It ain’t easy – trying to PMP

Okay, so I am obviously not so great about updates here.  One reason, honest injun, is that I read really fast and I don’t want to half ass it.  The other reason is that I am busy studying for a certification exam I’m taking at the end of June.  It seems like that’s a long ways away but I am totally freaking out.  Hooray for freaking out.

So, in the interest of giving you something to look at, I’m going to do another quick round up of books I don’t think really deserve their own posting.  This means that books like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” won’t be covered in this one, but I promise to get to them this week with a better write up than these others are going to get.

So, enough begging forgiveness (did that sound like begging?  no?  well, it kinda was) and on to what little content I am throwing up today.

Oh, did I mention I’m not going to put up pictures?  Well, now you know.  🙂

*****

The Road To Omaha, Robert Ludlum.

Remember a bit ago when I did The Road to Gandolfo?  Same guys, back for more.  Same crazy General Hawk, same wussy lawyer Sam, different scam.  In the first one, they were kidnapping the Pope.  In this one, it seems that someone’s gotten their hands on some old agreements between the US Government and some little unknown Indian tribe and it just might be that that Indian tribe owns Nebraska.

Worth reading, a bit long at times.  It’d be a good beach/plane read where you leave it for the next person.  Strangely enough, the lady who read this before me did not agree.  In very nice cursive it says “Yuk! Waste of time.  Feb 93” on the inside cover.  Maybe, like a fine wine, it just needed some time to age.

The Road To Omaha by Robert Ludlum, 570 pages

*****

Greywalker, Kat Richardson

You know how sometimes you buy a book because it’s cheap?  Yeah, well, that’s my excuse.  Harper gets attacked and comes out with this weird ability to be in both our world and some other one where nasty half dead things lie in wait.  Oh yeah, this also means she can see ghosts and feel evil and so she decides to play with the vampires and witches and stuff.  It’s also set in Seattle.

Is is a great book?  Nah.  It’s mildly entertaining.  If you’re looking for the while “normal world meets other” stuff, check out the Sookie Stackhouse books.  They’re way more fun.

Greywalker by Kat Richardson, 341 pages

*****

The Broken Window, Jeffery Deaver

I almost feel bad throwing this in here because I really like Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  Have you seen that Bone Collector movie with Angelina Jolie and that other totally cute guy whose name I can’t remember now?  It’s also got Queen Latifa in it although in the book her character is actually a gay guy.

ANYWAY, this is that same series.  And this latest novel doesn’t really disappoint although they are semi formulaic crime mysteries.  In this one, people are being killed and other people are set up to take the fall.  As usual, it’s who done it.  The twist in THIS novel is that it’s obvious someone has access to all sorts of very detailed information about people and their lives, so it looks like it’s OMG COMPUTERS and BIG BROTHER all up in here.  Still, these are good characters and pretty good stories and I’d actually recommend any of the series.  Might want to read them in order though.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver, 596 pages

*****

L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy

You’ve all seen the movie.  You know what it’s about.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a “corruption in LA in the 1950’s” novel.  See the movie, it’s good.

The book?  Eh.  It’s okay.  I actually didn’t get anything additional out of it, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the screen version.  There are a lot of characters, and I found myself getting a wee bit lost… but I kind of blame that on trying to memorize silly equations for this damn test and having no gray matter to dedicate to this one.  On the other hand, I now know and understand that the PERT equation is (P+4M+o)/6 and that it’s the only estimating method that’s a weighted average… and that’s going to be on the test, not who Mickey Cohen talked to, so that’s okay with me.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy, 496 pages.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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It’s time for Ketchup!

I need to come clean.  A while ago I was worried that I’d read too slow and I let myself accumulate a backlog of books in order to make sure that you didn’t have a big gap between posts.  Well, I think we all know that there was STILL a gap between posts and I gotta tell you, that backlog ain’t blogging itself.

So, I’d like to catch us up with some of the less memorable books in one large post.  I’d like to point out that less memorable doesn’t mean BAD, just means I can cover what I want to say in a smaller blip.  This means that we’re out of order but you should get better reviews of the newer stuff I’ve read.  And honestly, if I don’t catch us up, I’m going to start to get lost.

So, let’s get dippin!  (Ketchup, dip, get it?  ah.. nevermind)

*****

soul_identity_small Most people believe that their souls live on past their bodies, but what if there were a way to identify and track your souls progress across several lifetimes?  You’d be able to pass along things to your future ‘soul self’, building a bridge across the ages passing along wisdom and valuables.  Scott Waverly is a security expert and has been hired to protect the company from a suspected insider attack, but along the way he’ll need to figure out what he believes.

****

Not a bad book.  Bought it for a penny on the Kindle and it was worth a bit more than that.  Amazon is selling it in dead tree form for $10 and I like my price better.  It’s not a bad book but not the best.  This is one you could easily take on a plane and leave in the airport bathroom for someone else when you’re done.   Not that I’ve ever done that, but if you found a mediocre book in the ladies in the Little Rock airport, you’re welcome.

