Tuesday, January 30, 2007
From Publisher's Weekly
Last seen in Odom's Lord of the Libraries, the hobbitlike Grandmagister Edgewick "Wick" Lamplighter (aka "The Rover") and his protégé, Juhg, hunt for rare books for their library, unearth enchanted armament and barely survive their respective brushes with the evil Goblinkin in their rousing fourth outing. Grandmagister Juhg (promoted after Wick went walkabout at the end of the previous book) goes in search of three encrypted journals that belonged to Wick as well as treasure Wick describes in these journals. In a tricky literary maneuver, Juhg reads through the journals that depict Wick's quest to find all three of the magical weapons lost after the battle of Fell's Keep as if he himself were Wick. Filled with talking beasts, including a cat and a donkey, and quests that have a thousand years of history, this latest addition to this popular series is sure to tickle the fancy of high fantasy fans. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Battlestar Galactica Rocks!
I've heard a lot about this show, and even ordered the first season on DVD. My wife and I usually watch a lot of mystery shows and enjoy those a lot. Lately, wanting something different, I popped in a disc and we watched the opening movie that set up the series.
I watched the original series when it came out in the 1970s and enjoyed it. But this series has grown up a lot. I got hooked early, and Sherry put up with it for a while, then got hooked on the characters.
The characters and the situations feel familiar, and they should because Ronald D. Moore (the show's developer and one of the primary writers) also wrote for Star Trek. I've already ordered Season 2.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Writers who are wondering about how to take the next step to get their work published can ask those who have done it during a writing seminar called, “Pen Pals: How to Get Published,” which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2 in the H.B. Atkinson Theatre on the Rose State College campus, located at 6420 SE 15th St. in Midwest City, Okla.
The seminar is sponsored by the Rose State College Friends of the Library and is free and open to the public.
Pen Pals will feature two writing professionals; Merline Lovelace (www.merlinelovelace.com), who has written a number of books in the romance market including the “Code Name Danger” series; and Mel Odom, who has authored hundreds of books in multiple genres including novels set in the “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” universe, as well as the "Apocalypse" trilogy for Tyndale House Publishers, which was a spin-off of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s popular “Left Behind” series.
Other authors who are slated to attend include Carl Sennhenn, former Oklahoma Poet Laureate, and Rose State College professors Gary King, author of “An Autumn Remembered: Bud Wilkinson's Legendary '56 Sooners,” and Tim Tharp, author of “Knights of Hill Country.”
Joshua Pace, author of “Scrying Glass,” a first-time novel written under the pseudonym J.D. Stiver, organized the event.
For more information, contact Pace by calling 733-7400.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Armored Knight Takes Flight Today!
Marvel Comics introduced playboy Tony Stark back in the 1960s. Every comic buff worth his salt knows the story. Stark was in Vietnam surveying some of the weapons he’d invented while they were in action. While there, he tripped a trap and got blown up. When he recovered, he was in enemy hands and had shrapnel dangerously close to his heart. He and another prisoner, Yin Sen, invented the gray suit of armor that Stark for wore into battle against the Vietnamese warlord.
Iron Man is one of my favorite characters. He’s had a troubled life, constant women problems (some who were lovers who became enemies, and some enemies who became lovers), a severe bout of alcoholism, and (in one of the most confusing bits of retconning ever) turned back into his teenage self.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment paired up with Marvel Comics for what is apparently going to be a four-movie deal, with all of the product being released as straight-to-DVD animated movies. The first two were Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2. Doctor Strange is currently in production.
If Iron Man’s original origin had been kept, he would be in his sixties at least by now. Marvel Comics dropped the Vietnamese connection as they retconned the character so that he could stay at a perky age.
The Invincible Iron Man starts over from scratch, keeping much of the Tony Stark character in place. He’s still a rich playboy with a keen inventor’s mind. But he’s remiss in his responsibilities to work outside of inventing and in his friendships. The Lions Gate film also presents the character of Jim Rhodes. “Rhodey,” as he’s known, went on later to become a more militant version of Iron Man known as War Machine. The pairing works well on the screen and gives Tony someone to play off of.
