Tag Archives: throwback

Throwback Thursday ~ A Sense of Where You Are

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee

Cover via Goodreads

When John McPhee met Bill Bradley, both were at the beginning of their careers. A Sense of Where You Are, McPhee’s first book, is about Bradley when he was the best basketball player Princeton had ever seen. McPhee delineates for the reader the training and techniques that made Bradley the extraordinary athlete he was, and this part of the book is a blueprint of superlative basketball. But athletic prowess alone would not explain Bradley’s magnetism, which is in the quality of the man himself—his self-discipline, his rationality, and his sense of responsibility. Here is a portrait of Bradley as he was in college, before his time with the New York Knicks and his election to the U.S. Senate—a story that suggests the abundant beginnings of his professional careers in sport and politics. (via Goodreads)

From my original post, February 24, 2011:

I’m not a big sports fan. I didn’t grow up with sports. Attending UNL made me into a mild Husker fan. I’ve never been to a Nebraska football game, and I had never watched a basketball game at all until Eric decided to take me to one on a whim back when we were still on campus in 1998-ish. Incongruously, I had picked up a slight interest in professional tennis before I met Eric.

Moving to Arizona intensified my sports fandom. Partly because sports are a means of maintaining allegiance to my home state. Partly because I now play a sport and am around more people who are sports fans, Eric included. And part of it is also because sports have become my seasons. The move from NE to AZ meant no more seasons as I knew them. No falling leaves, no snow, no thaw, no bloomin’ spring, but lots of what a Nebraskan might consider summer. It started with football season becoming my fall. Tennis (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) became my respite from the heat of summer. And basketball has become my winter. I’m a newbie fan to all these things. My history/knowledge of these sports only goes back a few years, so I pick up a sports book here and there.

I have always enjoyed a good sports story. I’m a total sucker for overcoming the odds and triumphs of the spirit and all the associated tropes. A Sense of Where You Are isn’t one of those sports stories. It’s a profile. Bill Bradley was an outstanding player. While he himself might have downplayed his physical abilities, he was not particularly handicapped in any manner. Growing up, he had support for his ideas and goals. From McPhee’s profile, it seems that Bradley took what ability and talent he had, worked damned hard, and became an outstanding basketball player. While he obviously had passion for the game, it wasn’t his end goal and that’s an interesting story in itself, but not one told in my edition of the book.

My edition, published 1967, only includes Bradley’s collegiate career. It is assumed, at the end of this edition, that Bradley will go on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, utterly leaving basketball behind. This older edition kind of leaves off in the middle of the story. But still, I came way with a slightly better understanding of basketball and bit of its history. That was worth the quick read.

It’s March. The Huskers won last night by two. It was a great game filled with the extra drama and excitement of senior night and the last game played at the Devaney Center. I’m in a basketball mood and digging this review from the archives seemed appropriate. It’s a good thing, sometimes, to read outside your box.

Throwback Thursday ~ True Grit

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

True Grit by Charles Portis

Charles Portis has long been acclaimed as one of America’s foremost comic writers. True Grit is his most famous novel–first published in 1968, and the basis for the movie of the same name starring John Wayne and now the film by the Coen brothers starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

It tells the story of Mattie Ross, who is just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robs him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash money. Mattie leaves home to avenge her father’s blood. With the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshal, by her side, Mattie pursues the homicide into Indian Territory.

True Grit is eccentric, cool, straight, and unflinching, like Mattie herself. (via Goodreads)

I finished listening to this yesterday, an audiobook borrowed from the Tempe Public Library’s new OneClickdigital service.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the John Wayne version of the film. Honestly, the B Westerns of the 50s-70s are the reason why I thought I didn’t like Westerns, despite my childhood affection for The Lone Ranger TV show. The 1969 version of True Grit has been (probably undeservedly) lumped in with those movies. My attitude toward modern Westerns is much different and, considering that I really like the Coen brothers when they’re being serious, the 2010 film version was a slam-dunk for my favor. What caught me unaware was Mattie Ross.

I had no idea that the main character of the story was a 14-year-old girl. Further, I didn’t realize that the book is written from Mattie’s first person POV. I hate to just be sickeningly positive, but I like Westerns. I like frontier women. Why had no one told me about this novel?

