Book Report: John Donnelly’s Gold by Brian J. Noggle (2011)

Book coverSo I read my book. Is there no depths to which I will not sink to have some book report to provide to you, gentle reader? Apparently not.

Back when I published this book five years ago, I read it half a dozen times or more in proofreading the copy (clearly, not in editing!). So I got pretty tired of it back then. But I was ready to read it again.

So, to recap the plot, gentle reader: Four employees are amongst those laid off from their Internet travel company before their options vest, so they dare each other to steal a gold bar owned by the company CEO. They devise a plan to steal it from his house and its live Internet feed without anyone noticing, and they give it a try.

You know, the main knocks against the book are that it’s wordy (it is) and the end is kind of abrupt in turning (it is). I’ll throw in another no one has mentioned: An important point upon when the plot hinges doesn’t make sense if you think about it. It reflects my experience, but not that of most people, so of course I wrote it that way but it wouldn’t happen like that in real life. I could have handled it differently if I recognized it before I published. But it’s out there now. I’m not going to tell you what it is because I want you to buy and read the book to see if you can spot it. I’m pretty sure I got the weeks down to seven days and made sure the gun didn’t switch from semiautomatic to revolver.

And I enjoyed it. The book is full of little in-jokes and allusions that I get since I wrote them. Some of them I’d forgotten and got a little burst of delight.

At any rate, it’s probably worth the four stars it’s garnered.

Book Report: Crude Kill by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is like Under Siege on a boat. No, wait, Under Siege was Under Siege on a boat. This book has certain elements of that plot line, though, but it precedes the Steven Seagal film. So maybe it’s like The Poseidon Adventure right-side up. Except it’s not. Never mind. It’s like a Mack Bolan book on a boat.

Terrorists have taken control of the new world’s largest nuclear-fueled super-duper tanker in the Mediterranean Sea and are holding it for ransom, threatening to blow the boat up and pollute the entire Mediterranean Sea and its beaches with hundreds of millions of gallons of oil. Mack Bolan is called in and reaches the boat via parasail, and then it’s infiltration and defeating an army of terrorists who want the nuclear fuel for atomic weapons as much as they want the ransom money.

Bolan finds some new skills in the book, including underwater operations. He orders a UDT (Underwater Demolition Team, the precursors of the SEALS) to stand down which brought these books into the most stark contrast to the Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior tales, and the Bolan books suffer in comparison. But they’re quicker reads and entertainment enough for their paperback glory.

So I liked the book well enough to want to read another. Or perhaps a Marcinko.

Book Report: Frik’ In Hell Volume 3 (2013), Holes In It (2014), and The Normlings (2016) by Todd Tevlin

Book coverBook coverBook cover
As I might have mentioned, I bought these books in St. Charles when I went to see Todd at the St. Louis Comic Con. So be aware that this is another set of books that I’m reading written and composed by people I know. Although Todd cannot kick me in the head from Old Trees, Missouri, where he lives, which is just as well.

Frik’n Hell Volume Three is more of the adventures of Frik, a knight who works in a restaurant, although this volume doesn’t find him in the restaurant. Instead, he’s on a quest to find Wot, the mage of western pointerly things. So there’s a single arc with some episodic build up, but my reaction is similar to the that of Volume One and Two. I don’t get the zeitgeist of the Web comic. I guess they follow some of the slow development in discrete units that you found in newspaper comic serials but with a modern sensibility. Not my bag, in all, but some of the things were amusing. As with the previous volumes, half of the book is given over to “The Making of” material where Todd presents original sketches and commentary, so it’s like DVD commentary on a film.

The Normlings is issue one in a series (time will prove) and it’s like Six Characters in Search of an Author in that the characters are dropped into a void and have no purpose or story behind them, so they talk and then the artist inserts some things. If you’re into that abstract meta stuff, perhaps it will amuse you. Again, not my bag, baby.

Holes In It, on the other hand, I got that. It’s a series of discrete strips dealing with a father and his son, and they’re based on Todd’s relationship with his son. But because they’re humorous observations and one-offs, they mirror the pattern of newspaper strips like Hi and Lois and For Better or For Worse. Because I have male children, I related to a lot of the stories and quips. So this one was more my bag, baby, and I liked it.

