Friday, July 30, 2010

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenage boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.
Fantastic.  Amazing.  Brilliant.  Spectacular.  Thrilling.  I could go on and on but I think too many adjectives gets annoying after a while.  This was only my third foray into steam punk and I loved it even more than my first time.  It's rather like sex that way, it's gets better as you gain experience.
Boneshaker is a brilliantly told story of what happens when family secrets start to eat away to the point they have to come out.  The fact that these secrets will shake Briar and her son to the core and force them to deal with zombies, mad scientists, and air pirates while juggling the truth just made it that much better. 
The action is intense and once it gets started it never really slows down.  I can't recall one moment in the book that I found to be boring or dragging.  Thankfully though the action never got in the way of the storytelling.  The author did an amazing job of meshing the action with the journey itself and by the end, both Briar and her son were able to reach a point in their lives where they were able to deal with the past and make a new life for themselves in the future.
I'm slowly getting sucked into the steam punk world and I can't wait for the next experience.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Winner of Never Wave Goodbye by Doug Magee

It's time to annouce the winner of Never Wave Goodbye by Doug Magee.

Congrats to Beverly!

She has 48 hours to email me her address so I can forward to the publicist or a new winner will be picked.

Guest Post Over At The Christmas Spirit

Please head on over to Michelle's The Christmas Spirit to read a guest post I wrote about one of my favorite Christmas movies, "Christmas In Connecticut".

Favorite Fictional Character --- Willow Ufgood

When it comes to big heroes in small packages I will take Willow Ufgood over Frodo Baggins every time.  For those of you who don't know who he is, shame on you, but that's what this post will be all about. 

Willow a Nelwyn farmer, husband, and father who has dreams of being a great sorcerer.  The only problem for him, is that he's scared.  He's scared to fail and that fear keeps him from achieving his dreams and puts him in danger of losing his family farm.  So what is a scared Nelwyn to do when his children find a Daikini (human) baby one the the river bank?  His first reaction is to push the baby back in and let her float down the river to cause someone else problems.  However fate, and his wife, step in and changes the course of his life forever.

That little baby is actually Elora Danan, the girl of the prophecy who is destined to defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda and when Bavmorda's forces arrive in the village looking for the baby, Willow is forced to flee the village and give Elora to the first adult Daikini he sees.  Lucky for him that Daikini is Madmartigan, who agrees to take the baby in exchange for letting him out of a cage.  Not so lucky for him, two brownies steal the baby from Madmartigan which forces Willow to hunt for the baby once again. 

His journey to protect Elora Danan is one filled with wonder and new friends who help him along his way.  But more than that, his journey is one of self discovery and coming into his own.  By facing his fears head on, Willow is able to save the day, but more importantly he finds the courage to be himself and go for his dreams.  When he returns to his village, he comes as a new man.  A man who is able to hold his head up high, provide for his family, and not be scared of failure ever again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 7/26/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

I received a hardcover of The Inheritance by Simon Tolkien but I'm not sure why.  I don't know if it was for a review, a win, or just unsolicited.  Either way I'm going to treat it as a review book.

I received a trade paperbacks of Presidential Risk by Michael Bronte and Homecoming by Jason Garrett for review from Yorkshire Publishing.

I received a trade paperback of A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed from the author for review.

On my trip to Barnes & Noble I bought bargain hardcovers of Journey To The Center of The Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea both by Jules Verne.  They were great deals at $1.79 each though the covers I have are not the ones in the pictures.  I went in to pick up my order of two Perry Mason books.  I got The Case Of The Horrified Heirs in trade paperback and The Case Of The One-Eyed Witness in paperback, both by Erle Stanley Gardner.

On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Shooting Death was a mistake, as Zane soon discovered.  For the man who killed the Incarnation of Death, was immediately forced to assume the vacant position!  Thereafter, he must speed over the world, riding his pale horse, and ending the lives of others.

Zane was forced to accept his unwelcome task, despite the rules that seemed woefully unfair.  But then he found himself being drawn into an evil plot of Satan.  Already the Prince of Evil was forging a trap in which Zane must act to destroy Luna, the woman he loved.

He could see only one possible way to defeat the Father of Lies.  It was unthinkable - but he had no other solution!

This is a reread for me actually, I can't even remember how many times I have read this book or the series it's a part of.  I couldn't even tell you when the first time I read it was.  What I can tell you is that this is a wonderful start to the Incarnations of Immortality series, written by the brilliant Piers Anthony.

The series takes place in a world where science and magic work side by side with each other.  You can take a trip in a state of the art flying car or on a flying carpet.  You can buy a gem to find wealth or love and you better watch out for the dragons as well.  Where this series really sets itself apart though is that basic concepts of Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Good, Evil, and Night are actually offices held by individuals until circumstances takes them out of the job.  Death, which this book explores is held by someone who has to kill the previous office holder, who then becomes Thanatos, the living embodiment of Death.

