Rob's Blog

Book: ‘The Breakers’ by Charles Lockwood – August 22nd, 2016

by on Aug.22, 2016, under Books

The Breakers: A Century of Grand TraditionsThe Breakers: A Century of Grand Traditions by Charles Lockwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author Lockwood does a fine job of laying out the history of Henry Flagler’s creation, ‘The Breakers’, with a ton of photos to help tell the story. Though this is a Public Relations piece for the hotel and certain parts of the story are left out, the story is otherwise complete and rich in details involving architecture, interior design and even the scheduling of tasks in a 24 hour day at the hotel.

The writing is very good. Lockwood obviously has a firm grip as to architectural terminology. He weaves it well into the history and timeline of the hotel. His writing of the captions is also above average for a book of this sort. One trouble is the layout and captions in a couple places.

As mentioned, there is an interesting few pages involving 24 hours of the hotel in a timeline. Included are all sorts of tidbits as to how a hotel is run and specifically what happens at The Breakers. A second time line is by years involving significant dates of The Breakers. Both of these will greatly aid the reader in understanding when and where so much happened. Both of these are outstanding additions.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 10 out of 10 points.

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My newest cartoon inks for Swampy’s Florida – August 22nd, 2016

by on Aug.22, 2016, under Cartooning

2016-0822-Eat-a-Peach-Day-Ink

I need to be posting artwork and am getting away from it again!
Here’s the inks for today’s Swampy’s Florida cartoon!
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Book: ‘The Flame Tree’ by Theodore Pratt – August 21st, 2016

by on Aug.21, 2016, under Books

The Flame Tree: Florida in the Fabulous Days of the Royal Poinciana HotelThe Flame Tree: Florida in the Fabulous Days of the Royal Poinciana Hotel by Theodore Pratt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a tale more interesting in the story of developer Henry Flagler and his Royal Poinciana, than of the two main characters. The story is simple with lush details of early Palm Beach County, Florida.

Pratt continues laying our Florida history and Palm beach County with this story of a couple from Ohio who finds themselves trying to live life as one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world, the Royal Poinciana hotel, comes about. The story of the relationship and all of the troubles with it are a bit bland. Most interesting is the female’s obsession with the hotel. The obsession paves the way for Pratt to fully describe the hotel and it’s workings.

An oddity is other construction Flagler does in the area as the story takes place, like the Palm Inn and his home, Whitehall. Not a mention in the book. I guess it helped Pratt’s focus.

The characters are pretty standard for a story like this. Mostly well written, with simpler sketches of everybody else – Unless it involves the hotel.

I’d suggest the book for those interested in planning or the history of Palm Beach County. All others will find a weak story draped with way too much about everything else.

Bottom line: I recommend it with conditions above. 5 out of ten points.

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Book; ‘The Case of the Runaway Corpse (Perry Mason Series) The Case of the Runaway Corpse’ by Erle Stanley Gardner-August 16th, 2016

by on Aug.16, 2016, under Books

The Case of the Runaway Corpse (Perry Mason Series)The Case of the Runaway Corpse by Erle Stanley Gardner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This Mason novel is steeped in the typical rushed antics as other Mason books as though Mason has no other case going on. One thing different are the couple dozen pages of legal back and forth. The first set is overly lengthy for reasons given in the book. But would have been best to edit a page or two. Editing that and needless repetition of many story points.

Otherwise this is a solid murder mystery that makes little sense until the end. Also included are solid characters. The settings are also very good as these are important to the story.

Again, I believe this would have been a better story trimming it ten pages or so. It’s still a good book despite the excess.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 6 out of ten points.

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George Washington & elephants! – My new painting – August 16th, 2016

by on Aug.16, 2016, under Cartooning

2016-0816-SkinnerSign-Website

Here’s a snippet of a much larger painting I did in the past few days involving George Washington and circus animals. But, don’t all paintings?

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Book: ‘A Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant A Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant’ by Sam Kashner – Aug 14, 2016

by on Aug.13, 2016, under Books

A Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar LevantA Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant by Sam Kashner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The authors of ‘A Talent for Genius’ do a rip roaring job of extensively unloading the very interesting life of Oscar Levant. Probably anyone who does not know of Levant would wonder why anyone would read 431 pages about an obscure wit. Those people should not read this book. I’ll go so far to add those who remember him fondly should read, at least, one of Levant’s book prior to reading this book.

