Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
He was fiercely protective of those he loved, and had faced tragedy on so many levels. He lost his brother to a Cylon attack, his mother to another Cyclon attack, and his newly married wife Serina to a third attack. After her death, he steps up and adopts her son, becoming a single father. He was killed in action, only to be revived by the Beings of Light. He took care of his squadron members, backed his best friend Starbuck up when needed, and never thought of himself over others. He is the perfect hero, which at times can be pretty damn boring, but when you are constantly fighting for the salvation of the human race, stagnation never sets in.
Of course it helped that the actor who played Apollo, Richard Hatch, was hot, which resulted in a huge childhood crush. But that's not as important as the role he played on the show, and his overall influence on pop culture.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Synopsis From Publisher:
In the decades since her death in 1958, master storyteller Mary Roberts Rinehart has often been compared to Agatha Christie. But while Rinehart was once a household name, today she is largely forgotten. The woman who first proclaimed “the butler did it” was writing for publication years before Christie’s work saw the light of day. She also practiced nursing, became a war correspondent, and wrote a novel——that inspired Bob Kane’s creation of Batman.
Born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, before it was absorbed into Pittsburgh, and raised in a close-knit Presbyterian family, Mary Roberts was at once a girl of her time—dutiful, God-fearing, loyal—and a quietly rebellious spirit. For every hour she spent cooking, cleaning, or sewing at her mother’s behest while her “frail” younger sister had fun, Mary eked out her own moments of planning, dreaming, and writing. But becoming an author wasn’t on her radar . . . yet.
Bestselling mystery writer Charlotte MacLeod grew up on Rinehart’s artfully crafted novels, such as the enormously successful —“cozies” before the concept existed. After years of seeing Christie celebrated and Rinehart overlooked, MacLeod realized that it was time to delve into how this seemingly ordinary woman became a sensation whose work would grace print, stage, and screen. From Rinehart’s grueling training as a nurse and her wartime interviews with a young Winston Churchill and Queen Mary to her involvement with the Blackfoot Indians and her work as doctor’s wife, mother of three, playwright, serialist, and novelist, this is the unforgettable story of America’s Grande Dame of Mystery.
I don't think it will come as a surprise that when a friend of mine pointed out a cheap copy of this book, that I jumped at the chance to read a biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart. For those of you who don't know, next to Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart is my second favorite mystery writer of all time. I never heard of her until Yvette of in so many words... did a review of The Circular Staircase. While reading her review, the plot sounded really familiar to me, and I quickly learned that one of my favorite movies, The Bat starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead, was actually based off of a Rinehart novel. Actually, the movie is an adaptation of the The Bat, which was a novelization of a play of the same name, which was actually based off of The Circular Staircase. After that little discovery, I was hooked. I've since read and reviewed twenty-three of her books, and while I like some more than others, I would take them all over a lot of the "cozy" stuff being written today.
When I first started to delve into Had She But Known, which by the way is named after a major plot device used by Rinehart, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The affection and admiration Charlotte MacLeod had for her subject was obvious from the start, almost too obvious. I understand that, for the most part, if someone is going to take the time to write a biography of someone else, that they are going to have to respect the subject, otherwise the writing would be a horrible experience. However, there should also be distance and objectivity between the writer and the subject, otherwise it can cloud the information coming across. If I can't trust you to be objective, how can I trust the information being given? Her admiration comes across too much, especially in the beginning, and just could have done without her commenting on the worth of individual Rinehart books. The language got too flowery and flattering at times, but thankfully I plowed through and I ended up loving the book.
What saved it for me was my own love for the subject. This is a writer whose work I enjoy so much, how could I not love exploring her life in far more detail than I ever had before. And what I discovered only heightened that admiration. From the way she handled herself as an overseas war correspondent during WWI, to the scrappy determination to do whatever it took to take care of her husband and three sons, I discovered a woman worthy of the admiration and respect Charlotte MacLeod so obviously heaped on her. It was interesting to read how some of my favorite novels came about, even the ones MacLeod didn't share my views of. It's hard to believe the speed at which some of these had been written, given the complexities of the plots.