But you know what is my bag, baby? Supporting people I know and their literary ambitions. Todd might have more success if he focused on the Holes In It family, but he’s got integrity and he’s gonna do what he wants. Hopefully, he’ll want more Holes In It volumes, though.

Good Book Hunting, July 24, 2016: Lutherans for Life Rummage Sale

On Friday, I went to the Lutherans for Life rummage sale at Trinity Lutheran Church. This year, it had a few more books and fewer record albums, but I managed to scrounge some books and CDs for a sawbuck.

Amongst the music, I got:

  • Sade’s live album Lovers Live. I don’t normally do live albums, but it is Sade we’re talking about.
  • Two albums by Static-X, Shadow Zone and Beneath…Between…Beyond…. I’d never heard of the band, so I hope I like them.
  • Two discs by Katharine McPhee, Katharine McPhee and the single Somewhere Over the Rainbow/My Destiny. Based on the title of the latter, I thought she was a standards/jazz act, but apparently she’s a poppy former American Idol participant. So those of you who had Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood in the pool First American Idol Act Brian Owns, I’m afraid you’ve lost.
  • Taylor Dayne’s Soul Dancing. I can’t believe I didn’t already own this; I bought the CD just to make sure.
  • Pamyua, a band making music out of traditional Inuit music.

I got some books, including:

  • One of David Letterman’s Top Ten List collections.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
  • Avalanche, a love story(?) set in World War II.
  • The Essential Luther, a collection of Martin Luther’s lectures. A short collection.
  • Mission to the Cherokees, a history of a mission serving the Cherokee nation.
  • Several picture books, including New York: City of Many Dreams by Bill Harris (different, I hope, than New York At Night), Colourful England, Holland in Pictures, and something about Chichen Itza.

Additionally, I picked up two films: Douglas Fairbanks in The Man in the Iron Mask, a silent film, and Black Dog, a film starring Patrick Swayze, Meat Loaf, and Randy Travis and depicting a semi on the cover. Of course, I had to watch that one immediately, and it is everything you could want from a film with Patrick Swayze, Meat Loaf, Randy Travis, and big rigs.

So I’ve gotten some light football season reading/viewing and a very short bit of Luther which I’ll probably pick up when I put down this short bit of Kierkegaard I’m gutting through. Not bad for something less than $20 that I paid $20 for.

I went back on Saturday to pick up a collection of radio programs I’d bypassed but decided to get since my son has declared himself a collector of Green Hornet comics. I ended up buying a bunch of craft project material, the aforementioned collection of radio programs, and a single book, Hemingway’s Spain which is also a picture book but has a Hemingway tie-in, so it’s like a heady picture book.

Book Report: Yo, Millard Fillmore by Will Cleveland and Mark Alvarez (1993)

Book coverFor a second time in recent memory, my reading has been determined by a book that one of my children wanted to read from my to read shelves. First, The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family and then this book.

It’s a brief Scholastic primer on the Presidents through Clinton. Each President has a two-page spread with the left page talking about his (remember, gentle reader, that this book only includes male presidents as that is all we had for several hundred years (he added to explain for future Internet searchers)) presidency and the right continuing some mnemonic narrative that is supposed to help you remember the presidents in order. Honestly, the schtick looks more difficult than rote memorization since you have to remember the mnemonic story and then what name each pun represents.

Frankly, if I’m ever to do well on Jeopardy!, I’ll have to memorize the Presidents and their general dates, but this isn’t the book to do it.

Also, a side effect of modern life is even though the book title spells it correctly for me, the default in my brain is not Millard but Mallard Fillmore. Which probably also illustrates why I will never be a good Jeopardy! contestant.

Book Report: Love’s Legacy by Stephanie Dalla Rosa (2015)

Book coverDISCLAIMER:Of all the books I’ve reviewed on this book, this book represents the work of the author most likely to punch me in the head. She is a second degree black belt and instructor in the dojo where I train. So bear that in mind that if I have nothing but nice things to say about this book that it might only be abject terror speaking. Thank you, that is all.

