Posts tagged "Books I Done Been Reading!"

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat – Books I Done Been Reading!

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat: A Magical Cats Mystery
Sofie Kelly
Book 1 of the Magical Cats Mystery series

Yes, I read a book about magical cats that help solve mysteries. In fact, as far as mystery series go, the premise isn’t that far out there. There are all sorts of animal-themed mystery series, and most of the animal characters have personalities that make them more human and smart than any Homo sapiens character. Making these cats magical makes them more believable, because of course magical cats will be smart and solve mysteries. It’s weird how that happens.

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat centers around librarian Kathleen Paulson (you will find a surprising amount of librarians as mystery-solvers in the various series, though my relatives who are actual librarians haven’t bothered to solve any murder mysteries. Lazy bums!), who has made a big change to her life by moving to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, to get away from her Boston life, largely due to her boyfriend returning from a vacation married. Kathleen overseas a big library restoration project, and also adopts two stray kittens she found. The cats Owen and Hercules each have their own personalities, Owen being a catnip fiend while Hercules is more serious.

Of course, it isn’t a murder mystery without a murder, and thus the special guest for the big Mayville Heights music festival winds up dead, and Kathleen finds the body and becomes a suspect. Which is sort of odd, because everyone else in town seems to have reason to not like the guy, AND someone is trying to off Kathleen.

A good first entry into a series, with several supporting characters including the ever-important possible romantic interest. The cats have distinct personalities, and the town has a few mysteries of its own that will probably factor into later books. The book loses bonus points as I correctly guessed the murderer several chapters before the reveal. The series is geared more towards a female audience, what with the yoga classes and girl talk, but it’s not so overwhelming that guys will be tossing the book aside.

And I’m not kidding about there being a variety of mystery series. In a quick browse of the aisle at the local Barnes & Noble, I found mystery series including cats in libraries, coffee houses, sewing, antiquing, victorian magic, home renovation, dogs in trouble, cats in trouble, cookie baking, donut shops, pie making, cats who aren’t magical or pets of librarians but also solve mysteries, vampires, White House gardeners, chefs, and community theater. Those are just the ones I noticed. All things considered, a mystery series about magical cats is downright normal. And as I’m starting to get into mystery books to make up for science fiction producing less series that interest me, I have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

I look forward to future installments of the series, which is good because book 2 came out September 6th!
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

Books I Done Been Reading! name shamelessly stolen from Vault of Buncheness

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - September 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm

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One Buck Horror Volume 1 – Books I Done Been Reading!

One Buck Horror Volume 1
edited by
Christopher Hawkins and Kris M. Hawkins
featuring stories by
Ada Hoffmann
Julie Jansen
Mark Onspaugh
Mike Trier
Elizabeth Twist
cover art by Shawn Conn

Hey, it’s a bunch of short stories for a dollar? That sounds cool and cheap (EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m reviewing a copy gotten for free thanks to a coupon. Yes, say what you will!) because with the cost of printing, small anthologies would be considerably more than that. And though it is true that thanks to the internet, eReaders, eBooks, eMagazines, and Amazon and the like, there has been an explosion in self-published works of all genres. Following that, the 90% rule is in effect (90% of everything is crap!), and one must walk carefully to keep from hitting the dog poop mines.

But with 90% being terrible, 10% is good, and the volume of One Buck Horror reviewed here is in that top 10%. The various stories vary in tone and technique. This is the part of the review where I give short synopses, so here they are:

Jenny’s House by Ada Hoffmann – written first person in the voice of a child, an interesting choice for the first story presented to the public. It sets the mood for a somewhat playful, somewhat dangerous tone that One Buck Horror seems to be going after. Pretty neat, the foreshadowing not overwhelming, and the kid sounds like that kid we all knew on the playground growing up. Though in my generation he was probably talking about how he got to a super secret level of Super Mario Bros where everyone is naked.

A Lullaby for Caliban by Mark Onspaugh – My favorite of the stories, probably due to the setting at a traveling carnival and with the weird artifacts therein. The ending is a little unclear on if the character actually responded to the sales ad.