Mary Roberts Rinehart became a household name in her day. From her exploits with Theodore Roosevelt, to her advocating for Indigenous tribes, to becoming one of the highest paid authors of her time, she did everything with a style all her own, and I wish that she somehow regains the popularity she enjoyed so long ago.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Caught between my high birth and empty purse, I am relieved to receive a new assignment from the queen. The king's youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion, showing her the best of London - and dispelling any rumors about George's libertine history.
George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men - including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when one of his supposed mistresses is murdered.
The queen wants the whole murder hushed. But as the case unfolds - and my beau, Darcy, turns up in the most unlikely of places, as always- our investigation brings us precariously close to the Prince himself.
It's with a heavy heart that I'm writing this review. I love Lady Georgiana. I've highlighted her in a Favorite Fictional Character post, and I truly want her to be happy with Darcy, but as of tonight, I'm doomed to never find out if that wish comes true. Malice at the Palace may be the ninth book in an ongoing series, but it's my last.
The one note side characters that have been annoying me for a while, actually improved in this book, but not by much. Queenie still needs to disappear for good, but Belinda won back some of my sympathy. Georgie's common grandfather, and her aristocratic brother and sister-in-law all made reappearances, and I was happy to see them. They haven't been around much, so they hadn't been getting on my nerves. Darcy is still as dashing and charming as ever, and everytime he's on the scene, I grow just a tad bit jealous of Georgie for hooking him. Sadly, this isn't enough for me to continue with the series. Overall, her charcters are one note caricatures, and no improvement in this area is enough to make up for my real issue with this series.
I am absolutely done with the author's homophobic attitude. She treats gay and bisexual men as jokes. For nine frickin books I've been patiently dealing with it for Georgie's sake. I prayed that her treatment of them would improve, but it's only gotten worse. Every single gay or bisexual man is portrayed as either someone to pity, someone to scorn, the butt of a joke, a manipulator looking for a wife to hide his gayness behind, a money hungry twink, and now a full fledged murderer. The poor guy is being blackmailed, so he decides to kill his oppressor, not that I blame him, but come on already. Naturally when Georgie stumbles upon the solution, he tries to take her out, but is summarily pushed down the stairs to his death, by ghosts of all things. I liked the guy, he was an interesting character, and we knew nothing about his sexuality until the end. He didn't deserve the treatment he got.
The authors attitude almost seems pathological and deliberate in nature. Over the course of nine books, there is not a single gay or bisexual male character that breaks the mold I mentioned before. The author seems obsessed with gay and bisexual men, as they appear in every one of the nine books. But why are none of them not somehow portrayed in the manner I listed earlier. Of course I could be over thinking this. Maybe it's simply that she can't write characters, outside of Georgie and Darcy, that are more complicated than a paperdoll. Her other side characters are one dimensional stereotypes, so why should gay and bisexual men be any different.
Either way, I'm over it. I'm going to miss Georgie and Darcy, and I'm sad I'll never see them married.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
It's March 15th, 1977 and I'm exactly 7 months old. Jimmy Carter is in the White House, Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’) by Barbara Streisand is the number one song on the charts, Joe Hahn of Linkin Park was born, it had been exactly 2,021 years since the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Three's Company made its broadcast debut.
To be perfectly frank, I'm not a huge fan of the show. I didn't understand a lot of the humor when I was a kid, and I find the gay for laughs thing rather offensive as an adult. The one redeeming factor for me is the caftan wearing, sex starved character of Helen Roper, played by the amazing Audra Lindley.
I'm not sure I could take Helen in large doses, but I would love to have her as a neighbor. I bet she is the kind of person I would love to hang out with occasionally, drinking a few margaritas and gossiping up a storm. I think she is the kind of person who's advise I would actually listen to, as long as I filtered it first.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Synopsis From Publisher:
Unlike the other members of the elite Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force, Detective Jack Leightner prefers his murders baffling. He likes to lose himself in tough cases, and he just caught a murder that will consume him like no other: an unidentified body, bound execution style, on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
Leightner is finishing his first look at the corpse when he discovers a knife wound and loses his lunch. He has seen a thousand dead bodies, but nothing brings back bad memories like death by knife.