This book covers the death of the author’s mother from cancer and the author dealing with her grief and her relationship with God. The first part of the book includes portions of the mother’s journal–for the mother had hoped to write a book about the experience and how God got her through it–along with the author’s recollections of the period of the illness. The second part deals with the aftermath and how the author tried to build a relationship with God but faltered for a time until finishing her mother’s book gave her some purpose.

The book made me think of identity as aspiration as opposed to authentic identity by nature. In the first part, the mother was suffering through her treatment, but her journal entries are mostly upbeat and aspirational, particularly in her relationship with God. This is what she wanted to be and how she wanted to be known and remembered. In the second, the author has to come to terms with dark hours (days, months, and years) and, by willpower and faith overcame a great darkness in her life.

The book presents a clear contrast with the Kierkegaard I’ve been reading (Fear and Trembling) and the book about Kierkegaard I’ve read recently. Whereas Kierkegaard goes on about the paradox of Christianity and reliance upon the absurd (I’ll get into that when I review Fear and Trembling, you bet), this book presents a more accessible dilemma and statement of faith. Which explains why I’ve finished it and have to one of these days push myself through the remainder of the thinner tome.

On a personal note, it was a hard book for me to read; as you might recall, gentle reader, my own sainted mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away around the same time (remember the eulogy?). So reading the book brought back memories and attendant unresolved guilt for all the things I could have done differently and might have should have. I can’t help contrast her experience with my own. It’s not so much wallowing, but more reflecting on the differences as though I might learn something from it.

So I liked the book, and I’m considering buying additional copies as gifts for my aunts, my mother’s remaining sisters, but I’m not sure whether they would appreciate it or not. Time will tell if I do that or not, I suppose. But it’s worth a read if you’re dealing with this situation or the grieving.

Book Report: Søren Kierkegaard by Elmer H. Duncan (1976)

Book coverThis book is an entry in the Makers of the Modern Theological Mind series as was Reinhold Niebuhr. On a recent trip to ABC Books, I found the Kierkegaard volume, and I picked it up and delved right in since I seem to be in a theological phase lately (well, I guess Existentialism and Thomism last January and The Screwtape Letters last July makes for a very slow moving phase, but in my defense, I’ve started a couple books I’ve yet to finish).

What I’ll take from this bit is that Kierkegaard was writing a document targetted to Danish Christians of the era and was mostly a rebuttal to Hegel. His Either/Or countered the Hegelian Thesis>Antithesis>Synthesis bit by saying that ethical choices are exclusive or (XOR, as computer folk would call them) and cannot be reconciled through creating a system or classification where both options exist and relate to one another. It’s told in two parts: the first part by The Seducer, and the second part by The Judge. These two represent the aesthetic and ethical spheres. Fear and Trembling examines the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac and explicates on the religious sphere, which Kierkegaard puts higher than the merely ethical. The book also talks about other writings, but these are the ones I was most interested in.

This book spends a lot of its few (145) pages delving into other philosophers’ and theologians’ work. We get explanations of Hegel and Plato and their systems; we get pages on the Existentialists and people in the 20th century who Kierkegaard influenced (hint: apparently everyone). We even get a whole page of defending Heidegger from his association with the Nazis in Germany. It seems like a lot of real estate on a book on Kierkegaard spent talking about others. But you can boil a lot of Kierkegaard down into pretty short sentences.

As I read it and work through Fear and Trembling, I wonder if Kierkegaard is the man who broke the Christian church. His book Fear and Trembling focuses on the religious individual experiencing something he (or she) thinks is divine and not so much on the divine. It seems a turn to the individualism that runs through Existentialism and whatnot. I’m sure there are some other revolutions and counterrevolutions that go on as well, but given how much of twentieth century thought cites Kierkegaard as an influence, I can’t help wonder if it was a bad influence.

Good Book Hunting, June 3, 2016: Friends of the Rogersville Library Book Sale

I did not know that Rogersville had its own library; I don’t remember seeing it when I went to town for the old Missouri Insight blog (reposted here). As an old railroad town, it would have had the opportunity to create its own library before the Springfield-Greene County library or Webster County library took root.

