Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Did You Ever?

As do many others, I'm sure, I receive emails from various sites that highlight free and discounted books available at online retailers and book sites. I occasionally avail myself of the offers because ... well ... they're FREE! Granted some of the books are duds, but personally I enjoy at least glancing through because quite often I find what I consider to be a "hidden gem".  It's kind of like the on line version of the bargain shelf at the book store (only better because it tells you when you already have that tempting book on your shelf).

This one came through in an email today and my first reaction was "WOW, that looks like a book I would enjoy." And then I thought about it.  Let's see a story told from the perspective of an animal (bull elk) - following along a wild animal's life.  Said animal is in the wild and probably chased by any number of predators (see wolf eyes on cover - dead giveaway!), maybe going through times of limited food and long migrations.

I saw Bambi!

I read "Where the Red Fern Grows"

I sometimes brave watching "Animal Planet".

I think I should definitely pass on this book because in the deepest cockles of my heart I KNOW I will be sitting quietly and sobbing into my coffee cup at the end of this book!

Did I load it onto my Kindle?  Of course I did!  You  know ... just in case I ever decide to brave it, because I still think, "WOW, that looks like a book I would enjoy."

Do you ever plan to or start to read a book knowing it is going to devolve you into an emotional mess?  Or is it just me?

If you are interested this the the link for AMAZON.


Monday, 28 September 2015

A Very Short "Short Story"


DONALD TRUMP: ZOMBIE HUNTER by Jon Davidson

“… the world has improved since the day he was sworn into office.”

“… managed to wipe out national debt and create a budget surplus by the end of his first term as commander-in-chief.”

“ … Southern borders have finally been sealed off and jobs were no longer being outsourced to China …”

“ … even Putin himself spoke highly if his inherent awesomeness on a number of occasions.”

He moved with “ninja stealth”.

He “utilized his ultra-keen hearing powers”.

When you come to realize that in this story all of the above sentences apply to “The Donald” during his first term in office as President you have to think I was reading urban fantasy.

Actually this is a very amusing parody.  Mr. Davidson has taken an alternate reality and made “The Donald” the very successful president of the United States.  Then he brings truth to the saying “be careful what you wish for” because as “The Donald” is lying in bed one night with “The Hot Wife” he feels “empty inside” wishing for something else exciting to happen; some new adversity he could overcome … when suddenly zombies attack.  When his personal bodyguard, Jesse Ventura succumbs to the zombies “The Donald” knows he himself is the only hope.  Funnily enough all the zombies resemble Donald Trump’s political opponents and nay-sayers.

Written by Jon Davidson, DONALD TRUMP: ZOMBIE HUNTER is a very short story – 8 pages in PDF format – and it is very well written.  If you have even an inkling of a sense of humor you will find this story funny.  It reads like a “Saturday Night Live” script.  I did notice the author had an alarmingly astounding aptitude for alliteration, which under ordinary circumstance might become annoying, but in this case just added to my amusement. 

Well-done Mr. Davidson.

* I received this short story at no charge from the author via “WordSlinger” in exchange for an honest (and optional) review. *
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The Amazon.com link is HERE

Read This One With ALL the Lights On


SEIZE THE NIGHT edited by Christopher Golden


They’re not handsome/pretty or friendly and they do not exercise self-control.  They ARE ugly, vicious, gritty and evil.  Vampires – just the way I like ‘em!

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my vampires.  I don’t want Edward and daywalkers – I want creatures of the night and fog … Stoker’s Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr.’s bat, Christopher Lee’s chill, Nosferatu and blood dripping off fangs.  Seize the Night” delivers on all counts.

Christopher Golden has edited this anthology written by some of the best horror writers of the 21st century.

In his introduction Mr. Golden takes the reader through a very quick history of vampires as portrayed in different cultures and through the ages.  And he warns the reader in no uncertain terms, “In Seize the Night … what matters is the terror”.  This reader was not disappointed.  The challenge to the writers contributing to this anthology was to “strike back against the notion that the vampire has lost its ability to inspire fear”.  In my humble opinion all twenty tales in this book managed to inspire plenty of fear, as well as some squeezing shut of the eyes, groan and goose bump moments. 

In compilations of short stories, almost without fail, there seem to be some that do not appeal as much as others.  Not so in this book … there was nary a one I didn’t enjoy reading.  I don’t want to point fingers but even the one story that had me scratching my head in confusion and thinking “okay, here’s the dud” absolutely redeemed itself when it gave me that “Aha!” moment at the end – worth waiting for and most definitely cringe-worthy.

The stories were as varied as the authors, some based on ancient myths and native folklore, others borrowing from nature.  A few took place in the present and a few others in a post-apocalyptic near-future.  If you held a fang to my throat and forced me to pick a favorite I would have to go with “Up In Old Vermont” by Scott Smith, which happens to be the first story in the collection.  For originality it would definitely be “Paper Cuts” by Gary A. Braunbeck.