The Last Nephew by Elizabeth Twist – This one sounds like it could have been part of a grander story, but instead we just get a few pages near a climactic conclusion. Even with the brief visit, we’re drawn into the world. Probably a good choice to keep as a shorter story, because just what the “uncle” is doing would be hard to keep as a full story without it getting dragged out.

The Cornfield by Mike Trier – As someone who grew up in the midwest and has much experience walking around cornfields at night, the imagination going wild in the dark is a familiar element. And though what happens here never happened to me….it maybe could have. Okay, it couldn’t…..could it?

The Ginger Men by Julie Jansen – Another child point of view story, but written more mature even with the limitations of a child’s understanding in place. Some horrible voodoo things are going on that will make you swear off baking forever…unless you become one of the body snatched!

Overall, was pretty good, and I did not regret my purchase of $0. I would even not regret a purchase of $1. If you like creative horror stories, One Buck Horror is a good source. Available in multiple places such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a rundown of links, visit the official site.
One Buck Horror

Books I Done Been Reading! name shamelessly stolen from Vault of Buncheness

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - September 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

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Books I Done Been Reading! – The Madams of San Francisco

The Madams of San Francisco: An Irreverent History of the city by the Golden Gate
by Curt Gentry (1964)

A surprising find at the library turned out to be a pretty interesting history of San Francisco madams and their relationship with the city as it grew over the years. As this was written way way before the internet, Curt Gentry had to do good old fashioned real research and dig into newspaper archives, interview people, and read through scores of histories of the area in search of tidbits about the women he was covering. As you might think, much of the blue history of San Francisco is undocumented, because good people just didn’t talk about things like that. Of course, surviving scandal papers and full page ads by various madams will testify that the “good people” are once again a giant pack of liars. Go wet your pants, good people!

Presenting both quick overviews and more detailed biographies of various madams, we get history lessons about the city as we go. Gentry gives us the actual addresses of the various houses of ill repute he talks about, though sadly many of the buildings were either destroyed by the earthquake or later torn down and turned into apartment complexes. As someone who lives in the city, I could easily whip up a walking tour of former prostitution houses, and it would be hilarious to see what businesses or houses now dwell on those fabled addresses.

Beginning with Irene McCready in 1849, we follow up with Ah Toy, the first Chinese prostitute in the city (and one of the two women tied for first Chinese woman in the city, the other being a non-professional maid who as far as everyone knows spent zero time with Ah Toy.) For years, Ah Toy and the other woman were the only Chinese women in the city, which had hundreds of male Chinese workers. Eventually, several more prostitutes were brought over, but it was a while before more non-prostitute women from China reached San Francisco. Ah Toy was immensely popular, and there are many court records and newspaper stories discussion her various run-ins.

Several chapters are spent on Belle Cora involved in shooting and Vigilance Committee drama, a summary of the whole affair can be found here. Other fine upstanding women include one known as Madam Mustache – which no one would call to her face, Jessie Hayman, Tessie Wall, Maude Spencer, Dolly Fine, and Sally Stanford.

There is also an interesting history about the Reverend Paul Smith, who was an anti-prostitution crusader and helped get laws passed that brought down a lot of madams. There was even a huge protest of prostitutes against Reverend Smith. Smith then went into the movie business, making his own film, Finger of Justice, that detailed his fight against prostitution, even recreating the March of the Madams. Reverend Smith’s film was subsequently banned in many cities as being obscene, and Smith became less and less Godly as the power of movie fame-dom became his next obsession. That eventually crashed and burned and he became a car salesman. Interesting side note, one of the prostitutes that marched against him eventually found Jesus herself and became a traveling preacher. It is unknown if the now civilian Paul Smith ever went to one of her shows. A good portion of Finger of Justice still exists, but I haven’t found a copy easily available.

While cities such as Denver and New Orleans had definitive underground activities guidebooks, San Francisco instead had weekly scandal rags where houses would advertise. Papers include:

The Varieties – a four-page scandal rag beginning May 20, 1856 with J. Walter Walsh listed as owner, the editor listed as “The Recluse”, and contributors with wacky names such as Paul Pry, Night Owl, and Viper – all writing in the same style as Mr. Walsh. Hmmmmm… stories were mostly vague rumors with just enough details to scandal people. Items often repeated
was feed lots of info by Belle Cora on Vigilence Committee members. The Illustrated Varieties appeared on Saturday, The Sunday Varieties showed up the next day. Sunday a paper had almost identical content, but was switched around with new photo on the cover. Issues were stapled together so you didn’t get the scam until after you bought it.

