Profile for W. V. Buckley > Reviews

Browse

W. V. Buckley's Profile

Customer Reviews: 208
Top Reviewer Ranking: 17,547
Helpful Votes: 1358




Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
W. V. Buckley RSS Feed (Kansas City, MO)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
From the Dust Returned
From the Dust Returned
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
112 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovering lost treasure, October 27, 2011
It's been years since I picked up a book by Ray Bradbury. I guess I assumed he would not fare as well to my older, adult mind that's been shaped lately by more modern horror and sci-fi writers who deal in hard science with less dependence on, for lack of a better word, "magic."

Let me say right out front that compared to modern writers Bradbury fares very well indeed. In fact, it was a joy to re-discover the wordplay of an author so absolutely in love with the language! Part of it may be that I listened to From the Dust Returned in audiobook form (something I seldom do since I generally find audiobooks distracting). Read by John Glover, the interconnected stories of Thousand Times Great Grand Mere, Cecy the enternal sleeper who can living her dreaming life by entering the minds of others, Timothy the mortal foundling among his decidedly odd adoptive family ... in fact the whole clan the goes bump in the night come alive with Glover's characterizations. Compiled from early short works by Bradbury, this book is really a series of connected short stories, some merely good and others absolutely stellar, but all reflecting Bradbury's talent for making the spinning of stories (like Arach's webs) seem effortless.

But the greatest "star" is Brandbury's words themselves. I find myself utterly transfixed listening to them and conjuring up images within my head. I don't think I've read any Bradbury since junior high school. I assume I gave him up because he seemed a writer of kid's stories and I was moving on to writers like Stephen King and others who could deliver the true shocks and horrors Bradbury only hinted at. But after all these years rediscovering Bradbury is like going home to a soft, warm bed.

I've already purchased other once-favorite books by Bradbury and can't wait to start Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man.


Spoon River Anthology - Literary Touchstone Classic
Spoon River Anthology - Literary Touchstone Classic
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars 'All, all are sleeping on the hill', October 25, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You won't find Spoon River, Illinois on any map (well, technically there's a Spoon River but it refers to a river and not a town) but it's about as American as you can get.

Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology joins with a handful of other works - notably Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio - as tapestries of America's triumphs and tragedies, it's character and it's occasional flaws. Each of these works - a play, a book of connected short stories and Masters' collection of free-form poems - speak volumes about the American experience.

In Spoon River Anthology Masters lets his characters speak from beyond the grave. In essence, they are writing their own epitaphs with theire joys and tears. With the exception of Anne Rutlegde, the purported first girlfriend of a young Abraham Lincoln, all the characters are fictional, but in a few brief lines Masters is able to give the a voice and let them spring fully fleshed from their graves to recount their lives.

These are not always men and women who have found a source of great profundidty in their lives (though some have managed that feat). Some of them are bitter and complain that their graves are not kept up properly. Others are doomed to forever ponder the choices they made in life. Others are soliders who have seen the follies and the glories of warfare up close. But all are able to teach us something, even if sometimes the lessons are hard.

I've loved this collection every since I first discovered it in high school and even before I re-read Spoon River Anthology I could still recall some of my favorite characters like Fiddler Jones who "ended up with a broken fiddle - and a broken laugh, and a thousand memories, and not a single regret" and Lucinda Matlock's admonishment: "What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness, anger, discontent and drooping hopes? Dengenerate sons and daughters, Life is too strong for you - It takes like to love life."


Lost Memory of Skin
Lost Memory of Skin
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.78

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Identity, truth and the 21st century version of trolls beneath the bridge, October 25, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Lost Memory of Skin is my first introduction to Russell Banks. I'm not sure how I have avoided him all these years, but I will be going back to check out some of what I missed.

Banks certainly didn't pick an easy topic in Lost Memory of Skin. His focus is on convicted sex offenders who, out of necessity, form a loose-knit community of men living under a Florida causeway. Under Florida law, the men must remain in the county while at the same time remaining 2,500 feet from any school, daycare center or other places where children gather. That leaves the men few options: under the causeway, in a swamp or at an airport terminal.

