Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sunday Post #21/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we're in the Christmas season now!  I hope everyone in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving and that everyone had a good start to the holiday season.

I'm getting back into reading mode with some new acquisitions, that should revitalize my enthusiasm a bit. Starting the week off fresh with some new stuff...

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG 

Review: The Castafiore Emerald
Movie review: Thor The Dark World
Giveaway: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Sunday Post #20/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

CURRENTLY READING

The Vanishing Thief (Victorian Bookshop Mystery, #1)

COMING DOWN THE PIKE 

Dangerous Women Ready Player One

Dangerous Women is the big new anthology edited by George RR Martin. Among other things it contains a new GRRM novella set in Westeros, detailing the Dance of the Dragons, a Targaryen succession set a couple hundred years before the current story. Think Game of Thrones only with dragons... big dragons.

Ready Player One was an impulse buy, I've heard good things about it so I'm giving it a shot.

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

Woman uses stun gun at brawl on Black Friday. Hey shopping is fun again!!

Travel posters for Game of Thrones, Star Wars and LotR. There's a couple of these I want...

Lady Sif visits a childrens hospital. Cool pics.

Here are 10 promotional Star Wars Episode VII posters that are probably way cooler than what we'll actually see.

So how was your week?

Review: The Castafiore Emerald

The Castafiore Emerald

The Castafiore Emerald is unique in the Tintin canon because it takes place entirely at Marlinspike Hall, the estate of Captain Haddock. Most of the entries in this series are globe- trotting affairs, with Tintin and his companions having all manner of adventures in various exotic locales. Here the adventure comes to Tintin and Haddock for a change- but its more a comedy of errors than an adventure at times. After the events of Tintin in Tibet (see my review here), Tintin and Captain Haddock are relaxing at Marlinspike. They're out for a walk one morning when they spy a gypsy camp near a landfill. They soon discover that the gypsies, who are looked down upon by the communities they pass through, have been forbidden to camp anywhere other than the landfill. Haddock, offended by this, offers to let them camp on his property near a stream.

Returning to the house, Tintin and Haddock soon discover they are about to have a houseguest- Bianca Castafiore, the opera diva and nemesis of Haddock. Chaos ensues when Bianca descends upon the house, bringing with her an entourage, her jewels which she constantly misplaces, and a bevy of gossipy journalists who snoop about the grounds. The plot gets zany from there, with a broken step, an obnoxious parrot, and of course a missing emerald- the crown jewel of Bianca's collection. There is no shortage of suspects, and of course the gypsies are suspect as well, but the truth turns out to be a little more complicated than that!

This installment of the series is interesting because, as mentioned earlier, all the action takes place at Marlinspike. It's a nice change of pace from the travel- heavy nature of the previous volumes, and there are enough red herrings that you almost certainly will not guess the identity of the jewel thief. Most of the supporting cast makes an appearance at one point or another, and this makes for some interesting (and often quite humorous) reading. The ridiculously hard of hearing Professor Calculus is also staying at the mansion, and Thompson and Thomson, the bumbling detectives, inevitably make an appearance when the emerald goes missing. Even Jolyon Wagg, the dapper insurance salesman, makes an appearance. Herge pokes a little fun at the journalistic excesses of celebrity culture, and also touches on the social stigma endured by gypsies. This is a fun adventure with madcap humor and the usual goofy plot developments. This episode takes place after Tintin in Tibet but as with most of the Tintin books, this can be read as a standalone with no problem.




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thor: The Dark World movie review


Well I finally went out and saw Thor: The Dark World. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one, so my expectations were high- perhaps too high. This will be a spoiler-y post so if you have not seen the movie yet, just a heads- up. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the movie, so please feel free to comment and let me know what you liked or didn't like. How does this one stack up with the other Marvel movies we've seen thus far? 

