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review 2017-12-04 18:45
Alive in Shape and Color, edited by Lawrence Block
Alive in Shape and Color: 16 Paintings by Great Artists and the Stories They Inspired - Lawrence Block

 

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this collection as much as I did last year's: IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW, which contained stories centered around the art of Edward Hopper. This time around, the authors got to choose whichever artist/painting they liked, upon which to base their stories.

 

If you had to guess which artist upon whom Michael Connolly based his story, it would be easy for anyone familiar with his work to do so. For those of you who are not familiar with Connolly's fictional detective Harry Bosch, his name comes from the painter Hieronymous Bosch, and this story was inspired by Bosch's work "The Garden of Earthly Delights," (the third panel). This was my favorite story within-short, sharp and packing a punch.

 

Jeffrey Deaver also impressed me with his story inspired by prehistoric cave drawings at Lascaux. This clever little revenge tale takes place in the present and perhaps captures the intricacies and competition within the world of archaeology.

 

S.J. Rozan's story was inspired by "The Great Wave" by Hokusai. I was not previously familiar with Rozan or Hokusai, but now I feel compelled to learn more about them both. This tale was another gut puncher, but somehow I finished it feeling satisfied and happy for the protagonist.

 

The Great Wave by Hokusai

 

Lastly, Joe Lansdale's tale was inspired by Norman Rockwell's "First Trip to the Beauty Shop." Even though the painting is perky and cute, the story is definitely not. It was sad, poignant, and scary-all at the same time. I enjoyed the heck out of it. 

 

 

All told, that's 4 stories that impressed me a great deal. That's pretty good for any old anthology, but I expected so much more from this one, based on my experience with IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. Perhaps it was a case of being disappointed by my own high expectations, or perhaps it's just that these tales didn't work as well for me as they did for other people. Whatever the case, I'm glad I read this anthology, otherwise I would have been wondering what I had missed.

 

Recommended!

 

Alive in Shape and Color

 

*Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is it.*

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review 2017-11-14 01:28
Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Surprise Me: A Novel - Sophie Kinsella

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, and Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

I have also had the pleasure of reviewing My Not So Perfect Life and couldn't wait to read Surprise Me.  Sophie Kinsella, you've done it again!  I absolutely adore your writing and your words make me smile.  (If you haven't listened to one of Kinsella's books, I highly recommend it, especially if narrated by Jayne Entwistle.)  

 

This witty and at times emotional novel takes a closer look at marriage and how we can still be surprised by those we think we know best.  Sylvie and Dan have been together for ten blissful years.  They have a lovely home life complete with twin girls, fulfilling careers, and an envy worthy relationship.  A trip to the doctor predicts that they will live for another 68 years—this gives new meaning to "until death us do part" when it spans seven more decades together.

 

To keep the marriage alive, Project Surprise Me is born.  The couple will surprise each other to keep things fresh and exciting.  But is seems that each "surprise" exposes the flaws in their relationship and drives them apart.  

 

Sylvie seemingly enjoys her work at a museum even though there are some pretty archaic systems in place—the owner, Mrs. Kendrick resists technology and Sylvie chalks this up to as charming.  Mrs. Kendrick's nephew, Robert, takes an interest in the operations of the museum and questions their methods and systems.  Is he trying to close down the museum and turn it into two-bedroom condos?     

 

Facing changes both personally and professionally, Sylvie experiences a tremendous amount of growth.  She adored her late father and has kept up the Princess Sylvie persona he created as a way to honour him, when in actual fact, she is doing herself and her family a disservice because she is not being true to herself.        

 

I fell in love with the supporting cast of characters, this is really where Kinsella excels at writing.   The tender exchanges between Sylvie's neighbours John and Owen were some of the most beautiful writing in the book.  One of my favourite quotes is when John says "Love is finding one person infinitely fascinating."

 

Kinsella's latest work is charming, thoughtful, and simply delightful.

