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Mark Wonderful
The Mr.Wonderful ©

Review of Books

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Arizona Politics
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Historical Mystery
Dante Club
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The Dante Club

From the Publisher:

"In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields - are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante's remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

'New York Times Bestseller' appears at the very top center of the micro-textured cover of this three hundred and sixty paged, twenty chaptered book written by Matthew Pearl. You really cannot tell a book by its cover, and in a rush to buy this incredibly unexciting tome, I failed to turn to an inner chapter and carefully digest the words on a few pages. All I did was quickly scan the reviews on the back cover: "suspenseful plot" and "the writing is passionate" and "a divine mystery" and left with the book. I am more familiar than most, with Dante Alighieri's Inferno, as I attempted to listen to it on CD's a couple of years ago. However, I thought it too important and intricate and lovely to listen to while simply driving around Scottsdale in my (then) Suburban Assault Vehicle, so I never completed it. "The Dante Club" centers around the actual 19th Century translation into English from Italian of Dante's Inferno (a trip into Hell) and a killer who is murdering prominent citizens of Beantown while mimicking the not commonly known tortures from the Inferno. I guess if one is familiar with Boston this book would hold more attraction. And I guess I might have been more interested if I was familiar at all with Longfellow and poets James Russell and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, all who played major parts in the story. Perhaps if I had just graduated from say, Harvard, with a degree in American Literature I'd found this book as fascinating as it's Harvard graduated writer did. With good mystery novels, one is compelled to read it to the end, if nothing more than to discover, whodunit? But halfway through The Dante Club I did not even care. Looking on the bright side, TDC was wonderful bedstand book, as I could manage only a few paragraphs before the book dropped to my chest, and I was rendered unconscious. Often times I'd notice I'd be on the same two pages for night after night after night. Finally, knowing my loyal readers were waiting for this review, I just forced myself to read during the day and finally completed it. In their hubris, Random House and the author have included "A Reader's Guide" in the final pages, that includes both a "Conversation with the Author" and "Questions for Discussion." Yes, here is one question: How did this book get published and who the hell buys it?

Begun: 02/05/2005   Finished: 03/12/2005

Take the Dante's Inferno Test at The test is a long one. The punishments severe.

Christianity, Crusades, Middle Eastern History
The Fourth Crusade
& Sack of Constantinople
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The Fourth Crusade

& the Sack of Constantinople
From the Publisher:

"In April 1204, the armies of Western Christendom wrote another bloodstained chapter in the history of holy war. Two years earlier, aflame with religious zeal, the Fourth Crusade set out to free Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But after a dramatic series of events, the crusaders turned their weapons against the Christian city of Constantinople, the heart of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest metropolis in the known world."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Silly me, I thought Jonathan Phillips' The Fourth Crusade would include a huge bloody fight against the evil Muslims within the boundaries of The Holy Land. In preparation for the 2005 release of Kingdom of Heaven I thought I'd read a nonfiction book about "The Crusades." Too bad I picked the 1202 to 1204 crusade that did not climax in Jerusalem. Full of facts, dates, six syllable names, (unread) footnotes and less action than I expected, this 170,000 word well researched work is best ground through slowly as if it were a college text. However, like a slipcover reviewer claims " . . . Nobody can read without acquiring a better understanding of the Middle Ages and the medieval mind."

Also Enjoy:
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)
by Robert Spencer

God Has Ninety Nine Names: Reporting from a Militant Middle East
by Judith Miller

Political Science
Maritime History
The Outlaw Sea
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The Outlaw Sea
A World of Freedom, Chaos and Crime
From the Publisher:

