Rob's Blog

Tag: Books

September 5th, 2015 – Book: ‘Night Ferry to Death’ by Patricia Moyes.

by on Sep.05, 2015, under Books

Night Ferry to DeathNight Ferry to Death by Patricia Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first mystery by Moyes I’ve read and I liked it a lot. I’ve garnered other Moyes novels and will be dipping into them soon for more of the Tibbetts.

This is a fine mystery with lots of procedural efforts to find the bad guy. The writing is solid with no excess. I was surprised that even a clue I noticed wasn’t mentioned to convict the guilty. That is also meaning I knew who it was within the first 25 pages, which was disappointing. Though so much else happened, that I was perplexed as to what entirely was going on.

My only trouble is the heavy violence wrought by the cause of the mystery. Didn’t seem to fit.

Still a great mystery and well well worth reading.

Bottom line: I recommend it. 9 of 10 points.

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September 3rd, 2015 – Book: ‘The Golden Goose’ by Ellery Queen.

by on Sep.03, 2015, under Books

Golden GooseGolden Goose by Ellery Queen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! Definitely one of my favorite books of all time! It’s also outstanding in writing, plotting and full of fun!

This is presented as a mystery that would better be described as a Faulkner-esque study of odd characters in an odd town that happens to have a mystery involved. And it’s a great mystery! Especially the end!

The characters are outstanding. Each with their individual voice and extremely well defined. The writer(s) did a fantastic job with the setting. I do wonder if this was written by the duo known as Ellery Queen or was someone else. This book has a far lighter and better written than other Queen books.

This is just a terrific and fun book!

Bottom line: A must read. 10 of 10.

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September 2nd, 2015 – Book: ‘Die Laughing’ by Steve Allen.

by on Sep.02, 2015, under Books

Die LaughingDie Laughing by Steve Allen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Steve Allen, but this series continues to be clunky. This is one of the few of the Allen mysteries I hadn’t read and thought I’d read one of the last in the series. Unfortunately, the series ended when Allen suddenly died. The concept is great in that Allen and his wife, Jayne, who died this past April, are the sleuths out to solve mysteries they stumble into.

The plot is fun involving a comedian that has died, or has he? Allen clearly has fun leading readers in one direction and then the next. Hollywood and it’s luxurious lifestyle is the backdrop and is well described and commented on by Allen.

The trouble with the book is it’s length. This book could easily have been whittled to 150 or 200 pages. A lot of Allen’s writing, as I wrote, is fun. It’s just not stellar to warrant the excess.

A really good writer of fiction could have streamlined this. But, Allen is writing as Allen does in all his fiction & non-fiction. Lots of sidelines, funny jokes and commentary. Worked well in his non-fiction, but is like large speed bumps to readers.

However, this is a fun book with good characters and the fun of following Allen, Jayne and their limo around.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 5 out of 10 points.

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August 28th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Worlds of Robert E. Sherwood: Mirror to His Times, 1896-1939’ by John Mason Brown

by on Aug.28, 2015, under Books

The Worlds of Robert E. Sherwood: Mirror to His Times, 1896-1939The Worlds of Robert E. Sherwood: Mirror to His Times, 1896-1939 by John Mason Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Worlds of Robert E. Sherwood: Mirror to His Times, 1896-1939 is an odd book that is crafted by the author to do his best to reflect the authors politics. It’s far too over written by an author whose favorite literary device is the comma.

The book does do the job of presenting Sherwood’s life. It’s just in such detail it can be confusing as to whose life you’re reading as the book wanders off into to pages of others lives. There are further details rolled out involving events, weather and various other happenings. I love details. I just with this writer was good at presenting them.

What the writer is bound and determined to present are his liberal political leanings and to dress Sherwood in them in a straight jacket. Because I came into the book already knowing quite a bit about Sherwood I knew this presentation was off balance. Along the way I found I had to separate Sherwood from the writers opinion of him. The book tees off with Sherwood making a presentation that tells of his early days involving war and the like. The author takes that to be a strong stand of pacifism and adds his view of Sherwood’s view.

The book is fraught with the author’s opinion of what is happening, instead of basing the narrative of Sherwood’s documented life. He waaaaay over does this by making lengthy lists that is obviously the author’s opinion than fact.

Certainly an author’s view has to be basis for a biography. In this instance the view was the foundation and the effort was to build a life around it.

Adding to this is how this book is assembled for publications. Why did the author draw a line at 1939 for Sherwood’s life? It’s not half way. There’s not much more before Sherwood’s death in ’55. The book is already nearly 400 pages. Why not wrap it up? Or split into two books.

