FATE OF THE FURIOUS


Fate of the Furious set box office records when it showed up in theaters a month ago. With a cast of Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Ludacris, and Michelle Rodriguez as well as dozens of vehicles that explode, this movie has more action than dialogue. Yes, it’s all silly fun. But the hyper-kinetic production values are on the screen. Great popcorn movie! GRADE: A-

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #421: JUST THE WAY IT IS/BLONDE’S REQUIEM By James Hadley Chase


Greg Shepard’s Introduction traces the successful writing career of Rene Lodge Brabazon Raymond, aka “James Hadley Chase,” a British writer who wrote 90 thriller novels–most of them set in America. A James Hadley Chase novel features hard-boiled action and usually a noirish ending. STARK HOUSE has been reprinting omnibus editions of James Hdley Chase novels. This latest omnibus edition includes Just the Way It Is and Blonde’s Requiem. Just the Way It Is (1944) is the story of gangsters in a small town. What makes this novel unusual is Chase’s devleopment of two women characters: Lucille, a gangster’s moll, and Clare Russell, a plucky reporter. Blonde’s Requiem (1945) caused Chase problems because he borrowed heavily from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely in plot construction. The book has been out-of-print for 70 years.

If you’re looking for traditional thrillers with violence, deception, betrayal, and drama, this STARK HOUSE omnibus will fulfill your yearning for noir.

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #71: 25 JUKE BOX GREATS, VOL. II


I found 25 Juke Box Greats, Vol. II at a Library Book Sale. It cost me twenty-five cents. This CD includes plenty of songs I grew up listening to in my early teens. Who could forget Betty Everett’s “The Shoop Shoop Song”? How many of these songs do you remember? GRADE: B+
TRACK LIST:
1 –The Tokens The Lion Sleeps Tonight 2:37
2 –Peggy March I Will Follow Him 2:30
3 –Jackie DeShannon Put A Little Love In Your Heart 2:37
4 –Jay & The Americans Cara Mia 2:33
5 –Ray Peterson Tell Laura I Love Her 2:57
6 –Sam Cooke Twistin’ The Night Away 2:40
7 –The Highwaymen* Michael 2:47
8 –Fats Domino I’m Walkin’ 2:04
9 –Bobby Vee Rubber Ball 2:22
10 –Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law 2:34
11 –Johnny Tillotson It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’ 2:49
12 –Gary Lewis & The Playboys This Diamond Ring 2:10
13 –Petula Clark I Know A Place 2:47
14 –Betty Everett The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) 2:16
15 –Jan & Dean Surf City 2:28
16 –John Fred & His Playboy Band Judy In Disguise 2:55
17 –The Fleetwoods Come Softly To Me 2:25
18 –Peggy Lee Fever 3:22
19 –Everly Brothers, The* All I Have To Do Is Dream 2:21
20 –The Chiffons One Fine Day 2:10
21 –Marv Johnson I Love The Way You Love 2:39
22 –Dee Clark Raindrops 2:52
23 –Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters* Cry Baby 3:25
24 –Linda Scott I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star 2:19
25 –Gene Vincent Be-Bop–A-Lula 2:34

FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE By Conrad Black


“[Benjamin Franklin] strongly objected to the British custom of prescribing the death penalty for far too many offenses, and of substituting for the gallows the transportation of such convicts to America. …[Franklin] sponsored the return to Britain of a shipload of rattlesnakes as a gesture of thanks for the receipt in America of so many hardened criminals.” (p. 33) Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership includes dozens of stories like Ben Franklin and the rattlesnakes. Conrad Black admires many of the accomplishments of the United States, but can be critical when justified. This is a history book about the politics and the battles that forged America. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking single-volume history of the United States (only 700 pages!), Flight of the Eagle is the book for you. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introductory Note By Henry A. Kissinger p. xi
ONE: The Aspirant State, 1754-1836 p. 1
Chapter 1: The Path to Independence: The British and Americans Defeat the French in America, 1754-1774 p. 2
Chapter 2: Independence: The Americans and French Defeat the British in America, 177-1789 p. 50
Chapter 3: Creating a New Republic and Launching It in the World, 1789-1809 p. 88
Chapter 4: Reconciling with Britain Abroad, and with Slavery at Home, 1809-1836 p. 128
TWO: The Predestined People, 1836-1933 p. 171
Chapter 5: Slavery: The House Divided, 1836-1860 p. 172
Chapter 6: Civil War and Reconstruction: The Agony and Triumph of the American Union, 1860-1889 p. 218
Chapter 7: A New Great Power in the World, 1889-1914 p. 264
Chapter 8: The Crisis of Democracy: World War, Isolationism, and Depression, 1914-1933 p. 308
THREE: The Indispensable Country, 1933-1957 p. 353
Chapter 9: Toward Americas Rendezvous with Destiny, 1933-1941 p. 354
Chapter 10: The Victory of Democracy in the West, 1941-1945 p. 398
Chapter 11: From World War to Cold War, 1945-1951 p. 444
Chapter 12: The Red Scare and the Free World, 1951-1957 p. 488
FOUR: The Supreme Nation, 1957-2013 p. 537
Chapter 13: Peace and Prosperity, 1957-1965 p. 538
Chapter 14: Vietnam and Détente: The Beginning of the End of the Cold War, 1965-1973 p. 574
Chapter 15: To the Summit of the World, 1973-1992 p. 618
Chapter 16: Waiting for the Future, 1992-2013 p. 666
Acknowledgments p. 701
Index p. 703

TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT [Blu-ray]


Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven, Blue Beetle, Robin, Terra, and Nightwing take on the mysterious Brother Blood and his strange ally, Deathstroke. The Judas Contract was a ground-breaking comic book series. Now, it’s an intense DC animated movie. I’ve enjoyed these DC animated features over the past three years. The production values are very good and the scripts are very compelling. GRADE: A
SPECIAL FEATURES:
Titanic Minds: Reunited Wolfman and Perez
Villain Rising: Deathstroke
2 Bonus Cartoons
Sneak Peek at Forthcoming Batman and Harley Quinn

NO ONE CARES ABOUT CRAZY PEOPLE: THE CHAOS AND HEARTBREAK OF MENTAL HEALTH IN AMERICA By Ron Powers


The title of this book comes from Scott Walker’s aide, Kelly M. Rindfleisch, who dismissed mental health legislation with “No one cares about crazy people.” Ron Powers cares about crazy people because both of his sons suffered from schizophrenia. Powers’s older son, Dean, committed suicide when he was 21-years-old. The younger son still struggles with his mental health problems. Ron Powers provides an insightful and informative history of how mental health has been dealt with over the past 200 years. We’re a long way from chaining patients up in Bedlam, but when President Reagan closed several mental health facilities, he created a new class of mental health sufferers: the Homeless. Powers shows how the “promise” of new drugs to “cure” mental conditions like schizophrenia failed to deliver the benefits doctors and patients hoped for. Today, we’re mired in a stasis where mental health is relegated to the shadows despite the increasing numbers of people who suffer from depression and bi-polar disorders. No One Cares About Crazy People argues for a new approach to dealing with mental illnesses and shows what can be done when people focus on this important issue. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface xiii
1. Membrane 1
2. What Is Schizophrenia? 21
3. Regulars 39
4. Bedlam, Before and Beyond 56
5. Eugenics: Weeding Out the Mad 79
6. “A More Normal World” 103
7. “When They Were Young” 110
8. Madness and Genius 115
9. “If Only, If Only, If Only…” 128
10. Chaos and Heartbreak 142
11. The Great Unraveler 156
12. Surcease 175
13. Debacle 187
14. “Hey Fam—” 205
15. Antipsychotics 221
16. “Something Unexplainable” 245
17. “We Have Done Pitifully Little About Mental Illness” 264
18. “Primoshadino” 284
19. Red Sox 17, Yankees 1 297
20. Insanity and Icarus 299
21. Someone Cares About Crazy People 316
Epilogue 330
Acknowledgements 333
Notes 335
Index 349
About the Author 361

