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July 29th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Expediter’ by David Hagberg

by on Jul.29, 2015, under Books

The Expediter (Kirk McGarvey, #13)The Expediter by David Hagberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Little did I know as I wandered into this book that the author lives in Florida and places his main character’s home in Sarasota. Though Sarasota is a mere backdrop for a far more involved story, it does place the book on my Florida shelf.

About the Florida setting: Hardly even a setting. It’s a hit and run with little description and no feeling that the author cared to expand further upon the glancing blow. Much like the rest of the book. There is a mention of the Sarasota airport but nothing of the interesting drive along 41 or any other road. Considering the circumstances of the character who arrives in Sarasota, his point of view of that area would have been very interesting. The visiting character seems not to care or aware of where he is. That is the problem with this entire book.

I guess author Hagberg is getting tired of the McGarvey series after 12 books and strung his characters, a see-through plot unto a simple stage with cardboard backdrop. The book starts at an interesting level and slowly comes apart along the way. Seems to me it’s pretty obvious early on who certain bad guys are and even why they are motivated to their actions. With that realized the only fun is a cat and mouse game between McGarvey and the bad guys for a few hundred pages. A bit long for cat and mouse, knowing how likely all will end. Another contemporary book that needed severe editing. If a writer is going to assemble a simple plot, best make the book far shorter.

All of the characters are typical of their rolls. There is some depth written for some, while others are handled with a few sentences here and there. Overall, it’s all too familiar. I really didn’t like how family played a part in this. It’s too simple a plot device.

This was my first Hagberg book. I best go back and try earlier ones hoping for better results and far more depth.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 5 of 10 points.

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July 20th, 2015 – Book: ‘M*A*S*H Goes to Miami’ by Richard Hooker & William Butterworth.

by on Jul.20, 2015, under Books

Mash Goes to MiamiMash Goes to Miami by Richard Hooker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The most frustrating part of this book is the less-than last 50 pages that take place in Florida with the main characters! This book should be titled: MASH Travels the Globe. The usual large bundle of characters are all over the place in the typical Butterworth fashion in this series. All traveling from Maine to Paris to Alaska to New Orleans, etc. This book should not have the name Miami in it.

The only use of a Miami setting is a pit stop at the Miami International Airport, something about a Catholic church early on and scenes in a hotel along Miami Beach that is loosely compared to The Fontainbleu.

The entire cover is deceiving. This is not a continuation of the MASH TV series. Butterworth is following the lead of Hooker and using those characters, plus plenty more. The cover art shows the characters in fatigues and indicates the gang is going to “invade unwary Miami”. None of which happens. It’s not atypical to have a cover not match the interior story. Considering the promises of “The smash hit TV series MASH Goes to Miami” and how far the story is from Miami, this is particularly bad packaging.

The writing is typical of the series. Butterworth is chug-a-lugging books at this point and the non-ending elongated names of everything and heavy line-by-line repetition are the filler. The writing is very funny and fun. There’s not much of a story, though the makings of a few are present. It’s all more of a travelogue. Next time I see author Tim Dorsey, I must ask him how much the Butterworth books influenced him.

The characters are not only well written, but written over and over and over again. I remember now why I had trouble getting through these three decades ago.

I believe this is my second time reading this entry in the series. Some 35 years ago I read most of the series. The trouble with the mutli-named everything is that after all these years, the books all merge together in my head. Reading this brought that to my attention.

Poking around about named authors, Richard Hooker and William Butterworth, I was surprised to learn Hooker didn’t write the continuing series and Butterworth is multiple people! Shocked to learn Butterworth is also W.E.B. Griffin! I’ve always had fond memories of the MASH series. Now I have to try a “Griffin” book, something I’ve put off due to their length and size of series. Curious about the use of humor and strung together names.

I really like the humor and the writing and the characters. It’s plotting that’s a problem. Also, many today would likely despise the 4 or 5 names everything and body has.

Despite all that, the book is very funny and a genre vanishing from the bookshelves, so…
Bottom line: I recommend this book: 5 of 10 points.

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July 11th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Shadow Patrol’ by Alex Berenson

by on Jul.11, 2015, under Books

The Shadow Patrol (John Wells, #6)The Shadow Patrol by Alex Berenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I want to first note – since I haven’t before – that, besides Vince Flynn, it’s Alex Berenson that has flung me into the espionage genre that I had avoided all of my reading life. Now I have stacks of books I’ve gathered over the last five years all of crafty individuals trying to save the world.

