Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunday Post #93

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

This has been a good week, quiet for the most part. I'm still reading this but I'll be done this weekend and my thoughts will be up on Tuesday. I like it so far- it's very atmospheric.  It's been an interesting week weather wise- cool in the mornings and towards the end of the week it got hot. It's been cool this weekend but we're warming up again next week. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

COYER Goal Post

COYER ScavHuntLogo-SignUp

It's COYER time again! Hosted by Because Reading, Fantasy Is More Fun, and Books Movies Reviews Oh My!, this is a summer long event where basically- you read! And share the fun with others. There are readathons, Twitter parties and giveaways- what's not to like? This year summer COYER is also a Scavenher Hunt- you can do both or just COYER. Details here

My goals for this time are to read as many books as I can and visit a bunch of reviews as well. Also I think the scavenher hunt will be a lot of fun, and I'll be reading as many books as qualify.

I may only get a few of the scavenger hunt reads done, but it looks fun, and since I didn't do the scavenger hunt last COYER, I'm looking forward to jumping into it.  

COYER is always fun and I'm looking forweard to it. Are you COYERing? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (Tarzan, #5)

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar starts off with a disgraced Belgian officer who kills his superior and flees into the jungle, only to fall into the hands of an Arab slave trader. Gaining his trust, the two of them plot to kidnap Jane and demand a ransom from Tarzan, or sell her into slavery if he doesn't pay. Werper goes to Tarzan's home pretending to be a Frenchman on safari, and overhears Tarzan tell Jane that his holdings are in trouble- some unspecified financial calamity. He plans to Opar, the ruined city that is the last remaining outpost of ancient Atlantis, and get more ingots, which he has used to supplement his incomes in the past. The treasure vault of Opar is filled with gold ingots, too many to count, and the bestial inhabitants of the city and their beautiful priestesses pay no heed to the vault.

Setting off, Tarzan soon arrives at Opar with his loyal tribesmen- but in typical Burroughs fashion, there is a sudden earthquake and a rock hits Tarzan, causing him to lose his memory. Ah yes, here we go. Werper, who followed Tarzan to the vault, is trapped within the city and is almost killed by the savage inhabitants, but an amnesiac Tarzan rescues him and they flee from Opar. Before their escape, however, Tarzan stumbles across the fabulous jewel vault of Opar, and takes several jewels with him- a small fortune. Werper, aware of this, then plots to somehow liberate the jewels from Tarzan- after Tarzan gets him to safety, of course!

He recalled the scene within the temple when he had lain stretched upon the sacrificial altar, while La, high- raised dagger, stood above him, and the rows of priests and priestesses awaited, in the ecstatic hysteria of fanaticism, the first gush of their victim's warm blood, that they might fill their golden goblets and drink to the glory of the Flaming God. 

Achmet Zek, meanwhile, has taken advantage of Tarzan's absence to abduct Jane and burns their bungalow to the ground. The rest of the tale details Tarzan's adventures while amnesiac, including another run-in with La and the priests of Opar, as well as Werper's machinations. It all unfolds in typical Burroughs fashion, and Tarzan of course regains his memory (but not until almost the very end), and we get several character perspective come together at the end to wrap things up.

This was an okay read, I think if you've never read Burroughs or Tarzan it might be more interesting, or even eye opening as to how he was originally written. Like many  heroes brought to the screen or popular culture, he was written perhaps more nuance, more angles, than a movie or TV can convey. At the same time, if you've read a lot of Burroughs then the plot and especially the twists and turns will feel very familiar. I generally liked the last one I read, Tarzan the Invincible, a lot more than this one- Opar featured in that story as well, and the last , ruined outpost of Atlantis is my favorite part of the Tarzan canon, so I gravitate to those that feature a visit there.

It's such an evocative place, with subhuman inhabitants and beautiful priestesses, unspeakable rites and strange cries in the humid air, an temples full of gold. The cover art by Neal Adams is a glimpse of the place- the quintessential lost city in Africa. And of course the question remains- who will wind up with the famed jewels of Opar?

For more on Opar and a more satisfying Tarzan tale (for me) see my reviews of Tarzan the Invincible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Murder in the Mystery Suite

Murder in the Mystery Suite (Book Retreat Mysteries #1)

Murder in the Mystery Suite is a fun cozy about a resort in Virginia that caters to book lovers. Jane Steward is a widowed mother of two who runs the place- and to drum up business she decides to have a Murder and Mayhem Week, complete with a costume ball. Guests are encouraged to come in character, as their favorite detective or sleuth from mystery literature. The event starts off well, with lots of guests, but things take a grim turn after the scavenger hunt- the winner of a rare book gets murdered, and the book is missing. Several guests have acted suspiciously, but a she tries to come to terms with this, Jane gets another surprise. Turns out she is descended from a long line of guardians- her birthright is handed down to her by her uncle after he aunt falls into ill health. This added another layer t the story- with all the libraries in the hotel, there is another one, where rare and unknown books are kept and where the Steward clan has guarded them.

I loved the literary references, anyone who's well read in mystery novels will find this delightful. The resort itself is awesome, with rooms named after famous mystery writers- the Ian Fleming Lounge, Jane Austen PArlor, etc. And libraries everywhere- when can I go to this resort?There are a few minor quibbles- the resort and Storyton Village are a little too perfect. Took me out of the story just a bit, but the idealized setting was appealing at the same time. The book started a little slow, but once I got 40 or 50 pages in it took right off. And this is a fun read, with great characters, an interesting premise and lots of literary references, old and new. I will absolutely buy the enxt book and look forward to reading more of Ellery Adams in the future. I'm definitely a fan after this one.

"Don't be silly," Jane said, giving the butler an affectionate pat on the arm. "These people are mystery fans. Readers. Bibliophiles. They're far too refined to resort to violence." 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sunday Post #92

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

This has been a good reading week- 2 weeks in a row! I started a new cozy and liked it a lot- my thoughts will be up on Tuesday. This was a good book , with great characters and an engaging setting.

Murder in the Mystery Suite (Book Retreat Mysteries #1)

Next week I'll have my thoughts on Murder in the Mystery Suite as well as a classic Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure tale. I als hope to have my thoughts on Tomorrowland, if I get to see it over the holiday weekend.

It's a beautiful day as I write this on Saturday morning- sunny skies and 70's. Time to break out the flip flops and maybe a trip to the beach. Looking forward to a relaxing holiday weekend...


A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House, #1)

Rainy Day Ramblings talks about book budgets.

This is awesome. Gamer mom gives birth, goes back to game.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sunday Post #91

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This has been a good reading week. 

Last week I reviewed the Avengers movie, as well as Ex Machina. They were both good. 

A Literary Odyssey is hosting a Victorian celebration- see the details here. 

Book Den has a great review of The Princess Bride

Ciao Amalfi shares a beautiful hotel- nice pics! 

This is awesome. A look at the chaos of a chase scene. They actually diagrammed it. And I love this line- "It's the apocalypse. Nobody cares about anything". 

Between Mt Lines reviews A Robot in the Garden

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ex Machina


Ex Machina is a thought provoking and eerie look at artificial intelligence- and how far it might go to be free. It's also a thriller and kind of a trippy movie. Caleb is a programmer at a Google- like company that wins a trip to his boss' retreat- and when he gets there he learns that the purpose of his trip is to have him evaluate an artificial intelligence. Ava is a fully formed robot, a breakthrough in artificial intelligence- and after spending time with her, Caleb finds himself attracted to her. Of course there is more going on behind the scenes, and several layers of deception. Does Ava have feelings, or is there a more sinister purpose to their interactions? And what happens if she gets free? 

This was a good movie, like a modern day Blade Runner in the way it addresses the risks and danger of AI's (and the rights they may, or should, have?). It's a more intimate film though, set almost entirely in the residence which is actually a high tech research facility. It's not an action packed movie, and there is a bit of gratuitous nudity (you don't need full frontal shots for an extended period to make your point) but by and large this is a smart, effective movie. 

Here's the trailer. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Well I saw Avengers opening weekend (something I rarely do) and had a good time, although the movie is crowded with characters and feels jumbled at times. First of all, if you had told me as a kid that there would be an Avengers movie, and that it would be so popular, I'm not sure I would have believed it. So it's awesome that these movies even exist, and are so popular. This one was a blast in a lot of ways, although it's not as good as the first one.  

This one starts off great, with the Avengers assembled and we get to see the team in action right off the bat. I also enjoyed the party scene and the interactions of the team members- my favorite part of the movie. The character development and quiet moments are the best parts for me.  It's just not as good as the first one- but it's still a lot of fun. 


Captain America- I thought he was good in this movie. Chris Evans plays him spot on, he owns this role now. 

The twins- Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I thought Elizabeth Olsen was great as Scarlet, I liked how she utilized her powers, and I surprisingly liked Quicksilver as well. They were a highlight of the film for me, even if Scarlet did mess with the Avengers' heads a little too much (how did she get so close to Natasha without being detected?). 

Ultron looked great, although his motivations were pretty lame- destroy humanity. Blah blah, nothing new here. But I guess that's the villain so whatever. 

Black Widow- kicks butt as usual. A big part of the movie, and in spite of all the controversy, I liked her in this movie. Not entirely happy with her character arc- see below- but she's one of the best parts of the movie.

More Cobie Smulders- she could do so much more. How about just replacing Nick Fury with her.


Tony Stark. I'm pretty tired of the way he is portrayed- and I'm kinda over Robert Downey Jr. in the role. Don't get me wrong Downey Jr. is largely responsible for the success of these films and I thought he was a good casting choice- but after all the snark only goes so far. Tony Stark certainly bears responsibility for creating Ultron (and hiding it from his teammates, deceiving Thor, etc). This will no doubt continue in Captain America: Civil War where he and Cap will be on opposing sides. I just wish they weren't going there. 

Not enough Thor- Hemsworth is a great Thor, very underused here. 

The Vision didn't work for me. I was really curious how they would do and while I give a lot of credit for what they achieved, I just didn't think he looked that good. A tough character to do. 

