Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children.  Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, and was drawn to his fiery passion.  But now he's lashing out at her during one of his periodic verbal furies.  She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids - which works to keep a fragile peace - until one rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

August 2nd, 2010, was the day I reviewed The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers.  It was the day I was finally able to wax profusely on how much I loved the book, and how deeply I had fallen in love with the author's narrative voice.  That book is the whole reason I agreed to review Accidents of Marriage, which is not a book I would normally read.  But since I'm just about willing to read anything written by her, even if she had decided to publish her own phone book, there was no way I was going to pass this one up.

To be perfectly frank, if this book had been written by anyone else, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked it at all.  It's not the type of subject matter I normally get caught up in, especially since I always feel as if the husband is being given the short end of the stick in these types of stories.  And to be even more frank about it, while I think this book is written in the same narrative flow that The Murderer's Daughters was written in, I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much.

The difference for me is that I was able to relate to the subject matter in the first book.  It reflected some of my own past, so I got lost in the characters and their stories.  In Accidents of Marriage, I couldn't relate to most of what was going on, and to be even more honest, I found myself siding, if that is even a fair word to use, with Ben most of time.  I think the book was beautifully written, as is anything Randy Susan Meyers chooses to write, but I couldn't find that personal connection to it.

Off the top of my head, I can name about 50 people I know who would love this book, and would be able to connect wit the subject material.  I'm willing to admit that the issue here was me, and my inability to connect, which can not be blamed on the book.  I knew going into it that it probably wouldn't be the book for me, and I was right.  At the same time, I'm glad I read the book, and I would make the same decision over again.  Randy Susan Meyers is a fantastically gifted writer, and she is one that I will always choose to read, regardless of whether or not I end loving it as much as I did The Murderer's Daughters.

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

Favorite Fictional Character --- Mighty Mouse

I can't believe this will be the last post of my superhero month.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out who I wanted to end with, and I had so many running through my brain.  It was really hard for me to select one, but I ended up going with one that I've loved since I started watching cartoons.  I was so fascinated with this guy, and I loved the idea that he didn't have some complicated back story.  He was Mighty Mouse, no other identity or story was needed.  That's it.  He was a hero all the time.  He was the coolest mouse, and I knew he could kick Mickey Mouses's ass.

If I was being completely honest, I still think Mighty Mouse was way cooler than Superman.  He could do the same things Superman could, but he was so much smaller.  So in my head, that meant Mighty Mouse was stronger, and could kick Superman's butt as well.  Now I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be the case, but I would love to see it happen.  Truth be told, I've never been a huge Superman fan.

The other thing I loved about the cartoons was the way that Mighty Mouse, and most of the characters for that matter, was the way that they sang the entire time. It was this little operatic adventure story, that could enthrall me for long periods of time.  I didn't care about his love interests, mainly because I was too damn young to care,   I didn't even care that much for the villains, most of them were stock cats who were interchangeable.   But the singing, that grabbed, and kept my attention.  

Occasionally I will find an old Mighty Mouse cartoon on TV or as part of a old time cartoon DVD collection, and I'm just as entranced now as I was then.  I wish they still made cartoons like this, instead of the crap that is produced now.  I'm pretty sure cartoons will never be this good again, but the inner child in me, will always wish for it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Synopsis From Back Cover:

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back form sleeping barrow kings.  I burned down the town of Trebon.  I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life.  I was expelled form the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in.  I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day.  I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

I'll be the first to admit that I suck at reviewing fantasy books.  I can't even begin to tell you why that is.  I'm not sure if it's because, and this is accurate of pretty much all the fantasy I read, of the sheer scope of what most fantasy authors are able to do.  It's just not a story they are telling, they are creating a whole other world.  They have to, to the smallest details, figure out what this world is like.  They have to be able to come up with whole new religions, nations, races, languages, lineages, histories, animals, currencies, and the list could go on forever.  It's the sheer size of what is being created, that makes me cave under pressure.  I'm never comfortable in my ability to review, or even simply talk about what I thought of everything involved.

