Friday, August 28, 2015

My Review of ‘The Time Machine’

AUTHOR: H.G. Wells

This book isn’t only a great sci-fi novel. It isn’t simply a great adventure tale of a man known only as the Time Traveler.

This is a story that foretells of a future dystopia to rival The Hunger Games. The Time Traveler naturally discovers this whilst on a trip in his Time Machine.

Wells paints a picture of a future where humans have evolved to a point where, based on division of labor and socio-economic status, the privileged enjoy lives of leisure and peace, while the less fortunate hide underground and do the grunt work.

I will say no more about the plot, as any further details would be complete spoilers. I will say that the book was an easy, fast-paced read.

I’d like to add that Wells was clearly a visionary – one whose deepest concerns are more relevant today than ever.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Review of 'No Game For a Dame'

AUTHOR: M. Ruth Myers

Maggie Sullivan is a female hardboiled private eye, who (in the grand tradition of the genre) is tough as nails, yet has a heart of gold beneath the steely exterior. In this first novel of the series, she’s hired by a wealthy man to check up on his daughter’s beau. Next thing she knows, some goon barges into her office and trashes it. Then, warns her off the investigation.

Needless to say, Maggie smells a rat. Mainly because the subject of the investigation is such a … nebbish. What danger could he possibly be associated with?

The answer to this question is the key to solving her client’s problems, as well as protecting various people who are at risk – including the nebbish beau.

I read this on my Kobo and it was a real “page-turner”. Or “finger-flipper”, if you will.

And did I mention that the story takes place in the Depression Era “radio days”, when private eyes were tough men who wore fedoras and packed a punch? This makes Maggie’s job even tougher, of course.

I so loved this book. Maggie Sullivan is my new favorite female private eye. She’s like Honey West before television!

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Review of ‘… A Dangerous Thing’

AUTHOR: Bill Crider

In this installment of the Carl Burns mysteries, which take place at Hartley Gorman College in the very small Texas town of Pecan City, Burns and his fellow professors Mal Tomlin and Early Fox aren’t at all happy about the new Academic Dean, Dr. Gwendolyn Partridge and her sidekick of sorts, Eric Holt, a new faculty member in the English Department (which happens to be where Burns teaches). And that may possibly be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.

Anyhow, Dr. Partridge has all sorts of new-agey ideas and emphasizes political correctness in thought and deed. This, along with Holt’s being her pet favorite prof, as it were, isn’t sitting well with the three main players of the series.

Then, amid all the hubbub the new dean’s attitudes cause, another professor goes tumbling down to the pavement from a third-floor window in Burns’ building. And, of course, he didn’t just trip and fall or this wouldn’t be much of a murder mystery.

Burns is a sardonic and trenchant observer of all things. He’s a most likeable and entertaining amateur sleuth. But I wouldn’t call this book a cozy. It’s more like an academic mystery with an edge.

As an amateur sleuth, Burns tends to knock heads a bit with the local chief of police, Boss (R.M.) Napier. Not just over his sleuthing, because Burns has been known to solve the occasional mystery in a most helpful manner for the cops. However, there is friction between the men, due to their rivalry for the affections of Elaine Tanner, librarian and world-class trophy collector.

This novel pokes great fun at the whole liberal arts college/PC/aging hippie thing, while telling an intelligent and riveting puzzle mystery, with enough sharp edges to keep it from being too sweet and enough heart to make you smile at the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and want to read more by Bill Crider.

Friday, August 7, 2015

My Review of ‘Saturday Night Cleaver’

Author: Karen Cantwell

Ever since I read the first installment of the Barbara Marr series, I’ve been a huge fan of these comedic mysteries. And, pun lover that I am, not just because of their groan-worthy titles.

The title of this book cleverly refers to two major aspects of the plot: Barbara’s discovering a man’s … sex organ (or pracia, as she prefers to call it) on the side of a footpath and a secret club in her community, Rustic Woods (aka, Reston, VA) – a place called Saturday Night Fever.

But what really sets the plot in motion is the disappearance of Barbara’s old friend, Colt.

Now, that’s all the details you’re getting from me. Because between the bizarro neighbor lady renting the house next door, Barbara’s need to tolerate her dominating mother, and the weird orgy she and her George Clooney-like husband Howard expect to find at the secret club, if I told you more, you wouldn’t need to read the book.

So trust me – read the book. It’s funny, suspenseful, and has movie references. And Barbara really comes through in the end!

This is a great read, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Review of ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’

AUTHOR: Lee Gutkind

For anyone who doubts the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction, I suggest you read this book. It will put all doubt about that idea to rest.

If you are a creative writer, one of the great things about this book is that it empowers you. Non-fiction writing need not be dry and nothing but facts. In fact, writing the truth (in story form) has attained the status of a genre: creative non-fiction.

Lee Gutkind provides many excellent examples of great memoir and journalistic writing that fits the genre. For fiction writers, creative non-fiction provides yet another direction in which to focus one’s energies. Why make up a plot when you can craft an amazing story around actual events?

However, for those who might be interested in this form, be aware that creative non-fiction is not just making things up. It’s more like telling true stories with a storytelling arc imposed. Plus the level of detail that pulls the reader into the story.

It can also be a time-consuming pursuit, particularly if you decide to “embed” yourself in a group or situation you’re writing about. Such creative non-fiction requires a period of osmosis during which writers can soak up the details needed to properly embellish their work.

If you are interested in writing memoir or other creative non-fiction, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.