The 15th novel in the “Alphabet” series featuring Kinsey Millhone is once again, a classic Sue Grafton mystery novel. I’m reading these books in orderThe 15th novel in the “Alphabet” series featuring Kinsey Millhone is once again, a classic Sue Grafton mystery novel. I’m reading these books in order and it is fun to watch the character of Kinsey Millhone progress through her adventures and especially when we get to learn more about her earlier life. This novel really goes into her past because this time the client for her PI skills is none other than her first husband whom she has not been in contact with since their brief marriage ended 14 years ago. Technically, Kinsey is her own client since her ex-husband, Mickey has been shot and is in a coma so can’t actually hire her.
Tracking down whodunit as well as who is trying to frame Kinsey for shooting her ex-husband is the stuff of a fine mystery story. The trail takes Kinsey back to the Vietnam war era as well as her own young adult years and rookie years on the Santa Teresa police force. We get to see a lot of what molded Kinsey into the person she is today. There are a lot of characters introduced in this novel as well as the handful of regulars and it is to Ms. Grafton’s credit that I was able to keep track of them as well as I did.
One thing I really like about this series is that they continue to take place in the 1980s (this one in 1986) with only a matter of a few months going by between books. This means there are no 21st century conveniences to aid in investigation like cell phones, modern CSI-type evidence gathering, or even what we all take for granted now, the modern internet and World Wide Web. Instead, Kinsey must rely on her blue-collar methodical, hard-work investigative techniques and she is not above engaging in activities that skirt or downright break the law. Her first person POV narration is often humorous, sometimes sarcastic, but always insightful, lending her a sort of everyman (everywoman?) approach and helps the reader to be empathetic towards her goals.
I continue to read these books at a pace of one per quarter year in order to be at the end of the series at about the time of the expected publication of “Z”. It’s certainly a good sign when I find myself growing impatient for the next quarter to hurry up and get here so I can get my Kinsey fix. ...more
The author’s name on the front of this book and all books in the “Stagecoach Station” series is Hank Mitchum. Of course that is a house name and the rThe author’s name on the front of this book and all books in the “Stagecoach Station” series is Hank Mitchum. Of course that is a house name and the real author of this particular novel is Will C. Knott, this being the first book of several he penned for the series. While he did write quite a few books under his own name he wrote many more books as an early and major contributor to long-running series “Longarm”, Slocum” and “Trailsman”.
I like to read a wide variety of books and often include a western in the mix to remind me of what good ol’ fashioned unpretentious story telling is all about. This book, like most westerns is filled with pretty basic characters, intent on getting along with their lives under often less than ideal conditions. It has danger, it has humor, and it has romance. Sort of like watching an episode of “Bonanza”.
Westerns are really a subset of historical novels but they get their own classification due to their tendency to have certain characteristics beyond the mere fact that they take place in the frontier western US post-Civil War era. Their plots are often predictable and their characters often flat or at least single dimensional. But still there is a sense of contentment when I read a good one. I won’t argue that this one is all that different but I will say that I enjoyed reading it nonetheless. It’s a feel-good adventure with quite a few characters (not all the good guys survive) and quite a few subplots all handled simultaneously by a seasoned author. All the individual stories are wrapped up nicely and when I closed the last page I was content. I was glad to learn who the real author was and will be sure to look for more by Mr. Knott in the future. ...more
This is a collection of 15 fairly short stories first written and published in the 1930’s. Erskine Caldwell won critical acclaim for novels such as ToThis is a collection of 15 fairly short stories first written and published in the 1930’s. Erskine Caldwell won critical acclaim for novels such as Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre but such accolades would be difficult to fathom given the stories in this collection. All 15 stories have the common thread of taking place in the rural South with the main characters usually being hard working farmers or laborers. Despite the cover art of this book, the word “passion” doesn’t always refer to romantic liaisons or “lusty women being chased by willful lads” as the back cover states. Often the stories are about a character’s passion for the task at hand, whether it be a business proposition, or gaining freedom from one’s conniving boss.
