Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Have A Fun And Safe Halloween, Filled With Lots of Spooky Tricks And Sweet Treats

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Movies Galore!

One of my favorite things about Halloween is all the scary movies I get to watch.  I love to curl up in bed or on the couch, turn off all the lights, and get lost in a world that terrifies and entertains at the same time.  Now to be honest, I don't like most horror movies that come out anymore.  I think they go for gore instead of chills and they bore me.  I've actually been watching a lot of the old Hammer movies on TCM along with some of of Epix on Demand and my own DVDS.

I've been watching so many movies though that I'm not going to have time to do individual reviews.  So instead, I'm just going to show you I have watched to date.  Now I'm sure I'lll end up watching even more movies, all the "Halloween" movies come to mind, but these are what I have watched so far.

Plus we have watched some more family friendly movies that both Aidan and I like to watch every year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A beautiful young model.  The old brownstone apartment she simply had to have.  The grotesque blind priest who watched down on her day and night from an upper-storey window.  The pair of perverted creatures who want her to join their circle.  The mad little old man who gave her tea and sympathy.  The cool calculating, supremely rational lover who first mocked her fears.  And the secret you will never be able to forget, even if you try...

For many years I've been  a huge fan of the 1977 movie, "The Sentinel", that was based of this book, published in 1976.  As much of a fan as I was, I had never read the book before.  Now this is mainly due to the fact that trying to find a copy is almost impossible, I finally found a battered copy at the flea market.  I normally will not buy a book in bad shape, I had not choice but to do it.  I've been sitting on the book since then, waiting for Oct. to read it and the wait was worth it.

Allison Parker has just returned to NYC after leaving town to tend her dying father.  Because of their past, Allison is still in a sort of daze after the prolonged period of time she was out of town dealing with his sickness and eventual death.  She is just relieved to be back in town and to see her boyfriend, Michael Farmer.  Naturally, he is not at home as she was expecting as he was called out of town for business.  Left to her own devices, Allison starts to look for her own apartment since she had been forced to give up her previous one due to being out of town for so long.

When she finally discovers the brownstone apartment, she falls in love with it.  She has a sense that maybe she has found home.  At first nothing seems amiss, she has been living a quiet life waiting for Michael to return back to town, then she starts meeting her neighbors.  They are rather an eccentric lot, some more menacing then others, but eventually Allison starts feeling that something is wrong with those she is sharing the building with.  She starts hearing noises in the apartment above her that is supposed to be empty.  She starts seeing things that aren't there and dwelling on a past that is best forgotten.  Before she knows it, she is plunged into a nightmare of past misdeeds, growing weakness of mind and body, and an evil that knows no bounds.

I said earlier that I'm a big fan of the movie, to be honest I wasn't thinking the book would add anything to the experience.  I can honestly say that I loved the book even more and I'm so thrilled that I finally got a chance to read it.  Now you may think that it's pretty obvious, the book is always better than the movie, that's not always the case with horror though.  Thankfully this time, the old adage rings true.  The book filled in the gaps the movie didn't quite explain.

I'm not going to get into the twists and turns of the plot, but I will say that just when you think you are starting to figure things out, the author does a brilliant job of turning the story on it's head.  This is a book that has a lot to do with the past and decisions that were made before the action starts.  Misdeeds and bad choices force the characters onto this journey and it's one where very few of them come out unscathed.  Some of them will die, others will be changed beyond recognition, and others will disappear as if they never existed.  It's a brilliant book that plays around with the notion of Good vs. Evil and the role the church plays in that battle.

On a cultural side note, it took me a bit to adjust to the way lesbians are referred to in the book.  I know this was written in the mid 70s and that times were different, but the language used to describe the two women was borderline offensive.  Actually, if this language and attitude were used in a current book, I would be offended by it and I would not have been able to finish reading it.  As it stands though, I had to remember the era the author was working in and brush my reaction aside and chalk it up to a more ignorant time.  While it did distract me for a bit, it didn't ruin the book for me.  Thankfully, I was able to move on and enjoy the suspense and atmosphere the author created.

Here is the movie trailer if anyone is interested.

This book is going to qualify for 2 different challenge; R.I.P V Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Dropping and the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Linus Van Pelt

One of my favorite Halloween movies to watch, the one I can't miss no matter what, is It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I've loved the movie (TV special) since I was a kid and Halloween never feels the same without it.  My only beef with the movie is that instead of Charlie's name in the title, it should have been Linus' name.  Linus Van Pelt is the real hero of the movie.

