Sunday, October 14, 2018

No miniatures painted this week, very little proofreading, and little writing. I did get some reading done. I finished a book--review below. New books started include The Elven, The Red and The Black, Young Washington, and Napoleon: A Life. Le Loup Blanc remains on the list, but I didn't make any progress on it; The Colonization of North America is also in the currently reading file, but I didn't read much on that one this week either. I did autograph a few books on Saturday at the local coffee shop.

Sometime this week while wondering about words, I had reason to suspect a thing that I had not previously expected. In retrospect, I wonder, by way of a little introspection, why I had not considered the prospect. I inspected, and can only respect the results from Meriam-Webster Online:

Middle English, from Latin suspectare, frequentative of suspicere to look up at, regard with awe, suspect, from sub-, sus- up, secretly + specere to look at — more at SUB-, SPY
Middle English, from Latin respectus, literally, act of looking back, from respicere to look back, regard, from re- + specere to look — more at SPY
Latin exspectare to look forward to, from ex- + spectare to look at, frequentative of specere to look — more at SPY

Latin inspectus, past participle of inspicere, from in- + specere to look — more at SPY
Middle English, from Latin prospectus view, prospect, from prospicere to look forward, exercise foresight, from pro- forward + specere to look — more at PRO-SPY

I hadn't thought to wonder about "spy," but all the --spect-- words pointed there so...

Middle English spien, from Anglo-French espier, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German spehōn to spy; akin to Latin specere to look, look at, Greek skeptesthai & skopein to watch, look at, consider.

Mystery solved. It all looks Latin to me. I guess "spectacle" and "spectator" are also from the same Latin root. But when I type "spectacles" into Meriam-Webster, the result takes me to "glass."

But enough of the wondering about words. There's a book to review!

Stiger's Tigers by Marc Alan Edelheit.

General Thoughts: This book reminded me of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Rifles. I enjoyed the entire Sharpe's series. The writing for Stiger's is deliciously lean on description. It's clear and plain without seeming elementary. I suppose the story has a bit of a grim dark edge to it, as well as being sword and sorcery, and military fantasy. Most of the story is military based. The presence of an elf is the tip-off that we're not dealing with the historical Roman legions. The story moves along and never bogs down. I got the ebook on special for free, or for $0.99.

Story in a nutshell: Legionary captain whose name carries some baggage is transferred to a new unit. He must whip them into fighting shape, stay alive, avoid political problems, and assault the castle.

Do I recommend it? Yes. It's a worthy emulation of the Sharpe's books with the fantasy Roman-esque legions substituting for the 95th Rifles. Although it is predictable, the story is fun, and seldom lacks for action. I liked the military adventure aspect better than the fantasy aspect; it could have been a fine book even if the fantasy element had been eliminated. I don't recall much by way of character development. The main character is already as he is likely to remain in general. Some development of the relationships between the main character and the supporting cast occurs--but this is a book about military men doing mighty things, not some namby-pamby story about feelings with tears and tea cups. This is a story of sharpened swords, heavy shields, and pointed spears moving forward through the mud, the blood, and the fear--but there was no boy named Sue in this story. I rate it: A Rollicking Romp.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I've had some musketeer miniatures from Redoubt Enterprises for some months and have never got around to painting them. One reason being that I'm not a gifted painter. My paint jobs are best observed from a distance in dim light. I did three this weekend. Below are Rochefort, Richelieu, and Aramis.

Only about 20 more of those to go.

Last time I mentioned this movie.
Empires Collide - That's not actually the title; it's what I remember of the title.

It's really a documentary with a lot of computer animated sea battles; there is also some live action that's not particularly well done. As entertainment it's only a couple notches above a cat video. As for being informative and interesting, a Ken Burns' film it's not, but I liked it very much. A year or so ago, I was wondering about the fall of the Dutch Republic. While this documentary doesn't address that particular question, it does explain the Anglo-Dutch war(s) and how the Dutch traded New Amersterdam (New York) for England itself. Of course, that's not exactly true, but the Dutch did lose that colony, and William of Orange invaded and became king of England. I recommend it.

