nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Nhi Vanye i Chya)

[livejournal.com profile] jordannamorgan just posted about the cold snap her part of Florida will be having, and that reminded me that my mother mentioned that our forecast said we'd be getting cold again later this next week.


Okay, I'm cold now. )

Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. South wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 28. Windy, with a south wind 5 to 10 mph becoming north between 20 and 25 mph. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.

Thursday: Partly sunny and windy, with a high near 32.

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 15.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 31.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 16.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 37.

15?! 
ACK!!  And the lowest high in December was still above 40!  Days entirely below freezing do happen, but it's usually wet and yucky and doesn't get a whole lot colder at night.  Helloooo Arctic airmass!  (No, I won't die, and I know it. :p  But notice this is another cold "snap" that doesn't go away quickly, even with full sun. Most unusual.)


Ooh, this is interesting; it's our "climate narrative" for December, verbatim from the National Weather Service:
FREQUENT COLD FRONTS KEPT TEMPERATURES BELOW NORMAL THROUGHOUT MUCHOF DECEMBER. AT DFW AIRPORT...THERE WERE 19 DAYS WITH HIGHS IN THE40S. THE NORMAL HIGH FOR DECEMBER IS 59.1 DEGREES. THE MONTHLY MEANTEMPERATURE WAS A FULL 4 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL...PLACING AS THE 11THCOLDEST DECEMBER ON RECORD.
ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS...WINTRY PRECIPITATION ACCOMPANIED THE COLDWEATHER. SNOW FELL ACROSS PORTIONS OF NORTH TEXAS ON DECEMBER 2 ANDACROSS PORTIONS OF CENTRAL TEXAS ON DECEMBER 4. MORE EVENTS FOLLOWEDFROM CHRISTMAS EVE TO NEW YEARS EVE.ON DECEMBER 24...RARE BLIZZARD CONDITIONS IMPACTED AREAS MAINLYNORTHWEST OF THE DALLAS/FORT WORTH METROPLEX. SOME LOCATIONSRECEIVED AS MUCH AS 9 INCHES OF SNOW...FROM JACKSBORO...TO BOWIE...TO NORTHWESTERN COOKE COUNTY. WINDS GUSTED OVER 50 MPH...WITH DRIFTSAS HIGH AS 3 TO 5 FEET. PORTIONS OF HIGHWAY 287 BETWEEN DECATUR ANDWICHITA FALLS WERE IMPASSABLE FROM CHRISTMAS EVE INTO THE MORNING OFCHRISTMAS DAY. FOR DALLAS/FORT WORTH...THE OFFICIAL SNOWFALL FOR THEEVENT WAS 3 INCHES...SMALL IN COMPARISON TO TOTALS JUST 50 MILES TOTHE NORTHWEST. BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST MEASURABLE SNOW ON RECORD FORCHRISTMAS EVE...AND MANY AREAS HAD CONSIDERABLE SNOW REMAINING ONTHE GROUND THROUGHOUT CHRISTMAS DAY.ADDITIONAL SNOW EVENTS FOLLOWED ON DECEMBER 29 AND 31. PORTIONS OFMONTAGUE COUNTY MAINTAINED SNOWCOVER FROM CHRISTMAS EVE THROUGH NEWYEARS EVE.FOR DALLAS/FORT WORTH...THE 3.2 INCHES FOR THE MONTH WAS THE 2NDHIGHEST TOTAL ON RECORD FOR DECEMBER...BESTED ONLY BY THE 5.5 INCHESRECORDED ON DECEMBER 9, 1898.
DESPITE THE ABUNDANT SNOWFALL...THE PRECIPITATION TOTAL FOR THEMONTH WAS BELOW NORMAL. IT WAS THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE MONTH WITHBELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION...BUT DFW AIRPORT ENDED THE YEAR ABOVENORMAL.

Wow! We set a record for December snowfall, and are only behind a record set back in 1898!


I've got MacLean on the brain, mostly thanks to Jordi already. (Yay for more MacLean movies!) It doesn't help that Daddy put down "Ice Station Zebra" as an answer to the category "Things That Are Cold" when we played Scattergories on New Year's Eve.  So I'm thinking this may turn out to be our Ice Station Zebra winter. :P

 

nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Nhi Vanye i Chya)

[livejournal.com profile] jordannamorgan just posted about the cold snap her part of Florida will be having, and that reminded me that my mother mentioned that our forecast said we'd be getting cold again later this next week.


