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Bryan Case (Washington)

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The Source
The Source
by James A. Michener
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from CDN$ 18.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding historical fiction, Feb. 20 2004
This review is from: The Source (Hardcover)
The Source is essentially the story of Jewish history from about 10,000 BCE.
Michener is well known for making "place" the focal point of his stories, and in this book the "place" is an archeological dig in the Middle East near the Sea of Galilee. The earliest section of the book introduces the dig and the principle characters (the archaeologists) who begin excavating the tell (the mound that is the dig site) and unearthing artifacts. Each chapter then recounts the story behind each artifact they find and how it got there. The order is chronological, beginning about 12,000 years ago and ending in the mid-twentieth century.
It is essentially a very entertaining history lesson disguised as a historical novel. It is easily digestible, or "history light", but a great introduction for those not wanting to read what some refer to as the "dry history" of traditional history texts.
The archaeologists make brief appearances throughout the various stories and do a lot of philosophizing about the relations between the Jews, Christians, and Moslems and the various moral dilemmas each group has faced at various times throughout history. I found it interesting, though some may find it a bit forced.
Overall, if you do like historical fiction, this is one of the best!

Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax
Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax
by Robert J. Sawyer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Offered by Book Depository CA
Price: CDN$ 10.34
58 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Score one for the Homonids, Feb. 10 2003
The story in a nutshell: in a parallel universe, the Neanderthals evolved to become the dominant species while the humans died out. The book's hero, Ponter Bondit, Neanderthal and all around nice guy finds, himself in a parallel universe, namely ours!
The story alternates between Bondit's partner trying to figure out a way to get Ponter back (along with other problems I won't mention so as not to spoil the book) and Ponter's experiences on an Earth (ours) decidedly different than the one he came from.
What makes the book fascinating is how, sociologically, the Neanderthals dealt with the problems of society. The book gets just a little heavy handed when dealing with our abuses of the environment (vs the saner choices of the Neanderthals) - but it makes valid points and is very thought provoking.

Time Enough for Love
Time Enough for Love
by Robert A. Heinlein
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
47 used & new from CDN$ 3.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein at the height of his craft, Feb. 9 2003
Time Enough for Love is basically an oral memoir of Lazarus Long, a man who has lived some 2,500 years. Ready to die, his decendants coax stories out of him about his life, both for their historical value and as a means of trying to get him to find a reason to keep on living.
As a friendly warning to people not familiar with Heinleins works from the early 60's onward - he weaves a strange, incestuous, extended family dynamic into the characters that can be a little jolting if you're not expecting it!
Heinlein creates a strong character in Lazarus Long. He's an opinionated, strong willed, pragmatic man who doesn't suffer fools gladly. He is a character who would be completely overbearing to be around in real life (unless you were submissive to his Alpha male posturing) - but is entertaining in the extreme when confined to the pages of a book.
As most Heinlein readers know, his books are Science fiction in name and setting only. Technology, gizmos, and creatures, when present, serve only as a colorful backdrop for the real story. Heinlein writes about human nature very well, and the numerous collected vignettes that surround the main storyline illustrate this nicely.
This book serves as a fine introduction to the Heinlein of the 60's and 70's.

Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.
Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.
by Lynne Tillman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.00
27 used & new from CDN$ 2.26