Book Reviews:
Fatemarked by David Estes
General Thoughts: Based on the reviews and sales, lots of people liked this book. I'm not one of them. I got the book for free either on Prime or some other special. I don't remember. There are some 1 and 2 star reviews. One of those reviews mentioned that the best thing about the book was the cover. I have to agree.

Story in a nutshell: There are 4 kingdoms (I think) and the prophesy says that 8 kings will die. People with special marks on them have special powers: healing, death, and I don't remember what else. The story follows these marked people, jumping around from one to the other, without ever piquing my interest...and therefore I don't know what they ever did. I bailed somewhere short of halfway through.

Do I recommend it? No. The 1 and 2 star reviews seem to sum it up pretty well. A confusing story line and uninteresting characters are the main complaints. It seems to be marketed for both teens and adults, yet is suitable for neither. I couldn't take the incessant inner whining in which the characters wallowed, and the talking-it-all-out to discover the respective traveling companion's inner pain. I rate it: Wading Naked Through Broken Glass with a Side of Salt for Your Wounds.

Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist
General Thoughts: This was a find at the local used bookstore after I read some online recommendations at a page for fantasy genre readers. Published in 1988, this book reeks of the 80's. That's actually what I liked about it. No cellphones, no internet. One of the characters is a writer and gets his first word processor. Reading it was like watching an 80's movie based on something from Stephen King. Many years ago, I read and enjoyed Feist's Rift War Saga.--and I remember nothing about it. I had high hopes for this one.

Story in a nutshell: A family buys a house and weird things start to happen. A hidden key, a hidden room, a secret map, a strange wood, and an ancient and powerful organization, collide to culminate in a showdown with evil.

Do I recommend it? No. The book is over 400 pages long. It moves slowly, finally building to the climax that has become inevitable. Two characters are 8 year old twin boys. I don't think the author had spent much time with 8 year olds. These two don't act like 8 year olds; they act at least 12 in most respects. I didn't find those two (who are critical to the story) to be believable characters. I also wasn't persuaded that their mom was a real person either. Although, when you're talking about visitors from, and to, the Faerie world, that seems like a bit of a strange thing about which to complain. And yet, I do because if the reality part doesn't ring true, the fantasy part just rings hollow. Additionally, the sex and profanity detracted from a potentially good story. By the time the story concluded, I felt like the destination hadn't been worth the journey. I rate it: Pandora's Box--best left unopened.

It seems like my last few reviews have not been favorable. I'm going to have to post the review of Treachery of Daimyo--which I really liked. I should probably be reading the last two books in that series instead of getting cheap books that disappoint me.

Speaking of cheap books. Look at this:

I read this book some months ago. I had read and enjoyed the Spellsinger series up to that point when I was much younger. I couldn't remember if I had read this one. I read it and remembered that I had, and why it was the last one that I had read. I didn't care for it. But my point here was the price of the paperback: $975.66????? I got it from the used bookstore for $2.00--but that's probably the mass market paperback. I have no idea what the edition is that goes for nearly a grand.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

"If you call that interfering, there's something wrong with your Funk & Wagnalls." That was my favorite line from an episode of Buck Rogers last week. The clip is at the end of the post.