With the announcement of the live-action Iron Man movie coming out in 2008, I’d really expected Lions Gate to go all out on their animated feature since it would get a lot of push from the other movie. I’d figured that Iron Man would square off against one of his technologically advanced enemies – perhaps the Crimson Dynamo, or Stane, or even a military-based foe created expressly for the movie.
I wasn’t expecting the Mandarin, but once I wrapped my head around the idea, I thought it was pretty cool. The Mandarin was one of Iron man’s principal enemies from the comic series. Weirdly enough, and I’m really interested to see how this pans out, Jon Favreau’s live-action Iron Man movie is also going to feature the Mandarin as the villain. Fans are going to get their choice of treatments it seems.
The original Mandarin was supposedly a descendant of Genghis Khan. He discovered ten technologically advanced rings in a crashed alien spacecraft. The rings gave him tremendous powers, based on Makluan science. In The Invincible Iron Man, the Mandarin’s rings are powered through magic.
I loved the interface at the beginning of the movie that showed all the gears working together. It looked very cool, very high-tech, and it got me properly primed for the viewing experience.
The story opens up in China. Jim Rhodes is working at a dig site where Stark Enterprises is trying to raise an ancient sunken city before an underground river destroys it. The dig crew’s efforts are plagued by a band of desperate men who call themselves the Jade Dragons.
I have to admit, I wanted a different beginning. I wanted to see Stark in the suit, blowing through action sequences for a while, then remembering how it all began in a flashback or simply covering the origin in a bit of conversation.
Still, the opening sequence captures the viewer’s attention satisfactorily and moves along at a quick clip. After we meet Rhodes, see some appropriately cool science stuff involved in raising the sunken city, we also meet Li Mei, the daughter of an important member of the Jade Dragons. China has a history of being hard on women, and that’s definitely shown here as Li Mei gets harassed.
An attack on Rhodes’s supplies leaves the dig site crippled again. Stark finally gives in and decides to go there to see if he can straighten things out. While he’s in China he barely survives an attack that leaves him in medically bad shape. He and Rhodes have to build a device that will keep his weakened heart beating.
They also build the first Iron Man suit: the clunky gray suit that still make my heart beat a little faster every time I see it. The scenes where Iron Man steps out of the shadows to confront the abusive guards is really well done. Iron Man looks creepy and menacing when seen in this light, and the sequence is played out for everything it’s worth.
Stark and Rhodes quickly make their escape and return to the United States. When they arrive, they find S.H.I.E.L.D. agents waiting to take them into custody. Stark and Rhodes break free and run for it.
Later, they arrive at the secret base Stark has built to house his Iron Man project (though it’s never mentioned by name in the movie that I could remember). Nowhere throughout the film is the name “Iron Man” even mentioned. In the comic book series, Stark maintained his secret identity by claiming that Iron Man was his personal bodyguard.
In short order, Stark learns that raising the city also free four Elementals (earth, wind, water, and fire). They’re seeking the Mandarin’s five rings (and it was really weird to think there were only five rings – one of them a bracelet, even) instead of ten.
One of the best things the animated film did was feature several of Stark’s Iron Man suits. It was fascinating to see how the writer, director, producer got around having an “origin” story while having Stark in possession of several dozen sets of armor.
The fight in the deep-dive armor was awesome. I can still remember when that golden suit was introduced in the monthly comic. The action in this sequence gets the viewer totally involved.
The action was the highlight of the movie. It didn’t significantly start up until the middle of the movie, which is a tad bit too long for those of us hanging out at the theater to see Iron Man come to the big screen. After that, the action moves along at a brisk pace, but there’s little emotional involvement required by the rest of the move.
The Mandarin was off-screen far too much to make it as a powerful villain in the movie. Li Mei’s attraction for Stark seemed to come out of left field. I don’t even know what language they would have been speaking. There was no mention that Li Mei knew English, or that Stark knew Chinese. Also, there were a number of spots where there was no dialogue and the lack became noticeable.
