Friday, August 31, 2007

Did not get to: Mini House" by Alejandro Bahamon

Did not get to: Mini House by Alejandro Bahamon, 2003, 0060513594.

I read the other mini house book but misplaced this one. Ater finding it and trying to renew it I found a reserve on it. I'll try it again later.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stopped Listening to: "My French Whore" by Gene Wilder

Stopped Listening to: My French Whore by Gene Wilder, 2007, downloaded from Overdrive.

The story is fine but the narrator (Scott Brick) is too annoying. He gives the character a whiny, defeated voice. I'll read the book instead.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Read: "Damn Near Dead" edited by Duane Swierzynski

Read: Damn Near Dead edited by Duane Swierzynski, 2006, 0976715759.

Pretty good. A collection of original short stories with elderly protagonists. Bill Crider has a story in here. Crider says, "Jump!" and I say "How High?".

Some of these were really good stories. Offhand I remember the story by Laura Lippman as being good but there is not a dog anywhere in the collection. I was just looking through to try and remember the best ones but they are all dang good so I won't bother listing any in particular.

I most liked the stories that connected the elderly person's past with their present; old secrets coming out, or old regrets providing current motivation. Those stories let me know a lot more about the characters.

Too bad the cover and layout are not up to snuff. The cover and illustrations are not amateurish but do make me think "self-published". That's not good. Also, I just noticed that the cover illustration is not a old guy dancing with a surprised young gal. It's an old guy raising the gal's hand high - to the edge of the cover - to hit a revolver out of her hand.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Listened to: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Listened to: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883 with a 1993 audio version by Blackstone Audio.

Good book with the same narrator as Kidnapped.

During the 1980s WGN used to show movies every Sunday afternoon. Usually the pictures were Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes features but I associate the 1934 version of Treasure Island with that show. I don't recall that movie very well but I kept comparing it to the book anyway.

Stevenson just keeps the excitement and adventure rolling along. First Jim Hawkins has the mysterious, threatening, and drunkard pirate at his family's tavern. Then Blind Pugh shows up, the tavern is attacked by pirates looking for the treasure map, the map gets to the local Squire who outfits a ship, Jim finds out that half the crew plan mutiny, shoot-outs between the two sides, castaway Ben Gunn meets up with Jim, Jim voyages across a bay in an unworthy boat, springs free the anchored ship with a pirate aboard, escapes the pirate's murder attempt, shoots the pirate, gets back ashore and is captured by the remaining pirates, another shootout, recovery of the treasure, and onward back to England.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Read: "A Nameless Witch" by A. Lee Martinez

Read: A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez, 2007, 9780765318688.

I got to thinking about this guy's books and thought a new one must be due. Well, I'm overdue because the book came out a couple months ago and I missed the release. I got this copy from Watertown and ordered one for my place.

This was pretty good. Martinez's other two novels Gil's All Fright Diner and In the Company of Ogres were both pretty good as well. Nameless is narrated by the witch of the title and the lovey-dovey aspect was a bit much for me.

Nameless is born undead due to a decades old curse by a dying wizard who declared the sixth born child of every generation to be a "...gruesome abomination. A twisted, horrible thing that shall shun the light and dwell in miserable darkness." Nameless' other problem is that she is a gorgeous, hard-bodied blonde with an incredible appetite for cannibalism - especially for dudes she digs.

Anyway. A humorous novel with a bloodthirsty demon duck, an intelligent ogre, and a White Knight (Defender of the Weak, Destroyer of the Foul, Sworn Champion of Decency, Avowed Foe of Evil). Nameless and company defend a village from a goblin horde and seek the wizard who sent out the horde. A good read.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Read: "Angels in America" by Tony Kushner

Read: Angels in America: A gay fantasia on national themes by Tony Kushner, 1995, cannot find the ISBN.

First off: I am not gay. This is two plays, Part One: Millenium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika. Since this is a play it was difficult for me to read through and get the full gist of things. I can imagine the characters on stage but my imagination certainly pales to the skills of experienced stage actors, directors, and designers.

I liked the first play better. Not sure why, it just seemed to say more. Neither one is not something to watch if you are a fan of Roy Cohn. "Carzy" Ann Coulter would be apoplectic watching this. The republican bashing is extensive.

Here is a good quote though: "What I think AIDS has shown us is the limits of tolerance, that its not enough to be tolerated, because when the shit hits the fan you find out how much tolerance is worth. Nothing. And underneath all the tolerance is intense, passionate hatred,"

Part Two is supposed to have a lot of comedy but I must have missed most of it. There were some good jokes I did catch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Listened to: "Sea Wolf" by Jack London

Listened to: Sea Wolf by Jack London, 1999 Blackstone Audio version downloaded from Overdrive.