What I can say about The Name of the Wind, is that while I know a lot of work went into building the world Kvothe inhabits, I have to admit that I couldn't see it.  I couldn't see where the author had to struggle and strive towards creating this place.  I couldn't see the blood, sweat, and tears involved in creating an entire world from scratch.  The narrative is so smooth, you forget that everything you are reading is made up.  Kvothe tells his story in such a way, that I forgot it wasn't a real autobiography.  I bought into the whole thing. I willing suspended my disbelief after the first few pages, which was when this emotionally powerful narrative took over.

I'm not not normally enthralled in a fantasy world.  Even when I really enjoy the world an author has created, I'm always aware that this is a make believe place.  Before Kvothe, the only other fantasy character that I had fallen this in love with was Vanyel Ashkevron, the title character in Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage trilogy.  They are the only two examples, of when I was able to forget I was reading a fantasy story.  I've gotten to see Vanyel's story through the end, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Kvothe's.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio Goes Eurodancing

Not sure why I'm wanting to listen to Eurodance right now, but it's what's on my mind.  I think because I've been in such a crappy mood today, that I needed something to get my mind off of it.  For those of you who weren't paying attention to the music scene in the 90s, Eurodance was everywhere.  It was on the radio and in the clubs, and it was a ton of fun to dance too.  I find myself turning to it when I'm needing a pick me up, so I thought I would share some of what I've been listening too for the last few hours.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Covenant - 2006

Synopsis From Back Cover:

To the students of the Spenser Academy, the Sons of Ipswich are the baddest boys on campus.  But that's not all they share.  The four friends also share a 300-year-old secret: they're warlocks, the teenage descendants of a 17th century coven of witches.  So when the long-banished fifth son suddenly appears and threatens to kill their loved one, they realize they must face their enemy in order to prevent him from stealing their powers and shattering the covenant forever.

Sometimes all a movie needs to be good, at least good enough for me to watch a few times, are a few pretty faces.  The Covenant is full of them, even if only two of them really caught my eye.

Steven Strait plays Caleb Danvers, the hero of this little story.  Caleb, who is the oldest of the friends, is about to come into his full powers, but they come with a price.  Once they reach the right age, every time they use their powers, it's ages them.  He is the most reluctant of the friends to use them, and it seems all he wants to do is swim and meet a nice girl and settle down.  He is constantly reminded of the price of his powers, as it has turned his father into a old man, forced to hide in their ancestral home, deep in the woods.

Sebastian Stan plays Chase Collins, the black sheep who seems to have come home.  Chase grew up without the benefit of knowing his history, and seems to be a little power hungry.  He killed his adoptive parents when he came into his powers, and it seems he has become a little addicted to the rush.  He comes across as Mr. Nice Guy at first, but it doesn't take long before his true colors start to shine through.  Pretty soon he is kidnapping Caleb's blond girlfriend, and trying to force Caleb to give him his powers.

Who the other characters are is really not important, they are pretty much pawns that get moves around the screen.  They are there for the other two characters to interact with, fall in love with (not very believably), and use.  Sure they are pretty and look good on screen, but the other two have them beat hands down.

The movie itself is pretty fun, as long as you don't try to take it too seriously, or over think the plot points.  There are holes in it of course, but I don't know of a pretty boy horror movie that doesn't.  The acting is better than is the norm in this type of movie, and the special affects are as good as you expect from a movie made in 2006.  The fight scene at the end is a lot of fun to watch, and not only because the two guys are drenched.  It's well choreographed, and has just enough tension in it, to keep it from being repetitive.

This is probably only the third time I've seen the movie.  I saw it once at the theater. and once when I first bought it on DVD.  I can't foresee myself watching this one all the time, but it's a fun way to spend 97 minutes of my time, especially when I want to watch a couple of hot guys fight it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Space Ghost

I was a cartoon addict as a kid, and one of my favorite channels was USA.  Does anyone else remember Cartoon Express?  If I'm remembering right, they had a weekday version, and a weekend version.  I watched it every change I got, and it's the reason I'm so in love with cartoons that really were before my time.  Give me The Herculoids over Ren & Stimpy, any day.  I still have a lot of fond memories over the days I spent on my grandmother's living room floor, switching the dial to USA, and getting lost in cartoon worlds.

