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Showing posts by: Amy Eller Lewis click to see Amy Eller Lewis's profile
Thu
Sep 25 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Mythology of Grimm by Nathan Robert Brown

The Mythology of Grimm by Nathan Robert Brown is an encyclopedic comparison of Grimm, the TV series, to the classic fairy tales on which it's based (available September 30, 2014).

Full Disclosure: I have a soft spot for fairy tales. Okay, not just a soft spot, but an abiding obsession with all: in their original gruesome Black Forest-ey form, in retellings and re-imaginings  ranging from comics to YA novels, to you guessed it, TV.

The popular TV show Grimm is part police procedural, part supernatural monster show. Nick Burkhardt, is the eponymous “Grimm”,  a guy who has to profile, hunt and kill monsters straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Nathan Robert Brown’s The Mythology of Grimm: The Fairy Tale and Folklore Roots of the Popular TV Show makes clear the connections and associations between the show’s monsters and situations, and the fairy tales and folklore they’re inspired by.

[Get inside Grimm!]

Sun
Sep 21 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall is a dystopian societal thriller where DNA testing weeds out potentially dangerous boys and forces them into boarding schools that resemble prisons (available September 30, 2014).

What’s immediately really strong about Peyton Marshall’s novel is the premise itself. But why tell you myself, when her first pages do such a good job at heavy lifting?

Goodhouse had come out of an idea— a program meant to map the genetic profile of prison populations. What the researchers had found was this: The worst inmates, the most impulsive, the most violent, the least empathetic, all shared certain biometric markers. But these were prisoners. They cost the state millions of dollars to ware house every year. And they’d been children once. They had not always been beyond help. It was too late for adults, but young boys were different. They could be molded, instructed, taught. If intervention occurred at an early age, they could be salvaged. 

Based (loosely from what I can tell) on the Preston School of Industry (one the country’s first reform schools), Goodhouse is really ripe with tension from the start. In the not too distant future, we’ve figured out how to identify DNA markers that might – just might – be able to predict violent and criminal behavior in male children. So they all get shipped off to these boys’ schools-cum-juvenile detention centers called “Goodhouses” located throughout the country. Our point of view character is James, a Goodhouse student who recently transferred as his original Goodhouse was burned to the ground by religious zealots. So every scene, every moment not just full of tension, but all sorts of different kinds of tension happening at once.

[And you thought high school was tough...]

Fri
Mar 21 2014 5:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwhistle

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwhistle follows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde as they try to stop a murder before it happens (available March 25, 2014).

Full disclosure: This book is jumping up and down on pretty much every spot I have. Let’s see… 19th Century London? Check. A Crumbling Gothic Mansion? Check. Murder? Seances? Underground crypts? Arthur Conan Doyle hallucinating the ghost of Sherlock Holmes? Oscar Wilde and fabulous outfits? Check, check double check.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my grubby little paws on this. But that being said, I’ve been burned before. So I admit, I was a little skeptical. But The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is just terrific.

One of the things that really works is the fictionalized team-up of Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. Alone, neither would have worked. Conan Doyle, a bit serious, a bit dour, would have made the book drag, or worse, forced the book to take itself too seriously. But Wilde by himself would have been unbearable, and certainly would have been too busy changing clothes to actually solve a mystery.

[They make quite the dynamic duo...]

Thu
Mar 6 2014 6:30pm

The Bibliotherapist is IN: Snowbound

It’s me again, kittens. Your friendly neighborhood Bibliotherapist, and believe me when I tell you that I know what’s ailing you. Yes, you. And you, too. Gather round, chumps and listen up.

As I write this now, we are out of salt, out of sand, and out of patience. I love the winter. Really, I do. It’s just right in my wheelhouse, with all the staying inside, all the cups of tea and cocoa (with whiskey), all the snuggling down to read.

But really? I’ve had enough. And when I have had enough, you know enough has been had by all.

