Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween



May You Have A Fun And Safe Halloween Night!

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah


Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

"I'm a dead woman, or I shall be soon..."

Hercule Poirot's quit supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him tat she is about to be murdered.  She is terrified - but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer.  Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London hotel have been murdered, and a monogrammed cufflink has been placed in ache one's mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman?  While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim....

This is not going to be a very long review. In actuality, I could probably do it in a sentence or two, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be fair to anyone involved.  So I'm going to at least try to get a paragraph or two out of it, albeit short ones.

I guess when it comes down to it, this was not an Agatha Christie book, nor was it really Hercule Poirot dwelling among the pages.  I'm not sure how high my expectations were going into it, but I'm pretty sure they didn't comes close to being met.  I don't have a lot of experience with literary pastiches, but the few I have read, were more like they were having fun with an author's style, not trying to imitate it.  I think the author tried to hard, and didn't allow herself to play around with the way Agatha Christie wrote, or in how she treated Hercule Poirot.  In the end I was left with a book that wasn't all that fun to read, didn't feel like an Agatha Christie mystery, and gave a pale imitation of Poirot. This wasn't the Poirot I've developed a rather complicated love/hate relationship with over the years.  It was a shadow of the man, they shared a name, maybe a phrase of two, but that's about it. To be fair, had the author taken the more playful route, I'm not sure I would have been any happier, but I think I would have enjoyed the book more.

Now had the author chose to release this book as a standalone mystery, with no ties to the world created by Agatha Christie, I think I would have been able to get into the story a bit more, and maybe even grown to like it.  It's not a mystery I would ever call a favorite, or try to bully all my friends into reading, but it was a solid piece of work, that didn't have huge gaping holes in it's logic.  However, I was so distracted by the whole Agatha Christie thing, that I was never able to let go and lose myself in the story.

The one truly redeeming aspect of this book, the one thing I will take away from it in a positive way, is that I really did enjoy Edward Catchpool.  He's not Hastings, but I think he held his own against this version of Poirot, and had this been a  book with him as the starring detective, I know I would have liked it more.  I would hope that the author would choose to go forward with him, and if she does, I'll look forward to spending more time with him.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book, even if my review is way late.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice


Part Of The Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the incredible true story of the Igorrotes, a group of "headhunting, dog-eating savages" from the Philippines, taken to New York in 1905 by the charming, opportunistic doctor-turned-showman Truman K. Hunt.  They appeared as "human exhibits" alongside the freaks and the curiosities at Coney Island's Luna Park.  Millions of fairgoers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near nudity, tattoos, and tales of headhunting.  The Igorrotes became a national sensation - they were written up in newspaper headlines, portrayed in cartoons, and even featured in advertising jingles, all fueled by Hunt's brilliant publicity stunts.

By the end of that first summer season at Coney, the sideshow scheme had made Hunt a rich man.  But he was also a man who liked to live large, and his fortune was dwarfed only by his ability to spend it.  Soon he would be on the run with the tribe in tow, pursued by ex-wives, creditors, and the tireless agents of American justice.

I think you guys are going to view me as slightly schizophrenic after reading my thoughts on this one.  If you have been reading the blog for any length of time, and I apologize for my absence over the last month, you guys know I'm a huge fan of nonfiction in general, and that I adore narrative nonfiction.  With all of that, you would assume that I would have loved The Lost Tribe of Coney Island.  Sadly, I didn't.

I found the subject to be fascinated, and even laughed out loud a few times as I was reading it.  I also really enjoyed the author's writing style, and her word flow.  Where my hang-up lies, is in the fact that there was almost too much of the narrative nonfiction, and not enough of a pure nonfiction vibe going on.  Now I know that won't make sense outside of my own head, and I apologize for that, but after thinking about it for a while, that's about the only way I can describe it.  In a nutshell, it read too much like a historical fiction book, and not enough like a history book.

For me, and this is about my taste, there was too much license taken with the minute details in the book.  The way someone stood, or what they were thinking or said in a particular moment, where there is really no historical data to back it up.  I'm sure it's all based on something, but it felt as if I was watching a movie based on an actual event, not a documentary.

