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Ron K. (WhidbeyIslander) - , - Reviews

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11/22/63
11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 96
Review Date: 8/18/2014


Well written and interesting although if you think about it too closely it all falls apart. Plus, as usual, King pads the story with tons of extraneous crap that doesn't move the story along. Probably more interesting if you are old enough to have experienced 11/22/63 itself.


The 12:30 from Croydon (aka Willful and Premeditated) (Inspector French, Bk 11)
Review Date: 4/24/2019


A little too long, but kept my interest. If you are expecting a mystery along the line of Christie's "Death In The Clouds," it might disappoint. The death does occur on a cross-channel flight, but 90% of the book recounts how the murderer plans and carries out the murder. You go along with him on his scheme, and feel what he feels as he first thinks he is going to get away with it, then live with him through his trial up until the verdict. The last chapters tell how Inspector French came to suspect the killer and how he put his case together (and explains some points both you and the killer were wondering about.) It's a well constructed tale for those into police procedurals.


1632 (Assiti Shards, Bk 1)
1632 (Assiti Shards, Bk 1)
Author: Eric Flint
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 133
Review Date: 10/8/2022


I was sort of dreading picking this up, and half expected to not finish it given its length of 500+ pages. But the writing drew me in immediately as the main characters are introduced. The âeventâ occurs pretty quickly and follows the townsmen as they discover they â⦠don't think we're in West Virginia anymore, Toto.â (which is a quote from the book.)

Then we are given a brief but somewhat confusing history lesson about Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and the war ravaging Germany at the time. (I looked up this period on Wikipedia for more background, and portraits of some of the historical characters, although this hit me with what I thought was a sort of spoiler, so take care.) Then we return to the modern town and follow how they adapt to the whole mess.

There is a little too much of the romance involved between modern and 1632 characters as we follow along on how the âAmericansâ plan to survive in their new world. I skimmed over some pages telling us about the July 4th parade and the first wedding in the new world â neither of which moved the plot along, but helped pad the book. I also skipped over the long and tedious descriptions of battles, and came to the realization that my initial feeling was in fact correct and this was way too long and filled with unimportant details and romantic couplings, and did I mention battles?

If you are familiar with the Butterfly Affect, you might wonder, as I did, how killing hundreds of men who might have been great, great, great, great, great grandfathers of 20th century people would change the world that the Americans came from. Maybe even cause many of them of German ancestry to not exist. I kept expecting some of the modern characters to simply disappear as their ancestors were obliterated.

Since there are many sequels available I assume readers find out how this new United States impacts history, but I don't plan to find out.

Again, if you are into the 30 Years War, go for it; but Wikipedia will get you quicker to reading the next book on your list.


The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 6/6/2022


Yup, interesting concept and like the author states in the "Conversation with..." a spreadsheet would help keep all the characters and their actions straight in your mind as you read. It becomes a little frustrating halfway through but does pick up near the end.


The 8 Mansion Murders
The 8 Mansion Murders
Author: Takemaru Abiko
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/10/2024


An OK locked-room (sort of) mystery set in Japan. As usual in these Japanese books I had some confusion keeping the characters straight in my mind (my deficit, not the author's.) A cast of characters is provided, which helped. (And the origin of some Japanese given names was interesting.)

The explanation of how the murders occur was clever (and supported by many illustrations,) but I just found the whole experience lacking. The "locked-room lecture" given by the brother of the detective (and why were his siblings allowed so much leeway?) was a bit boring, especially to someone familiar with Carr's The Three Coffins and other Golden Age mysteries with impossible crimes outlined.

Not a total failure and breezily written (or translated).


The Absent One (Department Q, Bk 2)
The Absent One (Department Q, Bk 2)
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen, K. E. Semmel (Translator)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 4/27/2021


Carl can still be a jerk, but some of the other characters in this dark tale make him look like a saint in comparison. Not a "whodunit," more of a police procedural (and a lot of the detecting is done by Carl's helper Assad). Some unpleasant aspects regarding animals make some of it hard to stomach unless you are an avid hunter. (And then you probably aren't reading translated mysteries.)


The Act of Roger Murgatroyd (Evadne Mount, Bk 1)
The Act of Roger Murgatroyd (Evadne Mount, Bk 1)
Author: Gilbert Adair
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 5/19/2008


Adair succeeds in evoking the classic golden age mystery with his snowbound-country-house-party-embroiled-in murder tale. It includes eccentric English country characters, an impossible murder in a locked room, and amateur sleuths. It also had maybe a few too many long monologues from each character, but if you let yourself be taken along for the ride it's great fun.


