the nation’s history to one at the heart of the choices faced by millions of Americans as values and social structures evolved in response to industrialism and the changes it brought. It makes for a book that is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in learning about Debs, and one that is unlikely ever to be surpassed as a study of his life and times.

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review 2020-06-22 11:59
Amüsante Ehetherapie in Babyschritten
Keiner hat gesagt, dass du ausziehen sollst - Nick Hornby

Mit dieser sehr dialoglastigen Geschichte, die schon fast ein Theaterstück darstellt, habe ich zwar wieder einmal etwas völlig anderes bekommen, als ich bei der Bestellung vermutet hätte, aber diesmal hat die unerwartete alternative Ausführung sogar mehr Charme als meine ursprünglichen Vorstellungen. Das Paartherapie-Drama hat mir sehr gut gefallen, wenngleich ich, so wie immer, Probleme mit dem Ende eines jeden Buchs von Nick Hornby habe, da der Autor ein gar so schlechter Finisher ist– wenn ich ihn nicht sogar für einen der schlechtesten im Literaturbetrieb halte.


Tom und Louise machen also Paartherapie und das Innovative dabei ist, dass der Autor nicht in den Sitzungen Mäuschen spielt, und diese beschreibt – so wie ich erwartet hätte – sondern nur immer das thematisiert wird, was die beiden Ehepartner vor der Therapie in einer Bar gegenüber besprechen, in der sie sich immer ungefähr eine halbe Stunde – beziehungsweise eigentlich einen Drink lang – davor treffen. Das ist insofern auf mehreren Ebenen charmant, da auch schon Reaktionen auf die letzte Sitzung in die Handlung eingeflochten werden, die beiden auch vor dem Leser ein Mindestmaß an Vertraulichkeit genießen und nur das breitgewalzt wird, was sie voreinander ansprechen, beziehungsweise bearbeiten und weiterentwickeln möchten. Was in der Sitzung war, bleibt in der Sitzung, es sei denn, es wird erörtert.


Damit bekommt die Leserschaft nicht das direkte Drama mit – inklusive der direkten Verletzungen und der Verletzlichkeiten, sondern eine zeitversetzte Reflexion darauf: teilweise Aktionen und Reaktionen, wenn sich die Gemüter schon ein bisschen abgekühlt haben und sich sogar vielleicht beim einen oder anderen etwas selbständig weiterentwickelt hat, manchmal ein völlig belangloser Nebenkriegsschauplatz, auf den ein schwelender Konflikt ziemlich grotesk und wundervoll witzig übertragen wird, aber auch oft ein noch intensiveres Drama und ein eskalierender Streit, weil das Problem der letzten Woche nachträglich noch in der Seele gebrodelt hat und in der einsamen Betrachtung noch mehr hochgekocht ist.


Im Gegensatz zur mangelnden Sorgfalt beim Finish kann kaum jemand eine Geschichte so gut starten wie Hornby. Die Leserschaft wird gleich in die Szene vor der ersten Sitzung geworfen und auf sehr humorvolle Weise mit dem Vorgeplänkel, beziehungsweise mit der Ausgangsproblemstellung konfrontiert: Sie hat ihn betrogen und er will eigentlich keine Therapie machen. Die Dialoge sind trotz des traurigen Themas für einen Außenstehenden extrem witzig konzipiert. Viele, die länger verheiratet sind, kennen bei einiger Selbstreflexion manche Szenen und das Palaver aus eigener Erfahrung nur zu gut. So à la Jedermann und -frau würden es witzig finden, es sei denn, sie sind mittendrin und betroffen. Als Louise und Tom sich am Ende der ersten Szene von der Bar gegenüber dann zum Therapietermin aufmachen und sie klingelt, gibt er Fersengeld und läuft davon – was für eine Eröffnung!


Der männliche Protagonist Tom ist übrigens ganz tiefgründig und aus männlicher Sicht vielleicht ein bisschen respektlos als Mehlwurm konzipiert. So ein passiv-aggressiver Typ, der sich sehr gerne wimmernd und lamentierend in der Opferrolle gegenüber seiner beruflich erfolgreichen Frau eingerichtet hat, sich darin suhlt, zur Dramaqueen mutiert und aus der unterlegenen Position ganz schöne Tiefschläge verteilt. Ein bisschen erinnert er mich an Rob aus High fidelity, aber Tom ist etwas lernfähiger als Rob. Auch Louise ist gut entgegen dem typischen weiblichen Rollenklischee gezeichnet: sehr pragmatisch, so schonungslos ehrlich, dass ihr manchmal nicht auffällt, dass sie auch ganz schön respektlos und verletzend ist, eine Macherin, die Probleme erkennt und dann auf ihre Weise manchmal viel zu schnell mit schlechten Aktionen und Lösungen reagiert, anstatt darüber zu reden.


Bei all den witzigen Dialogen und auf Nebenschauplätze verlegten Gefechten kommt so nach und nach sehr realistisch und konsistent beschrieben etwas Schwung in die Beziehung. Das Paar analysiert den Grund des Betrugs, das Sexproblem und einige andere Baustellen ebenso.


