Review: Morgan Kane – Without Mercy by Louis Masterson

Morgan Kane- Without Mercy
allegedly by Louis Masterson, but I doubt it
Rating: HATE
Read 8/25/2013

First: The version I read is a recent reprint from WR Films. They contacted me through my blog and asked if I would read and review this book as they are planning to re-release them all as eBooks and have movies to tie the books into. I said yes but Westerns aren’t my thing, and they sent me a free copy anyway. I won’t enter this version into the Goodreads database ’cause I don’t work for Amazon for free. Also, there’s no ISBN.

Second: The book is riddled with typos, misspellings, mispunctuations, and general careless editing. I wasn’t reading for editing, just turning down corners whenever I found a mistake on a page. 14 pages (out of 124) are dog-eared.

Third: The cover claims that the series was an international bestseller for Mr. Louis Masterson (a pseudonym of Norwegian writer Kjell Hallbing).

So, Westerns aren’t my thing, but I’ve read a few. Enough, say, to recognize a good Western written by a good writer. This reads as if it had been translated using Google, and I find it significant that there is no translator credited anywhere in the colophon. Actually, it sounds like it was translated by Google and then rewritten by a screenwriter. The publisher has Films in their name, leaving me to suspect all sorts of dark things. Primarily, that they don’t give a good rat’s ass about the book, but are just trying to drum up publicity for the next blockbuster. I care about books too much to approve of this shoddy effort.

There are a lot of breasts in this book, all belonging to very young vixens and temptresses who are forever arching their backs so their nipples strain against the fabric. The hero is steely-eyed, a quick draw, and a helluva card player. Sometimes he drinks. Sometimes he kills bad guys. He never, never falls in love. But those nipples, boy howdy, they haunt him. He can ride a horse, and climb silently into windows. Every woman he talks to falls in love with him for no apparent reason. He can sew up his own gunshot wounds by puncturing his own skin and tying it up with bits of his shirt.

I can sort of see the ghost of what might have been a book that, even if it wasn’t for me, might have been worth reading when it was new in 1971. But this version? No. Oh, HELL NO.

Review: Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books by Nikol Lohr

Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books
by Nikol Lohr
Rating: ****
Read 8/23/2013
First off, you should know that I do not knit. I do, however, read books sometimes. That plus the lovely cover image inspired me to pick this up, and oh, I am heartily sorry I did. Because I want MOST of these literary-themed knits, and I haven’t the first intention of learning to knit. The Galadriel dress is perhaps my favorite knit item ever in the history of knitting. But I also need Edmund’s crown. And while I don’t really need Anne’s Puff-Sleeve sweater, I did burst into joyful laughter when I saw it.

Lovely photos, splendid idea. Please, buy this book and knit all the things for me.

Review: Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child
by Jessie Hartland
Rating: ****
Read 8/20/2013

Arrrrgh, present tense! There’s no need for it here, and it kept taking me out of the book. The story is done well, with all sorts of kid-friendly facts. The illustrations are stellar, a little rough, a little giddy, and just perfect for Julia Child. Very enjoyable, indeed. This would be a fun read-aloud with a slightly older child, one who can be trusted with a sharp knife. From this book straight into the kitchen.

Review: Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad Is Fat
by Jim Gaffigan
Rating: *
Read 8/21/2013
I can’t remember why I put this on hold. I know that I was number six hundred and something when I did, and in the intervening months I’ve forgotten what made me think I’d like this. It’s entirely not my thing. It’s warm, fuzzy, cute (goodness gracious, the CUTE) and good. It’s about a man with a million children (maybe it’s actually five) and his long-suffering wife. It made me want to gouge my eyes out with a dull instrument.


Review: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

The Road Home
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: *****
Read 8/20/2013

8/2013 I had to come back to this and re-read it after reading the four Zack Emerson Echo Company books. I love it more, now that I’ve read them. I’m flummoxed as to why it’s not packaged as part of the Echo Company series, and have been engaged in some fairly robust debates as to whether it truly IS part of the series. When I read it first, I thought it could stand alone. Now that I’ve read the Echo Company books, I think it’s much more satisfying, more complete. The backstory is there, and things which are alluded to in this book are whole and have depth and breadth and, well, mass.

A phenomenal series with a spectacular cap, that’s how I’m thinking of them.

7/2013 I was a little girl when we finally got out of Vietnam. I remember going outside and banging pots and pans together, my mother crying. And so many people I loved just missed being there, through luck. My starter husband had a really high number. My uncle went to Germany. My dad got out just in time. My true love kept Cape Cod safe. And there are people I love who didn’t just miss being there. People who still flinch when a Chinook flies over. People who just don’t talk about it.

So. This book, which starts in country and stays tightly focused on the war throughout, was tremendously affecting for me. It’s also very well-written. The characters are so, so real, and one roots hard for them to be okay. So hard, in fact, that one finds one’s self up all night, holding the book in a death grip, reading in a tiny pool of light. Well, maybe that’s only me. I didn’t get much more than 3 chapters in before I ordered the first 4 Echo Company books through Inter-Library Loan.

By turns brutal and tender and introspective and broken. Incredibly well-done.

