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Display Name: Planxty
About me: Sporadically employed scientist/musician; Victorian era style scholar with touch of renaissance.
Reading Interests: Science-fiction, mystery.

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Planxty's Comments    
Cover ArtThe Lone Ranger
Kind of so-so. 80%25 action, with some of it really more circus clown style and somewhat unbelievable. The dialog isn’t bad but could be more clever. This definitely has the undertone of a Disney movie.   posted May 2, 2014 at 6:30PM

Cover ArtThe illusionist [videorecording]
Don’t confuse this with The Prestige which appeared about the same time. The Prestige is the one with the two brothers. This is a good movie with the story about a late 1800s magician from humble origins reconnecting with his childhood gentry sweetheart who is engaged to a malevolent Austrian prince. The main character is, in fact, the chief of police who has to straddle the line between following orders to rein in the magician, and a grudging admiration for the magician and dislike for the prince. A good film for those who like magic, plots with historical references and settings, surprise endings, interesting filming styles, but everything being plausible to reality in the end. It’s interesting it seems to be mostly an eastern European production but you don’t realize that until you come to the credits.   posted Apr 24, 2014 at 1:38PM

Cover ArtIron man 3 [videorecording]
Not too bad a movie. Standard action movie superhero stuff but Stark/Downey Jr.’s slightly edgy phrasing is refreshing.   posted Jan 25, 2014 at 11:55AM

Cover ArtStorm Front
by John Sandford
I am disappointed and annoyed by what seems to be product placement (for which I presume the author is getting paid). Okay, slip one or two in a book but there’s at least 9 products specified by brand name (if you include repetition of one 3x in one paragraph) by page 16 and at least another 2 by page 28. Yes, very occasionally mentioning an item’s brand may help illustrate a character’s persona, but in this case the items could equally have been called by their generic names (a soft drink, 2 restaurant chains, a new car, an electronic tablet, 3 large store chains, etc.) Our library books were a last bastion for fiction escapism but are being contaminated with crass commercialism. Other than that the book is kind of refreshing for his Prey series. Just about all the books in this series are gruesome with body counts and detailed descriptions of unpleasant acts. This one takes a break from that pattern and lets you just enjoy the writing which is kind of lighthearted.   posted Nov 12, 2013 at 1:46PM

Cover ArtDragon’s time
by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey
The summary section says, "Lorana plans a complicated time-travel journey." "Complicated" is the word. I found this book incredibly hard to follow. I read the whole thing but only small sections seemed to hold together, with no overall flow to the story. There’s also a large number of characters and after a dozen or so I can’t remember who all these minor but periodically recurring people are. It isn’t even the time jumping that makes it confusing, it’s the bad structuring of the book. Subject-wise most of it seems to be angst about the various females of Pern having babies. I guess the story was in there somewhere but it was so obscured by this background stuff I frankly don’t even know what the story really was, apart from something to do with shifting dragonriders back and forth in time in order to make sure there’s enough ready at the time when needed. This is one of the few books in this series where I would also say you must read the previous book (Dragon’s Blood). Most dragon books can be read in almost any order, but with this one it really helps to have read the other one first. Or just do as I recommend and don’t bother with this one at all.   posted Sep 29, 2013 at 11:32PM

Cover ArtDragonsblood
by McCaffrey, Todd
Todd McCaffrey’s style is very similar to his mother’s and if you didn’t read the cover you’d think it was Anne still writing the books. There’s so many of the dragonriders of Pern books that unless you are religious about keeping a list of read books it is hard to keep track of which ones you have read. Fortunately the set of dragon stories appearing in the past decade or so since Anne McCaffery’s son took over do not have to be read in strict chronological order. This is one that is set in two times, both relatively early in Pern human occupation, but it is a stand-alone story. I am writing this while the book is still on my borrowed list because I know in 6 months I’ll look at the library’s collection of dragonrider books and won’t be able to remember which ones I have read. I suppose in a way that’s saying they are good enough for me to keep reading them, but individual books are not so stand-out that they won’t ultimately get lost in a crowd of their own making.   posted Sep 6, 2013 at 4:06PM

Cover ArtSilken prey
by John Sandford
Not as gory as some of Sandford’s recent books, nor as high a body count, so I found it a more enjoyable read. I do enjoy the witty repartee style of conversation between the characters even if it is slightly crude in part (but creatively crude).   posted Aug 6, 2013 at 10:50PM

Cover ArtPirate Alley
by Coonts, Stephen
Pretty linear storyline. Cruise liner passengers get kidnapped by evil Somali pirate backed by Muslim fundamentalists. (Hey, with the turn of the century political scenario we’re starting to run short of significant evil-doers here.) Anyway, the usual trio of Grafton, Carmelli and Tarkington get involved in sorting it out. I won’t spoil it by telling you what happens in the end but you won’t be surprised. Not a bad book but nothing special in pizzaz.   posted Jun 24, 2013 at 9:41AM

