Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In 1968, after the first zombie outbreak, Wanda Mayhall and her three young daughters discover the body of a teenage mother during a snowstorm.  Wrapped in the woman's arms is a baby, stone-cold, not breathing, and without a pulse.  But then his eyes open and look up at Wanda - and he begins to move.

The family hides the child - whom they name Stony - rather than turn him over to the authorities that would destroy him.  Against all scientific reason, the undead boy begins to grow.  For years his adoptive mother and sisters manage to keep his existence a secret - until one terrifying night when Stony is forced to run and he learns he is not the only living dead boy left in the world.

If I were to list my five favorite authors of all time I have a sneaky suspicion that Daryl Gregory would make that list.  He has, so far, only 3 books to his name, but every single one of them blows me away.  He has a knack for combing his limitless imagination with American pop culture in such a way that sometimes it's a little hard to tell where that boundary lies.  Like his previous books, Pandemonium and The Devil's Alphabet, that manipulation is on display for all to revel in it's glory.

I'm going to be honest, I'm about as burnt out on zombies as I was on vampires.  They are great for a while, but there is only so much that can be done with them.  In Raising Stony Mayhall, I felt as if I discovered zombies for the very first time. Imagine something for a minute.  What would society be like if George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead was a documentary instead of a horror movie.  What if instead of a crashed, contaminated satellite causing the outbreak, there was something the government didn't want you to know.  What if they knew the early stages of of the infection resemble those the documentary filmmaker captured, but the later stages resemble something more akin to the life we are all familiar with.  What if those who survived the government's response to the initial outbreak have bee living in hiding, waiting for the day they can fight back.

This is the world that Stony Mayhall had to grow up in.  A young man, who really wasn't alive but his body still grew despite its deadness.  He is forced to remain in hiding, thinking that he was the only one, a freak of nature.  He is well loved by his mother and three sisters.  And they have even befriended a neighboring family who for whatever reason agree to keep their secrets.  When Stony's life is tore away from him one night, a night of mistakes built on top of mistakes, he is forced into the great outer world.  What he discovers is a that he isn't alone, that there are other living dead people out there.

But even in this world, Stony is still alone.  He is the only one to have "grown up" the rest are stuck the way they were when they became infected.  Stony is advised to not divulge the secret, lest he be pressed into service by those who need their own Messiah.  The living dead are not sitting idly by while the government slaughters them.  They are starting to unite, though not all of them are on the same page.  Some wan to initiate a plan that will wipe out the entire human race and replace them with more of their own.  Others want to recruit those who willingly joint their ranks.  Regardless of their approach, they all are scared of one thing though, extinction.  They are threatened when a species is threatened with annihilation, they get dangerous.

It's within these political waters that Stony must learn how to swim, a lesson he learns over a period of many years.  A period of time where is mother is jailed for hiding him, he himself is captured and studies, he loses one maybe two of his sisters.  It's not a period that ends well for anyone involved.  There is no happy ending for Stony, though there is some closure for him.  His final decisions all lead up to an event that will change the course of human and undead life.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 1/30/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Alyce of At Home With Books.

I received a trade paperback of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Wonder Woman

Well here it is, another week and finally a new character to post about.  I know she's not from One Life To Live, though that would have made the show even more interesting.  I've been rather upset about the show going off the air, so I'm just not prepared to dive back into the pool of characters.  It's pathetic, but I miss them too much right now.  Instead I'm going to briefly talk about one of my favorite super heroes of all time, Wonder Woman.  Now I was never a fan of DC comic books, so I can't talk about that version of her.  Instead this will be about the TV version played by the gorgeous Lynda Carter.

As some of you may know, the television series only lasted 3 seasons, though I think it should have gone for many more.  I actually own every season on DVD and probably watch it a bit too much.  The show was cheesy and the timeline was hilarious.  Season one takes place while the U.S. is fighting Nazi Germany, and most of the action takes place along those lines.  The second season takes place decades later and the main male lead actor is now playing the son of the first character he played.  It's just lots of fun.

