Sunday, October 8, 2017
The Silence of Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Dominic Lancaster hoped to prove himself to his family by excelling in the Navy during World War II. Instead he is wounded while serving as a gunner and loses his leg. Still recovering from his wounds and the trauma of his amputation when the Blitz begins, Dominic finds himself shuffled off to the countrysideend by his family, along with his partially deaf sister, Octavia. The crumbling family estate on the shores of Ullswater is an old, much-neglected place that doesn't seem to promise much in the way of happiness or recovery.
Something more than a friendship begins to flourish between Dominic and his nurse, Rose, in the late autumn of that English countryside, as he struggles to come to terms with his new life as an amputee. Another thing that seems to be flourishing is Octavia's hearing.
As winter descends, sinister forces seem to be materializing around Octavia, who is hearing voices of children. After seeing things that no one else can see and hearing things that no one else can hear, Octavia is afflicted with a sickness that cannot be explained. With Rose's help, Dominic sets out to find the truth behind the voices that have haunted his sister. In doing so, he uncovers an even older, darker evil that threatens not only Octavia but also Rose and himself.
There is something about this time of year that has me craving a good ghost story. Halloween merchandise is lining the store shelves, the serious decorators have already started on their homes, scary movies become habitual viewing, and my reading tastes get darker. Don't get me wrong, I love a good scare anytime of the year, but this is when I want to wallow in them.
Haunted house stories are my weakness, and I can rarely pass one up. Of my favorite books of all time, at least four of them feature a house I would do anything to visit in real life. I'm not sure how I stumbled across this one, but I'm damn glad I did.
Atmosphere is the key to a well crafted ghost story, and boy did this have a suffocating aura permeating the pages. It enfolds the reader, wrapping them in dread. It crawls in through the readers eyes, burrowing its way into brain tissue. As a reader, I found myself unable to put the book down, because I did not want Dominic, Rose, and Octavia to fade away, lost amongst the depair.
Despite a postscripted ending that I could have done without, and not fully sure I truly understood, if this is typical of Mr. Aycliffe's work, I can't wait to wallow around with him some more. Now, I just need the weather man to get with the program.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules.
Fair warning, a little of my political side comes out in this "review".
Frankly, I don't know how to objectively review this book. Even if I could somehow manage to be objective, how do you "review" a first person narrative of an election that is still tearing our country apart? I voted for Sec. Clinton in both the Democratic primary, and in the general election. What's more, I would do it again with a joyous heart. But right now, my heart is broken by the wasted opportunity this country had to be lead by someone of her caliber. Instead, we have a man in the White House who is currently blaming hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico for their own suffering, while he's playing golf. He's poking at the leader of North Korea, his Justice Department is now saying it's okay for employers to fire you for being gay, and Dreamers are just months away from being deported. I told you I couldn't be objective about this.
In What Happened, Sec. Clinton is pretty frank in how she sees the mistakes she made, the fake email controversy and Director Comey's role, divisions on the left, and Russian interference combined into a perfect storm she just couldn't figure out how to navigate. This could be my own biases showing, but I think she's right. Throughout the book, Sec. Clinton lays out her case and does it without whining. She accepts blame when she should, but doesn't hold back in holding others accountable when it's appropriate to do so.
Sen. Sanders used right wing propaganda to weaken her with his supporters. He painted a corrupt narrative of her that some voters, primarily younger who didn't really know her, bought into. They didn't understand the primary process, couldn't believe she was beating him in the primary, so they bought into this whole notion of the primary being stolen. The fact that it was the same primary system that allowed then Sen. Obama to beat her, was immaterial to their anger. They labeled her corrupt, badgered her supporters online, and a few in WI, PA, and MI threw hissy fits and either didn't vote, or voted for Dr. Stein, who has her own ties to Russia.
The letter Comey wrote to Congress days before the election truly was the final nail in the coffin. She is right when she says the momentum was on her side, but that the letter stopped it cold. It was an unprecedented act of interference in our election system by the FBI. His whole manner was suspect, from his initial statement to that final letter, he behaved in a most unseemly manner.
The scope of Russian interference is staggering. Giving the Trump campaign opposition research, hacking the email systems of the DNC and John Podesta including the planting of fake emails, creating fake news stories, orchestrating anti immigrant rallies on US soil, taking out political ads on social media, employing thousand of social media trolls, stirring up racial tensions online, and only they know what else they did. The investigation is for from over, but what's already known should chill the blood of every American.
If you couldn't tell by my tone, I'm still a little bitter about the election. I wish I could find the grace and humor that Sec. Clinton shows in this book. Her pain and disappointment are on full display, but so is her warmth and compassion for those she feels she let down. This is a deeply personal memoir, and if it hurt for me to read it, I can't imagine how it felt for her to write it.
It's obviously a book by someone who is never going to run for office again, it's far too candid for that. And that's what hurt the most. Granted I've admired her for years, but seeing this openness from her cements the idea that regardless of how or why it happened, the missed opportunities that were only possible with her in office are a national disgrace.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
If you know me personally, or have been following the blog for a while, you know I love Halloween. I love losing myself in a spine tingling tale. I dim the lights as low as I can deal with, turn on the electric fireplace, and with a mug of tea at hand, I burrow down and get lost in tales of ghosts, monsters, and murder.
