Joe Romaninsky

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Joe Romaninsky

Joe Romaninsky’s book reviews

I do not know enough about the history of Peru, having read no other books on the subject, to have any idea of what more recent researches have revealed about the pre-conquest Inca civilization and the epic struggles of the Spanish conquest. However, given Prescott's meticulous research from primary documents, I imagine that the history must be fairly accurate on the broad scope.

This is an engrossing tale of ambition, greed,
bigotry, and murderous violence in a fantastic wilderness. The splendid prose is a joy to read. It held my interest from first to last. A long but rewarding book.
02/29/2008
An enojoyable page turner with lots of twists
and turns. A good beach book, or a fine read for a foggy afternoon.
02/29/2008
I read this book in an English translation published by the Carcenet Press. If you read Portuguese and haven't read the book, or any of Eca de Queiroz's marvelous novels, I can heartily recommend it. It may not be Eca de Queiroz's masterpiece, but it is a charming tale of a wealthy young Portuguese land owner living for no particular purpouse in Paris at the height of its late nineteenth century splendor and decadence, and of the love for his native soil and its sturdy, honest, and hard working people that draws him home again.

The novel's characters are drawn with Eca's usual affectionate humor and irony. The scene in which the French count, anticipating dining on a marvelous fish dinner, is foiled by a malfunctioning dumb waiter elevator is very funny. I only wish I were able to read Portuguese well enough to read the original. If it was that good in translation, it must be even better in Portuguese!
01/14/2008
Eca de Queiroz is one of least known authors of great distinction in the Western world. He has been compared to Balzac and Flaubert. He understands people and presents them, their aspirations, foibles, and their gusto for living with love and wry humor.

This book is a marvelous tale of a country gentleman of high birth (late 19th century). It might be called a story of a delayed coming of age, as it is concerned with a young aristocrat in search of purpose and direction for his affluent but unfocused life. The story is set in rural northern Portugal and it is rich in congenial provincial characters. Anyone who has spent any time in rural Portugal in the last half century will feel at home among these folks.

I read the book in English translation (Carcenet Press). If you are Portuguese and have not read Eca de Queoroz, you owe it to yourself to read this and his other novels. Particularly recommended: The Maias. This is generally regarded as his masterpiece.
10/24/2007
Pleasant diversion for an afternoon at the
beach, but not world class literature. I
much prefer Isabel Allende's recent retelling of the tales of Zorro.
05/26/2007
Utterly forgetable, laughable (not humorous). Of interest only because
it is credited as being the first gothic
novel. I finished it only because the book
is short and I was curious how the author would get himself out of the mess he had
made.
05/15/2007
Classic mystery tale I first read in an anthology of the "best" mystery and
detective fiction of the Late Victorian era. Very atmospheric little puzzler set in London on a night of impenetrable fog.

Surprise ending. Perfect story for curling up on the couch on a rainy or foggy night.

Enjoy!
05/12/2007
A fine story of a young ex-Confederate soldier in search of his father on the Arizona frontier. Lots of action. Lots of detail on the life of the ranch hand. Good character development in the protagonist. Norton seems to have done a lot of research on the post-war economic, political, and social conflicts in the late 1860s, and the young man's personal struggles are understood in this larger context. But above all it is a ripping good yarn. My only complaint is the
precipitously abrupt ending. Many of the strands of the story are left unresolved, even if the young man's quest is largely completed. My guess is that a sequel was intended. Good horse opera worth a read!
04/26/2007
This novel is just plain fun. It's not hard sci fi, but who cares? Reminds me of some of Donald Westlake's comedic early novels (e.g., God Save The Mark).

A witty and often hilarious take on First Contact, in which a theatrical agent is given the task of introducing the first representative of a friendly alien species from outer space to the world without setting of a planet-wide panic. Good stuff!
04/19/2007
This is my favorite of the Dickens novels. It is crammed with a variety of interesting characters and incidents in sturdy plot. All of us have known people like one or another of his memorable cast. The outcome of the probate battle on which the fortunes of its contestants depend was a surprise that left me laughing out loud.

(Only later did I find that, in another case of art copying life, it mirrors the outcome of the centuries long fight over the estate of Ferdinand Magellan.)

If you love Dickens, this is a must read. It is one of those books you know you must someday read again.
03/10/2007