The Friends and Family


Thirteenth and newest page. List starts with the most recent at the top.  Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Joy read: PAUL OF DUNE by Brian Herbert & Kevin J Anderson
Thank goodness, I'm done with this one. And with Herbert & Anderson's Dune universe, too, for a while. PAUL OF DUNE is a strung together series of incidents, with Paul's emotional life (mostly guilt) as the connecting thread. His destined "terrible purpose" in full flow, Paul-Muad'Dib is the target of many death plots by people who have suffered under his rule. In addition, we are taken back to Paul's experiences at age 12, when he is subject to still more death plots. The Paul of DUNE was lovable and admirable. PAUL OF DUNE is worshiped or hated, but only Chani can understand him.
   Readers are told that without the Jihad there would be something worse. It isn't reason enough to hook us out of our reality and into Paul's terrible purpose.

Joy read: POSITIVELY 4TH STREET by David Hajdu
Popular history centered on Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Joan's sister Mimi with her husband Richard Fariņa. From there it winds through Greenwich Village and many of its denizens, out to other inhabitants of the folk music world. Vivid and involving detail throughout. These are the characters warts and all, and the less admirable for it -- though to hear Hajdu, Mimi Fariņa has no warts. But the book brims with creativity, especially in the presence of the patron saint of brimming-over, Richard Fariņa. All in all, very interesting in spite of the aftertaste.

Joy read: TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer
Good way to let the brain relax at peace.

Joy read: BREAK ON THROUGH: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JIM MORRISON by James Riordan & Jerry Prochnicky
The blurb calls this "the authoritative portrait of the man and his career." Having read through page 24, I look at that phrase a bit askance. Chapter One purports to give a stream of consciousness from Jim himself. On page 24 the authors refer to "the Dionysian principles of shamanism," which I would think is rather a clash of cultures.
   On finishing: In spite of the purported steam of consciousness, I think this is an excellent and sympathetic analysis of ... the legend. Riordan and Prochnicky seem to agree with Morrison that his life was changed at age four. They base their analysis of his crazy spells on the imposition of a shaman's mind on his own. But they never quite come out and say they believe it, so they are left between two stools. In spite of this, they have drawn a very believable human being, one whose feet of clay are believable, to be sympathized with, because they are not clearly pictured.
   Especially interesting to me was the infusion of a shamans' ceremonies into Morrison's stage performance. I was surprised to learn how closely Morrison modeled his stage work of the Doors' highest years on descriptions of shamanic trances.
   The authors, 20 years after Jim Morrison's death, have bought into the legend to an extent. Yes, they want to do a thoroughly honest psychological analysis. Yes, they have drawn a well-rounded, in-depth human being, including the warmth, the genius, the narcisism, and the abrasiveness. But the pictures the reader is left with, the emotions the authors want us to feel toward Jim, are vague enough that we don't actually see the man who threatened a terrified girlfriend with a knife, who lulled friends into loving him and in the next second turned on them verbally. The authors, like the rest of us, want to see the legend.

Alas, the last of the series due to the author's death. Charles Merrill Smith's son, mystery writer Terrence L. Smith, finished the writing of this book and intended to continue the series, but himself died two years later. He probably wouldn't have been as well suited to the territory as his pastor father, but I'm sorry to say goodbye to Con Randollph.
   This mystery is an exploration of the past and the sincerity of a well-known philanthropist. Rev. Randollph's inner life becomes a little less deep in the later pages, and there is no foundation at all, psychological or deductive, for the revelation of the killer. These shortcomings are offset by the great majority of the story, which is well up to Rev. Smith's usual standards. He was a great loss.

Gutenberg printed one more Vulgate Bible than the known specimens. His descendants did well to keep it secret, because as soon as its existence was revealed, the vultures began circling. One vulture even landed, because Gutenberg's descendant is found smashed to death. When revealed, the Bible is beautiful enough to convince the reader that it is worth all the hoohah. What will Rev. Randollph do with the most valuable incunabulum known?

A satisfying mystery in which Reverend Randollph and a clergy-killer try to outpsych each other.