So I discovered it had a Friends of the Library organization and a small book sale fund raiser, I was all on it. I stopped by early Friday morning. It was held in a small conference room off the side of the small town library. How small? It might have been the smallest I’ve ever been to. Smaller than Clever, for sure.

I only bought three things.

I got:

  • Halo: The Fall of Reach, another Halo novel by Eric Nyland. I liked First Strike. And I also say a high school kid at the dojo carrying one of these novels. So it probably won’t be long until I read this one. It is, after all, a paperback that won’t clear much from my to-read shelf space.
  • Spider Man: The Octopus Agenda, a novel by Diane Duane. I most recently read Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard, but this one will probably be more in my wheelhouse. It probably won’t be one I carry around with me to read as I only like to be seen in public with SMAHT books these days.
  • A single volume of Henry David Thoreau including Walden, The Maine Woods, and Cape Cod. I’ve recently pulled my paperback copy of Walden from the read shelves for a re-reading, so I can put it back and substitute this book, which I can take out in public because it’s a SMAHT book. Except I might not because it’s big and heavy.

Not much, but it wasn’t a big selection. No t-shirts or applications to join the Friends of the Rogersville Library, sadly, or I would have added those to my collections.

And since I recently cleaned part of my library, I had room for them easily. So I should be in pretty good shape until the autumn book sales unless I hit a mother lode at a church sale or something. You don’t see many books at contemporary single family home garage sales.

Some Paperbacks Of Note

As I mentioned, I recently cleaned the bookshelves in my office that contain the mass market paperbacks that I’ve read. As I did, I remembered some things about them and about the times in which I read them. Lacking anything better to post about so far today, I’ve decided to comment on them and to present their covers (Gimlet once asked me if I had a Tumblr containing the covers of the books I’ve read, since I’ve been scanning them a number of years for the book reports–I do not).

Read More

Reflections on a Cleaner Library

For the past year and a half or almost two years, my office housed the last of our old guard cats, the small half Siamese we got around the turn of the century. After the penultimate of the old guard died and shortly after we introduced the replacement cats, she developed a disdain for using the litter box, so we isolated her in my office and closed the door, wherein she had her own food and her own litter box, and she was less crotchety. She got ill, and on Sunday before church she was put down, and I buried her with the others. For the first time in a year, my office door is open.

I’ve removed the cat litter from the office, and I have started extensive cleaning operations, including spending four hours dusting all of the unread books on the four bookshelves in the office and the two small shelves of mass market paperbacks.

Ah, that’s better.

In addition to dusting them one by one, I reorganized them, making sure they were tight in the shelves, and I reversed some of them so that the books that were in the back were now in the front. It will give me a fresh set of books to look at when I go to pick something to read.

As I worked, I was delighted to find some really interesting books I would like to read. Clearly, I’ve thought about each volume as I bought it. It made me want to read, but before I do, I have to get through a couple library books I checked out for no other reason than I’m nuts.

Other thoughts:

  • When I read The Carolingian Chronicles, the support material mentioned another contemporary source A History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours. I found a copy that I’ll probably read sooner rather than later since I’m on a Frankish kick.
  • I found like four different volumes of work by and biographies of Ernie Pyle, the World War II correspondent. That’s probably pretty comprehensive.
  • But only one autobiography of Ernest Borgnine.
  • But two of William Shatner.
  • The most represented historical figure on the shelves is Winston Churchill. I’ve got a pile of his histories and a couple of biographies. I guess it’s been two years since I read anything about him.
  • I shall soon come to the tipping point, believe it or not, where I will have read more than half of the Executioner novels I own. Of course, that’s only if I don’t count the related series. Still, I’ll take the encouragement where I can.
  • I have a shelf and a half of Stephen King books, and I’m not really in a hurry to read them. They’re very thick, and so many times I’ve been disappointed.
  • I have several Dean Koontz, and although they’re not as long, I’ve liked the ones I’ve read by Koontz very much barring the Odd Thomas titles.
  • I even have a John Saul or two, and I’m not a real big horror fan.
  • I have a bunch of technology and programming books, most of which were out of date when I got them. And some that were not are now.
  • This includes a couple Apple and Commodore books.
  • I’ve managed to make room on my shelves (and by make room, I mean there are not many horizontal books stacked upon the two ranks of vertical books per shelf. So I should go to some book sales.
  • I’m having a little trouble with the $25 book shelves I bought a decade ago at Target. They were not meant for the load I’ve put on them, and they’re failing in different ways. The holes holding the pins are breaking, the shelves bow down so I have to flip them every once in a while, and now the sides are bowing outward so that the shelves don’t reach the pins. I could get some new, better bookshelves, I suppose, but that would require moving all these books again.

