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Running title: The Battle For Room 314 – My Year Of Hope And Despair In A New York City High School.
There was a time, prior to working in the public library system, that I actually (and seriously) considered becoming a teacher. At the time I was working in the IT department at a community college and often had the misfortune of travelling home with rowdy school kids. Seriously, what are kids doing at school till 8PM? Let’s just say that some of the thoughts that passed through my head I will not mention for I may end up on some bloody watchlist of sorts or might be paid an unwelcome visit by law enforcement. Needless to say, a career in education evapourated rather quickly from mind (somewhat). Still there is always that thought, throughout the years, of “what if” that occasionally creeps back into my mind.
So after having seen and read the synopsis of Battle, in our stacks, I was intrigued and, like Kirsten Dunst in Interview With The Vampire, I wanted more. And so began my (short) reading odyssey of “what could have been”. The books open with a very unflattering encounter with “Chantay” that makes a big scene in the classroom in which she instructs Mr. Boland to “suck her dick” (yes, I wish was making this up) … all this to impress a gangbanger boyfriend. This pretty much sets the tone of what is in store for the readers. And it is quite the ride. Sad to say, it didn’t take much in reading to realize that I had very, very little to regret. Yes, we’ve all seen To Sir With Love and Stand and Deliver, where there is that “hero teacher” that rolls into town with the dream of giving educationally disadvantaged youth a fighting chance in the world. What Battle reveals is more dire than I have suspected but is (sad to say) not quite shocking since I see remnants of this bollocks strolling through the library doors when school lets out. Sort of like that movie, Class of 2000 with the cyborg teachers. Battle reads more like cry of urgency, a literary flare launched into the social atmosphere of city whose good intentions seemingly allow the lunatics to run the asylum. For some strange reason, there is this compelling need to give everyone access to education even when some clearly don’t want to be educated and become a hindrance to those that really want to better themselves. And it is quite the sad spectrum. The good: Byron (the Jamaican prodigy that has great potential, but it constantly a victim to misinformed choices that robs him of many great educational opportunities), Yvette (the smart kid with a tawdry sexual pass … something about BJs to older guys ..for a dollar) and Mariah (the sullen, red-hoodie-wearing, insightful, seemingly-bright, angst-ridden teen). The bad: Kameron Shields (the rule breaking, extravagant, gangbanger), and Sameer Gherbe (Moroccan kid that coaxed another kid into shooting a kid with pellet gun … as sign of love). The ugly: Valentia (the young sociopath in training that used a trip to Six Flags to either fake a miscarriage or commit abortion by roller coaster …yes, bloody ponderous), and the shoddy treatment of Ni-Cole, who resides in a homeless shelter, by other classmates who themselves are probably a paycheck away from the same fate. Yes, not for the intellectually faint of heart, and would most likely drive most into the loving embrace of homeschooling. Battle is in fact, a tribute to teachers who rise everyday with the hope of giving some disadvantaged child out there a fighting chance whilst dealing the bureaucratic and social bollocks … and it is quite a big buggering pile of bollocks. As if the author did not have enough on his plate, Mr. Boland writes about his mother who often made disparaging remarks about his choice and the teaching profession in general. Having worked for college admissions, he talks about the unfair (in a few pages) selection process that is enough to make any overworked and ultra-studious student take to the nearest water tower with a high-powered rifle. I guess that finally explains why I (upper 90 percentile in graduating class) got the waiting list treatment for MIT and some bloke that could toss a ball through a hoop with a 65 (!!!) average gets a scholarship to Georgetown University (he actually dropped out after a year). But it is not all downright depressing. Oh no. There is that part of one of the chapters that I call it The Ballad of Father Tenner. A moment in Boland’s past about this pious, alpha-male, General Patton wannabe that basically bullied male parochial school kids … until he got caught in a prostitute sting.
Battle is an indictment of a crappy educational system run by clueless bureaucracy, twenty-first century parenting created by years of shitty pseudo-psychology and the way we treat our educators (hint: not so great). In consideration of how New Yorkers love to tout their intellectual superiority, it is downright fraudulent as Battle reveals the classroom has become a literal gladiatorial arena of sorts, where troublemakers are furloughed into classrooms of unsuspecting students. Students who are in turn victimized by the trouble makers and the system, thus robbing them of a decent educational experience. Progress. And in this version of To Sir With Love, Lulu does not step forward to sing a charming song … but instead throws a used tampon in Sid Poitier’s face and tells him to … sod off. Quite the eye-opener. And to those that use the phrase “those who can’t do … teach”: Wanks and tossers, the lot of you.