Several of the stories were pretty good but others were merely OK. A couple of them seemed to just die when it seemed the author could have really provided a cool twist or a clever ending. For Erskine Caldwell fans, I would suggest skipping this one and stay with his novels. ...more
Having been a fan of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series for many years, I have often wondered what she would do if she ever decided to write something elsHaving been a fan of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series for many years, I have often wondered what she would do if she ever decided to write something else. After all, this is a woman who studied English Literature at Brown University, holds a degree in Computer Science from Columbia, and wasn’t afraid to show her geeky side as a game designer on Neverwinter Nights. That’s a pretty awesome combination in my book and when she chose to write the Temeraire series, a fantasy/historical mashup combining the concept of intelligent dragons working as a sort of Air Force with wartime forces in the Napoleonic era, well…I was hooked.
So now comes this new novel and my bottom line verdict is that it is fantastic. It’s straight fantasy but absolutely reminds one of that nostalgic feeling of fairy tales you read (or were read to you) from childhood. After reading the opening two chapters I thought I was on my way into just such a fairy tale, but it wasn’t long before any ideas I had about predicting where this was going were thrown out of the proverbial window. The plot begins as a twist in the age-old concept of a young maiden being picked every ten years by the village elders to sacrifice to the dragon in order to buy its protection. The twist is that this time it’s not an actual dragon but a renowned wizard who requires the sacrifice. And he doesn’t select the pretty young maiden that everybody was planning on but instead chooses Agneieszka, our protagonist, and it is though her eyes that we see the story unfold.
OK…interesting twist but I still thought I knew where the plot was going. I was wrong.
No spoilers from me but suffice it to say that this novel kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. Ms. Novik is a masterful storyteller and knows how to pace a book to keep the reader hooked all the way through. Her use of language is perfect for this type of tale, combining the lighter fairy tale elements but also taking a deep dive into battle scenes with a hard grittiness that, frankly, surprised me. And the world building…this is how it should be done. It’s obviously fully developed but we aren’t bombarded with extraneous details that we don’t need. We can understand everything and how all the characters fit together but don’t spend much time with info dumps.
I understand this book is being marketed as YA although I confess to not really understanding the distinction anymore. The only thing remotely YA about this is the fact that Agneieszka is seventeen years old at the beginning of the story. Rest assured there is no “dumbing down” of the plot, the rich characterization, or the language/word choice. True, there is no swearing to speak of but there is violence aplenty. Lots of fighting action and violent deaths, plenty of creative use of well-imagined magic, and a tasteful but on-stage sex scene all combine to make this one a keeper. And the plot about the woods…the intelligent life force of the dark woods and how it consumes people…oh yeah…no spoilers. You’ll have to read that yourself.
This book is complete in and of itself. I could see how there may be a sequel or two (or seven) but there may never be more.
The third book in this series of cozy mysteries featuring family lawyer Jamie Quinn, her PI friend Marmaduke "Duke" Broussard, picks up shortly afterThe third book in this series of cozy mysteries featuring family lawyer Jamie Quinn, her PI friend Marmaduke "Duke" Broussard, picks up shortly after the second book ended. Jamie’s crush from high school, Kip Simmons, has now been officially upgraded to boyfriend status but he’s finding it rough going as the new director of all Broward County Florida parks. That’s a big job in the first place but when some prankster starts sabotaging various parks the finger of blame could point to any number of candidates. But when Jamie starts getting text messages from I C U and the dirty pranks turn into murder and Kip goes missing, well, now we have a real murder mystery story.
Once again, Ms. Venkataraman has authored a fun mystery read. Her main character, Jamie Quinn is endearing even when trying to accomplish too many things at once. We really want to root for her. Not only is she neck deep in the mystery of the parks but she is also attempting to gain a visa for her father who is stuck in South America and at the same time keep up with her clients as a family attorney. The regular characters are back and a few new ones are sprinkled in making for a good mix. I did figure out the solution to the mystery long before Jamie did but I suspect I read far more mystery novels than she does.
This is a quick and easy read and the author’s abundant use of humor keeps the pages turning. I hope the series continues for many more books. ...more
This sixth book in the King and Maxwell series was a bit of a letdown for me. I realize its publication, timed for the launch of the now-failed TV shoThis sixth book in the King and Maxwell series was a bit of a letdown for me. I realize its publication, timed for the launch of the now-failed TV show of the same name, required some compromises but the final result was less than ideal.