My good friend Michelle of The True Book Addict has been sponsoring readathons for a while on a separate page, Seasons of Reading. She has been doing this one for a few years now, but this is the first time the entire month of October is in play. Once I knew that, I knew I had to jump on board this year. To learn all the details please visit the sign up page.
I've already picked out a few books I'm wanting to get through in those 31 days. The will probably change, but here is what I'm planning on as of right now.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
I'll Be Back Next Week
August into September, is my busiest time at work, hence why I haven't been posting lately. I just wanted to let you know I'll be back next week, and will also have the results of my Blogoversary giveaway then.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton
Part Of The Synopsis From Back Cover:
The 1861 kidnapping of the boy who would grow up to be Mickey Free-the only man Geronimo ever feared-started the longest war in American history: the brutal struggle between the Apache and the U.S. government for control of the Southwest. When the Apache Wars finally ended in 1890, the western frontier had closed, and the once powerful Apaches had been imprisoned far to the east or corralled on reservations.
It has always amazed me how one decision, one action taken by someone who would normally not be important to history, can alter everything. One action, seemingly done in isolation, can have rippling effects that can never be foreseen. This is a masterfully crafted narrative of one such chain of events, one that even the Oracle of Delphi could not have predicted.
Dr. Hutton obviously knows his subject. The research done, and the obvious love he has for a well spun tale, shine through on every page. Through the lives of those involved in the brutal campaign, he draws the reader into that world. It's not pretty nor safe, it's violent and bloody and almost everyone he introduces on the page will suffer. It's not a period in the history of our country most of us like to think about outside the romanticized era of Hollywood Westerns, but it's a story that needs to be told.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Inspector Gadget
Growing up in the 1980s allowed me to wallow in the greatest cartoons of all time. Thats not to say there weren't some great cartoons prior to and after the 1980s, but that decade is the Renaissance of televison cartoons. If you have been following this blog for any length of time, at least before my extended hiatus, you know that I'm a huge cartoon nerd. If you were to bowse through past Favorite Fictional Character posts, you would see numerous cartoon characters. I'm addicted to them, and I remember 80s cartoons that nobody else I know does. Not that Im bragging.
With today's pick I'm cheating a little. The pilot of Inspector Gadget aired on 12/04/1982, but the series itself didn't air until September of the following year. But since I've already decided on the character for 1983, and I needed one for 1982, Inspector Gadget it is.
Anyone familiar with the show knows that Inspector Gadget, no other name is ever given, is a bumbling cyborg police inspector who talks and acts like Maxwell Smart. Despite the fact that he can summon a helicopter blade from his head, stretch his arms and legs about as long as he needs them to be, and can pretty much summon any object from his body that he can ever possibly need, he is pretty much a waste of his bionic enhancements. Hell, if it wasn't for Penny and Brain, his niece and dog respectively, he probably would have been killed in the pilot episode. Much like Maxwell Smart, he means well and tries his hardest, so you can't help but like him. You just don't want to have him as backup in the event something goes wrong. And whether I was laughing at him, or with him, he never failed to entertain.
Friday, August 11, 2017
Dakota Bell and the Wastes of Time by Brian Olsen
Synopsis From Publisher:
Dakota Bell had a difficult summer - her boss turned evil, her roommates took off, and her girlfriend wanted a break. She hoped her birthday might turn things around, but the gang of identical gunmen crashing the party had other ideas. Dakota and her friends flee for their lives through a mysterious portal, leaving them stranded in their own childhoods. She'll need to save the past before she can save the future, but the present holds dangers all its own. A madman hunts her across the years, monsters wait for her beneath the earth, and Dakota's out of time...
It seems like it's been decades since I read the first three books in this series, but it's only been about a year, so I'm not feeling too guilty. What I am feeling is annoyed that I didn't get to this one sooner. I got it at the same time I got the previous two books, but for whatever reason I got distracted, and forgot about it. And before I get started on the review, I have to say how much I love this title and the way it not only plays with word meanings, but with the actual concept of time as well. Frickin brilliant.
Like the first three books, this is a mashup of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and social commentary. This time it's blended together into a hilariously violent game of cat and mouse played through space and time. Of course you can't have time travel without paradoxes coming into play, and I like the simplistic approach the author took. If a paradox occures, the universe manufactures whatever it needs to keep it from destroying the time line.
Character wise, I'm in love with this cast of characters even more than I was in the beginning. They all get their moments to shine, even though this book centers around Dakota. Alan is still my favorite. What he goes through in this book, makes what happened to him in the first book look like child's play. Whether it's having to confront a truly horrific episode from the past, or having to deal with yet another issue of the heart, he rises above it, and shows a huge amount of maturity at the end. Caitlin is still Caitlin, and she has to deal with where her life is heading, and what she pictures the end goal to be. Mark makes the most selfish decision he could in this book, and I applaud him for it. I can't imagine having to face the choices he had to make, or the sacrifices he chose in order to save the world. Dakota has to deal with choices made in her childhood that were not only beyond her control, but about as paradoxical as can be. And that leaves us with the evil boss. I still adore him, I still understand where he was coming from, I'm heart broken at the betrayals he has had to contend with, but I stI'll think what he did is truly horrific. He made choices that are almost impossible to defend, even if his heart was in the right place. I wish he could have been saved or redeemed, and I still cringe when I think about his ultimate fate. Since this series played with science fiction constructs, maybe there will be a fifth book that serves as his path to salvation. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Other Books in the Series:
Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom
Caitlin Ross and the Commute from Hell
Mark Park and the Flume of Destiny
Posted by Ryan at 10:58 PM 4 comments:
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Colt Seavers
When I decided to start this feature within the first week of the blog launching, it was out of a desire to share the characters I love and want others to love just as much. Nine years later, while I'm still gung-ho on spreading the character love, I'm also reveling in the fact that it's reintroducing some of my childhood favorites. Some of which I haven't thought of in years.
