Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Thoughts & Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals Review

This book got great reviews, but personally I found it a little boring. The title is what my husband refers to as a "Dorothy title" - long, ridiculous and probably British. And he's entirely correct. I forgot how I stumbled onto it but the title and synopsis immediately appealed to me. A comedy of manners set in Wales during the 1920's? Perfection! But then, not quite. I found this book to drag until about halfway through and then it just got odd.

Wilfred Price is a young funeral director living in the small town of Narbeth, in South Wales. On a picnic one day, he is overcome by his companion, Grace Reeves', beauty and spontaneously proposes. She accepts and not long after, he panics. He quickly tells her that he doesn't really want to marry her, especially after her meets Flora, a young woman grieving for the recent loss of her father (whose funeral brings the couple together) and the long ago death of her fiance in WWI.

However (SPOILERS FOLLOW): Grace has a secret. Seemingly out of the blue, she tells her father she is pregnant. He immediately assumes the child is Wilfred's and demands the young man marry his daughter. Wilfred goes along with the loveless marriage because he knows that he if he refuses, he will leave Grace is disgrace and will lose his business and possible be run out of town since he abandoned a pregnant woman carrying a child everyone assumed was his. However, he refuses to consummate the marriage, given his love for Flora, who is the only one he tells the truth to.

At this point, I was like, WTF? There was no indication that Grace was pregnant. It seemed to come completely from left field. Even worse, it is later discovered that the child is a product of Grace being raped by her own brother, Madoc. He was introduced in only one scene, which gave no hint that he was a sinister, twisted character. So while the plot moved along faster once the pregnancy was confessed and the marriage took place, it was also so random that I thought I accidentally skipped a chapter somewhere.

The rest of the book follows Wilfred's struggles over what to do and his eventual rebellion against his domineering father-in-law. By the end, he is able to annul the marriage and the book ends with a hopeful scene between Wilfred and Flora. However, poor Grace leaves her family in disgrace and without them knowing the father of her child. Her parents seem to disown her but her father slips her a note encouraging her to write. Wilfred also gave her quite a bit of his savings.  And then that was it. She's gone off to try and make a living and support her child while Wilfred gets his happy ending. I suppose that's the reality for a woman in her situation, but still, she gets kind of shafted: friendly, alone and pregnant. She doesn't even know where she is heading when she leaves.

The biggest issue to me was the lack of development between Wilfred and Flora. They are quickly attracted and drawn to each other, but they don't see each other all that often and seem to spend much of their time together silently cuddling, until he gets up the nerve to confess his marriage. So for the reader, it's not easy to see what makes them so into each other, which makes their eventual ending feel a bit meaningless.

Still, Wilfred is an interesting character and he has a sweet relationship with his widowed father who raised him after his mother died in childbirth. He also has dreams of expanding his funeral business into selling paints and wallpapers. I'm not sure how the two are connected but I would have been interested to see where that went, although with him giving Grace a lot of his money, I don't think that would have gone very far.

Anyway, I found this book to be a let down. It got good reviews on amazon, though, so don't take my word for it. You might love it!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Review

I've been a huge Veronica Mars fan since friends at my old job got me to start watching halfway through the airing of the first season in 2004. For those of you who aren't Marshmallows (fans of the show), Veronica Mars followed the title character in her last two years of high school and first year of college. Veronica is an intelligent, witty, cynical private detective in training. At the start of the series, she is a social outcast who is trying to solve the mystery of her best friend's murder the year before. Throughout the series, Veronica solves a mystery every episode, but also follows a larger, season long mystery. The show only lasted three seasons but featured unforgettable characters and relationships that stuck with me ten years after the show premiered.

Last spring, the creator, Rob Thomas, launched the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history to make a movie that continued the series. Season 3 ended on a depressing, unfinished note, because Thomas was desperately trying to get renewed by the CW by hooking fans, which didn't work. Anyway, I think they met their goal of 2 million dollars in ten hours. So clearly, the show has passionate fans. The movie was released about a month ago, in theaters and also on demand. As an avid fan, I've been rewatching the show from the beginning (season one is literally one of the most perfect television arcs that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Seriously. Watch it.) and then finally saw the movie a couple weekends ago. I'm not sure if the movie appealed to non-fans, but I loved how it brought Veronica back to Neptune after 10 years of being away and reunited her with her father, Keith, friends Mac, Wallace and Weevil and long lost love, Logan. The movie set up some other plotlines that might seem ill-advised given that another movie won't necessarily be made, but that's where the book comes in.

Apparently Rob Thomas originally wrote the plot of the novel for the movie, but realized that fans would want to see what brought Veronica back to Neptune, CA in the first place. So, along with Jennifer Graham, he wrote (well, I don't know how much he actually wrote beyond coming up with the initial plot) a novel that picks up right where the movie left off. MOVIE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. Veronica is living in Neptune, having decided that being a PI is more appealing to her than being a high powered New York City lawyer. Her father, Keith, isn't exactly thrilled by this news, but he is dealing with recovering from a major car crash from the movie. While he is healing, Veronica takes over his cases, given her something to focus on since her love, Logan, is two months into a six month tour in the navy.

