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Book: ‘Specialists’ by Lawrence Block – October 19th, 2017

by on Oct.19, 2017, under Books

SpecialistsSpecialists by Lawrence Block
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The characters are initially well handled and then given short shrift at the end. Scantily drawn. This is especially bad at the end when structures become important.series tales, but the plotting stinks. Seems to me Block had a much larger vision, maybe even starting his own series, and as he got near the end, he sliced his efforts to minimum, finished off the book and went on the to the next.

After a build up of a collection of new characters and their various abilities, they are collected to complete a mission that is then written off quickly to the point I wasn’t really sure if they actually met whatever goal they were trying to make.

The story is an odd case of vengeance involving important a treatment of a woman that ends up an effort to destroy the person involved but really ends with something different. I found the ending very unsatisfying.

The characters are initially well handled and then given short shrift at the end. Scantily drawn. This is especially bad at the end when structures become important.

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

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Book: ‘The Loved One’ by Evelyn Waugh – October 17th, 2017

by on Oct.17, 2017, under Books

The Loved OneThe Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is hilarious!!! I’ve read many, many humorous writings of the Hollywood set, love and mortuary humor…but not in one volume. Individually each is covered brilliantly. Waugh seems to have effortlessly assembled this seemingly simple volume. But it is power packed of humor and bright insight.

What is amazing is that this 1948 satire reads as fresh in 2017! The loony side of California has seemingly gotten loonier, or, with this book’s view in mind, has it?

I love the soliloquies by a character that underlines the ridiculous nature of various situations, the pre-Valley Girl incapable to grasp the world around her and the view of pet mortuaries.
This is a rare story of humor with an actual story included, no easy feat. It’s a good story with an ending that is likely not expected.

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

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Book: ‘Action at the Bitterroot’ by Paul Evan Lehman – October 16th, 2017

by on Oct.16, 2017, under Books

Action at the BitterrootAction at the Bitterroot by Paul Evan Lehman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

VERY standard western story better written than most. All characters are the stereotypical types, with stereotypical dialogue and stereotypical actions.

This book is well written and the plotting I liked. I just wish there had been more to the whole thing.

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

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Book: ‘Fer-de-Lance’ by Rex Stout – October 15th, 2017

by on Oct.15, 2017, under Books

Fer-de-LanceFer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This first-in-the-series novel is written, wisely, as if there may not be a series. Maybe Stout had no idea he was to be as married to Nero Wolfe as singer Tom Jones is married to ‘It’s Not Unusual’. Except Jones has only one song over 40+ years and Wolfe was about to spend the same time crafting his character’s adventures.

This mystery was disappointing to me in that I had figured those responsible very quickly. I did have a few other theories as to who-done-it, but this popped out at me as obvious, as was the reason why. But that is my personal issue and seems not a trouble for a book still being published over 80 years later. I had issue with something else a bit contrived, but don’t want to reveal it here and really does add to the book.

The mystery is a good one, but it’s the fun of the character study that makes this most worthwhile. Wolfe is so clearly defined that I could easily imagine him (As Sydney Greenstreet, of course). Wolfe’s manager, investigator and milk drinker, Archie Goodwin is perfect as the contrast to Wolfe. I love the way Stout portrays Goodwin’s dedication to Wolfe. Dedication like that is nearly impossible to find these days.

The settings are written loosely, which likely helps Stout redesign as the series bounds on. This is a bit of trouble considering that location is essential to the crime to be solved and Stout must have assumed all would know about such a location.

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

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Book: ‘The Trail West’ by William W. Johnstone – October 9th, 2017

by on Oct.09, 2017, under Books

The Trail West (The Trail West, #1)The Trail West by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is clearly being written by a writer outside of the typical Johnstone Clan. The entire drive of the book is so very different from Johnstone books. I really liked it. This book is very much a character study and his adventures.

This Johnstone volume is head and shoulders above most Johnstone books. Thewre are many places throughout the book where I realized a typical Johnstone book would have had a simple, often poorly written, bit in it. This one not only gives more complexity, but it’s also entertaining reading.

The weakest parts of the books are the front and end pieces. Both are stilted.

Otherwise this is a great book.

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

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Book: ‘Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi’ by Rob MacGregor – September 26th, 2017

by on Sep.26, 2017, under Books

Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi (Indiana Jones: Prequels, #1)Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi by Rob MacGregor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If one has seen any of the filmed versions of Indiana Jones, they are most likely to find this book very disappointing. If read without that background the reader is likely to find this book disappointing.

First let me review this objectively: This is a muddled book that has weak characters written and a plot with little to no suspense, though it’s clear there is an attempt to establish such. There are also obvious political overtones that are distracting to the already poor plotting. The author plots the second half involving visiting an area over and over again. Better plotting and a smoother story would have been to depict maybe two visits. Especially in that the visits all tie into a prologue before chapters of a flashback.