The movie started out on a mixed note with me. The seemingly obligatory prologue sets up the conflict and shows us what happened ages ago. I didn’t care for this, these prologues where we’re introduced to the big bad guy seem so chintzy to me with their growling and blustering about vengeance or returning the universe to darkness or whatever. Yawn. I know this is a comic book movie, but come on. Does that mean the script has to automatically suck? Also the sight of dark elves shooting laser cannons immediately felt jarring to me, dark elves and Asgardians fighting to me conjures up images of swords and shields, and sure there is some of that, but it just felt off. Anyway moving on.

We then segue to Sif and the Warriors Three fighting some… bad guys. Whoever they are. Doesn’t really matter. Thor shows up to help out and we have a bit of humor. Pretty good. So I’m thinking OK this is getting better. This happened a lot for me in this movie- I’d see a scene I didn’t like, then something a little better came along. Kind of a yo- yo effect. There were never really any wow moments though- nothing that blew me away, like in Avengers with those prolonged action sequences in the helicarrier and in New York.



Chris Hemsworth is fine as Thor and Tom Hiddleston is, of course, great as Loki. Many people have said Loki steals all the scenes he's in, and I agree with that for the most part. Maybe I was expecting him to be MORE awesome given all the hype, but I didn't really think he had that much to do. He sat in a cell for a large chunk of the movie, then he gets out, commiserates with Thor for a bit and they fight together. I was like, that's it? This movie needed way more Loki and way less, or better yet NONE of, Malekith and those silly dark elves.


Things I liked:

Sif. More Sif please. I don’t know what the Odinson sees in Jane Foster, I mean Natalie Portman is fine in the role, but Sif is where its at.


More Volstagg- yeah he’s not the blundering oaf with a heart of gold from the comics, but he’s good here and has a bit of charisma. He did a fine job.



The Thor/ Loki show- yeah that’s the saving grace of this picture. In fact from all the build- up I thought there would be more. Having watched the trailer and TV spots, I really had seen all the best lines already- another classic case of the trailers showing the best of the movie.


Frigga- kicked Malekith’s ass. Too bad she didn’t take him out right there- would have saved me from watching this super lame-o villain for another hour or so.


The end scene after the credits- the second one. Not because Thor came back to Jane, but because of the snowbeast (or whatever it was) that everyone forgot about, tromping around London chasing birds. I thought that was a hoot actually.  

Things I didn’t like:

Malekith and the whole dark elves thing. Again the script- the bad guy goes on about restoring the universe to darkness and so on. Why? Who knows. Totally one dimensional, I did not feel anything for the villain at all. The best villains are those where you kinda think “I can kinda see the guys point, but man he’s so nasty” or whatever. Here- just bad guy. Just because.

Odin- he was OK I guess, but not very effective at protecting Asgard. Less of him and more of Frigga I say.

Grim Hogun- or is it happy Hogun? In the comics Hogun never smiles, hence the name. Always carries a mace, a big one with little knobby things on it- probably hurts when he bonks you with it. They really should get these details right. Sorry, I'm fanboy-ing a bit here... sadly, Hogun was absent almost the entire movie. Why?

    
The Aether- just a McGuffin, an all- powerful one maybe, but just a lame plot device. I think its hard to keep track of what Marvel is trying to do here- they're obviously teasing the Infinity Gems but are the Aether and the Tesseract supposed to be Gems? Apparently they are. 

The end scene with The Collector- I can see why the director of this movie very publicly distanced himself from that. I wouldn't want to be associated with it either. Terrible. 

We never get to see Thor really cut loose- not really. He needs to be bringing the thunder and lightning on somebody's ass a bit more. OK so that's a totally fanboy comment again- I'm not really fourteen, but come on use his abilities a bit, ya know? Is that too much to ask??

So on balance what did I think? If I had to grade it I would say a "C". Strictly pedestrian, nothing really wowed me- in fact I was pretty disappointed. Long stretches of ho- hum punctuated by a few promising scenes, but I just could not get excited about this movie. Marginally better than Iron Man 3, but not even in the same league as The Avengers.

