Friday, January 2, 2015

Hey, Look, I'm Posting This From my Kindle

Not that I'll make it a habit - I'm not terribly fond of the virtual keyboard. But it's good to know I can do it should I choose to do so.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year

Another day, another month, another year, and another attempt to dust this blog off and resurrect it again.  Yeah, yeah, I've said that before, but this time, well, I won't say I mean it because I've meant it all those other times before.  Let's just say here's another renewed commitment to tend this blog and let it go at that.  Let's see where the new year takes us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehfrengraf - Book Review

I wanted to like this one - it's no secret I'm a fan of Lawrence Block and since I knew everyone would be reading his A Walk Among the Tombstones in anticipation of the movie (you've read the book, haven't you?  And seen the excellent move?  No?  Take my advice:  treat yourself to both.), I wanted to try something of his I hadn't read.  I was familiar with this character and may have even read an Ehfrengraf story or two in the dim past so I thought, why not?  Block hasn't let me down yet.

And he hasn't let me down with this book, either, I guess.  It's just not my thing.  Ehfrengraf is a defense attorney who, well, like the title says, defends the innocent.  Even if they're guilty.  And he'll stop at nothing to prove their innocence.  Which is the hook - how will Ehfrengraf be able to prove his client's innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence?  He's no Perry Mason and his methods are unconventional to say the least but after a story or two, you get what this is all about.  While he may come across as dapper and charming, he's a sociopath and I have no desire to read about sociopaths.

Block is skillful as always, keeping the action offstage but telling the stories in a way to keep you interested and so I admired that.  But I have to admit, I found myself trudging to the end and if it weren't for my goal to give the entire book a chance, I wouldn't have given the entire book a chance.  Block is a great writer.  This isn't a great book.

(I bought the Kindle version - I'm not sure there's a print edition - and I'm not sure if I'm pleased with the experience.  It's there on my Kindle if I want to re-read it again but I won't so now what do I do with it?)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tatiana: Book Review

Tatiana is the latest in the Arkady Renko series written by Martin Cruz Smith.  (I mentioned briefly here the last book I'd read in the series.  To see all of my reviews on this series, click here.  Yeah, I like 'em.)  I liked this one as well as any in the series - no, it can't compare to the first but then none of them can - and you wouldn't do badly if you decided to dip in at this point.  As with all series, the asides and digressions will catch you up on who's who and what's happening but if you've been following the series, you may find these explanations tedious.  I did but then I always find these sections of a series book to be tedious.

Yep, there's a good mystery to be solved at the core and you'll probably figure it out before Renko does but go along for the ride anyway if you want to see the corruption of modern-day Russia and learn something along the way about Kaliningrad and chess and code-breaking and even high-class racing bicycles.  Smith's (Cruz Smith's? - I never know where to look for his books, under the C's or the S's) writing is smooth and swift and the story carries you along to a, well, not very spine-tingling climax but then you really didn't another shoot out did you?  No complaints:  the loose ends are tied up and all the characters accounted for and the pieces left in place for the next Arkady Renko adventure.

I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Books I've Read

According to this blog, it's been well over a year since I've read a book but that presumes a truth to the philosophical question:  if a book review is unposted, does that mean a book hasn't been read?

Ha!  I've read books.  I just haven't posted about them.  Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I've read in the last 16 months or so:

Stephen Hunter's latest Sniper's Honor.  Bob Lee Swagger learns about a Russian, female sniper from World War II which, of course, has modern day repercussions.  Plenty of shooting and sniper lore and a harrowing, surrealistic battle scene between Nazi tanks and Commie tanks.  You haven't read anything like this before.
Lawrence Block's The Thief Who Counted The Spoons.  Delightful, but then the whole series is which meant I had to re-read the other 10 Bernie Rhodenbarr novels in the series to confirm it. and that lead me to re-read A Ticket to the Boneyard, which is anticipation of the upcoming movie of his book, A Walk Among the Tombstones which should be pretty good.  I mean, it's Liam Neeson against the bad guys.  What more could you want?
For some reason I turned back to Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park.  I've blogged here about the rest of the series but you don't really know how good the first was until you go back there and see for yourself what Smith managed to do.  As good as the series is, the first is the best.  
I don't know why I read Robert Harris' The Ghost.  I've like his other stuff:  FatherlandEnigma, and Pompeii, all of which I must've read before this blog since I don't see where I posted my thoughts on these before.  But I'd blogged about the movie, which I liked, despite many reasons not to, and I read the Kindle version which means I must've gotten a deal on it.  Whatever.  I enjoyed it.  I especially liked the behind-the-scenes look at ghost-writing and the publishing world.  Nice twist at the end, too.
Both volumes of Hemingway's Complete Letters.  (Link goes only to the first volume but you can get to the second volume from there.)  Sorry.  For aficionados only.  

So by my count that's 17 books or a little over a book a month.  Not much of a pace but it'll do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Holy, moly, it's been a lifetime since I've updated here.  Blake was good enough to challenge me for the funny stuff last month and though I'm loathe to disappoint him, looking back over these posts I see there's a disappointing amount of funny and an overwhelming amount of banality.  Sorry, friend Blake.  Let me try to do better.

I started this blog for a reason - I just can't remember what it was.  Oh, right.  Here's the reason.  And here's the first post, six long years ago.  And here's a secret:  I'd actually started this blog way before that first post.  For some reason, I'd deleted the first version and so the first posts are now down the memory hole.