Some amusing SF/Fantasy book titles that I would like to see:
Death of a Talisman
To Clone a Mockingbird
Of Humanoid Bondage
Gorn with the Wind

Book Reviews
First, the book for which I didn't have the stickety-to-itey to complete. Life Reset by Shemer Kuznits
As I did not finish the book, I won't give a standard review. I got the book for free through Prime. The book is the tale of an online gamer who actually makes his living via his character's online income. The character is some big boss head of a guild or something. Treachery sends the character to an unknown region of the game, transformed into a lowly goblin. Additionally, the player himself soon becomes trapped in the online game. The story of the lowly goblin character's rise to power (and several deaths along the way) is fairly interesting. What was not interesting, besides the lame attempts at humor, was the constant reviewing of the character's game stats. It only got worse when the character became a small boss with a village to run etc. With that development, the stat reviews included not only the character, but many of the villagers as well. I couldn't have cared less about the game mechanics and stats. There was a decent story being told, but it became buried beneath the frequent stat reviews and the lame exercises for increasing the stats. The story just wasn't good enough to make me endure the stuff that annoyed me. I rate the book: Abandon Ship--the story sinks beneath a deluge of boring stats and game info. I think the criticism by two-star reviewers at the big river site where the book is available are the most useful reviews.

I see that I used "lame" and "interesting" twice each in that paragraph. That makes for lame and uninteresting writing.

I did finish Django Wexler's The Thousand Names.
General Thoughts: I found this book for a couple bucks at the local used bookstore. It was a research project for me into the realms of flintlock fantasy. If it hadn't been a research project, I wouldn't have read past the first few pages because the author drops several f-bombs in that time; that's normally a deal-breaker for me. Fortunately, there were entire chapters without that kind of profanity. Near the end of the book when things got fast and furious again, the f-bomb became more frequent. That feature alone turned me off from the book. As for the other elements, the writing isn't bad. I became interested in the story and in the characters. The book is dreadfully long--over 600 pages.

Story in a nutshell: A small contingent of colonial soldiers face a religious uprising by the native population in a coastal desert setting. Reinforcements arrive with a mysterious colonel at their head. They bring their flintlocks and cannon on the road to take the fight to the enemy who outnumber them by at least 10 to 1. The colonel has an additional item on his to-do list that he hasn't shared with his troops. A spy in the midst of the colonials also has a special mission. When the colonel's mission and the spy's mission intersect with a mutiny among the troops, and the secrets of the old religion of the desert, the magic finally becomes manifest.

Do I recommend it? Reluctantly, no--maybe--it depends. There's a lot going on here for so little that is accomplished. The book really seems like an extravagant prologue to the story that promises to follow. I hated the profanity. I think that a better author would have made up different words in his world to replace the profanity. I did get caught up in the story, but it went on too long. When the magic finally appeared (it is fantasy), I didn't love it. We trudged across the desert fighting a few battles, suffering many casualties and enduring great difficulties, but when we arrived at the climax and the big reveal, the payoff for our troubles, it just tasted bad. One aspect of the big reveal was no surprise; I kept expecting it, and it happened. That's not necessarily bad; it makes me feel good to figure out something before it's revealed--when I have to think about it. The question or mystery dealt with who among the colonials possessed magical powers. In this case, the answer was slipped in via a minor incident about halfway through the book, if I remember correctly. The other part of the magic reveal was not obvious, yet foreseeable. One aspect that appealed to me, as a Napoleonic nut myself, was that of the battles. I did like that they were well-described--except the most important one. The final battle between the colonials and the native army didn't get the same level of description as the other battles. After the trek though the desert and the various fights which built up to this clash for the very survival of the colonials, I expected more. Instead, that battle received short shrift. I wanted a detailed account of that one; perhaps the potential logical/logistical problems prevented a more full description. Anyway, I rate it: A Long Slog to the Tainted Oasis--through desert, battles, and mutiny, to the oasis where the water is not cool and refreshing, but strange and unpleasant. That said, I'm really considering reading the next one in the series, and I suppose that's what the author wanted to accomplish.
This is funny, while the actual f-bomb itself isn't.

Maybe next time I'll discuss these topics:
A class action suit about Craftsman warmachines
Broadside: Emerging Empires Collide

Sunday, September 23, 2018

I don't remember where I found this, but it is my favorite rendition of the Enterprise. This conception screams 1966 Corvette Stingray, or some sleek vehicle of that time frame.

