Tuesday, October 29, 2013

327. The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 29, 2013, Harlequin MIRA, 368 pgs

Age: (18+)

"In a riveting exploration of the power the past wields over the present, critically acclaimed author Antoinette van Heugten writes the story of a woman whose child's life hangs in the balance, forcing her to confront the roots of her family's troubled history in the dark days of World War II… 

It's the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand. 

Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents' attic leave her with as many questions as answers—and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family's darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her. 

As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she's drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother's alliances may have long ago sealed her own–and Rose's—fate."

Received a review copy from the publicist.

I really enjoyed the author's first book, Saving Max, and was excited to read this, her second novel.  This is also a mystery but not in the same way as her first book.  The Tulip Eaters is historical fiction involving intrigue, kidnapping and family secrets.  The beginning of the book hooked me very quickly.  The opening sequences are thrilling and provide the beginning to an exciting story.  However, I found myself turning on and off with my enjoyment of the plot.  I had pretty much figured out exactly where the plot would go from the beginning and found that I was right, though there were moments when it seemed as if something different might be happening.  I also found the actions of the main characters to be just too unrealistic and over-the-top.  OK, we all know someone who rushes into everything without a thought, but every. single. character?  There are so many narrow escapes, trips over carpets, perfect timing, etc. that I found myself rolling my eyes way too many times.  I certainly appreciated the historical aspect of the story and that was my most favourite part of the book.  I did guess how the secret would come out in the end but I learned sooo much about the Netherlands during WWII, which is something I wasn't terribly knowledgeable about before.  This is a part of Canada's history also as Canadian soldiers played a large part in the liberation of Holland.  We also have a living remembrance of our sheltering members of the royal family during the war years, in which, Holland has continued to send Ottawa approx. 20,000 tulip bulbs every year since the end of WWII.

Canadian Parliament (Ottawa)

Monday, October 28, 2013

320. Unseen by Karin Slaughter

Unseen by Karin Slaughter
Will Trent, book 7

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jul. 2, 2013, Delacorte Press/Random House, 382 pgs

Age: 18+

"Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. The cover has worked and he has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer who thinks he might be a useful ally. But undercover and cut off from the support of the woman he loves, Sara Linton, Will finds his demons catching up with him.

Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s shooting is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.

In a novel of fierce intensity, shifting allegiances, and shocking twists, two investigations collide with a conspiracy straddling both sides of the law. Karin Slaughter’s latest is both an electrifying thriller and a piercing study of human nature: what happens when good people face the unseen evils in their lives."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

I love Karin Slaughter's books!  Having read every single book in this series from the beginning of the Grant County Days I can say that as a reader Slaughter sometimes majorly peeves me off with where she takes her characters but after reading this one, I am soooo pleased with where she has left things.  First of all, I was thrilled to see Lena back for this novel as she is my favourite character and has been since the beginning.  I think she's gotten a bum rap and stupid Sara's jealous and vindictive boisterous opinions have helped seal that fate.  However, Lena's vindication is the ultimate story here and I loved it!  She and Sara have a verbal cat fight which had me cheering them on.  Will and Lena are the main players in this story with Will's partner Faith coming into equal play as well.  Sara doesn't become a layer until well into the book.  The mystery was a good one, but unfortunately I had the unsub picked out very early on.  Still it was fun to watch it all unravel.  Amanda hhas very little play in this book which I think is a good move since the last book was devoted to her.  A great ending, not everyone comes out unharmed, but I like the places the main characters are in and it feels good that the future holds room for both Will and Lena.  Go Karin Slaughter!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

R.I.P. Lou Scheimer


"Emmy-winning animation giant Lou Scheimer, founder of Filmation Studios, which produced toon series including “Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and even the animated version of “Star Trek,” died Thursday (Oct. 17, 2013). He was 84. The cause of death was not revealed, but Scheimer had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had had quadruple bypass heart surgery." variety.com

I just heard of Lou's death and loved his work so much!  I reviewed his memoirs earlier this year and highly recommend the book.  I'm re-posting that review today.

Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation by Lou Scheimer with Andy Mangels (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Nov. 7, 2012, TwoMorrows Publishing, 288 pgs
Age: 18+

"Hailed as one of the fathers of Saturday morning television, Lou Scheimer was the co-founder of Filmation Studios, which for over 25 years provided animated excitement for TV and film. Always at the forefront, Scheimer’s company created the first DC cartoons with Superman, Batman, and Aquaman, ruled the song charts with The Archies, kept Trekkie hope alive with the Emmy-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series, taught morals with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, and swung into high adventure with Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro.  Forays into live-action included Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis, plus ground-breaking special effects work on Jason of Star Command and others. And in the 1980s, Filmation single-handedly caused the syndication explosion with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and its successors. Now, with best-selling co-author Andy Mangels, Lou Scheimer tells the entire story, including how his father decked Adolf Hitler, memories of the comic books of the Golden Age, schooling with Andy Warhol, and what it meant to lead the last all-American animation company through nearly thirty years of innovation and fun! Profusely illustrated with photos, model sheets, storyboards, presentation art, looks at rare and unproduced series, and more — plus hundreds of tales about Filmation’s past, and rare Filmation-related art by Bruce Timm, Adam Hughes, Alex Ross, Phil Jimenez, Frank Cho, Gene Ha, and Mike McKone — this book shows the Filmation Generation the story behind the stories!"

A thoroughly intoxicating book for my generation which grew up with these children's shows.  Basically I'm in the middle age group here, being too young for the '60s shows, though I did see some of them in reruns.  The seventies were definitely my hey-day of Saturday TV-morning cartoons and when it comes to the 80s shows I'm not quite as familiar with them but had my exposure due to babysitting; especially with one little "He-Man" freak-a-zoid boy.. I learned to play He Man action figures while we watched the videos!

Lots of memories came back reading this book and Lou comes across as a super-nice person.  Someone with traditional moral values, who took his work seriously in an age that wanted children's programming to be meaningful not just entertaining.  Lou is a character, he has some behind the scene tales to tell and asks you to make sure the children leave the room first, he uses * for vowels when he must use swear words when repeating conversations.  He has plenty of nice things to say about those he worked with even when the relationship ended badly.  Of course, he's not an angel and he didn't get along with everybody, used the word "jerk' a few times but otherwise refuses to talk about the negativity of these people.  They existed in such n such a role in his life, he was a jerk, let's move forward.  Lou is an old-time classy guy so you won't find any dirt-dishing here.

But what you will find is a treasure trove of detailed information on how Filmation started and what went on behind the scenes at the studios and on the sets of the live action shows.  Not only is it a history of Filmation , the company, but also a broader history of the Saturday morning cartoon industry itself.I learned so much information about some of my favourite childhood shows but I also learned tremendous amounts of what went into the animation process before the computer took over.  How many shows were developed compared to the ones that got approved and made.  I would have really liked to have seen their version of Buck Rogers come to fruition.  Lou was a family man, married for almost 60 years before widowed, with two children who joined him in the studio and a daughter who literally followed in his shoe steps career-wise.  Amazingly, the book took me a long time to read; it seems deceptively short at only 288 pages, but this is a large coffee table size book and while it has a nice collection of photos and pictures to look at the text is dense, informative, fascinating and I often went back to re-read sections.  Lou has a simple down to earth writing style that is very entertaining to read and he seems just like one of the guys rather than a big wig studio executive.

For those of you who can't place what Filmation created let me list some of my favourites: Star Trek: The Animated Series; He Man, Shazam!, Isis, Flash Gordon and Fantastic Voyage; and not my favourites  but the company's biggies were The Archies and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

Monday, October 21, 2013

315. Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman by Dav Pilkey

Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman by Dav Pilkey
Captain Underpants, 5

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2001, Scholastic, 176 pgs

Age: 7+

"Watch out, world — it's wedgie power with a vengeance when Captain Underpants faces the wickedest, wildest villain yet!

George Beard and Harold Hutchins don't get straight A's, aren't sports stars, and can barely walk down the hallway without getting into trouble. But they have one thing that most folks at their school don't have: Imagination. And that drives their mean homeroom teacher, Ms. Ribble, crazy!

This time, George and Harold have imagined up a comic book where Ms. Ribble turns into an evil, bionic-powered, wedgie-giving wacko. And now she's mad enough to flunk them out of fourth grade. Will Ms. Ribble's revenge ruin our heroes' hopes? This looks like another job for Captain Underpants!"

