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Books

Book:’Losers Live Longer’ by Russell Atwood – March 7th, 2017

by on Mar.07, 2017, under Books

Losers Live Longer (Hard Case Crime #59)Losers Live Longer by Russell Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Losers Live Longer’ is very well plotted and written. There are some inconsistencies with the main character, but otherwise characters and settings are also well done.

This is an excellent inclusion of the pulp genre by a contemporary writer in a current world of strong intolerance toward so much that makes up the genre. There are no excuses as to how characters are portrayed or respond. Political correctness is tough to find here. It’s very nice volume of fresh air buried in silly neo-puritanical book efforts to include whatever attitudes are popular not to offend in the Media today.

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

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Book: ‘An American Spy’ by Olen Steinhauer – March 3rd, 2017

by on Mar.03, 2017, under Books

An American Spy (The Tourist, #3)An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished the book and realized I could’ve read the last 20 pages and probably have been as satisfied. Steinhauer is clearly trying to present a novel of the spy business and the international entanglements that get into motion and all of it can have many levels going in many directions and you can’t trust a souls. All of those ‘and’s should give you a clue to how confusing this book can be if the reader isn’t paying attention.

One thing i liked is that this claims to be past of a series and well shows that a series may have similar characters but doesn’t have to have a star. The first two starred Milo Weaver. Here Weaver gets lost in all of the spy shenanigans, which I think is more of what Steinhauer is trying to present. The down side is a hard one, the book starts out in China and barely mentions a familiar character until after almost a third of the book. I’ll add that the first third is questionably needed.

The writing is very, very good. Excellent use of words and ideas. Though the first chunk in China is written in perfect English that just wouldn’t happen in translation. The Americanized dialogue of the Chinese further confuses with so much going on.

The plotting of multiple very different characters with different names of various nationalities constructed in a non-linear way is taking the idea of portraying a complex spy world to a level that almost needs a reader to take notes to keep track of everyone. There’s far too much effort to jump back and forth with different viewpoints. It’s a big effort for how the book ends. which I found very disappointing.

Despite the great writing, i can’t get past the poor plotting and ending:

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

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Book: Ordeal of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone – February 21st, 2017

by on Feb.21, 2017, under Books

Ordeal of the Mountain Man (Mountain Man, #17)Ordeal of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the better stories of the whole Johnstone Clan corral of books. The writing, though, is very good at times, then weak and then horrible. i wonder how many hands were in writing this book.

Basically this book is a variation of many of the previous Smoke Jensen novels combined into one. This one combining herding cattle, kidnapping, taking over a town indians, etc. All of which is a retread of the other books with the same results – and i don’t mean just gunfighting. The town banker, the indian interaction, the reasons for robbery, herding cattle were all too familiar to me as i read the Jensen series in order. Much has been repeated before, but this time it is all too much of the same.

Another problem i had was marked inconsistency in this part of the series. This one specifically stumbles involving the weird way the Johnstone Clan has handled Jensen’s children, adopted children and children mentioned that seem to be lost forever.

The vast array of characters are, as always, well done. The settings are lacking in this one. Especially odd as so much territory is covered.

Of course, the repetition is to me and not readers who have not taken in about 75 of the Johnstone books. It is a good story with it’s troubles but…

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

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Book: ‘The Sinister Sign Post’ by Franklin W. Dixon – January 16th, 2017

by on Jan.16, 2017, under Books

The Sinister Sign Post (Hardy Boys, #15)The Sinister Sign Post by Franklin W. Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up to read after i read a copy of The Shadow series i had found a few days before to compare the two, as both were written around the same time. There is, indeed, a similarity of style and mood of the two books. Though The Mox edition of The Shadow is surely darker while The hardy Boys is much lighter. Both do have the courtesy of the characters and the anger of the bad guys with little use of violence. Very interesting to compare the two.

This 15th outing of The Hardy Boys is the first, to my memory, that i have ever read. It’s a nice little mystery with plenty of action. The writing is very, very good as is the plotting. It’s a tricky book to write as the characters are out in the country and the setting is very important. As are the locations of things like the sign post. Dixon does an excellent job of moving the characters around from place to place with a feeling of movement and the ease and difficulty, thereof.

This book is better handled and written for an adult than most “adult” books today, which seem to me to be written for young people adding bad language and sex. I might just try more of these Hardy Boys books.

The clinker is the near non-existence of serious violence. The stakes are extremely high for the bad guys involving what they are doing. Yet, they don’t seem to mind witnesses and merely tie up those who can finger them. More likely the bad guys would make the witnesses disappear. This is the element written for younger folks. Funny hoe today the direct opposite occurs as parents willingly push very violent video games to the same age group this book is for. Seems we were much smarter in the 1930s.

