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Book Reviews

Neglify

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No need for a separate thread for every book you read.

Here are the books I read this summer and what I rated each on Good Reads:

The Detective by Roderick Thorp

First half was really intriguing but it was so slow and so much time spent on nothing important. I'm sure it was explosive when it was originally written but not anymore. 3/5


Under The Dome by Stephen King

Quickly became one of my favorite King epics. 5/5


On Writing by Stephen King

Hot damn this was a great read. King at his best. 5/5


Cell by Stephen King

I was quite bored by this one. Never finished it. :(


Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Great writing, kind of boring overall. Classic book though. 3/5


Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Amazing stuff he talks about in here. Great history of Scientology. 4/5


Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman

This was the shiznit. So much detail and research. The best account of what happened to Lisa McPherson that I've read. 5/5


Slaves of Sleep by L. Ron Hubbard

I wanted to like this one. But I couldn't. So confused by what the hell was happening. Characters were one dimensional, had to force myself to read this. 1/5


My Billion Year Contract: Memoir of a Former Scientologist by Nancy Many

This was adapted into a TV show kind of. Investigation Discovery had a series called "Dangerous Persuasions" and Episode 1 was her story. Highly recommend watching that episode for anybody interested in the subject. The book was good too but it's obvious she's not a writer and could have used a good editor. First half was great, second half dragged on. 3/5


Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology by Marc Headley

Awesome stuff here. Another Ex-member who saw shit go down writing a book. If you can get past the first couple chapters you're in for some good stuff. 4/5


Betrayal by Harold Pinter

Awesome play. Love rereading this one. 5/5
 

Vultural

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Providence Rider by Robert McCammon

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Most recent installment of novels following Matthew Corbett, and direct sequel to Mister Slaughter.
This time out, "problem solver" Corbett was kidnapped by arch nemesis Professor Fell.
Settings shift from New York in Winter, to the high seas of the Atlantic, into Bermuda. Time - 1703 - 1704.
Cutthroats, smugglers, blackmailers, arms peddlers, and the embrace of the octopus, hem Corbett from all sides in Fell's palace of traps.
As always with McCammon, the book was well crafted, with a wonderful eye for 1704. Queen Anne sat on the English throne, New York was still a colony, recently taken from the Dutch. Slaves and servants were commonplace.
Nice entertaining read, and no, one does not have to read the previous books, of which there are several.
 

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Joyland by Stephen King

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The master of Horror writing for one of the top Noir publishers today.
Result is a nostalgic memoir of coming of age in 1973 at battered amusement park.
There is a string of murders, but they simmer in the background, as does a ghost that everyone knows about, or has heard about, but few have actually seen.
The focus is on the park, barely surviving while Disney, Knotts, Six Flags offer safe sterility.
An enjoyable read on its own merits, but if you are seeking dark terror or hard edged crime, you might be disappointed.
 

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Amazing true novelistic stories from perhaps the worst place on Earth. If you can get through the descriptions of entire families starving to death, there are some gripping and ultimately uplifting tales here. Apparently a Waltz with Basir-style animated film is in the works; I can't wait:

 

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Cuckoo’s Calling - by J K Rowlings

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Latest novel by Harry Potter writer, J K Rowlings, using a pseudonym, but sticking her name on the dustjacket.
Detective whodunit about apparent suicide of famous/infamous fashion model.
First couple chapters florid and over written, but Rowlings settles down soon enough and pens a decent mystery.
Neither hard boiled nor British manor house pastiche. Fairly typical of most of the thrillers I’ve read.
Diverse amount of suspects that pegleg detective Strike interviews and checks off one by one.
Good travel read or beach book.
 

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Literary Rogues by Andrew Shaffer

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Brief, by-the-numbers, bios of literary drunks,
weedheads, stoners, self destructive, junkies, winos,
shotgun toting, sexually confused, pillars and deadbeats.
Enjoyable, though nothing in the way of fresh material for fans.
Each writer alloted a handful of pages to chart the spiral.
Author seemed to feel Hunter Thompson closed the door.
Bukowski omitted.
 