Imagine the series if the Enterprise ran on an internal combustion engine instead of warp drive. Scotty would be doing frequent tune-ups, changing the points and plugs, boring out the cylinders, or perhaps just adjusting the fuel mixture for that extra .02 bump in speed necessary to elude the two big block Ford Klingon Battle Cruisers that were lurking behind the moons of the mysterious green planet R2X7 at the corner of the Galactic Boulevard and the Asphalt Nebula.

I know--there are no gas stations in space.

But enough of that.

The real news is that I've finished writing the sequel to Justice in Season. I still have to proof it myself and then have my special editors provide their feedback and corrections, and then it will soon be available for download. Shortly after that, both the first book, and this new book will be available in paperback as well.

I finished another book (the review follows). I'm also about half through Django Wexler's The Thousand Names. I like it so far. I'm still lazily working through Feval's Le Loup Blanc, and I've started Life Reset by Shemer Kunzits. As for the latter, I question whether I'll finish it. It's of the Litrpg genre--the first I've read of that type. It's not what I expected; I grow weary of the reviewing of the character's new stats every couple pages.

Book Review:
The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker
General Thoughts: The was a free book from Prime; that's the only reason that I read it. I like WWII history, and I had hoped that this story would be a pleasing change of pace from my recent reading. On several occasions, I nearly abandoned the book, but I hate to quit on a book if it shows the least amount of promise. This one did--show the least amount. Initially, I was interested in the story and in the characters; I looked beyond the effusive writing style. I mean effusive in the geologic sense: characterized by the nonexplosive outpouring of lava. The words just kept coming like a slow lava flow. I kept expecting something exciting, but there never was an explosion, just more description being extruded, filling up pages between the moments that almost became tense. Many times, something almost happened, but nothing ever did. The book was rather like a scary movie with a good soundtrack that builds to a climactic moment, only to have a scared cat leap out--over and over again. The novel is based on a true story, but what turns out to be the most interesting part of the book, is the fictionalized love story between the two main characters. The development of that relationship is best described as slow, very slow, painfully slow--it was actually more like watching thick paint run than lava flow.

Story in a nutshell: A former friar enters into platonic marriage with a widowed mother of  three (or was it four?) children in a village near Stuttgart, Germany during WWII. He can't get over his past. He tries to find redemption and provide for the family by acting as a courier for an underground German resistance network. Spoiler: A stork gets shot.

Do I recommend it: No. We talk about reading a book. Really, we should talk about experiencing a book. Each person will experience a book differently to some degree; the written story remains the same, but what we bring to it, and what we appreciate and demand from a story may differ greatly. I can only speak to how I experienced the book. This story is well written in the sense that although the writing is effusive, it is not painfully annoying, just rather baroque. It was not the style that bothered me; it was the story. The author wrote the book based upon a family history story. She obviously wanted to protect the memory of the family members; she refused to take liberties that would have made the story more interesting, and yet she seemed to have a deficit of actual facts with which to provide relevant details. Instead, we get lots of irrelevant details--the descriptive extruding. The main characters are of the Catholic faith. As I read the book, I suspected that the author was not Catholic, but wanted to treat that faith with respect. I think she did that, but never fully connected with the religious experience. Finally, about midway through the book, I got the feeling that the author had her own message that she was inserting into this historical novel. The message was inserted with enough subtlety that I wasn't too irked by it; I figured that I could be wrong in my suspicion. I wasn't. In order to make certain that her message wasn't missed, an afterward had been attached. The author explained how the election of 2016 had driven her to write this story NOW. While I found the story disappointing, the afterward rendered it repugnant. I rate this book: Running Paint Dries - the over-applied paint runs at a slow pace, and dries before it reaches the bottom of the wall.

Also - Movie Review:
I re-watched an excellent film on Netflix this week: The African Doctor.

