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Archive for February, 2015

February 28th, 2015 – Book: ‘Fallon’ by Louis L’Amour

by on Feb.28, 2015, under Books

FallonFallon by Louis L’Amour
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the third of three books I’m reading in a row by Louis L’Amour and it is certainly the best.

The story seems to be taking a direction that it angles from and takes the reader on a journey of a man’s self discovery. What adds so much to the story is that the reader also learns much about the main character. The thoughts about the character at first are likely to be different by the end of the book.

The writing is top notch. L’Amour builds this story differently than the two I just read before it.

The characters are well written. As a story should, the characters develop as the story goes along.

This book is best of the 20 I’ve read, so far, this year.

Bottom line: I recommend this book.

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February 27th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Rivers West’ by Louis L’Amour

by on Feb.27, 2015, under Books

Rivers WestRivers West by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second of three Louis L’Amour books I’m reading in a row. This one is a step up from the first, ‘The Broken Gun’. Still it is muddled with a main character that claims up and down to be a mere ship builder, who then acts as a brilliants detective. The inconsistency of the main character is as bothersome as a weird paranoia amongst the main character and others in the beginning of the book that dissipates as the story pages by.

The plot is lightweight, though the journey is fun. Just wish it was better written. There is way too much effort to play a shell game that really didn’t seem to me worth constructing in the end.

Something pops up in this book that was also in ‘The Broken Gun’: Somebody “vanishes”. Written again as if the book were steeped in mysticism.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 4 of 10 points.

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February 25th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Broken Gun’by Louis L’Amour

by on Feb.25, 2015, under Books

The Broken GunThe Broken Gun by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I see a well illustrated old west themed cover to a Louis L’Amour book, the title ‘The Broken Gun’ and I plunge into a novel that instantly confuses me. It takes a few pages to realize when in time this novel falls. There is no mention of it. There is a mention of 90 years before…but, before what?

By the third page the Korean War is mentioned.

Involving stroytelling, time should be established in some way off the top if a story about different time periods is being unraveled. Instead L’Amour leaves the reader at drift trying to figure out what’s going on.

Making the early part of the book worse is L’Amour’s poor approach to literally illustrating an urban setting.

Once the novel goes out to ranch lands of sand and rock, L’Amour hits his stride in describing the setting. But, time gets away from him again. L’Amour clearly had trouble with writing about his present.

A number of things bother me about the writing of this book. One involved an over long chase near the end. Another was one sentence involving a character that vanishes. Though clearly not the intent, the line is more surreal than consistent with the rhythm of the story.

The story is shakey, at best, and the conclusion over obvious.

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

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February 24th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Family Jensen- Helltown Massacre’ by William Johnstone

by on Feb.24, 2015, under What's New?

Helltown Massacre (The Family Jensen, #2)Helltown Massacre by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second in the Family Jensen series is a huge step up from the first. The formula of multi-stories threaded into one again works far better. The plotting and writing is also stronger.

The characters are excellent across the board. This required extra effort in that there are multiple stories with very different characters that never interact.

There were a number of hints in the individual stories that consideration may have been to have those stand separate from the overall story.

Bottom line: i recommend this book. 7 of 10 points.

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February 23rd, 2015 – Book: ‘The Family Jensen’ by William Johnstone.

by on Feb.23, 2015, under Books

The Family Jensen (The Family Jensen, #1)The Family Jensen by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book of a series by the Johnstone Clan, that I’ve read, are usually excellent. This one missed that mark. There certainly are some great stories inside and even a good overall story. It’s just that in an effort to weave four stories together as a whole doesn’t work. The three individual stories of the three main characters read as stories meant for another purpose. So that the main underlining story also seems like a separate novel. Seems to me the Johnstone Clan could’ve just fleshed out all four stories into separate books that might not run the typical 300 pages. Maybe that was the initial idea.

The writing is OK. Though it does seem as if, at least, one of the three separate stories was written be an also separate author.

The characters are as good as always. Especially good work done for the indian characters. The bad guys were lacking in this case.

I’m going to recommend the book due almost entirely with the last fourth of the book. I do recommend reading the book as separate novels. Might be best to skip the prologue, I think it makes more sense that way.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 5 out of 10 points.

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February 20th, 2015 – Book: ‘Poirot Loses a Client’ by Agatha Christie

by on Feb.19, 2015, under Books

Poirot Loses a ClientPoirot Loses a Client by Agatha Christie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘Poirot Loses a Client’ lost me a bit in viewing Christie as a great author. The formula is mostly the same. Someone is dead. Group of people are suspects. Everyone is overly talkative about what they think is going on. Suspects gathered. Resolution. After reading Edmund Crispin, I wish Christie thought of fleshing out a plot, characters, setting and writing.

