Rob's Blog

Book: ‘Colombia Crackdown’ (The Avenger #3) by Chet Cunningham – December 5th, 2016

by on Dec.05, 2016, under Books

Colombia Crackdown (The Avenger #3)Colombia Crackdown by Chet Cunningham
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The beginning of this book is pretty clunky. After the location shifts from Miami to South America, the story is more coherent and pretty good.

This book is part of my Florida fiction collection and i only have and have read #3 in the series. Coming into #3 did feel like I was missing a lot that had happened before. Much is explained except for the actual motivation The Avenger has. The character is written to proclaim his reason to avenge, but not his actual reasoning. I know it sounds a bit nit picky. But when so much else is described, why not explain why the main character is doing what he is doing?

The first half of the book is clunky in much that is written. There’s a whole matter involving boats that is contrived and has a resolution that doesn’t add up when other law enforcement would be responding. That is a main problem with the Miami part – the police seem to either be missing or very delayed in response.

When the book heads to South America, the writing is far more crisp. The very detailed description of processing cocaine is very well done. The lady character in Miami that is mishandled in writing, is suddenly well crafted into the story, though it is a bit obvious what is going on. The action is all too pat, but resolves itself nicely to an ending and a clue to #4 in the series.

I should note: This book was not in the Goodreads date base. Neither are any others in the series. Plenty of “Cunningham”‘s books are in this system. Did these sell so poorly and so few circulated to not be here?

The Florida part: Miami is merely a back drop. The author seems not to know Biscayne Bay very well. Funny how there is writing of a Polish deli in Downtown Miami. in the nearly 30 years since this book Downtown Miami at that time is pretty much entirely gone.

To sum up: the book is over all poorly written. The characters are mildly well handled. The setting is poorly described. The first half of the plot is poor, while the second half is far better. So….

Bottom line: i don’t recommend this book. 4 out of ten points.

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I Gotta ALotta Artwork Done! – December 5th, 2016

by on Dec.05, 2016, under Cartooning

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Powerful evening getting a ton of different projects penciled and inked!
I’ll try to share more detailed versions of some of these later.

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Book: ‘The Last of the Dog Team’ by William W. Johnstone – December 3rd, 2016

by on Dec.03, 2016, under Books

The Last of the Dog Team (Dog Team, #1)The Last of the Dog Team by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Of the few dozen Johnstone Clan books I’ve read, this is the oddest and entirely different from any of the other books. This is Johnstone’s version of Steinbeck. Not written as well as Steinbeck and with far too many crass parts, but the same feeling.

Before I tear this book apart, i want to note that the writing is very good, in the sense of writing characters ans settings. It’s the construction of and the elements of the plot that is the disaster.

This is a life story. Following a character from his teen years to death. The author has made every effort to make the story full of pathos and emotion, but to little avail. Mostly due to how the main character is developed. It’s an extremely clunky setup, mostly involving a teenager’s sexual adventures with a whole series of women. The sex, in a weird view of the human animal, is somehow to convince the reader that the main character is mature enough to become a killing machine. Besides hunting rabbits, there is no other sign the teen is anything more than a normal kid.

The other inane way the author tries to convince the reader that the main character is ready to be of an elite squad of military killers, is having all of the characters SAY he is unusual. No real basis for this claim. Except for seeing coldness in his eyes. Yet, the kid is never written to exhibit such cold behavior in the beginning. I could go on, but there’s more silliness to cover.

Extremely off putting about the story is that the title and gearing of the story would have a reader believe there would be all sorts of massive killing and battles and the like. Far from it. The main character’s sexual escapades fill the bulk of the action.

The way the sexual interactions are written are also off putting. All of the women in the book are to be fresh meat for the main character. They all fall for him and sex soon follows. Not a couple lines of sexual intercourse. Pages of details better suited for a pornographic magazine. There must be a good ten pages of sex just withing the first 35 pages of the book.

There are lots of other silly bits, too. But let me wrap this by writing how ridiculous the last few pages are involving the appearance of a hand full of the woman who fell under the main character’s sexual spell at a memorial service. It points out how excessive the use of women and sex are portrayed. To the point that I realized there were so many women, I didn’t remember all of the names.

This is a solid departure for a Johnstone book. The amount of curse words and explicit sex scenes are nothing I’ve encountered with Johnstone and wonder was he already employing ghost writers at the very early time of this book?

There is so much else to cover that is wrong with this book from loose ends to poor storytelling. But I think I’ve covered enough here.

Bottom line: i don’t recommend this book. 3 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Miami Crush’ by Chuck Rogers – December 2nd, 2016

by on Dec.02, 2016, under Books

Miami Crush (Able Team, #28)Miami Crush by Chuck Rogers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title refers to less than the last 50 pages and the cover has to do with the last two pages. The rest of the book is a very over written set up for the last two pages.

