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Reviews Written by
lazza (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

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Setting Free the Bears
Setting Free the Bears
by John Irving
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars early John Irving material confuses, bores..., July 17 2004
'Setting Free the Bears' is an early work by John Irving that would have been normally out of print, and deservedly so, if it were not for his later fame from 'The World According to Garp'. In some ways the book is similar to 'The New Hotel Hampshire', a book I actually didn't care for, but lacks the humor or the huggable characters (or the curious incest sub-plot, thank goodness). So what exactly is wrong with 'Setting Free the Bears'?
Well the plot itself is rather strange and somewhat incomprehensible. A young Austrian college student bumps into a very quirky fellow, and together the tour Austria on motorcycle. Just when you think the book will turn into a funny road story with an Austrian twist the author decides to split the story in two, with the a narrative of the main character camped out at a zoo and his strange friend narrating his (pre-war) family history. Very disappointing, and very dull. The ending concludes in comical fashion back at the zoo. But this fun ending is too little, too late.
Bottom line: a very amateurish effort by the often outstanding John Irving. A definite miss.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
by Melissa Bank
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
109 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars <sigh> it's so hard being a woman...., July 8 2004
"The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" is a well-written collection of short stories about the emotional hardships felt by young women in America, mostly involving relationships with family and lovers. The author laces in humor at the right times without having it all spiral into Bridget Jones-like silliness (, which wouldn't be bad per se but it would dilute the emotional impact of the stories). It is unfortunate that because of the it's title and how it is marketed men aren't likely to read this book. The book actually has a balanced (read: non-condescending) view of men which is refreshing from a book which sees men from a woman's perspective.
While a couple of the stories are not too good, especially the last one which shares the same title as the book, the first story about a teenage girl on vacation with her family at the Jersey shore is like a female "The Catcher in the Rye". Terrific stuff.
Bottom line: not for women only. Well done.

Sanibel Flats
Sanibel Flats
by Randy Wayne White
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
118 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a hybrid of so many other (and better) mystery novels.., July 5 2004
Being a resident Floridian I was hoping for some local Florida 'attitude' in this Randy Wayne White novel, much like what is delivered in the novels by Carl Hiaasen. But Randy Wayne White is no Carl Hiaasen in terms humor or delivering home a green-friendly message in an interesting piece of fiction. Nor does his oh-so-typically-cool investigator leading man, Doc Ford, add any credibility to the story. Unlike the other amazon.com reviewers before me I found 'Sanibel Flats' to be entirely derivative (un-original).
As for the story, it starts of okay with the reader getting into Doc Ford's world of island living in southwest Florida. He has some rather idiosyncratic neighbors, and the author throws in some well-paced comic turns. But then the story turns on a dime and the plot shifts to Central America, revolutionaries, ancient Mayan mysteries, drug smuggling, etc, etc, before wrapping up back in Florida. So our huggable Floridian Doc Ford actually turns up to be Indiana Jones. Entertaining? Not really; the story never really ignites and is wrapped up in an extremely contrived fashion. But on the plus side the author does write reasonable well (decent prose), and I felt his depiction of Florida and Floridians was right on the mark.
Bottom line: a bit of a mess really. Perhaps better suited for those looking for a jungle adventure story than a Florida-based mystery.

Pure Pulp
Pure Pulp
by Ed Gorman
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.09

2.0 out of 5 stars a hit and (mostly) miss collection of pulp fiction, June 25 2004
This review is from: Pure Pulp (Paperback)
As with any massive collections of short stories one would a few duds. Maybe even more than a few. However in "Pure Pulp" I consider on 11 of the 35 short stories/novellas to be either good or excellent. The other 24 are only fair or downright poor or even amateurish. So with a hit rate of only 30% I'd say one can probably do better with other pulp fiction collections.
For completeness sake, here are the books[authors] of the stories I liked:
- In a Small Motel [MacDonald]
- Sudden, Sudden Death [Powell]
- That Stranger, My Son [Gilford]
- Terrorists [Marlowe]
- The Plunge [Goodis]
- Down in the Valley [Reasoner]
- Cry Silence [Brown]
- Tick, Tock [Wandrei]
- Guilt [Jakes]
- Decision [Nielson]
- Don't Twist My Arm [Ritchie]

Pure Pulp
Pure Pulp
by Ed Gorman
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.09

2.0 out of 5 stars a hit and (mostly) miss collection of pulp fiction, June 25 2004
This review is from: Pure Pulp (Paperback)
Sorry, duplicate entry. See above for my review of Pure Pulp.

