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Archive for May, 2013

Fantasy Friday – Strange Angels

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Review by Kelsey O.


Everything changes for 16 year old Dru Anderson when her father leaves on a hunt and doesn’t return. At least not as a human. Even though Dru and her father have been hunting other beings since her mother died, Dru has never been on her own, she has only used her special “touch” power to aid her father. Now she has no choice. Someone has changed her father into a zombie and that someone is coming after her next. Without knowing who she truly is and what her destiny is, Dru is left floundering until an unexpected helper in the form of a goth boy named Graves becomes her side-kick. The next savior to enter the picture is fanged and his name is Christophe. It isn’t quite clear if Christophe is good or bad but Dru needs to know more about the supernatural world and he is the only one to give her that insight. There is something slithering in the night and it is getting closer so Dru will need all the help she can get.


I really enjoyed this first installment. I found myself cheering out loud for Dru. She is a very real character. Her vulnerabilities make her believable. It is a mix of Supernatural and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and contains many great action scenes with the added mystery of why Dru is on the supernatural beings menu all of a sudden. This is great for the older YA paranormal lovers with caution to some that there are some descriptive gruesome scenes.



Literature Review – Random Harvest

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Random Harvest by James Hilton

Review by Thomas F. (hardtack)


A war story….. a love story….. a mystery…..  Something for everyone.


It wasn’t until just recently that I came across a hard copy of Random Harvest. Until then, my sole experience with the story was the 1942 movie with Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson in the lead roles. I first saw the movie decades ago and it has always been one of my favorites.

Coleman also acted in the 1937 filming of Lost Horizon, and I do not think any actor since then has done a better job. Oh, to have a voice like Ronald Coleman. I would be fighting the ladies off with a stick!

For you mystery fans, in the book the solution to the mystery is not revealed until the very last paragraph, so please do not peek. Meanwhile, the movie reveals the solution to you earlier, due to the nature of the mystery. However, I believe this may be one of those random cases where the movie is better than the book. The screen writers did an fantastic job making the slow revealing of the solution to the movie’s mystery as dramatic as the solution itself. In fact, in the last ten minutes the movie grabs you and doesn’t let go. Although the movie is not widely known today, I often advise male friends to watch this movie with their girlfriends or wives. It is one of the great ‘chick flicks’ of all time.

While the movie starts the action in 11 November 1918, and continues it chronologically, the book begins its story in November 1937 and jumps back and forth. Hilton wrote a number of his books with flashbacks to previous years. This is very effective in the book version of Random Harvest, although, in some places, you have to take note of where you are in the hero’s life.

Our hero, Charles Rainier, is a very successful man. His career in business and politics has made him a revered household name in Britain. Yet he is very uneasy in his success, as he feels he is missing something essential, something valuable, something he perhaps loved. You see, Charles is actually missing two years of his life. As he reveals to his male secretary over a period of time in the book, Charles remembers all of his earlier life until he was shell-shocked in France during World War I. Then two years later he ‘awakens’ in a store in Liverpool, England. How did he get there? The mystery deepens in that British military records have him missing in action, never returning to England. Charles’ yearning to know what he did during those two years often affects him deeply. Occasionally, things happen or someone says something that makes a small, cloudy window open in his mind, showing him something or someone that he can’t really make out. These incidents make him feel detached from the present and affects his relationship with others, especially with his wife, a former secretary whom he married for business and political purposes.

Charles Rainier is a man split between living the life he now leads and searching for the life he once had for a short time. Charles Rainier is about to rediscover his past. Charles Rainier is going to be shocked.

James Hilton is best remembered for his novels Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which were made into movies numerous times. However he wrote over a dozen others, many of which also deserve to be remembered.


For you war fans, Coleman accurately portrays a wounded soldier earlier in the film because he served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War I. He was seriously wounded at the battle of Messines in October 1914, and was invalided out of service.






Mystery Monday – Fer-De-Lance

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Fer-De-Lance by Rex Stout

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


About 25 years ago, when I was young and immature, I decided I didn’t like Rex Stout’s mysteries starring Nero Wolfe. After reading a fistful of them – perhaps one after another six times was a mistake – I decided that I had had enough. Wolfe and his pompous vocabulary. Wolfe and his dreary  orchids. Wolfe and his indolent immovability. Archie and his milky milk.

But recently an archeologist lent me the first one of dozens of books, Fer-de-Lance, first published in 1934. In the spirit of open-mindedness, I read a story in which Wolfe and his wiseacre sidekick Archie Goodwin are hired by the sister of a missing metalworker. Then, a university president is killed on the links by the kind of diabolical yet complicated device only found in whodunnits from The Golden Age of Mysteries.

I must confess I found it more enjoyable than I expected. Although this was first of many books, I got the feeling that Stout had been living with the characters a long time. Archie often refers to cases Wolfe and he solved in the past and this imparts a warm, familiar feeling to the reader. Recall that in the Holmes stories, Conan Doyle uses this device to tantalize the reader, making her think, “That would’ve been a cool story.” And like Holmes’ London, we are completely persuaded by Wolfe and Archie’s New York City in the Thirties.

The other strong point was the humorous conversation between two characters that have a core admiration and liking for each other. The squabbles between Wolfe and Archie are at once acerbic and genial. “I am merely a genius,” Wolfe chides Archive, not a god.”

Stout takes a big chance by revealing the identity of the perp about 50 pages from the end. Usually the reveal ends the interest I have in a mystery, especially one like this that approaches 300 pages. But the action as to how they will deliver justice to the perp is spun out so engagingly that I happily finished the book. Stout weakly describes appearances of people and places, the plotting isn’t terribly strong, but the characterization and dialogue make this well worth reading.

So, inevitably older and hopefully wiser, I have seen the light. Maybe what a blog commenter said is true, “Rex’s Nero is an acquired taste although people of a certain age easily acquire it. Younger people seem to find him tedious and pretentious.” While I’m not going to read the entire canon of 70-some novels and 40 or so novellas, I would like to read the more outstanding novels and novellas. Leave a comment or PM me with your recommendations, please.










Free Book Friday!

Friday, May 3rd, 2013


Today’s Free Book is:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand





ISBN 9781400064168, Hardcover


On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

(Please note: While this is a brand new book, there are is a bit of shelf wear to the dust jacket)

We will choose a winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

Remember, every new book purchase supports the club and helps keep membership free!