Forgotten Books – comfort reading

It has been a stress-filled time of late, and when bad things happen, or sad news comes, or times are difficult, I turn to comfort reading to help me through.


Comfort reading, for me, means reliable authors, favorite books, fairly easygoing plots and at least some likable characters. I don’t want it too dark, or noir, gritty, or grim. I don’t want horror, or true crime or serial killers. If there’s a bad guy, I want him to get his just desserts. I don’t want to read about a dystopia.

That doesn’t mean it all has to be Farmer McFriendly of Happy Valley, but I like to have had a positive feeling upon reading the last page.

Some of the things I turn to for comfort reading are short stories, and my first go-to is Sherlock Holmes. They can be, often are, the canon – the stories written by Conan Doyle – but I’m fine with good pastiches as well. For other mystery comfort reading, I think of two things: softer mysteries and hard-boiled. For the former, I turn to Christie, Patricia Moyes, Peter Robinson, W.J. Burley (Wycliffe novels), Ian Rankin. For the latter I like Bill Pronzini, Jonathan Valin, Joe Gores, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, and both Ross Macdonald and John D. McDonald.  Then of course there are the Mike Shayne books, and the ones featuring Shell Scott and Gardner’s Perry Mason novels. Somewhere between are favorite authors Louise Penny and William Kent Krueger. I find Krieger especially good for re-reading.

But as much as I like comfort mystery reading, it’s to science fiction and fantasy that I most frequently turn. As often as not I want old-fashioned science fiction stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Christopher Anvil and other favorites. If I’m reading novels, I like easy going such as Heinlein’s juveniles, and the Rolling Stones books, or something by Hal Clement or Isaac Asimov. I have to admit, though, that my first instinct, when I want to crawl inside a book and escape the world is to pick up one of the Pern book by Anne McCaffrey. I’ve read all the books several times, but never get tired of rejoining the characters and situations in them.

As for fantasy, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can’t be beat, but I also am very fond of other fantasy series, including The Belgariad by David Eddings, the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques, the Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber, the Conan stories by Robert Howard, the Books of Swords by Fred Saberhagen, as well as his Empire of the East

Last but certainly not least when it comes to comfort reading are some books that may be consider YA or young reader books. I gladly pick up Wind in the Willows, Duncton Wood by William Horwood, Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams and a host of others.

Right now? I’m reading some Sherlock Holmes stories, pastiches, and letting myself drift back to London in the mid 1890s. Ahhh.

How about you? What are your “comfort read” books and authors?

Posted in Fantasy, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories | 23 Comments



Allie (2002-2016)

Full of energy, golden eyes glowing as she raced around the house.
Purring softly as she curled up with us at night.
Loudly exclaiming in her half-Siamese voice when it was dinner time,
or about a bird outside the window,
or just that she wanted attention.

We called her Allikin, we loved her dearly, she loved us back.
Now she’s gone, free of the pain she’s had recently from old age and cancer.
God bless her.
All cats go to heaven. She’s there now.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 31 Comments

Current Reading: Thanksgiving week

reading-turkeyI don’t know about you, but for me the week of Thanksgiving is either a great time to do some reading, or there doesn’t seem to be time to do any at all. This year it was the latter, and the best I managed for the entire week was a handful of short stories.

There was plenty of housework, cooking, football watching and all the usual Thanksgiving activities, but I rarely found myself with a book in my hand.

Barbara did better. She had finished Gone and Lost Forever last time and was waiting for Henning Mankell’s One Step Behind, which came from the library. She’s about a quarter way in right now, and – of course – enjoying it.

What about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 26 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving-pilgrims-wyeth_1940Though we celebrate the day once annually, I try to be thankful throughout the year, not always successfully. This has been a tough year for me and for us all, but there is much for which to be thankful. Here are a few of them:

  • give-thanksMy family, especially my wife
  • Our friends
  • Our home and living in the Pacific Northwest
  • My health, such as it is. That I can see, speak, hear, smell and feel
  • The cats
  • That I can read, and for books, bookstores and libraries
  • The garden, and the ability to plant, grow, prune, and enjoy it every day
  • Art in it’s many forms: painting, music, drawing, writing, sculpture, quilts
  • All the people who have blogs that I enjoy every day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

I’ll be taking the Thanksgiving weekend off. See you Monday with a Current Reading post.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 7 Comments

Current Reading: Raoul Whitfield, Gardner Dozios

jp-garI finished Valiant, Dog of Timberline, by Jack O’Brien, and the first two of the Dream Park novels (see last Friday’s FFB post).

I couldn’t seem to get interested in another novel, I’m reading short stories. I started the collection West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar by Raoul Whitfield (from Altus Press). Chock full of stories and two shortish novels from the pages of Black Mask Magazine. I’ve liked the Whitfield I’ve read in the past, so I expect to like this.

The other short story collection – anthology really – is Worldmakers, SF Adventures in Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozios. So I’ll be alternating between pulp detective stories and SF adventures. I may throw in a few Sherlock Holmes stories too. That should keep me interested.

lost-and-gone-foreverBarbara finished Lost and Gone Forever, by Alex Grecian, the latest in the novels of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad. It’s a series she really likes. She says she can’t wait for the next one.

Now she’s waiting for a Henning Mankell novel that should be available at the library any day now. Meanwhile, she’s catching up on sewing for her daughter, some quilting, and Thanksgiving planning.