I think of all the characters in the Peanuts universe, Linus Van Pelt was the one I always seemed to gravitate towards.  Charlie, as adorable as he is, always seemed a little too whiny for my taste and I never got the Snoopy/Woodstock fascination my mother had.  Now Pig Pen would come in a close second but that's only because I liked all the dirt floating around him.

What I like most about Linus is his intellect.  He is by far the smartest of the group and isn't afraid to show that side of him to the others.  He never rubs it in their face but Linus seems to have a mind capable of exploring deeper subjects, including philosophy, history, and religion.  For some reason I thought all kids should be like him and I never failed to live up to his example.  Which by the way, totally annoyed my mom when I would open up my mouth and put my two cents into what ever was being discussed.  I got so bad I would ask my mom a question I knew the answer to because I wanted to let everyone know I was smarter than them.  Thankfully I grew out of that phase pretty quickly, but the blanket thing took a little longer.

Now my blanket wasn't blue like Linus' was.  Instead it was a white blanket with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and Pluto at a county fair.  They were eating ice cream cones and there was even a Ferris Wheel on there.  I loved that blanket and for a while, like Linus, never felt secure without it.  It took on properties of it's own and I was heartbroken when my mom finally threw it away (that trauma can wait for another post though), I'm not sure I have ever forgiven her for that.

Everything I love about Linus can be summed up in his relationship with The Great Pumpkin.  Linus never losses faith in his beliefs, even when he is being ridiculed by others.  He truly believes that The Great Pumpkin will reward him if he has the most sincere pumpkin patch and yet when things don't turn out his way, he never totally loses that faith.  Linus shows courage and a strong sense of self throughout the ordeal and I've always admired that about it.  He knows who he is at such a young age and he doesn't let doubt or ridicule change that.

So far all of those who have never seen the movie or haven't watched it in a long time, please take the time this year and treat yourself to a wonderful story and an even better hero.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Teddy Mathews moves to Richland, his main concern is making new friends.  But something is not right about this quiet desert town:  All the boys he meets seem to vanish before hie eyes, while the imposing shadows of the giant tree outside his home appear to be hiding more than darkness.

With the branches of the massive sycamore scratching at his window, Teddy's life becomes a waking nightmare that no one else believes.  Can Teddy escape the tree's terrifying grasp and solve the mystery of the missing boys before he becomes the next boy to disappear?

I've been debating whether or not I wanted to stop reviewing YA until my son is a little older to read them.  It seems that for the most part I either really like them or can do without.  I think I'm going to have to keep reading them if they are anything like The Dead Boys.

This book is only 201 pages, but where it lacks in length it more than makes it up in storytelling.  It's not every boy that can move to a new town and deal with a tree that is trying to eat him.  Teddy is a strong young man who rather than hiding and being scared by the events surrounding him, decides to get to the bottom of it.  From his first encounter with one of the missing boys, Teddy is determined to figure out why his new "friends" keep disappearing and why things don't quite add up.

Part of the reason why I wanted to read this book was because I've always been rather fascinated by "vampire" stories that don't quite fit into the typical mold.  Two of my favorite short stories are about trees, "The Man-Eating Tree" by Phil Robinson and "The Sumach" by Ulric Daubeny both feature trees that feed off non traditional sources.  The Dead Boys smoothly fits into that tradition and I'm looking forward to the day Aidan reads this all by himself.

This book is going to qualify for 2 different challenge; R.I.P V Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Dropping and the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 10/25/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia of The Printed Page and being hosted this month by Avis at She Reads And Reads.

I won a hard cover of The Reversal by Michael Connelly from a BBAW daily giveaway.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Peter Vincent

Now how can I not like a man named after two of my favorite horror actors, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price? Peter Vincent has to be one of the most unique vampire hunters to ever grace the big screen, he is my favorite character from Fright Night. A down on his luck actor who has resorted to hosting a local TV show featuring B horror movie, ala Elvira, Peter has come to a point in his life where he is ready to pack it in and let life do it's thing. When he meets Charlie Brewster, a young man convinced a vampire just moved in next door, a skeptical Peter is pushed into a nightmare that brings him back to life.

A bumbling, reluctant hero in the beginning, Peter has to overcome his own fears and insecurities before he is able to help Charlie defeat the vampire and save the day.  It's that journey that makes Peter such an interesting character to watch.  His development into the hero is such a transformation that you have to respect the inner strength it took for him to face his fears and his self doubts, to emerge a stronger character.  If I ever need to go hunt vampires I'll be taking Buffy and Peter with me.