* I received this ebook at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

THE CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS

Scott Smith (Up in Old Vermont)
Seanan McGuire (Something Lost, Something Gained)
Michael Koryta (On the Dark Side of Sunlight)
Sherrilyn Kenyon (The Neighbors)
Gary A. Braunbeck (Paper Cuts)
Charlain Harris (Miss Fondevant)
Laird Barron (In a Cavern, In a Canyon)
Dana Cameron (Whiskey and Light)
Kelley Armstrong (We Are All Monsters)
Tim Lebbon (May the End Be Good)
Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry (Mrs. Popkin)
Leigh Perry (Direct Report)
John Langan (Shadow and Thirst)
Joe McKinney (Mother)
Robert Shearman (Blood)
Lucy A. Snyder (The Yellow Death)
Brian Keene (The Last Supper)
Rio Youers (Separator)
John Ajvide Lindqvist (What Kept You So Long)
David Wellington (Blue Hell)

ABOUT THE EDITOR (from his website

Christopher Golden is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and (with Tim Lebbon) The Map of Moments. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Readers. Upcoming teen novels include a new series of hardcover YA fantasy novels co-authored with Tim Lebbon and entitled The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

A lifelong fan of the “team-up,” Golden frequently collaborates with other writers on books, comics, and scripts. In addition to his recent work with Tim Lebbon, he co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola. With Thomas E. Sniegoski, he is the co-author of multiple novels, as well as comic book miniseries such as Talent and The Sisterhood, both currently in development as feature films. With Amber Benson, Golden co-created the online animated series Ghosts of Albion and co-wrote the book series of the same name.
As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies The New Dead and British Invasion, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, the online animated series Ghosts of Albion (with Amber Benson) and a network television pilot.

The author is also known for his many media tie-in works, including novels, comics, and video games, in the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hellboy, Angel, and X-Men, among others.

Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His original novels have been published in fourteen languages in countries around the world.

Two Children's Books


I don’t usually read and review children’s literature but each of these titles blipped on my radar for their own reason (explained at the end of the review … if it matters).  They were both fine examples of children’s book that I would have enjoyed reading to my kids when they were little.

LEO: A GHOST STORY written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Most people cannot see Leo because, well, he’s a ghost.  He’s been living alone in an empty house for a long time reading, drinking mint tea and eating honey toast.  One spring morning a new family moves into the house and Leo wants to welcome them with tea and honey toast.  They cannot see Leo but they do see a tray floating through the room and it scares them.  This makes Leo a little sad and he decides that maybe it’s time to explore the world a little bit and he leaves the house.

Leo meets Jane, a little girl who can see him, but thinks he is a new imaginary friend.  That’s all right with Leo and he goes home with her.  Circumstances unfold and in time Leo must confess to her that he is not an imaginary friend but, in reality, he is a ghost.

Jane replies, “”Oh!  Well that’s even better

This is a lovely book for children that in a very entertaining way may teach them not to judge due to preconceived ideas.  A valuable lesson not just children but for everyone.  This would make a suitable bedtimes story because the illustrations are simple and Leo is not at all scary looking in his old fashioned suit and bow tie.



The bow tie is actually the reason I picked up this book.  I came across a twitter feed for a contest … it offered a printable version of Leo’s bow tie which you were instructed to print off, wear in some fashion and take a picture of yourself to post on twitter.  I decided what the heck and made it into a hair bow.  It was for fun.  I didn’t win a copy of the book (which I would have donated) but decided to check out the book anyway.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book cover)

Mac Barnett is the New York Times best-selling author of several picture books, including Telephone, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn.  He is also the coauthor of the Terrible Two series of novels.

Mac lives in Berkeley, California.  His website is HERE

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR (from the book cover)

Christian Robinson is an illustrator of several picture books, including Josephine and the New York Times best-selling Last Stop on Market Street.

He lives in San Francisco, California.  His website is HERE 






BUG IN A VACUUM by Melanie Watt

From the book description:

A bug flies through an open door into a house, through a bathroom, across a kitchen and bedroom and into a living room ... where its entire life changes with the switch of a button. Sucked into the void of a vacuum bag, this one little bug moves through denial, bargaining, anger, despair and eventually acceptance -- the five stages of grief -- as it comes to terms with its fate. Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel? Will there be dust bunnies in the void? A funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum.

Although definitely a children’s book this is one with a more serious message.  I’m sure when Elizabeth Kubler-Ross came up with her concept of the “stages of grief” she did not envision a children’s book, but Ms. Watt has found an excellent, non-frightening way to present the concept to children.  Granted children may not pick up on the concept but it certainly is an excellent way to open the door to discussion about a difficult subject.

A trailer for this book can be seen HERE.

So why did I pick up this book?  The picture on the front looks similar to an iconic product of the company I work for and I wanted to see how it was used in the context of a children’s book.  Simply curiosity!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website

It was in a design class taught by Michèle Lemieux at the University of Quebec in Montreal that author and illustrator Mélanie Watt created her first picture book, Leon the Chameleon, which was later published by Kids Can Press. Watt went on to create several more books, including the Learning with Animals collection and Augustine, which was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Watt has also illustrated Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night? andBearcub and Mama, which won the 2006 IRA Teachers’ Choices Project.