Involving ‘The Shadow Patrol’, it was this book that that I realized what a terrific job Berenson does capturing the dialogue of the different characters. The variety of the lingo of soldiers portrayed is excellent. Also excellent is the heroes dialogue in his head, what he communicates in the field and how he communicates to his CIA connections. Mighty tough to keep that consistently.

About the story: This story is a light effort for the hero. One with bad guys that are not to destroy the world, but internal grief in the ranks of the soldiers, if I may understate. The story written does seem understated. The bad guys are not as well delineated as to their motivations as would be needed to want the hero to save the day. There were the final chapters to stop the bad guys, but I wasn’t cheering the hero on as I have in previous Berenson books. The ending was also week.

The writing, besides the excellent dialogue, is extremely good in setting description. There is a real feeling for where all occurs. The character descriptions and background are also well explored. As I typically complain about contemporary books this one could have used some editing. Especially considering the rather simplicity of the plot.

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

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July 8th, 2015 – Florida Heroes History talk & Batman on a rocket! What a combination!

by on Jul.09, 2015, under Cartooning

2015-0708-FortMcCoyTalk-1

Gave another Florida History Heroes talk at the Fort McCoy Library in Marion County this time. I spoke about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her writings that help depict and preserve the area around Fort McCoy. There’s Henry Plant whose steamboats traveled the nearby Ocklawaha River. There’s also President Richard Nixon who acted on the efforts of others to stop something that would have transformed the entire area….but you’ll have to come to a talk to find out what that was. smile emoticon

At these talks I strongly urge, and have available, books on the subjects that can be checked out. We need to support our library to encourage reading!

Wrapped up with a drawing that’s subject matter is based upon the answers by an audience member. The little fellow below proposed a rocket ship and Batman. Below is the drawing.

Next stop is this Saturday at the Reddick Library in north Marion County at 2pm. If you’re in the area, come on by!

Here’s where I’ll be:
Reddick Public Library
Address: 15150 NW Gainesville Rd, Reddick, FL 32686
Phone:(352) 438-2566

Big thanks to my pal Natalie Lyons, with the Reddick Library, for arranging these Marion County Public Library System – FL talks!

 

2015-0708-FortMcCoyTalk-2

 

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June 29th, 2015 – Book: ‘Blood land’ by William W. Johnstone

by on Jun.29, 2015, under Books

BloodlandBloodland by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Of the few dozen Johnstone Clan novels I’ve read, few were published during William Johnstone’s lifetime. This one was. Considering the few books written at the time by him, I figure this one may have been written by Johnstone himself and not one of the herd of ghost writers to come.

Unfortunately, this is the worst of the books I’ve read possibly actually written by Johnstone. I can read a formula cast in the structure of the book. At the time he was also producing the Smoke Jensen series and this book too much reflects those. You could swap out the hero for Jensen. Not that it ruins the novel, just that it indicates Johnstone’s later actions of employing ghost writers considering how much he was able to produce, apparently, plot-wise.

The entire premise is hard to believe, which means the writer failed to connect his plot with the reader. Basically involves bad guys taking over a town with a vision of taking over the world in their way. The idea of the seduction of the townspeople seems more real today than possible in 1985. Still more than far fetched.

One of the most important things to take from this book is Johnstone’s writing of the farming industry and what was and would be happening. Younger people will have a great deal of trouble understanding what he is writing in that what he wrote has not only happened but is so buried in the commercial maelstrom, that the idea of the independent family farms that produce for the U.S. to such a high level will be hard to perceive.

The writing in the book is less than standard. The setting is described at points, but I never got the feel of the place as I have in so many other Johnstone Clan novels. That character construction is also far less than the usual stellar efforts of a Johnstone novel. The most interesting characters, to me, is the father and one named ‘Lila’, but little is done with them.

I figure this book is a sign of the stress of producing too many books at the same time by Johnstone.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 6 out of 10 points.

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June 16th, 2015 – #NowReading #CurrentlyReading – The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax’.

by on Jun.16, 2015, under Books

2015-0619-Book-UnexpectedMrsPolifax

 

Whipped through ‘The Runner’ by Patrick Lee in two days and decided to shift to low gear with my first reading of Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman.

Thinking I might try a third new author in a row after this book.

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June 14th, 2015 – Book: ‘In the Teeth of Evidence’ by Dorothy Sayers.

by on Jun.14, 2015, under Books

In the Teeth of the EvidenceIn the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading Dorothy Sayers. This collection of little mysteries and twisty stories are very well written with a solid British foundation.

A few of the stories are a bit over written. Especially those without a solid punch in the end.

