Friday, July 28, 2006

Never finished: All the Way to Berlin, by James Megellas

Never finished: All the Way to Berlin, by James Megellas, 2003, 0891417842.

Good book but I must be burned out on World War Two infantry memoirs. Megellas fought in Italy and through the Normandy invasion and into Germany with the 82nd Airborne.

Megellas is a very impressive guy and has written an impressive memoir. But, after getting about halfway through the book I put it down and never got back to it. I don't want to start reading it over again to re-learn the first half of his story.

At least I was open minded and tried: "Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human" by K.W. Jeter

At least I tried something new: Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human, by K.W. Jeter, 1995, 0553099795.

Jeter was a pal of Philip K. Dick and wrote this novel as a sequel to the story in the movie and not a sequel to Dick's original novel. Either way, I tried it out and read about ten pages before deciding, "I was right, this is shit."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Read: "Star Wars episode I journal: Darth Maul" by Jude Watson

Read: Star Wars episode I journal: Darth Maul, by Jude Watson, 2000, 0439139414.

This is a short juvenile novel. I reserved this because it is about Darth Maul. The novel is written for an elementary school aged audience so there is not a whole lot going on. There are only 97 pages.

Narrated by Darth Maul, Journal, has information about his relationship with Darth Sidious, his training, his thinking and goals, his origin.

I'm thinking about looking around for other Darth Maul novels. There should be a couple out there unless Lucasfilm is still wasting the character by only licensing kid novels.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Read: "My War gone by, I miss it so" by Anthony Lloyd

Read: My War gone by, I miss it so by Anthony Lloyd, 1999, 0871137690.

Pretty good book, I'm surprised I liked it enough to finish it. Lloyd went to Bosnia in 1993 as a war tourist. His cover was as a journalist - a journalist without an employer or any job experience. The book covers his experiences in Bosnia and Croatia, his heroin tripping returns to London, and a brief sojourn to the hell of Chechnya.

Lloyd likes flowery language and description. He doesn't go too over the top though. His philosophizing is based on what he has seen and what he has lived through, it's not guesswork.

Lloyd was an officer in the British Army in both Northern Ireland and Gulf War One and after bumming around the world for a bit he ended up taking a basic photojournalism class in London. Unsure of how to get to the war in Bosnia he met a Bosnian family in London and asked for language lessons. From there he ended up getting into Sarajevo and stayed with that family's remaining relatives. Eventually getting regular newspaper work, Lloyd traveled around Bosnia covering the Bosnian government's army (Muslim) and the Croatians. Lloyd has little nice things to say about the UN - although he held some of the "peacekeeper" soldiers in high regard - and it's impotence in Bosnia. His regard for the European powers who sat on the sidelines is no better.

Lloyd's coverage of the second Chechnyan War deserves it's own book. Except such a book would be too disturbing and depressing to finish. Lloyd was not in Chechnya long but the widespread, horrifying and numbing atrocities and murders of Bosnia were a world apart from the Russian artillery attacks on Grozny. At one point 30,000 artillery shells a day were hitting Grozny and it's suburbs as the Russians tried to take the Chechen capital back from the rebels. I have little sympanthy for Chechen fighters after the many terrorist acts committed by them, but the indiscriminate Russian shelling was no better.

This book just confirms my theory on war. That theory follows: When in a war zone the first thing you should do is immediately leave. If you cannot leave make sure that you leave. If for some reason your exit is blocked, leave anyway. If normal modes of transportation are unavailable, leave. If borders are blocked, leave. If you have spent your whole life in that one place and all your belongings, money, prestige, and security have been there forever, leave. Above all else, the first thing you must do when caught in a war zone, is leave.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Just Read: "It's not easy bein' me" by Rodney Dangerfield

Just Finished: It's not easy bein' me: A lifetime of no respect and plenty of sex and drugs by Rodney Dangerfield, 2004, 0066211077.

Humorous. What a horrible family Dangerfield had. His mother was a complete bitch who never hugged or kissed him or gave him a present. When Dangerfield was a kid he would see his dad twice a year for about two hours per year.

Rodney struggled in show business for several years until he figured he should get a real job and ended up selling aluminum siding until his mid-thirties when he went back to comedy because he was so miserable as a salesman.

The day my wife and I got married - that was a beauty. I gave her the ring and she gave me the finger.

My doctor's a very strange man. I said to him, "Doc, what's the difference between an oral thermometer and a rectal thermometer?" He told me, "The taste."

Last week, I had a bad experience. I went to a nude beach. They kicked me out. They told me it's impolite to point.

I tell you, with my doctor, I don't get no respect. I told him I'd swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.

I tell ya one thing, my wife keeps me in line. No matter how many guys are ahead of me.

My wife and I, we both love Las Vegas. She likes to play the slots, and I like to play the sluts.

I told my psychiatrist, "Doc, I keep thinking I'm a dog." He told me to get off his couch.

Oh, the other night my wife met me at the front door. She was wearing a sexy negligee. The only trouble is, she was coming home.

I went to the store to buy some rat poison and the clerk said, "Shall I wrap it, or do you want to eat it here?"

Friday, July 7, 2006

Read: "Slocum and the Tong Warriors" by Jake Logan

Read: Slocum and the Tong Warriors by Jake Logan, 1989, 0425115895

A librarian mailing list was recommending different Westerns and said the Jake Logan westerns had either a lot of sex or violence. I cannot recall which it was but I found this book at Waupun PL and reserved it to try a Western out.