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Another fun story of adventure for Harold, George and Captain Underpants.  This time things stay closer to home and the kids accidentally turn Ms. Ribble into the Wicked Wedgie Woman.  Great story with lots of laughs, references to past books reminding us of Captain Underpants past exploits.  Underpants also learns of his background story and a hidden talent he didn't know he had.  What was surprising about this book is that Pilkey manages to bring character development to the table and these unassuming books hold a lot more than we think they do.  Ms. Ribble is about to retire, her nastiness is examined, she and Mr. Krupp almost get married.  But as Wedgie Woman, Ribble is even worse than she was as her own self.  When George and Harold finally get Ms. Ribble back to herself again, they make a minor personality change and the book ends with an entirely new character for Ms. Ribble.  Will she stay this way?  Will the boys finally have a friend inside the school?  I'm actually quite interested to see what happens in the next book.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

7th Annual Canadian Challenge - FINISHED

Time for me to officially recognize that I'm in the 7th Annual Canadian Challenge, now that I've read my first book!  I just love the logo this year!  Rules are the same as usual but I'll briefly put them as points.

Runs July 1, 2013 - Jun 30, 2014
sign-ups/rules here
Books by Canadian authors, set in Canada or about Canada count
Read 13 books, but more is welcome.
Monthly post your status.

Post reviews here.

My list of books read:

1. Thieves & Kings, Vol. 6: Apprentices, Part One by Mark Oakley
2. Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray* (CDN) & Elizabeth Gundy
3. A Journey Through History: A Guide to the Niagara Parkway from Chippawa to Black Creek by Paul Krueger
4. Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
5. A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay
6. The Accident by Linwood Barclay
7. Sleeping Funny, stories by Miranda Hill
8. Lost Cause by John Wilson
9. A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva
10. The Hypnotists by Gordon Kormon
11. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
12. Between Heaven and Hell by Eric Waters
13. An Unkindness of Ravens by J.Torres & Faith Erin Hicks
DONE (October 20, 2013)

And More
14. Binky: License to Scratch by Ashley Spires
15. Close to the Heel by Norah McClintock
16. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff
17. Making Contact! Marconi Goes Wireless by Monica Kulling
18. Who I'm Not by Ted Staunton
19. The Great Houdini by Monica Kulling
20. Ink Me by Richard Scrimger
21. The Last of Us: American Dreams by Faith Erin Hicks
22. Matthew and the Midnight Firefighter by Allan Morgan/illus Michael Martchenko
23. Jump Cut by Ted Staunton
24. The Future of Catholicism by Michael Coren
25. Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer
26. Justice League Dark (New 52), Vol. 2: The Books of Magic by Jeff Lemire
27. Justice League Dark (New 52), Vol. 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire
28. Essex County 1: Tales From the Farm by Jeff Lemire
29. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
30. Last Message by Shane Peacock
31. Secrets Underground: North America's Buried Past by Elizabeth MacLeod
32. The Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling
33. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
34. Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire
35. Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen
36. Essex County Vol. 3: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire
37. Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe
38. Social Smarts Privacy the Internet and You by Mark Slutsky
39. The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James; Introduction by Seth
40. Batman Adventures, Volume 1: Rogues' Gallery by Ty Templeton, et al
41. Batman Adventures Vol. 2: Shadows and Masks  by Ty Templeton, et al

Saturday, October 19, 2013

313. Analog: The Best of Science Fiction compiled from Analog Magazine

Analog: The Best of Science Fiction compiled from Analog Magazine (formerly Astounding Science Fiction)

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1982, Galahad Books, 621 pgs
Age: 18+

"32 short stories of science fiction by the best: del Rey, Bester, Clarke, Simak, Harrison, Pohl, Haldeman and many others."

Purchased a secondhand copy from a used book store.

This review and table of contents is for the 1982 edition published by Galahad Books, the cover is the same as the 1994 edition.  While the cover states that the stories are "from the 20s to the present" they are actually from 1939 to the 70s.