Okay, I'm cold now. )

Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. South wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 28. Windy, with a south wind 5 to 10 mph becoming north between 20 and 25 mph. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.

Thursday: Partly sunny and windy, with a high near 32.

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 15.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 31.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 16.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 37.

15?! 
ACK!!  And the lowest high in December was still above 40!  Days entirely below freezing do happen, but it's usually wet and yucky and doesn't get a whole lot colder at night.  Helloooo Arctic airmass!  (No, I won't die, and I know it. :p  But notice this is another cold "snap" that doesn't go away quickly, even with full sun. Most unusual.)


Ooh, this is interesting; it's our "climate narrative" for December, verbatim from the National Weather Service:
FREQUENT COLD FRONTS KEPT TEMPERATURES BELOW NORMAL THROUGHOUT MUCHOF DECEMBER. AT DFW AIRPORT...THERE WERE 19 DAYS WITH HIGHS IN THE40S. THE NORMAL HIGH FOR DECEMBER IS 59.1 DEGREES. THE MONTHLY MEANTEMPERATURE WAS A FULL 4 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL...PLACING AS THE 11THCOLDEST DECEMBER ON RECORD.
ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS...WINTRY PRECIPITATION ACCOMPANIED THE COLDWEATHER. SNOW FELL ACROSS PORTIONS OF NORTH TEXAS ON DECEMBER 2 ANDACROSS PORTIONS OF CENTRAL TEXAS ON DECEMBER 4. MORE EVENTS FOLLOWEDFROM CHRISTMAS EVE TO NEW YEARS EVE.ON DECEMBER 24...RARE BLIZZARD CONDITIONS IMPACTED AREAS MAINLYNORTHWEST OF THE DALLAS/FORT WORTH METROPLEX. SOME LOCATIONSRECEIVED AS MUCH AS 9 INCHES OF SNOW...FROM JACKSBORO...TO BOWIE...TO NORTHWESTERN COOKE COUNTY. WINDS GUSTED OVER 50 MPH...WITH DRIFTSAS HIGH AS 3 TO 5 FEET. PORTIONS OF HIGHWAY 287 BETWEEN DECATUR ANDWICHITA FALLS WERE IMPASSABLE FROM CHRISTMAS EVE INTO THE MORNING OFCHRISTMAS DAY. FOR DALLAS/FORT WORTH...THE OFFICIAL SNOWFALL FOR THEEVENT WAS 3 INCHES...SMALL IN COMPARISON TO TOTALS JUST 50 MILES TOTHE NORTHWEST. BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST MEASURABLE SNOW ON RECORD FORCHRISTMAS EVE...AND MANY AREAS HAD CONSIDERABLE SNOW REMAINING ONTHE GROUND THROUGHOUT CHRISTMAS DAY.ADDITIONAL SNOW EVENTS FOLLOWED ON DECEMBER 29 AND 31. PORTIONS OFMONTAGUE COUNTY MAINTAINED SNOWCOVER FROM CHRISTMAS EVE THROUGH NEWYEARS EVE.FOR DALLAS/FORT WORTH...THE 3.2 INCHES FOR THE MONTH WAS THE 2NDHIGHEST TOTAL ON RECORD FOR DECEMBER...BESTED ONLY BY THE 5.5 INCHESRECORDED ON DECEMBER 9, 1898.
DESPITE THE ABUNDANT SNOWFALL...THE PRECIPITATION TOTAL FOR THEMONTH WAS BELOW NORMAL. IT WAS THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE MONTH WITHBELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION...BUT DFW AIRPORT ENDED THE YEAR ABOVENORMAL.

Wow! We set a record for December snowfall, and are only behind a record set back in 1898!


I've got MacLean on the brain, mostly thanks to Jordi already. (Yay for more MacLean movies!) It doesn't help that Daddy put down "Ice Station Zebra" as an answer to the category "Things That Are Cold" when we played Scattergories on New Year's Eve.  So I'm thinking this may turn out to be our Ice Station Zebra winter. :P

 

nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Default)
This time I'm quick with another Alistair MacLean review!  In the past year I've pretty much exhausted his pre-1970 books.  Now I'm working my way through the later ones. (Complete list and links here.)  I'm not bothering to read them in order, since by most accounts their quality, although uniformly poor in comparison to his previous excellence, varies.  I'd rather go in with poor expectations and be surprised.

