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Razor Girl (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 13 August 2017 00:00

arl Hiaasen – what can you say? If you haven’t read any of his South Florida Crime Novels, you’ve got a treat. While his writing can be a bit formulaic (good guys are gruff and honest, bad guys are unremitting shit-weasels (one of my favorite phrases of his) who tend fated to end his tales in horribly fitting ways). It’s not high art, that’s for sure, but it’s fun.

So, the title character, the Razor Girl, is a young woman with a suspicious name (Merry Mansfield) who makes a living of sorts by crashing into cars. She’s got rear-ending to a fine art, hitting them just enough to get them to stop. And when the driver comes back, understandably furious at the collision, there she is, caught in the (staged) act of shaving herself in a very private place while driving (you cannot get any more distracted than that). Usually she’ll beg a ride off her road-side companion for a lift, fluttering her eyes or shaking out her ruby-red hair, to which the mark (being a man) will generally concede to. And usually she’ll have him drive her to wherever various less-than-lawful sorts will be waiting to kidnap the mark for whatever purposes they desired. And Merry, she’ll accept her money and go off to do it again and again.

See, Hiaasen’s characters are like that – strange yet interesting. And the stories roll through unexpected twists and humorous observations (mainly regarding how stupid Florida can be sometimes, how low-brow and tourist-swarmed a place it is). Razor Girl is no exception, just bouncing its way from one situation through another until a satisfying conclusion is met.

If I had one thing to say bad about it (and it’s a review, so I’m duty-bound to do so), the plot wandered a bit near the end. Like its companion novel Bad Monkey, the plot seems so fixated on being clever that the traditional buildup to the climax appeared lost (and when it does finally come, it’s so quick that it seems a cheat). As mention, Bad Monkey had this issue as well, and as that was a book on disk, my wife and I kept thinking it was nearly over when it wasn’t.

But overall it was a fun novel, interesting to read. And I’m always happy to see how our favorite Key West food inspector is faring. If you’ve never done Hiaasen, you might want to give this one a try.


Louis XIV-A Royal Life (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 July 2017 00:00

only knew Louis (the 14th) through two forms of entertainment. There was the version provided through Dumas, that of the selfish and ungrateful ruler, who punishes the loyal Fouquet at the wormtonguing of Colbert and is nearly swapped out by Aramis' kingmaking (Man in the Iron Mask). And then there is the Versailles series, where he is in control and fitting his rule to his circumstances, but with all the secret societies and plots about the place, it feels almost too fantastical. In this, I decided to find out just who Lou was, so I checked Louis XIV, A Royal Life out of the library and had a go.

It was an interesting book (though confusing - I really needed a guide to know who all the folks in the court were). And I'll admit that after long stressful days, it rather put me to sleep. But I got through it (two days before it was due) and was able to review it in time, so that counts for something.

It was interesting to find out that Dumas was full of crap, that Fouquet was likely embezzling (and had arranged the country's finances in such a way that he was, literally, too big to fail). Turns out he wasn't - once he was tossed into the jug (or rather the Bastille), the early Louis got to work. Never again did he give away the running of his country to advisors and counselors. He ran it as if it was his own affair (which it was), holding two long meetings a day, reviewing reports and gathering intel. His wars (most of them) were carefully thought out, supplied and timetabled. His diplomatic movies were as deliberate as chess. He turned France around, filled its coffers and reduced its taxes.

He also sensed the old saying about keeping enemies closer - Versailles was arranged to keep his nobles at court under his watchful eye and not out in their provinces where they could stir up trouble. And that strategy seemed to work - unlike the Fronde (where the nobility clutched at the power of the royals, and he barely survived his mother’s regency) he kept them under control, under virtual golden lock and silver key, busy with the etiquette and gossips of court, misdirected in their efforts for a half-century. He never really had contention from them.

He also bred like a rabbit. Working his way through wives and mistresses, he managed to produce numerous offspring. He even placed a grandson on the throne of Spain (which looked rather like a mistake, but author Olivier Bernier makes a strong case that it wasn't).

