Blog Posts by Uncle Will

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.

Posted by Uncle Will on 02/23/12
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This is the actress-turned-writer's long anticipated sequel to her first novel, Vampyres of Hollywood.  The premise of her first book was that many of the great actors past and present were vampires. The head of the movie studio, Anticipation, was, the centuries old, Ovsanna Moore.  Ovsanna joined forces with her human-Beverly-Hills-police-detective-turned-love-interest, Peter King, to battle the demon mother of all vampires.  They prevailed.

 In this book the plot continues the cute courtship of Peter and Ovsanna.  It always is a serious affair, when on Christmas Eve, you bring home to meet Mama, a vampire queen.  It doesn't help the relationship when one party of the couple is hiding the fact that a powerful Werewolf has already attempted to reconvert a member of the undead back to the dead-membership category.

Barbeau is no stranger to B-movie plots, having starred in several during her long Hollywood career.  Co-starring on the TV show Maude with Bea Arthur must have inspired some of the character strengths inherent to Barbeau's Vampire maven femme fatale...Ovsanna.

This time around Barbeau did not join forces with a co-writer as she did in her novel and is credited as the sole author.  Her biggest strength is that she does not take herself too seriously.  The tone of her books is campy.  She has created characters that are totally unbelievable; however, many have a place in Hollywood
history.  

Lookout Historical Fiction authors...there's a new player in town.

Posted by Uncle Will on 01/31/12
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It was recently recorded that the cast and crew of the popular TV hit "Justified" begged creator Elmore Leonard to write a new book about the story's hero Raylan Givens.  Givens is a man in his mid-30's who always dreamed of becoming a US Marshall.  He is a throwback to the cowboys that use to fill the Saturday matinee screens in movie theaters across America.
 
A true cowboy is he.  He wears a distinctive-looking western hat at all times except when meeting women.  Then the hat is removed and held nervously in hand as he easily spews out some witty banter.  He routinely practices his quick draw.  He never "pulls" his piece unless the object of his action is forewarned of the probable outcome...their demise.  He always shoots to kill.  
 
This book reads like three short stories all interconnected.  There are three female leads; one good, two not so, that Raylan encounters.  The first is a tasteful transplant nurse who entices men into hotel rooms with the intent to surgically remove their kidneys and later sell them back to the victims.  Left naked and helpless in bathtubs full of ice, her victims have little choice but to become willing buyers. 
 
The second femme fatale is a cold-blooded coal mine executive who is out to screw the common man while filling her company's coffers.  After committing murder, she arranges to enlist the protection of a said US Marshall who has ties to the coal community that she is battling.  Raylan has sent seven souls to their damnation, but never has one been a woman.  Is there a first time for everything?
 
Everything comes to a close when Raylan tracks down a suspected lady bank robber on the lam.  She is a Texas-Hold'em-type-tart who was formerly an Ivy League A-student turned gambler whose goal is to win the poker championship of the world.  Raylan seldom lets himself get knocked from his horse, but he might have met his match when corralling this little filly.
 
No author today has the writing style of Elmore Leonard.  His ability to pen dialog that seems so real and effortless makes him stand apart from all.  As they say:   "...Often imitated, never duplicated...."
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/20/12
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The book jacket exclaims:  "...James Bond meets Jason Bourne meets The Da Vinci Code..."  Not a bad comparison for a writer's first published novel.  The book cover goes on to state that this is Mariani's first book in his Ben Hope series.  And what a sensational series kickoff it is.
 
Ben Hope is a retired Major in an elite British military unit.  He now freelances as a man who solves problems.  His method of problem-solving usually ends in someone's demise.  Indulging in the finer spirits is Hope's way of coping with his job-related stress.
 
Adding to his stress level is his former love interest, the internationally known opera singer, Leigh Llewellyn.  Oliver, Leigh's brother, and Hope's best friend, is murdered.  Fearing for her life, Leigh begs Hope to become her personal protector.   It appears that Oliver stumbled upon information that might prove that Amadeus Mozart's death 200 years ago was not what the history books profess.   
 
It is common knowledge that Mozart was a Freemason.  The secret society has a long history and suspected sordid past.  With the newly found evidence that Oliver turns-up, the future of the Freemasons is in jeopardy.
 
This book has a little of everything...tight story telling, interesting character development, exotic locations, long last love rekindling, evil doers doing evil deeds, a precocious child, a loyal dog, action, suspense and a fragile, tragic hero. 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/05/12
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What if 12 terrorists, armed to the hilt, commandeer the world's most popular shopping mall, with the intent to just kill and maim?  Such is the plot of Hunter's new novel. 
 
