Monday, March 28, 2016

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

A young actress, Arlena Stuart Marshall, is brutally strangled on the cliffs of a seaside resort.  Each of the guests at the Jolly Roger Hotel has a compelling motive, including Arlena's brand new husband, who seems to be the only man on the island not utterly distracted by her beauty.  It is obvious to all the visitors that Patrick Redfern was violently smitten, much to the distress of his own wife.  And the women hotel guests saw the frivolous and flirtatious starlet in a rather different light.  Only Hercule Poirot, who has come to the Jolly Roger for some much-needed relaxation, can sift through the murderous secrets and macabre clues to unravel the mystery at this secluded playground by the sea. 

It's been a while since I read my last Agatha Christie mystery, and since I'm supposed to be reading them in order, I figured I better get my ass in gear. I wish I could tell you a definitive reason why I've been neglecting not only my favorite author, but my own personal self challenge, but I'm not sure it's all that easy to explain.  I know part of it was the romance binge I was on for a while, a binge I'm starting to week myself off of, but I think another part of it was that Evil Under the Sun was the next book.

I've previously read Evil Under the Sun, in my preblogging days that is, and it has never been a favorite.  I know a lot of Dame Agatha fans that love this one, but I've just never really bought into it all that much. I'm not saying this is a horrible book, because she really never wrote a horrible one, but it is a humdrum outing for me.  When I picked it up this time, I did try to put my previous opinions aside, and go in with an open mind.  And I can admit, that there were certain aspects of the plot and characters that I was able to enjoy more this time around, but it's that blasted ending I just can't get my mind around.

Setting aside the fact that I actually like the killer(s), though they end up being a truly evil person, I think she dropped the ball on setting up the motive, and even a bit with the killer's backstory.  A backstory that Poirot discovers in the end, though why he even looked in the area he did, is still beyond me.  Because the killer's past behavior is so important to the solution, I felt it should have been fleshed out a bit more  I would have liked to have at least seen a few glimpses of that evil in the day to day actions of the killer(s).  In my mind, there isn't even a hint of it, but who knows, maybe they are so infinitesimal, I'm still missing the clues after my third read of this one.  And as far as the solution itself, the way the crime was committed, it's so far out there, it just boggles my mind.  I guess, yes, like all of her solutions, it was physically possible for everything to happen in the manner it did, but it's an even bigger stretch for me with this one.  I can't fall into the willing suspension of disbelief that is so important when reading fiction.

With all that against it, I would still take Evil Under the Sun over most of the "Cozy" mystery stuff being written today.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Wishing You & Your Family, A Very Happy Easter.  May It Be Filled With Laughter & Love.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Crucible edited by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Valdemar's protectors are the ancient order of Heralds, trained as emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, and warriors.  They are drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages - and all are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women.  They are Mindspeakers FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more.  Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures.  With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride circuit throughout the kingdom, protecting the peach and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now, eighteen authors Join Mercedes Lackey, adding their own unique voice to the Heralds, Bards, and Healers of this well-loved fantasy realm.

Journey with Fiona Patton, Jennifer Brozek, Elizabeth A. Vaughn, Elisabeth Waters, and others in eighteen original stories, including a brand-new novella by Mercedes Lackey, to the magical land of Valdemar where:

A Herald must thwart a secession plot helmed by a pretender to the throne...

A nobleman and an heiress work together to dodge their own arranged marriage...

A mercenary, after her partner dies, completes their contract alone, and is drawn into a world of intrigue in the process...

Valdemar is my second home.  For some of you it's Hogwarts, others get lost in Narnia, and some of you like to wander around Middle Earth.  Don't get me wrong, I like those places too, but there is something about Valdemar, and it's surrounding lands, regardless of the time period, that feels like home.  It's the place I go to when I just need to hunker down and recharge.

