Showing posts from 2013

A Moment in Time... Can Last Forever

Children--as most adults who’ve more-or-less-successfully traversed those difficult years and emerged triumphant on the other end will attest--can be quite horrid. It’s not that they’re irredeemable little monsters, or anything... just that all children have the capacity to be incredibly cruel in their words and actions. Whether it be their peers and siblings, parents, other adults, pets (or other unwitting animals), or even inanimate objects, no one (and nothing) is safe from a child who feels compelled for whatever reasons to be nasty.
There’s a difference, though, between outright meanness to others and simple mischief--although the latter can also have the appearance of cruelty. The difference, of course, is in the intent, which is why most of us find mischievous acts more understandable and easier to forgive and forget.
As with anything else, however, not everyone agrees, as is the case in Diane Setterfield’s Bellman & Black, the compelling tale of a well-meaning and popular yo…

Caught Between Tidy Science... and the Messy Reality of Falling in Love

A really good book has its work cut out for it. It needs to draw you in, making it seem as if you’re a part of the action. It should make you think, drawing parallels and conclusions of your own. And no matter what genre, it must make you feel something; you need to have a personal stake in the outcome, for it to matter.
Fortunately, there are books aplenty that can do those things. What’s a whole lot harder to find is the book that somehow manages to bring pure, unadulterated joy with every page... a non-stop transfusion of feel-good, happy vibes from the written word straight to your brain. (Seriously... what was the last book you can say that about??)
Until a couple weeks ago [and yes, it’s been that long since I finished it... grrr, there goes life, getting in the way again], coming up with something that made me that insanely giddy would’ve been impossible. But then, I came across Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, and everything changed.

Professor Don Tillman is, without question,…

Be Careful what You Wish for... Because It Just May Come True

Grad student Nora Fischer wishes desperately that her life could be different. She’s hit a major roadblock in her studies, with nothing new or fresh to pursue in her thesis work (something which her adviser seems a bit too willing to point out to her), and inspiration isn’t exactly forthcoming. Even worse, her long-time professor boyfriend--whom she’d sort of been expecting to get a ring from--has just dropped a bomb on her: he’s engaged to someone he met (and obviously, was seeing on the sly) recently, and “hopes she [Nora] understands”.
Sometimes wishes do come true, though... as Nora is about to find out, in Emily Croy Barker’s magically-delicious debut, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The last thing Nora wants to do is pretend happiness during a girlfriend’s weekend wedding festivities, but she puts on a brave face and dutifully shows up at the mountain lodge where events are scheduled to take place. Sadly, the first night turns out as horribly as she’d fe…

Revolutionaries, Spirits, & Mages... and a Conclusion that's Sort of a Hot Mess

Are heroes formed through years of experience... or is it more likely that they’re simply born to it?
No doubt there’s a heap of anecdotal evidence supporting each side of such a “nurture vs. nature” question, but in her “Spiritwalker” trilogy--an alternate-reality fantasy series set during the Industrial Revolution, featuring two very young women (girls, still, really) who set their minds on changing the world--author Kate Elliott goes the heroism-as-a-birthright route. 
The entertaining Cold Magic first introduced us to the cast of characters (notably, feisty Cat Barahal and her irrepressible cousin Bee, along with Cat’s delightful half-brother, the cat/human Rory, and her newly-acquired-though-wholly-unwanted husband, the cold mage Andevai), as well as doing considerable world-building and setting the stage for all of their problems. [You can see my earlier review of it, here, by the way]. Cold Fire [which I somehow never got around to finishing a review for] followed a year later, a…
Good grief... I thought August would never end.
It’s always been my least-favorite month (the hottest part of summer), for starters. It also turned out to be frustratingly busy (boring work stuff). The worst part, though? Being majorly let down on the book front. [sigh]