This is a terrific biography! One of the best things of this book is that the reader can always know when they are in time. Dates and tears are often detailed and even other goings on at the time to further help the reader follow the Levant story. That becomes very important as nearly every year is covered and following Levant’s schedules are critical to understand why and how his life comes apart.

I admire the work of recording Levant’s early life. Most biographies leave that to a chapter or so and move one. This one does an outstanding job of placing the reader in the setting. All of which becomes important again later in his story.

As I’m most interested in Levant’s interaction with the brilliant wits of his time, I was very pleased with how much is covered of the Algonquin Round Table gang. Even better to read of stories of the gang I had never read before. Loved the writers balance of what Levant actions were and then the reactions of the affected. This is especially true of covering the Gershwin parts. There are many perspectives covered. All very enlightening.

The authors then go out of their way to write out the blow by blow story of Levant and his drug addiction and deterioration of his mental health. It’s riveting, though a bit clunky at times. I get the idea that editing this part was difficult with so much coming and going and coming and going.

There are a few dozen photographs included. Wish there had been more. Also with the outcome of the rest of the Levant family had been included. I know daughter Marcia died young and wonder if Levant’s troubles transferred to his children. History and from what i have read and experienced it typical does.

Bottom line: For those familiar with Levant- This is a book you must read. For those unfamiliar: Study first! 9 out of ten points.

Overall this is a terrific work with obvious evidence of tremendous work.

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Book: ‘The First Commandment’ by Brad Thor – August 11th, 2016

by on Aug.11, 2016, under Books

The First Commandment (Scot Harvath, #6)The First Commandment by Brad Thor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve had trouble connecting to a Brad Thor novel since I first started reading them about ten years ago. After a seven year hiatus, I’m trying again and this is the second I’ve read this past month and i think i’ve figured my trouble with Thor – His novel are highly unrealistic with a very comic book quality.

In that i used to read comic books, I’ve found that extremely difficult these days as I find science fiction of any kind impossible to read. The illogical aspects gets to me. Such illogic is prevalent through this novel. Some nearly super evil villain out to destroy, who can transport himself in ways never explained. A miniature person with giant dogs that holds the secrets of the world. A secret underground private military unit that monitors the world. All more than too much. Worse is Thor tries to wrap reality in it all.

If any of that can be swallowed the rest is would be a really good tale if not for the many plot holes. How so many characters get from place to place was a problem I had with Thor’s previous book and here it is again. There are time and how transportation is done that just don’t make sense. These issues have to make sense to for the novel to work in that there are time constraints in both stories.

I could go on with further plot hole issues, but suffice it to write, the other troubles written of above are all part of the plot holes. For me, there are far too many and, again, the story resembles a comic book tale than a realistic one.

To bad about the story, because the characters are terrific, in a comic book sense. Settings are at times well written and others nearly absent.

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

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My painting update! – Tampa Bay pirate gator meets Santa!

by on Aug.11, 2016, under Illusration

2016-0810-Tampa-PirateTrilbyAndSanta

This painting has been lingering as I’ve been tackling a ton of other work. In between going from meeting to meeting to meeting Wednesday, I found myself stuck in a Dairy Queen with a cold smoothie and a wicked storm. Gave me some time to get a bunch of painting done to this. It’s pretty close to finished.

About that pretty typical ‪#‎Florida‬ storm: The lightning spiked all around the building to the point of knocking out the electricity. Some folks inside weren’t used to our Florida rains and the violent crashes of very nearby electricity had a few inside the Dairy Queen screaming. It was just another day in Florida!

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Book: ‘Takedown’ by Brad Thor – August 2nd, 2016

by on Aug.02, 2016, under Books

Takedown (Scot Harvath, #5)Takedown by Brad Thor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Takedown’ is the best of the six Brad Thor novels I’ve read so far. It’s more than a bit comic booky and I could have seen this as a film with Ray Harryhausen special effects. Reality is handled fast and loose.