I've title this post "Blogging" and tagged it that way as well, but I see I've used that tag 82 times - 83, now - and I seem to blog a dismayingly amount about not blogging.  Which I'm doing now.  But with Twitter and Facebook, has blogging become obsolete?

Could be.  Those social media platforms offer a lot and I've found myself over there to be far more active than I have been over here.  Why?  I can't rightly say.  Both platforms offer an immediacy, and an audience, that I don't get over here on Blogger but this blog is where I started and I really should either stoke the fires over here or give it up altogether.

Which is all to say, I really need to get back to blogging.  Some things just won't work on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I went out to get chocolate malts for everyone and I noticed the Blockbuster next to our local Braums was closed and for good.  I know, I know, the Blockbuster closings happened long ago but the boarded up windows brought the sense of finality home.  And I was struck, too, that this was the end of something more than just an obsolete method of entertainment delivery.  No longer would there be those thrilling days of when you having two little girls race excitedly among the aisle looking for the one - okay, two, all right, three - VHS tapes, and later, DVDs - that would mark the beginning of a long weekend or the threat of a snowstorm or any other reason that would find us in that store.  We'd stopped going there a long time ago and we weren't the only ones who'd stopped going and after a lot of not going the reason for the demise of Blockbuster becomes pretty clear.  And those little girls are grown up now and we get our videos on demand through our cable service so there's a lot that's long, long gone.

And then The Byrds' Turn Turn Turn pops up on Pandora on the way out of the parking lot and pretty much sums up this entire post.  That season is gone.  Time for new seasons.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming - Book Review

Rod Dreher, in his very moving elegy to his sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, wants you to know this about her:
A long time ago - I must have been about seven years old, which would have made Ruthie five - I did something rotten to her.  What it was, I can't remember.  I teased her all the time, and she spent much of her childhood whaling the tar out of me for it.  Whatever happened that time, though, must have been awful, because our father told me to go lie down on my bed and wait for him.  The could mean only one thing:  that he was going to deliver one of his rare but highly effective spankings, with his belt.
I cannot recall what my offense was, but I well remember walking down the hallway and climbing onto the bed, knowing full well that I deserve it.  I always did.  Nothing to be done but to stretch out, face down  and take what I had coming.
And then it happened.  Ruthie ran into the bedroom just ahead of Paw and, sobbing, threw herself across me.
"Whip me!" she cried.  "Daddy, whip me!"
Paw gave no spanking that day.  He turned and walked away.  Ruthie left too.  There I sat, on the bed, wondering what had just happened.
Forty years later, I still do.
What follows is the story not only of Ruthie and her Little Way of living a Christ-like life in the face of certain death, but a portrait of Dreher's family, the town - St Francisville, Louisiana - in which he was born, and the people with whom he grew up.  Dreher explores the evolution of his faith and his tendency to over-intellectualize everything and compares it with his sister's simpler, more straightforward approach to hers.  It's the difference between thinking about living a good life and actually living that life.

I was an admirer of Dreher's when he was with National Review but I lost track of him during his Crunchy Con days and when he moved on to write editorials for The Dallas Morning News.  I don't know how I found him again but it was shortly after the death of Ruthie and I've been following the living and the writing of this book since its inception.  Dreher bothers me at times with his intellectualism but there's no doubt of his feelings for his sister or his faith in Christ.  This book is a work of love for both.

You're guaranteed to weep.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Third Bullet - Book Review

Goodness me, has it really been over four months since I last posted a book review?  I suppose it has, though I must admit to having re-read Stephen Hunter's Soft Target during that time.  Is that all?  I guess so.  But it's more a testament to my inability to find anything worth reading rather than being too busy to read anything.  And if I don't post about it, it didn't happen.  So I'll have to plead guilty and try to do a better job and read more books.

So since the last book I've read was by Stephen Hunter, it seems only appropriate that I've come roaring back with Stephen Hunter's latest, The Third Bullet.  A tale of the Kennedy assassination, Hunter isn't a conspiracy theorist and claims to be an believer in the Warren Commission Report and Bugliosi's and Posner's conspiracy debunking but he takes the set of known facts, looks at them through the eyes of a well-seasoned sniper, twists a motive here, adds a character there, and gives us an entirely plausible new theory to ponder.  Sure, it's fiction, but why couldn't things have happened the way Hunter describes?  (Hunter has some fun with the conspiracy theorists by detailing one theory of how a second shooter came from the future, a plot device right out of Terminator.  And, if you think about it, it's not too far-fetched.  If you believe in time travel.)

But forget all that.  You want to know if Hunter brings the shoot-em-ups and the best writing you're likely to find on guns and ammunition and sniper-ing.  Dang straight he does.  He takes great delight in killing off his first victim - a thriller-writer whose series' main character is a lot like Swagger.  Hmmm.  Who could this be?  (In interviews, Hunter denies any other purpose than to get the plot a'rollin'.  I think he's a bit too self-satisfied with that explanation.)  But most importantly, Hunter brings back Bob Lee Swagger and even for a few lines Swagger's father, Earl.  Fans, like me, of the Swagger mythos will rejoice and believe the ultimate reason why Swagger investigates the assassination:  no, not because of Kennedy but because of another government official who, like Swagger's daddy, was gunned down while doing his duty.

A slam-bang effort at taking another look at a popular myth.  (Okay, not myth - the assassination actually happened - but the events of that dreadful day have reached a near-myth level in this country.)