Ronald A. (rarendt) - Reviews

1 to 20 of 106 - Page:
Acceptable Losses
Acceptable Losses
Author: Irwin Shaw
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 16
Review Date: 3/3/2014


Irwin Shaw's first novel, "The Young Lions" was a WW2 story (his only real war story, I think) published in 1948 and was made into a very successful movie in 1958. I'm sure I read it sometime in the 50'sand became a fan of his writing then.

When I find an author I like, I end up collecting everything he's written and read the books in the sequence written. Since "Acceptable Losses" was published in 1982, I obviously have been through a lot of his books and have seldom been disappointed.

This paperback copy was printed in 1983, and ended up in my stacks probably late in the 1980's. I bought it at Half-Price Books, and the sticker says it was reduced in price to 98 cents on 11/88 so you can see it took me a while to work my way down to it.

It starts out with an anonymous 3:30am phone caller who threatens Roger Damon's life. Damon spends the next two thirds of the book recalling people who might have a reason to kill him. Shaw uses this device to give us an interesting and fairly comprehensive look at Damon's life story, with a lot of attention paid to his love affairs. When this book was written the term "sex addict" hadn't yet been coined, but Damon, who was quite good looking, certainly got a lot of sex, although Shaw is not one for nearly as much detail as we see from today's authors.

In the last third of the book, the mysterious caller does get a shot at him, but nothing turns out quite the way I suspected it would. I won't spoil the story for you, but the last third of the book is exceptionally strong. Even after 34 years of writing, during which Shaw produced countless novels, short stories, and plays, he still knew how to get the job done. I thought this was a 3 star effort, but the last third bumps it up to 4. For anyone wanting to sample one of the most prolific writers of the last half-century, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.


The Affair (Jack Reacher, Bk 16)
The Affair (Jack Reacher, Bk 16)
Author: Lee Child
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 214
Review Date: 6/19/2013


I've read all the Jack Reacher books through this one, and enjoyed them all, but this one is my favorite. I always had questions about how Reacher ended up out of the Army after seventeen years without any kind of pension; that just doesn't happen to commissioned officers; being retired military myself, I was pretty sure of that.

This book answers a lot of those questions by going back in time to the affair which ended Reacher's military service. One of his other books ("The Enemy") was also a flashback, but not as far back as this one. Till "The Affair" it was my favorite.

Child's books are always fun to read, but not great literature - one reading is usually enough. I was travelling last month and stayed overnight with my brother; I had lent him my copy of "The Affair", which he returned. As luck would have it, I left what I was currently reading in the car and was too tired to go downstairs and out into the garage to get it, so I started re-reading "The Affair". Enjoyed it just as much the second time through.

As a bonus, a short story about Reacher's childhood is included in this volume - also enjoyable, if not deathless prose.


Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography
Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography
Author: Andrew Morton
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 2/24/2013
Helpful Score: 2


The author , a "well-known biographer and leading authority on modern celebrity", does a admirable and seemingly even-handed examination on Angelina Jolie's life and exploits, although he is occasionally a little over-the-top (e.g. he repeatedly refers to her as "the world's most beautiful woman"; she IS very pretty, but who conferred that title on her?).

One quibble I have with him is his use of the words "brave" and "courageous" to decribe her behavior in her early years. She had, according to him, a lousy childhood with a nutty mother and a controlling father who couldn't get along with each other. Her respnse was a headlong flight into cutting herself, indiscriminate sex starting at age 14 (both hetrosexual and homosexual), booze, and hard drugs up to and including heroin - what precisely is brave and courageous about that? I'm speaking as a recovered alcoholic who has been sober nearly 40 years; I don't recall anything either brave or courageous about my drinking days.

He totally brushes of any suggestion that she might have gotten straightened out in AA or NA by describing her as "not a joiner". He also quotes a psychiatrist who claims you can be "addicted to heroin without being an addict" if you can still go to work. Sounds like dime-store psychiatry to me, except that I suspect the treatments this authority dispenses cost way more than a dime, and are not very effective - which does insure a lot of return customers and a guaranteed income stream.

Maybe if she had been more of a "joiner", she would have learned to live with less resentment, less fear, and less self will. Over the years she did a number on a lot of people including Billy Bob Thornton and Jennifer Anniston while trying to make herself feel better. I came away with some compassion, but a lot less respect, for Angelina.


The Art of Fielding
The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/22/2014


I read the trade paperback version of this book, and the thing that struck me immediately was the volume of favorable blurbs I waded through before I even got to the text - forty-one favorable reviews! I've been a voracious reader for more than sixty years, and don't recall ever running across this volume of slavish adulation. War and Peace didn't get write-ups like this.

