Reviews

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, Mini Review

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam

5 of 5 stars

OCD is a disorder that is widely heard of, but very seldom known about. Many people think a strong desire for order and cleanliness are what defines OCD, but in reality it is much more than that. In order to cut through the misconceptions the author David Adam presents the real story of OCD. A story that he is suited to tell because he is afflicted by it. However, this in not just an OCD themed memoir, Adam puts his journalistic skills to work and unearths OCD as a disorder. He tells the stories, often tragic, of those who have suffered over the years, and he lets the reader know what it’s really like to live with the condition. He cites good science throughout the book and finally sheds light on a disorder that is all too often kept in the dark. This book is recommended for anyone who has an interest in psychology, or those who just want to know more about OCD.

Reviews

Debriefing the President, Mini Review

Debriefing the President by John Nixon

4 out of 5 stars

Wow, where do you even start with this. This book is exactly what it says it will be, and the insights gleaned from the author are fascinating. While there’s no real bombshell revelations, there is a lot to digest here. Learning about who Saddam Hussein was as a person, tracking the complicated history of both Hussein and Iraq, and finally learning from an on-the-ground perspective exactly how useless the Iraq war was. This book gives a view to the actual human that Hussein was, without sympathizing with his cruelty. I listened to this book as an audiobook which was read by the author, I highly recommend this because the author’s voice lends a natural feel to the narrative.

Reviews

Star Wars: The Warrior Princess, Mini Review

Star Wars: The Warrior Princess by Micheal Stackpole

2 stars out of 5

This trade paperback collects the Warrior Princess storyline of the Rogue Squadron comic books.

This addition to the Star Wars graphic novel cannon is a dud. The comic should be interesting, Rogue Squadron has to save the day, a princess in disguise, a world threatened by war and political intrigue, yet in this story all of that amounts to an over-complicated yawn-fest. The story plods along and the writer seems completely unconcerned as to weather people are engaged in the plot or not. It’s a dull story all the way through, not even Wedge’s brief appearances can save it. Micheal Stackpole is given the author credit, but this story has none of the charm or action of his books. I think even the most devoted Star Wars fan could skip this book with no regrets.

Reviews

Down A Sunny Dirt Road, Mini Review

Down A Sunny Dirt Road by Jan and Stan Berenstain

4 stars out of 5

Even though this book is written for children, it is an engagingly written and illustrated autobiography of two of America’s most renowned author/illustrators. The Berenstain Bears are a staple of children’s literature and reading about the lives of the creators opens up a little window on how exactly the favorite bear family was created. The segment that discusses Dr. Seuss is also fascinating and gives the reader a glimpse of the creative process behind developing a children’s book. I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it for all ages.

Reviews

Good Time Coming, Review

Good Time Coming by C. S. Harris

4 stars out of 5

I was enchanted by this book from start to finish; the author’s melodious prose captivated me from the first page to the last, the lyricism of which gave this book a mesmerizing effect. The language is amazingly beautiful throughout and has a uniquely haunting quality that sets the tone for the entire story. I fell in love with the book after the first three paragraphs and just couldn’t put it down.

Set during the Civil War this book takes a hard look at what it means to be a woman during that time. As the Federal troops advance through the South things grow increasingly difficult for those left behind, the women, the people of color (both free and slave), the immigrants and the elderly.

Written in believable and natural dialect this book tells the story of a young teen who is coming of age as the war ravages her homeland. The author is careful and detailed in her writing, she doesn’t preach about how right the South was, or how slavery was actually beneficial to those who were enslaved. She does, however, write about the people, and what it was like to live among them, and what they did to stay strong as the war raged about them. She populates her world with a wide variety of people and gives the reader a hint at what the antebellum South might have actually been like. Communities weren’t separated into oppressive plantation owners and oppressed slaves, there was a lot more nuance than that, and the author draws out the nuance beautifully.

I only have a few qualms about this book, there are a couple of plot points that are mentioned late in the game but left unresolved in the end. It seems, too, that the author was trying very hard to establish the main white characters as non-racist and pro abolition, to the point that it seemed like she tried a little too hard. What’s more is that even though there are several black characters in the story, they are all free, all of the people who are enslaved are so minor as to be virtually nonexistent, and I think this is an oversight that robs the narrative of its depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing is superb and the perspective is fresh for the most part. It’s nice to see a story that focuses on the women and their lives, instead of on the generals and the wars. I think the author did a great job with this book and look forward to reading more of her.

