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In Between the Sheets
In Between the Sheets
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

49 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Would He Publish It Today, 4 Feb. 2003
This review is from: In Between the Sheets (Paperback)
"In Between The Sheets", was published in 1978 following two very highly prized and one award-winning book by Mr. McEwan. I have become a great admirer of his more recent work so; I had gone back to read some of his earliest published books including this collection of short stories. The book is physically small and brief at 153 pages, and what it contains even less of is substance.
Seven short stories are contained and only the last even begins to rise to the level of mildly interesting, but it too quickly dissolves in to a bit of trivia. When reading an early collection like this I often wonder if it was published to fill a demand for who was then a new hot sensation of a writer, and secondly would it ever see publication today? My guess is the first question would be answered as yes, and the second would be not a chance. Mr. McEwan has become a writer that has an international reputation as a very good author, it is deserved, and he has been honored repeatedly for his work. Nothing of the present author can be found in this book.
In the late 1970's or whenever these stories were read there were probably trendy bits of hip phrasing that would be used to describe and justify these stories. But as with most trends they lack substance and fade as quickly as they arrive. I suppose surreal could be applied to some of the tales, but others would have different ideas about bestiality as shared in the story, "Reflections of a Kept Ape". The story, "Pornography", has been played out so many times in real life that it fails to even mildly shock. "In Between The Sheets", the short story, is simply the nadir in a book of stories competing for descriptions of the most dysfunctional human behavior. I cannot say any more here as it would be unprintable no matter how it was phrased. But unlike some stories of its type is does not create any interest, and in that way is beautifully consistent with the balance of the collection.
I have spent as much time with Mr. McEwen's early works (3 books) that I will ever spend. I look forward to new work but backtracking to his earliest offerings has been unrewarding.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2009 7:11 PM GMT

Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon (A Tehabi book)
Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon (A Tehabi book)
by David West Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Manners to Read and Value This Book, 2 Feb. 2003
For Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.
I read this book as a layperson not as an engineer, or someone who has an encyclopedic knowledge that an amateur can gain when an interest becomes a serious hobby, or a consuming subject for study. I was going to suggest there were only two ways to read this book but I finished the volume early Saturday morning several hours prior to the loss of the Columbia Shuttle and the 7 men and women she carried.
If this book contains errors about the size of a tank, or the function of a part, that is inexcusable. This book contains written endorsements from more than one Apollo Astronaut, and it would seem that if there is information that is going to be offered as fact it should be correct.
The book is a treasure to anyone who lived and experienced parts of the wonder that was The Apollo Program. This does not excuse the errors if they exist, but it is not reason enough to condemn the value of the book, or ridicule it as a picture book for children.
What quickly became apparent after the tragedy yesterday is how far out of touch the public has become with the men and women who perform these missions, gather knowledge, and do so in situations that contain a level of risk that few people would ever contemplate much less take. The Apollo astronauts, the Gemini astronauts, and the Mercury astronauts were men that we all knew by name. Movies have been made about the original Mercury 7, more recently a film about the miraculous team effort that snatched the crew of Apollo 13 from what should have been certain death was brought to the screen by Ron Howard and a host of wonderful actors including Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris to name only a few.
The Apollo Program was unprecedented, 400,000 people were required to put the program and vehicles together to place men on the Moon. But when the program was ended no money was budgeted to even save all the working documents it took to create Apollo. If we wanted to recreate Apollo the absurd situation is that we would have to do research and development all over again because the records were not properly archived. One of the greatest achievements of humans, and so much of the work is gone.
On January 27, 1967, Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White died without leaving the ground, when the capsule of Apollo I burned them to death in a pure oxygen atmosphere which a short circuit ignited.
On January 28, 1986 the 7 Challenger astronauts died less than 75 seconds after launch. Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe were those persons willing to push the boundries of human exploration on that tragic day.
And then yesterday, 9 hours after January 2002 had ended, the men and women at the beginning of these comments lost their lives for reasons as yet unknown.
The Challenger 7 were eulogized by countless people, but on the day of their deaths one of the most eloquent speakers ever concluded his remarks as follows; The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God. President Ronald Reagan

Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls
Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls
by Robert M. Thorson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A 240,000 Mile Ecosystem, 2 Feb. 2003
Robert M. Thorson has written a fascinating book that might, on first glance, appear to be on a topic that is little more than a charming adornment of days gone by. "Stone By Stone", with its idyllic cover photo of a mist shrouded field with a stone fence in the foreground is indeed about these fences that are so prominent in New England. The photo on the cover was taken on Block Island but almost the entire book focuses on what is traditionally thought of as New England beginning with the earliest settlements until the present.
The book is not one that can be placed in a single genre, it is a history book, a geology book, and one that is also filled with the social structure of the earliest New England pioneers. These walls cannot be explained and understood without some knowledge of the people who created them, why they were built, and even where the materials came from. Even the diversity of the walls is remarkable, yet even this becomes understandable after the lessons the author shares with readers about the geology that produced the stones, and by extension the walls that were created.
These structures that started as no more than piles for what was a nuisance to farmers, over time, become complex ecosystems for the life they attaches to them, lives amongst and under the walls, and even for those species that use them as blinds to hunt from. During the Revolutionary War they were even used as defensive structures for the Minutemen to fire from when fighting the soldiers of England.
If you are from New England or have visited and enjoyed the area this book will likely be of great interest to you. I have spent my life in New England so I found the book fascinating. However if you have never stepped foot in the area and know it only from the prints of Currier and Ives, artists like Andrew Wyeth and Eric Sloane, or from the pens of authors like Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau, the book will bring a great deal of enjoyment and knowledge.

Maximum Warp: Bk. 2 (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Maximum Warp: Bk. 2 (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
by Dave Galanter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Two Makes the Pair Worthwhile, 31 Jan. 2003
Book #2 of, "The Maximum Warp", pair manages to pull together the weaker first book and make the pair a worthwhile Trek adventure. One of the keys to the success of a plot whose ending is not completely unfamiliar is the interaction between Mr. Spock and Data, two of my favorite characters from different incarnations of Enterprise ships. I also have always enjoyed the unique relationship bridge that was created when Captain Picard and Captain Kirk met, and the ongoing development of shared experiences with Mr. Spock and Captain Picard.
Whether you agree that this 2 book tale is enjoyable will largely depend on how much familiarity you are willing to accept. The end is filled with phrases like, 10 dimensional type IV civilizations, base matter energy is inescapable, and the theory of oscillating universes. What made this jargon work for me was that it was information and theory that was primarily explored by Data and Mr. Spock, with Data exceeding Mr. Spock's ability for reasons that were interesting. It was a different spin on why Data is different, and not just for the obvious reasons.
I gave book #1 3 stars, and I have given this book 4. Together they are somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, and again, how much of the material reminds you of another Trek episode may decide how much you like these books and how you would rate them. Many of the sub-plots of the book were hastily brought to conclusion, and many were very questionable as to why they were needed at all, but as the author introduced them in book #1 he had no choice but to either conclude them or leave them unfinished. The book closed with a great quote from Albert Einstein, People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
This is not a set I would start out with, but if you plan to work your way through the dozens of books in the Trek anthology, you will come across these eventually, and like others I have read they do recall and refer to other adventures of crews in the past.

Maximum Warp: Bk. 1 (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Maximum Warp: Bk. 1 (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
by Dave Galanter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Not Even Spock, 29 Jan. 2003
Not even the legendary Mr. Spock can save what amounts to half a book, what amounts to less than half a story. There is nothing wrong with a series of books that all contain complete segments, I have little patience with a story that is abbreviated and for all practical purposes stops in the midst of a final sentence.
This is the first TNG book I have read. It would be unfair to judge anything other than this partial book, and at present I am reading the second and final portion. This book is not only too brief at 203 pages, it is far too ambitious in its attempt to have a variety of storylines, multiple ships, captains, and species all swirling around in too small a space. The book does not have the room to do any of the individual tales and sub-plots justice, and makes a hash of the attempt.
Mr. Spock is one of my favorite characters in Star Trek and science fiction in general. He has an incredibly long history in the various series, and a long term relationship with Captain Picard as well. Fans will recall that it was through Picard's cooperation that Spock's father was able to complete his final ambassadorial assignment, and again through Picard that Spock and his father would come to learn about each other.
The book even drops bits about Admiral Quinn to fill space, brings Deep Space 9, and even Captain Janeway and Voyager in to this far too busy construct. Perhaps the author will in some manner bring this all together in the final book. If he does it will be a remarkable recovery. Based only on this book I would recommend that readers start with other series, specifically, "The Dominion War", as it is so prominently and repeatedly mentioned in this book.

