Categories
ClubReading

“Breaking the Surface” by Greg Louganis

Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill in 2001

I love to read. Every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds me so thoroughly why I love to read. This is just such a book.

I’ve been following the rescue attempts of the Russian Submarine, Kursk. At the time I’m writing this, the British rescue efforts are rushing to the scene. There is still a faint hope that the crew will be saved.

This story has struck a particular chord in me. I spent more than a dozen years serving in the Navy, riding on nuclear powered submarines. We knew the risks. We coldly practiced drill scenarios for flooding, fires, steam line ruptures, all the while, living in one of the most hostile environments on earth…beneath the surface of the earth’s oceans. And now, with practiced logic and cold calm, I watch on the news as this horrible catastrophe plays out.

My thoughts go out to the crew and their families and all those desperately trying to rescue these men.

How precious life is! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could spend every moment of every day conscious of just how spectacular that moment is? But we can’t. For most of us, we are caught up on the day to day of living. We have jobs and bills, new tires to buy, dishes to do, cat sick to clean up…sometimes the spectacle of life is more than we can stand.

Thank God for heroes. People we can look up to and remember greatness is just around the corner. Greg Louganis has been a hero of mine for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics. The amazing athletes that can run like a cheetah, or jump in the air higher than most of us can reach. To steal a line from the master, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!”

In Breaking the Surface, Greg Louganis brings to light the depth of character of such a hero. Here is a man who from a very early age was on top of the world. An Olympic Champion, the world leader in 10M platform and 3M springboard diving. What the world saw was a successful, good looking young man smiling from the gold medal platform…seemingly not a care in the world.

Greg tells us a story of a boy who from a very early age was ridiculed, called names, insecure and depressed to the point of suicide. The list of challenges that the author shares with us is incredible.

The author shares with us key pieces of his life. As we read, Greg tells the story of growing up into an Olympic athlete. He shares with us his dealings with hatred and bigotry as a gay man. Greg talks openly about an abusive relationship that cost him a great deal both emotionally and financially.

The author talks about his life after becoming HIV positive. Greg shares his deepest fears with us. How he dealt with being sick, how he dealt with the death of family and friends.

This amazing man shares with us how he is dealing with the day to day reminders of our mortality. He discusses the AZT alarm going off every 4 hours and how every cough or cold can lead him to wonder if this is the end. And with these constant challenges Greg wins another two gold medals in the 1988 Olympics.

My thoughts of Greg Louganis as a hero have changed. Before, I saw him as a great athlete accomplishing amazing feats of skill. Now, after reading his autobiography, I see him as a great man. A man of courage and amazing internal strength and beauty. I have gained strength and wisdom from his sharing. I am a better person for having read this book.

Thank you Greg Louganis.

Categories
ClubReading

“Petty Pewter Gods (P.I. Garrett)” by Glen Cook

Book Cover

Reviewer: littlemissthing

Add one part Kolchak: The Nightstalker, a touch of Columbo, and heavyhelping of wizards, elves, dragons, and all sorts of fantasy creatures.Blend quickly while tongue is planted firmly in cheek. There you havethe entire Garrett P.I. series from fantasy writer Glen Cook. PettyPewter Gods is the 8th book in the series. While it definitely helps tohave read the first seven before jumping into this simultaneously zanyand action filled installment, Cook does a great job providing justenough back-story to explain the sometimes (O.K. quite often) strainedrelationships between our hero and his so-called allies.

In this installment, Garrett finds himself in the employment of the godsthemselves, who seem to be having a problem holding on to theirfollowers. And when the number of followers falls below a certain level,the gods are threatened with eviction! This one starts out with all thefun and mayhem of the other books, but unfortunately doesn’t quite liveup to the others in the series. The problem is that in this installmentI think the story got too big for Cook, and it appeared destine formultiple volumes. Instead, the author chooses to try and wrap everythingup in the last fifteen or so pages, with our hero making a lucky guessand having all you-know-what break loose. While the ensuing chaos is afun read, don’t think to hard about it afterwards, because then you willrealize just how contrived it was.

If this was done by most other authors, the story would have fallen flatand turned me off from the rest of the books. But Cook has a way ofletting you feel like you are in on some big, cosmic joke. Never takinghis protagonist or storyline too seriously, the end result is a fun ridethrough the magical city of TunFaire. The end result is a lightheartedaction-fantasy-adventure that fans of the series will enjoy. If you havenever read any of the Garrett P.I. books, don’t start with this one,however. Fans of Cook’s Black Company series may be surprised by thehigh humor and just outright silliness that appears in this book, and inthe entire series.

