Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winner Announced!

And the lucky winner of this awesome book is... drum roll please... Giada! Make sure to check your inbox, you'll have a message from me waiting there!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31st, 2013
Format: Paperback, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Above Stairs: Lord Netherwood keeps his considerable fortune, and the upkeep of Netherwood Hall, ticking over with the profits from his three coal mines. The welfare of his employees isn't a pressing concern - more important is keeping his wife and daughters happy and ensuring the heir to the family wealth, the charming but feckless Tobias, stays out of trouble. Below Stairs: Eve Williams is the wife of one of Lord Netherwood's employees. When her life is brought crashing down, Eve must look to her own self-sufficiency and talent to provide for her three young children. And it's then that 'upstairs' and 'downstairs' collide."

READ IT! This is awesome. READ IT! Also, the description is a little misleading, Eve isn't really "downstairs" but READ IT!

Deadshifted by Cassie Alexander
Published by: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31st, 2013
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Edie Spence is in desperate need of a vacation—some R and R away from the craziness that shadows her as a nurse dealing with paranormal patients. But as she and her shapeshifter boyfriend, Asher, set sail on a cruise for Hawaii, they’ll realize that seasickness isn’t the only thing threatening their romantic getaway…

While on board, Asher comes face-to-face with Nathaniel, an old nemesis from his dark past. Asher is convinced he’s up to no good…especially when passengers start to come down with a mysterious illness unlike anything Edie and Asher have ever encountered. Soon Edie finds herself fighting for the life of the one person who means the most to her—Asher. As chaos explodes, will Edie be able to save their future together…or will this close encounter with the paranormal side be her last?"

Because everyone needs a silly escape...

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: December 31st, 2013
Format: Paperback, 672 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, handcuffed and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is . . . he’s dead."

I've been totally wanting to read this series, but damn, they keep coming out so fast, how can a girl with my reading list keep up?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why Does The Doctor Endure?

Fifty years, now that shows endurance. With the rebooting of the regeneration cycle we can have a whole new slew of Doctors (see, I waited to write this till after the Christmas special). Even if the show goes fallow again like it did in the 90s, the fan base is strong enough to keep it going, to make a comeback feasible. But how is this possible? Why does The Doctor endure? A fan base cannot be the only reason. I feel it's a combination of two factors, people love the familiar, and people love something new. No matter when you turn into the show, in essence, it's always a mad man in a box. Yet the face might be a new one or an old one, the companion someone you don't know, or the writers putting a twist on it that you never thought and you hopefully agree with. The love and nostalgia of the familiar, and the hope of something new, because, right now, I do have hope, I have to, because I've just said goodbye to my Raggedy Man, and while I don't think it was the send off he deserved, he is now gone. The Doctor is dead, long live The Doctor. Perhaps for another fifty years?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Doctor!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Fables: Snow White by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: December 24th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 168 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"With Castle Dark now back in the hands of the Fables, mysteries both young and old begin to challenge the residents of Fabletown. Bigsby and Stinky set off from Fabletown in Rose Red's blood-fueled sports car to track down the two abducted cubs. Unfortunately for Snow White, besides suffering the trauma of having two of her cubs go missing, a long forgotten secret uncovered in Castle Dark threatens to sabatoge her and Bigsby's marriage.

This volume also collects the backup adventures of Bufkin and Lily from issues #114-121, as well as their full length adventures found in issue #124.

Collected here are Fables issues #114-123 (back-up stories only) and issues #124-129."

As to series starts to wind down (wailing, sobbing, and gnashing of teeth here) we once again get an amazing entry in this series (serious thanks to NetGalley for the ARC). Though amazing, it is heart wrenching... but then again, the best stories are. I can't wait to see how this all ends!

How to Betray a Dragon's Hero by Cressida Cowell
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 24th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Hiccup the Viking's misadventures, the stakes have never been higher, and it's friend versus foe to decide the fate of the world. In this, the penultimate title in the amazing story arc that began with How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup is faced with a personal dilemma against the backdrop of an impending battle and the possible destruction of everything he knows."

Yeah dragons!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Accessorizing The Doctor and End Results

If you are a true Whovian you should have random Who ephemera strewn about your house. A sonic screwdriver in a drawer, a scarf in with your winter weather gear that is like the one Tom Baker wore... a Dalek on the windowsill, you get the idea. By creating this Doctor Who themed Christmas Tree you now have an excuse to pile all these together to add to the overall theme and give the tree and your Christmas a little something extra.