What do you think?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giveaway: The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)

I have a brand new copy of The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason for giveaway (US residents only, sorry). This book was a lot of fun with elements of steampunk, mystery, mythology and more. You can find my review here. Enter to win and best of luck!

From Goodreads:

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Post #20/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

This has been a pretty good week !

I'm sorta at a crossroads on the reading front at the moment- after my current read I don't have any books set in stone to read next. I have books I kinda want to read, but not anything I'm super excited about. What is everyone else reading?

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG

Review: Tintin in Tibet by Herge

Sunday Post #19/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

THIS WEEK ON THE BLOG 

Review: The Castafiore Emerald (Adventures of Tintin)
Giveaway: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

CURRENTLY READING 

Love Saves the Day: A Novel

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

Cary Elwes is writing a Princess Bride memoir-woo that should be fun. As You Wish: Tales from the Princess Bride. Due next fall. There's a nice pic of Cary and Robin Wright at that link as well.

The New Republic has a nice interview with Neil Gaiman.

Here's a Concept Art Writing challenge: Safari Inside a Bookstore. Check it out and see what it inspires in you.

Here's an underwater hotel room where you can sleep with the fishes- literally! The Manta Resort website here for your viewing pleasure.

New on blu-ray: Night of the Comet. Cause everyone's been waiting for this one! Valley girls vs. zombies- what's not to like? From USAToday.

How was your week?





Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Tintin in Tibet

Tintin in Tibet

Tintin in Tibet by Herge (1907-1983) is the 20th book in the Tintin series. Tintin is an intrepid Belgian reporter who has a knack for solving mysteries and getting involved in all kinds of capers. Often accompanied on his adventures by Captain Haddock, an old sailor who likes his whiskey, and his dog, the always irrepressible Snowy, Tintin travels around the world solving mysteries and encountering new cultures. This volume begins with Tintin vacationing in the Alps when news reaches him of a plane crash. Tintin's friend Chang was en route to Europe when his plane crashed in the Himalayas. No survivors were reported, but Tintin is sure his friend is alive. He promptly decides to mount a rescue expedition, and with a reluctant Haddock in tow, they set off for the mysterious East.

Arriving in Katmandu, various hijinks ensue as they strive to hire a guide to take them into the mountains. Eventually meeting success, they set off but are soon beset by various setbacks, including strange calls in the night that may be a yeti and nervous porters. When they find the scene of the plane crash the fun really begins, as Tintin is separated from the rest of the group and finds evidence that Chang may just be alive after all. The usual shenanigans ensue, including avalanches, a stop at a secluded monastery, and a game of cat and mouse with an elusive yeti who has also taken an interest in young Chang. Its all good fun and a genuine pleasure to read.



The artwork as always is crisp and clean, and a delight to look at. Herge would express a lot of the story through facial expressions, and if you watch the art carefully you will discover nuances to the story you might otherwise miss. Herge was a pen name for Georges Prosper Remi, a well known Belgian cartoonist. I've heard it said that this was Herge's favorite of Tintin's adventures, and was somewhat personal for him as he had lost touch with a Chinese friend of his own whom he had collaborated with on The Blue Lotus years earlier. The Tintin series comprises 23 volumes, written over the decades between Tintin's first appearance in 1929 and 1983, and they are readily available in various formats. I like the oversized softcover versions myself, the art is much more enjoyable that way because of the size. A delightful series, and this is one of my favorite installments.

Tintin has a great supporting cast- besides Haddock and Snowy, there are the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson, who tend to finish each others sentences and cause all manner of chaos, Professor Calculus who is a bit hard of hearing, often with hilarious results, and Bianca Castafiore, an opera singer of the highest caliber and the nemesis of Haddock. These supporting players come and go depending on which installment you're reading, and there are others, but they're the core of the series. This particular book only has Haddock and Snowy, however. Its a little more tightly focused than some of the others in the series, given the locale and the nature of their quest.





Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Post #19/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This was a pretty good week. I didn't get a lot of reading in, but early in the week I did the HoHoHo Read-a-thon and that was fun. I read two books for that and won the Creative Writing challenge at Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and More. If you haven't read the stories you should check out her blog, the stories themselves or the links are on her site and they're all a lot of fun. Mine is here. Thanks to Melissa for hosting that.

In other news, I still have not seen the Thor movie yet. Real life keeps interfering with a trip to the theater, but I've been seeing some reviews popping up on blogs and it sounds fun. Anybody seen it, and if so what are your thoughts?

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG

  Review: The Bridge
HoHoHo Read-a-thon Wrap Up
Christmas Story/ HoHoHo Read-a-thon Writing Challenge
Sunday Post #18/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?




ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE


 Here's the Divergent trailer too, which everyone has probably already seen. This also looks good, although I have not read the books so what do I know? Definetly curious though...




Which classic novel did you quit reading? There are a lot of interesting choices here, the comments are wide ranging. This is heavily focused on science fiction/ fantasy but there are some classics represented as well. Check it out.

Inside the house of Beorn, from the new Hobbit movie. Includes a behind-the-scenes video that is kind of interesting, for all you Hobbit people out there.

The cat has been recast! In Hunger Games that is...

So how was your week?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury is a heartwarming story about lost love, redemption and second chances. Ryan  Kelly and Molly Allen feel an immediate connection when they first see each other at their college orientation. They eventually meet and become fast friends- but even though they have feelings for each other, they never take their relationship to the next level. Ryan has a girlfriend back in Carthage, Mississippi and Molly has always been expected to come back to California after college and take over her father’s corporation. Ryan and Molly become inseparable, and spend much of their time together at a local bookstore called The Bridge.

The bookstore is a fixture in downtown Franklin Tennessee, and is run by Charlie and Donna Barton. The Bartons were not able to have children after Donna had a serious miscarriage, but they embrace the community and consider their customers their family. Eventually Ryan and Molly come to terms with their feelings for each other, and they share a kiss- a special, life changing kiss. Surely they are meant to be together- but something happens, something neither of them could have foreseen, and a love that looked so promising is in danger of falling by the wayside.

That is seven years in the past though, and Ryan and Molly have separate lives now. He is a guitarist for a country band and she runs a foundation in the Northwest. Charlie and Donna, the owners of the Bridge, have fallen on hard times. The bookstore was a labor of love, never lucrative, and when a devastating flood runs the store, all seems lost for the Bartons.  Then tragedy strikes, and Ryan and Molly are brought back together to face not only the challenge of saving the Bridge, but also each other.

The Bridge is told from the viewpoints of Ryan and Molly, as well as Charlie and Donna. We see the joys and fears, the triumphs and despair faced by these four people as they navigate the course their lives have taken. I liked this book, its not my usual kind of read but it was inspiring and poignant. It’s a story of second chances and love that stands the test of time. The Bridge is unabashedly a Christian novel, and has a very strong faith message. It can be a bit dramatic, and I rolled my eyes a few times when the characters made decisions that seemed designed to prolong the drama, but by and large this is a good story with an inspiring message.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

HoHoHo Read-a-thon Wrap Up

HoHoHo Holiday Read-a-Thon

Well the HoHoHo Read-a-thon (or HO3 Rat- sorry Kimba) has come and gone. This read-a-thon was a lot of fun. It's only the third one I've done but this time I did some challenges and even hit a Twitter party. I set a goal of 3 books but unfortunately one was not out yet so I only read two. Yeah good planning there. :)

I was happy though with the two I got through, given that other things were going on and reading time was limited. I didn't visit as many blogs as I would have liked but I'll keep working on that. :) A big shout out to Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Jennifer at Bawdy Book Blog for hosting this- great job you guys! You made it a lot of fun.