I enjoyed Charles Merrill Smith's approach to tv evangelist Prince Hartman. With a name like that, Smith seems ready to play right into the usual image of the corrupt huckster of religion. With someone sending load after load of poison to "the Prince," Hartman's reactions become more likeable. C.P. is having to deal with bully after bully, but Hartman isn't one of them. Smith's mystery solutions have so much character that I'm finding I remember them after all these years, once I become acquainted with the situations again.

Reverend C.P. Randollph is to marry an old girlfriend, but as the pastor, not as the groom. Lisa's father and brothers, all doctors, founded and run the Julian Clinic. The groom is another doctor, in a business marriage that quickly goes wrong. The Julian family has a lot of potential for drama, but author Smith is much more interested in C.P. The time Smith spends fleshing out C.P. is time well spent, resulting in an enjoyable main character, though he missed some opportunities creating the Julian family.

Joy read: NIGHT AT THE VULCAN by Ngaio Marsh
After DEATH ON THE HIGH C'S, I went on to my favorite theatrical mystery. Young Australian actress Martyn Tarne, on her last legs looking for a job in London, is more lucky than she could expect when she falls into a job at the Vulcan. A dear character, she creates a detached viewpoint for readers to watch the company's triumphs and wrangles in a play written especially for them. Fascinating characters call me repeatedly back: Leading lady Helena Hamilton, producer Adam Poole, assistant Jacko, and including a couple of character actors Clark Bennington and Gay Gainsford whose irritants create a pearl of a mystery.

Joy read: DEATH ON THE HIGH C'S by Robert Barnard
I was listening to La Traviata, which made me want to read this old favorite set among an opera company. A bitchy coloratura delights the rest of the company by getting electrocuted, but in return they have to put up with opera buff Inspector Nichols detecting as they rehearse. Some careers are taking off and others are winding down, and that might or might not be significant to the solution.

Joy read: THE DOORS by The Doors with Ben Fong-Torres
An extremely well-produced coffee table book -- the kind you really read. Tons of quality pictures and a real attempt on the part of Ben Fong-Torres to understand. Much of the text is from the other members of The Doors and their connections, in a balanced arrangement.

Joy read: THE ROAD TO DUNE by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Frank Herbert, creator of Dune, left behind for his son Brian boxes and boxes of ideas, outlines, and unpublished materials. This book contains SPICE PLANET, an earlier and never-published adventure in which Herbert first shaped the world of Dune. There are sections that were left out of DUNE when it went to publication. Brian and Kevin Anderson together wrote several short stories set in the Dune universe. None of these give an idea of DUNE as the work of genius it is. THE ROAD TO DUNE is intended to give further dimension to that universe, and is specifically targeted for Dune fans.

Joy read: REVEREND RANDOLLPH AND THE WAGES OF SIN by Charles Merrill Smith
I enjoyed this 6-book mystery series back in the '80s. After surgery I want pleasurable rereads, and I'm enjoying this.
   Reverend C.P. Randollph is called by his old friend the Bishop to take over a rich Chicago church and find out where all their money is going. C.P. finds that nearly the whole board of trustees is behaving suspiciously. Almost as bad, the body of a naked choir singer is found in the church basement. Why would this universally loved woman have attracted murder? C.P., former star quarterback, finds his leadership skills tested.

Joy read: LADY OF QUALITY by Georgette Heyer
I'm post-surgery. When my concentration is wavery, I turn to Georgette Heyer's Regencies. In this one, already read many times, Annis Wychwood willingly accepts a multitude of family duties, until the straw breaks. The name of the man who breaks that straw is Oliver Carleton, black sheep with no manners and only honesty to recommend him.

A bully gambler gets what he deserves. This short story only needs a cover and then we'll be able to publish it for readers who like their funnybones tickled.

Joy read: MOONLIGHT ROAD by Robyn Carr
It was rather a pleasure to meet Marci and Ian of A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS again, even though we have to put up with Erin to do it. This is Erin's time to re-invent herself, with the help of Aiden Riordan. Meanwhile, Mel has decided she wants another baby even though she no longer has a uterus, and she won't hear an answer spelled n-o.