Thinking about tree skirts, well, sure you could go that extra mile and buy some Doctor Who fabric online and run up a skirt... or, if you have awesome friends like mine who knit you a 4th Doctor scarf one year for your birthday, you can artfully drape it around the base of the tree. If you sadly do not have awesome friends, do not worry, the pattern is an easy one and can be found on multiple sites all over the internet.

But, if you are a person like me with an extreme attention to detail, who wants integration between tree skirt and tree, there's an easy thing to do. Make a mini garland with the same yarn as the 4th Doctor's scarf! What I did was pick up the recommended yarn and just knitted an I-cord (ie, an idiot cord because it's that easy to make). Instead of having to count stitches, because I had the scarf, every so often I'd hold it up to the scarf to see if I needed to switch colors. This way I got some color into my predominately blue/white/silver tree and united the style from tree skirt to garland. It also gave the 4th Doctor a bit of a nod on the tree itself, like I did with 10 and 11.

Here's me just playing with the garland, but as you can see, it's like a mini-Tom Baker scarf.

As for those sonic screwdrivers you have laying around... artfully arrange them on the tree skirt! Psst... the top one is a real screwdriver!

And those old skool toys? Have K-9 thwarting a Dalek under the bows of the tree. Pretty spiffy Dalek eh? He's one of the Millennium Daleks from 1999, sadly he recently had an accident and his eye stalk no longer moves.

Also, don't forget those adorable little Adipose! They don't want to be left out with their adorable little fang. This one seems to be strongly in favor of the 10th Doctor...

And for this coming Christmas... I was recently at my local comic book shop and look what I found! TARDIS Christmas lights! This Christmas is going to be even more Doctor Who awesome then last Christmas! Also, I say Christmas... but really, this tree could conceivably stay up all year... or at least, like I did this year, till Easter, when the new season began. Truly, I wasn't lazy, it was all for Matt Smith. And now for the final unveiling!

And here is the final tree!

Mr. Smith... your close up! (You too Eccleston and Tennant.)

The tree at night!

And a close up at night. Whew! I hope you have had as much fun as I have had making this tree. Have a very Whovian holiday season one and all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where's a Doctor When You Need One?

The obvious fact arises, when making a Doctor Who Christmas Tree is that, well, you can't get around this point, but, there needs to be a Doctor, preferably, all the Doctors. This really cute "Eleven Doctors Mirco-Figure Set" came to my attention sometime last year. I thought it was really cute, but couldn't really justify spending the $40 on it. But then my Christmas tree had this Doctor need... so, well, I bought the set.

I mean, look how cute they are in the box. Look at Tom Baker's scarf! How could you not want to own all of them! Plus, they do more characters then just The Doctor, so if I ever wanted more characters from the Whoverse... well I'm set. Though two of my friends have been buying those little mystery packs and they have an inordinately large selection of Amy Ponds now and I don't think I could handle that...

When I opened the box I was happily surprised to see all the mini little sonic screwdrivers, and look, Sylvester McCoy has his umbrella! Oh, vegetation on Peter Davidson! Yes, I'm a dork and I happily admit it!

So how to turn these little guys into ornaments? Well, it's easier then you'd think. First take your little Doctor and an ornament hook. Pop off his head and bend the hook as shown. Place hook over circular plastic spinal column... would you call it that? Sounds a bit creepy, but plastic exposed neck area. Pop head back on and viola! Doctor ornament.

Repeat 10 more times.

Then hang them in your tree. They provide a nice color pop, especially Colin Baker with his ludicrous outfit. Also, it becomes a game when your friends come over... can they find all 11? Oh, I do hope they come out with a 12th this year so I'm ready for this years Christmas special!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 10th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Fans of Lemony Snicket and the Mysterious Benedict Society books will devour the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, about a governess and her three charges—children who have been raised by wolves.

In The Interrupted Tale, the fourth title in the acclaimed and hilarious mystery series, Miss Penelope Lumley’s sixteenth birthday is not quite sweet. Her parents remain absent, and her friend, Simon, has not been heard from since he went to visit his ailing great-uncle Pudge in the old sailors’ home.

Luckily, an invitation to speak at the annual Celebrate Alumnae Knowledge Exposition (or CAKE) at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females provides just the diversion Penelope needs. But when Penelope is asked by the Swanburne board of trustees to demonstrate the academic progress of her three wolfish students, so the board can judge the true worth of a Swanburne education, the future of her school—and of her job as governess to the Incorrigibles—hangs in the balance.