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The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

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Curious book club selection.
Serial killer escapes into “magical” Chicago house. House “tells” him to start killing targeted girls from various decades. Being a magical house, each time Mr Killer exits the door, he steps into another time.
Far fetched fantasy, but I went with it.
Aside from the female / male heroes, all other characters little more than sketches. Including the killer.
Book appalling written in present tense, from which the author slipped into past every chapter.
Killings were routine, repetitive even. Neither creative nor inventive. Those weaned on Thrillers or Horror will find nothing offensive or shocking.
Not literature, but pop fantasy from the genre fiction camp.
Passable time waster
 

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Binary by John Lange

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Bullet paced thriller set during the 1972 Republican Convention.
Disgruntled, genius millionaire, hijacks explosives and nerve gas to maximize fatalities.
From then on, cat n mouse with government ops determined to thwart.
Lightning read with zero character development, no twists.

John Lange published eight novels while still in medical school, then disappeared.
Lange was actually a pseudonym which the real author kept secret for decades.
After the author's death, permission was given to release all Lange titles, with the true author's name.
 

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I just finished up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It tells the story of Wade, a twenty-something kid living in the stacks. The world has depleted its energy resources and most people now plug into the Oasis, an MMO unlike all others. It really is a virtual world where kids go to school, people work and play, all from the comfort of their tiny 10x10 homes.

Now, the creator of the OASIS, Halliday, has died and he'd leaving his company and vast fortune to the first person who can decipher the clues he's left scattered throughout the OASIS. Besides Wade and the other "gunters" who are trying to win the contest, IOI, the largest and most powerful corporation in the world, is also trying to win. They want to profit from the Oasis, and will stop at nothing to be the winners of the contest.

This thing is chock full of 70's and 80's references as Halliday grew up in this time period and has many fond memories of the era. Having two kids, working full time, and having a lot of other hobbies it's rare I get through books quickly, but this is one that kept pulling me back. I finished it in about a week and it is now in my top five.

I definitely recommend this novel. If you haven't read it you should. It's fantastic.
 

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Sand’s Game by Ennis Willie.

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Sand, no first name, no last name, just Sand, was the hard as nails loner created by Ennis Willie.
Sand was an ex-syndicate operative who got out. No one leaves the organization. Assassins were hired to kill him. All slammed into cold steel or were filled with hot lead.
Sand was bad news.
Now and then Sand hooked up with an overripe female, who poured luscious curves over his smoking rod. Invariably ended ugly, which made Sand mad.
Then he got even.
Sand’s Game contains an interview with Willie, intros by leading mystery writers Max Collins, Bill Pronzini, Gary Lovisi. Also three short stories and two complete novels!
Great for Mike Hammer fans, or anyone who prefers full throttle action, without doubts or moral ambiguities.
 

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The Captain Is Out To Lunch by Charles Bukowski
And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship

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Publisher John Martin persuaded Bukowski, very late in his career, to keep a journal.
This came out posthumously.
Lot of comments about the racetrack, his neighborhood, ailments.
Some repetition, and there would be long lapses between entries (can't tell if that was Bukowski or the editor).
One gets the feeling the writer knew his time was winding down, and he seemed to find less enjoyment in everything. Not that he was ever the beacon of merriment. As always, his observations are merciless, and skewer the facades we hide behind.
A quick read - no Chinaski - may prove better for hard fans.
Fabulous drawings by sympathetic soul, Robert Crumb.

Note: I only wish I had the edition shown.

Excerpt from 10/3/91 - 11:56 PM

. . . I remember when the racetracks were jammed with people, shoulder to shoulder, ass to ass, sweating, screaming, pushing toward the full bars. It was a good time. Have a big day, you'd both be drinking and laughing. We thought those days (and night) would never end. And why should they? Crap games in the parking lots. Fist fights. Bravado and glory. Electricity. Hell, life was good, life was funny. All us guys were men, we'd take no shit from anybody. And, frankly, it felt good. Booze and a roll in the hay. And plenty of bars, full bars. No TV sets. You talked and got into trouble. If you got picked up for being drunk in the streets they only locked you up overnight to dry out. You lost jobs and found other jobs. No use hanging around the same place. What a time. What a life. Crazy things always happening, followed by more crazy things.
Now, it has simmered away. Seven thousand people at a major racetrack on a sunny afternoon. Nobody at the bar. Just the lonely barkeep holding a towel. Where are the people? There are more people than ever but where are they? Standing on a corner, sitting in a room. Bush might get reelected because he won an easy war. But he didn't do crap for the economy. You never even know if your bank will open in the morning. I don't mean to sing the blues. But you know, in the 1930's at least everybody knew where they were. Now, it's a game of mirrors. And nobody is quite sure what is holding it together. Or who they are really working for. If they are working . . .
 