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings..., Nov. 24 2001
This book is primarily an extensive assemblage of quotes and reminiscences from the various and sundry parties connected with Jeannette Watson and/or Books and Co.
What this book did was give me a crash course into the world of Literature as High Art as defined by the guardians of cosmopolitan New York "high culture." They are indeed an intellectual, highly educated, well-read crowd. Yet I cannot seem to get past the needless pretentiousness and arrogance that inevitably goes along with it. I could make many harsh, critical and obvious observations about Jeannette Watson and how she reveals herself (and is revealed by others) within the pages of Bookstore (other than this one). But instead I'll take the (sort of) high road and say that she comes across as a person who sincerely loves reading and enjoys literature, be it hi-brow, low brow, or anything in between as long as it talks to her, as it were. And that is wonderful.
But the book itself comes across as a self-congratulatory toast to a group of elitists who, for a time, kept the wolves of mainstream pop culture at bay (not that this is in itself bad - mainstream pop culture IS the societal equivalent of cotton candy - good for an occasional snack, but a lousy meal). The irony is, that what did Books and Co. in was another scion of highbrow culture - a New York art museum.
So what are we left with? Probably the loss of a good bookstore that need not have gone out of business had its owner been more financially savvy (another irony in itself). The anecdotes are sometimes interesting, and it is an interesting birds-eye view on how to (in some cases) and how not to (in others) run a bookstore.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Offered by BWBCANADA
Price: CDN$ 17.68
106 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but what's missing - wait, I know!, Nov. 24 2001
It is certainly convenient when an author addresses any possible criticism one could make of his work. Or even of himself.
AHWOSG is certainly worth reading, if only because Dave Eggers has managed to produce a novel novel (pun somewhat intended - besides, the book is actually a sort of auto-memoir of sorts)that is bluntly and brutally self-aware. The many extras that Eggers adds, starting right from the copyright page and including his Rules for Enjoyment and the preface are fresh and clever and certainly hooked more than this reader.
So I read the book. Upon finishing I was left with an odd, disjointed feeling that had nothing to do with any of the emotionally charged (and yes, tragic) events covered inside.
After reflection, this is what I'm left with. I never got any feeling of the author's actual feelings about what had actually occurred to him; and a LOT happened to him. I never felt any hurt and sorrow come from the pages, though there was definite and recognizable anger as well as some grappling.
But the book didn't seem to be about that. It seemed to be more about Eggers flaunting his version of literary prowess. He came off looking smug and condescending in my estimation. It doesn't take a genius to be self-referential. Even his PhotoShop-enhanced picture shows a man who appears to think he's too clever to be fooled by this jaded world and its ignorant throngs. Yeah, I know, I'm reading a lot in here. But his smugness and mocking condescension tended to detract from the sincerity of the book. If you aren't sure what I mean find yourself a copy of McSweeny's and you'll see what I'm talking about.
If this comes across as needlessly mean-spirited it is only because a little more "heartbreak" and less "staggering genius" would have made for a more emotionally relevant book.

Q's Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books
Q's Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books
by Helene Hanff
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.50
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't live up to my expectations, Nov. 24 2001
Well, I hate to throw in a dissenting voice and vote when surrounded by such accolades, yet I must. Perhaps I expected too much after reading 84 Charing Cross Road. If you haven't read that book, I HIGHLY recommend you do so. In this, the sequel to that book, Helene Hannf talks about her experiences that resulted from the unexpected success of 84. Parts are indeed very interesting and do answer some questions that arise when reading the first book.
But on the down side I found some of her exploits long and trying on my patience. Her love of the theatre is evident in this and other books of hers that are about the theatre. I, however, do not share her enthusiasm and found these sections quite long. I would have been more interested in her reactions to the making of the movie 84 Charing Cross Road. Yes, I know, I know, this book came out longgg before the movie was made. Hey, it was just a wish.
Bottom line, if you enjoyed 84 Charing Cross Road, pick up a used copy of this as parts are worth reading.

84, Charing Cross Road
84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful book, Nov. 12 2001
This review is from: 84, Charing Cross Road (Paperback)
I got an immense amount of pleasure reading this little book of correspondence between a woman in New York City and a used bookseller in London. The letters span the years 1949 to 1969 and revolve primarily around Helene Hanff's search for English literature classics that she had difficulty acquiring in New York. Could a book sound any blander??? Well, I'll tell you it's not! It's a wonderful read.
I'd rather not go into any details lest I diminish the pleasure of this book to anyone unfamiliar with it and considering reading it. It is not a love story, nor is it maudlin or overly sentimental, it's just wonderfully entertaining.
The only thing that might have made this book even better might have been some annotations or background information on some of the characters or the bookstore itself. Though I hesitate in mentioning this because such additional material might actually take away from the charm of the book.
A couple of her subsequent books do answer some questions, but the books themselves are not quite the same as this unique volume. Also, the book was made into a movie of the same name which was pretty good - but read the book first!

Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore
Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore
by Lawrence Goldstone
Edition: Paperback
Offered by Your Online Bookstore
Price: CDN$ 1.25
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it is slightly chipped, but still good, Nov. 12 2001
Slightly Chipped is the second of three books on books and book collecting by the Goldstones (the first and third are Used and Rare, and Warmly Inscribed, respectively). It takes a slightly different tack than the first book, which was primarily about the Goldstones learning about the world of used and rare books and dealers.
This book delves deeper into some of the stories behind books and authors. Though both books are didactic, the pleasure aspect of the learning is slightly diminished in this sequel. The author and book stories feel a little more shoehorned in than in Used and Rare. Also, the Goldstones have lost their innocence in the world of book collecting, as it were. This is natural enough, but one of the great pleasures of Used and Rare was feeling like you were learning right along with the Goldstones. This book feels more like they're trying to teach you.
Don't get me wrong, this book is good as well as entertaining. It's just not up to the level of the first book in the series. If you liked the first book, you will probably like this as well. If you have not read the first book, read it first; you will be happy you did.

Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World
Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World
by Lawrence Goldstone
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 15.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel along with the Goldstones, Nov. 11 2001
This is the first of three books by the Goldstones about their experiences in the world of used books and book collecting. It is the most well-balanced of the series (the second and third are Slightly Chipped and Warmly Inscribed, respectively).
The Goldstones take you along with them as they learn about collecting classics and modern first editions (modern firsts being books of the twentieth/twenty-first century). Along the way you meet an array of charming (and not so charming), eccentric used booksellers and antiquarian book dealers. Also thrown into the bargain are several very entertaining digressions into the pages and authors of many classic books of the twentieth century. It managed to fill in some gaps as well as show me some new authors that I knew little or nothing about.
The writing style is effortless and informal, almost like you're listening in on one of their bookstore conversations. Anyone who loves books and enjoys trips to used bookstores will be in for a treat with this book.

The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition
by Anne Frank
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
110 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of the praise, Nov. 6 2001
Anne Frank may well have become a successful author had her life not been cut tragically short. She is remarkably clear and effective in communicating an emotional sense of what it was like, at least from her point of view, to live an extended period in a severely restrictive environment. Anne's optimism and faith rings clear without being expressly stated. It is refreshing in that there is no hint of contrived drama or melodrama in her descriptions of everyday life suffused with internal and external stresses. This book reads as honest, direct and true as life gets.
This book is the literal diary of a Jewish teen hiding from the Nazis in Holland during World War Two. It covers the period in Anne's life from about thirteen to fifteen years old. She lives on the top floor of a warehouse with her immediate family (mother, father, and sister) as well as another family of three (the "Van Daan's" and their sixteen year old son) and an older dentist with whom she must share a room. The antics, conflicts and daily travails amidst food shortages, break-ins and a seemingly endless parade of small crises test the limits of the residents of the annex. One of the more revealing episodes involves a brief fling at romance with the sixteen-year-old son of the Van Daan's and Anne. It is a revealing look at adolescence and the process of maturity through a tightly focused lens. It is truly wrenching as you learn the fate of each of the residents. One is left with an unforgettable snapshot of humanity, its courage and its failings, in a time of deep crisis and almost unbelievable tragedy.
The Diary of Anne Frank is often taught at the middle school level. My sixth grade students expressed interest in the book, so I let them read as part of their reading curriculum. I found that while most had little trouble understanding the book (they were above average readers) they were too young to really grasp and appreciate the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle themes running through the book. They had no emotional sense of what these people's daily lives were like. There was nothing in their limited life experience to help them appreciate or understand what living in such conditions for an extended period would be like. Anne Frank would be better read at the high school level, or better yet, as a book read by choice.
A note on this edition: The Definitive edition includes much material that was excised from the original diary. Many of Anne's comments about her mother were less than flattering, and so her father (the only survivor in the book) sought to protect the memory of his wife. This is certainly understandable, but the Definitive edition more honestly reflects Anne's feelings at the time. I don't think there's too many people that would begrudge a teenager's rejection of their parents. It's only sad that she didn't live long enough to come through and see her mom through the eyes of an adult.

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