Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Father at 100

A Memoir
Ron Reagan

All the recent hoopla over Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, including a multi-part documentary extravaganza on PBS has helped to propel My Father at 100 to the NY times bestseller list, where it currently sits at number 24 for nonfiction, a long way down from No.1, currently occupied by Donald Rumsfeld's Known and Unknown, in which, hopefully, we will finally learn what the difference is between a known unknown and an unknown unknown - or is it known unknown and an unknown known?

 Ron Reagan is Ronald and Nancy's youngest child who, like his sister, Patti Davis, holds many views on political, moral and religious matters that are in conflict with those espoused by their father. Nonetheless, in this memoir, Ron shows a great love for his father. The personal, en famille, anecdotes Reagan tells give My Father at 100 an intimacy no other biography could have. - Ronald Reagan used to dive to the bottom of the swimming pool with young Ron riding on his back; Ronald Reagan nearly crashed his jeep dragging a trailer load of stone over a steep hill on the ranch, three times in a row, all along refusing to take a slightly longer and more level route.

Ron Reagan said in the book that he suspects, in hindsight, that there were signs of impending Alzheimer's disease in the President which began to show after the assassination attempt by by John Hinckley. The fact that the 70 year old was recovering from a near fatal shooting while doing what is arguably the most stressful job in the world may be an alternative explanation, though. Reagan's management style was always to delegate important functions and trust his subordinates with them. This did make his seem disengaged. Ron is not suggesting that his father was off his rocker or incompetent during either term of his presidency.

According to his son, Ronald Reagan's best job was as a lifeguard on the Rock River in Illinois, which he did, summers through most of high school and college. Rescuing people was what Reagan loved to do. He made 77 rescues in his lifeguarding career. Ron Reagan believes that his father enjoyed playing the part of the hero in his movies but relished more being the actual hero at Lowell Park more and saw his role as President as one of rescuing America from big government, rescuing the world from nuclear war, rescuing democracy from the threat of Communism.

He does point out a few important things which our current crop of tax cutting legislators should be aware of. Early in his first term Reagan got an income tax cut through Congress, but, later in his term in office, much of those taxes were restored because it was realized that Reagan's economics really were "voodoo" and the deficit was growing out of control. I have heard people say, (on NPR! ) that every time the income tax is cut it results in an increase in revenue, due to economic growth that is stimulated by the tax cut. Guess what? When you lower your prices below the cost of production you lose money no matter how much of it you sell, Milo Minderbender notwithstanding. In fact, almost every time that this tactic has been tried, including the original Reagan tax cuts, and most certainly the current "Bush tax cut," it has resulted in a shortfall in revenues, just like the math says it should.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

For All the Tea in China

How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History
Sarah Rose

This is the first book by food and travel writer Sarah Rose. Rose has written pieces for Travel and Leisure, BRIDES Magazine, Men's Journal and Endless Vacation. She also appears in the Sundance Channel series Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys. Sarah keeps a blog, in which all her various activities and articles are listed and For All the Tea in China is endlessly flogged.

The East India Company had, for a couple of centuries, been trading opium, produced in Inda, to China in exchange for it's tea, which was shipped home to England. The profits bor both these products were enormous for the Company. It was as if the Cali drug cartel was shipping it's cocaine to the US and bringing back shiploads of Lipton's and Red Rose in exchange.

Rose speaks of both opium and tea as drugs, though. A cup of tea contains a rather mild dose of caffeine. Opium, of course, is the source material from which morphine and heroine are made. It is hardly a fair exchange. Rose says that one in three Chinese adults were addicted to opium by the time described in the book. Of course, it could be argued that almost every person in the British Empire was addicted to tea. Tea became the most common beverage in the Empire, improving the health and extending the lives of Brits everywhere, mostly through the process of boiling the rather sketchy water they were drinking, reducing the incidence of cholera and other diseases.

In the mid 19th century the East India Company sent a wee Scotsman named Robert Fortune to China on a mission of industrial espionage. His assignment is to disguise himself as a Chinese person, travel to the tea growing areas in China and steal tea plants, seeds and processing methods. China had a monopoly on tea production at the time and the Company planned to break that monopoly by growing tea in the Himalayan mountain regions of northern India. For All the Tea in China is the story of how Fortune succeeded in stealing China's tea.