The writing is otherwise very good with very well written exposition of almost every step of the book. Pages are devoted to the development of the scaffolding and some sort of wench and vise devise. Later pages devoted to explain each character. More pages explaining the love life of a character. This goes on and on and on.

This is the first of this series I’ve read and only second of the entire Pendleton menagerie. It’s part of my Florida book collection.

About Florida: As I mentioned, the writing is very good. Involving Florida this book has a very bright spot. I love the author’s description of Miami and Miami Beach. The various communities described and placed in relation to Downtown along with the bridges. Part of the description is something I’ve never heard before: Describing Dade County with your hand. Very clever bit i’ll pass along and properly credit.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 3 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Switch’ by Mike Jahn – December 2nd, 2016

by on Dec.02, 2016, under Books

SwitchSwitch by Mike Jahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an adaption of the Glen Larson story for the pilot of the television series, ‘Switch’. Author Jahn is extremely faithfully to the pilot script to the point that I would guess that was part of the contract.

Jahn additions of narrative are excellent in establishing settings and characters. There is a feeling that Jahn took the script and then plugged in the narrative parts as needed. I’d have liked to have read Jahn’s version of the this story. His writing in book format is better than the Larsen work set in from the script.

This also lends itself to another problem, which is the dialogue of the characters, though nearly exactly the same as in the televised version, here in written form makes them all seem the same. Another reason why Jahn’s rich narrative is at odds with more hollow dialogue.

Still this is a good story and it’s easy to hear Eddie Albert, Robert Wagner, Durning, Gless and Callas all speak the parts.

Bottom line: i recommend this book: 9 out of 10 for Jahn’s narrative. Collectively 6 out of ten.

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Book: ‘High Treason’ by John Gilstrap – December 1st, 2016

by on Dec.01, 2016, under Books

High Treason (Johnathan Grave, #5)High Treason by John Gilstrap
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Number 5 in the series supports my view that the Jonathan Grave series is like a literary comic book. The plots are far fetched, especially this one.

First to first note: I read this in 2016 a month after the 2016 presidential election. An angle in this story is as if Gilstrap could see the future. It’s hard not to read this and imagine certain people involved.

Even though the story is wild, it is a fun one. This is hard not to read fast as I was trying to figure out if the story was as outrageous as it seemed and if the resolution fit the story or cheated the reader. It fit the story.

Characters are all very well written, with the exception of the hero. More below. As usual, though there is plenty of description, the settings are still hard to grasp at times. This entry in the series could have used a bunch of editing as some things are learned that don’t really matter and the settings are lacking. This is especially true at the end where the setting is critical to the story.

The ending is fun, but just ridiculous. This resolution stretches all points of credulity and I didn’t buy any of it. Especially that no character died in all that happened or even got seriously injured.

There are many drawbacks in consistency in #5. First: A certain character that had been part of the last few books has entirely vanished with no mention at all. That wouldn’t bother me but there is the re-re-retelling of who the main character is, his pals, the HQ, etc. If all of that is to be rehashed each time, finishing a plot line from the last book should have been done.

A serious drawback: This is really one of the worst cases of Gilstrap stumbling in his writing. I guess to make the book work and to fill the lost of a member of the team, he tossed in a few other characters as helpers. However, earlier versions of the Jonathan Graves would never had done that, nor should the character have done it here, either. This really caved the book for me. If all sorts of strategy is being explained throughout, Gilstrap should have tried to explain the decision to include the helpers in the resolution. Sappy dialogue doesn’t cut it. My further concern is that Gilstrap mentions at the end that two of the helpers are based on two real people. I’d like to hope Gilstrap didn’t sacrifice the story for little rewards. Because the inclusion did sacrifice the story.

As much fun as this one is, it is a loss for me, so….

Bottom line: i don’t recommend this book. 4 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Harpo Speaks’ by Harpo Marx – November 25th, 2016

by on Nov.25, 2016, under Books

Harpo SpeaksHarpo Speaks by Harpo Marx
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVE this book of the one, the only, Harpo!

I first became a fan of the Marx Brothers when i was about 9 years old being able to watch their films on television. It was also at this time that our weekly trips to the library had me shifting from the cartoon section to the section beside it, the written humor section. In the written section I found books of the writers of these Marx Brothers films and books of the Brothers, themselves. Book store trips had me purchasing with birthday and allowance money books of the Brothers. It was the perfect time as the 1970s was finding a resurgence of the Brother’s films and books to go with it! I have continued to build to my Marx Brothers library ever since.