Stargazer Book Two: Progenitor
Stargazer Book Two: Progenitor
by Michael Jan Friedman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Continuation, 29 Jan. 2003
Book #1 of the Stargazer series was very well done even though it required so much time to be spent on exposition of all the new players and their responsibilities. This is only the second book with Captain Jean Luc Picard in command, yet he is already demonstrating character traits and leadership style that would be familiar to those fans of the TNG television series and films. As many of the more successful stories have done in the past, "Stargazer Book #2 Progenitor", includes two solid story lines that are linked yet distinct, and includes other more minor themes from the first book encompassing the machinations of one Admiral McAteer. A name that will be familiar to many fans is mentioned only in passing, but when the name is Zefram Cochrane many memories and Star Trek History are recalled.
Ensign Jiterica whose species I found so interesting in the first book plays a major role in this second book, which also introduces the now familiar space-time rifts that are explored and endured by so many Trek crews. There are also some crew changes that were made known at the end of book one, and further development within the crew, both as a team and as individuals who make great positive strides. The introductions were handled in book #1, and many personality issues identified as well. In this second book that are largely rectified one way or another.
Captain Picard takes an away team off in support of his chief engineer much in the same way he will support Whorf some 3 decades later. None of the players on this crew are common to the TNG crew, but they are all just as interesting in their diversity, and some resemble the first Enterprise crew in their good-natured bickering. Also, as in the first book politics plays a large role, and like they often are in day to day life they are distasteful.
I used the Microsoft E-Reader for this book although I have used the Adobe Reader as well. Purely from an ease of use, and from an easy on the eyes perspective, both readers are perfectly acceptable. The Microsoft version offers a text reader option which I have not used. I am running these on Windows XP although I don't know that this makes any difference.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Even Younger Than Captain Kirk, 29 Jan. 2003
I recently read the book that described the first mission ever commanded by the Captain that will always come to mind first, Captain James T. Kirk, and his starship The Enterprise. Even though I have been a fan of the various television series and the movies that have followed, the book I mention was the first Star Trek novel I had ever read. The author was familiar to me as she had written for the Star Wars series, and the decision to try Star Trek in book form was a rewarding one.
Several generations later an even younger Captain would take the helm of his first starship, a captain who would also one day command a newer Enterprise, but before he did, his first command would be The Stargazer. Captain Jean Luc Picard may be even more familiar to people who came to Star Trek during its renaissance as opposed to the original series in the 1960's, or the almost continuous availability of the original in syndication.
Both captains were very young and both came to their commands through tragedy of varying degrees at very young ages, which made their ability to command all the more of a trial. Their first missions could not have been more different, the former involving one of the legendary, "First Contacts", and this one of Captain Picard's involving the theme of, "everything is not what it seems", a task riddled with deceptions, and a crew that is far from ideal, and intentionally structured that way.
Familiar themes like The Prime Directive are here, as well as a very young captain who would go on to become a legend just like his predecessor in the first Enterprise. There are a variety of life-forms that are new, and one that requires a containment suit to function that is as interesting as any being to appear in the television series or the films.
I should note I read this in an E-Book format, a method of accessing books that I have used previously when that was the only form that was offered. I now have a LCD screen that is much easier on the eyes for extended reading, so going through this 275 page book in the Microsoft E-Reader format was no more difficult than a traditional book. The one obvious constraint was that I remain in front of the screen. E-Books can be an excellent value, and with the new formats of hardware appearing it will no longer be required that you sit at your computer, simply taking the screen with you is all that will be needed. There is also a PDA version that can be downloaded for these books, and of course laptops go wherever cords or batteries allow.
I have already ordered the next in this series, and again in E-Book form. I think they are a great way to economically enjoy books, and I will happily trade mobility of the written word for not having to venture outside in the frigid weather, or wait for UPS to bring the traditional format to my door. I am not prepared to make the switch without exception. It is not yet possible, and even if it were I still want the traditional book the vast majority of the time. But E-Books have a place, and if you have yet to try one, I suggest that you do

Something to Declare: Essays on France
Something to Declare: Essays on France
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected but Brilliant, 28 Jan. 2003
Firstly, I did not gather all this book had to offer, as I do not have the knowledge that Mr. Barnes requires regarding French popular music of decades ago, including Georges Brassens, Boris Vian and Jacques Brel, and other topics that can only be fully appreciated if you have previous knowledge of them. Another example is his detailed discussion of French Cinema, again, hard to appreciate fully without prior and extensive knowledge. As a testament to his writing skill and style, these barriers did not keep me from reading every bit of this book. Unfortunately I had to read many parts as a novice, but his talent as a writer makes that effort an easy one to make.
There are many essays that will appeal to a wide audience, Edith Wharton, the Tour de France, Henry James, and his discourses on the writers George Sand, Victor Hugo, Stephane Mallarme, and Ivan Turgenev. No book such as this by Mr. Barnes would even be contemplated without a large portion being devoted to Gustave Flaubert, his friends, his actions, and the world he lived in and created. Flaubert is the basis for Mr. Barnes to explore the role of biography, the selective use of historical fact, personal papers, and the revisionist methods that can be employed when even identical source material is used to document the same individual. When Mr. Barnes makes an appearance in the book it is a picture of him standing by the final resting place of his much loved topic, the final resting place of Flaubert.
The topics I mention are not even close to an exhaustive list of the material that is covered. I have read virtually all of the books and essays that Mr. Barnes has published, and this book is decidedly unique. The book falls short of 300 pages only because the author chose to keep it dense. A slightly more verbose pen could easily have doubled the size of the book. You will likely spend more time on these 279 pages than you generally do, whether with Mr. Barnes or another author.
A very different book from a brilliant mind and very talented observer and writer, just be prepared for a very new experience from him this time around. He has not taken his readers on a trip like this before.