Best idea would’ve been to severely edit this book.

The book is full of good Sherwood information, but poorly realized into a book.

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

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August 15th, 2015 – Book: ‘Southways’ by Erskine Caldwell

by on Aug.15, 2015, under Books

SouthwaysSouthways by Erskine Caldwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a collection of stories by Caldwell set in his favorite setting – the South. Though well written, every single one of these 3 to 5 page stories is very depressing. If you’re having a tough time in life – Do not read this book!

Each story has different characters, but most have a similar theme of relationship troubles. All of the characters are very poor or worse. That lends itself to how similar most of the characters are. To a point I have to wonder why Caldwell didn’t just use the same name to many.

The main problem I have with these stories is that all trail off with no true ending. I realize that is a certain style. Just after 5 of these stories, it gets irritating and found I didn’t really care about any of the stories.

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

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August 12th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Most of Everything: The Story of Miami Beach’ by Harold Mehling

by on Aug.12, 2015, under Books, Florida History!

The Most of Everything: The Story of Miami BeachThe Most of Everything: The Story of Miami Beach by Harold Mehling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was soaring to ten stars until the last couple of chapters diverted into an emotional wandering into the author’s view of prejudice of the Jewish community.

This book rockets off with humor and a great storytelling style as it unfolds the history of northeastern Dade County. Lots of flourishing prose of development pros and cons, results and dreams of the future. Mobsters, millionaires, drunks and writers are all covered in an entertaining and informed way that can only leave a reader satisfied. I with more books took this tact in history writing.

Then things go awry as author Mehling takes two chapters to detail his feelings about Jewish prejudice with no reference of any other prejudices in the area, such as to blacks, the poor or anyone else. Some of what he writes are neat anecdotes. But otherwise, he presents a slim case as to what was going on at the time and detailed specifics as he does throughout the rest of the book. He seems to be emotionally driven enough and certainly capable of writing a separate book that might have covered the subject of Jews in South Florida. As someone who has worked involving history of Jews in Florida, a volume like that would have been welcome.

Despite his uneven chapters of prejudice, the rest of the book is dynamte. So…

I recommend this book. 7 out of 10 points.

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August 10th, 2015 – Book: ‘Ashenden, or The British Agent Ashenden, or The British Agent’ by W. Somerset Maugham

by on Aug.10, 2015, under Books

Ashenden, or The British AgentAshenden, or The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maugham’s series of stories, or whatever this is, claim to be a somewhat fictionalized version of experiences the author had while a spy for the U.K. during World War 1. It’s a disjointed lot that tries to connect at different points and clearly disconnected at other points. There are a couple extremely well written complete stories near the end. Otherwise this is a set of chapters that leave the reader feeling like they are missing what could have connected the whole.

Odd that Maugham’s alter-ego, Ashenden, is written inconsistently throughout this book. Sometimes I wondered, while reading, if Maugham was filing more than one person under the moniker of Ashenden. But, why would he do that and make the book uneven? But, that’s what it is – uneven. That or Maugham was schizophrenic. Seems he would not intentionally document that. Obviously, I left this book more than a bit confused at to just who I was reading about.

Again, the writing is otherwise top notch and the last couple chapters are well worth reading. But, as a whole….

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

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August 4th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Big Gundown’ by J.A. Johnstone

by on Aug.04, 2015, under Books

The Big Gundown (The Loner, #4)The Big Gundown by J.A. Johnstone

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The first three in the series of ‘The Loner’ does a great job with having some of the most complex plots of any of the Johnstone Clan books. This one leans in that direction and then comes apart midway through as the book settles with multiple bad guys and the good guy. I expected far more as the book developed, as in the previous books. Instead, the hero continues with an odd masquerade. The disguise is unneeded at a point and he could have accomplished his goal. Instead, the there are explosions and shootouts. One “instead” can be OK. Two are too many.

The characters are too much like others earlier in the series. Unfortunately notches below the earlier ones. The hero playing his own spy, slides away from the build up in the previous three books and acts more a specter of portrayals of Smoke Jensen.

The setting is sparse as a chunk of the book takes place in a loosely written hideout that is described at being complex, but not well explained. One part very clunky throughout the book involves a tank. The part hard to understand is the ease with which this tank is moved through the story. The tank is described as massive, but the movement seems more of a feather.

Disappointing entry in the series. Worse of the four books.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this book. 4 of 10 points.

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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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