Thanks to the "elves" who put up the challenges too- I wanted to do all of them but ran out of time. I did the word scramble challenge at Rainy Day Ramblings (tough!) and then I did the creative writing challenge at Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and More.  You can read my entry here if you wish. It's a  short little tale of a kitty's first Christmas and a strange visitor, and I had a lot of fun with it. And... I just saw this morning that I won! How about that? Thanks Melissa (and Truffles!).

Here's what I read.

The Bridge A Fatal Waltz (Lady Emily, #3)

The Bridge is a fairly short little read, perfect for a night in by the fire while the wind is blustering outside. It's a nice story about two people who are in love but things conspire to keep them apart, and what happens when they come back together seven years later. It's set against the backdrop of a beloved bookstore, where they spent many happy hours together in college, but which has now fallen on hard times. My review for The Bridge should be up in a day or so. Its not my usual style of read, I actually bought it last year (it looked cheery) but never read it, so this seemed like a good time. If you like inspirational fiction this might be your cup of tea.

A Fatal Waltz is a bit different- this is the third of the Lady Emily series and is a mystery set in London and Vienna. My review for A Fatal Waltz is here. Recommended for fans of the Lady Emily series and those who like historical fiction in general.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christmas Story/ HoHoHo Read-a-thon Story Challenge

Here's a little Christmas story I threw together for the HoHoHo Read-a-thon reading challenge over at Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and More. I thought this challenge was a great idea and was a lot of fun.
Please see Melissa's site for the rules of the challenge and for other good stuff. Enjoy!

CHRISTMAS EVE WITH TRUFFLES

Christmas Eve found Truffles sleeping contentedly on the bed of her human. She was a young kitty, and new to the family, so all this Christmas stuff was new too. The twinkling lights, the presents under the tree with the irresistible bows and  wrapping paper, the ornaments on the tree… and the tree itself! What a wondrous thing- Truffles still remembered the day it came in from outdoors, snowy and smelling like wild things, and all the boxes and tissue paper everywhere as ornaments were unwrapped and placed on the tree. That had been a fascinating night! Lots of boxes to crawl into… too bad they had to be put away all too soon. Phooey!

Truffles was having little kitty dreams when something woke her. An odd noise- she listened for a moment, then put her head back down. There it was again- a thump from above. That was strange- it almost sounded like something was on the roof. What on earth could be moving around up there in the middle of the night? After thinking about it for a few moments, she decided to investigate. It was time for a bite to eat anyway.

As she jumped silently down from her human’s bed and padded into the living room, she saw Whisper curled up in one of the living room chairs by the tree. Whisper, her older sister and queen of the house. Whisper (so named because her meows were so quiet) had been here for years before Truffles arrived, but they got along well from the start. Truffles suspected that Whisper had been lonely and was only too glad to have some proper feline company in the house again… apparently her sister had gone away in one of those ridiculous cat boxes after falling ill, and had not come home.

Whisper was an old hand at this Christmas stuff- she had been around this block a few times. She sniffed disdainfully at Truffles’ fascination with boxes and loose tissue paper, and maintained her dignity at all times- but Truffles wasn’t fooled. She had caught Whisper just the other night tearing through the living room, batting a stray ornament around like she was a young’un, and looking decidedly undignified the whole time. Truffles had rather enjoyed watching her gallivant all over the house- apparently the old girl still had some moves left after all. Of course after Whisper was done, Truffles had to have a go at the ornament herself… until she batted it down the basement stairs and heard a tinkling crash. Oops.

Whisper watched with one eye open as Truffles made her way through the living room towards the kitchen. She passed the little card table with its saucer of milk and Christmas cookies- that had been odd, she thought, that they had left an unusual snack like that out. Her and Whisper had promptly lapped the milk up as soon as the humans were asleep, of course, but the cookies… nah. Not really her thing. Now as she approached her food bowl she heard something again- a rustling noise from the living room. Turning back, she saw Whisper now fully awake and quite alert. There it was again- something or someone was in the living room. At this time of night?