I'm enough of a cynic that I wondered if it could really be this good. I started out very favorably impressed by the prose style and the over-all writing, but as I got further into the book I uncovered some disappointing trends. Maybe I'm showing my age and experience (I'm 75 and twice married - one bad and one good) when I say that I was a little dismayed to discover that each main character's solution to all his/her problems was having sex with somebody. I'm all in favor of a healthy sex life, but it is NOT the answer to every problem I've ever had.

I was put off by the rather casual acceptance of the school president's homosexual affair with one of his students - that is definitely not the answer to everyone's life problems.

I finished the book disappointed; the book gets 3 stars for the writing alone, but no extras for the gratuitous sex - both homo and heterosexual.

I've thought about the 41 blurbs for several months, and have come to the conclusion that they were written by critics who went out of their way to prove how homophobic they are not. This compares favorably with the liberals who elected a totally unqualified man president to prove how racially prejudiced they are not.

When I run across a book that I have a lot of reservations about, I usually refer to Amazon's reviews to see how far off track I am. 431 Amazon customers gave the book 5 stars, but 107 gave it one star - I'm not the only person who didn't think it was the best book of this or any year.


As The Wolf Loves Winter (Hemlock County)
As The Wolf Loves Winter (Hemlock County)
Author: David Poyer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 12/18/2012


David Poyer is one of my favorite authors. I have read nearly everything he has written up through the first ten novels of his wonderful Dan Lenson series; I have several here still to read, but I parcel them out, only reading one or two a year to make the pleasure last as long as possible. This is one of Poyer's earlier efforts, and I think this was the book where he really bacame the wonderful novelist that he is today.

This is the third novel of his Hemlock County trilogy, and takes place in a fictional county in north central Pennsylvania, a county with no large cities and plenty of wilderness area, where much of the action takes place - in the winter, as you would suspect (the other two books are "The Dead of Winter" and "Winter in the Heart"). There is a lot of very good outdoor writing and a "man against the wilderness" survival theme plus some murder and violence, several despicable villians, and a few corporate boardroom shenanigans. I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it for you.

This is a five-star book, like almost all of the Dan Lenson novels.


The Ax
The Ax
Author: Donald E. Westlake
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 12/27/2015


I've read several of the author's books over the years, and enjoyed them all, but none as much as this one. Very original plot-line, and plenty of suspense.


Balance of Power (Kerry Kilcannon, Bk 3)
Balance of Power (Kerry Kilcannon, Bk 3)
Author: Richard North Patterson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 86
Review Date: 6/17/2013


My copy of this book is in pristine condition because I read very little of it. I've been reading Richard North Patterson since he started being published, but his set of three Kerry Kilcannon books left me cold. I think I finished the first one ("No Safe Place"), but may not have. I know I didn't finish the second ("Protect and Defend"), and I barely got into this one at all. All three books cover the candidacy and presidency of the fictional Kerry Kilcannon, whose political beliefs are totally at odds with my own. It's bad enough having a real live liberal loon in the White House who seems to be working hard to destroy the country I love; I just can't stomach spending the short time I have left on earth reading about a fictional one.

That being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed everything else Patterson has written. His prose is excellent, his characters lively, and his plots usually hold my interest.

I read enough of this book to see that Patterson was about nine years ahead of his time when he completed it in 2003, since the main focus of the book is gun violence and its aftermath. You've probably already guessed what my position is on gun control. Having spent over twenty years in the military, I have an deep and abiding respect for the policeman in uniform, but that doesn't change the fact that the job of the police is reactive - they show up after a crime has been committed and do their best to apprehend the doer. I believe that when it comes to my personal safety, I need to be proactive - I need to take some personal responsibility. 9/11 and the brave actions of the passengers on United Flight 93 taught me that. They didn't sit passively by waiting for an air marshal while the terrorists carried out their plans; they took some action.

Patterson says in an Afterword that this completes his Kerry Kilcannon trilogy; I couldn't be happier - maybe I'll be able to finish the next of his books I attempt.


The Barbed-Wire Kiss (Harry Rane, Bk 1)
The Barbed-Wire Kiss (Harry Rane, Bk 1)
Author: Wallace Stroby
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 10/7/2015


Author's first book. I had his second effort in trade paperback, and when I read the rave reviews for this book on the back cover, decided I needed to read it first; ordered it from PBS and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lots of tough guy stuff. Set along the New Jersey shore with good descriptions of the area to go with a good plot and believable characters. Good escape read.


Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride
Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride
Author: Michael Wallis
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/8/2011


I bought this audio CD because I relly enjoyed "The Real Wild West" by the same author. The book was mostly a cut-and-paste job of quotes from other better informed sources - larded with lots of liberal editorializing. The content was not helped at all by the reader who did the audio CD. I doubt seriously if Mr McLaren has ever been west of New Jersey if his hilarious mispronunciations for Indian tribe's names and Western place names is any indication. He also had the annoying habit of trying to use a different voice for each quotation he read, and since the book had more than the usual number of quotes, it was pathetic. The author tries hard to convince us that Billy the Kid was just a misunderstood product of his environment, although he is compelled by facts to admit that he was a rustler, horse thief, and murderer.


Bitterroot (Billy Bob Holland, Bk 3)
Bitterroot (Billy Bob Holland, Bk 3)
Author: James Lee Burke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 64
Review Date: 10/6/2010


James Lee Burke is a top author, but after 20 or 30 novels, his books are starting to sound a lot alike - chilling and sociopathic villains, driven and haunted protagonists, lots of people putting each other down verbally and physically. When I say there was maybe a little more violence than necessary to carry the story, consider that I spent 21 years in the military and am not easily put off by "bllod and guts". Enteretaining and still has a way with words, bur I found myself flipping to the end to check the page count several times. I usually do that when I've had about enough and am wondering how much there is left to finish.


Black Fly Season (John Cardinal, Bk 3)
Black Fly Season (John Cardinal, Bk 3)
Author: Giles Blunt
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 2/1/2013


This is Giles Blunt's third offering, and, while not quite up to his first two ("Forty Words for Sorrow" and "The Delicate Storm") is still outstanding. I give it a strong four stars where the first two were undoubtedly five star works. If possible, try to read his books in order; although this book will stand alone, you will enjoy it even more if you are able to follow the development of the main characters.

The reason for the one-star downgrade is that the villain and the ending seemed maybe a little contrived, a little over the top. Still a great read, with an off-beat plot, and a book that might keep you up late at night, not just to finish it but because the villain is so scary.


Blood Trail (Joe Pickett, Bk 8)
Blood Trail (Joe Pickett, Bk 8)
Author: C. J. Box
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 50
Review Date: 2/13/2014


The next chapter in C J Box's Joe Pickett saga provides an interesting plot, good characterizations, and the requisite amount of bold and guts. I rank it as one of his best.

There's a small amount of sermonizing about hunting, both pro and con, but it only adds to the story.


Blue-Eyed Devil (Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, Bk 4)
Blue-Eyed Devil (Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, Bk 4)
Author: Robert B. Parker
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 7/24/2013


This was published after the author's death. I've read everything RBP wrote except "Sixkill" which was published after this book. There was a time when his work got four stars from me, and occasionally five, but his later work was becoming stale and boring. This book was slightly better than the last two I reviewed, but still not up to his earlier work. I'm sorry he's gone, but in his late work he was starting to show his age.


Blue Heaven
Blue Heaven
Author: C. J. Box
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 117
Review Date: 11/24/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This is the 8th Novel by C J Box. The first seven all chronichled the adventures of Joe Pickett, a Wyoming Forest Ranger whio seemed to goet into some new and exciting situation in every book. All three star offerings, with maybe one four (Winterkill). This book is a stand-alone work which takes place in northern Idaho, and has an entirely different cast of characters. The plot is ingenious and the action sequences are gripping. Like all Box's books, it is well written and entertaining. I actually enjoyed the book more than the last seven - maybe I was getting a little tired of Joe Pickett, whose attitudes and responses to situations had become a somewhat predictable. A very good read, and it was possible to get involved with the charachters, and care about what happened to them.


Blue Highways : A Journey in to America
Blue Highways : A Journey in to America
Author: William Least
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/15/2013


I first came across this book in paperback years ago, and thought it was one of the best things I had ever read. I raved about it so much my wife gave me a hardcover copy which I still have. I ran across the cd version 5 or 6 years ago, took it on my next road trip and enjoyed it again. Since then, the audio version has accompanied two of my friends on road trips, but I doubt that I'll listen to it again, so feel free to claim it.

This was William Least Heat-Moon's first book and probably his most successful though he has written several since. The "Blue Highways" title has a double meaning. The author, an English instructor without tenure, was declared surplus by the U of Missouri; at about the same time, he and his wife separated. He was in such a blue funk he decided on a long road trip to clear his mind. Since he detested Interstate highway driving (I do too), he set out to circumnavigate the continental United States using non-freeways as much as possible - these were mainly marked on road maps in blue in those days.

Much like John Steinbeck in "Travels with Charlie", he outfitted a pickup truck with a camper shell and slept and ate there for most of the trip, although his was certainly a much lower-budget endeavor than Steinbeck's, and I thought a much more enjoyable work since he's a lot less opinionated than Steinbeck was in his book. Altogether an enjoyable read/listen, especially if you can do it on a long road trip.


