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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Paris Protection: Thriller About A Female U.S. President Under Threat in Paris

This is a time when a thriller about very well organized terrorists trying to assassinate the President of the United States in Paris is particularly chilling because it seems all too real.   In addition, this threatened President is a woman at a time when the leading Democratic candidate in the Presidential race is also a woman.  Given the current circumstances, some readers may find this hard to take.   

I selected this book for review from the Bookplex website and purchased it from Amazon before the recent attack on Paris by IS terrorists.  I was interested in the fact that the U.S. President is a woman and that the author, Bryan Devore, focused on a female Secret Service agent.   That's why I posted this first to Book Babe, a blog that focuses on strong female protagonists, and then copied my post to this blog.


The Paris Protection is filled with nearly non-stop suspense.   The survival of the U.S. President remains in doubt until very close to the end of the novel.   There’s a great deal of violence with a high body count. In the book, much was made of the fact that the struggle between assassins and the Secret Service is usually brief.  At one point it occurred to me that if a different decision had been made at the beginning of the crisis, it could have been terminated quickly with less loss of life.  It did seem to me that the plot was more than a bit contrived.  Devore manipulated it to prolong the President’s danger for the length of an entire novel.  Yet it was compelling.   Most thriller fans will probably consider The Paris Protection a gripping narrative. 

I very much liked some of the characters. The author focuses on a few Secret Service agents who were courageous, determined and resourceful.  Rebecca Reid is the most central character in these events.   I appreciate the fact that Devore portrayed a female Secret Service agent as being so good at coming up with fast solutions at the moments when they were most needed.

I was also pleased that brave Parisians also had their moment in the storyline.  I’d like to believe with author Devore that the spirit of Paris remains strong in the face of terrorism.   This is an inspiring element in The Paris Protection.  The sequence that takes place on the street in Paris is a powerful one.

On the other hand, I find the motives of the chief villain rather byzantine.   Why does he hate his own country as much as he does? It didn’t seem to me that his experiences explained his feelings.   If anything, I would have thought that he’d be very guilt ridden.   I realize that some sociopaths are incapable of guilt, but there has to be a missing flashback locked inside his labyrinthine mind that would have made this terrorist leader more understandable to me. 

So this book has pros and cons.  Good copy editing was one of the positive points.  This is one of the few books I’ve read lately with no typographical errors.    On the whole, I thought that the positive outweighed the negative.  The Paris Protection is a novel that’s worth reading. 



Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Turquoise Ledge--A Leslie Marmon Silko Diary

One of my Goodreads friends shelved The Turquoise Ledge.  I had been unaware of its existence.  I was interested in reading a book that was supposed to be Leslie Marmon Silko's memoir.  I had very much liked her most recent novel, Gardens in the Dunes.  I expected a book that was as well written as that novel had been.


Normally, a book intended to be a memoir has an organizing principle.  It's usually chronological, but it could be organized by topic.  The Turquoise Ledge recounts daily activities and associated reflections.  So I think it would be more accurate to call it a diary.  I recognized the diary structure since I kept diaries very much like this one as an adolescent.

There's a great deal of space devoted to daily walks.  I confess that these were mostly of little interest to me.  She also focused a great deal on snakes.  Silko obviously loves snakes.  I'm afraid that I mostly prefer mammals myself.  I don't relate very well to reptiles.  Readers who are also fond of snakes are likely to have a different reaction to this aspect of the book.

I was more interested in rocks,plants and folklore.  I was also astonished to discover that Silko had been drawing and painting figures from indigenous traditions, and that she once wanted to become an artist.  I looked for examples of her artwork on the internet. I found this mural and this literary journal cover illustration.  Silko tells us that the spirits who inspired the paintings described in The Turquoise Ledge refused to allow her to offer them for sale.   This means that there may not be an exhibit of Silko's artwork during her lifetime.

I was most interested in Silko's exploration of Nahua culture. The Nahua are also known as the Aztecs whose rule of Mexico was overthrown by the Spanish conquistadors.  Silko tells us that the Aztecs are related to the Hopi, and that the language of the Hopi is similar to Nahuatl, the Aztec language.   I have since learned that Nahuatl and Hopi both belong to a family of languages spoken by peoples throughout the American Southwest. We know that the Aztecs didn't originate in what is now Mexico, and that they themselves were conquerors who were strongly resented by those they subjected to their rule.   Their place of origin is known as Aztlan, but scholars can only theorize about Aztlan's location. The linguistic evidence tends to confirm the theory that Aztlan was in the American Southwest.  For further discussion of the problems involved in locating Aztlan see this article.