Overall, a very interesting story of a very interesting man, a powerful statesman who realized what needed doing in his time and did it.

Now, pardon me while I race over to the library - got a book to return!


Last Updated on Saturday, 29 July 2017 15:05
I call Bullshit (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 July 2017 00:00

n these days of "Fake news" and presidents and parties who don't care if what they spout is a lie or not, it's fun to read a book that, as the title says, works at "Debunking the most commonly repeated myths".

For example:

Do you think Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone?

Mammals arrived after the dinosaurs became extinct?

Humans only use 10 percent of their brains?

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space?

Author Jamie Frater piles through many, many myths, things we only know through hearsay (i.e. Facebook). I'd wished I'd read this book before spouting off about toilets flushing one way north of the equator, the opposite south. And there was the interesting one about how artificial sweeteners don’t cause cancer (when you read about the tests and how misrepresented they were, you'll add a touch of sweetener to your coffee again (as I have) and breathe easier). Sadly, cell phones don't cause cancer (I was rooting for that one). But no, it was a very interesting book.

Up until the end. It's as if the writer ran out of materials (and with all the information out there, I'm sure he could have trolled Snopes for ideas). In the last section he began to literally repeat himself, cycling through several myth groups: nudists, Wicca, Muslims, Catholics and ninjas. After a while, by the fourth (or more) clarification (many of them close to earlier ones) it got a bit fatiguing (I actually skipped some of the last). I thought the book should have ended on a crescendo but instead it closed on an echoing whimper. Too bad.

Still, a fun read.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 July 2017 13:28
The Outback Stars (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 16 July 2017 00:00

nother one from the used book shop, this time a military-grade page turner about... shipboard life on a starship.

I thought this was a book of an ongoing series (turns out it’s the first one, I think) - Lieutenant Jodenny Scott survived a horrific terrorist attack on her last ship, one that left her burned and burdened with survivors' guilt. And just as it takes her a while to return to active service (don't worry - we don't get dragged through her convalescence - she didn't like it any more than we would have), it takes us a while to find out what is going on in this strange new universe.

Earth has been racked with so many environmental disasters now that it's taken to naming its ships after them (lest we forget). But some sort of wormholes have been discovered, ones that permit these massive ships to leave the Sol System and plunge out to the Seven Sisters cluster (which I have viewed and have a soft spot in my heart for, HERE). There, we have discovered ancient artifacts, rock domes that are arranged in certain ways, all that is left of this one-time race.

So, that aside, Lt Scott uses her hero's status to get back into space as quickly as possible. Bumping herself aboard the Aral Sea, she finds herself assigned as a supply officer in one of the support divisions. Now, this caught my eye - my old man was a supply officer and I'd have loved to passed this book on to him - I'm sure he'd have loved a hero after his own career path. Regardless, her division is in shambles. The droids that work the supply racks are fitful, her people casual and rumors of pilferage abound. So she starts pushing back, the usual "whip them into shape" deal that goes passably well.

However, she's got other problems - one of her chiefs, a badgered young man, has caught her eye (talk about forbidden love). And one of the ship's scientists has come to her with a wacky theory regarding her former ship, the gutted Yangtze, and what might have really happened.

I'll give this book a very favorable review - I'm not sure how Sandra McDonald did it, but a book about shipboard infighting and petty squabbles and sexual tension was really very interesting - I found myself resuming my practice of reading for a bit before bed and at odd weekend chances, just to move further into the story. Very well written.

Further, there was a moment were something very, very, VERY unlikely happens. I blinked at that, then shrugged it off. Then, in a very opportune moment, it happens again. I felt myself groan at this - we were getting along so well, book, and then you had to drop this clunker in. But eventually it does make sense and slots right into the storyline like a strangely shaped (perhaps alien-shaped) part. So I could let it go. The book and I could be friends.

All things said, it was a good, not a hair-on-fire page-turner but just a fun read. I saw that she was working on "The further adventures of..." but didn't see it over at the local Barnes and Noble (check Amazon? You know me better). But yes, a solid recommendation from me. I'm sure my dad would have enjoyed it as well.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 July 2017 09:41

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