Jane And The Damned by Janet Mullany

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In 1797, when aspiring novelist Jane Austen becomes one of the Damned, the beautiful, fashionable, sexy vampires of Georgian England, her family insists she takes the waters at Bath, the only known cure. But the city becomes a blood bath when the French invade and the Damned are the only ones who can overthrow the French and save England.

Jane now regards her creation as a vampire as a gift. She rejects the cure and discovers a world of freedom, love, and adventure as a vampire. But as an immortal, she loses her ability to write and must sever ties with her beloved sister Cassandra and the rest of her family. Under the shadow of the guillotine, Jane will have to decide whether eternal life and love are too high a price to pay for the loss of what means most to her as a mortal.

Since I'm not a Jane Austen purist, and I know that there are a lot of you out there, I'm not all that shy from straying into territory that some may find a little horrifying.  I'm a big fan of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, so I figured why not try a novel that takes the author herself and turns her into one of the undead.  The premise sounded promising and I figured if nothing else it would be a fun read.  Unfortunately for me, while it was fun at times, the ending left me so cold, I could be mistaken for one of the Damned.

I found Jane to be a fun, intelligent young woman who was just coming into her own in life when she was turned by a rather fickle vampire.  Abandoned by her creator she is forced to deal with her change on her own and it talked into, by her father, taking the cure.  Once there though she is thrust into a world unlike the one she was familiar with and she quickly realizes that maybe there is more to this "damned" thing that she first thought.

Where the book started to lose me, were the scenes where Jane is forced to deal with the French military officer that has forced himself onto her family and is living in their home.  I found myself skimming through those sections, waiting for her dealings with her fellow vampires, which I found to be way more interesting to read about.  These were the sections of the book that made me glad I chose to read this one and they kept me engaged in an interesting world that quite honestly sounded like a lot of fun to me.

If you plan on reading this book and don't feel like having the ending SPOILED, don't read past this point, because I can't discuss the ending without SPOILING it.

Jane's decision at the end to go back to her old life and become mortal again after the French are forced out of the city, made absolutely no sense to me.  Jane has gotten to a point in her journey where she is accepting of her fate as one of the Damned and has fallen madly in love with a fellow vampire, Luke, who took her under his protection and helped her along the way.  She has been accepted by those she has gotten to know and understands the gifts that she now has at her disposal.  She decides to give it up because she can't stand to be away from her family, especially her sister Cassandra.  She has also discovered that she can't write as one of the Damned.  Her ability seems to have vanished along with her transformation.

Now this makes sense, I can see a lot of people making the same decision she makes.  My problem with it is it doesn't seem to be supported by the story.  We are told she loves her family, is close to her sister, and enjoys writing more than anything else, but you never really feel it come across.  The relationship with her sister seems loving but the idea of them being inseparable just doesn't really come across in either action of dialogue.  Nor does her love of writing, you can tell she enjoys is but I never felt that it was a life long passion she couldn't do without.  Even when she is thinking about the loss of the ability, it felt more like having to dye your hair a different color and missing that old color than she was going to missing an integral part of her.

Instead Jane seems the happiest when she is discovering and using her new abilities, when she is with her fellow vampires, and when she is with Luke, the man she has fallen in love with.  She comes alive in these scenes, I truly liked her as a character in those moments.  She is full of vigor and spunk and she is someone I would want to get to know.

I don't mind endings that I don't see coming.  What I do mind are endings that are really supported by the plot points the author spends developing throughout the rest of the book.  I want an ending that makes sense, and this one doesn't.  It took what was a fun, light story and turned it into a book I will probably not visit again.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

You can learn more about Janet Mullany (for some reason I can't load her photo so I apologize for that) by visiting her website, twitter, or facebook.

You can find more reviews by visiting the tour page.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 10/18/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia of The Printed Page and being hosted this month by Avis at She Reads And Reads.

I won an autographed paperback copy of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber from Collette of A Buckeye Girl Reads.  This gives me a good excuse to go buy the first book now.

I received a paperback copy of Wishin' and Hopin' from Wally Lamb for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I bought hardcovers of Deck the Halls by Mary & Carol Higgins Clark and Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert from the Friends of the Library Book Store for $1 a piece.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Labyrinth By Kate Mosse

Two women separated by 796 years are thrust upon the same journey of religious freedom and discovery.  Alice Tanner is volunteering on an archaeological dig in the Pyrenees mountain in July of 2005.  What she discovers there will connect her with a young woman named Alais who fled form the city of Carcassonne in the year 1209.  This is a story of two women who must fight for their lives in order to protect those they love and the Grail.