Joy read: ANGEL'S PEAK by Robyn Carr
Sean Riordan and Franci Duncan ended their romance on a bitter note 4 years ago. When they meet by accident, Sean wants to rekindle the romance, but he doesn't know they have a daughter.

Joy read: TEMPTATION RIDGE by Robyn Carr
Now that Carr seems to have taken the Riordan brothers as her new project, I needed a refresher on Luke's romance.

Joy read: FORBIDDEN FALLS by Robyn Carr
Pastor Noah Kincaid buys the abandoned Virgin River church, and hires an assistant to help him fix it up. His choice, Ellie Baldwin, is a charmer and a good mother, sure to be irresistible to readers who like something more than romance in their romance.

Joy read: DUNE by Frank Herbert
Over a lifetime I could read this dozens of times and not feel overdosed.
   The family of Paul Atreides is transferred from their bucolic paradise planet Caladan to the hell world Arrakis, where water is even more precious than the life-giving spice that is mined there. Betrayed and on the run, Paul and his mother join the Fremen, a hardy desert people who despise the Emperor and his ally Baron Harkonnen. With Paul's charisma and special abilities, his revenge is destined to throw the known universe into chaos.

Joy read: DUNE: HOUSE CORRINO by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
The mad genius running the Emperor's artificial spice program plots to take over the known universe. Count Fenring finds himself teetering above a chasm between various plotters. The Bene Gesserit Empress, fighting possession by her Inner Memories, is determined to protect the child of Jessica, the future Paul-Muad'Dib. Some of the suspense is lacking, because we know that Emperor Shaddam does not succeed in destroying Dune. Also, there is a continuity error involving the evil Mentat Pieter de Vries.

I read this to a friend who shares my love of the Iditarod. We had a great time with it. Compelling adventures, compellingly written about the author's first time running the Iditarod.
   Taking this moment to congratulate Lance MacKey on beating the 9 day barrier.

Joy read: THE MAIDENS' WAR by Lynne Cantwell
Getting THE WOMEN'S WAR ready for publishing, we changed the name. All it needs now is a cover and a few proofing inserts. :-)

Joy read: DUNE: HOUSE HARKONEN by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Ix continues to suffer under the rulership of the Tleilaxu, while Prince Rhombur of Ix and his sister Kailea stagnate under the protection of Leto Atreides. That stagnation is the source of tragedy. Meantime, Baron Harkonnen and his nephew Rabban are showing themselves at their very worst, and Emperor Shaddam keeps trying to prove that he doesn't need Count Fenring's advice.

Joy read: MORRISON: A FEAST OF FRIENDS by Frank Lisciandro
Frank Lisciandro has compiled reminiscences of friends of Jim Morrison, those friends who Ray Manzarek described as encouraging Jim in his self-destructive excesses. Actually, guessing from the various descriptions of Jim, it's doubtful he needed encouragement. This book is lined with many pictures of Jim that I haven't seen elsewhere, which somewhat makes up for the lack of substance.

Carla read: YOUNG BESS by Margaret Irwin
A powerful portrayal of Elizabeth I as a young girl and her relationship with Tom Seymour, told in elegant prose and with superb characterisation. First in a trilogy. Review.

The writing style of Sugerman's WONDERLAND AVENUE is dramatically different, and dramatically better, than his co-production NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE. Clearly, OUT ALIVE contains little of Danny's writing. WONDERLAND AVENUE is where we learn about Jim Morrison the mentor. He may not have been a very good mentor, due to his fascination with death and testing the boundaries; but when he takes charge and gently, understandingly guides Danny through a bad acid trip, we see that Danny had good reason to love him. WONDERLAND AVENUE is so vividly, so insightfully written that for the majority of the book I found it hard to put down. Even the "unflinching" (read gruesome) sections after Danny collides with heroin were possible for me to read because they were so deeply honest. The uplifting ending makes this a candidate for my favorite nonfiction read of the year.