Reviews

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Review

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

4 stars out of 5

This is an intriguing book no matter which way you slice it. 377,000 medieval manuscripts in danger from being destroyed barbaric zealots who have the city of Timbuktu under their sway, and the only people who can save the day are the librarians and archivists who collected and curated the tomes in the first place. This book promised a lot, and somehow it delivered.

The book starts with the collection of the manuscripts and the history of the city of Timbuktu. It talks about the immense intellectual tradition of the ancient city, and how over the years the city has perpetually been in the midst of a tug-of-war between reactionary conservatism and loose liberalism. The author then details the latest wave of dogmatic conservatism to sweep Timbuktu, Al-Qaeda. With the manuscripts under threat by the foreigners, the librarians of Timbuktu undertake a daring evacuation of all 377,000 books to safety in Mali’s capital, Bamako. In the end the books were smuggled to safety not a moment too soon as the invaders destroyed what books they could find before fleeing ahead of the French army before they were finally routed from the country.

This book is a riveting read. The author uses his best journalistic skills to put all the pieces together so that the story is complete. He gives the reader an understanding of the people of Timbuktu and Mali, the history of the city and the region, the social and political climate of the area, past and present, and the rich heritage that Malians have kept hidden for decades. It’s a stunning work that gives the reader everything they need to know to truly understand what is happening and why it is happening.

On that note, some may not like it very much because it does digress from the main keep-the-books-safe narrative. It talks about the different members of Al-Qaeda and their individual histories, it talks about the legacy of French colonialism on the region, and the ever-simmering tensions between the Malians and the nomadic Tuareg people. He gives the readers all the parts of the story, but some may find the extra detail boring. Personally, I found it fascinating to read, I really felt like a had a handle on Mali’s story instead of just a partial picture. The author did well and the book was enjoyable throughout.

The only caveat I have for the story are the parts where it seems like previous articles the author has written slip into the larger narrative. This usually involves a sudden shift in tense and perspective and while it is not bad writing, it does take the reader out of the story somewhat when the point of view suddenly shifts from third person the first, or vice-versa. Other than that, it was a well written and smooth narrative with a voice that suited the subject matter.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and while the performance was adequate that was all I could say about it. The author’s accent seemed a strange choice for a story set in Africa, and there were a number of times when the narration itself felt choppy. I almost had the impression that the narrator had recorded some of the more difficult to pronounce words separately and they were later inserted into the appropriate place which made the cadence of the reading somewhat odd. I think this audiobook can be skipped.

Reviews

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin, Review

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin by Charles Soule

3 out of 5 stars

Set between Episode I and II, this book compiles issues 1-5 of the Obi-Wan & Anakin comic, and, for only being five issues long it tells not only one, but two stories using an interwoven timeline format. The main story is a straightforward adventure story. Anakin and Obi-Wan are stranded on a dsytopian planet engulfed in civil war. They have to keep their wits about them to stay alive, but also stay true to the Jedi code and try attempt to create a peace. The other story, the one that is the emotional centre of the story, is one where Anakin contemplates leaving the Jedi order, and his struggles to come to terms with what he wants, and what he thinks is expected of him.

This books is written with typical comic book style. It’s slick and goes over well. Obi-Wan and Anakin are more or less in character. The author does a particularly good job on depicting Anakin as a young teen who is beginning to question his life. The early teen years can be ones of great confusion and change for many adolescents, and the author conveys those feelings with believable care. Additionally, the author portrays Palpatine beginning to groom Anakin for the Dark Side in a careful and somewhat frightening way. This book does a lot of good for Anakin’s story, and fills in the inter-movie years quite well.

Obi-Wan is actually much more of a secondary character here, so if he’s the main attraction to reading this book, you may be disappointed. He plays a reasonable and sympathetic supporting role in driving the story along, but, like the movies, this is really Anakin’s story.

Finally, the art. The art throughout this book is excellent, absolutely no complaints here. It is a comic book, so the art is stylized to advance the story (and make the characters look cool) but everyone looks quite like themselves. I especially like how Anakin looks, it’s a good blend of child and teen. The action too is easy to follow and visually spectacular. Overall, this is a fun read.

As far as things I didn’t like, the main story leaves something to be desired. It’s a fairly dull story, there isn’t a lot of interest, and outside of Anakin being kidnapped, it has very little to keep the reader engaged. The secondary flashback storyline is far more intriguing making the primary story feel that much more bland.