Archive for the ‘Local Interest’ Category


You Review a Local Author: The Satirist – Dan Geddes

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Reviewed by Jessie de Geus

Up until four weeks ago, I had never heard of Dan Geddes, or his online journal The Satirist. Amazon.com’s claim that millions of readers have been enjoying his online activity since 1999 raised my interest (it also made me wonder under which stone I had been living for the last 15 years). Geddes has a background in history, philosophy and literature, and, as I discovered soon, a very sharp pen.

The book contains more than 58 articles in different styles, ranging from news, biographies of lost geniuses, imaginary movie reviews to short fiction. In many ways Geddes’s satire is aimed at the usual suspects: (American) politics, capitalism, consumer behavior, religion, post-modern philosophy, literary criticism and the arrogance of academics. But Geddes is no stranger to self-criticism either, something he shows in ‘The Pathetic Lives of Satirists and Critics’, and in the sections of short fiction that revolve around disillusioned young men who can’t seem to find their place in society.

I enjoyed some parts more than others, the news articles, the lost geniuses (although eight was a bit much) and the Disney movie reviews really stood out for me. Titles like ‘IRS: Frozen Bodies Are Subject to Income Tax’, ‘Amsterdam High School Relocates to Save Historical Coffee Shop’ and ‘Supporters Praise Romney for “Not Being Obama”’ give you a pretty good idea of what you will find in this witty little volume. Geddes’s satire is very clever and made me laugh out loud many times. The image of Morgan Freeman (as Noah) standing on the deck of his ark when the storm is over, Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now The Rain is Gone” playing in the background still makes me smile when I think about it.

Although not a book that I would read from cover to cover in one sitting, The Satirist is a great book to pick up for an hour every other day. It’s also a great to read aloud to your friends, lover or housemates.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Joss

Dan Geddes’s compilation of features, news stories, book reviews, poems and more reveals much about contemporary American society. This satirical anthology offers a tongue-in-cheek, critical take on the country’s cultural, political and economic standpoint written by Geddes over a period of fourteen years.

The stories are punchy, witty and ironic and will be appreciated by critics, academics and intellectuals alike. These fictional accounts, that mainly set out to mock America’s capitalist society, are short enough to be digested over the course of a coffee break or a tram ride.

Besides American critique, satirical features such as ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Cult Leaders,’ and quizzes like ‘Are You a Conspiracy Theorist? Take the Test,’ are engaging and convincing with a sarcastic tone. Furthermore, expect to meet imaginary historical characters such as Hans Donkerzijde, a creative genius who once resided in Amsterdam, and Karl Kinski, dubbed ‘the anti-artist’ whose works bear thought-provoking titles such as Picasso Blockhead, Hair Piece, and Straight Red Line on Canvas.

One of the most entertaining satirical essays of the book is sure to be ‘A Modest Proposal to Convert Shopping Malls into Prisons.’ This essay provides a convincing argument for the strategic, cost-effective process of converting malls into much-needed prison space – an excellent solution to a very pressing problem indeed.

“Shopping malls tend to be huge, windowless, concrete structures […] The inmates could be housed in the stores themselves. A former shoe store, for example, can house up to fifty inmates comfortably. All stores are already equipped with a metal gate for their front doors. The gate can be pulled down and locked to keep the prisoners inside. And with some “poetic justice,” shoplifters can be confined in the very stores in which they once practiced their craft.”

On the whole, Geddes’s prose is witty, persuasive and rocks the proverbial boat. His book helps us shed light on issues that have become such a normal part of capitalist society that we often fail to see the obscurity or the solutions therein. Geddes’s book leaves the reader chuckling to him or herself and questioning, ‘just what if things do go that far?’

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

Dan Geddes presented his book at Meet My Book! in February.  More of his stories/reviews/poems can be found online at the satirist.com.

You Review a Local Author: Beastslayer – Linda Radwan

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Reviewed by Valeria Rinaudo

“I barely made it home, my body heavy and numb from the poison running through my veins. Then again I had been stabbed, scratched and punched in so many places, I wished the poison were stronger”: this is how The Beastslayer begins.

It begins with Niteria, the heroine of the story, a thief and assassin with a complicated, twisted personality. She comes back home after a violent fight with an evil wizard and his creatures in the name of a noble quest during which something went wrong. This led to an unexpectedly fierce revenge and, of course, to unceasing and brutal fights involving vampires, evil vampire-hounds, beautiful storytellers, repugnant dungeon guards, valiant lumberjacks and more.

It is also a story about a guest with silver hair, wolf eyes, and a magnificent body covered in scars – a mysterious, arrogant, yet attractive swordsman, the beastslayer.

