Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Booknote: Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, Volume 1

Max Dunbar, Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, Volume 1. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402500. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: fantasy, role playing games
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

If you are familiar with tales set in Baldur's Gate, or perhaps you are familiar with the video games (I've played the Dark Alliance title for PS2), then you will likely enjoy this. This work is a tie-in to the D&D 5th edition role playing game. However, let me reassure you that no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this tale. The tale of a group of misfits coming together to save the day stands alone just fine.

An elf magess comes to Baldur's Gate in search of her lost brother. It seems he is in some kind of trouble, and whatever it is, they may want her out of the way too. When confronting some thugs, she accidentally gives life to a statue of Minsc, a local ranger and hero who strives for virtue and has a hamster as a companion. They team up with a couple of rogues to keep searching for the brother, but they soon discover greater danger and dark forces at play.

This is a light, entertaining read with some fun turns, a hijink or two, and a good amount of action. Basically, it's a nice popcorn read in the tradition of D&D fantasies. I thought the art was nice. Minsc embodies your basic role playing do-gooder hero, and it's entertaining to see him strive for goodness in a place as corrupt as Baldur's Gate. In the end, this is a title I liked. It would make a good selection for public libraries with graphic novel collections; this is especially so if you also have some gamers among your teen readers (or older. The title is basically teens and up).

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: The Bigger Bang

 Vassilis Gogtzilas, The Bigger Bang. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402593.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: art, heroes
Format: e-book galley
Source: Netgalley

First, there was the Big Bang that created the universe as we know it. Then there was a Bigger Bang that created a superbeing: Cosmos. Many see him as a destroyer. Some see him as a god or savior. What we know is he is trying to atone for something, and a despot in a far off world tries to manipulate him for propaganda and power.

This volume reads like a simple fable, though if it has a moral, I am not sure what it is. Not that it matters. It is a nice little story with colorful art. The art is in a sketch, slightly blurry sort of style, but it is still pleasant enough. As the book has minimal text, it is a fairly easy read.

Overall, I liked it, but is pretty much a title to borrow rather than buy.

3 out of 5 stars.

Qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Booknote: Star Wars: Lords of the Sith

Paul S. Kemp, Star Wars: Lords of the Sith. New York: Del Rey, 2015. ISBN: 9780345511447. 

Genre: Science fiction
Subgenre: space opera, Star Wars
Format: e-book galley
Source: Netgalley

This book is another novel of the time when the Emperor and Darth Vader were consolidating their power after the Clone Wars. There are insurgencies going on, and for the most part, the Emperor has been happy to let Vader be the enforcer. However, this time the Emperor feels a need to get involved, so Vader and him head off to the Twi'lek homeworld to deal with an incompetent (or so it seems) planetary governor and an insurrection. What they find is that they were lured into a trap. They get stranded, and they become the hunted ones.

A significant part of the novel explores the relationship between the Emperor and Vader and between Sith master and Sith apprentice. Sure, the Emperor may call Vader an "old friend," but let's just say they have a different definition of friendship and leave it at that. As they see the need to rely on each other in a very hostile environment, we get more insights into how they work with and relate to each other.

The book does contain a good blend of intrigue and action, and you do wonder if the rebels will beat the Emperor and Vader or not. The novel's pace is pretty quick; you get into the action right away. Overall, this was a good and entertaining read that I really liked. For libraries that collect Star Wars novels, this is a good selection.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Booknote: Craft Fail

Heather Mann, Craft Fail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong. New York: Workman Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7611-7992-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: arts and crafts, humor
Format: paperback
Source: my local public library

"Celebrates the creative process, but from the other side. This is the stuff that gets the A for Effort and LOL for outcome." -from book description.

This is a good book to read during holiday times, be it Christmas or Easter or any other holiday where crafting is popular; reading it will give you something you can relate to if you do any crafting, or you have been the recipient of some well-intentioned but less than perfect craft. This is another one of those books derived from a website (, but compared to others I have read in the Internet-derived genre, this one was pretty good. For one, it is generous in photos, which are in full color so you can appreciate the fails, blunders, and disasters. A photo of the crafts as they are supposed to be is also included for comparison purposes, and probably so you can laugh even more.

