Archive for November, 2014

November 24th, 2014

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta #22)

by Gwen

flesh

Repeat after me, “I am lucky that I’m not Kay Scarpetta.  I’m also lucky that I am not one of her friends or family members.”

First things first, have you heard of The Reading Room? They gave me this book, so deserve a mention. Think of it as more all-about-books than that other booksite out there that will-not-be-named. I like that while it does have a social component, it is far from all about that. The design is super clean with pleasing colors and blogs are presented so seamlessly. Two things that have always seemed a waste to me on that other site is that a huge chunk of above the fold space is taken up with the social stuff that I don’t care much about and that blog feeds look worse than RTF.  The staff of The Reading Room is small and totally approachable and that is a boon when you trying to get help or interact with them for another reason.  I like it, check ‘em out will ya? Look for Cybergwen.

Back to Flesh and Blood with Kay Scarpetta…I’m starting to have a love/hate relationship with Patricia Cornwell and her character, Kay. Well, with Cornwell it really started with Portrait of a Killer because as I have mentioned before, everyone has their pet theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper and to finger someone with the evidence we have is, to me, hubris. Scarpetta has always been one of my favorite characters though and I have hung in there.

However, have you ever noticed when after a number of seasons,  TV shows that you love start to get convoluted and silly storylines and you just know that the end is nigh? Ally McBeal pulled the dancing baby out of the hat, but even that didn’t mean that the show would go on forever. The Scarpetta series is getting a serious case of what I will call the “been here, done that’s and we really need you to drink the kool-aid so that you can keep suspending disbelief even though we all no that no one’s life sucks this much” problem.

Without giving real spoilers, Flesh and Blood features a killer that is murdering people and sending subtle messages to Scarpetta, her family, and friends. The relationships and their intense conflicts are really what has always stood out to me in this series and #22 is no disappointment. The bond these characters have is really stunning and Cornwell writes them in such a believable way. I wish that I had friends like that, but being around Kay Scarpetta is once again, mighty dangerous.

And now we go back to repeat after me, “I am really lucky not to be a part of Kay Scarpetta’s life because no matter how great she is as a role model, someone is ALWAYS after her.”

Much Like Gwen's Signature

 

P.S. Just because it gives my spell and grammar checkers fits, let me type it one more time, Scarpetta. Yup, I’m done now.

November 20th, 2014

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

by Gwen

Tinseltown

There are many keywords that will lead any reader to pick up a book. For me, the list seems a bit endless with history, murder, and classic or silent Hollywood somewhere near the top and that is why when I saw Tinseltown on the Harper’s upcoming books I did a wee bit of a jig.   Being a reformed classic movie junkie and having a festering obsession with John Barrymore (really, I have photos and trading cards of him on my walls) this was a great fit with the other books on my shelf covering this very same subject- the murder of William Desmond Taylor. {insert ominous da, da, da, dum}

Taylor and Jack the Ripper have quite a bit in common; both unsolved, everyone has a theory, pre-modern forensic science, evidence gone missing, and even their own exhaustive websites with information and groupies. Taylor’s murder has something that I don’t see the Ripper as having, it happened at the same time as the birth of Hollywood, which was arguably the the major cultural and entertainment powerhouse of the 20th century.

What is slightly different in Mann’s take on the case is that he comes to the conclusion that the culprit was someone that, while a suspect in most treatments, has not been confidently fingered before, there is a lot more talk of drug use, it’s the most complete picture of Paramount mogul Adolph Zuckor that I have ever read, and he makes many interesting word choices throughout.

A friend reminded me the other day that if there is no controversy of some sort or one can’t be created, the media will not cover it and that really applies to Tinseltown. Mann give the impression that every single person tangentially related to Hollywood had major skeletons in their closets and 99% of them had to do with drugs. Now, I wasn’t there and it was the wild 20’s and yet, I am not a fan of painting an entire industry or time period as drug and sex-crazed.  You might be tempted to throw the 60’s at me after reading that, but do you really think that everyone…your parents or grandparents, if you are younger, were out “turning on, tuning in, or dropping out”? I didn’t think so.