I read this a few years ago when it first came out but had almost forgotten what it was about when I saw it on sale at the Friends of the Library Book Store.  It was in great shape and only a $1 for a hardcover so I picked it up knowing that I would read it eventually.  When it was picked for our Tuesday Book Talk on twitter, I was excited to rediscover what was within it's cover.

What I found was a richly fleshed out story that pulls you in despite it's slow going at times.  Alice and Alais are both strong women who seem to take on the weight of the world when they are forced, one to discover the other to protect, a secret that could alter humanity for either good or bad.  The secret of The Grail has been protected by men and women of all faiths and backgrounds in order to keep it out of the hands of those that would exploit it for their own power. 

I found myself getting lost in the struggle and mesmerized by the locales both women found themselves in.  Kate Mosse, in my opinion, captured the region and it's culture in ways that I found fascinating. The language alone that she uses both in it's antiquity and in it's beauty kept me entranced by the story, almost more than the plot itself.  I found myself enraptured by the beauty of the story and never wanted it to end. Now how much of that description and language choices are accurate to the time period, I have no idea.  Nor do I have a clue on the religious history of the region that she recounts in this book.  I'm going to take it at face value though and assume that she is using real history to tell a exciting story that spans almost 800 years.  Whether this book is partly based on historical facts or not, I really don't care.  What I do care about is a story that despite it's flaws, and it does have some, I found myself caught up in it anyway.  That's the most I can ask of any author, and this one delivered.

This book is going to qualify for 3 different challenge; R.I.P V Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Dropping, Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City, and Typically British Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It Gets Better...It Gets So Much Better

I've been heart broken by the rash of young people killing themselves because they are having a hard time believing that living life is worth it.  They have all taken their own lives because they have been ruthlessly bullied for being gay  I think what I'm feeling and what many other's are feeling is magnified by what we had to deal with in school.  Listening to the stories of young people as young as 12 who have given up and let the bullies win makes me feel like I've some how let them down.  That our community has let them down somehow. 

There is a wonderful group on youtube called the It Gets Better Project.  It was started by columnist Dan Savage and his husband to let young people know that life gets better.  People can download videos to post their stories so they can tell young gay men and women that life is worth living and to not give up.  Since I don't have a video camera right now I felt I needed to do something on my blog.  I'm not sure how many young people, who I'm going to addressing this post to, will be reading this, but if only one teenager reads it and is helped by it, it's worth it to me. 

I also wanted to share with you the video that convinced me that I had to say something about this.  After watching it I needed to put into words what I'm feeling right now or I was going to feel powerless to help.  Joel Burns, who is a member of the city council of Fort Worth, TX, addressed the issue and I couldn't stop crying throughout the video.

The rest of what I write is going to be directed at any young person who is dealing with growing up gay in a world that still doesn't quite understand you.  I want you to know that you aren't alone, that you have a large community of people that love you and accept you for who you are.  We want to help you in any way we can and that we will be here for you when you need us.  If you ever need to talk, my email address is and I'm always willing to listen.  I want you to understand that you aren't alone.

I wish I had the opportunity to tell you in person that yeah it's hard right now.  That you have to deal with a lot of shit and people being cruel to you.  You may have to deal with adults that aren't willing or able to protect you.  Teachers and parents who either don't care, understand, or know how to deal with it.  I wish I could be there for you to hold your hand and protect you from all the pain you are going to deal with over the next few years.  It hurts knowing that I can't keep you from being hurt, that I can't stop the bullies who are going to call you names and tell you that your life is worth nothing.  I can't stop the bigots from calling you a faggot or dyke.  I can't force your parents to protect you or your teachers to be there for you when you need them.  What I can do is tell you that no matter what is going on now, that not allowing them to win, that living your life is so worth it.

High school was hard for me too, I wasn't picked on that much but I felt alone and isolated.  I wasn't all that popular but I wasn't on the bottom of the ladder either.  I was one of those kids that showed up for school, had a couple of friends, but never really fit in beyond that.  I tried to join different groups so I wouldn't feel so strange but even then I never felt all that welcome. 

