Rob's Blog

Tag: Books

July 31st, 2014 – Book: ‘Invasion U.S.A.: Border War’ by William Johnstone.

by on Jul.31, 2014, under Books

Border War (Invasion USA, #2)Border War by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Invasion U.S.A.: Border War” is the second book of, so far, a two book series. This second book is far superior to the first, that is also very good. This one is far better written with a much more involved plot.

Whereas teh first was chock full of gun play and explosions, this one is handled very differently. There’s more setup to explain the gun play and explosions. With the more involved plot there are more involved characters. Something the Johnstone Clan excels at is characterization. That occurs here even better than the first book.

This one does have less tension with the first. i was literally on teh edge of my seat with the first. This one I had to read much more carefully as the plot unfolded in more intricate and well written detail.

Wondered about giving it five stars, but the writing isn’t up to the par of a Faulkner or Slaughter.

Bottom line: i recommend this book.

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July 2nd, 2014 – Today on the drawing board: Turtle Birthday Greetings!

by on Jul.03, 2014, under Cartooning, Swampy's Florida

2014-0702-BirthdayCards3

Another of the upcoming Swampy’s Florida birthday card series. this time with a turtle. Have another coming with an alligator soon. I’ll post when the cards will be available for purchase.

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July 1st, 2014 – Book: ‘Courage of the Mountain Man’ by William W. Johnstone.

by on Jul.01, 2014, under Books

Courage of the Mountain Man (Mountain Man, #10)Courage of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As usual the writing is good and the characterizations are very good. It’s just that it’s much same plot as so many of the Smoke Jensen series. Town taken over, Smoke comes to save the day. The bad guy is getting really repeated as another who kills puppies and eats children, or something along those lines.

What’s really disappointing is not even a twist in the story. There are a few alteration of characters, but that is all to lead to a conclusion we ‘Mountain Man’ readers know too well. Seems to me one alteration was Smoke in general. Smoke, seems to me, acting very different in this book from how he handles the bad guys and the interaction with other characters. This could be a sign of a different ghost writer.

Another trouble is the length of this one. I think about a third could’ve been cut out and focus more on the sheriff and Smoke and make this a tighter volume. There’s way too much nearly identical narrative and dialog from other books.

The volume before this, ‘Pursuit of the Mountain Man’, was a terrific diversion from this town takeover template and I hope the other volumes I’ve hunted down take more the ‘Pursuit’ trail.

Bottom line: Well, I see I need to have two.
1) If you’ve been reading the ‘Mountain Man’ series – No, don’t read it. This is more of the same.
2) If you haven’t read any or little of the series, Yes, read it.



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June 25th, 2014 – Book: ‘Hickory Dickory Death’ by Agatha Christie.

by on Jun.25, 2014, under Books

Hickory Dickory DeathHickory Dickory Death by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Hickory Dickory Death’ is a nice mystery with a slew of suspects, but a suspect plot. Hercule Poirot rather stumbles into what seems to be a mere issue of theft until turning into murder. His involvement seems a bit of a stretch to begin with, but as the story goes the narrative seems less Poirot and more the authorities as if Poirot seemed more interested in the theft than the deaths.

There area long string of suspects that Christie does her best to discern, but still seems a bit too similar and that confused me while reading. In today’s radicalism view of political correctness, it’s likely younger folks will needlessly cringe at Christie’s attempt to distinguish her characters. It is not one world. We are not one people. Unfortunately, Christie doesn’t do enough to kick up a notch the differences.

Something else Christie doesn’t expound enough about is the basis of the solution to the mystery. There’s a lot to it and could have been far better defined involving dangers which leads to murder.

The writing is good as Chrisite is, but she sets too much up with the assumption that all know Poirot. The rest of the plot becomes far too convoluted due to what i commented about above. There’s a very good plot here and the underlying mystery has been done many times. Just done far better than Christie has done. Though, in that this is from 1955, Christie is early in handling subject matter far more common today.

Christie is a legend and i hate to write this involving legends, but…
Bottom line: i don’t recommend this book.



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June 21st, 2014 – Book: ‘Spanish Bayonet’ by Stephen Vincent Benet.

by on Jun.22, 2014, under Books

Spanish BayonetSpanish Bayonet by Stephen Vincent Benét

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very well told tale of Florida in the late 1700s. So much is historically accurate, as we know it. The writing is beyond superb. So much care is taken in describing scenes and people. There is a bit of over writing in certain parts, but they are well-written certain parts.

The best part of this book is that it is so very far from the formulaic style of today. My head started to carry the story forward with various typical, cliched outcomes of novels today, but this story has it’s own path to take. None of the Politically Correct entrapments and censors are around to get in Benet’s way to tell a terrific story.

I do wish the story wrapped up differently. It’s a bit short.