The victim was a hardworking Dominican man with a family, a job, and no ties to the underworld. Investigating this murder will Auckland Leightner back into Red Hook, the neighborhood of his youth - now a labyrinth of empty docks and crumbling housing projects. It's a tough case, but not half as hard as going home.
I'm half way convinced that in order to be a fictional homicide detective, you are not allowed to be a well adjusted, happy person. You have to have painful secrets in your past you refuse to talk about. You have to be distant and socially awkward with your family. You have to have no skills in love, and live a stoic life revolving around your career. As a mystery fan, it makes great reading, but I'm always feeling bad for these characters.
I, through a twist of fate, reviewed the second book in this series, The Graving Dock, back in 2011. I fell in love with Jack back then, but for whatever reason it's taken me this long to get the first book reviewed. It was interesting to see how truly damaged Jack is in the beginning, and how far he had come in The Graving Dock. He is carrying a horrible secret about how his younger brother was killed when they were kids. He has a painfully uncomfortable relationship with his grown son. He has a woman he sees, and I mean has sex with, but from what I can tell they don't actually like each other. He is not a happy man, and he's drowning it with alcohol. I think he is a man of his generation.
In Red Hook, the author not only introduced one of my favorite homicide detectives, he proves his skill in creating a world for Jack to shine in. The city of New York, the borough of Brooklyn, and the Red Hook neighborhood are living, visceral characters unto themselves. Jack would not exist if it wasn't for where he lives. This would not be a character that could be shifted to Chicago or St. Louis. The setting runs through Jack's veins, and he would cease to exist otherwise. The author writes in such a way that I thoroughly enjoy as a reader. He brings the location to life. As a reader, you are able to walk the streets with the characters, seeing the landscape through their eyes.
He crafts the mystery the same way. It's tactile and tangible. He allows the reader to experience the horror and pain through Jack. He builds the suspense, all the while instilling the need to solve the case in our gut, just as strongly as it resides in Jack's. It's something I don't experience in a lot of mystery fiction, but when I do it stays with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm always curious to see the outcome of a case, but I rarely feel a need for solve it myself.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Since I wasn't blogging at the beginning of the year, I never got to do a recap of my favorite reads of 2016. I was just going to let it go, but I have decided that I really want one last chance to convince someone, anyone to read the books that I fell in love with last year. To make it easier, I'm only including books I reviewed, and only books that were not rereads. This is going to be a fairly short list, mainly because I didn't review the vast majority of books I read last year.
So here are my favorites:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
Final Admission by Sue Brown
The Children's Home by Charles Lambert
Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom by Brian Olsen
Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark
Frog by Mary Calmes
The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
It feels like it's been forever since I've done a Favorite Fictional Character post. I've put the feature off for the simple fact that, in my head at least, if I start doing it again, it meant I'm really going to have to get back into blogging. It means I'm going to commit the time and energy, two things I've been lacking lately, into my blog. I still do not really have the time or the energy, but I've been missing Wordsmithonia, and I've been missing you guys.
So with the reappearance of the feature comes a new approach to it, at least for the next 42 weeks. Starting with 1976, the year I was born, I'm going to feature a character from every year that I've been alive. They will come from TV shows, movie, books, and comics. So today's character, Jaime Sommers, had her TV show debut in 1976. Next week's character, who has not been selected, will have made their debut in 1977, and so forth through 2018.
Remember when I mentioned she appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man? You should, it was at the beginning of the last paragraph. Anyway, she and Steve Austin were childhood friends, and through some machinations from Steve's mom, they reconnect. One fateful day they go skydiving, and her parachute malfunctions, plummeting her to the ground. Both legs, her right arm, and right ear are damaged beyond repair. Steve, being the cyborg man that he is, contacts his bosses, and has Jamie decked out in all new bionic replacements, making her The Bionic Woman. She also loses her memory, forgetting all about the love she shared with Steve. And that's part of the reason why I loved her so much. Instead of getting wrapped up in the life of the man who "saved" her, she is able to go out and build a life separate from him. She stands on her own two feet, and makes the best of a horrific situation.