For All the Tea in China reads like a novel. It is fast paced and has a series of plot twists. It is filled with interesting characters which Rose has filled out, imaginatively. I am sure that the original source materials she had to work with, letters to and from the East India Company, invoices and shipping records, were a bit more dry. Fortune made several trips inland from Shanghai.

Rose gives most attention to his first collecting trip, accompanied by a translator named Wang, to a region famous for green tea. On that trip Fortune discovers that Chinese tea manufacturers have been adding poisonous blue and yellow pigments, common ingredients in paint, to green tea, to give it a more green color for export. This may be the first documented example of a Chinese company adulterating an exported product with toxic substances. It also the reason why black tea is more widely used in the western world than green, even today.

In the end, because of Robert Fortunes efforts, tea grown in India, using Chinese expertise, overtakes that of China in both quality and volume. Unfortunately, the monopoly given to the East India Company, and it's government of the subcontinent, are dissolved by Parliament not long afterward and the Company collapsed.  I guess they were not too big to fail.

This post is in the 64th
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at The Book Frog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blog Hop for Book Reviews

Book Blogger Hop

The Crazy For Books
book blog party blog hop is a weekly occurrence. You can browse through about 200 book blogs by following the link to their post. This week they are asking us to tell them about a book review we posted this week.

I wrote about Laura Lippman's new book I'd Know You Anywhere this week. It's not a Tess Monaghan story or even a murder mystery. Take a look.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review Blog Carnival LXII

Welcome to the 62nd edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival, the Superbowl edition. This will give you something to do while the sports fans are whooping it up in front of the television, at least in between delivering food and beer to them. There are 28 book reviews in this edition, enjoy!


Zohar at Man of la Book reviews The Marching Season by Daniel Silva, a thriller set in pre-peace agreement Ireland and featuring Silva's ex CIA agent character, Michael Osbourne .

Zohar is giving away free copies of an ebook,  The Purples by W.K. Berger.

Zohar is enthusiastic about We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen. "Jensen’s debut novel is already hailed as an instant classic and rightfully so."

 Bookish Ruth brings us Dear America: A Light in the Storm by Karen Hesse, the story of the 16 year old daughter of a lighthouse keeper on Fenwick Island, Delaware, at the beginning of the Civil War.

Jim Murdoch is glad he doesn't live in Pakistan after reading In Other Rooms, Other Wonders  by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Jim blogs at The Truth About Lies. "This book could have been a celebration of Pakistani culture but I felt the author in the background too often wagging his finger. Throughout a series of interlinked stories we get to see the whole gamut of life from the poorest to the richest and what is sad is how similar they are. The poor try to better themselves by whatever means are at their disposal, fair or foul. and the rich try to hang onto what’s theirs and what they believe to be theirs. You need to be shrewd to get on in Pakistan because there's always somebody after a slice of what you have to keep them going until they can find a way to get their hands on the whole pie. "

Elizabeth McClung presents Wish by Joseph Monninger, and discusses, from experience,  the three types of people you meet when you have a Chronic/degenerative illness. Elizabeth blogs at Screw Bronze!.

On Imagineering, antariksh doesn't mean to intrude with A Spot of Bother by MarkHaddon .

Thomas Burchfield is a bit late with his best of 2010 list: Late Arrivals: The Books of 2010 posted at A Curious Man.

Crime Fiction

KerrieS presents Review: THE BRUTAL TELLING, Louise Penny posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE.
"Never read any Louise Penny? Then you are missing out on one of the best crime fiction writers around!"

And KerrieS reviewes THE HALF-CHILD by , Angela Savage. "A young Australian volunteer in Thailand apparently commits suicide when she has the world to live for. The girl's father commissions Australian resident in Bangkok, Jayne Keeney, what triggered his daughter's suicide. Another Australian author to look for."

Ever the voracious reader, KerrieS also gives us THE RULE BOOK by Rob Kitchin. "This review highlights an Irish crime fiction author you should be on the look out for. Only 2 books so far, both well worth looking for."