Mélanie’s best known book Scaredy Squirrel.  The release of Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, was met with enthusiastic reviews and incredible sales, confirming the arrival of kid lit’s newest superstar.

Chester, Chester’s Back! and Chester’s Masterpiece are about a megalomaniac cat who is every bit the antithesis to Scaredy. Chester has already become a bestseller and shows the breadth and creativity of Mélanie Watt.

Mélanie currently resides near Montreal, Quebec.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Somebody I Used To Know - A Review


SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW by David Bell 

You never forget your first love...

It seems that every other person walking down the street resembles them in some way.  So when Nick sees a young woman in the grocery store that looks so much like his college girlfriend, its no surprise that for a split second he thinks it might actually be Marissa.  Except Marissa died tragically in a fire more than two decades previously.

He cannot get over the truly uncanny resemblance and feels the need to go over and speak to this mysterious young woman, only to have her act frightened and run away.  Strange!  But not as strange as having the police show up at his door the next morning asking about the encounter.  Nick is puzzled when they inform him that the young woman was murdered during the night and she had his name and telephone number tucked into her pocket.

Obviously Nick is a person of interest in this young woman’s death and although the police want to find her killer they do not seem overly interested in taking Nick off the list of prime suspects.  Nick, himself, cannot let the mystery go and starts his own investigation.  Taking the reader along with him on a journey of twists and turns, conspiracies and theories he finally makes a shocking discovery.

This very well written book takes the reader on a merry chase through the pages.  We never really know what’s around the next corner until the characters make the discovery.  And as for the who-dun-it?  Kept me in the dark until the end and then it came as somewhat of a shock – and that’s always fun.  I enjoyed Nick because he wasn’t a typical over the top male lead character.  He had his flaws – admitted to some, couldn’t admit to others, and he made mistakes along the way.  It made him real so I didn’t mind following him through the pages to solve this mystery.  Mr. Bell’s writing and portrayal of the characters made it feel as if I was muddling through the mystery right along with them, sometimes in the thick of the action and sometimes on the sidelines shouting at Nick not to be so reckless.  No blazing guns, excessive shock, or blood and guts – just an interesting mystery to solve and some good page turning suspense.

A good book I would not hesitate to recommend to readers who enjoy a good who-dun-it.

* I received this ebook at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)

David Bell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. More specifically, he was born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, which matters—a lot—to people from Cincinnati.

David attended St. Catharine of Siena grade school and spent countless hours at the Westwood Public Library developing his love of reading. As a child, one of his favorite books was KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS by Mabel Louise Robinson. David read this book over and over and was disappointed when he grew up and found out the stories in the book weren’t true.

After completing his Ph.D., David returned to teach at Miami University as a visiting professor of creative writing for one year before accepting a tenure-track job at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. After two years in the Tar Heel state, David moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky where he accepted a tenure-track job at Western Kentucky University. While at WKU, David sold his novel CEMETERY GIRL to NAL/Penguin. When he is not teaching or writing, David watches lots and lots of movies and reads lots and lots of books. He also enjoys walking in the cemetery near his house with his wife, writer and blogger Molly McCaffrey.

Friday, 25 September 2015

"DOWN" Has a Terrifying New Meaning


DOWN: PINHOLE by Glenn Cooper

Poor room service – bad weather – a one star hotel … these are all things that would make you describe a recent trip as “the vacation from hell” but Emily Loughty gets a totally unexpected vacation “in Hell” … not so affectionately referred to as “the Down” by it’s unfortunate residents.

Emily is the research director for the world’s largest super-collider, many times larger than it’s cousin in Cern, as it tunnels its way around London.  On that fateful day they fire it up, hoping to make history.  Unbeknownst to Emily, her fellow researcher makes a decision to override the safety protocols and push the collider to its maximum capacity.  Emily is standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when the wall between universes warps.  All of sudden Emily is gone and in her place is a dirty, disheveled looking man who soon causes chaos for the lab.  Not knowing what really happened to Emily, her boyfriend John Camp is determined to repeat the experiment and go after her.  They parted on very unfriendly terms at their last meeting and he is determined to move heaven and earth to get her back.  Little does he know that is exactly what he will need to do as he follows her into the “Down”.


Since his release of “Library of the Dead” Glenn Cooper has been an author whose work I grab off the shelves.  In many fairly significant ways this book is different from his other works.  It hurts me to say that I am a little on the fence about this one.  I had moments of  “Gee, I really like this book, but …”.  It was never enough of a “but” to make me stop reading, just slow down a little and ponder.  I have come to enjoy Mr. Cooper’s (usually) three time period tellings, using characters from each era to advance the plot.  The historical figures make the story that much more interesting.  While there are an abundance (dare I say, almost an over-population) of historical characters in this book, their world is the story and our modern day heroes move their story along.  It’s a twist I needed to get used to.