But there’s nothing to be done about it, except settle in for another storm. So here’s my reading list for combating the Snowbound/Cabin Fever situation. Some of them feature snowbound detectives and manor houses, so you’ll know you’re not alone. Some feature sunny and summery vacation spots to give you something to look forward to. Others, well…sometimes it’s good to watch somebody else go on a murderous rampage, so you don’t have to do it yourself.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

Hail to the Queen, baby. Nobody can make a snow day pass more quickly than Dame Agatha can. And while The Sittaford Mystery has neither Miss Marple and her knitting bag, nor Poirot and his little gray cells, it gets extra points for featuring not only a snowbound manor house, but also a murder predicted by a Ouija Board, which is always a plus.

 

Recommended beverage: Earl Grey Tea with Brandy

 

[More mystery medicine ahead!]

Mon
Feb 24 2014 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Amazing Harvey by Don Passman

The Amazing Harvey by Don PassmanThe Amazing Harvey by Don Passman introduces Harvey Kendall, a wisecracking, struggling stage magician in L.A., whose sleuthing is inspired by the inexplicable presence of his own DNA at a crime scene (available February 25, 2014).

It seems our man Harvey just can’t get a break. A low level stage magician, with his eyes on the prize of Las Vegas, he makes ends meet as a Substitute Teacher. You gotta love a guy who shows up to school in his spangled magician’s coat, with his bird Lisa on his shoulder.

“You’re late, Mr. Kendall.”

I smiled at her. Truth is, I usually get to class a little late. I think it’s better to come in after the kids are already sitting down. That, and the fact that I can’t seem to estimate time very well. The matron placed the clipboard on the counter.

“Room two eleven. Second floor.” I spun around and started off.

She called after me. “Mr. Kendall?”

I turned back. “Do you think that’s appropriate clothing for a teacher?”

I turned my palms up. “It’ll have to do. My chicken suit is at the cleaners.”

Harvey’s snappy one-liners make me hear a rim-shot in the back of my head, but the thing that’s great about it, is that Harvey seems to hear it, too. He is, after all, a consummate showman.

And it’s this ability, along with the specific kind of observation powers necessary to be a good magician, which serve him incredibly well as an amateur sleuth. Harvey says: “It’s an occupational hazard of magicians that we have to look behind the curtains. I can’t watch a magic show without figuring out how it’s done. Secrets drive me nuts.”

[A Ta-Da moment that ends with a corpse...]

Sun
Oct 20 2013 6:00pm

The Bibliotherapist is IN: Books for Empty Nesters

The days got longer, the nights grew crisp. Commercials for school supplies ran on a seemingly constant loop during nighttime TV. It was time to send the kids to school again. But say that your little ones are no longer so little. And rather than packing a lunchbox, you were packing shower caddies and a bed-in-a-bag. Because now they’ve gone off to college.

There’s lots to celebrate here: no more shuttling people to ballet and soccer, no more of the general noise associated with teenage children (slamming doors, hair dryers). But for those of you who are not clicking your heels about it, for those of you who are maybe finding the sudden silence in the house a little hard to take—don’t worry.

I’m the Bibliotherapist. I’ve got this one.

As part of my job as a Library Fairy, I do something I call “Reader’s Services,” which is another way of saying “Book Recommendations.” What I’ve found in my years of doing this is that different... well, personal situations might call for different reads. So now, I’m offering the same service for you. I like to offer a reader several different types of crime novels, in the hopes that at least one of them will work for whatever ails in your time of crisis. Now bear in mind, this is not a whole list of mystery novels featuring people in your situation (although I did manage to come up with one!). I’ve also stayed away from any crimes against children, detectives balancing work and family. Instead, I’ve come up with a list of diverting books you might want to try.

I’m concentrating on books about Great Second Acts, books about Grown-ass people doing Grown-ass things, amazing things and having adventures they could NEVER have while making sure everybody gets enough vegetables and to school on time. Another thing I kept in mind is that some of you might have many hours to while away, so I tried to find a couple of series that have lots and lots of books. Because sometimes, when you need bibliotherapy, the last thing you want is to have to make another decision.

