The Death Tower (The Shadow #6) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPresss & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Death Tower
Series: The Shadow #6
Authors: Maxwell Grant
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 138
Words: 45K


The Shadow comes to grip with Dr Palermo, a murderous psychopath who is almost as smart and intelligent as the Shadow. And Dr Palermo is one of the Silent Seven and can call upon the Something Something 50, one of which is a celebrated police detective. Can the Shadow, with the help of the ever trustworthy and reliable Harry Vincent (and others) defeat this menace? Of course he can. And he solves the problem by throwing Dr Palermo off a 40story building. Now that’s doing it with panache!

The last time I read a Shadow novel was back in October of ‘22, so it has been a while. It felt really good to dive back into this literary universe though. I like the Shadow. He’s no namby pamby pussy but will kill when it’s needed. At the same time, he’s no John Wick who just kills everyone. Reading about the Shadow go braino-e-braino with Dr Palermo was fun and made for a nice change up from mobsters and gangsters and hoodlums.

My enjoyment wasn’t so much from reading about the Shadow being stymied but from enjoying a more equal fight. In previous stories the Shadow has jumped into groups of hoodlums and beaten the snot out of them even when outnumbered a billion to one. He’s outsmarted gangsters and even mad scientists but Dr Palermo “felt” like a Shadow gone bad. I don’t know if the author, Grant, decided to create Dr Palermo along those lines and thus wrote him accordingly, but it seemed so to me and it was a choice that I really enjoyed.

A welcome return to the Shadow’s adventures for me and I am looking forward to reading more over the coming months.

Finally, that cover! I love these Bantam covers. The little version is clickable to expand to the big version. If I do a cover love section in my monthly Roundup & Ramblings for March, I already know this is going to take the cake.


Journal Prepping – Never Run Out

Last week I showcased my 18th Journal, which given my rate of journaling recently, was only a stay of execution in terms of running out. Thankfully, soon after that, Paperblanks had a sale on journals that were no longer being made. I went through the half-priced ones and picked out the four that I liked the best. So here are Journals 19-22. Even with that, that’s maybe 18-24months of journaling. So I’ll be on the lookout for more paperblanks embellished manuscript journals as they make new ones. Of course, if any of you have suggestions, I’m always open to new experiences for journals.

Just remember folks, you can never be too prepared. So when the space zombies attack us, I’ll be able to chronicle every horrifying terrible second of it. Plus, if it gets too horrifyingly terrible, I can use the journals as emergency tp 😉

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed these journal posts. I’ve got one more scheduled for this coming Saturday and then I’ll be done. Gotten it out of my system this month.

Shrek (2001 Movie)

Shrek was released in 2001 by Dreamworks Studios. Featuring the voice talents of such big names as Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow, it follows the adventures of the ogre Shrek as he ends up rescuing Princess Fiona and in the process falls in love with her and breaks the curse that kept her in the dragon guarded castle. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as Ogres just don’t marry Princesses and Prince Farquad has some rather short thoughts on the matter.

The entire thrust of this movie is turning Fairytale Tropes on their heads. And mixing in a lot of anachronistic ideas, words and music. And it works beautifully. I laughed my head off.

But for many years I avoided this movie assiduously. Shrek is an ogre and as such, is just plain gross when it comes to bodily humor. He farts in his mud baths, pulls enough wax out of his ears to create a candle, belches at the drop of a hat and just generally is disgusting. I didn’t want that. But one day I watched it and I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.

Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, as Shrek and Donkey, are the perfect comedy duo. Donkey is a talking donkey that just won’t shut up and boy, the writers did a great job in giving him his dialogue. Myers on the other hand, is a great one for one liners, quips and references to other movies at the time. The Matrix is referenced, as is Babe: Pig in the City. I’m sure there are a LOT more that cineastes would catch.

While this is an animated film, there are too many crass parts, too many innuendos and too many adult humor bits for me to say this is fine for kids. I know it is rated G but no way is it suited for General Audiences.

They don’t write movies like this any more. They weren’t just trying to tell a trope breaking comedy, but an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. While there was a message about not judging people on their appearances or without getting to know them, it never overwhelmed the story and was actually incorporated into things so it didn’t come across as ham handed virtue signaling that makes you want to puke your guts up like in a lot of recent movies.

