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Archive for May, 2012

Fantasy Friday – The Map of Time

Friday, May 25th, 2012

 

 

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

 

Review by Bruce

 

J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory.” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”  Felix J. Palma dreams big and asks “Why not?” in his fantasy novel “The Map of Time”.  Palma’s prose is rich and inventive and his story of time travel and parallel universes is eccentric but fun. Set in late 1890s England, Palma vividly creates the Victorian England made familiar by Charles Dickens and injects a dose of illusion and fancy as he takes his readers on wild ride.

“The Map of Time” consists of three parts that could stand alone as novellas. Each part has a unique story that ultimately connects with the others, mostly through famed author H. G. Wells and a company called “Murray’s Time Travel”.  Palma leaves no stone unturned as he includes romance, murder, deceit, robots, time machines, ray guns, famous novelists, and mystery in this first installment of a planned trilogy.

The first chapter, which can be classified as romantic fantasy, begins with a young man born of wealth and privilege preparing to commit suicide over a lost love. Eight years earlier, Andrew Harrington fell in love with a Whitechapel prostitute. They secretly carry on a torrid love affair until he finally garners the courage to admit his love to his father. But as he is doing so to disastrous results, his young love has become the latest victim of Jack the Ripper. Just as Andrew is ready to exit this world full of constant sorrow, his cousin convinces Andrew to visit Murray’s Time Travel in an attempt to go eight years back in time to stop the Ripper before he can murder the girl. Palma has given us a unique love story that really resonates with the power of redemption and second chances.

The second chapter tells the story of a young lady bored with the rigid constraints of Victorian society who visits Murray’s Time Travel with the hopes of slipping away to a new life and a new future. The story requires the reader to believe people of this era were unbelievably gullible but once you suspend your disbelief the story can be very engaging. This is escapist literature after all.

The final chapter is the most whimsical of all. Three victims are found murdered by a weapon not yet invented and the murderer leaves behind quotes from three novels not yet published.  Famed authors H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, and Henry James follow the clues provided by these quotes from their unfinished novels and face a time traveler who has come to protect their works from theft by another time traveler who intends to publish the novels under his name. In this segment Palma lets it all hang out. To this reader, the story gets bogged down in circular logic and convoluted threads of parallel universes and the consequences of time travel. It read like “Back to the Future” on steroids. Palma is obviously having a lot of fun with the what ifs of time travel but not everyone will appreciate the tedium and minutiae of the authors explanations.

Overall, not a bad outing and Palma sets the foundation for future novels.

 

The second installment of this planned trilogy, The Map of the Sky, is set to be released on Sept. 4, 2012.

 

 

 

 

Happy Intergalactic Towel Day Eve To One and All!

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

                 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is Intergalactic Towel Day

Don’t forget your towel!

by Donnie S. (dloris87)

 

If you are a hoopy frood, every day you know where your towel is.  If you are only occasionally hoopy, perhaps you know where your towel is one day a year – Intergalactic Towel Day- tomorrow is it, May 25th.

 

In that venerable tome, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the importance of a towel is espoused, “A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”

 

Indeed, last May 25, my towel saved my life.  It was Intergalactic Towel Day 2011, I carried with me a jaunty Nightmare Before Christmas Towel; alright-I did look a bit like a demented Linus, but this was Towel Day, I was celebrating Douglas Adams even if I looked a bit off.

 

I took my towel to the gym with me; it helped me hide my face from the spinning instructor when I found her yelling funny.  I took the towel with me to Starbuck’s – being properly caffeinated is a must even on Towel Day.  I took my towel grocery shopping.  There was no Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal in the produce aisle, but if there had been I was prepared.

 

A rainstorm of epic portions was waiting for me in the parking lot, which without a towel would have made it impossible to get to my car.  I always forget to put my umbrella in my car, but my towel saved the day!  I looked really cool, like I knew exactly what I was doing.  That is the beauty of knowing where your towel is, even if you are not so hoopy, you appear to be.

 

Douglas Adams explained in a lecture where he came up with the concept of knowing where your towel is.  He was on holiday.  Everyday he would have to search for his towel.  It was in the laundry, it was under the bed, it was in the bed, it wasn’t where he thought it should be.  He would forget everyday where he had last used the elusive towel.  He decided that a truly together guy would always know where his towel was.

 

May 25th is now upon us; again I plan on taking my towel with me.  I encourage those of you froods hoopy enough, to join in.  Celebrate the life and work of Douglas Adams.  Encourage others to read Douglas’ work, to enjoy the word craft he performed in his trilogy in four parts (well six if you count Mostly Harmless and And Another Thing) .  The towel is just the gateway to more adventures, who knows what will happen, chimpanzees may write the sequel to Hamlet.