As I said, it's all in what I look for in a nonfiction book, and I'm sure there are plenty out there that would have no issue with it.  And in all fairness, I rarely ever like a historical fiction novel, which this book reminded me of.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ten Sexiest Vampires On Film, Take 6


I know I've been rather M.I.A. on the blog this month, but work has been kicking my ass.  Just to give you an example, in a span of five days, I worked 65 hours.  I'm exhausted.

Regardless or how tired I am, there was one post I knew I had to do before the month was over. There was no way I was going to let this year go by, and not do my annual list of the sexiest vampires to grace the screen.  Over the last six years, it's become one of my Halloween traditions.  

For those of you who haven't been keeping score over the years, please visit the lists I did for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Now that we got that out of the way, how about we feast our eyes on some gorgeous vamps.

THE MEN


Michael Corvin, as played by Scott Speedman in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution.  Half vampire, half lycan, and all man, Michael Corvin isn't someone you would want to mess with.


Marcus Van Sciver, as played by Neil Jackson in Blade: The Series.  Ruthlessness and drop dead gorgeous, makes a winning combination for Marcus in all his dealing.


Brother Silus, as played by Dougray Scott in Perfect Creature.  Born into a society where vampires are born to human mothers, Brother Silas is to be respected and feared, especially when dealing with a rogue.


Richard Wirth, as played by Michael Fassbender in Blood Creek.  I have to admit Richard is one hot vampire, but I think I'd be running the other way if this Nazi monster came towards me.


Steven Grlscz, as played by Jude Law in The Wisdom of Crocodiles.  All he wants is love, it's not his fault that they keep dying on him.

THE WOMEN


Erika, as played by Sophia Myles in Underworld.  Beautiful and seductive, and yet unable to get the man she wanted.


Sasha, as played by Brigid Brannagh in Kindred: The Embraced.  Looked over by the Ventrue Prince of the city, turned by a Brujah thug, and in love with a Gangrel Primogen, Sasha has divided loyalties.  Too bad she's not even sure where her ultimate loyalty belongs.


Katrina, as played by Sheryl Lee in Vampires.  It's always amazing to me how many women of the night, actually get turned into the real deal.


Regine Dandridge, as played by Julie Carmen in Fright Night 2.  Bent on revenge for the death of her brother, Regine isn't shy about using her feminine wiles to reach her goal.


Clara, as played by Gemma Arterton in Byzantium.  She wanted to be left alone to care for her daughter, it's a shame she has to keep killing those who get in her way.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Thinning Years by Jon Derek Croteau


Synopsis From Back Cover:

As a child, Jon Derek Croteau tried desperately to be his father's version of the all-American boy, denying his gayness in a futile attempt to earn the love and respect of an abusive man.  With this he built a deep, internalized homophobia that made him want to disappear rather than live with the truth about himself.  That denial played out in the form of anorexia, bulimia, and obsessive running, which consumed his as an adolescent and young adult.

It wasn't until a grueling yet transformative Outward Bound experience that Jon began to face his sexual identity. This exploration continued during college, and he started the serious work of sorting through years of repressed anger to separate from his father's control and condemnation.

My Thinning Years is an inspiring story of courage, creativity, and the will to live - and of recreating the definition of family to include friends, relatives, and teachers who support you in realizing your true self.

Going into it, I knew this was going to be a hard book for me to read.  I think I even said no a few times, before finally agreeing to review the book.  And now that I'm sitting down, in front of my computer, typing up my review, part of me is wishing that I had gone ahead with my first instinct.  This was a hard book to read, it brought a lot of long buried emotions to the forefront, and it's left me feeling a little drained.  At the end of the day though, I'm glad I took the time to read it. It was a hard journey, but at the end of it all, like all stories of it's kind, it's as life affirming as anything else you will come across.

