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review 2020-05-10 20:55
The Doom of the Haunted Opera, Lewis and Rose Rita #6 by John Bellairs and Brad Stickland
Doom of the Haunted Opera - Brad Strickland,John Bellairs

Brad Strickland finished this based on an outline left by John Bellairs after his death. It features a lot of classic Bellairs' charm and my personal favorite of Edward Gorey's artwork for the series - the back cover features Lewis' nightmare where headless Opera patrons surround him and Rose Rita. Strickland does a remarkable job here.


Doing research for a local history project brings Lewis and Rose Rita to the abandoned New Zebedee Opera House located above the Feed & Seed downtown. There, Lewis discovers some sheet music making up a lost opera, "The Day of Doom", hidden inside a piano and runs off with it. This is despite a ghost warning him of he who would be "King of the Dead". Rose Rita is surprisingly skeptical about the ghost, even when Lewis challenges her on the weird shit they've been through together and apart over the last couple of years.


It tuns out that the pages Lewis rescued were hidden from the sinister Henry Vanderhelm to prevent the opera from being performed. It makes up a grand spell that could enslave the dead and doom the living. Unfortunately, New Zebedee has been cut off from the outside world and the adults have already been taken in by the spell of the Opera. Without Uncle Jonathan or Mrs. Zimmerman and with the other New Zebedee magicians vanished, what can two plucky kids do?


As I said, Strickland does a good job here. He expands a little on the world of New Zebedee and attempts to explain why so much weird goings-on focus on their small Michigan town. I liked the inclusion of more witches and magicians as well. This was spooky and dosed with a little satire of high-brow culture.


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Specter from the Magician's Museum'


Previous: 'The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder'

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review 2020-05-05 21:30
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Lewis and Rose Rita #5 by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder - John Bellairs,Brad Strickland

The second of two manuscripts finished by Brad Strickland after John Bellairs' death. This was a more typical novel for Bellairs, following shy Lewis and his new friend Bertie as they cause and avert supernatural misfortune at the Barnavelt ancestral estate in England.


My opinion of this has improved since childhood, I remember being disappointed there wasn't more done with an actual "FOR REAL" gothic country house. But, you guys, there's a haunted hedge maze.


This text had more of that authentic Bellairs flavor, following Lewis' adoration of Sherlock Holmes, the English Civil War, and little details about mid-century tourism. I could have used a party-line joke when telephones came into it, but to each their own.


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Doom of the Haunted Opera'


Previous: 'The Ghost in the Mirror'

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review 2020-05-04 21:29
The Ghost in the Mirror, Lewis & Rose Rita #4 by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
The Ghost in the Mirror (Puffin Chillers) - Brad Strickland,John Bellairs

This was the first of two manuscripts finished by Brad Strickland after the death of John Bellairs in 1991. I haven't read a full biography, I don't know if there even is one, but it seems to me from Bellairs' focus on Johnny Dixon through the '80s tells me that these manuscripts were likely experiments and wouldn't have seen publication. The only full posthumous work he left was 'The Mansion in the Mist', a rare Anthony Monday book, and one of his all-time best works.



Rose Rita and Lewis had reached a point in their relationship where certain realities were gonna have to be addressed if their friendship was going to continue. Romantic feelings, even if Rose Rita and Lewis were going to stay platonic, were not Bellairs' territory. He left them behind for good reason. 


That said, this is a Rose Rita book and that means its great. Stuck in New Zebedee with a broken ankle while Lewis and Jonathan are in Europe, she makes plans with Mrs. Zimmerman to go on a road trip as soon as she can travel. Mrs. Zimmerman has been feeling the loss of her magic and needs a distraction. Of course, she has a supernatural ulterior motive: a message from her long-passed teacher in a magic mirror tells her that if she rights a great wrong she will find her powers.


Bessy, Mrs. Zimmerman's car, transports the two to the 1830's and seemingly strands them there. What is the wrong they need to correct, and is there a more sinister motive to their being lured into the past?


This was fun, but adult me couldn't get over the lack of period details. The farm family don't speak in 19th century fashion and there are a lot of things like individual bedrooms for the whole, extended family that didn't seem right. Bellairs often inserted obscure bits of 1950s nostalgia into his books in the way of radio programs and defunct candy bars as way to introduce modern readers to a past way of life, and Strickland didn't come up with an 1830s equivalent.


The other nagging detail is I've always felt, even when I read these as they came out in the early '90s, is that 'Vengeance of the Witch-Finder' should really come first. They happen simultaneously, sort of, but the pace would really work better if their order was switched. As their written now, reading them that way spoils 'Ghost in the Mirror', but Strickland could have changed that. 


