Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Five days into the 2015 Reading Challenge and I can already check off one of the boxes: A Mystery/Thriller.

Sherlock Holmes first appeared in 1887 in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery novel “A Study in Scarlet.” For decades Doyle entertained readers with the wit and cynicism of the famous Baker Street detective. Over a century later, the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. endorsed a new Holmes adventure to be written by Anthony Horowitz. And what an adventure it is. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz captures the essence of a classic Sherlock Holmes novel, as well as the intensity and suspense of any modern mystery novel.

Holmes and Watson are first approached by a wealthy art dealer afraid that he is being followed by the remaining member of the Flat Cap Gang from America. During the course of the investigation into the identity of this individual, Holmes is entrapped in a far darker mystery, with perversion and immorality reaching to the highest levels of posh society and government.

I have to wonder what Doyle would think about this Holmes adventure.

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Let me start with “I don’t get it” and then try to redeem myself. I get the concept, sort of. I know Egyptian history and ancient religions, and I love sci-fi so I can suspend belief and accept a modern type society in an alternate universe. I think where I got lost (and lost interest) was when we were taken to the world of the gods and listening to their bickering.

So, this wasn’t a book for me. But there are thousands more out there just waiting for me to find them. And thousands of people just waiting to find and love this one. Happy hunting to us all

The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Books
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Urban dictionary.com defines ‘steampunk’ as:
A subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.

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In Mike Resnick’s novel The Buntline Special, steampunk goes West. I was extremely excited about this adventure. Steampunk has been around for a couple decades, but it is a relatively new favorite sub-genre of mine. Wild West, however, I have loved since I was a youngen’ watching old Gunsmoke reruns. So I thought “SWEET! This is gonna be awesome!” But it was just ‘meh.

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Over the years there have been many retellings of the Earp brothers, Doc Holiday, the Gunfight at the OK Corral, and life in Tombstone. Mike used much of this preestablished and common knowledge to jump directly into the well known characters and setting. Why spend pages reinventing the wheel?

Adding (or attempting to add) spice to another dime novel covering the famous Tombsone showdown is the introduction of Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline; inventors of electric street lamps, electric stage coaches, impenetrable brass, robotic prosthetics, and actually entire robotic women for Kate’s brothel. Steampunk, well done, is a seamless fusion; but in this instance I felt it was all so forced. While suspending belief is part of loving fiction, there is no structured and organized science behind these inventions…like a forcefield that can sense who is friend and who is foe. Throw in a few Native American medicine men casting curses, a vampire Bat Masterson, a zombie Johnny Ringo, and shape-shifting Apache braves and the story gets quite muddled.

After a lot of drinking, eating, gambling, more drinking, bickering, threats, technobable, there really wasn’t a whole lot of pow…which is what we really want from a Western, right?

My first impression of Mike Resnick is not high, but he has several more novels that may develop better.

So, it’s a lovely Saturday morning and I am back in my cozy Barnes and Noble chair, reading and weighing myself against the universe; this chair pulled up close against the wide window, the clear view of open Texas sky, the soft music playing at the edge of my consciousness, and my thoughts. Surrounded by thousands of books, I let myself go anywhere that calls to me.

Sitting here in this chair, surrounded by thousands of fictional friends, I feel strong. I feel that any decisions I make from this throne will be followed through, without question and without exception. But I will eventually have to leave my throne, I will become common once again. I fear the loss of the control I gain in my temporary world; as soon as I leave this world and step outside, noise rushes in. The noise of traffic and airplanes and the buzz of millions of voices; the decisions and the checkout lines; the the responsibility that comes with existing in the outside world.

I will miss my Saturday Morning World when I leave, but go home to a true life, a wife that loves and protects me, a son that makes me proud.

Ice by Lyn Gardner

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Books
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Alex and Maggie.  Detectives. Lesbian Attraction; frustration; denial; semi-plausible set of circumstances thrusting them back together into terrifying life or death isolation; super-sweet happy ending. Yep, Ice has it all…and that’s pretty much it.

The read is a nice easy fluff piece, unfortunately the characters are flat and a barely proposed plot props up the shell of a story. I don’t mind a quick read, I love them to cleanse the pallet from time to time. My issue with this story is there was actually the beginnings of a really great crime/action novel that happened to involve these two characters that struggled with their attraction, they could still end up in a cabin mid-blizzard and they can still have their sappy love story moments.

I might sound a little harsh, but I don’t mean to be cruel. I am being honest. I rarely read lesbian books for these very same reasons. Sarah Waters’ work is the epitome of plot and character development.

UPDATE
After reading this commentary on prologues, I will say that Ice has a great prologue. Effective in setting the place, introducing characters, and establishing the timeline.

WHODUNNIT TV Series

Posted: August 23, 2013 in Books

A couple of months ago I reviewed WHODUNNIT: Murder in Mystery Manor; a companion book to the television show. While the topic centered around a psychopath killing off guests one by one, it was written in a light-hearted manner that made for easy reading.

Recently, the ABC reality competition series WHODUNNIT? aired here in the states; with the final episode airing on August 18, 2013.  Unlike in the book, the contestants knew they were coming to a competition, hoping to walk away with $250,000. One by one (and occasionally multiple) the murderer staged the death of one of the contestants; until there were two, the murderer and the lone survivor. Apparently there was a UK television version that aired between 1972 and 1978, I’m not sure how that game was played though.

Like the book, the show centered around death and survival, but in an almost childlike way…if that makes any sense. Contestants, knowing that this TV show isn’t actually going to kill anyone, scream and react to staged death scenes and scramble to solve riddles as if they are in actual danger. Most of the show is campy (Giles…just everything about him and his “stoic serious” tone), and totally developed for bubblegum entertainment. Yes, I watched it…on hulu plus…while doing other stuff.

I heard there is another book, so I wonder if that means there will be another series.

 

 

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ALERT ALERT
This is a judgment free zone. I have no agenda or soapbox with this post.

I am a history geek – well let’s face it, I’m all kinds of geeky. Seeing a map like this ignites my passion to learn about these people that are gone; to know the stories they passed through the generations. I find it amazing how many cultures and languages existed. Europeans have a better concept of this that I do living here in the United States.

I will be honest with you, I do feel a loss for humanity that these societies have largely been lost. There are lost cultures around the world, but obviously these have more leave me with a greater sense of longing being the land I live in.

The First North Americans series by husband and wife co-authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear have contributed to the legacy of many of these people. While a fictional series, these authors have done their archeological homework when developing their characters and societies. I very much enjoy these books, and while I know they are largely fictional, each book gives me a glimpse into what life was like in these areas of North America.