To be entirely frank, I'm getting this review out of the way because I'm wanting to ramble. As I've read more and more MacLeans, I'm really beginning to grasp the depth and variety and consistencies of his work.  In addition, there are certain allegations on the Wikipedia MacLean article that I want to address.

Athabasca )
nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Default)
This time I'm quick with another Alistair MacLean review!  In the past year I've pretty much exhausted his pre-1970 books.  Now I'm working my way through the later ones. (Complete list and links here.)  I'm not bothering to read them in order, since by most accounts their quality, although uniformly poor in comparison to his previous excellence, varies.  I'd rather go in with poor expectations and be surprised.

To be entirely frank, I'm getting this review out of the way because I'm wanting to ramble. As I've read more and more MacLeans, I'm really beginning to grasp the depth and variety and consistencies of his work.  In addition, there are certain allegations on the Wikipedia MacLean article that I want to address.

Athabasca )
nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Dangerous Books)
I've had a few friends-list additions (Yay!) since I last wrote about Alistair MacLean, one of my Favorite Authors Evah. To sum up, since explaining would take too long, he wrote action/adventure/spy novels from the 1950s to the 1980s. They particularly appeal to me because they (1) are really exciting, (2) are complexly and carefully plotted, (3) have really good characters, (4) are written with exquisite and delightful language and wording, (5) have no more profanity than would be found in a typical 1930's mystery, and (6) have the perfect touch of romance while lacking any sexual language, double entendres, or escapades whatsoever.

The primary drawback to MacLean's writing is that reasons (1)-(4) are not consistent throughout his books. He became an alcoholic, and I understand that's the primary reason why his writing declined so strikingly. I am a compulsive, extremely fast reader of fiction, but my experiences with his work range from I'm-staying-up-til-4-to-finish to I'm-finally-finished-and-I-can't-remember-what-happened. It's really sad. Thankfully, the good stuff outweighs the bad, and even his "bad" is bad only in comparison.

Below I freely adapt text and lists from Wikipedia, where I learned just why my reader experiences varied so widely when I was first trying to find his stuff. (I don't think it's in print - go for used paperbacks and the library.) The breakdown into periods and styles are generalizations, but reasonably accurate and fairly useful.  The links are to my reviews.  I have read all the ones in bold.



Now that I've set the stage, here are two more reviews. Bro. No. 1 gave me a gift certificate to the used book store for Christmas, so a couple weeks ago I went on a spree and got about a dozen books. Among them were When Eight Bells Toll and Puppet on a Chain.





nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Dangerous Books)
I've had a few friends-list additions (Yay!) since I last wrote about Alistair MacLean, one of my Favorite Authors Evah. To sum up, since explaining would take too long, he wrote action/adventure/spy novels from the 1950s to the 1980s. They particularly appeal to me because they (1) are really exciting, (2) are complexly and carefully plotted, (3) have really good characters, (4) are written with exquisite and delightful language and wording, (5) have no more profanity than would be found in a typical 1930's mystery, and (6) have the perfect touch of romance while lacking any sexual language, double entendres, or escapades whatsoever.

The primary drawback to MacLean's writing is that reasons (1)-(4) are not consistent throughout his books. He became an alcoholic, and I understand that's the primary reason why his writing declined so strikingly. I am a compulsive, extremely fast reader of fiction, but my experiences with his work range from I'm-staying-up-til-4-to-finish to I'm-finally-finished-and-I-can't-remember-what-happened. It's really sad. Thankfully, the good stuff outweighs the bad, and even his "bad" is bad only in comparison.

Below I freely adapt text and lists from Wikipedia, where I learned just why my reader experiences varied so widely when I was first trying to find his stuff. (I don't think it's in print - go for used paperbacks and the library.) The breakdown into periods and styles are generalizations, but reasonably accurate and fairly useful.  The links are to my reviews.  I have read all the ones in bold.



Now that I've set the stage, here are two more reviews. Bro. No. 1 gave me a gift certificate to the used book store for Christmas, so a couple weeks ago I went on a spree and got about a dozen books. Among them were When Eight Bells Toll and Puppet on a Chain.





Circus

26 July 2007 09:08 pm
nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Default)
I found this book waiting for me in a PaperBackSwap package when I got home one day last week.  By lunch the next day, I'd finished it.

