Sunday, February 25, 2018

The New Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Agatha ChristieThe New Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie by Dick Riley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is an odd book. Let me begin by comparing it to another. Growing up, one of my favorite reference books was The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. Once I discovered the Twilight Zone, I couldn't get enough and this book was a great guide in learning about the series, but also letting me know which season each episode aired. I loved the short descriptions which included Serling's opening and closing narration. It gave you everything you needed to know.

Now this book makes it a great point in saying that they won't give away any of the murderers. So you have hundreds of pages (the vast majority of the book is summary of the novels and stories) that ultimately lead nowhere. If the description is supposed to entice you into reading the novel, well, it gives nearly everything away. Everything but the murderer. As a reference book, I feel it therefore fails. (Granted, the reveal would probably be best if it were on a different page or revealed in a section in the back, but it could have been done.)

I've owned this book for many years and the reason I picked it up was after reading a Christie book a few months ago, it reignited my desire to refresh my memory on those books I read in my youth. Alas, these descriptions really didn't do it for me. Nevertheless, I did kind of enjoy going through the book. Hence, my two stars. However, it is for hardcore purists only as the other articles aren't really that interesting. Ultimately, in the age of Wikipedia, there's really no need for this book.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Siberia 56 (Siberia 56, #1-3)Siberia 56 by Christophe Bec

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was like reading the comic book version of a cheesy B movie. What makes B movies fun, however, is that even though they don't make sense, they have fun action and cheesy dialogue. On the printed page, none of that works. Like in B movies, characters do things that make no sense. For example, they've been at this station for SIX YEARS and one day a team of scientists decide to walk out into the arctic wasteland to explore an area just outside their base that they've never been to... in six years!? And why are they walking? They have ships, they even have drones, but no, a walk into the wild where, of course, they're attacked by an invisible monster. See, the stuff of good B movies, but what's fun on film falls flat on these pages.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Miles: The AutobiographyMiles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book in 1993 (25 years ago!) when I borrowed it from my friend Dave. I remembered really enjoying it and from time to time would think about rereading it, but it wasn't until last month when I read the enthralling "Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece" by Ashley Kahn that I decided it was time to revisit it.

First, it is an amazing book, filled with all kinds of outrageous stories and anecdotes. And it's ridiculously funny, especially if you read it with Miles' raspy voice in your head. However, Miles was a very flawed man and he treated women horribly. He was misogynistic, abusive, and, as he would say, one bad motherfucker.

Despite all of this, the book is still incredibly fun to read and I would recommend it to any fan of his or jazz in general since he really takes you on a tour of jazz history.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis MasterpieceKind Of Blue: The Making Of The Miles Davis Masterpiece by Ashley Kahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a satisfying book. I took my time reading it as I would often need to stop and listen to a particular piece of music before continuing. Sometimes the music was a song that was a precursor to the recording such as "Peace Piece" by Bill Evans. Other times, I would have to stop and listen to the songs themselves and hear all the nuances the author points out that I may not have noticed before. At any rate, it's a book that can be read quickly, it's not too long, but really living with the music was such a satisfying and delightful experience.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hercule Poirot's Christmas (Hercule Poirot, #20)Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my younger days, I read several Agatha Christie novels no doubt inspired by my mom's love of mysteries. "Ten Little Indians" was always my favorite, but I ventured far and wide. And then, many years, probably as many as 15, passed in which I hadn't read any. One day I'm at the library and I see two worn out paperbacks sitting on the free shelf. I pick them up, read them and return them. They were okay. Over the next few years, my desire for a good murder mystery picks up and I occasionally grab one of her books. I find I still have "Hallowe'en Party" in my own collection, a book I always wanted to read (what could be better than a murder at Halloween? Well, after reading that book, nearly anything). Sadly, "Hallowe'en Party" was rather disappointing and hardly dealt with the holiday that it's named after.

I'd never even heard of "Hercule Poirot's Christmas," but nothing could suit me better than a little murder just in time for the holidays (I read this in December). But, as I suspected, the holiday hardly plays into the murder at all. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book. It's the first Christie book in years that had me thoroughly entertained. This despite rather cardboard characters and a sinister victim who seems to get what is due to him for his long and wicked life. I eagerly turned pages waiting to discover which character had the guts to pull off the murder and yet I was delightfully surprised by the ending. Despite all the other weaknesses of this story, if you're looking for a good murder mystery, I would definitely recommend it.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pirate UtopiaPirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was an odd book as it feels more like a really interesting outline for a novel where the author got carried away and included scenes and dialogue. There's an interesting premise here, but just as it begins... it ends. (The book is only 160 pages long.) Because of the new trend to write series, I was worried this was book one of many. I'm glad it's not, but at the same time, it's unfortunate there isn't more here. I was just starting to get into the characters and the unique setting which is an alternate history of the small city of Fiume just after World War I. Despite the interesting premise, it's not really worthwhile.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ages and ages ago, I remember standing in a book store and reading the opening paragraph of this novel. It begins thus:

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.