Signature quirky black-and-white illustrations add to the appeal of these books."

So excited for a new Ashton Place... plus, look at the gorgeous cover!

The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler
Published by: Bantam
Publication Date: December 17th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"London’s craftiest and boldest detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May, are back in this deviously twisting mystery of black magic, madness, and secrets hidden in plain sight.

When a young woman is found dead in the pews of St. Bride’s Church—alone and showing no apparent signs of trauma—Arthur Bryant assumes this case will go to the Peculiar Crimes Unit, an eccentric team tasked with solving London’s most puzzling murders. Yet the city police take over the investigation, and the PCU is given an even more baffling and bewitching assignment.

Called into headquarters by Oskar Kasavian, the head of Home Office security, Bryant and May are shocked to hear that their longtime adversary now desperately needs their help. Oskar’s wife, Sabira, has been acting strangely for weeks—succumbing to violent mood swings, claiming an evil presence is bringing her harm—and Oskar wants the PCU to find out why. And if there’s any duo that can deduce the method behind her madness, it’s the indomitable Bryant and May.

When a second bizarre death reveals a surprising link between the two women’s cases, Bryant and May set off on a trail of clues from the notorious Bedlam hospital to historic Bletchley Park. And as they are drawn into a world of encrypted codes and symbols, concealed rooms and high-society clubs, they must work quickly to catch a killer who lurks even closer than they think.

Witty, suspenseful, and ingeniously plotted, The Invisible Code is Christopher Fowler at the very top of his form."

Excited for the book, but that cover... meh. I was drawn to this series by their vibrant colors and this just falls flat. I mean there are aspects I like, but overall, meh. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Picking Your Tree and Ornaments

The first question to ask when picking a tree for your Doctor Who Christmas is which color? In my mind you have two choices. One is TARDIS blue, the other is white. I wanted, no needed, TARDIS blue. Oddly enough it wasn't too hard to find a tree of this color, and a small one at that, for a nice table top tree. Seriously, I think Amazon does have everything you could possibly need. At $100, this was the big ticket item, everything else I bought didn't even equal this, which was very nice on my wallet. Also, this tree had some interesting fiber optic capabilities... which, well, they were odd when turned on and the tree would strobe green and red and blue, but when off, the little fiber optics caught the light really well and made it shine that much more.

The next question I asked myself is what does Doctor Who and the TARDIS represent to me. So I thought, blue box shooting through outer space to see the stars. Stars would therefore become a theme. So as for tree illumination, I wanted something faceted that would twinkle like the stars as Wilf looked through his telescope. I picked these LED lights up at target for a song.

After tree and lights, the next item on a tree is always the garlands. Because I had gone with the blue verses the white tree, then the garlands would have to be the white accents of the TARDIS, whereas if I had gone with a white tree I would have needed TARDIS blue garlands (which oddly I already own, but refer to them as my Cookie Monster garlands... which makes me realise that Cookie Monster is the same color as the TARDIS!) This white garland I found at Target for $3.50.

Next, there's the stars. I loved this garland I found and target, because not only was it a cheap $2.00, but because the stars seemed to be alive in a spinning vortex of silver. Like the TARDIS racing through the space time continuum in the opening credits.

I mean, seriously, look how cool this is!

And because one garland of stars is NEVER enough, I picked these up at Target for another $3.00. In fact, the majority of this tree's decorations were found at target for rock bottom prices.

This is how the tree looked once the garlands and lights were on. As you can see, it's very much the TARDIS in tree form.

After the foundations were laid (because really, lights and garlands are like a Christmas trees foundation garments) then the fun really starts! So, almost all trees have nice circular glass ornaments. They're silver and pretty and make it shine. But, to a Whovian, they have something else to recommend them. Do they happen to look a bit like the bumps on a Dalek? YES THEY DO! So pretty silver, spacey, and reminiscent of Daleks, sign me up for one box at $6.00!

Then, when I was ambling around Jo-Ann Fabrics, I found blue balls (no inappropriate jokes please)! The reason I had to get these (and really, you have to really really want something at Jo-Ann's because seriously, the check-out takes forever) is because these are perfect TARDIS blue, just like the tree, only with glitter!