A few weeks ago, when I decided to do one character from every year that I've been alive, it took that side benefit, and put it on steroids. I'm not sure I ever would have featured Colt Seavers otherwise, and that would have been a shame.
For those of you who have no idea who this guy is, other than that it's Lee Majors playing him, let me introduce him to you. Colt Seavers was the main character on the TV show, The Fall Guy. Colt is one of Hollywood's biggest stuntmen, but I guess stuntmen didn't get paid much in the early 1980s. Colt, because he doesn't make enough to cover his expenses, takes up bounty hunting on the side. I'm not sure most people would ever have put those two professions together, but it seemed to work for him. He uses his stunt skills, sometimes in rather elaborate setups, to catch his quarry. I can assure you that while some of what he did may have been unnecessary, it made great television, especially for the impressionable lad that I was. I don't think I had seen anything cooler than some of what he pulled off, and I wanted to be him so damn bad. And for the record, I really wanted his truck too.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
Alan Conway is a bestselling crime writer. His editor, Susan Ryeland, has worked with him for years, and she's intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. Alan's traditional formula pays homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. It's proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.
When Susan recieves Alan's latest manuscript, in which Atticus Pünd investigates a murder at Pye Hall, and English manor house, she has no reason to think it will be any different from the others. There will be dead bodies, a cast of intriguing suspects, and plenty of red herrings and clues. But the more Susan reads, the more she realizes that there's another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript-one of ambition, jealousy, and greed-and that soon it will lead to murder.
I don't remember when I received my first love letter. Truthfully, I don't even remember who gave it to me. Despite my failing memory, I remember how it made me feel. That tingly, warm sensation I felt deep in my gut before it washed over my entire body, leaving me feeling giddy and on top of the world. It's the same way I've felt the two times I've found myself falling in love. It's a heady experience that left me feeling invincible, that I could do anything and be everything the other person needed. If I was a Golden Age mystery author, or even one of their fictional creations come to life, Magpie Murders would have left me feeling the exact same way. This is a love letter to a genre, and an era, that Mr. Horowitz so obviously loves.
There is precious little I can divulge in regards to the story or characters you will meet in the pages of this tome, simply because I don't want to spoil even a second of your own experience once you get started on this. This is one of those books, Gillespie and I by Jane Harris being a perfect example, that I will simply implore you to read it. If you need me to beg, I will. I'll even consider bribery, depending on your price. Tell me what I need to do, and I'll do it. I swear on everything I hold precious in life that you won't be disappointed. This is a pastiche that puts all others to shame.
I just need to figure out a good enough bribe to get Mr. Horowitz to actually write a few Atticus Pünd books, because that section of Magpie Murders is unadulterated perfection.
Posted by Ryan at 11:59 PM 2 comments:
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Thomas Magnum
Looking back on it, 1980 seems to be a critical year in U.S. and world history. Ronald Reagan is elected as the 40th President of the United States, Iran and Iraq engage in a war that will last eight years, Yasser Arafat is elected to lead the Palestinians, Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe and is once again under majority back rule, Indira Gandhi rises to power in India, Post-It Notes hit the market, millions tuned in to see who shot J.R., and John Lennon is gunned down in the street. It was a turbulent beginning to a decade that would see massive cultural and political change on a global level. It would also usher in a decade rich in music, movies, and television.
It was hard to choose a character from this year, simply because it was chock full of good choices. I ended up choosing Thomas Magnum from Magnum, P.I. not only because I wanted to be him, minus the women falling at his feet, but because he represents the first half of the decade so well.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the coolest thing he ever did was team up with Jessica Fletcher on one of her trips to the island. They were brilliant together.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Wordsmithonia is 9 years Old! But One of You Gets the Present!
When I wasn't looking, Wordsmithonia turned nine years old earlier this month. It's been a journey that has seen my interest and energy wane over the years, but I've never felt as if I was really ready to give it up for good. I've been slowly getting back into the rhythm, and I'm eternally grateful to those who have stuck by the blog over the years.
In appreciation for the love and support you have shown me over the years, I've decided to do a giveaway in celebration of the nine year journey I undertook with no prior forethought of what I was embarking upon. I've reviewed a lot of books over the years, and I'm letting one of you go through my review list and pick any book you want. All you need to do is leave a comment with the book title of your choice and your email address. I'll pick a winner by random draw on 08/15/2017.
The book will come from either B&N or Book Depository.
Thank you once again, from the bottom of my heart, for all the support you've given over the years. I'll never be able to properly express my gratitude.
Timing by Mary Calmes
Synopsis From Publisher:
Stefan Joss just can't win. Not only does he have to go to Texas in the middle of the summer to be the man of honor in his best friend Charlotte’s wedding, but he’s expected to negotiate a million-dollar business deal at the same time. Worst of all, he’s thrown for a loop when he arrives to see the one man Charlotte promised wouldn’t be there: her brother, Rand Holloway.