Bruce Banner and Natasha. This came way out of left field, and it felt forced and not natural at all. 

I'm happy to see the Russo brothers directing the next Avengers movies. They did a great job with Captain America: Winter Soldier. So bottom line for me- this is a fun movie, it's way too crowded- but it's an Avengers movie so you gotta see it. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sunday Post #90

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week went by quick. I didn't get a lot of reading but I did see the new Avengers movie- my thoughts on that will be up on Tuesday. I seem to be getting my reading mojo back. I've got some books I'm looking forward to again, after a bit of a lull. 

Reviews this week included Kalahari, a good YA science fiction story. 

I saw Ex Machina last week too- that movie was kind of a trip. I'll try to get my thoughts on that this week as well. 

I hope everyone is having a good week

Ciao Amalfi on why it can be good to get lost in Amalfi

Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My reviews a fun sounding cozy- Murder in the Mystery Suite. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: Avengers The Bride of Ultron

Avengers: The Bride of Ultron is both an Avengers storyline and the title of a recent compilation released by Marvel Comics. The original story involved pretty much all- out war between Earth's mightiest heroes and the robotic menace.

The story starts off with the Avengers returning home after a rather harrowing sequence of adventures, and they're probably hoping to relax- but it's not to be. They are attacked by an enraged Ant- Man and after restraining him, they are attacked by Ultron. That doesn't go well, and the team is defeated after a few tactical errors.

Thor then arrives to find Iron Man recharging his armor and Black Panther and Wonder Man trying to raise any reserve members who might be able to help. Hawkeye is available but out west somewhere, and they don't succeed in reaching him. They eventually have to face Ultron themselves, just the four of them. Tony Stark and Panther realize where Ultron is, and off they go. Thor promises vengeance.

The Avengers arrive to find Ultron and the apparently insane Henry Pym working on transferring his wife Janet's consciousness into Jocasta, a robotic form that is intended to be Ultron's mate. The robot intends to use Jan's life force to animate her. Ultron has convinced Pym that he is saving Jan's life, and this is the only way to do so.

Eventually as Thor and Wonder Man battle Ultron to a stalemate, Iron Man takes matters into his own hands and takes a gamble. Threatening to destroy Jocasta if Ultron doesn't release Jan, they manage to save the day- even as Ultron escapes. Jan is saved although Iron Man and Black Panther debate the means that were used.

This storyline is significant because it shows just how dangerous Ultron really is- he is more than capable of killing any of them at any time, and is himself pretty much indestructible. And of course he was created by one of the Avengers, a plot point that will play a large role in the upcoming movie, even if the details are different. The Ultron story would continue and there would be a final reckoning, several issues later, and Jocasta would play a pivotal role as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Kalahari (Corpus, #3)

Kalahari is the story of Sarah Carmichael, the daughter of a conservation researcher in Botswana. Her and her dad agree to take on five city kids for an educational visit, in exchange for continued funding. Sarah is not very happy about babysitting city kids, but little does she know how bad things are going to get. When her dad and their bushman guide Theo hear of poachers in the area, they go to investigate- but when they don't return Sarah finds herself alone- and in charge.

She decides to look for her dad, and so they set out, but when they find Theo half dead and her dad on the run, things go from bad to worse. Trying to find her dad, they stumble upon a research facility deep in the Kalahari- a facility that is being scrubbed clean of evidence. A mysterious virus has gone out of control, and is affecting the local wildlife- and now the kids are threatened not only by mercenaries determined to destroy all evidence, but animals that will kill- and worse, pass on the virus.

Kalahari is the third book by Jessica Khoury, and a follow on to Vitro, one of my favorites from last year. It's an adventure story with a science fiction twist, and I enjoyed it a lot. The same corporation behind the shenanigans in the first two is at work here again, in a different setting of course, and Sarah will need to draw on all her knowledge and experience to survive. There is a love interest in Sam Quartermain, a guy who has his own reasons for being there, and the romance is handled well. Jessica's writing is good and the story flows well, just like Vitro- I liked that one a little better, but this one is good too. The idea of a corporation doing illegal (and dangerous) work in isolated parts of the world is a neat one, and I enjoy the different takes on the concept. If I have any criticism, it's that the action sequences are a bit unrealistic at times. And while I like the cover, I'm afraid it looks like an adventure story with no real sign of the science fiction - it may get lost on the YA shelves a bit that way. Hopefully not. Kalahri was fun, with some ecology bits added- Jessica clearly did her research. This was a good and surprisingly affecting book.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sunday Post #89

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hello again. This has been a good week, although I didn't get much done. I do have several reviews lined up for this month, and a few movie reviews as well. There are a lot of big movies coming out so that should be fun. We're hitting 70's this week, so that's a good thing. 

Also I see the next Victorian bookseller is out in July- the cover is below. Happy to see this. 

Oh, and I saw Insurgent finally, and thought it was good. It got bad reviews so I almost didn't see it, but I'm glad I did. Pretty effective, I thought, and the special effects were good at depicting Chicago. I liked it.