I was impressed by this book, with its flawless narrative and dialogues. The detailed descriptions of the space and the characters together with an informal and very personal style makes you feel there, so much that you start feeling physically exhausted and striving for a deserved rest. The Beastslayer is a powerful fantasy tale that hits all the right notes. It is dark fantasy though, a grown-up one; it reminded me of Blade Runner with its darkness floating between violence, hope, and love, of course.

The author, Linda Radwan, is able to build a fascinating world made of different lands, each of them carrying different human qualities, and to build hierarchical relationships among different beings (vampires, wizards, humans). A prologue introduces the reader to the story’s past and an extra chapter at the end of the book gives a taste to the sequel to come.

As in all good dark stories, fantasy or not, the reality is cruel and for good people life is a continuous struggle between good and evil. For those “who dare to dream” I most certainly recommend this book.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

Linda Radwan presented her book at Meet My Book! in February.  The Beastslayer is self-published on ABC’s Espresso Book Machines.

You Review a Local Author: In the Children’s Country – Bryna Hellmann

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Reviewed by Sheila Schenkel

Such a sweet story!

Danny and Rosie are fed up with staying at home whilst Mom and Dad go out for the evening. “They always go places where you can’t take children,” Danny complains. When the siblings decide to go to a country just for children, they end up exactly there…

In In the Children’s Country, there’s no hunger, no rain and… no television! The kids eat fruit growing on trees, drink water from a stream and spend their days playing outdoors. Still, there’s something odd about the place. What is it about the queen, living beyond the forest? How come everything around them is so perfect? Where do the children living here come from?

When something awful happens, Rosie has to do her utmost to try and solve it. Together with Milo, the eldest kid in the Country, Rosie shows that love is stronger than anything. They prove that when you work together, and just don’t give up, you can accomplish a whole lot.

Bryna Hellmann pushes the story forward with dialogue, which makes it perfect to read to children. On that note; it would have been nice if the chapters had been shorter. Much shorter. Just to give you a chance to catch your breath! The adventure revolves primarily around Milo and Rosie — the moment they’re off to save the situation, their story is the only one we follow.

Leslie Browne’s illustrations are worthy of a predominant place on the wall. I’d love to see more of her work in books to follow—or in a second edition, even.

The wrapping up of the plot feels a bit abrupt; so many things unfolding at once. Perhaps it’s more of a compliment to the world Hellmann’s created than anything else. Either way, I wouldn’t mind a sequel.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

Bryna Hellmann presented her book at the first Meet My Book! event in January.  She has also written two novels, The Time Between and This is Me, Becca.  Both these novels are self-published on our Espresso Book Machines.

You Review a Local Author: Ready, Steady, Go Dutch – Dutch News & Access

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Reviewed by Patricia Kooyman

Ready, Steady, Go Dutch is not really a book but rather a collection of snippets from a survey among expats living in The Netherlands.

I like the idea of gathering experiences of people with very different backgrounds going through the same experiences, but if you publish such a collection and ask to be paid for it I would have expected you to do some work on it. As it is, it is really only that – a collection of snippets. Very few editorial comments, hardly any synthesis, and the main conclusion? “How you react to the peculiarities of the Dutch way of doing things reflects your own origins”. Now THAT’s an eye-opener!

Yes, some people love a certain fact of life in The Netherlands while others hate that same fact. That would hold for ANY country.

I find some snippets have been formulated rather judgmentally, and I don’t think that’s due to my being Dutch. There are quite a few things in the way ‘we’ run our society that annoy ME on a daily basis, and most of those are indeed addressed in this book.

If you search hard you can find a few useful practical tips hidden in between lots of rather incoherent and not always very logically arranged snippets. Fortunately these are not completely anonymised, so you quickly realise that Victoria thought life would be the same all over the world (and maybe would have done better not to relocate instead of whining about differences between her childhood paradise and real life) whereas French is really trying to give some helpful tips and to enjoy life in a different country. But if you’re looking for practical information you will easily find many websites and forums that offer up-to-date info with useful ‘live’ answers to your particular personal questions. Some of those are listed at the end of the book. And if you’re looking for a relaxed and fun introduction to all that is different to foreigners coming to The Netherlands buy The Undutchables instead. Which fortunately is also in the list of recommended books.

Reviewed by Linda Radwan

Ready, Steady, Go Dutch was a fun book to read. I was amazed at the various experiences of people coming to the Netherlands and their view on the Dutch world. I have to say, being a foreigner myself in the Netherlands makes it easier to relate to some subjects. Yet with most of the subjects I could not relate at all. I think it also depends from which country you originally came from. If you came from the U.S., for example, it is normal to think that the Dutch customer service is low while my experience is that the Dutch customer service is quite high but that is in comparison to my own country. Also the idea of Dutch people being more laid-back in work is strange to me, having experienced nothing more than a truly hardworking, sometimes harsh mentality and exaggerated eagerness to stay late and finish one’s own work. But, once again, it depends from which country you came from.