Running title: Operation Thunderbolt – Flight 139 And The Raid On Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission In History.

As a librarian I get to do cool things such as going to conferences or meeting with publishers as they hawk their new wares (namely books). Sure it is sort of what the pharmaceuticals do when they court doctors with their latest “life-saving” drugs and coax the docs into pushing their stuff unto unsuspecting vict …er, patients. The good thing about my situation is that, for the most, I don’t have to do that much “pushing” when it comes to books. It practically “pushes” itself and, most of all, reading books don’t leave people with side effects (aside from the occasional eyestrain) such as … DEATH. Seriously, I’ve noticed that a bunch of drugs list “death” as a side effect. Um … no, itchiness and a case of the shits is a side effect. Death is complete bollocks up. And I have detoured greatly. So back to the review … shall we?

Now it was during one of those conferences, that I had received an advanced reader’s copy or arcs (as they are affectionately known) of Operation Thunderbolt. Only a few months ago, I came across it on my shelf and came to the conclusion that I must be losing my mind since this was sitting my shelf for more than year without being read. Thunderbolt chronicles the famous hijacking of Flight 139 (an Israeli airline) and the military operation that was involved in its resolution. The Raid on Entebbe was an actual movie that was based on this story. In the 80s, the movie Delta Force, starring the immortal Chuck Norris, had a plot line that mirrored the Entebbe crisis. Ah, the 80s, such a great decade for the coolest action movies. Pure action without the PC bollocks. Awesome days. Up until Thunderbolt was written, we’ve only seen and heard the military point of view of the operation. Several decades later, Thunderbolt gives the reader a very immersive, 360 degree point of view that not only features the military point of view but also the gathered stories from those that lived through the ordeal. And though some of the players are mixture of the obscure to the well-known, they create a spectrum of bravery, nobility, and downright viciousness. An interesting character to note is Michel Cojot, a French Jew that found himself unwittingly plucked from being simple passenger to being the liaison between hostages and hijackers. Though it was later determined that it was the information provided by Cojot, to the Israeli forces, that was critical to the operation. There are some famous names such as Ehud Barak and Yoni Netanyahu (the ill-fated brother of prime minister Bibi Netanyahu) that were part of this operation. And as disgusting as the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist group was to the passengers, no one can overlook the vileness of Idi Amin as he toys and tries to manipulate the governments of the hostage countries all for his own selfish needs (but then again, this is not exactly shocking when you’re dealing with a narcissistic and psychopathic wanker). Yes, this bloke made my blood boil on a few occasions. And despite all of this, there were still those whose humanity did not take a back seat to the bollocks such as Henry Kyemba, the Ugandan minister of health, who kept hostage Dora Bloch in the hospital for an extended period for the sake of her health. Unfortunately, his good intentions cost Bloch her life. And yes, there were some interesting moments about people still finding the time to engage in a bit of the old in-out, in-out with the threat of death hanging over them. I guess I could see how that is possible. Talk about going out with a bang. Aye, I know … naughty, naughty. I could go on citing more and more examples of this book … and end up spoiling it for most of readers, so I shall refrain from such and not be a tosser about it.

Thunderbolt gives the reader a fascinating journey into one of the most spectacular hostage rescues ever attempted: sitting through every crucially planned step of the military operations from paper to execution whilst simultaneously dealing with the fears and apprehensions of the hostages and the vileness of the terrorists and Idi Amin (bloody tosser, that one). Needless to say it is quite an emotional roller coaster that is unlike anything Six Flags could ever come up with: anger – rage – sadness – rage – joy – anger – sadness (you get the idea). Especially when you read about how Amin left this world. Let’s just say he left in better fare than most of his victims … with the help of the Saudi government (some friends we have). And even though we all know the outcome, to read Thunderbolt from beginning to end is to relive this anew. Be prepared to have your emotions tested. I had mentioned the movie Delta Force earlier. Truth be told was that this operation by the Israelis served as a springboard for the creation of the Delta Force detachment in the Special Forces. I take my hat off to these folks and others like them that do the daring stuff. Yoni Netanyahu, may you truly rest in peace.

