Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 13 -- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

by Mary Roach

Started: Feb. 11
Finished: Feb. 14

Notes: The subject matter might be considered macabre by some, but I'm not expecting any shocks here. My mother's second husband was a funeral director and mortician, so I grew up in a household with some ... let's call it "unusual," reading material, probably stuff I shouldn't have been reading but was curious enough to read, and I spent no small amount of time in funeral homes, occasionally witnessing things a child probably shouldn't witness. Though I don't think it affected me any.  --twitch,twitch--

Mini review: Not for those easily creeped out or who can't stand the morbid, though the author doesn't get overly gory. Most of this book is about unusual things that happen, or can happen, or you can have happen, to your body after you're deceased. Scientific research is an obvious choice for use of cadavers, but what exactly does that mean? Some of the answers might be surprising, and the author also takes a brief look at cannibalism and other fates that have faced the deceased over the centuries. An interesting book, and I can recommend it, but it's not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 12 -- The Films of Charlie Chaplin

edited by Gerald D. McDonald, Michael Conway, and Mark Ricci

Started: Feb. 9
Finished: Feb. 10

Notes: Published in 1965, this book would have been outdated nearly as soon as it came out because Chaplin was still alive and still had one more film in him, though he would only act as director and not appear on the screen. However, this trio of editor-authors would work together on similar books for the next several decades, releasing what would basically be updated versions of this particular book. Though I don't view such films so often nowadays, there was a time when I was quite the silent movie buff and watched plenty of these golden pieces of cinema history, and I read a number of books pertaining to the subject, including a biography and autobiography of Chaplin. It's been a long while since I've dipped back into this world, so when I ran across this book in a used book store, I snagged it up.

Mini review: This was a fun trip down memory lane for me, bringing back beloved memories of a comedic genius at his heights. Chaplin's later works, those after the sound era began, are not often recalled as fondly as his earlier films, but his genius is always recognized. The majority of movies here I have seen, though there were a few I had not, and it was interesting to read about those. Each film received here a short write-up of its synopsis, a list of the cast, several still photos, and a handful of reviews from the period. Glad I read it.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 11 -- How to Study the Bible

by Robert M. West

Started: Feb. 8
Finished: Feb. 9

Notes: I was gifted this book a couple of years ago, so figured it was time I read it. I expect it to have an evangelical bent, though myself I'm usually more interested in historical and/or spiritual studies, but here goes. Maybe I'll learn some things.

Mini review: Not the most exciting of reads, but it's not necessarily meant to be. Still, this is a basic but solid beginner's book for those who wish to take part in personal Bible study. The leaning here is definitely towards the protestant and the evangelical, definitely not the historical or otherwise. New Christians especially might find this book of help.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 10 -- The Cross and the Switchblade

by David Wilkerson

Started: Feb. 6
Finished: Feb. 8

Notes: When I was a kid in the 1970s, I had a comic book version of this book, the true-life story of a pastor who went to New York City in the 1950s to help street gangs. I had forgotten about the comic book until I ran across this old book in a used book store, and then I thought it might be interesting to read the book, which was also made into a movie.

Mini review: The writing here is pretty good for someone who is a non-professional writer, though it takes a couple of dozen pages to reach a solid flow. The story is interesting enough, but as can be expected is full of the coincidences the author promptly places as the workings of God. It does seem, at least from these writings, that the eventual creation of a teen center in NYC did do some help for young people facing homelessness and drug addiction. However, as the author was a Pentecostal preacher, eventually there comes up talking in tongues and the like, which personally draws my skepticism (and I come from a family with Pentecostals). Silly? Truth? I'll let others form their own opinions. For me, my guess would be there's a mixture of truth, that perhaps God did touch the lives of the people involved with this story, or perhaps not. Either way, at least some people seemingly had their hearts in the right place and others were helped.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 9 -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service

by Ian Fleming

Started: Jan. 30
Finished: Feb. 5

Notes: A recent Bond book left a bad taste in my mouth, but because I'd read Fleming before and enjoyed his work, I thought I'd give him another shot at winning me over again.

Mini review: Bond is sent into the Swiss Alps in search of an old foe and finds a new plot hatching. I did enjoy this one more than the last Bond novel I read, but not enough to want me to read more Fleming any time soon. This must be the saddest ending ever for a Bond novel, I would think, and one that hits home for the protagonist more than most of his other adventures.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 8 -- Cop Hater

by Ed McBain

Started: Jan. 29
Finished: Jan. 30

Notes: Even though I recently read another of McBain's 87th Precinct novels, I just finished a James Bond novel which left a bad taste in my mouth, so I'm once more returning to McBain and the guys and gals of the 87th to boost my spirits. Published in 1956, this was the very first of the 87th Precinct novels.

Mini review: Someone is killing cops, specifically detectives of the 87th Precinct. It's obvious right off the bat this is the first of the 87th Precinct novels, for one thing the fact a number of characters are unfamiliar and don't appear in any of the later books (SPOILER: They're cops who don't make it through this book alive). For another thing, McBain was obviously getting a feel for his particular 87th Precinct style with this novel, though he comes through pretty good by at least halfway through. This was also a good novel for setting up Carella as the main character for the series, though he's a little different than he is in later books, not so life-weary, though maybe it's the events of this book that bring him down to Earth a little more. Anyway, enjoyable, as always.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 7 -- Thunderball

by Ian Fleming

Started: Jan. 26
Finished: Jan. 29

Notes: Been decades since I've read a James Bond novel, so when I stumbled across a couple at a used books sale, I thought I'd snag them up. Funny thing, this one had a Moonraker wrap for a cover and I didn't realize it was actually Thunderball until I got it home. That isn't enough for me not to read it, though. :-)

Mini review: Bond, with the help of a CIA agent an a U.S. Navy submarine, seeks to thwart SPECTRE, a group of terrorists who have stolen 2 atomic missiles and are threatening to set the off unless the world pays them gabillions and gabillions of money. Honestly, I didn't care much for it. The action is minimal, most of the writing spending time on setup instead of actual action. For crying out loud, the first 40 pages is Bond spending time at a health spa!