Sue B's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Devil’s Alphabet

Paxton Martin, a preacher’s son, is returning to his hometown of Switchcreek, TN, for the funeral of a childhood friend. Pax left Switchcreek 12 years ago, soon after an outbreak of Transcription Divergence Syndrome devastated the population of the small town. TDS, or The Changes, killed a third of the people living in Switchcreek and caused three different mutations in most of the people left alive. The victims of TDS-A, or Argos, became gray-skinned and grew to abnormal heights. TDS-B victims, or Betas, became hairless and seal-like, and TDS-C victims, or Charlies, became grotesquely obese. A few residents, Paxton included, were unaffected and remained unchanged. When Paxton returns for the funeral, he finds that there are many unanswered questions surrounding the suicide of JoLynn, and with the help of his friend Deke he tries to unravel the mystery of her death.

I would not describe myself as a science fiction fan, but I really enjoyed this one. It had great characters, bits of mystery and humor, and a few parts that rated about a 9.5 on my ickiness scale.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Science fiction | | Leave a comment

Every Last One

Mary Beth Latham is living an almost perfect life. She has a loving husband and three great children. Her daughter, Ruby, is the oldest of the three and about to start her senior year of high school. She is dealing with typical teenage issues: choosing a college, a painful breakup with her boyfriend, and preparing herself for adulthood. Mary Beth’s twin sons, Alex and Max, are facing different issues. Alex has always been the popular and athletic twin and Max has always lived in his brother’s shadow. Mary Beth fears that Max is becoming depressed and begins bringing Max to a therapist for counseling. While focusing on Max and his treatment, Mary Beth and her family suffer a horrific tragedy that no one could have predicted. This is the heart wrenching story of a family’s suffering and recovery from an act so violent that no one is left unscathed. While the subject matter is disturbing, this is ultimately a story of love, loss, and the will to carry on.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Collusion

Stuart Neville, author of GHOSTS OF BELFAST, does it again with this new novel set in New York and Northern Ireland. Ex IRA hit-man Gerry Fegan has sworn to protect Marie and her young daughter Ellen. Marie knows that Gerry is a murderer, that he’s dangerous, and that he’s more than a little crazy. She also knows he would exchange his life for theirs, and so she trusts him above all others. When Marie and Ellen are threatened by the evil from their past, Gerry must team up with Ellen’s estranged father Jack Lennon to save them. It is a chance for Jack to redeem himself and for Gerry to finish what he started. Action packed and riveting, this should be on everyone’s to-read list, but read GHOSTS OF BELFAST first.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Fiction | , , , , | Leave a comment

Too Many Soaps?

I just struggled through the debut novel “Language of Secrets” by Dianne Dixon. Why did I finish it? No idea. This book included every standard soap opera storyline that was ever written. The characters included the patriarch(a real bastard), the son (never good enough, couldn’t compare to his big brother, etc.), and the son’s amazingly beautiful wife (never could understand why she settled for him). The plot includes an adulterous affair, a bout of amnesia, a faked death, and an illegitimate child (passed off as the husband’s own son until the kid needs blood and, oops, the father’s blood doesn’t match). It was almost painful to read. To make matters worse (for the book), I was reading Jim Harrison’s “The Farmers Daughter” at the same time. Jim Harrison is an outstanding author and perhaps it wasn’t fair to have the two authors competing? No, I’m pretty sure “The Language of Secrets” would have fallen short had I been reading Jackie Collins at the same time. My precious reading time was wasted and I’m a little ticked.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Disturbingly Informative”

I was lucky enough to visit the Mutter Museum on a recent trip to Philadelphia. One of the brochures describes it as “disturbingly informative”. It was awesome. Not only does the Mutter Museum house a giant colon and a collection of objects swallowed and removed, it houses the skull collection of Joseph Hyrtl. In Colin Dickey’s book Cranioklepty”, he writes about phrenology and the collecting of skulls.

What do Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart all have in common besides being great composers? For one thing, they all had their skulls, or at least part of their skulls, stolen from their graves.  According to Webster, phrenology is “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it indicates mental faculties and character traits.” It was developed in 1796 by Franz Gall and was very popular through the 1800’s. There were famous supporters of phrenology, including Walt Whitman who made references to it in some of his writings. There were famous skeptics as well. Mark Twain was openly critical when writing about the skull readings he received. Phrenologists were careful to “not to predict genius from the shape of the skulls but instead to confirm the already established genius in the heads before them.”

Skulls of prisoners and insane asylum patients were easy to acquire, but phrenologists were desperate to study the skulls of famous citizens, especially anyone with creative or intellectual genius. Since no one was offering to donate their skulls to this strange science, practitioners had to resort to grave robbing. The collecting of skulls became a hobby for some, and an obsession for others. Elaborate glass cases were designed to display the skulls in homes and offices. What we think of as morbid today, was thought of very differently in the 19th century. Keeping relics of someone you knew or admired was considered an honor. One collector, Joseph Hyrtl, donated his collection which is now housed in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. If you are a fan of the macabre, you should read “Cranioklepty”. If you are ever in Philadelphia, you should visit the Mutter Museum.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Non Fiction | | Leave a comment

Two Books from Unbridled Books

 I get so many reading suggestions from Twitter and Facebook that I can’t possibly read all of them. I have, however, just finished two great books that were suggested titles from Unbridled Books. 

