Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: In the Hall With the Knife (A CLUE Mystery #1) by Diana Peterfreund

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*No Major Spoilers*

When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic films will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern re-imagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

“Just then, there was a horrible crash right outside the door, and suddenly the sound of the storm got a whole lot louder.”

I loved playing the CLUE mystery game while I was growing up. So when this novel was on a list from one of my newsletters, I knew I had to read it.

This novel is perfect for mystery lovers. There are twists and turns, as well as learning about all of the characters involved in this mystery. The story is told from different perspectives, and at first, it was difficult to tell Orchid and Scarlet apart until more character development helped me differentiate the two.

Scarlet Mistry, she was on the Council for Beautification. She lived, along with other students, in the Tudor Dorm. She would also try to keep up and boost morale with the female students to do better at their schoolwork and activities.

Also, she and Finn Plum were essentially a “Power Couple”, together they ran schemes and Finn helps Scarlet with her Chemistry homework.

Orchid McKee, she never saw Scarlet as a friend, but while they were snowed in at the dorm she confided in Scarlet her biggest secret. It’s a spoiler, but I felt like this should be mentioned because Orchid is a private person.

One of the characters I suspected to be the murderer in this story was Vaughn Green because when the other characters would ask about his sudden change in personality, he would internally blame his brother for the mishaps around the dorm. Even though when Vaughn was introduced we met his brother, he hated the school and the students because they were all preppy, rich kids and the only reason Vaughn was able to attend the school was because of a scholarship. So Vaughn was sort of considered an outcast because his home was next door to Blackbrook in the next town over. Only hearing about his brother during the murder investigation, I suspected Vaughn having multiple personalities.

A character I didn’t know much about in this story because he was introduced about halfway in the story was Sam “Mustard” Maestor. He was a former military academy student and he was kicked out, but we never find out why. The only thing we know anything about his background was when he was first introduced into the story from his perspective. He starts referring to his military experience but never says exactly why he was kicked out.

Beth “Peacock” Picach, is Blackbrook’s best tennis player. She is always righting down what she eats and the calories included and what her exercise routines were. All of her chapters included this log and a few thoughts about her day. She was the most suspected character due to an altercation between her and Headmaster Boddy.

I would highly recommend In the Hall with the Knife if you are a fan of locked room mysteries, the board game Clue, and a twist you won’t see coming, this a great book I’d highly recommend.

Posted in Discussions, Personal Blogs

DISCUSSION: My Thoughts on Doctor Who: Past, Revival, and Current Re-Generation

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Ever since I started this blog, I feel compelled to share my love of Doctor Who, however, I feel I’m constantly repeating myself when I’m reviewing a Doctor Who novel or audiobook. So I have finally gathered up my thoughts on Doctor Who in its entirety to share with you.

How I discovered Doctor Who

Back long, long ago, my ex-boyfriend told me his brother was watching Doctor Who on Netflix. It took me a couple of tries to watch the pilot episode of season 1 of the “reboot/current” series. But once I got past how the monsters were mannequins (hello another irrational fear) I binged the rest of the series.

Now that Doctor Who isn’t on any of the streaming services anymore, I missed 3 seasons of the show. It was Peter Capaldi’s run of the lovable Doctor. I feel like I didn’t miss too much since I follow the memes and humor on the Internet. As well as the fury about the writers changing things (thank goodness most of those were only temporary), and the downfall of the writing quality overall.

Classic Doctor Who

There is so much more of Doctor Who than anyone can keep up with. The show started in the ’60s and they had no idea how huge this small, low budget show would become. Thanks to the Internet, the reboot took off. With the addition of David Tennant and Matt Smith, the show would remain in the mainstream for years to come.

I love Classic Doctor Who and all of its cheesiness. I only just started watching Tom Baker’s Doctor before the streaming services stopped showing Doctor Who. There is so much left to watch, read, listen, and enjoy from this long-lasting franchise.

I like to watch my shows in chronological order, so I started with the man who started it all, William Hartnell’s Doctor. He was a grumpy, yet lovable grampa by the time Mr. Hartnell had to end his reign as the Doctor due to health issues.