Mr. Cooper’s “Down” is an interesting world, brought to life for the reader in all its grey, dismal and odorous glory.  Each historical figure’s explanation for why they are in the “Down” is this book’s nod to history and I enjoyed that aspect very much but the explanations were a little lengthy at times, slowing down the book's action.  I felt as if Mr. Cooper was not giving his readers enough credit for being aware of who these historical figures were.  During those pages the descriptions and dialogue took on an almost YA quality and this made me feel as if Mr. Cooper was writing down (no pun intended) to his readers.  The “Down” was a highly imaginative setting and it was an interesting twist on the “time travel” idea.  The parts of the book that took place in the present were great to read, but maybe a little few and far between … sometimes I felt stuck in the “Down” much like John and Emily.

Despite all that, I did enjoy Mr. Cooper’s world of the “Down” and, for me, it raised some questions.  Why is the “Down” primarily medieval?  There was a decided lack of “Down” inhabitants post mid-20th century … where are they?  With the reference to Dante’s Inferno in the book description, is there a level of “Down” we have not been introduced to yet? 

Overall, I did enjoy the book.  It did end on cliffhanger – not unexpected since this is the first in a trilogy.  Do I want to read "Down: Portal" the next in the series … absolutely!  My curiosity was peaked too much not to.

I’m also one stand-alone book behind – I need to get a copy of “Near Death”!

* I received this ebook at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon

Glenn Cooper has a background in archaeology from Harvard and practiced medicine as an infectious diseases specialist. He was the CEO of a biotechnology company for almost twenty years, has written numerous screenplays and has produced three independent feature films. His novels have more then sold six million copies in thirty-one languages. He lives in Gilford, New Hampshire.

Station Eleven & Emily St. John Mandel

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending an author event for Emily St. John Mandel author of "Station Eleven", my area's pick for the One Book One Community read this year.


Ms. Mandel was "in conversation" with Craig Norris for the first portion of the evening.  Mr. Norris is a popular local CBC radio personality and lead singer for "The Kramdens".  It was quite obvious that he had indeed read and enjoyed "Station Eleven" because he posed some very interesting questions about Ms. Mandel's writing process, how the concept of the book came to her and her personal feelings about not only the book but also the fact that it has been selected as the OBOC read this year.  Ms. Mandel is well-spoken and her answers were most interesting.  She has a wonderful sense of humor as well.

Mr. Norris invited Ms. Mandel to read a portion from the book and may I say she brought the characters to life.  She read with emotion and it was quite clear that she was proud of this book, as well she should be.  She is an excellent reader (I am often surprised that some authors are not).

Her reading was followed by a Q&A with the audience and then she was kind enough to sign books.  Ms. Mandel was courteous and engaging as she was signing her book and most accommodating to those of us wanting a picture taken. (I like to attend author events on my own so many thanks to the lovely lady behind me in line for snapping the pic for me ... good job!)


Secrets revealed to those attending ...

... Despite the fact that the ending of "Station Eleven" is fairly open there will be NO sequel, although one or more of the characters may appear is future books.

... Ms. Mandel is currently working on her next book.

... She has participated in 92 events for "Station Eleven" over the past several months and in light of a very cute baby bump I hope she takes a well deserved rest soon.

It was a lovely evening sponsored by Wordsworth Books, OBOC, WPL and the Princess Theater.

Other books by Emily St. John Mandel include "The Lola Quartet". "The Singer's Gun" and "Last Night in Montreal".

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Well - This is Interesting!


The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead


From a New York Times article ...

Those double- and triple-digit growth rates plummeted as e-reading devices fell out of fashion with consumers, replaced by smartphones and tablets. Some 12 million e-readers were sold last year, a steep drop from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011, according to Forrester Research. The portion of people who read books primarily on e-readers fell to 32 percent in the first quarter of 2015, from 50 percent in 2012, a Nielsen survey showed.

Higher e-book prices may also be driving readers back to paper.

Complete article HERE

TIFF Wrap Up


Congratulations to “Room” this year’s TIFF People’s Choice Award winner based on the book by Emma Donoghue.


“Room” was on my wish list to see but, unfortunately, it was never playing at a time when I could attend (screenings run from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week).  My daughter did see the film and said it is definitely a “must see” when it comes out, so I will definitely make a point of going to the theater to see it.

The trailer can be viewed HERE

This past weekend I once again attended two TIFF features.  I wanted to post this on Monday, but life has a way of getting in the way of how I plan to do things.

NO MEN BEYOND THIS POINT

My daughter and I picked this movie out of her “magic book of movies” because it sounded really interesting.  As a “mockumentary” this movie presents an alternative universe where men stop serving any purpose.  In the film women began having what were referred to as “virgin births” – basically pregnancy and birth without the need of sperm.  It came as quite a shock when it first started happening – lots of accusation of adultery, fornication and lies.  When it was discovered that it was happening worldwide, women accepted it and went quietly on with their lives.