On of the shows I loved featured Space Ghost and his teenage sidekicks, Jan & Jace.  And you can't forget that damn monkey, Blip.  I'm so not a fan of inhuman sidekicks, and Blip is a large part of the reason why.  He was so frickin annoying.  I could handle Jan & Jace, especially since they seemed to keep the stoic Space Ghost from becoming to full himself.

And he was a little full of himself.  I'm not talking about that horrible talk show parody they stuck him in, I couldn't handle it.  I can never watch one of my favorite childhood characters, turned into a joke.  I much prefered him when he was racing across space, protecting planets form destruction, and beating his regular cast of bad guys.

I even liked his bad guys.  They were different, and while they seem kind of hokey to me now, they were really cool when I was a kid.  Moltar, Zorak, Black Widow, Metallus, and Brak, how I love you guys.  I used to pretend I was along for the ride, when Space Ghost would kick your asses.  The adventures were something I could get lost in, and let me imagine a world where right always wins, and the bad guys always lose.  That false sense of rightness is why I love cartoons, and why I love superheroes so much.  Even if the good guys suffer a defeat, you always know that they will some how land on top.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Helping of Love by Andrew Grey

Synopsis From Publisher:

If Peter Christopoulos has learned one thing from his last three years in a wheelchair, it's that people have a hard time seeing past the hardware.  When he asks out Russ Baker after giving him a quote on equipment for a new Greek restaurant, he's disappointed but not surprised to be turned down.

Russ has been covering for his abusive boyfriend for so long it's almost automatic, but with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to break it off.  To his surprise, Peter is still interested, and soon they're falling hard and fast.  But there world is thrown into turmoil: Peter finds an old letter indicating he has a half sister he's never met, and Russ' past interferes when his ex makes it clear he'll do anything to get him back.

One of the things I've learned from reading the bazillion romance novels I've torn through this year, opposites attract and the most unlikely pairings, end up working out in the end.  At least that's how it happens in books.  I'm almost positive that it isn't that easy in real life, even if I am desperately hoping that it is.

You guys really don't care about this, but I'm going to spill it anyway.  This last week we had a regional meeting in Kansas City, MO.  Our region is actually pretty damn huge, so it was only store managers from four of our districts.  One of those other store managers is from a town in North Dakota, and as of right now, I have huge crush on him.  Which is my head, makes entirely no sense.  He's not my normal type, if I even have one anymore, and he lives 799 miles away.  Yes, I looked up the distance on Google maps.

Regardless of how much I'm telling myself that this is the stupidest thing in the world, I can't get him out of my head.  I was pretty sure it was mutual, I was able to friend him on FB before the meeting was over, but I was too damn scared to ask for his number.  We did exchange numbers, via FB later on, and my chickeness was reciprocated.  So at least I knew that part was mutual.  We have texted back and forth once sine then, Saturday night, and because I have a big mouth, I admitted that I wanted to kiss him a ridiculous amount of times Wed. night, but again I was too chicken to do anything about it then.  He said he felt the same way, so once again I was vindicated, at least in the sense that I wasn't completely out on a limb on this whole thing.  We haven't talked since, but we are both swamped at work right now, him more than me, and I'm not thinking we will talk, until later on this week.

I'm not sure where this will go, if it will go anywhere, but I'm at least willing to give it a chance right now.  I"m not sure that I would have done the same thing last year.  I think reading all of these romances has done away with some of the more cynical sides of me, and at least allows me to remember what it was like when I went into every situation with an open mind,.  A time when I didn't prejudge everything, and hoped for the best possible outcome.  I guess you could say that reading romances, has given my sense of romance back to me.

I guess I should get to the book at some point in time, and quit talking about myself.  But what I said about the first two books in this series, still holds ture.  I adore the characters that Andrew Grey creates, and Peter and Russ are no different in that.  I love them by themselves, and I love them as a couple.

They are the kind of couple that doesn't make sense on paper.  They are both damaged, though in different ways, and have issues that most people would run away from, or at least make them take a long pause.  But they click together so well, it's hard for either one of them to walk away.  They get through all their messes, and by the end, in true romance fashion, live happily ever after.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Synopsis From Inside Cover: 

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio.  Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes.  Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of night, they'll patrol the empty Showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

Quirk Books is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers.  They keep producing works that not only draw you in with a well told story, but they are masters at packaging.  Much like The Thorn & The Blossom by Theodora Goss, another Quirk title, this is one of those books that needs to be experienced in person.  It can't be read over a NOOK or a Kindle.  You can not stare at it on a computer screen, and truly get the experience of reading it.  It's bound and formatted like a furniture catalog, soft cover and French flaps.  The first few pages include the typical store map, Orsk's mission statement, and an order form.  The chapters themselves start with a new piece of furniture, and it's description.  It's a gorgeous book, and the experience of reading it, should be enough to convince everyone to pick it up.