Next is Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. I feel this incarnation of the Doctor has a lot of “missing” episodes/stories. I do own one of the DVDs of one of the lost stories, so some parts are filmed, and some parts are animated. Mr. Troughton’s Doctor is the one I know the least about personality-wise. He often refers to his “500-year journal” since his regeneration caused him some amnesia. One of his more popular companions is Jamie, a young man from 18th century Scotland. Even though a lot of what the Doctor does and talks about is beyond Jamie’s understanding, Jamie still enjoys the adventures and travels through time and space.

Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor in the classic series is one of my absolute favorites. One of my favorite quotes from him is

“Courage isn’ a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.”

I’ve seen similar quotes to this, but this one struck a chord with me because when I first heard it I was going through a tough time and it helped me realize not every choice is an easy one, and no matter what you still have to make a choice.

Doctor Who Reboot

I have two main favorite doctors in the reboot/current series so far. Right now those favorites are the 9th and 10th Doctors played by Christopher Eccelston and David Tennant respectively. What I really enjoyed about these Doctors was their personalities, Mr. Eccelston and his sarcasm that he brought to the character was charming. Even though his stint on the show wasn’t long, he is still my Doctor. Mr. Tennant has a great sense of humor and adorable quirkiness. You can see his love for the franchise throughout his run. These two doctors were probably the most unique and interesting Doctors I’ve seen so far.

The Future of Doctor Who:

Right now as far as the current Doctor, Jodie Wittaker is a good actress, especially for the mediocre writing she’s been given, now that’s not to say that the current writing is very poor, but it leaves a lot to be desired. My favorite episode from the 11th season is The Demons of Punjab. The plot is:

The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, India, in 1947, as the country is being torn apart; while Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land.

This is my favorite episode because the story was interesting, the writing was better, and the cinemaphotography was gorgeous and made 1947 India a place to visit.

Going forward I’d like to see better writing and better use of the companions in each episode, for example, a companion getting tired and The Doctor brings them back to Earth for a break. Also, three companions seems a bit much for an hour-long TV Show.

Side note: My fiance thinks the audio mixing needs a bit of work, you can’t really understand much of what’s being said without a high-end audio system. Gotta make it work on All systems, ya know? -Alex Dickson (Fiance who loves his woman so very much he will surprise her on her birthday with something special, now with what, he doesn’t know yet, but he’ll figure something out.)

Read My Reviews of Doctor Who Novels and Audio Dramas HERE not all of these I realize are not Doctor Who directly, but other novels that remind me of the show.

 

Posted in Personal Blogs

Sorry for the Radio Silence

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Photo by Mike Bird on Pexels.com

I have been dealing with a lot of mental health problems as of late. As well as family drama going on. I just haven’t found the energy to do anything the past week or so.

I’m going to take a break once I get these books I’ve slowly been reading finished, reviewed and published.

Thanks for your patience and hope to hear from you soon!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

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*No Major Spoilers*

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

It has been a bit since I last reviewed a zombie apocalypse novel. I was starting to get burnt out on the genre, but now that’s in the past. I had always been interested in this series, but the Young Adult genre deters me sometimes.

I decided to try it, and I started reading a physical copy but found an audiobook. So I am considering this a hybrid of the two mediums.

This novel really drove home what the differences were between the survivors, monsters (being zombies), and the real monsters (those who prey on the weak and defenseless). Being secluded like Ben had been, I could understand why he believed the only real monsters were the zombies right outside their gated safe haven.

“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.” – Jonathan Maberry, Rot & Ruin

Watching Ben grow and learn about the world after “The First Night” was endearing and heartbreaking. I can understand how you believe one thing about how the world works, and when you actually get out in it, things that you thought you knew might be completely different.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It had a great cast of characters that grew and changed throughout the novel. And I won’t spoil the ending, but you’ll be reaching for the tissues. I would recommend this for lovers of Young Adult FictionPost Apocalyptic novels, and for those who can’t get enough of zombies. I would also recommend this novel who are looking for a good and fulfilling story.