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Redheads Die Quickly by Gil Brewer

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In the genre of hardboiled noir fiction, Brewer was the master of weak men and betraying women.
The world of the cuckold.
Short story collection, in more or less chronological order, charts the path of sex, treachery, murder.
Brewer's original agent warned him to leave his obsessions and write quality fiction.
After the agent's death, Brewer spiraled into alcoholism and lurid trash until his death at 60.
Not that Redheads is trash, it's lot of fun. But it ain't art.
Barely dressed females and short-fused, sweating males, claw at each other in the steamy Gulf Coast.
Beach read.
 

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Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar


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Reread some books from my childhood. I've lost book #3, but I just bought a new copy from Amazon, along with a boxset of all three for my nephew's birthday.

Each contain 30 stories revolving around the kids in Mrs. Jewl's class at Wayside School. Fun and wacky and perfect for kid-minds. Stories range from simple and silly (Paul's obsession with pulling Leslie's pigtails) to a bit absurd (Shari brings in a homeless man for show-and-tell) to extreme ridiculousness (a dead rat sneaks into class and pretends to be the new kid).

I loved rereading these and was astonished to find a Canadian animated show based on the characters. But the show really misses the mark and has little resemblance to the source material.
 

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Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Superfudge by Judy Blume

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More childhood books. These were a lot better when I was 8. Nowadays I want to slap all the characters for being so daft and self-centered. I'll probably give these to my nephew next year (8th birthday) but I just hope he doesn't start mimicking Fudge or my sister will kick my arse.

I never bothered to read any of the other Fudge books but I vaguely remember some sort of Disney channel adaptation that I didn't care for back then, so no need to go digging for it now.
 

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

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When this was first announced I didn't care much about it. I read The Shining back when I was 12 and didn't think it was all that great and I've never cared to reread it. Why should I care what became of Danny Torrance?

Once I started reading, I realized I had been quite wrong. This was a thrilling read and I'm glad Stevey went back to the well. Of course in his normal fashion he wrote about 100 pages too many.

Very much looking forward to the inevitable film adaptation.
 

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Joyland by Stephen King

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Lovesick 19-year-old Charlie takes a summer job at a small-time amusement park. There's a small plot about a ghost that haunts the place and who murdered her, but King really shines when he goes on about the day-to-day work at Joyland. I've never worked at a park but I felt right at home.

I hope this never gets turned into a film, they'd muff it up for sure.

This is his second "Hard Case Crime" novel, after the wonderful Colorado Kid, and I hope he writes more of these. I know I'll keep reading if he does.
 

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Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

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I think this was the second King book I ever finished and I haven't revisited it since my youth. The plot was thin but the characters were rich. I would love to see him write a follow-up and tell us what happened to Flagg after he fled the kingdom.
 

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Gerald's Game by Stephen King

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One of many King books I own and never gave a damn about. I was on a roll and felt like reading one more short novel.

Gerald and his wife Jessie are on a weekend trip to their remote cabin in the woods. Gerald's into kinky handcuff sex and Jessie has grown tired of it. She's trapped to the bed and about to be raped by her husband and the voices in her head convince her to fight back. Oops, she kills him and now she's naked locked to a bed in the middle of nowhere. Then a lot of nothing happens. Her demon voices keep her company and force her to overcome the trauma of being molested by her father as a child, somehow making her able to escape.

This would have been much better as a 100 page novella.
 

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Opium: A Portrait Of The Heavenly Demon by Barbara Hodgson

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Richly illustrated, glossy book on smoking poppies.
Lots of pages wandering notorious "Chinatowns," the cultivation and trade of opium, not to mention tons of ink scribbled by authors. Hopeless addicts and annoying do-gooders.
Also poets, painters, thrill seekers, the lost set.
Lurid paperback covers grace several pages.
For me, the best were terrific vintage adverts.
Yer kid giving you trouble? Give 'em candy laced with narcotics!

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NIght Boat by Robert McCammon

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Zzzzzzzz . . . . . .
Scuba diver in small Caribbean island accidently releases Nazi sub stuck in a sand bar.
Superstitious islanders want that U-boat removed or sunk as soon as possible.
So, of course, the sub gets towed to the local salvage warehouse.
Sooner than you can hum the Horst-Wessel song, Nazi zombies emerge, seeking unhappy meals.
Shock Waves, a 1977 film with Peter Cushing, which seemed the inspiration for this nonsense, was over in 90 minutes.
Slow going, stereotyped characters, shallow pool plot.
Sleep, Nazi zombie, go sleep now.
Zzzzzzzz . . . . . . .
 
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