I didn't face the same issues Jon did, my father wasn't around and I never looked down on myself for being gay, but that doesn't mean I had it easy.  I think like many GBLT kids, I had a hard time dealing with what I was feeling, and couldn't understand all the thoughts running through my head.  For years I would pray before I went to bed, that if my being gay was wrong, I would rather die in my sleep.  I didn't want to be gay, I didn't understand why I was gay, but I knew I was from a young age, and over time, I grew to accept it.  I still wrestled with depression and contemplated suicide a few times.  I even went as far as making some half-hearted attempts at cutting my wrist with a pair of scissors.  But in the end, through some early acceptance of a few trusted people, I grew to realize that the only choice I had was in accepting my sexuality, or living a miserable life denying it.

Reading, or hearing, another's story, tends to bring all those long buried emotions back to the surface.  It's the reason why I initially turned down the invitation to read this book, those aren't pleasant memories, and I don't particularly like remembering them.  But I think what Jon did, what any of us do when we share our stories, is reaffirm an essential truth; that our lives are worth something, that regardless of the journey that was forced upon us, that the end result it worth all the pain, regardless of it was self inflicted or imposed on us by others.  By sharing his story, Jon has reaffirmed that an honest life is worth living, being true to yourself is the worthiest life goal there is.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers


Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children.  Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, and was drawn to his fiery passion.  But now he's lashing out at her during one of his periodic verbal furies.  She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids - which works to keep a fragile peace - until one rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

August 2nd, 2010, was the day I reviewed The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers.  It was the day I was finally able to wax profusely on how much I loved the book, and how deeply I had fallen in love with the author's narrative voice.  That book is the whole reason I agreed to review Accidents of Marriage, which is not a book I would normally read.  But since I'm just about willing to read anything written by her, even if she had decided to publish her own phone book, there was no way I was going to pass this one up.

To be perfectly frank, if this book had been written by anyone else, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked it at all.  It's not the type of subject matter I normally get caught up in, especially since I always feel as if the husband is being given the short end of the stick in these types of stories.  And to be even more frank about it, while I think this book is written in the same narrative flow that The Murderer's Daughters was written in, I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much.

The difference for me is that I was able to relate to the subject matter in the first book.  It reflected some of my own past, so I got lost in the characters and their stories.  In Accidents of Marriage, I couldn't relate to most of what was going on, and to be even more honest, I found myself siding, if that is even a fair word to use, with Ben most of time.  I think the book was beautifully written, as is anything Randy Susan Meyers chooses to write, but I couldn't find that personal connection to it.

Off the top of my head, I can name about 50 people I know who would love this book, and would be able to connect wit the subject material.  I'm willing to admit that the issue here was me, and my inability to connect, which can not be blamed on the book.  I knew going into it that it probably wouldn't be the book for me, and I was right.  At the same time, I'm glad I read the book, and I would make the same decision over again.  Randy Susan Meyers is a fantastically gifted writer, and she is one that I will always choose to read, regardless of whether or not I end loving it as much as I did The Murderer's Daughters.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Mighty Mouse


I can't believe this will be the last post of my superhero month.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out who I wanted to end with, and I had so many running through my brain.  It was really hard for me to select one, but I ended up going with one that I've loved since I started watching cartoons.  I was so fascinated with this guy, and I loved the idea that he didn't have some complicated back story.  He was Mighty Mouse, no other identity or story was needed.  That's it.  He was a hero all the time.  He was the coolest mouse, and I knew he could kick Mickey Mouses's ass.


If I was being completely honest, I still think Mighty Mouse was way cooler than Superman.  He could do the same things Superman could, but he was so much smaller.  So in my head, that meant Mighty Mouse was stronger, and could kick Superman's butt as well.  Now I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be the case, but I would love to see it happen.  Truth be told, I've never been a huge Superman fan.

The other thing I loved about the cartoons was the way that Mighty Mouse, and most of the characters for that matter, was the way that they sang the entire time. It was this little operatic adventure story, that could enthrall me for long periods of time.  I didn't care about his love interests, mainly because I was too damn young to care,   I didn't even care that much for the villains, most of them were stock cats who were interchangeable.   But the singing, that grabbed, and kept my attention.  

Occasionally I will find an old Mighty Mouse cartoon on TV or as part of a old time cartoon DVD collection, and I'm just as entranced now as I was then.  I wish they still made cartoons like this, instead of the crap that is produced now.  I'm pretty sure cartoons will never be this good again, but the inner child in me, will always wish for it.