As for the final touches. I decided to go with my two favorite Doctors, ie, David Tennant and Matt Smith. As the Christmas wrapping paper and bows are right next to the ornaments, I was wandering around and looked up and saw this box of red bows for $1.00. And what did I say aloud, rather embarrassingly, "I wear bow ties now, bow ties are cool." So instead of adorning presents, they adorned branches on my tree!

Still looking for cheap items I thought of one thing that reminded me of David Tennant that indeed turned out to be cheap. 3-D glasses! On Amazon you can get a 10 pack for only $2.00! I mean, that's insanely cheap!

As for the tree topper... well, it had to be a star didn't it? A nice big silvery one. Ideally it would have been a TARDIS, but, I didn't think the top of the tree could hold the weight. So instead I settled for this topper which was only $3.00 at Target. So let's look to see how the tree is progressing... TARDIS blue, check, time and space through starry vortex, check, hint of Dalek, check, nods to 10 and 11, check, all at a reasonable price ($138.50), check! But where's a Doctor when you need one?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making a Doctor Who Christmas

I have a love of Christmas. It's not just the presents and the baking and the snow, but the festive air your house has when it's fully kitted out in it's seasonal regalia. When I was little I always thought that after the holidays in January, after the ornaments and garlands were gone, that the house looked barren and sad. Like the cold bleakness outside had somehow come indoors. But this could be because when I was little we took decorating for Christmas very seriously. I look back and think, how on earth did we have the energy to do THAT much decoration. Firstly, there was the big family tree and then the little kids tree that was just for me and my brother. But later themed trees started to make an appearance. There was the Teddy Bear Tree, the Nutcracker Tree, the Victorian Ornaments Tree (where I made all the ornaments myself), the Norwegian Tree, I think one year we might have even done a Simpsons Tree. These trees were on top of the Dickens Village and other such decorations, like putting an entire pine forest on the top shelves of the kitchen. Yes, as I say, I don't know how we did it.

Watching the Christmas episode of Doctor Who is now an institution in my family, the highlight of Christmas as it were. So The Doctor and Christmas are now irrevocably linked and it all ended with the question, how to make Christmas more Whovian? Therefore, seeing as themed trees are something I grew up with, I thought, wouldn't it be fun to do a Doctor Who Tree? This idea was germinating for about a year or so before I swung into action. I even had a Pinterest Board JUST for this tree. But last year I said, to hell with waiting, I want my Doctor Who tree now, dammit! Certain logistics entered into it, like cost. I mean, who has any spare money around the holidays? Also, last year was my Portfolio class, which is a money drain if ever their was one. So I strategized, how to do this right, and now, I will gift to you the lessons I have learned. And hopefully you will get the same results, which is people who doubted you going, "You know what? It is a pretty tree."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: December 10th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Daisy Dalrymple series continues—when one of four potential claimants to the title of Lord Dalrymple dies a sudden, nasty death, the question on everyone’s mind is, “was it murder”?

In the late 1920’s in England, The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is recruited to help her cousin Edgar—i.e. the Lord Dalrymple. About to turn fifty, Lord Dalrymple decides it is time to find out who would be the heir to the viscountcy. With the help of the family lawyer, who advertises Empire-wide, they have come up with four potential claimants. For his fiftieth birthday, Edgar invites those would-be heirs—along with Daisy and the rest of the family—to Fairacres, the family estate.

In the meantime, Daisy is asked to be the family's representative at the lawyer's interviews with the claimants. Those four are a hotelier from Scarborough, a diamond merchant from South Africa, a young mixed-raced boy from Trinidad, and a sailor from Jamaica. However, according to his very pregnant wife, the sailor has gone missing.

Daisy and Alec must uncover a conspiracy if they are going to stop the killing in the latest from the accomplished master of the genre, Carola Dunn."

What this week lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality. New Daisy Dalrymple yarooo!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review - Paul Magrs's From Wildthyme with Love

From Wildthyme with Love by Paul Magrs
ARC provided by the author (Thanks Paul!)
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: April 1st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 431 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Iris and Panda are sadly separated, but despite the time and distance between them they are keeping in touch until the happy day when Panda is back aboard the Celestial Omnibus. While Iris has her bus and is in the far flung reaches of the galaxy, Panda has been more Earth bound going to parties with Ngaio Marsh and spending Christmas aboard an ill-fated star cruiser. Yet they both miss each other so much that Iris aligns herself with a robot version of Panda, Pand R, and Panda goes off exploring the galaxy with an older, sexier, but bleaker version of Iris. Sadly for us readers, once they do reunite we will never get to read anymore of their fabulous correspondence.

I have always been a sucker for the epistolary novel. The nature of reading someone else's correspondence is illuminating and also slightly thrilling, like it's something you're not supposed to read. Fact or fiction, this device gets me every time. I always wonder what it would have been like if Jane Austen had kept Sense and Sensibility in her original epistolary form... ah, what I wouldn't give to have read that version as well. The most famous and one of my most favorite examples is Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road. In her correspondence with Frank Doel she created an instant classic, a classic that Paul and I are very much a fan of. In fact Paul wrote an homage, if you will, to Helene in his book 666 Charing Cross Road. He perfectly captured her and her voice, though never actually writing in the epistolary form. It has to be said that his foray finally into this style is an unequivocal success. This is Paul's personal epistolary tribute to Doctor Who with Panda and Iris poking fun at and saying all the snide asides we have all voiced from time to time but in the end come from a place of love. From Wildthyme with Love is a snorting good time, literally.

Speaking of snorting... let's talk about the literal LOL, the laugh out loud. If you are lucky you have a good sense of humor. You know what's funny and what isn't and you take joy in sharing a joke and laughing. Yet there are many forms of laughter. There is of course the unexpected laughter where you're out in public and you try to contain it because you don't want to draw attention to yourself, here I will add a note that perhaps it's not best to watch How I Met Your Mother on a treadmill at the gym because, well, this will happen quite frequently. There's the slow build laughter the leads to painful clutching of sides and perhaps falling off furniture, this usually requires other people, usually close friends to help induce and sustain this state. There's just the quick bark or smile you get while watching television, which is probably the most common. But there is a rare laugh... the embarrassing kind that I find to be the truest form of laughter.

When reading I rarely laugh out loud, there's usually a small knowing smile that I get, but beyond that, no verbalization. So when I say that From Wildthyme with Love actually had be doing my most embarrassing snort laugh... you can be guaranteed of the humor. The snort laugh is so guttural and also mildly offensive, that it comes from deep within you and can not be contained. If others are present, you will be red with embarrassment. The fact that I did it more then once... yeah, this book's a keeper. Almost everything in this book is a laugh out loud joke and if I were to highlight all my favorites, well, the whole book would be highlighted if I did each one. In fact, because I just had the word doc that Paul sent me I had to order a copy for my shelves because I knew that without this book proudly displayed my shelves wouldn't be quite the library they would be otherwise.

So what was it that made me snort? Well, Panda and his rather disastrous Christmas back in 2007. In his letter to Iris he said:

"You've missed Christmas. I went off and spent it on a cruise liner. Turned out we were traveling through bloody space! I met a nice girl serving drinks who looked a bit like that one off 'Neighbors'... I wasn't quite sure what was going on at that point - something about angels chasing after us and I almost spilled my drink walking a tightrope over a bloody inferno."

This succinct and cynical take on the David Tennant/Kylie Minogue Doctor Who episode "Voyage of the Damned" captures everything odd and wrong about the episode but never goes so far as to condemn it. This whole book is an ode to The Doctor and his fifty years. There is real love from Iris. There is love for the camp and the crazy, the stunt casting and the multiple bickering Doctors. Having just recently watched "The Three Doctors" I was loving Panda's recap of his own personal "Three Pandas" experience: 

"There are two other Panda's here! One is much younger and far more frivolous than I, and the other seems to be terribly old and venerable. He didn't even make it through the Event Horizon or whatever, and we can only see him on Skype, thank goodness. Looks like he might smell of wee, TBH."

With loving jabs at everything from lost footage to negotiating with an over-sized scrotum (I call him penis face, but to each his own), to the "penultimate question," to a hilarious party where Panda messes with Ngaio Marsh saying that in the future nobody knows who Agatha Christie is but was later interrupted by a giant wasp, from the Hartnell years up to the present series, each and every joke and insight made me want to just embrace this slim volume and never let it go! Also, this book with a nod and a wink brings up the fact that, just perhaps, The Doctor has been taking all of Iris's best stories and claiming them as his own...

