Flash Reviews: A Man Called Ove & The Days of Tao

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to post so I’m doing two quick reviews right now.

First up is A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. This is a book from my book club and I absolutely loved it. I thought it was what I like to refer to as “beautifully sad”. A widower appears to be just a cranky old man but when new neighbors move in, Ove turns out to be more than anyone expected. This book was sweet, sentimental, and sad. When done right, those three elements make for a compelling story and this book does that. An excellent read.

Next, The Days of Tao, by Wesley Chu. This is a novella that is an offshoot of Chu’s Tao series. Tao’s next host, Cameron Tan, is thrown into unexpected action and the battle between Prophus and the Genjix goes to a global level. Being a novella, this book is a quick read and enough of a taste of how Cameron is dealing with being a host for Tao. It also offers a small tidbit of info on another of Chu’s book, The Rise of Io. This is a fun book if you are a fan of Chu’s Tao series (which I highly recommend).

Eight days into 2017 and I’m two books in. Hope to keep up the pace!

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin

wpid-20151021_074540.jpgDalton Rev rolls into town to work on the case he was hired for – to find out who killed Salt River the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015High student Wesley Payne. Salt River’s not the typical high school. The staff and faculty are all on the take and the various high school cliques are all out to get each other and would think nothing of trying to off someone. Even the town cops are crooked. All this makes for a tangled web of “who done it” that Dalton has to untie. Everyone’s a suspect. Dalton also gets tangled up in a story of his own while working on the Payne case, which complicates things a bit. But Dalton relies on his trusty private detective handbook to find his way out of the mess as well as help to find Payne’s killer.

You Killed Wesley Payne, by Sean Beaudoin, is a very unique crime-noir novel that was an interesting read.

What’s good: Dalton Rev is a cool kid. I really liked him and would love to read more books with this character. He’s witty, charming, smart, and not afraid to stand up to someone. Aspects that are required for any good detective.

The characters in the book were fun to get to know and held just enough mystery to keep you wanting to find out more. Periodic flashbacks offer insights into Dalton’s background and the reason why he’s a seventeen year old detective who hops from school to school to work on cases.

The hardcover slipcase offers extensive detail on Salt River’s cliques and a provides insight into which ones get along and the typical people found in each one. And the over all story is a fun crime, who-done-it.

What’s not so good: The cliques were hyper clichés of what is found in high school and that really got in the way of the story. At times I found it hard to read past what clique drama was happening and get to the real story. They might have been a deliberate distraction to hide the story of who the killer was, but I found it hard to read through things.

The reason for Wesley Payne’s death was brought up with minor background and caught me off guard a bit. I guess that is a good thing in a crime novel, but it seemed to take such a backseat that I found it hard to really connect the dots in the end.

Overall, You Killed Wesley Payne was a good read that had some great aspects. Some might find the hyper cliché of the cliques hard to get past and may not be able to get to the real story. The main character, Dalton Rev, is an instantly likable character that is a delight to read about and a good soul. The clique chart had me laughing out loud and is definitely worth the hardcover copy. The overall story is interesting, but will take a bit of effort to get to. If you are willing to take a chance on a different type of crime noir, this book is for you.

Shows Worth Watching: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Image from BBC America

Magic has returned to England in the 1800’s. Mr. Norrell, a reclusive magician, has been discovered by a group of magic scholars, who search him out and request that he bring his talents to London. At first Mr. Norrell is reluctant to share his magic, along with his precious books, with anyone. Eventually Mr. Norrell agrees to make the trip to London. While there, he uses magic to bring the beautiful Lady Pole back from the dead.  Doing this has ramifications he never imagined, or wanted.

At the same time another magician is coming forth, the naturally talented and charming Jonathan Strange. Jonathan is torn between his love of magic and his love for the fetching Arabella. While trying to secure his union with Arabella, Jonathan comes across a street magician who proclaims Jonathan is destined to become a great magician. Jonathan eventually meets the reclusive and stubborn Mr. Norrell. The older magician reluctantly agrees to take Jonathan on as his apprentice. The two start out as student and teacher and have a fairly level relationship. Johnathan wants to learn more and practice more of the old, dark ways of magicians. This desire eventually pits the two magicians against each other. The battle between the two has ramifications for all of England, and the future of magic.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, aired on BBC America in the states and was a thoroughly entertaining, compelling, and enjoying, limited series to watch. I wish it would have been longer!

