Category Reviews

“De/Compositions” Review

3.5 star rating
De/Compositions cover

I first encountered De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong as a text book for an undergraduate English course I had to take to build up my humanities credits before I could be accepted into a Master’s Degree program in English at the University of Central Oklahoma. Author W. D. Snodgrass’s idea, to take 101 highly-regarded poems, from Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare to Donald Hall’s 1990 “The Man in the Dead Machine,” and turn them into something less than great, is an interesting one, particularly as an academic exercise. He groups the poems into five general categories—abstract and general versus concrete and specific; undercurrents; the singular voice; metrics and music; and structure and climax—and focuses his “de/composition” work in these areas.

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“Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail” Review

3.5 star rating

It’s important to keep in mind what this little book (barely 60 pages long) is, and what it is not.

Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail book cover

What it is: a Hallmark gift book with a 1973 copyright date; a slim collection of Native American song lyrics, poetry, legends, and reproductions of paintings. The translations date as far back as 1923.

What it is not: an in-depth or representative study of Native American culture, art, or literature.

What this book reveals should not be a surprise: that Native Americans experience the same feelings of love and desire for, and devotion to others; that they use song to prepare themselves for battle; and that their songs reflect the important times, activities, and events in their lives...

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“Balfor’s Salvation” Review

3-star rating

Middle books in a series can be hard to write. Ask me how I know. Balfor’s Salvation is the second book in Susan Trombley’s Shadows in Sanctuary series.

Balfor's Salvation cover

In Lilith’s Fall, the first book in the series, Stacia Dornan is part of a human team that joins with a band of umbrose to rescue the umbrose’s Prince Balfor, who’d been captured by the umbrose’s enemies, the adurians, and was being tortured. During the rescue, Stacia is seriously injured but she and Balfor are placed together so that, despite being barely conscious as well as in great pain, they make a tenuous connection by briefly holding hands.

Balfor’s Salvation begins some years later...

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“From The Top Down” Review

From the Top Down cover

The subtitle to this book by Susan J. Ellis is “The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement,” and that’s true as far as it goes. For executives in businesses or organizations in which volunteers make up only a small fraction of the total workforce, this book is an excellent resource. Ellis devotes full chapters to budgeting for volunteers, the impact and financial value of volunteer contributions, understanding the volunteer/employee relationship (especially how it can go wrong and what to do to prevent or fix it), legal issues, and managing volunteers at all levels, from those performing basic tasks to those supporting the executive suite...

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“Friendly Fire” review

5-star rating

Friendly Fire, by Scott A. Snook. Copyright 2000 by Princeton University Press

As I did when I reviewed Joan Piper’s book, A Chain of Events, I need to begin with a set of disclaimers.

Friendly Fire book cover
  • I am a retired Air Force officer.
  • I was a Mission Crew Commander (MCC) on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.
  • On the date of the shoot-down of the two Blackhawk helicopters over northern Iraq—April 14, 1994—I was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to fly missions enforcing the southern no-fly zone over Iraq for Operation Southern Watch/Desert Calm, the counterpart to Operation Provide Comfort (OPC).
  • In July 1994, when the first investigation report was released, I was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to fly OPC missions...
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Too Close to Home: The Samantha Zaldivar Case Review

5-star rating

It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” this book. After all, how can one “enjoy” a book about the real murder of an eight year old girl by her mother’s boyfriend? Indeed, at times there were tears in my eyes.

That said, there’s a lot to like—or maybe “appreciate” is a better word—about Too Close to Home. Let me set the scene first.

Too Close to Home book cover
Cover design and photo by Jesaro Photography. Used with permission.

Samantha’s home life was anything but easy. Her mother, Rachel Stra, had been divorced by Samantha’s biological father. Samantha and Rachel had moved with Rachel’s boyfriend from Florida to western New York to “get a fresh start.”

Angel Colon, the boyfriend, was no angel...

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25th Anniversary, Liberation of Kuwait Review

Liberation of Kuwait book cover

Let’s get this clear from the start: this book is not a history of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and of Operation Desert Storm. Oh, superficially it is, but far better ones have been written.

Second, while the subtitle of the book is, “Honoring the Veterans of Desert Storm,” it does not honor, or even much mention the tens of thousands of Airmen, especially from the U.S. Air Force, who crushed the Iraqi Air Force in days, crushed many of the Iraqi Republican Guards ground forces, even during the middle of a historic sandstorm, and who in general made the famed 100-hour ground war possible.

Third, potential readers should know who sponsored and paid for this book: six of the seven sponsors are either wealthy Kuwaitis or the Kuwaiti Royals, the al-Sabah family...

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This Voice in My Heart review

3-star rating

This Voice in My Heart cover

This is the first autobiography I’ve read, which makes it hard to evaluate. The book is the story of the life of Gilbert Tuhabonye, from the central African nation of Burundi, up to about 2005.

Like its neighbor Rwanda, Burundi has suffered from serious conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes for decades. The genocidal spasm that afflicted Rwanda was well known at the time, but Burundi has had its own troubles as well, and Tuhabonye was nearly killed in one in October, 1993.

Tuhabonye presents his life growing up on a farm in southern Burundi as idyllic, and given that he knew little of the world beyond his local community, that’s not a surprise...

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The Tides of Time Review

[No rating]

I’m really not sure how to respond to this odd little novel by John Brunner. For the first three-quarters, it seems like a different take on the standard time travel story. Then it gets weird.

Rich white girl Stacy and her black boyfriend Gene are fleeing something. Prejudice because they’re a biracial couple? Maybe. It’s never made clear. In any case, they have signed up to travel through time and space, and are initially sent back to a Sphinx-shaped Greek island called Oragalia in their present day or close to it. But the next morning, they have magically jumped back in time to something like the 1980s. They spend the day exploring the island and its one small town. The next morning, they’ve jumped again, this time back to WWII.

The pattern continues: in each “Part,” ...

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Close Range Review

Close Range coverI came to this book with some unease. My first encounter with Annie Proulx’s collection subtitled “Wyoming Stories,” was the final one, “Brokeback Mountain,” in which a cowboy discovers, as an adult, that he’s gay. Uh, yeah, sure. The story was a “political” assignment by one of my English professors, and it set my expectations when, probably 15 years later, I finally picked up the book again.

Proulx starts “A Lonely Coast” late in the book this way:

“You ever see a house burning up in the night, way to hell and gone out there on the plains?… And you might think about the people in the burning house, see them trying for the stairs, but mostly you don’t give a damn.”

That seems like a fitting metaphor for the entire book...

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