Overall, The Invincible Iron Man is another fine production by Lions Gate Home Entertainment. It will sit nicely on the shelves with the other animated movies about the Ultimate Avengers. The movie is a definite buy for the comics geeks out there, and is recommended for the kiddos – except there are some scenes with masked nudity some parents might question. This movie would be a treat on family night when everyone wants some light entertainment.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler permanently warped my mind for the wicked retorts and one-liners Spenser and Philip Marlowe (the authors’ respective characters) were fond of. I can’t help myself. I love detectives who get caught between the bad guys and the cops to save a client who isn’t quite innocent but doesn’t deserve to be given up to the devil.
Elvis Cole, the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Detective, is irreverent, witty, driven, and self-assured. More so in the beginning of the series than in recent books after tragedy has hit him again and again.
Every private eye from the 1980s onward, though, has to have a combative second, a darker side who will do things the private eye won’t do. Someone who will unflinchingly step over lines and rules the private eye has set for himself/herself.
Spenser has Hawk. Harlan Coben’s sports agent Myron Bolitar has Windsor Horne Lockwood III – “Win.” Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Dennis Lehane’s detectives, have Bubba.
Elvis Cole has Joe Pike, his invisible partner who can be counted on to help Elvis pick up the pieces every time an investigation goes south or turns bloody.
For much of the thus far ten-book series, Joe Pike has largely been an enigma. We saw part of him step onto stage in L.A. Requiem and The Last Detective, but we’ve never really gotten a true look behind those mirror shades Pike wears even at night.
We know from the books that Pike, like Elvis, is a veteran of the Vietnam War, an ex-Marine. He’s an ex-cop from the Los Angeles Police Department that all the other cops hate. He’s a trained mercenary. He owns different business interests that no one knows about. He’s fastidious. He doesn’t let anyone into his life, and even Elvis only gets his friendship and not much of Pike’s history.
He wears sweatshirts with the sleeves hacked off. He has red arrows tattooed on his deltoids. The arrows point forward. Because Joe Pike never backs up.
I love Elvis Cole, but Joe Pike is the guy I really want to get to know. He’s quick and dangerous. He kills without hesitation or remorse. He fights for the underdog and leaves everything on the field, never holding back.
In L.A. Requiem readers discovered that Pike had an abusive father. It was that relationship that set the tone for Pike. He became autonomous and complete on his own. Unfortunately he also became an island, a no man’s land that people could visit but could never stay. Even Elvis Cole, the best friend that Pike ever had, can’t get in all the way.
But Crais is generous in his newest release, The Watchman. It’s labeled “A Joe Pike Novel,” and readers have to wonder if there will be more. Readers who pick it up and finish it – probably in a single sitting or two – will hope that it’s just the beginning of a new series, even though Elvis Cole features in the book as well.
Pike’s history interweaves with an assignment he takes because of a promise he made to a man named Jon Stone, an associate from Pike’s mercenary days. Stone calls Pike in, asking him to bodyguard a young woman named Larkin Connor Barkley, who was unlucky enough to have a traffic accident that involved a man she identifies as a top cocaine baron. The FBI wants her to testify against the man, but in order to do that, she has to stay alive.
Larkin’s father calls in Bud Flynn, the man who trained Pike while he was with the LAPD. The man who became, for a time, the father Pike never had. Flynn wants Pike to protect the girl after an attempt is made on her life.
Pike, though, has his own way of dealing with the would-be killers. After two more attempts are made on her life while she’s in his care, Pike knows that someone is leaking information on Larkin’s whereabouts. Unable to remain hidden forever, with no one outside of Elvis Cole to rely on, Pike resolves to handle the situation in a way that’s uniquely his own: he’s going to track down the killers and kill them all.
He just has to keep himself and the girl alive long enough to do it. And in the process, his own problems and secrets spill out over the ones Larkin is keeping hidden.