I found far fewer duplicates than I’d expected.

Free books.

Normally, I just dump my duplicate books off on my brother and assume he tosses them. But if you see anything you’re interested, let me know in the next week or so and I’ll bundle them off to you. The remainder go to my brother or perhaps ABC Books in a trade.

Titles include:

  • The Shinging by Stephen King. I’ve already read this, but it must be before the blog.
  • Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. Just think of how many shelves I’d have of Stephen King if I didn’t put them all together to see what I have.
  • The Demons at Rainbow Bridge by Jack Chalker. The first of the Quintara Marathon series. I have the whole series in ex library books, so the paperback is expendible.
  • The Romances of Hezekiah Mitchell, a book often found in the Ozarks section of used book stores. Apparently, I’ve found it there twice.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I read it in middle school or early high school, and I bought two hardback copies of it. I only need one.
  • Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac in the Classics Club edition.
  • A ten volume set of The Great Ideas Program by the Encyclopedia Britannica people in 1959. It’s a selection of readings of great books sorts of things broken down by subject (Philosophy, Ethics, Imaginative Literature, and such). Did I have two complete sets? Of course I did. Don’t be ridiculous!

As I said, if anyone’s interested, let me know. Shout out and they’re yours.

Book Report: Ambush on Blood River by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book differs from the philosophy of other recent ones which rumble about Bolan going it alone again. Instead, this is a Phoenix Force book, essentially, as Bolan leads a team into the heart of Africa.

While visiting Canada, Bolan gets wind of an African job. Decades ago, a mercenary abandoned his post to rob a bank, and he hid the cache of diamonds and documents in a war-torn land. In the present day (of 1983), the Russians spring the mercenary from an Angola prison to recover the loot. The deposed leader of the African nation wants Bolan and his team to recover the loot from the mercenary and the Russians and to recover some sensitive documents that could embarrass America. So Mack gets the team together, they roll into Africa, and conduct a number of set-piece battles to recover the diamonds, incidentally kill the current deposing general, and kill the bad guys only to discover that the promised documents did not exist and were only a pretext to get the diamonds.

It’s more of a team book instead of an Executioner book; one has to wonder if it was moved over from another title to fit the publication schedule of the month’s Bolan book wasn’t ready. So it’s not really an Executioner book, and if you recognize that, perhaps you’ll enjoy it more.

This is the first I’ve seen in the line that recognizes the actual author of the book in the back in a little bit where “Don Pendleton” pens a note about the actual author. The recogniztion must have been gratifying. This book was written by Alan Bomack, who also wrote The Invisible Assassins. I enjoyed this book more than the earlier one.

I know I’ve read a bunch of these books this year. I promise I’m reading some headier work more slowly. Ask anyone.

Also, note this is an investment grade men’s adventure novel. Inside the back cover, there’s a price tag for $1, but on the back, the price tag from when my beautiful wife bought this for my birthday is $1.13. This book increased in value 13%. I mean, down from it’s original price of $2.25, but it’s rebounding, baby. I should buy a bunch of them!

Book Report: The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family edited by Ray Richmond (1997)

Book coverI don’t know where I bought this book, but I know why I picked it up recently: because my soon-to-be ten-year-old has recently acquired a taste for all things Simpsons from a couple of books he’s gotten, and he wanted to read this one, but I wouldn’t let him until I’d read it. In a manner befitting Bart and Lisa, he asked me repeatedly, multiple times daily, whether I was reading the book yet and, if I was not doing anything, whether I could not better spend the time reading the book.