Tja, das Finish ist eben schon, wie gesagt, sehr oft wie bei Hornby abrupt und nicht wirklich in irgendeine Richtung interpretierbar – er lässt quasi die Tastatur fallen. Sitzung 10 fällt aus, weil sich die beiden in der Bar besaufen, und die Therapie absagen. Dabei ist noch viel zu wenig aufgearbeitet und weiterentwickelt, als dass die Ehe meiner Meinung nach weiter funktionieren könnte. Sie kommen überein, dass sie in einer permanenten Ehekrise stecken und sich nicht jahrelang zur Therapie begeben wollen. Da hilft eine zarte Hoffnung und ein „Ich liebe Dich“ von Tom im vorletzten Satz, das Louise als nicht ernstgemeint interpretiert, auch nichts. Versteht mich nicht falsch, Eheprobleme, die sich zur Never-Ending-Story auswachsen, auf siebenhundert Seiten auszuwalzen, ist ebenso weder spannend noch zielführend, aber diese Geschichte ist zu kurz und die beiden sind so weit entfernt von austherapiert oder einem konstruktiven Lösungsansatz, dass ich mir ernsthaft Sorgen mache. Das wird nix!


Fazit: Szenen einer Ehe pointiert und sehr amüsant präsentiert, die Figuren mit ihren Problemen sehr liebevoll und tief konzipiert, das macht Spaß und ist auch lehrreich für alle Paarbeziehungen, die schon ein paar Jahre auf dem Buckel haben. Leider verpufft sowohl die Entwicklung der Ehe als auch das Finale ins komplette Nirvana. 20 Sitzungen wären da mindestens notwendig gewesen – sag nicht nur ich, sondern auch der Verband der Psychotherapeuten ;-)  .

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review 2020-05-30 04:00
Bullet Points about Burning Bright by Nick Petrie: There's No Sophomore Slump in the Second Peter Ash Adventure
Burning Bright - Nick Petrie

He climbed down to the dry riverbed, hurting all over but more or less functional. His forehead felt warm and wet. He put his hand up, felt the slickness of blood, and wiped it away, reminding himself that head wounds always bleed like crazy.


He knew too much about damage to human bodies.


This post is overdue (as was reading this in the first place), and I can't seem to find time to do it right. So, I won't. Here's a quick and dirty way to get it taken care of. I wish I had it in me to do a better job, but I don't. Here's the blurb taken from Petrie's site:



War veteran Peter Ash sought peace and quiet among the towering redwoods of northern California, but the trip isn’t quite the balm he’d hoped for. The dense forest and close fog cause his claustrophobia to buzz and spark, and then he stumbles upon a grizzly, long thought to have vanished from this part of the country. In a fight of man against bear, Peter doesn’t favor his odds, so he makes a strategic retreat up a nearby sapling.


There, he finds something strange: a climbing rope, affixed to a distant branch above. It leads to another, and another, up through the giant tree canopy, and ending at a hanging platform. On the platform is a woman on the run. From below them come the sounds of men and gunshots.


Just days ago, investigative journalist June Cassidy escaped a kidnapping by the men who are still on her trail. She suspects they’re after something belonging to her mother, a prominent software designer who recently died in an accident. June needs time to figure out what’s going on, and help from someone with Peter’s particular set of skills.


Only one step ahead of their pursuers, Peter and June must race to unravel this peculiar mystery. What they find leads them to an eccentric recluse, a shadowy pseudo-military organization, and an extraordinary tool that may change the modern world forever.




If I had the time to do this properly, here are the things I'd be talking about.

bullet At multiple points both Peter and June note that Peter's having fun when it's dangerous, when things are violent, when the bullets are flying. As a reader, this is great—you don't see Reacher, Charlie Fox, Evan Smoak, etc. enjoying things quite like this. But I'm a little worried about what it says about him as a person.

bullet We get some good backstory on Peter—before he enlisted.

bullet On a related note, Peter has a family! A well-adjusted, not violent, family.

bullet Lewis is back from the first book—he's essentially Hawk and Pike with flair. His growing family ties are a real strength of character.

bullet June is tough, capable, smart. She's complex in a way that most characters in this role usually aren't, and really ought to be.

bullet The villains in this novel are great. Their motives are complex, they don't approach things the way you think they're going to (up to the last couple of chapters).

bullet While trying not to give too much away, I appreciate that Ash doesn't have a scorched-earth approach to his opponents in either book.

bullet Best of all, in the middle of the technothriller stuff, the action hero stuff, and all the rest, there's a real attempt to portray what a vet with PTSD goes through. How it molds everything he does, but doesn't define him.

bullet The biggest compliment I can give is this: it kept me awake when I should have been. Since I got my new CPAP last summer, I haven't been able to read more than 2-5 pages with it on before I'm out like a light. So imagine how shocked I was when I realized that I'd barreled through over 50 pages one night! That's a feat.


This is a great thrill-ride, I'm not going to wait another year and a half before I get to the next one (it's sitting on my shelf as we speak). I strongly recommend the Peter Ash books.



2020 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/05/29/bullet-points-about-burning-bright-by-nick-petrie-theres-no-sophomore-slump-in-the-second-peter-ash-adventure
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