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review 2017-11-07 19:00
Deadbomb Bingo Ray by Jeff Johnson
Deadbomb Bingo Ray - Jeff Johnson

Mark my words readers, Jeff Johnson is an author to watch! I haven't yet read anything from him that I haven't enjoyed, and as such he's one of my go-to authors.

 

In DEADBOMB BINGO RAY, we have a tall, handsome "fixer" who earned his nickname during an unfortunate incident at a casino. He earned his reputation the hard way and everyone knows who he is and stays clear.

 

That is, until he finds himself on the radar of one Tim Cantwell, a man he's already taken down once. Unfortunately, Cantwell did not learn his lesson the first time around and now he's looking for revenge. Throw in the beautiful Mary Chapman, a black man named Skuggy, DBR's secretary Agnes, her son Cody, and the new love of his life, Abigail, and you have a memorable cast of characters. Will Cantwell be successful in his bid for revenge? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I need to get one thing straight with you-DEADBOMB BINGO RAY is NOT a hero. He is not a good guy. What he is is a thinker-capable of masterminding schemes and plans that make Lex Luthor look like a drooling idiot recently escaped from the asylum. Oh, and he sometimes kills people.

 

What makes this story so entertaining is the characters. Even though DBR isn't a good guy, you cannot help but admire the style with which he goes about his nefarious deeds. His home sounds beautiful, he rescued a Pomeranian, and, (like most of Johnson's main characters), he cooks. His secretary Agnes hates Woody Allen so much,(because of the situation with his step-daughter), she tells everyone she meets that she's going to kill him. She also loves dogs. Ray's friend and sometime assistant, Skuggy, is an hilarious mystery of a man with long fingernails and colorful language, who likes Newports. All of these characters are so vividly drawn and real, they seem to come to life with little to no effort on the part of Johnson. He makes it look easy.

 

There is plenty of material here that will offend people; as previously stated DBR is not a good guy. People die. Some animals die. That's part of the gritty reality of this neo-noir world and that's who these people are. At least when they are committing crimes, they do it stylishly.

 

One more thing I want to mention is the inclusion of song titles/bands throughout the novel, many of which I weren't familiar with. I did not listen to all of them, but when I had the opportunity and the means to do so, I did. I felt like these songs helped to set the mood of what was coming next and I also thought it helped to achieve an almost movie-like experience while reading.

 

These are all the reasons I said at the start that Jeff Johnson is an author to watch. Every book I've read from him so far is totally different from the rest, but they all have one thing in common and that is STYLE. I like it and hopefully you will too!

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get a copy here: Deadbomb Bingo Ray

 

*I received an e-ARC of this book via Edelweiss and Turner Publications in exchange for my honest review. This is it. *

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review 2017-11-07 07:04
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas by Jun Asuka
Tim Burton's the Nightmare Before Christmas (Manga) - Tim Burton

Title:  Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas


Author:  Jun Asuka (Original Script by Tim Burton)


Artist:  Jun Asuka


Genre: Horror / Adventure / Romance / Halloween / Christmas / Adaptation 


Year Published: 2004


Year Read: 2017



Publisher: Tokyopop


Source: eARC (NetGalley and Edelweiss)



Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Some Scary Images and Scary Situations)

 

 

Nightmare

I would like to thank NetGalley, Edelweiss and Tokyopop for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

4.5 stars 

Introduction: 

Now, I will start going into fangirl mode here since I will be talking about one of my most favorite animated movies of all time! I will admit that when I was little, I was actually terrified of Tim Burton’s classic animated movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” due to the scary visuals presented in the film. But, when I started watching this film way back in high school, I suddenly fell in love with this creepy yet memorable movie and it has become one of my most favorite films to watch during Halloween (next to “Hocus Pocus,” of course)! So, when both NetGalley and Edelweiss gave me a copy of the manga adaptation of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which was adapted by Jun Asuka, I was jumping around with glee since I never would have thought that a manga version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” would ever be made!