Stefan and Rand have been mortal enemies since the day they met, so Stefan is shocked when a temporary cease-fire sees the usual hostility replaced by instant chemistry. Though leery of the unexpected feelings, Stefan is swayed by a sincere revelation from Rand, and he decides to give Rand a chance.
But their budding romance is threatened when Stefan’s business deal goes wrong: the owner of the last ranch he needs to secure for the company is murdered. Stefan’s in for the surprise of his life as he finds himself in danger as well.
I do have to quickly mention that I'm not a huge fan of the cover, and it has since been re-released with a new own, but this is the cover I own, so I'm sticking with it. Truthfully, the cover could be a big black square, a blob of orange and purple paisley, or a picture of a root canal, and I would still read this book over and over again.
Mary Calmes is one of those authors that should be a household name, and if she wasn't writing m/m romance novels, she probably would be. She's that damn good. I've read, and reread multiple times, every book she has had published, and there isn't a weak one in the bunch. There is a soft lyrical quality to her writing, where not one single word is wasted or unneeded. But where she excel is in her characters. In Stefan and Rand, she achieved perfection.
Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, they have their flaws and annoying personality traits. There are things about them that would drive me up a wall, if not into the funny house, but that's okay. Their perfection lies the fact that they are some of the most concrete, four dimensional characters I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I'm including the side characters in this when I say the beauty of her characters is how "real" they feel. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a character acts in such a manner that feels unnatural to who they are. Even when it's a small issue, something so miniscule other readers may not even notice, it's enough to pull me out of a story. I've never had that issue with her books. Stefan, Rand, and all the rest, even when they surprise me, never act in a way that betrays who they are.
I adore Stefan and Rand. The tensions that surrounds them in the beginning is tangible, and it only builds as they truly get to know each other. They are the kind of people I would love to be friends with, but am under no illusions I'm worthy enough of their notice. Their relationship is organic, and beautiful to watch. It's the kind of story movies are made of, but since that won't be happening anytime soon, I'll just keep rereading their story instead, which does include two more books after this. Now I just need to find a man that talks the way Rand does.
And since I know you were curious, this is the new cover with Rand in all his glory.
Posted by Ryan at 12:39 AM 2 comments:
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Bo & Luke Duke
When I was trying to figure out who I was going to highlight this week, I went back to look at the movies, television shows, and books that debuted in 1979. As I scrolled through them I realized that a lot of the characters who made their first public appearance are not some of my favorites. The few that were, like Benson DuBois, have already been highlighted over the years. There was one glaring exception that I simply can't believe I've managed to overlook for this long. Seriously, how the hell could I have passed up The Dukes Of Hazzard for as long as I have? This was a show that I absolutely loved as a kid. I watched it every chance I got. I had a map like playset with buildings and the General Lee that I played with all the damn time. Tonight, I'm making that right, and presenting the two characters who made the show what it was, Bo & Luke Duke.
It's almost impossible to separate the cousins from each other, so I'm not even going to try. Where one went, the other was sure to follow. On the outside, it may appear that the boys are petty criminals, hellbent on making the lives of Hazzard County law enforcement a living hell. If you dive in a little closer, you realize that while the Dukes make and sell illegal moonshine, and the cousins are on probation, they are modern day Robin Hoods, protecting the innocent citizens of Hazzard County from the corrupt officials in office. They make it their mission to not only test the boundaries of their County, but to make sure Boss Hog isn't allowed to get away with his money grubbing greedy ways.
Don't get me wrong, the boys like to get in trouble, especially Bo who acts first without thinking anything through, but their hearts are pure gold. Even though Luke is forced to find a away out of the messes Bo gets them into, it's obvious the two of them are a team. Bo is a former stock car driver, and Luke is a former marine, and they both love and cherish family above all else. There is nothing about them that an adolescent boy wouldn't want to emulate, even if he shouldn't.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Cause to Kill by Blake Pierce
Synopsis From Publisher:
Homicide Detective Avery Black has been through hell. Once a top criminal defense attorney, she fell from grace when she managed to get a brilliant Harvard professor off—only to watch him kill again. She lost her husband and her daughter, and her life fell apart around her.
Trying to redeem herself, Avery has turned to the other side of the law. Working her way up the ranks, she has reached Homicide Detective, to the scorn of her fellow officers, who still remember what she did, and who will always hate her.
Yet even they cannot deny Avery’s brilliant mind, and when a disturbing serial killer strikes fear into the heart of Boston, killing girls from elite colleges, it is Avery that they turn to. It is Avery’s chance to prove herself, to finally find the redemption she craves. And yet, as she is soon to find out, Avery has come up against a killer as brilliant and daring as she.
I'm not normally a fan of self published books. I actually tend to stay as far away from them as I can, but when this one popped up on my radar, I was intrigued by the synopsis, and absolutely in love with the cover. It was free, so I had nothing to lose. Once I downloaded it, it sat on my Nook for a week or two, then with nothing else to do, I opened it up, and I was a goner from that point forward.
In many ways Avery is the stereotypical fictional homicide detective. She is married to the job, to the extreme detriment of her family. She has a a painful and traumatic childhood, chock-full of despair and secrets. She is a deeply flawed character, driven to prove herself better than those around her, and determined to leave her past behind. But despite all the stereotypical attributes, she is complex in nature and three dimensional in scope. Truthfully, at this point in time, I'm not even sure I like her all that much, but I'm not so sure I need to. She can hold her own with some of the best fictional detectives out there, and she is the detective that this story requires.
