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Book: ‘Monahan’s Massacre’ by William W. Johnston – November 29th, 2017

by on Nov.30, 2017, under Books

Monahan's Massacre (The Trail West, #2)Monahan’s Massacre by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, the Johnstone Clan best keep this ghost writer in the stable. Book 2 of this new series is setting a standard above Johnstone himself.

Book 2 in the series continues to follow the journey of Dooley Monahan. It’s a tough journey that is full of, a Johnstone trademark, outstanding characters and a journey that is added with complicated plot developments this ghost writer placed in the first book that made it so compelling. My favorite of complications is the issue of Manahan’s memory. After the last book, the ghost writer has made the reader uncertain what is real and what may be some hallucination. Another is the main female character featured is NOTHING like I’ve read before in any book. Kinda wish we could know more about her and how on earth the writer saw her getting to be where she is in the book.

I also love the way the writer works in Blue, the dog, and General Grant, the horse. They are also main characters in the book and greatly affect all events.

The settings are very well written. I like how the writer intersperses the characters, narrative and dialogue and the setting. I would have to figure the writer is a huge fan of Twain and learned from him.

My only qualm with the writer is that Monahan escapes certain death a bit too often. It’s a neat plot device, but used a bit much.

My qualm involving the top of the Johnstone Clan, on the superficial side, again, involves poor choices of unrelated cover image and a dumb title that has nothing to do with the book. The books clearly state over and over again Monaham being older and having trouble realizing his age. The writer indicated a couple times that Monahan is around 40 or older. Also, Blue is – Surprise! – BLUE! The horse, also could not be General Grant. Finally there is no “massacre” in the book. But I won’t grade this book based upon the publisher’s bad moves.

Overall this book is a joy to read and I hope the Johnstone Clan doesn’t lose this one!

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

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Book: ‘Gold Comes In Bricks’ by A.A. Fair – November 25th, 2017

by on Nov.25, 2017, under Books

Gold Comes In BricksGold Comes In Bricks by A.A. Fair
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After finishing this entry in the Cool & Lam series, i wish Gardner had done more stories with just Cool.

This is a hugely convoluted tale that goes beyond reason. Gardner is trying so hard to be clever that he pulls apart the aspects of a good story along the way – again. Overall, the basic plot and solution are worthy. How Gardener get there is just ridiculous. Trying to throw the reader off with a secondary plot element that is overly written and so obviously a MaGuffin, is a disappointing act of Gardner’s.

Gardner also writes the novel as if the police force has shut down and taken a vacation. Law enforcement had lots of cause for pulling people in for questioning through out the book, but are not to be found until the end of the book. I hate it when a writer of this caliper writes like the readers are fools.

The characters lack definition and a few are so similar, at one point, I got them mixed up. Settings are simply detailed.

The highlight of the book is a trip to an old mining area, where Gardner shows energy with a well written setting, characters and a very good simple telling of the history of prospecting gold out west.

However, that shiny moment doesn’t save the book for me.

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

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Book: ‘After the First Death’ by Lawrence Block

by on Nov.19, 2017, under Books

After the First DeathAfter the First Death by Lawrence Block
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m a recent fan of Block’s work. This is an example that I need to add *some* of Block’s work. I wasn’t nutty about this moody, dark tale. The ending didn’t help – Especially in that I never doubted what it would be.

The writing is certainly better than most all done today. But the plot is lacking. There are good elements in it, but seems Block was on a tear punching out books and this may have been a victim of speed. The idea that a man is wanted for murder and then runs pretty freely around as if the police have closed shop for vacation, is not good writing. And there is a part involving a Hide-A-Key that seems to be a trap door Block used to get out of a plotting problem.

The characters; drunks, prostitutes, etc.; are standard for this type of book.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 5 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Wiregrass Country’ by Muncy G. Chapman – November 18th, 2017

by on Nov.18, 2017, under Books

Wiregrass CountryWiregrass Country by Muncy G. Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very well written novel that surprises me to not have reached a larger audience. It’s not Steinbeck, but certainly in range of Patrick Smith, just with a less sprawling of time story.

