May 12th, 2013

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

A few days ago, I finished reading Bloodstone, a Brother Athelstan Medieval Mystery by Paul Doherty. The author spends a lot of time on accurate descriptions of life in the era, and tacks the mystery onto the tapestry he's woven. I've enjoyed many of Doherty's books in the past, and this one is in keeping with his other work. I will continue following his various series.

Book 8

Slaughterhouse-five, by Kurt Vonnegut. This was very different, and I admit I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first. It starts off a bit slow and the writing style takes some getting used to. But once I did get used to it, and once I realized WHY Vonnegut wrote the story the way he did, I found myself enjoying it more and more. By the middle of the novel I found it hard to put down. I certainly want to read more books by him in the future. The story centers on Billy Pilgrim, an odd character who, as Vonnegut puts it, is unstuck in time. He goes from time period to time period in his life. Times include his period as a prisoner of war during World War II, his wedding to his wife, his time in the custody of aliens and even his death. Glimpses of his life - and observations- are parceled out a bit at a time. It's an interesting, at times amusing and always powerful commentary on the inherent idiocy of war and violence. The mental imagery is colorful, from Billy's silver shoes and gaudy turban during World War II to the description of the bombed-out Dresden.
Book with cat 1

Book #23: G.I. JOE: The IDW Collection Volume 2

Book #23:G.I. JOE: The IDW Collection, Volume 2
(Book received for free from IDW Publishing for review. Cross-posted to my own LJ.)

I had very little information about this book going into it, but I loved the GI Joe cartoon and comic books when I was a teen, so I jumped at the chance to review this. I should have guessed, but didn't: This was a graphic novel. I've not read a graphic novel since high school, and truth be told, nowadays I look down on them.

Turns out I was 100% wrong to do so. The story was as mature as I could have wanted, and wonderfully dark. Oh so dark. I loved it so much. (The art was great, too. I'd like to post a sample here, but every page was watermarked with a big DO NOT REPRODUCE, so I better not. It was traditional-style art, not anime, and nicely realistic.)

The book was made up of three stories. Though this was volume 2, it worked fine as a stand-alone book.

No knowledge of GI Joe was needed to enjoy it, but I did have fun trying to fit the tales into the canon world I knew.

Story 1: Mainframe (computer geek) was the main character. Wounded in battle, he had months to pour through computer information and look for connections. He found shadows and rumors, hints towards some criminal organization out there.

Story 2: The main character was someone I didn't recall from GI Joe of the 80s. Either I had forgotten him or he was a new character. Chuckles. He was "fired" from GI Joe so he could go undercover and worm his way into this new criminal organization. Through him, we see the early founding of Cobra.

Story 3: Story two told from Tomax and Xamot's point of view.

Stories two and three were my favorite by far. Story one wasn't bad at all, but two and three were so dark -- they were a perfect match to my tastes.

This book was good enough that I'm considering buying volume 1 and any that come after. The retail price is $49.99, and Amazon has this volume for $32.69. I have no idea how graphic novel prices run, but while the cost seems high to me, I would have happily paid it for this book.

One note: I'm not sure if it's just my copy or if it's the nature of graphic novels, but the end of mine seems cut off; story three stops in what seems not really an ending point.
warehouse floor

Book #26: Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage

Book #26

Title: Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage

Author: Bruce Littlefield

Pages: 233

Genre: Humor, LGBT Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I received this book for the purpose of review from the author through a giveaway. Regardless of how I obtain a book I am committed to providing uncensored thoughts in my reviews (probably because I have no idea how to censor myself).

Summary: This is a memoir of two city boys taking on a house renovation project in the country. Of course it results in entertaining misadventures.

Review: Ordinarily, this is a book that would have been thrown onto my huge to-read pile for it to get lost in the sea of books forever. I’m glad it didn’t because it is hilarious (just don’t read in public if you snort while laughing, unfortunately, taken from a personal experience since I read most of it at the beach).

I can’t come up with a better way to describe it than a modern, gay version of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (from the 50s show I love Lucy). Bruce is cheeky with a sharp tongue that gets him into trouble and a proclivity for the dramatics. Scott is the level-headed, sensible one, well, unless he’s driving. This memoir grants us access into the first year of this city couple owning a run-down house in the county, including a peak into their neighbors, renovations, and their relationship.

Some chapters achieved genuine emotional depth. “The Gift” made my eyes tear up, the emotion was conveyed impeccably (and I loved the pictures). Some of my other favorites, “Oh, Christmas Tree” and “Coupon Clipper,” also had something profound to say though the humorous circumstances and commentary. However, I wish more chapters pushed for, well, more depth. There were some chapters where I felt the comedy served to keep the reader emotionally detached, not letting us in far enough; lacked the intimacy that would allow the reader to connect more with the personal in a meaningful way.

However, that said, this is the perfect book to spend the afternoon with curled up on the beach. It is an extremely funny, lighthearted read and the breaks between chapters give the perfect excuse to go for a swim or pick up some ice-cream before diving back into the memoir. It is definitely worth picking up.
red flowers

Book 85: The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh

Book 85: The Girl on the Stairs.
Author: Louise Welsh, 2012.
Genre: Physiological Thriller. Gothic. GLBT Themes.
Other Details: Hardback. 279 pages.