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I finally got around to reading Ms. Rice’s latest (after wading through the tons of other books that I wanted to read, some … I’m afraid weren’t so good). It has eluded me for a month or so, so when I saw it sitting, unmolested, in the stacks, I simply could not resist. But enough with the niceties and get on with it … yeah?

The Realms of Atlantis is another addition to Ms. Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and quite possibly a chartered path into newer mythologies (time will tell … oh pretty please). The last time we saw Prince Lestat, he had become possessed with the Amel, the spirit that was responsible for the birth of vampires. We also saw some newer faces that were being added to the roster as the world of vampires set out to embrace and come to grips with the twenty-first century: medical research, and (horrors of horrors) social media. Just as the winds seem to settle, something starts stirring … sending waves through the vampire world (no, it is not our past election). They are being stalked and possibly infiltrated by creatures that are seemingly immortal but not quite human nor vampires: Garekyn, Kapetria and Derek. Derek had the misfortune of being captured by Rhoshamandes and was brutally tortured. Kapetria had infiltrated Collingsworth Pharmaceuticals (a vampire medical research company) posing as a research doctor but was exposed by a wary Fareed (a fledgling vampire that is also a medical research scientist). Now what does these strange individuals and the vampires have in common: Amel. And so we find out that Amel has had a history prior to being spirit where once ruled the mythical city of Atalantaya (or what we know, today, as Atlantis). It also turns out that Derek Kapetria and Garekyn are survivors of Atlantis. Pupils dilating? Heart racing?
Yes, it should as Ms. Rice takes us on a mesmerizing journey through an expanding universe that has expanded itself into the lost city of Atlantis. And quite a trip it is down this rabbit hole as the city of Atlantis (Atalantaya) comes alive in the most vivid details as only Rice can accomplish so splendidly. Now if you’re expecting a lot of action … say half-naked teens running around the woods of the Pacific Northwest as they battle vegan vampires and other such bollocks , then I’m afraid that you’re reading the wrong book. Sure I can appreciate the occasional latex-clad, gun-toting Kate Beckinsale sporting fangs and dispatching preternatural creatures … but none such in this book.

It is another fascinating trip through Rice’s expanding universe as the supernatural world intersects with science and new myths are borne with the vampire Lestat in the middle of it all.

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Once in awhile, though seemingly quite often for me, a book cover or synopsis catches your eye and that’s all it takes to send you hurtling down that literary rabbit hole. December is a month of wishes. Wishes for things under your Christmas tree/mistletoe like Gillian Anderson, and before the day is done there will be wishes for the New Year. And we could really, really use some good stuff for the new year, since 2016 has been a wee bit surreal (and that’s just saying it nicely). So when I came across Dead Souls on the “New Arrivals” rack I was intrigued and like a heroin addict that’s been working overtime at a heroin factory… I had to get my fix. What was all that bollocks about “wishes” about, you might ask? Stick around, mate.