The story is about a landowner’s family that grows indigo, amongst other things, has a Minorcan harvesting crew and a guest that enters the scene from overseas and finds himself in more than he bargained for. All is set during British occupation of Florida on the heals of the American Revolution.

Interesting to note is that author Benet’s grandfather was a St. Augustine native of Minorcan decent. Would love to know more about that and if any of this story stems from family legend that might have become part of this book.

Bottom line: I recommend this book.



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June 16th, 2014 – Book: ‘Many Happy Returns: A Bicentennial Salute to SchoolsMany Happy Returns: A Bicentennial Salute to Schools’ by Retired Teachers Association of Florida

by on Jun.16, 2014, under Books

Many Happy Returns: A Bicentennial Salute to SchoolsMany Happy Returns: A Bicentennial Salute to Schools by Retired Teachers Association of Florida

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Want to know what teaching was like between around 1900 to 1976? Read this collection of recollections of teachers from all over Florida. This book was produced by the Florida Retired Teachers Association and does a fantastic job of collecting so many stories from so many teachers.

Interesting the many references to the less disciplined students of the mid-1970s compared to those taught decades earlier. Really brings home just how awful the classroom has gotten today.

This book should be required reading for upcoming teachers who want to understand the profession. Where it came from and where it is now.

Obviously, the Association was constricted by whoever turned in stories and so there are a few areas missing. Almost nothing mentioned of teaching in the Keys. There’s a section that is almost entirely made up of teachers from Broward County. Considering there are stories from more obscure areas like Pace, Alva, Green Cover Springs, etc., this is a more thorough covering of the state than most are able to accomplish.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. Especially to anyone involved with education.

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May 29th, 2014 – Today on the #drawing board – ‘Oranges in Pine Castle’ painting.

by on May.29, 2014, under Illusration, Swampy's Florida

2014-0529-Pine-Castle-OrangeGrove-Fini

A few days ago I posted the setup for this watercolor painting. Here’s the finished artwork. It’s for a show of Florida artists at the Pine Castle Women’s Club in south Orange County starting June 1st. This will also be available as a Swampy’s Florida print (#38) soon.

The Pine Castle Women’s Club art show is comprised of Florida artists presenting Florida history in various mediums.

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Announcing Swampy’s Florida Kickstarter program!

by on May.27, 2014, under Cartooning, Florida History!, Florida Outdoors!, Swampy's Florida

2014-0527-Kickstarter

Announcing a Swampy’s Florida Kickstarter program to get five Swampy’s Florida books produced! In the past three years I’ve produced 14 Swampy books, 37 prints, 2 DVDs and seven cards. There’s lots more to come! However, I’ve poured a ton of time in all of this and have more than run out of resources to produce more without backing. Funding will ensure more educational and activity books available to help young people know more about the great state of Florida.

Click here to head over to Kickstarter!

There’s a goal to get five funded by June 21st! Lots of goodies! I’ll even try to hand deliver the goodies if the donor falls within my travels this Fall.

The five books are:
–  Historical Women of Florida
– Florida History Puzzles and Games
– A Short History of  trains in Florida
– Birds of Florida
– Fish and Aquatic Life in Florida

All five will be coloring and travel guide books and able to be used in home schooling or just for fun!

There will be constant updates here as I build all five books.

But wait! There’s more!
There are four other books involved that are left over prior to the new arrangement with The Knowledge Exchange. These four will also be completed at the same time:
– Polk County- Titusville
– Dunnellon
– Marion County ABC
The funding will also loosen my time to wrap up these four books.

All will be available by Fall.

I hope you will help me in getting these books out and to beter help educate our young people of Florida’s incredible history, heritage and culture.

Thank you to The Knowledge Exchange, for so much help, and Dave Stewart, who produced the video on the site and gave sage advice, for all their help putting this together. I’ll have to share the video here as the next month goes along.

Thank you to all that donate to this project!
I’ll be posting updates here as this Kickstarter program continues!

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May 26th, 2014 – Today on the #Drawing Board: Critters on the Run!

by on May.26, 2014, under Cartooning, Florida Outdoors!

2014-0526-CritterRun

Today penciled and inked this illustration for a five mile run – for people – coming up this fall in Silver Springs State Park in Florida.

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May 19th, 2014 – Today on the #Drawing Board: Swampy’s Florida Cover – Inked!

by on May.19, 2014, under Cartooning, Swampy's Florida

2014-0519-SwampysFloridaTRavelBokCover

Here’s the inked cover of the penciled drawing I showed yesterday. I used my many years with the City of Orlando in the Planning and Engineering Departments to map out a condensed, but doable, community. This is for a give-away during this week’s Florida Parent Educators Association annual convention by The Knowledge Exchange. This is to encourage ravel in Florida and beyond! thus, the mountains in the background….or it could also be a mountain version of the old Florida Festival tent that was once across from Sea World in south Orange County.

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