This book gave me faith in the show again. This past season with Matt Smith where I kept feeling that the material never lived up to the potential was nicely recapped as "I think she's got her knickers in a twist recently because of the convoluted story arc she's muddled up in. Feeling a bit mithered as a result." After reading and living life as a full time Whovian for the past few weeks I was feeling the same, I was flagging there, but this book brought me back. It refreshed me and made me so happy, which I have to say, some days that's a hard thing to do. If you aren't a Doctor Who fan... and I do know you're out there, will you be able to enjoy this book? Hell yes, even if you don't get all the context, the content is beyond a doubt hysterical. With Pand R being like an annoying Scrappy Doo and little jokes about Philippa Gregory, it does work outside the sphere of Doctor Who. From Wildthyme with Love is wonderfully funny, snarky, and just lovely.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rest in Peace Barry Jackson

Today the Whoverse lost one of it's own. Barry Jackson who shared the screen opposite the 1st Doctor in "The Romans" and "Galaxy 4" serials, and the 4th Doctor in "The Armageddon Factor" passed away today. Though plying his trade on numerous shows Barry is perhaps best known for his portrayal of another Doctor, Doctor George Bullard on Midsomer Murders. Appearing in over 75 episodes he was a linchpin of the series since the pilot and the death of the Rainbirds. Staying on for a mere four episodes after the Barnaby switch he was missed on the show more then I could imagine until today. Join me in a toast to a consummate actor who knew how to deliver one line to such perfection that he would steal the whole episode. To Barry!

Book Review - Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 11th, 2008
Format: Kindle, 684 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

It is hard to grasp that a little boy who grew up in a tribal setting in South Africa would become the driving force to eliminate apartheid and would subsequently become the president of South Africa, and a man who changed history and shaped the 20th century. Nelson Mandela was fortunate in that he was allowed access by a flawed system to an education, an education that he would then use to dismantle that very system. There is no ambiguity that Mandela and his struggles symbolized freedom to the world and to South Africa. He was a great man. But being a great man doesn't translate to being a great writer. To me, the reason to read is for enjoyment and entertainment, and yes, education. But I like my knowledge presented to me in an engaging fashion. Therefore nonfiction has never been my genre of choice. The fact of the matter is life doesn't necessarily have a narrative. Life has a beginning, a middle, and an end, that is true. But not every life is worth or worthy of a book. Great historical figures, as well as annoying celebrities, are an exception.

Yet to have a biography or autobiography there needs to be more then this beginning, middle, and end. There needs to be insight as to how that time was filled. As a reader I didn't want just a dry telling of the facts, I wanted to know Mandela's feelings. I wanted to know his beliefs, his loves, his despair at spending 27 years of his life incarcerated. His feelings when Winnie went a little crazy, instead of a press release. This is what I desired, and instead I got brief glimpses of his life amid a struggle with no narrative, nothing to grab you and make you feel invested in his journey. Just a dry telling of the facts and figures that would make a statistician cry from sheer boredom. Flat, emotionless writing with so many names and acronyms, I wasn't sure if I could finish the book without loosing my mind.

To be fair, I will say that I was fairly ignorant of what the history in South Africa was, I kind of dropped that African history class in undergrad due to surly students and an indifferent TA that reminded me of Eric Stoltz. I did work on the play "Master Harold"... and the Boys about institutionalized bigotry and racism in Port Elizabeth during apartheid, but I can honestly say I don't remember anything about it other then how long it took me to paint that set. Therefore learning more about this time did hold some fascination for me and also underscored the fact that the world will basically turn a blind eye if you're killing your own people, Pol Pot, Stalin, early Hitler. But the fact that the government was just as bad if not worse then Nazi Germany and that this lasted not just a few decades but for almost an entire century is staggering. The travel bans, the pass books, the government did everything they could to push down the natives. The fact that the government was Boer, aka the Dutch who came and settled in South Africa, who are most known for that lovely Boer War, has made me draw the conclusion that the Boers are Bastards... I think this would make a catchy bumper sticker, don't you? Or Afrikaners suck. Your choice.

This is the world that Mandela grew up in. I liked that we saw his journey and how he questioned things. He thinks like I do in some respects. If he didn't know about something he would go out and find out everything about it before making a decision. He'd read and read and read till he came to his own conclusions. But this was a bit lugubrious to read about his reading. I don't want to be doing battle with my books. Really I don't. I take a certain glee in writing the reviews later... but that doesn't make up for the previous torture the book has inflicted on me. What I wouldn't have given for maybe a little bit about his family, his feelings about not being there for them instead of a day by day breakdown of one of his trials that lasted years, but felt like millennia. While nothing makes up for the life he lost locked behind prison walls, I can definitively say that I felt every single year he was locked away with him. 

