05 September 2017

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII

It is truly hard to believe that 12 years have passed since the very first RIP event hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Faithfully and devoted to this annual event, Carl took one leadership break during that time, and this year, blogging has changed for him and the reins are now with the good Andi's and Heather's hands. These are two fantastic ladies who have been a part of the community for such a long time, bloggers who I read with fascination over their reviews and thoughts. I commiserated with them on books or authors who didn't live up to what was expected, or debated with others when we felt that a book was deserving of high praise.

Life has changed. So much. It has for me over these past seven years since I first started my humble site. Like Carl, I've waned in participation and eagerness to write and post. Mind you, I still read voraciously, but it's a different mix of what I used to delve in. I've given birth to a beautiful now almost four-year-old (!!) son and I've also gone through Stage 3 breast cancer 3 years ago, which resulted in a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and two reconstruction surgeries. The breast cancer was not caught early; it was instead caught in time. Thank you, God. Every year, I return for my annual scans and every six months, I have my blood tested. The fear of the unknown is only fun when it is in a book or a film; never when it is in real life.

I miss the book blogging community. I miss the camaraderie and adventure it felt like we were all having as we received books from publishers or authors, as we dug into the tales and communicated out into the world what our thoughts were. I miss the simplicity and the fun of it all. Life has gotten in the way, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

But at the end of these days, each adventure is for something good, right? It might be painful, it might be frightening, but we learn a little more about ourselves each time and we persevere just a step harder on any challenge. We become more so who we truly are as each year goes by.

This is my long rambling intro to the fact that while I rarely post today, even though I've read some phenomenal books, I always, ALWAYS will post about this challenge. This is the season of each year I always love. The changing leaves, the cooler weather, the change in coffee options. Granted, I live in North Florida and we do get cold weather, but nothing like the old days of when I lived in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., or even St. Cloud, Minnesota. But I still remember.

I love this annual event. It is a nostalgic feel to dive back into the typing, the reading, the watching of scary stories, and then to put them all onto my tiny corner of the blogging world and wait for the occasional comment or two that comes up. Gone are the days of "so many comments that I can't keep up" time. And I am okay with that. To some extent, right? 

If you've not heard of this annual event celebrating all things that go bump in the night, head on over to Andi and Heather and Carl's blogs for the intro! And let's start getting scared! In a good way, of course.

Important Info
  • Challenge dates: September 1 through October 31
  • Goal: read and have fun - this isn't really a challenge, of course!
Challenge levels
  • Peril the FirstRead four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shirley Jackson or Tananarive Due…or anyone in between.
  • Peril the SecondRead two books of any length that you believe fit within the challenge categories.
  • Peril the ThirdWe all want you to participate. This Peril involves reading one book that fits within the R.I.P. definition.
  • Peril of the Short StoryWe are fans of short stories and our desire for them is perhaps no greater than in autumn. We see Jackson in our future for sure! You can read short stories any time during the challenge. We sometimes like to read short stories over the weekend and post about them around that time. Feel free to do this however you want, but if you review short stories on your site, please link to those reviews on our RIPXII Book Review pages. (INSERT LINKS)
  • Peril on the ScreenThis is for those of us who like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious Gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows, or your favorite film. If you are so inclined, please post links to any R.I.P.-related viewing you do on our book review pages as well.
  • Peril of the Group ReadThis year we will read and discuss Slade House by David Mitchell! We plan to post discussion questions on October 1 on our respective blogs, and you can answer them at your leisure, and as you like! If you post on your blog, link up. If you post on Twitter, Insta, etc. use #ripxii.
In addition to, or instead of, these group read options you may want to host your own. That would be welcome too and if you choose to do so please let us know so that we can advertise them for you.

Again, you may participate in one or all of the various Perils. Our one demand: enjoy yourself!

28 February 2017

Swan Song, by Robert McCammon (Audio Book)

I have been reading. I promise. Mostly non-fiction, self-help (yeah, I know, when did I start doing that?) books.