Peeking around the corner she saw movement by the tree. One of the little humans? No they were all fast asleep, she was sure. And the kids didn’t have pointed ears and wear red and green- nor did they have little bells that tinkled when they moved. This was something altogether different. This little creature was busy stuffing things into the stockings hanging from the fireplace, and there was a sack by the fireplace bulging with what looked like presents. The creature turned away from the stockings, rubbed his little hands together as if pleased, then went to the sack and began removing presents, placing them under the tree carefully. Truffles wondered if there was one for her…

Once the presents were placed, the strange little creature turned toward the fireplace- but then turned back and with a little smile approached the card table. Whisper rose as he got closer and arched her back, but she held her ground- this was her home, after all. The pointy-eared stranger just smiled at her, reached out a tiny hand and stroked her behind the ear, then turned his attention to the Christmas cookies on the tray. He looked them over, picked one, took a bite, and then apparently satisfied, stuffed the rest into his mouth. The other two he slipped into a little satchel he was carrying. “For later, you understand,” he said to Whisper.

Truffles moved closer, cautiously, and the little creature turned to look at her. “Hello, shy one,” he said pleasantly. His voice was like a bird chirping and yet not at the same time. Truffles wondered if this could possibly be the “Santy Claus” she always heard her little humans chattering on about. She thought he would be… plumper, somehow. As if reading her thoughts he shook his head and said, “No, I’m afraid I’m just one of the helpers. The old man had a few too many cookies on the first few stops, and ‘afore long he don’t fit down the chimney no more. So it falls to the rest of us to do the work while he sips hot chocolate up top.” He cocked his head towards the ceiling with a wry smile. “Happens ev’ry year…”

“Well I best be off… the night is still young and we got lots more stops yet. Tally ho, you two.” And with that the little man swept off his cap, gave a low bow, and waddled over to the chimney. Grabbing his sack he turned and waved, then he was gone in a rush of air up the chimney.

Truffles could see that Christmas was a little more peculiar than she had realized. She glanced at Whisper, who gave the feline equivalent of a shrug and proceeded to make herself comfortable, turning around in her chair several times before laying down and going back to sleep. Truffles decided to go have that snack, and had just reached her bowl when she heard muffled voices from the roof, and then a long thumping noise like something was being dragged across the roof. Then it was gone, though she saw snow drifting down outside the kitchen window, no doubt disturbed by whatever was going on up there. Strange, Truffles thought as she padded back to the bedroom. Certainly more to this Christmas than meets the eye. She wondered what else was going to happen. But a deep silence settled back over the house as she leapt onto the bed and found a spot on top of one of her humans’ feet. Lots of time for a good sleep before morning, she thought drowsily. After all, the night was still young.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sunday Post #18 / It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This has been a busy week, lots of stuff going on.

I also joined the HoHoHo Read-a-thon and have been trying to get through a couple of books for that. It's been a lot of fun and I even got a challenge in. Yay for me! And... I wrote a short little story for the HoHoHo Read-a-thon Writing Challenge over at Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and More. You can see the story here- let me know what you think!

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOG

Review: A Fatal Waltz 
Guest Post Review: Whatever After Dream On
HoHoHo Read-a-thon StartUp
Teaser Tuesday #18
It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

THIS WEEK ON THE BLOG 
Christmas Story/ HoHoHo Read-a-thon Writing Challenge
HoHoHo Read-a-thon WrapUp
Review: The Bridge

CURRENTLY READING

The Bridge

ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE

From io9:

This is kinda goofy. Jurassic Park in Brooklyn.

Behind the scenes of the new Hobbit movie.

Speaking of The Hobbit, here's the 3 min trailer for the new movie.