The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy (Burford Family, Bk 1)
The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy (Burford Family, Bk 1)
Author: James Anderson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 4/12/2020


An English Manor House mystery in spades, I found this long and tedious. It was like those old vaudeville skits where people keep coming and going through doors, just missing each other. The whole thing is too complicated (and did I mention: long) and there's too much going on: jewel theft, valuable gun thefts, blackmail, people sneaking around, and, oh, murder. The floor plan of the home is a nice nod to Golden Age mysteries, but not helpful. The writing is fine and some dialogue quite witty, but it made me abandon plans to read the other Burford Family mysteries.


The Affair of the Bottled Deuce
The Affair of the Bottled Deuce
Author: Harry Stephen Keeler
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 1.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 5/7/2014


Keeler has one of those reputations in mystery-reading circles (at least those who enjoy golden-age mysteries) that I think puts him in a higher regarded class than this book would warrant. He wrote lots of books, and maybe it was unfortunate that I picked this one to read as an introduction to him. It doesn't make me anxious to read more of his books.

I found this one way too long (even at only 157 pages) with lots of rambling paragraphs and dialogue that was pretty unrealistic. His prose is too purple for my taste, and I lost patience with his plot dragging and only managed to finish it by skimming and skipping. Even though it contains a "locked-room" the policeman explains how someone could have left the scene of the crime and made it seem sealed early on in the book. The puzzle doesn't really give you the satisfying feeling a well-thought-out whodunit should.

Not recommended.


The Affair of the Bottled Deuce
The Affair of the Bottled Deuce
Author: Harry Stephen Keeler
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/1/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Keeler has one of those reputations in mystery-reading circles (at least those who enjoy golden-age mysteries) that I think puts him in a higher regarded class than this book would warrant. He wrote lots of books, and maybe it was unfortunate that I picked this one to read as an introduction to him. It doesn't make me anxious to read more of his books.

I found this one way too long (even at only 157 pages) with lots of rambling paragraphs and dialogue that was pretty unrealistic. His prose is too purple for my taste, and I lost patience with his plot dragging and only managed to finish it by skimming and skipping. Even though it contains a "locked-room" the policeman explains how someone could have left the scene of the crime and made it seem sealed early on in the book. The puzzle doesn't really give you the satisfying feeling a well-thought-out whodunit should.

Not recommended.


Afterward: A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories)
Review Date: 12/12/2021


Interesting take on a ghost story; not really spooky and you sort of know what's going on (although there was one point I was mislead.) The premise of not recognizing a ghost at the time you encounter it was the hook. One of the series' longer stories, the text covers 68 pages, the rest taken with Seth's minimalist sketches and publisher information.


Alarums & Excursions
Alarums & Excursions
Author: Virginia Perdue
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/6/2013


Interesting story told by a man who doesn't quite remember much about how he wound up in a sanitarium. As his memory returns he snatches bits and pieces of his recent life and tries to figure out his relationship with his younger wife, his daughter-in-law, son, and business associates. You never quite know who is telling the truth, because the narrator doesn't know whom to trust; he just knows someone tried to kill him and maybe succeeded in killing his partner in the plan to produce cheap fuel.


Alive in the Last Days of Pompeii
Alive in the Last Days of Pompeii
Author: Alan Lloyd
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/12/2020


This will be more interesting to readers looking for an account of what life in an ancient Roman city was like; and those interested in the eruption.

Couched in a series of eye-witness accounts of his days in the city by Taras the Mede, the author obviously did extensive research on how Pompeiians lived (and how many died.) The earthquakes and eruption are detailed in the last 50 pages as Taras escapes the destruction.

Another 20 pages outlines how Pompeii was forgotten in the following centuries, then slowly rediscovered and excavated.

This paperback version groups 112 notes at the back, which means the reader has to keep flipping back and forth. (Normally these notes would have been printed at the bottom of the appropriate page.) The map of the city shows many of the places Taras mentions, but is too small and crowded for comfort.

Not that great as an adventure tale, but comprehensive for a look at what it was like to live in ancient Pompeii for regular folks, prostitutes, gladiators, servants and the elite.


