Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'A Dog's Journey'

After posting a review in October 2011 for the sensitive novel, 'A Dog's Purpose', written by W. Bruce Cameron, I wondered if he would ever write another book about Buddy the dog.  I was drawn to the devoted canine; my tears came easily and, as I stated in the review, it made me appreciate my animal roommates a lot more.

So, I wasn't surprised when I learned that Mr. Cameron had indeed written a sequel.

'A Dog's Journey' continues where the first book ended.  This time, Buddy is keeping a careful eye on Ethan's granddaughter, Clarity, who is a curious little girl.  As Clarity's life progresses, Buddy once again leaves his life, only to be reincarnated into a dog that Clarity names Molly.  Buddy thought that his purpose in life would end when his 'boy', Ethan, dies, but he discovers that he is meant to protect Clarity (now called C.J.).  And so it goes through three lifetimes, and he always manages to find the object of his devotion.  Through hard times (and living with one of the most selfish characters ever written, Gloria, Clarity's mother), Buddy (aka Molly, then Max, then Toby) remains by Clarity's side, sharing her life with all it's ups-and-downs.  

Simply written, 'A Dog's Journey' will move you to tears and prompt you to walk across the room and embrace your animal friends, thanking them for their devotion.

But you may want to keep some treats on hand.  Aren't they worth it?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

'A Fistful of Collars'

"If your dog doesn't like someone you probably shouldn't either." - Unknown

I love Spring, and not just because of the sprouting flowers, soft sunshine, and life's possibilities budding anew.

It's time for new book releases, and that's when author Spencer Quinn makes me want to dance with glee.  Spencer writes a wonderful series of mysteries about Chet the dog and his human, Bernie Little.  Chet and Bernie are detectives; loyalty and unconditional love are the hallmarks of their special relationship (for more about Chet and Bernie, read my review of 'The Dog Who Knew Too Much' from September 2011).

Chet narrates each book in the series:  'Dog On It', 'Thereby Hangs a Tail', 'To Fetch a Thief', and 'The Dog Who Knew Too Much'.  Each is delightful and funny, but make no mistake:  Suspense is very present, and the 'perps' are unscrupulous.  

'A Fistful of Collars' is the newest entry in the series, and, like the previous novels, impossible to put down.  And you really don't have to be a dog lover to appreciate them.  Chet is the most likable hero; solid, a bit distracted (who wouldn't be when a cat comes waltzing by while you're working on a case?).  And his partner, his Bernie, loves and respects Chet with his whole heart.  Their partnership is more than just a working one; Chet cares for Bernie, watches out for him, while Bernie has nothing but Chet's best interests at heart.  These stories grab me, make me laugh and cry, but most of all, help me understand a dog's POV a whole lot more.  I suspect Spencer Quinn is part dog.  Read the books; you'll likely agree.

Bernie and Chet have been handed a plum assignment:  They have been offered a job as 'babysitters' for Thad Perry, a badboy mega-movie star who is filming in their town.  But when an old, unsolved murder rears it's head, Bernie and Chet discover that Thad has ties to the area that go way back.  

As much as I loved the premise, the mystery that I want to see solved is that of the strange little visitor to their neighborhood.  His howl is similar to Chet's.  It's not hard to figure out.  

Perhaps Mr. Quinn will grace us with two canine narrators.  If he does, I'll gladly howl at the moon.

'A Fistful of Collars' will be released in September 2012, by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  If you plan on taking some books on vacation, I recommend this delightful series.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

'A Once Crowded Sky'

"The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts: but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?"  -William Makepeace Thackeray

Our poor little world has always had to cope with good vs. evil.  We find most of the examples in the Bible, but because our imaginations dare to breathe, we have created 'superheroes', those with the supernatural powers constantly in conflict with their human side.  The good ones have a conscience; the evil ones...not so much.  Which makes them a bit more fun, wouldn't you say?

In Tom King's new novel, "A Once Crowded Sky", he takes us into the realm of superheroes who, along with their leader, Ultimate, have sacrificed their powers for the common good.  Except for one.  PenUltimate walked away from the constant battles in order that he could live a somewhat normal life.  But if he had stayed just a bit longer, he, too, would have had to sacrifice his powers.  Which would have let to that 'normal' life.  He was the only one in his group of superheroes who managed to retain his powers.  And he was the one called back to fight the evil they all thought had been vanquished.

The Soldier of Freedom was content to exist without his powers, but a new threat engulfs the city of Arcadia, and he feels that it is his duty to enlist the aid of his once-powerful brethren.  But they cannot do it alone without their powers, so they seek out PenUltimate, the only one who can make a difference.

The world of novels and graphic novels is filled with superheroes and villains.  Some of them are heroes from long ago, created when the world needed to believe in someone who could fight their battles and save the day.  Hitler was a popular villain in comic books during the '40s, and almost every artist and writer had a field day avenging the poor souls who fell onto his path of destruction.

We need heroes; we will always need heroes.  Some evil is constantly lurking about, ready to destroy our world, be it in the physical or the mind.  And when we read about the exploits of Superman, or Batman, or Spiderman, or the whole host of 'super avengers', we cheer them on, secretly wishing we could trade places with them.  As we grow older, so do the heroes.  We discover their inner conflicts and learn that some of them hate themselves.

Just like us.