This book has been out of print for a while, but is still available atused bookstore vendors and in many libraries. While not the best in theseries, its definitely worth reading if you are familiar with the books.

Categories
ClubReading

“The Fat Girls Guide to Life” by Wendy Shanker

The Fat Girl's Guide to Life Book Cover

Reviewer: linda

This is a book which discusses acceptance of one’s weight andappearance. The author is funny and her discussion of Duke’s weight losscenter is wonderful.

When your weight is getting you down and you feel like you are ready forradical change, read this book. If you still feel that way after readingit, maybe you are ready for radical change. As for me, FAT GIRLS UNITE!

Categories
ClubReading

“The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect” by Margo Maine, Joe Kelly

Reviewer: linda

While this is not the most well-written book I have read, it is thoughtprovoking. Aimed generally at eating disorders that cause women tostarve themselves (anorexia or bingeing and purging) it has someapplicability to anyone with an eating disorder. The book concentratesmostly on the media and the “body myth” from there, i.e., all womenshould look like teenager boys but with big boobs.

The author lets us understand some of the processes of therapy withoutthe therapist. There are exercises intended to help us, as adults, toevaluate what we were told as children about weight and body image.There are also exercises to help remember how we felt when told thosethings. The insights just from reading the exercises were interesting;doing them would likely result in real revelations.

Here’s a quote that I saved:

“The next time you feel a food binge or a shopping frenzy coming on,stop and ask: What am I really hungry for? I may be harder to answerthan you imagine, but that answer is what will truly satisfy yourappetite for living.”

All in all, an interesting book.

Categories
ClubReading

“At The Scent Of Water” by Linda Nichols

At the Scent of Water Book Cover.

Reviewer: spratt

‘Life Happens!!’ We’ve all seen the bumper stickers. Some use differentwords, but the meaning is the same. It’s the cynic’s answer to ‘Why?’It’s also the optimist’s answer to the same question. I like to finishthe statement this way: ‘Life Happens!! Get over it!!!’

‘Why…is this happening to me?’ It is one of the age old questions.Many authors have offered their version of the answers. Viewpoints arevaried, of course. We blame others, we blame God, and sometimes we evenblame ourselves. One thing is for sure. There are no easy answers.

How many books have been written in which an author tries to answer the’Why?’ questions?

‘The Scent of Water’ by Linda Nichols is still another. It starts offwith a very sad scenario. I don’t like sad books, so I almost didn’tcontinue reading. I’m glad I did. Not just because of the happy ending,but because the author deals with the ‘Why?’ questions better thananyone I have ever read.

We meet a married couple who have been separated for 5 years–Sam andAnnie Truelove. Sam is a gifted surgeon. He repairs heart damage andheart birth defects on children and tiny babies. His one mistakeresulted in a child having brain damage and being in a coma for 5 years.He was preparing for the operation when he received word his own youngdaughter had just drowned in a creek. He could not longer help hisdaughter, he said; but he could heal this girl with the damaged heart.But he didn’t heal her. Neither could he repair the damage that had beendone to his marriage by not going immediately to his wife’s side.

If you have unanswered ‘Why?’ questions in your life, I highly recommendreading ‘The Scent of Water’ by Linda Nichols. Even if you think youhave all of the answers already, you might just enjoy the read!!! It isfast-paced, well written, and insightful.

Categories
ClubReading

“Iceberg” by Clive Cussler

Iceberg Book Cover

Reviewer: linda

Adventure books, I keep reminding myself, were written in the mid-1970sfor men, just as James Bond movies were made for men. And the women inthem are, well, less than the men. If you can make it past this issue,the book is a fun, quick read.

Dirk Pitt goes to look at a ship stuck in an Iceberg, and has at least 3attempts at his life because of something he has learned, but he doesn’tknow exactly what. As with Sahara, which was recently made into a movie,the actions sequences are improbable, but fun. An enjoyable read, if youignore the women!

Categories
ClubReading

“A Kiss of Shadows” Laurell K. Hamilton

Book Cover

Merry Gentry, a member of the Faerie royal bloodline, has been in hidingfor the past three years. Now working as a Private Investigator in LosAngeles specializing in supernatural crime, she is drawn back into theRoyal Court and all the dangers she tried escape.