And audiobooks. Ugh. I was struggling for a while.

Then my brother-in-law recommended this 34 hour audiobook. The last time I listened to a book that long was It, by Stephen King, and I was really walking and running a lot so it was easy to dive into that story and it was AWESOME. But I never feel like I have time now.

Within an hour of listening to this story (or probably less) I realized I absolutely had to make time for this Stoker-award winning story. I'm just going to say it: this easily falls into one of my "favorites" of all time audiobooks, and also books. The story itself would also land in my "Stephen King, sorta like The Stand or Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian epic story/tale" category. Yeah, I liked it that much. In fact, I LOVED it. My brother-in-law and I don't always see eye-to-eye (I'm pretty sure it's because I'm right all the time. Just kidding!), but the one thing we have always had in common is reading, and reading and listening to incredible stories. This was a phenomenal recommendation from him.

And get this: It's been thirty years since Swan Song was first published, and they are releasing a thirtieth signed limited edition with a gorgeous cover from Subterranean Press this year:

There's not a lot of insight on why the nuclear bombs explode, but it's clear that almost every country decides they have to use theirs to protect themselves, which ultimately results in a nuclear wasteland of our nightmares. Only a few survive. Somehow, a woman who calls herself Sister in New York, a former wrestler in Alabama named Joshua, and a young girl named Swan, have made it through this and their stories begin. Each have a back story where they have suffered deeply, but the goodness within each of them is their foundation to continue living, to thrive and to keep order in chaos.

But something is really different in this nuclear world, something that no one ever had to deal with before. Monsters now exist. Or were they always there and now we can see them? Is it heaven and hell on earth, or did all of those nuclear bombs mutate people and animals into beings beyond imagination? Swan has always had certain abilities, but have they magnified in her now because of the radiation?

This is an incredible story that is told from start to finish without missing a beat, never slowing down, and never skimping, and it's such a good one. I have a portable, water-resistant bluetooth speaker and I would even prop this up in my shower so I could listen to the story unfold. It is that good.

Note: Yes, Robert McCammon may be a horror writer, but I assure you that while there are certain elements that are frightening, this is a book that anyone can read and enjoy. 

Listen to a sample by clicking here.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this book through my membership at Audible.com

About the Author
Robert McCammon is the author of over twenty books, and the winner of multiple book awards He is
from Birmingham, Alabama. For a much better overview of this prolific writer, visit him:

10 September 2016

Detective Story, starring Kirk Douglas - A Movie Review

Detective Story is an hour and forty-three minute film noir and police procedural released in 1951 starring Kirk Douglas that was adapted from the play by the same name by Sidney Kingsley. Set during one eight-hour shift entirely in a New York City precinct, the story centers around one detective and the random and oftentimes unruly characters that are arrested in that timeframe.

Kirk Douglas stars as Detective James McLeod, an officer of the law who grants no wiggle room and never lives in the gray area; it is either against the law or it is not. A man of complete principle with his beautiful new wife, McLeod is at the top of his game in all areas, and one shift isn't going to get in his way, no matter what happens.

But along the way in that one shift, life dramatically  and surprisingly changes, for all characters. It's about a solid 55 minutes before the quiet pace picks up and you start to see which direction the story will take, how the characters develop and become more than surface of the stereotypical cops, criminals and 1950s housewives, but it's a movement which is sensible and clearly defined, one that matches the personality and vision of the main character and overall story. There is the young woman who is nabbed for lifting a pocketbook from a department store, the young businessman who embezzles, and you can't be a police story in New York without an arrest of a low-life mobster, Charlie Gennini. Combined with the gruff cops, everyone is just trying to get by on this steamy hot day in the city.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this somewhat dark and quiet story. You can tell it was based on a play, as the majority of the scenes take place in one setting of the police precinct. The clever twists provided a scandalous feel and I can only imagine what it must have been like when first released. I recommend this film, but would remind you that it's slow-going for almost an hour before it kicks into gear.