Crais is truly a phenomenal writer. His characters, even a superman like Joe Pike, are real and flawed in truly human ways. The prose in this novel crackles with energy, and the plot twists hammer the reader again and again as the author reveals the surprises he has in store. The dialogue is dead-on, funny and insightful, and so real it feels like you’re sitting in the room as the people have their conversations.
The Watchman is a great book. I finished it in two sittings and would have finished it in one, but my stamina just didn’t hold out. The pages turn with seductive ease, and I found myself fully engaged with the story at all times. Even knowing that Pike would doubtless survive, and probably Larkin as well – I hoped – Crais gave me plenty of other characters to worry about.
Even if you’ve never read an Elvis Cole book before, you can pick up The Watchman and rest assured that you’ll get the whole story. If you’ve read all the Elvis Cole books before, this is one you’ve been waiting on for years.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Yep, it's true. The adventures of Annja Creed have now come to audiobooks. You can get them at: http://www.graphicaudio.net/. If you haven't had time to read it, now you can listen to it in a full-cast presentation.
Graphic Audio does a great job of capturing books and making them come alive in audio. Visit the website for samples of the work they do.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tess Gerritsen Scores Again With Sequel To The Surgeon
Tess Gerritsen brought back Boston Homicide Detective Jane Rizzoli for a second outing in The Apprentice, a follow-up to her bestselling The Surgeon. She also brought back serial killer Warren Hoyt and paired him with an equally sick killer the homicide squad labeled the Dominator due to his choice of victims and style of murder.
There’s an obvious homage about the book to Thomas Harris’s own Silence of the Lambs and the character of Hannibal Lecter. Gerritsen might have started with similar real estate, but she built an original experience out of it. Besides that, serial killers had been killing for years before Harris made reading about them all the rage.
I love the character of Jane Rizzoli. She’s a good cop, intelligent and insightful, who’s almost buried in a male-dominated hierarchy. Her need to impress her colleagues and earn the social distinction of “equal” is compelling. I’ve known women like Rizzoli who struggled to survive in those kinds of worlds, for exactly the same reasons.
I also love the way Rizzoli fits into her family. Everyone there seems to dismiss her job as a homicide detective, even after she was nearly killed bringing in Hoyt. Despite Rizzoli’s hard-as-nails exterior, Gerritsen shows how vulnerable her lead character is on the job, with her family, and when she’s by herself. Rizzoli is a fully realized personality, equipped with strengths, weaknesses, and the seeds for her own potential self-destruction.
Gerritsen’s writing has won me over, though. It’s tight and polished, and moves quickly. These early novels focus on the trials and tribulations that Rizzoli goes through, and – beginning with The Sinner -- picks up on Dr. Maura Isles’s complicated life as well.
But The Apprentice starts off like a bullet with the murder scene where a man is found dead, tied up and obviously made to watch something. Further investigation reveals the man was married but his wife is now missing. Crime scene analysis reveals that a woman was there, and neighbors’ reports confirm that the couple was home together. So Rizzoli wants to know where the wife is.
Immediately Rizzoli believes they’re looking for a serial killer. Not only that, the violence reminds her of Warren Hoyt and her brush with death in The Surgeon. Even though she won’t admit it even to herself, Rizzoli hasn’t gotten over that. Nightmares plague her and her apartment has taken on a veneer of fear that just won’t go away.
Further complicating matter, FBI Agent Gabriel Dean arrives on the scene early as well. No one knows what’s drawn him there, and he’s not going to give any information. He’s quiet and taciturn, completely focused on the investigation. He also rapidly becomes Rizzoli’s nemesis, constantly questioning her, confronting her, and going behind her back to her superiors.
The way that Gerritsen plays these two off against each other is good, and it shows her roots in writing romantic fiction. But she brought her best game with her from those books when she took the plunge into the suspense market.
When the wife’s missing body is found, the puzzle turns even more dark and twisted. The area where the corpse was found turns out to be a familiar dump site for the serial killer. They find other bodies there, and gradually backtrack them to other abductions and murders.
