Monday, September 15, 2014


Title/Author: Victims (Alex Delaware #27) by JonathanKellerman.

Narrator: John Rubenstein.

Genre:  Thriller

Publisher: Random House Audio.

Source: Library.

Synopsis: Not since Jack the Ripper terrorized the London slums has there been such a gruesome crime scene. By all accounts, acid-tongued Vita Berlin hadn’t a friend in the world, but whom did she cross so badly as to end up arranged in such a grotesque tableau? One look at her apartment–turned–charnel house prompts hard-bitten LAPD detective Milo Sturgis to summon his go-to expert in hunting homicidal maniacs, Alex Delaware. But despite his finely honed skills, even Alex is stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion . . . yet with no apparent connection among the victims. And the only clue left behind—a blank page bearing a question mark—seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges.

Under pressure to end the bloody spree and prevent a citywide panic, Milo redoubles his efforts to discover a link between the disparate victims. Meanwhile, Alex navigates the secretive world of mental health treatment, from the sleek office of a Beverly Hills therapist to a shuttered mental institution where he once honed his craft—and where an unholy alliance between the mad and the monstrous may have been sealed in blood. As each jagged piece of the puzzle fits into place, an ever more horrific portrait emerges of a sinister mind at its most unimaginable—and an evil soul at its most unspeakable. “This one was different,” Alex observes at the start of the case. This one will haunt his waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.

Midnyte Musings:  I used to love Jonathan Kellerman.  I started with When the Bough Breaks and tried to continue on with the Alex Delaware adventures.  There are many of them (as you can see from the title above) and it was difficult to keep up with all the books for me.  But whenever I did pick one up, I was thrilled with psychiatrist Alex and his sidekick cop pal, Milo Sturgis.  The crimes were scandalous, sometimes horrifying and at times even a bit titillating.  Also, while events occur in Alex's life, if I happened to read one out of order, I may have wondered what happened with some things in his personal life, but it never hindered the mystery. 

The particulars behind solving the case came across very realistic.  There is a lot of hard work portrayed.  Phone calls, going back over the case, files and "pounding the pavement."  I did appreciate this attention to details.  There was no wondering how they got from point A to point B. 

However, Victims is not one of my favorites.  In fact, when going into Goodreads to update my reading list, I almost forgot about it.  When I read Kellerman's books in the past, I was always fascinated by the human behavior of the characters and the reasoning behind their crimes.  I don't know if I am now jaded or if it just this book.  The plot kind of fell flat for me and while the crimes were gruesome the mystery behind them, including the criminals themselves were a bit anti-climactic.  Alex's involvement is important but he wasn't an important character for me. 

Although Victims was not that entertaining for me, I would keep trying Kellerman's books on audio.  I'm not sure I would continue with the printed books.

Narration:  My favorite character that Rubenstein portrays is Milo.  He sounds exactly like the grizzled, sarcastic, jaded cop that I had in my head.  A little gravelly and a lot of attitude.  There were many characters in this book and I was impressed that the narrator was able to distinguish all of them without going over the top. 

Starstruck over: The portrayal of Milo Sturgis is stellar. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Outlander: Another Successful Trip From Print to Television.

            It may seem like odd timing for Diana Gabaldon’s award winning book Outlander to be turned into a television series, some 22 years after it was published, but fans of the book and Diana Gabaldon don’t seem to mind one bit. The story of WWII era British Army nurse Claire Randall and her sudden transportation into 18th century Scotland has become something of a cult-favorite television series on the Starz network with both fans of the books, (the show’s first season is based on the 1st novel in a series of 8) and those who had previously never even heard of Gabaldon’s work.

            Given that Starz has just ordered a second season already, after only 5 episodes have aired, some might be wondering what all the fuss is about, and if the series stay true to the beloved books. If you haven’t read the books (which you can purchase in all its forms here), or watched the series, (which is easy enough to catch up on with a Starz subscription from your cable provider), but are planning to, be warned! This will contain some spoilers, so go out, catch up, and then come back and finish the article!

            The book and the television series both center around the story of the aforementioned Claire Randall and her sudden and unexpected time travel from 1945 back to 1743, where she first stumbles upon an ancestor of her husband’s, named Captain Jack Randall. Though the two look nearly identical, Captain Jack Randall is a very different man than Claire’s 1945 husband, and Claire finds herself in a dangerous situation almost immediately.

Claire is luckily (or not so luckily) saved by Scottish highlanders, who aren’t keen on leaving a woman to the whims of Jack Randall, but also are hesitant to trust a British woman who may or may not be a spy. Claire is kept as a medical aid on house arrest at the Mackenzie castle while the clan decides if she’s to be trusted. There, Claire meets Jamie Fraser, who presents himself as one of the few relatable faces at the castle. It’s known from the series premiere that we will watch Jamie and Claire develop a relationship. Though Claire was concerned about the state of her marriage in 1945 prior to her time travel – she and her husband Frank had been separated by war for the better part of 5 years – the introduction of another man is not easy and Claire finds herself unsure of her complicated feelings, a dilemma which is further explored in both print and on the screen.