Cover ArtLife on Mars. Series 1, vol. 1 [videorecording]
The basic setup is a 2005 English cop is in an accident and wakes up (or is it a dream?) in 1973. Yes, his 70’s police team is riddled with "chauvinism, police brutality" etc., but it is his being placed into the 70s with a 21st century perspective and how he handles cultural aspects considered acceptable at the time that is the whole point of the series. That said, the time period contrasts are mostly 70s hairstyles, an old car, and dated slang which can easily slip past you if you are not familiar with early 1970s England. I did live in England in the early 70s so I watched the show with more recognition expectation than it actually delivered in the end. It’s okay as a cop show though there’s more guns and action that make it feel like it is catering to a younger audience than those who will remember the 1970s. The ethical differences could be just as easily achieved by transplanting a protagonist from one culture to another in modern times. It wasn’t terribly successful at making me feel I was transplanted back 40 years. It ends up being another cop show and failing a bit in packaging on delivering its ethics message.   posted Jun 14, 2013 at 11:26AM

Cover ArtThe day after tomorrow : a novel
by Folsom, Allan.
The reviewers report this as highly rated but I found it so-so. There are multiple incidences of the protagonist doing something that are either plain stupid, or you simply wouldn’t get away with doing. One is okay, but a whole book of them? The last line of the book reveals the great surprise, but frankly I had seen it coming about 500 pages earlier. The book was written in the mid nineties, but still, a Nazi resurgence is a bit old-hat. I was given a copy of this book and normally keep books I am given, but this one will likely end up in a Friends of HCL book sale.   posted Jun 14, 2013 at 1:32AM

Cover ArtThe striker : an Isaac Bell adventure
by Cussler, Clive
This one gets a 2 out of 5 from me. The plots and characters in Cussler’s books are becoming very formulaic. There’s no surprises in this one. The story is mostly one long flashback to Issac Bell’s early detective days sandwiched between two modern day chapters. Consequently it’s no real spoiler that the woman for whom he falls in the story and who is not his wife in the modern day first chapter must have had something prevent her from being his wife now. We also know from the start who the bad guys are. It seems to just be a lot of running from place to place to get to a predictable end with a predictable middle.   posted May 22, 2013 at 10:34AM

Cover ArtVanity fair [videorecording]
by Thackeray, William Makepeace
Definitely no hero in this one. Even the characters who aren’t trying to manipulate others and are being manipulated seem to generate little sympathy for being so clueless. It has that Jane Austen feel in terms of historical setting without being a romance story as such. Since there isn’t really a protagonist, nor a distinct story with an ending, it may be hard for some to follow through a 2 DVD set. If you’re happy with a story that isn’t a couple-meet-at-the-beginning and couple-marry-and-live-happily-ever-after-at-the-end then it’s kind of fun following it.   posted Feb 28, 2013 at 4:24PM

Cover ArtPrometheus [videorecording]
A prequel to the The Alien series of sci-fi horror/shocker movies and definitely made in the same style. I guess the scientists figure they only have the 124 minutes movie duration in which to achieve exploration of a new planet which explains why they rush into things without consideration or due care. Perhaps the faster they move along the actual drama the more time they have for gore.   posted Feb 28, 2013 at 4:08PM

Cover ArtSpider bones
by Reichs, Kathy.
There’s at least 3 unidentified skeletons and they keep on switching the identity of them, so I started to lose track. There’s also a handful of living characters, some of whom have false identities and are interchangeable with the skeletons. I just kept on losing track of who was currently who. Perhaps this isn’t a bedtime book but one to be read when you’re more awake and can keep track.   posted Feb 16, 2013 at 8:38PM

Cover ArtLocked on
by Clancy, Tom
It is natural for this kind of book to be written from a certain political/philosophical perspective. The genre is, after all, about "good" guys and "bad" guys. The nature of the "bad guys" changed since the first books a few decades ago to track the world political scene; first the Soviet Union, now Middle Eastern terrorists. Still, it was always just a USA vs. some other element, and the values being defended were pretty broad ones that I suspect most people of any political stripe would support. Unfortunately Clancy has now started going beyond the world stage and included the domestic political scene. I remember this starting in the Rainbow Six book where environmentalists were cast as the super-villains. It continues in this book where all the clear non-Republicans (if you read carefully you will see it finally stated Ryan is a Republican) end up being criminals or traitors to the USA in one form or another. Of course this political perspective isn’t surprising from Clancy given the type of book he writes, but now it is pretty overt. I used to be able to just ignore this element of the books, but now it is there in your face and it is politicizing the books.   posted Feb 1, 2013 at 10:43AM

Cover ArtThe stunt man [videorecording]
by Rush, Richard
This movie has a very seventies feel to it and it isn’t just the hairstyles. Basically about a Vietnam vet who is on the run from the police and is adopted/coerced by a movie director as a stuntman. The whole thing has a bit of a surrealistic feel to it. The scenes of the movie being shot sometimes go beyond the script and the director seems to be directing not only the movie but the lives of the main actors. They could do a lot more drawing parallels between what the vet’s experience in Vietnam days and the war movie in which he is starring, or maybe they are just leaving this up to you. Peter O’Toole definitely is the memorable actor from this one. The protagonist is, unfortunately, a bit bland. If you’re willing to accept this as a slightly older movie with a faintly psychedelic flavor to it then it might be worth watching. Not a kid’s movie. There’s interesting stunt work but nothing special by today’s standards, the plot has that, "Huh? What?" component, and there’s nudity (rated R).   posted Dec 15, 2012 at 12:30PM