The Gentleman and Arabella

Whats good: So much! Lets start with spot on casting. Jonathan Strange is played by the charismatic and charming Bertie Carvel and Mr. Norrell is played by the brilliantly subdued and subtle Eddie Marsan. I can’t imagine two more perfectly cast actors.  Each actor bringing the character’s nuances to the forefront and the interaction between the two is wonderful to watch. Marsan and Carvel were very convincing in their roles and they also played well off of other cast members. Marc Warren plays The Gentleman with creepy perfection. The Gentleman is summoned with dark magic and is from the kingdom of Lost Hope. He is possessed with a great amount of magic and his desire for beautiful companions sets up heartbreak for many. Charlotte Riley as Arabella, Enzo Cilenti as Childermass, and Alice Englert as Lady Pole are just a few of the other stellar cast members. Each role is played with authenticity, making for a well-rounded cast.

Jonathan Strange and The Gentleman

Special Effects: Special effects can make or break a show or movie. This show kills it by finding the right balance. From the big effects of Jonathan gripping the sand to make the phenomenal sand horses to upright a sinking ship, to the subtle effect of candles and the smoke emitted from them. For a show heavily based on magic, the effects are another star. They don’t distract, which is how all special effects should be.

Tone and color: The setting is England in the 1800’s, with a lot of time taking place during mostly winter. The subdued greens, grays, blues, blacks, etc., help to set the feel and look of the show. Most scenes are the darker side and low lit, giving an air of seriousness to the show. This also allows the actors to shine through since the viewer isn’t distracted by the setting. Rather the setting allows the viewer to be absorbed into the action.

The Story: The overall story is very interesting and I found myself rooting for both magicians, even though I wanted to punch Mr. Norrell at times. The plot involving Childermass was compelling and would have loved it if more about him and his background was offered.

What’s not so good: The show is based on the massive book by Susana Clark (which I have not read but have purchased and I plan to read). Given the massive size of the book, cramming the story into seven episodes made it seemed a bit rushed at times. Maybe one more episode would have made the mini-series that much better. The quick run also didn’t leave room to flesh out some characters that viewers might have liked to learn more about.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, while not a serialized over a few seasons show, is a wonderful and terrific program to watch. Stellar acting, solid special effects, characters viewers can be invested in, and a compelling story, combine to make a very watchable t.v. show. Even if you aren’t a fan of magic, the focus on relationships and what others will do to keep those relationships in tact, make for terrific viewing. I highly suggest you take the time to view this show.  You won’t be disappointed. Check out BBC America or BBC One to find out how to view this show.

The Joy and Agony of Racing

I’m a race fan. Specifically an open wheel race fan (i.e. Formula 1, Indy cars).  I’ve been a race fan all my life.  I remember watching the Indy 500 every year with my dad.  It was and still is a big deal and a must watch every single year.  Memorial Day in the states would not be the same without the Indy 500.  There are many aspects about racing I love – the fast cars, the guys (and a few gals here and there) who can drive incredibly well, the skill it takes to maneuver a car at a high rate of speed in very small spaces or tight turns, etc.  The one thing I hate about racing is the deaths that happen because of it.

This weekend the racing community lost another soul. Justin Wilson, racing at Pocono raceway in Pennsylvania, was hit in the head by flying debris from a crash that happened seconds before. Watching the race, it was hard to see at first.  Then the broadcast slowed down the scene and viewers could see the exact moment a large piece of debris hit Justin on the head.  He was wearing a helmet, but a helmet is no match for a large object being hurtled at a high rate of speed. It was devastating to watch and I knew when nothing was being said about his condition that the news wasn’t good.  Last night came the announcement that Justin passed away from his injuries.  Sad, sad news.

This the agony of racing.  Yes racing in inherently dangerous, open wheel even more so due to the make up of the cars, but seeing someone get hurt and die is horrible.  When I hear someone say “I only watch because of the crashes” I want to scream at them “what is your problem? people die in crashes; crashes are bad.” I’d much rather see someone skillfully avoid a crash than see an actual crash.  Crashes are scary and not worth the outcome. I don’t care what anyone says, they aren’t worth it.