This was probably my 7th or 8th time watching this and I still laughed my head off, enjoyed every second and thought it was still great. I don’t know that it will strike everyone the same way, or be as re-watchable, but for me, this movie has entered into Classic territory and I plan on watching this many more times over the coming years.

Why I Still Paper Journal

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post entitled “A History of ….. Journaling” where I chronicled my journeys through journaling. Since then journaling has continued to be a mainstay of my life and has allowed me to vent and stay sane when life hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. I’ve always kept on blogging, to the point where I am now a dotblog and working on establishing “my brand” (please say that with the greatest sense of irony that you can).

It got me to thinking, why don’t I save all the hassle of paper and the privacy limitations inherent in a paper journal and just move to a strictly online journal? I actually did try that for a year and it confirmed to me why I have to stick to paper.

I’ve had quite a few blogs over the years (since ’03 or ’05) and at some point, I have always nuked them. Most of them were personal blogs and bordered on being online journals. I. Always. Delete. Them. Because even if I’ve made it private and under an account in no way associated with me, I end up saying or writing something that gets me in a funk and I act out like a teenager. 2 clicks of a button and it’s all gone. The recent private journal that I tried? It lasted me about 8 months before I deleted the content. Thankfully I was wise enough not to delete the whole thing, but it’s empty and whistling in the wind at the moment while I work up to trying it again.

But I have never been tempted to destroy my paper journals. Never. I don’t know exactly why that is, but the act of physically writing on paper is different than typing on a screen. My thoughts aren’t deeper. My insights aren’t clearer. There is no mystical connection to my soul. But I could not bring myself to destroy one of my paper journals, no matter what it might contain (which to be honest, is just the boring ramblings of a self-absorbed guy who likes to write, hahhahaah).

This is one of those intensely personal things that doesn’t translate to anyone else. Some people may feel the same as me. Other people may need the act of typing. But I need paper. I need ink. I need a physical container to put my words into so that the void is answered. I am a relatively straight forward and physical kind of guy and that has translated into my journaling.

So it all comes down to knowing myself and what works best for me. Of course, I’ve also learned that electronic journals are held hostage to the whim of the companies that host them. Is Live Journal still around? What about Xanga? I know Blogspot is. At some point even WordPress is going to crash and burn. My paper journals on the other hand are still around and sitting safe and sound.

Plus, if I may exhibit a rare moment of vanity, my newer Paperblanks journals look REALLY good. I mean, really, really good.

The Last Man (Mitch Rapp #13) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Last Man
Series: Mitch Rapp #13
Author: Vince Flynn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 377
Words: 127K

From & Me

The head of clandestine operations in Afghanistan has been kidnapped, his four bodyguards executed in cold blood. With the CIA plunged into crisis mode, Rapp is dispatched to find his missing friend, Joe Rickman, at all costs. He isn’t the only one looking for Rickman; an FBI special agent is at his heels, determined to blame Rapp for the bloody debacle. Rapp is, however, the only one who knows certain things about the vanished black ops master—secrets that in the wrong hands could prove disastrous. With elements of his own government undermining him—and America’s security—at every turn, Rapp must be as ruthless and deceitful as his enemies to complete this razor’s-edge mission. And it turns out Rickman planned the whole thing and tried to kill Rapp because he knew Rapp was the only one who could catch him out. So when Rapp catches up to Rickman, he puts a bullet in his head. Because that’s how you treat traitors. Period.

Sadly, this was the last Mitch Rapp book written by Vince Flynn. Flynn succumbed to cancer after this and that was thought to be the end of the matter. Thankfully, another author took up the challenge and Flynn’s estate allowed it to go forward, so we do get more Mitch Rapp stories. We’ll see what they are like when I get to them. But to this book.

I KNEW Rickman was the jackass scumbag from the get go. I was hoping Flynn wasn’t going to go the obvious route and that we’d be getting something really tricky and twisted. C’est la vie! It was still a great thriller with tons of action. The assassin who killed Rapp’s wife and unborn baby gets involved and that really upped the stakes. It also showed the difference between a free lance assassin for hire and someone like Rapp.