Zane is a down and out young man with no real prospects ahead of him, he is guilty of a past sin that is weakening him until he is no longer able to live with himself.  On the verge of killing himself, he sees Death walk in and instead of shooting himself, he shoots Death.  From there on out his life will never be the same again.  He has to fight Satan, who is a great salesman, for the life of the woman he loves.  The showdown forces Death to go on strike and only wits and clear thinking allows Zane to come out on top.

This is a brilliant book in an even better series and I'm looking forward to rereading the rest of the series soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Sue Ellen Crandell

What's a 17 year old girl to do when her mother leaves the country for the Summer leaving a iron fisted babysitter in charge of her and her 3 younger siblings?  Even if she can figure that out, how is she supposed to cope when the babysitter drops dead?

Well if she is Sue Ellen Crandell, she stuffs the body in the trunk of a car and drops it off at the morgue, then she tries to have fun only to discover that being the one in charge isn't all fun and games after all.

When the food runs low and the cash disappears Sue Ellen is forced to get a job to make ends meet.  After a failed attempt at fast food, she bluffs her way into a executive assistant position with a uniform supply company.  Using her wits and a lot of luck Sue Ellen quickly becomes an asset to the company and even ends up coming up with the brilliant idea that will save the company.

During that Summer, Sue Ellen fell in love and did a lot of growing up.  She earned the respect of her boss and got the younger kids to act as a cohesive loving family.  She whipped the family into shape and discovered herself along the way.  When the Summer starts, Sue Ellen is a little selfish and overly impulsive, only thinking of what she can get out of the Summer.  By Summer's end, she is a confident, matured young woman who is starting to figure out what to do with her life after high school.  Of course it didn't hurt that she found a cute boy to share her time with.

Sue Ellen is the perfect example of the American teenager on the brink of adulthood who finds themselves having to grow up in ways they never imagined.  The fact that she does it with a style and wit of her own makes her a character to be remembered for generations to come.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Noah's Castle by John Rowe Townsend

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The coming winter was going to be a bad one - and not because of the weather.

Sixteen-year-old Barry Mortimer's life turns upside down when his father suddenly moves the family from their comfortable modern home in the city to a decaying old mansion on the outskirts of town.  Strange and mysterious events follow.

Why isn't anyone allowed to visit their new home?  What is Father doing in the basement and why is he keeping it a secret?

As rumors of skyrocketing prices and food shortages become a full-fledged economic meltdown, Barry's world begins to crumble.  Can his family hold together as a nation collapses around them?

Alright if you have any intention of reading this book, at anytime, please don't continue to read the review.  There is no way I can fully get my feelings about this book across without "spoiling" the plot line for you.  So with that being said, on with the show.

I don't know how else to put this than to say, I hate this book.  Hate it.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing about it I enjoyed.  I actually found myself getting angry while I was reading it.  I was angry at the author for writing such nonsense, angry at the characters for being so unlikeable that I hoped that they would all starve to death, and angry at myself for even agreeing to review this book.  There were a few times I actually wanted to throw the book across the room or in the garbage (which I have never wanted to do in my life) but I restrained myself and forced myself to finish reading the book.  I'm actually getting angry all over again while I'm typing up the review.

Okay, deep breath.  Now that I got that out of my system I will attempt to explain why I feel so strongly about a YA book that is only 211 pages long.  I was expecting a book about a family doing everything they could to survive during a time where food was scarce, and what food was available was rationed out in small portions or was so expensive nobody could afford it.  I was wanting a family that came together to survive the times, a family who loved and trusted each other to put the needs of the family first.  I wanted a story that as a father I could relate too.  Needless to say that's not what this book is about nor is it even close to what I got out of it. 

This book is about a domineering, sexist, jackass of a father who doesn't know how to show love to his family in anyway that most children would recognize.  He treats his wife as a upper level servant who isn't intelligent enough to be brought into his confidence.  He's not all that warm to his children and has no problem emotionally brushing them aside in order to do what he thinks is right.  So when he starts to hoard food and supplies for his family to live off of during the crisis, I agreed with him and knew he was doing the right thing for his family, but I still didn't like him.  When laws are passed by the government making it illegal to hoard food, I'm still backing his decision but part of me wanted him to get caught just to get him off the page.

No matter what I thought of the father though I wasn't prepared for how I would feel about the rest of the family.  The most likable was the wife/mother, but even there I found her to be weak and boring.  She didn't make that much of an impression on me and in the end I didn't care either way.  What really got my goat were the children.  There are 4 of them and while I didn't like any of them, I'm going to focus on Barry and the oldest sister, Nessie.  Nessie thinks everything her father is doing is wrong, she finds is abhorrent that her father thought ahead and hoarded food for his family when other people are doing without.  She would rather sparse out her families supplies to everyone else in the country instead of making sure her family was taken care of.  She even moves out of the house because she is so disgusted by her father's actions.

