Rob Reader

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Rob Reader

Rob Reader’s book reviews

As a child my grandfather told me stories of Fredric Brown. They were both from Cincinnati and knew each other in childhood. I do not remember a great deal of his childhood reminiscences but can recall that he said Brown was an assiduous reader but not a very good student. He was not interested in his lessons but rather in the sci-fi, travel and mystery paperbacks and magazines he purchased from the local drug store and voraciously consumed. He lost contact with Brown when they were both teenagers but later on began reading Brown's work when a friend brought several books by Brown into the family Jewelry store.

I first read this book almost forty years ago and liked it then as much as I like it now. One of the reviewers wrote that it reminded him/her of a previous time, for me this is doubly so as it brings back the hard boiled fast paced page turners I often read as a youth and thoughts of my grandparents now long departed. Perhaps not a great book but clearly an enjoyable read. I gave it four stars for the story and for the melancholy and family reminiscing which it engendered.
02/28/2014
Spivak was an outrageous Marxist-Leninist who preached communism and socialist revolution in the US and globally. He despised democracy which he considered contrary to the best interest of communism. It is therefore not amazing that he failed to see that Stalin was an equally monstrous creature as Hitler.

As to this book it has been said that much of his evidence was invented however it is difficult to know what is true and what is fiction from this author. Surely Hitler was capable of all that he is charged with, so was Stalin and both used the same tactics in Europe and America. I read this book about 25 years ago and found it both absurd and frightening. The use of scare tactics by the author combined with what may be some partially truthful information may have been a powerful propaganda tool which he used to turn public opinion against Hitler. In this sense he could have inadvertently done the nation a service.

Moderately well written if of questionable veracity and little objectivity. Rated two stars but a good example of scare propaganda.
02/25/2014
Andrew Lang was a Scottish writer who apparently specialized in folklore and stories about ghosts and spirits. He wrote a large number of books none of which I have previously read nor will read in future. This lecture was given to prospective writers and was supposedly intended for their benefit. I must admit even though the lecture is only about 30 pages long it seems far longer.

The following are several examples of the advice to young writers that Mr. Lang offers.

The most ambitious may accept, without distrust, the following advice as to How to fail in Literature. The advice is offered by a mere critic, and it is an axiom of the Arts that the critics "are the fellows who have failed," or have not succeeded. The persons who really can paint, or play, or compose seldom tell us how it is done, still less do they review the performances of their contemporaries. That invidious task they leave to the unsuccessful novelists.

He who would fail in literature cannot begin too early to neglect his education, and to adopt every opportunity of not observing life and character.

In short, he who would fail must avoid simplicity like a sunken reef, and must earnestly seek either the commonplace or the bizarre, the slipshod or the affected, the newfangled or the obsolete, the flippant or the sepulchral.

As a rule, his method is this, he reads very little, but all that he reads is BAD. The feeblest articles in the weakliest magazines, the very mildest and most conventional novels appear to be the only studies of the majority.

I do not think it is necessary to warn young lady novelists, who possess beauty, wealth, and titles, against asking Reviewers to dine, and treating them as kindly, almost, as the Fairy Paribanou treated Prince Ahmed.

It is my opinion that many of the sins Mr. Lang recommends against he himself commits in this lecture. I liked the use of words and rare gems of sapience but in all other ways it is a failure. However I allow that I may be one of the odious writers Mr. Lang detests. One star only and that is a gift.
02/09/2014
Mark Twain is always exceptional, even when he is not at his best he is exceptional. This is a novella of pure satire and much dry humor. Twain mocks Sherlock Holmes and his scientific methods in this remarkable little book. Also in the midst of the story he introduces himself answering correspondence concerning his work. What a strange and wonderful little story. If you love Mark Twain read this, should you not love Twain reexamine your literary taste. Four stars
02/06/2014
Lord Peter Wimsey is first introduced in this book as are several supporting characters who reappear in Sayers later novels. I will not review the story except that the "wrong body" theme reappears later in Sayers books. Wimsey introduces his peculiar form of speech which again is repeated throughout the series. Perhaps it was in vogue amongst British noble families circa 1920.

I first read this book over 30 years ago and am experiencing it in audiobook form this time. My belief in the inferiority, insufficiency and unsatisfactory nature of the audiobook is once again confirmed.

This book made Dorothy Sayers career and it is certainly not a bad first novel. For those who have not read her subsequent work it does improve and by the publication of The Five Red Herrings in the early 1930's she is close to being a master of the genre. Overall an excellent introduction and much above average first book. Three stars
02/01/2014
A short but often very sad book of poems. Pasos was a novelist and poet best known for his Manhattan Transfer which became a best seller. He was a communist early in life and also enlisted in the communist army in Spain to battle Franco. Later in life he reversed his politics and endorsed Barry Goldwater for President. Pasos is credited with having coined the famous phrase \"If you are not a leftist at 20 you may not have a heart, If you are not a rightist at 40 you may not have a brain\". This short book of poems did not speak to me because in it Dos Pasos appears to be a sad and disappointed man. In life he never turned away from society or lost hope in the future. There is little joy here and that is unfortunate.

Perhaps I have missed the point of the book however I found it amongst the least of his works
01/16/2014
Great, good, incisive, sapient, intellectually expanding and interesting. Just way too many comments, notes and annotations by the translator. Is there a less cluttered version available as an e-book?
12/27/2013
Elbert Hubbards series \"Journeys to the Homes of the Great\" is something I have come upon only recently and I must thank the Muse of e-books for this unexpected gift as I approach my dotage. I of course knew the name Elbert Hubbard for his founding of the Roycroft community in the late 19th century. His work with furniture changed the face of home decoration when it introduced Arts and Crafts product to the American scene.

I was completely ignorant of the fact that Hubbard produced an extensive series of relatively short and well written biographies concerning the most famous men in western thought and history. This volume which deals with philosophers may be the best of his books. His biographic sketches of Socrates, Aristotle, Kant and Thoreau are priceless. True he leaves out a great deal however as these sketches average under 40 pages each I believe he achieves much in the format adopted.

Of all the biographic sketches in this volume only the one concerning Spencer leaves anything to criticize. Perhaps even that may be explained by my aversion to reading Spencer in grad school eons ago rather than Hubbards work.

I give the book 4 stars and urge you to read the series as I am now doing. Thank you Manybooks for your much appreciated efforts.
08/10/2013
This is Stevensons first book and a very worthwhile read. Stevenson and his friend Walter Simpson, known as Cigarette in the book take a leisurely canoe trip through Belgium and France in 1876. Obviously much of the pleasure is in their comment upon the sights and people they meet in their journey. Apparently the canoe was of a kind unknown on the continent as several people are curious about it whilst others find it suspicious. In one case an entire French village came out to see the odd craft. The pleasure in the book is in the slow pace, measured writing and use of language which give an almost dreamlike sense to parts of the book.

Not great literature but an interesting read. I recommend with 3 stars.
05/29/2013
Assuredly not great literature. No real character development, no actual dialogue whatsoever, nothing genuinely descriptive or insightful. Yet it is one of the few truly original short stories in this genre. A well done and interesting short story that is worth the few minutes required to read it.

I recommend with four stars.
05/22/2013
Natasha Madison - Romance with Spunk
FEATURED AUTHOR - When her nose isn't buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she's in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four-inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It's a good thing her characters do what she says because even her Labrador doesn't listen to her... As our Author of the Day, Natasha Madison tells us all about her book, Tempt The Boss. Please give us a short introduction to… Read more