This well captures the flavor of what I know of 1920s Florida. The cattle efforts may be a bit larger in this novel than was possible at the time, but the efforts of those establishing ranches sure follow historical documentation. Same is true of the efforts to rustle cattle and interactions with the Seminoles.

The characters are very well written. It’s tough to follow history and create characters that fit a historic narrative and have it all well ring true. The Chapmans do that here. Seems I could tell when Muncy Chapman was helping with the writing involving the ladies involved.

The settings are overly simple. It’s known travel was much more difficult just from the 1820s and the 1970s. The Chapmans skirt that and seem not to be have read much of Bartram or actually been in our natural areas.

One thing that bothered me is this ends with the idea of continuing to another book. As it turned out that 2nd book is even more difficult to find.

Bottom line: I recommend the book. 7 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Cats Prowl at Night’ by A.A. Fair – November 13th, 2017

by on Nov.15, 2017, under Books

Cats Prowl at NightCats Prowl at Night by A.A. Fair
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So far, my favorite entry in the Cool and Lam series. Bertha is on her own here and the bad guys better watch out!

Gardner is obviously having a good time playing with the Bertha cool character in this book. Seeing how far to take her and maintain a good story. He pushs the characters in all sorts of areas and it really makes the story come alive. I would have liked this to have continued into other volumes and drop the mystery thing and see what other trouble Gardner might have stuck her in.

The plotting is typical Gardner: Somewhat convoluted and overly complicated. It’s the writing that makes this a page turner, even if, at times, you weren’t sure what you were turning for. I’d mostly figured key elements early on and really didn’t care to see what happened to Bertha next.

Bottom line: i recommend this book. 7 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Winter Range’ by Alan LeMay – November 14th, 2017

by on Nov.14, 2017, under Books

Winter RangeWinter Range by Alan LeMay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

LeMay’s writing within this modern day (written in ’30s) western story is far above what most all accomplish. The trouble is LeMay writes like a current contemporary novelist with 3/4 of the book easy to excise. Was LeMay’s work kept away from editors?

It’s established early on that this is part of a series. There are parts where I wished I’d read the earlier books. However, maybe the series should be called “A – Detective – Kentucky Jones Western”. Through the book, Jones is investigating bad guy stuff, despite his claiming over and over he brokers cows. Why didn’t LeMay just make Jones a detective? Not doing that, makes the character uneven and the story hard to place in reality.

The characters are good and also over written. Settings are the same.

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

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Book: ‘The Girl with the Long Green Heart’ by Lawrence Block – November 12th, 2017

by on Nov.12, 2017, under Books

The Girl with the Long Green Heart (Hard Case Crime #14)The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block

Written to a boiling level to send the reader into the stew only to find it’s a stew tough to figure. Block writes it even. Seems little to figure beyond. Then it hits. Bad for me I figured it early and wish the hits had bigger punches.

The characters are typical Block slick. Regular Joes are not to be found. Lots of depth and purpose with a dark edge.

The tale is rather dark, too. Well plotted, despite a rocky start. After the page count, there was a feeling of abandonment as the story seemed incomplete. Still another well written Block tale, though not one of his better efforts, still better than most.

Bottom line, I recommend this book. 6 out of 10 points.

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Book: ‘Kill Fee’ by Owen Laukkanen – November 10th, 2017

by on Nov.10, 2017, under Books

Kill FeeKill Fee by Owen Laukkanen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A different tale for those who haven’t read Laukkanen. A too familiar tale for those that have. Besides continuing with the characters, Laukkanen likes to continues with various elements of plot. This book seemed to me too similar to the first two. I’m sure the publisher demanded some likeness, but I think this went too far.

This was another 500 pages of an unrequited love story getting in the way of telling a somewhat interesting tale of still another of the work force out to make money despite circumstances and near the end of the book sanity breaks. Some of the locations change, and the methods of the bad guy(s) is different but the rest of the book is pretty much the same.

That sameness just further adds to the excess this book has more than the two previous books. I believe a third of this book could be cut for a better, tighter story.

There are a lot of short cuts taken. Many pointed out by, Goodreads reviewer, Michael Martz.
I’ll add the quickie brain washing, there apparently being no other regional FBI office to take the case from state to state, a one man office to make a successful hit squad, how local law enforcement handles budgeting employee off with FBI traveling country, etc., etc. To much of this story does not meet reality.