"Even if we live within sight of the sea, it is easy to forget that our world is an ocean world. The open ocean -- that vast expanse of international waters -- begins just a few miles out and spreads across three fourths of the globe. It is a place of storms and danger, both natural and man-made. At a time when every last patch of land is claimed by one government or another, it is also a place that remains radically free."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Willam Langewiesche's book, The Outlaw Sea, begins at page eight with a riveting account of the sinking of the tanker Kristal. He covers the history and happenings of human life on our earth's oceans like, well, an ocean. The two hundred and thirty-nine page book ends with these mammoth iron arks being purposely given a full head of steam and then run aground on an Arabian Sea beach named Alang. There, over many months, hundreds of thousands of Indian's methodically rip these hulks apart like an army of brown ants ravaging a fallen gray elephant. Also uncovered are the shadowy corporations who own so many of these liability-ridden ships and the individuals they hire to ply the watery vastness of our planet from within these vessels. The threat of shipboard WMD-terrorism and modern day machine-gun-wielding pirates are also given ink. A far too long chapter about the sinking of the ferry Estonia (in which 852 Europeans died in the frigid waters of the Baltic Sea) gives the American reader a taste of how Hindenburg-like this 1994 disaster was to our brethren who remained on the Continent. While not a razzle-dazzle best selling gripping account of life on the oceans, Mr. Langewiesche's does manage to make a seemingly bland subject a very readable and sometimes exciting affair.

Also Enjoy:
In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
by Doug Stanton

And: Sea Drift: Rafting Adventures in the Wake of the Kon-Tiki
by P.J. Capelotti

Also: The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
by Sebastian Junger

Fantasy Fiction
Click to read more
From the Publisher:

"Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but demanding fiancee. Then one night he stumbles across a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her - and the life he knows vanishes like smoke."

Mr. Wonderful Writes:

This was the second book I read penned by Neil Gaiman, the first being American Gods. While I thoroughly enjoyed American Gods and put it down feeling good, this book left me feeling dark and dingy like the underground thoroughfares its hero wandered. Since the action was based in and around London, perhaps if I'd been at all familiar with the intricately described locales, I would have enjoyed Neverwhere more than I did. This was another book that I read a page or two every night over a period of weeks and perhaps that glacial pace affected my enjoyment. If I was asked to recommend a Neil Gaiman book it would not be this one.

Enjoy Instead:  American Gods  by Neil Gaiman

Business Life
and Careers
48 Days to the Work You Love
48 Days to the
Work You Love:

And Leaving the Job You Hate
From A Reader:

"Most impacting information I've ever read on career and your calling: There are so many books on money, success, etc...but nothing that addresses what 'work' is supposed to be, and gives guidance to making your work your passion. This book blew me away with Dan's revelation of truth about what is wrong with work and how to make it right. I think everyone going into the marketplace should read this book first."

Mr. Wonderful Writes:

Page 140: "Should it be easier to make money doing something you love or something you hate?" I will wager that the majority your acquaintances do not enjoy large blocks of the thirty-two to ninety-four hours they invest earning their living each and every week. As you might expect, your Mr.Wonderful reads a lot of books; during my ten years of retirement I read seventy-five books alone about sales, management and how our personality affects our job. I discovered that I'm no salesman, no manager and have a personality which does not easily cubby-hole into the charts in the personality books. 48 Days to the Work You Love actually got me excited about looking for a job I love, rather than just looking for a paycheck doing work that I've always done. Being miserable like I've always been.

Also Enjoy:  Should I Do What I Love?  by Katy McColl

The Pursuit of Happiness: Discovering the Pathway to Fulfillment, Wellbeing, and Enduring Personal Joy
by David G. Wells, Ph.D.