 

    

 

 

Note from Blog Coord:  We are running this a day early so everyone has time to get their towels picked out, washed, dried, fluffed and folded for tomorrow. If anyone has towel protocol questions or needs some help choosing a towel to go with a certain outfit, leave a comment here and we will be glad to help!

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – The Crimson Petal and the White

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

 

 

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

Ramblings from a Reader…Thoughts on ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’

I’ve had ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ by Michel Faber on my to-be-read shelf for about 5 years.  Yes, I know, it’s a long time to have a book taking up valuable real estate on a to-be-read shelf.  But it’s a long book and I felt I needed to be in the right mood to read it.  I’m not even sure how one goes about being in the right mood for a book about dirty brothels, drunken blackguards, sickly prostitutes, and crazy wives.  But alas, it is what it is.  Over three weeks ago I delved into the dark, disturbing life of the prostitute Sugar and I have finally emerged. I have some frustration because of the book itself and the length of time it took me to read it. I’m starting to think these lines in my furrowed brow could take a while to smooth out.

Here’s the quick lowdown on the book: Sugar is a prostitute.  William is a man about to inherit the family’s perfume business.  They meet because William is out-about-town with his no-good (my opinion, they’re really supposed to be upstanding members of Society) friends and these friends mention the sexual expertise of Sugar.  William must have her.  Meanwhile, William’s wife Agnes is slipping further and further into her crazed mind and his brother Henry is fighting an internal struggle of religion and self-indulgence.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I don’t want to give away the details if you’re planning to read it.

My discomfort with the book began just a few pages into my reading. I’m rather conservative so I had some difficulty wanting to read through the explicit descriptions of some of the sexual exploits of the characters.  I’ll just say if you think there are some crazy things happening in the world today, you would be gobsmacked by the goings-on in 1870s London.  Well, in brothels and back alleys, anyway.  The backstabbing and cruelty in the ballrooms and theatres during the Season still happen almost every day in modern society and, unfortunately, it seems ordinary. Thus my furrowed brow develops.  Do I really want to read this?  At this point, not really, but I hate to give up on a book so I’ll stick with it.

After reading for quite a while I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I see what Faber might be trying to do here.  There’s going to be more to this than romps in some dirty sheets.  There’s going to be a deeper social and moral message’ but I was on page 338 when this happened…that’s a long time to wait for that kind of realization.  William is whining about his need to participate in the Season’s events and he exclaims, ‘I blame Society!’  This is just one of many occasions when William fails to see his true ineptness as a husband, father, brother, and businessman.  There are always others to blame and he refuses to look inward.  This annoys me.  I don’t like reading books about characters I don’t care about and I really don’t care about William. I mean, I really don’t care about him. And even though I don’t like William, the reality is there: society and its ‘regulations’ put people in situations they might wish to avoid.  It’s a situation of play the game or else.  And, when I think about it, do I need to like William? Will the message be insightful enough that I can get past William’s annoyances?  Should I care so much whether or not he understands the error of his ways?  Perhaps not.  Ok, the furrowed brow is starting to smooth.

Sugar, the prostitute turned mistress to William, is a much more complete character.  Thankfully I notice some growth in her as a person and that rescues the book for me.  I would hate to have read over 800 pages to end up feeling the same way about Sugar as I did about William (hoping he would get trampled by an oncoming carriage).  One of the more powerful scenes for me has Sugar visiting with fellow prostitute Caroline.  Caroline is content to believe her relationship with Sugar is just as it was before Sugar became William’s mistress; but during her time with William, Sugar begins to change.  I think she finally sees her true self underneath all the layers of protection she created during her life as a prostitute.  She is uncomfortable for being unable to connect with Caroline and I believe she feels disgusted with herself and her past.  But at the same time, she’s at a loss of how to proceed to become a new, better person.

And don’t we all, at some point in our lives, feel a similar type of discomfort?  We reconnect with a childhood friend only to discover we have nothing in common anymore and can’t wait for the reunion to be done.  We gather with family only to awaken to the reality that we’re the black sheep they can’t or won’t understand.  We meet up with old friends only to come face-to-face with the knowledge we don’t like the person we were in the past and hurry to convince ourselves we aren’t like that anymore.  We long for a change in our lives only to realize after the change happens it doesn’t offer us the joy or fulfillment we thought it would.