The political side of things are touched upon but they wrap up so quickly and so neatly at the end that I wondered if Flynn did it that way just to finish the book. I was kind of hoping Rapp would pay the traitorous Senator a visit and maybe even kill him. You don’t sell top secret secrets to countries like Afghanistan and NOT be a traitor. Sadly, the CIA Director, Kennedy, makes the most of it politically and pretty much tells the Senator he is now her plaything or she’ll reveal everything. That makes sense but it’s not as cool as what I wanted 😀

I was pretty happy with this read and it helped to wile away a couple of days. That’s all I can truly ask for from a book.


The Widowmaker (Widowmaker #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Widowmaker
Series: Widowmaker #1
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 198
Words: 67K


Jefferson Nighthawk, also known as the Widowmaker, is in deepfreeze for an incurable disease. Unfortunately, that is expensive and even the Widowmaker runs out of money now and then. So to procure more money to keep him on ice until a cure is found, a clone is made and sent on an assignment. Which he fulfills and then dies because he makes bad choices about a woman.

Every time I re-read a book, it feels like I am marching out into an old minefield. With a blindfold on while carrying a 25lb cane that I smash into the ground at every step. That feeling of “will THIS step be the one where I explode and my guts go flying for 200 yards in every direction” is not very pleasant. On the flip side, if I do make it safely to the other side, the palpable relief coupled with the enjoyment of a familiar trek pretty much trebles the enjoyment.

In some ways this was a very frustrating read. Jeff Nighthawk, the young clone, is just so young that you know what is going to happen because he wants what he wants despite everyone telling him otherwise. If he’d been a normal person, he would have had a broken heart and learned from his past. Being a galaxy famous bounty hunter, well, all it takes is one mistake to kill him.

I really liked the idea of cloning the Widowmaker and using him. It makes for some interesting dynamics and philosophical rabbit trails but without getting all deep and serious and depressing. It was also fun to be back in Resnick’s Far Future History. Santiago took place during the Democracy (I think) and this takes place much later in what is called the Oligarchy. But the idea that there is always a frontier, a place to go if you’re a free individual is one that Resnick keeps alive in his stories.

The Idea of the Widowmaker is also one that resonates with me. Not necessarily the stone cold killer, but the idea of being the apex of your profession. I like reading about individuals who have striven to be the best and ARE the best. None of this schmopey dopey “ohhh, we’re all just the same” crap. No, we damned well are NOT the same and if you think otherwise, then you are insane and contributing to the general insanity of the world. I cannot be an astronaut no matter how much I might want to be. Nor can I be a professional basketball player. But I can work with only 1 person for 9hrs a day and not need communal group hugs or “attaboys” every other minute and I don’t need to discuss Movie/TV Show X over the water cooler. And you’d be surprised how many people can’t take the solitude. They think they can, but they can’t. So all that rant aside, I like reading about people who excel at what they do. It is inspiring.

There are 3 more Widowmaker books in this series and since I enjoyed this re-read as much as I did, I am fully looking forward to the rest of the series.


Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (Asterix #18) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Laurel Wreath
Series: Asterix #18
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K

From Wikipedia:

The story begins in Rome where Asterix and Obelix are talking, but flashes back to Lutetia, where Asterix, Obelix, Chief Vitalstatistix, and the chief’s wife Impedimenta visit Impedimenta’s brother, Homeopathix, a rich businessman who immediately shows off his wealth. At dinner, Vitalstatistix quickly becomes drunk and boasts that, as a Chief, he can obtain for Homeopathix something money cannot possibly buy, a stew seasoned with Julius Caesar’s laurel wreath, whereupon the equally drunk Obelix volunteers himself and Asterix to fetch the wreath.

In Rome, Asterix and Obelix see a man coming out of Caesar’s palace. Upon discovering that he is a kitchen slave there, they offer themselves to the slave trader Typhus, who supplies Caesar’s palace. When Typhus’ other slaves provoke the Gauls into a fight, the wealthy patrician, Osseus Humerus, is amused and offers to buy them; Asterix mistakes him for Caesar’s major-domo and completes the sale. The Gauls are placed under the supervision of Goldendelicius, Humerus’ chief slave. Goldendelicius expresses dislike of the two Gauls because they come from Typhus (a mark of distinction among slaves) and fears that they might usurp his office.