Here are some Prescriptive Reading Suggestions for Empty Nesters:

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy GilmanThe Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Talk about your great second acts. Emily Pollifax is a senior citizen widow, at the end of her rope from the sheer boredom of it all. Inspired by the story of an actress who started her career late in life, she applies for a job at the CIA. Yes. The Old Lady becomes a Spy. What’s great about the Mrs. Pollifax books is that they are not so silly that they don’t hold your interest, yet not too serious, and they don’t provide too “intense” a reading experience. These are mysteries that dare to be funny and move with a quick, light pace. Also? There are about two hundred Mrs. Pollifax books (well, not really, but 14's pretty good), so if these work for you, there will be plenty to choose from.

[More mystery medicine ahead!]

Sat
Oct 5 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Taken by the Wind by Ellen Hart

Taken by the WInd by Ellen HartTaken by the Wind by Ellen Hart is the 21st installment of the Jane Lawless series, set in and around contemporary Minneapolis (available October 8, 2013).

Jane Lawless’ friend Andrew asks for her help when his 12 year-old son and another boy go missing after a camping trip. Andrew is recently separated from his partner, Eric, and the entire book is rife with the tension that comes with anti-gay sentiments in small communities.

One of the strengths of Ellen Hart’s work is that these mysteries are not so “cozy” that they become overly reliant on the Cute Factor. No talking cats, nobody running a needle shop or a bakery. It doesn’t have that Jessica Fletcher brand of lightness. (This lightness has a place for me, as a reader, but sometimes it can be so light it just... floats away.) But at the same time, neither is it overly gruesome, or particularly dark, despite the endangered children at the core of the plot. Hart strikes a delicate balance between the Cozy and the Hardboiled. Jane’s a professional detective and she works like one, despite the “cozy” tone of an amateur.

Without a great deal of graphic violence or bloodshed, Hart manages to create a real sense of unease. She is particularly adept at defining and managing the complex relationships between her characters, and using that to create tension for the reader. Here, two men who are long-time partners, though they have recently split, have tensions running high as they look for their missing son. It’s not long before the Familiar Fight starts again:

[I love a good Familiar Fight...]

Wed
Sep 25 2013 9:30am

The Digital Detective: Nancy Drew Video Games

Ghost of Thornton HallShe is the undisputed Queen of Girl Sleuths, the Uber-Goddess with a roadster, so it should be no surprise that the Nancy Drew Mystery Games by Her Interactive, truly truly have no peer in the realm.

And I have played all of them.

Every. Single. One. (Except #28, the most recent so NO SPOILERS)

And I am a grownass woman.

While these games are perfectly appropriate for younger people (I wouldn’t recommend them for small children—the narratives are too complex and the puzzles too sophisticated), it really is a game for everyone who values story and snooping above all else in gaming.

You choose between Junior and Senior Detective, and the key differences here is the absence of a Task List in Senior (you’d be surprised how handy this is, even for experienced gamers) and how hard the puzzles are. And the difference here, can be huge. Honestly, sometimes I start on Junior Detective in case of a dreaded slider puzzle.

[We won't judge you, Junior!...]

Wed
Aug 7 2013 9:30am

Video Games and The Digital Detective

Mystery Case Files 10: Fate's CarnivalNow let’s be clear what I mean by “Video Games” here. I’m not talking about MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) like World of Warcraft. For me, its the MM part of that equation that’s the problem. All those other people. God. What a nightmare. And Call of Duty? No thanks. The learning curve on those kinds of games is so steep that I just keep getting yelled at for not knowing what to do.  Neither am I interested in any game where my success depends entirely on how fast I can push the X button.

But with the games I’m talking about, you don’t have to find energy packs to stay alive, no one’s waiting in the next corridor to shoot you, and you can never EVER die (without immediately coming back to life at exactly the same place). Which is a relief, to say the least. In the games I’m talking about today, all this is swept aside so I can do what I’ve loved to do since I was a kid with a Nancy Drew book: Solve A Mystery.

[Bring on the mayhem and high scores....]