Book reviews

Book reviews with a Boston bent. Be it a book that takes place in Boston, or was written by a writer from Boston. Or one on the history of Boston. From comic book to graphic novels to the strange and weird. If it is about Boston you will find it here

Friday, December 9, 2011

I am watching Warehouse 13

And, I wonder what would the Boston section of the warehouse contains?  What special things would be there?  What special abilities would those things have?

My list -
A bit of Plymouth Rock - Makes any place feel like home?
The wishbone from the first turkey cooked on Thanksgiving - bringing peace?
A bit of wood from USS Constitution - making even the smallest boat unsinkable?
The real John Harvard statue - I wonder what he would really look like.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Super busy

For the most amazing reason.  I was asked by a writer friend to proof read her most recent novel before it goes to the printers.  So I am getting to read a book before any one else does. 


Saturday, November 26, 2011

It is with great sadness that I write today

To share the new that one of the great authors has passed away.  Born in Cambridge Massachusetts on April fools day, author and world builder  Anne McCaffrey has passed away.  She had not been well of late, but hearing the news she had passed away from a stroke was still a blow.  I always admired Anne, and the one time I meet her years ago only made me love her more.  She was the first female author to win a Hugo, for her novella Weyr Search, and the first to win a Nebula for Dragonriders   The first woman to win both awards.  She always had time for her fans, and encouragement for people who wanted to write themselves.

I discovered Anne in high school. She had created a wonderful world where woman DID something. Must fiction and fantasy use woman as objects, some thing to be protected, to be chased after, never once to add or subtract anything to the story.  Anne was different, no one was useless.  Every person no matter what they did or who they were did something. Woman took the lead in many stories, strong woman, who did not need protecting.  In the Harper Hall series, Anne was writing commentary about  male centric  society.  Well she was writing a story about a woman who was a great songwriter and singer who lived in a society where woman did neither.  Kind of like how the world felt to me in the late 70's.  I wanted more than a working class girl should have wanted. I married the first guy who agreed with me that a woman should go to college, and be more than just a wife and mother.  In middle class and upper class famalies, it was expected that woman would go to college, but not in the blue collar world I lived in.  In Menolly I found a teen age girl wanting to be so much more than just a wife and mother. It was my life, only with Dragons!  I'm not a great singer, and it has been ages since I touched the organ even longer for the clarinet . But, like Menolly I wanted some thing more. When she found her place, I felt like I could do that too!

If you have not yet read this wonderful writer or know anything about  Pern wiki this will help. 

Anne did not just write Pern novels, thought they were her longest series.  She also wrote
The worlds of Anne McCaffrey

 My personal non Pern series is the Freedom Series 4 novels about what happens when the Earth is attacked by a superior alien race and manages to fight back. The series is complex, amazing and follows the  many races enslaved by the Eosi as they work together to bring freedom to the galaxy. As always Anne writes strong woman, and equally strong men.

When is a legend a legend? she famously asked in 1968 in the introduction to Dragonflight.  Well Anne my dear, you are a legend. An amazing woman who opened doors, and held them open for any one else who wanted to go through. 

 some of the most wonderful writing about her from the web. 

  NPR Remembering Anne McCaffrey   

About scifi Anne McCaffrey

My heart goes out to her family, and her son Todd, who like his mother is a wonderful talented writer, who always has time for fans, and turns most of them into friends. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I wish I had been able to listen to this today

 I was on the Pike for a good part of today's episode of NPR Here and Here and Now I really like the program, but WBUR has a tendency to skip on the research some times. Since I am quite the nut about Boston and her history I can always catch the mistakes. While they are not massive mistakes, but things that should have been caught by a fact checker; or any one with a good history class under their belt it bothers me.  No it more than bothers me, it makes me angry. If they are not researching the stories about Boston well enough to suit me, well what else are the messing up?   I'm no historian, but honestly...

So I was driving out to my sisters and heard this story Black Pilgrim - Puritan and wished I could have called in.  They made the mistake of calling all 102 passengers on the Mayflower Pilgrims, when in fact  only 37 people on the ship were members of the Leiden congregation, which is what they called themselves.  


Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm reading

Sorry for the delay in posting lately. I stumbled upon a book called "Grand Theft Jesus"  It looked interesting and even though I walked away from Jesus a long time ago I thought it would be an interesting read, and it has been so far. It's also a hard book to get through, I have been doing a lot of page markup and taking lots of notes. So once I get through it, there will be a review. I promise. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guest post Tuesday

I would like the thank the great folks at Boston Smarts for today's posts. If you like what you read here, swing on over to their blog Boston Smarts blog and say hello. BPL's Children's Writer in Residence Program Boston is not only home to great schools, the Red Sox, delicious seafood and good museums, Boston is also a destination for young writers aspiring to publish their first children's book. Boston Public Library provides its patrons with award-winning children's literature and unique educational programs, but it also fosters excellence in children's writing within our own community. The BPL's Children's Writer in Residence is a year-long program focused on children's authors and is intended to provide an emerging children's author in the Boston area with financial and administrative support to complete one children's book. Additionally it establishes a link between the library and the community by promoting the awareness of its offerings to young readers, families and teachers. Many free educational opportunities are provided by BPL and this program seeks to draw attention to those as well. BPL just announced the most recent addition to their Children's Writer in Residence: Sarah Winifred Searle from Danver, MA was chosen from among 60 applicants. She graduated from Southern Maine Community College with a degree in New Media and is studying Humanities at Harvard Extension School. She started her career as a game artist and wants to use this background to create a unique storytelling foundation for her children's books. As the BPL Writer in Residence, Sarah will have a stipend of $20,000 for the next nine months, access to the Library's special collections, use of office space as well as use of the Library as a forum to promote her finished work.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Restarting this thing

I have been doing a lot of reading, taking lots of notes in order to review books here. Doing every thing but posting said book reviews. Going to kick start myself by doing this.

Doing a selfsagacity meme, but for some reason the code will not transfer over.

1- Is my world big or small
--- Personally I have to say my world is big, not big big, but medium size big. I know people from all different walks of life, I have profiles in way to many networking sites to keep track of.

2- How do you feel about being known? Would you like to be famous?
--- It is kind of fun to be known, to talk to someone who has heard of me, or reads one of my many blogs, or comments in other blogs. In a way it helps in that I do not have to introduce my self. Someone who reads my personal blog already knows about my health issues, already knows I have a service dog. I think some times that my service dog is the famous one, and I am just along for the ride.

My two questions

1- Have you ever read a memoir of someone who suffered from an illness? One of my favorite is All in my head as a person who suffers from an invisible illness her struggles to find a cure had real resonance for me.

2- Have you ever meet a person for the first time, who you knew a little bit because you had read their blog?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I will not be attending The Boston Book festival today

I made the decision this morning when I got up. I am short on cash, so even if I did go I could not afford to buy any books. Bringing Byron was not in the cards. He is already stressed out with his surgery making him work would have been just a little to much. Without Byron I would be completely by myself.

Then my Mom called to let me know her convection oven had died, so she needed someone to take her to the store to get another one.  So no me today at the Book

Monday, September 26, 2011

I had a fluffy day

Decided to take the T to Union Square instead of trying to drive. I thought I had written down the bus route I would have to take. But I could not find my list. So when we went to a bus stop that had a transfer to the Sullivan Square I transferred to that bus. Once we got to Sullivan Square it was easy to find a bus to Union Square. Byron was well behaved on each bus we got on, sliding under the chair and resting his nose on my leg. He was so well behaved on the trip over, just chilling out like he rode the bus every day.

Byron is for the record a super chill dog.

We got to Union Square just as the Fluff festival was about to start. Found the volunteer table and took a seat. Got to spend time helping to herd volunteers and be goofy. There was a big jar on the table full of marshmallows and there was a contest to guess the number of marshmallows in the jar. First prize was a neat one of a kind festival poster and a gift certificate to a Union Square place of business. Which was plainly boring, it had to be goofed with. It begged to be goofed with.

First I started telling people the prize was getting to eat the marshmallows, then that the prize was getting to play with Byron. I got progressively sillier including telling people that the winner got to watch ME eat the marshmallows. I reminded people as they grabbed their program books that guessing the number of the marshmallows in the jar was the ONLY thing keeping ME from opening the jar and eating every single marshmallow puff in there. People asked if there was any place where they could just put spoon to jar and eat marshmallow. I was kind of surprised that Durkee-Mowers Marshmallow Fluff company did not attend the festival. Maybe next year, I hope next year HOPE HOPE HOPE! I mean Fluff is made in Lynn Massachusetts, just up the street from me.