I did still have one reservation. Mattie Ross is seen as a tom-boy. From my notes on a book called Jo’s Girls (which I’ve since set aside and never posted about), I conjectured the following theory:

I’ve never like tomboy stories due to two reasons: 1.) Tomboys are usually trouble-making brats. It seems that girls can be virtuous and girly or disrespectful terrors. 2.) Not only do girls grow out of being tom boys (something that doesn’t bother me too much), but they seem to have to regain their virtue through hardship.

In general, there’s no middle ground. I relate to these characters no more than I do uber-girly characters.

Mattie is, thankfully, different. Is she a trouble -maker? Yes, but she has reason. She wants vengeance. If Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing says, “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace,” Mattie would say, “I will eat his heart; be sure of it.” She shrewdly takes stock of her resources and hires Rooster to help her. She could have left it at that, but she doesn’t. She insists on accompanying him and, God willing, shooting Tom Chaney herself.  Sure, Mattie has hardships to overcome, but she remains exactly herself. “I never had the time to get married,” she says at the end of the book, “but it is nobody’s business if I am married or not married. I care nothing for what they say… A woman with brains and a frank tongue and one sleeve pinned up and an invalid mother to care for is at some disadvantage.  Although I will say, I could have had two or three old, untidy men around here who had their eyes fastened on my bank. No, thank you.”

The audio book was read well by Donna Tartt, a Mississippi writer.  She also provides an afterword about her history with the novel, a book passed from one female family member to the next and often loaned but rarely returned. Thankfully, I’m currently in research-mode. If I were in writing-mode, my Nebraska characters would sound like Arkansas characters. I’m very prone to picking up Southern-isms.

The 2010 movie is faithful to the book and full of great performances and beautiful Roger Deakins cinematography.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Talented Mr. Ripley

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr. Ripley is an unforgettable introduction to this debonair confidence man, whose talent for self-invention and calculated murder is chronicled in four subsequent novels. (via Goodreads)

What I wrote about it on Jan. 30, 2002:

…Why do I like this book so much? It’s about a total amoral putz. Usually I don’t care for fiction in which the main character is unsympathetic. But…is Tom Ripley actually unsympathetic? While he has his “oh woe is me” moments, I can kind of see where he’s coming from. He’s an intriguing character. I do have to agree with one of the blurbs on the book cover. Highsmith’s world is slightly irrational. Things happen that wouldn’t logically happen. The movie tried to make things more logical I think, and strangely that is where it went wrong. Because in the book, even Tom Ripley is honestly amazed at how things are working out for him.

I’ve read three other of Highsmith’s Ripley books and he remains one of my favorite characters in literature. The other thrill of these novels, especially the sequels, is reading in anticipation of how Tom will best the police and keep his secrets. In this, the character and these novels are a bit similar to Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series. How does a character get away with, well, murder?

My fondness for the movie has only increased since that old LJ entry. It’s among my most re-watched movies.

Throwback Thursday ~ A Study in Scarlet

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Checkout today’s Throwback Thursday link up for details on the TT giveaway!

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes. (via Goodreads)

This is another multiple bird post, A Study in Scarlet being the 7th book I’ve read this year. I read the original and skimmed a “remastered” version by Leo Zanav. Also, I realize. Holmes…again.

It’s been a very long time since I read A Study in Scarlet. I had forgotten that it starts slow. There’s a lot of Watson background. It’s also a ways into the narrative before we really see Holmes at work. But, if I were reading this for the very first time, especially if I didn’t know who Sherlock Holmes was, his off-stage introduction would be very intriguing. The “remastered” version cuts pretty much to the chase, leaving Watson firmly in the background. I’m not going to cast too many judgements of this retelling for that, most of the language in the story is Doyle’s, though I am going to roll my eyes at the perceived need to quicken it up for a modern audience. Doyle’s original is pretty compelling even without Sherlock on stage all the time. Doyle’s sort of left-field switch to an American west flash-back (curtailed in the retelling) serves a purpose, to firmly set up the killer’s motives. But again, every Holmes story has been told and retold in so many ways that it’s difficult to be overly upset about it if you’re accepting of most adaptations.