The story is bad guys vs good guys. The bad guys are mighty ambitious and accomplish their goals. Though, how they pull off such an extensive set of actions is not explained and I’m not sure how a writer would without adding another thousand pages.

Setting that aside as being the most comic booky, I can better accept the activity involving the good guy and various government staff working to figure out and go after the bad guys. That is, if you accept nearly the entire are of Manhattan void of people. As good guys chase bad guys, there is an unreal lack of obstacles in the way, considering what the bad guys do. There is also an unreal set of circumstances as to where secret areas are and how these are hidden.

Despite the fantasy the story is a rollicking good time of death and mayhem. Harvath, as usual, makes a great hero aided by a group of fellow soldiers that go after the bad guys. Thor does a great job layering the story as all sorts of things happen simultaneously and nothing goes as planned for anyone. Lots of dead ends, surprises, secret bad guys and an enormous amount of gunfire.

The characters are mostly well written, though some were hard to figure out or care about. The setting, critical to the story, is written loosely. Best to know a bunch about New York City before reading.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 6 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘The White Dress’ by Mignon G. Eberhart – July 28th, 2016

by on Jul.28, 2016, under Books

The White DressThe White Dress by Mignon G. Eberhart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This part of my Florida library:

What a muddled mystery drowned in melodramatic fluff.

The story starts fine and rather briskly as most of the cast lands in Miami from New York. They make their way to the fictitious “Shadow Island” and soon the mystery begins. As the dozens and dozens of pages go by Eberhart does all she can to over indulge in repetition of everything else that has already gone on in the book. 75% of the last of the book has endless questions and wonderings. 35% of this book should have been edited out.

There are also waaaaay to many “moving shadows”, “dark figures” and other mysterious references to, what are written as, potential threats. I can understand a few here or there observed by one character. However, there is a rash of characters with selective vision issues proclaiming seeing this or that.

The characters are poorly described. There is a reference to an airline owner, but we learn little else about him throughout the book. I’ve had similar problems with Eberhart’s writing in the past. Thee worse case of this is an only described Navy man with business interests that we never know more about. What’s worse is no one else does either. He appears out of no where, announces same, intent on meeting the airline owner and then throughout is treated as part of the family. Yet, little else is known.

The setting is loosely written. Once on the island that characters move little. So 95% takes place on the island. More below.

The Florida part: Eberhart shows little knowledge of Florida. Probably research involved a vacation for a few days. She does mention Collins Avenue, but the idea of a singular home on an island with a causeway and a hurricane runs through and access is not impeded by it has so much wrong with it, the book flies into science fiction territory.

I believe Eberhart was basing the island on Star Island, but she shows her lack of knowledge in that a causeway is never mentioned and the writing is of some road that crosses to the “island”. Franky, i believe she really means a peninsula. However approached the setting of the island makes little sense.

Because this book was published in 1945 I can forgive the now trite use of a hurricane to a Flordia based story. However, Eberhart knows little of hurricanes. Seems she wrote based on other’s observations. The storm is written more like a very strong Florida thunderstorm than hurricane.

One thing she does here I’ve never seen in a book before and that is the constant reference of Australian pines ads Casuarina trees, which is what most technically are.

The cover of this July 1976 edition reflects an artist given an assignment but not made to read the book. No Australian pines there. All palm trees. Also, despite the title of the book is in big letter, ‘The White Dress”, the artists paints more of a ’70s pants-dress. Also, for some reason not mentioned in the book, is a male head with a very heavy beard.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this book. 3 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Murder Being Once Done’ by Ruth Rendell – July 24th, 2016

by on Jul.24, 2016, under Books

Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)Murder Being Once Done by Ruth Rendell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This my first Rendell book after passing her by all these years. Wish i hadn’t, if this book is any indication.

This is a lightly written mystery with engaging characters. The mystery is well plugged into a setting that is nearly claustrophobic due to the closeness of all elements in the community adding to the questions that arise. Adding more is that the hero of the story is supposed to be taking a vacation and Rendell makes full use of this nifty device to add flavor to the story.

Rendell’s character development is better done here than most writers. Even side characters are interesting. Setting is very well done as just about the entire story is set within a few blocks and the reader soon knows the layout of the land.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 out of ten points.

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