I grew up watching Indy cars in what was more or less their heyday.  The Andrettis, the Unsers, the Rahals, etc.  I got to see them all race and I loved it. Then I started watching Formula 1.  Though I missed F1’s true heyday, I still got to see a lot of great racers – Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, etc. I even got a few driver autographs (Sir Jackie Stewart one among the few). F1’s heyday had rampant fatalities, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t see those happen. Through all of this time I’ve seen racers die – Greg Moore, Jules Bianchi, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson, and I’m sure others I can’t recall right now, and it makes me so sad.

Why do I continue to watch racing when tragedy occurs?  Like the drivers who participate and the crews who work on the cars, I love racing. It’s full of great competition and thrilling results. Those who race, love it and accept the dangers that come with it.  As with many other things in life, you either have to embrace something to feel its full effects, or chose not to partake in it. I chose to keep on watching races. Justin Wilson was able to save six other lives through organ donation. So, while his family grieves, they were able to help others live on. Hopefully this will bring some peace to his family.

I thank the drivers who are brave enough to get into the cars every time and risk their lives.  They have brought much entertainment and joy, as well as sorrow. They keep on racing, and I will continue to watch.

 

Liebster Nomination!

A great blog that I follow – Sidekick Reviews – was nominated to receive the Liebster Award.  The Liebster Award is given to a blog who has less than 200 followers and is a way to help connect new or growing blogs with others out there in the realm.  It’s also serves as a way find out about other new, great, blogs that are out there.  Sidekick Reviews posts great reviews as well as general comments about T.V. shows, sci-fi movies, and comics.  I highly recommend taking the time to check the site out – great content and visuals can be found.  Sidekick Reviews was kind enough to nominate my blog for the Liebster award – which is greatly appreciated! Rules for Liebster Award recipients are as follows:

1. List 11 random facts about yourself

2. Answer the questions that were asked of you by the nominating blogger

3. Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and include a link to their blog

4. Notify the blogger of their award

5. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer one they accept the award

So – here are 11 random facts about me:

1. I’m a huge soccer fan – mostly the EPL, but love the US Men’s National Team (who won a Gold Cup game today, yay!), and live for watching international matches

2. I’m an F1 fan – Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button are two of my favorite drivers

3. I’m a dog nerd

4. Love dark chocolate

5. Addicted to Cherry Coke – only allow myself 1 a day and am trying to stop, but it’s so hard

6.  Love to drive on the expressway on a warm summer night with great music.

7.  I had horses when I was a kid

8.  I can’t throw away things that have meaning.  Had a blanket my grandma made and it was in tatters.  My husband had to throw it away for me because I just couldn’t

9.  I met Ann Rice at a book signing many years ago and she said she loved my shirt.  Made my day.

10.  Right now navy is my favorite color

11.  I love taking my dog for a walk when it’s snowing.  Usually the temp is perfect and walking in the snow is relaxing.

And here are the questions from Sidekick Reviews and my answers:

  1. What’s your initial reaction to receiving the blogger nomination? Shocked and very flattered that someone would nominate me.

  2. What motivates you to keep blogging?  The creative outlet it provides for me.  I like to write and blogging helps when I feel inspired about something.  Also, finding other great posts/blogs to read/follow.

  3. Do you collect anything, if so what is your most beloved possession?  I would say I collect books – nothing antique or rare, but love to hang onto any book I like.  Most beloved possession is Sandman #1 by Neil Gaiman (a comic book rather than a book).

  4. What’s a movie or song that made you cry?  Movie – anything with dogs: Eight Below, Marley and Me.  I’m pathetic when it comes to dogs and cry easily.

  5. Do you have any siblings? Yes – One sister who is a year older than me.

  6. What do you love to eat?  My mom’s goulash

  7. Which comic book or novel would you recommend me to read? I would recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – set in the late ’30s and 40s about two cousins who create a comic book and what happens in their lives after that.  Loved it and a great read.

  8. What are your favorite television shows that have gone off the air? For a T.V. junkie that’s a hard question!  I would say Veronica Mars.  Great show with a positive female main character who was smart, sassy, and took charge.  Another would be 24 – Jack Bauer is great and love things about spies.