Another good element in the book is the author's commentary. She comments on the fails, and she does have some wit and humor. However, she let's the photos do most of the talking. In addition, the author also includes quotes from some of the crafters, which add to the humor. In terms of humor, there are quite a few hilarious gems here. Each chapter features a short introductory commentary from the author to introduce the crafts. Crafts then range from food items to clothing attempts to things done by kids with results that range from hilarious to downright horrifying.

Overall, I really liked this book. It is definitely a good choice for public libraries, especially if they circulate a lot of craft books and/or host crafting programs. I think crafters will appreciate the humor and in some cases maybe, just maybe, they'll think twice before jumping into trying to replicate a project out of Pinterest that is beyond their skill level.

4 out of 5 stars.

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 22

Here is another set of short notes on graphic novels and comics I have read recently. These were mostly quick reads, so I did not feel like writing full reviews on them. So, consider these notes on the run. Unless otherwise noted, I checked these out of the Madison County Public Library, Berea branch.

Jim Davis, Garfield: the Big Cheese. New York: Ballantine Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-345-52604-5.

This is the 59th book in the series. It remains amusing, and the pop culture is up to date. Still, the humor is fairly average, and I can't help but wonder if the cat is just showing its age. It was a light and amusing read overall. I liked it, but I feel previous volumes have been better. 3 out of 5 stars.

Michael Bendis, Age of Ultron. New York: Marvel, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7851-5566-9.

I am betting that with the new movie, this will be quite popular. However, while a good read, it had one ridiculous moment too many. Ultron manages to win and conquer Earth. The few remaining heroes figure out that Ultron is attacking them from a future time; they then figure trying to go to the past to stop Hank Pym from creating Ultron is a good bet, but is it really? This is where the time contradictions start, and things start to get a bit ridiculous. There is plenty of action, but in the end it's just another run of the mill comic run. I'd recommend borrowing it. It does feature some nice art. 3 out of 3 stars.

Corina Sara Bechko, Heathentown. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-60706-012-3.

Anna and her friend spent some time in Africa as students abroad. When the friend dies, Anna goes to the funeral in the small Everglades town the friend is from. However, the friend's family want nothing to do with Anna, and something unsettling is going on, supernatural even. Something is going on in the swamps. This is a small town mystery that reveals a horror from the past. It's a legacy Anna struggles to survive and understand, and it includes prehistoric animals and pirates. Hardman's art makes great use of shadows to add great effect to the story.  The art brings the oppressive environment of the swamp and small town to life. Even if you make it back from the journey, it leaves you with questions and a tad unsettled, as a good horror should. 4 out of 5 stars. This is the title in this post that qualifies for the Horror Reading Challenge.

Fred Van Lente,, Hulk: Season One. New York: Marvel, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7851-6388-6.

To put it plainly, this is yet another comic book reboot. Basically Hulk's origin is modernized for the post-9/11 world. The familiar characters are all here, but with a modern twist. For instance, Betty is not just the usual damsel; she is a senior army officer and well capable of handling herself. The plot is pretty good, and it even breathes new life into an old villain. It's good, but as I said, it's yet another reboot. The art is pretty good by the way. The volume also includes the first issue of Incredible Hulk, #1, the one where Hulk and Banner finally separate. You can read my review of the compilation of that other series here. 3 out of 5 stars.

These books qualify, in one way or another, for the following 2015 Book Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Second Quarterly Update on the Horror Reading Challenge.

I usually do not do updates like this for challenges in the middle of the year, but the host of this challenge encourages an update post every quarter. I missed the first quarter, and I am barely making it for the second now. I have not been too prolific reading in the horror genre, but I have met the quota for the challenge I selected.

I started out as 1-5 Horror Books = Running Scared.

As of today, I am now at 6-10 Horror Books = Brave Reader.

I have read the following books so far that qualify for this challenge. The ones with links have reviews posted on the blog:

  1. Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 5
  2. Kennedy Xu, Daomu.
  3. Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 7.  
  4. Mitzi Szereto, ed., Darker Edge of Desire.  
  5. Ryan Burton,, Dark Engine, Volume 1: The Art of Destruction
  6. Brian Keene, Castaways.  
  7. Steve Niles and Damien Worm, October Faction, Volume 1
  8.  Z. Rider, Insylum
  9. Corina Sara Bechko, Heathentown.
The review for Castaways is actually written up in my journal. I just have to find some time to transcribe and edit it for the blog.  I have one more book, a galley, by Z. Rider to read, so that will likely be added to the list. Since I did complete my initial commitment, the challenge is done, but I am going to continue. I think I can make it to ten, but if not, I think I did ok here. We'll see how it goes. A good thing about the challenge is it has helped me rediscover my enjoyment of the horror genre.