Like I said earlier I don't know much about the comic version of Wonder Woman, but from what I've seen form the TV show makes me fall in lover with her every time she steps onto my screen.  Besides being drop dead gorgeous with some of the sexiest eyes to ever grace a human being, she is one of those rare characters that has no ulterior motives.  She does what she does because she believes it to be the right thing to do and she wants to help the human race survive the pitfalls that are laid before it.

She is everything a super hero should be.  She has superior strength, stamina, and can leap like a gazelle.  She has a lasso that forces those caught with it to tell the truth, she can stop bullets with her bracelets, and even has an invisible plane to ride around in.  But most of all she is purely selfless.  She is an Amazonian princess who grew up (without aging) on an enchanted island that protects it's inhabitants.  It's by her own choice to get involved in the outside world and protect man from outside enemies and from itself.  It's not something she has to do because the gods tell her, it's because she knows it's the right thing to do.  I can only hope that she is an example that more people live up to in that regard.

I think this is where I will end this post because I have an burning desire to go watch season 3.

Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The moment Jane Tennison takes over Scotland Yard's investigation into the death of sex worker Della Mornay, two grim fact become immediately clear to her.  First, that the constabulary's old boy club is determined to hinder, harass, and undermine the new female Detective Chief Inspector at every turn.  And second that their murder victim isn't Della Mornay.

Now the police are a step behind, and a madman is loose onto the streets of London.  To apprehend the criminal stalking women through the city's shadows, Tennison will have to steel herself against the hostility of her fellow officers and conceal her own mounting obsession with breaking through the glass ceiling of the station house - even as department politics, a crumbling relationship, and a wickedly elusive prime suspect threaten her very existence.

When I was given the opportunity to read/review Prime Suspect and it's two sequels, I jumped at the chance.  By now, anyone who reads this blog on any sort of regular (or irregular) basis should have figured out I'm a huge mystery fan.  It doesn't seem to matter the style; noir, cozy, golden age, police procedural, I like them all.  You can't be a mystery fan and not have heard of Prime Suspect or at least of it's television incarnation with the great Helen Mirren.  They even tried it on US television this season with the gorgeous Maria Bello.  Sadly that was cancelled almost right away.  Now I'm going to admit right up front that I'm guilty of never watching either show, though I was familiar with them.  It's for that reason, partly to resolve my guilt and curiosity, that I agreed to read the three books in the series.

When I first started reading this book, I will admit to having some doubts about it. I almost put it down after the first twenty or so pages.  It was reading to me more like a television script that an actual novel.  The pacing seemed off and the transitions between scenes seemed more apt for a visual medium over the printed word.  I stuck with it though and before I knew it, I was in love.  There was something so infectious and real about what I was reading that I couldn't put the book down.  I carried the book with me everywhere I went, reading every spare moment I had.

Part of that appeal is with the main character, Jane Tennison.  She is one of those rare characters that seem real.  It doesn't feel like a character that came out of the imagination of it's author.  Instead she feels more like a real life cop, who agreed to step into the footsteps of a figment of imagination.  She was flawed and heroic.  It's those flaws though that cemented her into my cerebellum and will probably never allow her to pack up and leave.  She was a fully thought out, three dimensional character who I would want working my murder case.

She is an overly insecure individual who has a driving need to prove herself as a cop and as a woman.  That fact that she is of the female gender makes her job all that much harder in the overly masculine world of homicide.  She steps on toes and even resorts to a bit of professional blackmail in order to get the opportunities she needs to prove herself.  She is tenacious, ambitious, and wholly lovable despite her habit of destroying any personal relationship that she is in.  Now, the one example given in this book makes me believe it's more her bad taste in men and their own insecurities that cause her the problems.

Now as far as the mystery itself, I can't find any flaws with it.  The villain that Lynda La Plante created as Tennison's foil is so Ted Bundy like in style and charm that you can't help but believe him and in his innocence. Cerebraly I knew he was guilty as sin, but my brain just didn't want to accept that such a debonair, charming man could be guilty of such brutality.  As both the case and the proven ability of Tennison's mind becomes clearer with each page, the mystery solidifies and the true nature of the prime suspect fully enters into my mind.  He becomes the perfect literary villain.  He is someone who is truly evil, but still retains that likability and sympathy.  In one word, he is perfect.