The Phoenix – published out of Sacramento but SF focused, Belle Cora also feed info here, including some that brought down The Bulletin and editor Tom King (brother of James King of William) by using the name of King’s abandoned ex-wife to shame him out of town

There is plenty more information, such as the former Madam who ran for city council in Sausalito, and information on how girls were brought to SF to begin life as prostitutes (some were volunteers, but others were basically human trafficked in with scams almost identical to ones used to get Eastern European girls to Japan in the 1990s, as documented in Tokyo Vice)

An enjoyable read, and the kind of information you just don’t find in history books.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

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Books I Done Been Reading!

Many of you know (okay, maybe three of you know) that I’m a voracious reader. I consume many books a week, several of which I read! In fact, you’re likely to find me and the wife hangin’ at the local Boarders or Barnes and Nobles reading, at least when I’m not headed home from the library with a stack of books that I’ll get finished with well before the due date. So I might as well start listing what I read along with some links so I can get the referral money….I mean, recommend books to you people! Or tell you to avoid at all costs.

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein – Tokyo Vice is a neat book about an actual gaijin reporter for the biggest Tokyo paper, the Yomiuri Shinbun. He works his way through the entrance exams, begins his journalistic career, is eventually put on the crime beat, meets some creepy Yakuza members as well as women in the sex industry, and then uncovers some big scandals involving Yakuza bosses being smuggled into the US for organ transplant surgery. Along the way we get plenty of interesting information about Japanese culture you aren’t going to find in most travel guides. Adelstein eventually makes enemies of the Yakuza family he is investigating along with getting more involved in investigating the large amount of human trafficking (mostly for sex slaves) happening in Japan. Interesting, brutally honest, sometime depressing, but very highly recommended.

Ice Guard by Steve Lyons – Yes, I enjoy reading about the Warhammer 40K universe. No, I don’t play the game. I just like reading books about universes, I regularly read all sorts of “Guides to ” whatever books. The backstories for the Warhammer universes are fascinating and to me far more interesting than actually playing the game. In fact, I love reading a stack of those ubernerdish character profile books for all sorts of scifi series and all sorts of Monster Manuals and things like that. It’s just what I do!

In the far future of the Warhammer 40K mankind is spread across the stars and there is much violence because the universe is messed up. We got space orks, Eldars, chaos monsters, daemons, invading races, psychics, space marines, and violence violence violence. In Ice Guard, a group of the Emperor’s troops are sent on a mission to rescue and important man on a planet about to be destroyed so Chaos can’t take it. Will they rescue the guy? Will you see the ending coming? How many characters are gonna bit the big one?

Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief: Inside the World of Indian Moviemaking by Stephen Alter
Atler’s book about Indian film is a great read that not only introduces you to the basics of Indian cinema but also throws enough references around in the background that those familiar with Bollywood will smile. We follow along during the making of the Indian version of Othello, Omkara, and along the way get plenty of side stories and personal anecdotes that show filmmaking in Indian is both similar and very different from America.

My Year of Flops: The A.V. Club Presents One Man’s Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure by Nathan Rabin
Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club started what was originally going to be a shorter feature and instead became a cinematic journey through the depths of mediocre to awful films. And you can read most of the reviews online, so why get the book? Well, what if the power goes out? Plus, there is some interviews and stuff, and a few new reviews. Also, your power might go out. The important lesson is that some failures are actually successes, and some failures go beyond the realm of normal failure into a magic land of epic fame. Both of those are preferable to the normal, boring failure. And My Year of Flops is anything but.

Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films – Donald Bogle
An exhaustive book chronicling the history of African Americans in film, from the early silent picture days, to Birth of a Nation, to talkies, to black cast films, to Stepin Fetchit, to Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, and Denzel. Bogle’s work is more scholarly than many random cinema books, but is not hard to follow and was rather enjoyable.

Title shamelessly stolen from (NSFW) Vault of Buncheness

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

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