Review: A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz (Lady Emily, #3)

A Fatal Waltz is the third of the Lady Emily books by Tasha Alexander. Emily is a young woman of means, recently widowed, in London. She is in love with Colin Hargreaves, a dashing gentleman who is an agent for the crown, and they became engaged at the end of the last book. Their romance has been a tough one and its about to get tougher in this book. This one opens with Emily and Colin as guests at the estate of Lord Fortescue, a close advisor to the queen and the most powerful man in England. He does not approve of Emily, due to her interest in antiquities and her penchant for doing “unladylike” things. The feeling is mutual as Fortescue is not a very nice guy, has a penchant for blackmailing people and is more feared than admired.

Emily and Colin are among other guests at a party being held Lord Fortescue, and also present is the Austrian countess Kristiana von Lange, a colleague- and former lover- of Colin’s. The intrigue starts immediately, with Kristiana being WAY too forward with Colin and Fortescue trying his best to split up Emily and Colin. Emily is approached by another gentleman, who has noticed the friction between her and Fortescue, and asks her to help him steal some documents that could be vital to state security. This leads to a hornet’s nest of trouble for Emily, but the story really kicks into gear when Fortescue is found murdered. Robert Brandon, the husband of Emily’s friend Ivy becomes the prime suspect since he had quarreled with Fortescue prior to the murder. Emily knows he didn’t do it  and endeavors to clear his name and solve the mystery.

Emily’s quest to clear Brandon’s name will take her to Vienna, where she soon makes the acquaintance of anarchist Gustav Schroder. Schroder may have links to the events that took place in England, and Emily has to tread very carefully. Between Kristiana, Schroder and a ruthless enemy who has followed her from England, she has her hands full and gets into all kinds of trouble. She tries desperately to clear Brandon’s name- but no one is playing nice and her and Colin soon find themselves enmeshed in a very dangerous game.  
I liked this installment of the series a lot. It takes place at Christmas time but Emily and her friends get very little time to celebrate, given all the intrigue going on. My only real complaint about the Lady Emily mysteries is that they seem to get wrapped up a little too tidily, everything seems to fall into place a little too conveniently. I noticed that in the last book and again this time. However the ride is fun and engaging, and the characters are a lot of fun, so its easily overlooked. The danger level in this one is ratcheted up quite a bit, I never really thought Emily was in much danger in the first two books, but she is here. The villain of the story is quite ruthless and Emily barely escapes with her life at one point. I liked that the stakes were higher here, definetly more suspenseful than the first two books.

This book can be read as a standalone, it is not necessary to have read the first two to enjoy it, although I think its best to read them in order since the characters are so familiar by this book that it adds a lot of depth to the story. There’s a lot to like here if you like character drama- the burgeoning relationship between Emily’s butler Davis and Cecile’s maid Odette and the continuing presence of Cecile, Emily’s friend from Paris. Emily’s mother occasionally shows up, and is invariably hilarious, stealing every scene she shows up in. This is a fun series and highly recommended if you like this genre at all. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ho Ho Ho Read-a-thon

HoHoHo Holiday Read-a-Thon

Hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Jennifer at Bawdy Book Blog.

Well we're in November now and the holidays are right around the corner. Every year around this time I start to see Christmas- themed books in the stores, and I start getting in the Christmas mood. This year is no exception! So this read-a-thon is coming at a good time! I've got a few goodies I'm looking forward to, here is my initial pick of books to read.

The Bridge

Thanks to Kimba and Jennifer for hosting this. Should be lots of fun!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesday # 18 / Waiting on Wednesday # 15



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"Who am I to deny you amusement? Particularly as we've no unattached ladies at this party with whom you can flirt."

"I've always preferred attached ones. They're much less demanding." 