I have already received the other two books in the series, and can already tell you that I will be heart broken at the end of the third one.  It will be the last time I get to see Jane Tennison on a new case.  Of course I have two TV shows to fill any emptiness that I may end up feeling.

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

Challenges: A-Z

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

With my hateful brother, Binky, in town, I've been desperately seeking an escape.  To my delight, it comes in the form of an invitation form the queen to represent the royals at a wedding in Transylvania - legendary home of vampires.

I soon realize why I was the one honored with such an invitation.  The bride, Princess Maria Theresa, happens to be my old school chum, Matty.  But my stay in her macabre-looking castle turns unnerving when I find dear Matty with blood running down her chin.  Then, during the ceremony, a prominent wedding guest is poisoned.  Something must be done lest the nuptial festivities go to ruin, or, worse yet, the couple's vows becomes:  to love and to cherish, till undeath do us part...

Now normally I would not be a big fan of mixing a cozy mystery with the whole vampire thing, but with Georgie right in the mix of things, I was game.  Like the three previous books in the series, Royal Blood is a riot of funness to read.  Yeah I know funness isn't a word, but it should be.

The mystery itself, the poisoning of the uncouth general, isn't all that interesting to me though.  He was a boorish jackass who needed to die, otherwise I would have been annoyed every time he stepped out onto the page.  I would have been just fine letting the murderer get away with it.  Of course, he then had to start killing others, so he probably did need to get caught.

What saves this book, and saves the others for that matter, is Georgie and the group of people that come in and out of her life.  Georgie herself is one of the funniest gals I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and I know we would be good friends if she was a real girl.  Her friend the clothing designer, her mysterious Irish Peer, her actress mother, and a whole host of other characters liven things up a bit for her.  They meddle, tease, love, and do everything they can to make Georgie's life interesting.

Now in case any of you were wondering about the vampire stuff, this is a cozy mystery.  Cozy mysteries will never (at least I hope not) have real vampires in them.  But the way the themes are explored had me in stitches most of the time.  It was integrated into the story without taking it over.  Something that's hard to achieve with blood thirsty monsters roaming the castle halls.

Challenges: A-Z

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 1/23/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Alyce of At Home With Books.

This was the week of my last buying binge for a while.  I go into stores and I just can't help myself.  I really do need my hands slapped one of these days.

I received a trade paperback of The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

The lovely Becke of The Mysterious Garden Muse, just so happens to be the moderator of the mystery board over at Barnes & Noble.  She generously, without my knowing about it, a package of three books.  They were a hardcover of The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (I couldn't find the correct cover anywhere), a paperback of The Gift Shop by Charlotte Armstrong, and a hardcover A Puzzle for Fools by Patrick Quentin (again not the right cover.)

This is where I went a little crazy.  I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a trade paperback of The Man in the Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart that I had ordered.  While there I picked up a paperback of From Hell With Love by Simon R. Green.  They have a great CD sale right now, buy 2 get 1 for free, so I picked up The Italian by Patrizio, Ultimate Dolly Parton, and Crystal Gayle Greatest Hits.  That trip happened on Friday.  

Then today (Sunday) I went to exchange a few books that I was given as a gift.  Since the gift giver could not find a receipt I had to trade them in at the lowest price, I think I got robbed a bit on this.  So I picked up a trade paperback of The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart and 3 more CDs.  I got Forever Begins Tonight by Patrizio, Patrizio, and The Artist Collection: Julie London.

On Friday (it was my big shopping day; clothes, camera, the whole enchilada) I stopped in at Target, don't remember why though.  While I was there, I picked up a  Blue-Ray of American Psycho since it was on sale for $5.  I also got Bambi on Blue-Ray since it was on sale as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville.  While growing up, Rebekkah watches as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual at every funeral:  three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words, "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Now Maylene is gone and Bek must return to the hometown - and the man - she abandoned a decade ago, only to discover that Maylene's death was not natural.. and there was good reason for her odd traditions.  In Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected - and beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D.  From this dark place the deceased will return if their grave are not properly minded.  And only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk...