Cover ArtBrimstone
by Preston, Douglas J.
Another in the Pendergast series. You don’t have to read them in sequence but there is a background element that is easier to follow if you do. Like the other books this has a touch of supernatural, a touch of science fiction, a touch of superhuman protagonist, a touch of whodunnit.   posted Sep 27, 2012 at 1:44PM

Cover ArtCatching fire
by Collins, Suzanne
It seems a number of earlier comments are confusing this book and the 2012 movie with the first book in this series, The Hunger Games. While this book reiterates elements of the first book, it takes a few radical departures as well as building on elements outside the Hunger Games themselves. There is an underlying tone of melancholy in this series, but that adds to the plausibility of the story. The people do live in an oppressive society and are forced to do things very against their nature. Still, they find ways to game the leadership and rules from within the very games in which they are forced to participate. While the age of the protagonist targets this book at the teen demographic, it is very much a young adult or older series.   posted Jun 22, 2012 at 10:33AM

Cover ArtThe man in the maze
by Silverberg, Robert.
I believe this was first published in 1969. In a little way this book resembles The Hunger Games in that it is predominantly a personality play set in a deadly scenario, though in this case it is the maze that is deadly. A good book for young adults up.   posted Jun 20, 2012 at 11:38PM

Cover ArtMockingjay
by Collins, Suzanne
This was my favorite book of the series. I like action but this one also has more plot twists and personal interaction that make the story interesting. You keep wondering if it’s going to be Gale or Peeta or neither (or both?) right up to the last pages. Yes, the ending isn’t the "live lived happily ever after" style, but frankly people, Panem has been through a civil war and the teenage heroine has killed many people. I’m not sure it is happily ever after yet for the people or vets of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, or even Vietnam...   posted Jun 11, 2012 at 12:21PM

Cover ArtOutsourced [videorecording]
No witty plot twists (well, one tiny one) or fast action, but it isn’t that kind of movie. Smile level humor, mild and not gushing romance, and a somewhat predictable outcome. Still, a nice movie to see.   posted Jan 23, 2012 at 12:32AM

Cover ArtThe weirdstone of Brisingamen : a tale of Alderley
by Garner, Alan
One of those stories that would be turned into a 7 book blockbuster series these days but is alas a lone book. A wizard, some schoolkids, a host of mythical other characters both good and nasty, and a romp through the the old mines on Alderly Edge hill near Manchester, England.   posted Jan 23, 2012 at 12:17AM

Cover ArtThe outlaw Josey Wales [videorecording]
by Daley, Robert
Classic Clint Eastwood western. Although ’violent’, it eases back on the details when compared to year 2012 television serials. The DVD version has a few fraction of a second shots that might get it rated R if you don’t blink. I don’t remember these from when I first saw the movie in the theater, or even a few subsequent video viewings. Eastwood performs his standard one-liner tough guy. What makes this movie worth watching is Chief Dan George who also acted in Little Big Man and who has a similar character type in this movie, providing light humor. The DVD has a ’making of’ extra that’s worth watching if only because this is somewhat unusual to have for a film that pre-dates the era of shooting extra material for DVDs.   posted Jan 22, 2012 at 11:58PM

Cover ArtThe devil’s children
by Dickinson, Peter
People in England have suddenly taken a violent dislike to machinery and are reverting to a pre-industrial way of living. No one knows why (until a later book). However, not all people are affected, including a group of Indian Sikh immigrants who ambivalently adopt a stray white girl who can help them interface with the new society. Young adult fiction.   posted Jan 11, 2012 at 10:54PM

Cover ArtEmma Tupper’s diary.
Emma is visiting her eccentric relatives in Scotland and gets caught up in a wacky idea to raise money, only to have things turn out very different from she thought. Ultimately she has to make pivotal decisions as to the fate of a discovery. This is definitely more a young adult book as many of Emma’s interactions with her relatives requires her understanding their behavioral foibles such as kleptomania and feuding. I have owned a copy of this book for almost 40 years and still read it every couple of years.   posted Jan 11, 2012 at 10:39PM

Cover ArtTrue grit
by Portis, Charles.
This is one of those rare cases where you can read the book and see whole sentences - whole paragraphs even - that are word for word identical to those in the 2011 movie. I'd say about 60% of the story is identical too (not bad since some movies only tend to use the title from a popular book). I know this is sounding more like a review of the movie than the book, but if like me you saw the 2011 movie and are now thinking of reading the book, this is encouragement to read the book.   posted Jan 11, 2012 at 10:07PM