Among the modern-day trolls beneath a bridge is Kid (few of the characters go by real names in the book, adding to Banks' themes of truth and identity). Kid is a 22-year-old registered sex offender who can pass as a teenager. He was addicted to Internet porn and in his first and only attempt to reach out to what he thought was a real person is swept up in a sting, sent to jail, labeled a sex offender and is forced to wear an ankle monitor for 10 years. Kid is no noble Jean Val Jean, but neither is he truly a monster. The opening chapters of the book that detail Kid's life as a modern pariah are fascinating, despite the often bleak subject matter.

Into Kid's life steps the other main character, a morbidly obese sociology professor who wants to interview the Kid and turn him and his fellow causeway castaways into productive citizens. I'm guessing that many of the people who have problems with the book are more likely to stumble over the Professor than the Kid. For one thing, the Professor's addiction to food are described in more lurid detail than the Kid's addiction to porn. As a result, the Professor comes across as more grotesque than just about any other character.

And then there's the question of agendas. Is the Professor really what he seems? What does he really want from the Kid? Eventually the two build enough of a rapport that the Professor is able to start organizing the men beneath the causeway. They establish rules and choose leaders in the hope that if they can police themselves they can avoid future brutal police raids. But before the changes can fully take effect in the tiny community, disaster in the form of a hurricane strikes.

To say more about the plot would be to give too much away. Suffice it to say that before the story is over we're confronted with the issue of identity and truth and how the two don't always fit together.

I really enjoyed this novel, despite a few eye-rolling moments. Banks sometimes get a bit heavy-handed and pendantic when he writes about America's revulsion to sex offenders despite society's and the media's sexualization of young children. It's a good point, but could have been handled in a less preachy manner. And then there's a new character introduced in the last portion of the book who strains credibility and seems to have been written solely to steer the Kid through some murky moral matters. Overall, Lost Memory of Skin is one of those books that may be uncomfortable to read at times, but makes you confront issues you felt you'd never consider.


The Outlaw Album: Stories
The Outlaw Album: Stories
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.74

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Characters and lives that are absolutely authentic, October 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
To call this collection of short works by Daniel Woodrell short stories is to entirely miss the point. It is as if Woodrell has been granted access to see life through another person's eyes and transcribe exactly what they see and think and speak. Yes, it's that authentic.

Probably best known as the author of Winter's Bone, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film, Woodrell sets the bulk of his writing in the Ozarks. This region, straddling Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas, is his home. Full disclosure: it's my home, too, and I recognize many of the place names as towns I've driven through and rivers I've crossed. I also recognize many of the characters. It's not that I've met the people Woodrell had in mind when he wrote these stories. But if they sprang to life somehow from the book, they would fit right in with their real-life counterparts. Woodrell understands these people living hard-scrabble lives, fighting crushing poverty, doing their best to maintain a sense of decency and dignity even when their actions are far from decent or dignified.

Through his characters, Woodrell brings us face-to-face with the realities of war, poverty, hope, despair, madness, love, hate ... in short, all the elements that make up life. There's the tale of a Vietnam vet who awakes to find a young veteran from Iraq standing naked over him and growling. There's the story of a young woman who ends the reign of terror of her rapist uncle only to become a mother of sorts to her uncle. An ex-con faces the possibility of a return to prison by torching a neighbor's house to allow his parents a view of the river. A dog is shot and its owner exacts a cruel revenge of a neighbor. All but two of the tales are set in the present.

It's hard to read Woodrell's stories without being reminded of William Faulkner, not as a pale immitation of Faulkner, but as a worthy successor. Woodrell is among a handful of regional authors who set their stories in specific areas (think Benjamin Percy whose works such as The Wilding are all set in the Pacific Northwest) but find universal wisdom in those specific locations.