Laurell Hamilton has done it again! This isa great book with intriguing characters and great action. Merry Gentry’sworld is like our world except that Faeries and Goblins still exist inthe world and through political alliances have made a home in America.

In several ways, the Merry Gentry character is similar to another of Laurell Hamilton’s characters, Anita Blake. Both are attractive, petite, have supernatural powers and are tough as nails.

A Kiss of Shadows is a great story, hopefully the start of a great series, full of mystery, intrigue, sex, magic, great characters and suspense.

Categories
ClubReading

“The Cat Who Moved a Mountain (Cat Who…)” by Lilian Jackson Braun

Reviewer: spratt

James Qwilleran stayed the compulsory five years in Pickax to completethe requirements placed on his inheritance. He is now officially abillionaire. Now it is time to decide what to do with the rest of hislife. He intends to go somewhere–a quiet island with a beach or amountain hideaway–someplace where he can have seclusion and quiet tosort out his options and make plans.

Qwill (as his friends call him) decides on a whim to spend three monthsin Spudsboro, a small town in the Potato Mountains. It was recommendedhighly by some friends who camped there recently. Finding a house torent is always difficult with two Siamese cats as roommates. The onlything he can find is a huge house on the very top of Big PotatoMountain. It was originally built as an exclusive lodge for well-to-dotourists. More recently it was the home of the area’s most influentialbusinessman–owner of the local newspaper. It didn’t take long for Qwillto discover the house he rented had been the scene of a ghastly murder ayear earlier.

I do admire Jim Qwilleran’s ability to converse with everyone he meets.He is well practiced, of course, since he made his living for years asan investigative reporter for various newspapers. He knows just how tosteer the conversation and just the right questions to ask. He makespeople so comfortable that they usually tell him anything he wants toknow. Of course, he has an uncanny ability to read people and know whenhe is being lied to. Within two days of arriving in town, he is surethat the wrong man is in prison for the murder.

The author does an amazing job of making us empathize with Qwill’sfrustration with the situation he has gotten himself into. He came tothe mountains for solitude and a time of reflection. He had no desire toget mixed up in the politics of the region–environmentalists vs.developers. He really had no desire to get mixed up in the mysterysurrounding the murder. But…being a reporter for so many years (andtruly caring about the innocent man in prison), he just could not resistfinding the truth. It doesn’t take long. Qwill has learned to trust hisinstincts–and the instincts of his cat Koko. Together they follow theclues and confront the real murderer.

I highly recommend that you get acquainted with Jim Qwilleran throughthe Cat Who… mystery series. You will like him.

Categories
ClubReading

“The Cat Who Went into the Closet (Cat Who…)” by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Book Cover.

Another interesting tale with Qwilleran and his two cats. In thisinstallment, they are renting a large mansion on the main street oftown. The owner of the house is retired and now living in Florida. Whenthe owner suddenly commits suicide, Qwilleran suspects foul play.

Qwilleran is quickly becoming one of my favorite mystery novelcharacters. He is an older gentleman; retired journalist, with aninquisitive mind and active imagination. He is cranky in the morningsbefore coffee, he will often yell at his cats when they are doingsomething they shouldn’t, and he is not always polite. He is a veryinteresting character.

Categories
ClubReading

“All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot

Book Cover

Reviewer: spratt

All Creatures Great and Small is a class written in 1972, but I just discovered it. It is now anall-time favorite.

The author is the main character. James Herriot (a pen name) evidentlykept a journal through the years about his experiences as a countryveterinary surgeon. Each chapter tells one of his experiences. Theyfollow in chronological order, so it reads like the story of his firstyear in practice. It is at times hilarious and at times tense as hedeals with difficult cases.

James Herriot had the good fortune to be hired as assistant to a vet in Darrowby in Yorkshire Dales. He fell in love with the highlandcountryside. We learn quite a bit about what a country vet dealswith–the real danger in working with large farm animals, the weather,being on call 24-hours-a-day, etc. I was surprised at how much detailedinformation was given about the actual care of the animals. I was evenmore surprised that it was actually interesting.

I highly recommend this very entertaining book.

Update on 2009-09-22 23:26 by William

The series of books turned into a terrific BBC series now available to watch online or download on Netflix.

Enjoy!