Joy read: NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE by Jerry Hopkins & Daniel Sugerman
This was my 2nd or 3rd read-through, I'm not sure how many. I wanted to compare it with the two Doors band members' memoirs. Densmore says at first it couldn't get accepted by any publisher because it was so very negative about Jim Morrison. After reworking, the result still reads like a muckraker. That couldn't be co-author Danny Sugerman's fault -- he loved Jim. His input must have been overpowered by veteran writer Jerry Hopkins, who definitely didn't love Jim. Even so, it's an object lesson about the destructive effects of being a rock and roll idol, especially an alcoholic one.

The first time I read this I disliked John because he disliked Jim. Ray Manzarek's memoir gave me a more balanced look at both of them. And it's worth noting that he stuck with the band, (mostly) for the sake of the brilliant music they made. He writes interestingly about the incident that firmed up his attitude of musical integrity.

Not just an account of the rise and fall of the Doors, LIGHT MY FIRE is especially an expression of the creative process, psychedelic style; back when drugs were used for opening doors instead of escaping from life.
   This is how Ray Mazarek sees it. He had the ultimate example of the different uses of drugs, in the two personalities of Jim Morrison, poet and addict. He also had a group of four musical personalities who, combined, created more than any of them could have created alone. Ray's descriptions of the growth of their music were fascinating to me.
   Readers, hang in there through the turgid first chapter, in which the author pushes his prose too hard, and feel the growing excitement as his creative life gathers momentum and exposes a new part of the legend.
   (Disclaimer: I would never advocate the use of mind-altering drugs, including alcohol.)

Joy read: A NIGHT TOO DARK by Dana Stabenow
If Kate is internally divided about the proposed mine in the park, with its resources no one has yet found an end to, it's to be expected that Park rats as a whole are divided about it. The turnover of mine employees is so high that it's hard to tell many how many have died. It seems somehow to involve the attempts of other companies to get their hands on the mine.
   Everything in the Park seems to be changing, and Kate hates it. But she is Chairman of the Niniltna Native Association, and she can see what is good for her people. There won't be a resolution between the sides of Kate for a while, but solving murders with Jim is a good distraction.
   I'm looking forward to the TV series. "Made in Alaska" on the label just makes it more enticing. :-)

Joy read: LOCKED IN by Marcia Muller
I couldn't finish the series without rereading the latest in the series. I laughed and cried all over again this time through.

Joy read: THE EVER-RUNNING MAN by Marcia Muller
Author Marcia Muller has tired of RKI, the sinister international protection agency that has loomed grayly in ten previous books. Now she has a bomber tearing it down in a personal vendetta. Sharon wouldn't mind so much except that her husband is one of the owners whose life is in danger. Very pacey. I felt I could see through the mystery just enough to keep me glued to it, to find out if I was right. I was partly right, and partly completely surprised.

Joy read: BURN OUT by Marcia Muller
Somehow my books got disarranged on the shelf, and I picked up BURN OUT to read next. I was at the bus stop when I discovered it, and by the time I got to work I knew I wasn't going to stop it and go back to the one I should have read first.
   The burn out is Sharon's. After the harrowing events of THE EVER-RUNNING MAN, she isn't at all sure she wants to stay in the investigation business. Secluded at Hy's ranch, at first she is just helping out a friend. Then the bodies start falling, and Sharon can't allow it to continue. Again, fascinating, all-too-human characters.
   This is going to be one of the year's favorites.

Joy read: VANISHING POINT by Marcia Muller
Sharon is hired to find a woman who disappeared 22 years ago. This is an absolutely fascinating character study -- I couldn't put it down.

Joy read: THE DANGEROUS HOUR by Marcia Muller
I was nervous about reading this, because same as in WHILE OTHER PEOPLE SLEEP, someone is clandestinely creating major trouble for Sharon. Fortunately (at least from my viewpoint) Muller holds a good balance between the mystery, the characters, and the danger to Sharon. I don't like books where the hero suffers character assassination.

Joy read: DEAD MIDNIGHT by Marcia Muller
The basic mystery was fascinating: what made Roger Nagasawa jump off the Bay Bridge? Was it the demanding life of an on-line magazine staffer, or did he know the wrong secret? Then Sharon's news reporter friend died following the same trail Sharon was. I moved through this book more slowly than most of the others. It felt like it was padded with too many subplots. But I still wouldn't have missed it. Her characters are as interesting as ever.

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