Pretty decent but two of the main characters were really annoying at times. Part of the annoyance may have been the narration.

I've only read a few Jack London stories before, never a full novel. Humphrey "Sissy" van Wyden is on a ferry crossing San Fancisco Bay in a deep fog when his ferry and another ship collide and the ferry sinks. The tide carries a freezing van Wyden out to sea where he is picked up by the sealing ship, the Ghost.

The Ghost is captained by the amoral Wolf Larsen, a native Norwegian whose cruelty and disconcern for his crew is legendary among the sealing fleet. Rather than drop van Wyden off in San Francisco or pass him over to another ship Captain Larsen presses the bookish van Wyden into service as Cabin Boy.

Sea Wolf is part adventure novel and part philosophy discussion. Sissified van Wyden is a rich man's son who has avoided all physical labour. Under the control of the cruel ship's captain who was sent to at an early age van Wyden has to harden up physically and mentally to survive. Wolf and "Hump" discuss at length their competing philosophies on nature and life but - thankfully - those discussions are never boring.

It's only when the Ghost picks up the lifeboat of a sunken steamer and Ruth Webster is brought aboard that the annoyance begins. Wolf Larsen and van Wyden are both hot for Miss Webster and, since van Wyden is narrating, he has to ramble on about her beauty, and his love, and his suppressed desires. Blah Blah blah.

I wonder if I would have been as disgusted with van Wyden's gushing if I were reading the novel.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Read: "Mini House Style" by Rico Komanoya

Read: Mini House Style by Rico Komanoya, 2004, 0060589078.

I saw this book, or it's sister publication Mini House, at a bookstore last Christmas and then forgot the title. I was able to find it in the newly expanded library catalog and get both books from other libraries. Nice photos and design ideas.

I had a lot of complaints when reading the book but all of them are explained in the author's afterward. First off, there are some big houses of 1500 square feet or more included. Secondly, not all the spaces are living space, a few are artist lofts or modern building additions. Thirdly, several 'houses' are just experimental building and design projects. Fourth, a lot of the floor plans are obscured by house photos.

Most of the projects were built in Scandinavia and Japan. The truly small houses are neat to see because they are designed to make efficient use of limited space and they take a small area, maybe 800 sq. ft., and make it look bigger. Photos and floor plans of each home are shown with a standard set of questions the authors asked the architects.

The book started out with a strict limit of houses less than 860 sq. ft. But, the author ran out of homes before he ran out of book space. In expanding the criteria the author added in the larger buildings and experiemental ideas. To give credit, the larger houses are often placed on oddly shaped or small plots of land and required similar thinking on the use of space.

Some of the places are designed for full-time living while others are holiday and weekend homes. Some are wicked neat, others are very impractical.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Finished: "Blue Devil Island" by Stephen Mark Rainey

Finished: Blue Devil Island by Stephen Mark Rainey, 2007, 9781594144424

Pretty decent. Blue is a mix of an historical war novel and horror novel.

Set on fictional Conquest Island in the Solomon Islands in 1943. Seabees have just built an airstrip and quonset huts on uninhabited and mountainous Conquest Island for a U.S. Navy squadron of Hellcat fighter planes. The squadron is on their first combat assignment and led by experienced pilot Drew McLachlan who is narrating the story 50 years later as one of the last two survivors of the island.

Flying daily missions in support of infantry campaigns, the squadron starts racking up victories against Japanese ground targets, bombers and fighters. Back at the base things are not looking so good. There is a weird threatening aura around the island and distant drumming and a bizarre high pitched screech after a Japanese bombing run unnerves the pilots and the Marines of the ground crew.

As the squadron takes on air casualties the ground crew starts getting killed by local humanoid creatures. The short, copper skinned dudes have long, sharp claws and thick, bony skulls. Aggressive and violent, the creatures are theorized as a separate evolution from humans serving the supernatural being who inhabits the island and has been appearing in Drew's dreams. The pilots end up fighting on two fronts: against the Japanese in the air, and the creatures and "spirit" on the ground.

The novel is a neat look at WWII from a pilot's perspective with various conversations and descriptions of flying, air combat, and aircraft that are interesting. The terror side of the story is good too. But, I have not read any horror novels in a while and had to suspend a bit more disbelief than usual.