America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation by Kenneth C. Davis

Kenneth Davis has a style that is engaging and has kept me coming back to his books every time. I first encountered him with his Don't Know Much About... series. Any one of those would be a good starting point to read and improve your knowledge on the subjects which he writes.

This book was entirely different from the trivia style tidbits that made up the format of the Don't Know Much About... books. Instead of the brief vignettes that comprised the volume of those books, here, Davis discusses only 6 stories. And those stories only cover a period of history involving the first 200 years or so of its history.

The author, whose style I so admired from the Don't Know Much About... series, however, seems to have morphed into a less-focused writer in the interim. I found myself trying hard to stay focused, as he doesn't seem to be very focused himself. He jumps around a lot in getting to the main story, and even then, I was left a bit unclear as to what conclusions he was trying to draw.

And the title is a bit misleading to a fan of history. Actually, only one of the stories was unknown to me, so "Hidden" is not necessarily the best choice for a title (although I bet plenty of people buy the book for that title, so maybe it was a good choice after all). All-in-all, I think you would be best served to stick with the Don't Know Much About... books, and leave this one on the shelf.

I rate it 4½ stars.



I can't seem to get organized. I need help. Anybody want a job as a maid?

One of these days, I'll just sit down and write up a storm, and post about a dozen reviews in one day. That's how many books I never got around to reviewing yet, but did actually read. More coming soon, but probably not until the weekend.


Amazing Texas: Fascinating Facts, Entertaining Tales, Bizarre Happenings, and Historical Oddities about the Lonestar State by T. Jensen Lacey

Trivia books are a dime a dozen, theoretically speaking. You can find just about any subject and there will be a pop culture style book with little facts and anecdotes about it somewhere. Even truer for something like Texas, where the people of the state tend to create an enthusiasm within their oit outside the confines of the state.wn ranks, as well as oft times inspiring enthusiasm for it outside the confines of the state.

Personally my favorite to fill this niche is
Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges into Texas. But I like the format and random tidbits style of all the Uncle John's books.

It would be unfair to judge this book against another. a book should be judged on it's own merits. To her credit, the author does include a lot of interesting material about the state, it's history and it's general makeup. And there are even some things here that I did not previously know. (And, believe me, I know a lot about Texas, having spent almost my entire life here.)

The problem I had with the book was not so much as the content itself, but as with a lack of interesting style. Nothing seems to reach out and grab you. Bland stating of facts is what I felt from the start. Not that you can't learn anything from the book, especially if you are a novice to things Texas. I just feel your time would be better spent seeking a different book.

I only give this one 5 stars.


Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Finincial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff

A car trip of over 5 hours can be pretty boring. That's why whenever I make the trek to visit family, I listen to the radio quite a bit. But eventually that gets pretty boring too, even without having to channel jump to keep getting a station with a clear signal.

This year, I decided to try a book on CD. After all it would make the time go by just as easily. And, as an added bonus, I could get a book "read" while driving.

My choice was Ponzi's Scheme. This being my first book on CD, and the first time in many years for audio books of any kind (back in the day, there were no CDs yet and my books were audio on cassette tapes), I didn't quite know what to expect. I found out right off, that due to CD capacity, the book was unabridged, meaning I got to hear the whole book, not just an edited down version, as was the case with the cassettes of old.

The book was read by Grover Gardner. A few words on the quality of the reading is in order. I thought the monotone delivery was a little dry. Hardly any emotion comes through on the reading. That much I remember from the old days. I imagine it is a standard in the industry, because I have never heard an audio book with much emotion in the reading.

That said, the story was quite interesting. With the exception of one chapter that was devoted to the life and politics of former Boston mayor, James Michael Curley, I thought the story went rather well. The fact that Curley does not seem to be a major player in the rest of the story was the cause for me to find this section out of place. At least with the case of Edwin and Richard Grozier, publishers of the Boston Post, there was a constant link to the story, so delving into their lives did not cause any comment.

What the story boils down to, in case you are not familiar with it, an Italian immigrant, Carlo (Charles) Ponzi, ran an illegal racket in which he claimed to be dealing in postal reply coupons, buying them in one country that had a cheap rate, and selling them for a higher value to another country. Investors were guaranteed a 50% interest on their investments, but what it really came down to was a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scheme in which he used later investors money to pay off previous investors.

Knowing all this does not in the least take away from the enjoyment of the book, whether read by you or by the audio reader. I know, because I was fairly well knowledgeable on the subject beforehand, and still got enjoyment from it.

I rate the book 7 stars, but I rate Gardner's audio version only 5. I think you would find it more enjoyable just taking the time to read it yourself.

Shine On: 1909-2009 100 Years of Shiner by Mike Renfro

I like beer. I also like books about beer. And my favorite beer just happens to be Shiner, specifically Shiner Bock. If you are not priveleged to be living somewhere that Shiner is distributed, then you are missing out. Get thee to Texas for a vacation, so you can try it. If it is available, then for God's sake what are you waiting for?

Reading about the history of my favorite beer was without a doubt a great way to start the new year, I mean besides toasting it with a bottle at midnight New Year's Eve. This is another coffee table book, but aside from that fact, it is not just a overinflated picture book, like some of that type are. The writing is good, and intriguing enough, and the author has a genuine love for the beer and the history behind it. Not just a dry reporting, the author actually infuses the book with a passion that I have not seen in any of the other coffee table books I've read.

Of course, there's no denying that part of it is due to my passion for the same brew, but I can accept that. I give this one an unashamed to admit it, 9 stars.