The Outlaw Album is a fairly short collection, around 160 pages. It's very easy to speed one's way through the book in a single day. But my advice is to take your time and read the stories slowly, allowing them to unfold like the leaves of Ozark mayapples in the spring.


A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich
A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich
Price: $9.99

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating (if a bit academic) story of a book, its use and misuse, October 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Suppose a millenium from now historians found a lost copy of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America about the early days of the American republic. What would be the reaction of our decendants? Would they embrace the book wholeheartedly as the definition of American character? Would it be just a quaint relic of a long-lost era?

That is the question I kept in mind as I read Christopher Krebs' A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich. Krebs traces the book, actually a tract of less than 30 pages, from the hand of Roman historian Tacitus to the hands of Nazi leaders in the Third Reich. To borrow a phrase, Tacitus would spin in his grave at the knowledge of the uses and misuses of his work throughout history. Written at a time when what we think of as modern Germany was a collection of tribes, Tacitus finds both brutality and nobility in this loose federation of people.

Tacitus' words might have forever been lost to history if not for the work of mideval scholars and humanists who brought the Roman's book to light 1,000 years or so after it was written. From that point on, Germania was a text seemingly made of putty whose meaning could be stretched and shaped to meet the demands of whoever controlled it. Want feudal Germans to take part in a Crusade? Then play up the tales of their forefathers banding together to defend against their enemies. Want to rail against the German character? Then stress the passages that mention human sacrifice by the early Germanic tribes.

By the time the Third Reich came to power, Heinrich Himmler, head of the dreaded SS, desperately searched for ancient copies of Germania at the same time he was putting some of the book's darker passages in action: that the German volk did not interbreed nor even welcome outsiders. From such observations as this made by a Roman historian who never visited the area of which he wrote and gathered his information second hand, Nazi attacks against "outsiders" were justified.

Though this is a fairly short book (especially since the last third of the book is given over to footnotes), it is also aimed at an academic audience. Because of this it's easy to get lost among the always shifting cast of characters. Unless you have some grounding in mideval European history it's easy to loose track of the various scholars, clergy, humanist phiolosophers, forgers, popes and others who play a role in the story. Despite the occasional difficulties for a non-academic, I would advise sticking with it. A Most Dangerous Book makes for fascinating reading of history as well as a cautionary tale on how meanings become elastic in the hands of those who strive to stretch them to meet their own agenda.


The First Gay President? A Look into the Life and Sexuality of James Buchanan, Jr.
The First Gay President? A Look into the Life and Sexuality of James Buchanan, Jr.
Price: $2.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustratingly "Cliff Notes" approach to a biography, October 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had encountered speculation about Buchanan, our 15th president, and his Southern Senator "life partner" William King for years. Most recently I read about Buchanan in Larry Flint's One Nation Under Sex, a book that looked at the sexual scandals and dalliances of some of America's most famous leaders. It made for fascinating reading - that Buchanan's passionate attachment to King may have hastened us down the path to Civil War. So when I came across The First Gay President? (I'll stop short of calling it a 'book' since it is shorter and more poorly proofread than the average high school term paper) I thought it might make for interesting reading.

On one hand, it served its purpose. I found out about Buchanan's one-time fiance, a female lawyer from a wealthy family who tragically committed suicide when her parents intervened in the engagement. While this isn't proof of Buchanan's sexuality (even today some gays and lesbians marry members of the opposite sex to hide their homosexuality) it is a fact many authors downplay in order to more easily declare Buchanan gay.

This booklet doesn't take a stand one way or the other, but simply lays out the supposed facts and lets the reader decide.

While I found the booklet interesting and even informative in places, in others I found it frustratingly obtuse. Take, for example, the statement made early on about Buchanan being expelled from college for some unnamed misbehavior. This statement is again made later on in connection with a possible reason for the father of Buchanan's fiance opposing the marriage. (He had a connection to the college and would, therefor, be aware of Buchanan's expulsion and the reason behind it.) The problem is that the booklet never reveals what Buchanan's "misbehavior" was. Did he cheat on a test? Was he accused of public drunkeness? Perhaps he was a one-man early American version of Animal House? Or did he seduce a classmate? Perhaps the author was unable to discover the nature of the expulsion, but if that's the case, then please let your readers know this rather than leaving such a tantalizing clue hanging!