  31 Hours by Masha Hamilton is too plausible to be ignored.   Carol Meitzner wakes with a feeling of dread. She knows in her heart that her 21 year old son, Jonas, is in trouble. She doesn’t know what kind of trouble or how much, but he has not been returning her calls. Carol soon learns that his girlfriend, Vic, has not seen or heard from him recently, either. Jonas’s father doesn’t think they should be so worried. Wrong. In 31 hours, their son Jonas and 6 others are planning to walk into key terminals of the NYC subway system and detonate explosive vests strapped to their bodies. Blond haired, white, and from a privileged background, Jonas is set to become the new face of terrorism.

 Jonas’s radical mentor has disabled his phone to keep him completely isolated from the people who care about him the most. Throughout this gripping novel we meet some of the potential victims of this terrifying act, many of whom Jonas knows and loves. As we watch Jonas prepare for his martyrdom, without the fanaticism one would expect, it becomes clear that this could really happen. This possibility makes 31 Hours all the more chilling.

 The Evolution of Shadows by Jason Quinn Malott brings the tragedy of the war in Bosnia to light.  After having his heart broken, American photographer Gray Banick travels to Bosnia and into a war zone. Gray’s interpreter Emil, and his mentor Jack, often question Gray about the girl in the picture he carries with him. They know she is the reason he is here, but do not know the story behind his heartbreak. Her name is Lian Zhao and she and Gray were very much in love. Lian, however, wasn’t strong enough to face her parent’s disapproval of Gray so she chose to marry another man. Gray has traveled to Bosnia to kill her memory, or kill himself.  It is now almost 5 years since Gray disappeared, last seen by Emil in a Bosnian killing field. Lian, Emil, and Jack have met in Sarajevo to find out what happened to the man they all loved.

 This debut novel brings to life the horrors of the Bosnian war and its aftermath. Smoothly fading from past to present and back again, the author tells the stories of Gray and Lian, Emil, Jack, and their families. This is a story of searching for lost loves and forgotten lives. Only when the search is over can the healing really begin. This is a fabulous story.

  

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best gift ever!

OK, so maybe my last gift suggestion was a dud. This time I have a gift idea for all those bacon lovers on your list, and really, who doesn’t love bacon?

http://www.gratefulpalate.com/index.php?p=Category_11

Introducing “The Bacon of the Month Club”! According to the website, here’s some of what you get: A different artisan bacon delivered to your door every month, one free bacon tee-shirt, Bacon of the Month Club pig ballpoint pen, the member’s only monthly bacon comic strip (because bacon is hilarious), a Bacon of the Month Club membership card, and a pig-nose. If you don’t want to spring for the club package (the prices are a little steep), you can check out the artisan gifts. I personally like the bacon toilet paper, pictured below.

If you can’t find something on this website for everyone on your list, you’re just not trying hard enough.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Abandoned

After reading a few duds I finally found a book that grabbed my attention. Abandoned by Cody Mcfadyen.

Smoky Barrett is a special agent with the FBI, leading a team that specializes in hunting down and capturing serial killers. While Smoky and several other agents are attending the wedding of one of their own, a woman is pushed from a vehicle in full view of the guests. The victim looks ghostly with a shaved head, pasty white skin, and an undernourished body. Staggering into the wedding party, she lets out a wail and doesn’t stop. The victim is Heather Hollister, missing for more than 7 years-just long enough to be declared dead. As details of Heather’s abduction and captivity are revealed, Smoky realizes they are hunting a killer more cold and calculating than any they’ve seen before.

Abandoned is the fourth in the series by Cody McFadyen, though this is the first that I’ve read. When I started this book, I thought it was a little over-the-top with more sex and violence than needed. Not Quentin Tarantino over-the-top, just a few more details than necessary. As I continued to read, and yes, I continued to read, I found myself drawn into this story and the lives of its characters. I started to believe that it was possible, probable even, that every member of Smoky’s team had a loved one murdered by a serial killer. I realized that it wasn’t really too far fetched that not only was Smoky’s first husband and daughter murdered in front of her eyes, but she was now raising the daughter of her best friend who was also a victim of murder. In other words, after the first few chapters of this book I was hooked and no longer questioned whether it was realistic or not. I just wanted Smoky to catch the monster before anyone else was killed or, “gulp”, lobotomized. If you like your thrillers with a little more blood and guts than usual, you’ll like this one.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Tis the Season

So for my first blog entry, I was going to write about a great book that I was reading. Unfortunately, I’m in between great books at the moment. Hopefully that will change soon. I did come across this little gem of a gift idea, since it is the season, so I thought I would post this instead. http://www.reusablebags.com/store/coffee-cozy-bracelet-wool-felt-p-2091.html

Coffee Cup Cozy - Bracelet, 100% Wool Felt
This is the gift that everyone will be clamoring for, mark my words. Similar in scope to the ever popular Chiapet and fruitcake, but a little pricier. Still, who wouldn’t want this? It is a combination coffee cup cozy and bracelet. With three positive reviews on the website, it must be outstanding. I must take issue, however, with reviewer Becky’s presumption that her friend with the “larger frame” will wear this all the time. Isn’t it bad enough that we full figured gals must choose between paisley, big floral, and black ensembles without asking us to wear coffee cup cozies as fashion accessories? The one positive attribute of this gift is that it is environmentally friendly. That’s good, since there won’t be anymore room in the landfills after we’re done drinking all of that coffee from paper cups.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment