Sunday, July 30, 2017
When I wasn't looking, Wordsmithonia turned nine years old earlier this month. It's been a journey that has seen my interest and energy wane over the years, but I've never felt as if I was really ready to give it up for good. I've been slowly getting back into the rhythm, and I'm eternally grateful to those who have stuck by the blog over the years.
In appreciation for the love and support you have shown me over the years, I've decided to do a giveaway in celebration of the nine year journey I undertook with no prior forethought of what I was embarking upon. I've reviewed a lot of books over the years, and I'm letting one of you go through my review list and pick any book you want. All you need to do is leave a comment with the book title of your choice and your email address. I'll pick a winner by random draw on 08/15/2017.
The book will come from either B&N or Book Depository.
Thank you once again, from the bottom of my heart, for all the support you've given over the years. I'll never be able to properly express my gratitude.
Synopsis From Publisher:
Stefan Joss just can't win. Not only does he have to go to Texas in the middle of the summer to be the man of honor in his best friend Charlotte’s wedding, but he’s expected to negotiate a million-dollar business deal at the same time. Worst of all, he’s thrown for a loop when he arrives to see the one man Charlotte promised wouldn’t be there: her brother, Rand Holloway.
Stefan and Rand have been mortal enemies since the day they met, so Stefan is shocked when a temporary cease-fire sees the usual hostility replaced by instant chemistry. Though leery of the unexpected feelings, Stefan is swayed by a sincere revelation from Rand, and he decides to give Rand a chance.
But their budding romance is threatened when Stefan’s business deal goes wrong: the owner of the last ranch he needs to secure for the company is murdered. Stefan’s in for the surprise of his life as he finds himself in danger as well.
I do have to quickly mention that I'm not a huge fan of the cover, and it has since been re-released with a new own, but this is the cover I own, so I'm sticking with it. Truthfully, the cover could be a big black square, a blob of orange and purple paisley, or a picture of a root canal, and I would still read this book over and over again.
Mary Calmes is one of those authors that should be a household name, and if she wasn't writing m/m romance novels, she probably would be. She's that damn good. I've read, and reread multiple times, every book she has had published, and there isn't a weak one in the bunch. There is a soft lyrical quality to her writing, where not one single word is wasted or unneeded. But where she excel is in her characters. In Stefan and Rand, she achieved perfection.
Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, they have their flaws and annoying personality traits. There are things about them that would drive me up a wall, if not into the funny house, but that's okay. Their perfection lies the fact that they are some of the most concrete, four dimensional characters I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I'm including the side characters in this when I say the beauty of her characters is how "real" they feel. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a character acts in such a manner that feels unnatural to who they are. Even when it's a small issue, something so miniscule other readers may not even notice, it's enough to pull me out of a story. I've never had that issue with her books. Stefan, Rand, and all the rest, even when they surprise me, never act in a way that betrays who they are.
I adore Stefan and Rand. The tensions that surrounds them in the beginning is tangible, and it only builds as they truly get to know each other. They are the kind of people I would love to be friends with, but am under no illusions I'm worthy enough of their notice. Their relationship is organic, and beautiful to watch. It's the kind of story movies are made of, but since that won't be happening anytime soon, I'll just keep rereading their story instead, which does include two more books after this. Now I just need to find a man that talks the way Rand does.
And since I know you were curious, this is the new cover with Rand in all his glory.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
When I was trying to figure out who I was going to highlight this week, I went back to look at the movies, television shows, and books that debuted in 1979. As I scrolled through them I realized that a lot of the characters who made their first public appearance are not some of my favorites. The few that were, like Benson DuBois, have already been highlighted over the years. There was one glaring exception that I simply can't believe I've managed to overlook for this long. Seriously, how the hell could I have passed up The Dukes Of Hazzard for as long as I have? This was a show that I absolutely loved as a kid. I watched it every chance I got. I had a map like playset with buildings and the General Lee that I played with all the damn time. Tonight, I'm making that right, and presenting the two characters who made the show what it was, Bo & Luke Duke.
