Saturday, March 30, 2024

Review: Romeo's Fight

Romeo's Fight  (Mike Romeo, #4)Romeo's Fight by James Scott Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of the four Mike Romeo books I've read so far, I think this one is the best. The plot is tighter and more focused. Previous installments have sometimes got a bit convoluted and involved too many plotlines. This one is more straightforward, though with some twists and turns. It's a fast, fun read with some interesting characters. Romeo is a hard hitting, philosophically-minded detective and knight-errant. His dialogue is peppered with quotations from philosophers, artists, and authors. I think the books could be improved if the philosophical ideas worked themselves a bit more into and where reflected in the plot. They are fun and helpf characterize Mike, but don't serve anything more substantive in the books.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Review: The Book of Genesis

The Book of GenesisThe Book of Genesis by Gary A. Rendsburg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This course was quite fascinating. Over the course of 24 lectures, Prof. Rendsburg takes you through Book of Genesis. One aspect of the course I appreciated was that Rendsburg had lectures weaved into the overall progression of the book that focused on various issues needing special focus. For example, there are lectures that focused on the history of the Ancient Near East that are relevant for understanding the historical context of the Bible, another lecture on the literature structure of the Bible, one on the different ways of translating the Bible, and another on the dating of the Book of Genesis. These provide important theories and ideas for understanding Genesis, but also they help break up the lectures and avoids the tedium that can sometimes come in long Teaching Company courses.

Though most of the stories where familiar to me, and I imagine would be to almost anyone raised in the West, I learned a lot about the context of these stories, how they related to each other and to other parts of the Bible. I also developed a deeper appreciation for the language, structure, and construction of the Biblical text.

My main criticism would be that some of the discussion of the historicity of the stories could be too credulous. Most of the evidence for the events of the Biblical narrative is circumstantial at best and I think Rendsburg ought to have been clearer about that. Personally, I don’t think it matters all the much: the power of the stories and their meaning is not tied to their literal truth. Like fiction and mythology, the narrative can be meaningful and significant without historical accuracy.

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Sunday, March 24, 2024

Review: When the Thrill Is Gone

When the Thrill Is GoneWhen the Thrill Is Gone by Walter Mosley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the rhythm and language of Mosley's writing. McGill, the main character, intricately describes the variations of color and shape of everyone he meets. At first, this might seem like Mosely's overly interested in race. But I think it's more about the way McGill sees the world, as a detective looking at every detail of the people he interacts with. McGill is a fascinating character; struggling with his past and his present, but always guided by trying to do what is right. And Mosley develops a cast of characters around McGill that are equally as interesting and engaging. I am not sure McGill is everyone -- his view of the world is a bit too malevolent for me at times -- and I can see that being a turn off for some. In the end, I think while McGill has a malevolent sense of things, the people around him subvert, through their actions (and his own) that view.

I do find at times, I get a little lost in the flow of the story. But, regardless, it pays off; and I really enjoyed how the plot of When the Thrill is Gone resolves itself.

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Sunday, March 17, 2024

Review: Shadow of the Sith

Shadow of the Sith (Star Wars)Shadow of the Sith by Adam Christopher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set between TROJ and TFA, this book fills in back story for the sequel trilogy, and in particular key aspects of TROS. Lando and Luke teaming up is interesting choice, but it works. One issue I've had with several Star Wars novels is that they can sometimes get bogged down; but Christopher does a good job moving things along. There is a good balance of exposition and action. I think he does a good job with Lando and Luke, capturing those original trilogy characters well. (Though Lando could have been a bit more dashing and swashbuckler-y.) Ochi struck me as quite different from the comic books, but he's been through a lot since the setting of those books.

Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it for Star Wars fans. I don't think this adds all that much to the wider world of Star Wars, but it does explore the latter development of two beloved characters and that makes it worth while.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Review: The Secret Lives of Sports Fans

The Secret Lives of Sports FansThe Secret Lives of Sports Fans by Eric Simons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although there are some interesting parts of this book, overall, I was disappointed. In many ways, the book felt like it was really a long form magazine article (like the Atlantic or the like) that got stretched into book. The flow of the book is mainly a series of anecdotes punctuated by interviews with scientists and other relevant experts. In themselves these were each usually interesting or informative, but they don’t hang together as a whole in a satisfying way. And there is no non-fiction equivalent of a denouement for the various strands of theories and ideas about fandom that Simons presents in the book.

That said, there are some worthwhile discussions of fan identity, how fans relate to each other, and how fandom intersects with other parts of our lives. And Simons and his interviewees do provide some useful social science and evolutionary biology that is relevant for thinking about fandom.

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Saturday, March 02, 2024

Review: Making It Home: Life Lessons from a Season of Little League

Making It Home: Life Lessons from a Season of Little LeagueMaking It Home: Life Lessons from a Season of Little League by Teresa Strasser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a cliché that baseball is a metaphor for life; and yet there is little about this book that is cliche. Teresa Strasser tells the story of her son's championship little league season and how watching the season with her father helped them both to grieve their lost loves one and deepen their own relationship. Strasser's brother and mother died within four months of each other; and so both she and her father have a lot to process. But Strasser's relationships to her brother, her mother, and her father are, shall we say, a bit complicated; and that all comes out as Strasser tells the story of her son's little league season. Each chapter is a mix of baseball and flashbacks that tell you more about these relationships and the unique Strasser family situation. This is also usually tied together with a relevant metaphor or two from baseball. There are laughs and tears throughout. Strasser reads the audio and you can hear the emotion in her voice. The memoir doesn't hold back, there is a real honesty in Strasser's narrative as she struggles with her grief, her guilt, and her anger. And before you think this is just depressing, there is a lot of joy and happiness here as well.

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