Cover ArtThe curse of the jade scorpion [DVD]
The movie packs in the one-liners and double meanings. See this for those because the rest is just somewhat bland packaging for the jokes.   posted Jan 11, 2012 at 8:47PM

Cover ArtCircus [videorecording]
by Big Apple Circus.
While you do get shots of the actual circus show, 90% of this is actually about the lives and experiences of the performers. We’re about half way through it and it is very well put together. The filming is good, and it is surprising what the performers allowed to remain in the documentary. I would recommend this.   posted Jan 5, 2012 at 4:27PM

Cover ArtThe fighter [videorecording]
by Russell, David O.
I have to admit, we bailed on this one after about 15 minutes. We’re not into the boxing scene so didn’t have incentive to stick it out that far into the movie, and the first part was dysfunctional redneck culture which wasn’t terribly captivating.   posted Jan 5, 2012 at 4:19PM

Cover ArtShock wave
by Sandford, John
One of the better recent Sanford books. Unlike many of Sandford's recent books where identity of the miscreant(s) is provided at the very start and thereby eliminating the suspense factor, the identity in this book is kept from you until the very end, making it more of a classic style mystery. While there's the usual body count, there's not the overboard violence of recent Sandford criminals, nor the detailed description of gore. These make it a more interesting and gentler read, and Virgil Flowers' witty and slightly risque dialogue is always enjoyable.   posted Jan 5, 2012 at 3:56PM

Cover ArtCold vengeance
by Preston, Douglas J.
You can read this before reading Fever Dream, as I did, but you definitely get the impression that there’s part of the story that’s missing. In fact the underlying reason for the whole book!   posted Oct 5, 2011 at 5:16PM

Cover ArtThe wind on the moon : a story for children
by Linklater, Eric
Simply a fun book. Don’t read it expecting deep meaning or social commentary. If you don’t really appreciate parts, don’t forget it was written in England in 1944. Still, there’s no reference to 1940s European politics unless you extrapolate from the second part of the book involving a central European dictator.   posted Jun 7, 2011 at 10:42PM

Cover ArtCrescent dawn
by Cussler, Clive.
I’ve liked this one a bit more than other recent books by CC, and give it maybe 6.5 out of 10. Pretty standard CC fare but at least this one has more interesting characters and doesn’t go overboard too much in plot elements.

There’s my usual issues with CC’s series, though. Why, oh why, does he have to give two main characters in the book the exact same name (and add that onto the similarity in the co-author’s name)? And there’s several references to things I thought were resolved in other books. There’s mention of not knowing where Alexander The Great is buried, but I thought in the book Treasure they found his casket? I’ve noticed this kind of patchy acknowledging certain past book events and not others in other books by CC. Okay, and then there’s the usual (by now very cheesy) cameo appearance by CC himself in this book. At least this time his appearance wasn’t a critical plot turning point, but it is getting tiresome. And don’t the characters remember having met somebody named ’Clive Cussler’? Finally, at least this time he tries to make excuses for really basic technical errors in SCUBA diving that have gone unanswered in other books. Any new diver learns you do NOT fly within 24 hours of diving. I think this even applies to ’puddle jumping’ since diver rescue helicopters have special permission to fly really low since even normal helicopter altitude may be detrimental.   posted May 31, 2011 at 11:14PM

Cover ArtGideon’s sword
by Preston, Douglas J.
This isn’t in the same genre of earlier Preston-Child books straddling the sci-fi/supernatural basis for a story. Gideon Crew is basically an action/spy/investigator character and his quest is more or less straight forward, complete with combating a guy out to kill him. I therefore read the story with more reality perception, but many of the tactics require social engineering for which I just don’t see people falling. At least the character isn’t overboard like Prendergast in other P-C books. Once you trim away the implausible I can’t say this is the most exciting book I have read in this action-mystery genre. For P-C followers the book is worth reading to check off your list, but for me it wasn’t a can’t-put-down book.   posted May 24, 2011 at 10:18PM

Cover ArtThe Riches. Season 2 [videorecording]
Fortunately nitetrain’s spoiler comment doesn’t tell the whole story, nor in my opinion is the second series radically different in character from the first. My main gripe is that they never seem to learn from their mistakes and keep on doing the same stupid things that get them in trouble at the start of the series. This final season, season 2, is a shorter season with only 7 episodes and while the series does not end with cliffhangers it definitely leaves a lot of open ends.   posted May 12, 2011 at 2:09PM

Cover ArtThe riches. Season 1 [videorecording]
We really enjoyed this first of two seasons. I think it must be the characters and acting that are making it work. As con artists it is hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t quickly see beyond them, especially when they are in jobs that really require some knowledge.

