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Original Essays | September 30, 2014

Benjamin Parzybok: IMG A Brief History of Video Games Played by Mayors, Presidents, and Emperors



Brandon Bartlett, the fictional mayor of Portland in my novel Sherwood Nation, is addicted to playing video games. In a city he's all but lost... Continue »
  1. $11.20 Sale Trade Paper add to wish list

    Sherwood Nation

    Benjamin Parzybok 9781618730862

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Customer Comments

cwelgin has commented on (6) products.

Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
Open and Shut

cwelgin, September 26, 2011

Open and Shut had me laughing hard. I like to read at coffee shops some times. Big mistake bringing this book along. Every couple of minutes I was barking out loud and everyone was looking at me like I was a mad man.

Rosenfelt, an author I had never read before, has a true gem here with 'Open and Shut'. He plots a good traditional mystery around some first rate characters and a wit a mile long. Its been a little while since I read a genre story exactly like this plot wise. It got me to thinking about how in the 80's there were nothing but lawyer mysteries. This is in many ways an homage to that era. (whoops, I have read Rosenfelt before and didn't like what it very much "Dont Tell a Soul" was an poorly plotted thriller with big holes).

The story itself is very simple. Andy Carpenter, a married (though separated) lawyer working in a small suburb outside of Manhattan defends a death row inmate on his last appeal. At the same time, he is looking for the 'real' killer and tries to make amends with his estranged wife.

Some of the reviewers here are tying strings between Rosenfelt and Harlen Coben. I dont buy it. Bolitar and Carpenter are too different. I also dont agree that this book is a pale companion to the Bolitar books. I find it more like a Stuart Woods novel (let me just say I think Woods has been a disaster over the last 15 years, but he started off as a decent writer). It has that jaunty, tongue-in-cheek, in-the-know style.

What got me down a little was how unbelievable some of the courtroom stunts were. This guy should have been dis-bared long ago. Instead he continuously pulls out last minute rescue ploys. Its also on the simpler side. Your not going to be wowed or bowled over by anything here. This is what I would consider an 'All American Stick to the Ribs' starch meal.

If you want a simple easy to read genre tale that feels like it stepped out of the 1980's, this one is for you.
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Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
Open and Shut

cwelgin, September 26, 2011

Open and Shut had me laughing hard. I like to read at coffee shops some times. Big mistake bringing this book along. Every couple of minutes I was barking out loud and everyone was looking at me like I was a mad man.

Rosenfelt, an author I had never read before, has a true gem here with 'Open and Shut'. He plots a good traditional mystery around some first rate characters and a wit a mile long. Its been a little while since I read a genre story exactly like this plot wise. It got me to thinking about how in the 80's there were nothing but lawyer mysteries. This is in many ways an homage to that era. (whoops, I have read Rosenfelt before and didn't like what it very much "Dont Tell a Soul" was an poorly plotted thriller with big holes).

The story itself is very simple. Andy Carpenter, a married (though separated) lawyer working in a small suburb outside of Manhattan defends a death row inmate on his last appeal. At the same time, he is looking for the 'real' killer and tries to make amends with his estranged wife.

Some of the reviewers here are tying strings between Rosenfelt and Harlen Coben. I dont buy it. Bolitar and Carpenter are too different. I also dont agree that this book is a pale companion to the Bolitar books. I find it more like a Stuart Woods novel (let me just say I think Woods has been a disaster over the last 15 years, but he started off as a decent writer). It has that jaunty, tongue-in-cheek, in-the-know style.

What got me down a little was how unbelievable some of the courtroom stunts were. This guy should have been dis-bared long ago. Instead he continuously pulls out last minute rescue ploys. Its also on the simpler side. Your not going to be wowed or bowled over by anything here. This is what I would consider an 'All American Stick to the Ribs' starch meal.

If you want a simple easy to read genre tale that feels like it stepped out of the 1980's, this one is for you.
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Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera #01 by Jim Butcher
Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera #01

cwelgin, September 25, 2011

This book is pretty good. Your typical fantasy story. A young kid on the verge of becoming an adult wrestles with being different. At the same time, the world is coming apart. Evil forces are on the verge of destroying an age old empire. The kid is the only one who can save the day. He's helped by his motley band of... well... this is definitely nothing new.