It's almost impossible to separate the cousins from each other, so I'm not even going to try. Where one went, the other was sure to follow. On the outside, it may appear that the boys are petty criminals, hellbent on making the lives of Hazzard County law enforcement a living hell. If you dive in a little closer, you realize that while the Dukes make and sell illegal moonshine, and the cousins are on probation, they are modern day Robin Hoods, protecting the innocent citizens of Hazzard County from the corrupt officials in office. They make it their mission to not only test the boundaries of their County, but to make sure Boss Hog isn't allowed to get away with his money grubbing greedy ways.
Don't get me wrong, the boys like to get in trouble, especially Bo who acts first without thinking anything through, but their hearts are pure gold. Even though Luke is forced to find a away out of the messes Bo gets them into, it's obvious the two of them are a team. Bo is a former stock car driver, and Luke is a former marine, and they both love and cherish family above all else. There is nothing about them that an adolescent boy wouldn't want to emulate, even if he shouldn't.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
He was fiercely protective of those he loved, and had faced tragedy on so many levels. He lost his brother to a Cylon attack, his mother to another Cyclon attack, and his newly married wife Serina to a third attack. After her death, he steps up and adopts her son, becoming a single father. He was killed in action, only to be revived by the Beings of Light. He took care of his squadron members, backed his best friend Starbuck up when needed, and never thought of himself over others. He is the perfect hero, which at times can be pretty damn boring, but when you are constantly fighting for the salvation of the human race, stagnation never sets in.
Of course it helped that the actor who played Apollo, Richard Hatch, was hot, which resulted in a huge childhood crush. But that's not as important as the role he played on the show, and his overall influence on pop culture.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Synopsis From Publisher:
In the decades since her death in 1958, master storyteller Mary Roberts Rinehart has often been compared to Agatha Christie. But while Rinehart was once a household name, today she is largely forgotten. The woman who first proclaimed “the butler did it” was writing for publication years before Christie’s work saw the light of day. She also practiced nursing, became a war correspondent, and wrote a novel——that inspired Bob Kane’s creation of Batman.
Born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, before it was absorbed into Pittsburgh, and raised in a close-knit Presbyterian family, Mary Roberts was at once a girl of her time—dutiful, God-fearing, loyal—and a quietly rebellious spirit. For every hour she spent cooking, cleaning, or sewing at her mother’s behest while her “frail” younger sister had fun, Mary eked out her own moments of planning, dreaming, and writing. But becoming an author wasn’t on her radar . . . yet.
Bestselling mystery writer Charlotte MacLeod grew up on Rinehart’s artfully crafted novels, such as the enormously successful —“cozies” before the concept existed. After years of seeing Christie celebrated and Rinehart overlooked, MacLeod realized that it was time to delve into how this seemingly ordinary woman became a sensation whose work would grace print, stage, and screen. From Rinehart’s grueling training as a nurse and her wartime interviews with a young Winston Churchill and Queen Mary to her involvement with the Blackfoot Indians and her work as doctor’s wife, mother of three, playwright, serialist, and novelist, this is the unforgettable story of America’s Grande Dame of Mystery.
I don't think it will come as a surprise that when a friend of mine pointed out a cheap copy of this book, that I jumped at the chance to read a biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart. For those of you who don't know, next to Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart is my second favorite mystery writer of all time. I never heard of her until Yvette of in so many words... did a review of The Circular Staircase. While reading her review, the plot sounded really familiar to me, and I quickly learned that one of my favorite movies, The Bat starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead, was actually based off of a Rinehart novel. Actually, the movie is an adaptation of the The Bat, which was a novelization of a play of the same name, which was actually based off of The Circular Staircase. After that little discovery, I was hooked. I've since read and reviewed twenty-three of her books, and while I like some more than others, I would take them all over a lot of the "cozy" stuff being written today.
When I first started to delve into Had She But Known, which by the way is named after a major plot device used by Rinehart, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The affection and admiration Charlotte MacLeod had for her subject was obvious from the start, almost too obvious. I understand that, for the most part, if someone is going to take the time to write a biography of someone else, that they are going to have to respect the subject, otherwise the writing would be a horrible experience. However, there should also be distance and objectivity between the writer and the subject, otherwise it can cloud the information coming across. If I can't trust you to be objective, how can I trust the information being given? Her admiration comes across too much, especially in the beginning, and just could have done without her commenting on the worth of individual Rinehart books. The language got too flowery and flattering at times, but thankfully I plowed through and I ended up loving the book.