I think I made it pretty clear when I reviewed 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, that I love a good haunted house story.  I think it was also pretty clear that I get upset when the haunted house story sucks, as it did with the Koontz book.  Thankfully, Horrostor didn't suck.  It was actually, pretty damn good.  I'm not going to say it kept me on my toes the way The Haunting of Hill House does, or that it's nonstop action the way Hell House is, but it was a fun and lively romp through a store, bent on killing those that are still in it.  It had it's scary moments, but I can't stay it ever terrified me, or made me want to turn on all the lights in the house.

I think were it fails as a pure horror novel, it makes up for in it's ability to poke fun at the genre, and at IKEA.  The riff at IKEA is obvious.  From the concept of the store, to the design of the book, to the names of the furniture pieces, it's making fun of the IKEA idea.  But it's also getting at the consumer mentality that allows stores like IKEA or Orsk to exist.  It's the cultural digs that I found to be the most appealing, and the most dead on.

Horrostor also plays with the precepts of the genre.  It takes some of the basic constructs, including character types, and has a ton of fun with them.  I can take each of these characters, and show you examples of them in just about every haunted house novel I've ever read.  Normally, that would be a horribly repetitive, boring thing to do.  Here, it reads more like a hilarious send up of the genre.  Before the action even got started, I knew who would die, and who would live to see another day.  With all that being said, I don't want to come across as if this book should be shelved in the Humor section of Barnes & Noble.  It is, at it's core, a horror novel, it just has a lot of fun with it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio: Hall & Oates

No lengthy explanation, cause if you don't get it, I won't be able to persuade you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Banshee

Back in the day, even after I stopped reading comic books, I still collected superhero action figures.  At one point in time, my sophomore year in college, I had quite a few of them.  Now most of them were X-Men characters, though I had a few that weren't.  One of the figures that I really wanted, but never got, was of Banshee.  I looked high and low in every store I could get to, and I never found it.  By the time I found one, I was no longer collecting them, and I had given all of them away to a neighbor kid.

The man who would go by the name of Banshee, was born Sean Cassidy.  He was raised in his ancestral home, on the rugged, wind swept coast of Northern Ireland.  He grew up with all of his family's noble history, and for the most part, it rubbed off on him. As he grew up, he realized that he had one of the coolest mutant powers I've ever seen.  He can produce a sonic scream so powerful, that he can use it to fly, take out his enemies, and a myriad of other cool things.  

As he continued to age, he joined Interpol, fell in love and got married. While on a rather lenghty, undercover assignment, he lost his wife in a horrible terrorist attack.  She was pregnant at the time, which he never knew about, and it was kept from him when he got back from his mission.  It was thought by those around him, that it would be better for him not to know he lost a daughter as well.  What many didn't know, is that she lived, and was raised by Sean's cousin.  Let's just say, the two men didn't like each other very well, so his cousin never filled him in on the truth.  So his daughter was raised by his criminal cousin, and he continued with life, not knowing anything about her.

In the meantime he joined the X-Men and a few other organizations, and lived and loved on Muir Island. He put his life in danger, more often than most, all in the name of doing what's right and noble.  At one point in time, he did appear to be dead, but it's recently come to light that he has been brought back.

What I've always loved about Banshee, even when he was at his lowest, is he never allowef the darkness to completely overwhelm him.  I'm not saying he hasn't been rocked on his heels a few times, and hasn't hit the bottle, but that innate nobility always shines through in the end.  He, at his core, is a genuinely good guy.  He wants to do what is right, and wants to put the needs and safety of those around him, ahead of his self.  In my book, that makes him the perfect superhero. 