Review: The Echo Company books by Zack Emerson

Welcome to Vietnam
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Rating: ****
Read 8/13/2013

Oof. Vietnam. So many things in MY head, reading this. The boys, of course, the boys are the ages of my own boys, more or less. Some of ‘em younger, even. And of course I can’t help putting them in this scenario and then I get the shakes. Also, so many of my grown friends, old men now, were there, were these very boys. There’s vertigo. And then there’s Story. And Ellen Emerson White is a storyteller for sure. Even when she’s pretending to be Zack Emerson, writing for boys.

Hill 568
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/15/2013

This book brings home what the war in Vietnam must have felt like, smelled like. How terrifying it was, and how the kids fighting it were exactly that, kids. Michael, who I first met in the fifth book of this series, makes a lot more sense to me now. And oh, how I love Snoopy.

Mostly, it’s giving me a horrifying window into the war that loomed large over my childhood.

‘Tis The Season
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/17/2013

This is Rebecca’s backstory, what you miss inĀ The Road Home. Solid characters in an untenable situation, doing the best they can. So achingly true, so well written. I need to have this whole series of books. They surely do pass the 3 a.m. test.

Rebecca is such a wonderful person, complicated and fierce and devoted and broken. I think there needs to be a sixth book. And maybe a seventh.

Stand Down
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/19/2013

This series is phenomenal. Why did it ever go out of print? The fourth installment was every bit as good as the first three, and I grew more enamored of Rebecca. I didn’t think that was even possible. And the guys, oh, how I love the guys. I had to get the fifth book again to re-read, now that I know them all better.

There’s more grim detail here about the everyday business of war in the jungle. And it’s so realistic that there are times I could actually smell it. The guys, doing their heartbreaking best, fighting a war they don’t understand under conditions that can only be called intolerable. Yet they tolerate them, and even find some beauty, some humor.

Georgy Girl! And the shout-out to Sue Barton, Student Nurse made me tear up.

Read these. In order. Because those people who told me I could just read the last one and then decide if I wanted to go back and read the first four? Those people, while technically correct, are wrong.

Review: A bunch of Portland OR specific hiking books

Hiking Mount Hood National Forest
by Marcia Sinclair
Rating: **
Read 8/12/2013

This says, on the cover, “31 scenic hikes” so I can perhaps be forgiven for thinking I was picking up a guidebook. With maybe some maps or trail descriptions? Not so much, though the essays about the hikes were interesting enough, and Sinclair does refer one to the proper maps for each trail. Still, had I wanted essays, I wouldn’t have been shopping in the guidebook section.

Portland Forest Hikes: Twenty Close-In Wilderness Walks
by James Thayer
Rating: *
Read 8/12/2013

I didn’t find the maps herein very useful. More than half of the hikes in this book are in Forest Park and there are lots of very good Forest Park maps and guides. This isn’t one of them.

Portland Hill Walks: Twenty Explorations in Parks and Neighborhoods
by Laura O. Foster
Rating: ***
Read 8/12/2013

I liked this guidebook enough to make a note to come back to it, but not enough to carry it around on an actual walk. It’s really HEAVY, printed on high-quality, glossy paper. I like Foster’s writing style a lot, but the book I’m actually going to buy and carry around with me is her The Portland Stairs Book, a much lighter, smaller book with similar walks in it.

Portland City Walks: Twenty Explorations in and Around Town
by Laura O. Foster
Rating: ****
Read 8/12/2013

Again, I liked this very well except why must it be so heavy? Foster knows everything about Portland, and is eager to share it with you, which is terrific. Her walks are nicely planned, and just random enough to keep you on your toes. It’s a book I’d like to have in my library but not one for the backpack.


Review: Stitch Workshop: Right-Angle Weave by Bead & Button Magazine

Stitch Workshop: Right-Angle Weave
by Bead & Button Magazine
Rating: ***
Read 8/12/2013

Splendid diagrams and decent photos. I didn’t find any of the projects inspiring, but I did come out of the book feeling like I have a more secure base in RAW. I’ve fallen in love with MRAW (M is for modified) and I suspect I will use that instead of regular RAW forever and ever, amen.

Review: Ramona Quimby, Age 8/ Ramona Forever/ Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Quimby, Age 8
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 8/5/2013

I love Ramona. The end.

Ramona Forever
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 8/7/2013

There’s just not a lot new to say when one goes straight through all the Ramona books. Except they are brilliant. And wonderful.

Ramona’s World
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: ****
Read 8/11/2013

Not quite so splendid as the first seven Ramona books, but still head and shoulders above so many books for this age group. I’m not sure when Mrs. Quimby started reading socially, but it was only a little jarring to see her personality change a bit. The way the relationship between Beezus and Ramona evolves feels very organic over the scope of the whole series. In this book they get along maybe a little too well.

Glad I revisited these on audio. Well worth a listen.

Review: Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

by Kelley Eskridge
Rating: ****
Read 8/10/2013

I loved Jackal. Loved her with all my heart. I had a harder time loving (or more importantly, making sense of) Jackal’s world. While I found it totally consistent, what there was of it, I felt like whole chunks of it remained in Eskridge’s head, where I couldn’t get at it. I needed more background, more story. I wanted this book to be about 4 times longer than it was.

Will be reading more Eskridge directly.