Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 07/13/12
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This sophisticated horror story was not written for an uneducated audience.  It is hip 'n' happenin' and yet old-fashioned.  It is tragic, yet uplifting.  It has humor, yet is remorseful.  It is simply...well written.
 
Duncan is a British born author who studied philosophy and literature.  In this, his 7th novel, the protagonist is Jake, the last werewolf.  Werewolves have survived for over 1000 years.  Jake's dilemma is whether to surrender himself to two factions that are trying to capture him alive, flee from his human tormentors, or possibly commit suicide.  All of which are not pleasant thoughts.
 
Adding to Jake's displeasure is the fact that his only trusted human companion of fifty-plus years, Harley, has been kidnapped, tortured, and killed.  This action forces Jake to take a stand and confront some of his hidden fears and suppressed memories.  While mourning this loss and weighing feelings of self-destruction, Jake Marlowe stumbles upon the only thing left in life worth living for...Love!
 
Duncan's 3rd novel I, Lucifer is currently being developed for film. 
 
The sequel to The Last Werewolf is Talulla Rising.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/27/12
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As Adam Sandler would say:  "...Not too shabby..."  This best describes this first published novel of  S. J. Watson. 
 
Shabby, at best, could  also describe the heroine’s memory.  Chris wakes each day with no memory of her past.  For over 20 years, her days begins in a panic.  Where is she?  Who is she? Why can't she remember anything?   Who is the man in bed next to her?
 
Each dawn, the man in bed next to her patiently explains to Chris that he is Ben, her husband.  He carefully outlines the traumatic past that she has survived and the resulting time-life-loop in which Chris' memory is stuck.  Imagine what this must feel like to experience!  
 
The lone, good outcome of this daily experience is that it's not like a nagging, horrific nightmare.  She has little or no memories of her past, so each day is news to her.  She discovers through Ben's daily narratives that she has spent a lot a time in hospitals and her prognosis is not good.   Over the years, doctors have not measured much change in her condition. 
 
One day a doctor contacts her and says that he has been secretly working with Chris for some time and feels that she may one day get better.  He encourages her to start a daily diary, hide it from Ben each night before they sleep, and then the doctor will tell her the next day the hiding place so that Chris can read and more easily assimilate her past.
 
Since no character in the story is without flaws and trust-worthy, the reader is constantly assessing the exposition and attempting to seek some truth.  Chris might have been in a car accident.  She might have had best friend who is since estranged.  Ben might have once divorced her.  She might have had a son who died in a war.  The list goes on.
 
This is a difficult book to write, but not that difficult to read.  There is a lot of redundancy that is to be expected since Chris's memory must be reassembled each day like a house of cards.  The final product, this book, withstands any gust of wind.  Looking forward to his next novel.  Watson's webpage can be found here:  http://www.sjwatson-books.com/.
Posted by Uncle Will on 06/04/12
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Camilla Lackberg is the best selling mystery author of Sweden.  She has 7 best sellers; to date, only 3 have been translated into English.  This is her latest in her Fjallbacka series.  What is it about Swedish authors that seem to mandate that all their mysteries have at least 20 characters?
 
True to form, this latest story has several plots with interconnecting characters.  The story begins in the present with Patrik and Erica, the proud parents of newly born Maja.  Erica has all the signs of postpartum depression.  Patrik hasn't a clue since he is immersed in investigating the shocking death of his wife's best friends' 8-year old daughter Sara...found tangled in a fishing net off the coast of Fjallbacka.   
 
Chapter 2 backs up to 1928 and has Lackberg tangling-in the title character, Anders Anderson, who is an artist with hammer and chisel in hand.  His canvas is Stromstad's quarry's granite.  He is commissioned by the town's most prominent businessman to create a great granite statue.  Agnes, the rich man's spoiled and only daughter has commission plans for Anders of her own.  The story continues to flip-flop back and forth between storylines, building to a dramatic conclusion.
 
All of Patrik's police cronies are back; each with their own set of hang-ups and emotional baggage.  Anna, the abused wife and younger sister of Erica, continues to plot her (and her children's) escape from her ogre husband Lucas. 
 
Make no mistake about it, this 500-page book is not an easy read and readers are advised to begin with Lackberg's first two mysteries in the series: The Ice Princess and The Preacher.    The series' central characters continue to develop from book to book.  The last chapter is always the "teaser" foreshadowing what is to come. 
 
If one enjoys mysteries that are thought-provoking and not formulaic, heroes that are flawed, and romance that endures, this Swedish series is carved in stone. 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/25/12
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"Vengeance is mine...sayeth the short story lover."
 
