Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico

The Snow Goose (Essential.penguin) The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this sometime in the late 1960's, so I probably should re-read it now to get a more adult perspective, but the book and the events it chronicled have stayed in my memory for over 40 years, so I think it's safe to say it was a story that left an impact. Author Paul Gallico Paul Gallico is better know for his The Poseidon Adventure but I think this was the better book.

Briefly, a story set on the English coast in 1940, with a climax at Dunkirk. As another reviewer stated, sentimental but realistic (I'm paraphrasing). I still recommend it.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey

Sometimes a Great Notion Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this in the 1980's. It's a tough book to get into, took me two tries, but once I got into Kesey's way of telling the story I couldn't put the book down. It's still one of my all time favorite works of fiction, perhaps my no. 1 all time favorite work of fiction.

Be warned though, it takes some concentration to initially get into it. I still recommend to every friend who is a serious reader.

Set in the Pacific Northwest during a logging strike. Multiple character points of view told in first person, without warning as to when a POV changes. Still, once you get each main character's "voice" you should have little problem with the (sometimes abrupt) switches.

5 Stars.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eric, by Terry Pratchett

Eric (Discworld, #9) Eric by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always enjoy Terry Pratchett's books, and this one was no exception. Still, I'm not as big a fan of the Rincewind books as I am some of the other Discworld characters. Nothing against the cowardly, inept wizard. Lord knows I'd probably react to the dangers of Discworld the same way he does...still, I prefer the Witches books, or the Guards, or the Moist von Lipwig books.

Having said that, this is an enjoyable, good quick read though. Rincewind is summoned by a young teen age boy named Eric (the eponymous title character) who wants three wishes. Hilarity and confusion (as is usual in Discworld, or our own Roundworld much of the time, come to think of it) ensues.

I'd give it 3.5 stars if the option were available.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood

I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood by Dave Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been a while since I've read Dave Barry, and I'd forgotten how funny he can be when he's on target. His brand of humor may not be for everybody, but I like it. He skewers the current romanitic Vampire novel craze, the TV show "24", the psychological differences between men and women, fatherhood, and dog ownership, just to touch on a few of the high points. He gets serious when writing about colonoscopies and the wedding of his son (well, mostly serious). I'd recommend this one to anyone looking for a light humorous read.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Going Postal (Discworld, #33) Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Con man Moist von Lipwig is about to be hanged for his various crimes, until Patrician Havelock Vetinari, tyrant of the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, gives him a new lease on life. He can hang (literally) or he can take over the defunct Post Office of Ankh-Morpork and use his considerable skills of persuasion and deception to fix things up postally. Just to make sure that von Lipwig doesn't go on the lam, he's given his very own Golem to watch over him and bring him back if he gets lost...

This is the 33rd of the Discworld series, but the first book in which Moist makes his appearance. I thought it was quite enjoyable, and look forward to then next book in which von Lipwig stars: Making Money.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Tanar of Pellucidar

Tanar of Pellucidar (Pellucidar, #3) Tanar of Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the first books by Edgar Rice Burroughs that I ever read. It's the third in the Pellucidar series, which is what Burroughs called the inner earth setting for this and the other six books in the series. Tanar is a native Pellucidarian who is a friend and ally of David Innes, ERB's hero in the first two books in the series, but it's not necessary to have read the other ones to enjoy this volume. Tanar finds adventure, pirates straight out of a Johnny Depp movie, and true love in this, one of the better Burroughs books. The Roy Krenkel cover on the old Ace version was a bonus for me in the 1960's, but it's not necessary to enjoy the book today. Still, neat if you can find a copy on ebay or amazon or barnes and noble. 5 stars at the time I read it in my pre-teen years, still a 4 stars for those who like adventure in the old time Pulp magazine style...

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Sarah Vowell. There's no other way to put it. This book is a perfect blend of historical essay and pop culture lit. Vowell's take on the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony and Governor John Winthrop shows the "shining city on the hill" ideal as the Puritans saw it; which is not quite the way that Ronald Reagan meant it when he co-opted the phrase in the 1980's. Vowell is one of the few authors in the world today who can tie the two visions together and show how the people we are today can relate to the group of folks who left England in 1630 to start anew.

This book I recommend to just about everybody who wants to understand modern day America and the history of the Massachusetts colony. 5, nay 6, stars (out of 5).

