Rob's Blog

Tag: book

Book: ‘The Scarlet Letters’ by Ellery Queen – June 26tyh, 2016

by on Jun.26, 2016, under What's New?

The Scarlet LettersThe Scarlet Letters by Ellery Queen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love the Queen series. i just picked up another clump of them. This is one of them. However, this is not an example of the reason i picked up so many.

This Queen tale is waaaaaaay too prolonged with an involved MaGuffin that seems orderly enough, but gets monotonous quickly as little else happens involving, what appears to be, a domestic dispute. The story doesn’t make sense unless Queen jumps to too many assumptions. which is something he warns not to do in many of the Queen novels. This is a repeated inconsistency that is the only way the writers could link events, but a flimsy one and one that had me find the entire tale ridiculous.

Due to the prolonged trip through the alphabet, the few characters are very well identified. Odd that the few settings, that are repeated many times, did not have the detail they could have.

The ending is very unsatisfying considering all it took to get to the point. All proving this would have been a far better short story.

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

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Book:’Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man: Massacre at Powder ‘by William W. Johnstone – June 24th, 2016

by on Jun.24, 2016, under Books

Massacre at Powder River (Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man, #7)Massacre at Powder River by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Now than I’m well into multi-dozens of Johnstone Clan read, i again come across the British ex-pat wanting to make it big in US story. This one, though, is a switch in which there are 2! A variation of other Johnstone Clan books. This book is very similar with very similar encounters, characters and outcome. A bit of a disappointment to feel like I’m re-reading a Johnstone Clan book.

The characters, as always are interesting, if not too similar to others in Johnstone Clan books. The inclusion of a historic figure is interesting but more as a plot device than to tell a story. This is basically an older Johnstone Clan book that includes Winston Churchill.

The setting is not as well told as in other books.

Still, this is a well written book and fun to read…and if you aren’t scarfing up all of the Johnstone books like me… so…

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

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Me #Cartoon ing a yellow-bellied slider! – April 29th, 2016

by on Apr.29, 2016, under Cartooning

Today been working on a new character for the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. Bouncing back and forth we got the yellow-bellied slider just where we want him! Now to create the book that he’s in!
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Book: ‘Flintlock: Kill or Die’ by William W. Johnstone – April 29th, 2016

by on Apr.29, 2016, under Books

Kill or Die (Flintlock, #3)Kill or Die by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Number 3 in the series of ‘Flintlock’ and either the writer changed or somebody got in a big hurry to hit a deadline. One things for sure – The writer does not know swamps!

The over all story is good, but far simpler in telling than the previous two. Not helping is my reading great authors since reading the two. Folks like Walter Lippmann, Mark Greaney and John D. MacDonald.

I am so glad I read John D.’s ‘Condominium’ before reading this book. Odds of someone doing that is extremely low. The odd thing is that ‘Kill or Die’ is basically ‘Condominium’. Just that all of the characters have guns. There is the community living in the swamp, a ruthless developer out to wipe out the cypress swamp and the oncoming hurricane. The story was eerily similar.

The writing of the cypress swamp really bugged me. Obviously the writer has never stepped foot in one. I don’t know much about west of the Mississippi and all of the rocks and dirt in the west. Not my thing. But, here in Florida, I know swamps and like them a lot.

It’s supposedly late Summer in a Southern swamp. All of the characters acted comfortable. Even the most die hard Southerner sweats like crazy in late August. But most especially someone like Flintlock, used to the dry western air, would be having a hell of a time adjusting to the thick humidity.

Also, where are the bugs??? Now, most healthy swamps actually have few bugs. But this is described as home to many people. Thus, the swamp should be filled with all kinds of bugs. Few appear throughout the swamp scenes.

The BIGGEST omission, and a huge strike in my book, are the cypress knees. No one is just going to go trotting out into a swamp they don’t know and not, either, navigate around the knees or trip over them. NOT ONCE are knees mentioned. That’s impossible, for a cypress can not survive without the attached knees jutting out for air.

This is the least clever of the three Flintlocks. Rather a standard story with some excellent enhancing elements like the balloon, the odd mid-eastern valet and the description of Evangeline. The odd mysticism continues in this book, but not with the magical flair of the first two. The characters are very well done and typical of a Johnstone Clan book. The settings are lacking this time around, especially with the noted above. The ending appears to be multiple chapters tacked on, I guess, to increase page count. This is the shortest of the Flintlock series by 100 pages.

Proof to me that this is surely a different writer is that Flintlock is not described as in the other two books. The tattoo is only described on his neck and not running from the side of his face to his chest. Also, Flintlock is not described by his shorter stature or mustache. Also, O’Hara’s character has greatly altered to being more of a side kick than the drifter described in the first two.

This third book continues the trend of having a horrible cover. Still not Flintlock on the cover. Also, the background in know way looks like a Louisiana swamp.

Can’t believe I’ve caught up with a Johnstone Clan title! First series I’ve read all that are available.