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

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Book: ‘The Widow’s Strike’ by Brad Taylor

by on Jan.15, 2017, under Books

The Widow's Strike (Pike Logan, #4)The Widow’s Strike by Brad Taylor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the fourth Taylor book I’ve read and the hardest to get through. I had a great deal of trouble getting hooked into the story and found myself realizing lots of parts that should have been edited out.

In the past six months I’ve only read two other books of similar subject and length, both by John Gilstrap. Otherwise, besides non-fiction, i’ve eaten through a few dozen well crafted, tightly written 150 page mysteries, thrillers, etc. This book could’ve been one of those. I believe this book could’ve been three of them. This Taylor novel is over laden with more than needed about about a dozen characters. All the while leaving settings written sparsely.

The bigger trouble i was having was a lot of repetition I had read in Taylor and other’s books. Gilstrap constructed a similar story. Though his was preposterous, it was a better book. The opening to Gilstrap’s version of a virus on the loose is far more frightening than Taylor’s version. Of the many of these international intrigue books i’ve read, this is the first i’ve read that seemed to be repetitive in theme and parts.

The Florida part: On page 402 the story moves to Florida. Taylor brushes past the area of Brevard County he’s placed his characters. A further example of only providing simple settings through out the book. His lack of knowledge of the area is shown as he refers to the area as having “third-tier vacation rentals and cheap surf shops”. Ron Jon’s, the only store mentioned in the book, has few cheap anything. His writing of Port Canaveral seems he looked at a map than actually there. There’s a lot to play with around the Port and he could’ve really added something more, and different to the book.

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

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Book:’Dividend on Death’ by Brett Halliday – January 2nd, 2017

by on Jan.02, 2017, under Books

Dividend on Death (Mike Shayne #1)Dividend on Death by Brett Halliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pretty sure I’d read this before, but after reading it, I’m not so sure. I have multiple copies of this book from over decades and can’t find a marking that i had read it. The best thing about Goodreads is keeping a reader straight about their book activities.

This is the first of the Shayne series and, after having read a good 40 or more of them, this was the writer’s launch without a lot of the settings and characters that would later populate the series. This is also a rocky story. Far less sleek than later Shayne books written by Dresser. After Dresser the series really goes down hill. This is far better than any of those.

Shayne, as a character, is far less developed as in future books. A few of his characteristics were still to come. That makes him a bit harder to understand. The rest of the characters are well written. With Painter and Gentry nearly identical to their characters in future books. This book makes it real obvious why Dresser later added a newspaper reporter pal for Shayne.

The settings are also far more sparse. In other Shayne books, knowing Florida as well as i do, i could actually follow where Shayne was going on either side of the bridge.

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

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Book: #100 of 2016 -‘The Return Of A ‘Mad’ Look At Old Movies’ by Dick de Bartolo – December 30th, 2016

by on Dec.30, 2016, under Books

The Return Of A 'Mad' Look At Old MoviesThe Return Of A ‘Mad’ Look At Old Movies by Dick de Bartolo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My goal was to reach 100 books in 2016. Due to the death of my father, my own illness more than twice this past year and trying to produce 4 books, i fell waaaaay behind. As days remained in the year a friend joked i should read a MAD magazine Don Martin collection of cartoons to speed up to 100. I scoffed at first. Then I learned of the death of my friend, MAD magazine’s Duck Edwing on December 27th. Suddenly i realized I could rap up the year with a volume of Duck’s cartoons and a volume of another MAD cartoonist friend, Jack Davis, who died this past August. Maybe an odd catharsis, but very satisfying to revisit the work of two legends in cartooning.

I first had this book more than 40 years ago. As i actually stopped and read it cover to cover, i wonder if I ever actually did that. I have now. I know I’ve flipped through it and read parts of this and the first part of the series. Now i have multiple copies of the book and carry one with me wherever i go. This book and the work of cartoonist Jack Davis really propelled me into cartooning. I should also credit the hilarious writing of Dick deBartolo. The combo inspired me in so much of my early work and whenever i could get away with sequential storytelling like is in this book and MAD magazine.

It is not sentimentality that has me praise this book. It’s the outstanding illustrations and brilliant storytelling and dialogue of deBartolo. de Bartolo perfectly parodies and wide range of films in a hand full of pages. Each short story reflects a number of films in the genre reflected. Lots of details only a movie lover, like me, would pick up.

Younger people might get lost in this for the reason that they don’t know the films and over sensitive types might be offended by what they perceive as being not P.C. Sad so many of the young have censored themselves with a narrow minded approach to life. Their backward viewpoint is why this book is likely never to see reprint. Such is the controls of censorship.

