Monday, May 3, 2021

KILLOE by LOUIS L'AMOUR

 KILLOE

KILLOE Book

- Louis L'Amour -

Killoe is a young man coming into his own. Trouble has caused his family and neighbours to make a move West. Through this journey Killoe figures out who he is - a good wholesome independent minded man who knows what kind of woman he wants to settle down with in the end. Oh, and he learns his half brother is an a**hole!

The journey West is lead by his half brother, who is mixed up with some shady characters. The trip West is hampered by attacks from Natives and a gang of mean men who want to steal their cattle. The  heat of the desert almost kills the group, but in the end most of them make it through alive. Typical L'Amour style story. If you like similar stories like Mojave Crossing, you'll like this one too.

Louis L'Amour quote



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

THE PELICAN BRIEF - JOHN GRISHAM

 THE PELICAN BRIEF

- John Grisham

Shocked that I haven't read this one? Me too! I thought I'd read every Grisham book out there. Turns out I missed this one, and I'm glad I did. And, I mean that in the best possible way.

I just finished Gray Mountain a couple of weeks ago and was thinking that Grisham had kind of lost his touch. The Pelican Brief convinced me that he had. The Pelican Brief is one of John's earlier books, maybe his third. Back in the days of The Firm, The Client, The [insert legal term]...those awesome nail biting thrillers. It is 'classic' Grisham. There are murders, cover-ups, trips to the Caribbean, legal students, car chases, spies, plot turns, crusty FBI agents. You know, classic Grisham novels?! I flew through the four hundred odd pages and didn't feel any reading fatigue. On the other hand, while reading Gray Mountain I felt like I was climbing a mountain.

Essentially the book starts with the murders of two supreme court judges. Everyone seems to have a theory on who did it. One theory, by a fresh faced law school student, is soon causing more death and murder. This law school student hit the nail on the head by accusing an obscure criminal who was on nobodies radar. It turns out there are links with the President of the USA, the FBI, all those organizations. This student, Darby, cannot trust anyone and is on the run. She eventually makes contact with a veteran reporter, and together they bring the whole house of cards down. 

My only hang up with the book is the cover. The copy I have is one of those with gold writing on the cover. Very 90s, and not very appealing.


But, that was my only critique of the book. The rest was awesome!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

SLEEPING MURDER - AGATHA CHRISTIE

SLEEPING MURDER


Right to the end, Christie keeps the secret right to the end! Ah, such a great book. One of those classic cozy mysteries where she peppers clues along the way and by the last page you are thinking, "why didn't I see that!"

Sleeping murder is a strange story involving a young woman who moves into a house and remembers a murder from when she was a toddler. It turns out she lived in this house when she was young, however due family circumstances she moved to New Zealand and was adopted by relatives. She returns and by coincidence stumbles upon this house - that is when she wakes up a sleeping murder!

There are three or four prime suspects that keep you guessing to the end. They all have good motives. They all have some sort of weakness that makes them seem likely murderers. They are all at the scene of the murder on the night. I love reading through a book like this and thinking, he's got to be the killer. Then a chapter later my theory changes and I suspect another fellow. Ah, great reading.

This is a Miss Marple case, but she doesn't play a big role in it. More of a mentor than a detective in this story. The clues are mostly found by the hard work of the young lady and her husband. Marple only makes a few suggestions at the end of the novel to tie things together. I didn't mind this, as I'm not a Marple fan boy, I'm a Poirot fan boy for sure, but I could read less Marple and be fine.

Poriot vs Miss Marple




Friday, April 16, 2021

THE RUNNING MAN - STEPHEN KING

 THE RUNNING MAN

THE RUNNING MAN - Stephen King aka Richard Bachman

- Stephen King

Wow, what a ride!

The aptly named book kept me running, er flipping through the pages like I was running a marathon. Essentially the story is about a man who is a contestant on a gameshow where he is set loose and the world hunts him down. There are roadblocks after roadblocks that this man overcomes. He uses disguises, help from others, trickery, and sometimes firepower (aka guns). The great writing by King makes the chase, which is half the book, not seem repetitive. He does a great job of mixing in luck, brainpower, the unknown, and full out sprinting action to keep things fresh, and to keep me reading late into the night. 

The main character is a dodgy fellow who is selfish, crude, and very very (very) anti-authority. But, he is also smart, possibly good hearted deep down inside, and brave. So a good mix of good and bad. At times you want to hate him, but you are always rooting for him to win. An interesting dynamic.

I will say that the movie had Arnold as the main character - um, the book described a scruffy, emaciated, poverty stricken man...not buff Arnold in a speedo suit!