Favorite Quote: When McLeod's partner tells him, "You've gotta bend with the wind - or break. Don't be such a monument." I love this quote.

Favorite Takeaway: Russell Evans is an African-American patrol officer who is in charge of managing the mob man. His character is dignified and key to the precinct and, honestly, it's pretty cool to see an early film with an African-American actor as a police officer. Like the blogger at Film Noir of the Week mentioned, I also really can't think of any other movies during that time that not only have a minority actor play a fairly decent-sized role in a movie, but also never once have anyone make a comment on race. It is refreshing, especially for that time. 
I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.

04 September 2016

Based on Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel, Mischief, "Don't Bother to Knock" was filmed shortly after publication. On a whim, I selected it based off the below description on Netflix and sat in wonder for the short 80-some minutes, musing about the sadness of Marilyn Monroe's life, that the legacy she left was so very different than who she was and who she likely would have become, if only she could have scraped herself out of the hole of being typecast as the very dumb, but very sexy, blonde stereotype.

The synopsis from Netflix is:
On the rebound after a break-up, Jed meets gorgeous Nell, but soon discovers that she harbors a dark past and is dangerously unstable.
The movie showcases Marilyn Monroe's brilliant acting talent, playing the part of Nell, a tortured young woman with a terrible secret which alters her judgment when she's asked to babysit a young girl in a hotel. The movie takes place entirely in the hotel, giving it an ominous and weighted air of claustrophobia. Shortly after meeting this man who recently was dumped, Nell begins to spiral downward as she tries to maintain a stable image for him. But with frequent interruptions from the young girl, or Nell's uncle (the hotel elevator operator), and more, Marilyn Monroe successfully delivers moments purely disturbing and unsettling, likely to have been viewed as scandalous in 1952. The performance sadly seems to have been forgotten and overshadowed when movies like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "How to Marry a Millionaire," and "The Seven-Year Itch" were released.

I seriously want everyone to see this movie. I disagree heartily with Bosley Crowther's review in the New York Times in 1952. It almost feels as though the expectation was that the movie was to be a comedy of some sort, and when it clearly was quite the opposite, reviews settled on it being a ridiculous film with subpar acting. How disappointing it must have been for Marilyn Monroe to read these reviews at the time. Had she lived just a little bit longer, she would have read many more reviews from those not swayed by sensuality, or expecting more of it, and found that there was much more appreciation for her work in later years. I mourn for the passing of a Hollywood legend who would never be able to achieve the true acting stardom that she sought, one that was never based on her sexuality.

You're in for a real treat with this movie, and most especially if you're looking for something to watch in order to take part in the RIP Challenge this year. It's available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it. 

Leading cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft
Director: Roy Ward Baker

Side Note
It's clear by the posters above just how the movie studios banked so much on Marilyn Monroe's sexuality - never once does she appear this sensual in the film, and never once did she wear the red corset top in the first photo above. In fact, she's got little make-up on, and when she does dress up, she chooses a dress and jewelry that might have been more glamorous if the film were in color, but in black-and-white, it simply comes across muted and understated, allowing her acting to shine through, unblemished and unspoiled by the typically expected, lusted-after response.

This is what she looks like when she first graces the screen. Hardly what you'd imagine for the Marilyn Monroe icon, dressed in an unflattering dress, coming across as prison-attire of the day. She looks slight and quiet, unthreatening, and innocent.
During this movie, there were moments when I held my breath, wondering what this character was going to do next. Nell's eventual breakdown was easy to believe, and as the movie closed out, all I could think was (for the millionth time when I think of this actress), "she was a brilliant woman and everyone just thought she was some stupid girl." How terribly sad.

So if you were unaware, Marilyn Monroe was so much more than the infamous "flying skirt" photo of her and sexy body pin-up girl. Instead, remember that this was the woman who read incredibly difficult novels for fun and for her own education. Marilyn Monroe was a talented actress who had so much left to offer in her legacy, and we, as the audience, sadly never got a chance to witness more from her. It truly is our loss.

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.

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