Monthly Archives: July 2013

July 29, 2013

I apologize beforehand for the blah-ness of this post, but I enjoyed both books.  According to Lawrence Donegan, author of the first book, “an angry journalist is a good journalist.”  I feel that for me, an angry blogger is a good blogger.  If don’t enjoy a book, I have a far better time ripping it apart than I do promoting a book I enjoyed.  Sadly, I am not angry with these books for this post.  Sorry.

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No News At Throat Lake: In Search of Ireland by Lawrence Donegan, copyright 2000, published by Pocket Books

Odd title I know, but it’s an Irish lake and damned if I can relocate where in this book the author gives the Irish name.  Something unpronounceable by me.  Mr. Donegan (one-time bassist for Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Cole_and_the_Commotions) decides he needs a change from London and where better than the village of Creeslough, Ireland?

I bought this book on a whim while browsing the Travel section at Bookman’s and am happy I did.  A quick read at only 250 pages, Mr. Donegan’s description of his brief job as a farmhand (“[cows] have about as much native wit and common sense as Prince Andrew”), as well as his subsequent job as a journalist for the Tirconaill Tribune makes for a good evening, especially when you’ve had the beer in the freezer and it’s almost at that slushy stage.

I’m not going to tell you to run right out and buy this book, but I bought it used for $7.00 and felt it well worth the price.

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Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker, copyright 2003, published by Harper Collins

I read and enjoyed Not In Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America by this same author, so when I spied a copy of Lily Dale for $6.00 at Bookman’s I figured why not?

Lily Dale is a spiritualist community (http://www.lilydaleassembly.com/) in Chautauqua County, New York.  We are right in the middle of their 2013 Summer Season (June 28 to September 1) if you care to pop on over for a reading, healing or evidence of clairvoyance.

I believe I pointed out in one of my first posts that I’m a non-believing believer.  Personally I think these people are mostly comprised of kooks.  I confess that I have always been tempted to go to a medium just so I can jump up at the end of the reading and say, “Ha! You are so wrong!”

I would often suspect Ms. Wicker of being way too gullible in her acceptance of Lily Dale only to have her turn around and smack me with scepticism.  Ms. Wicker has a writing style that draws you into her books.  Just enough personal detail to make it interesting, but not so much that you get annoyed.

Again, I wouldn’t say buy this book unless you enjoy reading new age or paranormal material and can get it cheap.

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July 24, 2013

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Dead of Night: The True Story of a Serial Killer by Don Lasseter, copyright 1997, published by Onyx – with 8 pages of “shocking photos!”

Cesar Barone (birth name Jimmy Rode) was on death row in Oregon (1995) convicted with “six counts of Aggravated Murder, two counts of Murder, eight counts of first-degree Burglary, two counts of first-degree Attempted Sodomy, two counts of first-degree Attempted Rape, and one count of first-degree Sex Abuse” (see http://www.salem-news.com/articles/december242009/barone.php) until he died of natural causes in 2009.

This was one busy man.  Why have I never heard of him?  I must be falling behind on my true crime reading.  The book seemed to start out a little slow but really picked up with the police hunt and the trials (usually the part I find the dullest).

But what I really want to talk about are those “shocking photos”.  Whoever selected these photos has a different definition of shocking than I do, that’s for sure.  There are the usual childhood photos of the killer, photos of the detectives on the case, photos of the killer’s cars and shoes and lastly a page of photos of the victims when they were alive and well.  Where’s the shocking?

Perhaps the publishers figured the phrase “shocking photos!” would sell more copies.  I don’t know about you, but if you enjoy true crime, the photos are the first thing you look at.  If you want a good book with some great, but not shocking photos (except for G.), read:

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Delivered From Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived by Ron Franscell, copyright 2011, published by Fair Winds Press

This book covers ten incidents:

  • Spree Killer Howard Unruh
  • The Atlanta Day-Trader Spree
  • The McDonald’s Massacre
  • The Luby’s Massacre
  • The Howard Johnson Sniper
  • The Texas Tower Sniper
  • Serial Killer Derrick Todd Lee
  • Serial Killer David Maust
  • The West Paducah High School Shooting
  • The Bluebelle Murders

The research is detailed, the stories well written and the photos at least semi-shocking.

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This probably sounds callous, but like most true crime readers I know, I want to see more than the pair of Reebok’s the killer wore whilst committing his crimes.  This book delivers.

To wind up, a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “Fortunately, true survivors of mass murders and serial killings are few.”  I’m sure it wasn’t meant how it sounds, but it sounds a bit harsh.
  • “He fell in with the kids who skateboarded and liked punk rock music.”  Terrible!  Why couldn’t he hang with the good crowd?  You know, the druggies and the bullies and listen to death metal?
  • After the 1997 shooting spree that left three girls dead at Heath High School their families sued the killer’s parents, “the school, video game makers, websites, the makers of the movie The Basketball Diaries . . .” and 7 Health High School students for failing to realize what was happening and stop it.  Isn’t that America for you?  Our daughter died a terrible death, how much money do you think we can get from people who HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CRIME?  Not much it turns out as the judge threw out the case and only allowed them to sue the shooter who  is now in jail and probably making 0.25 cents a day at best.

