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LF "Keep your feedback to yourself, these are my opinions, not yours" (USA)

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Rabbit Redux
Rabbit Redux
by John Updike
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.52
56 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Morbid, June 20 2004
This review is from: Rabbit Redux (Paperback)
I am reading the Rabbit series nearly in backwards order. I began with the third book, Rabbit Is Rich, and liked it so much that I picked up the book on Amazon that includes all four in the series. Curious about how it all ends, the next one I read was Rabbit At Rest, the final book. It is excellent, and the ending is very emotional and powerful. I then decided to read book 2, this one. Midway into it, I couldn't believe how bad it was.
To put my reaction into a sort of context, I walked out of the movie Leaving Las Vegas, or whatever it was called, because it was simply too morbid for me. These sad sack addictive personalities drive me nuts. I can't sit there and watch them destroy themselves. I'd greatly prefer that they killed themselves quickly and left me alone. I do not enjoy wallowing in garbage. I do not sympathize with self destructive morons. I can't help them, and I don't want to suffer with them.
This book features a weak young girl named Jill who allows herself to be destroyed by a nut case named Skeeter. Skeeter has some very valid points to make about American history, but he's not much of a house guest. I can't say I learned anything of value from Jill or Skeeter, so their sad sack story, their viciously morbid story, is pointless to me. Why suffer through it.
Rabbit just lets things happen to him and to the people around him. For a few moments he wakes up and exerts himself. He objects to Jill turning his son into a lying beggar on the street, and he goes so far as to smack her around. Then why doesn't he object to Skeeter turning Jill into a pathetic junkie? That seems quite a bit more serious. What is wrong with this idiot?
Another problem in the book is that Rabbit's wife Janice leaves her lover at the end, for no reason I can see. Her reason seems to be that the author told her to, after making it clear that she loves him desperately.
Judging from the more mature work, Rabbit At Rest, I thought John Updike was among the great writers of all time. Judging from this garbage, Rabbit Redux, I have modified my view. All I can do is shake my head and say to the author - what got into you?

Memories of God and Creation: Remembering from the Subconscious Mind
Memories of God and Creation: Remembering from the Subconscious Mind
by Shakuntala Modi
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 32.95
20 used & new from CDN$ 9.93

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The pitfalls of hypnosis, June 15 2004
I am disappointed by the other reviews on this site. They are ignoring the single most striking thing in this book. They have failed to notice an elephant in the refrigerator. They peek behind the elephant in order to get a slice of American cheese, and they have failed to take stock of the elephant.
This book says that nearly all of us are possessed by evil spirits who answer to Lucifer.
One problem with hypnosis as a tool for uncovering hidden truths is that the hypnotist can lead the subject. The subject doesn't know if what he is seeing and reporting is true. It might be coming from the imagination. And any leading questions by the hypnotist can take the subject on quite a ride.
For example, if I hypnotized you and then asked you if you were possessed by Satan, perhaps you would say yes, perhaps you would say no. But you don't know. Your imagination picks up the ball and runs with it.
I would have to see the actual transcripts before I could even entertain the possibility that the author's central tenet is worth considering. And I would have to take a peek at the room, and interview the subjects to determine their preconceptions. On the face of it, this seems absurd. It reminds me of Salem, Massachussetts. Time to start burning the witches again.
I believe that this book is well-intentioned but misguided superstition and fear.
I strongly recommend the works of Michael Newton. He is another hypnotist. I suspect that his techniques are more pristine, less suggestive. His clients report that spirit possession is probably impossible - thousands of his clients have said they never saw any evidence of it. Not one of his clients reported one case of spirit possession.
Further, his clients have never verified any contact with a Biblical character, not Lucifer, not Satan, not Beelzebub, not Beetlejuice, not Caspar the friendly ghost. Guess what - those characters are in the realm of fiction.
BOO!!! Did I scare ya? This book is medieval.