It’s nice to see a con show where the cons aren’t perfect. However, I think in this case they undershoot in being convincing in that they probably wouldn’t survive 5 minutes in real-life doing some of the things they try to do. Although the presentation is done in a fairly light-hearted manner, the characters are constantly on the edge. This is a prime example of people constantly making bad choices. This is not a con show sensu The Sting.   posted Apr 21, 2011 at 10:47PM

Cover ArtLost empire
by Cussler, Clive.
I like the reviewer’s comment about the usually prevalent misogyny and xenophobia that are characteristic of some of CC’s books being toned down in this one. The xenophobia is still there with the delusional, want to be god of the Mexican president. Unfortunately the story is somewhat bland and everything happens too smoothly. While toning down some of the extreme elements of the characters, CC & company also seem to have lost the spark of creativity which made the first books so interesting. Sam and Remi are just boring. Unlike some authors, with CC I don’t know where he starts making up historical background and playing with other factual data such as real technology. As a result, a few pages of historical background or pseudoscience babble make for a trudge to the next action section rather than interesting, informative reading. One thing that drives me crazy in CC books is the wanton treatment of archaeological sites. Here he has people who supposedly have archaeological training going into what are clearly ancient sites and cutting pieces off artifacts and breaking their way into places.   posted Feb 28, 2011 at 8:25AM

Cover ArtStargate SG-1. Season 1, Vol. 2 [videorecording]
by Gereghty, William.
The summary says ’interstellar peace-keeping missions’ but that is actually not mentioned in the series. Varying according to the different characters in the series the objective is cultural study, exploration, and a hunt for advanced technologies and/or material of military value. This series has more a mid to late 1980s feel to it than late 1990s, or I might dare to say it even has the feel of the original Startrek in terms of costumes, settings, and character refinement. I won’t be a spoiler but suffice it to say that some of the things done here (in particular by the female member of the group) are just plain stupid as in something I would expect more in the 1960s or earlier. Oh, and isn’t it odd that everybody on different planets speaks English? At least some sci-fi series try to patch over such things with translator devices. The series is okay but the stories (at least in season 1) are bland and the characters a bit clichéd.   posted Feb 5, 2011 at 1:42PM

Cover ArtWicked prey
by Sandford, John
Standard Prey fare, perhaps a bit less gory than some (thankfully). I don’t have a teenage daughter but at 14 this one strikes me as a bit unbelievably precocious. Technical correction: This book is set in 2008 and was published in 2009 but the law was changed in MN in 2005 making switchblades illegal.   posted Jan 14, 2011 at 2:06PM

Cover ArtThe wheel of darkness
by Preston, Douglas J.
A somewhat different style of book from works such as Tyrannosaur Canyon and Relic. In this reappearance of protagonist Prendergast we see him developed more as a James Bond, larger than life style character which is getting away from the real person characters in other Preston-Child books. Other P-C books also tend to be borderline science fiction where, although far-fetched, the events are rationally explained and even plausible. In this one the ending has a decidedly supernatural character, although they do try to give some of it a rational explanation. I find the ending a bit more difficult to track through the mysticism as well as giving the whole thing a different retrospect. While I finished many of the other books with a lingering ’what if?’ thought, this one was with a more dismissive, ’Oh, that’s make-believe’.   posted Dec 15, 2010 at 12:20AM

Cover ArtFreewayman [sound recording] : [acoustic guitar solos]
This collection tends more towards blues and jazz acoustic guitar than some of Pat’s other albums. As I commented elsewhere, if you’re familiar with Pat Donohue from Prairie Home Companion this is a somewhat different style.   posted Dec 7, 2010 at 10:08AM

Cover ArtBad blood
by Sandford, John
It is hard to add a comment without spoiling the story but I think the author could have shortened and toned down the description of crime act details in several parts of the book and still effectively conveyed the ’monstrous crimes’ as it says in the summary tab.If we were labeling age group recommendations for books I’d have to put this in 21+. I think there wasn’t as much of the cop repartee as I recall from other books that is fun to read. There’s still some; just not as much.   posted Dec 7, 2010 at 10:01AM

Cover ArtProfile [sound recording]
Yes, this is the Pat Donohue of Prairie Home Companion fame, but the style is pretty strictly blues/jazz. While still very enjoyable it can be slightly disappointing if you’re searching for those favorite PHC pieces (especially the witty songs). I also saw Pat in concert once and again this CD (nor any of the several I’ve heard) isn’t the same stuff.   posted Nov 28, 2010 at 10:58PM

Cover ArtNancy Drew [videorecording]
by Fleming, Andrew
If you know an early teenage girl this is probably a good movie for her. Nancy is presented as retro (likes old things) which some say doesn’t work, but it emphasizes her accomplishment and independent thinking from her shallow teen peers at school which is probably a good thing to emphasize to young girls. Elements of the movie are based on 1930s concepts where even finding a trapdoor was exciting, so don’t expect Raiders Of The Lost Ark type action. There’s enough modern setting for a young teen to relate to while retaining enough of the original 1930s book presentation to not make a supervising adult worry about content. Nobody gets killed (except many years before the movie starts), there’s no blood, one tiny kiss at the end (okay, that’s not much of a spoiler!) While not a blockbuster intended for all ages, this is a sweet movie for a niche group.   posted Nov 6, 2010 at 12:31PM