It's not often that I find a paranormal romance/contemporary fantasy novel that I'm flat out in love with.  After reading what seemed like an endless stream of reviews praising this book, I thought out loud, "Hey, maybe this could be the one."  So I would look at it every time I went into a bookstore, but for whatever reason, I just never took it home with me.  Well when I was given an opportunity to read/review it, I took it as a sign that this one could just do it for me.

When I got the book in the mail, and saw the new cover, I started to have my doubts. Where the old cover was a little creepy, the new one looked like every other book out there.  I would have a hard time picking this out on a table of other new YA or paranormal books.  Needless to say, my excitement level dropped a little.  I still knew that I needed to crack the book open and at least start it before I started to judge the book by it's cover.

Once I began my journey into Claysville and the secrets the town held onto so tightly, I never really wanted to leave, but I was constantly looking for a better reason to stay.  What I loved was the world that Melissa Marr created for her characters to inhabit and explore.  Claysville resembles most small towns, but has some rather peculiar customs.  Everyone who has ever been born within the town limits, must be buried there when the die.  It's written into the town charter and everyone involves just accepts it like it's no big deal.  If someone who moved away from town is to die, even in another country, the current Undertakes must collect the body and bring it back to town for burial.

The strangeness doesn't stop there.  Every funeral is attended by a woman who stays behind and performs her own private ceremony.  Again, not something anyone else in town really think about as anything other than normal.  People take it for granted that there is no real crime, poverty, or other problems the outside world has to deal with.  There is a rather creepy sense of complacency in the air, one that is mandated by a contract with someone the town founders made a deal with.

All of this is to protect the town, but the price they paid was a little more that I think most people would be willing to bare.  The dead don't stay dead within Claysville and it's up to the Graveminder and Undertaker to make sure they don't come back and bother the living.

Like I said, the world the author created is brilliant.  I love Claysville and I love the city of the dead that lays beneath their feet even more.  What I didn't love so much were the characters.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  I didn't really care for one character all that much, Rebekkah.

I like all the secondary characters and am flat out in love with Byron.  I just wish Rebekkah had been a bit less annoying about her feelings for Byron.  I get she has issues with her feelings for him over what her sister did, but come on already.  Get the hell over it and grow the blank up.  This is where the book reminded me of a YA novel, there was just too much angst for my taste.

Thankfully, once my travels through Claysville were over, I still didn't want to leave.  Rebekkah had grown up a bit, though I still didn't know that I would want to hang out with her all that much.  But since I had to leave I did, and I'm actually looking forward to the next time Claysville and it's dead call out my name.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character Repost --- The Lady of Shalott

Once again I must apologize for allowing life to get in the way of having a brilliantly written new post for you to enjoy.  This bronchitis or whatever the crap it is is still kicking me in the butt and my cough doesn't seem to be getting any better.  I have days where I don't cough much at all and then I have some where it seems I'm doing it all the time.  I'm also going on a staycation from work over the weekend so I've been working open to close the last few days in order to get everything I need done before I take 4 days off.  I promise that next week I will have something new and shiny for you to enjoy.  In the meantime please let me reintroduce you to a character that I first posted about in 2099.  She is still the only character to come from poem though I have a few others that I have thought about.  So with no further ado, here is The Lady of Shalott.

I'm not sure I can really describe why this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson gets to me the way it does. Why the main character of this beautifully written work makes me want to cry every time I read what happens to her. Nor am I going to give an academic dissertation on the themes found in this work. That is for another time. What I'm going to try and explain here is what I feel when I read this poem and why The Lady of Shalott is my third pick for My Favorite Fictional Character.

As most people who have read this poem, I encountered it for the first time in my Senior English class in high school. All I remember is reading along in class and having this well of emotion come out that I'm not sure had ever been brought out by any other poem. It was a feeling of utter sadness and regret for this woman who was condemned to live alone with no physical contact from the outside world.