What is this story about? 

Based off the classic animated film, Jack Skellington is the scariest creature in Halloween Town, but unfortunately, he has started to get tired of doing the same old things every year for Halloween and he goes out into the woods to discover more things to do. One day, while he was out in the woods, he discovers a door that has a Christmas tree on it and he ends up going through the door and discovering Christmas Town and Santa Claus. It was then that Jack decided to become Santa Claus that year and deliver some “presents” to all of the girls and boys in the world. Unfortunately, Sally, the ragdoll that loves him, has a terrible premonition about Jack’s Christmas turning into a disaster and Sally has to stop Jack from becoming Santa Claus and delivering the presents to the kids before it is too late!

What I loved about this story: 

The story: Wow! I was quite impressed with this story! “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has always been one of my most favorite animated movies of all time and I was so excited to finally be able to check out the manga version of this movie! As I come to expect, the manga version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was completely faithful to the original movie, from the dialogue to the situations that happened in the film. I loved revisiting the movie in manga format since it was quite unexpected for me to see this movie in manga form rather than in a regular graphic novel format and it just made this manga so original to read through! I also loved the fact that this manga focused more on Jack and Sally’s relationship with each other than the movie did and I loved the fact that we get more focus on Sally’s perspective of the whole situation in this manga since I wanted to see more from her character in the movie and this manga did a great job at fleshing out Sally’s character even further. 

Jun Asuka’s artwork: Jun Asuka’s artwork was both creative and adorable to look at! I loved how Jun Asuka’s artwork was faithful to original designs of the characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” movie as they look just as creepy as in the movie, but with a bit more anime style added for effect! I also loved the way that Jun Asuka designed Sally in this manga as Sally is drawn in a much cuter style than in the movie and it makes her into a more endearing character to read about in this manga!

Nightmare

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story: 

The reason why I took off half a point from the star rating was because the copy I got seemed a bit incomplete. It seemed like the bottom half of the pages were cut off a bit and there was a bit of dialogue that I ended up missing because it got cut off at the bottom. Luckily, I have seen the movie enough times to figure out what is going on and I probably would have given this manga a five-star rating if I had not received an incomplete copy of this manga.

Final Thoughts: 

Overall, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” manga is a joy to read if you are a fan of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and of manga in general! I would highly recommend it to manga and horror fans alike!

Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

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review 2017-11-01 01:56
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
All the Beautiful Lies: A Novel - Peter ... All the Beautiful Lies: A Novel - Peter Swanson

A special thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Alternating between past and present, Swanson's newest domestic psychological thriller is a standout in the genre which seems to be increasingly popular as of late.  

 

Harry Ackerson is set to graduate from college when he receives word from his stepmother, Alice, that his father has died in what appears to be a suicide.  Devastated, Harry skips his graduation ceremony and travels to his late father's home in Maine.  

 

Harry and Alice lean on one another to pick up the pieces after such a monumental loss.  For Harry, things start to become uncomfortable and awkward with Alice—he has always considered her attractive, and she has been nothing short of kind to him.  Alice is also 15 years younger than his father was.

 

A mysterious young woman named Grace makes Harry's acquaintance shortly after he arrives.  She claims to be new to the area, but she was at Harry's father's funeral.  Things aren't adding up, and Grace seems to know more than she is letting on.  Grace is not the only woman with interest in Harry, Alice is also growing closer and ends up seducing him.  The more involved Harry gets to with these women, the more he realizes that he doesn't know them at all.  Both women are hiding secrets and the truth about who they really are.  Things are not what they appear, including his father's death which is now looking like murder.

 

Swanson excels at character development and this novel is no exception.  He has a gift for writing characters that are boarder on being psychotic, yet believable.  There is a cleverness and preciseness to Swanson's storytelling without being overly dark.  With just enough plot twists, the story is not predicable or confusing.  If you like psychological thrillers, I encourage you to pick up this, or any of Peter Swanson's other books.  

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