Oh … the births all resulted in girls.

Men eventually became of no use.

The film moves forward to present day where Andrew Myers, at 37, is the youngest man left in the world.  Men have been relegated to “men only communities” and are on the brink of becoming extinct.  Women rule the world through the “World Governing Council” and have done away with countries governing themselves, war, poverty and any number of other crisis issues existing today. 

But what happens when the inevitable occurs … a woman falls in love with Andrew and together they dare to question the new order.

This is the type of movie you want to go see with a group of friends, preferably male and female, leaving plenty of time afterwards for a nice dinner and drinks so it can be discussed.  Although most definitely tongue in cheek with several “laugh out loud” moments this film raises so many “what if” scenarios and questions that it just begs to be mulled over and dissected.

Interestingly, the premise was conceived and directed by Vancouver born Mark Sawers.  It makes me wonder if the film might have gone in a different direction had a woman been at the helm behind the cameras?

There is a little “teaser” for this film HERE 

JACK

Based on true events this film tells the story of Jack Unterweger, one of Austria’s most infamous real-life convicts.  Jack was convicted of the murder of a young woman and sentenced to a 15-year jail term.  While serving his sentence Jack begins his road to rehabilitation by writing poetry.  His poetry becomes popular with publishers and, predominantly female, fans alike.  Upon his release he embraces his new-found celebrity and tries to stay on the straight and narrow.  Unfortunately, about the same time that Jack is enjoying his popularity there happen a series of murders involving prostitutes (one of Jack’s many weaknesses) and slowly the police come to believe that Jack may be the killer.

This film, given the subject matter was quite dark, both in the story and in the cinematography.  Johannes Krisch, portraying Jack, was brilliant casting on the part of director Elisabeth Scharang.  There were a few moments in the film that had us talking about this one, later over coffee, as well.

One a personal note … the film’s dialogue was in German with English subtitles.  I have no problem with subtitles but when I speak the language of the movie I get a little frustrated because there are those moments when I feel the dialogue and subtitles don’t quite match up.  I am a little out of practice in German so for the first third of the movie I was reading subtitles and then “language memory” kicked in and I was able to follow the dialogue on screen.  It made it much more enjoyable.

My daughter and I do not usually mesh when it comes to taste in music, however, we did both comment, while walking out of the theater, that the soundtrack to this film was great.  That’s a pretty good testament to the talent of “Naked Lunch”.  Unfortunately, the soundtrack has a limited release of 500 hundred copies (vinyl only … CD included).

Over all, although we only saw one movie that is scheduled for release in theaters soon (The Danish Girl) all the movies we attended were well-done and interesting films.  It’s nice to get a taste of what’s out there aside from the “blockbusters”.

The “teaser” for this film can be found HERE

And … another year of TIFF is over.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Remember Harvey? Meet Crenshaw!


CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

After my reading meltdown yesterday I wanted to read something that made me feel good.  Something light and maybe even a little fluffy?  I have had this book sitting on my shelf for a couple of weeks and it seemed to fit the bill.

I requested this book solely based on the cover – I love it!  Oh, don’t roll your eyes, I KNOW I am not the only person to do that.  As it turned out, I loved the book too.

Jackson’s family has always been on a little bit of a roller coaster ride when it came to financial stability.  When he was in grade one they spent 14 weeks living in their van – that’s when Crenshaw first appeared.  Jackson knew Crenshaw was an “imaginary” friend and surprisingly enough, Crenshaw knew it too.  But when someone needs a friend to help him or her get through the tough times sometimes the imaginary kind is the best kind.  Now Jackson is in grade six and once again his family faces the prospect of being evicted from their apartment and spending some time in the family car.  Once again, Crenshaw appears, but Jackson can’t figure this out … he’s too old to have an imaginary friend.  Crenshaw doesn’t think so!

Despite their financial hardships Jackson’s family has no shortage of love.  Jackson knows this and doesn’t understand why his parents are not being honest with him … when you have to go to Best Buy to watch the “big game” because your dad sold the television … you know something is wrong.

Crenshaw helps with that too.

This is a wonderfully written book about love, family, friends, hard times and keeping everything together.  The book is written for middle-graders and I would not hesitate to recommend it to child and adult alike.  It’s a feel good book … because really? … How can anyone resist a 7-foot tall imaginary cat who loves to take bubble-baths?

*I received this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review*

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her Goodreads page)

Applegate was born in Michigan in 1956. Since then she has lived in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina, and after living in Pelago, Italy for a year, she has moved back to Southern California. She has an eleven year old son named Jake Mates, although she says the Animorph leader is not named after him. In 2003 she and her husband, Michael Grant, her co-author on many projects including Animorphs, adopted their daughter, Julia, in China.[citation needed] Following the end of Animorphs, Applegate took three years off. She is back at work and has written a picture book called "The Buffalo Storm," a middle reader novel called "Home of the Brave," and an early chapters series "Roscoe Riley Rules" with Harper Collins. Her book "Home of the Brave" has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and is a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book.