It's in French with English subtitles. The story takes place in the 1970s. A man from Zaire graduates from medical school in France and takes a job as a small town doctor. His wife and children mistakenly believe that the new job is in Paris. Their excitement meets a wet and bitter end when they arrive at the village. They have to deal with racial prejudice and local politics among other problems. The doctor does his best but it all seems for naught. He could lose his family, his job, and his chance at French citizenship. Watching this movie is like trying to swallow a wad of Silly Putty wrapped around a buck's worth of nickels--the lump stays in the back of your throat and refuses to go down. I know that sounds bad, but it's really a terrific movie that is well worth watching.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Before the irregularly scheduled episode of Combat!, a few words from a book I'm reading. Just because I may not agree with the statement, doesn't mean that I don't find it humorous.

L'âge, incapable d'embellir, efface du moins les différences excessives qui séparent la beauté de la laideur. À cinquante ans, ce qui reste d'une femme laide est bien près de ressembler à ce qui reste d'une jolie femme. – Le Loup Blanc. Paul Feval.

Season 1 Episode 10: ”I Swear by Apollo”
The wind is blowing fiercely. The squad is headed into some trees. They come (like children through a wardrobe) past the shaggy limbs of a coniferous tree. They escort a Frenchman who is carrying a roll of papers. He’s obviously NPC number one. Saunders tells them that they’ll go in single file, staying in his footsteps, as the area may be mined. They spot some cloister nuns from a nearby convent working in a cemetery. Is it an omen? Saunders says their job is to get the Frenchman back. They move out. Meanwhile, a wagon comes to pick up the working nuns. The Frenchman drops his papers. The wind takes them. He and another soldier, Temple, begin gathering the papers which are being carried along the ground by the wind. A mine explodes about 6 feet from the Frenchman doing d6+2 damage to everyone within a ten foot radius. Everyone goes down. The nuns look over before turning back to their business. Roll the opening credits.

Gunnar Hellstrom is the guest star. The episode is written by Gene Levitt, and directed by Robert Altman.

The report is that the Frenchman is still alive, but the soldier is down and the medic shakes his head. I guess we don’t expect him to survive. 

There’s a nice title shot superimposed over the nuns and a cross in the cemetery. Doc tells Saunders that the Frenchman has shrapnel in his back. The soldier, on the other hand, needs a miracle. I think we’re going to the convent for a miracle and a splash of the religious imagery we see much of in Altman’s episodes. Sure enough, Saunders says they’ll follow the nuns to the convent.

There it is.

And it looks like they’ve caught the nuns getting ready for a game of marbles, or craps…or they could be praying or something.

Saunders and Caje in succession attempt to interrupt the nuns with pleas for aid. Both fail their diplomacy rolls. The nuns refuse to be interrupted in the middle of their craps game duties. Saunders wants to leave Temple with Doc at the convent and leave with the Frenchman. Doc says the Frenchman can’t be moved; he needs a surgeon. Saunders gets Hanley on the radio. Hanley says it’ll be an hour before he can get there with a surgeon.

The Mother Superior agrees to allow them to stay at the convent to wait for help.
Hanley gets a surgeon. We learn that the Frenchman was a surveyor for over 30 years. They leave to begin the rescue. Cut to this shot (which may be my new profile pic):

A nun (all of the nun faces remain in shadow from the dark cowls of their habits—like the Law Givers in Return of the Archons) picks up the skull and candle. She mentions neither Yorick nor her enemies and a drink. Kirby wonders if she’s taking a walk with an old friend. Caje says the nuns meditate over the skull. (Those nuns really know how to have a good time). Saunders has the Frenchman’s papers, but they’re of no use unless the Frenchman remains alive to decipher them.

Meanwhile, Hanley and the surgical crew are on their way. However, the surgeon (NPC number 2) seems winded and slow; he’s dragging his medical bag. Is it going to catch a mine? Apparently he makes his saving throw; he moves the bag to his shoulder, refusing to stop and rest.