She is loosely based off of Elaine of Astolat from the Arthurian legends. Though many of the details from the poem are not to be found in the original story. We meet her as a woman living in a tower that sits on an island in the middle of a river. She is physically isolated from any other human being. Her only view of the comings and goings around her is through a mirror. If she were to gaze directly out the window a curse would come over her so she has never chosen to do such a thing before. One day Sir Lancelot rides by and the Lady of Shalott is so enchanted by what she sees that she looks out the window and with the breaking of her mirror she condemns herself to death. The rest of the poem recounts her journey down the river to Camelot and her eventual death.

What really upset me the first time I read this was Sir Lancelot's response once the Lady reaches Camelot lying dead in her boat. As a young man I found it to be callous and cold. Upon later reflection I really couldn't blame him, for how is he to know the small role he played in this tragedy.

Her story had stuck with me since then and I tend to read the poem many times throughout a normal year. I have the above print by Waterhouse framed and hanging in my living room and I listen to Loreena McKennitt sing the poem about as often as I read it. The sadness and total isolation she felt still gets to me and I end up putting myself in her shoes. If I were ever in her situation would I eventually get to the point where I would say "I am half sick of shadows", damn the consequences and choose to live just one last moment in the world.

I' m not sure I can fully express the emotions this poem and it's "hero" convey in me so I will post the poem here and let you read it for yourself.

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

This is the talented Loreena McKennitt putting the poem to song.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Thorn And The Blossom by Theodora Goss

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn't know she would meet the love of her life.  When Brendan Thorns handed her a medieval romance, he didn't know it would change the course of his future.  It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself...

This is one of those books that you need to read for the experience of reading it alone.  It's a two sided book without a spine.  There are two covers and the pages are done like an accordion between then.  When you finish one story, you flip it over and read the other.  It's a fairly short book either way you count the pages, but what's inside was a pure joy to read.

The story itself is pretty simple.  Boy meets girl, girls leaves without explaining anything to boy, boy and girl meet again years later, girl leaves again without explaining herself, boy and girl end up in same coastal village where they met without the other knowing it.  And that's where the story ends, both of them in the same English village on the cusp of running into each other again.

Obviously there is a lot of detail I'm leaving out, otherwise there would be no point in your reading it, which I think you should.  I started the book with Brendan's story and I believe I'm thankful for that.  It allowed me to get to know not only Brendan but Eleanor through his eyes.  In Brendan's story they both come across as strong, if a bit quirky, characters that I want to see together.  When they meet again years after their first encounter, I'm rooting for them.  I feel so bad for Brendan and the loss that he has had to go through up to that point.  By running into Eleanor again, it feels as if he is getting a second chance at happiness.

Eleanor's story on the other hand left me feeling a bit cold on her as a character.  She comes across as neurotic, emotionally unstable, insecure, and just a tad bit nerdy (not that nerdy is bad.)  If I had not met her through Brendan's filter first, I'm not sure I would have liked her as much.  After reading her story though, I found her to be braver than I had at first thought and I grew to like her for who she was, not who Brendan thought she was.

I've never read the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, at least not that I can remember so I can't tell you how closely this book mirrors the story.  What I can say about it is that I found it fascinating enough that I really want to correct my past error and read it for myself.

I hope everyone gets to experience this one for themselves.  This will be a book that stays on my shelves for years to come and I'm sure I'll be rereading it many times.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 1/16/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Alyce of At Home With Books.

I received trade paperbacks of Prime Suspect, Prime Suspect 2: A Face In The Crowd, and Prime Suspect 3: Silent Victims by Lynda La Plante.  I also received ARCs of Gillespie and I by Jane Harris and The Technologists by Matthew Pearl. They are all for upcoming TLC Book Tours.

I received In The Nick Of Time by J. Lee Graham from the author for review.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Moving Targets edited by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar is an ancient land where the peace is kept by a very special corps of protectors:  the Heralds.  Chosen from all across the kingdom, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women.  They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and others who are uniquely suited to protect their realm.  Sough and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are trained to be emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, and even warriors.  Bonded for life to the Companion who chooses them, the Heralds of Valdemar ride patrol throughout the kingdom preserving the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, fifteen authors join Mercedes Lackey, adding their won magical touch to the heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.  Ride circuit with Tanya Huff, Mickey Zuker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Judith Tarr, Rosemary Edghill, and other in fourteen original stories - including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey - to a world where:

An insecure Herald Trainee learns that her self-doubt can become the source of her strength...