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander

A Fatal Waltz (Lady Emily, #3)

Here I am reading the third Lady Emily mystery. I guess these would be considered "chick lit", but I like 'em. Maybe its the historical intrigue. The characters are a lot of fun though. Here Emily is sparring playfully with Jeremy, her childhood friend and the Duke of Bainbridge, who likes to fancy himself a cad and tries to be the "most idle man in England". Of course he's not as bad as all that...

I have to say though I can't stand this cover. I wonder why she can't get better covers for her books.

From Goodreads:

At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon—Ivy's husband—is arrested for the crime.

Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.


What is your teaser?

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on Alliance by Mark Frost, the sequel to The Paladin Prophecy. You can see my review of Paladin here. I really liked this story and am looking forward to see whats next for Will, Brooke and their roommates. Now that they all know each other and have been through a lot, I think we're going to see a lot of neat things in the next book.

Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, #2)

From Goodreads:

Readers of I Am Number Four, The Maze Runner, and Legend will love this sophisticated adventure series by the cocreator of the groundbreaking television show Twin Peaks, with its unique combination of mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

After exposing the sinister underground society of students known as the Knights of Charlemagne, Will West stays at the Center over the summer to explore his newly developing physical and mental abilities. Meanwhile, his roommates investigate the Knights' shadowy purpose and discover unsettling information about their own backgrounds. Will and his friends must quickly figure out what's going on and separate friend from foe as they prepare for the coming fight. 


What are you waiting for?





Monday, November 4, 2013

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week I finished up The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. My review is here.

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason is the story of Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker in a steampunk version of Victorian London. Holmes is the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and is very logical and precise, with a gift for observation and deduction. Stoker on the other hand is a woman of action, and the sister of Bram Stoker. She is also a vampire hunter, with superhuman strength and speed. They’re about as different as two women can be- and that makes them a good team. They don’t initially like each other though –they’re both used to doing things their own way, so when they are asked to help solve the murder of several society girls they have to learn to work together.

The girls are asked to discreetly find answers to the murders on behalf of the crown, due to their unique talents. The only clue is an Egyptian scarab found at each murder scene. Another girl has gone missing and they have to find her before she, too, turns up dead. Along the way they run afoul of an Egyptian cult, which turns out to be a nasty piece of work. There is a lot going on in this story, with time travel elements and of course various romantic entanglements. 

Steampunk is a mixed bag for me. I want to like it, but I’m finding that I prefer it best when it’s firmly in the background. I really like the atmospherics here- the fog shrouded streets, the Victorian setting, the Egyptian cult seducing women with its dangerous secrets. Fantastic premise! But the steampunk elements- all the little gadgets with goofy names (like Ocular Magnifyer)- took me out of the story every time. I would have really liked this a lot more without the steampunk. 

As for the story itself, the perspective shifts between Holmes and Stoker. I liked Stoker better in this story but there’s not a lot of characterization here. Stoker does have an aversion to blood, which can be a problem for a vampire hunter! I thought this was a nice touch. I’m not really sure why there’s a vampire hunter in this story though. There are no vampires to combat- I kept waiting for one to turn up, to see Stoker face off against her sworn enemy, but it never happened. The pace of the story moves well for the most part- after the initial set-up we have two or three set piece moments punctuated by interludes and some reflection. There's a great scene in the middle where they infiltrate a cult meeting and its very atmospheric and moody. The last 100 pages move pretty fast and are easily the best part of the book.

The Clockwork Scarab is the first in a series, but even so I was a little irritated at the lack of resolution. I understand more is coming, but after 350 pages I would have liked at least see some plot threads resolved. This was a fun little romp for the most part, but I won’t be chomping at the bit to grab the next one given the lack of resolution here. Solid but not spectacular.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

Giveaway Winner Fangirl

Congratulations to Aranza Ramirez, you have won a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell! I have sent an email to notify you and look forward to sending out your book! Please note per giveaway rules you have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway and also to those who commented, re- tweeted and followed. Happy Friday!

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