Realizing their mistake, Asterix and Obelix attempt to get Humerus to return them to Typhus. First, they cook a volatile stew, which accidentally cures Humerus’ heavy-drinking son Metatarsus of his constant hangovers. Next they disturb the sleeping family by making noise, which only inspires the family to throw an impromptu party. The next day, a tired Humerus sends the Gauls to Caesar’s palace to justify his absence to a secretary there. Goldendelicius seizes the opportunity to tell the palace’s guards that the Gauls intend to kill Caesar. As a result, Asterix and Obelix are thrown into the palace prison upon arrival, but they escape during the night and unsuccessfully search the palace for the laurel wreath. At daybreak, they return to their cell (to the confusion of the palace guards) and decide to find Caesar and seize the wreath from him.

The next morning, a lawyer comes to defend Asterix and Obelix in a show trial for the “attempt” on Caesar’s life. The lawyer takes for granted that they will be found guilty and thrown to the lions in the Circus Maximus. Asterix is encouraged when the lawyer says Caesar might attend the execution. During the trial, the prosecutor announces the same initial speech intended by the defense lawyer, prompting the latter to call for a suspension in proceedings. Anxious to be sentenced to the Circus, Asterix himself speaks for the prosecution, outlining all the “wrongdoings” committed by himself and Obelix. The whole audience, including Typhus and the Humerus family, is moved by this plea, and the Gauls are sentenced to death in the Circus. In the cells, they enjoy luxurious food funded by Typhus and Humerus. But, as they are about to enter the arena, Asterix and Obelix learn that Caesar is not present, having gone off to fight pirates. Therefore, the Gauls refuse to go into the arena until he returns, which results in the big cats in the arena eating each other, a mass riot of the audience, and everyone (including Asterix and Obelix and the last remaining lion) being evicted from the circus.

That night, Asterix and Obelix sleep at a doorway, where they are woken by brigands. They defeat the brigands, after which their chief, Habeascorpus, offers Asterix and Obelix shelter in return for their help in robberies. Asterix accepts, but attempts to warn the victim they are assigned, who turns out to be a drunken Metatarsus. Refusing to attack an innocent, Asterix and Obelix vanquish the bandits again. From Metatarsus, the two Gauls learn that Goldendelicius has been appointed as Caesar’s personal slave, and that Caesar himself is due to hold a triumph for his victory over the pirates. Asterix and Obelix corner Goldendelicius in a tavern and coerce him into exchanging Caesar’s laurel wreath for one of parsley. The next day, during the triumph, Goldendelicius nervously holds the parsley wreath over Caesar’s head. Caesar does not acknowledge the switch, but secretly “feels like a piece of fish”, which baffles him.

Upon Asterix and Obelix’s return, Homeopathix arrives in his brother-in-law’s village in order to eat the stew containing Caesar’s laurel wreath, and Vitalstatistix states that a wealthy man like him would never eat such a meal in his own house. Homeopathix “agrees” by sarcastically pointing out that it is overcooked and of poor quality, which provokes Vitalstatistix to strike him senseless. The album ends with the note that, with Asterix’s cure for drunkenness now available to the Romans, they initiate a series of ever-increasing parties that result in the collapse of the empire.

Chief Vitalstatistix doesn’t get along with his brother-in-law and after getting drunk, promises him a stew made with the laurels of Caesar’s wreath. So of course our two heroes have to do the dirty work.

Despite their best efforts at stealing the wreath, of being made slaves, of getting thrown in the arena, they just can’t seem to catch a break and find the wreath. Obelix gets drunk several times and man, he’s a tough drunk. Asterix isn’t much better and talks like an idiot. Their misadventures in trying to get the wreath are pretty funny. The poor pirates are shown being captured by Caesar and paraded through Rome. They just can’t catch a break, ever.

I thought Goscinny and Urderzo did a good job of coming up with creative ways for the duo to fail each time until the very last. And if I hadn’t seen the page numbers, I would have waited for the final attempt to fail too. But they succeed and thus ends the story.


