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Mission to Paris: A Novel
Mission to Paris: A Novel
by Alan Furst
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.12
151 used & new from $3.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another near miss, July 1, 2014
After the first margarita, Alan Furst gets better. Mission in Paris was just okay. But before writing my review I read others review of the same book. Many of their observations were the same as mine. One theme was repeated. This novel was not his best; the other earlier works were more worthwhile.

When I went back to see comments on several of his other works, I found that a recurring theme was, "he's done better."
One thing about Alan Furst, the writer, is that he inspires high expectations--unfortunately, without actually delivering to that standard. How does he do that? I asked myself. I have the answer.

Mr. Furst does provide a lot of rich historical detail. This detail doesn't always or even often feed the plot line, but it's there for history buffs. He gets marks for this.

Secondly, he writes good descriptions. He handles the language fairly well, which provides some pleasant reading.
He does explain his characters well enough, in the telling sort of way, so readers get the sense of the characters reasonably well. However, their actions don't seem to do much to support or flesh out the characters. The readers aren't lost so much as dissatisfied to the edge of puzzlement.

Mr. Furst shows the readers his potential, that keeps them coming back, but he seems to fall short of expectations rather regularly. Why?

Let's start with plot. I got the impression that Mr. Furst's plots aren't all that tension producing. He tends to build stories around some rather tepid ideas. That was so in this book.

Although Mr. Furst understands that he must string together a number of scenes in sequence to make a story, the thread seems to all but disappear here and there along the way. The scenes can be interesting enough on a standalone basis, but one could say he doesn't write a tight story. In the process, the tension is watered down. That's a bad thing for a thriller writer. Story telling is not his strength.

Lastly, although I'm not a grammar policeman, he is indiscriminate to the point of creating nonsense in the way he drops commas willy-nilly into many of his sentences. They become annoying at times, making the reader stop to try to sort out his meaning. At other times, he writes complete stoppers. We too often can't know what he's trying to say. It strikes me as a little lazy, turning out unfinished manuscripts for the lack of final efforts. I think he cheats himself and the reader this way. I think a lot of his readers see this. They want him to try harder.

Then there are the all but missing endings. Mission to Paris ends in the most unimpressive way. This complaint surfaces in reviews of some of his other books too. They tend to stop the way many short stories do where the writer more or less stops writing and that's that. The End.

So, if you're one who reads through a gauzy lens and don't want to experience much tension in the story, Furst's books, including Mission in Paris, will do you fine. (Go to the beach, have a drink first.) If you're a more careful reader, you will be less satisfied.


Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $10.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Thinking, Poor Writing, April 30, 2014
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The book is full of important historical facts and interpretations, and is well worth the read. However, I must add that Arendt's ability to write a clear sentence is repeatedly challenged. Reading the text was a drudgery.


The Last Bad Job
The Last Bad Job
Price: $3.99

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for Adult Readers, December 4, 2013
This review is from: The Last Bad Job (Kindle Edition)
Lost me on the very first line. It was an adolescent stunt meant to shock us. Instead, it made me think how unimaginative this writer is going to be. I quit immediately.


Voortman Sugar Free Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies
Voortman Sugar Free Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies
Offered by Neptuns
Price: $6.58
2 used & new from $6.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong price, October 3, 2013
These cookies are $2.29 at my grocery. Someone should fix this. It is clearly incorrect. I will buy some when you fix it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2013 6:47 AM PST


A Conflict of Interest
A Conflict of Interest
by Adam Mitzner
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
109 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drama on A Low Flame, September 10, 2013
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A lot of people liked this book. Those of us who didn't care for it so much would point out:

The characters were unremarkable (stock in some cases), as was the plot.
The text was inflated with too many things unimportant or not very related to the story line.
The dialog was generally flat.
It was not a thriller. It was a drama on a low flame.

Not so bad for a first try.


The Visible World: A Novel
The Visible World: A Novel
by Mark Slouka
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.65
128 used & new from $0.01

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts and Words Matter, September 8, 2013
I like a book that is "composed well" as one reviewer put it in writing about this book. In the first couple of pages, I found the telltale signs of not particularly well conceived thoughts and descriptions. Like the following:

"My mother knew a man during the war. Theirs was a love story, and like any good love story, it left blood on the floor and wreckage in its wake."

Do you think of "any good love story" as leaving blood on the floor, and wreckage. I think tragic or terrible love stories might result in that, but not good ones. I read this, and I think the writer is not close to his story. He has not reflected on the words he wrote and reconsidered. If there was supposed to be irony there, I didn't get it.

It continues a page later with difficulty in word choices,

"I was born, three years later, into a world that felt just slightly haunted, like the faint echo of an earlier one. We were living in New York then. At night, high ini our apartment in Queens, my mother would curl herself against my back and I would smell her perfume, her hair, the deep, cave-like warmth of her, and she would hum some Czech song or other until I pretended to be..."

The phrase, "slightly haunted," sounds enchanting, but what possible meaning is there in it for this setting. I didn't find any relevance. It was just words on a page. Later in the paragraph, he speaks of the "cave-like warmth of her [his mother]." Play a word game for a second. Ask the person next to you to picture a cave in their mind. Then ask them to offer some adjectives describing that cave. I bet they don't come up with "warm."

I believe an author striving to write a literary quality story needs to pay careful attention to his thoughts and words. He should be particular with them.