She is hired by the Neptune Chamber of Commerce to find a girl who disappeared while partying on spring break in Neptune. During the course of the investigation, the disappearance of a second girl brings Veronica into contact with a face from her past, which leads to some interesting tension and emotions for our girl. The novel follows a lot of the same pacing and beats as the show did. There are red herrings, dangerous situations for Veronica to get herself out of and tons of twists and turns. Graham does a good job of getting into Veronica's head. A lot of fans were disappointed that the book was written in third person because the show focused on voice overs that put us in Veronica's mind. However, we still got into her thoughts, and she was still the protagonist, so this didn't bother me. It was impossible to read the book without visualizing the actors from the show, so like the movie, I don't think this would appeal to people who didn't know the show, but for fans, I thought the book was a great continuation of Veronica's world. Would I prefer a movie? Sure, but just like how I love the Buffy and Angel comics for continuing Joss Whedon's world, if I can't have a movie, or even a reboot of the show that picks up from where the movie left off, this is a great option.

Of course my one complaint is that Logan wasn't in it enough. He does appear in Skype conversations, but his absence was noted, although it did give Veronica time to process her feelings for him after a decade apart. Also, I would have loved more Mac and Wallace. Mac ends up quitting her high paying tech job at Kane Industries and becoming the technical consultant for Mars Investigations, which is an interesting move, but I wanted more of her working with Veronica on cases. Finally, the plot that was briefly introduced in the movie about Weevil being accidentally shot by Celeste Kane and then having a gun planted on him wasn't continued at all. It seems to me that a "season long" mystery following class warfare and corruption in the sheriff department was introduced in the movie and then dropped here. Weevil's big scene in the movie was at the Neptune High reunion, where he joyfully introduced Veronica to his wife and talked about his little daughter and how he's totally out of gang life and owns his own shop now. But then at the end of the movie, he's back on his bike, leading his old gang in the wake of being framed by the sheriff department. I really wanted more of that in the book, but Weevil only makes one tiny appearance.

However, a second novel is in the works and should be published late in 2014. So maybe that story will be picked up then and hopefully Logan will be back. Overall, this novel was a breeze. Clearly I'm in the midst of a totally V Mars obsession with the show and the movie, so I just ate this book up, getting through it in only a couple days. Again, I have to reiterate that this book probably is not going to appeal to non-fans, nor would the movie, but if you're looking for an awesome show to binge watch, I can't recommend Veronica Mars enough. It's available on amazon prime and probably iTunes. Kristin Bell is awesome as the lead and the rest of the cast is also fantastic. And if you get as hooked as I am, then I definitely recommend the movie and the book. If you got through this review, thanks for reading. Now go watch!

Great article about the evolution of the "girl detective" archetype from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars

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Dust Review

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've probably read my other posts on Hugh Howey's Wool series.  I linked to the Wikipedia page because Howey initially published his series in several novellas, which were eventually collected into longer novels. I figured checking out the Wikipedia page was easier than linking to all of my individual reviews, but if you'd like to read those, do a search of my posts for Hugh Howey or any of the titles found on the Wikipedia page. There's a little search box on the upper left hand side of the blog. I entered Hugh Howey and found all my previous posts... which is good because I can't exactly remember all the plotlines!

Third Shift, the previous installment, took the three prequels up to the present time as Donald, a former congressman who helped created the Silos, caught up with Juliet's timeline in Silo 18. Donald is dying, still suffering from the effects of his attempted suicide at the end of Second Shift, when he went outside Silo 1. He is also still pretending to be Senator Thurman, running Silo 1, helping his sister Charlotte discover what the world outside the boundaries of the silos is like and finally, coaching Lukas in Silo 18 to figure out the purpose of the silos. He's juggling quite a lot. All this time, there are nanobots in his body trying to kill him (I assume he picked those up outside Silo 1) and other nanobots inside that are trying to keep him alive (from before he went in the silos? I'm not sure). The nanos are fighting each other and using his body as a battlefield, slowly destroying him from the inside out.

In the meantime, Juliet, now mayor of Silo 18, is trying to force her people to dig through the walls to get to Silo 17, where Jimmy and the kids are still trying to survive. This takes time and leads to a lot of fear and anger on the part of the people in her silo. However, she is successful. And yet, her success leads to disaster as it was timed with the discovery that Donald isn't Senator Thurman, who actually survived being shot and was woken from his cyropod to take over his dastardly plan. Spoilers to follow: Thurman turns the gas on in Silo 18, killing most of the inhabitants, but a few hundred from the lower levels, including Silo, the kids and Juliet manage to get through the Silo 17 and the hole between the two silos is sealed off.

Meanwhile, the dying Donald is in jail and Charlotte is desperately trying to finish making a drone that is capable of seeing beyond the boundaries of the silo to find out if there is fertile land somewhere. Back in Silo 17, Juliet realizes that there are not enough resources for the survivors of 18, especially as people start fighting over the limited gardens and food that had been growing in them. She introduces a bold plan: to make suits that will allow the survivors to leave the silo and survive to get beyond the nuked air around the silos. Some survivors support her, others are simply not interested, but Juliet knows that if they stay, eventually resources for all silos will run out (I think the limit was 500 years) and only one will emerge as the "winner" to repopulate society.

Juliet and her gang make it out, as does Charlotte, who has her own suit. They get to an area of Georgia beyond the silos where they find another silo that is stocked with supplies. The idea was that the surviving silo would be able to use these resources while they rebuilt. The book ends with Juliet's group deciding to travel to the sea and see if there are other people in the world. I would have liked to see an epilogue from further down the line to see what would have happened to the characters, but I think it ended on a rather hopeful note. I'm glad Juliet and Charlotte survived to see the world beyond the silos. This book was far more interesting than the previous three and did a good job of tying everything together. Overall, a good ending to a solid series.

Author's Website

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