Barry, the star of this story, is a little more conflicted.  At first, while bothered by his father's actions, he goes along with it because while he thinks its wrong, he's not sure why though.  He just feels that his father making sure his family is taken care of when the country is going to hell is somehow wrong.  The book is his journey to the conclusion that the only way he can feel right about life is for his family to be in the same circumstances as everyone else.  The world can not be right until his family is starving the way everyone else is.  He concludes his journey of  "self growth" by turning his father in.  He tells a "charity" about the hoarded food in the basement, which by the way was the whole reason they moved into the house, and even helps the same "charity" raid and take everything they can.

By the end of the book, the father is in a fugue state feeling sorry for himself because he couldn't take care of his family.  The rest of the family are all happy and chipper because now they get to starve as well.  What a wonderful end to a ridiculous story.

My problem with this book wasn't the writing, which I found to be engaging despite the horrendous story itself.  My problem was the viewpoint of the author that a father who tries to take care of his family is somehow evil and that sacrificing yourself and your family for the greater good is somehow noble.  The noble thing to do is take care of your family first, to make sure that the children you brought into this world are provided for.  Then if you are able to, take care of your neighbors after that.  The idea that hurting yourself permanently to help others temporarily is for me, morally repugnant.  As a father the idea of letting my son go hungry for months to come in order to feed someone else for a day is stupid and not something I would ever consider.

Now I'm not sure if the fact that this book was written in 1975 has anything to do with the socioeconomic tone in this book, but I'm sure it does.  The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking that the entire point of it was to get the author's personal political/economic views across to the masses.  I'm not sure if that's the case but It's the way the way it came across to me.  What I do know is that I don't like this book, wish I had never read this book, and would strongly encourage everyone I know not to read this book.

This book will qualify for the Typically British Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 7/19/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

I won two books by Patricia C. Wrede from Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia.  The first one is a paperback of Dealing With Dragons, book one of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.  The second book was a trade paperback of A Matter of Magic, which is composed of Mairelon the Magician and The Magician's Ward.

The Knight Life by Keith Knight was a win from Carol of Carol's Notebook.

I bought two hardcovers from The Friends of the Library Book Store for $1 a piece.  The first one is   Bedlam's Bard by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon, which is composed of Knights of Ghosts and Shadows and Summoned to Tourney.  The second one is Bless The Child by Cathy Cash Spellman.  Neither one of these covers is the one I have.  I actually like this cover of Bedlam's Bard better, I couldn't find a picture of  the one I have anywhere.  This cover for Bless the Child is what they used after the HORRIBLE movie came out, I just couldn't find a big enough picture of the original cover.

I found a hardcover of Tigers In Red Weather by Ruth Padel for $1 at The Dollar Tree.  It's about the author's, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, journey to see if tigers can be saved in the wild.

I bought the DVD of Uncle Buck from Wal-Mart for $5.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm One Year Old Today!

It's official, my blog is 1 year old today!  It was July 17th, 2009 that I decided to try my hand at blogging, and I haven't looked back since.  The year has been filled with a lot of fun and some hard work.  I'm not sure I knew what I was getting myself into a year ago, but I'm so glad I went for it.  Now I may end up rambling a bit in this post but please read to the end because there is going to be a giveaway buried in the gushing.

When I first started this blog, I had no idea what the heck I was doing.  All I knew is that a friend of mine on the Barnes & Noble book club page had started her own blog a while back and seemed to be having a blast, so I figured I would check it out and I've been here since then.  For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, I would like to thank Deb of Bookmagic for introducing me to this fantastic world that I really never knew that much about before. 

I also owe a humongous THANK YOU to everyone in the book blogging community for making me feel at home and answering my questions when I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing. I wish I was able to list all of you by name but I'm not sure this post would ever be finished if I did so.  You guys are really the warmest and most welcoming group of people I know and I'm so proud to be counted amongst you.  Without really knowing it you guys have helped me through some rough spots this last year and for that I owe you more than I can ever express.  I'm looking forward to the years to come.

I was looking at my stats and I noticed that so far I've reviewed 89 books (I'm shooting for over 100 the next year), 13 DVDs, and even one CD.  Now this has been a year filled with some great books and some I wished I hadn't read, but even then I've learned a lot about what I look for in a book.  Before this blog, I could have told you whether or not I liked a book, but I wouldn't have been able to really go into the reasons behind it.  Not that I didn't know the reasons, but because I wasn't able to put my thoughts into words that anyone else would have understood.  Through reading the hundreds of blogs that I now subscribe to, by writing my own posts, and by having some terrific conversations with all of you, I think I'm finding my voice and making it stronger by the day.

I've also done 52 Favorite Fictional Character posts, one a week, where I talk about some of my favorite characters from books, TV, and Movies.  I even got a character from a poem into the mix early on in the series.  By doing this series of posts I've been able to revisit some of my old friends that I haven't really paid that much attention to at times.  I've been able to reconnect with them and have even bought books or DVDs based off the rediscoveries.  I'm only bringing this up because here is where the giveaway is going to come into play.