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July 20, 2013

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The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis, copyright 2006 by Wildside Press

The Eye of Argon is a heroic fantasy novella that narrates the adventures of Grignr, a barbarian. It was written in 1970 by Jim Theis and circulated anonymously in science fiction fandom since then. It has been described as “one of the genre’s most beloved pieces of appalling prose” and “the apotheosis of bad writing”.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eye_of_Argon)

The introduction, In Search of Jim Theis, by Lee Weinstein is – without doubt – the most enjoyable and readable section of this 74-page travesty. 

Badly written, badly spelled and badly edited (if indeed it was edited at all).  Why perfectly sane and sober people would waste time reading this is beyond me, which may explain why – being neither sane nor sober – my friend G. loves it so.

So thanks G., for loaning me something that gave me more grammatical nightmares than any badly-written student horror film I’ve seen.

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History of a Suicide:  My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky, copyright 2011, published by Washington Square Press

In April 1990, Jill Bialosky’s 21-year-old sister committed suicide.  A quickly summed up book and a quickly read book.  Despite her overuse of other author’s writings and poetry, Ms. Bialosky often has moments of amazing insight.  Sadly however, this does not make the book worth reading.  If you see it in the bookstore, pass it by.

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London Bridges by James Patterson, copyright 2004, published by Warner Books

This is the 10th Alex Cross Novel and I’m guessing the most unrealistic.  From what I recall, Mr. Cross started out saving people but now he’s saving the world from the Wolf, a “supercriminal” who is threatening the blow up London, Paris and New York. 

And what’s more, he has a time limit.  Four days and then ka-boom.  No worries, Mr. Cross has this covered.  As a matter of fact, he’s so amazing that he has time for lunch.  Not a “we’ll have someone run out and grab you a burger Mr. Cross” type lunch but an hour-and-a-half lunch of “barley soup, zuppe engadinese; a casserole, veltliner topf; and very good wine.”

My final review?  A resounding Pfffffffffffffffffffft!

 

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July 17, 2013

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The Dogs of Rome: A Commissario Alec Blume Novel by Conor Fitzgerald, copyright 2010, published  by Bloomsbury USA

This is the July 2013 Mystery Book Group pick.

The name Dogs of Rome seems apt as the mystery seems to center around illegal dog fighting.  It’s all illegal isn’t it?  If not, it should be.  But I digress.  Apparently this Alec Blume (an American expatriate) is a recurring character in Mr. Fitzgerald’s books.  This in itself is a mystery as Alec Blume has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  None.  Nada.  Nyet.

First, Alec Blume HATES dogs.  So much so that when he is watching a tape of an illegal dog fight, Alec “felt like punching the air and saying ‘Fuck yeah!’  Now that’s what dogs are for.”  Strike one Mr. Blume, I am an animal lover.

Secondly, he is so fixated on getting laid that his bumbling advances towards one woman causes him to dig through his wallet for his card and thereby loosing losing a valuable piece of evidence which he had carefully stored in there.  Strike two!  Well I feel like a dork for that misspelling and the fact that G. had to point it out to me.

Thirdly, on his way to arrest the murderer (did I mention there was a murder in this book?  Just a murder.  Singular.  Yawn), as he piddles around with elevators and calling for backup, the suspect pops on down the stairs and escapes.  Strike three dumbass!

I read other reviews that called Alec Blume “human”.  Only if you spell human D-U-M-A-S-S!

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This evening’s movie was All Superheroes Must Die (2011), written by Jason Trost, Directed by Jason Trost and starring Jason Trost.

I think I’m spotting a trend here. . . .

Plot:  Four Super Heroes find themselves abducted and stripped of their powers by their Arch Nemesis and are forced to compete in a series of challenges in order to save an abandoned town full of kidnapped innocent civilians.

IMDb gives it 2 stars and Amazon gives it 3.  Me, I give it 4, maybe even 4-and-a-half.  This film was startlingly good and yet slightly disappointing at the same time (mostly at the end).   If you love the darkness and angst in The Watchmen, watch this film.  If you saw The Watchmen only to see Dr. Manhattan’s sizable blue penis, then Deep Throat might be more your style.

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July 13, 2013

It’s been a while since my last post I know.  Why?  Life.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get started.

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The Silent House (La Casa Muda) is an Uruguayan horror film released in 2010 and directed by Gustavo Hernández. The film is supposedly inspired by real events that took place in the 1940s, but no information can be found to authenticate the claims. 

Plot:  Laura and her father Wilson arrive at a cottage in a secluded area in order to repair it since its owner Nestor will soon put the house on sale. Beforehand, he tells them that the floor on the second level is unstable and that it is unsafe to go upstairs. It all goes to shit when they go upstairs.