Cover ArtSacred stone
by Cussler, Clive.
I read Douglas Preston’s 1999 book RIPTIDE, then this 2004 book and wondered if an idea wasn’t being borrowed. Anyway, there’s lots of detailed reviews on the web and read those. I’ve my own book grading scheme: Buy new, buy used, buy used at yard sale for a quarter, get from the library a second time to re-read, read once, never read. This one is read once. I think in the end I was seeing sentences but only reading them enough to fill in enough to get to the end of the book.   posted Nov 6, 2010 at 11:23AM

Cover ArtSpartan gold
by Cussler, Clive.
After reading so many Clive Cussler books my reaction to this one is I can now check it off my to-do list and read my next book. Upon review I can’t say that CC’s earlier books were radically different from the new ones, just after a while a formulaic plot simply gets old. The main differences were this one didn’t involve a risk to the whole world, it introduced a new set of protagonists, and I didn’t spot any errors (usually after reading one of CC’s books I usually have a modest list of things that a proof-reader for science/technology/plot should have caught). If you haven’t read any CC books I guess there isn’t any disadvantage to starting here, though I do recall the earlier books being a more exciting read (perhaps because the style was new). If you’re a long-time CC reader then read this one and let it blend in with the others. Edit - Oh, and yet another appearance by a character called Clive Cussler, this time a beachcomber suddenly appearing out of the blue with an important clue to the puzzle he just gives to his protagonists. This too is getting old...   posted Nov 6, 2010 at 10:52AM

Cover ArtThe ice limit
by Preston, Douglas J.
This is about the 5th or 6th book I have read by these authors. The plot and characters do contain many familiar elements from other books I have read by them. Clearly there are elements that make an author popular and fortunately, though while familiar, they are not too close to other books that it is overly formulaic. If you’re familiar with these authors you can probably guess after the first 50 or so pages roughly what will happen in the end but there is a final twist at the very end of this book that is refreshing.   posted Sep 8, 2010 at 10:57PM

Cover ArtReliquary
by Preston, Douglas J.
It’s advisable but not absolutely required that you read Relic first. Much of the character introduction is done in the first book, as well as a bit of the background for filling out the plot in this book.

While this is an enjoyable book, some aspects of this book are a bit more extreme in the fiction direction than other books by these authors. In some of the other books you can, for the most part, see that something like whatever is happening in the plot could really happen, without great suspension of disbelief. In this book the events are a bit more extreme. While I enjoyed the book for me it constantly stepped over the line to where it was clear it was fiction. For example, in the first book Prendergast, the FBI agent, is presented as a somewhat tantalizing if slightly over-competent character. In Reliquary he is filled out to a financially independent, accounting to nobody, recluse with somewhat James Bondish invincibility aspects plus elements of Sherlock Holmes.   posted Sep 8, 2010 at 10:46PM

Cover ArtThe codex
by Preston, Douglas J.
A fairly straight-forward story with most characters pretty much established early in the book. This book introduces some characters also in Tyrannosaur Canyon so TC is a tiny bit of a spoiler if you read it first. I did that so it wasn’t so much a matter of what was going to happen to some people but how it would work out. Unlike several other books by this author this one doesn’t include any science-fiction or technology component. Basically it’s about several brothers making a journey into the South American jungle to recover a family inheritance, along the lines of treasure hunting.   posted Aug 27, 2010 at 6:44PM

Cover ArtJumper [videorecording]
This movie only got about 20% good ratings in reviews but although it isn’t the best movie I have seen of the superhero genre I don’t think I would rate it quite that low. I certainly watched it to the end and enjoyed it while it ran, though I don’t think I’ll rush out and buy my own copy. Something refreshing is that several negative actions, or simple inactions (e.g., during a very brief river flooding scene) present the protagonist as basically a teenager who only thinks of himself, or at most his girlfriend, rather than being immediately developed into your standard superhero saving people left, right and center. If you view the personality type in this light it helps get around the risk of perceiving it’s another teenage angst character.

There’s clearly a bunch of opportunities for sequels, but I don’t feel this was overdone with leaving big gaping holes.   posted Aug 27, 2010 at 5:04PM

Cover ArtTo the stars : Homeworld ; Wheelworld ; Starworld
I read the third book (my copy) in the series, Starworld, about 2 weeks ago. I’m just trying to remember what it was all about - is this a premonition? What I do remember was wondering if I should even bother reading the first two in the series. This is the Harry Harrison who wrote such great series as "Stainless Steel Rat" but I _can_ remember the plots from those over several years time.   posted Aug 23, 2010 at 2:42PM

Cover ArtMusic and lyrics [videorecording]
by Lawrence, Marc
Romance comedies aren’t your source for deep spiritual meaning, high-powered drama, surprising plot developments or paths, or wonderous special effects, if you’re seeking any of those. Rom-coms have a relatively fixed plot and that’s the nature of the form and you need to view them from within that perspective. It really lies in the delivery. In this one Hugh Grant (Alex) does a good style of self-deprecating humor and there’s plenty or reasonably-witty rapid dialogue in this movie. Was it the top movie of the year for us? No, but we would have renewed this one and watched it a second time if it hadn’t been reserved by another user. I guess that says it for our rating. As I write this 21 of 23 HCL copies are out on loan 3 years after the movie came out so I think it is still reasonably popular.   posted Aug 23, 2010 at 2:26PM

