Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be the Pack Leader, by Cesar Millan

Millan is best known for his TV show "Dog Whisperer." In this, his second book, Millan gives more details and anecdotes about how to train the humans who inevitably seem the cause of dog behavior problems.

The rules are simple: remember that dogs are first of all dogs. Millan says you must train yourself to understand that your dog is first an animal. Second, a dog. Third, a particular breed (or mix) of dog (with associated behavioral tendencies). And only then, your companion.

This isn't so easy for dog owners. He points to near-empty nesters who treat their dog as a baby (and better than their kid). And to guilt ridden office workers who don't spend much time with their dog and spoil it.

Millan says the key to having a successful dog is: exercise, discipline, affection. In that order.

He looks for 45 minutes to one hour each morning of dog exercise (dog following the human, who must be the pack leader), and again in the evening (for perhaps a slightly shorter time). Millan says that just running around in a fenced yard is insufficient. This is for many reasons, including the need for the dog to have a mission - and that a directed walk, following her pack leader, provides that raison d'etre for the dog.

One of my personal take-aways from this is that dog ownership is quite different from having a pet hamster or gold fish. There's considerable work and time required. Not just for the daily walks, the animals maintenance and training. But also mental work, to think clearly about the signals you send the animal, to think clearly about how to best challenge it, train it, and keep it interested as well, physically and mentally.

Anyone for a Pleo instead?

Exposed, by Alex Kava

This mediocre mystery had the potential to be good. Some characters were well developed. Others disappeared from my attention. It felt rushed. The story line was okay, but the writing was uneven.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Killing Ground, by Jack Higgins

This paperback was passed to me by a friend who commented that there were too many characters and it was hard to follow what was going on. Now having read it, I'd say the critique was right: there were too many characters that I care nothing about, because there was zero character development of them.

On top of that, the dialogue was hackneyed. The writing was choppy. I can't find a single good thing to say about this novel.

This book is terrible. How is it a publisher actually produces this sort of tripe? I don't believe in burning books, ever. But if I really needed some kindling, this one would be a candidate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Warriors, by Mark Olsen

I expected this to be an action - suspense, spy novel, so I was surprised to learn it was a paranormal / Christian faith oriented spy novel. Which would normally lead me to just put it down, but instead I stuck with it and I am glad that I did. The book wasn't overly preachy and the plot line, character development and action were pretty good.

The Fire, by Katherine Neville

I tried, I really did. In spite of the scene jumping from place to place and time to time. In spite of the convoluted writing, the unsympathetic characters, the complexity and the tired writing style. But after 156 pages I gave in. I just can't bother to keep reading this; the thought of another 250 pages of this tripe is simply too much to bear.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, by Charles Morris

This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the reasons behind the current financial mess. Here's a long quote that on its own explains quite a bit:

"Suppose you own a portfolio of high-yield bonds with a below-investment-grade rating." [That is, junk with bad collateral, just like sub-prime mortgages with a high expectation of failure to pay.]

"To construct the CDO [collateralized debt obligation], you put the portfolio into a trust and create a family of bonds with different claims to the portfolio's cash flows. The top-tier bonds, which might by 80 percent of the total, get first dibs on all cash flows. Since those bonds are almost certain to be fully paid, they get a top credit rating, and conservative investors, like pension funds, are happy to take them off your hands."

"The rest of the bonds are queued up in the payments 'waterfall,' with each successive layer bearing greater risk, paying higher yields, and getting lower ratings."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Daughter, by Eric Van Lustbader

This ended up an entertaining mystery, but it was a bouncy road. There is an undercurrent of an outgoing administration controlled by a right wing and also insane President, an uprising of organized atheism (that must be like herding cats), and the occasional encounter with a hallucinated dead loved one.

So all in all, a good read, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rough Weather, by Robert B. Parker

Parker's Spenser mystery novels have a tone all their own, and never before have disappointed. But this one goes over the edge.

The plot is sub-par. The premise is unusually weak, as logic holes abound. Did I mention the crummy plot?

Dedicated Spenser readers will want to add this to their collection on principle; casual observers should just avoid it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Goliath Bone, by Mickey Spillane and Max Collins

This standard issue Mike Hammer (1950's style hard-boiled NY private investigator) novel was completed after Spillane's death by Collins, based on Spillane's notes for the novel. It attempts to be a 21st century "I, the Jury" and comes close.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Way of Life, Like Any Other, by Darcy O'Brien

The hero is a child growing up in a dysfunctional post-World War II Hollywood family. The novel is amusing and captivating.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Extreme Measures, by Vince Flynn

I'm conflicted over this novel. One the one hand, it is a good and exciting spy story. On the other, it is a polemic for the use of torture (at least the President G. W. Bush style) on alleged terrorists.

Either way, it isn't particularly credible. But still an overall fun to read book, if you go for this sort of thing.

Ritual, by Mo Hayder

A bit slow moving and slightly convoluted. It held my attention, but only by a thin thread.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin & Robert B. Cialdini

I was not persuaded.

The advice is a mix of common sense and not.

An okay library book; relieved I didn't purchase it.