As if that wouldn’t be difficult enough, Claire must cope with the challenges that faced everyone in the 1700’s, such as disease and a lack of women’s rights, plus those difficulties that she must battle herself, like figuring out how to live without the modern conveniences she’s used to, as well as how to return home and avoid suspicion regarding her history. Of course, she’s found herself a captive of not just any rural citizens, but the notorious Scottish highlanders who, during this time period, are in the midst of the Jacobite risings. For non-history buffs, the risings were the Irish and Scottish rebellions against the British in an attempt to return the House of Stuart back onto the English throne. Since thousands of highlanders were brutally killed, including many of Claire’s host clan, and the rebellion ultimately failed, to say that she picked a bad time to travel back to is an understatement.

            The series was picked up by Starz after Sony Pictures TV acquired the rights to the books back in 2012. Sony then quickly hired Battlestar Galactica developer and producer Ron Moore to write the screenplay. Gabaldon herself had made it clear in recent years that she was skeptical about the idea of a television series or film. On her website she said, “ I don't think I'd want absolute control over a process that I don't normally work in and am not familiar with. I know people who work in film, and I think it would suck my soul, waste my time, and prevent me from writing books.”

In fact, Gabaldon even revealed her skepticism at the series getting picked up by anyone, stating the books had been optioned four times in the past with no results. She did, however, become a consultant after meeting with Moore and finding his script worthy of her material. Her involvement in the project was welcomed with much relief from diehard Outlander fans. While she didn’t exert a massive amount of control over the script or casting (though she did heartily approve of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe), she surely yields influence over the general direction of the series, and gives final approval of any script - especially when it comes to proposed changes that veer from her original plot line.

For their part, Starz has been investing adequate time and effort to ensure that the series stays true to Gabaldon’s vision. Detailed and inspired costuming and scenery have provided a stunning background for the show. The creators have also made use of Gaelic, resulting in an excellent use of a language barrier that excludes Claire as well as the viewers from the foreign, extinct, lifestyle. So far the series has been warmly welcomed by both fans and critics. The Hollywood Reporter has praised Moore and the series, saying Moore “successfully translates” the books into a show and dubbed the effort “well-executed,” despite its slow pace. On a similar note Time called it “the most promising show in years for Starz” and “a very writerly TV show,” which is a promising sign for fans of the books.

            For those of you wondering whether or not the series is going to be for you, regardless if you’ve read the books or not, it simply comes down to personal preference. It’s not a network series, so don’t expect the series to be fast paced and filled to the brim with action and high octane content. Like the books, the takes its time to establish the mood, setting, and atmosphere, but in a visually dazzling way. It’s less Game of Thrones and more The Notebook at times, but it certainly proves to be an interesting story for history buffs and Outlander fans. It’s a series that proves that, especially in this day and age, sometimes good things come to those who wait.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sword at Sunset.

Title/Author: Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Genre:  Arthurian/Historical Fiction.

Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 1963.

Source: Purchased.

Synopsis: This brilliant reconception of the Arthurian epic cuts through the familiar myths and tells the story of the real King Arthur: Artos the Bear, the mighty warrior-king who saved the last lights of Western civilization when the barbarian darkness descended in the fifth century.

Artos here comes alive: bold and forceful in battle, warm and generous in friendship, tough in politics, shrewd in the strategy of war - and tender and tragically tormented in love.

Out of the braiding of ancient legend, fresh research, soaring imagination and hypnotic narrative skill comes a novel that has richly earned its reputation as a classic.

Midnyte Musings:   Oh how I've missed the world of Dark Ages and Medieval Britain in literature.  I used to read a lot of re-tellings about the legend of King Arthur and I had heard of Sword at Sunset but had never gotten to it.  I wanted to note the year of original publication above, because this book stands the test of time and reads beautifully today even though the language immediately immersed me in the world of King Arthur's Britain.  Although I am no scholar on Medieval Times, Sutcliff either did her research or utilizes expressions and language that serve the time period.  Much of the language is mixed in so you can interpret it via context.  Also well researched is the landscape, history, culture and warfare.

This is not a story featuring Kings and Queens in golden palaces and tournaments for honor, but a gritty and dark story of Artos, who is a soldier and inherits his uncle's dream of a unified Britain.  However, mixed in with the history lesson and fighting is a Britain that mixes Roman history, Welsh Mythology and Celtic culture into a haunting landscape of a beautiful tale of long ago. 

At the heart of this story is our hero "Artos the Bear," who meets his nemesis early on in the story, his half-sister who is his undoing.  In this incarnation she is called Ygerna instead of Morgana or Morgan.  Later on in the story we meet Medraut (Mordred), who takes up the mantle of his mother's vendetta.  However, the main meat of the story is Artos's campaign to keep the raiding Saxons out of their land. 