What saved it for me was my own love for the subject. This is a writer whose work I enjoy so much, how could I not love exploring her life in far more detail than I ever had before. And what I discovered only heightened that admiration. From the way she handled herself as an overseas war correspondent during WWI, to the scrappy determination to do whatever it took to take care of her husband and three sons, I discovered a woman worthy of the admiration and respect Charlotte MacLeod so obviously heaped on her. It was interesting to read how some of my favorite novels came about, even the ones MacLeod didn't share my views of. It's hard to believe the speed at which some of these had been written, given the complexities of the plots.
Mary Roberts Rinehart became a household name in her day. From her exploits with Theodore Roosevelt, to her advocating for Indigenous tribes, to becoming one of the highest paid authors of her time, she did everything with a style all her own, and I wish that she somehow regains the popularity she enjoyed so long ago.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Caught between my high birth and empty purse, I am relieved to receive a new assignment from the queen. The king's youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion, showing her the best of London - and dispelling any rumors about George's libertine history.
George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men - including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when one of his supposed mistresses is murdered.
The queen wants the whole murder hushed. But as the case unfolds - and my beau, Darcy, turns up in the most unlikely of places, as always- our investigation brings us precariously close to the Prince himself.
It's with a heavy heart that I'm writing this review. I love Lady Georgiana. I've highlighted her in a Favorite Fictional Character post, and I truly want her to be happy with Darcy, but as of tonight, I'm doomed to never find out if that wish comes true. Malice at the Palace may be the ninth book in an ongoing series, but it's my last.
The one note side characters that have been annoying me for a while, actually improved in this book, but not by much. Queenie still needs to disappear for good, but Belinda won back some of my sympathy. Georgie's common grandfather, and her aristocratic brother and sister-in-law all made reappearances, and I was happy to see them. They haven't been around much, so they hadn't been getting on my nerves. Darcy is still as dashing and charming as ever, and everytime he's on the scene, I grow just a tad bit jealous of Georgie for hooking him. Sadly, this isn't enough for me to continue with the series. Overall, her charcters are one note caricatures, and no improvement in this area is enough to make up for my real issue with this series.
I am absolutely done with the author's homophobic attitude. She treats gay and bisexual men as jokes. For nine frickin books I've been patiently dealing with it for Georgie's sake. I prayed that her treatment of them would improve, but it's only gotten worse. Every single gay or bisexual man is portrayed as either someone to pity, someone to scorn, the butt of a joke, a manipulator looking for a wife to hide his gayness behind, a money hungry twink, and now a full fledged murderer. The poor guy is being blackmailed, so he decides to kill his oppressor, not that I blame him, but come on already. Naturally when Georgie stumbles upon the solution, he tries to take her out, but is summarily pushed down the stairs to his death, by ghosts of all things. I liked the guy, he was an interesting character, and we knew nothing about his sexuality until the end. He didn't deserve the treatment he got.
The authors attitude almost seems pathological and deliberate in nature. Over the course of nine books, there is not a single gay or bisexual male character that breaks the mold I mentioned before. The author seems obsessed with gay and bisexual men, as they appear in every one of the nine books. But why are none of them not somehow portrayed in the manner I listed earlier. Of course I could be over thinking this. Maybe it's simply that she can't write characters, outside of Georgie and Darcy, that are more complicated than a paperdoll. Her other side characters are one dimensional stereotypes, so why should gay and bisexual men be any different.
Either way, I'm over it. I'm going to miss Georgie and Darcy, and I'm sad I'll never see them married.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
It's March 15th, 1977 and I'm exactly 7 months old. Jimmy Carter is in the White House, Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’) by Barbara Streisand is the number one song on the charts, Joe Hahn of Linkin Park was born, it had been exactly 2,021 years since the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Three's Company made its broadcast debut.