Arnold in The Running Man

What I think is neat is that King wrote this book in the early 80s, well before the advent of Reality TV. However, this idea of taking a regular person, playing a giant game of hide and seek, putting it on TV would have seemed far out there at the time, but nowadays it is so common you might even reject the idea as 'another one of those Reality TV shows'. Now, we wouldn't be hunting down and encouraging death and killing, but the idea is similar. Isn't it?!

I wonder if this book inspired others like The Hunger Games? A good bookclub question eh?

Book Club meme


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN - Jean Craighead George

 MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

My Side of The Mountain - Jean Craighead George

- Jean Craighead George

What a great book. Just the kind of thing I use to love. I went through this phase when I was about twelve or thirteen when I read every book I could find on surviving in the woods, surviving a desert island, that kind of story. Books like Lost In The Barrens, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, The Cay, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I wonder how I missed My Side Of The Mountain?

I think it may have been a case of judging a book by it's cover. I mean this cover looks kind of dorky...

My Side Of The Mountain - book cover not my style

The mullet haired kid and the indistinct hawk. Not something that would have appealed to me. I only found it now b/c I'm going through thrift store books looking for something age appropriate for my kids...and I've kind of learned to not judge a book by it's cover. Now people, that's a whole other story...

Not sure why I wouldn't have picked up this book when I was in my stranded-on-a-deserted-island phase b/c if you look at my copy of Lost In The Barrens it's almost as cheesy. Lost in the Barrens is my favourite book in this genre, my high bar standard book, if you may.

Lost In The Barrens - my fav book

Cover aside, this book was just like Lost In The Barrens, Robinson Crusoe, etc. A young boy runs away to the forest and attempts to survive. He has many trials and tribulations, many errors, and many successes. You learn a lot about what you can eat, where you can build a shelter, how to dry food. The thing about this book that I really enjoyed was the relationship the boy develops with the local wildlife. He trains a falcon, befriends a racoon, and has a love/hate thing going on with a local weasel. He ends up surviving, or should I say thriving, after a year and then the books ends with a wild turn...which I didn't really like, but I could see it making way for an easy second novel. His large family finds him and decides to live with him. Bad ending, bad, bad, ending. But, I kind of want to see what happens in the next book. What he can teach his city slicker sisters and brothers?

Anyway, add this book to your collection of young boys living in the wilderness collection.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

CORNERED - RON MacLEAN

 CORNERED

Cornered by Ron MacLean and Kristie McLellan Day


- RON MACLEAN -

Ron, the level headed guy opposite Don Cherry on Hockey Night In Canada's Coaches Corner...well, he comes across very level headed in this book. He shares the journey of going from local radio DJ to national sports caster / celebrity.

I read a few of the reviews before diving into this book and I found many were very critical of this book for being bland/boring and implying that Ron is just riding the coat tales (and crazy coats at that) of Don Cherry.

Well obviously the Ron and Don relationship is going go make up most of the stories - they've worked together, hung out together, and have been friends for like 30 years!

Ron's story is not all that exciting, to be truthful. There is no dramatic battle with cancer, fighting out of poverty, drug abuse, or anything like that. Ron seems like a regular old middle class guy who was really into radio and broadcasting. He's a bit of a workaholic who likes to be overprepared for everything he does...so it only makes sense that he would work his way up the chain and become a big name wherever he worked. With his love of hockey it happened to work with Hockey Night in Canada.

He does reveal a bit of his personal life. Again, it's pretty tame. He sounds like a really nice guy who works a lot...so not a whole lot of extras like climbing Kilimanjaro or playing in a folk band.

What I find about these type of books, ghosted by Kristie McLellan Day, is that they lack any flair in the writing and word choice. There is not a lot of literary language being used. It almost feels like a transcript written out from an audio interview. Which is great, in that is really gives you a feel for how someone speaks, the words they use, and the stories they tell...but it also seems choppy at times. But, at least it feels authentic.

Ron MacLean's Cornered

I picked up this book at a local thrift store for $1. There were a huge pile of biographies that someone had just dropped off. All in great shape, probably read once, and now were going for $1. A bookworms treasure pile!

Anyway, if you've followed hockey, kept up on the drama at the CBC, and watched Coach's Corner...you will not find a whole lot of new information in this book. There are not even a lot of behind the scenes stories. However, if you've watched hockey, kept up on the CBC drama, and watched Coach's Corner, you WILL like this book. It's like a trip down memory lane.

I liked it.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

THE BURGLAR DIARIES - Danny King

 THE BURGLAR DIARIES

The Burglar Diaries

- Danny King

I love books like this that take you into a world you would never be part of. In this case the world of a career burglar. You ever wonder how breaking and entering works? How doing it day after day, like any other job, would work? Danny King brings you the scoop, the inside view, he pulls back the curtain...and it's pretty entertaining.