Of course it doesn't hurt that he's hot, for a blond, and has an awesome superpower.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Golden Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon's dream home.  Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse.  But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace.  For it's fortunate residents - a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager among them - the Pendleton's magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, it's dark past all but forgotten.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths.  With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton's past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again.  Soon, all those within it's boundaries will be engulfed by a deadly tide from which few have escaped. 

When do you give up on an author you used to love?  When do you finally say, enough is enough, their new stuff sucks, I'll stick to what I already love?  With Stephen King, it took reading Insomnia for me to get to that point.  The damn thing should have been marketed as a cure for the ailment.  I actually stopped reading Dean Koontz years ago.  I don't even remember which book(s) finally turned me off of his new stuff, but for whatever reason, I was never willing to totally give up.  I almost bought 77 Shadow Street when it first came out, but I kept putting it off.  It wasn't until the hardcover was less than $6 at Barnes & Noble, earlier last month, that I finally decided to give it a go.  I kinda want my money back.

I can never stress how much I wanted to love this book.  To start with, I'm a huge haunted house fan.  I want to like any book that can suck me into dark halls and claustrophobic rooms.  I can read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite, The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz, Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco, or Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters a bazillion times, and never be bored.  It's the whole reason I watched 666 Park Avenue, it sure wasn't for the acting.  Whether it's a book, movie, TV show, or something else; if it involved a haunted house, I'm there.  Hell, I've even lived in a haunted house, though it wasn't as exciting as the movies make it out to be.

On top of that, I used to love Dean Koontz's books when I was younger.  I still love a few of them; Watchers, Strangers, Phantoms, and Lightning being the ones that come to mind.  So put the two together, and it should have been a slam dunk.  Instead, it was a foul ball that hit the catcher in the face.  It was such an odd mishmash of nanotechnology, time travel, temporal portals, mad scientists, and the meaning of life.  It was disguised to look like a haunted house story, but it wasn't.  The plot was so convoluted, I'm still not sure on some of the things that happened.  Nor do I really think I care.  It felt as if the story was constructed by picking themes and events out of a hat, and stringing them together. The only redeeming quality was some of the characters, but there were so many of them, that the ones I liked weren't on screen long enough. Nor do you really have enough time to spend with them, to truly care about what happens to them.  The hero of the piece, though he may have some of the characteristics of some of his earlier heroes, he's never developed enough, not like what I expect from Koontz.

To answer my own question, I think I'm finally willing to admit defeat.  I will not be picking up any more of his new work.  Instead, if I need a Koontz fix, I'll go back to the books that I know I love.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tacolicious by Sara Deseran

Synopsis From Front Cover:

Tacos may be the most universally love, happy-making food on Earth.  After all, who can say no to a juicy, spicy Chile Verde taco; a decadently deep-fried Baja-style fish taco; or a gloriously porky Carnitas taco? At Tacolicious, the San Francisco Bay Area's most popular Mexican restaurant, tacos are a way of life.  And now, in this hotly anticipated debut cookbook, co-owner Sara Deseran shares all of the retaurant's tortilla-wrapped secrets.  Whether your'e seeking quick and easy weeknight meals of inspiration for a fabulous fiesta, Tacolicious has you covered.  With recipes for showstopping salsa, crave-worthy snacks, cocktails and mocktails, and, of course, tacos galore, this festive collection is chock-full of real Mexican flavor - with a delicious California twist.

I adore tacos.  I don't think there is a more perfect food, well maybe the dumpling, but that's for another post.  The taco is such a simple concept, but it's so versatile  It can be as simple as what I grew up eating; store bought taco shells, seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and sour cream.  My mom would put the hamburger and cheese into the shells, then pop them in the oven for a bit, just to let the cheese get a little melty.  Or it can be a culinary masterpiece, either way, I'll eat them.  Obviously, there was no way I wasn't looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

I'm one of those oddballs that will read a cookbook, cover to cover, before selecting something to try out.  I like to get a feel for the way the book flows, the stories behind the dishes, the history of the food, and it's always a plus when the author's personality shines through.  I got all of that with Tacolicious.  Reading this book made me sad that I don't live in San Francisco, though not enough to get me to move.  Once I was done with my initial read, it was time to cook.  Which, just after reading, is my favorite pastime.  It's such a good relaxation tool for me.