I think if we’re honest with ourselves we can recognize we are not always treading the path that will lead us to happiness and contentment.  We get sidetracked.  We get lured in by the promise that this person, this job, this location will be the key.  Like Sugar, we direct our frustration, anger, and desire to be accepted into people and activities that aren’t always worth our time or effort.  When, all the time, the key to our happiness is within us, we just have to recognize it and do something about it.

I think my furrowed brow is easing.  I think I’m willing to accept the things I didn’t like about the book and recognize what I perceive as its moral: no matter where we come from or our experiences, we can help ourselves and do better.  Our version of better might not be how someone else would define it (indeed, I don’t know if other readers will agree with Sugar’s actions at the end of the novel) but we need to put it into practice anyway.  It’s not exactly what I expected take away from the book and I’m not sure it’s the message Faber thought he was sending, but I’m going to accept it anyway.

Author Interview with Timothy Ashby

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

 

 

 

Author Interview with Timothy Ashby by Jerelyn  (I-F-Letty)

 

I first became aware of Timothy Ashby when he spoke about his book to a Facebook group.   As with many first time authors they find that they get precious little help from publishers. What PR departments once did, authors have to do.  Also another phenomenon of today’s publishing is the free e-book.  As anyone can tell you a many of these e-books are amateur productions in which much is missing.   Well Timothy Ashby’s The Devil’s Den is far from that, it is a gem.

I am excited that there will be a second book in the series which features Seth Armitage, and he is a wholly likable protagonist.  The time period in which this is set is a fascinating one 1920’s Washington DC. 

I would like to thank Mr. Ashby for agreeing to participate in our author interview series here at PBS.

Jerelyn: I have read your bio and you have lived a very interesting life, will you tell us a bit about yourself?

Timothy: I grew up with a keen interest in history and adventure.  As a child my elderly relatives related stories about our family’s experiences in the Revolution and Civil War (one kinsman was a famous Confederate cavalry general).  At the age of 13, I moved to the little Caribbean island of Grenada – at that time a British colony steeped in a past of battles, ghosts and lost treasure.

 

Jerelyn: Was becoming a novelist something that you had intended to do, or was it one of those lovely zigzags life often takes?

Timothy: I wrote short stories and poems as a teenager, but stubbornly let the “practical” side of my personality dominate so got a PhD, MBA and law degrees and worked as a senior government official, international businessman and lawyer.  During those years I had several successful non-fiction books published, as well as a prize-winning ghost story submitted on a whim.  But becoming a novelist at this stage of my life – starting with DEVIL’S Den – was indeed one of those unexpected “lovely zigzags” of life.

 

Jerelyn: Will you tell us about Devil’s Den and Seth Armitage?  I’ll admit I got much more than I expected with this book.

Timothy: I’ve always been fascinated by “history’s mysteries” – genuine events with unresolved questions.  I knew that several attempts were made to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before the sad event of April 14, 1865, but the identity of the earlier plotters is unknown.  I used such an assassination attempt as the genesis of a plot, but wanted to link it to a 1920s political conspiracy to show the profound corruption of Washington DC during the Harding Administration (which included murder and high-level cover-ups).  I also wanted to show how the 1920s were a pivotal era in US history, when modern technology (radio, airplanes, telephones, moving pictures, phonographs) was encroaching on a country that was still largely rural and little changed from the 19th century.  Also, many Civil War veterans were alive in the 1920s and some were active in politics.

As for Seth Armitage, he is a Virginian from a family that suffered terribly in the Civil War, and he has been affected despite the passage of three generations.  Armitage is a decorated World War I veteran and lawyer who joined to Bureau of Investigation as much for a belief in public service as for a hunger for adventure.  But his cynicism about the Federal government and “justice for all” is now threatening to engulf his innate idealism.

 

Jerelyn: When you wrote this did you see this as a murder mystery or political thriller?

Timothy: I saw DEVIL’S DEN as a “historical mystery thriller.”  The corrupt, labyrinthine politics of the 1860s and 1920s provide a personally fascinating historical backdrop.

 

Jerelyn: I always wonder what draws a writer to the time period they set their books in.  What drew you to this particular period?

Timothy: As mentioned earlier, the 1920s were a pivotal time in American history.  I also love the music, cars and fashions (I must say that I absolutely love BOARDWALK EMPIRE, which features some of the same real-life characters that I use).  Finally, I was influenced by knowing three of my four grandparents who would have been contemporaries in the age of Seth Armitage.  One of my grandmothers played the background for silent films when she was just a teenager, and she taught me many of the old songs, and even how to dance the TURKEY TROT and the “CHARLESTON!”