1. The Day is Done by Lester Del Rey (1939) - I read an old kids' space story by this author once ages ago.  This story though is hardly what I call science fiction.  Set in prehistoric times it is the tale of an old Neanderthal man (Hairy Ones), probably the last of his kind, bemoaning his last days now that the Cro-Magnon man (Talkers) have taken over the land.  A poignant, sad story.  Well-written and, surprisingly, I enjoyed it.  (4/5)

2. Adam and No Eve by Alfred Bester (1941) - I've not heard of this author before.  Didn't particularly enjoy this story.  The first rocket to go into space is ready to go when at the last minute a scientist has damning evidence that the rocket will spit back pieces to earth which will almost instantly destroy all life here.  After some science mumbo jumbo and some hi-jinx, the pilot finds himself and dog waking up in space to find the scientist was right after all.  As he returns to the ash blackened planet, injured and dying, he hallucinates, waxes philosophically about evolutionary cr*p and a twist ending tells us we are not where or when we thought we were.  Meh.  (3/5)

3. Ogre by Clifford D. Simak (1943) - Again, I remember reading a book by this author as a young teenager but nothing else about it.  This is a quite long story about mankind living in harmony with a vegetation-type species on their planet.  Like humans they come in different colours, shapes and sizes.  It doesn't take long to realize that they are not living in harmony though as each has a racist superior attitude of themselves.  Quickly it becomes obvious that the parallels of the two species are being made to the Nazis.  There is a Hitler substitute character and the story is very disturbing.  Both races, mankind and the alien life, are unwittingly selfish and there is no "good" side.  A very intricate building up of relations between "races" which leaves one with a poor taste for the state of "man". Not a pleasant story, nor to my liking ideologically but well-written. (4/5)

4. Invariant by John Pierce (1944) - Only a few pages long, this story is by an author I've never heard of before.  A very scientific story of a man who is preserved in the 1940s, a specific day actually which he keeps repeating because of an inoculation he gave himself hoping to make humans able to regenerate like salamanders.  His body and brain remain the same, reverting back after any interruption and the story is about a man visiting him and explaining the physics of his condition to him.  This man has become a valuable property in this world of over 225 years later.  An easy read despite the science. (3/5)

5. Desertion by Clifford D. Simak (1944) - Simak is very good at building believable alien lifeforms.  This takes place on Jupiter as a scientist sends men out, converted into Jovian lifeforms to see if they can withstand the hostile atmosphere but none of them ever come back.  Finally the scientist decides to go himself, taking his dog, and he discovers why no one comes back.  I enjoyed the story but found its tone rather disturbing as it formulates that there is a perfect being and way of life but which is certainly not "man" nor life on Earth. (4/5)

6. Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke (1946) - Of course, I`ve read some of this author.  My favourite story so far.  A ship is sent out to rescue people from a planet that's sun is going supernova.  They have only just realized that this planet contains sentient life.  Then we find out that our assumptions are backwards; the spaceship is crewed by aliens and the planet about to be destroyed ... Earth.  No life can be found on Earth and one of the rescue parties ends up needing to be rescued themselves before the planet explodes.  We find out what happened to the humans at the end and we are left with a chilling prospect.  Another story that doesn't take a very kind view of "mankind" as a whole.  (5/5)

7. The Chronokinesis of Jonathan Hull by Anthony Boucher (1946) - I've never heard of this author before.  The deaths of two men are surrounded by mysterious ghostly sightings.  The officer in charge meets a man who looks exactly like a ghostly figure he has seen and is given a message by him.  The man literally disappears and what follows is a written confession of a scientist and his companion on their time traveling adventures from the 1970s to now, the 1940s.  I liked the sci-fi/crime mix.  (4/5)

8. Police Operation by H. Beam Piper (1948) - I am almost pretty sure I read Little Fuzzy during my teen sci-fi craze; if not I`ve certainly heard of it.  This starts off as your standard livestock being killed by something ferocious; residents think it's a bobcat or lynx.  Turns out though we have a sort of time traveller who has come to track down a runaway pet from Venus.  At this point the story becomes quite advanced for its times (written in 1948) and deals with parallel Earths and travel between them.  Lots of discussion on what caused the parallel realities is way out of sync with how we explain them today, but an interesting take nonetheless and a fine vintage sci-fi story.  (5/5)

9. Tiger Ride by James Blish & Damon Knight (1948) -  Of course I've read some of Blish's Star Trek work but don't believe I've heard of the other author. A creepy story set in 2121 where a small group of scientists are working on a small planetary outpost under quarantine where they meet an alien life form who ultimately gets the uperhand.  Lots of science lingo that's probably just mumbo jumbo but I enjoyed the story. (4/5)