Alistair MacLean's Circus

Published in 1975, Circus is one of MacLean's last, and poorest, set of novels.  I'm glad to report, however, that it was a very enjoyable read.  It's not up to the technical standards of his earliest novels, but I liked it better than The Way to Dusty Death.

Bruno Wildermann and his two younger brothers are known as the Blind Eagles, a group of extremely skillful trapeze and high-wire experts who perform blindfolded.  Bruno is the linchpin of the act, being in addition borderline clairvoyant and having a literally photographic memory.  The Wildermanns were refugees from Eastern Europe, an unspecified country that seems to be either East Germany or Poland. His combination of skills and his background bring him to the attention of the CIA.  Bruno agrees to break into a high-security prison and research center in the city of "Crau" and memorize/destroy certain plans.

The major criticisms of MacLean's latest period are excessive dialogue, "sagging" prose, poor characterization, and lazy description.  These are the technical standards in which Circus does not measure up; however, it is a long way from being the worst example.  The dialogue is not excessive; I found none of it boring, and some quite amusing.  The quality of the prose did not bother me or lose me, although it could have been sharper.  My biggest criticism is that the antagonists do not quite live up to their menace and their knowledge.  There is a definite reason to account partially for this, albeit is one I cannot reveal.  Nonetheless, they do not even approach the terrifying efficiency and genuine brilliance of their counterparts in The Secret Ways.

MacLean handles the circus setup with quite a bit of skill; I found his descriptions fascinating in and of themselves.  His characters are a little more nebulous than I like, yet they're interesting and I cared about them.  Especially when they... never mind.  Several of Bruno's fellow circus men are quite good creations. Their banter is reminiscent of Hansen, Zabrinkski, and Rawlings in Ice Station Zebra.

Circus might be held up as an example of the old "male writers write helpless females" trope.  I won't go into a discussion of this, since it would be long and rife with spoilers.  Let me just say once again that MacLean uses layers of deception in his work.  In Circus, there are excellent reasons for what he does with his characters (and I'm saying this generally, too), no matter how long it takes to see or how clichéd it seems in the meantime.  In the specific instance, it's unfortunately not shown nor explained as skillfully as it was in the earlier novel that used the same idea.  But it makes very, very good sense.  MacLean is not an author to judge quickly.  Even in 1975 he could be a master of subtlety.

After the initial exposition, things get menacing fast with two murders.  I'll warn you - one is quite grisly, not for the descriptions but for the imagination.  *shudder*  Nonetheless, after Fear Is the Key and The Satan Bug, the relative lack of grimness in Circus is a relief.  It gets worse, trust me, but it's not a numbing grief or paralyzing fear that permeate the entire book.  He hasn't lost the humorous touch by any means.

A very minor aside: I'm amused that the highest-up CIA man shown is an admiral.  In The Hunt for Red October, James Greer of the CIA (played by James Earl Jones) is also an admiral.  Note: It's a departure for MacLean to use the CIA, although he used quite a few Americans in Ice Station Zebra and did them well.  I think the whole premise necessitated it.

I think I'd like to start including excerpts in my reviews.  It's always great to get an idea of an author's style, even at its less-than-brilliant moments.  In this excerpt (not necessarily the best, just the one that came to mind), a certain Colonel Sergius is having to deal with Alex, a less-than-successful... employee.

Sergius sighed.  "Alas, it was ever thus.  I am left to fight on virtually alone.  All the decisions have to be made, all the thinking has to be done by a senior officer, which is no doubt why I am a senior officer."  A false modesty was not one of Sergius's besetting sins.  "Our Bruno Wildermann is clever, he may also be dangerous.  He suspected, only he knows how, that he was under surveillance and put his suspicions to the test.  He had this man Roebuck standing by to follow whoever might follow him.  This would make Roebuck--and, by implication, the other two--something just a little bit more than friends.  Roebuck followed Alex.  He didn't go to borrow money, he went to inform Bruno that he, Bruno, had been followed by a man with a black coat, black moustache, very stupid."  He bestowed a pitying glance on the crest-fallen shadower.  "I don't suppose it ever occurred to you, Alex, to look over your shoulder?  Just once?"

"I'm sorry, Colonel."

Sergius gave him a look more commonly associated with a starving crocodile which has just spotted lunch.

Circus

26 July 2007 09:08 pm
nuranar: Hortense Bonaparte. La reine Hortense sous une tonnelle à Aix-les-Bains (1813) by Antoine Jean Duclaux. (Default)
I found this book waiting for me in a PaperBackSwap package when I got home one day last week.  By lunch the next day, I'd finished it.