Fiona Dunn is having a tough time in her relationship with some bloke named Justin and on one rainy night in Oakland (California) she sees him getting in a car with a strange blonde woman on his way to a “business trip” to Seattle. It is also important to mention that lady was standing in the rain, bare feet, in pajamas, and locked out of her own apartment. So what’s a bare-footed, rain-soaked, woman to do when she’s locked herself outside of her apartment? Seek solace in the nearest drinking hole. There she meets a strange, enigmatic fellow named Scratch who chats her up, buys her drinks and makes an offer for her soul with the obligation of special favour that will be demanded of her at anytime. Yes, you didn’t read the last part incorrectly. Being the avowed atheist, she is, she thinks it nothing more than small talk and goes along with it. And then the shit gets real … and strange. First, Fiona discovers that she sort of project herself, invisibly, into places and spy on people. Apparently, she’s always wished that she was invisible. And if that didn’t make her stop and pass rabbits, then there is Scratch’s strange ability to be able to contact her at any place at any time. And then … when things couldn’t get any more weird, Justin shows up … with that strange blonde who is actually his (yes) sister and it turns out that Justin is down with something terminal. As Fiona drives around California trying to assess the how much crazy pills she’s been taking, she comes across another strange fellow, taking photos in a cemetary, named Alejandro and he seems to fancy her. Turns out that Fiona and Alejandro has a lot in common: Scratch. He introduces her to a sort of support group called the Dead Souls (hence the name of the book), sort of a support group for folks that may have unwittingly sold their souls to the Devil. And quite the motley crew they are: Renata (a professor of queer studies that wished to be straight and pretty crapped on her career and former gay relationship), Gary (a tech startup founder who wished that his company traded well), Jasmine (a woman that wished for the gift of clairvoyance), and of course, Alejandro (who wished that his photos will make successful). Sounds like a cute version of Daniel Webster meets an intervention. Not quite. The book gets really dark faster than the Northeast in early fall and people and things aren’t all that they seem. And as people wait for that dreaded favour to come in, many try to solve their way out of their contract with Scratch only to find that they are all part of some sick Macheveillian game.

To call Fenn’s tale creepy would be like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing. It’s dark like night in the swamps and as vicious as the serpents that slither through it as every page turn keeps you biting your nails as you brace for revelations within revelations. Don’t expect any happy endings in this one … just maybe a few silver linings and that’s it. In some strange way it might explain some of the unspeakable things that happen in this world: active shootings, terrorism, strange politics, Kanye West, the Kardashians. But what do you expect … when you make a deal with the Devil. Sure he delivers … but when it’s time to pay those dues… that’s the killer. So just be careful when you’re at the pub and some hip bloke “playfully” offers to buy your soul, you might want to walk away from that one … regardless what you believe. Just saying, mates.

Grunt by Mary Roach

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Running Title: Grunt – The Curious Science of Humans At War.

Aye, it is that time of the year. We cave into our materialistic lust as we answer the Siren call of Black Fridays, and tons of sales “events” … and other such bollocks. It is also that time of the year when we look forward to drinking eggnog, with our our bearpaw slippers on as we curl up and watch another screening of Love Actually. Oh wait, that’s just me. Hey mates, don’t judge me. But enough with the bollocks and one with the review. Shall we begin?
When you combine the sciences with … well … war, you are bound to capture my attention, so with a running title like “the curious science of humans at war”, it was only a matter of time before this poor book was plucked from the stacks and nestled in my grasp for a few days. Yes, as you can easily surmise that Grunt does something is not so often reported when it comes to the world of war. Sure, we’ve read many books written by Special Operations warriors and military personnel about their brave and valiant deeds, but how often do you get to read about the science that goes into war that not only helps and protects our brave soldiers, but sometimes even save or heal them. Roach’s Grunt does an excellent job of this, though I must warn those who don’t have a strong stomach that they may want to reconsider reading this book during … say … eating times. Sure for the inwardly forensic fans such, such as yours truly, this great reading even whilst scarfing down mounds of lasagna. Others, maybe not so much. There is a lot of science that goes into war, and I really mean A LOT. Some of it may seem trivial, but to the folks downrange it is a big deal, such as zippers being a no-no on sniper clothing. Trust me on this one. Or (the best one) diarrhea being a threat to national security (hint: it’s every SEAL’s worst nightmare when on a mission). I bit you didn’t know that scientists have built a chicken gun that is used to propel dead chickens at turbines to test the effect of birds on aircraft engines. Some folks have all the fun. And then Roach hits you with the a literal blow to the minerals: penile reconstruction. Yes, many times when an IED goes off more than just arms and legs get injured. And for several chapters Ms. Roach explains this in great but understandably cringe-worthy detail: apparently strip of mucus membrane from the inner cheek is used to recreate urethra in penile reconstructions. There is a really dirty joke somewhere in that fact, but the science behind is amazing, and apparently it is doing wonders many of our soldiers’ lives. Occasionally, we are treated to some historical tidbits such as the REAL use of codpieces, and …no … it was not about enhancing or even protecting one’s manhood. In fact it actually stored materials that soaked up syphilitic discharges of blood and pus you get from sleeping around with wenches after beheading your wives. Yummy. I guess that explains why they were popular with hair bands in the 80s. Paging Lawless from WASP. And yes, I’ve seemingly gone there. Astounding fact: the scent of a seal and used tampon has the same effect on polar bear salivary glands. I kid you not. So ladies, be a bit wary if your mate is planning trips to the Polar-type regions and is somewhat inquisitive about your cycles. I’m afraid the love may not be there anymore and his plans for you may be malevolent. Slight detour there, everyone.
Roach’s Grunt is a fascinating read about the sciences that impact our soldiers both on and off the frontlines. If your fascinated with the sciences or just curious about what is going with our men and women in battle, Grunt is a delightful read. For the curious in mind that are not so scientifically-minded, fear not, for Roach practically keeps at a layman’s level that can be enjoyed by all but well appreciated by us nerd-types. Plus she’s got a scorchingly delightful wit that makes me wish I could marry … um, never mind. And I’ve said that too loud. Ignore that part. Please.