Florida setting: Laukkanen does a very good job with the Florida setting. Very accurate. Am surprised at the choice of Palatka as part of an escape route considering the vast distance from Miami. I believe Laukkanen chose Palatka due to it being the most remote of the Amtrak depots.

Despuite all of the above, i thought the actual plot was very good. The dialogue is better than most written today. But it’s the entire assemblage that doesn’t work for me. I was OK with the flighty way the first time. I wasn’t OK the second. Third time and I was hoping for more.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend the book. 5 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Criminal Enterprise’ by Owen Laukkanen – November 4th, 2017

by on Nov.04, 2017, under Books

Criminal Enterprise (Stevens & Windermere, #2)Criminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spinning from the first book to the second in a day and finishing with 24 hours certainly showed me that the author has a way of gripping you. Part of the reason is the looseness of the writing. As I wrote about the first, this book could have been so much better in more compenent hands, which is true of most books being produced today.

The writing is simplistic and seems to have a film in mind. As with the last book, this one, too, has mentions of “like a movie”. Thing is a movie is visual and a book should be constructed with well chosen words, practical wording. Laukkanen seems to be writing to push the reader to skip sentences and pages due to repetitious dialogue and scenes, instead of savoring well written prose of a situation.

What Laukkanen excels at is characterization and, in this novel, plotting. As with the first book, this one has very well written characters. Dialogue is consistent, as are actions. Almost. In both books Laukkanen creates a central bad guy that is altered to a point of fantasy. Approaching a story like a screen play will do that. The psychological angles, not mentioned, are very well thought out and written.

As with the last novel, this book ends quickly and leaves loose ends. That certainloy occurs in real life and i was OK with that in the first book. But here is the second and I find many similarities between the two in approach.

Background settings are very well written. There was always a great sense of place.

Bundled together this is overall a superior book to most coming out today. I’m on to #3.

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

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Book: ‘The Professionals’ by Owen Laukkanen – November 2nd, 2017

by on Nov.02, 2017, under Books

The Professionals (Stevens & Windermere, #1)The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though a good story with outstanding characters, this is still another contemporary novel with needless, excessive content.

The novel starts with a series of events that seem to be drawing to a conclusion. By page 50 I had to wonder if the book would be blank pages for the rest of the 500. What happens is unexpected and exciting and builds to a thrilling ending. But, somewhere around page 275, I realized I was having enough of the whole thing and wished it over. It wasn’t that the ending was obvious, though seemed so. It was there was a lot of the same thing happening over over again. The story was moving, but at a glacial pace, considering the number of pages. A skilled writer would have knocked this book down to 250 pages covering the exact same ground.

The characters are the highlight of this novel. There was obviously a lot of time and care invested to make so many characters so well rounded. The dialogue also works well. I really like how the author crafted the story so that many of the characters dialogue and actions are not always equal. The extra depth is nearly non-existent in contemporary novels.

That gets to what is in this books and most all contemporary books of the action/espionage/adventure genre: They read more like a movie than a complete story. The author includes in the narrative more than once about characters confusing life and movies. The author, I feel, did the same here, which explains the extra 250 pages.

So, if you can get through repetitious narrative there is a really good story here with surprising depth.

Bottom line I recommend this book. 6 out of 10 points.

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Book: ‘Haunting Sunshine’ by Jack Powell – October 31st, 2017

by on Oct.31, 2017, under Books

Haunting SunshineHaunting Sunshine by Jack Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of ghost stories is better than most collections. Powell works hard to make his writing read better than it is. Each is a nicely drawn story in itself. Love all of the legwork Powell did to actually be at the locations of the stories. As i well know, not an easy task, but makes all of the difference in the world to the end result.

Powell also does a great job presenting ghost stories from across the entire state. Most all have been written in short story or book form. Again, his writing is better than most handling these stories.

What i liked best about the book is something I’ve been doing in my little book series: Including in the back a list of the locations involved and how to visit there yourself. He also does something us researching types love: Provides his sources.

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

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