I guess why I might be tempted to give this book a half way decent review is that it is readable. What makes it unique is the 'Fury' aspect. Furies are 'spirits'. Everyone in this world has a Fury except for the main character, that kid I was talking about, Tavi. People use the Furies mostly for war it seems.

This might be the first book I have ever read where I was saying "ok already, just die". There are 3 bad guys who are chasing the kid, a young lady and the kids uncle/aunt. By the time this book is over, every single one of them has been on the brink of death many many times, has narrowly avoided death, has taken part in a battle and been spared death... on and on. So at a certain point, your not sighing with relief at the close escape, but cursing the author, saying "Common now".

I don't want to go on and on. Butcher is one of the most popular authors out there today. At my local bookstore, I swear there are a couple hundred copies of his books. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Let me tell you, this is no where near the George RR Martin books. It reads more like that massive Robert Jordan series, 'Wheel of Time'. In fact, I might be too generous with 3 stars.

The characters are ok. the plot is rehashed, the writing is above average, and the concept is (other than the furies themselves) old school. I wouldn't go running out to get a copy of this if I were you.
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Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein
Starman Jones

cwelgin, September 25, 2011

Wow, what a nice little sci fi story. I'm just so glad that Heinlein lived in this world and wrote so many enjoyable books. Starman Jones falls into his juvenile period, where he writes for youngsters. This doesn't mean that you wont enjoy them as an adult.

Heinlein played with this story scenario in a few of his books. I'm thinking of Citizen of the Galaxy and there are probably a couple of others. Here, he has a kid, Max, who is leading a hard life. He dreams of going to the stars. What transpires follows a path of rags to riches. Thats it. Simple. But elegantly enchanting at the same time.

This book was published 60 years ago. Two sociological points really stood out for me. One is that women in society and the rolls they play are VASTLY different today than they were in 1950. I like to think of Heinlein as a progressive fellow, but his idea of what it meant to be a woman was so backward, it was kind of shocking. Secondly, its sort of amazing how far computers have come. The whole plot of Starman Jones revolves around a kid who could do complex mathematical problems in his head. Something that any computer could do millions of times faster.

I guess I have a third sociological point to make. That is Heinlein was very liberal. I make that assumption based upon his work. He portrays a future society that has seemingly almost choked to death on unions and workers rights. Its a bleak place. I don't think that Heinlein intended to call out socialism or the New Deal in a negative light, but here it reads as pretty gloomy.

If you think about it, Heinlein's future could sort of be summed up as the New Deal carried forward 200 years. Contrast him to an author like Gibson who's Neuromancer captures a world overwhelmed by freetrade capitalism. Maybe unintentionally, both authors have created a glimpse of "what-if's" that works primarily as a warning in regards to completely following one political movement or another.

so... a simple story. A good story. A story you will probably have a good time reading even though it is dated. I can't imagine any author ever writing from such a viewpoint again. This is sort of like a time capsule gussied up in the form of a sci-fi novel. THIS IS NOT Heinleins best work. He has 10 that I would recommend before this. It just goes to show the strength of this authors writing. No sci-fi author has come close to matching Heinlein's prowess.
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Gone Tomorrow (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child
Gone Tomorrow (A Jack Reacher Novel)

cwelgin, September 25, 2011

On one hand: Lee Child is a good writer. On the other: Oh my god... I just can't get beyond how Child opens up every one of the Reacher stories I have read. Here, Reacher is riding a subway car late at night when he spots a female dressed up in a bulky winter coat. Its summer, she's murmuring to herself, she has a 1000 foot stare, she has her hand in a bag. All of this adds up to make her a 100% match to a study by Israeli special forces on 'how to spot a suicide bomber.

Now, spotting a suicide bomber on the subway late at night is just an ordinary day in the life of Reacher. This stuff happens to him all the time. The lady turns out not to be a bomber, but does commit suicide right in front of him. And it starts a huge conspiracy story that comes down around poor Reacher.

This is what I hate... HATE about Child's writing. You might find your self in the middle of a political conspiracy if your a newspaper reporter digging into a lead. But here, Reacher ends up in a plot about as easily as batter flows into a waffle iron griddle. And this is the 13th time he has ended up in a situation like this since this si the 13th in the series. All of them are insane. And what gets me is that once Reacher is 'in the know' he goes about like this is a game of pinball. Everything falls into the right place at the right time. Ugh! Bad plotting.
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