I joined a church because  I couldn't understand why God would make me gay to only have people tell me that it was evil and that I would go to Hell.  I would pray every night for almost two years that if me being gay was wrong that if God really did hate me for it, that I would just die in my sleep.  I didn't want God to hate me.  I didn't want other people to hate me for that matter.  I wanted to be just like everyone else, I wanted to be normal.  Over that period of two years I started to feel better about myself.  That maybe God doesn't hate me, that he in fact loves me for who I am.  Then I realized that if God loves me for me, that maybe I should love myself.  So I started to come out to a few people that I thought I could trust and for the most part I could trust them.  I know it kept me from being friends with certain people but luckily I found people that accepted me for who I am.  I'm not saying it was easy though.  I still wrestled with thoughts of ending it but I realized that while the pain can seem oppressing at times that high school doesn't lat forever.  That eventually I would be able to get out in the world and create my own family.

I have created that family for myself.  I am surrounded by friends who love me and that I can count on to be there for me when I need them.  I have a son that I adore and that I thank God for everyday of my life.  He alone makes high school worth it.  I'm single right now but I've been in love before I know the joy of having that in my life and I know that I will have it again at some point.  I have a decent job, a good car, hobbies that I love to do, and interests that keeps me living a full life.

I want to let you know that if you don't let them win, if you fight through and allow yourself to experience life, you won't regret.  There is a whole world out there for you to discover.  You will fall in love and have your heart broken but you will learn from it every time.  You will find a group of friends that will support you and love you and be there for you whenever you need them.  You will create a life for yourself that while it won't always be rosy, will be your own.  You have some many choices ahead of you that I'm wanting you to understand that please, no matter what, don't give up.  Give yourself the opportunity to find out what life is all about for yourself.  I'm begging you to believe us when we tell you that it does get better.  That you will be happy and loved, that you are worth having around and that all of our lives will be a little emptier without you in it.  Please, please just give yourself the chance to discover it for yourself.

Now to the adults out there that are reading this, I want you to look at yourself and at those around you.  I want you to pay attention to what's going on and protect these kids.  Let them know that they can count on you to save them from the worst of what they are dealing with.  Let them know that they are loved and cherished and that their lives are worth living.  Just be there for them, please.

There is another wonderful organization called The Trevor Project that provides a suicide hotline that gives LBGT young people someone to listen to them and to help them deal with what they are feeling.  Their number is 1-866-488-7386.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dr. Phibes

Right from the beginning I knew I wanted to do at least one Vincent Price character during the month of October.  Halloween is just not as scary if it doesn't include one of the greatest character actors to work in the genre of horror movies.  The only problem was narrowing it down to one.  After hours of soul searching (I know I'm laying it on a little thick but that's ok with me), I settled on a character that he played twice.  In the movies The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Vincent Price plays an almost sympathetic character, who just happens to be a cold blooded murderer.  So with no further introduction from me, I would like you to meet, Dr. Phibes.

Dr. Anton Phibes was a respected concert organist who just happened to hold doctorate degrees in both music and theology.  His whole world comes crashing to halt when he is presumed dead in a horrific car accident as he is trying to get to his wife who's on the brink of death.  He survived the accident but was so disfigured by it that he had to fashion a mask and wig in order to resemble the man he was before the accident.  When he found out that his wife, Victoria, died on the operating table, he convinces himself that it was the result of malpractice and vows vengeance on those responsible.

A few years later, he starts killing the eight doctors and one nurse he feels are responsible for the death of his wife.  Where he distinguishes himself from other boring killers, are the methods he chooses to torture his victims.  As a doctor of theology, Anton is quite familiar with Biblical stories and he uses the plagues of Egypt to wield his vengeance.

No obviously since the plagues are very specific he has to improvise on some of them.  Instead of being inflicted with boils, the first victim is stung to death by bees, which cause boil like sores to erupt all over his body. 

The bats plague was a little easier to pull off, all he had to do was allow a bunch of them to maul his next victim to death. 

The plague of frogs, my favorite by the way, was to send a mechanical frog mask to a Doctor that was attending a costume party.  Once on the mask could not be removed and a predetermined time, the mechanism started to tighten around the throat of it's victim, crushing the throat and killing the doctor. 

Blood and hail were rather easier to execute, bleed one victim to death and use a ice machine to kill the other. 

After the death of the poor doctor by rats, I didn't want to fly for a while.  The poor guy was flying a plane when all the sudden tons of rats starting pouring out of everywhere causing him to crash. 

Beasts was probably the biggest stretch for me, I was expecting the victim to be fed to a lion or end up as a bears lunch.  Instead the poor guy is impaled by the horn of a brass unicorn. 

Then we come to the death of the nurse.  While she is sleeping Dr. Phibes pours a green, gooey substance of what I assume is some kind of plant material all over her body.  He then allows locusts to enter her room where the proceed to eat her all up.