Captain (One Piece #35) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Captain
Series: One Piece #35
Arc: Water Seven #4
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 187
Words: 9K

From Wikipedia:

“The Pirate Abduction Incident”

“My Name Is Franky”

“It’s Decided”

“The Big Argument”

“Luffy vs. Usopp”


“Big Trouble in the Secret Room”


“Luffy vs. Franky”

Luffy reluctantly decides to abandon the ship. Usopp, having grown attached to the Merry, is unwilling to take this course of action and challenges Luffy’s captaincy. Once defeated, Usopp decides to leave the Straw Hats, and the others go searching for a new ship. Meanwhile, the Aqua Laguna, an annual storm that strikes Water Seven, is about to return. To coincide with this Iceburg, the owner of Galley-La, is attacked, and Nico Robin is labeled as the prime suspect. Knowing Robin is a member of the Straw Hats, all of Water Seven turns against them.

I was reading along and things were ok. Unfortunately, it quickly went out of control.

Everyone getting all emotional about the ship needing to be trashed and getting a new one made me roll my eyes a bit and then the “fight” between Luffy and Usopp really made me roll my eyes. Usopp, while never the sharpest tool in the shed, acts downright stupid here. It felt very forced to me.

Then you have the Mayor getting attacked. He claims it was somebody and Robin Nico (one of Luffy’s crew) and so before you can say “boo”, the entire town is convinced that the Straw Hat Gang tried to assassinate their beloved mayor. And the mayor doesn’t do anything about it. Throw in the Frankie Gang for fun too. They stole 2/3rds of the crews money and when the Straw Hats took retribution and destroyed their hideout, Franky gets all butthurt and goes after Luffy. And he’s a cyborg. And there’s some sort of superstorm coming in.

This was only 187 pages but man, does Oda pack in everything that he possibly can. It felt overfull and not well thought out. If Franky is so powerful and so out of control, why haven’t the Shipwrights controlled him before? This is what happens when you think logically and rationally instead of “what sells” like a manga-ka does. I cannot imagine reading this a chapter at a time, it would have driven me nuts. As it is, even reading one tankubon at a time (the book form) is pushing things. Part of me wants to just read about 5 volumes at a go and review them all in one post. If the pacing and storytelling goes on like this volume, that will be something I seriously consider in the upcoming months.

There are certain things I can suspend my disbelief for, but don’t shove 5 improbable things at me all at once and expect me to deal with it. Especially if the improbables center around the established characters. I am not the Red Queen and I do not believe 10 impossible things before breakfast every day.

Now, with all that complaining and whining and hand wringing out of the way, I do think that Oda showed the weight of command here. Luffy had to make a decision about the ship and when one of his crew acted like a baby about it, he had to Captain Up and put the beatdown on Usopp. No good being a pirate captain if you’re going to just let your crew rule by committee. In the future Luffy is going to have to make some really hard decisions and this book showed he was capable of that. He is growing up and becoming the Captain (hence the volume’s title) he is going to need to be. I like that “growing up” aspect of a story and it appeals to me a lot.


Conan the Unconquered (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan the Unconquered
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 207
Words: 72K

From Wikipedia:

An evil sorcerer Jhandar wishes to raise an army of undead slaves, and his meddling with chaos brings him into conflict with Conan, who must battle his deadly ninja henchmen who can kill with a touch, and retrieve a weapon from a dent in reality created by the sorcerer’s earlier botched experiments. A whirlwind of adventure ensures.

Conan sleeps with all the wimenz and killz all the sorcererz (but there is only one). So he can haz a cheezeburger now. I’ve gone ahead and injected it with penicillin though because you don’t sleep around that much without catching an std after all.

All silliness aside, this was a good jaunt as Conan fights another sorcerer and goes to a blasted land and fights some nefarious creature there too. Secret Kung-Fu masters are involved but Conan doesn’t care and stabs them to death. Take that Morpheus! I enjoyed this just a bit more than the two previous Conan stories by Jordan and I think that is because of the lack of women main characters in this story. In a sword and sorcery story, I want the hero, his sidekick/s, the babes and the badguy/s. And that is exactly what I got this time around.

While I don’t want a book diet exclusively composed of this pulp, having it on a regular basis means I don’t crave it. It also allows me to appreciate the finer works that I read when I do read them. Like Groo the Wanderer! Hahahahahahaha 😉