Next month is October, and Halloween is coming up.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: September 18, 2015 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

This week we have a small selection of items, and we focus a bit more on academia. If you thought the Ivory Tower was immune to the bad economy, you were wrong. So read on.

  • There a new census report out that basically shows little to no improvement in poverty and family incomes in the U.S. Story via Common Dreams. Report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • You thought the recession was over? Ha! It is still going, and that is certainly a sign the economy is bad. This week, we learn the recession is still hitting homeless children. How bad is it? Here ya go: "The number of homeless children attending public schools in the U.S. has doubled since before the 2008 recession, reaching a record national total of 1.36 million in the 2013-2014 school year, according to new federal statistics released Monday." Story via Common Dreams, which includes links to the federal report and a report from The Washington Post.
  • Some of those swanky wealthy colleges may be doing fine, but they are leaving a lot of their students in debt. Let us be blunt, in some cases, they are screwing their students worse than University of Phoenix ever did. And you should read to see the things some of these colleges do spend their wealth on (other than students and education that is). Story via ProPublica. 
  • Now some wealthy colleges may not be doing well by their students. However, wealthy or not one thing colleges are getting hit hard by is academic journal price subscriptions. Those fancy journals faculty love to publish in, because vanity, fame, and tenure, are getting more and more expensive. So Harvard of all places is finally whining they can't afford those costs. Now, you know when Harvard whines, you know the economy is bad and shit just hit the fan.  However, my sympathy as librarian only goes so far for this. This is a large problem of academia's own making. If faculty would freaking learn to value other things besides high end publication for tenure, maybe learn how to publish in open access ways, and overall do some reforms, yea, libraries and academia could tell those publishers to stuff it. Unfortunately, I do not foresee folks growing a pair (be it cojones or ovaries), and I am sure a few academics might even come on over to tell me it is not that simple. In the end, yes it is. Have a will? Then you have a way. Anyhow, this may be a story librarians in academia may comment on, or not. I have found stories like this tend to be somewhat seasonal. Anyhow, story via Libraries Are For Use.
  • Meanwhile, in other news, the exodus of Puerto Ricans out of the island due to the seriously bad economy continues. "A record 64,000 Puerto Ricans left the island last year for the U.S. mainland, the highest number in the past decade, officials said Thursday." Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
  • And by the way, not all academics are coming from privileged backgrounds nor are they children of fortune. Via Conditionally Accepted, here is a two part series on a poverty class academic worth reading. (Here is Part One and here is Part Two).
  • However, it is not all bad. The NFL is making quite a bit of money charging the U.S. Department of Defense for advertising and events at NFL games. So, the armed forces get a lot of rah rah at games to ramp up jingoism (they call it "patriotism" and being a "good American"), and the NFL makes more money while militarizing the sport. It is a win-win. It does not get any more mercenary than that. Story via AlterNet.

Booknote: Transformers: Combiner Wars

Mairghread Scott,, Transformers: Combiner Wars. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631403866. 

I finished reading this volume, and to be honest, I was not really impressed. If you have followed the comics, you know that Starscream is now "the Chosen One" and ruler of Cybertron. As the comic opens, spacebridges become active. These are portals that can go from Cybertron to other worlds. Contact is made with an old colony of Cybertron. Things get messy from there. Another development is the discovery of the combiner enigma device, which allows Transformers to combine together into giant robots. Naturally, Starscream has an interest in this so he can use combiners as weapons. It falls to Optimus Prime and other peace advocates to try to at least keep Starscream at bay; Prime may not like it, but he is not opposing Starscream's rule.

The main problem with this comic is that is basically one big political drama. The opening of the comic has a lot of expository text. If you were concerned you had missed out on the comics, you will catch up and probably get way more than you would have wanted. It turns into a comic that tells more than it shows. The rest of the comic is basically plotting and more plotting behind the scenes. There is some action as an out of control combiner wreaks havoc on the colony they just contacted. Otherwise though, this comic is basically a lot of bots talking and talking and then talking some more. And while there is a cliffhanger at the end, given that reading this comic was just a drag, I am not sure I will pick up the next issue. The writers and artists are going to have to ramp the quality and storytelling on this series to get my interest back.