The thing that did bug me is the sanitation of a few things in the “remastered” version. The Criterion is no longer a bar, but a bookstore. The subjects of the postmortem bruising experiments are dead animals when I’m pretty sure that Doyle meant to be rather sensational in suggesting that they were human bodies. There is of course some changing of tone concerning Mormonism and the “Avenging Angels” but far less than some of the reviews of the rewritten version would have you believe. In all, these changes just seem pointless. Read the original, it’s better.

The one thing that stuck me during this reread is how young these characters seem. Sherlock is overly enthusiastic about his hemoglobin reagent experiment and vital in his mannerisms. Watson isn’t returning from being a career soldier; he’s only old enough to have been through med school and briefly seen action before getting shot in the shoulder. When he returns to England, he’s pretty much a late twenty-something trying to figure out what to do with his life. (Doyle was 27 when A Study in Scarlet was published.)

Speaking of adaptations, I was also surprised at how many elements of the originals that the current BBC Sherlock incorporates into its episodes. I’d forgotten the importance of the cabby and the pills in this story. Both elements are used in a pretty creative way by the show’s premier episode “A Study in Pink.” I’ll leave you with the iconic moment of Holmes and Watson meeting, 21st century style.

Genre: Mystery
Why did choose to read this book? I do not tire of Sherlock Holmes.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes.
Craft Lessons: Is it really necessary to start with a bang? Hinting at a character’s character is maybe more interesting than purely showing.
Format: Kindle ebook.
Procurement: FREE at Amazon.com (though I can’t find it in their catalog now…)

Mystery/Crime Challenge

Throwback Thursday ~ Dune

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Checkout today’s Throwback Thursday link up for details on the TT giveaway!

Dune by Frank Herbert

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. (via Goodreads)

This is what I wrote about it on June 30, 2005:

My mother read all the Dune books. I tried reading Dune in 8th grade. I got to page 100 before becoming completely confused. I watched the 80s movie. That didn’t help. In college I watch the movie again and got a little more out of it. I stole my mom’s copy and vowed to read it one day. (That was probably ten years ago. I’ll bring her book back when we visit.) Eric recommended Dune to me. That was probably a good six or seven year ago. I finally read it, and my adult brain gets it. It is good, very good.

It’s been a very influential book for me as a writer. Herbert was a journalist and wrapped subjects he knew in science fiction paper. The novel was different for its time and that’s always encouraging. There have been two major film adaptations. David Lynch’s 1984 movie has a very interesting feel, though is only kinda-sorta based on the book.

The Sy Fy Channel’s 2000 set of mini-series is closer to the books, but still doesn’t quite get a few things right.

Both are good viewing, and the book is excellent.

Throwback Thursday ~ Horus Rising

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Special Announcement from the Throwback team:

NEXT WEEK, we will put up a list of Throwback Book/DVD combo prize packs. No, I’m not telling you what the selection will be yet, but trust me, there will be something for everyone. There will be a Rafflecopter to enter. The giveaway will run for one week, and when it ends, the winner will get to pick the prize pack of their choice.

ALL THROWBACK THURSDAY POSTS AND COMMENTS FROM JANUARY WILL QUALIFY AS ENTRIES. There will be space on the Rafflecopter to let us know how involved you’ve been in Throwback Thursday this month. The more you participated, the better your chances.

So what are you waiting for? Link up, and we can’t wait to unveil our prize packs next week!

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett


I originally reviewed this book on April 20, 2010:

I’m always a little wary of tie-in books. Like many of the trendy 80’s TV series movie remakes, tie-in books are often commissioned to take advantage of a brand. They aren’t necessarily of good quality. I’ve read enough Star Trek and Star Wars novels to know this to be true. There is also some pretty good tie-in fiction out there. Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy probably did more to reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise than he’s given credit for, due in part to the solid nature of his work. But don’t think I encountered a tie-in that could stand alone until now.

I know a bit about the Warhammer 40K universe, but not much. … I’ve previously read a 40k novel. That novel was pretty disappointing. Still in my search for palatable military SF, I figured I’d give 40K a second try with a series recommended by Chris Morgan. The Horus Heresy novels are set 10 millennium before Warhammer 40K (the 40K here referring to the human race in the year 40,000) and sets up some of the conflict that pervades that universe. Abnett does a wonderful job in doing that, even though this novel (the first in the series) only really sets up that setup.

