books

An actor is murdered! Then, nothing much happens as the mystery unravels. (REVIEW: “Act One, Scene One—Murder” by A.H. Richardson)

31368681What happens when you take the central premise of loads of murder mysteries – a group of people who end up locked in a house as they start dying one by one – and replace that group with a group of actors/theatre people? Well, you get Act One, Scene One – Murder, the second novel in A.H. Richardson’s mystery novels starring Sir. Victor Hazlitt and actor Berry Beresford.

(From the Publisher): Talk about drama! To celebrate the opening of his new play, the playwright invites the entire cast to his mysteriously medieval mansion for a gala dinner. As the curtain rises on this festive feast, a scene of chaos occurs when the leading man is murdered. Who could have done it? And why? Old friends — Inspector Stan Burgess, Actor Berry Beresford, and Sir Victor Hazlitt — question an outlandish cast of frightened actors and household staff. The plot thickens with yet another murder occurs, and the intrigue continues until…

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History is More Magical Than You Think (“Harry Potter: A History of Magic book/BBC Documentary REVIEW) 

Harry-Potter-A-History-of-Magic-CoverI’m only a month late in talking about this, but what’s a month or two between friends? Two books, a BBC Two documentary, and an entire museum exhibit. These are the latest developments in the Harry Potter universe (as of October 2017) as the British Library launches its look into the real-life history of magic and how it intercepts J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. As a fan of both the Wizarding World and really great museum exhibits, I have to say that this excited me. I haven’t been able to go to the actual museum exhibit (as it’s in London and I am not), but I have read the official book of the exhibit: Harry Potter: A History of Magic and see the accompanying BBC Two Documentary. And it’s fab. Harry Potter: A History of Magic explores the intersection of history and fantasy. It’s common knowledge that much of J.K. Rowling’s world-building in the Wizarding World series originates from real history and myth, but just how much of it was real? Harry Potter: A History of Magic seeks to answer that question, and answer it, it does – with lots of panache. (more…)

REVIEW: “It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel” by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

81qpoictzilA friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and citizens keep disappearing, leaving behind nothing but pits of warm, scorched earth. This is the world of It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel. Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and based on the popular podcast, Welcome to Night ValeIt Devours! is a new page-turning mystery about science, faith, love, and belonging, set in a friendly desert community where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are commonplace parts of everyday life. It explores the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different worldviews as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.

Mild spoilers may follow…

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REVIEW: “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green

24891b3120dc3336233f1bc146862f45759ab0e8Turtles All The Way Down is definitely a John Green book, with all the pros and cons that statement comes with. That being said, I did like it. Quite a bit. Turtles All The Way Down is the latest novel written by John Green. The novel follows the story of Aza Holmes, a sixteen-year-old girl with a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. (Mild spoilers follow) 

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REVIEW: “Murder in Little Shendon” by A. H. Richardson

mils-3How does a small English town react after a murder is committed in their midst? A. H. Richardson’s Murder in Little Shendon seeks to explore just that. Being the first book in The Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder-mystery novels, Murder in Little Shendon is a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two.

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper. Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

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The Art of Adaptation – A Thoroughly Modern Essay

We’ve all seen good adaptations of things we love and we’ve all seen bad ones. But what, exactly, makes an adaptation good? For the past… pretty much forever… Hollywood, in particular, has been adapting anything it could get its hands on. From books, to tv, to theatre, to video games, Hollywood loves adaptations. The problem is that the adaptations are often not very good at all. You see this with books, like Eragon and the Percy Jackson series and TV shows like Dark Shadows and Video Games like Assassin’s Creed and musicals like RENT and even anime like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell.

The question becomes, why are there so many lousy adaptations? Especially when most of them are based on properties that are really well made in their original mediums? Where is the disconnect?

Contrary to popular belief, there really is an art to adaptation. There are four key things that a good adaptation must adhere to. Respect for the source material and characters, not being a slave to the source material, knowing what to change and what to keep, and telling a story in the most cohesive and interesting way that utilizes the best of what the specific medium has to offer.