One book i couldn’t find was ‘Harpo Speaks’. I finally found the book .at a library book sale in the early 1980s. I’ve saved it all this time to read in later life. With this year bringing the death of my father and health scares for me, I realized “Later in life” was now!

The wait was worth it! This is an incredible book about an incredible person and the people in his life. Harpo does an outstanding job covering his entire life up to publication of his book in 1961. The story gets very personal and easier for the reader to follow than other works of the Marx Brothers story. Especially well portrayed is the Marx Brothers parents and how strongly tied they were to the very existence of the team.

Other stories range from tales of his family, friends and a whole series of encounters with complete strangers that are funny and touching. His trek into Russa has as much intrigue as humor. His encounter of Hitler’s Germany comes back later in the book and is likey to stay with you beyond the book.

There are drawbacks to the book. Though there are many, many fun and happy stories. With the exception to the death of Alec Woollcott, no sadder stories are told. Many of Harpo’s friends died or had their lives drastically altered due to events. These are not mentioned at all. It would take knowing the larger story to know all that harpo leaves out.

Something hardly touched on are the movies and television Harpo and his brothers made. I know Harpo had many, many stories of film making. But that is not to be found in his book. He doesn’t explain why he leaves out the wrenching of their career with the loss of Irving Thalberg or the well known story of the Brothers having to reunite because “Chico needed the money”. Those stories were more told after Harpo’s death, so repetition wouldn’t have been a reason. Though, it turns out it would’ve been.

That’s what makes this tale unique. ‘Harpo Speaks’ is actually about the person of Adolph Marx – his love of fun, friends and hijinks – than a chronological logging in of Hollywood fables.

Bottom line: i highly recommend this book. 10 of 10 points.

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Book work I’m doing! – November 25th, 2016

by on Nov.25, 2016, under Swampy's Florida

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Been working away on my Swampy’s Florida books all week while also trying to stop a cold. The last couple of days have been real trying, but I’m hoping the cold will calm this weekend. The cold has managed to slow me down quite a bit and I’m filling wastebaskets with tissues.

The goal is to complete two of the books to a point before returning to working on my annual Christmas card. the clock is ticking! 🙂

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My paintings Black Friday Sale! Today Only!

by on Nov.25, 2016, under Illusration

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Here’s the deal!
Just like the other paintings you’ve seen I’ve done, I will create an original watercolor painting based in a park with critters, including ones of your choosing, involved in a humorous scene.

$100 for a 16″ x 20″ watercolor painting on Arches watercolor board.

$50 for a 11″ x 14″ watercolor painting on Arches watercolor board.

$25 for a 9″ X 12″ watercolor painting on Arches watercolor board.

You can leave the request in the comments section below or in a private message or e-mail: projects@robsmithjr.com. Feel free to call me to request, also: (407) 880-1128.

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Harpo’s Birthday! – November 23rd, 2016

by on Nov.23, 2016, under Books

2016-1123-harpo

Harpo’s Birthday!
 
Today would have been Harpo Marx’s 128th birthday! I’m a huge fan of the Marx Brothers and the writers who wrote for them. One of the greatest things that has happened in my life has been the Marx Brother’s films I watched as a child leading me to discovering, also as a child, the amazing collection of writers and their pals who were part of the Smart Set and the Algonquin Round Table back in the 1920s and beyond. What Kaufman, Parker, Benchley, Sherwood, Woollcott, Ferber, etc, etc could do with the English language is mesmerizing.
 
Harpo was also part of the elite literary set through his great friendship with Alexander Woollcott. The adventures they and Round Table members had are written through Harpo’s autobiography, ‘Harpo Speaks’, which I’m finally reading now.
 
I first found a hard cover copy of the book about 35 years ago. I remember it being that long ago and the card from the long gone grocery store Kash ‘n Karry inside helps me remember. Of the few dozen Marx Brother’s books in my collection, ‘Harpo Speaks’ was one i decided I would read later in life.
 
This year with the death of my father, cartooning hero Jack Davis, so many friends members of families and my tiny stroke had me realize later in life is now. So, I’m reading the book and loving every part of it! Marking the great parts and the bits of Florida history included.
 
The photo is of the book and my Marx Brothers Shrine. The Shrine includes 3 statues of the brothers that i bought around 1982 from, one time Central Florida tourist stop, Stars Hall of Fame Wax Museum, where i drew caricatures. The statues and book have weathered many significant moves and tumultuous times. All show wear and tear, just like me. But we’ve gotten through it all. Just as Harpo writes he did in ‘Harpo Speaks’.

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My Christmas Card Update! – November 21, 2016

by on Nov.21, 2016, under Illusration

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During a meeting tonight, I took a short break from working on books to finally get back to this year’s Christmas card. Next is to add a whole mess of animals!

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