Former secret service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have long since overcome their disgraced careers but they remain struggling private investigators with apparently few clients. The plot of this book comes about by pure chance when they happen to nearly run over a terrified teenager with a gun and a wild look in his eye. Michelle insists on trying to help the kid who decides on the spur of the moment to hire them as PIs to look into the death of his father in Afghanistan. To me it was a clumsy start to a clumsy plot that would ultimately reach into the Oval Office and uncover an Iran-Contra style controversial government action and an over-the-top villain who, somehow, never seemed all that threatening. Honestly, this reads like a TV episode, complete with product placement.
However, it’s not all bad. Both King and Maxwell remain true to their root characterization from previous novels (as aggravating as that can sometimes be given their personalities) and there are some nice action sequences but overall the introspective moments seemed like they were being directed by a network TV executive rather than an experienced author with the high skills that Baldacci has shown many times before. A lot of short choppy dialogue was also included…which made me think this was an adapted script. Finally, the mere idea that the President of the US, with all of the resources at his disposal, would turn to two PIs to stop a major international terrorist operation as well as his own explosive political scandal is simply ludicrous. And the shocker ending was, frankly, telegraphed from miles away.
Despite all of that, I still found myself enjoying much of this book. I credit Baldacci's base writing skills with that phenomenon. While I had hoped for more from this one, plot-wise, I expect I will get more and better with other Baldacci novels. ...more
I've been going through some books that have been hanging around forever in my house, never read (at least by me) in an effort to thin the herd just aI've been going through some books that have been hanging around forever in my house, never read (at least by me) in an effort to thin the herd just a bit. I remember acquiring this one way back when I was trying out membership in the Science Fiction Book Club. It’s not one I would specifically request so I suspect it was one that arrived at my home because I hadn’t turned in the form in time that said don’t send me the three “special” books of the month.
And as so often when I read those sorts of books, this one didn’t really do it for me. Even though it’s science fiction, it reads much more like fantasy. It takes place in the far future on a planet called Destiny, settled by people from Earth who wanted to escape technology. The author certainly put a lot of thought and effort into the world building…way too much because all of the detail of the world, the vibrant colors, the strange foliage, etc. really got in the way of the story. The plot revolves around six children, the “Sunwaifs”, who have absorbed the essence of the planet somehow and have special powers. One has magical healing powers, one can command the trees and grasses, one child is at home with the birds, etc. That could be a pretty cool concept. The story covers their childhood through adolescence as their powers grow. They must not only learn about themselves but how they fit in among the rest of the populace and with each other.
The style can best be described as lyrical I think. It felt like I was swimming in a water color painting the whole time, constantly being bombarded with too many details of lavendar skies and golden sunlight, trying to grasp what was driving the plot and trying to understand the six children and what made them special. Unfortunately, the style didn’t help me much so I found my mind wandering a little too often and no doubt missed some of the key elements of the novel. That’s never a good sign but I kept plugging away just to see how these kids would end up, even though I really didn’t care too much. I don’t plan to seek out other works by this author but that is not to say that others might not find a better fit with the writing style and enjoy it quite a lot....more
After writing two prequels in the Mitch Rapp series, author Vince Flynn returned to the original timeline in this 13th novel in the series. I was happAfter writing two prequels in the Mitch Rapp series, author Vince Flynn returned to the original timeline in this 13th novel in the series. I was happy to see that because I enjoy the mature, take-no-prisoners Rapp a little more than the younger brash but fallible version.
Once again Mitch has his work cut out for him and his associates as somebody or some organization is out to ambush the CIA’s mission in Afghanistan. An invaluable CIA asset has gone missing, and with him, secrets that in the wrong hands could prove disastrous. Rather than just another save-the-world thriller, this novel allows Rapp to confront some of the ghosts of his past and find a way to deal with them. As always, not all characters are wholly good or wholly bad people but rather have different points of views on the right course of action to take. And of course it is always good to spend time with characters like Irene Kennedy, Stan Hurley, Mike Nash, and Scott Coleman.