THE VINYL DETECTIVE: WRITTEN IN DEAD WAX By Andrew Cartmel


If you’re a record fan, you’re going to love Andrew Cartmel’s clever The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax. The Vinyl Detective lives in a London flat with his two cats and spends his time searching thrift shops for old record albums. He’s approached by a beautiful woman named Nevada who works for a wealthy Japanese businessman. For a considerable amount of money, the Vinyl Detective agrees to find a rare Jazz album called Easy Come, Easy Go. The search starts out as fun, but sinister forces are at work. Someone else wants the rare LP, too, and is willing to kill for it. Along the way, author Andrew Carmel displays his knowledge of popular music. Cartmel worked on Midsomer Murders and Torchwood as well as serving as a script editor on Doctor Who. I have the second Vinyl Detective mystery on top of the Read Real Soon stack so you’ll be reading that review soon. The Vinyl Detective: WRitten in Dead Wax gets the series off to a solid start. GRADE: B+

DEAD AGAIN [DVD]


From 1991 comes this surprising movie with Kenneth Branagh (who directed the movie, too!), Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Robin Williams, Andy Garcia, and Wayne Knight (“Newman” from SEINFELD). Kenneth Branagh plays an LA private eye who investigates a woman with amnesia (Emma Thompson). At first, Emma Thompson’s character can’t speak, but with the help of a hypnotist played by Derek Jacobi, she starts to regain fragments of her memory. The plot revolves around “past lives” where Branagh was a composer and Emma Thompson was his wife who is murdered. The movie jumps back and forth in Time. Special features include the trailer, commentary with producer Lindsay Doran and screenwriter Scott Frank, and commentary by Kenneth Branagh. I enjoyed this. GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #420: THE BEST OF GORDON R. DICKSON Edited by Hank Davis


Decades ago, publishers would bring out “The Best of” collections of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers on a regular basis. That tradition still lives at BAEN BOOKS. BAEN BOOKS is publishing The Best of Ben Bova in three volumes. Now, with the help of canny Hank Davis, we have Volume One of The Best of Gordon R. Dickson. Dickson was one of my favorite writers when I started reading Science Fiction back in the 1960s. This collection presents Dickson’s work from the 1950s and 1960s. Volume 2, scheduled for 2018, will collect stories from the 1970s and 1980s. If you’re a fan of traditional SF storytelling, you’ll enjoy these stories. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Love Song” (previously unpublished)
“Miss Prinks” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June, 1954)
“Our First Death” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August, 1955)
“St. Dragon and the George” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1957)
“Friend for Life” (Venture Science Fiction, March, 1957)
“Danger—Human” (Astounding Science Fiction, December, 1957)
“Fleegl of Fleegl” (Venture Science Fiction, May, 1958)
“The Question” (Astounding Science Fiction, May, 1958)
“The Girl Who Played Wolf” (Fantastic, August, 1958)
“The Dreamsman” (Star Science Fiction #6, 1959)
“One on Trial” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May, 1960)
“An Honorable Death” (Galaxy Magazine, February, 1961)
“Whatever Gods There Be” (Amazing Stories, July, 1961)
“Idiot Solvant” (Analog Science Fiction-Science Fact, January, 1962)
“Dolphin’s Way” (Analog Science Fact-Science Fiction, June, 1964)
OTHER ANTHOLOGIES EDITED BY HANK DAVIS:
The Best of the Bolos: Their Finest Hour (2010)
A Cosmic Christmas (2012)
A Cosmic Christmas 2 (2013)
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream (2013)
The Baen Big Book of Monsters (2014)
As Time Goes By (2015)
Future Wars … and Other Punchlines (2015)
Worst Contact (2016)
Things from Outer Space (2016)
If This Goes Wrong… (2016)

THE IDIOT By Elif Batuman


I enjoyed reading Elif Batuman’s quirky and humorous memoir of her Stanford University graduate student days in The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. You can read my review here. So I thought I might like Elif Batuman’s new novel, The Idiot. It’s the story of a Harvard University freshman named Selin in the mid-1990s who deals with her unusual roommates, the new phenomenon of email, and her academic courses. Of course, Selin develops a crush on a senior. They start to exchange weird emails. In fact, for a good chunk of The Idiot Selin is either waiting for an email or writing emails trying to figure out the object of her affections. This goes on for 423 pages. Yes, there are moments of humor. I especially liked the bizarre story Selin and her fellow students in her Russian class try to decipher. Elif Batuman wrote this novel 17 years ago and then “tweaked” it for this publication. Not a good result. GRADE: C