June 2010 Archives

Book Review: Murder At Manassas

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Murder at Manasses: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery Murder at Manasses: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery by Michael Kilian

My rating: ★★★★✩

Murder at Manassas (not -es, as in the title here on Goodreads!)  was a pretty solid start to the Harrison Raines Civil War Mysteries series. More of a 3.5 star book, but the main character was likable and the milieu was better than average and overcame the rather pedestrian writing and confusing plot.

Harrison Raines is a rather well off dandy, who passes the time playing cards and investing in various money making schemes. Washington DC is all a twitter, as the first big battle of the American Civil War is about to commence, with the Confederates meeting the Union at the nearby town of Manassas. The Confederates were to call this the Battle of Manassas, as they usually named them after nearby towns, while the Union called it the Battle of Bull Run, using a nearby river or other geographic location. The battle was watched by a whole stream of civilians, who flocked to the site from DC to catch what they figured would be the first and last battle of the Civil War.

Raines gets dragged along by Caitlin, with whom he is smitten yet who doesn't return the favor, as she loves John Wilkes Booth (yes, that Booth). But he does as bidden and they see the Union disaster unfold before them. They also see a Major Pleasants try to stem the tide of retreating blue, only to be shot down. Later he is asked to help retrieve the body and there uncovers a startling fact - Pleasants was almost certainly murdered!

This also leads him into a labyrinthine maze of torn loyalties, Federal jurisdictions, plots, counter plots and treachery. Who is trying to steal shoes from the Union and give them to the Confederate? Who killed a sargeant and tried to pin it on Raines? Can he find the answers to these before being arrested and thrown in jail by the DC marshall, or should he help Pinkerton?

Lots of minor characters show up and sometimes I lost track of them. There are plenty of historical figures who play parts, both major and minor in the story, including Clara Barton, Allan Pinkerton, and even Abraham Lincoln himself, who has some of the most amusing dialog. The story was a little too complex, I thought, and the writing servicable at best. But I liked all the characters and loved how the history was woven in. I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, A Killing at Ball's Bluff: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery.

PS: Darn it all - Michael Kilian died in 2005, ending the series at the Battile of Antietam, Harrison Raines book #6. That's sad

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Book Review: World Cup 2010

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World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics by Steven D. Stark

My rating: ★★★★★

What a great book! If you are at all interested in the 2010 World Cup this is the book for you. Lots of interesting detail on all the countries, some World Cup history, bold predictions and more. Even a little blurb on each country's national anthem! Wonderful book!

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Book Review: March Violets

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March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1) March Violets by Philip Kerr

My rating: ★★★★✩

Good to go back and reread an old favorite. This is especially interesting as I recently finished up all the current ones in the series (I hear there's another one on the way) and it was fun to read this with all the knowledge of the coming books.

In this, the first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy (there are also 3 more after the trilogy in the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr), Bernie is asked by Herman Six, rich industrialist (do they have those any more or is that a WW2 idiom?), to find a necklace stolen from his murdered daughter's safe. Of course, it isn't that straight forward and before you know it, Bernie is involved in some nasty politics with such Nazi "luminaries" as Himmler and Goerring. He of course, is anti-Nazi, even to his detriment, and spends time Dachau even.

Spolier Alert! I'll do this in white - select the text if you want to read it!

Looking back on it, there seems to be an over-reliance on coincidence. This is especially true in thes search for the women's necklace, as there is a sudden plot pivot towards the end that is a little hard to believe. He actually comes across the daughter but doesn't recognize her, because he's never seen a picture of her. Then he notices a picture on Six's desk of her and says "Oh, I know her!". They then have to try to rescue her from the clutches of Six's own thugs. Not sure I buy it - even if he isn't investigating her murder, and she was purportedly burned in a fire, I still feel like he would have seen a picture.

And I also need to read the next book in the trilogy, The Pale Criminal to see if Inge shows up again, as she went missing in this book and that plot point was left dangling.