I The Jury
I The Jury
by Mickey Spillane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars a thoroughly enjoyable yet over-the-top mystery yarn..., June 23 2004
This review is from: I The Jury (Mass Market Paperback)
"I, the Jury" is the first of several Mike Hammer (private investigator) mystery novels, and it happens to be my first Mickey Spillane novel. Based on all the hype I thought it would similar to Raymond Chandler novel, with his Philip Marlowe character. I discovered this to be largely untrue, which isn't entirely a bad thing.
In "I, the Jury" we have a lovable cad of a private investigator looking for the killer of his best friend. But he seeks justice in a very crude way - revenge (ie, he's out for blood). Of course during the way he meets with some sexy "broads" (to use the vernacular of the times) who, of course, fall madly in love with him. So far this doesn't sound far off from a Raymond Chandler novel. However with Mickey Spillane the dialogue is less clever (yet easier to read), the prose is only fair, and the story could have been told better. In "I, the Jury" the rather terrific ending is very quickly brought to the surface is an an abrupt way. So Raymond Chandler seems to be the much better writer, capturing the essence of 1940s Los Angeles and the folks who inhabit skid row. Mickey Spillane's book is set in New York but it could have been Anywhere, USA, and I didn't exactly feel hurdled back in time. But I enjoyed "I, the Jury" overall and I will read others in the Mike Hammer series.
Bottom line: a bit crude but very entertaining piece of private eye nonsense. In its own way it is deserving of its status as as classic.

Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
85 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars "Moore Hates Dubya, and other stories"...., June 13 2004
Michael Moore is obviously a clever, talented man. However judging by 'Stupid White Men..' the man should stick to documentary film-making, not writing books.
Of course I expected some seriously over-the-top ranting about how awful Dubya and the current crop of Republicans really are, told with a comic twist. And Moore generally delivers the goods. But the book is very flimsy from a journalistic perspective; the author just editorializes -preaches- endlessly, and the scope of his attacks run far and wide. For those who want a sometimes funny but very serious look at the failings of our present administration I suggest reading 'Bushwacked..' by Ivins and Dubose.
Bottom line: a bit too much emotional ranting for my taste. But still, it's a low caloric easy read for those who describe themselves as anything but Republican.

Empire State
Empire State
by Colin Bateman
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Colin Bateman 'does' New York, but not very well..., June 2 2004
This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
Colin Bateman is one of my favorite authors; I've read nearly all his novels. Its not to say they are uniformly good, but they are all entertaining and sometimes hilarious. He has been described as a Northern Ireland version of Carl Hiaasen, which is actually a compliment.
Unfortunately 'Empire State', like a couple other books of his with a storyline rooted in North America, is not among his better works. It is a rather far-fetched story of a racist, a rejected lover turned reluctant terrorist, a kidnapped American President who seems oddly like Bill Clinton, with the most of the activity situated atop the Empire State building. The action is a bit slapstick in nature, and the characterizations rather ... crude. But it all sticks together, somehow.
Not central to the story, but I cannot help by adding a mini-spoiler here:
//spoiler//
There is a plane crash at the top floors of the Empire State building. Although this book was written a few years before 9/11 I imagine this minor element of this book has not encouraged the publisher to promote it, which is a bit of shame.
//end spoiler//
Bottom line: a curious yet overall very average effort by Colin Bateman. Best left to his loyal fans only.

The Final Country
The Final Country
by James Crumley
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.93

3.0 out of 5 stars a uneven effort; surely not Crumley's best?, April 18 2004
This review is from: The Final Country (Paperback)
'The Final Country' is my first novel by James Crumley. Since it is an award-winning mystery, complete with accolades from amazon.com (on their Best of 2001 list), I thought I couldn't go wrong with it. Wrong. No, the book isn't awful. It's more like a mess with some interesting bits strewn about.
As for the story, well this is hard to explain. We have an aging private investigator from Montana fighting all sorts of nasty people (druggies, tramps, law enforcers) in Austin, Texas. Lots of strange characters, which is one of the book's strengths, caught up in a completely ridiculous plot. The book is also compromised by its absurd violence, on the order of a Quentin ('Kill Bill') Tarentino film. Yet Crumley's prose is rather decent, complete with crisp (and often hilarious) dialogue.
Bottom line: a hit-and-miss sort of book. But for this reader it was mostly a miss.

The Stingray Shuffle
The Stingray Shuffle
by Tim Dorsey
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
65 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars The Three Stooges meets Carl Hiaasen, March 27 2004
'The Stingray Shuffle' by Tim Dorsey is really more of a series of comedy skits than a novel. The so-called plot involves a madcap chase of briefcase containing $5 million in cash. While there are a few gratuitous murders this is hardly be called a crime story. Yet like Carl Hiaasen novels 'The Stingray Shuffle' contains plenty of Florida-isms; locals like me will love the historical references to Henry Flagler, the pioneering railroads of a century ago, etc. Too bad Tim Dorsey doesn't seem to have the satiric wit of Hiaasen. His humour is very childish in comparison.
Bottom line: a very silly yet often funny book. Passable.

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