With her new found abilities, she gets put to work as a super spy and general bad guy ass kicker. She saves the day on a regular basis, and does it with a style all her own. Her show was only on for two seasons, and I was too young to watch it when it first aired, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every single episode of it. I enjoyed her more than I did her ex-boyfriend, though I couldn't tell you why I don't like Steve as much as her.
I know they tried a reboot a few years ago, but I would like to see them try again. Actually, I have a better idea. Instead of another Avengers movie, or even the Justice League movie that's coming out, let's make this movie instead.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Part of the Synopsis from the Dust Jacket:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Buckhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under suspicious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West - where oilmen such as J.P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed - many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the relatively new FBI took over. It was one of the organization's first major homicide cases but the bureau badly bungled the investigation. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including an American Indian agent in the bureau. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Officially, around twenty-four members of the Osage tribe were murdered for their oil. Unofficially, the estimates I've seen start in the sixties, and climb from there. They were murdered by their friends, in-laws, spouses, and community leaders. Their lives were stolen by the very people they were supposed to trust and look to for help. The depravity inflicted upon the human soul that this book narrates is mind boggling in it's scope, and heart wrenching in the way people were betrayed by those they loved. Just when I think I've heard the cruelest examples of the way humans treat each other, I'm exposed to a story that makes the shows my roommate watches on the ID Channel, seem like child's play. It is almost impossible for me to express the full depth of emotion I felt as I read this tale of greed so base, that Charles Ponzi is a nobody in comparison to these men.
This wasn't one or two men so blinded by money, that they left their morals at the door. This was an entire community, an entire county, hell bent on taking what they could, damn the methods used. Politicians and lawmen, the ones not actually contracting the killings themselves, did the covering up and lost evidence. Doctors faked autopsies. Inquests were filled with the men responsible for the deaths.
Since Congress had decided that the Osage were not capable of taking care of their own money, white business men were assigned as executors. Many of those men ended up with dead charges, in many cases more than one dead charge, allowing themselves to "inherit" the oil rights. The white men who did actually try to investigate, ended up dead themselves. One man was actually killed in Washington, D.C.
The part that really turns my stomach, other than men marrying and impregnating women solely to kill them later, is the way in which systemic racism allowed this to happen to begin with. It was congressional actions, built out of prejudice and disdain for indigenous Americans, that laid the framework these men took advantage of. If congress had not taken many of the actions they did, I'm almost convinced this could have all been prevented.
And the part that just saddens me, is that I went to high school in Osage county. I lived in Osage county for four years, and I never heard a peep about this. It wasn't taught in state history, it wasn't talked about by the residents of the town I lived in. I never heard of this tragedy until I was listening to NPR in the car earlier this year. How can something of this magnitude not be taught in our schools? What happened in Osage county should serve as an example of what transpires when racism and greed are combined.
And yes I know, so far I haven't written much of a review, and I'm okay with that. You guys already know that I'm a sucker for well written narrative nonfiction, and Killers of the Flower Moon is a prime example of it. I'm sure you can already guess that I would do my damndest to convince all of you to get your hands on this book. That I would want you to share it with your friends and family. I would implore all of you to never let what happened in Osage county be brushed aside into obscurity again.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Synopsis From Back Cover:
My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again - which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.
Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air, and wealthy men aboard, mother meets movie mogul Cy Goldman, who J sits on casting her in his next picture. Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the investigation os a suspected jewel Thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beautiful, Darcy!
Mother's movie and Darcy's larceny leads everyone to Cy's Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin hanging about and there's enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the Sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead. As if there wasn't enough drama already...
I finally finished Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen, and I'm still loving Georgie after eight books. I'm still wanting her and Darcy to make it official. I'm still enjoying the situations she finds herself in. I'm still enjoying the way the author crafts her mysteries, though this one isn't the strongest. And I'm still enjoying the series enough that I'm going to continue with it.