With this book there is also a final question to be asked. How much did this book sanitize Mandela's image? The book was rushed to publication for his taking office as president with the help of his co-author, not, in my mind, ghostwriter as some have said, if it was ghostwritten, it would have been actually better written, so therefore, what was tweaked? What was taken out and what was kept in? In fact many people believe that Mandela was chosen as the image for anti-apartheid because his hands we clean. While he advocated the taking up of arms, he himself didn't.

There were little things in the book that disturbed me, such as his having a picture on the wall of the winter palace to commemorate the uprising that killed the Tsar and his family. How could anyone want to hang on their wall a reminder of the death of innocent children? Even if you are a communist, seriously? No. Just no. He also worshipped Castro, which recent articles have said wasn't talked about in the book, I just think they didn't finish the fifty million page opus of dullness, because Mandela clearly states his admiration of him. There are just so many thoughts spinning in my head about using one bad political model to fight another one... I just want to clear my head, get ride of the lugubriousness of this text, wipe away the cobwebs and have a real author come in and write about Mandela. With his passing I want a truly great writer of biographies to come along and do justice for Mandela, and maybe find a little bit of the truth... or at least don't varnish over things like Winnie.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review - Paul Magrs's Wildthyme Beyond!

Wildthyme Beyond! by Paul Magrs
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: April 1st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 431 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The journey to Hyspero of Iris Wildthyme and her compatriots isn't going exactly to plan. Not only have they spent too much time driving across the desert, but now they are separated. Iris and Panda have ended up with a dragon in an underground city that eerily links to Iris's past, while everyone else, including their nemesis Anthony Marvelle, has ended up in the clutches of the Scarlet Empress. Yet all these setbacks are nothing compared to the fact that their journey has the unexpected consequence of knocking them a few degrees into fictionality. Back on Earth, Simon and Kelly are no longer real people just characters being written about by the writer Terry and devoured by fans such as Sammy. From Iris's long forgotten past to Panda's future, Kelly's musing as a little girl, and the fandom that has built itself around Iris, life is going to get far more complicated before it can get back to normal... whatever that is. Hopefully there will be a bar stocked with gin and tonic to get them through it all.

While a book about a transdimenisal adventuress is perhaps not the most straightforward of narratives, with time and space in flux, the interweaving of the stories, while at times confusing, was still able to cut to the quick of the matter and through everything form this nostalgic bond that had me thinking about books I read as a kid and all the different worlds I imagined. Iris's past as Lilith in the Clockworks and Kelly's childhood stories are this amazing mash-up of Oz and Narnia with a bit of Edward Eager and some Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was instantly transported back to daydreams of travelling to other worlds and places, many of which I believed to be behind my parents bedroom mirror. But Paul is able to take these memories and add an edge, a little something other that appeals to the slight bitterness that memories get over time. It isn't pure nostalgia, which is there, but nostalgia plus. Like when they made Return to Oz into a slightly darker fairy tale with inserting the fact that Oz is perhaps all in Dorothy's mind and she needed a little electroshock therapy.

In Iris's youth in the scary house in the wasteland where she is held by three aunts is the perfect example of this enhancement. Instantly the gardens and the remoteness bring to mind The Secret Garden, a book I have a bit of a love hate relationship with, yet Paul goes beyond this. The aunts and the deadly wasteland make it a dystopian world where the aunts, who I envision as the three bitter Bronte sisters, sit up in their room while their ward is only allowed outside if covered from head to toe in protective gear, like Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Just this imagery makes me want this small section of the book filmed as a short by Tim Burton. I connected so deeply with this backstory that I was more then a little disappointed when it ended on a rooftop in New York city... but at least Andy Warhol was there to comfort me and Iris.

Though it was the Iris fandom that I think perhaps I relate to most in the here and now. With the theme of nostalgia so strong in Wildthyme Beyond! I started to ask myself what exactly is the reason we become part of a fandom. The answer is nostalgia in many cases. I became a Whovian because not only is the show an amazing show but I have history and a connection to it. I seriously get sentimental even thinking about Doctor Who! The same happens when I think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly... I come over all wistful. Yet again, Paul doesn't sugarcoat it. While it's a parody in a sense of his own life and his own interactions with fans and the Whoverse, there is also a love there. This is the fandom, warts and all, and more then a little meta. The uber fan Sammy and his mint copies who geeks out at the smallest thing, the writer in it just for the money... the Iris Wildthyme convention! Paul gets us fans because he is one of them, one of us.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In 1895 San Francisco young debutantes don’t commit suicide at festive parties, particularly not under the eye of Sabina Carpenter. But Virginia St. Ives evidently did, leaping from a foggy parapet in a shimmer of ghostly light. The seemingly impossible disappearance of her body creates an even more serious problem for the firm of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services.