Posted in Discussions, Personal Blogs

My Latest Netflix Binge: Rilakkuma and Kaoru

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If you are looking for a relaxed, adorable anime look no further! Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a Japanese animation about two adorable stuffed bears and a little baby bird.

The official summary goes like this:

Her life might be a little mundane, but Kaoru gets to go home to Rilakkuma, her endearingly lazy roommate who happens to be a fuzzy toy bear. -Netfix

I know it’s not much to go on, but trust me you will be getting all the cute feelings from how the characters interact with each other. I’m not familiar with the famous Japanese pop icon Rilakkuma, so I called him “Big Brown Bear” and the other bear “Vanilla Bear”.

From Wikipedia:

Rilakkuma’s name is a combination of リラックス rirakkusu, a Japanese transliteration of the English word “relax”, and クマ(熊)kuma, the Japanese word for “bear”. He is a soft, toy-like bear whose interests are mostly limited to sleeping and eating, although these traits are portrayed positively, with fans and consumers encouraged to, at least sometimes, emulate Rilakkuma as sort of cure or treatment for stress.

Now enough backstory and explaining. Let’s get into what I liked, and what I didn’t like about Rilakkuma and Kaoru!

I loved all of the characters, the bears, Kaoru, and even the neighbor kid who brings a child-like perspective to the bears’ lives. There’s funny moments, heartwarming ones, and there’s at least one episode everyone can relate with.

My favorite episode is the Rainy Season. It’s Typhoon season in Tokyo, and even though Kaoru has a difficult trip to her little office job, it’s not as crazy as what’s going on in the bears’ apartment! Hilarity ensues and it’s a good reminder on not to do too much lazing about.

Another thing I loved about the show is how each episode ends with an inspirational quote. They’re always positive, and I found it was a nice way to end an episode. It was kind of like a “what did we learn today?” kind of ending.

There really wasn’t anything major I had an issue with, mostly just nitpicks and minor things that don’t affect my overall feeling for the show.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this anime, it held my attention, and it gave me a good laugh and heartwarming feelings. I hope Netflix will invest in a second season! I will be looking forward to a new adventure with these loveable characters.

Posted in Author Q&A

Q&A with Sarah J. Harris

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From Simon and Schuster Author Profile:

Sarah J. Harris is an author and freelance education journalist who regularly writes for national British newspapers. She is the author of the young adult series Jessica Cole: Model Spy, written under her pen name, Sarah Sky. She lives in London with her husband and two young children. The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder is her first adult novel.

After I reviewed her latest novel, The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder she was so kind enough to answer some of my questions about her writings.

What got you so interested in synesthesia and face blindness?

Ms. Harris: I’ve been interested in synaesthesia for many years, after first coming across the condition during my work as an education journalist. I’d written a feature about childhood synaesthesia following new research at Edinburgh University, which highlighted a lack of awareness about the condition in UK primary schools. I found the subject fascinating and it made me wonder what life must be like for a child when people struggle to understand their day to day experiences – or simply don’t want to know. Over the years, I’ve kept cuttings from newspapers and magazines about synaesthesia and also avidly read up on another condition that fascinated me – developmental prosopagnosia or face blindness.

I knew that at some point I wanted to write a novel involving both conditions and ideas bubbled away in the background as life, in general, took over – I was raising my two young sons with my husband, working as a freelance education journalist and I went on to write three Young Adult books about a girl spy. When I finished my last YA book, I was no longer under contract with a publisher and I felt a sense of freedom – I could write whatever I wanted and I returned to my initial interests.

I started to research synaesthesia and face blindness more intensively and both conditions played on my mind a lot. The central idea for the book eventually came to me in a dream: I saw a terrified young boy running across a suburban street at night, terror etched on his face. When I woke up, I realized that a particular color could have traumatized the boy. Perhaps he had face blindness and identified people by the color of their voices. What if the voice color of someone he knew well had transformed toa horrific shade as they screamed? What if he had seen the color of murder? The book grew from there and I wrote the first draft in about nine months, continuing to carry out research as I worked.

Is Autism Awareness something important to you?