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder, 268 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

little brother cover-small In the not too distant future, citizens are RFID’ed, computer networks are monitored and the illusion of privacy is just that – an illusion.  Marcus, aka “w1n5t0n”, is just a kid who likes to push the boundaries – putting pebbles in his shoes to fool the programs that identify you by gait and cracking the browser security on his school issued laptop.  When he and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus gets a deep and dirty look at the inner workings of Homeland Security and the Government that is supposed to protect us all from harm.

What follows is a perhaps too logical path to a 1984- like societal monitoring that Marcus and his friends begin to question and, in doing so, begin to recognise that the only way freedoms can be taken is to stand by and do nothing.

*****

Free.  This book is free.  I’ve linked you all to a place where Cory has released this on a creative commons license for everyone to read.  So if you feel like it, go grab it and read it.  My personal take?  Honestly, I think it’s overdone.  I get it, we live in a world where fear has caused the general populace to put up with borderline personal rights intrusions.  And it’s a slippery slope.  Most people don’t complain about taking our shoes off at the airport (really.. are you safer, really?) but now there are x-ray scanners that can see beneath your clothes.  I believe that things like wiretapping under the guise of “safety” isn’t right, and so does Cory Doctorow, but this book practically beats you to death with it.

And I’m probably tired of him shilling it all over the place.  Anyway, I suppose it’s worth reading, but I can’t say that I’m buying it for everyone I know.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  384 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

Scarface’s Burden – Joseph Devon. No fancy artwork.  No page count (honestly it’s short.  Like… oh.. short).  But if you like Jonathan Coulton and you like the song “Skullcrusher Mountain” you will like this little story written by an oh-so-put-upon personal assistant to a mad scientist.

http://josephdevon.com/2007/11/29/short-story-scarfaces-burden/

*****

beautiful_red Meet Jack.  Office cube dweller working corporate security by day, technological tinkerer by night, Jack lives in a ever growing connected world.  People are constantly plugged into the web and one of her best friends she’s never actually even met.  But when she notices that someone has broken into her company’s computer system, she starts down an investigatory path that will lead her to the Reds – a group of people who don’t share her worldview.  As she investigates, she discovers a whole new perspective and is forced to examine her own beliefs.

*****

Good one.  Another creative commons license (which means free, folks), I first tried to get into this one when it was on Podiobooks.com.  Side note – Podiobooks.com is really cool.  Free serial audiobooks delivered to you weekly (or as the author writes the next chapter) and it’s a great way to find some new authors.  That’s how I found Scott Sigler (horror author) and a couple of others who are starting to hit mainstream.  Check them out, it’s pretty cool if you like audiobooks.

ANYWAY, Wehm has created a world that I think is (unfortunately) a pretty logical evolution of our own.  Personal interaction is much less important than the online world – in fact people have implants that let them be constantly on network.  But you know if that’s that case, there’s always going to be a faction that thinks that’s not night (get offa my lawn, you smoochers!!) and this book paints that resistance pretty well.  Plus, it’s got some nice little twists.

You can download it free on the link in the picture, it’s short so it’s worth reading if you have time.

Beautiful Red by M.Darusha Whem, 164 pages (per the download website)

*****

black dahlia Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in 1947 in an abandoned field.  After her death, she was known as the Black Dahlia.  Her killer was never found.   This novelization imagines the people who found her, the police who worked her case and what a strange and tangled web the Dahlia wove around the people she knew.

The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, an ex-boxer and current policeman, he finds himself drawn into the investigation.  His obsession with the Dahlia and her story threaten all the important things in his life, and in the end he learns something about himself – and perhaps more than he wanted about some people that he cares about.

*****

Ellroy is the master of this sort of writing.  A mix of truth and fiction, he’s woven a mesh of logic and almost unbelievable fantasy (not in that whole fairies and wizards way) into a story that feels like it could have happened that way.  Ellroy also wrote “LA Confidential” (which is somewhere in the “read me” stack) and both The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential have been made into really good movies.  I don’t know what that really says other than you can have a themed movie night if you read both of his books.  Or maybe it means that he writes compelling stories… and that I’d agree with.

(If you get the book with the afterward by the author, read it.  It’s worth it for an interesting insight into Ellroys relationship with the Dahlia… and it’s not what you think!)

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, 337 pages

Watchmen

watchmen Does being insane mean that you can’t read the signs and see where the world is headed?  Do your demons get in the way of seeing the truth?  Does your ambition blur your vision?  What happens to citizen crime-fighters when they’re no longer welcome and can be used as pawns in a larger game?  And in the end, who’s watching the Watchmen?

*****

This story has so many layers, it’s pretty hard to put it into a synopsis, so I hardly bothered.  I know that’s obvious.  Overall, Watchmen is the story of “put to pasture” crime-fighters (in the Batman style, not Superman) and a plot to discredit them.  It covers 2 generations and takes place (mostly) during the Cold War.  But that seems like pigeonholing this into much less than it was.