Zuckor? That was probably the most well done part of the book. It will leave feeling grateful for never having worked for the man and perhaps, insight into characteristics were almost vital to have in order to become the leader in many business at the time. His life is the embodiment of immigrant success that makes America great and also proves, yet again, that one doesn’t necessarily have to be likable to succeed.

Word choices? This was interesting and while I need to make note of it, I also need to mention that I have lately been on a lot of rants about this from authors and copywriters in general.  His use of words like clew and athwart might not sound to you like the nails on a chalkboard that they were for me. Think of this as a big case of it’s not Mann, it’s me.

His fingering a culprit? Like the Ripper, there have been so many theories that it is really hard to separate the wheat from the chafe. It’s completely possible and still unable to move beyond reasonable doubt for me based on the few facts that are left.

Tinseltown is like the 1920’s and Hollywood was, one heck of a ride. So much has been written about the murder that I really don’t have a favorite book in the race. If the case is new to you and you don’t have any pre-conceived notions, this wouldn’t be a bad choice and would treat you to a fair amount of somewhat unrelated Hollywood history, which is nice. Like the Ripper, the chance of fingering the dastardly murderer and pleasing everyone at this point are akin to finding a victim’s bloody sweater with DNA on it over a hundred years later. Oh…wait…that’s been done…and debunked. (My family has passed down many things, nothing as strange as a bloody sweater though. Seriously, not one generation thought it weird?)

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

by William J. Mann

  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 14, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Much Like Gwen's Signature

Tinseltown fell into my hands like manna from heaven from HarperCollins. As always, the gift has no effect on my personal thoughts regarding the book. 

November 17th, 2014

Modern Pioneering by Georgia Pellegrini

by Gwen

Modern

Book space is a major issue in my house and to live without towers of them around me I have to be really brutal about what stays, gets donated, or as part of a specific collection, gets shoved in boxes under my bed. Say hello to the not-so-mini-library of books on Frank Lloyd Wright and the Arts & Crafts movement that, most likely, are holding up my bed right at this very moment.

Anywho, there are three shelves of visible books and a good portion of those are to-be-read with the remaining space for favorites and reference.  It isn’t often that a book falls into that last category because competition is T-O-U-G-H, tough. Modern Pioneering has made the cut.

Growing up in the city with parents that worked their rear ends off had it’s trade-offs and one of those was a lot of my food came out of a box from the freezer, was nuked in the microwave, and slithered onto my plate. Not only that, but we had a gardener, a pool guy, a dry cleaners that delivered, etc. Are you picking up what I am throwing down? There was zero home ec going on in my house. It was so bad that my first laundry load in college all came out blue due to not knowing to separate colors and especially new colors.

As the years have flown by I have learned so much and would have killed for the plethora of books that are out there now like Modern Pioneering. The whole make from scratch and consciousness about where food comes from is something that we lost for a few decades and color me thrilled. This one is a keeper for a few reasons.

There are things in Modern Pioneering that can attract all pioneering skill sets. It’s great for a beginner and the pro will find some new-to-them skills as well.  Kefir, is finally explained in words that don’t sound like something only a crazy health nut would use, priceless. From more space efficient gardening to (gosh I cringe at this word) foraging, then making a birdhouse out of a gourd to how to season a cast iron pan-there is so much packed into 293 actually readable pages.

Foraging to this city girl brings up negative pictures of dumpster diving and those um, freaky people that do it for fun. I might use wildcrafting or creativity in it’s place. It isn’t the wrong word, just has negative connotations for me personally.

Oh, and the photos? Fuhgetaboutit, you’re covered though you might want to bring something to wipe the drool. There are step-by-step directions and tutorials that will make you a pro in no time.

In general, it is a such a great book to grab at first blush that it earned one of the coveted slots on the shelf, even with the use of the word forage.  It fits right in between the 52 Weeks cookbook and The Healing Remedies Sourcebook, which are my go-to books for other similar but not the same reference titles.  Stop judging me for also saving The Resurectionist by Hudspeth, it’s all a part of my evil plan. It will happen with Kefir and cool illustrations of animals that don’t exist. 

 

Much Like Gwen's Signature

I think this one was from the publisher, it seems to have moved in and made a home for itself and that is a good sign. Not all books get along with each other. 

