30 December 2010

101. Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors - Jane Lindskold

I will write about this in the coming days. It is holiday time.

Actually, I have decided not to blog all that much. It was just OK. A science fiction book where a woman named Smokey lives on the planet Arizona, makes her living as a whore and has psionic abilities which let her read minds when in physical contact with a subject. What better way to be in physical contact than to be a whore?

I don't think I will go into it much further. It isn't worth it and I have to prep for 2011 and review 2010.

24 December 2010

100. Fairtax: The Truth, Answering the Critics

Fairtax: The Truth; Answering the Critics - Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder

This is an excellent idea that would solve many of our problems. it is long overdue.

Why is it so hard? Implementation is a MAJOR change and makes people nervous.

Well, we can do it voluntarily now or we can do it in reaction to our economic failure in the future.

Want to know more? Check out http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer

It will let you know what the Fairtax is and answer many questions. The books go into more depth and and explain much more of the concepts and scenarios that are likely.

I loved it. I am 100% behind the idea. I will be asking all elected representatives to get behind it themselves.

22 December 2010

99. First Blood

First Blood - David Morrell

This book shocked me. It was nothing like the movie. Well, other than having a character named Rambo being the person of interest during a police manhunt in a small town.

Before I cover the book I will relate my memory of the movie. It was a long time ago, so I may have forgotten some. The thing is, there is no way I got it as wrong as I would have to for this book to be what that movie was.

In the movie I remember Rambo being a good guy who was hassled by some overzealous sheriffs deputies in a small town. They didn't like him passing through the town and arrested him. While in the jail they abused him. That is supposed to be where the "first blood" was drawn. Then he escapes and the cops chase him. I remember policemen dying, but never because Rambo killed them. It was always something stupid the cops did that caused their own deaths. Eventually Troutman shows up and brings Rambo in. Everything turns out just peachy, Rambo is a hero. The corrupt and overbearing cops get their just desserts. All is well in the world. I recall this movie being one of those action adventure films.

The book on the other hand was nothing like that. Rambo is just a psycho ex-green beret who can't leave the war behind who goes on a rampage killing so many policemen that the National Guard and state police conduct a massive manhunt. THIS Rambo is not a hero. He is nuts. He likes killing. He convinces himself he is self-righteous, but he even argues with himself about his being full of shit and lying to himself to convince himself he is correct.

What sets him off in the first place? He is a drifter. He is dirty and unshaven. He is approached by the Sheriff (Teasle) who is not mean, but is not going to allow Rambo to be in his town causing problems like other drifters had in the past. He gives Rambo a ride through town and drops him off at the far side to continue his journey. Fair enough I think. Rambo decides he "won't be pushed" any more and heads right back to town. Again, Teasle picks him up and makes it very clear that he should continue on his way. Teasle lets Rambo eat in the diner and then gives him a ride out of town again. Once more, Rambo walks right back into town defying the Sheriff. Needless to say that defiance gets him in trouble. Teasle confronts him with questions. Rambo will not give a name, has no ID, is a wise-ass in every way he can be. Teasel then arrests him.

When they get to the jail Rambo realizes he did not think it through. He sees the cell and it brings back memories of being a POW and the cages he was imprisoned within. Does he explain any of this to the sheriff? Does he give his name? No, he starts planning his escape. He is told to shower before donning his prison clothes. He is then told that per policy he must have his hair cut. Everyone arrested gets a haircut. Even to this point the police have done nothing wrong at all. The only person being a jerk is Rambo.

When they attempt to cut his hair he takes a knife and slashes a deputy across his midsection. The man's internal organs fall out on the floor. Another deputy is brutally assaulted and Rambo escapes. From there the hunt is on to catch a crazy man who is now a cop-killer.

A group of police go into the mountains after him. He picks them off one by one. Shooting some. Slashing throats. Killing 17 or 18 all together. Eventually he works his way past the search lines and back into town. He blows up gas stations. He burns the court house. He blows up the police station with dynamite. All the while justifying his actions within his own head.

The book is not about being sympathetic to the plight of an American war hero being unjustly persecuted by a demonized police force. The book is about the actions of a man returning from Vietnam with such deep changes to his psyche that he never really left the war. The lines of morality have been obscured within him. The war is all he knows.

The end is totally different. In this story Rambo is killed by Troutman and Teasle dies also.

The story is totally different and I loved it. This was much better than the movie. Read it. I just hope I didn't give too much away in this post. Sorry if I ruined it for you.

I wish they would make a movie more in line with the story as the author has written this book. It could be a great statement of the psychological effects of war on some soldiers.

12 December 2010

98. Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland

This was an outstanding novel that captured me right from the start. It is written as four seperate first person narratives. Each of these people have been affected by a fictional Columbine type shooting at a High School in Vancouver.

This is a book about the victims...not the killers.

The first narrative is given by Cheryl in 1988. Cheryl is giving this narrative after she has been murdered in the shooting.