Rabbit at Rest
Rabbit at Rest
by John Updike
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.00
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars What 5 stars are for, May 21 2004
This review is from: Rabbit at Rest (Paperback)
This book is greatness. It is what five stars are for. Obviously, being the last of the Rabbit series, it is about our hero's demise. There's very little I can say that won't "spoil the ending" for you. The ending is really touching. The author ties it all together. He even closes a loose end about his "other" daughter, letting us know that the girl he met at the car lot, and making a reprise at the hospital, is in fact his own biological daughter. He goes the way he should go. And his wife and son react just right. If you don't appreciate this book, it isn't because there is something lacking in the book, it is because there's something lacking in you. Sorry, but you just missed it.

December 6: A Novel
December 6: A Novel
by Martin Cruz Smith
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, Feb. 21 2004
Probably the single most important thing a book can do for you is hold your interest, and this one does. You can get a good idea of the plot by reading one of the other reviews on this site.
I've already given this book my praise, that it holds your interest. It's more interesting to me to discuss the flaws.
Flaw number one is the godlike omniscience of the hero, Harry Niles. He KNOWS exactly how history will unfold. He knows that America will win the war. It's a slam dunk. And he focuses on oil oil oil oil and oil as the five reasons that America will win. Isn't that topical.
It seems to me that the victory over Japan was not a slam dunk. America was aided greatly by breaking the codes and therefore knowing when and where and with what strength Japan would attack. It is just too damn easy, after the fact, to say with certainty how things would develop.
Let me suggest a reasonable alternative ending to that war. Let's say that FDR had a more conciliatory personality. He may have arrived at a negotiated peace that allowed Japan, and for that matter Germany, to hold on to some of their early winnings.
What I'm saying is that the nearly unconditional surrender of the Japanese and Germans was not a foregone conclusion in 1941, but to Harry Niles it was. Funny how strong hindsight can be.
In fact, several other characters in the book also had the same certainty of Japan's ultimate and total defeat, and this greatly impacted the big surprise ending. Sorry, but it's just a bunch of bull.
My other complaint with this book is that it has what I call a "too cute" ending, which is rampant in modern novels. They don't tell us how things end. The author leaves us hanging, and we are supposed to draw our own conclusions. What happens to Harry Niles and his girlfriend Michiko? He's writing the damn story so he can tell us the damn ending, doncha think? We're supposed to operate on hints and figure it out for ourselves? No. No. No, I don't think so. Tell us the damn ending. You brought us this far, so tell us your damn ending. Don't just say "guess, stupid".

Dude, Where's My Country
Dude, Where's My Country
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
114 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 aint bad, Nov. 15 2003
One of the reviewers on this site noted that all of the reviews he saw either gave this book 5 stars or 1 star. Well, I'm breaking the mold and giving it 4.
It is depressing to read this book, in the same way that it is depressing to read one of Noam Chomsky's political books. It just makes American government out to be so bad. I can't say it's not true. I can't say with any confidence that Moore's paranoia and negativism are unjustified.
I'm a listener of listener-sponsored WBAI radio. It is the bastion of liberalism on radio. Moore has been on, and so has Kucinich and many other well known liberals/radicals.
My only problem with the radio station, and with Chomsky and Moore, is that they parrot the official liberal position on Israel, the evil bully of the Middle East. I don't see it that way. I think it must be very difficult to be surrounded by countries that hate you and have tried several times to drive you into the sea, because they refuse to recognize your right to live.
The Palestinian leaders have many times refused a separate state because they had to acknowledge the existence of Israel in order to be given their own state. That's apparently asking too much. The desert is apparently to valuable a piece of real estate to share with non-Muslims.
Aside from that one issue, I really like Moore's new book.