This book might be good in all other respects, but in my brief inspection I have suffered early disappointments.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 25, 2013 12:47 PM PDT


Telex from Cuba: A Novel
Telex from Cuba: A Novel
by Rachel Kushner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.03
166 used & new from $0.01

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like...like...like..., September 7, 2013
From the first page of Part One in the book:

"It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes that morning. An orange rectangle, the color of hot lava, hovering on the wall of my bedroom. It was from the light, which was streaming through the window in a dusty ray, playing on the wall LIKE a slow and quiet movie. Just this strange, orange light. I was sure that at any moment it would vanish, LIKE when a rainbow appears and immediately starts to fade and you look where you saw it moments before and it's gone, just the faintest color and even that faint color you might be imagining from the memory of what you just saw.
"I went to the window and looked out. The sky was a hazy violet, LIKE the color of the delicate skin under Mother's eyes, half circles that went dark when she was tired. The sun was a blurred, dark red orb. You could look directly at it through the haze, LIKE a jewel under layers of tissue."

I haven't read the book yet, but I did take a look at the first pages and it made an impression on me, like the way newspaper ink stains your fingers. Or like something...

Ms. Kushnar's opening lines read like a new writer who hasn't learned to control the urge to compare everything to something else, like the way a mirror reflects everything in its line of sight. I hope she doesn't keep this up, like the drip of Chinese water torture.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2014 1:33 PM PST


Gray Justice (Tom Gray #1)
Gray Justice (Tom Gray #1)

5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please take more care..., April 26, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It may not matter to very many, but I do wish that the author would put a little more care into the words that he writes, even the trivial stuff. When I find a careless attitude in the opening words of a book, I figure there's more of the same to follow, so I am immediately discouraged. I put this book down after page one. Here's why:

FROM THE BOOK WITH [COMMENTS]: Stuart Boyle held the Subaru Impreza at a steady thirty miles per hour as he headed towards the town centre. Red traffic lights halted his progress and he gazed around at the people in the cars, [IS STUART STOPPED OR MOVING? IS HE STEADY ON THIRTY OR WHAT? HE SAYS "RED LIGHTS," PLURAL, HALTED HIS PROGRESS - WHICH MEANS, I SUPPOSE, THAT HE HAD STOPPED AT SEVERAL RED LIGHTS INDIVIDUALLY ALONG THE WAY, FOR PETE'S SAKE, OF COURSE HE DID, HOW INTERESTING, BUT IS HE AT ONE OF THOSE LIGHTS IN PARTICULAR OR STILL MOVING?]on the buses, walking the streets or sitting in their offices, most of them either at work or heading to work. [PEOLE ARE WALKING, RIDING OR SITTING IN THEIR OFFICES BUT CAN YOU REALLY SEE PEOPLE SITTING IN THEIR OFFICES FROM YOUR CAR? NOT TYPICALLY. THIS UNNECESSARILY STOPS A READER AND MAKES HIM WONDER HOW HE DOES THAT.]He couldn't understand the appeal of working eight hours, doing someone else's bidding all day long for a just a couple of hundred pounds a week...

I know what the author meant to say, but why not take a little more care and say it so it can't be misunderstood.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2013 2:50 PM PDT


A Dignified Exit
A Dignified Exit
Price: $3.98

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tepid, April 25, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Dignified Exit (Kindle Edition)
John Asher's book is a sweet book, at least as far as I got, which was about sixty pages into it. I subscribe to the idea that a book tells about a problem to be solved, and that along the way there are difficulties to be overcome, one after the next. If it's not difficult to solve these issues, then what you have is a story of a safe landing and is not very interesting. Asher starts out with a couple of showy scenes that demonstrate complications. I'm not sure if I was to sympathize or not with Monroe, one of two protagonists in the story. Seems to me he neglected his son terribly. And like a lot of neglectful fathers, he tries to make up for it, but it's too late. I didn't like him much, and I think the revelation sort of botches up the story. I don't have sympathy for the main character. Then he abandons his friends, too, takes off to Mexico. Seems like the guy is inclined to run away from loved ones. Call him disloyal, maybe insensitive, but don't call him a good man. Nonetheless, Asher puts a sympathetic wrap on these things with his words. Well-composed words, but I didn't buy it.

After that Monroe meets a young woman who has a terrible break-up with her fiancé right in front of him. Monroe tries to rescue her and the story is off on a dreadfully predictable path. The two say sweet, agreeable things to each other for about forty pages. The reader will have no doubt where this is going, and so the story loses momentum and my interest. An author can only leave readers idling for so long before they tire of waiting for something stimulating to happen. I was 20% into the book, plenty of time to get things going.

Some interesting things may have happened later, but from reading the other reviews, it must end happily for Monroe and his young paramour as I expected. What I read was pretty tepid, but if you like a lullaby, then this book is for you.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2014 10:46 AM PDT


Gone Girl: A Novel
Gone Girl: A Novel
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $8.52

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First, Have Two Margaritas..., October 9, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book is a decent beach read, which is to say, don't expect too much from it. Gillian Flynn has created a fairly clever plot and a cast of characters who are well-defined as far as two-dimensional characters go. I turned the pages willingly and finished the book. The ending was clever too, if you keep in mind that this is fiction.

Her failures: she is analogy-challenged. The first three pages contain some of the worst analogies I've read in a while. A woman's head that reminds her of a kernal of corn. Or consider the character who desires to open his wife's skull to see the centipedes (her thoughts) running wildly throughout her wrinkled brain matter. What the hell. Or would you like the vegetable dip that reminds you of semen. Good gawd.

At other times, she strains to attract the attention of the reality show audience. How about a brother and sister together pantomiming a scene where the brother slaps his wife's face with his tumescent "wood-like" penis. For their fifth anniversary. This is not for me.

But...if you can ignore all this tasteless stuff, the plot is satisfying enough and the text reads smoothly. As I said, take it to the beach, get a little dreamy on beach drinks, read it through a foggy lense, then leave it on the chaise lounge when you go back to your room.


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