From now to the end of the month, July 31st, you will be able to enter into a giveaway to win a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble or Amazon.  This will be open internationally so everyone will have a chance at it.

The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM CST on 7/31.  All you need to do to enter is pick your favorite character that I have posted about in my Favorite Fictional Character posts.  Just click on the link above to take you to the original posts.  In your comment please leave your preference between the two retailers, whether or not you want a physical or an electronic one, and your email address.  You must be a follower of the blog to enter.  After I pick the winner through, I will email them and they will then have 48 hours to email me back or I will pick a new winner. 

I just want to say thank you once again to everyone who has made this last year special for me.  You will never know how much I appreciate the open arms and kindness you have all shown me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Peril At End House by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Majestic Hotel seems the ideal retreat for Hercule Poirot - until he meets lovely Nick Buckley.  She's the last of a long line of Buckley's inhabiting End House, an imposing estate perched in isolation on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.  And a lucky Buckley at that.  Claiming to have escaped three attempts on her life in as many days, Nick attributes the good fortune to the watchful guardianship of a beneficent ghost.  But an investigation into the dark corridors of End House leads the Belgian detective to fear that Nick's luck may be running out...

This was a rather quick read for me, which all the Hercule Poirot books are turning into.  I'm not sure if it's because the books are so good that I can't stop reading or if it's because Hercule grates on my nerves after a while and I just want it to be over.  I actually think it's a little of both but more of the fact that the books are just that damn good.

Once again Hercule proves why he is at the top of the game.  In the beginning, he and the reader, are taken in by the story being woven so brilliantly by Agatha Christie.  She lays down the clues and innuendos so subtly that both Hercule and the reader go with the flow and don't question what's being told.  Only at the end does Hercule figure out the truth and surprise us all with his brilliant "grey cells" once again

I must say that this books has a twist ending that while I may have had glimmers of in throughout the book, I did not see it coming.  This is probably one of the more interesting endings to a mystery book that I've read in a while, simply because of the red herrings and slight of hand used in telling the story. 

It's a great example of how good Agatha Christie was at coming up with a mystery and a solution while at the same time filling in all the middle pieces.  She never gives you a mystery that you can't figure out for yourself, though she does make it really difficult for you.  And while Hercule can be a little grating at times, I never really hold it against him because he's so brilliant.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 and the Typically British Reading Challenge 2010 both of which are hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Spy Who Haunted Me by Simon R. Green

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Eddie Drood, at your service.  For generations my family has been keeping humanity safe from the wicked, the nasty, and the generally not-nice inhuman predators who feed on people's fear and misery.  Now one kicks evil arse better than us Droods - especially yours truly.

In fact, my arse-kicking skills have come to the attention of the legendary Alexander King, Independent Agent extraordinaire, who spent a lifetime doing anything and everything - for the right price.  Now he's on his deathbed, looking to bestow all of his priceless secrets to a worthy successor.

To decide, King challenges six competitors - myself included - to solve five mysteries all around the world, figuring that along ht way we'll backstab on another until only one remains.  But I've got to win at all costs, because King hold the most important secret of all to the Droods: the identity of the traitor in our midst.

This is the 3rd book in Green's Secret Histories series and they just keep getting better.  As you can tell from the title and other titles for the first two books, this series plays off the James Bond theme, and it's never better as it is in this book.

Edwin Drood is one of the most effective field agents his family has in the battle against aliens, demons, monsters, elves, and all the other things that want to kill and eat us.  When he is summoned to compete against 5 other super agents from around the globe to win a cache of secrets that could change the balance of power, he does it for the family.

You have to love those he got to compete against, even if it's just the names.  The two women are named Honey Lake and Lethal Harmony, how more James Bond can you get?  Honey is ultra deep cover CIA and Lethal, nicknamed Katt, is a devious dragon lady form Katmandu who has no problem taking out the competition.  The Blue Fairy, the gay half elf backstabber from the last book, comes back to throw his weight around, trying to prove himself to Queen Maab.  Henry Walker, from the author's Nighside series, and Peter King the grandson of The Independent Agent himself rounds out the competitors.

The intense nature of the competition makes strange bedfellows and while you can tell this group may not trust each other, at all, there is still a sense of respect and mutual admiration.  That respect, however, does not stop them from taking out the competition and by the end of the book only two of them are left alive, but the twists and turns this book takes will leave you guessing who the killer is until the end.  While the deaths come out of the blue, you can't help but be surprised by them at the same time because you are so caught up in the craziness of the story.  That and the order they bite the dust in wasn't what I though it would be going into this.

