Friday, September 7, 2018

read: In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett (4 stars)

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the SandboxIn Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This memoir is focused on Carol's TV show. There are some new stories and many I've heard before. Hearing our old friend Carol tell them again, with enthusiasm and warmth, makes it worth the listen.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

read: The Razor's Edge (3 stars)

The Razor's EdgeThe Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On my second attempt, I managed to finish this. And because I did, I am able to change my rating from 2 stars to 3. This pretentious tale of upper-class life between the great wars has a certain charm about it. But I don't feel it has aged well at all.

The single best word to describe the story is 'contrived'. The author places himself in the center of the story. As first-person narrator, he's the bit of glue that holds it all together. But this, of course, means that he must find a way to either be present at every turn or at least hear about those events secondhand. And so he either contrives a way to be present or to get the other characters to freely unburden themselves and then have perfect recollection of their uncharacteristic soliloquys.

And then he has the gall to rearrange the episodes, meetings and ruminations into the chronology he feels is best suited to telling the story, rather than allow it to unfold in any organic way. This is on top of the archaic way in which he, as narrator, is telling us, dear readers, how and why he is doing this. Sheesh.

Of course, everyone speaks in that unnatural vocabulary that only a scholarly British novelist would put into their mouths. Even the Americans speak like Cambridge dons, except when they are constantly using the unrecognizable contraction "d'you" (as in "d'you really think so?"). All the characters sounds essentially the same. Except for poor Gray, who is consigned to rarely speak and then only in cliché (which the author/narrator explicitly mentions near the end of the piece).

Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. If you want real American characters, acting and speaking like Americans, go to an American author like Twain or Faulkner or Fitzgerald. These are just chess pieces placed onto a board so that the author can have a dialog with himself about philosophy and religion.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

read: Damage Control (3 stars)

Damage ControlDamage Control by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a pretty solid story that kept me engaged and turning pages. The prose itself is crisp. The characters and locations are well-drawn. The overall plot and twists hold together and provide some surprises.

But I have removed a couple of stars for several distractions. First is the general feeling that the story is overstuffed. Too many cool ideas kept competing for attention. It often felt like important things, like dogs and kids and jobs, got forgotten for long stretches. Then there's the implausibility of the main baddy's ability to singlehandedly keep track of and hunt down everyone he kills without getting caught. After a while, I just gave in to it. But nobody is that good.

This is skippable, unless you're a big fan of the author and a completist. Like me.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

read: Boundary Waters (4 stars)

Boundary Waters (Cork O'Connor, #2)Boundary Waters by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mystery, thriller, adventure, family drama, travelogue. This book has it all going on and had me turning pages as fast as I could. Country singer Shiloh has disappeared into the Boundary Waters wilderness of Northern Minnesota and her father recruits ex-sheriff, now burger stand owner, Corcoran O'Connor to help him find her. Then the FBI and the mob show up with their own motives to locating her and a local Native American and his young son are added to the expedition. Once the canoes head north, the bodies start stacking up and it becomes clear that there is more going on than a simple rescue.
The cast of characters are all strong and distinctly drawn, including Shiloh, who is not just a damsel in distress. The locations, action and Native American culture are vividly described. The plot twists are well-formulated and often surprising.
I liked the first book of this series because of its potential and its ties to Minnesota. I recommend this one because it is even stronger.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

read: Blood Orbit (3.5 stars)

Blood Orbit (Gattis File #1)Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book. I'm two volumes in to the author's (Kat Richardson) Greywalker series and starting to like it a lot. Science fiction is more up my alley, which made this an easy choice for me. After the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. A heavy-duty, noir, police procedural set in the future on a far away planet.

And then she lost me. The characters were still doing some interesting things. But they were sure doing a lot more talking than doing. The setting seemed like it should be interesting - terraformed future planet and all that. But the picture never came into focus for me. And all the complex background of the characters and corporate corruption was alluded to. But somehow I didn't really care until about the last 25-30% of the book. I was actually considering giving up about 1/3 of the way in. But there was too much positive vibe to be a quitter. Things did get better. I did finish. And I will pick up the next one (and continue working my way through Greywalker).

4 stars only because it's more than 3 stars.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

read: Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor (4 stars)

Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie ActorHail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bruce's earnest and irreverent voice comes through in this amusing memoir that just about brings his story up-to-date. It's all here: life in rural Oregon, making B movies for SciFi channel, making Burn Notice, remaking Evil Dead. Bruce is that guy with dozens of funny stories that will keep you entertained for hours and still want more.

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