Are you afraid to hear the music of the Silver Branch?  Are you afraid to hear the singing of Rhiannon's birds that makes men forget? ~Ygerna.

His wife Guenhumara is included in this story and she is portrayed in a unique way, a mix of other versions I have read and quite human and very likable.  Unfortunately, and although I always know it is coming, my stomach still clenches over the imminent betrayal. 

The whole feel of the book is noble and romantic in the same way that following a dream is. The way that Sutcliff describes Britain is real, but there is a touch of underlying magic to it. The way that Artos's mother's tribe, the Little People and other legends such as The Lady of the Lake are presented contain kernels of truth that are the foundation of these rich myths.

Starstruck Over: The language of this story which put me in the thick of Artos's journey. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School Book Blogger Challenge - Day 9

Day 7: Share the story of your favorite teacher or mentor? 

The Back to School Book Blogger Challenge is hosted by Parajunkee. Stop by her blog to join in!

This has been the hardest question of this challenge to answer.  There have been favorite teachers, counselors and a few great bosses.  Even my siblings have been a huge influence on me.  I think that I have to name my dad as my favorite mentor however.  Not just with reading and books, but his encouragement.  Whatever I showed an interest in, he would buy a book about it or a kit or something so I could explore.  He taught himself glassblowing, fly tying and went back to school to become a teacher when he was well past 50.  He was an amateur photographer (like myself) and he wrote poetry and short stories (and even got one poem published).  I don't know if it occurred to him that he couldn't accomplish something.  Thinking about it, I wish I could have more of that chutzpah in my life.  I guess it's never too late.

Let me know who your favorite teacher or mentor is or was.  I'd love to hear it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Book Blogger Challenge - Day 8

Day 8: What is the biggest lesson you've learned as a blogger? 

The Back to School Book Blogger Challenge is hosted by Parajunkee. Stop by her blog to join in!

I don't know if I can narrow this down so I came up with a list.  Suffice it to say, I have learned so MUCH as a book blogger.

-Why yes!  Anyone *can* have a blog! (For some weird reason I thought you had to be some kind of "professional blogger.")
-Blogging is a lot of work.  A LOT.
-The publishing industry is a lot more intricate that I imagined.
-I am a slow reader.  (People in my life say I'm a fast reader, but when I compare myself with all the bloggers I know...ummm, no. )
-There are crazy and insecure people out there in the world. 
-There are wonderful, amazing, kind, funny and generous people out there in the world.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School Book Blogger Challenge - Day 7.

Day 7: What are the most inspiring books you've read that have been assigned to you? 

The Back to School Book Blogger Challenge is hosted by Parajunkee. Stop by her blog to join in!

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. 

In 6th grade we read To Kill a Mockingbird in English.  I loved my teacher, I loved English and I think it helped to read this book aloud and discuss it in class.  I loved Scout and her relationship with her father.  I loved the spooky mystery of Boo Radley.  I loved Atticus and I loved the insight I gained from this book.  The way people think, human behavior and even plot devices.

Another book that really affected me was Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.  After college I took an online class with the New School on Native American mythology and this was one of the discussion reads.  This may sound cliche but that book changed my life.  I knew about the wholeness of the Universe and how everything is related and interconnected, but when I read this book, I really felt it and understood it. 

What books have inspired you and how?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to School Book Blogger Challenge - Day 6.

Day 6: What are some steps you'll take on your blog to keep things flowing smoothly or change things up? 

The Back to School Book Blogger Challenge is hosted by Parajunkee. Stop by her blog to join in!

Oh how I wish I had goals and strategies to make my blog better, more appealing and more fun.  I wish I could think of awesome challenges like this one I'm participating in or great features like Tune in Tuesdays and Stacking the Shelves.  But I stretch myself to the point that I'm just happy when I can read a book and get a post up.  However, I have been thinking about plans for my blog lately, whether or not I'll actually implement them or not is a different story.

-Change my review format.  I'm getting tired of not being able to be more clever with my reviews or insightful.  How many ways can I express what I love about a book?  I want to come up with something different.  I'm thinking of just a list or maybe even participate in the Short and Tweet meme. 

-Get back to doing some features such as Midnyte Snack.  I mean, I love food and I love books.  It should be a no brainer.  Oh wait...I don't like to cook.  That's it!  But maybe I can just buy the food already made.

-Think outside the box.  I would really like to learn more about blogging and get fresh ideas.  Felicia from The Geeky Bloggers Book Blog t old me about Bloggy Boot Camp.  It's a bit pricey, but I'd still like to go.  I've actually started researching where I can take additional Blogging classes and workshops. 

-Use Instagram and Pinterest more.  (Self explanatory.)

-Further contemplate moving to Wordpress.  I sometimes wonder if I should just take the plunge.  Most everyone who has done so tells me I should as well.  I would like to implement all the cool gadgets, and not have to worry about the minor formatting issues I've encountered anymore.  But I also feel - If it ain't broke why fix it?

What do you think about my ideas?  I'd love any advice.  What are some steps you'll be taking with your own blog?

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