The Granny
The Granny
by Brendan O'Carroll
Edition: Paperback

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completion of the Perfect Trilogy, 27 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Granny (Paperback)
Mr. Brendan O'Carroll has created with, "The Mammy", "The Chisellers", and, "The Granny", a trilogy that is exceptionally well written, a joy to read, and an alternative Irish Tale. I differentiate this work from the more familiar read about an Irish Family, for while the life of this Family is far from perfect, it is not extreme in its portrayal of the darker sides of people, be they Irish, or in the case of this book, French or Jewish as well. Of the three books this could be noted as the one that brings events together too neatly, especially when a given outcome is positive. I believe this appraisal would be unfair, as the Author balances the experiences of his characters, and even if he had favored the positive, why would that be deserving of scorn?

This book does bring certain threads of the story to a conclusion. The Author could easily continue the stories of this Family, or a given member, but the trilogy; I believe should stand by itself.

Once again the third book takes place when additional time has passed. The Browne Children are children no longer, and with offspring of their own the cycle begins again with the newest of the Browne's. Agnes transitions from Mammy to Granny, as her children take their place as Mammies and Dads to children of there own. Some of the new Families are traditional, some less so, however as in the previous two books while ignorance and the ugly behavior it breeds is not hidden, and overall acceptance and tolerance are great virtues of this man's work.

The three works are as close to faultless storytelling as I have read, and I hope I can look forward to many more books by this Author. He will have a tremendous challenge to repeat this success, but as he has done it three times in succession, waiting for additional novels should not be a wait in vain.

If you come to the end of this book and your eyes are not at least full, see your Doctor. Your tear ducts are clogged.
Mr. O'Carroll my sincere thanks.

The Chisellers
The Chisellers
by Brendan O'Carroll
Edition: Paperback

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without Qualification, Flawless the Sequel, 27 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Chisellers (Paperback)
A sequel to a wonderful book is inherently at risk. For when it is to be read by a person familiar with the initial experience, part two is almost predestined to be disappointment. Book one has the advantage of introducing all that is new. The final of the three can tie all the experiences together, can bring closure. But the middle event must maintain the reader's enthusiasm. When the story and its execution are excellent, the reader is enthusiastic for the final event. The last book is not read just to complete the cycle. Happily there are no absolutes, exceptions ensure that there will be pleasant surprises, not all repeated experience need be as expected.

With, "The Chisellers", Mr. Brendan O'Carroll has repeated the brilliance of, "The Mammy", without resorting to repeating himself as a writer, or forcing his characters to remain unchanged. This writer brings all of the people you love in part one and he allows them to evolve as a person would in their own life. The mood of this book is different, but is also a natural progression. The Browne Clan is getting older; adulthood envelops some, while it still awaits the younger children. Agnes too is aging, adapting to the dramatic changes she was forced to cope with in the first book. However as I mentioned when commenting upon, "The Mammy", Mr. O'Carroll tells a wonderful story, which happens to take place with an Irish Family. While it is true this brings with it some detail that may be familiar, the fact that this is an Irish Family is never what drives this book. He never allows his work to cheat and use the easy cliché.

The Author also brings to this wonderful trilogy people that are not Catholic, that are not Irish, and they are not by default the evil players. His story is inclusive; the world he writes about is not a fantasyland where the pains and trials of life are absent. But neither is it a world that when suffering appears, it appears as a certain brand, a certain nationality, a certain group of worn clichés.

And in this second book there is great pain, there is senseless destruction and loss. And while it would be very easy of accusing the Author of being a bit too neat with finding the lining of silver in one cloud too many, it is no more than most tales of Ireland when every cloud contains a granite mountain.

This amazing writer is two for two, and now it remains to be seen if he has the final third of the hat trick within him. For this middle installment is as good as number one, so he has nothing to improve upon, as the first two were uniformly tremendous.

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