The second narrative is from Jason in 1999. Jason was Cheryl's boyfriend/husband at the time of the shooting. Needless to say, the events of that day tremendously affect the rest of his life and the decisions he makes. Jason writes his narrative as a series of letters to his twin nephews/sons.

The third narrative is by Heather in 2002. Heather is Jason's girlfriend and the first person since Cheryl that he has had any real relationship with at all. She is writing as journal entries following jason's disappearance. She has some interesting moments with a character that is an admitted fake psychic.

The last one is the shortest and is by Reg, Jason's father. He wraps up a lot while wishing he had treated people differently all his life.

The characters are the real story here. Yes, the school shooting was a big event that caused many problems for years, but the real story started long before that shooting. The massacre was a catalyst that may have sparked some change, but the snowball was already rolling down the hill.

Some things I found fascinating:
Cheryl would not have pre-marital sex so the 17 year old flew to Vegas and got married jsut so they could have sex.

When Jason's brother Kent died in a car accident his wife, Barb, called Jason because she wanted to have Kent's baby. The police were still at the accident scene. Jason was to impregnate Barb and then they would raise the child like it was Kents. Jason would not have sex unless they were married...so once again a vegas chapel trip occured. Barb had twins. Jason never told anyone they were actually his children except in his letters to the kids.

This was a very good book that I recommend to all.

97. Survivor

Survivor - J. F. Gonzalez

This psychological horror novel is extremely disturbing to read. It felt like i was driving by a horrible car accident that just occured, seeing dismembered bodies in the street, and finding it impossible to look away. The book really did feel like that.

The story is about a couple, Brad and Lisa, who are taking a vacation. That vacation is cut short and Lisa is kidnapped by a group of men who make snuff films.

These are some seriously twisted and demented deviates. The writing tied my stomach on knots. Gonzalez did a very good job with that.

What I found very interesting is that this was a horror novel, but it did not feel like any other horror novel I have read. It also felt like a crime or mystery novel. Yes, there are horrible beasties for the hero and heroine to fight, but it was much more than that.

This book took the reader into the minds of the abusers and the abused. That could be extremely revolting in a few cases. It explained motivations for the actions of characters and how events in their pasts had helped form the people they were presently.

I also found it interesting how the actions of the characters had repercussions. The biggest one being Lisa's decision to try and save her own life by baiting the bad guys with a homeless girl and her infant. The guys take the bait. Lisa escapes. The girl and the baby are horribly mutilated. That whole scene will haunt me for a few more nights. The interesting thing is how throughout the rest of the book that one decision changes the course of everyones lives, forever. It can not and will not ever be normal again. Especially for Lisa.

I also found the charachter of Tim/Caleb interesting. He is the guy who kidnapped Lisa. He has spent his entire life doing dispicable things within an underground extreme porn industry. Despite his serving Lisa up as the star of the next snuff film, he is doing it solely for money and harbors no ill will towards her. He is strange in that way. It really is just business and he is totally desensitized by it all...but that changes. Animal (Jeff) mutilates Mandy (Alicia's infant daughter) and Alicia (the girl Lisa set up) for a film, well, Tim is disgusted. Animal crossed a line and from that point on Tim is planning his disappearance and how he will take down the entire industry. He thinks it will only continue to spiral into more and more deviant practices including cannibalism. He is not wrong.

I found this to be a very well written book that was much better than I expected. I thought I was getting into a quick little horror book that would fit into the same old mold as so many other hack and slash type stories. I was wrong. This writer actually has some talent. His characters have multiple dimensions. The plot twists and turns and creates suspense. There is more going on than it seems on the surface, and yet, I found it impossible to predict where it was going.

I recommend it to horror fans, but only those that can put up with being absolutely disgusted by the worst in humanity. It can be hard to read due to some subject matter, but it is a good read.

10 December 2010

96. Don of the Dead

Don of the Dead - Casey Daniels

OK, so, like,  this young woman, Pepper Martin, works as a tour guide at a creepy old cemetery in Cleveland. One day she falls and smacks her head at the mauseleum of the Don of a Mafia family. He was killed about thirty years earlier. After the head trauma event she is now able to see and hear the ghost of this Don, Augustine "Gus" Scarpetti. He tells her he needs her to find out who killed him. She decides to investigate and gets herself into lots of trouble. He was the Don...and the family still exists...and they don't like people investigating...but she can't tell them that Gus wants her to do it because she will look insane...and she can't stop because Gus won't go away...and it is just ridiculous.

This is total chic literature. Who in their right mind would care that the mafia goon frisking them at the door is not wearing the proper color shoes with his suit? Who would look at the way a person decorates thier office and make judgements about their character? Who cares about what color highlights someone has or what perfume they are wearing? Totally chic!

I will not be reading any more of the Pepper Martin Mystery series. I don't care if she is going to solve more decades old crimes for folks who can't seem to move on from the world. Whatever!

I finished it just to say I did it.

04 December 2010

95. True Grit

True Grit - Charles Portis

This was an outstanding book with some fascinating characters.