When I'm not in the mood for a full length adventures, it's the anthologies that I turn to.  They are filled with quick little short stories so I don't have to invest a lot of time, seeing a long story line through to the end.  I can read one, or a few of them at a time, getting in my fix, but not taxing my busy schedule.  I hate when I get to a really good, or intense part of a book, to only be forced to put it down due to time constraints.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more frustrating when it comes to reading.

 In the past, I've recommended these anthologies to people who are unfamiliar with Valdemar and it's denizens, but I think I'm going to change my mind on that one.  After finishing the last story in Crucible, I realized a couple of things, or at least I put two and two together.  These books really are for the fans.  Fans who are already familiar with the timelines, peoples, and lands mentioned within their pages are going to get more out of these.  The stories jump around too much.  There is not sense of time or place among them, so if you aren't already familiar with the basics, you will quickly get lost.  And being lost in a foreign land, is never fun.

Crucible is the ninth such anthology, and I've read every single one of them.  The first three were devoured preblogging days, so there are no reviews for them, but I'm such I'll correct that over time.  Like any collection of short stories, Crucible has some that I like more than others, but they all collectively add to the richness of Valdemar.  As in previous collections, there are stories that continue form earlier anthologies, and a whole host of new characters to explore.  Each of them, including the ones I didn't fall in love with, makes my second home, all that much more real to me.  Each story, each character, adds another layer, another thread, shaping Valdemar into a more concrete place in my imagination, which in turn makes it an even better place to escape to.

Say Goodbye to Disqus

A month or two before I took my blog hiatus last year, I had switched the commenting over to Disqus.  I had tried it once before, but it was a nightmare.  But I was willing to give it another go, when a year later I saw other bloggers using it, with no problems.  I really didn't blog much once I switched it over, so I'm not really sure how well it was working.  Since I've been back, and It's only been three posts so far, I'm finding I really don't like it.  I was never fond of the way it loaded, but I liked the direct reply option that it offered.  Today, I noticed that quite a few comments were missing, just on the new posts, and since I was thinking of letting it go anyway, I did.  I tried to copy/paste as many of the comments I could, but I'm sure I missed some, and for that I'm sorry.  So I'm back to using Blogger's commenting system, and while I wish they had a direct reply option, other than email, I prefer the pop up window anyway.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ghost of a Chance by Simon R. Green

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Carnacki Institute exists to Do Something About Ghosts. Lay them to rest, send them packing, or kick their nasty ectoplasmic arses with extreme prejudice. 

The Institute's operatives are the best of the best.  JC Chance: sharp, brave, charming, and almost unbearably arrogant;  Melody Chambers: science-geek techno-wizard extraordinaire who keeps the antisupernatural equipment running smoothly; and Happy Jack Palmer: the telepath with the gloomy disposition, the last person anyone would want navigating through his head. 

Their current assignment: investigate a major haunting deep underground at London's Oxford Circus Tube Station.  Difficult - and dangerous - enough without the added interference of a pair of agents from the infamous Crowley Project whose mission is much simpler: eliminate Chance, Chambers, and Palmer, whatever the consequences... 

I think by now, at least if you have followed the blog for any length of time, you guys know I'm a huge fan of the Secret Histories series by Simon R. Green.  The story of the Eddie Drood and his family, protecting the world from supernatural, extraterrestrial, and other dimensional bad guys, never fails to entertain.  It is a series full of humor, daring, and dry wit, that I couldn't help but fall in love from the beginning.  In that series, we are introduced to an entire world of other organizations, beings, and clubs, who are either on the side of good, or on the side of world domination. The Carnacki Institute is one of those groups, and though Eddie doesn't think too much of them, I wanted to discover them for myself.  I finally got around to purchasing the first three books in that series, and Ghost of a Chance is the first one.