It’s an episode guide to the shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show and the first eight seasons of The Simpsons. Not to make you feel old, old man, but this is a twenty-year-old guide to The Simpsons. Apparently, there has been at least one additional book for completeness’ evolving sake. For each episode, there’s a synopsis, a character highlighted, a number of jokes you might have missed, some notable quotes, ties to other Simpsons episodes, and things to identify what movies or whatnot the episode lampooned. After each season, there’s a compendium listing of things like the times Homer says, “D’oh!” or “Mmmm….” That’s about it. Much to my child’s chagrin, it took me a number of weeks to go through the complete book, as I could only make it a couple of episodes at a sitting.

Of course, what’s a good book/episode guide without double-effect nostalgia. As I read the book, I see the air date at the top and remember what I was doing around that particular time. Watching The Adventures of Beans Baxter instead of the Simpsons on Fox; graduating high school; going to college; working in a grocery after college; receiving the email from the woman who would become my wife; and so on. Additionally, I started watching the Simpsons on DVD around 2004 (as mentioned here), so some of the episodes are familiar from my pre-parental, stay up until two o’clock work-from-home days (as opposed to my current parental stay up until nine o’clock work-from-home days). So I remember watching them on the eMac in my office as I worked or after I finished work or live-blogging the Republican National Convention of the era.

The jokes, the humor, and their relevance remain but change over time. Much of the stuff lampooned still holds true, although some of it might seem dated to kids from today. But not all of it. And sometimes you can apply the gags to your own life. For example, I read Bart saying Branson is like Las Vegas if Ned Flanders ran it. I read this in Branson on vacation this week. So it’s not quite Jeopardy!-esque as the nexus of all knowledge, but.

At any rate, interesting as a fill-in reader for moments when you don’t have a lot of time for Kierkegaard. Or to educate your children on late 20th century animation.

Book Report: The Greek and Roman World by W.G. Hardy (1960)

Book coverThis book is a sociological anthropological look at the Greek, particularly the Athenian, and Roman civilizations. It takes the point of view of an average citizen and describes what the world might have looked like to them, from going to the Forum or the market to participating in the democracy or republic of the time. As such, it’s not a history per se, as it does not recount historical dates and actions, but instead describes how people would have lived and how society, the government, and commerce would have looked.

The book is very brief–120 pages roughly–so it’s not a long read, and you might learn something. I learned how Athens divided itself into ten entities for the purposes of government, and that every entity was not a contiguous region but instead had land and citizens in each of the three topographies of the area so that the miners, the fishers, and the farmers would be equally represented. That’s interesting. But unlikely to show up as a question on trivia night.

But the book supplements some of the other reading I’ve done in ancient history and philosophy lately, so I’m glad to have read it.

Book Report: Take It Off, Take It All Off! by David Ritz (1993)

Book coverAs you can guess, I selected this book from amongst the thousands of others from some past book fair because its title is a cat call for a stripper to remove all of her clothing. Or it was. When I was a boy, my brother and I would occasionally say that to each other when changing clothes or something. Given that we hadn’t been to many strip clubs by the time we were ten, I would have to guess we picked it up from cartoons.

At any rate, this book is about a stripper. In the first chapter, she finds that a younger woman whom she’s been teaching the stripping world to has been brutally murdered, and the main character wants to find out who. So you think it’s a murder mystery, but that’s just a MacGuffin. Instead, it’s a book about a woman who fancies herself world-wise discovering she’s not so world wise at all.

