Friday, August 31, 2018
Agatha Christie wrote roughly eighty novels and short-story collections over the course of her life, so one could read one of her books every now and then and never run out. That's what I do: read maybe one or two a year. My latest was Peril at End House, and it was another good one. And, no, even though Dame Christie played fair with the clues, I didn't guess the killer (yet again).
This one was interesting because there wasn't so much a killer but a would-be killer. A young pretty heiress, with the cute name of Nick Buckley, has had several clumsy attempts made on her life, and has been shrugging them off as weird accidents. Master detective Hercule Poirot, who has met Ms. Buckley by chance because the hotel where he is vacationing is located near the Buckley estate, begs to differ.
So the bulk of this fast-paced novel involves Poirot attempting to prevent further attempts on Ms. Buckley's life while trying to ascertain who is trying to kill her and why. The stakes are eventually raised when a collateral death (not Ms. Buckley's) does occur, making the brilliant Poirot take things personally. How dare someone have the temerity to kill someone right under the detective's nose?
Needless to say, not everything is as it seems, and that can eventually be frustrating when one fails to detect the skillfully-placed distractions and false paths. But that's okay: along the way it's all very moody and dramatic and entertaining. So, all in all, I quite enjoyed Peril at End House, even though I was once again stumped.
"Peril at End House" was originally published in the early 1930's but has never gone out of print. It is also available on Kindle and in various audiobook editions.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
After more than two years of service (who knows, time flies and maybe it's even been more than three years), I'm still enjoying and regularly using my Kindle Paperwhite. This was the first Kindle I bought that featured a backlit screen, and while I was originally skeptical about how important that feature would be, I'm now sold on the concept.
It's really great to be able to read in the most dimly-lit room, or even in an unlit room, and my current Kindle makes the words on the page crisper and clearer in well-lit rooms, too. And yet, even with the back lighting feature, I'm still experiencing the same pleasant-looking, paper-like Kindle screen (like my previous Kindles), and not a harsh, overly bright computer-type screen.
So, if you haven't made the jump to one of the newer backlit Kindles, don't be afraid to do so. They are still the same easy-on-the-eyes Kindles, only now you can use them whether or not there is adequate lighting in the place you want to read.
There are newer Kindles out there- including the Oasis and the Voyage- and I'm sure one day I will upgrade. But for now my Kindle Paperwhite performs perfectly well. But one thing is for sure: I will always have an actual Kindle device, and not simply install a Kindle app on my smartphone and iPad. I've always liked the simple elegance of an actual Kindle. I have plenty of other devices that can do a thousand things, so it's nice to relax once or twice a day with a piece of technology that just worries about making my reading experience as pleasant as possible.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Stephen King's The Outsider was an involving, immersive, and very entertaining reading experience. It had elements and plot devices we've seen before from Mr. King, but done in new ways. For example, this one involves a group of friends and allies taking on something very evil. We've seen this in The Stand, It, and several other King titles. What is different here is that the group of friends and allies don't start out that way. We meet them as adversaries, even enemies, on opposite sides of a gruesome murder case making its way through the criminal justice system. As the story progresses, they slowly start working together because, well... I should let you discover that for yourselves.
I will say that The Outsider is about, among other things, the dangers of being close minded, of being too secure in one's beliefs about something, especially something that you see on the news (but also about things you may think you have reliable first-hand knowledge about). It's also about the dangers of mob rule. Before anything really Stephen King-ish happens in the book, some very bad things happen of the non-horror novel variety, all because a variety of people just grab some "facts" and run with it.
Like Stephen King's recent Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch), this novel uses the trappings of a crime thriller before moving into the kinds of things you normally expect from Mr. King. In fact, The Outsider uses a major character from that earlier trilogy as a member of the team here, which results in much discussion of the events of Mr. Mercedes and its two sequels. For that reason you may want to read those earlier (and also very good) novels before reading The Outsider.
But, yeah, if you like Mr. King, this one won't disappoint you. The Outsider is a solid crime thriller and horror novel that will make you look for extra time each day to just read a little more.
The Outsider is available in hardback, Kindle, and unabridged audio editions. I quite enjoyed reading it on my Kindle Paperwhite.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
It's been a while, but here I am. No promises yet, but over the next few days I'm going to try to get this blog back on its feet. I'll do this with a combination of posts telling you a little bit about why I've been gone and posts doing what this blog is supposed to do: telling you about interesting things I've read and seen (things you might enjoy, too). Fingers crossed, but there might be a little life left in this blog yet.
Before I get to the boring personal stuff, though, here's a quick book tip. I just finished reading John Sandford's Phantom Prey, which was another terrific entry in the author's long-running police thriller series. This time series lead Lucas Davenport is trying to solve a handful of probably-related murders taking place in the goth community.
This entry actually has a kind of supernatural vibe, because (without telling you too much) one of the characters thinks she has a ghostly presence in her life, one that is pressing her to commit some extreme acts. Is there really a dark spirit hovering around this woman, or is she simply in need of some serious help? In the context of this terrific mystery/chase thriller (there's lots of chasing around town after clues and crooks in this one), does it really matter?