Lee Child has edited a collection of short stories from noted mystery authors Dennis  LeHane, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, Twist Phelan, Zoe Sharp, Jim Fusilli, Rick  McMahan, Anne Swardson, Steve Liskow, Brendan DuBois, Michael Niemann, Karin Slaughter,  Michelle Gagnon, Orest Stelmach, Adam Meyer, Dreda Say Mitchell, Darrell James, C.E.  Lawrence, Janice Law, and Mike Cooper.
 
Short stories are always a challenge to create for mystery writers.  Stephen King has in the past said that he thinks the successful ones are more difficult to write than the typical novel. There isn't an unsuccessful one in the bunch collected here. 
 
There is fine supply of twisted plots and complex characters.
 
"The Unremarkable Heart" I found to be the most controversial; the cleverest one has to be "Even a Blind Man." Lee Child fans will enjoy his dark entry "The Hollywood I Remember."  Make certain to read Child's introduction on how he chose the authors and their works.  It, too, is most enjoyable.

The lengths of all the stories are perfect for that bedtime nightcap to end the day.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/09/12
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Vivian is a teen werewolf.  She recently lost her father, who was King of the Pack, in a horrific fire.  Her mother, Esme, is 40-going-on-18 and Vivian's closest competition for male attention.  Like any teenage girl who lacks parental guidance, Vivian is depressed and a loner.  All her male peers are beasts...both figuratively and literally.  It's tough enough for a teen to deal with puberty, yet alone the repercussions of full moon transformations.
 
One day Vivian's life is transformed when she initiates a conversation with Aiden.  He is a creative classmate.  He has a gentle soul and smile to match.  He has a group of friends that could rival any werewolves' pack.  He also, in the eyes of any card-carrying werewolf, is nothing but a meat-boy
 
Meat-boys are not meant to be friends or lovers of werewolves.  Meat-boys are meant to be meals. 
 
Vivian's struggles abound.  She fears what a relationship with Aiden might bring out in her.  She fears being shunned by her pack for crossing a line that is forbidden.  She fears that her family will retaliate against Aiden for her indiscretions. 
 
Add to the plot the murders of some humans that draw unwanted attention to the pack and a power-struggle for a new leader; and the reader gets the classic story of  forbidden boy meets forbidden girl...with some howling at the moon added for special effects. 
 
This book was adapted into a film starring Agnes Bruckner and Hugh Dancy.  It should be required reading for teens (or adults) that feel the constant pressure to fit into today's society. 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/06/12
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Carl Hiaasen once again writes a book that a reader can really sink their teeth into.  The question is why  has it been categorized a Kid's Book?   It must be because it carries a PG rating.  This is textbook Hiaasen:  characters that are a tad off-center, witty dialog galore, and the setting in the Florida everglades. 
 
Mickey Cray is a loving husband and father, a professional animal wrangler, and a certifiable nutcase.   His doting son, Wahoo, loves giving his father a hand around their animal farm.  One of Wahoo's hands is sans  thumb thanks to Alice, the alligator, who one day was a little more eager to get fed by Wahoo than he anticipated.  Mrs. Cray has to take a short-term interpreter's job in China to help pay the bills.  Times are hard.
 
Hard-pressed for income, Mickey signs a contract with a network studio that produces the extremely popular TV series: Expedition Survival!  The star of this television show, Derek Badger, is battier than one of the bats that nearly bites off Derek's tongue while filming footage for an upcoming everglades' episode.  
 
Mickey and Derek are not a match made in heaven.  Derek, the supposed environmentalist, has total disregard for anything living.  His only concerns are having a massage each night in a posh motel that sports a hot tub in his suite and an abundance of chocolate éclairs at his bidding.  So totally out of control is Derek that he has to have his own personal wrangler....Raven Stark.  She has the undesirable job of being his production assistant and full-time baby sitter.  
 
Before packing up and traveling to the proposed filming location, Mickey and Wahoo sort of adopt Tuna, a runaway abused classmate of Wahoo's.  Tuna's mother is in Chicago.  She has escaped her drunken husband's beatings by leaving to care for her sick mother.  After receiving her latest black-eye from daddy dearest, Tuna decides that swimming solo upstream would be better for her health than remaining home.  Home is a trailer parked in the local Wal-Mart lot.  
 
As expected, there are production problems a-plenty betwixt Derek and Mickey that must be wrangled by Raven and Wahoo.  When Tuna's dad discovers her current whereabouts, the collision course among the three mental midgets is more dangerous than entering the Bermuda Triangle.
 
 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/03/12
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David Bledsoe is the author of two other successful series books; one about hip'n'happening vampires and the other about a sword-wielding private-eye from back in the day of noble knights and distressed damsels.  In this first book of his new series, Bledsoe spins a fascinating tale about the Tufa; descendants of a tribe of Irish fairies that immigrate to the Smokey Mountains years before Columbus discovers America.
 