Set in 1945, the book spends a lot of time on the stripper’s Jewish family whom she shocks with her profession. Her father lost his clothing store in the Depression and hopes to get it back; her mother likes the nice things she can buy with her daughter’s unsavorily acquired funds; and her brother is gay. Turns out the young, innocent girl from the small town who got murdered wasn’t so innocent at all–she was seeing a lot of men and hoping to take over the main character’s star slot. And she might have been going with one of the main character’s boy friends, a minor league ball player. To get insight into the murdered woman, the main character goes to the dead girl’s home town, talks to some people who knew her, falls in love with the drunken editor of the local paper, and is heart broken when the man dies in a drunken smash-up. Then she goes to sojourn in California with her uncle and his girlfriend, and they treat her nicely until they’re rubbed out in a mob hit when she’s not with them. So she returns to New York, briefly reunites with her family–she’s out of work as a stripper, you see, because of an, erm, over the top performance one night. But she can’t settle down, so she strips again and finds her baseball player boyfriend has been arrested for the murder, so she investigates and finds he has a twin brother rapist in Buffalo, so she leads police to him and they arrest the twin brother, but he was in Buffalo at the time of the murder. Then she takes up with the saxophone player in the band, who is black and a jazz maestro, and then he arrested for the murder, which leads her to suddenly discover that the boyfriend of the original murderee was killed in the same fashion, which leads her back to the home town to find the real murderer–the crossdresser who had been the inn keeper for 25 years. And the stripper and the jazz player move to Paris. The end.

You know, it works slightly better in the book, but the murder is just a pretext for the rest of the story which is a bit outlandish in its retconning of contemporary social mores and laxness into 1945, but it does pretty well at peeling the main character’s veneer of mistaken worldliness. I’ll be honest, as I read it, I wondered if it would end up with the same twist as Magic, but instead it’s a tacked on Psycho.

So would I recommend the book? Well, if it sounds interesting to you, I suppose. Billie Holiday makes multiple appearances and is a minor character in the book, so it’s got that going for it. But it’s not a murder mystery, and it’s not great literature.

Book Report: Island Deathtrap by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverI read this book right after Paradine’s Guantlet because the teaser in the back of the book made the plot look interesting and it looked like the books were going to take on a new direction with Mack Bolan operating more alone.

This book is definitely a more complicated plot: A remote island in Maine is being used as a delivery point for people and things being smuggled into the United States, and hard men have cowed and impressed locals into helping out. One man contacts Washington for help, and they send Bolan. When Bolan arrives, he finds his contact dead and a teen relative out for revenge. The teen’s girl has been kidnapped to compel her father’s help, and they together invade the island.

Instead of straight dot-to-dot connection of the set pieces, though, we have some people working at cross-purposes and some turns that add a bit of depth to the proceedings. So I enjoyed the book more than it its immediate predecessor, and I’ll eventually get used to the up-and-down nature of the series after Pendleton.

Book Report: The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfeld (2012)

Book coverI bought this book earlier this year when my children were expending Easter gifts at the local Barnes and Noble. This autographed copy was on the discount table way in the back, so I picked it up.

Written during the run-up to the 2012 election, the book talks about how ‘sensitive’ people are getting and how to not get caught up in it. Just kidding: It’s mostly pointing out and mocking people who have taken it upon themselves to monitor our thoughts and behavior, often with the coercive power of the state.

It’s only gotten worse in the interim, of course.

It’s a political book, so I don’t get much more out of it than I get out of my too-steady daily diet of political blogs except for an autograph which I’m practicing forging to complete my dead-on impersonation of Gutfeld. Once I do that, I can take over his life, which has been my lifelong dream since I just wrote that sentence three seconds ago.

However, the zany comic asides that mark Gutfeld’s on-screen persona carry over well into the written work, so it makes the book more enjoyable to read than more earnest commentators.

So if you’re jonesing for some sadly undated commentary on the modern left, you could do worse.

Book Report: Paradine’s Guantlet by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is one of the underperformers in the series. In it, a planeful of diplomats is captured by a terrorist who wants Mack Bolan to deliver a briefcase full of diamonds as ransom. However, the kidnapping and ransom are merely a pretext to draw Bolan into a trap so a survivor of one of his earlier exploits can get revenge. However, news of the content of the suitcase leaks, which means that a number of European groups want it for themselves.

The book features the debut of a new RV with weaponry like the one immoliated at the end of the Pendleton-authored books and the return of April Rose to the field; when she gets wounded, I figured she was a goner as she does eventually die in the series, but it’s not this one.