10. Over the Top by Lester Del Rey (1949) - This is the first story in this collection that shows its age because it talks of the current political state in a future time which was dated and silly reading it today.  A "midget" is sent on the first landing to Mars, not the first attempt though, and he crash lands rendering his ship unable to return.  He has three weeks of air and sets off to explore making friends with an indigenous species.  The man has a bitter outlook on life and begins thinking he's better off this way but in the end he's no better than what he thinks of other "men".  (3/5)

11. Incommunicado by Katherine MacLean (1950) - This is another author I've never heard of but I'm going into it interested as it is the first female author to appear in this collection.  Really weird. A bit long .  The human race is changed by adding music to its logical reasoning skills.  (3/5)

12. The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth (1950) - Once again an author I've never heard of and instead of consistently repeating that I will now only mention if I have heard of the author.  Loved this story of time travel, greed, a person's ability to change for the better and getting what you deserve in the end.  (5/5)

13. Berom by John Berryman (1950) - An alien in his huge impressive technologically advanced ship arrives in the States and tries to communicate.  The Americans start to do some research when the Russians show up demanding equal time with the alien.  Typical cold war story of mankind not being advanced enough yet to handle such technology and how one scientist fixes the situation.  (4/5)

14. The Waiting Game by Randall Garrett (1950) - Earth is now the "Federation" and for hundreds of years has been exploring space for livable planets, many have been found and along the way two alien races also found.  The good guys, and the bad guys.  We are at the point where humans are just about winning the war with the bad guys when our story starts.  The Lilaarians, the supposed good guys, remind me a lot of story #3 and the plot becomes similar only by this point the outlook has become much more positive as the ending takes a doubletwist.  I liked the ending of this one so I'd say it's my favourite story so far. (5/5)

15. Protected Species by H.B. Fyfe (1951) - This is a short but profound story.  Man is engaging in trying to communicate and protect an alien species as their archaeologists work in the ruins on the alien planet.  Eventually man is faced with the realities of its own past sort of like that moment when Charlton Heston finds the Statue of Liberty in the Planet of the Apes.  Good one. (4/5)

16. The Years Draw Nigh by Lester Del Rey (1951) - A depressing tale about the futility of man searching for life on other planets using the "Martians" as an example.  Man's colony on Mars has been abandoned but 54 years overdue, signals are heard from the only ship never to return from it's voyage to search for a habitable planet or intelligent life so the former general of the mission is sent back to greet them. (3/5)

17. Thinking Machine by H.B. Fyfe (1951) - This one started off very slow for me as it was too science-y, which isn't my thing but once the background was set it actually became quite the thriller.  A terran finds out that an alien is manipulating an entire tiny race under his tyrannical rule.  He makes contact and tries to work out a way to help them.  He gets caught and it ends with a chase to the death.  An ironic type of ending.  (3.5/5)

18. Implode and Peddle by H.B. Fyfe (1951) - This is the third story now by this author and for the most part I am enjoying him (?).  There are obvious parallels to the communism going on at the time this story was written.  A totalitarian planet that the Terrans presume plan on attacking them some day wants to trade for a weapon.  They draw out the negotiations and once the trade is made something that arrives on the Planetary State drives the downtrodden inhabitants to revolution.  I really enjoyed this and along with the plot the banter between the main characters was humorous. (4/5)

19. Belief by Isaac Asimov (1953) - Finally an author in this collection that I am very familiar with!  Very entertaining!  A physics professor wakes up one morning floating near the ceiling.  Seems he can now levitate at will.  When no one will believe him and he is about to lose his job he figures out a clever way to switch the situation around to his advantage.  (4/5)

20. Minor Ingredient by Eric Frank Russell (1956) - Very touching story of a cadet's years of training for the space navy and his special relationship with his "man" (ie. personal servant). Develops into a treatise on the importance in the belief behind the words "God Bless You" and the practice of being a gentleman and a soldier. (5/5)

21.  Barnacle Bull by Winston P. Sanders (1960) - Spaceship from Norway is on a mission through the asteroid belt that all the major countries have tried and no ship has ever been seen again since entering.  Once in they figure out what happened to the others and try to make it out alive themselves.  Rather boring actually. (2.5/5)

