Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking Ahead

I just came off a wonderful Christmas weekend. I hope that all of my readers enjoyed one as well. There's something magical about this time of year. Many believe that that's all a bunch of hocum, but it's true. If you want proof, just look at how much effort is spent trying to squash Christmas and yet despite it all Christmas continues to touch our hearts and make us think of our fellowman. Total score: Christmas-2010, Anti-Christmas forces-0.
Anyway, like I said, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I sure did. My kid is sooo spoiled, and it was fun to watch her. My wife went above and beyond, giving me several very awesome gifts. All said I cleaned up on books, which always makes me happy. I've been reading some of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt series, and I wanted to get into some of his other works to see what they're like. My wife obliged. She gave me The Chase and The Wrecker, the first two books in the Isaac Bell series, a story about a detective in America around the first part of last century. The first book, The Chase, takes place in 1906, and jumps all over the western United States.
I couldn't help it, so over yesterday I knocked out the first hundred pages or so. First impressions: Good, the story is very entertaining, but I had to laugh at the main character, Isaac Bell. One of the big pet peeves I had with the Dirk Pitt series is Dirk. He's a crappy character with very little actual work put into his character. He's James Bond in a Speedo. He can get any woman to fall for him merely by being around her.
Isaac Bell on the other hand... is exactly the same way. They both even collect cars of sorts( though Isaac has a much smaller collection, perhaps because in 1906 there just aren't all that many cars)
No, don't get me wrong, I like the books. Just don't come for a major investment in the main character(or any of the characters for that matter). Just plan on a good mystery, laced in with a lot of history and wrapped up neatly in a big ol' adventure bow.
Anyhow, New Years is this week, and I'll be doing the traditional round of reformations. Some of them will concern this blog. Please, let me know in your comments what you like, what you don't, and what you'd like to see more of, after all you guys are what makes this blog worthwhile. So post a comment and let me know. Here's some ideas I'm going to be introducing:
Following a series. I want to start following a series, reviewing a book regularly every month. I have some ideas, but I'm open for suggestions. If there's a series you would like me to review, let me know and I'll consider it.
Classics. Every month, I'm going to review a pick from the Barnes and Noble Classics list, complete with synopsis. I'll cover the central themes and pick some quotes from the book that I find particularly memorable. If for no other reason, this will be a great way to find out what the some of those books you always meant to read but never quite get around to are all about.
Short Stories. I'll be putting up a little bit of my own short fiction, from time to time. I typically write in the horror/fantasy/mystery genres.
That's what I've got so far. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Pacific Vortex

Who is Dirk Pitt?
Think Indiana Jones in a bathing suit. Maybe a bright Hawaii flower shirt just to complete the ensemble.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler, that's pretty much the gist of it. This was the second book I've read of the series, and I found them both to be very enjoyable.
Pacific Vortex is the first novel chronologically and probably the shortest. It weighs in at about 300 pages, so it's good if you are looking for a quick read. The genre is awesome adventure with a historical twist. The plot goes as follows:
There is an area of ocean north of Hawaii where over the past fifty years over thirty ships have just disappeared without a trace. A veritable Bermuda Triangle in its own right. But the latest victim is causing a stir in the US Navy. The USS Starbuck, the worlds most formidable nuclear submarine, has disappeared without a trace.
Dirk Pitt, a well-known and talented oceanographer has been sequestered by the Navy to help track it down. But he's fighting more than the vast depths of the largest ocean in the world, he's fighting a hidden secret, one that will threaten everything that is most important to him....
All things considered, I gave this one three stars. Definitely enjoyable, a good book to get lost in. Full of action and adventure, and plenty of cool twists to keep the history buffs happy and entertained.

The way the story flows it reminded me of Pirate Latitudes by Michael Chichton. If you read that book and liked it, I recommend this book to you. Don't look for it to be too deep, but it'll be fun.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review: Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow

I love almost anything historical, but particularly when it has to do with Rome or Greece. I don't know why, but I've always been that way. So, upon finding a ten book series about the Roman Legions, you can imagine how excited I was. I mean, I always hope that when I find a series like this that it will be fantastic and I will have a new author to follow. Bernard Cornwell was one of those for me. I got into his Lords of the North series about the Vikings and from there I've gone to his Civil War series, The Starbuck Chronicles, and to his much more famous, Sharpe books about the Napoleonic wars. But here was a series about Roman Legions. I thought that I'd died and gone to heaven.
I wish I had.
The book started well enough, with a legion running for their lives from a group of savage Celts. The rearguard is dragging a very heavy wagon that is carrying something very valuable through the muddy swamp paths when the Celts break through. The centurion orders the wagon to be sunk into the bog, and marks the location. He then runs for the ships where his Legate, the commander of the legion, is holding the boat for him and his men. The Celts catch them, however, and only the centurion makes it back. He hands the wax tablet marking the location to his commander, and the commander vows to come back and get it, and to subdue the Britons in turn. The commander's name? Gaius Julius Caesar.
Sounds pretty good, right? At least that's what I thought. But as I read on I grew more and more disillusioned. The book cuts to two characters, Cato and Macro, and the Second Legion. Seriously, every character in this book from here on out is a trope and has been done to death. Macro is a hard-nosed centurion, capable of almost anything, except reading or writing. Cato is a palace slave given his freedom on condition he sign it away to a lifetime of service in the legions. He trains under the  traditional drill sergeant character, aptly named Bestia. He of course, decides to single out the soft palace slave for humiliation. Inevitably, Cato rises to every challenge and becomes a hero.
Perhaps the worst thing this book had to offer is the way it just jumps like a CD that skips. One moment, their in a forest village, about to be consumed by a horde of German warriors, that is if the fire that has caught the entire village on fire doesn't get them first. Then, poof! The next paragraph starts with something like: And they all got out because the Legion won the battle and now it's six weeks later and we're all healed up and ready for something else, oh, and by the way, the main character did something heroic, and now we get to see him get the award for it.... Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but you get the idea. It does this several times and annoyed me to no end.
I will say this. Parts of this book were interesting. I will probably give him another shot, given that this was his first book. But unless he really manages to pick it up in the next book(and I hope so, sheesh, it's a ten book series. They can't all be like this, right?) I'll have to stick to Bernard Cornwell, who, while not having written anything Roman, at least has never let me down, either.