Bottom l;ine: i recommend this book. 6 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘The Unimportance Of Being Oscar’ by Oscar Levant.

by on Apr.06, 2016, under Books

The Unimportance Of Being OscarThe Unimportance Of Being Oscar by Oscar Levant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A huge lot of fun is this volume of Oscar Levant’s memories of his life.

Whether the many stories and one liners are true or not is whether you can believe a person who has been in and out of mental institutions and ensconced in pharmaceuticals can have reliable memories to pick through. Nevertheless, the stories are very good and extremely readable.

The most important thing to know if one wishes to read this book are, at least, 75% of the people mentioned throughout. Otherwise a reader will have no appreciation or understanding of the context, humor and importance of what is included. The time frame is from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The book is also hardly organized at all. Of what I know of Levant, this well reflected his thought process. There is an invaluable index.

A personal note: I’ve been looking for this book for decades. The day I came across it, I started reading – as I drove away from the place I found it! After the death of my father a bit over a month ago, I know the Snuffy Smith phrase, “Time’s a’wastin’!” is to live by.

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

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Me at SpringsFest 2016 as Swampy’s Florida! – March 20th, 2016

by on Mar.20, 2016, under Cartooning, Swampy's Florida

Had a blast today “signing” (drawing in) Swampy’s Florida books during the Florida SpringsFest. Here are a few photos. The stories behind most of the photos can be found on the Swampy’s Florida page.

2016-0320-SpringsFest-01 2016-0320-SpringsFest-02 2016-0320-SpringsFest-03 2016-0320-SpringsFest-04

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What a father sets aside – March 2nd, 2016

by on Mar.02, 2016, under Cartooning


Interesting what a father sets aside. Found a few decades of my artwork in a box of his. Newspaper art, comics strips, advertising pieces, comic books and personal artwork.

Spent weekend moving my father’s things to my house. Great thanks to brother Jeff Smith, his friend Steve and old pal James Goddard for the enormous amount of help! James even found a 40th birthday comic book I had done for him and his twin brother.

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Book: ‘Top Producer’ by Norb Vonnegut – January 15th, 2016

by on Jan.15, 2016, under Books

Top Producer: A NovelTop Producer: A Novel by Norb Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Norb is light years away in mindset from family member Kurt Vonnegut, of who I know too much. ‘Top Producer’ is a top producer of detailed, yet understandable, words of how Wall Street works. To tie such a complex subject in with an involved case of murcer is more than admirable.

However, this book is struck by what I find in the bulk of contemporary novels: Massive excess. For me a quarter of this book could be cut loose and work so much better. Vonneguts asides of bicycling and food and over focus of a victim is, at times, ridiculous. Asides should be a paragraph or two. Not pages and pages.

With all of the excess a reader will learn far more than needed of each character. A better writer could have scaled the character development down to far, far fewer words. The settings are very well depicted. Excess here may have helped a bit.

Still this is a very good book with a rather simple mystery that is decked out in Wall street trimmings.

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

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Book: ‘The Coconut Killings’ by Patricia Moyes

by on Jan.10, 2016, under Books

The Coconut KillingsThe Coconut Killings by Patricia Moyes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here is another Tibbetts tale with massive holes. Despite an otherwise good story, the holes in the novel cannot be ignored. The worse is the use of a machete on a human with no apparent problem of the resulting blood being everywhere after the action. Apparently this was a clean machete murder. Seems Moyes didn’t learn about what happens when violently hacking a machete. She did learn about how it should have been done.

This problem makes the rest of the book impossible. Seems to me Moyes had an ending in mind, built and outline and then filled in the blanks. This would explain how few seem concerned about the violence of the murder involved and what happens later. Especially the Tibbetts, who are not even on their home turf. Moyes writes Henry Tibbett as nearly a superman who barges around with no fear of death and flies long distances in record time.

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

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Book: ‘Countdown for Agriculture’ by Henry F. Swanson – December 31st, 2015

by on Dec.31, 2015, under Books

Countdown for AgricultureCountdown for Agriculture by Henry F. Swanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an exceptional book of agriculture, Orange County and Florida history. Henry Swanson has laid out extensive, well-written and thorough history of the all facets of the agriculture business in Orange County. He even get into the public policy process and who has been involved. It’s an amazing work.

I’ve used this book for 30 years for reference. This is the first time, I believe, I’ve read the entire book cover to cover. I’ve always recommended it and now do so even stronger. Unfortunately the book is way out of print and hard to find.

I recommend this book. 10 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ by Truman Capote – December 15th, 2015

by on Dec.15, 2015, under Books

Breakfast At Tiffany'sBreakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here’s a case where the film is far, far, far better than what Capote wrote. Much of the story is in the film. The film chose to end than Capote’s choice to meander off. Though ‘Holly Golightly’ is well written, the rest of the characters are more sketchy than not. ‘Doc’ is well written but walks in and out again. What a disappointment!

The other stories are much the same of Capote rambling on and on and on with no clear end in sight. Not surprisingly, none really end.

There are many clever asides and observances. Maybe Capote should have written one liners instead.

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

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