So in conclusion, I liked the book.  It was fun to read but I could not relate to most of the quotes. Perhaps that is not necessary but I would have liked more similarities that could have made me nod eagerly or make me laugh and think ‘Yes, that is exactly what I thought as well!’. I would have liked to identify myself more with the rest.

If you want to have an idea of what it’s like to live and work in the Netherlands then this book can be confusing because of the different opinions. But if you would like to know what people from different nations and cultures have experienced while living in the Netherlands then this book, thought up by Robin Pascoe and Deborah Valentine, is perfect.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

Robin Pascoe is the founder of DutchNews.nl and presented her book at the first Meet My Book! event this past January.

A large part of the profit from Ready, Steady, Go Dutch will go to volunteer organisation ACCESS to help it continue providing information and advice to expats in the Netherlands.

You Review a Local Author: Ritual: The Magical Perspective – Luc Sala

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

In January, we started with a new event series: Meet My Book! These events give local authors a chance to present their book to a live audience. Each Meet My Book! author provides 2 review copies that are reviewed by a group of ABC customers who signed up for the You Review a Local Author program.

This inaugural post combines two reviews of Ritual: The Magical Perspective by Luc Sala, who was one of the authors at the very first Meet My Book! in January.  Ritual: The Magical Perspective is self-published and printed at ABC on our Espresso Book Machines.

Reviewed by Catarina Queiroz

In Ritual, the Magical Perspective, Luc Sala defends that rituals are basically practical and effective magic, present everywhere even if we don’t acknowledge them. Through extensive explanations with reference to a large number of different sources that range from philosophers to magicians, Sala addresses the basics of rituals according to his research and personal experience with the spiritual realm.

The first volume points out that, regarding rituals, our focus should be on the magical, the spiritual world, which can be reached once we learn how to let go of our ego and access our true self or inner child. According to Sala, rituals existed before language, myth or religion. They were a decisive factor in the creation of cultural identity and helped prehistoric men build a structured society, thus enabling progress and modern civilization as we know it. The author also attempts to make a connection between rituals and the notion of information, raising some good questions about rituals in virtual environments, cyberspace ethics and information freedom. The second volume is practical and aims to elucidate the theories presented with the study of rituals related to fire.

This is an interesting book if you’re into the theme and are keen to find arguments in favor of the effectiveness of magic. On the other hand, it’s kind of overwhelming in terms of size and references to different thinkers, perspectives and historical moments. The approach is also very personal (the author makes a point of saying so) and I think that without a background on the various references that Sala mentions it’s difficult to have a clear understanding or position about the book. Nevertheless, the author’s intention is clear: it’s urgent that we embrace the magical aspect of life, accepting ritual as a bridge between the material and spiritual worlds.

Reviewed by Richard Metcalf

This is an audacious and thought-provoking work by a fascinating author. In this self-published volume Luc Sala – entrepreneur, would-be politician, psychonaut, and writer – sets out his views on ritual, and examines its role in just about every aspect of the known (and unknown) universe.

Sala claims that – in contrast to a “ceremony”, which has a merely social and psychological function – a proper “ritual” involves a conscious attempt to change the world (both future and past) through an intangible connection to “the otherworld”, and argues that contemporary science (quantum brain, string theory) offers a possible explanation for how this back door to the universe works.

In over 500 large, two-column pages, Sala presents his personal views and theories, together with a survey of other perspectives in an impassioned, rambling style which make it sometimes hard to find the thread of his arguments. There is something rather dubious about such passionate advocacy of the power of the magical arts, and there’s a hint of frustration at an inability to change the world through more conventional means (the author seemingly believes that the “thought police” behind the “Wikipedia website” have it in for him). If rituals can effect real change through magical means, why bother to argue the point? Surely it’s better to spend your time performing those powerful rituals? True enough, in Sala’s definition, the publication of a book could clearly qualify as a series of rituals, but this one might have more impact after a hefty spell of “Wielding the Magical Red Pen”.

Despite these misgivings, there is a huge amount of interesting information here (Timothy Leary, Burning Man, Roger Penrose, Aleister Crowley and Rudolf Steiner all get a mention or three), accompanied by striking illustrations, and it’s certainly worth giving Sala’s multi-faceted perspective some degree of consideration.

Ritual: The Magical Perspective is a relatively long and somewhat frustrating read; but it’s also highly entertaining, and in a way, curiously compelling. (Hmmm… Who knows, perhaps there is some strange magic at work here after all?)

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.