This story has Poirot, and pal, enter the story with little explanation as to who they are and why they would be involved in the plot. For those of us that know the characters, we could say we don’t need the background. I feel a book needs to anticipate new readers and not make assumptions.

Moreover, the story feels like it has been pushed through a template, as referred to above.

Getting to the conclusion is a plodding roaming of Poirot finding one talkative character after another. Not all suspects would spill so much. One way Christie could have made the story more interesting story would be having the characters stonewalling Poirot.

The resolution was a bit frustrating after getting through the rest of the book.

There is good character development, with the exception of proper introduction of the two main characters.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this book. 4 of ten points.

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February 18th, 2015 – Artwork on the road!

by on Feb.18, 2015, under Cartooning


Been attending a meeting and getting artwork done!


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February 15th, 2015 – Book: ‘Laughter’s Gentle Soul’ by Billy Altman

by on Feb.15, 2015, under Books

Laughter's Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert BenchleyLaughter’s Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley by Billy Altman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic book that thoroughly tells the life of humorist Robert Benchley. Altman does a great job with research and cohesively piecing a lot of parts together to present this book.

One of the most obvious things about this book is that Altman read all he could about Benchley. To the point that a drawback is the nearly exact lifting of many parts of many books. There is much in this book that I’d already read from books about Benchley or include him. That might be considered bad, but in this case Altman does such a fine job weaving parts of many volumes of books, articles, songs, scripts, that it is impressive.

Reading this is almost like rereading Nathaniel Benchley’s book about his grandfather. The big exception being that Altman carries a lot that Nathaniel wrote and builds upon it. One of the problems of Nathaniel’s book is not telling whole stories in an obvious attempt to skirt around Robert’s drinking and fidelity problems.

I do recommend reading Nathaniel’s book before reading Altman’s due how much both work to paint a portrait of Robert Benchley. I’m glad I read one before the other so that is really helped me see different ways of looking at such a creative genius.

Further praise to Altman for noting the years throughout, something many contemporary biographers do not do.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 out of 10 points.

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February 14th, 2015 – Valentine’s Day Handrawn cards at Silver Springs State PArk

by on Feb.14, 2015, under Cartooning, Florida Attractions

2015-0215-SmithJr-ValentinesSilverSprings-2 2015-0215-SmithJr-ValentinesSilverSprings-3

I spent the day at Silver Springs State Park hand drawing and painting Valentine’s cards for a special price. While there I also promoted our Silver Springs Festival and Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology. I, as usual, fumbled trying to sell cards and went about cheerleading what I was promoting. Finally, folks got wise they were missing out on a great deal involving Valentine’s Day cards and I was put to the test to knock out many as the day closed. Notice it is nearly dark in one photo.


2015-0215-SmithJr-ValentinesSilverSprings-4 2015-0215-SmithJr-ValentinesSilverSprings-5 2015-0215-SmithJr-ValentinesSilverSprings-1

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February 10th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Long Divorce’ by Edmund Crispin

by on Feb.10, 2015, under Books

The Long Divorce (Gervase Fen, #8)The Long Divorce by Edmund Crispin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I really liked ‘The Moving Toyshop’ for the playful way with the story and characters, ‘The Long Divorce’ has far less engaging characters and story. I can still clearly recall many parts of ‘the Moving Toyshop’ and can hardly recall much of ‘The Long Divorce’.

The writing is fine for a mystery. The setting is well defined, especially the rural areas. The characters are also illustrated well but with less spark than in ‘The Moving Toyshop.

There is a significant and needless plot device used, it seems, because there is little engaging in this book. I’d say, that is what hurts this book. The writer was so busy setting up to reveal the plot device that certain characters and situations got washed out.

Bottom Line: I recommend this book. Checking 5 of 10 points.

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February 6trh, 2015 – Book: ‘The Moving Toyshop’ by Edmund Crispin

by on Feb.06, 2015, under Books

The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3)The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a rollicking good literary time as author Crispin takes you along for a weird mixture of mystery and hijinks. There is a mystery in it all but it’s more than forced. The fun is reading Crispin’s writing of the characters and settings. Both extremely well done.

The embedded story is a bit complex and certainly strains credibility. Considering this book is from the mid-1940s and set in tiny Oxford, England, the tale would be far easier to pull off today.

Included are chase scenes written like few others. The best part of those are further descriptions of the locales.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 7 of 10.

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