Four Blind Mice
Four Blind Mice
by James Patterson
Edition: Hardcover
92 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Definite page-turner, Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Four Blind Mice (Hardcover)
This is a page turner. I really don't see how anyone would be disappointed in it. I won't review the plot because the others on this site have already done that and you don't need it from me.
I'm always looking for something to criticize, and it's not easy to find in this book, but here goes.
Every book and movie you see has an obligatory love interest. So does this one. Why is it that every time we have an adventure in our lives we also happen to run into our soul mate? It's a convention that I am frankly sick to hell of. The gods of publication have determined that there shalt be a love angle in every story.
King Lear didn't have a romance angle and it was still a pretty good story. Brothers Karamazov was a little short in that dept if you ask me, and it still wasn't a bad book, was it? Don Quixote didn't really have a romance interest either, though it had a silly old man deluding himself over a woman he didn't know. I wouldn't call that a romance. So I wish the publishers and authors of today would occasionally cut that aspect out of the "formula".
Another convention that annoys me is that I know well enough who's going to win. It will be close, the hero will be in a whole lot of trouble, will almost lose, but something good will happen in the end to save him from his predicament.
Yes I know we are rooting for the good guy, but let's face it, were you ever really concerned that Captain Kirk would get killed by a Klingon? Or that the ending would be less than total victory? It's satisfying this way but it's too formulaic.
And the way our good guys and bad guys are defined for us. In this story the author uses certain methods of defining that. For example, the bad guys are Vietnam wartime atrocity guys. Gee, duh, that's controversial.
Are we in favor of wartime atrocities or against them, let me see........
One good guy is defined as a minister. One good guy is someone who prevented a war crime, saving a civilian from a sadist. Gee, that's awfully controversial. Do we really want to root for someone who would save a civilian from a sadist?
These kinds of quick, scribbled character portrayals to define whether we should like a guy or not are just too obvious, just little formulas quickly shaken off the pen of creativity.
This type of thing comes with the genre. It's like reading a murder mystery by Mary Higgins Clark or most anyone else and knowing in advance that the killer will not be the suspicious looking guy, it will be the guy in the suit. Your best dressed character is surely the bad guy. Alright already. Down with cliches! Death to cliches!

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
by Rick Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 43.66
47 used & new from CDN$ 3.70

3.0 out of 5 stars What is the best book on the North African campaign?, Oct. 31 2003
Actually the review I liked best on this site was the critical one by Jimmy Price. While reading this book I definitely got the impression that America's generals were stupid and incompetent. I have no way of knowing if that is in fact true. I also had the impression that Germany's generals were excellent.
I didn't walk away from the book believing that Germans are simply superior militarily to Americans. I walked away thinking that Germans at this point in history had a number of invasions to use as experience. They invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, the low countries, France, Greece and Russia. Naturally they would be superior to the rookie Americans in their first campaign.
My biggest problem with this book is that I didn't feel the changes of momentum. One minute the Germans were awesome, and the next I'm told they are out of ammunition and oil and they are surrendering in the thousands. I didn't feel it. One minute I'm told that General Patton is an incompetent blowhard who is peripheral to the action, a nonentity, and the next minute I'm told that he's already a celebrated hero in the press, and I just didn't see cause and effect, and I hesitate to chalk it up to his big mouth and his press clippings.
The English generals fare no better. They seem to just want to send Yankees to their death in hopeless situations, and then blame the Yanks for not being more aggressive.
Despite the author's best efforts, and maybe he did all that can be done, I really didn't feel this war in this book. It's wrapped up a little too neatly, in a way. This happened, this happened, this happened, and here's my take on it, and this guy is an idiot, and here's your war.

The King of Torts
The King of Torts
by John Grisham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.00
138 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Too rich, too pretty, Sept. 23 2003
This review is from: The King of Torts (Hardcover)
We've all seen tv ads for lawyers soliciting asbestos victims. King of Torts is about the legal specialty of soliciting large groups of people who have been hurt by a product
Several of the cases in this story are prescription drugs gone wrong. One of the drugs induces tumors in its victims. Another, if you can believe this, causes some of its users to go out and kill strangers. That pill is a bit hard to swallow.
But I don't think it is utterly farfetched to the point of impossibility, considering that all of the children who shot their classmates in school were on prescription drugs at the time, a fact only mentioned in passing in the papers and media, but a fact that deserves BOLD CAPITALS when you are asking why kids kill.
Those drugs, including ritalin and its close relatives, come with warnings that they may cause homicidal or suicidal tendencies. So the bad prescription drugs in King of Torts are not that farfetched.
Our hero, lawyer Clay Carter, is not on a crusade to punish corruption, to punish those who knowingly sell dangerous prescription drugs to the public. Rather, he is on a crusade to make hundreds of millions of dollars for himself.
And of course you have your obligatory romance. And the girls are, of course, knockouts. What goes up (financially) eventually comes down. In other words, the story is formulaic. But so is pretty much every other story out there, and almost without exception, every movie you see.
Next time, John, give us a love interest who is a worse than average looking girl with a weight problem, keep the rich folk the hell out of it, and let's have some people we can identify with.
Anyway, the story does carry you along. I read it in just a few days. I just wish it was a little more real, a little more relevant to my life, and a lot less focused on the obscenely wealthy and the beautiful. Screw them. Who wants to read about them.