I enjoyed this novel a great deal. It has great writing, solid characters who don’t do stupid things, and lots of ambiguity. Abnett questions the concept of the righteous war against the backdrop of 40K’s nature vs chaos themes. He also presents the value of historians and journalists in such actions; an aspect of the story which I hadn’t expected. In many ways, this is a great war novel, but not such a great sci-fi novel. Much of that is due to the 40K setting. I question some of the lack of technical advancement in such a far-future setting. Only so much of that can be accounted for by technological dark ages. On the whole, I can overlook those things when the narrative is compelling enough.

Writing-wise, Abnett doesn’t go out of his way to explain technology, and I don’t feel that lack. The battle scenes are something to study. They are fluid and clear. He also plays with the chronology of narrative and does so effortlessly. These things can be done. You just have to do them well.

I plan on reading #4 in this series later on this year. As a note: this was a novel I read as part of the very first read-a-thon I took part in.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Caves of Steel

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

ATTENTION! Next week, Mandi and Lauren will be hosting a Throwback Giveaway! That’s right, you will be able to WIN THINGS!

But here’s the catch: You will have the best chance of winning if you participate in Throwback Thursday. And comment on other people’s Throwback Thursday posts. You can do this after the giveaway goes live, but EVEN OLD THROWBACK THURSDAY POSTS WILL COUNT AS ENTRIES. In other words, browse your bookshelf or DVD collection, find something you loved, and HOP TO. RIGHT NOW. Get a leg up on the slackers.

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to help track down the killer. The relationship between Lije and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. “R” stands for robot—-and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim! (via Goodreads)

I’m killing several birds with one stone this week, reviewing something I just finished rereading (Book 4 for the year) for Throwback Thursday *and* it’s Crime/Mystery too!

The Caves of Steel, first published in 1953, is credited as being the first science fiction mystery. The blending of the two genres was thought to be difficult to pull off because the use of far-future technology could be used as hocus-pocus to cheat the reader. Actually, you wouldn’t necessarily have to go too far future. How would any of the recent CSI TV shows look to a person from 1953 if they hadn’t seen the progression of science? Asimov manages to pull it off though, and better than I remember from my first reading of this book back in high school. I’m also not sure how prevalent the “buddy cop” trope was in the 50s, but Asimov presents an instance that I’m surprised hasn’t been adapted into a Will  Smith movie. (I, Robot (2004) was loosely based on other Asimov robot stories.) Lije and Daneel are a fun pair.

Despite being set in the far future, the book is very 1950s. People curse “golly.” Women are depicted as, let’s say, frivolous. Computing involved a lot of punch cards and tape. It makes me a little sad that Asimov passed away in 1992. He never got to see what computing would really become in only another decade. I’d like to think that he would have appreciated it. Despite its inaccuracies in predictions, the novel does hit on some interesting topics. What happens when robots (or some other population) move in to do jobs that others don’t want? What will happen as our life-spans continue to lengthen? I recently read a review of Asimov’s Foundation series in which the reader was disappointed that Asimov’s conclusion for the human race was that we’d continue on like we always have, no better or worse. That philosophy comes out in The Caves of Steel as well. Personally, I find that somewhat comforting. Asimov was a student of history as well as the sciences (there are biblical references in Caves) and knew that the past is not as rosy as we’d like to think and the future will never be as grim as we often fear.

I also realized that my writing style has probably been influenced by Asimov more than I thought. The way the story is paced and structured remind me very much of how I’ve come to write stories. I wonder what other habits I picked up from authors I first read in my teens?

My one problem is that, while Asimov doesn’t exactly cheat, the solution of the mystery relies on a piece of evidence that could have been addressed earlier without giving the story away. The mystery plot is actually a little thin in comparison to the time Asimov spends on the worldbuilding. It’s not a long novel and its the corner stone for two Lije and Daneel sequels.

Genre: Science-fiction mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? Someone from the Bout of Books Readathon was reading the second one which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to give the series a reread.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: That moment when you realizes you’ve been subconsciously imitating works you read 20 years ago.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library

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