Minnesota's Mall of America is the target; and the thousands of hostages one hope is inactive, veteran Marine sniper, Ray Cruz, who unfortunately is in the wrong place and the right time.  To make things worse, the entire rescue operation is commanded by a political power-monger whose only concern is his public image and personal political growth.
 
Stephen Hunter was the Washington Post film critic before he retired.  His series of "sniper" novels have been extremely popular and one was adapted to film starring Mark Wahlberg.  This book is concise and compelling. 
 
The scenario is not that farfetched.  The United States has always supported a "no negotiation policy" regarding hostage situations.  Terrorism has taken place within our shores.  The FBI has not had great success when breeching heavily guarded compounds.  Politicians do not always have their constituent’s best interests in mind when making decisions. 
 
All of these facts come rushing to the inevitable conclusion:  innocent lives will once again be sacrificed, but at what price glory?
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/19/11
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#5.  The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
 
Cleverly conceived Japanese suspense novel that matches wits between two geniuses…one in math and one in physics.
 
 
 
#4.  Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson
 
Post-World War I jaded fantasy dealing with love, loyalty, and loss in an English village that touts humans vs. fairies.  Unique narrative.
 
 
 
#3.  The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
 
All time best-selling author in Sweden has her first, in a series of seven mystery novels, translated into English.   Gauntlet tossed at Stieg Larsson’s estate!
 
 
 
#2.   11/22/63 by Stephen King
 
Stephen King vs. The Time Machine.  Travel back in time with reluctant hero, Jake Epping, to 1963 and attempt to stop the assassination of JFK.  But at what price glory?
 
 
 
#1.  The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
 
Dark and engrossing psychological, murder mystery by a Swedish husband and wife writing team.  Hypnotic. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/29/11
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During the 1950's and '60's, Ernie Banks was a hero to thousands of boys.  They all tried to copy his signature bat grip.  On any rainy Saturday afternoon, whenever asked, the boys on their neighborhood playground would smile and say "let's play two!"   Ernie was the great shortstop who was going to lead all Cubs fans to the Promised Land.
 
It's been over 40 years since Ernie retired and still no Cub fan has entered that Promised Land.   This book covers the summer of '69, which was Ernie's one and only chance, during his prolific career, to come close to winning a pennant; let alone play in a World Series.  Die-hard Cub fans can count on one hand the times their beloved ever came close to playing in the big game during their lifetimes. 
 
Phil Rogers, as usual, has done his homework.  He takes his readers back in time to the friendly confines where they can almost smell the Oscar Meyer Smokie Links being sold from an aluminum push-cart behind home plate.  Steam and taste buds rising each time the vendor opens the lid.
 
During the summer of '69 not even the bleacher beer vendors could help the Cubs.  There was not enough beer brewed to mask the epic breakdown that fans witnessed that summer.  Hordes of Bleacher Bums are still that...bummed...today.  The Cubs not only blew their considerable league lead, but they surrendered to the upstart New York Mets.  This book answers most of the questions surrounding that collapse.
 
From Jackie Robinson to Leo 'The Lip" Durocher, Rogers spins a heroic recounting of one of the most controversial and embarrassing times in Cub lore. 
 
Yes, during the 1950's and '60's, Ernie Banks was a hero to thousands of boys.  He still is even if most of those boys have grown up some. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/28/11
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The cool thing about time travel is there are no rules.
 
Stephen King has been creating his own rules since the early '70's.  His earlier works were unique, visual and engaging.  As a short story writer, he has had many stories adapted to film.  His later works seem to hint that maybe this author had run low on new ideas.  This book refutes that allegation.   
 
The story opens with a GED English teacher, Jake Epping, whose life is okay, but stagnant.  Nothing seems to be able to stir an emotion.  One day, an older student of his submits  an assignment addressing:  "The Day That Changed My Life."  It is so moving that Jake gives Harry Dunning an A+.  Harry is thunderstruck.  He is a little slow, since when a child his father attacked him with a sledge hammer.  Harry escaped with head injuries.  All the other members of  his family were not as lucky.
 
As luck has it, Jake takes Harry to Jake's favorite diner on graduation day.  Al, the proprietor, later lets Jake in on a secret.  In Al's storage room is a portal to the past.
 
This portal takes its time traveler back to a specific date and place.  The year is always 1958.  Any time spent in the past, no matter how long or short, translates to just two minutes of the present.   After a demonstration of its wonders, Jake reluctantly agrees to go back in time and try to stop Lee Oswald from assassinating John Kennedy.
 
What follows is a compelling trip down memory lane for baby-boomers and a fascinating chronicle of life back in the early 1960's.  This book is nearly 850 pages long, but well worth the time invested in experiencing it.
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