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As promised I’ve decided to put out a second review for October featuring my good man Stephen King, since after all this IS October. You know horror marathons on the telly, horror movies in the theatres, Halloween and (for this year) the inevitable ending of the 18-month circus known as the Election 2016. Aye, that last one has its own horrors of horrors. But enough with the bollocks and on to the review. Shall we?
In Mr. Mercedes, retired Detective Hodges had managed to put Brady Hartsfield into a mental instition on the account that he was somewhat brain-damaged. When we last encountered Brady, it was in the Finders Keepers which was mostly about some murderous tosser wanting to retrieve some old manuscripts. Here in Finders we were beginning to see that even though Mr. Hartsfield was seemingly brain-damaged, there was strange things happening in his room such as pipes turning on and photo frames falling over. Did I mention he was pretty much stuck in a wheelchair? And some point after having read Finders Keepers, many of us must probably suffered from a case of the “goosebumps”. Needless to say, it was foretelling what was to come in King’s next installation.End of Watch, the last in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, opens with a retelling of the Mercedes Massacre from the perspectives of two EMT workers and evolves (for a moment) around the life of one of the survivors: Martine Stover. Then somewhere early in the book Ms. Stover dies. But then so has some of the staff that worked at the hospital that housed Brady Harsfield who noticed strange occurances like photo frames being moved or pipes turning on and off with no one around except a crippled Brady. Yes, it seems that our bay may have developed some preternatural abilities. So how pray tell, did this happen? Enter Dr. Felix Babineau, douchebag and tosser supreme, who took it on himself to test out unapproved and experimental drugs on the supposed sad case of that is Brady. Of course, there was some side effects. Yes, we all seen this movie before. Ambitious doctor decides to test crap out on disabled psychopath … um … yes, it is not going to end great, especially for the doctor. Using some old Gameboy type game consoles called Zappits that features some game involving fish (aye, seriously), Brady extends himself beyond the confines of the hospital in the most spinetingling manner that could evolve from the mind of King. Could’ve been worse it could have been a modified version of the Pokemon Go app. As the bodies begin to pile up, Bill Hodges along with the brilliant, wisecracking, Afro-American sidekick Jerome Robinson race to stop Brady and his dark plans of vengeance. The suspense grips you by the throat at each turn of the page, and hurtles you at a blinding, fiery speed towards the end. And yes, there will be blood.
A delightful end to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, it is , as usual, premium King. As usual. And to expect less … um … seriously, mate?

The Fireman by Joe Hill

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I know, there is no postings in September, I apologize. I was catching up on my Netflix binges. And then there was that sudden decision to spend my vacation in someplace other than New York City (where I bloomin reside), so I settled for Vegas where I gambled little, hung out on the Strip a lot and went to a gun range where I got to fire some pretty awesome assault type firearms, the kind of stuff we don’t get to play with here in NYC (and it sucks). So that explains September but I do intend to make it up in October. So here goes, TWO reviews in October. Yes, that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls.