 

Jerelyn: The other thing that astounded me was the research that went into this book; did you run across anything that surprised you?

Timothy: One thing that surprised me was how rapidly technology was advancing in the 1920s.  We may think we live in a time of rapid change, but the rate of technological adoption by Americans – as well as the creation of new inventions (e.g. the first public demonstration of a television broadcast was in 1925) – was astonishing.  For example, in 1923 there were 600 radio stations broadcasting to 3 million American households.  Just five years earlier, there were no public radio stations and not a single private American family owned a radio.

 

Jerelyn: I think I loved this character so much because Seth was a WWI vet, as was my Grandfather, I grew up on stories of him; he passed a few years before I was born.  Do you have a family connection to the Civil or WWI?

Timothy: A number of my paternal relatives served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.  Two relatives – brothers – were at Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in the same regiment – the 8th Virginia – that Seth’s fictional grandfathers served in.  Also, like one of Seth’s grandfather’s, one of my relatives, 19-year-old Private James Ashby, was killed in action and his body was never found.

I was fortunate to have known many WWI veterans while growing up and I am so glad that I paid careful attention to their first-hand stories before they passed on.  My grandfather’s first cousin was a Marine officer like Seth Armitage who fought at Belleau Wood, and he told me how the Southern boys in his unit gave the “Rebel Yell” before charging the Germans – the Marines had learned the “Yell” from their Confederate veteran grandfathers. Wonderful piece of history that will be included in my next Seth Armitage adventure, IN SHADOWLAND.

 

Jerelyn: The other thing I’ve noticed proves the old adage: The more that things change the more they stay the same.  This could have easily been a contemporary novel.  I am referring to the shenanigans on Wall Street, the every man for themselves attitude in politics. Was that a conscious thought on your part while writing The Devil’s Den?

Timothy: I lived and worked in Washington DC (including for the Federal Government), and like Seth became thoroughly disillusioned with the corruption, cronyism and waste.  So my continuing ire and disgust definitely influences my writing.

 

Jerelyn: I love mysteries and I love more romantic relationship driven novels too.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a love story in the story.  Did you set out to have Seth find love?

Timothy: Yes, I wanted Seth to find love (he’s searching for expiation as well as solace), but as my readers will note, Peggy has her own agenda.

 

Jerelyn: Will Peggy be in the next book as well?

Timothy: All I can reveal is that Seth continues his quest for love!

 

Jerelyn: I always ask authors what they read as a child.  What were your favorite books?

Timothy: Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and the wonderful series of historical novels by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

 

Jerelyn: What do you read for pleasure now?

Timothy: I’ve lately discovered some terrific mystery/thriller writers: Alex Berenson, P.J. Alderman, and Barry Eisler.  My perennial favorites are Nelson DeMille, Wilbur Smith and Frederick Forsyth – true masters of the thriller genre.

 

Jerelyn: Will you tell us a bit about your next book In Shadowlands, and when will it be released?

Timothy: The plot of IN SHADOWLANDS, second in the “Seth Armitage” series, is derived from the mystery surrounding the “death” of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, son of former President Teddy Roosevelt, who was shot down behind German lines in 1918 during a dogfight over the Western Front.  The book is still a work in progress!

 

Jerelyn: Thank-you Tim and I hope to be reading In Shadowlands soon.  If you would like to read more about Tim; please visit his website www.timashby.com  or you follow him on face book at http://www.facebook.com/TimAshbyBooks  and Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/TFAshby

 

 

To read my review of  Timothy Ashby’s book, Devil’s Den on PBS, click this LINK

Mystery Monday – No Tears For Hilda

Monday, May 21st, 2012

 

No Tears For Hilda by Andrew Garve

 

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

The year 1950 finds Max Easterbrook working in Germany for an organization that re-settles people displaced by the War. He takes a well-deserved vacation in his native London. To his shock, he finds his war buddy, George Lambert, a kind and likeable man, facing trial for the murder of his wife Hilda. Max knows his friend doesn’t have it in him to commit murder most foul. Max puts his skills as an ex-Intelligence officer to work in order to find the actual killer. His interviews with people from Hilda’s past and present reveal that Hilda was poison.

Garve had a genius for writing extremely tight mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories. His prose, a model of plain English, falls on the right side of the line that marks matter-of-fact from perfunctory. The action moves along at a brisk pace, with little violence.  Usually not one to spend an extra word on characterization, Garve really outdoes himself with portrait of the impossible, exasperating Hilda. She definitely, as they say in Texas, “needed killing.” Near the end crops up a dilemma that brings to mind the scratchy question “Should the killer get away with it,” calling to mind Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes.