The supporting characters are just as important to the overall feel of the book. Some of a little more developed than others, but I'm sure that they, along with Avery, will continue to grow as the series goes forward.
As for the mystery itself, I was pulled in right away. To be perfectly frank, not only do I normally pass on self published books, I'm rarely sucked in by serial killer narratives. I've always considered them to be a little cliché, and to a large extent unoriginal. I don't know if it's the imaginative motive behind the killings, the tension level that the author so expertly maintained throughout the entire story, or the complexities of Avery’s character that hooked me from the start, but I was enthralled from the get go. The few quibbles I had with the overall story were few, and they never interrupted my willing suspension of disbelief. This was a tension filled, expertly crafted mystery that has me rethinking some of my more snobbish tendencies.
Posted by Ryan at 12:58 PM 4 comments:
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Apollo Adama
He was fiercely protective of those he loved, and had faced tragedy on so many levels. He lost his brother to a Cylon attack, his mother to another Cyclon attack, and his newly married wife Serina to a third attack. After her death, he steps up and adopts her son, becoming a single father. He was killed in action, only to be revived by the Beings of Light. He took care of his squadron members, backed his best friend Starbuck up when needed, and never thought of himself over others. He is the perfect hero, which at times can be pretty damn boring, but when you are constantly fighting for the salvation of the human race, stagnation never sets in.
Of course it helped that the actor who played Apollo, Richard Hatch, was hot, which resulted in a huge childhood crush. But that's not as important as the role he played on the show, and his overall influence on pop culture.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Had She but Known by Charlotte MacLeod
Synopsis From Publisher:
In the decades since her death in 1958, master storyteller Mary Roberts Rinehart has often been compared to Agatha Christie. But while Rinehart was once a household name, today she is largely forgotten. The woman who first proclaimed “the butler did it” was writing for publication years before Christie’s work saw the light of day. She also practiced nursing, became a war correspondent, and wrote a novel—The Bat—that inspired Bob Kane’s creation of Batman.
Born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, before it was absorbed into Pittsburgh, and raised in a close-knit Presbyterian family, Mary Roberts was at once a girl of her time—dutiful, God-fearing, loyal—and a quietly rebellious spirit. For every hour she spent cooking, cleaning, or sewing at her mother’s behest while her “frail” younger sister had fun, Mary eked out her own moments of planning, dreaming, and writing. But becoming an author wasn’t on her radar . . . yet.
Bestselling mystery writer Charlotte MacLeod grew up on Rinehart’s artfully crafted novels, such as the enormously successful The Circular Staircase—“cozies” before the concept existed. After years of seeing Christie celebrated and Rinehart overlooked, MacLeod realized that it was time to delve into how this seemingly ordinary woman became a sensation whose work would grace print, stage, and screen. From Rinehart’s grueling training as a nurse and her wartime interviews with a young Winston Churchill and Queen Mary to her involvement with the Blackfoot Indians and her work as doctor’s wife, mother of three, playwright, serialist, and novelist, this is the unforgettable story of America’s Grande Dame of Mystery.
I don't think it will come as a surprise that when a friend of mine pointed out a cheap copy of this book, that I jumped at the chance to read a biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart. For those of you who don't know, next to Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart is my second favorite mystery writer of all time. I never heard of her until Yvette of in so many words... did a review of The Circular Staircase. While reading her review, the plot sounded really familiar to me, and I quickly learned that one of my favorite movies, The Bat starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead, was actually based off of a Rinehart novel. Actually, the movie is an adaptation of the The Bat, which was a novelization of a play of the same name, which was actually based off of The Circular Staircase. After that little discovery, I was hooked. I've since read and reviewed twenty-three of her books, and while I like some more than others, I would take them all over a lot of the "cozy" stuff being written today.
When I first started to delve into Had She But Known, which by the way is named after a major plot device used by Rinehart, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The affection and admiration Charlotte MacLeod had for her subject was obvious from the start, almost too obvious. I understand that, for the most part, if someone is going to take the time to write a biography of someone else, that they are going to have to respect the subject, otherwise the writing would be a horrible experience. However, there should also be distance and objectivity between the writer and the subject, otherwise it can cloud the information coming across. If I can't trust you to be objective, how can I trust the information being given? Her admiration comes across too much, especially in the beginning, and just could have done without her commenting on the worth of individual Rinehart books. The language got too flowery and flattering at times, but thankfully I plowed through and I ended up loving the book.
What saved it for me was my own love for the subject. This is a writer whose work I enjoy so much, how could I not love exploring her life in far more detail than I ever had before. And what I discovered only heightened that admiration. From the way she handled herself as an overseas war correspondent during WWI, to the scrappy determination to do whatever it took to take care of her husband and three sons, I discovered a woman worthy of the admiration and respect Charlotte MacLeod so obviously heaped on her. It was interesting to read how some of my favorite novels came about, even the ones MacLeod didn't share my views of. It's hard to believe the speed at which some of these had been written, given the complexities of the plots.
Mary Roberts Rinehart became a household name in her day. From her exploits with Theodore Roosevelt, to her advocating for Indigenous tribes, to becoming one of the highest paid authors of her time, she did everything with a style all her own, and I wish that she somehow regains the popularity she enjoyed so long ago.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Caught between my high birth and empty purse, I am relieved to receive a new assignment from the queen. The king's youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion, showing her the best of London - and dispelling any rumors about George's libertine history.