22. Monument by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (1961) - Rather a long story and one I enjoyed quite immensely.  The first section sets up the story.  A man crashes on a planet, lives there, breeds to an extent that the blonde natives genetically take on his red hair but as he gets older he realizes that this Utopian planet is in danger of being exploited when, not if, civilized man next finds it.  So he implements a strategy that will save the natives and their planet from exploitation.  Then a century later we watch as it unfolds.  Great story but the ending was a bit flat. (4/5)

23. Blind Man's Lantern by Allen Lang (1962) - An Amish couple are sent to be the first settlers on an alien planet.  It is a very good, well-told story that reads like a pioneer/frontier tale.  The couple get on well with the inhabitants but you just know something is going to happen, and when it finally does it is something in the realm of what the reader feels is going to happen; but then the ending is such a boring let down.  (3/5)

24. Thin Edge by Jonathan Blake Mac Kenzie (1963) - I should have written this was one down right after I'd read it; it's been a couple of days now and I can't for the life of me remember it at all except that it was a bit of a crime.  I wasn't impressed after reading it and obviously it didn't have any lasting affect on me to even remember the plot (1/5)

25. The Permanent Implosion by Dean McLaughlin (1964) - A military lab explodes as an experiment goes wrong creating a whirlwind which is sucking the air out of the atmosphere.  Candido, an expert at putting out fires at oil wells is called in and various attempts are made to stop the whirlwind.  Very intense!  The physics and science is a bit mumbo jumbo to understand especially at the beginning but otherwise I really enjoyed this one.  (4/5)

26. A Case of Identity by Randall Garrett (1964) - Brilliant!  This fine story is quite long and could be considered a novella.  Looking back I see my favourite story up to this point was also by the same author but this far outshines it and is now my favourite in this collection.  However, it really doesn't belong here as it is not science fiction.  It is a brilliant murder mystery that turns into international intrigue and an early example of alternate history but must be classified under fantasy as it contains magic.  Set in an alternate England ruled by an Anglo-French Empire it takes place in a modern day (that is 1964) that never developed past the feudal system.  Loved it!  I must look up this author for future reading.  (5/5)

27.  Balanced Ecology by James H. Schmitz (1965) -  Not bad.  An agricultural planet and its colonizers are threatened by corporate de-forestation so the sentient trees and plants put a plan they've always had since man arrived into action.  (3/5)

28. The Easy Way Out by Lee Correy (1966) - Aliens come to Earth to observe whether it is in their best interests to attack and add it to their colonizations.  Short and sweet (3/5)

29. The Last Command by Keith Laumer (1966) - Usually when construction workers are digging for a new site they unearth something like, say, King Richard III's skeleton but in this futuristic story blasting wakens a behemoth war machine buried at the end of a planetary war close to a century ago.  The machine rises to the surface and takes active position as if it were the last warrior left on earth fighting the enemy headed for the nearest mall.  A 90 year old war veteran comes to the rescue.  Loved the story and it shows the tragedy of making sentient machines then treating them like machines in the end. I've read Laumer before.  (5/5)

30. The Powers of Observation by Harry Harrison (1968) - Starts out as a spy mystery not really feeling like sci-fi at all as an American agent chases after a suspicious soviet man.  Lots of car chases and talk of cars and horsepower and crap like that, then a fun ending and we see the story is set in a futuristic Cold War world where the Sovs and US are running not a space race but another kind of race.  OK.  My first time reading Harrison so not as impressed as I'd hoped. (3/5)

31. The Gold at the Starbow's End by Frederick Pohl (1972) - Great science fiction with the twist ending.  This is a long story and the narrative alternates between communications from a space crew and the third person view of the scientist in charge of the project along with the President and military/political situation on Earth.  The ship and crew have been sent to Alpha Centauri to colonize a newly discovered planet.  Not all is as it appears to be though and this was an extremely entertaining if somewhat dated, set in a futuristic Cold War era, story.  (5/5)

32. Hero by Joe W, Haldeman (1972) - The Taurans have been attacking Earth's ships and killing humans.  No one has ever seen a Tauran or survived to describe one but now they have landed on an alien planet and Earth sends in a commando team to take them out and bring back one prisoner.  Was ok, mostly had an anti-war type of gist to it and not much character development.  (3/5)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

311. Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sept 3, 2013, Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 496 pgs

Age: 18+  

"Joe Middleton’s story is this: He doesn’t remember killing anyone, so there’ s no way a jury can convict him of serial murder. He calls himself Joe Victim, trying, as he awaits trial, to convince the psychiatrists that he wasn’t in control of his actions trusting that the system will save him in the end.