I spent a good amount of time sitting at the volunteer table, having fun being silly. I worked with Tugboat 23 Consulting and I had such a great time that I am thinking of letting her know if she needs a crazy person to do a sitting job, I'm available. Especially since she was kind enough to give me one of the special volunteer shirts. Instead of the regular shirts I got to wear a big f on my chest.

Susan Olsen was there showing her fluff art and being an all around great person. People kept coming up to our booth and asking where "Cindy Brady" was, I smiled and said, I'm not sure, but Susan Olsen the actress and artist who played Cindy Brady is under the red tent. I wanted to say hello to her and get a picture of her with Byron but it was to busy for most of the day. At the end of the festival I ran over to talk to her and take a picture with Byron. I think this is her web site I am fluff but I'm not sure, it has her art work on the site, but nothing about her.

She was not the only amazing person at the festival. Which tells you just how amazing the festival was Rick Linnehan an astronaut who took Marshmallow Fluff with him on the Endeavor. That so totally rocks, and yes Byron and I got a picture with him too!!

They had a contest to be the "Pharoh" of fluff, I was goofing on the idea of putting Byron in as a candidate, but I could not think of a goof riff on why he should be the new Pharoh.  Of course on the bus ride home I came up with an entire great speech. I wrote it down so look out next year.

We took the bus back to Sullivan Square and from there I decided it would be easier and quicker for Byron and I to jump on the Orange line. It was a much easier to transfer from subway to subway instead of standing on a street waiting for a bus to show up.  When we got on the Orange line Byron only needed a tiny bit of encouragement to jump up on a seat.  There was a family from Japan visiting Boston and they each wanted a picture with Byron!  We got to the blue line station and helped 3 woman figure out which train to take.  They were heading into the city and did not quite understand the in bound / out bound MBTA directions. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review - Dustin Pedroia Born to Play

Dustin Pedroia – Born to Play

Dustin is a very young man, born a year after I was married. He is still going at 28 years, and while he has had a very interesting life, maybe he should have waited to write his memoir. Co-author Edward J. Delaney has done a wonderful job of getting through to the real Dustin. Telling us of his days as a kid playing in baseball games above his age level. His family is incredibly supportive of him, never once doubting his small size would keep him from playing the game he loved. It would have been nice for him to say once and for all, just how tall he is. The Boston Red Sox list him as 5'9” when he was in college at Arizona State he was listed at 5'8”. USA Today in 2003 listed his height at 5'7”

He has picked a great place to start his story, October 27, 2007 when a security guard denied him entrance Coors field. The guard, who has remained nameless had to have confirmation that the little guy with the big talent did belong out on the field with his team mates.

The very next chapter is given over to a “Scout For a National League Team (who wishes to remain anonymous) He gets six pages to wander about what the Red Sox saw in Dustin that he did not. How he has seen Dustin move forward as a much faster pace, with fewer missed steps.

Then we jump back, almost all the way to the beginning of his sporting career. Yes he starts with an early shoulder injury at the age of 12, and how it never held him back. He followed his older brother on to the Shasta College and played several games with the college team. Before he gets to much into the difference between playing for each group the chapter ends.

Our next guest author, and our first personalized chapter comes from Rob Rinaldi, his former High School couch. This shows us the journey Dustin took to becoming the play he is today. I found it jarring to go from reading in Dustin's style then suddenly dropped in a different style for five or six pages. It mad it hard for me to transfer back to reading the chapters Dustin might have written.

The first collage any good west coast ball player would look to is Arizona and Dustin took a ride down with his family. An exciting time in any ones life, but for Dustin a jump forward. Lead by guest author Ron McNutt Coach of the Carson Capitols in Carson City, NV. Dustin also gives Arizona State University head Baseball Coach, Pat Murphy a chance to reminisce about Dustin and his skill at playing the game.

Dustin takes control of the narrative again, to share with us his time at Arizona State, his time with Team USA, and something I wish he had given more information about. His giving up his full scholarship to Arizona State to team mate Ben Thurmond. He gave us the scholarship not just because his parent could afford to cover his tuition, while Ben's could not; but also because with the addition of Ben, his team had a better chance to go to the College World Series. This amazing show of team spirit and humility shows a amazing level of maturity in such a young man. I wish we had learned more about his decision. Not giving Ben a chapter of his own, for that is done way to often, but give us a bit more of his thought process.