Sabina hadn’t wanted to take the assignment, but her partner John Quincannon insisted it would serve as entrĂ©e to the city’s ultra rich and powerful. That means money, and Quincannon loves the almighty dollar. Which is why he is hunting the bandit who robbed the Wells, Fargo office of $35,000.

Working their separate cases (while Sabina holds John off with one light hand), the detectives give readers a tour of The City the way it was. From the infamous Barbary Coast to the expensive Tenderloin gaming houses and brothels frequented by wealthy men, Quincannon follows a danger-laden trail to unmask the murderous perpetrators of the Wells, Fargo robbery. Meanwhile, Sabina works her wiles on friends and relatives of the vanished debutante until the pieces of her puzzle start falling into place. But it’s an oddly disguised gent appearing out of nowhere who provides the final clue to both cases—the shrewd “crackbrain” who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes.

Fans of Marcia’s Muller’s bestselling Sharon McCone novels and Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective series will applaud The Spook Lights Affair and future exploits from the annals of Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services."

Just reading the description I get goosebumps!

Billionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle
Published by: Berkley Hardcover
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, ? Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The New York Times bestselling author of Holiday Buzz serves readers a fresh new Coffeehouse Mystery.

Includes a wealth of delicious recipes!

Landmark coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi has served her share of New York's rich and famous, but even she is surprised by her explosive introduction to a mysterious Internet billionaire….

When a car bomb nearly kills the charming young tech whiz Eric Thorner, Clare comes to his aid and receives a priceless thank you. Not only does the billionaire buy her a barista's dream espresso machine, he hires her for an extraordinary project: creating the world's most expensive coffee blend. The police arrest Eric's alleged attacker, yet death continues to surround the unlucky mogul, leading Clare to question whether the lethal events are premeditated or merely freak accidents. Clare's boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, has a theory of his own--one Clare refuses to believe. Meanwhile, Eric jets Clare around the world on a head-spinning search for the very best coffee, and Clare gets to know his world--a mesmerizing circle of money with rivalries that could easily have turned deadly. But is this mysterious young CEO truly marked for termination? Or is he the one making a killing?"

This one's for Paul, who I know is addicted to this series, which led me to finally order the first book, and I don't even drink any coffee beverage!

Something About Harry by Dakota Cassidy
Published by: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2013
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From national bestselling author Dakota Cassidy comes the latest in the series that "gets better and better with each book." (Bitten by Books)

He’s in a furry situation.

Accountant Harry Ralph Emerson has always been a by-the-numbers kind of guy. But when he finds himself trapped at work sprouting an obscene amount of hair, he knows his odds for maintaining normalcy are zero to none. After a frantic internet search, Harry goes through the OOPS—Out in the Open Paranormal Support—checklist and comes to a disheartening conclusion: He’s turning into a werewolf and he needs help ASAP.

She might be the only solution.

Werewolf Mara Flaherty has long carried a torch for Pack Cosmetics’s sexy single accountant, even after her attempt to seduce him went down in flames. When her sister-in-law, Marty, shows up to handle Harry’s OOPS emergency, she tasks Mara with showing the hirsute hottie the ropes. But Mara knows Harry’s condition is a result of her lab experiment gone wrong—and the previously mild-mannered object of her affection is about to give her a piece of his mind…"

Pure supernatural fun!

Barely Bewitched by Kimberly Frost
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2013
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Welcome to Duvall, Texas, where Tammy Jo Trask has just unleashed an accidental Armageddon.

When Tammy Jo's misfiring magic attracts the attention of the World Association of Magic, a wand-wielding wizard and a menacing fire warlock show up to train her for a dangerous—and mandatory—challenge. But is there more to their arrival than they claim?

The town comes unglued when a curse leads to a toxic spill of pixie dust and the doors between the human and faery worlds begin to open. To rescue the town and to face the challenge, Tammy needs help from the incredibly handsome Bryn Lyons, but the association known as WAM has declared him totally off-limits…"

Have I mentioned lately how much better these new covers are? Because damn! They are so much better!

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