Mattie is a 14 year old girl who's father is killed in Fort Smith, Arkansas and the killer flees into the frontier lands that would later become Oklahoma. She hires a US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to hunt the killer down and bring him to justice. A Texas Ranger also gets involved in the hunt because he has been chasing the same man for the murder of a Texas State Senator.

The character or Mattie was awesome. She was a spunky strong-willed girl who would do whatever it takes to get what she needs. She is a shrewd bargainer and haggler. That would all pay off for her later in life as she becomes a well-to-do bank owner.

I chose to read this book now because the remake of the old John Wayne movie based on this book is coming out soon. I want to see that movie. I remember liking the John Wayne version very much. I loved his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn. I wanted to read this book before seeing the new movie because I have a feeling they are going to ruin it. The movie trailers look very violent and dark to me. I am hoping they didn't do the typical Hollywood action adventure tricks to this story.

One thing I am expecting concerns Mattie. Nowhere in this book is there any sexual content. The closest it comes is when she meets LeBoeuf. He says to her something like "I would steal a kiss, but you are very young, and sick, and kind of ugly also." So, there is no sex...but I am willing to bet that somewhere in the new movie one of the bad guys will have have tendencies towards pedophelia and rape. he will be stopped, of course, but I expect something along those lines...and it is not in the book at all.

I recommend this one. I was pleasantly surprized. I will be keeping it on the shelf.

There were a few things that struck me as I was reading that I wish to post here, and then there are some old words that I had to look up.

The first is something that Mattie said while watching prisoners being taken to jail by some Marshals: "You must pay for everything in this world one way or another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You can not earn that or deserve it."

And then there was this one where Rooster was telling Mattie how he decided to accept that the North won the Civil War... "I've swallowed the puppy." I have no idea what that means.


SANGUINARY AMBUSCADE: An attack from a concealed position with much bloodshed.

PETTIFOGGING: Bickering or quibbling over unimportant matters. To carry on a shifty law business.

PROBITY: Integrity and uprightness, honesty.

FETTLE: A state or condition of being.

BEEVES: beef

DEPREDATIONS: The act of preying upon or plundering, robbery, ravage

02 December 2010

94. Last Night at the Lobster

Last Night at the Lobster - Stewart O'Nan

This was a pretty short book (146 pages) that I have been looking at on the shelf for a while and thinking I should knock it out. Then I read something else. I wanted to read it becasue it was written by an author from New England who co-authored "Faithful" with Stephen King.

I finally just picked it up and started reading. I loved it. What confuses me is that I have no idea why I loved it. Nothing happened in the book.

Manny is the manager of a Red Lobster that is being closed the following day. This is the last shift. He and his kitchen and floor staff go through the motions of operating a restaurant three days before Christmas in a snow storm knowing that it is the last time they will work together.

I kept waiting for the drama. I kept waiting for something to happen that saves the restaurant. I kept waiting for Manny to save his relationship with the waitress he is in love with despite having a pregnant girlfriend. I kept waiting for a million things to happen...and it didn't.

This book was just like real life. There was no flash or huge movie drama. It was normal...and I loved the whole thing. Weird, huh.

I learned two new words:

LOGY: Informal, dull or sluggish, as from overeating.

ABUELITA: Spanish word for Grandma, granny, grandmother. The strange thing about this word is that I had never heard it before...but in this book it was used 12 times, and "lita" was used a half dozen more.

93. A Patriot's Handbook: Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love

A Patriot's Handbook: Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love - Caroline Kennedy

This is an awesome idea for an audiobook. It is a collection of Caroline Kennedy's favorite patriotic poems, readings and speeches. She selected many outstanding little diddies. Some were the original recordings. Some were read by people such as James Earl Jones or Vanessa Williams. Overall, it was quite enjoyable.

Here are some of my favorite selections from this collection. I will attach links to audio versions where I can find them.

The Mike Christian Story, John McCain, 1971...read by John McCain. Concerning his experience as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton.

Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address, 11 January 1989. I remember watching it live and getting a tear in my eye.

A poem entitled "I Like Americans" written by Edna St Vincent Millay in 1924. It was read by Kate Burton.

There was a pretty interesting and very cool reenactment of the the hearing of Susan B. Anthony where she was allowed to make a statement in her own defense. It is read from the original court transcripts. It is entitled "The United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony", 1873. That was a very powerfula nd memorable performance.

Frederick Douglass' "If I Had a Country, I Should Be a Patriot", 24 Sep 1847 read by James Earl Jones...AWESOME!

John F. Kennedy gave a speech on 12 Sep 1960 to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association concerning the Freedom of Religion. This was a recording of the original speech and it was excellent.
A very sad reading of a speech by Chief Joseph when he surrendered to the U. S. Army in 1877. This one was quite moving and I had never heard it before.

There was an "Ellis Island Interview" by Manny Steen from 22 Mar 1991. "I am in America one day and I am on Broadway!"  :-)

There was also a reading from Upton Sinclair's book, "The Jungle". This was from the part where Jurgis is disabled and his life has become a nightmare. One line stood out..."There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside; and there is another kind where things are behind bars, and the man is outside."