The setting is the mountains of East Tennessee, Cloud County, where a wounded, recovering Iraq War veteran returns to her secluded home town.  She's greeted with an unwanted hero's welcome, a parade celebration and national news coverage.  Only wanting to lick her wounds and rejoin her loving family, Pvt. Bronwyn Hyatt becomes the government's current poster-child depicting their latest attempt to justify their involvement in a foreign war.
 
There is a foreshadowing of death.  Bronwyn's only defense is in the music that she once was able to create, that now she struggles to relearn.  She must learn to separate her past and forge a new future.
 
Bloodlines are very important in Cloud County.  There are two family factions.  Bronwyn is the first-born daughter of a first-born daughter, of a first-born daughter, etc.  Her gifts and talents are extremely special.  Music is the tie that binds the families.  It is the hum that defies description.  The power that the music emits is godly.  It is the shiver. 
 
Bledsoe creates a world of music, magic and mystery.  The characters are lovable and believable.  Reading this story will leave readers with a hum and a shiver.
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/12/12
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Michael Robotham is back with his sixth installment in his international bestselling mystery series.  Readers not familiar yet with Robotham are missing out.  Each of his books is told in the first-person narrative of one of his recurring characters. 
 
This time around, Professor Joe O'Loughlin is still battling the beginning stages of Parkinson's Disease and the 2-yr. separation from his wife, Julianne, and his two daughters.   Sienna, the best friend of his eldest, Charlie, is found covered in blood not belonging to her.    Sienna's domineering dad, a retired Detective Investigator, is found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom.  All evidence points to her guilt.  Joe is asked by the court to conduct her pre-trial psychological profile. 
 
What Joe discovers while conducting his investigation is disturbing to a man, a husband, and most of all a father.  Joe is reminded of the pure evil that exists in the world.  Evil that even touches his precious family core.
The evil that has rocked Sienna's world is now determined to make Joe dance to its bastardly beat.
 
As mentioned earlier, by switching narrators in each of his books, the reader gets a refreshingly new perspective on each of the main characters.  One man's said strengths thus can, and sometimes are, viewed as his weaknesses.
 
This book is such a page-turner that readers should be aware of the probability of a plenitude of paper cuts. 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/09/12
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Historical Fiction has been called "a genre of controversy and contradiction." 
 
In this wickedly clever novel, Oscar Wilde attempts to solve the mystery behind the murder of the Duchess of Albemarle.  After hosting a posh party, whose guest list includes many of the blue bloods residing in England, circa 1890, the Duke finds his wife dead in their telephone parlor around midnight.  The Duchess has two deep, penetrating puncture wounds on her neck and appears to have been violently violated.  Official cause of death:  heart attack.  Oscar joins forces with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker to prove to the Royal Family that the Duchess' death was anything but accidental.
 
Prince Albert, still suspect in the Jack the Ripper murder spree, belongs to a secret society that meets in cemeteries to hobnob with vampires and their groupies.  One newly acquired acquaintance of Wilde's professes to be a vampire and is enlisted in the group's hunt for the truth.
 
This tale is told through the use of telegrams, love letters, news articles, diary entries, etc.  It is fast-paced and deliciously wry.  Just to experience all the Sherlock Holmes/Oscar Wilde comparisons is worth the read.   A historical fiction critic once wrote "...Most historical novels feel thin once you are away from the historical figures that have drawn you to the novel in the first place..."   
 
This is not the case in this mystery book.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/29/12
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In 1971 Sam Peckinpah released his film adaptation of this novel entitled "Straw Dogs" starring Dustin Hoffman.

In 2011 Rod Lurie released his remake of "Straw Dogs" but it was more an adaptation of the earlier film than the novel that originally inspired it.

Leave it to Hollywood to take a nice, neat novel and botch the big screen adaptation, not once, but twice.

First published in 1969, Gordon's book was a tight psychological thriller.  The protagonist was an introverted American author, George Magruder, married to an English lady (far above his station) that longed for returning to her homeland.  His passion for his work and her homesickness adversely affect their marriage and their 8-yr. old daughter, Karen. Together they agree to leave America and move to England
where they purchase a quaint British home known as Trencher's Farm.

This continental jump creates a chasm in the Magruder family that cannot be corrected.  George and Louise begin to bicker more frequently and Karen withdraws from being party to her parents' poor problem-solving practices.  

The country setting that they've settle in has an escaped mental patient, Henry Niles, on the prowl. He has been hospitalized for a history of murdering young girls.  Needless to say the town is outraged that a psychotic killer is on the loose.  How humans react when an alleged wild animal is on the hunt becomes the central theme.   At what lengths will a man go to protect himself and his loved ones?

If one has seen either of these film adaptations and found them interesting, then reading this book will undoubtedly be more fulfilling.

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