King takes us along as he breaks into houses and steals their TVs and VCRs (yes, it's a bit dated, but still you get the idea). For the most part it seems very boring, like most jobs. King would find out about someone leaving town, or knows they will be out of their house on a specific date, and he would plan on breaking in. Him and a fellow burglar (he liked to work as a team) would knock on the door to make sure nobody was home, then usually break into a window around the back. They would look for all the regular items of value (TV, VCR, CDs, etc) and pile them by the door. Then they would load up a van and drive away. In and out in five or ten minutes. Sounds pretty boring eh?

Well just like any other job their are irregular days and events that make things interesting. King takes us through a few of those situations, like when they get caught by a big burly fireman. They try to escape by locking themselves in the bathroom and going out the window. The man catches Danny and gives him a good beating before his partner whacks him with a shovel. Another time his B&A partner has to take a BM...he craps in the bathroom and finds out there is no toilet paper. There are plenty of funny mishaps that happen over the years.

King also gives us some insight into the techniques the pros use to find houses to break into. They sometimes just drive around and look for houses that seem empty. Sometimes they look for a big party and then break into the neighbours house. Usually they have some sort of tip off. It can come from some low life who overheard a conversation to an ex lover who wants to get some sort of revenge on their previous partner.

The characters in this world are a laugh. Most of them are dim witted idiots who eventually end up in jail, but there are also surprisingly clever pros who study the art of break and enter. It's a crazy world out there.

By the end of the book I'm actually liking King, even if he is a life long criminal. He shares some of his life problems, his work problems, his relationship problems...and he seems like a nice guy. He is one of the classier burglars, if that can be a way to describe crime, who try to cause the least amount of damage possible. He doesn't do things like leave the taps running, steal wedding rings, break things just for the fun of it. He treats the robbery like a job and tries to be as professional as possible. Which is kind of endearing...he does use a lot of crude language though, which is hard to read at times. But, other than that, a great book.

Burglar Diaries - Danny King
I'm on a role reading books by KING. See my latest Stephen King book review HERE

Thursday, April 8, 2021

PAWN OF PROPHECY - DAVID EDDINGS

 PAWN OF PROPHECY

Pawn of Prophecy - David Eddings

- David Eddings -

This is the first book in the Belgariad series...and a good start! It gave me classic Fantasy Novel Syndrome (FNS for short). A disease that afflicts avid readers of fantasy books. Read on and I will explain...

This book has all the makings of a great Fantasy series:

First: a young boy/man who is starting to realize he is something special (possibly the person to save the entire world). 

Second: There is an older, all knowing, protective wizard who is looking over said world saver...and knows much more than is letting on.

Third: There is an adventure across a made up world full of magic, dwarves, elves, horses...things of that nature.

You can't beat the classic Fantasy adventure story. It's been done thousands of times before, and yet it still never seems to get boring. All we need is a magic ring or sword to top things off, right?

The Pawn of Prophecy was great. I whipped through this book in a day or two and liked reading it...however, looking back nothing really sticks out to me. No memorable incidents, no philosophical questions I still ponder...just a vague memory of a medieval world full of magic and the build up of much more come. I have the urge to find the next book in the series b/c I want to find out what will happen. So, that means the book must have been good. I sound like a bit of an idiot here, with no memory, and a vague picture of a made up map in my head, but that is just a clear case of Fantasy Novel Syndrome I call it. Happens all the time. 

I've already extrapolated what I think will happen in this story - it's not hard to do. But, it's the details that make the reading worthwhile. The details I'm finding a hard time remembering. I guess to me Fantasy Novel Syndrome is when I'm reading a book that takes me away and completely takes over my mind. It's enjoyable, it's time consuming, and leaves me feeling good...but it also only leaves a sort of blurred memory of the story I was reading. It doesn't really matter, most fantasy books are so similar that they all tend to blend together after reading them anyway. Another symptom of FNS.

I'd lump this book in with others like LOTR, The Sword of Shannara, Eragon, Donaldson's books...you know the type, just cruise down the Fantasy aisle at your local bookshop. These are the flint and spark that can light a case of FNS with just a few pages.