An elderly Herald teaches a young Herald that a good story can protect a kingdom...

The selfless devotion of a servant girl elevates her stature higher than she could ever have dreamed...

I used to be such a huge fantasy fan, devouring almost every book I could get my hands on.  Over the years though, that passion for the genre has died down a bit, but I still have a handful of authors that I will read every chance I get.  Mercedes Lackey is one of them, and her Valdemar books are my favorite of all.  As usual, I love every time I get to escape into Valdemar and get immersed in the stories of the Heralds and their Companions.  Valdemar is that fictional kingdom, that if it actually existed, I would have ran away from home to go live there.

Because of that, when I got this one for Christmas, I couldn't wait to dive in and get lost once again.  Now this collection actually is before the other two anthologies that I have already reviewed.  I'm not sure how I managed to miss this one, but I'm glad that has been corrected as of now.

The biggest reason I loved this one was I got to see Ree and Jem again.  The stars of my favorite short stories from the last two anthologies I read, Ree and Jem already feel like old friends to me.  Instead of writing their own stories, as they did in the other two books, Sarah A. Hoyt and Kate Paulk wrote "Heart, Home, and Hearth" together.  I got to meet Ree and Jem before they make it to the old man's house and the relative safety he provided for them.  It was nice to see the two young men (one completely human, the other a changechild)  again.  They are such a terrific couple, who always look out for each other in a world that is dead set against them, a world that would be willing to kill one of them.  This story is about how Ree has to find shelter for the sickly Jem before the bitterness of winter really kicks in.  It's that journey that sends them stumbling into what they think is a abandoned farm house.  But instead of it being vacated by those who previously lived there, the two young me find the family and support that they are so desperately needing.

I've just now realized that I haven't read the anthology that comes before this one either, I'm hoping that one will tell me how these two young men met in the first place.

I don't think there was a story in this collection that I didn't love or feel as if it added to the history of Valdemar and it's people, but there was one other that just had me falling in love and hooting with laughter.  The title story "Moving Targets" is Mercedes Lackey's contribution.  I found the story to be a wonderful homage to Scooby-Doo, what is there not to like about that.  In the story a Herald Elyn is assigned the task of taking a group of four Herald Trainees out on their first circuit, as circuit that if successful will make all four full Heralds.  These four students though, while talented and uniquely gifted, are a tight knit group that just can't seem to stay out of trouble.    Because of the size of their group, they travel with a covered wagon.  In the fist hint of Scooby-Doo, the wagon is painted in the same colors as the Mystery Machine.  That paint is quickly covered up, but it's a great hint for what's to come.

Once out on the road they are caught up in what looks like a haunting designed to get people to flee their village.  It's through some careful investigation, trap setting, and mishaps that the foursome discover the truth.  The whole thing was set up by an old coot who needed people to leave so he could mine gold out of the stream.  When he's caught, he even whines about how he almost got away with it, it if just wasn't for those darn kids.  The story was hilarious, and for a kid who grew up with Scooby-Doo, it was wonderful.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dorian Cramer

Counting today there are only 3 more episodes of One Life To Live for me to watch.  The disgusting thing, other than it going off the air, is what is replacing it.  Do we really need anymore makeover shows?  Really, who the hell cares about makeover shows anymore.  I thought it was bad enough that they replaced All My Children with a cooking talk show.  I'm still shuddering over that one.  The makeover show is the icing on the cake though.  So instead of pulling my hair out, I'm going to talk about my favorite bitch (hero) from the show.

Dorian Cramer, plus a host of other last names, is the antihero frienemy of last weeks FFC, Victoria Lord.  Dorian, who just so happens to be a cardiologist, moves to town and quickly starts trouble.  And when I say trouble, I mean trouble. She starts an affair with a married man, accidentally kills a patient, and takes a spill down a flight of stairs landing herself in a coma.  You have to give it to the woman, when she wakes up, she gets right back on her feet.