I love Chile Verde so it was pretty easy to figure out what I wanted to make first.  It's not something I've ever made before, I've never needed to.  I live on the side of town that is just a few minutes away from some of the best Mexican food in the state.  There are a ton of small, locally owned dives, that does some of the best Mexican I've had.  I've lived in California and Texas, and been into Mexico about a bazillion times, and I'll put what we got here, against any of those other places.

I'll admit, I was a little daunted at first.  It's not a long recipe, or one with a tone of ingredients, but it's one that I didn't want to screw up.  I didn't want to turn one of my favorite dishes, into something I wouldn't want to eat ever again.  I really hate cutting up meat, and I was not looking forward to it at all.  Thankfully, there is a new butcher shop in town, that sells locally raised meats, and they will prepare it for you as well.  So after one side trip, I was back home, ready to cook.

Once I got started, it was pretty simple, and the house quickly filled with an aroma that made my mouth water.  I'm not going to say that my first stab at this dish was as good as the version I could get at Tacoliscous, but it was pretty damn good.  The pork was perfectly tender, and so juicy.  I love the flavors of Chile Verde, and I think I've found a new favorite.

There is a recipe in here for fish tacos, another of my weaknesses, but I never like to fry at home.  I can't stand the smell it leaves behind.  There is also a recipe for tamales, and if I ever feel that ambitious, I'm giving it a go.  And the next time I feel like grilling some hot dogs, the bacon-wrapped hot dogs with jalapeno-cucumber relish, will be being consumed, along with a pitcher of Margarita picante.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wordsmtihonia Radio: The 80s, Part Deux

I've had had the 80s on the brain lately.  If I'm not listening to music from the 40s and 50s, it's from the 80s.  I'm the same with movies, I tend to like a few decades, and with few exceptions, that's about all I watch.  So today, it's all about the 80s.  My listening has really been all over the place, not really sticking in one genre, rather more of an overall feel of the decade. 

For your listening pleasure, here are a few songs I've been listening to lately.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lifeboat - 1944

Synopsis From Back Cover:

After their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat.  Their problems are further compounded when they pick up a ninth passenger - the Nazi captain from the U-boat that torpedoed them.

When someone asks me to name my favorite Hitchcock movie, there are a few that will run through my head, but every time I answer the same way, Lifeboat. Directed in 1944, two years after another favorite Suspicion, and one year before another, Spellbound, this is Hitchcock at his tension building best.

Putting these characters into a derelict lifeboat, in the middle of the Atlantic, it could have gone two ways.  The isolation could have been incredibly boring, Castaway anyone.  It could have been a bunch of people, bickering as they are waiting to be rescued.  Or the setting could have created such a closed in, claustrophobic feeling to the whole movie, keeping the tension ratcheted up the entire time.  And that is what Hitchcock managed to do.

There is nothing not perfect about this movie.  I even love Tallulah Bankhead in it, and I'm not normally a huge fan of hers.  She never seemed to take acting seriously, at least not in film.  Her performances always reminded me of someone going through the motions, not really into what they are doing.  It's how I imagine most fast food workers.  They don't like their jobs, maybe even hate them, but they need the money.  Acting seemed like a means to an end for her, not a real passion.  I'm not sure what changed for her in Lifeboat, but she knocks it out of the ballpark.  Her turn as Constance Porter, a rather jaded war correspondent, is her best work.  For the first time I was watching a woman who really enjoyed what she was doing, and she actually made me believe in the character.  It's like watching Madonna in Evita, some roles are made for a certain actress/actor, and Constance Porter was perfect for Tallulah Bankhead.

The real star of the movie, was the atmosphere and tension that Hitchcock built within that confined space.  It's the tension between the characters, the tension between the Allies and Germany, and even the tension among the Allies themselves, all at work, creating a powder keg situation.  The tension never lets up.  It has it's ebbs and flows, it's moments where calm seems to have descended, then Hitchcock ratchets it back up, culminating in a explosive ending.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Stingray

Ever since I was a kid, I've been a superhero geek.  Now I'm not one of those that would ever go to Comic-Con, or dress up like their favorite character.  I haven't touched a comic book in years, and most of the superhero movies don't do anything for me.  But there is a select group of heroes that I love.  I've loved them since I first stumbled up on them, and I will probably always love them.  Over the years I've highlighted only a few of them, Doctor Strange, Mandrake the Magician, and Northstar.  So in the month of September, I'm going to be posting on some of my other favorite superheroes.  Some of them will be familiar to a lot of you, others only if you grew up reading comic books.  And for those superhero fanatics who happen to stumble upon these posts, these are not character bios or in depth studies of their behaviors, these are simply posts about why I like them.