Vince Flynn was taken from us far too early and this is his last complete novel. I understand author Kyle Mills (one of the authors of the Robert Ludlum Covert One series) was selected to continue writing the Mitch Rapp series beginning with “Survivor” set to be published in October of 2015. Two more books should follow. I have not read anything by Mills and have mixed feelings about trying a Rapp book by anybody besides Flynn. On the other hand I have just enough curiosity that I may take a stab at it.
To Vince Flynn: RIP my friend. Thanks for the ride.
If I were ever asked to design a college level course on “How to Write Crime/Mystery Novels” I would choose this book as the very first book in the cuIf I were ever asked to design a college level course on “How to Write Crime/Mystery Novels” I would choose this book as the very first book in the curriculum. Some say it is LeHane’s masterpiece and I would not disagree although I have read several of his other works and have always come away impressed, even when they are not perfect novels.
There is little I can add to what other reviewers have raved about so I will simply comment that this is not an easy novel to read, largely due to the subject matter. Violent crime potentially committed by characters you have come to know and care about is never easy and Lehane’s ability to make his scenes so completely real makes for some uncomfortable moments as a reader. The way this author can get inside a character’s head and allow us to know that character so completely is a testament to the author’s talent and results in a reading experience that will stay with me for years to come.
If you are at all interested in crime fiction then I highly recommend you read this novel. ...more
I’ve been reading Doc Savage books since I was about 10 years old but took a long vacation from them for no particular reason. As I get older, perhapsI’ve been reading Doc Savage books since I was about 10 years old but took a long vacation from them for no particular reason. As I get older, perhaps, I am becoming more nostalgic, but whatever the reason, I’m happy to be reading these treasures once again.
This one was fairly typical of the middle to later Doc Savage books wherein Doc's adventure includes only two of his five assistants: Monk and Ham. It seemed Lester Dent (under the pen name Kenneth Robeson) preferred this pair of companions for some reason in his later books. Perhaps he enjoyed writing them more due to their constant verbal sniping at each other or perhaps it was easier to write books with fewer good guys to have to bring into the fray.
Regardless, I always enjoy Doc Savage books and this was no exception. The entire plot this time takes place in Los Angeles. Most of the expected tropes are here including Doc’s trilling, his black light contraptions, his knock-out gas, Habeas Corpus and Chemistry, and Doc speaking ancient Mayan to his companions to prevent unwanted eavesdropping. All in all, a pretty good action-oriented mystery from the 1930s. ...more
One more stop is now complete on my grand sampling tour of the great fictional detectives of 20th century fiction with the completion of my first DeteOne more stop is now complete on my grand sampling tour of the great fictional detectives of 20th century fiction with the completion of my first Detective Maigret novel. I realize, of course, that a reader can hardly get a good feel for a character such as this by only reading a single novel of the set. After all, author Georges Simenon wrote some seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret which were published between 1931 and 1972 and there have been several radio and TV adaptations as well. But for all of that, I had never picked up a Maigret novel until now.
Jules Maigret, or simply Maigret to most people, including his wife, is a French police detective, actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris "Brigade Criminelle". The character is reportedly heavily influenced by real life Chief Inspector Marcel Guillaume, said to be the greatest French detective of his day.
Published in 1967, this particular novel, Maigret in Vichy (it has also born the title “Maigret Takes the Waters” in some versions) comes near the end of the entire series. Maigret and his wife are vacationing in Vichy where his doctor has advised he relax and engage in the lavish spa and healthful waters of the region. He notices a mysterious lady in lavender and when said lady is found murdered, the local police engage his famous detective skills to aid them in their case.
I will say that I enjoyed this reading experience more than I had expected. I found the style to be easy and straight forward and I rather enjoyed the leisurely pace of Detective Maigret’s lifestyle at this point in his career. It’s quite a different pace than the more modern day thriller/mysteries which I have been reading lately. The plot was interesting, albeit straightforward with some old fashioned hard work by the police required to solve the case. As a character, Maigret is pleasant to spend time with and I would enjoy doing so again. ...more
Technically, this is book three in the “Adversary Cycle” and also fits into F. Paul Wilson’s overall “Secret History of the World” but it certainly reTechnically, this is book three in the “Adversary Cycle” and also fits into F. Paul Wilson’s overall “Secret History of the World” but it certainly reads as a stand-alone novel. I understand the connection with the larger series is revealed in Nightworld, the culminating novel of both the “Adversary Cycle” and the “Repairman Jack” books.