Keeping up the pace, KerrieS reviews Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, which she calls "The best crime fiction book I've read this year."

Zohar got a free copy of The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, and you might get one too if you leave your name at Man of la Book.

Historical Fiction

Izgad calls Heresy by S. J. Parris "The Name of the Rose Starring Giordano Bruno Instead of Sean Connery."

Young Adult Fiction

Lauren Obst is addicted to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins At her blog, The Very Hungry Bookworm, Lauren asks "What are you hungry for?

Children's Books

Read Aloud Dad presents Peter Pan - How To Find The Best Illustrated Children's Edition For Reading Aloud. "Last week a delightful letter arrived in my mailbox. Sandra - a charming reader of this blog - had a question. After reading my review of an enchanting illustrated version of the original Pinocchio, Sandra said she wanted to find an illustrated Peter Pan for reading aloud kids."

Graphic Novel

Kevin Mattison reviews My clash at Demonhead, a Scott Pilgrim graphic novel, or is it an animated film based on the graphic novels? by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Whatever it is, you can read about it at The Idler.

Non Fiction

Leigh Dyer, of The Single Women's Guide to Marriage, would like you to know Why Mr. Right Can't Find You.

 Diane Saarinen gives us a review of Being with Animals by Barbara J. King, at New Age Journal.

Kara Williams, of The Vacation Gals does not want to emulate author Julian Smith's adventures as told in Crossing the Heart of Africa.

Zohar reviews and is giving away five copies of Little Princes by Conor Grennan, at Man of la Book.

Almanzo Greenwick wants to take you for a visit to Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle, posted at Greenwick Press.

Rhiana presents A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns posted at A Frugal Life. "A Hole in the Gospel" he tells his personal story and encourages Americans to look beyond their own daily needs and out towards the needs of the world. "

Krisy Trnavsky presents Why Michio Kaku Rocks! | My Geek Voice, which incidentally, is a review of Kaku's book Physics of the Impossible.

Jeanne, at Necromancy Never Pays, didn't really care for How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish, mostly because the sentences were so awkward. "A book that would better have been a blog!"


Samantha Miller, at Bachelor of Arts, calls Jane Austen by Carol Shields "literary non-fiction at its Best."


Rebecca Glenn reviews Just Kids by Patti Smith.
"Just Kids is Patti Smith's sweet, nostalgic, and ultimately heart-breaking memoir of her time in New York with friend and soulmate Robert Mapplethorpe."


Andy Hayes at Sharing Travel Experiences gives us Letters to Zerkyby Bill Raney and Jo Anne Walker Raney: Part Travelogue, Part Memoir, Part Love Letter." The travelogue that will make you smile, make you cry, and take you on an incredible journey."

The next edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival will be at Mysteries in Paradise on Feb. 20th. If you review books on your blog, you can participate by submitting a post through this form.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'd Know You Anywhere

Laura Lippman

Tess Monaghan is missing from the latest novel by Baltimore's favorite crime writer. I'd Know You Anywhere is a psychological, well not a thriller exactly, but it has plenty of suspense and a serial killer of sorts.

Lippman takes the reader into the mind of an adult survivor of a childhood kidnapping and rape. The main character, let's call her Eliza, is living her life cautiously with a husband and two children when she gets a letter from the man  who snatched her when she was fifteen years old. Warren has been on death row for more than twenty years and Eliza's testimony, about the kidnapping and murder of thirteen year old Holly, had helped to convict him. Now the inmate wants to talk to her.

The logic of plot development dictates from the moment the letter arrives that Eliza will go and visit Warren in prison. The suspense in the book rides on a question: why did he let Eliza live when he killed the others?

Eliza has become a fearful person, always sleeping with the windows closed, worried that the world will intrude into her privacy, that she will again become a public spectacle as she was during the trial, that her own children will learn from someone else, before she is ready to tell them, what happened to her in 1985, that her own young daughter will blunder unknowingly into a similar situation.

In the end, at the "death house" as Warren is about to be executed, Eliza is faced with a difficult choice. This is also dictated by the logic of plot development. You'll have to read the book to find out what that choice is. Don't read ahead, that's cheating.