Sister Mary Sebastien is presented to the squad. She was a nurse, and understands English. She will be allowed to help with the patients. They can’t see her face, and she won’t speak because of her vow of silence. Doc says there’s nothing for her to do until the surgeon arrives. She leaves. Kirby finds it all “spooky”—I agree.

Back with Hanley and the much awaited surgeon, they find Germans. After the German vehicles pass, Hanley calls to Littlejohn to send the doc across the road. He barely gets across before a German tank barrels past. Hanley tells the doc that’s why they need the surveyor; he can tell them every route capable of carrying tanks. Hanley sends the doc ahead, warning him about the open area that might be mined. The doc refuses to take Hanley’s carbine; he already has enough to carry. Hanley and the men stay to count the passing tanks.

Plot complication! When Hanley and friends have counted the tanks and go to catch up to the doc, they don’t have far to go. They find him sitting against a tree, dead from an apparent heart attack--he must not have been the guest star. What kind of DM sends an NPC whose only purpose is to expire without even soaking up some hps of damage? The players are going to be complaining about that move.

When Hanley arrives at the convent, Saunders wonders where the surgeon is. At first Hanley doesn’t answer. When Saunders persists, Hanley, in his best matter-of-fact tone, tells him the surgeon is waiting at the edge of a clearing waiting for a burial detail, dead. Hanley wants battalion on the radio. He wants some direction and needs to report about the tanks he counted. The Frenchman says he has important info and needs to speak with an intelligence officer.

Saunders suggests getting a French doctor. Unfortunately, the nearby town is lousy with Germans. Littlejohn reports that battalion says that they’re on their own. It will be a couple days before battalion can get a doctor to them. The Mother Superior tells them that there used to be a doctor in the town. Come nightfall, Saunders and Hanley will go try to find a doc in town.

The two heroes sneak into town. From amidst the German tanks they seize a local on a bicycle. With the sort of diplomacy that falls beyond the margins of the Geneva Convention, he has Caje tell the man to inform them where the doctor might be found, if he would be so kind, and that if the man screams, Saunders will break his neck. Weighing his limited options, the local answers the questions put to him. Tiring of Saunders’ embrace, he agrees to lead them to the destination.

Saunders and Caje follow the Frenchman. Once at the destination, Saunders, being all out of roses and carnations, has Caje give the Frenchmen their thanks by telling him that if he says anything, “We’ll hunt him down and kill him.” The Frenchman leaves without insisting on flowers or chocolates. They look through the hospital window and see a man in pale coat. They enter and take the doctor by surprise.

But he is the one who surprises them, removing his coat to reveal a German uniform.

Perhaps he’s the guest star. He must be. He exudes that haughty arrogance that I’ve come to expect of the guest stars playing German officers.

Saunders, nevertheless, still sees the answer to his problem in this guy, who is in fact a doctor—not Doctor Who, but a doctor nonetheless—sans the Time Lord certification. They take him. Back at the convent, the wounded Frenchman babbles again about important information for someone in intelligence. The German doc asks what he has said. Saunders is suspicious; he wants to test the German doc’s French comprehension. Caje asks him in French if it’s serious. The doc replies in French, and realizes that he has been discovered.

The German doc tries to stall, even doing a blood transfusion on Temple. He has excuses why he cannot operate on the Frenchman, but Hanley counters them all. He must operate. Getting enough light by which to operate gives Altman an opportunity to go all out on the candles and cross motif that he often uses.

Just to make sure that the German doc understands the gravity of the operation, Saunders pulls a page from his personal copy of The Fine Art of Diplomacy for Sergeants—based rather loosely on Dale Carnegie’s book; he tells the German, “If this man dies, I’ll kill you.”