Cover ArtRiptide
by Preston, Douglas J.
The plot basically deals with 21st century technology uncovering pirate buried treasure with accompanying 17th century booby-traps. In that regard you either have to end up with a Michael Crichton (with whom reviewers often compare this author) type technology-always-ends-in-disaster-and-nobody-gets-anything style ending, or a Clive Cussler the-good-guys-always-uncover-fabulous-treasure style ending, or possibly something in between. No spoilers in this comment as to which ending though. I’ve only read two books by this author and don’t know if he’s one to vary general endings or not. I enjoyed reading this book. I am familiar with some of the technical material so I have to admit I stayed about a jump ahead of the author in plot disclosures all the way down the line. Apart from one small, highly technical, debatable point I didn’t spot any glaring science or technology errors. I did feel some of the characters went a bit too behaviorally astray, one or two seemed pretty much pointless to include, and others simply didn’t have enough depth. So, I’m removing a point for characters and giving it 4 out of 5.   posted Aug 23, 2010 at 2:04PM

Cover ArtBad dream
by Christopher, John
For a book published in 2003 this one reads like it was published 30 years before. I’ll admit I read this about 9 months before writing this comment so I may not have all the details right. I do remember the book being pretty anti European-Union that reminded me of the anti European Community rhetoric in Britain (especially with many alive at that time still having pretty anti German memories) during the ’70s EC referendum. I must say I was pretty disappointed in the book from that perspective, as well as in the book on a whole. I grew up reading JC’s young adult books and have re-read some of them several times. This book isn’t in the same class and I almost stopped reading it partway through simply because it was slow and didn’t really have anything exciting about the plot.   posted Jul 12, 2010 at 11:53PM

Cover ArtThe silent sea
by Cussler, Clive.
There’s books I stop reading after a few pages. There’s books I read and then check off my list dutifully as having read; once is enough. There’s books I read and then make note of the author & title so I can either borrow it again sometime or buy to read again. This one is in the middle category. Maybe it’s because I have read so many CC books they are starting to become a bit of a blur. Not to condemn with faint praise but at least this one didn’t require major suspension of disbelief, nor did it have glaring science errors; just one or two grammar errors which were probably let through by a computer spell checker. Anyway, if you’ve read CC’s other books read this one so you can check it off your list. If you’re new to CC this isn’t the best nor the worst book to read first.   posted Jul 12, 2010 at 11:37PM

Cover ArtThe moon is a harsh mistress
by Heinlein, Robert A. 1907-1988.
The Moon is a penal colony, the controlling computer becomes self-aware and participates in a revolution for the Moon’s independence from Earth. Enjoyable, more or less standard Heinlein fare. Catch the appearance of a young Hazel Stone who appears in another of Heinlein’s books,   posted Jul 3, 2010 at 12:35AM

Cover ArtHoodwinked [videorecording]
by Edwards, Cory.
A fun animation with the quirky elements of Shrek if not quite up to the same standard (maybe a 4 out of 5 if comparing with Shrek). This got a bigger downcheck by reviewers than I feel it deserved, mainly because the graphic elements are slightly rough.   posted Mar 1, 2010 at 11:24PM

Cover ArtSS-GB : Nazi-occupied Britain, 1941 : a novel
by Deighton, Len
Usually I don’t go for alternative history settings but Len Deighton has done this one pretty well. What makes it work for me is the book isn’t focusing on the alternative history as such, but the story within that setting. I haven’t always been successful in reading Len Deighton novels but this one works well for me and I have even re-read it.   posted Sep 24, 2009 at 5:48PM

Cover ArtArctic drift
by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
Okay, I read Cussler’s books, and when he brings out a new one I keep reading them. However, as an ocean scientist I can’t help but find errors and excessive suspensions of disbelief. A quick web search uncovers phase diagrams of carbon dioxide. In order to pump it as a liquid (presumably at ambient air temperature for the long pipeline) you would have to pump it at 70 atmospheres pressure. Okay, it is physically possible (unlike some of his other books where the science is incredibly weak) but I just don’t see a crook paying for the technology required - it’s expensive for that kind of line on a small scale much less thousands of miles.

The book in general is pretty formulaic, but I suppose that’s what makes a long series like this successful.   posted Sep 24, 2009 at 5:29PM

Cover ArtPride and prejudice [videorecording]
by Langton, Simon.
I have not read the book and perhaps regarded what little I had heard of the story as a 19th century precursor to the romance novel. While it may still be that in some regards, the language and phrasing is truly enjoyable (and supported by good acting, scenery, costumes). I wasn’t the one who borrowed this from the library but I ended up watching and enjoying it. Maybe I’ll get the book out now since the television series delivery of lines is rapid in parts, and while you recognize the words it takes a bit of thinking to sort out their meaning.