Silko makes no mention of the most terrible aspect of pre-Conquest Aztec governance.   It was routine human sacrifice.   Other Meso-American civilizations limited human sacrifice to dire emergencies.   Yet the Aztecs were characterized by intense anxiety.  This article dealing Aztec Human Sacrifice on Wikipedia is very thorough and contains a chart with all the festivals where human sacrifices were routinely done. They regularly engaged in human sacrifice for rainfall even if there was no drought.     Silko discusses the  Nahuatl concept of "cloud companions" or "ghost warriors" which involve the idea that the clouds are inhabited by the dead who help bring the rain.  It doesn't seem to occur to her that this is a reference to human sacrifice.   The Aztecs were providing these "cloud companions" through their horrific rites.

It seemed to me that The Tourquoise Ledge is somewhat superficial.  It is filled with observations that are occasionally interesting, but Silko doesn't consider topics in depth.  I think that the diary format is a scattered approach.  I should read her essays if I want to see more focused writing.



Friday, November 20, 2015

Embracing The Wild In Your Dog: The Wolf In Your Home

This is an important book. That's why I purchased it from Amazon and reviewed it for Bookplex.  It includes numerous examples of how ignorance about instinctive dog behavior have caused injury or even death for both humans and dogs.  We have been anthropomorphizing dogs.  To effectively illustrate the perspective of Embracing The Wild In Your Dog, the cover shows a wolf and a dog side by side.    


 Bryan Bailey wants us to know that dogs and wolves are genetically identical, and that we can only understand dogs by studying wolf behavior.   I first encountered this revelation in The Man Who Lives With Wolves by UK wolf researcher Shaun Ellis.  It was Jodi Picoult who led me to this title.  She included it in the bibliography for her novel, Lone Wolf.  Her central character was partly based on Shaun Ellis. I reviewed both books on my old blog, here . Due to prejudices about wolves, many people refuse to believe that dogs have not diverged genetically from wolves. The differences between dogs and wolves are due to human socialization. Bailey shows in this book that  human intervention hasn't been to the benefit of the canine species.

Once we accept that dogs should not be treated as if they were human children, I would think that the reverse should also apply.  I found only one editing error, but there are a number of passages in this book that seem to imply that humans would be better off if parents and others in authority treated everyone the same way that alpha wolves treat the members of their packs.  Bailey seems to favor military dictatorships.  It doesn’t appear to me that military dictatorships are more orderly and peaceful precisely because of some significant differences between humans and canines.

Although I very much disagree with Bailey’s approach to human social organization, I did learn a great deal about dogs and the increasingly troubled relationship between humans and dogs. I was shocked to find out that some animal shelters were concealing the violent pasts of dogs from people who seek to adopt them.  Bailey very rightly points out that people don’t have any hope of successfully integrating a dog into their households unless they know what to expect.   He wants to help us to develop into pack leaders for the dogs in our lives.  


Monday, November 9, 2015

The Legend of Mickey Tussler-- Reading The First Book in a Series Second

I just finished the first book about fictional autistic pitcher, Mickey Tussler.  This brings my total of baseball novels read in 2015 to three.  I thought that the cover showing a ball in a mitt illustrates the role of the catcher in Mickey’s development into an extraordinary pitcher.    The rapport that Boxcar, the Brewers’ catcher, develops with Mickey is integral to the story of Mickey’s success.

 I read the sequel to this book, Sophomore Campaign, before this one and reviewed it here . I was interested enough in the characters to want to know more about their backgrounds.  So I purchased it from Amazon and reviewed it for Bookplex.  

 Author Frank Nappi wisely left some things for me to discover in The Legend of Mickey Tussler that weren’t mentioned in the second book.  I didn’t feel that I already knew the entire plotline and all the information about the past of the characters.  I was surprised at several points while reading The Legend of Mickey Tussler.

I was most astonished by Molly, Mickey’s Mom.  I understood her and identified with her because of what was revealed about Molly in The Legend of Mickey Tussler.   Reading this book also caused me to appreciate how much she grew in the sequel. 

The author’s style was another reason to read the first Mickey Tussler book.   I was convinced that I’d find some passages that were noteworthy for their elegance as I did in Sophomore Campaign.    This turned out to be a correct assumption.   Nappi is a class act, and the editing is also a winner.  I only found one typographical error, but many more instances of lovely prose.

Yet the one haunting passage that I recorded in my book journal runs counter to the philosophy of Sophomore Campaign that prejudice can be overcome.  So The Legend of Mickey Tussler is a darker book than the sequel.   Both the tone and the resolution are darker.   I concluded that Nappi continued writing about Mickey to give us more hope for him, and all those who have been victimized by prejudice.