Writing fiction on his own time, Garve worked as a journalist for serious publications like The Economist.  Garve did not have a series hero but Inspector Haines pops up in this one as he does in A Press of Suspects. The usual Garvian protagonist, however, is a talented amateur or an off-duty pro such as a journalist or, in this one, an ex-intelligence officer. Readers looking for a classic mystery ought to read this one.

Armed & Dangerous Review and Book Winner!

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

 

Armed & Dangerous by Abigail Roux

 

Review by Issa S. (Issa-345)

 

Armed and Dangerous is book 5 in the Cut & Run series featuring FBI agents Zane Garrett and Ty Grady.  Meeting and paired together for the first time in Book 1, the first four books have seen Zane and Ty through a serial killer, armed gunmen, car wrecks, wild animal attacks, pursuit by foreign law enforcement, and bombings among other things. They have been kidnapped, beat up, shot at, and exploded while slowly working through their initial dislike of each other to lust, friendship, trust, and finally love. At the end of book four both our heroes seem to be on the same page with their feelings but Ty decides he has to go and leaves Zane with a note and readers with the first cliffhanger (if you could call it that) of the series.

Armed and Dangerous opens with Randall Jonas of the CIA coming to his friend Richard Burns of the FBI for help. He states that he’s being set up by the CIA for off the books private hits and the killing of operatives. There is one operative left who can point the finger at those responsive and Jonas wants him brought in for questioning. Burns orders Ty and Zane to retrieve the operative.  Unsurprisingly there are a number of problems along the way that keep this from being a simple task.

The feel of this book is a bit different.  Much of the earlier relationship tension is gone.  They are both in love, have accepted it, admitted it, and want to move forward with it.  The first few chapters are all about Ty and Zane healing their rift and exploring their tenderness and romance.  This installment finds Ty more chatty than we are used to, freely discussing aspects of his past with Zane.  Zane had become more confident in his feelings and in his place in Ty’s life and it shows.  It makes them come across as slightly different people (and in my mind stronger), but for their relationship to work, it was necessary for them to change the things they were doing that could have sabotaged it.  But at their hearts, they are still the Ty and Zane we have followed all along.

On my initial read, I felt all the expressions of love to be a bit out of character for both.  But upon later reflection I remembered all that was expressed in Divide and Conquer and it hit me that Ty and Zane are in the honeymoon phase of their relationship.   Though I can say there were a couple times the prose made me wonder when Ty had become a girl.  Not too many times thankfully.

The operative in question is Julian Cross.  You meet him and his lover Cameron Jacobs in Warrior’s Cross.  Sparks fly between Ty and Julian from the get go.  They are too much alike to exist comfortably in the other’s space.  As Ty and Zane drag Julian and Cameron across the country, Ty and Julian battle it out as the CIA tracks them.  Their antics provide a countless source of humor throughout the book.  The action keeps moving from the moment the four meet and runs to the end where the bad guy is finally unmasked and it’s not who you think.  While this is a crossover book, Julian and Cameron add to the story without taking it over.  It is still all Ty and Zane.

This installment offered the largest number of revelations and not just between Ty and Zane.  Ty’s brother Deuce has big news and Ty’s friend Nick was redeemed and offered up more about Ty’s past.

The underlying mystery is a little weak, but I expect that.  At its base, the series is about relationships.  This book is not a thriller.  The relationships between the MCs, their families, their friends, and their work are what is important.  The mystery allows the relationships to manifest and that is the book’s strength

What strikes me the most is Ty and Zane are finally a team, professionally and personally.  No more questions, no more doubts.  They’re seamless and if that is what Ms. Roux brings to the table writing these solo, then I am excited to see where she takes them.  No cliffhanger this time.  Things are not perfect; they still have to hide their personal relationship at work but another significant relationship hurtle was crossed and I ended the book smiling and feeling so hopeful for Book Six.

This was an amazing addition to the Cut and Run series.

 

 

 

And the winner of the copy of Armed & Dangerous for the Author Interview with Ms. Roux is:

Sara T. (samati)

 

Sara, your copy of Armed & Dangerous is on the way to you. Congratulations!

Free Book Friday Winner!

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

 

The Winner of the Free Book Friday Contest is

 

 Krystyn V. (vkrystyn)

 

 

 

Congratulations, your copy of  The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A. McKillip is on the way!!

 

Thank you to everyone who left a comment.