Well back to my hunt looking for book two.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

MACK BOLAN TIME TO KILL

 TIME TO KILL

Mack Bolan Time To Kill - like James Bond

- Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan -

Mack Bolan is kind of like James Bond...'kind of' is the key word.
Bolan takes on impossible tasks and leaves a trail of dead bodies behind him - but, it's okay because all of the dead are bad guys. The body count doesn't matter in this case. I find most of the Mack Bolan books have at least two dozen deaths, but sometimes upwards of fifty. Doing a little math - we are on book 108...that's upwards of five thousand lives snuffed by one man. A small town - small town were full of nasty characters. But, I try not to think about this while I'm in-read.
This book, Time to Kill, reminds me of a good old James Bond book. In this novel Bolan is like Bond when the time comes to fight the 'big boss'. Both Bolan and Bond usually have to sneak onto a boat, or into a warehouse, or break into a super secure secret nuclear terrorist run bomb making plant...and they always complete the task in a death defying impossible way. Which makes for some good, dramatic, reading...although don't think too hard about the statistical chances of them actually completing their task, time after time, after time. Just sayin. Also instead of just out and shooting Bolan the 'Boss' had a good long monologue explaining his reasons for wanting to use nuclear warheads on the world.
There was also a strange Boss's sidekick. That happens in Bond books a lot. In this book the sidekick is a monster. A giant of a man with a grotesque face that moans a lot and hangs out in an old castle. 
TIME TO KILL MACK BOLAN

What I find hard to swallow is Bolan's motivation. It is somewhat confusing. He is fighting the fight nobody wants to fight...which may be a quote of his. He takes on evil organizations the governments of the world won't take on like terrorists, international drug smugglers, those damn Soviet Russians. He has some unresolved anger that drives him to kill boatloads of 'bad' guys, day after day. There is some patriotic ideology, some moral justification, and some machoism. But, if you take a few steps back he just seems insane. Which makes for good reading. This is definitely a world you would never find outside of a book.
Personally, I like this adventure. I wouldn't tell most of my friends. It's like a dirty secret. Since the book is full of violence and out dated stereotypes, which many would find offensive in today's day. It's like an 80s action movie.

Friday, April 2, 2021

GRAY MOUNTAIN - JOHN GRISHAM

GRAY MOUNTAIN

Gray Mountain - John Grisham


I'm a Grisham fan. You caught me. This book caught me too. I pick up every Grisham I see...at yard sales, thrift stores, and from that free take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf where I work. Through all those avenues I've managed to read almost every one of his books. I've loved them all. From The Client to Playing for Pizza. I think The Broker was my favourite. Anyway, getting off topic.

Gray Mountain. That pretty much describes the book:
Gray, as in a great neutral tone to paint a room. Not very bright, but not too dark. 
Mountain. A long climb where the trees get sparse and you get a great long view of things, but no details.
That's the book for you in metaphoric terms.

Gray Mountain - the title describes the book

A young lawyer is quasi-forced to volunteer at a legal aid clinic in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Coal mining country. She helps a few sad poverty stricken clients, but she quickly escalates up the food chain and is part of cases that are suing the big bad coal companies for millions, perhaps billions of dollars. There are cover ups, bugged phones, murder, and some 'lovin' by the fireplace. All the makings of a page turning thriller...
I put the ... because I'm implying that the 'thriller' part never really took off. It was the gray tone and lack of details that caused this. Grisham takes a route with his writing that tells us all about how coal companies are stripping the land to mine coal, ruining beautiful country and leaving a desolate hill behind. How the coal companies, over the years, have done terrible things like take down the unions, covered up workers health problems like the dreaded black lung, and poisoned the water supply. 
This is all great info, interesting to read, but it took pages away character development, storyline details, etc. Unlike the mountains left over after the coal mines are through, the novel was not destroyed but it wasn't a typical Grisham thriller. This was no Runaway Jury or The Firm. Even my favourite part of thriller and action type books - when the characters are being tailed by spies - were rather lackluster in Gray Mountain.
The one high point, not counting the mountains (bad Dad joke), was that the main character was a woman. Smash that glass ceiling. Unfortunately, Samantha was a gray character. She was there, added some tone to the room, but wasn't a splash of colour. She was reluctant to do anything. It was a constant fight by the other characters to get her to do anything other than read contracts and do paper work. Yes, there was some character development, going from a shallow big city girl who only cared about making partner in a big law firm, to a lawyer that had a heart and wanted to help genuine good people (and even the environment). I didn't particularly like her, but I didn't not like her. I guess the best way to describe my feelings is that I hope Grisham doesn't make a series with her as the main character.

John Grisham tells BIG COAL to take a hike in Gray Mountain

This book will not make my library book shelf as a keeper. But, I didn't consider it a waste of time. It wasn't 'typical' Grisham, but that's okay with me. I like when people take a stand for something and that is what John was doing in this book. I've read a few other books about the poverty in the Appalachians, but also how resilient the folk are - like the book Rainbow Pie (see my review), and I always find them very interesting. Anyway, onto something completely different, a Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) book...I've never read Bachman, so this should be interesting too. Oh, I love books.