About a year ago or maybe two, I came across an interesting book titled NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and after I read it, I was intrigued. Of course, when I found out that this was Stephen King’s son, it pretty much things together and everything made sense. So, of course, when I found he was writing about some apocalyptic plague that causes spontaneous combustion, I pretty much dropped my tea, teacup, saucer and all. And couldn’t wait for it to find it’s home in the stacks.
The set in a not so distant future, the book is initially centered around the lives of Harper and Jakob Grayson. An interesting couple: a nurse and a writer, respectively. Living a typical average life, with the requisite amount of snogging and the occasional case of the good old in-out in-out. And somewhere along this subtle romance, a plague emerges in the landscape. Draco incendia trychophyton or Dragonscale: it starts out as little black marks that appear on and spread all over the body, and then one day, folks simply burst into flame and become a pile of ash. Crispy critters. Despite all this, life cruises along fine for the Graysons until one day Harper discovers that she’s pregnant. Ah yes, nothing says good timing like getting pregnant during the rising spread of an apocalyptic plague. And then soon, Harper discovers, the black spots on the body. To quote Muppets: “the shit just got real”. The strange part was that despite the copious amounts of sex, the only one that remained unaffected by the plague was Jakob and needless to say, Jakob is having second thoughts about his relationship. Typical wanker. As plague spread, so does the hysteria (sort of like our current election process) and the infected are being rounded up by uninfected folks that call themselves Cremation Crews. By the name alone you can guess what these “crews” do, let’s just say that they don’t sit and have tea and biscuits. Though there is a barbeque of sorts. So as would fate would have it Jakob and Harper gets separated after a run in with a Cremation Crew. She is rescued by some bloke known as the Marlboro Man who apparently has a raspy voice and speaks with an English accent (sort of like an British Scott Ferral) and has this ability to control his spontaneous combustion in sometimes terrifying ways. Jakob on the other hand finds his way onto a Cremation Crew and discovers that despite the fact he’s a failed writer, he’s actually quite good with cremating live (infected) human beings.
After being rescued by the Marlboro Man, Harper is taken to a commune known as Camp Wyndham where there are many infected folks seeking refuge from the Cremation Crews. Headed by a charismatic Father Storey, Camp Wyndham seems like a utopia in the midst of a chaotic world. Unfortunately, we’re all aware that there is no such thing as utopia in an apocalytpic world. Think Terminus from the Walking Dead series (for those of you that watch Walking Dead). As if there is not enough to worry about from the outside of the camp, enter the Storey family (sadly related to Father Storey): Carol (the eldest daughter and female Jim Jones in the making), Nick, and Allie (the young and annoyingly troubled teenager). In the camp, many have embraced their affliction and even found a way to control and prolong their life. In time, Harper learns this and the camp seems to benefit from her abilities as a nurse. When, at some point of time, Father Storey is put into a coma and Carol is made leader, then the façade of the camp is stripped away to reveal that it is nothing more than a Lord of the Flies situation that has been festering for sometime along with some really dirty secrets that have been harboured by certain members of the camp. So between dealing with Cremation Crews and Carol’s Napoleonic fervor, Harper finds herself navigating a very volatile social tightrope where any misstep in any direction could (literally) mean a cooked goose. To be precise, a roasted goose. And somewhere in the midst, MTV VJ Martha Quinn shows up offering asylum on some island somewhere. Yes, you heard me … Martha Quinn.
I must warn you that there is a lot of talking in this book, but … Hill uses it very well to build up the the characters and the suspense for those violent chaotic moments. And when they do happen you’re either cheering, angry, or sobbing like a nancy and it is worth it. But most all you’ll love the Marlboro man. Most post-apocalyptic reads today seem to be centered around the undead, but it was nice to read something a bit more original: a plague that causes spontaneous combustion. Arresting and filled with suspense, Fireman keeps you turning the pages as you tumble onto dark secrets, major battle face-offs, and more twists than a screw. Joe, like his father Stephen, truly delivers. Can’t wait to read the next bit.