The other issue I had with the comic was the excessive use of shadows. The cover of the comic is fairly bright and well defined. Well, that is about as much good art as you will get. Most of the comic is drawn in shadows. I get that Cybertron recently got out of a major war, but when the darkness keeps you from being able to tell who is talking because their figures are so poorly defined, because they are swallowed by shadows, it becomes a big problem. Often all you see is silhouettes and speech bubbles. In terms of art, this was not a good volume.

It is very rare I dislike comics. I am fan of Transformers, and I usually pick the comic up when I can. This one was just poorly executed, and it was a turn off for me as a reader. Unless they do some major improvement in the next installment, I will probably lay off this series for a while or go back to reading older issues.

If your library already collects Transformers comics, and you have the volumes leading to this one, that may be the only reason to acquire this for the sake of being complete. Otherwise, I'd say this is one you can safely skip. 

1 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Batman Eternal, Volume 2

Scott Snyder,, Batman Eternal, Volume 2. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2015.  ISBN: 9781401252311.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: superheroes
Format: e-book galley
Source: Provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange of honest review.

From the description:

"After Commissioner Gordon's arrest, Batman's world is turned upside down. New allies emerge, old allies fall and his rogues gallery of villains are not quite who they seem. With a new power structure being established in Gotham amidst rising tension and chaos, can Batman adapt to the changing status quo?

Collects issues #22-34." 
I am reading this, and it just keeps going and going. This is one of those comics events where they throw just about anything they can throw in. Hush is back, and he is orchestrating a massive attack on Gotham and Batman. The volume is a continuation of the previous story where Jim Gordon was sent to prison for manslaughter, only it turns out he was framed and should have been exonerated by evidence Batgirl uncovered. However, the new commissioner is in Hush's pocket along with the police, so Gordon remains in jail. That is the least of Batman's concerns as the city begins to explode in riots, and the Bat Family scrambles to try to keep a semblance of order in the midst of chaos. Also, Alfred is attacked, and he is given a massive injection of fear toxin. He is hospitalized. His daughter makes his way to the Batcave, and she now becomes Batman's eyes and ears running the systems from the Batcave, taking her father's place. Actually, seeing her evolve in this new role is one of the neat developments in the story.

While the story is exciting at times, it is also very overwhelming. Snyder is pretty much throwing in plot after plot after plot, and at some point the reader begins to wonder where is this all heading. Just when you think you have a grasp on things, new elements emerge. The story also has a lot of subplots, some may be important, and others the author could have left out. To be honest, the whole thing with the summoning that one guy from beyond seemed a bit much. There is a lot of tension and intrigue, and that should keep readers going. Overall, it is a solid story, but it is also a very busy comic with a lot going on. You can tell they will be "salami slicing" this one into a few other comics down the road. In fact, they had adverts at the back of the volume advertising other comics that are specifically labeled as coming out of this comics run. The Catwoman one looks interesting. Another is the Arkham Manor, which is a follow up to the end of this volume of Batman Eternal. On a side note, I do have a galley of Arkham Manor, which I will review after reading it. In the end, I would say this is not a volume to rush through. Read a chapter/issue here, read another there, and take your time. I will add that the art on this one is very good, a nice gritty sensibility that makes the darkness of Gotham City come to life.

I liked it. I wish I could like it more, but the tale is very overwhelming at times. This is one to read in small spurts. Still, good solid plot on the main plotline, but some of the subplots could have been left out. It is those subplots that make the volume feel like it has been a bit padded at times. What makes it worth it is the ending, which sets up for future series, and it leaves things seriously hanging in the balance. It will leave you wondering how bad things will get before they get better. Will they get better? You will have to keep reading to find out.

I am willing to give it 3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reading about the reading life, September 11, 2015 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason). 