George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men - including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when one of his supposed mistresses is murdered.
The queen wants the whole murder hushed. But as the case unfolds - and my beau, Darcy, turns up in the most unlikely of places, as always- our investigation brings us precariously close to the Prince himself.
It's with a heavy heart that I'm writing this review. I love Lady Georgiana. I've highlighted her in a Favorite Fictional Character post, and I truly want her to be happy with Darcy, but as of tonight, I'm doomed to never find out if that wish comes true. Malice at the Palace may be the ninth book in an ongoing series, but it's my last.
The one note side characters that have been annoying me for a while, actually improved in this book, but not by much. Queenie still needs to disappear for good, but Belinda won back some of my sympathy. Georgie's common grandfather, and her aristocratic brother and sister-in-law all made reappearances, and I was happy to see them. They haven't been around much, so they hadn't been getting on my nerves. Darcy is still as dashing and charming as ever, and everytime he's on the scene, I grow just a tad bit jealous of Georgie for hooking him. Sadly, this isn't enough for me to continue with the series. Overall, her charcters are one note caricatures, and no improvement in this area is enough to make up for my real issue with this series.
I am absolutely done with the author's homophobic attitude. She treats gay and bisexual men as jokes. For nine frickin books I've been patiently dealing with it for Georgie's sake. I prayed that her treatment of them would improve, but it's only gotten worse. Every single gay or bisexual man is portrayed as either someone to pity, someone to scorn, the butt of a joke, a manipulator looking for a wife to hide his gayness behind, a money hungry twink, and now a full fledged murderer. The poor guy is being blackmailed, so he decides to kill his oppressor, not that I blame him, but come on already. Naturally when Georgie stumbles upon the solution, he tries to take her out, but is summarily pushed down the stairs to his death, by ghosts of all things. I liked the guy, he was an interesting character, and we knew nothing about his sexuality until the end. He didn't deserve the treatment he got.
The authors attitude almost seems pathological and deliberate in nature. Over the course of nine books, there is not a single gay or bisexual male character that breaks the mold I mentioned before. The author seems obsessed with gay and bisexual men, as they appear in every one of the nine books. But why are none of them not somehow portrayed in the manner I listed earlier. Of course I could be over thinking this. Maybe it's simply that she can't write characters, outside of Georgie and Darcy, that are more complicated than a paperdoll. Her other side characters are one dimensional stereotypes, so why should gay and bisexual men be any different.
Either way, I'm over it. I'm going to miss Georgie and Darcy, and I'm sad I'll never see them married.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Helen Roper
It's March 15th, 1977 and I'm exactly 7 months old. Jimmy Carter is in the White House, Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’) by Barbara Streisand is the number one song on the charts, Joe Hahn of Linkin Park was born, it had been exactly 2,021 years since the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Three's Company made its broadcast debut.
To be perfectly frank, I'm not a huge fan of the show. I didn't understand a lot of the humor when I was a kid, and I find the gay for laughs thing rather offensive as an adult. The one redeeming factor for me is the caftan wearing, sex starved character of Helen Roper, played by the amazing Audra Lindley.
I'm not sure I could take Helen in large doses, but I would love to have her as a neighbor. I bet she is the kind of person I would love to hang out with occasionally, drinking a few margaritas and gossiping up a storm. I think she is the kind of person who's advise I would actually listen to, as long as I filtered it first.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Red Hook by Gabriel Cohen
Synopsis From Publisher:
Unlike the other members of the elite Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force, Detective Jack Leightner prefers his murders baffling. He likes to lose himself in tough cases, and he just caught a murder that will consume him like no other: an unidentified body, bound execution style, on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
Leightner is finishing his first look at the corpse when he discovers a knife wound and loses his lunch. He has seen a thousand dead bodies, but nothing brings back bad memories like death by knife.
The victim was a hardworking Dominican man with a family, a job, and no ties to the underworld. Investigating this murder will Auckland Leightner back into Red Hook, the neighborhood of his youth - now a labyrinth of empty docks and crumbling housing projects. It's a tough case, but not half as hard as going home.
I'm half way convinced that in order to be a fictional homicide detective, you are not allowed to be a well adjusted, happy person. You have to have painful secrets in your past you refuse to talk about. You have to be distant and socially awkward with your family. You have to have no skills in love, and live a stoic life revolving around your career. As a mystery fan, it makes great reading, but I'm always feeling bad for these characters.
I, through a twist of fate, reviewed the second book in this series, The Graving Dock, back in 2011. I fell in love with Jack back then, but for whatever reason it's taken me this long to get the first book reviewed. It was interesting to see how truly damaged Jack is in the beginning, and how far he had come in The Graving Dock. He is carrying a horrible secret about how his younger brother was killed when they were kids. He has a painfully uncomfortable relationship with his grown son. He has a woman he sees, and I mean has sex with, but from what I can tell they don't actually like each other. He is not a happy man, and he's drowning it with alcohol. I think he is a man of his generation.
In Red Hook, the author not only introduced one of my favorite homicide detectives, he proves his skill in creating a world for Jack to shine in. The city of New York, the borough of Brooklyn, and the Red Hook neighborhood are living, visceral characters unto themselves. Jack would not exist if it wasn't for where he lives. This would not be a character that could be shifted to Chicago or St. Louis. The setting runs through Jack's veins, and he would cease to exist otherwise. The author writes in such a way that I thoroughly enjoy as a reader. He brings the location to life. As a reader, you are able to walk the streets with the characters, seeing the landscape through their eyes.