The other part about his that I loved so much was the mysteries that they got to investigate.  From the Loch Ness Monster to Bigfoot and Roswell, they got to investigate some of the worlds biggest mysteries that for most of us are really footnotes in pop culture history.  The take the author puts on these is hilarious and dangerous at the same time.  The other two mysteries I had to look up as I was not that familiar with them.  The Tunguska Event in Russia that knocked over 80 million trees over a area of  831 square miles and the mystery surrounding the U.S.S. Eldridge, otherwise know as the Philadelphia Experiment.  The authors take on these two events are both striking in the originality and believable in the context of the book.  He was able to take things have been written about in more ways then one, but was still able to come up with his own unique spin on them.

This series has everything I love in urban fantasty; lots of action, great characters, and a sense of humor,  Hands down this is my favorite book in the series so far and I can't wait to read the new one that just came out, From Hell With Love.  If you would like, and have the free time on your hands, you can go back and read my reviews of the first two books in the serires, The Man With The Golden Torc and Daemons Are Forever

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 and the Typically British Reading Challenge 2010, both of which are hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Cordelia Chase

Yes, I'm eventually going to work my way through the entire Buffy/Angel universe for these FFC posts.  I shouldn't have to give you a reason for this but I will anyway.  It's simple really, except for Dawn, there isn't a character I don't love.  Since I've already done both Buffy Summers and Angel, I figured it was time to move onto the fabulous Queen C, Cordelia Chase.

For those of you who never had the pleasure of finding yourself lost in the Buffyverse, Cordelia started off as the rich bitch of Sunnydale.  If you wanted to be popular, you didn't dare cross her.  She was everything little girls dream of being in HS.  She was the girl in the school that could make or break you, and she really didn't care either way. 

No don't get me wrong, even back then, Cordelia showed promise.  She would be there when the gang needed her, she would never had admitted it back then, but she liked being part of the group  Being one of them, even though she would never admit to being one of them, allowed Cordy to more than a one dimensional character.  She was still selfish and bitchy, but when the chips were down she could be counted on to lend a hand or a car ride. 

Getting kidnapped by snake worshiping frat boys, being forced to participate in Slayer Fest, hunted down by invisible girl, and dating Xander were just some of the challenges Cordelia faced in HS and I must say she came through them all with her head held high and her caustic wit intact.  High School is where Cordelia fist started to mature and where we first saw signs of who she was to become later.

After high school, Cordy moved to LA and to a new show.  When Angel got his own show, Cordelia went along for the ride.  She starts off as the same shallow girl we had come to love, still looking for fame and fortune.  By the end of her run though she was selfless, loving, and probably the most caring character between both shows.  Of all the characters she changed the most and I loved watching her grow and learn to love her friends and Angel. 

Some of the growth could be attributed to the psychic powers she was given by The Powers That Be, as she was forced to watch suffering on a level she had never experienced before.  I think it had more to do with her finally realizing what her friends meant to her and by figuring out that she really did have something to offer to others and the world.  She came into her own as a woman and as a hero and because of that Cordelia was probably the most human of them all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gun Play: A Guest Post and Giveaway from Doug Magee

Doug Magee, the author of Never Wave Goodbye, was kind enough to stop by and write a guest post explaining his reluctance to add guns to a thriller.  There will be a giveaway at the end, don't miss out on it.  So with no further ado, I give you Doug Magee....

Raymond Chandler supposedly advised the following to writers of suspense novels:  When things slow down, bring in a man with a gun.

In my first suspense novel, Never Wave Goodbye,  I did not take Chandler's advice.  There are three reasons for this:

1).  I didn't know about the advice when I was writing the novel.
2).  I never thought things were slowing down.
3).  I hate guns.

Let me deal with the last first.  I've only fired a gun once in my life.  I think I was about twelve years old and, being fearless, some men in the neighborhood thought it was a good idea I go out hunting with them to man me up a little.  They put a twelve gauge shotgun in my hands, told me to jam the stock tightly into my shoulder, and to squeeze the trigger.  I'd been using toy guns, sticks, and whatever to shoot bad guys and Indians (it was the fifties) for a long time.  I made a pretty credible imitation of the sound of gunfire as I did this.  But my toy gun practice didn't in the least prepare me for the kick of that twelve gauge.  I was nearly knocked to the ground by the gun's recoil and my badly damaged shoulder didn't recover for a week.

Since then guns have had my respect and any fictional use I've made of them in my writing has been as a last resort.  Unconsciously, I think, I've taken an approach opposite that of Chandler.  If I've had to have a character pull out a pistol, I ask myself what I can't be creative enough to give the scene a different motor, resolution.

Guns and gun culture are an integral part of both our fictional and real world.  I suppose one tool every suspense writer should hone is gun knowledge.  I remember being looked at askance by a producer on one of my first screenwriting projects when I told him I didn't know hat a Glock was.  To be honest with you I'm still a little fuzzy on this category.  My questions to myself is, does this resistance to gun usage hurt or help my suspense novel writing?  I'm not sure but I'd probably say, if pressed, that it forces me to at least think deeply about a scene, action, and the like rather than rushing to fulfill Chandler's dictum.