  • As my four readers know, I read a lot of comics and graphic novels. I also review quite a few of them here at The Itinerant Librarian. However, though I am fairly knowledgeable of the format and genres, I would not see myself as comics geek or such. I do not care about continuity minutiae or other little nitpicks the big kids at comic shops and online lose sleep over. I just care about reading some good stories and being entertained. Now, if you have wondered how to get into reading comics, here is a small guide on how to do just that from the folks at IO9. It's not perfect, but it is a start. If you ask me, I have a bias to collections versus single issues. For one, they take less space long term, and two, you can read story arcs in one sitting. A good piece of advice in the article: Do not be afraid to experiment. That has certainly worked for me. Want to share what comics and graphic novels you are reading or may be reading? Trade reading suggestions? Feel free to comment.
  • Going around the world, turns out that Buenos Aires, Argentina is "the world's centre of bookstores." The Argentine people overall are known for a very healthy book culture. Story via Al Jazeera. 
  • Continuing our journey around the world, a public library in Sri Lanka has been renovated and reopened after suffering damage due to a fire, then civil war. "The library once at the heart of so much turmoil teems today with the young and the old." Story via NPR. 
  • In other news, while e-books may be doing well in general, they are not doing as well in independent bookstores. Seems those customers prefer their print. Story via The Denver Post.  
  • This story was making the rounds a while back in the librarian blogger and social media circuit. It is a nice feel good story, but it also speaks about literacy needs in the U.S. and around the world. The story is "Librarians on Bikes Are Delivering Books and WiFi to Kids in 'Book Deserts.'" Story via 
  • And more on mobile libraries and getting books to places that need them, here is a story of mobile libraries in Cambodia and a highlight of the Books for Asia program.  Story via
  • In another feel good story, a group of young people in Uruguay have created a project to be readers for people who are housebound or have visual impairment issues. Story is in Spanish, and it comes via Que Leer.
  • Also via Que Leer, actor Eugenio Derbez is promoting a campaign for more reading in Spanish in the U.S. This story is in Spanish language. In a nutshell, he is promoting reading in Spanish for Hispanics in the U.S. (and anyone else interested I would say).
  • In other news, this is one of those stories that get both librarians and people in general talking. Librarians have to face the situation. People talking about it often have no idea, and if they are typical US people, it means they are likely whining about the bums. Read "how libraries became the front line of America's homelessness crisis" via The Washington Post. These is one of those issues that I could write on and on, but for now, I will let folks read and comment if so moved. 
  • Now, let's lighten up a bit with a little humor. This is in Spanish, but readers will likely recognize one or more of these 31 habits of great readers. For instance, taking a book everywhere you go.  Story via Que Leer.
  • Now, e-readers everywhere have lots of fans. People love them because they can carry a lot of books in them and read anywhere (as long as your device is charged). But did you know that there were various attempts at reading devices for reading multiple books long before the e-reader? Yes, you can go all the way back to the 16th century. Learn about them in this article via Libropatas. Article is in Spanish.
  • Finally for this week, here is one for writers. In addition to blogging, I do keep a journal. I would not call it a "daily journal," but I try to write as often as possible. If you need some reasons to get into keeping a journal, here are "10 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal" via Kaizen Journaling.

Booknote: War Against All Puerto Ricans

Nelson A. Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony. New York: Nation Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-56858-501-7.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: history, politics, country studies
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed from my library, Hutchins Library at Berea College

"Empires are devils disguised as guardian angels. The American flag is a skull and crossbones over two bunches of bananas. Democracy is a lady who presents herself with a machine gun between her legs, tear gas at her breast and her hat adorned with pistols and .45 revolvers." --Pedro Albizu Campos, speech given in Santurce, April 16, 1948. Quoted in the book. 

I have to say that this is likely the best book I've read all year. Denis has written a history of Puerto Rico in the 20th century that strives to recall the true horror and history of American possession of its colony. This is history you barely hear in "History of Puerto Rico" classes back on the island; I sure as heck did not hear much of this when I went to high school there. For many Puerto Ricans, the only way to learn this history, prior to this excellent book, was from older relatives and oral histories, or maybe some academic books that barely made a blip on a radar, or doing some deep research into primary sources (assuming you even know where to look).

As for U.S. people, I can guarantee very few may know even a glimpse of this history. This is not material you will find in American public schools; I know; I taught high school for a years in the U.S., and this did not make U.S. history books. Heck, if Al Sharpton can say on national television via MSNBC that "undocumented" Puerto Ricans would have to be deported, you know the average U.S. person likely has no clue. By the way, for the record, there is no such thing as an undocumented Puerto Rican (follow the link and get a clue if you need one. Go on, the post will be here when you get back). This book goes a very long way in bringing back a history that has been mostly erased.