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Edition: Hardcover
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Why must it end?, Aug. 31 2003
As I was reading this book, I felt that it was non-fiction. This was not the product of a writer's imagination. It was the truth.
It is a story about Puerto Ricans in the South Bronx. The star of the book is Coco, an unmarried girl with a handful of children by different men. She's such a wonderful person, warm and loving and cute. This book makes you want to go to her, solve all her problems for her, hold her hand, touch her face, smile to her.
I spent my teenage years living in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn. It wasn't nearly as bad as the drug and violence infested South Bronx of this book. It was also a long time ago.
I do have some complaints though. My main one is that almost every male in the book is horrible, with the exception of two men who learned a lot during their time in prison. Nearly every man outside of jail is a waste of skin and bone, utterly selfish and demanding, utterly useless, and morally depraved to the point of sexually abusing children.
Another complaint is that we are used to unified stories, but this one follows Coco, Jessica, and whoever else, as it meanders through various streams for us, following one life or another for a while before moving on.
It is one of those books that you don't want to end, you are afraid to come to the end. The end means you will never hear from darling Coco again or her precious kids.
The ending of the book is marvelous. It is simply a father giving some loving attention to his children. I had tons of that when I was little, but the children of this book have precious little of it.

by Richard Price
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.06
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling mystery, Aug. 19 2003
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)
The setting is dark. We are drawn into an "inner city" world, a world of poverty, squalor, drug addiction, violence.
And yet in some ways, this world is sometimes transformed into a utopian cloud. There is no racism in this world. The white, in fact Jewish, father, feels perfectly safe walking through it after dark with his pre-teen daughter. Excuse me, what world is this?
In a park, in the dark, this white man and his young daughter have no fear or caution in the presence of a group of male teens who could pose any number of threats. Let's not confuse racial harmony and idealism with blindness and insanity. No, you don't take your 12 year old girl there at night and then talk loudly in order to attract the attention of the boys in the park.
To increase the racial utopianism, there are inter-racial romances here. Apparently in Newark NJ or its clone (aka Dempsy, in this book) the races are all just one big happy family, perfectly at ease with each other, and hopping into bed.
The story is very well written. You are carried along, even though the time line is choppy. We go from one date to another, from past to future to past to middle. By the end of the book we are placed firmly in the middle, when the big assault occurs.
You can learn a lot about the storyline from the other reviews on this site, some really detailed and excellent.
Halfway through the book I found myself counting the prime suspect out. There is one prime suspect, so obvious, and since we are reading a novel and not experiencing real life, it was apparent to me that the prime suspect can't possibly be the assaulter. I considered it a strike against the author, that he most likely followed the old formula of misleading the reader about the guilty party. I expected a surprise ending. They all have them. The culprit must be someone else, someone you don't expect, but someone already described in the book. I had no idea who it could be, and I was half-hoping it was in fact the prime suspect, showing that the author had the nerve to go against the grain and simply tell us who did it, and it turns out that's who did it.
You'll have to read it yourself to find out. Maybe good old Freddy did it, and maybe he didn't. Maybe it was suspect number two, Salim, and maybe it wasn't. It couldn't have been daughter Ruby. Could it? No way. Could the girlfriend have done it? Nah. Freddy, we're back to Freddy. But could Richard Price really buck the system that much and have our prime suspect actually guilty?
This book gives us a good lesson in personality types. I recommend the psychology books by Don Riso. The title character, Ray the samaritan, is a Type Two in Riso's personality type system, the helper, the giver, the instant friend, the easy touch. In the most famous personality type system, astrology, I suppose our samaritan is a Pisces, sympathetic and drawn to that world of illusion that can be reached through drugs.

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