Discover's 20 Things.... by the editors of Discover Magazine

To the authors' credit, they admit in the introduction that the title of this book is misleading; it's not 20 things about "everything". But there are 20 chapters of various subjects, ranging from aliens to weather, each contained in it's own chapter.

If you are familiar with the monthly magazine and it's regular column "20 Things You Didn't Know About...", then you may have seen these before, or like me, you may not. I'm not entirely sure if they are reprints since I have only been an infrequent browser of the magazine.

That said, there is still plenty of reason to read the book, even if you do know everything. It's fun, for one thing. There are the 20 things in each chapter, but there are a lot of sidebars with other intriguing pieces of info, and numerous quotes from different people that are peppered in the text.

Give it 7½ stars.


Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop by Lee Goldberg

The final season of the TV series Monk is on us and that presents a problem for fans of the series. Where will we get our Monk fix now? The answer is in the person of Lee Goldberg, a writer for the show and, with this book, an eight-time novelist of the series. Fortunately Mr. Goldberg (who is still a young chap, from the looks of him) doesn't seem to be dry on ideas for novels for our "intrepid" hero. (If, by "intrepid", you take to mean will go to any lengths to catch his man, as long as there aren't any germs, heights, snakes or a bottle of milk between them...)

At the outset of this mystery, Monk has been laid off as a consultant for the San Francisco PD due to budget cuts, but Monk, being Monk, can't just let the crimes go unsolved. He begins making "anonymous" calls to the police hotline giving clues that solve the various crimes that are on the police docket. This is OK with Monk, but both his assistant Natalie and Captain Stottlemeyer are frustrated with him for not keeping out of the mix.

To the rescue comes a private agency called Intertect who hires him on with a very generous salary to work for them. And work for them he does, staying up all night to solve cases. In the meantime, a rather unsavory former policeman with SFPD, now a police officer in a neighboring town, turns up dead, and evidence seems to point to Capt. Stottlemeyer. It is up to Monk to save the day. Except for one problem. The evidence even convinces Monk that the Captain is guilty.

Will Monk save his friend or will the Captain get the electric chair? Will natalie strangle Monk to keep him from solving cases for free, thus putting her job and lifestyle in jeopardy? And more importantly, will Monk even get within a hundred yards of this dirty cop? Tune in (or rather read in) to find out.

With the exception of two early issues in the novel, with Monk having an larger, more self-important ego than I previously thought he had, and felt out of place (although probably not as out of place as they felt to me), I did enjoy this installment.

I rate this one 8 stars.


Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I recently set for myself a lofty goal of reading every book in a list I found online of 50 Banned Books. After struggling through this one, I put off the goal for a while.

One of the acknowledged "classics" of American literature, I found this stream-of-conciousness styled story very hard to continue. I admit at the outset that I had never encountered this style of writing before, and that may shade my opinion of it somewhat. But I found it extremely tedious, and the main character Holden Caufield to be the most boring fictional character I have ever read.

The basic premise, for those of you who may never have read it either before now, is a weekend in the life of a young teen who has recently been expelled from a prep school. His adventures in New York City, while living extravagantly (in my opinion) on money he has acquired prior to his expulsion.

Most of the time, he is either drinking himself silly or ranting about the jerks he has met. Apparently he doesn't like anybody he ever met, except for his younger sister. While in NYC, he has a couple of encounters with the seedier side of big city life, including an experience with a prostitute. In every encounter, he goes on about what jerks the people are whom he meets.

While I am the most vocal of advocates against censorship, and despite my opinion of the piece, I still think it shouldn't be banned. I just don't have a very high opinion of the book.

Rate it 3 stars. And that's being generous.