In addition:
Follow Your Heart: Finding Purpose in Your Life and Work
by Andrew Matthews

Also:  How to Win Friends & Influence People  by Dale Carnegie

Secret Societies
United States
Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League and the Hidden Paths of Power by Alexandra Robbins
Secrets of the Tomb

Skull and Bones,
The Ivy League,
and the Hidden Paths of Power
From the Publisher:

"The cloak-and-dagger secrecy of Yale University's secret society known as Skull and Bones has prompted people worldwide to attribute to it some of the most staggering conspiracies in modern history."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

I became interested in this book when the author, Alexandra Robbins, was interviewed on the George Noory late-night radio program. With her being unwilling to state who she voted for in the 2004 election, I should have been prepared for her irrational diatribe against Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush and our elected president, George W. Bush. After five chapters of explaining that Skull and Bones had so little power, she then turns around and states that the "Bush Dynasty" would not had happened had it not been for the power of the aforementioned Skull and Bones. And to realize that, yes, Democratic candidate John F. Kerry, was also a member of Skull and Bones but did not get elected only confuses the reader. Regardless, the book was fairly average, reading more like a history textbook than some all revealing script of a secret society which was made famous to us uneducated dolts in fly-over country by the movie The Skulls , which had about as many facts in it as the fat-globule-sweating Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 911. Your Mr.Wonderful, having never attended any university and being aware of Y A L E only by staring at the $120,000 decals on the rear windows of the cheapest models of Volvos, BMWs, Mercedes and Saabs, while waiting for a traffic signal to change, found the book a real yawner. I imagine this tome would be a wonderful reading for someone who attended Yale or one of the other Ivy League institutes of higher learning and immense tuitions.

Also Enjoy: Opus Dei: An Objective Look behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church
by John L. Allen

And: The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite
by Ann Finkbeiner

Heretics, Christian Biography
Out Of The Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World
Out of the Flames

The Remarkable Story
of a Fearless Scholar
a Fatal Heresy, and
One of the Rarest
Books in the World
From the Publisher:

"Michael Servetus is one of those hidden figureheads of history who is remembered not for his name but for the revolutionary deeds that stand in his place. Both a scientist and a freethinking theologian, Servetus is credited with the discovery of pulmonary circulation in the human body as well as the authorship of a polemical masterpiece that cost Servetus his life. The Christianismi Restitutio, a heretical work of biblical scholarship written in 1553, aimed to refute the orthodox Christianity that Servetus's old colleague, John Calvin, supported."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

What drew my eye to this book, when it was first released, was that the author was burnt at the stake with a copy of his book strapped to his leg. This was quite similar to the plot line of my favorite Johnny Depp movie, Ninth Gate. And that while all the books were ordered to be destroyed, three books survived. Again, much like The Ninth Gate. Oddly enough one of the surviving books was discovered to have been retained by John Calvin the very person who instituted the heretical proceedings against Servetus that eventually incinerated his books and his body. Out of the Flames is also an interesting history of Europe and many of its famous and not so famous citizens. I found this book so fascinating, fact-filled and well written that I devoured its three hundred and thirty pages in three short sittings.

Also Enjoy:
Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World's Most Valuable Coin
by Alison Frankel

Science Fiction
Redemption Ark
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Redemption Ark

From the Publisher:

Late in the twenty-sixth century, the human race continued to advance - enough to accidentally trigger the Inhibitors. Now, fifty years later, these alien killing machines - designed to detect intelligent life and destroy it - are fast approaching. In the face of this onslaught, the only hope for humanity lies in the recovery of a secret cache of doomsday weapons - and a renegade named Clavain is determined to find them. But other factions want the weapons for their own devices. And the weapons themselves have another agenda altogether

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

The third science fiction novel by Alastair Reynolds I've completed in chronological order. Which, if you are planning to read this four-book series, I'd strongly suggest that you too read them in the sequence they were written in. Most likely the fact that I read Redemption Ark two or three pages at a time, rather than chapter by chapter, made it seem less enjoyable than his previous works. This book once again exposes the author's incredibly imaginative mind presenting the reader with entirely believable advances in science and medicine over the coming five hundred years. Although the explanation of the purpose behind the "Inhibitors" doesn't quite cut the mustard (or should I say "space dust?) simply that I finished this almost seven hundred page tome over a period of seven months while suffering seventy-two hour work weeks, should indicate that I still found it compelling.

Also Enjoy: All Alastair Reynolds Books