But others know Joe as the infamous Christchurch Carver and they want to see him dead. There’s Melissa , Joe’s accomplice in one of the murders, who plans on shooting him on his way to the courthouse before he gets a chance to start talking. Then there’s Raphael, whose daughter was one of the Carver’s victims. Though he’s tried to move on with life as the leader of a counseling group for grieving family members, he’d like nothing more than to watch Joe pay. Finally there’s Carl Schroder, the ex-detective who locked Joe up and is determined to put things right for the case of his career.

To extract himself from this epic mess, Joe has come up with a desperate plan involving a television psychic who’s looking to get rich by making people believe just about anything. It’s a long shot, but it had better work before he becomes the poster boy for a death penalty that may be reinstated in New Zealand, which isn’t quite the dramatic ending his is hoping for".  

Received a review copy from Atria Galley Alley.

This is the very first book I've read by Paul Cleave. (Don't you just love that name for a serial killer writer!)  The book itself is a direct sequel to the the very first thriller he wrote set in Christchurch, New Zealand and is his seventh thriller set in that city.  From what I can gather, there is a small series running within these books, this not being one of them, but all the books do take place in the same city, the same police force and within the same timeline so references are made between them.  Characters know each other etc.  This sounds entirely exciting to me and I'd love to go and read his books in published order.  Not having read any of the other books, I didn't have any problem jumping in with this one, much background information was given to fill us in or refresh readers minds.  Being a serial series reader though, I am more than certain I would have loved getting all the insider references.  The story was great and very intense and creepy.  This one is told half the time through the killer's point of view and he is the one in danger this time making him a creepily sympathetic character at times. Yuck! but true...  I was fascinated that the book took place in NZ and found the cultural and police procedures to add another dimension to the story when I'm so used to American/British (OK,Scandi) crimes all the time. .An intense look inside the mind of a psychopath that I enjoyed very much but would probably have to recommend reading, at least, the sequel to this book first, "The Cleaner".  I'll be going back and reading it myself!   I think I may have found a new favourite author. Duh-duh-DUH!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

306. How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

Rating: (2.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct 15, 2013, St. Martin's Press, 288 pgs

Age: 18+  

"Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.

But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.".  

Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Well, honestly, I wasn't overly fond of this and I guess I'm going to be in the minority here but so be it.  Typically this is just the sort of book that I usually like; the unreliable narrator, the not knowing who is telling the truth.  I found the story interesting and didn't have any problem finishing it but I kept waiting for something to happen.  The first half of the book, I just kept thinking "would something happen now? please!" and then when it did it was what I had expected but the book didn't get anywhere with it; nothing was resolved and we are left no wiser than we started.  I believe the book will get some rave reviews, in part due to Marta's sanity issues.  I think the book may also be accepted from a mental health or feminist angle.  I personally identify myself as a member of the mental health community but that gave me no sympathy for the narrator.  I didn't like either of the characters and honestly didn't care who was telling the truth.  Why don't we just say they both are then we can put him in jail, lock her up in the loony bin and the world will be a better place, imho.  Blah!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

305. Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters

Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct 10, 2012, Orca Book Publishers, 245 pgs

Age: 12+ 

"DJ is David McLean's eldest grandson, so it stands to reason that he be the one to scatter his beloved grandfather's ashes. At least that's how DJ sees it. He's always been the best at everything—sports, school, looking after his fatherless family—so climbing Kilimanjaro is just another thing he'll accomplish almost effortlessly. Or so he thinks, until he arrives in Tanzania and everything starts to go wrong. He's detained at immigration, he gets robbed, his climbing group includes an old lady and he gets stuck with the first ever female porter. Forced to go polepole (slowly), DJ finds out the hard way that youth, fitness level and drive have nothing to do with success on the mountain—or in life."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