What I'm getting tired of, are some of the reoccurring side characters. Georgie's mother, and her friend Belinda, are beginning to become one dimensional characters who don't ever seem to change. They are flat caricatures of money loving, sex craved women who are only out for themselves. The only time they seem to want Georgie around, is when it's beneficial in some way. Her maid Queenie, is just down right annoying at this point in time. Any comic relief she was good for, stopped working a few books ago. This go around she leaves for a while, and when she did, I was relieved to see her go. When she came back, it felt as if I had another kidney stone get stuck.
And I'm still frustrated with how the author treats gay men in her books. I get this series takes place between the two world wars, but enough already. Her gay male charcters are all either manipulative users looking for beards, or idiotic buffoons who are after money and sex. It's stereotyping at its laziest. Which I think is the crux of every issue I've had with this series. Outside of Georgie, and to a smaller degree Darcy, the reoccuring characters are straight out of central casting, and they never develop further. It's not enough to ruin my overall enjoyment yet, but I can see it doing so eventually.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast stretches west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed the territory through courageous investigation.
Orchestrating the American push into the continent, Jefferson most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific. But at the same time there were other teams doing identical work, jn places were it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Curtis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike - all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier while keeping up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findjngs.
But they weren't always well-matched - not with one another and certainly not against a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. The tensions and perils threatened to undermine Jefferson's goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West.
When I first started the blog, a blog that I've allowed to languish for far too long, I wasn't reading that much nonfiction. I would pick up the occasional political or history book, but it was only one or two a year, and that may be stretching it a bit. If blogging has made a lasting positive change in my reading life, it's in an ever expanding appreciation for nonfiction. The types of books I'm now reading covers a vaster expanse of interests, and I now have a greater appreciation for American history and how much of it I really didn't know.
I of course knew President Jefferson's role in obtaining the Louisiana Territory, what middle school kid hasn't heard of the Louisiana Purchase? I knew of Lewis & Clark and the exploration they embarked on. What I didn't know, or at least forgot about, was everything going on behind the scenes. They didn't teach us about all the maneuvering behind the scenes, the clashes with the Spaniards, or all the obstacles that had to be overcome for our country to stretch from coast to coast.
Before reading this I don't think I understood how much of how we see ourselves as a nationation was crafted by Jefferson. Nor do I think I fully appreciated his role in creating the country we call home, and I don't necessarily mean in our size. I think he is pivotal in envisioning a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but I think he helped craft our character and instilled in our collective psyche a need to see beyond our current borders, to always be reaching for what is next. He helped mold the American sense of adventuring. After reading this book, my fondness for our third president has only grown.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
It is 1906, and few in the teeming metropolis of New York City have heard of, let alone seen, the hugely wealthy man who controls so many of their lives. Few, too, would have heard of the extraordinary events that took place at the Paris Opera house more than twenty years before-a story as dramatic as any of the operas themselves: a tale of Love and murder and passion, the heartbreaking legend of the Phantom of the Opera.
I'll admit to having loved this book at one point in the time. Designed to be a sequel to Andrew Loyd Webber's musical, The Phantom of the Opera, it tells a rather convoluted tale of greed, family secrets, and unrequited loved. It captured my imagination from the beginning, but it's been at least 12 years since I'd read it. When I picked it back up the other day, while I wasn't as enchanted as before, it still managed to pull me in with it's operatic version of soap opera goodness.
The Phantom, now known as Erik Muheheim, escaped Paris with the help of Madame Giry, and has managed to raise from rags to riches in New York City. He has built a business empire to be envied, but never lost his love and fascination with Opera. His denial of a box seat at The Metropolitan Opera house, forces him to build a grander rival, and that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Christine is hired to sing, and when she shows up with her young son, the secrets come out in the open, and nobody will live the life they planned on from that point on.
The Phantom of Manhattan mixes old and new characters, seamlessly weaving them with secrets, love affairs, and enough tragedy to create a tale Susan Lucci could have sunk her teeth into.