To be perfectly frank, I'm not a huge fan of the show. I didn't understand a lot of the humor when I was a kid, and I find the gay for laughs thing rather offensive as an adult. The one redeeming factor for me is the caftan wearing, sex starved character of Helen Roper, played by the amazing Audra Lindley.
I'm not sure I could take Helen in large doses, but I would love to have her as a neighbor. I bet she is the kind of person I would love to hang out with occasionally, drinking a few margaritas and gossiping up a storm. I think she is the kind of person who's advise I would actually listen to, as long as I filtered it first.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Synopsis From Publisher:
Unlike the other members of the elite Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force, Detective Jack Leightner prefers his murders baffling. He likes to lose himself in tough cases, and he just caught a murder that will consume him like no other: an unidentified body, bound execution style, on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
Leightner is finishing his first look at the corpse when he discovers a knife wound and loses his lunch. He has seen a thousand dead bodies, but nothing brings back bad memories like death by knife.
The victim was a hardworking Dominican man with a family, a job, and no ties to the underworld. Investigating this murder will Auckland Leightner back into Red Hook, the neighborhood of his youth - now a labyrinth of empty docks and crumbling housing projects. It's a tough case, but not half as hard as going home.
I'm half way convinced that in order to be a fictional homicide detective, you are not allowed to be a well adjusted, happy person. You have to have painful secrets in your past you refuse to talk about. You have to be distant and socially awkward with your family. You have to have no skills in love, and live a stoic life revolving around your career. As a mystery fan, it makes great reading, but I'm always feeling bad for these characters.
I, through a twist of fate, reviewed the second book in this series, The Graving Dock, back in 2011. I fell in love with Jack back then, but for whatever reason it's taken me this long to get the first book reviewed. It was interesting to see how truly damaged Jack is in the beginning, and how far he had come in The Graving Dock. He is carrying a horrible secret about how his younger brother was killed when they were kids. He has a painfully uncomfortable relationship with his grown son. He has a woman he sees, and I mean has sex with, but from what I can tell they don't actually like each other. He is not a happy man, and he's drowning it with alcohol. I think he is a man of his generation.
In Red Hook, the author not only introduced one of my favorite homicide detectives, he proves his skill in creating a world for Jack to shine in. The city of New York, the borough of Brooklyn, and the Red Hook neighborhood are living, visceral characters unto themselves. Jack would not exist if it wasn't for where he lives. This would not be a character that could be shifted to Chicago or St. Louis. The setting runs through Jack's veins, and he would cease to exist otherwise. The author writes in such a way that I thoroughly enjoy as a reader. He brings the location to life. As a reader, you are able to walk the streets with the characters, seeing the landscape through their eyes.
He crafts the mystery the same way. It's tactile and tangible. He allows the reader to experience the horror and pain through Jack. He builds the suspense, all the while instilling the need to solve the case in our gut, just as strongly as it resides in Jack's. It's something I don't experience in a lot of mystery fiction, but when I do it stays with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm always curious to see the outcome of a case, but I rarely feel a need for solve it myself.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Since I wasn't blogging at the beginning of the year, I never got to do a recap of my favorite reads of 2016. I was just going to let it go, but I have decided that I really want one last chance to convince someone, anyone to read the books that I fell in love with last year. To make it easier, I'm only including books I reviewed, and only books that were not rereads. This is going to be a fairly short list, mainly because I didn't review the vast majority of books I read last year.
So here are my favorites:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
Final Admission by Sue Brown
The Children's Home by Charles Lambert
Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom by Brian Olsen
Manhattan Mayhem edited by Mary Higgins Clark
Frog by Mary Calmes
The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
It feels like it's been forever since I've done a Favorite Fictional Character post. I've put the feature off for the simple fact that, in my head at least, if I start doing it again, it meant I'm really going to have to get back into blogging. It means I'm going to commit the time and energy, two things I've been lacking lately, into my blog. I still do not really have the time or the energy, but I've been missing Wordsmithonia, and I've been missing you guys.