Jane Logan is six months pregnant and has moved to Berlin to live with her long-term lover, rich banker, Petra. The women's chic new apartment is in a trendy part of the city but Jane finds herself increasingly uneasy there. She conceives a dread of the derelict backhouse across the courtyard and begins to suspect something sinister is happening in the flat next door, where gynaecologist Alban Mann lives with his teenage daughter Anna. Petra believes her lover's pregnancy is affecting her judgement, but Jane is increasingly convinced that all is not well. Her decision to turn detective has devastating results when her own past collides with the past of the building and its inhabitants. - synopsis from author's website.

This is my third book by Louise Welsh and each one has been quite different yet all engaging in their own way. This one was well summed up by its cover tag-line: 'suspicion is a dangerous neighbour'. Although written in the third person it is mainly from Jane's perspective that we witness the comings and goings of various characters. Berlin emerges as a darkly haunted city by the events of WWII and its division during the Cold War era.

Jane's experience of life in Berlin with her disturbing neighbours comes across as highly claustrophobic. Jane's fleeting glimpses of a girl in a hooded red coat on the stairs and in a nearby graveyard immediately called to mind the sinister red-coated figure in Daphne du Maurier's 'Don't Look Now'. Indeed, there are signs of the influence of du Maurier in Welsh's approach to the Gothic. I have to admit that at times Jane drove me wild with her passive-aggression. Even a week later I am still contemplating the events of the novel and her role in its ambiguous climax.
doctor who

Books 86-88: Three Doctor Who E-Shorts

Book 86: Doctor Who: Summer Falls.
Author: Amelia Williams, 2013.
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction. TV Tie-in.
Other Details: e-book. 70 pages.

In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled ‘The Lord of Winter’ in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. Kate soon realises the old seascape, painted long ago by an eccentric local artist, is actually a puzzle. And with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances – including a museum curator’s magical cat, a miserable neighbour, and a lonely boy – she plans on solving it. And then, one morning Kate wakes up to a world changed forever. For the Lord of Winter is coming – and Kate has a very important decision to make - synopsis from Goodreads.

This novella was featured in the Doctor Who episode 'The Bells of Saint John' and then released as an e-book after the transmission of the episode.

This was a delightful tale. Its style is very much of its stated period evoking memories of the seaside adventures found in novels such as Susan Cooper's 'Greenwitch' and Enid Blyton's stories. The author managed to not only tell a charming and exciting story but to capture an essential Amy Pondness in writing style so it wasn't hard to suspend disbelief and read into the story elements of Amelia's own story and the loss she experienced when she parted ways with her Doctor. Barnabas was wonderful as was his cat! So yes, a big thumbs up for this and I hope that it attracts more readers. It deserves it. This would make a fun CBBC special.

Book 87: A Big Hand For The Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts #1).
Author: Eoin Colfer, 2013.
Genre: Science Fiction. Time Travel. TV Tie-in.
Other Details: e-book. 41 pages.

London, 1900. The First Doctor is missing both his hand and his granddaughter, Susan. Faced with the search for Susan, a strange beam of soporific light, and a host of marauding Soul Pirates intent on harvesting human limbs, the Doctor is promised a dangerous journey into a land he may never forget. - synopsis from Goodreads.

Certainly a fun story though it didn't quite work. I felt that Eoin Colfer had a difficult task in that he was being asked to write for one of the most memorable Doctors for long-time fans and also make a short story interesting for New Who fans. Thus, I feel this was the reason for his inserting a number of modern pop culture references. Still why shouldn't this Doctor and Susan have travelled to the 21st Century? I also enjoyed spotting the Peter Pan references in this story of space pirates. It was a short and sweet treat to read on my Kindle on a Bank Holiday morning.

Book 88: The Nameless City (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts #2).
Author: Michael Scott, 2013.
Genre: Science Fiction. TV Tie-in. Time Travel. Lovecraftian themes.
Other Details: e-book. 48 pages.

When Jamie McCrimmon brings the Second Doctor a mysterious book, little does he realise the danger contained within its pages. The book transports the TARDIS to a terrifying glass city on a distant world, where the Archons are intent on getting revenge on the Time Lord for an ancient grudge. - synopsis from Goodreads.

I found this second in the series of e-shorts a marked improvement on the first story. Michael Scott seemed a lot more knowledgeable about his Doctor and therefore more confident with him as well as with companion Jamie McCrimmon. I'd been disappointed with Scott's 'Alchemyst' but now I'm thinking I may have misjudged him. H.P. Lovecraft's mythos is featured though it is presented in a way that isn't too disturbing for younger readers.

BBC and Puffin Books have commissioned this series of 11 e-shorts, one for each Doctor to be released monthly in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who on 23rd November 2013. Each is written by a well-known name in children's fiction and the identity and the title of the story is only released prior to its 23rd of the month publication date. It's a good marketing strategy.