Bad adaptations, usually get at least one of those key things wrong, if not more than one of them. So, let’s explore them more in depth and see if we can’t figure out how to go about making a good adaptation.  (more…)

REVIEW: “MJ-12: Shadows” by Michael J. Martinez

81yzrly7cilThe first novel in Michael J. Martinez’s excellent MJ-12 series, Inception, was an excellent blend of a spy novel and a superhero story. The big question, then, was how would its follow up, Shadows, fare? As it turned out, it’s even better than the first novel was. Shadows takes everything that was good about Inception, cranks it up to 11, and runs with it as fast as it can in order to craft a gripping, tense, and satisfying thriller that does justice to both the characters and themes introduced in the first book. In MJ-12: Shadowsit’s 1949, and the Cold War is heating up across the world. For the United States, the key to winning might be Variants―once ordinary US citizens, now imbued with strange paranormal abilities and corralled into covert service by the government’s top secret MAJESTIC-12 program. Some Variants are testing the murky international waters in Syria, while others are back at home, fighting to stay ahead of a political power struggle in Washington. And back at Area 51, the operation’s headquarters, the next wave of recruits are anxiously awaiting their first mission. All the while, dangerous figures flit among the shadows and it’s unclear whether they are threatening to expose the Variants for what they are . . . or to completely destroy them. Are they working for the Soviet Union, or something far worse?  (more…)

REVIEW: Serenity – No Power in the ‘Verse by Chris Roberson

9781506701820I’m so glad that Dark Horse comics is still continuing to tell Firefly stories. It will forever remain a shame that the show was canceled after one season and the movie, Serenity, didn’t do well enough to warrant any sequels, but at least we can continue to follow the adventures of the crew of the Serenity in comic form. In No Power in the ‘Verse, written by Chris Roberson and illustrated by Georges Jeanty, tough times haven’t ended for Mal Reynolds and his crew aboard the Serenity. When a call for help to find a missing friend takes them to an Alliance post on the Outer Rim, they encounter a new force building strength to fight the battle of the Browncoats–soon leading the crewmembers to question their individual values . . . Discovering that their friend is in Alliance custody and that an Alliance Operative is on the way, Mal concentrates his energy on the problem at hand and strikes an uneasy partnership for a daring rescue. But this is only the beginning of the story. Success will be when the Serenity’s crew makes it off this planet alive and all accounted for . . .  (more…)

REVIEW: Mother Panic, vol. 1: A Work in Progress

checklist-vo-21-06-17-7Better late than never, I suppose. I meant to review the first volume of Jody Houser’s Mother Panic back when it came out a few weeks ago, but life gets in the way sometimes. So here we go. Mother Panic is one of the several new comics from the Young Animal line from DC, headed by Gerard Way.

Written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, Mother Panic: A Work in Progress tells the story of Violet Paige, a rich young celebutante with a bad attitude and a worse reputation. No one would ever suspect that this tabloid-fodder wild child has a secret hidden beneath her spoiled heiress exterior—a secret that has driven her to become the terrifying force of vengeance against her privileged peers known as Mother Panic! But even as Violet launches her all-out assault on the rich and twisted, her shaky allies threaten to betray her, and every one of Gotham’s guardians—from Batwoman to the Dark Knight himself—is hot on her trail. Will Mother Panic continue to strike terror into her enemies’ hearts? Or will her violent quest for justice reach an equally violent end?

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Do You Believe? (American Gods S01E08 – “Come to Jesus” Review)

am godAfter last week’s less than stellar episode, American Gods is back with another strong, engaging episode. And just in time, too, as it’s the season finale. And, boy, it’s quite an epic one. All the various plot threads of the season come together in one big cluster as it all leads to the house of the goddess Easter. In Come to Jesus, written by Bekah Brunstetter, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green and directed by Floria Sigismondi, it’s the eve of war and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) must recruit one more Old God: Ostara, ne Easter, Goddess of the Dawn (Kristen Chenoweth), but winning her over will require making a good impression, and that is where Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) comes in. (As always, this review will contain spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.)  (more…)