Dustin also shares with us his first taste of Boston Massachusetts and the Boson Red Sox. His changing planes at Logan Airport teaches him we talk funny. His being drafted by the Red Sox, in their first pick of the 2004 draft was a big surprise to him as no one from the team had spoken to him before the draft. He learns the special joy that happens when you go from playing the game of baseball to working at the game of playing baseball. It sounded incredibly hard, a real mental and physical meat grinder that was ready to spit him out in a second. He loved it, and I am sure every person reading his book would be willing to trade places with him, I would and I'm twice his age and female.

He goes back to allowing other people to write about him giving us guest chapters by Ben Cherington; Senior VP & Assistant GM of the Red Sox, Ben Johnson Manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Steve Hyder the Play by Play Announcer for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Terry Francona the Manager of the Boston Red Sox and even his wife Kelli Pedroia. Even Alex Cora gets a few pages to share how it felt to compete with Dustin for a spot in the infield.

When he got to the chapter telling us about his first game playing against the San Francisco Giants and catching a pop up from Barry Bonds, I half expected to see a chapter from Barry giving us his opinion on how well Dustin caught that ball. But instead we get words of wisdom from Dave Magadan the teams hitting coach. At least the chapter about the 2007 Victory parade is told from his view point, and not the view point of some one in the crowd. That is for Julia Ruth Stevens a Red Sox fan from Conway New Hampshire. Telling us how wonderful it was to be named American League Rookie of the year and American League Most Valuable Player in the same year is the Boston Center field legend Fred Lynn

Then we get a few chapters on how hard he plays any game, be it cribbage or Ping Pong with Mike Lowell who apparently kicks his ass in both. Then another Red Sox fan, Adam Speakman gets a chance to share how special it is to see a smaller man playing Baseball. Dustin takes over the narrative once again to share a quick chapter about the entire 2008 season. He then turns the story over to Mike Lowell for another short chapter on what it is like playing with Dustin.

All told, Born to Play is a 261 page book where 56 pages almost one fifth of the book is not written by Dustin. While I will recommend this book to hard core Red Sox fans, and mostly for the chance to get an autograph. I think Dustin should have waited a few years longer to write a memoir.

If I might be so humble to suggest, when Kevin Youkilis writes his own book, he should go the Leonard Nimoy route and call it “I am not – The Greek God of Walks”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review - Weird Massachusetts

Some times you have to read a book for fun. This is one of those books.
Weird Massachusetts
Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran authors of "Weird U.S." and first known for their zine "Weird New Jersey" have expanded the brand. Hiring Jeff Belanger to travel the state, looking for the oddities that claim the Bay State as their home.

They touch on local legends and Ancient Mysteries, Cemeteries to Abandoned areas. Each chapter more fun than the last. Who knew the Mary Celeste the worlds most famous ghost ship was connected to Marion Mass? Or that a Knight of Templar once lived in Westford. Salem gets close to it's own chapter, along with a mention of the Ouija board tucked into a paragraph some where in the middle. Is Freetown State Forest truly cursed, or just getting bad press.

The chapter on local Heroes and Villains is humerus, and slightly educational. Still I wish each group had been given their own chapter, if for no other reason that Ben Franklin and Albert DeSalvo not share a page.

Everyone's "favorite" lawn decoration gets two full pages, not enough for sure, but just enough to allow Donald Featherstone to say what must at this point be his motto "We brought poor taste to the poor people" I should say so, while I do not own a pink flamingo, I do have two glow in the dark skeleton flamingo. From Plymouth Rock to the Museum of Bad Art each page brings with it a bit more fun.

I only wish some of the write up of the least known locations had included directions on how to find them. Looks like I will have some searching to do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday two questions

I have been asking a lot of questions lately. Pumping a friend for information on setting up this blog. Silly stuff I have not had to think about with my personal blog. I want this blog to be special, to share my love of all things Boston and Greater Boston with the world. I started this blog because I had a need of my own, a need to share humorous quotes, enjoyable stories, just to see Boston.

I am still kind of foggy about this. I am far more use to talking about my dog than my reading habits. My cat's love affair with the Hammond Organ, instead of what John Adams said. I'm going to try.

So as a way to start I am going to do a meme from Self Sagacity

1 - Well since this blog's topic is books written about Boston, please let me know if you have a favorite fiction book where the story happens in Boston?