This novel harkens back to the days when the author wrote a number of medical thrillers and that, essentially, is what this one is. The difference, of course, is the rather profound supernatural aspect here of the Dat-tay-vao, or The Touch where a person is granted the power of healing another just by touching them at certain times during the day. There is a price to pay for the person with the power and therein lies the essence of the plot. The author has experience as a doctor and this really shows throughout the course of this novel. My copy of the book also includes a short story prequel entiled "Dat-tay-vao" which takes place in 1968 and should not be read prior to the novel itself. It does briefly introduce a character that will be involved in the YA Jack books.
Overall, there is a little less urgency here than we find in Wilson’s later novels. This was originally written in the 1980’s but I read the updated 2004 edition after the author re-worked it into part of the larger series. The horror aspects are minimal; I wouldn’t even classify it as such. This is not everybody’s favorite F.P. Wilson book to be sure, probably because it is a stand-alone but I found it quite interesting and fully engaging. If you generally like Wilson’s work, then don’t skip this one. ...more
This is an historical novel taking place at the end of the gilded age in Newport, Rhode Island, home to the massively rich, both inherited wealth andThis is an historical novel taking place at the end of the gilded age in Newport, Rhode Island, home to the massively rich, both inherited wealth and newly acquired by robber barons and the like. It generally takes place from 1893 through 1897 with one flash back sequence used to show how one of the main characters worked his way to riches and thus justify his place in Newport society.
This period in US history is rife with change. Rapid changes in technology, political points of view, and world events led to an upheaval in social mores as well and so the setting of Newport at that time is a great place in which to set a novel. Just as in most of Jakes’ historical fiction, he constructs his stories on two primary levels. The up-front story here concerns a father and daughter of “new money” who aspire to build a mansion in Newport and become accepted by society there. It’s an uphill battle and a romantic subplot leads to trouble. Father and daughter don’t always see eye to eye on what the “best” future is for her. That’s certainly not a new concept but it’s done pretty well here. Jakes’ novels almost always have main characters that you want to root for but who often make stupid choices. But they do change and grow during his novels and that happens this time as well. The concept of “lies within lies” gives the novel a bit of a soap opera feel but also adds intrigue. The deeper story is about Newport itself. It’s like a character in its own right with the titular “Gods of Newport” being wealth and power and influence at whose alter the prominent residents worship.
As for the novel itself, I found it a little hard to get into. Lots of characters were introduced, many of them seemingly just name dropped for the historical realism effect. Prominent names like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Astor, Fisk, Gould, etc. are sprinkled throughout whereas less famous but equally real characters like Harry Lehr, Mamie Fish, and O.H.P. Belmont (Oliver Hazzard Perry Belmont) play actual roles in the book. As the novel unfolded I began to get more invested in the fictional protagonists and their story and by the end it was a pretty good read.
I suspect this is John Jakes’ final novel. His website hasn’t been updated in several years and he’s no spring chicken anymore. His early historical fiction (Kent Family Chronicles The Bastard and the North and South Trilogy) were instrumental in launching my interest in historical fiction in general and so I will always have a fondness for him even though I have moved on to more in-depth choices for much of my historical fiction reading. His last several stand-alone novels have not been so enjoyable though so I am happy to note that this one is a return to form in most respects.
3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for sentimental reasons. ...more
I think I may have enjoyed this one even a tad bit more than the first in the Walt Longmire series, The Cold Dish. That’s probably due to needing to dI think I may have enjoyed this one even a tad bit more than the first in the Walt Longmire series, The Cold Dish. That’s probably due to needing to devote less time to establishing the characters and leaving more time to developing the complex mystery plot. Of course there is still plenty of great character development here and really getting some good humor mixed in with the serious nature of the novel.