A minor detraction from this version (I haven’t seen others) is the picture quality. This probably relates to when the series was filmed, and perhaps conversion between formats. I notice HCL has another set (3 DVD vs. 2 DVD) of this series in a different cover and listing and perhaps that has a different quality.   posted Sep 24, 2009 at 4:59PM

Cover ArtFireball
by Christopher, John
The story covers two teenage boys who get transported to an alternative reality where the Roman Empire never fell. This book has a lot of the character personalities and interpersonal relationships featured in John Christopher’s earlier young adult works. In that regard many of the outcomes and interactions are fairly predictable, but it’s still a good read. The author does cover a lot of plot in a fairly short book so some transitions make you wonder if you missed reading a few chapters somewhere. I imagine you just have to decide on how long a book you want to write but this one could easily have filled a Harry Potter length 800 pages.   posted Sep 24, 2009 at 4:29PM

Cover ArtHikaru no go. Volume 1, The go master’s descent [videorecording].
by Nishizawa, Shin.
A fun anime (cartoon) series to watch. The plot line is basically the young boy Hikaru releases the spirit of a dead Go master (Sai) trapped in a Go board and eventually turns into a professional Go player (or you might not have have noticed there are at least 11 DVDs in this series).

Parts of what make this interesting is it isn’t a good vs. evil plot. Just about every major character in this has good sides and bad, even our protagonist. Second, it’s fun to get glimpses of Japanese culture. On one of the later DVDs you’ll find that real men eat noodles!

By the way, you’ll notice that as of posting this (09/09) that the DVDs only go up to volume 11 (and no MN libraries carry the gaps in the HCL system collection). This represents about only half of the episodes actually shown in Japan so you’ll have to revert to reading the book versions or other means if you want to complete the series.

Although some people prefer watching the episodes with the original sound running and reading the subtitles, I think the subtitles in the DVD versions aren’t very good and watched them dubbed.   posted Sep 3, 2009 at 1:33AM

Cover ArtK-PAX [videorecording]
by Softley, Iain.
It’s hard to make a comment that isn’t a spoiler (\"Okay, is he or isn’t he?") so I’ll keep it to I liked this movie and would give it at least a 4 out of 5 on the old Minneapolis Public Library rating system. If you like the plot in this movie then check out The Martian Child (2007, with John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Amanda Peet) which is somewhat similar.   posted Sep 3, 2009 at 1:10AM

Cover ArtThe guardians.
A great book, but to really appreciate it you have to be familiar with British class society, especially prior to the time this book was written in 1970.

The book is about a orphaned boy who lives in an England which is divided into two areas by a fence. The Conurb is occupied by the working class and the County is where the gentry live. We soon discover the fence is less of a physical divider than a symbolic one. Deciding where to live isn’t an easy matter for the boy when evaluating the two societies, and the secrets revealed by the authorities perpetuating the system.   posted Sep 3, 2009 at 12:51AM

Cover ArtRunning blind.
While owning just about all the Desmond Bagley books, this is probably the one I have re-read the most. I remember my mother even liked this one so it probably hits a happy combination of sufficient action, an interesting plot, and Desmond Bagley’s ability to weave in a good cultural background and travelogue for the countries in the settings for each book.

The book itself deals with fairly standard fare of a KGB mole in the British Secret Service. However, there’s enough twists in the plot to keep the full book interesting, and if you get tired of the cold war story you can always focus on the information about Iceland.

P.S. If you’re like my mother, don’t be put off by a body appearing in the first line!   posted Sep 3, 2009 at 12:24AM

Cover ArtThe Chrysalids
by Wyndham, John
Set in a future, post-apocalyptic world, reverted to a non-mechanized society and affected by frequent genetic mutations. Society is divided by religious fanaticism condemning any creature showing signs of mutation. The story centers around a teenage boy thrown into having to make decisions as to his role in the treatment of those who differ from a defined "normal".

This has always been one of my favorite John Wyndham books and I’d recommend it to young adults and up.   posted Sep 3, 2009 at 12:08AM

Cover ArtJoss Whedon’s Firefly [videorecording] : the complete series
If you liked Buffy and Angel you’ll probably like Firefly. For those familiar with the 2005 Battlestar Galactica series, Firefly is more along those lines in being a drama in a science-fiction setting. Definitely in the more quirky, gritty, modern style of sci-fi rather than the cleaner style of Star-Trek, but it goes for the character development that made Joss Whedon’s other series successful. It may take an episode or two to get into it but at the end of the first season you’ll check the library for the second... But one doesn’t exist! They did make the movie Serenity to try to wind up the story.   posted Sep 2, 2009 at 11:15PM

Cover ArtNight at the museum [videorecording]
No truly big surprises in this movie which is probably targeted at 10 year olds. This is borne out by the absence of really scary parts and even the potentially scary parts end up not being so (I don’t think that’s a spoiler). Still, the few non-standard twists in places makes it a fun movie to watch if not one engendering deep plot analysis. Basically safe for younger kids to watch, and sufficiently entertaining for adults to watch.   posted Aug 27, 2009 at 9:17PM

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