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder'


Previous: 'The Letter, the Witch and the Ring'

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-01-14 17:26
The Tenth Justice-Review
The Tenth Justice - Brad Meltzer

Overall I enjoyed this . It was fast paced and for me at least it was quite the page turner. When I first started it, I didn't realize it was his first novel. I went just on the fact that the summary sounded like something I would enjoy. After realizing though, I can tell it is a first novel. Certain aspects of the novel are not as overly polished and a few plot points seem way too convenient, which is my main issue with the novel in general. Several plot points throughout the story are exciting while reading and then when I was finished and had time to mull them over, several events didn't really make sense or add up. I more than fine reading books where I can turn off my brain for awhile. Where it is a book that doesn't have any big meaning it needs to get across or impact to make. A book that that is just supposed to be entertainment for awhile. Even so there is a line a book crosses where even though it is enjoyable, and I did actually enjoy this book, the characters or the writing throw common sense out the window. A few times here and there is not an issue . Hell real people even with the best of intentions do it from time to time. We are all human and just even though we knew better we still fuck up. I can give benefit of the doubt to a few things, but when you add all the infractions together is when I start to have an issue.
For instance I can forgiven the first common sense abuse since in summary on the back cover, I knew going in that Ben fucked up by telling a court decision to someone he shouldn't. I can sort of buy that he let excitement of the position go to his head even though he probably signed a million legal documents stating what you can or can not say to family and friends.That and even though he shouldn't trust some random person that called, he got wrapped up in the moment and blabbed. Fine ok. Things I have more issue is that even though Ben and a few others are sure that the house may be bugged they continue to say things they shouldn't and then are shocked when things get out. Get that moving to different places every time they thought the place might be bugged is a bit obsessive , but don't get why they couldn't have stayed in the house and just been more careful about what they said. I do get having characters pass notes could get a tad clunky to read instead of spoken dialogue. Even so they could have developed a code. Just something.
Honestly too just thought there were too many twists in this. I don't have an issue with books that have twists in them. They can be fun to guess along with but do feel there should be either one big twist that is revealed toward the en or if there are a few, that they are used with a purpose in mind and that there are not so many that they start to clutter the story. This book for me falls into the latter category. I do think the twists were trying to serve a purpose but overall they came off as a mess. For instance one of the twists that just felt personally unnecessary and just didn't make sense is that it is revealed that one of the men working for Rick, the villain of the story, is actually a marshal trying to help Ben. What doesn't make sense to me is that he is supposed to an one of the higher ups for one of the companies whose law suits to Court is deciding. on. Just would think it would be somewhat public knowledge of what someone higher up would look like. So am confused why Rick was fooled by this. It just came off as a way to get someone close to Rick who could save Ben toward the end of the book. I was also not the biggest fan of Eric being a double agent. Not saying am not a fan of the concept and believe it can be done well, just feel in this book it was executed poorly.
The end of the book was the other issue for me. It felt slightly lack luster. Things are not totally wrapped up nicely since there are thankfully consequences for what happened. Still felt overall things turned out mostly ok. Rick has his typical villain moments where he threatens to kill someone but never acts on it by instead letting everyone live and just beats them. Though am a bit shocked that he got to live at the end given how so much media loves killing villains. He was overall an ok villain but for sure could have been better. Ben does lose his job, as he should . Course he has a way better one by the end of the novel so he still wins out in the end. Nathan is pissed with good reason given that because of Ben's actions one of their friends committed suicide . A detail that seems to really matter in the moment but only Nathan seems to feel any real mourning over. That and the fact that the mother of said friend is so possessive and obsessive over her son's life that in one scene she is jumping down her son's throat to get back the job he is fired from and yet is not beating down the roommates door to explain why her son is dead, which really makes no sense. That and just a personal pet peeve of having the book end with the unnecessary romance angle. I am not against romance being in any sort of book but I am against forced romance and for sure felt that the romance between Ben is and Lisa is so damn forced . It was unneeded and personally had Ben not fucked up by spilling the beans about the case outcome both of them would have been fired or least spoken to about their romance. Having the book end on that aspect was just super cringy. Would have honestly preferred if it turned out that Lisa was a lesbian as one of the guys thought in the beginning. Granted still would have had issued given that their assumptions are based on old stereotypes. More though would just preferred if the romance was just not part of the novel to begin with.

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review 2019-07-04 23:04
Backlash by Brad Thor
Backlash - Brad Thor

When I got into reading one of the first espionage series that I got into was the Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor.  Backlash is the 19th book in the series and if the bro-mance spy thriller type books are your bag, as Austin Power's would say, then "this should be in your bag, baby".


Without getting into the story, this is your typical Scot Harvath story, told by Armand Schultz.  Backlash picks up where Spymaster ends, and finds Scot in hot water in a very cold place.  The story is good, and every Scot Harvath fan should be happy when finished.


Picking up the picture, and his glass, he headed outside. The sun was almost low enough to touch the water. He wanted to watch it disappear. Then he wanted to start thinking about what he was going to do next.


Cue the contemplating music. 

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