After she confessed to accidental death, she is dismissed from the hospital, a dismissal she blames Victoria Lord for.  She sets out to even the score and marries Viki's father, Victor Lord.  From there the talons come out and Dorian is at her worst.  She hides heart attacks, makes fathers and sons hate each other, blackmails and does all sorts of other mean and nasty things.  Now all this happened before I started watching the show, but just hearing about it from my mom made me like this woman even more.

Now if all she did was evil and dastardly deeds, Dorian wouldn't be all that interesting.  At the heart of who she is, Dorian is a fiercely loyal individual who will do anything she needs to do in order to protect her family and friends.  She has an ability to make those around her love and forgive her every time she screws up, which she does often.  She doesn't mind manipulating those she cares about to do what she thinks is right for them.  No matter what though, she does it out of love, even if it is a bit misguided at times.  

Even her relationship with Viki has evolved over the years.  The two of them are constantly at each other's throats but are always there for each other when it's needed.  Despite everything that has passed between them, they do love each other and I'm not sure their lives would be complete with out the other.

Dorian, and characters like her, is the reason I will miss daytime dramas.  Characters that have years of history and development are always a joy to watch because they never stop evolving.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Our Man In The Dark by Rashad Harrison

Synopsis From TLC Book Tours:

Feeling unappreciated and overlooked, John Estem, a bookkeeper for Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), steals ten thousand dollars from the organization.  To the bookkeeper’s dismay, the FBI has been keeping close tabs on Dr. King and his fellow activists—including Estem—for years. FBI agents tell Estem that it is his duty, as an American and as a civil rights supporter, to protect the SCLC from communist infiltration.  Playing informant empowers Estem, but he soon learns that his job is not simply to relay information on the organization. The FBI discovers evidence of King’s sexual infidelities, and set out to undermine King’s credibility as a moral leader.

I'm going to be honest right up front.  I'm going to be honest about something that, I have a feeling anyway, will put me in the minority on this one.  I really didn't care about this one.  I didn't hate it, but after I put it down, I felt nothing; zip, zero, nada, nothing.  It's been a few days since I've finished it, and to tell you the truth, I had to reread the synopsis on the dust jacket to really remember what the book was about.

I know part of the problem is that the book has a really noirish vibe to it.  I can't really call it noir, because it wasn't gritty enough for me, so we will go with noirish (even if it's not a real word.)  I love noir though, so I think part of the problem is that it just didn't go far enough for me.  It's like when you are really craving pizza, it's all you can think about, and when they bring it to your door, it has the wrong damn toppings.  They sent you pepperoni and black olives instead of sausage and mushrooms.  It's still good, just doesn't satisfy you the way you wanted.
The other issue, at least I'm going to blame my bland response to this one, is what else I was reading at the time.  I was reading a few golden age mysteries and a cozy at the same time.  I think the juxtaposition between what those offered me and what this was giving me, just didn't work.  I know we aren't supposed to compare books, especially books that have nothing to do with each other, but that's easier said then done.  When I'm in love with my other reading and not feeling the same way about this one, it made it very hard to put those others down and pick this one back up.

With all that being said, and for the most part I could have ignored all of that, what I really kept me from connecting with this book was it's main character, John Estem.  I just didn't like him.  This has a noir feel to it, so I was expecting the characters to be flawed, which they were.  With John though, as flawed as he was, I couldn't find anything about him that I liked.  I found him to be rather boring and despite the self awareness he had, a trifle pathetic.  I'm not really sure if all the blame can be laid at John's feet, but since he's an easy scapegoat, he will have to deal with it.

Now I don't want anyone to think the book is a waste of time.  Like I said in the beginning, I think most people will like this one.  For that matter, if I were to read this at a later date, I may actually end up liking it.  I think the author has a wonderful sense of words and description.  His style, at least in this book, is concise and wonderfully easy to read, without dumbing it down for the audience.  He dealt with some serious subject manner, some of which given some of the historical characters involved, I found to be very interesting and even a little brave.  I guess what I'm trying to say is ignore the first 4 paragraphs of this review, and base your decision on this last one.  I don't want to be responsible for someone not reading this book.

I want to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page, where I'm sure you will find more upbeat reviews.

Challenges: A-Z