September 30, 2010

Wonder o' the Wind **

** Wonder o' the Wind, Phillip Keller, 1982

This is not the kind of thing I would normally read. In fact, you can pretty much figure that anything that has o' in the title will not make my reading list. I may be extending that to include authors with o' in their name. (Sorry, Flannery.)

The Number One Son indicated that this book might have relevance to the backstory of the protagonist in my latest work in progress, so I read it. It turns out that at least one of the 243 pages did have relevance. Maybe even as many as three pages!

September 27, 2010

The Furniture of Heaven **

** The Furniture of Heaven, Mike Mason, 1989

The cover says "Parables for Pilgrims" and that's accurate. I've also seen it mentioned as "fiction" and "short stories" which sets the wrong expectation. That being said, Mason is a good writer for this genre, but it's not a genre I enjoy. Those who like this sort of thing will like this. ;-) I'm a much bigger fan of his non-fiction stuff.

September 23, 2010

Mucho Mojo ***

*** Mucho Mojo, Joe R Lansdale, 1994

Lansdale was recommended to me a couple of years ago by Zane. (Speaking of Zane, check out his very cool short movie, Wake Up, at the link. Shot in Austin, all effects done by Zane.)

So I kept the scrap of paper with Lansdale's name on my desk for a couple of years before I actually broke down and got a copy of Mucho Mojo. This guy's a good writer, whodunit style. The real draw for me is 1) his great way with the language and similies and 2) interesting characters. The story is pretty good, too, but you know who did it about halfway through. There is a twist, but I saw that one coming, too. And the scene where the preacher and the sidekick lock horns about homosexuality got a little tiresome.

But overall, a very entertianing read and I'll be checking for Lansdale on the shelf in the future.

September 20, 2010

Goodbye Hollywood Nobody ***

*** Goodbye Hollywood Nobody, Lisa Samson, 2008

I've put off reading this book for a long time, because it's the last of the Hollywood Nobody books and I didn't want it to end. But finally the time came. I broke out a Punch and an 11-year-old Bowmore and read the thing in one sitting, finishing around 2 a.m.

It may seem a little strange for a guy at half a century to be reading a book targeted toward teen girls, but when I find a good writer, I stick with them. Sorry to see this series come to and end, but she's writing other books, so, hey. I'm just saying.

September 16, 2010

Literary Lone Stars

Occasionally I emerge from my bunker and venture forth into the metropolis to engage other citizens on matters of great import. This evening I attended the Writer's League of Texas event called Literary Lone Stars, primarily to hear Joe R. Lansdale, whom I recently began reading. In the course of the evening, I heard three other authors, Doug Dorst, John Phillip Santos, and Karen Valby, read and talk about their work.

Valby started off and got my attention with Welcome to Utopia, a book about a small Texas town relatively isolated form popular culture. I was seeing all kinds of parallels and contrasts with Welcome to Fred, although Utopia, small though it may be, is much larger than Fred. Then Dorst read some selections from Surf Guru about reptiles that were hilarious and riveting. I'm aching to get to his book, but it goes in the To Be Read shelf along with dozens of other worthy candidates for next book to pick up. Johh Phillip Santos read a selection that opened with a sentence that nailed me to the wall: "The mind and the heart leave no fossils." Wow.

Lansdale completed the evening with some readings and extemporaneous stories of his childhood in East Texas, a resonant chord for a Fred, Texas ex-patriot. Reviews of his books I've read this year to follow in the coming months. Mucho Mojo.

The takeaway for me was the sheer joy of being able to hang with writers, not just the presenters, but other writers at all stages of development, and just soak up the vibe, something I didn't have access to in Honolulu, paradise thought it may be. I dropped $100+ in retail-price books simply because I wanted to support what these people are doing. I also got autographs on them. Maybe they'll be worth something one day after I read them. Heh.

Programs like this give me a reason to excavate my gnome-like frame from the bowels of my solitary unibomber isolation and inflict myself upon the greater population. Joy abounds. Woohoo.

Tribes ***

*** Tribes, Seth Godin, 2008

Permission-marketing guru, publishing revolutionary. If you're trying to promote anything in this century, this book is a must read.

September 13, 2010

The Blue Umbrella

The Blue Umbrella, Mike Mason, 2009

When I sat down at a table at the Christy Awards this year, mainly there to hear Lisa Samson speak, I skimmed through the list of finalists and read, with fear and trembling, in the YA category, the title The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason. I immediately scanned the room, wondering if he was there. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have a chance to shake his hand and tell him how much his writing has touched me, particularly The Mystery of Marriage, which exploded my brain when I read it, and The Gospel According to Job, which was invaluable when I was writing Escape from Fred.

At that moment Donna Kehoe, the force behind the awards, happened to walk up to my table. I jumped up, pointed to the entry, and asked if this was the Mike Mason. She confirmed that it was. I then asked if he was present. Sadly, he was not.

I didn't even realize Mason had written a novel and immediately upon returning home I ordered a copy, along with some non-fiction books by Mason that had escaped my notice.

If you've never heard of Mason, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of The Mystery of Marriage post haste, regardless of whether you are married or never even plan to be married. In the mid 80s I ran across it in a bookstore and read the preface. I was so astounded I bought it on the spot. The rest did not disappoint. In fact, on my first website, constructed way back in the 90s, I posted selected quotes from The Mystery of Marriage to convince others that they should read it immediately. Obviously it worked, because it's sold over 200,000 copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Need I say more?

Regarding The Blue Umbrella, I'm not sure what I think at present. I'd like to hear the thoughts of others. Give it a read and drop me a line.

September 9, 2010

The Cure ***

*** The Cure, Athol Dickson, 2007

Athol's a very good writer, an award-winning writer, in fact. Three Christy awards, finalist two other times, and other stuff. I found the premise of The Cure to be intruiging. I loved the account of the protagonist finding and savoring a bottle of Scotch in Chapter 4. Some of the descriptions went on a little long for me, more elaborate than is my taste, but the story is solid. The twist at the end is just right.

September 2, 2010

Rebel Island ***

*** Rebel Island, Rick Riordan, 2007

I somehow failed to review this book when I read it a while back, and just now noticed it when writing the review for The Red Pyramid.

Much to my sorrow, Rebel Island is the last Tres Navarre novel. At the Texas Book Festival three or four years ago I attended a panel discussion on writing whodunits because Riordan was on the panel. He mentioned then that he had lost his zeal for the series and that he would be pursuing his YA novels going forward, as indeed he has done with five Percy Jackson books (so far), the opening tome in the 39 Clues series, The Maze of Bones, and the first of the Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid.

That being said, it is a worthy end. Riordan has a knack for posing new problems that shed more light on the Navarre family history, which is as intriguing as the main plot. This book is no exception. It has a bit of a Key Largo vibe to it, which makes it even more entertaining.

Perhaps, like Doyle, Riordan will relent in future years and bring us some more tales of his memorable detective. Please?