He crafts the mystery the same way. It's tactile and tangible. He allows the reader to experience the horror and pain through Jack. He builds the suspense, all the while instilling the need to solve the case in our gut, just as strongly as it resides in Jack's. It's something I don't experience in a lot of mystery fiction, but when I do it stays with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm always curious to see the outcome of a case, but I rarely feel a need for solve it myself.
Posted by Ryan at 9:23 PM 3 comments:
Friday, July 7, 2017
My Favorite Reads of 2016 (Really, Really Late)
Since I wasn't blogging at the beginning of the year, I never got to do a recap of my favorite reads of 2016. I was just going to let it go, but I have decided that I really want one last chance to convince someone, anyone to read the books that I fell in love with last year. To make it easier, I'm only including books I reviewed, and only books that were not rereads. This is going to be a fairly short list, mainly because I didn't review the vast majority of books I read last year.
So here are my favorites:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
Final Admission by Sue Brown
The Children's Home by Charles Lambert
Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom by Brian Olsen
Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark
Frog by Mary Calmes
The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Favorite Fictional Character --- Jaime Sommers
It feels like it's been forever since I've done a Favorite Fictional Character post. I've put the feature off for the simple fact that, in my head at least, if I start doing it again, it meant I'm really going to have to get back into blogging. It means I'm going to commit the time and energy, two things I've been lacking lately, into my blog. I still do not really have the time or the energy, but I've been missing Wordsmithonia, and I've been missing you guys.
So with the reappearance of the feature comes a new approach to it, at least for the next 42 weeks. Starting with 1976, the year I was born, I'm going to feature a character from every year that I've been alive. They will come from TV shows, movie, books, and comics. So today's character, Jaime Sommers, had her TV show debut in 1976. Next week's character, who has not been selected, will have made their debut in 1977, and so forth through 2018.
Remember when I mentioned she appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man? You should, it was at the beginning of the last paragraph. Anyway, she and Steve Austin were childhood friends, and through some machinations from Steve's mom, they reconnect. One fateful day they go skydiving, and her parachute malfunctions, plummeting her to the ground. Both legs, her right arm, and right ear are damaged beyond repair. Steve, being the cyborg man that he is, contacts his bosses, and has Jamie decked out in all new bionic replacements, making her The Bionic Woman. She also loses her memory, forgetting all about the love she shared with Steve. And that's part of the reason why I loved her so much. Instead of getting wrapped up in the life of the man who "saved" her, she is able to go out and build a life separate from him. She stands on her own two feet, and makes the best of a horrific situation.
With her new found abilities, she gets put to work as a super spy and general bad guy ass kicker. She saves the day on a regular basis, and does it with a style all her own. Her show was only on for two seasons, and I was too young to watch it when it first aired, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every single episode of it. I enjoyed her more than I did her ex-boyfriend, though I couldn't tell you why I don't like Steve as much as her.
I know they tried a reboot a few years ago, but I would like to see them try again. Actually, I have a better idea. Instead of another Avengers movie, or even the Justice League movie that's coming out, let's make this movie instead.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Part of the Synopsis from the Dust Jacket:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Buckhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under suspicious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West - where oilmen such as J.P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed - many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the relatively new FBI took over. It was one of the organization's first major homicide cases but the bureau badly bungled the investigation. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including an American Indian agent in the bureau. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Officially, around twenty-four members of the Osage tribe were murdered for their oil. Unofficially, the estimates I've seen start in the sixties, and climb from there. They were murdered by their friends, in-laws, spouses, and community leaders. Their lives were stolen by the very people they were supposed to trust and look to for help. The depravity inflicted upon the human soul that this book narrates is mind boggling in it's scope, and heart wrenching in the way people were betrayed by those they loved. Just when I think I've heard the cruelest examples of the way humans treat each other, I'm exposed to a story that makes the shows my roommate watches on the ID Channel, seem like child's play. It is almost impossible for me to express the full depth of emotion I felt as I read this tale of greed so base, that Charles Ponzi is a nobody in comparison to these men.
This wasn't one or two men so blinded by money, that they left their morals at the door. This was an entire community, an entire county, hell bent on taking what they could, damn the methods used. Politicians and lawmen, the ones not actually contracting the killings themselves, did the covering up and lost evidence. Doctors faked autopsies. Inquests were filled with the men responsible for the deaths.
Since Congress had decided that the Osage were not capable of taking care of their own money, white business men were assigned as executors. Many of those men ended up with dead charges, in many cases more than one dead charge, allowing themselves to "inherit" the oil rights. The white men who did actually try to investigate, ended up dead themselves. One man was actually killed in Washington, D.C.
The part that really turns my stomach, other than men marrying and impregnating women solely to kill them later, is the way in which systemic racism allowed this to happen to begin with. It was congressional actions, built out of prejudice and disdain for indigenous Americans, that laid the framework these men took advantage of. If congress had not taken many of the actions they did, I'm almost convinced this could have all been prevented.
And the part that just saddens me, is that I went to high school in Osage county. I lived in Osage county for four years, and I never heard a peep about this. It wasn't taught in state history, it wasn't talked about by the residents of the town I lived in. I never heard of this tragedy until I was listening to NPR in the car earlier this year. How can something of this magnitude not be taught in our schools? What happened in Osage county should serve as an example of what transpires when racism and greed are combined.