With only one doctor remaining and the next plague that of the first born, Dr. Phibes kidnaps the doctor's son and forces him to operate on him.  When the doctor shows up to rescue his son, he finds him strapped to a table, with a vat of acid hanging over his face.  The key to free him has been implanted next to his heart and the doctor only has six minutes to find the key and free his son.  Luckily the doctor is able to save his son, but not before Dr. Phibes escaped to places unknown.

Now you may be saying to yourself, what a horrible man to kill in such a manner.  I on the other hand, as cheesy as they are, am completely blown away by the man's creativity.  I can totally understand the kind of grief that can cause a man to lose himself in the need for revenge.  Now do I think it justifies the murders, no I don't.  But what I can appreciate is the planning in and the execution of an elaborate scheme that uses all the knowledge of mechanics, religion, music, and science that Dr. Phibes possesses.  He is an inspired killer and tons of fun to watch.  Besides you have to appreciate his art deco sense of style.

So for all of you horror fans out there, I encourage you to watch The Abominable Dr. Phibes as soon as you can.  If you like it, go ahead and watch the sequel.  I enjoyed it but not nearly as much as the first.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie

Part Of The Synopsis From The Dust Jacket:

A casual evening dinner party becomes a night of intrigue when one of the guests suggests that they each present a mystery - preferably one of which she or he has personal knowledge - and let the group try to uncover it's solution.  This lively proposal yields a plethora of haunting, perplexing tales.  Fortunately for the other guests, Miss Jane Marple is in attendance, ensuring that even the most baffling puzzle will not go unsolved.

Lately I'm finding myself enjoying Agatha Christie's short stories almost more than her full length novels.  This collection is no different.  The premise is pretty simple, during two different dinner parties the guests tell each other about different murders that they have encountered.  They were almost unsolvable and only one or two people knew the truth.  The challenge they had for each other was to discover the truth for themselves.  Once again, our lovable Miss Marple, without ever moving from her chair, figures them all out.

Jane Marple is fast proving to be my favorite over Hercule Poirot.  There is just something so unassuming about her that you can't help but love her, even when she is showing everyone else up.  She is a brilliant observer of human behavior, but even more than that, she keeps that knowledge stored in her brain for when she truly needs it.  If I ever find myself in a sticky situation, I want someone like her on my side digging for the truth.

This book is going to qualify for 3 different challenge; R.I.P V Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Dropping, Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City, and Typically British Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 10/11/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia of The Printed Page and being hosted this month by Avis at She Reads And Reads.

Just one book this week.  I won Oogy by Larry Levin from one of the daily Hachette giveaways during BBAW.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Part Of The Synopsis From The Back Cover:

In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America’s first president.

Part of the reason why I wanted to review this book was that despite a decent education, I'm not all that familiar with who George Washington was as a person or a General.  I think I was one of many Americans, that according to this book, viewed George Washington as a lifeless waxwork, worthy but dull.  Those are the author's words, not mine, but honestly, I would have to agree with him.  All I can remember from school is that he was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, stayed at Valley Forge, crossed the Deleware, and became our first president.  Yeah, that's about it.  I respected him as one of the founding fathers, but really didn't know who he was as a person.  So as you can tell I'm not a scholar of American history so my review may be a little more pedistrain than some others you may read.  What I am though is someone who wanted to get to know the man, not the legend.

After reading 815 pages, I can honestly say that not only do I know him better, but I have a lot more respect and admiration for him. The author has done a masterful job of bringing our first president to life in a way I wasn't expecting.  Washington is portrayed as an ambitious man who is in a constant state of war with himself.  He is a very passionate person but he has such a tight control on his outward manifestations of that passion, that many people never saw that side of him.  He was a very guarded person whom inspired respect and admiration but very little affection.

He was a man sensitive to station and rank and never really got over the snubs he suffered during the French and Indian War.  Because he was a colonist, he was never granted to the same respect or commission that a British born officer would have.  That disparity rankled him and fueled some of his anti British feelings later on in life. 

His personality in general was just fascinating to read about.  He grew up never receiving a proper education and that bugged him for the rest of his life.  The early death of his father and oldest brother stayed with him as did his cool relationship with his mother.  Washington was an imposing 6 foot tall and by all accounts a dashing individual.  He was a ladies man who loved to flirt but had a deep and meaningful relationship with his wife Martha.  Though he was a slave owner he was conflicted on the subject and tried his best to not split families apart, but wouldn't tolerate runaways.  This was an attitude he carried into the military as well.  The man this book paints for us is intelligent, committed, loyal, but most of all human.  He has come down from that marble pedestal and become mortal once again.  I think his legacy is served mightily by that.