The book also has the usual Sandford richness. In addition to the main plotline, there are also all kinds of other things (both professional and personal) going on with Lucas and his colleagues. A stakeout subplot could have actually carried its own book, but here acts as a bit of variety and diversion from the main story.
Phantom Prey is somewhere slightly past the midpoint of this (so far) twenty-some book series. I tend to read a Prey book about once or twice a year, not wanting to be greedy and get caught up too quickly.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Happy weekend, everyone. Hope you'll all make it a good one.
If you're looking for a decent movie to watch this weekend, you could do worse than Hidden Figures, a solid and entertaining biopic about three unsung heroes of the U.S. space program. Think The Help combined with The Right Stuff and you'll have a rough idea of what you'll getting (though the women of Hidden Figures have a slightly better social standing and aren't persecuted quite as much as the women in The Help). Anyway, good movie.
I notice that author William Peter Blatty passed away earlier this week. To pay tribute to the author of so many moody and entertaining works, try listening to the 40th Anniversary Edition of his most famous novel, The Exorcist, which was produced a few years ago and is read aloud- and very well- by Mr. Blatty himself. I listened to it last year and really enjoyed it. Still a very creepy book, and- as a bonus- it's a nice time capsule on life in New York City in the 1970's.
My literary and audio projects for 2017? First, I'm going to finish my 2016 project and read or listen to the last few James Bond novels written by John Gardner in the 1980's and 90's. To paraphrase the old movie ads about Sean Connery, Simon Vance IS James Bond in the audiobook versions. But, alas, not all the Gardner Bonds are available on audio, so thank God for Kindle. I also want to finish up John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, which I'll continue doing on audio as Robert Petkoff does a really nice job reading them. And, who knows, I may even get caught up on John Sandford's terrific Prey thriller series, which I've been enjoying again lately after a hiatus. I will also lean towards audio on that series, as narrator Richard Ferrone has made Sandford's cop characters truly his own.
See you all next week!
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The upcoming Twin Peaks revival finally has a release date and episode count. Showtime will being airing episodes from the new 18-episode season on Sunday, May 21. The program will continue storylines from the first two seasons of Twin Peaks that aired on network TV in 1990 and 1991, as well as the 1992 movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Unfamiliar with the scary, crazy, funny, and surreal Twin Peaks? You can currently view the first two seasons on Netflix, and the 1992 movie isn't that hard to find, either. If you watch an episode or two and like what you see, you'll have just enough time to get all caught up before the May premiere of the new season.
You could also read Mark Frost's 2016 novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which is meant to be a sort of bridge between the older stories and the upcoming new ones. It's said that the audiobook version of the title is quite something, featuring many of the original actors from the show reprising their roles. I'm probably going to check out the book in one form or another, after shortly re-watching all the original episodes and the movie.
Friday, January 6, 2017
A project of mine last year was to read or listen to all the James Bond novels written by British thriller novelist John Gardner in the 1980's and 90's. I had read a handful of them when they were originally published and had liked them, so my project last year was to reacquaint myself with the ones I had enjoyed and to finally get to all the ones I hadn't back then.
The project went pretty well, aided by the fact that quality audio recordings of most of books are now available. Actually, the project is still going on. I read the first two entries (actually using my old hardback copies from way back when), Licence Renewed and For Special Services, as they for some reason aren't yet available on audio. Then, periodically throughout the year, I listened to the next several books on audio, enjoying the excellent new productions read by Simon Vance offered at Audible.com.
I listened to Icebreaker; Role of Honour; Nobody Lives Forever; No Deals, Mr. Bond; Scorpius; and Win, Lose, or Die. Then I switched back to old-fashioned reading for Licence To Kill, a novelization of the 1989 James Bond Film, but also written by Mr. Gardner.
I enjoyed all of these titles. Gardner's Bond novels, the first major attempt to revive and continue the Ian Fleming series, are all solid spy novels, but laced with enough of the glamour and big-set pieces we've become used to in the movies. They're a lot of fun, at least the ones I've revisited and visited for the first time last year. I still have a handful to go.
Licence To Kill was the odd duck. It didn't feature an original Gardner Bond story, but his adaptation of the (pretty good, I thought) movie story. But what Gardner did was alter certain aspects of the story to make it fit into the main Fleming/Gardner James Bond literary timeline. I'll have to write a bit at some point about the results of that experiment, which were interesting but uneven. The novel also didn't have the richness and nuance of the other Gardner novels, as he had to keep up the breakneck pace of the film story and include the humor and over-the-top plot developments, which perhaps worked better on a movie screen than in a book.
But, all in all, this project has been worthwhile, and I'm looking forward to finishing off the last several John Gardner James Bond novels in 2017. Stay tuned for more discussion of them.
All of the John Gardner "James Bond" novels are available on Kindle. All but the first two books in the series are available, at very nice prices, at Audible.com.