Sayers’ Peter Whimsey stories seem to me the best of the lot. The Monty Egg stories are more contrived. The third set is a good series of a varied set of characters immersed in all sorts of troubles. Two of these stories are excellent.

Bottom Line: I recommend this book. 7 of 10 points.

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May 31st, 2015 – Book: ‘Remember the Alamo’ by William Johnstone

by on May.31, 2015, under Books

Remember the AlamoRemember the Alamo by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘Remember the Alamo’ is a fun book by the Johnstone Clan. Albeit beyond preposterous. The writing is looser than other Johnstone books. The characters are pretty good, though not as sharp as in other books.

The plotting is sloppiest involving the Hillary Clinton-type president that is demo-goding a situation involving the Alamo. It’s written that Congress is behind her, but little more is mentioned about the Congress, the Cabinet or much of anyone else in charge. Some unbelievable situations occur and the Clinton-type is riding herd to her goal. That’s an interesting stance to take if she had first released Congress from it’s handle of guiding the nation. Otherwise, Congress would’ve stepped in to any number of degrees to intercept even to support her.

None of that happens. The book is written as Alamo vs. Washington. There are some real bad guys who started all this, but they start to slide in importance as the book runs along.

Unfortunately, the characters seem to run together, especially involving the good guys. In other Johnstone books, the characters and their story help enormously involving rocky stories. The Dave and Caroline Rodriguez characters are the mostly compelling to me and it would be nice to see the Johnstone Clan explore those two further in another book.

The book is still fun to read. The characterization of those in the White House are sometimes as much fun as they are shocking. This Johnstone Clan book takes the ultra-liberal president character to heights hard to imagine.

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

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May 30th, 2015 – Florida Agriculture Research!

by on May.31, 2015, under Books, Florida History!

2015-0530-Florida-AgricultureResearch

Hunkering down and wrapping up research for a talk of the history of Florida agriculture I’m giving Sunday to the Florida State Horticultural Society (FSHS) annual meeting. A mostly serious talk and a bit different for me. I’ve got more talks of Florida history to groups coming this Summer.

Been running on all cylinders this past month and will try to catch up with postings.

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May 29th, 2015 – Book: ‘Jacknife’ by William Johnstone and the gang

by on May.29, 2015, under Books

JackknifeJackknife by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Jacknife’ is just plain fun! A well written battle through nutty folks who think they will take over the world one large over-sized department store at a time.

The Johnstone Clan seems to have connected a ghostwriter of earlier thrillers to this book as it reads much like a few others with similar characters. Can’t recall if I’ve written this before, but there is a strong flavor of Vince Flynn to the point that I wonder if he was involved with this book. One way to tell is if the sound of these thrillers slips from this level, with Flynn now gone.

The writing is strong. Nowhere near the writing of other recent books I’ve read, such as Colin Dexter, Marjorie Rawlings or Edmund Crispin. But the engagement is concrete and the need to propell forward to find out what happens next and the want to read more like it, transcends the better writing. This is great storytelling.

Troubles with the book: Plenty seems unbelievable. There is a definite political slant (That is fine with me). Still, if a reader can enjoy reading this much, then the weakness is not that, but part of the whole that is the entertainment of great storytelling, if I may repeat myself and underscore what the Johnstone Clan excels at.

As is true in the Clan set, the characters are outstanding in their written definitions. The writer(s) and editor(s) involved deserve continued applause. The Hiram Stackhouse character is a hoot.

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

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May 24th, 2015 – Book: ‘Stand Your Ground’ by the William Johnstone Clan

by on May.24, 2015, under Books

Stand Your GroundStand Your Ground by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Stand your Ground’ is a speeding train of a book full of well fleshed out characters and bad guys that you have to hate. Well written with the Johnstone Clan touch of not knowing what happens next or who lives or dies makes this a crackerjack true thriller.

I’ve been having a clunky time with good and bad Johnstone Clan books and this volume harkens back to the first of the Last Mountain Man series that started my reading so many of the Johnstone books over two years ago. This one is well plotted, written and with intriguing characters. A few characters have appeared in other Johnstone Clan thrillers and converge here per chance.

Though i share the political views represented in the book, the politics run too thick throughout this book. The political asides slow down the narrative and become irritating as the asides become repetitive. Of course, I have to read through plenty of the opposite side in the bulk of contemporary novels today that is more than heavy handed, irrational and repetitive. I’m opened minded and don’t mind reading both sides. I well know the bulk of those who hold the opposite political view of me would have a great deal of trouble getting through the first chapter of this book. That shouldn’t be the case.

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

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