As you can tell I'm trying to give you a small taste of the man I met within this book but I don't want to go into a lot of it.  For one I'm not sure I would ever be able to get across all of it, nor do I think you want to read that long of a post about it.  What I do want to do is encourage you to read this book and discover for yourself that George Washington truly does deserve not only our respect and admiration, but our affection as well.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can visit the tour page to discover other reviews and to learn more about the author.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Candyman

It's that time of the year again, the weather is getting cooler and the nights are getting longer.  Pretty soon it's going to be time for the ghosts and goblins to start running around so like last year, the month of October is going to be about my favorite scary characters.  So sit back and get ready to be introduced to some of the evilest characters to ever grace the screen.

Born Daniel Robitaille, the man who was destined to become the Candyman, was born to slaves on a plantation in New Orleans.  When he falls in love with the young white woman who's portrait he is commissioned to do, he has no clue what's about to befall him.  When it's discovered that his lover is pregnant, Daniel is hunted down by her father and a overly hostile mob.  When they catch up to him, they cut off his hand and insert a rusty hook into the stump.  They then coat him in honey from a beehive and allow the bees to swarm and sting him to death.  Now if this was the end of the story, you would be left feeling horrified by the events that transpired and Daniel would become a victim to the racism of the time.  Luckily for us, it's not the end of Daniel.

Candyman had become an urban legend in the city of New Orleans akin to that of Bloody Mary.  If you look into a mirror and say Candyman five times, he is returned to our world where he proceeds to wreck carnage on the life of the one that summons him.  Throughout the 3 movies he terrorizes in, he seems to go after people that are descended from him and his lover. He saves their deaths for last and instead kills those closet to them, framing them for the murders. 

He is a vindictive, angry killer that does so purely for the pleasure it brings him.  He wants to sustain his legend, his myth.  He wants to be the boogieman that parents threaten their children with.  His sole desire is to be immortal through peoples fear and blood. 

So my challenge to you is, stand in a dark room in front of a mirror and say Candyman 5 times.  He probably won't come and get you, but you never know.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Games Bible by Leigh Anderson

Part Of The Synopsis From The Back Cover:

For parties, for dinners, for holidays, for a weekend away, for dorm rooms and vacation homes, The Games Bible is a comprehensive compendium celebrating the old-fashioned pleasure of pure play.

When I first got this book in the mail, I was thinking there is no way I'm ever going to be able to play every game in time for a review.  Ok, just joking....I'm really not that out of it..well maybe just a little.  Either way I'm digressing from the matter at hand.  Simply put, I think I just found the mother load of fun!

This covers of this book contain around 300 games and activities that will leave you howling in laughter and having one of the best times of your life.  The book is broken down into 17 chapters, mainly divided by categories, 15 of them exactly.  They range from card games to trivia games along with outdoor games and lawn games.  For those of you who like something a little smarter, there are trivia games, literary and word games, right brain games, and something called brainy games for 2.  I think you get the point, whatever situation you are in, whatever you feel like doing, there is a game for you. 

One of my son's favorite card games is in the book, Go Fish.  We hadn't played it in a while so when I found it in the book, we broke out the cards and played a few games.  The sad thing is, I got beat every time.  My card skills are sorely lacking.  Now one thing I did learn about card games from this book is that for my entire life, I've though I was playing Gin Rummy.  Come to find out, I've been playing 500 Rummy instead, who knew.

Now what I really want to talk about is a game that I've never even heard of until now and I wish I could get 20-30 people organized to play it.  It's listed in chapter 17 which covers outdoor games.  The game is called Assassin and I really, really want to play.  I'm going to quote form the book as I think it does a wonderful job explaining it to you.  As a warning though, I'm pretty sure you will want to play this too.
Assassin is what is know as "lifestyle-invading"  which means you play it over a course of days or weeks while you go about your regular daily activities - with no break.  You can hunt or be hunted as any hour of the day or night - every player is both a stalker and a stalkee.  You play on your own - there are no teams, and players aren't in the same location with other players at any time - except for the moment of assassination.  It's often played on school campuses - Curtis Sittenfeld details a bout of Assassin in her novel Prep.  At the start of the game (which is usually a predetermined time announced by e-mail), you will receive, via e-mail, a photograph and some vital details (home address, work address) of your prey.  Someone else will receive your information.  Players must "assassinate" their prey -either by tagging them, shooting them with a water gun, or simply cornering them - while trying to avoid the same.  You'll become wildly paranoid.  It is not a game for the faint of heart.
Now how can you not want to play that.  The books goes into details about how you may want to set up safe zones where it is not allowed to get someone, bathrooms, inside work spaces, and in church are probably good boundaries to set.  I don't think it would be a good idea to be fired or thrown out of church cause someone comes in and squirts you with a water gun, though It may be a little fun to see how others react.  One someone is out of the game they have to hand their target over to the person who took them out.  The winner is either the last one standing or if there is a time limit it's everyone who's left.