The doc, who now has his mind right,

operates, assisted by the nun nurse. He enlists Saunders to take the blood pressure. We get several shots of candles and concerned faces. The Frenchman’s blood pressure drops to 0. It eventually goes back up. He’ll be okay.

Temple expires.

The German doc asks Saunders if he would have gone to such lengths to save the Frenchman if he had not had such valuable information. Saunders replies, “There’s a war going on. I don’t like it, but I do what I have to do.” He then counters with, “If I hadn’t put a gun up to your head, would you have operated, Doctor?” The doc doesn’t answer.

Temple checks into his reserved room at the cemetery; Saunders and company are off. What happened to the German doctor?

What do I think of this episode? Writing this conclusion several days after having watched the episode, I can't remember any gun fire--no combat in Combat!--unacceptable. I found the guest star convincingly played. However, the script seemed a little weak to me. Most of the time is spent milling around with silent nuns while Temple expires in slow motion. I think it could be plausible argued that the counting of German tanks and the coercion of a French peasant tie for the most exciting bits of the episode. Saunders and Hanley had some meat to their parts, but not much. I would have liked to have seen a little more difficulty in getting the German doc to the convent. Even better, if somewhat incomprehensible, would have been to have the nuns as a special German unit in disguise; as it was, the nuns were really just that: none, nothing, zilch--they added nothing significant to the story. This will definitely not make my top ten list.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

There's an undeniable satisfaction derived from pounding a screwdriver through an oil filter. Grasping that skewering tool's handle, applying the torque--that transference of will into action--and twisting the recalcitrant part to force the release of its tenacious hold upon the engine block brings an indisputable sense of gratification--until you realize that the removal of the nearly brand new filter was completely unnecessary.

That oil filter was the single most expensive part in the repair that I did Saturday on the lawn mower aka the Craftsman warmachine. It had a broken intake rod. I had discovered the broken rod when I had removed the valve cover and found things in a state of complete disarray--not to be confused with Desiree, who is complete and is also found in my state. The repairs included replacing the rod guide (which I had unwittingly (or half-wittedly) damaged in a previous repair, and which ultimately, I believe, was the cause of the broken rod) both the intake and exhaust push rods, a gasket, and last, but not least (and completely unnecessarily), the oil filter.

My dad taught me the trick for removing a stubborn oil filter. He did teach me that it wasn't the best option; but when it has to come off, and if it won't come off by hand, and you don't have a proper wrench for it, the skewering and torquing works every time.

When I had replaced the parts and reassembled the machine, it started immediately on the turn of the key. Victory was mine! O mechanical incompetence, where is thy sting? Best of all, I didn't lose a single drop of blood, neither cuticle, knuckle nor dermis spread itself upon the altar of small engine repair deities. The repair, reassembling, and the mowing spent the day.
More books reviewed:

Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie

General Thoughts: Joe Abercrombie writes very well. I enjoyed the book from the very beginning and never found myself disappointed in either the story or the writing style. The style doesn't call attention to itself. It's sparse on description and detail, giving sufficient information to set the scene in broad terms while allowing the reader's imagination to naturally establish the details and unspecified staging. The story itself maintains the reader's interest. The pacing never drags. Plot, pacing, and style are a delight.

Story in a nutshell: Boy who doesn't want to be king, finds himself thrust into the throne (or thrown into the throne) by the deaths of both his father and brother. He swears an oath of vengeance. After setting out to achieve revenge, he escapes treachery and attempted assassination only to become a galley slave. His oar mates and a couple others on the ship become his new family. His previous training to become a minister (of the advising rather than the preaching ilk) more than makes up for the lack of one hand. He must escape from slavery and return home to reclaim his kingdom. Naturally, he changes along the way, becoming confident and cunning.