As my mother would have said, "esto es como una novela de García Márquez" ("this reads like a García Márquez novel"). Indeed the book at times reads like fiction with elements of magic realism. Let me assure you however that what you are reading in Denis' book is nonfiction, and all of it is definitely true. Not only is it true, but it is also a very well documented work from primary sources and reinforced by secondary sources. This is truth that can no longer be hidden; the facts cannot be denied, and they are not really in dispute.

Denis has a gift for writing. This is a very compelling story that draws you in. Once you start, you are riveted. You'll probably stay up late reading the rich prose. He truly brings the history and people involved to life. And by the way, as part of documenting, the book features extensive notes. Now people often skip reading notes in history books. I urge you to resist that notion. Do read the notes. In fact, the notes are often just as interesting as the main story. You will get more value out of the book if you read the notes.

After the preface, the book is arranged into three parts: Facts, People, and Events. Each part then has a set of chapters. Since facts, people, and events often overlap, the narrative is not fully linear; you may go back and forth a bit in the historical timeline. This allows the author to examine things from different angles, and it gives readers a fuller view of the history. In addition to notes, the book has an excellent bibliography. It also has a section on sources and methodology where Denis explains his research process, how he got access to various sources, and how he put the book together. The book also includes a good selection of photographs.

So, what are some thing you will learn? Learn about such amazing things as:

  • Who was the Green Pope? (Chapter 4)
  • Why some say, when it comes to Puerto Rico, "it's only Chinatown" (Chapter 8, also think of the classic film)
  • Learn how to rule a whole country with only a one-page report (Chapter 11). 
  • Heard of something called the School of the Americas? Well, before that, Puerto Rico had the Academy of Truth. Where do you think they practiced the stuff to be taught later at the School of the Americas? (Chapter 16). 
  • And gaze at the tragedy of the King of Towels (Chapter 23, and no, this has nothing to do with Douglas Adams). 

In the end, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are Puerto Rican, it is a duty to read this; this is our history, the history they do not want you to read. Read it. Urge others to read it. Heck, once it gets translated into Spanish, this book needs to be required reading in all Puerto Rican schools. If you are a U.S. person, you need to read this. This is part of your history as well, a part that odds are good you never learned about in school nor in college. You guys own a colony,  yes, a real colony. You own it. You took it from Spain in 1898, and in 1917, whether Puerto Ricans wanted it or not, you made Puerto Ricans into American citizens. The least you can do is read this book and try to understand Puerto Rico, its people, and its history. If nothing else, reading this book will save you from looking like an idiot if you ask a Puerto Rican how long it takes to drive to the U.S. from there (true story) or how come Puerto Ricans do not pay taxes (which they do, and often they pay more than you do).

This book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. It is essential if you already have works on U.S. history and Latin America. The copy I read was the one I bought for our library, but rest assured I will be buying my own personal copy soon. This is a book I will be talking about and sharing any time anyone asks about Puerto Rico.

Before I close this review, I have to warn some readers. This is not an easy book to read. For some with sensitive hearts, it may get gruesome. It is a violent history, and Denis presents it as it was. But it is necessary reading. This history has been buried for too long; it is high time it sees the light.

I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

In large measure, Nelson Denis was inspired to write the book by the FBI files the bureau kept on Puerto Ricans and also by the story of his father. In a nutshell, here is what Denis did to get to the book:

"I read thousands of FBI documents and hundreds of newspaper accounts; I scoured university, museum, and historical society archives. I tracked down oral histories, personal interviews, private correspondence, diaries, church registry, and old photos. I read amicus curiae briefs,  congressional testimony, Senate committee reports, CIA manuals, and Defense Department contracts. I walked the streets of Puerto Rico where people had been murdered. I talked to their families. Then I started writing" (xiii). 

What Denis hopes for readers:

"This is not a pretty story. If it helps you to understand the world in which we live, then I have done my job. The rest is up to you" (xiii). 

The ridiculous attempts of the U.S. to impose English on Puerto Rican children no matter what, usually using teachers that barely, if at all, knew English themselves:

"On a given day, while displaying a chart of the major food groups, she might explain in barely comprehensible English the importance of nutrition and eating all the foods on the chart: broccoli and carrots, turnips and iceberg lettuce, plums, a large meatloaf, and other strange things. If a child remarked that none of the vegetables on the chart grew in Puerto Rico and the class laughed, Mrs. Del Toro would slam her pointer on the blackboard" (20). 