A screenwriter auditioning to adapt Never Wave Goodbye for the screen altered the book significantly and added gun play in many scenes where there was none in the novel.  I was able to veto his, uh, help.  But I wonder how long my gun dislike can continue if I'm to be writing suspense novels.  I'm not sure but perhaps the solution is this:  don't let things slow down.

I would, once again, thank David for stopping by and giving us his insight into the usage of guns in suspense writing.  I must say I totally agree with him on this.  You can learn more about David and his novel by visiting his website.  You can also read my review of Never Wave Goodbye.

Now onto the giveaway.  The publisher is kindly offering one lucky winner a hardcover of Doug Magee's new novel, Never Wave Goodbye.

To enter all you have to do is leave a short or long comment about your views on guns/weapons being used in today's fiction.  You must be a follower of this blog and leave an email address in your comment.

You can earn an extra entry, each, by twittering or blogging about this giveaway.  Let me know in your initial comment if you did either one, as well as a link proving it.

By the publisher's request the giveaway is only open in the US and Canada.

The giveaway will run from 7/13/10 through 11:59 PM on 7/27/10.  I will select the winner using and will then email the winner for their mailing address.  The winner will have 48 hours to email me their info or I will select a new winner.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Never Wave Goodbye by Doug Magee

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

An Innocent rite of passage turns into a nightmare for four couples, exposing their secrets and risking the lives of their children.

After passing the bittersweet parental milestone of putting her daughter, Sarah, on the bus to sleep-sway camp for the first time, Lena Trainor plans to spend the next two weeks fixing all the problems in her marriage.  But when a second bus arrives to pick up Sarah for camp, no one seems to know anything about the first bus of its driver.

Sara and three other children have been kidnapped, and within hours of the crime the parents receive an email demanding $1,000,000.  When specifics of the delivery terms throw suspicion on the parents on two of the abducted children, some of the couples begin to turn on each other, exposing fault lines in already strained marriages and causing some to forge new alliances.  While the kidnapped children are living their parents' worst nightmare, the police are trying to sort the lies from the conflicting truths in conflicting stories and alibis that seem to be constantly changing.

I seem to be reading books lately that I'm having split opinions on, this book isn't going to be any different in that regard.  I'm in love with the premise of the book.  As a parent, I can't imagine what it would be like to entrust your child into the hands of someone you thought you could trust, only to have them disappear with no hope of being found.  When the camp van arrives to pick Sarah up, Lena had no idea the polite young man was not who he claimed to be.  He had all the paperwork, even made Lena sign some consent forms and was able to answer all her questions.  He mad Sarah feel at ease about not going to soccer camp instead.  So when the real van shows up later on that morning and she finds out the last 3 kids on the stop are also missing, Lena's nightmare is just starting. 

The fear and blame that Lena and the other parents must feel has to be gut wrenching.  The self doubt and mistrust could only make the situation worse.  At least I would think it would.  While those emotions are mentioned and somewhat explored in the book, I would have liked to have had the author delve into it a little bit more.  I wanted to feel the pain and anguish as I'm reading the book, and while I could mentally understand what the parents were going through, I couldn't feel it.  My heart didn't start beating any faster nor did my pulse race at any time while I was reading.  I wanted more suspense and I wanted to physically feel the aftermath of what took place, and while the ingredients are there, it didn't quite work on that visceral level.

I think part of the issue, for me at least, was the way the author kept splitting points of view.  We see the story from the parents, children, kidnappers, and police points of view and for some reason they just don't all mesh that well.  The going back and forth felt almost to frantic at times, as if the author was using the story telling technique to explore the fear and emotional turmoil, instead of the story itself.  It didn't allow me to really connect with any of the characters on a basic level.  I liked them and was rooting for them, but in the end I knew it was a book, that it wasn't real, and that every thing would work out in the end. I never got lost in the story, which is a pity.  As a parent, I should have been grabbed by the story and the characters, I should have been imagining myself in that position, but I never did.  I was entertained and I enjoyed it as a book, but I never really connected.

Now with all that being said, I'm still pleased to have read the book.  It was entertaining and kept me reading a long because despite feeling disappointed, I still wanted to know how it all turned out and who was responsible to for such a horrific action.  Besides this book did accomplish one thing for me, I will now be double checking everything before I ever let my son go off to a sleep away camp.

Now stay on the lookout for Tuesday as I will have a guest post from the author and a giveaway.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 7/12/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

I received an ARC of Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow and a hardcover of The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyer for upcoming TLC Book Tours.

I won an ARC of I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore from Amanda of The Zen Leaf

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Case Of The Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardner

Synopsis From Book Jacket:

Perry Mason and Della Street were both out to lunch.  Gertie, the receptionist and telephone operator, was indulging in her favorite noontime occupation - munching chocolates and reading a love story - when the door burst open and a woman rushed in.

Gertie got her name, all right, dimly registered the fact that she was not only very attractive buy very upset at having to wait for Mason, and Gertie even looked up when the woman lefter before he returned.