And yes I know, so far I haven't written much of a review, and I'm okay with that. You guys already know that I'm a sucker for well written narrative nonfiction, and Killers of the Flower Moon is a prime example of it. I'm sure you can already guess that I would do my damndest to convince all of you to get your hands on this book. That I would want you to share it with your friends and family. I would implore all of you to never let what happened in Osage county be brushed aside into obscurity again.
Posted by Ryan at 8:06 PM 8 comments:
Labels: History, Mystery, Non Fiction, Reviews
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
Synopsis From Back Cover:
My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again - which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.
Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air, and wealthy men aboard, mother meets movie mogul Cy Goldman, who J sits on casting her in his next picture. Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the investigation os a suspected jewel Thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beautiful, Darcy!
Mother's movie and Darcy's larceny leads everyone to Cy's Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin hanging about and there's enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the Sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead. As if there wasn't enough drama already...
I finally finished Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen, and I'm still loving Georgie after eight books. I'm still wanting her and Darcy to make it official. I'm still enjoying the situations she finds herself in. I'm still enjoying the way the author crafts her mysteries, though this one isn't the strongest. And I'm still enjoying the series enough that I'm going to continue with it.
What I'm getting tired of, are some of the reoccurring side characters. Georgie's mother, and her friend Belinda, are beginning to become one dimensional characters who don't ever seem to change. They are flat caricatures of money loving, sex craved women who are only out for themselves. The only time they seem to want Georgie around, is when it's beneficial in some way. Her maid Queenie, is just down right annoying at this point in time. Any comic relief she was good for, stopped working a few books ago. This go around she leaves for a while, and when she did, I was relieved to see her go. When she came back, it felt as if I had another kidney stone get stuck.
And I'm still frustrated with how the author treats gay men in her books. I get this series takes place between the two world wars, but enough already. Her gay male charcters are all either manipulative users looking for beards, or idiotic buffoons who are after money and sex. It's stereotyping at its laziest. Which I think is the crux of every issue I've had with this series. Outside of Georgie, and to a smaller degree Darcy, the reoccuring characters are straight out of central casting, and they never develop further. It's not enough to ruin my overall enjoyment yet, but I can see it doing so eventually.
Posted by Ryan at 10:15 PM 7 comments:
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster
Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast stretches west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed the territory through courageous investigation.
Orchestrating the American push into the continent, Jefferson most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific. But at the same time there were other teams doing identical work, jn places were it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Curtis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike - all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier while keeping up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findjngs.
But they weren't always well-matched - not with one another and certainly not against a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. The tensions and perils threatened to undermine Jefferson's goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West.
When I first started the blog, a blog that I've allowed to languish for far too long, I wasn't reading that much nonfiction. I would pick up the occasional political or history book, but it was only one or two a year, and that may be stretching it a bit. If blogging has made a lasting positive change in my reading life, it's in an ever expanding appreciation for nonfiction. The types of books I'm now reading covers a vaster expanse of interests, and I now have a greater appreciation for American history and how much of it I really didn't know.
I of course knew President Jefferson's role in obtaining the Louisiana Territory, what middle school kid hasn't heard of the Louisiana Purchase? I knew of Lewis & Clark and the exploration they embarked on. What I didn't know, or at least forgot about, was everything going on behind the scenes. They didn't teach us about all the maneuvering behind the scenes, the clashes with the Spaniards, or all the obstacles that had to be overcome for our country to stretch from coast to coast.
Before reading this I don't think I understood how much of how we see ourselves as a nationation was crafted by Jefferson. Nor do I think I fully appreciated his role in creating the country we call home, and I don't necessarily mean in our size. I think he is pivotal in envisioning a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but I think he helped craft our character and instilled in our collective psyche a need to see beyond our current borders, to always be reaching for what is next. He helped mold the American sense of adventuring. After reading this book, my fondness for our third president has only grown.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review
Thursday, March 16, 2017
The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth
Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
It is 1906, and few in the teeming metropolis of New York City have heard of, let alone seen, the hugely wealthy man who controls so many of their lives. Few, too, would have heard of the extraordinary events that took place at the Paris Opera house more than twenty years before-a story as dramatic as any of the operas themselves: a tale of Love and murder and passion, the heartbreaking legend of the Phantom of the Opera.
I'll admit to having loved this book at one point in the time. Designed to be a sequel to Andrew Loyd Webber's musical, The Phantom of the Opera, it tells a rather convoluted tale of greed, family secrets, and unrequited loved. It captured my imagination from the beginning, but it's been at least 12 years since I'd read it. When I picked it back up the other day, while I wasn't as enchanted as before, it still managed to pull me in with it's operatic version of soap opera goodness.
The Phantom, now known as Erik Muheheim, escaped Paris with the help of Madame Giry, and has managed to raise from rags to riches in New York City. He has built a business empire to be envied, but never lost his love and fascination with Opera. His denial of a box seat at The Metropolitan Opera house, forces him to build a grander rival, and that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Christine is hired to sing, and when she shows up with her young son, the secrets come out in the open, and nobody will live the life they planned on from that point on.
The Phantom of Manhattan mixes old and new characters, seamlessly weaving them with secrets, love affairs, and enough tragedy to create a tale Susan Lucci could have sunk her teeth into.
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