The book that I bought (and have linked to) is the entire collection of Watchmen comics – I should say graphic novel – and is a really awesome visual collection.  Dave Gibbons inked some incredible images which are so critical to the story itself.  As always Alan Moore created characters with real backgrounds and feeling and enough complexity to rival any classical fictional work.  Interwoven amongst the main tale is also the tale of a shipwreck survivor and “historical” documentation such as interviews and newspaper clippings of our protagonists.  It’s a really excellent way to give the whole novel a depth and breadth that would be hard to do within the dialog without weighing everything down.

You’ve probably seen the trailers for the movie and after reading this I’m more excited than ever.  This is more than a comic book, more than a superhero story and more than what you’d expect when you open the covers and dive in.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 416 pages

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (4)  
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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

yiddish After the shocking collapse of Israel in 1948, the Federal District of Sitka has been the home of displaced and refugee Jews.  In the last 40 years, they have created their own world where their religious beliefs and their heritage can flourish amongst the cold Alaska climate.  But now it’s all about to come crashing down.  The District is about to revert to Alaska control and nobody knows what their future holds.

Homicide Detective Meyer Landsman has more to worry about than the Reversion, though.  He’s got a failed marriage under his belt, is working on drinking himself to death, and now has to deal with a murdered chess player.  To make matters worse, as he’s investigating the tragedy, orders come down from on high that he’s to drop the case.  What follows is a tale of politics, religion, faith and, possibly, even redemption at the end.

*****

I’ve tried to read this book about a half dozen times.  It floated around my apartment… taunting me.  So, when an online book club that I half ass follow said that this was their month’s pick, I picked it back up and was determined to make it farther than I had before.  And I’m glad that I did.

Chabon’s written a good love story/classic noir novel with a couple of great twists.  The main one is the setting – both culturally and physically this is an alien place.  The characters commonly mix in Yiddish words and phrases which makes it tough to really get lost in the story but does give a great sense of the feel of Sitka.  A word for the wise, there’s a glossary in the back of the book – something I really wish I’d known about 6 months ago.  The characters are well built with distinct personalities even if they do seem cliche at times.  I guess that’s the side effect of writing a detective novel.  Chabon also does a good job of describing Jewish traditions and integrating them into the story.

My one criticism is the writing style itself.  This book is written in first person present time and Chabon switches the tenses based on story need.  For example, a flashback will be in past tense – which is logical – but Chabon doesn’t always give a clear lead in to a time shift.  There was  more than once when I didn’t understand how what I was reading fit into the story only to finally catch that it was a flashback.  Part of that was my inability to truly “bond” with this book and I found myself easily distracted.  I don’t quite understand why that happened with this one… I like Chabon as a writer and was really looking forward to reading this one.

My struggles aside, I would still recommend this one for those who like detective stories.  Hopefully you won’t fight with it like I did – it didn’t ruin my enjoyment but certainly distracted me a bit.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, 434 pages

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 8:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Maltese Falcon

maltese-falcon1

Introducing Sam Spade – a chain smoking private detective with at least one too many problems on his hands.

It’s just another typical day for Spade and his partner Miles Archer.  It all starts with a simple case – a womens sister has run away with an unscrupulous man and she needs to be found and brought home.  But when Miles ends up dead, it’s up to Sam to sort through the lies and find the truth behind a ring of thieves, a fantastic and legendary tale, and a very special and coveted bird statue.

*****

I should fess up… I’ve never seen the movie they made from his book.  You know, that really famous one with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre?  In fact, the whole reason I bought the book can be blamed on Adam Savage of the Mythbusters.  I was watching a lecture online where he was talking about creating a perfect replica of the falcon from the movie and it got me interested in the story.  So, here we are… me having finally read one of the quintessential detective stories of our time.

Everyone knows the character of Sam Spade, even if you haven’t read the story or seen the movie.  I’m sure when you hear the name you get a mental picture of the smoking private eye in the shady office, leering over some poor damsel in distress who comes with hat in hand.  There’s a reason it’s cliche – this book started it, really.  Part of what paints such a clear and understandable picture is that Dashiell Hammett is a great “describer”.  When we first meet Sam, we learn that he’s made up of a series of V’s, from his chin to his hairline.  In fact, the last line of the first paragraph of the book is “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.”  In that one line, Hammett tells almost everything important about Sam.

I’m not a huge fan of detective novels.  Generally, I find them either too convoluted and contrived I can’t understand them or so predictable I don’t even care to see how they end.  I do like Sherlock Holmes though, and this book reminds me of the same type of story.  At times the language is a bit dated – the book is from 1929 so you’d hardly expect it to be completely contemporary – but it holds up nicely and doesn’t distract.  Also, the women are women and the men are men in these types of books… and while he’s written women who can hold their own, there are set gender trait assignments that evident.

The story itself is really great, and with the imagery that Hammett conjures,  I liked it enough to look up his other books and order an anthology that has a couple of more stories from the same time period.   I think that, at the least, The Maltese Falcon should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the detective/mystery genre or who wants to create a library of influential American literature.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, 213 pages

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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