All Creatures Dark and Dangerous : The Dr. David Westbrook Stories
All Creatures Dark and Dangerous : The Dr. David Westbrook Stories
Author: Doug Allyn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/19/2012


Allyn writes well and each of the stories in this compilation is interesting. They all involve Dave Westbrook, and like many of these short story books it's sometimes a stretch to believe one person gets involved with so many deaths and mysteries (especially living in a small town in Michigan). They were originally published years apart, so readers didn't see that implausibility as easily.

Franken Kat - Veterinarian David Westbrook has simple tastes, despite being married to a wealthy, slightly older woman. When a man who grew up in Algoma is hired as their handyman, things become unsettled. ****

Roadkill - finding an injured dog on the side of the road David treats it and becomes involved with the owner, a reclusive man with little means. ****

Animal Rites - Murder follows a confrontation after a panel talking about Hunters Rights vs. Animal Rights. ***

Puppyland - A terminally ill woman saves a puppy born with a defect, but it may have been the cause of her death. *****

Beaches of Paraguay - An old college friend of David's seems to have changed after a personal tragedy and David tries to find out why. ***

Cedar Savage - A man found hanging in the branches of a tree leads David into a situation where he witholds information from the police and gets him into even deeper trouble. ***

Crippen, Landru, and Carlos Palomino - Dogs of a shady muckraker who are boarded with Dave more than they are at home find themselves in need of permanent boarding as Dave looks into why. ****


All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 16)
All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 16)
Author: Louise Penny
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 31
Review Date: 2/19/2022


This outing emphasizes something I always had a slight issue with: are the characters speaking English or French? In Canada it was sort of logical they were speaking both, and English especially in Three Pines (I assume Ruth speaks English since her poems are in that language â although they aren't that great since they don't rhyme. And her duck uses the English expletive.) But in Paris, they have to be speaking French, yet every so often a word in that language is thrown in (âmerci,â âdesole,â âmerde.â) Which is it? If they are speaking French why use the French words here and there?

Well written for the most part, but it eventually devolves into a tiresome Corporate Conspiracy plot that involves the Gamache's Paris-based banker son â a stretch of the suspend-disbelief requirement. Surely Armand's godfather would have just told him what was going on rather than leave obscure clues for his godson to infer later on to unravel the whole ridiculous plot. And the old man helps Jean-Guy (who has no official police cred any longer yet still becomes involved in solving the crimes) get his job that begins to unravel the dastardly plot. The drawn out ending where people's loyalties and motives keep shifting and the heroes are in mortal danger was tiresome and the whole book was too long and convoluted and missing what the series used to excel in.


The Alphabet Abecedarium: Some Notes on Letters
The Alphabet Abecedarium: Some Notes on Letters
Author: Richard A. Firmage
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/14/2018


An exhaustive examination of the alphabet (and some other characters in common and uncommon use.) Each letter is given a chapter (of about 7 - 9 pages)liberally illustrated with examples of the letter itself in various fonts and its use through the ages. Nice book to pick up now and then, or on a bus or train or ferry commute.


The Alphabet of Manliness
The Alphabet of Manliness
Author: Maddox
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 32
Review Date: 8/13/2009


Crude, but, yes, funny.

Lots of easy-to-take-offense-at comments about women, but surely no one can actually have that attitude today (or can they.) Lots of vulgarity and scatalogical humor, too. Author has an acerbic sense of humor that is very funny in small doses. Not recommended to be read cover to cover in a short time, though.


Ammie, Come Home
Ammie, Come Home
Author: Barbara Michaels
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 33
Review Date: 8/23/2008


Michaels tackles a fairly straight-forward ghost story and succeeds. Her writing style is always pleasant and the plot unfolds easily without many side-trips or distractions. Recommended for someone looking for an old-fashioned spooky story.


The Amulet
The Amulet
Author: Michael McDowell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/19/2014


McDowell's writing style is so fluid and pleasing that even a far-fetched, drawn out plot such as is found in Amulet is satisfying. I did find the increasingly grotesque deaths getting tiresome, but still enjoyed the book very much. It's a shame this writer died so young and with such a sparse body of work; his later horror novels are among the best written.


Amulet
Amulet
Author: Michael McDowell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 6/21/2008


McDowell's writing style is so fluid and pleasing that even a far-fetched, drawn out plot such as is found in Amulet is satisfying. I did find the increasingly grotesque deaths getting tiresome, but still enjoyed the book very much. It's a shame this writer died so young and with such a sparse body of work; his later horror novels are among the best written.


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