Born Walter Newell, the man who would become the costumed crime fighter, Stingray, started off as a famed oceanographer.  He is one of those men who got caught up in the adventuring game, purely by accident.  The U.S. government asked him to supervise the construction of a underwater city, and he quickly became friends with Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  When the government thought Namor was in league with terrorists, Dr. Newell, donned the Stingray costume to capture his friend.

Over the years he has worked with the Avengers on a needed basis, and even helped to house them in his underwater research lab when their mansion was destroyed.  He has helped beat back alien and terrestrial threats to the Earth, and shows almost undaunted courage in the face of danger.  Which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing.  He has no special powers and really no trained combat skills. He has to rely on his suit, which allows him to breath underwater, has a pretty cool propulsion system, gives him super strength while he is wearing it, and since his name is Stingray, it gives off controlled electric shocks.

If you knew the kid I was growing up, you would understand why I loved Stingray.  For years, all I wanted to be was an oceanographer.  I could think of no cooler career choice.  I even knew I wanted to go to school in Hawaii.  I'm not sure what weakened my resolve, but after a few years I focused on medicine, and we all know how that turned out.  And the idea of an ordinary guy, with no unique powers, putting himself out there to help others, it's something I admire and strive to emulate in my life.  Of course I'm not donning a costume and chasing down criminals, but there are so many ways you can positively influence the lives of others.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Serving of Love by Andrew Grey

Synopsis From Publisher:

Sebastian Franklin has waited a long time to prove himself as front of the house manager at Cafe Belgie, but his first night in charge while Darryl, his boss, is on vacation is less than a success.  The restaurant is robbed at closing time, and the Good Samaritan who foiled the robber comes with his own complications.  Robert Fortier is the county's newest judge, and a reluctant one at that.  He is well aware that a public life is not always easy, especially when your personal life makes you the target of a media frenzy.  Still, Robert enjoys Sebastian's company, and Sebastian is never without a serving of happiness and flair for his favorite public figure.  But Sebastian is not without his issues either-- family chaos and an ex in trouble will put the pressure on as they struggle for even footing in this new romance.

Because I've read so many m/m romances since I got my NOOK, I could do a review a day, and still not get through all of them in a year.  I'm been kind of randomly picking one every once in a while, without any thought behind it.  That will change with this review.  A lot of the books I've been reading are part of a series, so I figured it would make sense if I were to review them in order, without jumping around on my NOOK.  Since the last book was A Taste of Love by Andrew Grey, it's time for A Serving of Love.

We actually met Sebastian in the previous book, and he was an okay guy.  A little immature at first, he quickly grew on me, and I ended up really enjoying him by the end.  Well in A Serving of Love, it's his time to shine, and boy does he.  What I find the most interesting about this kind of series, the type that sets up the next protagonist in the previous book, is how much the character changes once they are the center of attention.  What starts off as a well rounded, two dimensional, quickly becomes a fully fleshed out three dimensional character.  While I may have enjoyed Sebastian earlier, I loved him by the end of this one.

He's still a little immature, but he has such a stable head on his shoulders, and has more backbone in him than I would have thought at first.  He is fiercely loyal to his friends, even helping an ex that has hit rock bottom.  And when his current beau Robert gets into a pickle, Sebastian, along with Billy (one of the leads from the first book), jumps into the thick of things to fight back.  He fearless in his love, and fearless in his defense of those he considers his.  He is the type of man I would dearly love to have as a friend.

Robert, what can I say about the gentle giant.  First of all the man is tall, and when I mean tall, I mean tall.  I'm 6'2", and I would have to stand on my tippy-toes to kiss him.  I've only dated one guy that was that much taller than me, and I must admit, I rather liked it.  He also has such a steely sense of duty and honor.  He is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt of his back, and ask you if you needed anything else. In addition to the outing portion of his story, there is a side story line concerning his father, and I have to admit that at first I was sure about the way he handled it.  After rereading the book, I'm a little more understanding of the way it went down, and it makes sense with who Robert is.  And did I mention that until now, Robert was a virgin.

Together, I think the two of them are smoking hot, and compliment each other beautifully.  They create such a solid foundation for their relationship, and they deal with so many outside stresses, that I'm almost positive nothing could break them up.  I think I still like Darryl and Billy a bit more, and I'm always grateful for the page time they get in this, and the proceeding books.  And just to give you guys a hint, look for Sebastian's ex to have his own story, two books from now.

And by the way, and I'm pretty sure everyone else on the planet already knew what steak frites were, but it's not something I've ever heard of.  It's apparently considered the national dish of Belgium and France, but I have never, in my life, had fries with my steak.  I'm only bringing this up because it's the most popular dish at Cafe Belgie, and apparently the only thing Robert knows how to order when he goes there.  So one day, I'll have to try it.  I have no idea why, but the idea of eating fries with my steak, bugs me a bit.  Maybe if I can have it with sweet potato fries, it wouldn't weird me out so much.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Death by Hitchcock by Elissa D. Grodin

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Physics and film seemingly have few academic features in common.  However, when local sire Bunny Baldwin, a student in the Film Studies Department at Cushing College, is found strangled to death on opening night of the Hitchcock Film Festival, Physics professor Edwina Goodwin puts on her detecting hat.  Using her scientific sleuthing skills to assist her almost boyfriend Police Detective Will Tenney, the pair work together to investigate the campus murder.  Edwina wants to know -- why did the murderer tie a strip of film around the victim's head?  Why did the killer time the murder to coincide with the showing of the famous Hitchcock film Spellbound?  Was Bunny really killed by strangulation or did the unusual drugs found in her system suggest poisoning?  Why do all the suspects have a seemingly airtight alibi?

There are certainty sufficient suspects as Edwina quickly ascertains.  The head of the Film Studies Department was having a torrid and practically public affair with the victim.  His wife was apparently furious, but not enough to keep her from also engaging in sexual hanky panky.  The victim had stolen a screenplay written by her roommate, Mary, to secure a Hollywood agent.  Mary is out for payback.  A quirky older woman who uses plants and other natural remedies to cure various ailments followed the head of the department around like a moon-struck calf.  And, of course, there's the film department's boy savant who plays chess with Edwina and keeps her updated on the various players.

Can Edwina use her knowledge of physics to unlock the strange features of this most unusual crime?  When a second murder occurs, it looks like she may -- if the killer doesn't find her first.

There are mysteries that can pull me in by the intricate plots, that twist and turn as they play with my brain.  I can be riveted by a dashing lead detective who uses the tools and know-how at their disposal, allowing them to solve the murder with panache.  Others hook me with the setting, a dark foreboding mansion, or the rocky, wind swept coast.  There are even mysteries that I really enjoy, without ever really understanding the reasons.   There is nothing that really stands out about them, but as a whole, they work.

I'm not saying Death by Hitchcock fits that last profile, because I'm not convinced I really enjoyed it all that much.  At the same, I'm not saying I didn't like it.  To tell the truth, I'm really not sure what I'm saying.  I tend to love academic mysteries, and while this does occur on a college campus, I never really felt as if it belonged there, and only there.  It's the same issue I had with Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann, while the setting was real, the mystery itself felt as if it could have been anywhere, at anytime.  Nothing really connected the two parts of the mystery for me.

At the same time, I really did like Edwina, though I'm a little perplexed by the need to give the character the same initials as the author.  I found her to be engaging, and I loved her relationship with Will.  They are characters I would like to spend more time with, even if the mystery itself doesn't really work for me.  I just didn't by the ending or the reasoning behind the killer's motive.  I'm not sure if it's because the killer's character wasn't developed enough for me, or if the solution, though scientific, seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

I loved Edwina and Will, and maybe that love was enough to get around my issues with the story, I'm not really sure yet.  I'm not willing to give up on this series just yet.  While the mystery didn't captivate me, it was solid enough, and it did give something for Edwina and Will to shine in.  I'm just going to have to see how the next works for me.

This was a free review copy provided by Kelly & Hall Book Publicity, for an honest review.