Do I recommend it? Yes. I got this book on sale for $0.99. So far, it is the best book that I've read at that price this year. I rode this story like a spirited horse from beginning to end. The story never falters. I found some key character development rather sudden, but credible under the circumstances. The cast of supporting characters provides great texture if not extreme depth to the story. The book also included the first chapter of the next book in the series. That first chapter seemed too similar to the first chapter of this book. I probably won't read the next book, unless I find a similar deal on it. As for Half a King, I rate it: A Galloping Gallivant--enjoy the ride.

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard P. Feynman

General Thoughts: I had no previous knowledge of Mr. Feynman, his work or his writings. This is a purely biographical work. He's a Nobel Prize winning scientist. He worked at Los Alamos on the atomic bomb project during WWII. I enjoyed the story which ranged from his early interest in repairing radios to his education, trips abroad, work on the atomic bomb, cracking safes, playing the bongos, learning how to attract women in bars, learning to draw, lecturing, and more. It was an interesting change of pace.

Story in a nutshell: A very smart and talented guy does lots of interesting things.

Do I recommend it? Yes. This book was a nice look into an interesting life. I would imagine that I would have many agreements and disagreements with the author on all kinds of subjects, but he doesn't invite me along to convince me of his point of view; he just lets me know what it is, and let's me see what an amazingly interesting life he has had. The book is light on the kind of thing that would make me want to put it down, including heaving scientific explanations. The science talk is kept simple. There was a spot or two where I failed to grasp the scientific aspect of the story, but it didn't matter; the story was still great. I acquired this book for free through Prime. I rate this book: A Semester Abroad -- enjoy learning things by looking at them through another's perspective.
Books in the reading queue: The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker, Stiger's Tigers by Marc Alan Edelheit, Fatemarked by David Estes, and Heroes of Issalia by Jeffrey L. Kohanek are new on the list. Le Loup Blanc by Paul Feval is still in progress. I should also do a review of Ken Jorgenen's Treachery of The Daimyo too, and read the next two books in that series.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

From one of Benjamin Franklin's lesser known writings:

"Are there twenty Men in Europe at this Day, the happier, or even the easier, for any Knowledge they have pick’d out of Aristotle? What Comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a Man who has Whirlwinds in his Bowels! The Knowledge of Newton’s mutual Attraction of the Particles of Matter, can it afford Ease to him who is rack’d by their mutual Repulsion, and the cruel Distensions it occasions?"
Ben Franklin's proposal for a special study

The last book finished in August:
Requiem: Dawn of Dragons: Book 1: Requiem's Song:
General Thoughts: Arenson has superior writing talent. He excels at writing combat scenes. His style is easy to follow and quite exciting. I wish more fantasy writers possessed his skill. I enjoyed the first half of this book. The second half was a drudgery, trudging from one fight scene to another with one of the many characters struggling with some hardship in between. It was rather like Conrad's Heart of Darkness with combat scenes--the combat scenes came so frequently, so fast and furious, that I actually dreaded them; I had grown so fatigued with the battle sequences that by the time the story arrived at the great climactic battles, I didn't care; I just wanted it to be over.

Story in a nutshell: Some people can turn into dragons. Other people, including a king (the most horrible husband and father, an exceptionally bad son, and all-around bad person), and another really repulsive caveman riding a roc, and some others object to the weredragon concept and want to slay and burn all of the weredragons. They have a great deal of success in their chosen vocation. Unhappy with the fact that his success has not been complete and total, horrible king summons demons to do his killing for him. More horrible things ensue. There are great battles for the weredragon sanctuary and for the king's demon-destroyed city.

Do I recommend it? No. I enjoyed the early part of the book before it became tedious and repulsive. The exact moment that the story turned for me was when the really bad dad, septic son, horrible husband, and execrable king summoned the demons. This seemed completely out of place. The story went down hill from there. My interest in the characters, even the very sympathetic Laira, plummeted like a dragon with its wings torn off. I won't read any other books in this series. I may try other works by the author. I rate this book: A Carnival Ride Too Far--it was fun at first but eventually I just wanted off.