A big deal is made that this film is shot in real time.  This means you get to watch Laura as she walks very slowly through numerous rooms, stopping to look closely at each and every object.  It was so dull and boring that the hubby fell asleep, causing a real fear. . . his snoring. 

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Nancy Drew: The Secret of Mirror Bay by Carolyn Keene, copyright 1972, published by Grosset & Dunlap

Yes, I’m sorry, I read another Nancy Drew.  Why?  Life.  When life kicks me in the ass, I want something simple and funny to read and Nancy Drew fulfills these requirements. 

Plot:  Nancy and her friends solve a mystery while vacationing near a lake. 

In the beginning, Nancy describes the lake thusly to her friends:

Nancy said the water was shallow near shore and gradually became deeper.

Well no shit Sherlock!  I’ve found that to be a common occurrence in bodies of water.  Nancy is one canny young woman and no doubt could take Dr. Moriarty to task!  HA!

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Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee, copyright 2007, published by Scholastic, Inc.

You need this book.  Not because it’s a great book but because it’s a great cover.  It’s one of those optical illusion thingies (which is a scientific word), so that when you tilt the book, the jaw of the skull opens and closes and a spider crawls out an eye socket.  How cool is that?

A few of the cooler bits of information in the book are:

Bat Facts:  There are three species of vampire bat:  The common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white winged vampire bat.  I’d show you a picture of the hairy-legged vampire bat but the hubby is sleeping right now with the covers up over his legs.

Giant Squids:  In 2004 a Japanese zoologist hooked a tentacle (supposedly of a giant squid), which put up quite the fight.  After 4 hours all the zoologist brought on board was the severed 18-foot tentacle which

still slithered, blindly seeking human flesh as if it had a hungry mind of it’s own.

Yeah.  Uhm.  Squid don’t eat people.  Tentacles are even less likely to eat people.  Too bad they didn’t have Nancy Drew on board to tell them this.

A place you need to visit:  The Evolution Store (www.evolutionnyc.com)

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You need this!  I need this!  Go check it out and buy yourself something cool.  Except you G.  For you I’m attaching a site for Disney (www.disneystore.com).  Enjoy!

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July 8, 2013

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Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp, copyright 2011, published by Grand Central Publishing

Plot:  Dumbass steals diamonds and owners of such will stop at nothing to get the diamonds back.

What is there to say about a Patterson book except that it’s a Patterson.  They’re fun and simple, the literary equivalent of cotton candy.  Fluff.  A lot of subterfuge on the part of Patterson in this book (or maybe that’s Patterson’s style and I haven’t read enough to recognize it).  Holding back facts on characters and situations just so you can pop a zinger in later seems like cheating to me.  Lay it all up front.  My next complaint was the excess of sex.  If these characters had sex this often, nothing would ever get done….except sex.  I was looking for some light reading after A Thousand Lives and damn if I didn’t find it.  James Patterson’s books are good for airplane flights (or delays).

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Jack Reacher – 2012 – Directed by Christopher McQuarrie – based on Lee Child’s  book “One Shot”

“When a gunman takes five lives with six shots, all evidence points to the suspect in custody. On interrogation, the suspect offers up a single note: ‘Get Jack Reacher!'”

Based on Lee Child’s “One Shot” from her Jack Reacher series, Tom Cruise purchased the film rights in order to showcase himself as Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop he doesn’t even slightly resemble.  He’s too old and too self conscious of his “boyish good looks.”  The plot has holes Tom could have driven his muscle cars through with ease.  But my eyes didn’t start rolling uncontrolably until Jack Reacher strolls casually into a bar only to have every 20-something female stop and stare at….what?  I’m sorry but a 20-something wouldn’t start at Jack Reacher unless she knew he was Tom Cruise and plush with cash.  The last film I was able to stomach Cruise in was War of the Words.   If however, you have a thing for guns and are interested in seeing how exponentially Rosamund Pike’s breasts have grown, check it out.

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It’s a little hard to tell from this shot, but this woman should have no fear of drowning. . . . ever.

In conclusion, get the book “One Shot” from the library and save your money for some beer.

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July 6, 2013

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My latest beer taste test was Budweiser Black Crown.  The beer was good, went down smooth.  What worries me more is the cap.  Pry Off.  Pry off.  Not twist off or pop off.  Pry off.  Thanks for the update Bud.  Without that information I would have never managed to get to the beer!  The fact that you seem to suggest I’ll need a crowbar though is a little worrisome. . . . This beer is good enough to drink again, if I can get the cap off.

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As indicated in my last post, I was surprised by how good A Thousand Lives turned out to be.  The author not only covers Jim Jones and his neuroses, but the people caught up in them, whether willingly or no.  If you are looking for photos of mass suicide though, you will have to look elsewhere.  If you are looking for an enlightening book on an often misunderstood tragedy, read this.

We’re off.  Say goodnight finger-puppet cat.

SN851011

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