Friday, 18 September 2015

I Feel Righteously Pissed Off!


THE BABY by Sylvia Norman

Those of you who have read my reviews know I don’t often write scathing, negative reviews so be warned – this is my version of a “scathing, negative review”.  This review might make you wonder if I don’t have a split personality.  And, I’m going to do things a little out of my usual order.  I want to say something positive (before I get into my rant) so I’ll start with the basics.

The premise of this book had a lot of promise towards being a really good horror story.  I understand that this was a “novelette”; by its very description, short by design, but the parts of the story that were to be the horror element had little to no suspense leading up to them.  They sort of struck you in the face … and rather than be shocking they just left me feeling rather flat.  A little bit of lead-in and emotion goes a long way into making a scene terrifying.  The writing was passable for, what I understand, is a first effort by Ms. Norman.  A good editor would have been able to pare down a sentence such as “As I got closer to the lady, I looked over her shoulder and saw she was holding a bloody baby that was bleeding profusely.”

Despite all that I was quite prepared to give this book a 2 ½ to 3-star rating because of Ms. Norman’s premise and her effort, which I still think are pretty strong.

Now?

I’m so pissed off I don’t even know because I cannot avoid my personal feelings getting in the way of an honest rating based on the book itself.  The last time I had such a strong negative reaction to a piece of creative endeavor was at a modern art exhibit when I came across a snow shovel hanging on a wall with a title card next to it reading: "Prelude To A Broken Arm".  The shovel still had a home hardware price sticker on it.  I think I started to hyperventilate.
From the book description:

“Patricia and William can’t wait to have children, but as soon as she gives birth, things seem to change.  First, although she doesn’t remember it, Patricia apparently tried to commit suicide in the hospital room.  The doctors write it off as postpartum depression, but Patricia has the oddest feeling her baby, Bernard, had something to do with it.

William tries to be supportive of his recovering wife.  He is careful and loving with their son, but she seems almost afraid of little Bernard.  She doesn’t treat him as a mother would – with love, compassion, and patience.  To Patricia, Bernard is some kind of monster, and sometimes, she swears he looks like an old man … and talks like one too.

Is Bernard the evil creature she suspects, or is the horror just part of Patricia’s twisted imagination.  William fears for his family, but he’s not sure where to turn.  He hates to think his wife is mad, yet her behavior gives him little choice.  Patricia, however, feels she has a purpose; destroy the child she brought into the world before
he hurts others, William included.”

Sounds creepy, right?

Then there’s the book cover … looks pretty creepy too... black and white, single doll in a peeling, possibly bloody crib.  Just the kind of book I would be drawn to.


In "The Baby" there comes a definite point in the story where the reader thinks they are going to find out if Patricia is insane or if Bernard truly is evil and that’s where it totally went off the rails for me.

And just so you know I am NOT including any spoiler alerts here because I do not think the story deserves the courtesy … readers need to know what they are getting into.

The story makes a 180-degree turn and the reader finds out that early in her marriage Patricia made the choice to terminate a pregnancy.  Whether it was her guilty conscience or whether that baby was truly back to haunt her is neither here nor there in my opinion … the author’s views on the subject are made very clear in her dialogue and descriptions.  There was no warning anywhere on the book that this was going to preach a “Right to Life” point of view in such graphic terms.  If at some point I had had to make such a decision and then found myself reading this book … with NO WARNING … I would have thrown-up at the very least or been tempted to throw myself in front of a bus just because of the thick layer of guilt Ms. Norman lays on the reader.  If some poor woman had recently had to make such an agonizing decision (and YES I do believe, for most, it is a decision not made lightly) she would probably not pick up a book about evil babies … but we’re all readers here, used to suspending reality … if she did pick up this book IT WOULD BE DEVASTATING!

My personal thoughts on lifestyle issues do not matter here; I am not trying to start a debate and, I like to think I am not an overly sensitive reader but I do feel I have the right to full disclosure about certain aspects and subject matter of the book.  Most books give you an idea … “Christian fiction”, “LGBT fiction”, “Erotica” even a little “This book may contain…” or “This book may be offensive if …” – just give me the choice to pick it up or not!

Readers, especially those willing to try Indie authors and/or plug their way through self published work are often not sure where a story is going to lead (and may I say are often pleasantly surprised) … but if there is going to be some (a lot) of personal preaching done by the author in the guise of a story line … let me know ahead of time.

This novelette received nothing but five-star ratings and gushing, glowing reviews on Amazon.  On Goodreads.com it has two five-star reviews and one two-star review.  Am I (self deleted cuss word) missing some element of this book?  Somehow, I suspect there will be no requests forthcoming to post my review on either site.

Okay, I’m done now.



*I received this book at no charge from the author
via Wordslinger in exchange for an honest review.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from an insert included with the book)

“I was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  I reside in Lithonia, Georgia with my two sons.  “The Baby” is my first publication.  I am a horror and suspense fan.  My style of writing as the feel of the Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and the movie 1408.  I’m working on part two of “The Baby” and a new novel, “Family Portrait.”