  9. Do you play sports?  No.  Wish I was a runner but was not made for that.

  10. If you could give one piece of advice to other writers/bloggers, what would it be?  Write about what you love.  If you care about it, makes it so much easier to write and the ideas will come fast and easy.  Who cares what the topic is – if you like it/love it, write about it.  You’ll find it liberating and makes you feel good.

  11. Who is your favorite sidekick? (not a trick question).  Good question – for the literary world, I’d say Wolf from The Talisman (King/Straub).  Obviously my love of dogs comes through in this.  Who wouldn’t want a wolf to be their best friend in an alternate universe.  In the real world it’s my husband.  He makes me laugh when I’m in a bad mood.

As for nominating other blogs, at this time I don’t have any.  The ones I currently follow have more than 200 followers.  I don’t have a lot of time right now with being in school and working full-time to spend as much time as I’d like reading other blogs.  I will do my best to find ones in the future and will name some when I have a chance.  Thanks again to Sidekick Reviews for the nomination – greatly appreciated!   Take the time to check it out.

Spring ahead nightmare

Last night (or early this morning) it was time to move the clocks forward one hour, referred to as time to spring ahead.  Of course here in the midwest springtime is an elusive season – much like a far away land that you can only reach after an arduous, perilous journey, and then it only lasts a short time.  This year spring ahead fell on a weekend when I have to get up early and spend nine hours at school (on a Sunday!).  Moving the clock ahead and having to get up early wasn’t the nightmare, it was the scary dream I had during the night that was the nightmare.

fuseli_nightmare400

I’ve always had nightmares.  I think reading Stephen King and watching scary movies at far too young of an age is partly the reason for this.  My nightmares have the tendency to be fairly terrifying.  I’ve woken up several times with my heart racing and horrible thoughts going through my head, making falling back to sleep difficult.  I know the typical explanations for things that happen in a dream: being chased means avoiding an issue, death dreams mean the symbolic ending of something or attempts to resolve anxiety, etc.  However, why my dreams are always terrifying nightmares, I do not know.  If the meanings behind these dreams are true, why do they manifest themselves in such a disturbing way.  Before we got our first dog Bubba (the inspiration for this blog), I had been having increasingly terrible nightmares – ones where upon waking I was afraid to fall back asleep because they were so disturbing.  After we got Bubba my nightmares completely stopped for at least six months and then only returned sporadically after that.  Clearly, my subconscious was telling me I felt unsafe without a dog.  Bubba is no longer with us but we’ve got Otis now.  My nightmares have become more frequent lately. This could be a combination school ending this coming December and the abundant number of slightly scary T.V. shows I watch (The Walking Dead, The Following, etc.).  Whatever the reason, I’d like them to diminish in occurrence, especially when time is short and there are things to do.

How many of you are plagued by nightmares and do you think watching scary T.V. shows or reading certain types of books is the reason?  I’m not willing to give up the shows or books I love.  I’ve read too often that scary dreams can make a good book and maybe one day inspiration will hit.  Until then, to quote a Stephen King title “nightmare and dreamscapes” will keep me up at night.

New Year Post

It’s a new year and I’m a few weeks into my reading challenge and sadly, I’m behind. I think all my favorite T.V. shows being on breaks has had the reverse effect and I’m reading less. I tend to read a book during the commercials and since many shows aren’t on right now, I’m not feeling compelled to read. I did get sucked into a 24 marathon, which was awesome yet stifling at the same time since it was on for three days in a row and ran without commercials! At least I’ve got a few more weeks left in my challenge. I’ve had to set one book aside and start-up another since the one I set aside wasn’t going as good as I hoped.

I hope everyone out there had good and festive holidays. I’m not one to make resolutions so here is what I’m looking forward to in 2013 –
completing the 8 week reading challenge
Trying to post more frequently
Reading more blogs and trying to comment on the ones I like – there are so many out there!
A night with the cast of The Walking Dead (in February – can’t wait to go to that!)
The return of all my favorite T.V. shows (please, please, let the wait be over soon)

Happy 2013 to everyone and thanks to those who have liked and/or followed me. It’s such a great feeling when someone enjoys what I’ve posted and I love to check out other blogs and find new ones to follow.