In sum, this would be a decent book for someone with a mild interest in the subject, but for more depth I'd suggest finding a real biography of Buchanan and not just a flawed Cliff Notes version of his life.


61 A.D. (Bachiyr Book 2)
61 A.D. (Bachiyr Book 2)
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars More Bachiyr intrigue served up at a blazing fast pace, September 20, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My grandmother, in her homespun country wisdom, used to say, "Some time even a blind hog finds an acorn" to describe good fortune that was as much dependent on luck as it was on skill. As much as I enjoyed 33 A.D., David McAfee's first book about the Bachiyr, I approached his follow-up book in the series, 61 A.D., with a bit of trepidation. Could McAfee avoid the "sophomore slump" of writers and produce a sequel that was as original as the first?

The answer, I'm happy to say, is 'yes.' Not only does McAfee's latest effort equal the first book in the series, but it many ways it surpasses it with a surer hand and a better feel for pacing and juggling multiple plot lines. In 33 A.D. the plot placed members of the Bachiyr, a secret society of vampires, in the midst of Christ's crucifiction. As potentially disastrous as that plot could have been in the wrong hands, McAfee pulled it off. Now several of the characters from that novel have returned in a second novel set mostly in London (or Londinium) shortly before and during an attack by the Iceni queen Boudica.

Returning characters include Taras, the reluctant Bachiyr who was a Roman legionaire in Judea at the time of Christ; Theron, the former enforcer for the Bachiyr's Council of Thirteen; Ramah, the council's Blood Letter; and in a few key scenes, Herris, the head of the council. Joining them this time around is a new character who is as facsinating as she is deadly, Baella, who is as old as the oldest members of the council but who is a renegade to the council's rules. Baella makes a great addition to the Bachiyr mythos. Without her in the story, much of 61 A.D. would consist of the conflict between Taras, who lost his love and his life to Theron, and Theron, who lost his high position in the Bachiyr because of Taras. Baella (and, to a certain extent, Boudica and her two daughters) gives 61 A.D. the strong female figures that were lacking in 33 A.D. But I don't blame McAfee for his lack of female characters. During that time period it was definitely "a man's world." That he manages to bring strong female characters into the second novel in the series is a reflection of his talent.

McAfee shows he has mastered the art of pacing in this book. Theron, Taras and the others are literally put through their paces as events unfold around them. Once Boudica and her army start attacking Londinium, events unfold at a break-neck pace that make the book all but impossible to put down. The only part of the plot I found a bit heavy-handed and overly melodramatic was the story of Boudica's daughter's pregnancy (the result of her rape at the hands of the Romans) and her choice to die in battle rather than face a "shameful" birth.

To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed 61 A.D. In fact, by the time I finished the story I immediately went searching for more information on Boudica and the Iceni revolt in Roman-era Britain. Now what's next, Mr. McAfee? At what point in human history can we next expect the Bachiyr to show up? The fall of Rome? The court of Charlemagne? The Dark Ages? I've got my literary bags packed and ready to go wherever you take me next!


Comic-Con Strikes Again! (Kindle Single)
Comic-Con Strikes Again! (Kindle Single)
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The chic of geek, September 20, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Before reading Douglas Wolk's Comic-Con Strikes Again I'd always assumed that the annual confab in San Diego was a bit like the cantina scene in Star Wars. News coverage of the event tended to focus on its more "colorful" aspects: costumed participants channeling their favorite comic book, sci-fi and/or super hero movie characters. Likewise, the coverage in publications like Entertainment Weekly focused on the celebrity aspect, panel discussions on television shows and movies, and the buzz about coming attractions.