--- For me that would be Future Boston: The History of a City 1990- 2100

2- What part of the country is under represented in fiction?

--- I have no answer for this myself, which to me means I am missing out on some good writing.

Well here we go...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book review - Always Something doing - Scollay Square

Always Something Doing, Boston's infamous Scollay Square

By David Kruh with forward by Thomas H. O'Connor

I feel a little sad, Boston lover that I am, to have never seen Scollay Square. For all I know about this legendary place is a length of is a length of tile at the very end of the Government Center Blue line platform. Fitting perhaps for as I have discovered blue is a perfect description for Scollay Square.

The book starts on a sad note, with the death of a grand old lady, the Old Howard theater. Then in the gentlest way, he introduces us to the building in her prime. Before she was Old, and before she was the Howard, all the way back to Cotton Hill. Of greatest help is the map on page three, where the outlines of the old neighborhood are superimposed over the new. New roads are in gray, a most fitting choice if you ask me.

The book introduces us to the family who gave the square it's name. John Scollay was a patriot, no not that kind, a member of the Son's of Liberty. But, since this book is about the area and not the man, our visit is all to brief. The book is full of delightful pictures of the growing square. Taking pictures of buildings was apparently as popular in the during the squares heyday as taking pictures of children today. Then these buildings are in a way their children, and our mighty ancestors. We also get a chance to hear from the people who made Scollay square famous. For the author has done his research. Remembrances from the performers who stepped out on the many stages that surrounded the Square. The slightly upscale Crawford, to the all night Star Theater, later renamed Rialto in the hope to loose the monicker “Scratch House” It did not work, the name stuck, and the picture shows how lovely the theater was in it's own way. I had not heard of Sally Keith or her amazing twirling tassels, until I read this book. Now I have to start searching for more information on this Boston legend.

We honor the sailors who spread stories of the Square throughout the world. My favorite in the chapter about Joe & Nemo's tells how an American infantry man was able to cross into the Allied camp by proving he was from Boston, via his knowledge of Scollay Square and especially Joe & Nemo's. What a shame the restaurant is not longer in operation, for now I have a craving for a hot dog I never ate.

The book becomes a little less funny as the Square starts to fail, and urban “renewal” takes hold. You can hear the sorrow as building after building falls to the wrecking ball. Pictures once again take the reader around what is left of the Square and how the new buildings grow from the ashes of the old. I found great humor in the story of George Gloss and his Brattle Book Shop. Each time urban renewal come to the building his store was in he would offer a book give away. What ever you could carry after five minutes in the shop you could keep for free.

The epilogue takes a look at what has been done to bring some of the flavor of Scollay Square back to Government Center. He lists the many different ideas that have been floated to change the brick porch into some thing more welcoming. While the area is used on a frequent basis for festivals, green markets, and celebrations of champions the space still goes quiet once the work day ends. I always wondered why Government Center always felt like it had a hidden energy a party just seconds from starting. Now I know what I was feeling, it was the ghosts of Scollay Square, just waiting for a chance to start the party once again. The next time I walk through Scollay Square I will remember the past I never knew and hope for the future I would love to see.

Oh what shall I read next

 Finished writing my review of    Always something Doing - Boston's infamous Scollay Square  I am not sure if I should put anything else in the review? Any way, it's my first book review based on my new Boston book review blog. 

I still have not figured out exactly what I am going to call the blog. I have a long list of ideas, but nothing jumps out at me.  I want something that will reflect back on the history, and be catchy enough to attract people to the blog.

So far ideas include

Always Reading Something - in honor of the book I just finished. Reading it and looking for other people who might have read it is what pushed me to create a book review blog about Boston in the first place.

A shining city on a hill - From a description of Boston made by  Governor Winthrop of how he saw New England would become for the world.

I also started thinking of plays on the original three hills of Boston, now flattened but nothing really works.  Boston between the binders or Between three book shelves.

Well back to the grind stone. I'm not taking the site live for a while. I am going to wait until I have a good stack of book reviews up. So some time around the end of the month.  I'll let every one know. 

My next book for the Boston book blog will be "A Most Fortunate Ship: A narrative history of Old Ironsides"  Does any one have any favorite books about Boston or set in Boston they would like to see reviewed?  Or better yet would anyone like to join me in writing book reviews. I think at best I am looking at several thousand books making the very simple standards of the blog. I might have bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe not, it's not like I need an excuse to read books.