This is the second book I have read in this series that proposes that its books can be read in any order.  I chose this book because it was about the brother of the boy in the first book I read, Lost Cause.  I have to say I probably enjoyed this one more, though they are quite different books; Lost Cause being very historical and Walters' book is pure adrenaline outdoor adventure.  About mountain climbing, DJ, the eldest grandson at 17 years old is quested to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  Full of action, before he even hits the foothills, DJ is arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling and later has his belongings stolen by street kids.  The mountain climb is exciting and will mostly appeal to boys owing to a marked emphasis on altitude sickness and the accompanying abdominal irregularities.  There is very little connection with this book and the other grandsons' quests occurring in the accompanying books; Lost Cause had much more interaction, naturally leading me to this book about DJ.  From this book there is no discernible suggestions as to which book would make a likely next choice so I'll just pick whichever takes my fancy at the library.  As to the author, I have not read Walters before.  I always get Canadian authors Eric Walters and Eric Wilson (whom I *have* read many of his teen mysteries) mixed up so I wasn't sure which one this was until I looked at his bio.  I really enjoyed the writing style though and would like to try his other work as he is quite lauded for his books aimed at male teen readers. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

301. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam Trilogy, #3

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 27, 2013, McClelland & Stewart, 394 pgs


"Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, which is being fortified against man and giant Pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. While their reluctant prophet, Jimmy -- Crake's one-time friend -- recovers from a debilitating fever, it's left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

     Meanwhile, Zeb searches for Adam One, founder of the God's Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. Now, under threat of an imminent Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their new found allies, some of whom have four trotters.

     At the centre, is the extraordinary story of Zeb's past, which involves a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Wonderful!  All the characters from the first two books come together in this final book of the trilogy which moves the plot forward showing us the present situation of the world and how the remaining humans and the genetically altered humans and animals are existing together.  The second book, The Year of the Flood, is the weakest in the trilogy but I very much enjoyed those characters' return in this story.  They were familiar faces and their characters were wonderfully developed in this book.  It was also fantastic to finally get to know the "Crakers" so well, and a very important character develops from that group.  Tension comes from the threat of three Painballers, gladiator-type survivors from a fight-to-the-death reality show, pre-Apocalypse.  I was pleased to find no heavy emphasis on the eco-nonsense here and found Atwood's vision of her post-apocalyptic world quite plausible.  I always enjoy Atwood's writing whether I'm thrilled with her books or not and this one is a page-turner that kept me glued to the book.  I still think Oryx and Crake is the best of the trilogy, but this is a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

309. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson with John & Elizabeth Sherrill

Sunday's Christian Book Review

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson with John & Elizabeth Sherrill

Rating: (3.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1962, Jove Book/Penguin, 173 pgs

Age: 16+  

"A young preacher from the Pennsylvania hills comes to New York City and influences troubled teenagers with his inspirational message."

Purchased a secondhand copy from a book sale.

This is the inspiring autobiographical story of an evangelical minister's crusade to open a home for street, gang and drug involved teenagers of the late fifties and early sixties.  His ministry succeeded and became Teen Challenge which still exists today.  Wilkerson's story is touching and interesting especially from an historical view as to how these societal problems were first dealt with during this time period.  The language is dated with the overuse of the words "dope" and "addict"  also "Negro", the n-word and women's place in society but of course this all reflects the time period.  I also found Wilkerson's ability to pray to God at a moment's notice and receive immediate answers, within minutes, often in a room full of people to be quite, shall we say, over enthusiastic.  However, upon looking the man up, he also claimed later in life to have received prophetic visions ... so who am I to judge.  But I really did find laughable one chapter near the end where he spends the entire time explaining to a Jesuit priest what the Holy Spirit is.  I'm Catholic, and know the Jesuits have had their naysayers in recent decades, but really!  How anyone cannot know how important the Holy Spirit is to the Catholic faith, Confirmation anyone?, especially a priest is beyond ridiculous.  While I did not agree with much of the theology in the book, I appreciated the heart felt spirit and love of Christ behind it and did very much enjoy hearing the success story of the organization and many youths who have been helped because of the unending commitment of the author.  Interestingly my used copy contains a small slip of paper with a note hoping the recipient "enjoyed the Outreach Team that most recently visited your Church".  Signed "The Teen Challenge Farm" which my research shows would have been located in London, Ontario. Also, as a side note, Wilkerson only died a couple of years ago tragically, in a car accident, at the age of 80.