But vicarious romance was the rule of that day - much to the annoyance of Lt. Tragg when he later tried to piece together what had happened.  And although his plan for surprising Gertie into a identification of the lady was ingenious, Perry's counter-measure was even more so...

I feel so proud of myself right now.  Ever since I was a little kid I've been in love with Perry Mason, the TV show that is, but I had never read one of the 80 plus novels and short stories.  Because of that when I found this book in hardcover a while back at the library book store for $1 I had to get it.  Now the book I bought doesn't have this cover on it, but I kind of wish it did.  The cover is amazing, in a retro way, but beyond that the book was only $.35.  I could only dream of new books being that much today.

The story itself read like an episode of the TV show.  It starts with a beautiful, mysterious woman entering into the outer room of a law office, she is tall, blond, and wearing dark glasses.  She seems to be distressed and rushes out of the office within a few minutes of waiting.  No one knows who she is or what she wanted, but when her purse is discovered behind a chair, events are set into motion that takes Perry and Della Street, his faithful secretary, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back again.

This was a thrilling ride through murder, mistaken identities, and broken relationships.  Perry came through for his client just like he did in the TV series.  He was tough and foresighted enough to know what would hurt his client and was able to keep the damage to a minimum.  He also wasn't above playing a little dirty when the DA and the cops were cutting corners themselves. 

I've already ordered two more books in the series from Barnes & Noble and I can't wait to get my hands on them.  I would have ordered more but the others are all out of print some I'm going to have to hunt them down in used bookstores and other places.  Either way, used or new, I would strongly urge every mystery fan out there to read one as soon as possible.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Doug Roberts & Michael O'Hallorhan

For those of you who don't recognize the names or the picture, let me introduce you to two of the toughest and sexiest heroes to ever grace the silver screen.  Meet Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) and Michael O'Hallorhan (Steve McQueen), our two men of action from that great disaster movie, The Towering Inferno.

Doug is the brilliant architect who just returned to San Francisco, from an out of town job interview, to help dedicate the 138 story building he helped to design.  There is going to be a grand party on the 135th floor to celebrate the opening of the tallest building in the world.  Little did he know that the electrical plans he called for, where carried through and some faulty wiring is going to burn his baby to the ground, along with a vast array of workers, residents, guests, and fire fighters.  Once that nasty fire does get going, SFFD Battalion Chief Michael O'Hallorhan arrives on the scene to try to figure out how to fight a fire that started on the 81st floor and is going straight up.

These two guys need to check their egos and work together to save as many lives as they can.  They are both men of action and are willing to risk their own lives to put this fire out and keep more people from dying.  Though both of them men are heroic and deserve to be recognized for their bravery, Doug is the one that stands out the most to me in this movie. 

He doesn't need to take the actions he does to save everyone else, but because he's the one who designed the building, he feels as if he is responsible for the fire.  He even starts to doubt whether or not a building this size should ever been built.  He goes through the most growth as a character and he is all that more interesting for it. 

Now don't get me wrong I still like Mike, or he wouldn't be part of this post, but his heroics are part of the job.  Now do I think he goes above and beyond what's expected of him, of course I do.  Some of the stuff he does is amazing, don't believe watch the movie, but it's still who he is as a character. 

I would urge everyone who has not seen his movie to do so.  The movie and these two characters will enthrall and captivate your imagination the entire time.  I wish there were more movie heroes like this gracing the screen, instead of the trigger happy glorified thugs we have today.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Secret (Of Happiness) by Demosthenes Armeniades

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Once upon a time, Max the billionaire invited David to his private island where whiz kid golden boys zip around the globe in private jets making millions and living the dream. But all may not be as golden as it seems ... Max wants happiness. David wants his girlfriend back. Marcie wants to avoid getting fired from her cashier job at Wal-Mart. And the Guru knows the answers, or does he? Follow them on a wild roller coaster ride through island paradises, out to space, over the Himalayas and across the Russian tundra to a final showdown in the Texas desert.

The Secret of Happiness, at least according to this book, is for you to go from extreme wealth and privilege to running for your life while being flat broke and homeless.  I'm not sure that would work for me, but it does work for Max Simon the eccentric billionaire who's been bored with the world and while he's content he's not really happy.  He's in a loveless marriage and while he has a successful business he's going through the paces of life, but not fully enjoying them.

When David Finnegan is recruited to join Halcyon he already thinks his life is set.  He's engaged to the woman he's been dating since grade school, he just graduated from law school and has a job lined up with a Wall Street firm, life couldn't be going better.  But when he is recruited by Simon's company and is offered more money that he could even imagine, David is swept off his feet and is flying to the secluded island that Halycon is headquartered on.  This decision is not without it's consequences though, his girl friend leaves him while accusing him of being selfish and not thinking of her.