The story picks up a few months after the first novel ended. Christmas is soon to arrive and with it, Walt’s daughter Cady who also happens to be a practicing attorney. Unfortunately, a death at the local assisted living facility occurs and it turns out to be a case of poisoning…and we’re off to the races. I like the way the author mixes rural small county police procedural scenes with bursts of adrenaline-charged action sequences, all underneath a layer of well written character interaction that is just flat-out real. Several new characters are introduced, most notably, the former sheriff Lucian Connally, and a new deputy by the name of Santiago Saizarbitoria who is quickly dubbed “Sancho”. We’ll undoubtedly hear a lot more from these guys in future novels.
I can always tell when I am on to a really good series because I start to get all tingly just thinking about the next one, even way before it comes up in my power rotation. On to number three: Kindness Goes Unpunished....more
The first book in the “Odditorium“ series (Alistair Grim's Odditorium) was an incredibly fun book of magical adventure featurinThis was a real corker!
The first book in the “Odditorium“ series (Alistair Grim's Odditorium) was an incredibly fun book of magical adventure featuring a young orphan boy named Grubb and his experiences after meeting Mr. Alistair Grimm (inventor, fortune hunter, and some say mad sorcerer) and his amazing Odditorium. This second book picks up about one month after the extraordinary events of the first, and is, if possible, filled with even more of everything that made the first one so great. I do highly recommed reading the first book before this one however. Even though there is a nicely done summary embedded in the narrative of this one most of the characters and events carry on from the first book. Besides, why wouldn't you want to read the first one first?
I won’t provide a plot summary because it would start with revealing a major spoiler for those who have not read the first book. I will summarize by stating, as the title implies, we get to ride along with the crew of the Odditorium and its crew underwater this time in an effort to enter the gates of Avalon itself in order to acquire the fabled sword, Excalibur. Most of the characters from book one are back and a couple of new ones are added. All are interesting and Grubb’s first person point-of-view narration has an endearing way of making the reader care about all of them and how they are possibly going to get out of the myriad of predicaments that they get themselves into.
This is a book geared for younger readers and I am happy to see once again that the good guy characters solve their problems with intelligence, forethought, and courage rather than relying on some sort of magical trickery. The bad guys aren’t pushovers either and always seem to have another trick up their sleeves. The action is fast paced and kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. Part steampunk, part The Phantom Tollbooth and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it’s always fun to experience a read like this where the odd is commonplace and the impossible is possible.
I am hopeful the author will devote every waking moment to writing the third book of what I hope will be a long and successful series. Thanks to him for providing a free copy in return for an honest review. ...more
This book is a great example of a novel that I attempted several weeks ago and only made it through about 10 pages before putting it aside. It dates bThis book is a great example of a novel that I attempted several weeks ago and only made it through about 10 pages before putting it aside. It dates back to the late 1970’s and seemed like one of that era’s fantasy novels that was overly hung up on strange proper names. Most of the characters and places have hyphenated or, worse yet, random apostrophes and the book just wasn’t clicking for me. Thankfully, I only set it aside and didn’t discard it all together. I picked it up again this past weekend, invested a little bit of time in studying the helpful “People and Places” list at the front, and dived back in. Happily, I can now report that this read was well worth it.
Technically, this book is a prequel to Red Moon and Black Mountain, but it absolutely stands on its own. Events, evidently are centuries if not more apart. There were only two places where the city of “Ladrekor” or the larger world of the “Vandarei” is mentioned. I haven’t read any other books in this series but understand those places are key in them.
This novel demonstrates some of the finest natural world building of any fantasy novel I’ve read. In the “About the Author” section at the end of the book, she tells of how she grew this world in her mind from very early on in her childhood, refining it as she grew older. In this book, we are introduced to three distinct yet homogeneous cultures. The protagonist of the story is part of a sort of Plains Indian tribal society and it is his story that we follow. The plot is linear and the language descriptive and at times even lyrical. The plot is a bit of a coming-of-age story, often moving, and filled with triumphs and tragedy. It’s certainly thought provoking and I attribute that primarily to the outstanding realism of this fantasy world.
