Book Reviews: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Author: Erik Larson
TitleIn the Garden of the Beast
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio : Books on Tape, p2011.
Books Read by Same AuthorThe Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm

Summary/Review:

This history and biography book explores the rise of the Third Reich from the perspective of one American family.  Specifically that is the family of William E. Dodd, appointed to be ambassador to Germany by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Dodd and his adult daughter Martha are the main characters of the book.  Dodd initially is supportive of Hitler and shares in some antisemitic beliefs.  Martha, recently separated from her husband, enjoys the social life of Berlin and liaisons with several men including Soviet intelligence operative Boris Vinogradov.  Over time the Dodd’s became more aware of the violence and oppression of the Nazi state, and the ambassador begins to become more vocal in calling on the United States to oppose Hitler’s regime (which in isolationist America proves to be an unpopular stance).  This is an uncomfortable book to read.  The Dodd’s are not very likable people, but then they’re contrasted with Nazis.  No one comes off looking good.  Still this is an interesting glimpse into a troubling time in history.
Rating: ***

Book Reviews: The Left-Handed Hummingbird by Kate Orman

Author: Kate Orman
Title:The Left-Handed Hummingbird
Publication Info: London : Doctor Who Books, 1993.
Summary/Review:

This Doctor Who novel is epic in scope from contemporary Mexico to the Aztec empire to hippie London in the 60s to the John Lennon assassination to the sinking of Titanic. And yet, this may be the most internal story for the Doctor and his companions.  Their relationship is strained, especially the Doctor and Ace since she’s become something of soldier during her absence from the TARDIS. Worse yet, the Doctor faces an antagonist manifest as an Aztec god who is altering history.  The Doctor’s usual strategy of manipulating people and events fail and we see him at his most defeated. This novel is good in that it’s a rare story that’s set in Latin America in both precolonial and contemporary settings.  The only downside is that like Timewyrm: Exodus  it credits some historical acts of human evil to extraterrestrial influence.  This was the first novel by Kate Orman, who was also the first woman and first Australian to write for the Doctor Who line, and it’s a pretty remarkable achievement in how it reimagines what a Doctor Who story can be.
Favorite Passages:

“Has it ever occurred to you that the reason the sacrifices are made is to dispose of foreign warriors taken captive in battle – and to cause more and more battles to be fought?’”

“‘It’s already written in the book of history,’ he continued. ‘Painted in the records. Nothing I can do or say is going to change it. But there’s something else here, something that isn’t in the book, or wasn’t the last time I visited. Things have changed. Something’s wrong. Someone’s interfering. I need to find a way to read between the lines…’”

“‘Time travel,’ said Bernice, ‘is like banging your head on a brick wall. Only someone keeps moving the bricks.’”

Rating: ***1/2

Song of the Week: “Hell You Talmbout” featuring Janelle Monáe, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0.

Janelle Monáe brought together artists on Wondaland Records to record the stark protest song of our times.

Won’t you say their names?

 

Beer Review: Peak Organic Fresh Cut (Can)

Beer: Peak Organic Fresh Cut
Brewer: Peak Organic Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. can
Rating: ** (6 of 10)
Comments: This is a summertime beer that looks like golden sunshine with a bit of haze and smells of fresh-cut grass.  The taste is hop bitterness moderated with a little pepper spice.  The head deflated quickly and the beer has a thin mouthfeel.  This beer is bit too much on the bitter side for my taste but is a good summertime beer.

Curiously, I’ve reviewed this beer before from a bottle and liked it more then.

From the same brewery:

Song of the Week: “Most Space” by Worriers

Brooklyn-based punk band Worriers just released an excellent album called Imaginary Life.  The humorous video for “Most Space” is below, although my favorite song on the album is “Life During Peacetime,” which I could not find a way to stream.

Also check out the All Songs Considered interview with Lauren Denitzio of Worriers and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, who produced the album.

Beer Review: Jack’s Abby Leisure Time

Beer: Leisure Time Lager
Brewer: Jack’s Abby Brewing
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.8 of 10)
Comments: This beer poured out is golden in color with a cloud hanging in the upper part of the glass resembling a jellyfish.  The aroma is a strong lemon citrus.   Flavor is a mix of bready sweetness, lemon, and spice.  The flavors are subtly bordering on bland.  It’s a pretty beer, good but basic.

From the same brewery:

 

Photopost: Portland Sea Dogs

On our way home from a family camping trip in Freeport, ME, we stopped in Portland to take in a Sea Dogs baseball game. The Sea Dogs are the Double A affiliate of the Red Sox who play in the Eastern League.  This was our first game at Portland’s Hadlock Field, and we’ve now been to see games of all of the Red Sox organization teams in New England, having seen many games of the Lowell Spinners, Pawtucket Red Sox, and the Boston Red Sox themselves.

The opponent of the day was the Harrisburg Senators (affiliated with the Washington Nationals), and the theme of the day was offense.  There were lots of hits, walks, wild pitches, defensive miscues, and most of all, runs.  Reluctantly, we had to leave after 9 innings with the score tied 12-12.  We listened to the end of the game (a loss for Portland) on the radio as we drove home to Boston.

Hadlock Field is a charming place to watch baseball.  Slugger the Sea Dog is a fun mascot, the between innings games are amusing, the Sea Dog Biscuit (ice cream cookie sandwich) is tasty, and the lighthouse that pops up behind the centerfield fence is really cool.  I hope to catch another game their one day soon, but hopefully next time a pitchers’ duel.

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