And I loved it. I loved it so much that I remembered it quite well through the years, often quoting it as best I could, having only read it that one time in a book store. Sure, I eventually picked up my own copy, I was a Bradbury fan from a young age, I even wrote to him -- and he wrote back! -- when I was still a kid. But somehow, I never read this novel.

Sure, I picked it up at least once intending to read it, but it was the wrong time. You know when you start something and it doesn't grab you. And I knew this book should grab me. So I put it down and I waited. (While finally reading this book, I found my original receipt. It was a simple receipt without so much as the store's name upon it, but there was the purchase date: 28.09.91. So it's taken me 26 years to read this book and it was well worth the wait.)

I always strive to read something appropriate for the month of October and this was quite perfect - an evil carnival arrives in a small town toward the end of the very same month. Two boys yearning for life and an old man yearning to be young. At my age, I can now relate to both vantage points. I'll never forget the words my grandfather once told me a little more than a decade ago, "I don't know how I got so old. I look in the mirror and I don't recognize myself." I'm starting to feel the same way.

But that opening paragraph still moves me as well. With crystal clarity, I can recall thinking that summer would never end once school let out in June. Autumn seemed a million miles away. A million miles...

But the book? What about the book? Well, you should read it. There are enough other reviews on Goodreads that can give you more details or further insight. For me, this book was many things, but most of them are, as you can already see, personal memories and associations that most likely won't interest you. So read the book. You may find it dated, you may find it boring, or maybe, just maybe you'll take a magical ride into a bygone era that will leave you wondering, "Would I have boarded that carousel? The one that could turn time forward or backward. Would I be willing to surrender my soul to be young again?"

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Day of the TriffidsThe Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books whose titles I would occasionally come across throughout my lifetime of reading, but never really knew what it was about or even why it was famous. Recently, I decided to watch a 2008 film called Blindness in which a strange, unexplained disease rapidly spreads striking people suddenly blind. Because it spreads like a disease, we follow its earliest victims who are quarantined, but much like The Day of the Triffids, it explores society's collapse. Because I found the movie so intriguing, I explored its background and found a reference to this book which I eagerly ordered so I could finally read it.

In some ways, it's classic 50's science fiction with all of its faults and favors. However, putting aside both of these and reading it in a 21st century context, I found it still held up quite well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the apocalyptic tale that quietly unfolds. In many ways, you could replace triffids with zombies and imagine a host of Triffid literature and movies (The Walking Green, Night of the Man Eating Plants) that might have followed. The parallel is there in that the triffids are dangerous, but they weren't the cog that caused society's collapse. They only took advantage of it once it happened.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past ApocalypsesThe Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses by Peter Brannen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm normally not a fan of geology, but this book takes a complicated subject (the entire history of the Earth) and makes it manageable. Even though the time span is truly incomprehensible, it's a mesmerizing look into the distant past and the titanic forces that created the world we now live in. It took me some time to read, however, as I kept visiting the internet to look up images and further details about some of the specific extinct creatures he describes (such as Dunkleosteus and Phorusrhacidae). Definitely a worthwhile read.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Future Noir: The Making of Blade RunnerFuture Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun book, but only for the most ardent of Blade Runner fans. The attention to detail is admirable, but occasionally off, and not always that interesting. It also seems, though it may just be me, that Sammons is in too much awe of his subject. No, not Blade Runner, but it's director, Ridley Scott. I think he too often gives him the benefit of the doubt. Lastly, there are two or three paragraphs devoted to its literary offshoot, cyberpunk, that doesn't even mention William Gibson (though it at least quotes Bruce Sterling). Considering how detailed the book is and how much it discusses the influence of the movie on other movies, I certainly thought this topic deserved a much longer section. At the very least, more than a few paragraphs! But I'm mostly nitpicking. I did enjoy reading it and re-exploring the film as I did so. During the 100 page chapter that breaks down the movie scene by scene, I often found myself returning to the source to look for all the hidden details I'd never noticed before. Again, only for hardcore fans, but a nice supplement for those who fit that category.

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