But all in all, it was a fun read. I don't usually reread books, as I have too many on my To Read list already (313 at last count!). But this was fun, visiting an old friend, as I haven't read this book in probably 15 years. There were still some classic lines, which I need to get put into Goodreads. Try this book if you at all like dectective fiction - you won't be disappointed.

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March Violets
Philip Kerr

Vehement Flame #5

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Finally came out with Vehement Flame #5, with the following list of artists:

Citay, The New Pornographers, pandoras.box, Taken By Trees, lowercase noises, Xiu Xiu, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, The Stompers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Moon And Her Mother, Psapp, Justine Bennett, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, GIGI, Big Pig

It's too big to upload, so please head on over to the web site for a listen. Or download it here:

Vehement Flame #5 : New and Free



Book Review: The Exile

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My rating: ★✩✩✩✩

What a bunch of junk. Wooden writing, cardboard characters and purple prose all led me to abandon this doorstop after less than 300 pages. Coincidences abound, emotions explode and very little of it makes any sense. 

Guess I'm just not the mass market thriller type.


The Exile
Allan Folsom

Friday Media [5]

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Not a whole bunch of media notes, but enough to fill a Media [5] again, I think:


     
  • Watched the original D.O.A. on Netflix Instant and liked it a lot. It had a little too much music and there was one strange spot where Frank Bigelow went to SF to "unwind" and he ended up in a hotel with lots of pretty girls and every time he glanced over at one, the music would do a litle wolf whistle, which I found a little jarring. But once the action started, it was interesting and ended perfectly.

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  • Also finally got 'round to watching The Hurt Locker on Netflix Bluray. A solid, exciting action flick, with a top notch "you are there" feeling. But that's all - nothing too deep and sometimes even a little predictable. A real testosterone fest, with some excellent explosions, definitely putting my subwoofer to the test. A disappointing Oscar Best Picture winner, but a good view nonetheless. Virtually no extras on the disc at all, save for a commentary track (which I never get to anyway). And shouldn't they be wearing something on their hands?

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  • Mostly just have time for TV episode watching. I enjoyed season one of Californication, although I find it impossible to believe anyone really talks like that. Finished season five of LOST, which I have enjoyed but find it a little too weird usually. Started to watch the first season of Ally McBeal but am finding it too angsty. I watched pilot episode for free on the computer, via Amazon Video On Demand, but watching a few more episodes on DVD is getting me hinky. Way too much angst. And I watched the first "season" of The Guild and thought it pretty funny. For some reason, I couldn't get the second "season" to play on my PS3 Netflix Instant, but I'll try again tonight.

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  • I'm re-reading Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, starting with the first one, March Violets. What fun. To balace off that fun, I decided to try a mass market "thriller" by Alan Folsoom. I saw the 3rd book in the series at the library and the back cover sounded interesting enough, so I grabbed the first massive tome, The Exile. I'm on about page 200 of the book and it's just painful. Absolutely no grace in the writing, all the characters emote wildly and the action is one coincidence after another. I'll probably soldier on for a few more chapters but I can't imagine actually finishing it.

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  • Still listening to The New Pornographer's Together CD. My girls really like it, especially songs 3 - 5 : Your Hands (Together), Silver Jenny Dollar and Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk. It's a little uncomfortable saying their name to them though and I can just see them going to school and saying they love listening to Pornographers at home! And am also really enjoying Jakob Dylan's Women+Country.


The New Pornographers - "Your Hands (Together)" Official Video

Jakob Dylan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert



BP Joke

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Not much of one, really, but the only thing one can do as we silently boil with ineffetual rage against the BP machine:

What do you call a boatload of BP executives sinking in oil-covered seas with no lifeboats, each one leaping into the vile mix of crude and salt water, flailing to stay afloat before their lungs fill with the poisoned mixture and they sink to the bottom to be eaten by oil-mutated bottom-feeders?

A good start!

Two boatloads?

A GREAT start!


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