The Cat Dancers (Cam Richter, Bk 1)
The Cat Dancers (Cam Richter, Bk 1)
Author: P. T. Deutermann
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 8/21/2013


I've read all of Deuterman's books up through this one; he has been one of my favorite authors since his first. I'm probably prejudiced because he's one of several retired military who have made it big as authors. Like most of the others, he started out writing about what he knew best - the US Navy, but he has matured into writing great thrillers with very little military connec5tion.

'The Cat Dancers' is outstanding in plot, suspense, and character development. I won't spoil it for you be describing the action. Just let me say that, as far as I can remember, I've rated all of his books four stars. This one is a five! I usually read history during the day, but fiction at night till I fall asleep; this book kept me awake several nights past he point where I usually doze off.


Christopher and His Kind
Christopher and His Kind
Author: Christopher Isherwood
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 0.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/1/2013


I only got half way through the first track of the first cd. Had always wanted to read some Isherwood because one of my favorite movies, "Cabaret", is based on his Berlin stories.

I was stationed in Germany for three years, am of German descent, and am fluent in the language. I was there back in the sixties, when most of the Germans were still very pro-American, and I had a wonderful time - almost forfieted ten years in the service and took a European discharge to stay there, but decided I had too much time invested.

Much to my sorrow, I found out this book is a journal of Isherwood's German homosexual experiences, in which I have no interest. Call me a honmophobe if you want; I don't care.

My oldest grandson chose that lifestyle and died of AIDS in his twenties, a waste of a very talented person with a lot of potential. I'm still not over it.

Given the current climate in this country, I have to tolerate the homosexual life style, but will not waste my time celebrating it. If there was a way to submit a review with zero stars, I would.


Claiming Ground
Claiming Ground
Author: Laura Bell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 11/12/2013


I'm going too say something which will probably annoy at least 50% of PBS members; as a rule I don't much care for female authors. There are excaptions - female authors I love: Margaret Atwood (occasionally), Annie Proulx (90% of the time), Barbara Tuchman (all the time).

I make no apologies for this; it's just the way I am, possibly because of my background. I graduated from an all-male Jesuit high school, then spent over 21 years in the military. I was single the first ten years and lived in the barracks (no co-ed barracks in those days). During my first marriage I spent 15 months in Korea without my wife, and a considerable amount of time separated from her while I was in the states - obviously not a very good marriage. I ended it after seven years. After a brief period of bachelorhood, my second marriage, which was very good, lasted 35 years till my died in 2010.

In my opinion, most female authors spend a lot of time describing how their female characters are dressed and how rooms are furnished. They are also mostly coming from another planet (the Mars/Venus thing). What really blows me away is when they try to get in a male character's head and attempt to think, talk, and act male (e.g. Gillian Flynn's best-seller "Gone Girl" which I was unable to finish although my brother thought it was great.

Having said all that, I loved Laura Bell's memoir; she shows a real feel for my favorite part of the country (Wyoming and Montana), and has a tremendous way with words. Her prose sometimes is almost poetry (which I don't normally even care for - go figure). I think she's a great writer and eagerly await her next offering. Her first book is now part of my permanent collection, along with Proulx and Tuchman.


Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove, Bk 4)
Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove, Bk 4)
Author: Larry McMurtry
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 80
Review Date: 3/26/2010


Larry McMurtry is the most exasperating author I've ever read. Some of his early work ("The Last Picture Show", "Leaving Cheyenne", "Horseman, Pass By") is so good I have read it more than once, and watch the movies based on the books ("Last Picture Show", "Loving Molly", "Hud") over and over. "Lonesome Dove" was a classic, the only Western to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. However, he has also written some awful trash - three of his books ("Somebody's Darling", "Cadillac Jack" and "The Desert Rose") are often referred to as The Trash Trilogy.

McMurtry has written several sequels and prequels to "Lonesome Dove", and I've started all of them, but never finished a one, including this book. His sequels to "The Last Picture Show" were equally bad or worse. I conclude that McMurtry enjoys the results of writing (fame and money) more than the actual writing. Once he hits on a successful formula, he cranks out sequels to keep the income stream flowing with little regard for quality. The only worthwhile things he has written in thge last ten years are "Driving America's Highways" and the screenplay for the movie "Brokeback Mountain" based on Annie Proulx lovely novella. He won an Oscar for that, and deserved it.


The Comfort of Strangers
The Comfort of Strangers
Author: Ian McEwan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 9/11/2015


One of the author's earlier works. Very well written. He has a gift for description, and a subtle way of introducing a sense of foreboding into the story as it goes along. The climax is eye-popping, but not for the faint of heart. Definitely not a book I will forget soon.

If there was a way to do it, I'd give it three and a half stars - it's a cut above average, but not quite up to the standard I set for books I keep because I might want to re-read them someday.


1 to 20 of 106 - Page: