Archive for ‘Fiction’

January 22nd, 2015

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

by Gwen

City of Liars

This period of New York history, right around 1800, is really lacking representation in historical fiction. I can think of only a few that I have ever read set then and it’s a shame because the big names like Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, etc. were either still alive or at least still known as contemporary figures and the whole country was finally settling down to the business of being a country. New York City still had a lot of wide open spaces, pigs roamed the streets as de-facto organic garbage collectors and the citizens were starting to struggle with the growing needs for drinkable water. There was no hint of the city we all know today.

Elma Sands, a young pretty Quaker woman, comes to the city to live with her cousin and hopefully to escape the out-of-wedlock label she has been forced to wear in her small town in Northern New York. Her cousin, Catherine Ring, looks upon her as a younger sister and hopes to alleviate some of her feelings of isolation with Elma near.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and rising and hungry for more power. Their enmity is already set, but their ultimate confrontation was a few years away. Right then, they were the poster boys for the drive to get water to the city that was growing by leaps and bounds daily. Unfortunately, their aims were more about power and gain than by actually doing the public service of public works.

Elma falls in love with a boarder in the Ring household and while it makes Catherine worry, the risk seems to be resolving when she tells her cousin that she and her beau intend to be married as soon as they tell his brother, a right hand man of the water company. The young man looks to be in love with her and Catherine breathes a sigh of relief when the pair leave together to share the good news. The next morning, the young man is back home, but Elma is nowhere to be found.

Soon, the whole city is looking for Elma and hounding her extended family on Greenwich Street. Catherine soon learns that when it comes to dealing with the cronies of Burr and Hamilton, the public is at a distinct disadvantage. When Elma’s body is found at the bottom of a useless newly dug well, she finds herself alone in fighting for the truth and ultimately for justice.

The period was fabulously written and it is oddly comforting to see that the “haves” have always had a leg up when dealing with the “have-nots”. It is never right and always hard to swallow, but Catherine is a strong heroine that you can’t help identify with. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Eve Karlin.

City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Alibi (January 13, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • ASIN: B00LYXY076

 

This book was provided by TLC Book Tours. See what other readers thought here

 

 

 

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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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October 24th, 2014

Things that I Need Explained to Me.

by Gwen

TV Shows We Used To Watch - BBC British TV 1959-80  - Harry Worth from Flickr via Wylio© 2010 Paul Townsend, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I think that most readers, especially non-fiction readers, have an incredibly curious mind and I am no different. There are times that I am still too linear to get it, no matter how long I research something and need a hand. Who better to ask for assistance? No, not Facebook friends, fellow readers. So here is what is bugging me this very moment.

 

 

Why is is that sometimes, you don’t have to understand the B plot to like a book? Broken

 

 

Really?Yes, this was one of the most horrific nightmare causing books that I have ever read, but there was an entire storyline that made not a lick of sense to me. I just kept reading, hoping that a light would come on….nope, I could have excised those pages and still been freaked out. I don’t want to get more detailed because it may be considered a spoiler. On the other hand, how would I know?

 

 

 

 

Why didArchduke people hate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife? Greg King and Sue Woolmans portrayed them both as peaceful and forward thinking in The Assassination of the Archduke.

Why did my mom call him Dude, when we were talking about the book?

Why is it that when leaders are killed “before their time” they are 99% of time referred to as good. Is there only one bad guy in history that took a bullet, or cyanide pill, in his young prime?

Explain to me why, a non-fiction book has the ability to send me down Google rabbit holes that two hours later leave me knowing way more about the royalty of a country that no longer exists than a California beach bum should. While you are thinking on that, ponder why have the royal families never had a party and decided on an actual standard system of hierarchical titles.  Blows. My. Mind. It’s a full time job right there, keeping that stuff straight. Much worse that Russian patronymic names.

 

Why….did I have to refresh my memory of the definition of autodidactic, only to find a verbal description of myself in way too many subjects?

 

never

I love Ford and Free, however am I the only one that finds it odd that Ford Motor Company is sponsoring a book group on Goodreads?  Can we say 850,000 recalls on the airbags alone? Chevy lovers, don’t you smile, many of your vehicles have the same airbag.

Mighty gripping book, BTW, even if the characters would have felt less alone living with me in California. Hats off to Celeste Ng and super high five for being chosen by Ford.

 

 

 

 

Morbid

Why is the dreamy Morbid Anatomy Anthology $194.68 plus shipping on Amazon and $30 plus shipping at the museum’s site itself? It isn’t like this is an exibition catalog or something; it’s a real book with an ISBN and still in the first printing.

Fabulous, even better than having to get up, turn on my PC, and catch up on what I have missed on the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s blog.  (that is taking into account that I keep the laptop at the end of the bed and just have to stretch for it)

While I am here, can we please have a coffee chat re: the Capuchin Monastery? (there is a piece and some amazing pics in the book) Let me help you  catch up…..We say death and bodies have no place in the church, so bury them in a mass grave over there…{insert time passing whistle here} Oh, look what I found while plotting a new garden…Mummies! {insert short time whistle here} let’s bring them inside and hang them on the walls, mummies are okay in the church…wait, we’rerunning out of mummies, let’s make some in the basement. Go Team!

 

thanks motomom

Are you feeling me? Beautiful, a part of life, tourist attracting and stunning way to work with what you have my friends; my hat is off to ya’ll too. Does anyone else see what is hypocritical about this bizarre history? Hmm, I wonder if I can make mummies in my yard? Didn’t that mountain over there used to be a volcano with super mummy making ash? {No offense was meant and no mummies were harmed in starting this discussion. Really, I’m not even starting on the naked baby mummies.}

Wait, there is more space here, should I share my mummy rap with you? Too bad, there isn’t that much space.

 

 

Two final notes:

1.   I have learned that there aren’t enough happy pills in the world to make me reply to comments or listen to voicemail in a timely manner. Mea Culpa. {isn’t it great when you can make a pun and be sincere at the same time?} If you have a solution, leave me a comment…{snare drum}

2.   These are just some of the things that I need to be explained since 3 PM, stay tuned. It ain’t easy being me.

 

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This may be one of the most fun and most “me” posts ever and I covered four books, one of which, Broken Monsters, was given to me by the publisher and another was sponsored by Ford. The rest, well, let’s just say there is some beans being worked into my food budget. Fiber is good for you, right? Frijole Friday it is. 

September 30th, 2014

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

by Gwen

the barter

Move over Rosemary’s baby, The Omen, and The Exorcist and now we have The Barter on the Horror/Suspense bus. When I was a kid, my dad and I got into scary books by some really great authors. Now, I wasn’t scared, no creepy idea why. My daddy was a whole ‘nother story. He would be jumpy  for the next few days. Bad me, it was the one and only time that I could scare the crap out of him for a change. Then there was the time that he read Salem’s Lot, it had made him stay up all night to read and he was trying to play it off, but it was quite obvious terrifying him. (sorry, got off on a family scary but good memory)

Anywho, being that it has been an eon since I have read a tension-building ghost story, it took me a minute to get into the book…and then I couldn’t put the darn thing down. We flip back and forth to from two mothers, one current day and one about 1900. Two mothers that are forced by circumstances that they can’t explain to make a trade for their baby’s life. The problem is, they don’t know what to trade or what the consequences will be.

This was a slow, drip by cold drip down you back as it built the tension and there were times that, honestly, I just wanted to get to the end. I guess you could say the suspense was killing me.

Grab it for Halloween!

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0525954228
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (September 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • ASIN: B00INIXNPA

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July 11th, 2014

Books that Are Actually Better on Film

by Gwen

bourne

I just finished Eric Van Lustbader’s The Bourne Retribution (in audio format) and have his latest in the Bourne series ready to read on my Kindle.  (P.S. Isn’t that just one of the coolest names ever? Van Lustbader…it rolls off your lounge, oh never mind, you are no fun,)However, there have been a few books that I have either read of listened to lately that break the usual rule of “All books are better than movies”.  For 95% of books that is a tired and true  motto, but when it comes to high action fiction, in place that you have never been (and let’s face it, will probably never be) the movies can do it much more justice to the setting and the action.

Do not get me wrong, I love a few action series out there even though I consider myself far from a hardcore action fan in both books and movies. Let’s see, anything with Bourne in the title, I will read and/or see. No matter how embarrassing it is, I can’t pass on any of the screen versions of Dan Brown’s work….ah the locations are so beautiful.  There is also another series that I am starting feel fits in this category too and that is the Cotton Malone one by Steve Berry.  There are 14 books in that series and after a total overfill of reading and listening to them lately, they are all starting to blend together because I don’t get to see the great action or especially the exotic locations.

Let’s take The Bourne Retribution as an example.  Here’s the blurb. (okay wait, the blurb is long so I am going to truncate it a bit)

Bourne’s increasingly desperate search for Ouyang takes him from Tel Aviv to Shanghai, Mexico City, and, ultimately, a village on China’s coast where a clever trap has been laid for him. Bourne finds himself pursued on all sides and unsure whom he can trust. As he moves closer to Ouyang, closer to avenging the woman he loved, he also moves ever closer to his own death . . .

I have never been to most of these places so when an action sequence “shows” Bourne sliding down Shanghai tile roof tiles from building to building that are  so built so close together that he can practically step from one to another…I have no  frame of reference. Here on the central coast of California, in some areas it can be miles before you have another house and even in my slightly more populated area, there is still a pretty good distance between them and the difference in architectural styles, ages  and sizes make the whole roof to roof thing pretty much impossible.

I really didn’t enjoy this book as much because I just couldn’t picture it and it isn’t like I have a lack of imagination, it’s just when the main focus of a book is action and I can’t see it in my mind, I tend to nod off or skip pages.

Now I know that publishers and authors alike will hate me for it, but if ya’ll keep writing books like these, I am going to take a pass and wait for the movie.  Don’t hate the player, hate the game.  However, I do have one more Bourne book that I committed to read/mention and I will do so now.

Van Lustbader came out with #12 in the Bourne series called the Bourne Ascendency last month.

Asc

This time Bourne’s X-Treadstone boss is being held captive and it sounds great, but I may wait for the movie. It just does the work better justice. Or maybe it’s just that I like to see Matt Damon in action even though he is a bit short for me, not to mention married.

As for Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series, I don’t think that they have been made into movies yet, but they should.

It might be a good time to mention to any movie makers out there that if a title has Die Hard in the title or Bruce Willis in the billing, I am all over that like white on rice as well and buying it when it comes out. Serious Willis Weakness Syndrome going one here, need a 12 step group.

Since I mentioned a few books here, I will break from tradition and just leave you a link for the Eric Van Lustbader Author Page

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Both of these books in the Bourne Series were provided by the publisher for honest reviews. I think we can all agree that I did that.