So maybe we are all superheroes in some way.  Certainly soldiers and food bank volunteers, doctors, nurses, scientists, and teachers are all heroes.  But the villains do exist.  Read the newspaper, watch television news, learn about them in sickening expos√©s.  

And just when we think that this evil will rule our world, a superhero will come along to remind evil that decency still exists...and it has a conscience.

Author Tom King served in the CIA as an operations officer in the Counterrorism Center.  Prior to that, he interned at Marvel and DC comics.  'A Once Crowded Sky' will be released by Touchstone books in July 2012. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thomas Tryon

If you follow me on Pinterest (or 'Pintercrack', as I affectionately call it), you've probably seen my 'Silence is Golden' board.  It's devoted to famous silent film stars, give or take an animal or two.

When I was eleven years-old (an age when most children find their 'bliss'), I discovered silent movies.  Our public television station was running an old Mary Pickford movie, and I sat there, transfixed, as I watched it.  My world had changed.  I soon ate up anything I could find about 'the silents'; biographies, trivia, even magazines (I was fortunate enough to be living during the 'nostalgia craze').  Before long, I turned to movies released in the '30's, '40's, and '50's (Brando in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' made me squirm...in a good way)  Before I knew it, my brain was filled with all kinds of movie information, much of it obscure.  When a friend or family member had a movie question, they turned to me.  And they sometimes still do.  As time went on, I discovered that my oldest brother, John, and his wife, Denny, were movie fans, and together we shared information and lists of our favorite films.  

It was inevitable that I would find myself looking for novels relating to the film business.  I don't mean the sordid, trashy stories.  I'm talking thinly-disguised novels.  After I read Thomas Tryon's first novel, 'The Other', I was excited to discover that he had written a 'movie' novel, 'Crowned Heads'.  Soon after that, I found 'All That Glitters'.  I've read both books several times, and I cherish them.

Thomas Tryon was initially known as a film and television actor, his most notable role being a Catholic cardinal in the film of the same name.  After he became disillusioned with acting, he turned to writing, from which he became best known.  His first novel, 'The Other' became a film, and his second novel, 'Harvest Home', was filmed as a tv mini-series starring Bette Davis.

But it is his Hollywood novellas that I always turn to when I want a bit of the macabre.  

'Crowned Heads' is a series of novellas about four film stars:  Fedora, the enigma, the 'perfect work of art'; Lorna, 'The All-American Cookie'; Bobbitt, the film fantasy child who can't deal with adulthood; Willie, the thinly-disguised story of Ramon Navarro's tragic end.  All the stories contain secrets and lies.  All of them shocked me to some degree or another.

'All That Glitters' follows that same theme, but less macabre.  Five famous (and once-famous) film stars are linked by Charlie, the narrator, and they, in turn, are linked by the deliciously-written character of Frank, an agent and lover who touched all of their lives.

Thomas Tryon left us with some wonderful stories, but for this film lover, his Hollywood novels will stay with me always.

Just like the movies.

If you are unable to find Thomas Tryon's wonderful Hollywood novels in the library, try various book sites.  Hopefully, they aren't out-of-print.  And if they are, it's a damned shame...

Monday, May 7, 2012

'The Innocents'

Be honest, married people (and even people who almost got married). How soon before the wedding did the claustrophobia set in?  And when did the 'scared' feeling finally hit the pit of your stomach?

For me, I didn't feel claustrophobic.  But the 'scared' feeling set in after the wedding.  Did I do the right thing?  Will I lose my personal identity?  And just how long will his mother be living with us?

When I first opened Francesca Segal's new novel, 'The Innocents', I just knew that that delightful old feeling of paranoia would soon revisit me.  She definitely got it right; the story is full of indecision, claustrophobia, secret desire, and the all-too-familiar feeling of just chucking it all and running away.

Adam Newman has it all:  Rachel Gilbert, the perfect fiance√©; a wonderful, loving family and neighbors; a job he loves and a boss who is his surrogate father (and Rachel's father).  Adam and Rachel have been together since they were in their teens, and both live in the tight-knit London suburb of Temple Fortune.  But now that Adam and Rachel are getting ready to marry, in waltzes Ellie, Rachel's cousin, who turns Adam's world upside down.  He begins to question his choices; security or adventure?  Love or lust?  Tradition or independence?

Although 'The Innocents' is a recasting of Edith Wharton's 'The Age of Innocence', Ms. Segal should know that this reader found her debut novel thoroughly original, and, at turns, hilarious, thought-provoking, and very familiar.  

Her characters, which are so well-drawn, earn sympathetic reactions, while at the same time, you just want to shake them and say, "Stop the pushiness!"  

Kudos to Ms. Segal.  This is a great Summer read!

The Innocents will be released in June 2012 by HarperCollins.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

'The Passionate Bookworm Fundraising Raffle'

One of my good friends (and fellow blogger), Michelle, not only reviews and recommends Young Adult titles on her wonderful blog, The Passionate Bookworm, but she is also an artist.

She has come up with some incredible designs centered around books and the world they inhabit.  The problem is that she needs money for equipment, supplies, etc.  So, she has come up with a great idea:  The Passionate Bookworm Fundraising Raffle and Giveaway.

Click on the link to learn more about her art, her passion for books, and her fundraising goal: 

Art is forever, just like a good story.  So, visit Michelle's site, contribute to the fund, and read her reviews.  You will not only find a great story, but you'll also be extending a hand to an artist who has a shining future...thanks to you!