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

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Book: #99 for 2016: Don Edwing’s MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1 by Duck Edwing – December 29th, 2016

by on Dec.29, 2016, under Books

Don Edwing's MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1Don Edwing’s MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1 by Don Edwing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My goal was to reach 100 books in 2016. Due to the death of my father, my own illness more than twice this past year and trying to produce 4 books, i fell waaaaay behind. As days remained in the year a friend joked i should read a MAD magazine Don Martin collection of cartoons to speed up to 100. I scoffed at first. Then I learned of the death of my friend, MAD magazine’s Duck Edwing on December 27th. Suddenly i realized I could rap up the year with a volume of Duck’s cartoons and a volume of another MAD cartoonist friend, Jack Davis, who died this past August. Maybe an odd catharsis, but very satisfying to revisit the work of two legends in cartooning.

I’ve had this one for many years, but have never sat down and actually read it. The cartoons written and drawn by Duck are mostly hilarious. The ‘Red Menace’ is my favorite. His cartooning is crude in style and he once told me how frustrating he was working around the monumental legends of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.

A lot of this collection of cartoons, published in 1980, would not be considered PC. Ridiculously sensitive types might have a problem with some of the cartoons. That should tell those people to read more Duck cartoons to lead to recovery. 😀

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

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Book: ‘Osceola, Seminole Chief – An Unremembered Saga Osceola, Seminole Chief – An Unremembered Saga’ by O.Z. Tyler Jr. – December 29th, 2016

by on Dec.29, 2016, under Books

Osceola, Seminole Chief - An Unremembered SagaOsceola, Seminole Chief – An Unremembered Saga by O.Z. Tyler Jr.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The effort here was to put the Seminole wars and the story of Osceola in Florida to verse. It’s an admirable effort, but, to me, simply ridiculous. Verse is best for emotion not history. Especially a history like the Seminole Wars.

It’s very obvious that the writer struggled to keep the various Seminole names within the count of each line. Then it’s the tangled stores of the wars that is generally evaded to try and keep some simplicity to keep the adjectives pouring in. All in all this just doesn’t work.

A better part of the story to have tackled would have been the Dade massacre only. Unfortunately, the Dade battle is poorly handled in this over long poem, too.

I also wonder about the subtitle, “An Unremembered Saga”. Even when this book came out in 1976, the Seminole indian tribe and wars is the most written about in books than any other part of Florida history.

I admit to laughing at times while reading this.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this. 3 out of 10 points.

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Book: ‘Osceola – The Story of an American Indian Osceola – The Story of an American Indian’ by Robert Proctor Johnson – December 29th, 2016

by on Dec.29, 2016, under Books

Osceola - The Story of an American IndianOsceola – The Story of an American Indian by Robert Proctor Johnson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The tragedy of this book, which, I guess, is geared toward older children, is that there is not one note that this is a book of fiction. Or is there mention that the author is writing from Osceola’s perspective. A reader not knowing this, or much else, will believe that “the evil white man” did all wrong and Osceola was an angel. I’d go so far to write this is a book of fantasy.

Johnson’s attempt here is to do, what i call, the Gore Vidal-ization of the story of Osceola. He works up the sketchy story of Osceola and builds to filling in blanks between known events during the life of Osceola. Trouble is he works off of a few errors he’s written and then compounds the errors. Errors include: Communication in English between Seminoles and Americans, Osceola as chief, assumptions not documented involving Micanopy, blacks were also slaves for the Seminoles, etc. I have to wonder just how much research was done to write this book and not to present a political viewpoint.

A huge problem I have is the perspective of the book and the author not pointing out his intent. This was written in the early ’70s when emotion ran high of a view that American indians faced nothing but abuse. Seems Johnson took that emotion to write this book. That would be fine, but some context should be presented. Especially, in that this is presented as a book for younger and less educated people.

The writing is fine involving dialogue, misplaced as it might be. Otherwise Johnson seems to struggle with the narrative involving the stroytelling, maybe due to his sketchy knowledge of the history.

Bottom line: i strongly don’t recommend this book. 2 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers’ by Sandra Sammons – December 28th, 2016

by on Dec.28, 2016, under Books

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida CrackersMarjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers by Sandra Wallus Sammons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful telling of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ life in a simplistic, but very thorough, way.

The writing is very good and clearly geared toward young people. The book includes a glossary in the back and a focus of various words throughout the pages.

I liked the thoroughness of such a short biography. Nice to see the inclusion of Max Perkins and Zora Neale Hurston. Photographs add even more. Huge points given for including dates AND a chronological history.

Considering the age group this is aimed to, though anyone would learn alot from it….

Bottom line: i recommend the book. 10 of 10 points.

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