By the way, the "pollito, chicken" song was a big part of my childhood. It is still often used as a children's lullaby, a remnant of that era.

Looking at Barceloneta, a.k.a. as Ciudad Viagra:

"As of 2008 Puerto Rico was the world's largest shipper of pharmaceuticals, accounting for nearly 25 percent of total shipments. Sixteen of the twenty biggest-selling drugs in the United States are produced in Puerto Rico, and the profits are enormous. North American sales of Viagra exceed $1 billion per year with profit margins of roughly 90 percent per pill" (33). 

And before that, thanks to the 936 Laws, my father made a good living selling industrial hardware to those pharmaceutical companies. That is a story I could write about another time. By the way, President Clinton eliminated those laws in order to make some deal or other with rich friends and Republicans; this is also discussed in the book. Anyhow, as time did prove, things got a lot worse as some experts did predict even as Clinton's folk and others said it would not be too bad. (Read a bit more on the 936 law here and here) However, before that, a very different medical industry had root in Barceloneta:

"For decades the doctors in Barceloneta sterilized Puerto Rican women without their knowledge or consent. Even if told about la operación (the operation), the women were not informed that it was irreversible and permanent. Over 20,000 women were sterilized in this one town. This scenario was repeated throughout Puerto Rico until-- at its high point-- one-third of the women on the island had been sterilized and Puerto Rico had the highest incidence of female sterilization in the world" (33-34). 

This was part of the eugenics movement sweeping the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s (the movement in the U.S. went back to the late 19th century). And that is not even all. Read about American doctor Cornelius Rhoads, who could likely make even Dr. Mengele blush. (See Rhoads' Wikipedia entry, which may be a bit generous to the guy; one thing you can tell is the Rockefeller Foundation had to spend a few bucks cleaning up his image). 

March 21, 1937: The Ponce Massacre (the Wikipedia link gives you the quick version, but read the book for a better view of the event). It was Palm Sunday. What it was in the end: 

It was "an instance of state-sponsored terror intended to cow an entire population into submission--particularly those who wanted independence-- with a show of deadly brutality" (54). 

The massacre was ordered by then Governor Blanton Winship, who after he lost his job in 1939 after a federal inquiry long forgotten, went on to a military career in World War II and a cushy job prosecuting Nazis in Nuremberg. He was never indicted for his crimes in Puerto Rico: 

"A tragic awareness would soon spread throughout the island: the United States cared more about Nazi war crimes in Europe than murder in broad daylight in Puerto Rico" (54).

Something else revealed by the Ponce Massacre, which a witness who filmed it from a hidden spot learned that day: 

". . . to those from the north, Puerto Ricans were not equals, or citizens, or even fully human. They were animals. And so they could be shot on Palm Sunday like rabid dogs in the street" (145). 

From the bibliography, some titles I may want to read. As usual, links to WorldCat unless noted otherwise: 

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges: 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Booknote: Problem Identified: and You're Probably Not Part of the Solution

Scott Adams, Problem Identified: and You're Probably Not Part of the Solution. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7407-8534-4.

Subgenre: workplace humor
Series: Dilbert comic strip
Format: paperback
Source: I own this (bought it cheap at Ollie's Bargain Outlet).

I needed some good humor, and the Dilbert comics are always a good place to find it. It's a comic strip largely for the corporate world, but I often find things that I can relate to as a librarian. I think that may be one of the not so popular truths in librarianship: Dilbert speaks a lot of truth to what we do as well. This time I read volume 34 of the series, and it is one dedicated to the pointy-haired boss. If you have had a less than an ideal boss, this is the book for you. I've had a less than idea boss here and there, so I did find some good humor to lighten up things here. In this volume, we get a good selection of the boss's misdeeds and mismanagement, his list of worst hits if you will.The guy is outright incompetent, yet he is the boss.

One of my favorite moments is the boss attempting to write a mission statement. Having been through college and university accreditation processes, I thought of that as I read about writing mission statements. Another good moment was the boss attempting to provide vision for his workers. It seems vision is not all it is cracked up to be. And then came the "Dignity Enhancement Program." Just ponder that one.

Overall, this is another good volume in the series. If' you've read the strip before, then you will enjoy this. If not, what are you waiting for? This may be a good entrance point. I really liked this one.

4 out of 5 stars.