So now I just need to get, the book says between 5-50, people together and start "assassinating".  In the meantime, I'm going to be just fine playing the rest of the games in this fantastic addition to my collection.

I would like to thank Alexandra at Planned Television Arts for the opportunity to review this book.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Terror by Dan Simmons

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The men on board the HMS Terror - part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage - are entering a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness.  Endlessly cold, they struggle to survive with poisonous rations, a dwindling coal supply, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice.  But their real enemy is even more terrifying.  There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror clawing to get in.

I'm not sure if this is going to be a short review or a rambling one.  I guess we will see how much I actually have to say about this book (comes to find out way too much).  This is a book that I've seen around for a while and have read both positive and negative reviews on.  So when I found it a while ago at the Friends of the Library Book Store for $.75 I picked it up and it's been sitting on my shelves since then.  With Fall and cooler weather arriving I decided to give this one a shot.

I will have to admit that I almost put it down after the first 20 or so pages because it was moving a little slow and wasn't all that interesting.  Thankfully I stayed the course and found myself immersed in a situation that I could not imagine actually happening.  The fact that this book uses a real account of a doomed exploratory mission that ended up with two missing ships with both crews dead, makes it all the more compelling.

I found myself wincing at the descriptions of the living conditions on icebound ships with no heat and dwindling food.  The heartbreaking suffering and senseless deaths are so real that you feel you are watching them happening.  The desperation is palpable and as a reader you can't help but get caught up in it.

Now if this was the only element to the story I would have been happy, the fact that they were being stalked by an unknown foe and being ripped apart, made me ecstatic.  The elements of the supernatural that are laced throughout the book are like the whip cream on top of a hot fudge sundae.  Using Eskimo mythology (which I can honestly say I've never though all that much about before) to explain the monster captured my imagination.

I know I've read a lot of reviews that take issue with the pacing of the novel.  Quite honestly I understand where those feelings come from.  The pace never really picks up and at times you feel like you are plodding through snow and ice to get to the good stuff.  Myself, I thought it added to the story.  These men were stuck on the open ice for over two years, their lives are slow and plodding.  Would it make sense to tell their story any other way?  Besides the point, if this story was told in any faster of a fashion, we would have missed out on so many of the lush details and characters that I feel made the book what it is.

There are some terrific, complicated characters sprinkled throughout the story.  Some you will hate, others you will love, and some you could care less about.  I found myself getting emotional over a couple of the deaths though it tended to be of the more minor characters.  I missed them when they were gone and I felt like saying a small prayer to speed their souls along. 

One aspect of the characterization I found to be the most interesting involved two different gay couples.  None of the four men are all that prominent though two of them are talked about more than the others.  The way homosexuality is treated in this book, especially in the beginning.  I found myself wincing over the usage of the word sodomite, though I know it's fits the era of when this happened.  The fact that the two sodomites in question are about as based and evil as you can get surrounded by ice and snow made it all the more difficult for me to read.  I was beginning to think this was going to be another old fashioned stereotype of what gay men are like.  I thought I was going to have to swallow my feelings because other than these two characters I was enjoying the journey.  The author had something else in mind.  He introduces two characters, one on each of the ships, that were lovers before the expedition.  They had done nothing about it so far but they are able to reconnect and make peace with each other in such a way that I found myself in love with both of them.  There was such tenderness, love, and true friendship between the two that I was rooting for them to survive.  The fact that their story is told amongst the despair and violence made this book for me.

I guess this concludes my rambling review of a book that when I started it, I wasn't expecting to love as much as I did.  For anyone who has started it but couldn't finish it or for anyone who hasn't read it yet, I would encourage you to give it a shot and remember to be patient with it.  The payoff is well worth the time.

This will qualify for the R.I.P V Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings, the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 10/4/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia of The Printed Page and being hosted this month by Avis at She Reads And Reads.

Just one book this last week. I received a trade paperback of Blood and Silk by Carol McKay from the publicist for review.