Dr. Maura Isles, the other half of Gerritsen’s bestselling crime-fighting duo, gets introduced in this book. She’s a medical examiner and works the crime scenes, getting to know Rizzoli through the case. Isles is also learning forensic anthropology, and several scenes in the book are heavy with forensic information, how those people work and what they look for. Given Gerritsen’s familiarity with the medical field (the author was once a practicing internist), the scenes roll on exceedingly well without stopping the action or causing an information overload.
Gabriel Dean remains dogged in his pursuit of the truth, and when he finally reveals what he’s doing there to Rizzoli, the whole investigation takes an intriguing 180-degree spin that will catch most readers off balance but has clearly been in the works since page one.
Warren Hoyt’s escape from prison and eventual partnership with the Dominator seems a little forced and even anti-climatic in the end, but it satisfies readers of the first novel who weren’t happy about Hoyt’s situation.
The climax of the book, though, came almost too sudden. I was locked down to read through to the end, then – when it came – it was over too soon. It all makes sense and Gerritsen set it up to play out that way, but after all the build-up I just wanted a little more. But more would also have taken the story over the top too, I’m afraid. Rizzoli isn’t a superwoman. She’s just smart and crafty, and that ending fits perfectly.
If you enjoy a good thriller that will keep you tense and turning pages long into the night while keeping up with a sharp, competent investigator who’s definitely motivated, Tess Gerritsen is an author you should start picking up. But start at the beginning if you haven’t read her. The books stand alone, but they’re organic as well, bringing two strong women together and sharing their lives with the audience.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
My son and I read the Charlie Bone series and the Alex Rider series currently, and I thought – given the amount of pictures throughout the Wiley And Grampa #4: Super Soccer Freak Show -- that he’d find it an easy read while we waited.
We quietly read our books. But only for a short while. Then he started giggling, and finally cracked up and howled in glee. Before I knew it, he was insisting on reading the book to me. That hasn’t happened before.
So I folded my book and I listened. He read for an hour before he finished it, pointing out the wordplay and the comic visual images (Merle the cat was his favorite). I have to admit that I was cracking up too. Guys have a tendency to never outgrow that juvenile funny bone, much to the dismay of their moms and wives.
The book is told in first-person. Wiley relates the tale of the school team’s journey to Carpathia Elementary School for a soccer game. (The books are set in Texas, where the author illustrator Kirk Scroggs is from. I’ve been to Texas on several occasions, but I’ve never seen Carpathia County. From the pictures, I know that it looks a lot like Transylvania!)
While at the soccer game, Grampa gets into a fight with the other team’s mascot. As it turns out, that’s something he does every time, and he has restraining orders from other games. Part of the humor of these books is seeing how far Grampa will go to get into trouble despite Wiley and Gramma’s best efforts to keep him from it. But something goes horribly wrong this time.
The mascot bites Grampa and he turns into a werewolf the very next full moon. Wiley doesn’t know what to do. The dogcatcher can’t catch Grampa and the ladies’ sewing circle that Gramma takes him to turns out to be octogenarian Buffys. They whip out their crossbows and get ready to nail Grampa’s hide to the barn. Not exactly the kind of help Gramma and Wiley went there looking for.
My son and I were dying laughing as we looked at the sewing circle ladies all decked out and ready to go kick monster butt. (I really think Scroggs should think about doing a book about them. I know we’d read it.)
Finally, though, Wiley discovers that the only way to save Grampa is for the soccer team to return to Carpathian Elementary and beat them in a rematch. But that’s impossible! Isn’t it?
The illustrations are a riot, providing plenty of visual humor in every situation. As soon as my son finished reading the book to me, he sat down and read it again, analyzing the pictures and finding new things he’d missed the first time through. Scroggs really outdid himself on the art because it’s layered with shenanigans.
The writing is truly awesome too, filled with wordplay directed at kids and adults alike. There are several jokes that kids won’t get but parents will.
I really recommend these books to school libraries and public libraries. They come out in hardcover and paperback at the same time. Parents who have reluctant readers at home, especially boys, are encouraged to get one of these books and put it in that kid’s hands. Read a few pages with him or her and they’ll be hooked. You may find yourself hooked as well!