If I had gone into this book, expecting the same sort of tone that I've gotten used to from the Eddie Drood books, I would have been wrong.  This series has some of the same dry humor and wit, but the characters, and the story lines, take themselves a little bit more seriously.  There isn't the tongue in cheek humor that I've gotten accustomed to from Simon R. Green, and I'm grateful for it.  It was nice to experience a different style of writing from him, and it gives me hope that if I try some of the other series, set in this same world, that I would like them just as well.  Where the the Drood novels are more of a James Bondy type of spy thriller, albeit one like you have never seen, the Ghost Finders novels are more in the line of Hell House by Richard Matheson.  Of course that would mean Richard Matheson was writing Urban Fantasy novels, and I'm really not sure the world is ready for that one.

These guys are still facing major, world shaking adversaries, the type of which would have destroyed Buffy Summers, even if I worshiped the ground she slayed on.  Where Eddie Drood will go in for the kill, all barrels blazing, because of the nature of their adversaries, our heroes of the Carnacki Institute have to use their brains just a bit more.  Don't get me wrong, despite their lack of physical prowess, these guys can still kick ass if needed to, it's just that their brains get more of the workout.  And between the three of them, there are some great brains involved.

I really like these characters, and though I kept wanting to compare them to Eddie Drood, it's just not a fair comparison.  Not only are the tone and style of their respective series totally different, the tone of the two sets of characters couldn't be more different.  If you took James Bond, turned him into a supernatural fighting Drudic Superhero, you get Eddie Drood, and that definition really doesn't come close to describing him.  With our three heroes of the Carnacki Institute, it's more of a combination of Buffy and her Scooby Gang, meets Captain Jack and his team at Torchwood.

Bottom line is this, I already loved the Secret Histories series, and I'm falling in love with the Ghost Finders series. At this point in time, I'm almost positive that I picked up another series by Simon R. Green, I would love it as well.  I love this author's style, his world building, and his character development.  Between these two series, and a few others, I'm going to be a well read guy for a few more years.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Updated Blogger Profile Image

I made a change!  For those of you who have been with me over the years, you've noticed that I've been using the same Blogger image since the beginning.  I've never shown a picture of myself on here, at least not an adult me.  Let's just say, I've always been a bit camera shy, never thinking I look all that great in pictures, so when I could, I hid behind another image.  For Blogger, and pretty much every other social media account I have, I have used an image of Doctor Strange, my favorite superhero of all time.   It was only a few years ago that I started to actually use my own image on Facebook, and even then, not all the time.

I've decided to step out of my box a little bit more, and use an image of myself on here.  It's also going to be the image I use for Discuss and Twitter as well.  It's from almost two years ago now, and I don't think I look to bad in it.  I like that there is no close up of my face. 

So no more Doctor Strange.  It feels weird changing something so simple after so long, but change is good, right? 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Just Wanted to Say, I'm Back!

I know it's been a while, and I'm not sure if anyone will even read this, but I thought it was time to come back to the blog.  I know I really didn't give a great reason for why I had to step away, other than to say life was getting busy, and messy.  I wish I could give you a better reason now, but I can't.  Life just got a little complicated for a while, both personally and professionally, and I just couldn't seem to get any sort of will built up, to continue forward with the blog.  Life is still pretty busy, not sure that part will ever change.  But the messy part, that bad parts, seem to have taken a hike for a while, and I'm ready for them to stay gone.  

There were a few times, actually quite a few times, where I thought I was ready to be done with Wordsmithonia, that I was ready for it to sink into the Swamp of Sadness, never to be heard from again.  In the end, I couldn't let my blog go the way of Artax, I put too many years, and too much love into it, for it to just disappear.  My brain kept telling me to let go, but my heart just wasn't buying it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this, I've missed the blog, and I've missed you guys.  I've missed this amazing community of bloggers that I grew to love over the years, and I've missed the conversations we would have.  

I'm still working 50-70 hours a week right now, so I'm not ready to dive in head first, but you will start to see an active Wordsmithonia again.  I will start posting again, visiting my favorite blogs, discovering new blogs that weren't around when I took my little hiatus, and I'm sure my TBR pile is about to grow another 50 feet

So I'll be seeing you guys around, and I can't wait to get back into the swing of things!