Alistair MacLean's Circus

Published in 1975, Circus is one of MacLean's last, and poorest, set of novels.  I'm glad to report, however, that it was a very enjoyable read.  It's not up to the technical standards of his earliest novels, but I liked it better than The Way to Dusty Death.

Bruno Wildermann and his two younger brothers are known as the Blind Eagles, a group of extremely skillful trapeze and high-wire experts who perform blindfolded.  Bruno is the linchpin of the act, being in addition borderline clairvoyant and having a literally photographic memory.  The Wildermanns were refugees from Eastern Europe, an unspecified country that seems to be either East Germany or Poland. His combination of skills and his background bring him to the attention of the CIA.  Bruno agrees to break into a high-security prison and research center in the city of "Crau" and memorize/destroy certain plans.

The major criticisms of MacLean's latest period are excessive dialogue, "sagging" prose, poor characterization, and lazy description.  These are the technical standards in which Circus does not measure up; however, it is a long way from being the worst example.  The dialogue is not excessive; I found none of it boring, and some quite amusing.  The quality of the prose did not bother me or lose me, although it could have been sharper.  My biggest criticism is that the antagonists do not quite live up to their menace and their knowledge.  There is a definite reason to account partially for this, albeit is one I cannot reveal.  Nonetheless, they do not even approach the terrifying efficiency and genuine brilliance of their counterparts in The Secret Ways.

MacLean handles the circus setup with quite a bit of skill; I found his descriptions fascinating in and of themselves.  His characters are a little more nebulous than I like, yet they're interesting and I cared about them.  Especially when they... never mind.  Several of Bruno's fellow circus men are quite good creations. Their banter is reminiscent of Hansen, Zabrinkski, and Rawlings in Ice Station Zebra.

Circus might be held up as an example of the old "male writers write helpless females" trope.  I won't go into a discussion of this, since it would be long and rife with spoilers.  Let me just say once again that MacLean uses layers of deception in his work.  In Circus, there are excellent reasons for what he does with his characters (and I'm saying this generally, too), no matter how long it takes to see or how clichéd it seems in the meantime.  In the specific instance, it's unfortunately not shown nor explained as skillfully as it was in the earlier novel that used the same idea.  But it makes very, very good sense.  MacLean is not an author to judge quickly.  Even in 1975 he could be a master of subtlety.

After the initial exposition, things get menacing fast with two murders.  I'll warn you - one is quite grisly, not for the descriptions but for the imagination.  *shudder*  Nonetheless, after Fear Is the Key and The Satan Bug, the relative lack of grimness in Circus is a relief.  It gets worse, trust me, but it's not a numbing grief or paralyzing fear that permeate the entire book.  He hasn't lost the humorous touch by any means.

A very minor aside: I'm amused that the highest-up CIA man shown is an admiral.  In The Hunt for Red October, James Greer of the CIA (played by James Earl Jones) is also an admiral.  Note: It's a departure for MacLean to use the CIA, although he used quite a few Americans in Ice Station Zebra and did them well.  I think the whole premise necessitated it.

I think I'd like to start including excerpts in my reviews.  It's always great to get an idea of an author's style, even at its less-than-brilliant moments.  In this excerpt (not necessarily the best, just the one that came to mind), a certain Colonel Sergius is having to deal with Alex, a less-than-successful... employee.

Sergius sighed.  "Alas, it was ever thus.  I am left to fight on virtually alone.  All the decisions have to be made, all the thinking has to be done by a senior officer, which is no doubt why I am a senior officer."  A false modesty was not one of Sergius's besetting sins.  "Our Bruno Wildermann is clever, he may also be dangerous.  He suspected, only he knows how, that he was under surveillance and put his suspicions to the test.  He had this man Roebuck standing by to follow whoever might follow him.  This would make Roebuck--and, by implication, the other two--something just a little bit more than friends.  Roebuck followed Alex.  He didn't go to borrow money, he went to inform Bruno that he, Bruno, had been followed by a man with a black coat, black moustache, very stupid."  He bestowed a pitying glance on the crest-fallen shadower.  "I don't suppose it ever occurred to you, Alex, to look over your shoulder?  Just once?"

"I'm sorry, Colonel."

Sergius gave him a look more commonly associated with a starving crocodile which has just spotted lunch.

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