Sure, August found me reading one book (The Cuckoo’s Calling, reviewed here) that was fantastic, but the other two I managed to finagle enough time (and focus) for... well, weren’t. One of them--which initially had promise--turned out to be so mind-numbingly dull (and sloooow) that I gave up after the first 300 or so pages; there was just no way I could make myself finish it. The other I forced myself to slog through to the very end... but only because it was the final story in a trilogy (that I'd previously really enjoyed). Blergh.
At least my hopes are high for September. Autumn--my favorite season!--should start gusting in with blustery winds and a riot of colorful leaves toward the end of the month, and as for rea…

A Different Kind of Magic: Rowling Continues Weaving her Spell, Sans Wands

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. If so--and if you happen to find yourself in a tunnel--you’d better damn well hope there’s a glimmer of light shining down at the end of it.

Cormoran Strike is stuck in one of those abominable cycles--the kind where nothing goes right. After losing part of his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, he returned home to heal and figure out what to do next... which turned out to be putting the skills learned in the military police to practical use by setting up shop as a private investigator. It’s something he happens to be really good at; problem is, business has been scarce, and is now down to a single client... which doesn’t come close to paying the bills (not even for his tiny, very modest London work digs). 
But that’s not the end of his troubles; the icing on Strike’s unhappiness cake is that he’s just broken up with his longtime girlfriend... which leaves him effectively homeless, forced to sleep in his spartan office (at least, until the la…

Murder in Michigan... Broken Hearts & Dreams, Buried in Ice

“Growing up” means different things depending on what stage you’re at in life. To kids, it usually symbolizes forbidden fun--namely, whatever it is they’re currently not allowed to do. As an adult, though, it takes on rather an opposite, somewhat-ominous meaning--a mantle of responsibility resting on one’s shoulders, complete with obligations, choices, and repercussions.
A little growth is actually nice to see in a character--be it book, TV, or movie--in the “yeah, this stuff happens to us all” sense; no one goes through life without it changing them, and it’s good to have that reflected in the characters we follow (particularly in an ongoing series). 
Yet, for whatever reasons, a lot of times we don’t really see much of it... which is why it really struck me in P.J. Parrish’s latest mystery, Heart of Ice, featuring private eye Louis Kincaid.

Louis is at an interesting place in his life: after a tumultuous childhood spent in the foster care system, he grew up and became a cop... only to …

Vengeance, Bruges-Style

It’s not something we tend to brag about, but most of us do, at some point, crave a little spot of revenge. (Whether or not we ever act on that desire is another matter entirely.)
The catch is, there really isn’t much in the way of well-established guidelines out there to help us accomplish it (should the urge get the better of us, that is). About all we’ve got are the immortal words of Khan*, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”. (Yes, I know that others have said it before, but hey, this is my frame of reference.) And, whether we take that to mean vengeance should only be sought once we can maintain a certain emotional detachment, or that retribution is most effective after a period of time has elapsed, one thing is clear: it should never be doled out immediately... not if either party is to feel the full force of said payback.      
In The Square of Revenge, Belgian author Pieter Aspe serves up a very, very cold dish of revenge... with second and third helpings, even.
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Foibles & Bits of Foolery: A Yank Takes on Merry Old England... and Learns to Fit In

Like a lot of people, I enjoy travel. Not so much the getting-there part, mind you (which, in my experience, involves enduring either too much mind- and posterior-numbing time on an uncomfortable car seat while watching a whole lot of nothing pass by, or a killer-migraine-inducing flight during which I’m forced to toy with the question of what good the seat-cushion flotation device would really do me, were we to unexpectedly make a hard landing in Farmer Johnson’s wheat field--or for that matter, even in a semi-handy body of water, seeing as how I can’t swim), but the being-there part--provided there’s plenty to see, do, and experience--is pretty swell.
Actually finding the time and opportunity to do much traveling has always been a challenge, though, what with trying to juggle work and other responsibilities. (And perversely, all the interconnectedness we have at our disposal today only makes matters worse, not better; it’s impossible to truly “get away from it all” when anyone can--a…