 

November 9th, 2014

Skeletons Still Not in the Closet

by Gwen

Skull from the yard

I keep my skeletons out all year in spots to spook nosy guests. Be warned if you ever come over and snoop that white canister on the bathroom shelf or move back the leaves of a fern. (although why you would be messing with a fern is beyond me)

There are still a few books that scared me so badly that I waited to catch my breath before I reviewed them. Not that I stop reading horror or ghost stories just because Halloween is over, no way, but I know that many do.

Imagine a dark and stormy night and you’re cuddled up with an herbal tea in your favorite chair, the fire is toasty, no one else is home, the wind howls and you pick up…..

Horro Stories

 

 

This is such a classic that it would be great to read from every year even if the subtitle makes you giggle a bit. Think about it, there just aren’t that many authors whose surnames start with “Ho” and that subtitle implies that the volume just covers that specific grouping. It doesn’t. Full of short stories that are old favorites (Poe, I am pointing at you) and a whole bunch that are new, I suggest that you keep the lights on. Naw, for the best, edge of your seat chills, turn them off and read by candle light or use your Paperwhite Kindle.

P.S. There are 29 stories in this and it feels like so much more. The forward is really worth reading as well.

Horror Stories edited by Darryl Jones, 510 pages, published October 1st 2014 by Oxford University Press

 

 

 

 

 

Are you old enough to remember the 1987 movie Mannequin staring Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall? Synopsis-cute guy falls in love with mannequin and gets a job there so he can chill with her when the store is closed, she comes alive and they have a Horrorstorbeautiful relationship, at night, in the store. That and the fact that I thought it would be so cool to stay in a store over night are the only things that stuck with me. My never-had-a-job-before rear thought that it would be “cool” to hang out in a store at night. Wow, kids are naive. Fast forward a few years and I fell asleep on a pile of scarecrows while doing inventory at Michael’s in the middle of the night. Good times.

Anywho, it was a fun fantasy then and that is part of what made Horrorstor so alarmingly scary. The book takes something that we can all relate to in one way or another, an Ikea knockoff, and turns it into the scariest haunted building you have ever visited.  A lot of it is tongue in cheek with the random Ikea-like descriptions of must-have house wares and that serves to make it more insidious.  I don’t care that it is supposed to be a bit funny or that it is a lightly masked commentary on our materialistic culture; I will never ever open up a cabinet in any store again without thinking of the book. And Ikea? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, 243 pages, published September 23rd 2014 by Quirk Books

 

 

 

File this under: Sometimes the remaking is just too much remaking.

Remember when they remade Psycho shot for shot? I was bored out of my mind; did you get through it? The Fall isn’t shot for shot, bThe Fallut it is a retelling of a treasured favorite from a treasured favorite author. That’s a lot to live up to and it is important to mention that if this gets younger folks to appreciate Edgar Allan Poe, it’s all good. However, if you grew up reading Stephen King and Poe like they were oxygen? This one might be okay if you get it from the library and that is still wouldn’t have helped me.

Bethany Griffin’s The Fall is a complete redo of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.  It isn’t updated to a modern setting, just cleaned up to add a bit more YA and make it easier for many more to read. While Usher has never been one of my favorites, I do know it well and mea culpa, I set the bar too high. It isn’t Griffin’s fault at all.  This isn’t even the first treatment of Poe that she has done so she must be doing it right for her audience. (I haven’t read the others and therefore can’t judge) The problem was that I thought I was her audience and I was wrong.

If you have never read Poe, abandoned it due to it’s less than modern language, or have a teen that you would like to introduce Poe to, may I present…

The Fall by Bethany Griffin, 420 pages, published October 7th 2014 by Greenwillow Books

 

 

All three of these spooky reads were provided by their publishers and that, obviously, doesn’t mean that they had any hand in these thoughts.

You know how they have bloopers for movies and TV shows? There are times that I would like to post some of the bloopers for my writing. I laugh so hard at some of the spelling errors, typos, and complete butchering of the language. I don’t need auto-correct to embarrass myself, no sir.  Have you had any good ones lately?

 

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