My biggest problem is that I didn’t like any of the characters. Teeing off with Jones making a political statement I extremely disliked. There’s a female character that alters character many times. Some is written off as this and that. But none is resolved at the end.
The writing is mediocre. Add that to poor plotting, poor characterizations adds up to a poor book.
If you know the Indiana Jones stories: MacGregor appears to have written this prior to the television series that establish a very different drive and past of Henry Jones, Jr. This book is written as if Jones couldn’t have cared less about archaeology all the way to college.

Even if MacGregor didn’t know of the TV origins, the first 30 pages steer very far away from the first reel of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. Frankly, it seems MacGregor was out to include his political views in the book. The actions written have little similarity to all else that exists of the Jones character.

MacGregor writing misses the Jones character in many ways and makes the overall story feel like it involves a different character.

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

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Book:’Tyranny’ by William W. Johnstone

by on Sep.26, 2017, under Books

TyrannyTyranny by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘Tyranny’ is another Johnstone Clan entry in the US Against the World series. These are fun, in a way, in how a stout group works together towards defending their perception of what is best for America. This story is clearly based upon recent government attempts to take land based upon tax issues and the like. This entry starts off as government versus citizen and then spirals to nearly full-scale war. I find, thus, that the book starts off realistically and finishes into a melodramatic lot of silliness.

The characters, for a Johnstone US Against the World book, are standard: Old fellow, son, various relatives, friendly sheriff, etc. The bad guys are about the same: Power hungry Government Wonks. All involving an Alamo set-up. Back and forth and then battle to end. This end battle is more ridiculous than others. Of the series, Home Invasion is still the best of the lot.

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

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Book: ‘Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx’ by Max McCoy – September 24th, 2017

by on Sep.24, 2017, under Books

Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx (Indiana Jones: Prequels, #12)Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx by Max McCoy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McCoy knew this was his swan song and he pulled all the stops for a rip roaring tale. He nails all of the characters seen from previous films. Other characters are also very well written. McCoy has an unlabeled prologue and epilogue that adds layers to the storytelling that defines that Indiana Jones lives the life of adventure.

McCoy likely made the story too complicated as the story has a few spots of incongruity. One scene involving someone speaking to a crowd in English near the Chinese and Russia border while others are speaking other languages is poor narrative. There’s also inconsistencies involving an island scene, also.

Nevertheless, McCoy, with his writing, presents the heart and soul of the Lucas and Spielberg creation.

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

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Book: ‘The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep’ by Lawrence Block – September 23rd, 2017

by on Sep.23, 2017, under Books

The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep (Evan Tanner, #1)The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep by Lawrence Block
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read block before and he does approach his writing in an unusual way. But this was really something. A vibrant character that embarks on a haplessly adventure through many countries and many unusual, quirky characters. The writing is as fresh today as it was when this book first came out in 1966.

I’m amazed at the vast amount of fascinating characters Block created in this book and how he assembled all of them, in their many locations, with their very individual stories, the main character’s story and so much more within 200 pages. Outstanding work.

On top of it all this book is superbly written. The writing makes it very difficult to put the book down. There’s also an energy to Block’s writing that helps the characters and story pop out.

Definitely in the top 5 books I’ve read this year.

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

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Book: ‘Against All ‘by John Gilstrap – September 19th, 2017

by on Sep.19, 2017, under Books

Against All Enemies (Jonathan Grave #7)Against All Enemies by John Gilstrap
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Against All Enemies’ is another Gilstrap power packed book of fun. It is also still another volume with too similar last 100 pages.

What separates this book from other very good Gilstrap novels are threads of the story that are not what they appear. These are well woven and sets this volume above others in the Jonathan Graves series. I like how two separate stories get tied together.

The returning characters are as they always are. Other characters are more developed than Gilstrap usually writes. A few extras in the cast really fleshes out the story. There are two I would have liked to see even more involved in the story.

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

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Book: ‘The Deadly Sunshade: An Asey Mayo Mystery’ by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

by on Sep.15, 2017, under Books

The Deadly Sunshade: An Asey Mayo MysteryThe Deadly Sunshade: An Asey Mayo Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love I found ‘The Deadly Sunshade’ with a sticker proclaiming the book “Brand New Published December 1940”! Finding the book in August of 2017, I decided to push it to the the front of the reading list to read this “Brand New” book. 😀

This light hearted approach of this book is practically non-existent in the book world the last few decades. Carl Hiassen comes close, but in a snide way. Taylor’s book is all in fun with murders to solve. It’s great fun.

The characters are all of Cape Cod and a quirky lot. Taylor well defines each character and does an outstanding job of being consistent with each character. As with a Hiassen or Tim Dorsey book, it helps to know the vicinity. In this case, I do not. Taylor’s dialogue apparently is out to ape the typical accents and local jargon of the area. It’s a nice touch.

The story is very well done. Lots and lots and lots happens to swirl amidst the murders and who did it. Also part of the setup is the war news of the time. Taylor wrote this with the thought that it would be read in 1940. Not anytime after. The book reflects the attitudes of pre-war America, without having any idea what was to occur after December 1940. That is fascinating in itself.

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

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