What about you? What are you reading?

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 38 Comments

Friday Forgotten Book – the first two Dream Park novels by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

There are four novels in the Dream Park series. This Friday Forgotten review addresses the first two of them, written in 1981 and 1988.

dream-parkDream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, Ace Books, April 1981, mass market paperback, science fiction – fantasy

This is the first book in the series, originally written as a standalone novel. By Niven’s assessment, the book was written as a lark as much as anything else; the authors had fun creating the setting and inventing their (1981 version) of a futuristic live role playing game (RPG) filled with computer inputs, holographs, live actors, masterful scenic and computer-generated environments. Technical advancements since the book was written show both how insightful the authors were, and how off the mark many of their guesses turned out to be.

In Dream Park, in addition to the theme park aspects of rides, displays, restaurants and so on there are several “gaming areas”. This is where a group of people, who have paid for the privilege of participating, gather to play a game created by a Game Master and led by a Lore Master. The games are adventures lasting from one to four days, in a setting as real to them as everyday life, but created by the Game Master with computer code. There are challenges, battles,  goals, etc. Players score points with their performance. Player can be “killed out” in battles and have to retire from the game. The objective is to attain a treasure or object within the time limit.

In this novel, the game master, Lopez, has set up a South Seas Treasure Hunt. The Lore Master, Henderson, and a dozen players battle natives, zombies, mythic beasts, snakes and so on to make their way through the jungle, out to the coast, past a volcano and to the location of the Cargo, which is the prize. A backstory is that there is a fierce rivalry between Lopez and Henderson which affects game play.

The overreaching plot is a murder investigation, carried out by Griffin, the chief of Dream Park security. Because it’s known that one of the game players is suspected, but not which one, the security chief has to enter the game to find the killer.

barsoom-projectI’m not – have never been – a gamer, so I can’t speak to that aspect of the book, but I enjoyed it in spite of the outdated tech.

The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, Ace Books, April 1988, mass market paperback, science fiction – fantasy. Reprinted by Tor Books.

Written seven years later, the tech in this book is updated only a little, intentionally. The authors say in the introduction they didn’t want to mess with the original concept too much. This book has only a few characters carried over, and is pretty much a standalone novel.

This one has more politics, since the Barsoom Project is an effort to set up an international starter colony on Mars, including terraforming. The gaming aspect is overshadowed by an “accidental” murder in a previous game. I think the authors tried hard to make the book more of a murder mystery than the first one was, with modest success.

There are a lot of different types of games shown off in this book, but the general idea is the same: live players competing against a Game Master to achieve a goal, with a secondary story of the murder, how it could have happened, who might have allowed it to happen, and how that affects everyone.

This one is, like the first, a fast read and your enjoyment of it may depend on your level of interest in both RPG gaming and the solving of the mystery within the Dream Park setting.

The series:

  • Dream Park (1981)
  • The Barsoom Project (1988)
  • The Voodoo Game (1991)
  • The Moon Maze Game (2011)
Posted in Friday Forgotten Books, Science Fiction | 6 Comments

Current Reading: Cartmel, Niven, Grecian

dream-parkReading has been a little problematic lately, there have been computer problems, migraines and other medical stuff, stress (much of it election-related), other projects, lack of energy. For several days I read a handful of Star Wars graphic novels (X-Wing Rogue Squadron series) for comfort reading, along with Valiant, Dog of Timberline, one of the several dog books I bought last spring. That was about all I could bother with.

Finally, I finished Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel, the first Vinyl Detective novel. There were times while reading it when I thought ‘I wish I was enjoying this more’ but that didn’t stop me from continuing to read and in the end I liked it. I’ll read the next book in the series, though not right away as I have too much else on my reading plate.

Now I’m reading Dream Park by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes. I’m at the 100 page point, and as I was expecting good, not great I’m not disappointed, since that what I’m getting. I’m reading it because a friend sent me the 2nd book in the series, The Barsoom Project, and I thought I should read this one first.

lost-and-gone-foreverBarbara is still reading Lost and Gone Forever, by Alex Grecian, the latest in the novels of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad. It’s a series she’s been enjoying a lot.

What about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 32 Comments


I was able to go to an early October backup of the hard drive on the MacBook Pro and restore functionality to before I switched to Sierra. It appears I can now receive email to my Comcast account again, and that’s my preferred e-addy.

I plan to cobble together some sort of current reading post tomorrow to go up late Sunday night.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 6 Comments

No FFB this week


Happy Veteran’s Day.

I’ve been kinda stressed lately, what with one thing and another, and I don’t have anything old and possibly forgotten to review or share.

I have been doing some reading, so hopefully I’ll have something next week.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Short Stories | 8 Comments

Fall Color is Fading


click picture for full size

The Fall color is almost gone. The tree in the picture at right is now bare.

We’ve had a lot rain and wind that’s knocked the leaves down, and we’ve been picking them up for what seems like weeks now. So we’re in clean-up-the-yard mode.

We treated ourselves to a nice lunch Wednesday afternoon, and then went to a nursery and bought some Pansies. Thursday we’ll plant them, and maybe I’ll cut back the Hydrangeas.

I finished a book, and I’m halfway through another one. I’ve started a third, and read a Star Wars graphic novel.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 8 Comments