But Wolk goes those sources one better. He goes beyond the stereotypes and the hype to cover not only what Comic-Con is, but what it means and how it affects the entertainment industry. Rather than take the easy route and laugh at the "geeks" who attend the event as so many media do, Wolk offers insight into fan culture and a bit of an overview of its history.

From its humble beginnings forcusing only on comic books and artists four decades ago to the essential showcase that can make or break new films and television shows, Comic-Con has become - whether most of us are aware of it or not - a major player in determining what becomes part of our modern culture. Wolk has done the rest of us (who may not have picked up a comic book in years or who have no idea who Janga Fett is) a service in providing a clear-eyed look at an major annual event that plays a role in making pop culture pop.


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Price: $8.61

4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy reading that's anything but 'stiff', September 15, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I stumbled across Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers while looking for information on grave robbers who dug up grave to keep medical schools supplied with fresh bodies. While that subject is covered in Stiff, I was amazed at the information author Mary Roach uncovered about our mortal coils after we have shuffled it off.

Besides grave robbing, Roach writes about cadavers who live again as crash test dummies, stand-ins for living humans in weapons testing, compost for ecologically minded Swedes and even a potential food source, a la Soylent Green in that cheesy '70s movie. It makes for a fascinating study of what cadavers have managed to teach us despite the disadvantage of being, well, you know, dead.

This may sound like a morbid subject, but in Roach's hands the writing stays light. She manages to inject a lot of humor into the subject, but it's not humor at the expense of the corpses. For those, regardless of whether they are being freeze dried and turned into compost or left to decompose on a Tennessess 'body farm' to further the science of forensics, Roach has the utmost respect fpr the cadavers. She is able to educate and entertain.

Other than a section about going to China to track down a rumor of a crematoriam worker who supplied his brother with flesh to make into human dumpings that seems overly long and out of place, the topics fit together well. Don't expect a lot of details. This book is more of an overview on the subject of cadaveric life after death.

The only quibble I have is that with the Kindle version it's not easy to tell when the author switches from her own words to a lengthy quote from another source. I suspect it's a formatting issue. While it's not a major flaw it is a bit annoying to the reader.


AFTER: Taras and Theron: Beyond Jerusalem (Bachiyr)
AFTER: Taras and Theron: Beyond Jerusalem (Bachiyr)
Price: $0.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A recap of of Book 1 and a bridge to Book 2 ... other than that don't expect much from this slim volume, September 12, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I greatly enjoyed David McAfee's first novel, 33 A.D. It's a strong writer that can place a vampire tale squarely in the middle of the Christ's last week on earth and make it work. That's the kind of quirky writer McAfee is. His quirks made a vampire tale that could have easily slipped into offensive parody shine instead.

Now along comes After, a novella that follows the activities of two of 33 A.D.'s main characters, the former centurion Taras who was made a vampire (or Bachiyr, as they call themselves) and Theron, the one-time assassin from the vampiric Council of Thirteen, who is now on the run for his life with the council's new assassins on his heels.

Obviously, this short work is meant to be a bridge, of sorts, from 33 A.D. or 61 A.D., the next book in the Backiyr series. As such it's a good way to catch readers up on two of the main characters and provide a recap of some of the action in the first book. But beyond that, there's not a whole lot to recommend After. Of the two stories, I preferred that of Theron and his return to his native Athens after a 900-year absence. Taras' story didn't seem to add much to the saga. Yeah, he's a vampire. Yeah, he's reluctant to kill to satisfy his vampire hunger. So how does he square his need to feed on blood with his desire not to kill? He decides to kill only bad guys. It's not like he was the first literary vampire to come to that solution. In the end it seems a bit anti-climatic to have Taras opt for this solution.

Don't get me wrong. After is not a bad read. In fact, I rather enjoyed the two stories that make up this volume. It's just that they don't seem to add a lot to the Bachiyr mythos and aren't really necessary to the series except as a transition to the next book (which I am looking forward to reading).


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20