When Simon and David meet, their relationship is at first friendly but one of boss and employee.  Bonds of trust grow rather quickly between them and before you know it David is named the Trust holder of the contract that controls the company and all of Simon's money, plus David is charged to find a way for Simon to experience one moment of true happiness.  If he succeeds, David will get $10 million dollars.

This is where the story really takes off.  From space flights to treks up the Himalayan mountains to speak to the Guru, Simon tries everything David Suggests.  While all these experiences are unique and happiness inducing none of them truly give him that moment of pure bliss.  It takes being indicted for fraud, going to jail, becoming homeless, broke, and suicidal for Simon to get on the road to pure happiness.  Along the way he meets and falls in love with Marcie, a broke Wal-Mart employee is finds herself homeless as well.  It's amazing what running for your life, dodging assassin bullets, and getting your revenge on the young man who stole your money and your life, will do for your soul. 

Not everything is what it appears to be and you have to read between the lines behind the actions David takes while these events are transpiring.  Will both of them find the happiness they are looking for?  You have to read the book to find out.

Now for my take on the story.  The entire book is written as a email from David to his ex girlfriend Dot.  It's his way of explaining what's been going on and asking her for another chance.  Since we never get to hear Dot's reaction, I could only guess that things don't end up going David's way on this, based on the way she reacted throughout the rest of the book.  As for the story itself, I found it to be a fun and engaging read but only while I was actually reading it.  When I had to put the book down, I was never in a big hurry to pick it up again, and I'll probably not read it again.  I felt the same way about the movie, Pay It Forward, which this book had elements of.  It was fun while it lasted, and like cotton candy, it won't be missed when it's gone.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 7/5/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes and The Running Mate by Joe Klein were hardcovers I bough for $1 a piece at the Friends of the Library Book Store.

The Spy Who Haunted Me by Simon R. Green in paperback was a purchase from Barnes & Noble.

Dante's Journey by JC Marino was received from the author for review.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th Of July!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July.  May it be filled with fun and laughter as well as remembrance for all those, past and present, who have paid for our freedom with their lives.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Mageborn Traitor by Melanie Rawn

Synopsis From Back Cover:

For generations the Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris have waged a secret war against one another -  and the world of Lenfell has paid the price.  And though the Mage Guardians came close to being destroyed in the last confrontation, the Malerrisi were ultimately forced to withdraw, relinquishing much of the control they had gained.

But their retreat has not been as complete as it seems.  For Glenin, former First Daughter of Ambrai, is determined to have her revenge and regain her power, plotting the ruin of her sisters, Sarra, Councillor of Sheve, and Cailet, the new Mage Captal, while the Malerrisi -  under Glenin's leadership -  once again begin weaving a web with which to entangle their entire world.

And even as Cailet's dream of a restored Mage Hall becomes a reality, and Sarra's legal reforms offer the hope of greater prosperity and equality for all people, Glenin prepares to strike a the very heart of both of her sister's power.  All it will take is the betrayal of Ambrai's most closely guarded family secret, and the right traitor planted in the heart of Cailet's haven - a traitor trained to be the nemesis of all Mage Guardians; Glenin's perfect tool of destruction and most loyal follower - her own son...

After I had reviewed the first book in the series, Ruins of Ambrai, I had pretty much thought that I had discovered my Achilles Heel of blogging.  After trying to review this second book in the series, I'm positive that reviewing epic fantasy is not my strong suit.  With epic fantasy there are so many story lines all vying for your attention and such a large (though brilliant) cast of characters, that it's hard for me to separate out what I should tell you and what is safe to leave out of a review.  I'm actually hoping that Melissa of My World...In Words and Pages decides to read this trilogy because she is brilliant at reviewing epic fantasy.  She is able to give the right details and sum up the action in a way I can only bow to.

What I do want to say about this book is that it acts as a good transition from the world building and action of the first one.  It starts a few years later and continues the action that was set up in Ruins of Ambrai.  It adds more layers to the society so we are able to see some of the motivations of the characters and the society as a whole a little clearer.  The first half of the book is really the prelude for what happens in the latter half.  By the time you get to the end of this book your head will be spinning and you will sit there for a while as you digest and contemplate the ramifications of how this installment ends. 

There are only two other things I want to briefly touch upon.  Melanie Rawn has no problems killing off characters, both minor and major.  She proved it with the rather large body count in the first book and she continues that trend in this one.  Characters you love and love to hate bite the dust in both books, some of them will make you very sad to see them go.  What I appreciate about how she does is though is that every death makes sense.  None of them are wasted since they all help to propel the story forward.

The second issue I wanted to briefly touch upon is that this book was first published in 1997.  Thirteen years later we are still waiting for the final book in the trilogy, The Captal's Tower, to be written.  A lot of the delay has been attributed to Melanie Rawn's health, though at this time there is still no information on when the book will be done.  Now with that being said, I would still encourage everyone to read these first two books so you are able to experience epic fantasy at it's best.  I promise that even if this trilogy is never finished (let's not even think about that), you will not find that you wasted your time by reading the first two books.