I assume Jake Logan is a corporate name. The novel wasnt too bad for a trashy novel. It had neither a lot of sex or violence but I have not read enough westerns for comparison. It did have lines like these though: "She straddled his waist and wriggled her hips seductively. When the dampness of her moist, hot nether lips touched the tip of his cock, Slocum groaned." And "Harriet's hips went berserk even as Slocum spilled his seed into her hungering interior." And "He grunted as he spilled his seed into her."

The storyline follows Jake Slocum as he robs a San Francisco opium den, fights off the Chinese gangsters, gets separated from the money, finds the guy who had and lost the money, hunts for the money while meeting up with a high priced whore, gets a railroad/shipping magnate homicidally angry at him, and eventually recovers the dough while alternately shooting bad guys and "spilling his seed" into the whore.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Just Read: "Run, Boy, Run" by Uri Orlev

Just Finished: Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orlev, translated by Hillel Halkin, 2003, 0618164650

One of the best books I have read in a while. Orlev's novel is about an eight year old boy, Srulik, who is separated from his family in Warsaw's Jewish ghetto in '42 or so. Srulik was digging for food in a trash bin while his mother waited, when he came out from the bin his mother was gone. Unable to find his mother and not knowing his street address, he takes up with a group of older orphans. Stealing at night and playing soccer during the day the kids decide to escape the ghetto. Srulik escapes, is separated from the group, and eventually gets to the forest where he joins another orphan group and learns to survive in the woods. Changing his name to the non-Semitic Jurek he spends the next three years on his own alternately living in the forest or working for farmers.

One time while escaping from German soldiers Jurek is crawling through a field and sees a man lying down in front of him. "The man was lying on the ground too. His hair was matted and wild and his lined, ashen face was covered with a growth of beard. Srulik realized he was a Jew like himself. He kept crawling until he was close enough to whisper: 'Get out of here! The Germans are after me.'"

The man was his father who had earlier escaped from the Ghetto and gone missing. In a two to three minute conversation Jurek's father gives him quick instructions on staying alive, tells him to survive no matter what, gives him a kiss, and then sacrifices himself by jumping up and running away to draw the soldiers from Jurek.

Under constant threat of capture by the Germans, Jurek's freindly personality, orphan status, and blond hair get him work with different farms. Captured by the Gestapo he is sent to work for a Gestapo officer's Polish girlfriend. While operating a thresher Jurek's right arm is crushed. After a doctor refuses to operate on a Jewish kid Jurek's arm has to be amputated. Jurek escapes the hospital with a farmhand's help and works his way east to be "adopted" by a Russian soldier.

At war's end Jurek arrives in Warsaw and is taken in by a Catholic family. Over the past three years Jurek has pretended to be Catholic and is confirmed alongside the family's son. Having finally found a family he can safely stay with Jurek resists the attempts by Jewish organizations who want to re-unite orphans with their family and culture. Forcibly captured and taken to an orphanage Jurek remembers his true name is Srulik and through the help of a orphanage worker remembers enough to return to his home village and discover what happened to his family. After university in Poland he emigrated to Israel, married, and taught mathematics.

Based on Jurek's true story that Orlev first heard at a university function in Israel. I wonder if Srulik and Solomon Perel (author of Europa, Europa) ever got together to compare notes.

20 Apr 2012 EDIT: Forgotten Books is linking here today, I re-read this book for a book club. My reactions after second reading:

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Read: "Ice Haven" by Daniel Clowes

Read: Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes, 2005, 037542332X

This is a comic book novel from relatively well-known comic book novelist Clowes who has a couple movies made from his stories.

I dont have much to say about this. This is a collection of stories around the theme of a kidnapped child. A loose connection of stories; a real loose collection. I may try another book by Clowes but I dont read many short stories and thats what this book is.

The idea of the kidnapper being an unpublished poet who kidnaps the kid to get his ransom note poetry published is funny.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Just finished: "Direct Action" by John Weisman

Just Finished: Direct Action by John Weisman, 2005, 0060757515.

Weisman co-authored several of the Rogue Warrior shoot em up series with Richard bat shit crazy weirdo Marcinko. After seeing a good review for Weismans '03 novel SOAR I read that and liked it.

Direct Action is like the Rogue Warrior series in that it is real didactic; there is constant preaching throughout the novel about what is wrong about U.S. policy and military/covert actions. Weisman has definite opinions and writes persuasively about them. I reservedly agree with most of what Weisman says, but the preaching gets annoying, and heck, what do I know about the CIA and military intelligence? I agree with the guy because he presents his argument as fact and the opposing side as folly.

Weisman really annoyed me when he wrote about the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing. Weisman writes this about the investigators in the 1993 bombing: Initial reaction to the bombing was that it had been perpetrated by a domestic group because the modus operandi resembled the attack that had brought down the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. What the hell!? Was Weisman half asleep when he wrote that? What other stuff is Weisman screwing up? Where the hell is his editor?

Yeah, this is a just novel. I should not treat it like a non-fiction book. But, when you weave in real people, real history, real surveillance and spy recruiting methods, and black out names and information like a FOIA document, and you have book blurbs about how knowledgeable you are then you should not stretch things.

Anyway, I still liked the book. The focus is on main character Tom Stafford who is trying to find out what a bomber for hire is up to and who has hired him to bomb what. Tom resigned from the CIA to work for the 4627 Company as an intelligence dude. The CIAs failure to recruit spies and gather intelligence means they farm those jobs out to private companies like 4627. Not a lot of dialogue in the book, it is mostly description and story. Not a shootin', bombin', punchin', bloody novel with lots of gun talk either.