You know, I’ve read five or six of these this year. On one hand, it seems like a waste of reading time. On the other hand, I do have the goal of reading all the ones I have before I die. So my continued efforts on this series will likely go in fits and starts for years to come with brief recaps like this one to keep the blog going.

Book Report: Mountain Rampage by “Don Pendleton” (1983)

Book coverThis book is definitely a better entry in the series than The Invisible Assassins. Bolan doesn’t light a cigarette.

What he does do, however, is infiltrate a terrorist compound in the Colorado Rockies where an assortment of international bad guys are working on chemicals that will make people crazy hyperactive and self-destructive and also a chemical that turns them essentially into controllable zombies. Bolan infiltrates the compound, blows things up, rescues an attractive young lady, and then the book ends 20 pages earlier than I expected because the samples from other novels at the end have the title of this book in the header.

It’s very straightforward: Bolan comes and the assault begins rather straight away. There are cut scenes to Stony Farm which add nothing but padding. I can almost imagine adding them and the sample pages for four other Gold Eagle books to get this volume to fighting weight.

However, in context of what it is, thinner and straightforward works. And although there’s not a lot of reflection, no Bolan War Journal entries, the book does have a bit of that flavor the previous installment lacked. It’s almost as though the author might have read one of the Bolan books before reading it.

Although if they could stop switching semi-automatic pistols to single fire, that would be nice.

Book Report: Down with Love by “Barbara Novak” (2003)

Book coverI bought this book at an estate sale nine years ago, and it’s often been in the front ranks of a bookshelf when I’m looking for something to read. A couple of times I picked it up and thought about reading it, but put it back. Well, gentle reader, I have finally read it.

The book, if you cannot tell from the cover, is a movie tie-in for the film with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Remember it? Without the book, I wouldn’t know of it, either. At any rate, it’s a romantic comedy set in the 1960s where a farm girl from Maine has written a female-empowering book that takes the world by storm. Some finagling by her editor gets her an interview in the hottest magazine, written by the womanizing ace reporter nicknamed “Catch.” Hijinks and shopping ensue as they discover eventually that they’re perfect together. All according to her plan. Spoiler alert, retroactively.

At any rate, it sure must have relied on the actors and the filming for the humor, for I didn’t see much. To add depth to the book, the author adds a bunch about clothing, outfits, and shopping. I wonder if that’s the influence of Sex in the City or something. I dunno, although I have a Candace Bushnell novel around here someplace and maybe I’ll eventually be able to briefly compare the two in my own mind.

At any rate, it was a quick, forgettable read. Now I’ll have to find something else to pick up and put down without reading for a decade.

Book Report: So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane (1983, 1996)

Book coverA month ago, I mentioned Diane Duane, so when I soon thereafter came across this book on my to-read shelves, I picked it up.

Now, I’ve never read the Harry Potter books because I tell people I don’t read young adult books or something. Nobody’s asked me in some time, come to think of it. Harry Potter is so 20th century. But I invented a loophole for this young adult fantasy book: See, it’s from 1983, so the twelve year olds within are my age or a little older. Or something.

At any rate, in the book, a New York girl who is bullied hides in the library to escape her tormentors and comes across a book patterned on career books; this one, however, is about becoming a wizard. She reads the first part of it, says the oath, and she’s suddenly aware of some magic she’s always known about but didn’t know it was magic. She’s also thrust into a plot by the ultimate bad guy to destroy the universe when she goes looking for a missing pen. So she and another young wizard travel to an alternate reality along with a small, sentient wormhole sidekick to try to find a magickal book that can protect the world (all worlds) from destruction.

It’s the beginning of a series, so it must have had some success. Back in the day, I read some fantasy–Jack Chalker comes to mind, and Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series. But by the time I was the age of the protagonists, I’d bypassed the young adult fantasy in favor of adult books. Which is why I hadn’t heard of this series until now. It must have been a pretty good run, as this book was still in print thirteen years later.

It wasn’t my bag, baby. So I’ll probably not look out for the rest of the series. I’ll probably pass this copy onto my young adult reader and perhaps he’ll enjoy it more.