The Black Tongue - A Review


THE BLACK TONGUE by Marko Hautala

Every society has its own version of the boogieman – a story to tell naughty children in order to scare them into behaving.  Granny Hatchet is only an urban legend told to frighten the teenagers of Suvikyla, Finland.  Or is it?

Granny Hatchet, as her name would suggest, carries a hatchet with her wherever she goes.  She follows children who are out alone.  Her hatchet never fails to strike between the shoulder blades.  She removes their heart, buries it in her garden until it rots and turns black.  Then, and only then, she eats the heart and thereby consumes their soul.

Maisa Riipinen grew up in Suvikyla among the row houses and amidst the refugees who lived there and, she is familiar with the legend of Granny Hatchet, more familiar than she cares to remember.  As a student working on her dissertation about Urban Legends she dares to go back to discover if Granny Hatchet is still a story being told in the dark basement of the townhouse complex.  As Maisa is daring to walk down memory lane Samuel Autio has also come back to his hometown to arrange his father’s funeral.  Samuel and Maisa had known each other as children and share a secret that neither wants to reveal.  Will it come out now that they are both back home as adults?

The first part of this book drew me in.  I was sitting at the edge of my seat enthralled with the gruesomeness of the Granny Hatchet story as it was being told to the children of the town.  I gasped when one of the girls left the secret circle and it became clear she had a secret of own.  Each mysterious footfall she heard had me holding me breath.  And then … well … I’m not really sure.  Jump to Samuel coming home and finding a strange movie playing in his father’s abandoned apartment, the playing of which changed the telling of the story into flashbacks told by both Samuel and Maisa.  Flashbacks that left Granny Hatchet in the literary dust never, really, to be properly revisited again.

At that point the book began to seem a little disjointed.  The story began to jump all over the place, introducing us to an alcoholic, pedophilic hermit, a strange keeper of the marsh, Samuel’s American girlfriend and her crazy, actor father none of whom had anything to do with Granny Hatchet.  Then we are told about some strange sea serpent-like creature hidden in the basement of an old mansion located on an island no one is allowed to visit.

Wait a minute!  What happened?

Judging from the beginning of this book it could have been a really scary read that would have kept me up well into the night to finish it, but the narration lost its way and never really got back on track.  I finished it, and it was not all horrible – there were goose bumpy moments – but overall I thought it could have been better had the author stuck with his original premise and given me the creepy urban legend story promised in the book blurb.




The only saving grace ... and the reason for my 3 star rating ... is there is a twist at the end that did have me letting out an involuntary gasp because I did not see it coming.  It made it worthwhile to get to the last few pages.  And the writing, for lack of a better word, was atmospheric.  Mr. Hautala can certainly write prose that makes you feel the mist and hear the crunch of dry leaves.  At least there was that.
 
* I received this ebook at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon

Marko Hautala's unique blend of psychological thriller and realism has attracted readers of all genres, earning him a reputation as the Finnish Stephen King. His first novel, Itsevalaisevat (The self-illuminated ones), received the Tiiliskivi Prize, and Käärinliinat (Shrouds) received the Kalevi Jäntti Literary Prize for young authors in 2010. Unikoira (Seeing eyes) was nominated for the Young Aleksis Kivi Prize in 2013.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Lemoncholy Cured by a Red Door


THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER by Scott Wilbanks.
 
When you open a door you always expect it to lead you somewhere.  When Annie opens her red door I was as surprised as Annie to discover exactly where this door led.

It was fate or happenstance or whatever name you may choose to use to explain Annie’s discovery of the red door in the antiquities shop.  She saw it and knew this door absolutely had to be the new back door to her house.  She had no way of knowing that she and this intricately carved door already had a history – but she was sure about to find out.  Annie’s house was in modern day San Francisco and the door opened to 1890’s Kansas … to a wheat field that separated her home from that of a slightly bitter old woman.  What could it possibly mean that the door put these women in each other’s circle?  Through letters and with the help of some really good friends these two women were about to find out.

Mr. Wilbanks has given his readers all the elements necessary to keep them turning the pages – suspense, magic, a little time travel, some secrets, a budding romance and a villian bound and determined to make sure it all goes sideways for Annie and her friends and straight in his favor.  With the exception of the definitely dastardly villain there was not one character in this book I didn’t fall in love with as I read.  Each had quirks, habits, secrets and personalities that were easy to like.  Each was a bit of a “misfit” until they came together, then it seemed as if they each had a special place and purpose in their little group.  The mystery was light with a satisfying dash of twists and turns that kept me on my toes trying to figure out what was going to happen next.  The adventure moved along at a nice crisp pace.  When I turned the last page I was a little sad to be leaving Annie’s world but was quite satisfied that everything and everyone were going to be okay.  What more could I ask for?

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a nice mystery and can suspend plausibility for a little while in order to enjoy a good, well-written story.