I’m very happy I went back and gave this book another try. ...more
This novel was awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1950. That is often a sure sign to avoid a book but in thThis novel was awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1950. That is often a sure sign to avoid a book but in this case I was drawn to the setting: England during the Middle Ages, as the bubonic plague is sweeping across the country. Young Robin is sent away to become a knight like his father, but his dreams are dashed when he loses the use of his legs. Since his parents are away, serving the king and queen during war, and the servants abandon the house, fearing the plague, Robin is saved by Brother Luke, a friar, who finds him and takes him to a monastery and cares for him. Brother Luke teaches Robin how to swim and carve wood and make a harp, to be independent and build self-confidence, but Robin also learns patience and strength from the friar. The friar tells him that before overcoming a challenge you must first find "the door in the wall".
This was one of the earliest attempts of a children’s novel to involve a physical handicap for the main character ever published. The expected theme of Robin fighting to overcome his handicap is always in the background but most of the book dealt with normal issues affecting all young people no matter what their circumstances in life, namely, trying to figure how best to “fit in”. The book does a good job of describing what life in the Middle Ages would be like without beating you over the head with it. Robin gets his chance to be a hero by the end and I suspect many young readers, even today, might find this enjoyable. ...more
This 13th installment in the Sam Durell series may be the best I have read yet. I have not read all of the previous 12 but quite a few of them and itThis 13th installment in the Sam Durell series may be the best I have read yet. I have not read all of the previous 12 but quite a few of them and it seems to me that the author has really hit his stride now. It really isn’t necessary to read them in order. Published in 1961, these books are a great alternative to James Bond, if you are yearning for more in that style. They frequently have more complex plots but equally high stakes. The bad guys aren’t always as narcissistic as the typical Bond villain and sometimes the plots are quite realistic.
In this one, Sam Durell, CIA agent working out of K section (the special trouble-shooting branch), is on the trail of what we would call “bio-terrorists” today. A deadly virus, refined from WWII stockpiles is in the hands of a former Nazi general who has power and revenge on his mind and is prepared to unleash it on Western Europe and kill off half of the world’s population. OK, that does sound a lot like a narcissistic Bond baddie but he doesn’t actually play a major role past the first half of the book. The title “Lowlands” refers to the setting of The Netherlands. That country’s amazing engineering feet of ocean reclamation is a major factor in the plot. Rest assured, there are still a couple of Bond-girls (Durell girls?) that do play integral roles as well. Interestingly, even though written at about the same time as the Bond books, there is a lot less sexism and racism in these books and Durell, due to his ongoing relationship with Deirdre Padgett, is usually a bit more reluctant than Bond to take advantage of willing girls.
I plan to keep on reading these books as long as I can still find them. ...more
Wow, this one really surprised me! I must first confess to not being a huge Superman fan. I don’t dislike him so much as simply tend to prefer superheWow, this one really surprised me! I must first confess to not being a huge Superman fan. I don’t dislike him so much as simply tend to prefer superheroes that are more human-like and use brains and gadgets to become super. Ironman, Batman, or, even better, the pulp heroes of yesteryear like Doc Savage are more to my taste. (And the Hulk. Can’t help but love Hulk). But Superman…nearly indestructible…tends to be boring for me.
I also remember back in 1992 when the announcement came that DC Comics was going to kill off Superman. So, maybe not so indestructible after all? This book is the novelization of that storyline as told in the actual comic books and, surprisingly (at least for me) is quite good. It’s told in three acts, (Doomsday, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen), each addressing major events of the story arc. You don’t have to be a comic book aficionado to appreciate it.
I was worried at the beginning of the book because, by necessity, there were a lot of info dumps. Many characters are introduced including the entire newer version of the Justice League, many of whom are not common household names for readers. Not being much of a follower of the DC Comics universes myself, I found myself frequently consulting internet sources to see how these people all fit together. That’s actually a good sign for me because when I started reading I did not expect to become so vested in the characters. The info dumps were handled pretty well for the most part, in the sense that most were done via short flashback sequences. For example, Superman would be flying along and see a particular building and flashback to the time he first met Jimmy Olsen. It seemed like there were a few too many of those flashbacks but now, looking back at the entire novel, I can see their importance because every one of those characters played important roles in later events and at least I knew them.
Happily, this book read like a novel, not like a pieced-together word version of a series of comic books. It had pretty good characterization, a complex plot, and plenty of action mixed in with well-written drama. I’m glad I read it. ...more