So with the reappearance of the feature comes a new approach to it, at least for the next 42 weeks. Starting with 1976, the year I was born, I'm going to feature a character from every year that I've been alive. They will come from TV shows, movie, books, and comics. So today's character, Jaime Sommers, had her TV show debut in 1976. Next week's character, who has not been selected, will have made their debut in 1977, and so forth through 2018.
Remember when I mentioned she appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man? You should, it was at the beginning of the last paragraph. Anyway, she and Steve Austin were childhood friends, and through some machinations from Steve's mom, they reconnect. One fateful day they go skydiving, and her parachute malfunctions, plummeting her to the ground. Both legs, her right arm, and right ear are damaged beyond repair. Steve, being the cyborg man that he is, contacts his bosses, and has Jamie decked out in all new bionic replacements, making her The Bionic Woman. She also loses her memory, forgetting all about the love she shared with Steve. And that's part of the reason why I loved her so much. Instead of getting wrapped up in the life of the man who "saved" her, she is able to go out and build a life separate from him. She stands on her own two feet, and makes the best of a horrific situation.
With her new found abilities, she gets put to work as a super spy and general bad guy ass kicker. She saves the day on a regular basis, and does it with a style all her own. Her show was only on for two seasons, and I was too young to watch it when it first aired, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every single episode of it. I enjoyed her more than I did her ex-boyfriend, though I couldn't tell you why I don't like Steve as much as her.
I know they tried a reboot a few years ago, but I would like to see them try again. Actually, I have a better idea. Instead of another Avengers movie, or even the Justice League movie that's coming out, let's make this movie instead.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Part of the Synopsis from the Dust Jacket:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Buckhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under suspicious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West - where oilmen such as J.P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed - many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the relatively new FBI took over. It was one of the organization's first major homicide cases but the bureau badly bungled the investigation. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including an American Indian agent in the bureau. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Officially, around twenty-four members of the Osage tribe were murdered for their oil. Unofficially, the estimates I've seen start in the sixties, and climb from there. They were murdered by their friends, in-laws, spouses, and community leaders. Their lives were stolen by the very people they were supposed to trust and look to for help. The depravity inflicted upon the human soul that this book narrates is mind boggling in it's scope, and heart wrenching in the way people were betrayed by those they loved. Just when I think I've heard the cruelest examples of the way humans treat each other, I'm exposed to a story that makes the shows my roommate watches on the ID Channel, seem like child's play. It is almost impossible for me to express the full depth of emotion I felt as I read this tale of greed so base, that Charles Ponzi is a nobody in comparison to these men.
This wasn't one or two men so blinded by money, that they left their morals at the door. This was an entire community, an entire county, hell bent on taking what they could, damn the methods used. Politicians and lawmen, the ones not actually contracting the killings themselves, did the covering up and lost evidence. Doctors faked autopsies. Inquests were filled with the men responsible for the deaths.
Since Congress had decided that the Osage were not capable of taking care of their own money, white business men were assigned as executors. Many of those men ended up with dead charges, in many cases more than one dead charge, allowing themselves to "inherit" the oil rights. The white men who did actually try to investigate, ended up dead themselves. One man was actually killed in Washington, D.C.
The part that really turns my stomach, other than men marrying and impregnating women solely to kill them later, is the way in which systemic racism allowed this to happen to begin with. It was congressional actions, built out of prejudice and disdain for indigenous Americans, that laid the framework these men took advantage of. If congress had not taken many of the actions they did, I'm almost convinced this could have all been prevented.
And the part that just saddens me, is that I went to high school in Osage county. I lived in Osage county for four years, and I never heard a peep about this. It wasn't taught in state history, it wasn't talked about by the residents of the town I lived in. I never heard of this tragedy until I was listening to NPR in the car earlier this year. How can something of this magnitude not be taught in our schools? What happened in Osage county should serve as an example of what transpires when racism and greed are combined.
And yes I know, so far I haven't written much of a review, and I'm okay with that. You guys already know that I'm a sucker for well written narrative nonfiction, and Killers of the Flower Moon is a prime example of it. I'm sure you can already guess that I would do my damndest to convince all of you to get your hands on this book. That I would want you to share it with your friends and family. I would implore all of you to never let what happened in Osage county be brushed aside into obscurity again.