* I received this ebook at no charge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website

Scott is an American expat living in New Zealand with his frustratingly perfect husband. A former national title holder in the sport of gymnastics whose left arm is an inch shorter than his right—the result of a career-ending accident—Scott ditched the corporate world to “see where this writing will take me.” He is the author of THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, a commercial fiction novel with a fantasy premise releasing August 1, 2015 through Sourcebooks that tells the story of two pen pals who are fighting against the clock to solve the mystery behind the hiccup in time connecting their homes before one of them is convicted of a murder that is yet to happen… and yet somehow already did.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Getting to Know You/Me


Well, Nya and Troy tagged everyone on Booklikes with this a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon too.

Besides, it’s another excuse to procrastinate on buckling down and writing my backlog of reviews.  I hate getting behind because then I find it difficult to sit down and start on them ... usually opting to read another book instead.  Vicious circle!
  
So here you go if ya’ wanna know …
 
1.  What is your favorite childhood book?

Strumpfel Peter (I spent my formative years in Germany)

I’m not sure if it qualifies as a “favorite” so much as it is the one I most remember … I can still remember the cover exactly … and I think the reason I remember it is because it is a rather unpleasant book to read to children.  Probably explains a lot about my reading choices as an adult.

 2.  E books or printed book?

I do love my ereader and use it all the time but printed books will always be my favorite.  There is just something about holding a book and turning actual pages that I love.  Plus, it’s so much easier to pull a printed book off the shelf to refer back to something.  And … printed books never disappear into cyber-space.

3.  What is your favorite place to read?

I have a big comfy chair that I love to sit in and read.  It is big enough to curl up, or tuck my legs under me, or throw a leg over the arm … you know – all those positions we readers assume because we’ve been reading for hours.  But it is also REALLY comfortable, so if I am tired and desperately want to finish the last few chapters of a book I have to sit in the kitchen at the table to prevent nodding off syndrome.

4.  Is there any genre you would never read?

I tend to shy away from hardcore sci-fi, Harlequin type romance/bodice rippers, books dealing with war and westerns.

That being said I have picked up books in each of those genres and enjoyed them.  I just never go out of my way to acquire them.

5.  What’s your review rating system?

I hate rating books.  In the days of “MySpace” rating books came up in a discussion amongst my group of “friends” and it got me thinking about it enough to write a very lengthy rant about why I hate rating books, which I then cut and pasted onto a blog and then cut and pasted it again when I started my book blog.  If you are interested it can be found HERE

In a pinch the following would be it …

ONE STAR

I don’t give these out too often because I can usually find some redeeming quality in a book or if it is that bad I DNF the book.  If a book receives a ONE STAR rating it means I finished it only out of a sense of obligation – either someone I care about loaned it to me to read (and that person has now dropped a rung on the ladder of “I trust your book recommendations" ... it's the same as saying "I think the milk has gone off - you try it") or I received it free in exchange for an honest review.

TWO STARS

It was interesting enough for me to muddle my way through to the end but I would probably not recommend it to anyone I care about (because I don’t want to drop a rung on their ladder … see above).

THREE STARS
This is probably my go to rating.  It means the book kept me interested and if you were interested in the series/genre/subject/author I would probably pass along the title of the book.

FOUR STARS

The book had that little something special that made me want to stay up late to read it. 

FIVE STARS

The book was unique.

The book had me turning the pages quickly despite the fact that I did not really want the story to end.

The book was non-fiction and suitably answered a question I was wondering about or offered all the information I was looking for.

The book made me laugh out loud, cry at some point or, sigh when I closed the cover after reading the last page.  I'll be raving about to everyone and if you do not read it in a timely fashion so that we can talk about said book I will presenting it to you (in lieu of a more suitable gift) for either your birthday or Christmas

6.  What is your favorite fictional character?

I know it’s a cop-out but I really cannot pick one character as a favorite.

Most envied maybe?  Eve Dallas from the “In Death” by J.D. Robb and Elena from the “Otherworld” series by Kelley Armstrong.  They both pretty much have their sh** together and, aside from being beat up by bad guys every once in a while, live a pretty nice lifestyle I could certainly get used to.  (Notice I am making no mention of their respective spouses; Rourke or Clay, who I KNOW I could get used to!)

Funniest?  Andy Carpenter in the series written by David Rosenfelt … but mostly because of the audio as read by Grover Gardner.  I can appreciate the wit and sarcasm Andy spews forth.

7.  What is the best film adaptation of a book?

It would be a tie between “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas(the cartoon NOT the Jim Carey film) and “Silence of the Lambs”.

8.  How do you choose the next book to read?

But, seriously … if I have a library book checked out or a book that has been loaned to me, they take precedence over other books because they have a “best before” date.  Other than that it’s pretty much whatever strikes my fancy for the mood I am in.



9.  Top 3 authors?

Only three?

Stephen King

Christopher Moore

Kelley Armstrong

10.  Is there any book release you are particularly looking forward to?

 There is always a book on the horizon than I am waiting to snatch up as soon as it’s released, but not one specific book right now.