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Master of Adventure

One of Robert E. Howard's favorite authors was noted adventure writer, historian, and biographer Harold Lamb. Lamb basically got his start writing historical adventure stories in the aptly named Adventure Magazine which is where REH first read Lamb's stories and wandering Cossacks and adventurers. Later on Lamb would go on to write screen plays for Cecil B. DeMille and best selling biographies and histories set for the most part in Asia. As a kid I remember reading his World Landmark series book on Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde (Landmark#W-12)

Recently University of Nebraska's Bison Press has been re-publishing many of Lamb's stories from the period of his pulp writing days, roughly just before and during the "Roaring Twenties". I'm currently reading Riders of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume Three and the stories contained therein are excellent. Supposedly some of the stories in this volume were those read by noted Howard in the early twenties before he began writing professionally himself, going on to create noted fantasy characters such as Conan and Solomon Kane. I can see how Lamb's well written action scenes and vividly realized three dimensional individual heroes were an influence on Howard later on. I've become a major fan of these stories and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in good adventure fiction in a realistic historical setting.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review of Terry Pratchett's "Guards, Guards"

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The city of Ankh-Morpork is the setting for this Discworld novel, the 8th in the overall series to be published, and the 1st of what I call the "Guards" sub series. Some have termed them the Ankh-Morpork City Watch ( ) sub series. Whatever one wishes to call them, these are some of the best of the Discworld books.
This one starts out with the Night Watch down and almost out for the count. There are only three members left, after one more of their compatriots has died in the line of duty. Their leader, Sam Vimes is a dispirited drunk, the other two members, Corporal Fred Colon and "Nobby" Nobbs are not what would be termed model policemen at this stage of their careers. When they go out into the night, they seem more afraid of the criminals that the criminals are of them. They are soon joined by a new recruit, a 6'6" Dwarf (adopted) named Carrot Ironfoundersson. Ironfoundersson is an idealist who believes that the Watch is still respected and important in the fight against crime and disorder in Ankh-Morpork. He's a literalist who has been raised by a culture that has a hard time understanding statements such as "show him the ropes" an example of which occurs in the book in an incident following a barroom brawl.
While the Watch is coming to terms with its new member, a group is secretly plotting to overthrow the Patrician Lord Havelock Vetinari who runs Ankh-Morpork and institute the return of a King, who they hope to them be able to control. Their proposed method of bringing dragons back into the Discworld turns out to have more problems that they originally anticipate.
A very good read, I recommend it even to those who don't usually read fantasy if they like satire and hard boiled humor. At times Pratchett seems a mix of Joseph Wambaugh and P. G. Wodehouse when writing these Guard books.

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Review of Terry Pratchett's "Men at Arms"

Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm probably biased, but I'm come to love everything I've read so far by Terry Pratchett, so perhaps my 5 stars should be taken with the proverbial "grain of salt". Still, I enjoyed this one immensely. The Discworld books sometimes have series within the overall series that follow a group of characters. This book is the 2nd in what I call the "Guards" series, following the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork which is led by Sam Vimes.
After the events of Guards! Guards! the Watch is being expanded, both in number and in ethnicity. Affirmative action of a sort has come to the Watch, and the new hires include trolls, dwarves, and werewolves, among others. Sam Vimes is planning on retiring from the Watch after his upcoming wedding, and a series of mysterious murders is occuring with an apparently new type of weapon, which fires metal pellets through the air.
I recommend reading the book Guards, Guards first if you can, but like most all of the Disworld series that I've read, this one can stand alone or even be your first foray into the Discworld if this is the only book available at the moment. I definitely urge anyone who enjoys fantasy, adventure, humor, satire and a touch of hard boiled mystery to check this one out asap.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Review of Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23) Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pratchett satirizes vampire myth and legend in this Discworld novel. Actually one of the grimmer Discworld novels I've read. One of the Witches of Lancre sub set of the series, with all my favorite characters from those books, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, her cat Greebo, Magrat, Agnes-Perdita all make their appearance. I recommend this one highly, but I think you need to have read the other "Witch" novels first, that would be Equal Rites,Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade.
One thing I noticed in this book was that Pratchett did an excellent job of a technique that Edgar Rice Burroughs used to do very well; that is have multiple narratives going with all the characters finally converging together at the climax of the story. I couldn't put the book down near the end, wanting to see how things were (or were not) resolved.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pulp Winds, by Wm. Michael Mott

Pulp Winds Pulp Winds by Wm. Michael Mott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've been a fan of author and artist Wm. Michael Mott's work for years. This is a collection of most of his shorter fantasy works, both prose and poetry, with a little artwork and non-fiction thrown in. Most have been published before in chapbooks, on line magazines and other places, but this is their first appearance collected all together.

The stories range from Lovecraftian pastiches such as "The Testament of Peabody" to humorous tall tales in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's boxing stories as in "Fisticuffs of the Damned". While Mott's literary influences seem obvious: H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles Fort spring to mind most prominently, his work still rises above much of the mundane and repetitive stuff that one finds when reading the usual modern day pastiches in the Cthulhu Mythos, Dying Earth and Epic Fantasy genres.

Mott retains his own original voice in his loving homages to the old time pulp greats, and his work has a unique humor of it's own. His characters are all too human, which makes their situations, whether horrific or humorous or an adventurous mix of both much more enjoyable.

Disclosure, the author is a long time correspondent and epistolary friend, but the stories and poems are truly worth checking out for any one who enjoys fantasy, adventure, horror, and humor.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pulp Winds, by Wm. Michael Mott

I've just started reading a new collection of short stories, poetry and art work by Wm. Michael Mott, author of Pulsifer and other fantasy/adventure works. I'm really enjoying it so far, will post a complete review after finishing it.

Pulp Winds Pulp Winds by Wm. Michael Mott

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