This post is in the 63rd
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Mysteries In Paradise.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blogroll Amnesty Day!

Today is Blogroll Amnesty Day. Blogroll Amnesty Day was started by Jon Swift, a satirical mock conservative blogger who was upset when a group of bigshots in the liberal blogosphere decided to give themselves an amnesty and purge their blogrolls of lesser fry.

Jon Swift's real world counterpart, Al Weisel, passed away last year, leaving us all at a loss without his pointed wit and neoconservative leadership. Fortunately Skippy the Bush Kangaroo,  whom I suspect of  being a group effort by a bunch of grad students or unemployed journalists, has stepped in to keep Blogroll Amnesty Day alive. The idea is to increase readership of small (and dare I say liberal) blogs through mutual linkage and guerrilla SEO. I am not concerned one way or another about the politics of the bloggers I link to here, but I do want to share the wealth.

If you would like to participate, here are the rules:

1. Write a Blogroll Amnesty Day post and, in it, link to 5 blogs that have less traffic than yours.

(How do I know how much traffic somebody else's blog has? Never mind, I'm going to link to five new "followers" on Blogspot and hope for the best.)

2. Forward a link to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo so your post can be included in one of his/her/their updates, which will be posted on Skippy over the next four days.

3. Don't say that nobody's blog is smaller than yours, that's whining and Skippy is sick of hearing it. (and also claims to have the copyright)

4. This year's Blogroll Amnesty Day is dedicated to Jon Swift aka Al Weisel, so it might be nice of you mentioned that fact .

OK, so here we go:

Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews Laurie is a book reviewer who favors indie and small press authors. She might even want a copy of your ebook, but I would ask first before emailing it.

Alison Can Read, which is a good thing and I'm happy for her. She also has one of those big eyed Japanese manga characters for an avatar. Alison is into manga and YA fiction.

The Crazy Bookworm Bloggers who follow me on Google Friend Connect tend to be book bloggers, becausee of the nature of this blog, lately they tend to be participants in a couple of blog hops that I have tried. This is one of those.

Book Purring I don't know how Samita found me but I suspect it was through one of those blog hops. She appears to be into chick lit. To each her own.

WordsinSinc is running what is billed as the "Weekend Creation Blog Hop" this weekend.  While I'm at it let me introduce a couple more blog hop hosts:

Crazy for Books hosts a book blogger blog hop every weekend. If you write about books you are invited to participate. You will be asked to write a post on some question posed by one of the Crazy for Books bloggers and you copy and paste a link to the hop and use a linkytool to get a link back to your post.

The Blue Bookcase bills itself as a "literary" blog and runs a "literary" blog hop every other week. If you hold your pinky up while sipping your tea you qualify.

If you would like to be a part of Blogroll Amnesty Day, have at it. You can email Skippy to get a link code to the above graphic, so you don't have to host it on your blog, if  you want. Don't forget to email Skippy anyhow so you can be counted in the 2011 B.A.D. census. (Remember not to whine about the smallness of your blog)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vacation Planning through Literature?

Literary Blog Hop

The Blue Bookcase blog hop question of the week is "What setting (time or place) from a book or story would you most like to visit? Eudora Welty said that, "Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it...," so in what location would you most like to hang out?"

I saw an episode of Antiques Roadshow from the lakes district in England. This is where Beatrix Potter lived and, as part of the show, they had a tour of her home in which they showed how she had used it as the setting for her Peter Rabbit stories. The illustrations from the original editions are quite recognizable, particularly Mr. McGregor's garden. The host of the show held up a copy of an illustration of the garden gate while standing next to Potter's garden gate.

The lake district is a green, hilly, rural place, quiet and peaceful. I would enjoy spending a week or so there. Then I'd be ready to go on a rafting tour of the Grand Canyon and visit the places described by Johns Wesley Powell in The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.

While you're here, I would like to call your attention to my call for submissions for the Book Review Blog Carnival, which I will be hosting this coming Sunday.

Book Review Blog Carnival Coming Here Sunday

Book bloggers, submit your book reviews for the Book Review Blog Carnival which will appear right here this coming Sunday. Use the convenient submission form here.