Ms. Harris: Yes, it is very important to me. Jasper’s father finds it difficult to accept his son’s differences but by the end of the book, he accepts him for who he is and stops trying to change him. They finally reconcile and have a shot of happiness in the future. Hopefully, the message from my book that resonates with readers is that we all perceive the world differently and that diversity is a wonderful thing. It’s OK to be different and to accept others for who they are.

I wanted to make my portrayal of Jasper as accurate as possible and had help from the National Autistic Society. The response from the autistic community following the publication of my book has been fantastic.

In what way do you relate to Jasper?

Ms. Harris: I was bullied at primary school and used to run home to get away from the boy who used to wait for me at the gates, just as Jasper does.

What was the hardest scene to write?

Ms. Harris: Probably the painting scenes – I painted each picture with a local artist to enable me to describe them accurately, which took time. I had to know the exact colors Jasper created when he mixed voice colors together, for example, his dad’s and Bee’s voice colors merge to make “dirty sap circles”.

Since it’s #IndieApril, What is your favorite independently published novel?

Ms. Harris: Still Alice by Lisa Genova. My father-in-law had an early onset of Alzheimer’s in his fifties and eventually died from the disease, so I’ve always felt a personal connection with this book.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

Read My Review of “The Color Of Bee Larkham’s Murder” HERE

Posted in Author Q&A

Q&A with Ed Duncan

*No Spoilers for The Last Straw*

1. Your novel discusses how some kids leave street life behind as Mr. Elliot did, and how some kids never escape it. Was this something you witnessed yourself growing up?

Mr. Duncan: Yes, I did witness this.  I grew up in Gary, Indiana in the 1950s and 1960s.  At that time it was a booming steel town and was home to one of the largest steel mills in the country.  I lived in a lower middle-class neighborhood.  However, despite an abundance of jobs in the steel mills, there were nevertheless stubborn pockets of poverty within my neighborhood and on its edges.  Most of the boys who got into to trouble with the law and who, in those days were called “juvenile delinquents,” lived in the poverty-stricken areas of the city, and some of them were my friends, schoolmates, and neighbors.  Too young and stupid to know better, I occasionally joined them in some of their less serious infractions.  Fortunately, as we grew older, our paths diverged.  While I (and others) concentrated on school, some boys I considered to be friends graduated to more serious crimes.  A handful ended up in prison for varying lengths of time, up to and including life, and a few even died in street violence.  Maturity and parental guidance were part of the reason I escaped their fate, but another part was luck.

2. Do you feel like you connect more with Mr. Elliott or more with Rico?

Mr. Duncan: Paul Elliott was always meant to be the hero of the novel because he is a highly idealized version of me!  Like me, he comes from a working-class family, he did well in school, and he became the first black partner in a large majority law firm.  However, the more I developed Rico’s character, the more he fought to become the central focus of the narrative.  The more I tried to rein him in, the more he resisted.  Although I didn’t surrender, I like to think we fought to a draw.  By that, I mean that Paul is at least arguably on par with Rico as the driving force in the novel.  So the answer to your question is that, while I understand that readers will feel that Rico is the more riveting character (as do I), I actually connect more with Paul.

3. Are you part of a writing community?  If so, how do they help you to become a better writer?

Mr. Duncan: No, I’m not a part of a writing community. However, I regularly attend writing conferences.

4. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Mr. Duncan: I would have to say that How Green Was My Valley is my favorite in that category.  I believe I’m correct that it’s underappreciated today.  Although it was adapted into an academy award winning movie in the late 1930s or early 1940s, I don’t hear much about it today.  It is exquisitely written and the coming of age story is achingly beautiful.

5. Do you want The Last Straw to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a series?  I honestly felt like The Last Straw could be its own standalone novel, or it could be part of a series.

Mr. Duncan: I’m happy that most people think the novel works well as a standalone.  However, it is the second in a trilogy.  The first is Pigeon-Blood Red, which was originally published in 2015 and was later published by my current publisher Creativia in 2017.  I’m currently working (too slowly!) on the third in the trilogy, Rico Stays.  Incidentally, I’ve also written screenplays for all three novels (I completed the one for Rico Stays before writing the novel), and I hope one day to be lucky enough to have them produced.  It’s a long shot but I have my fingers crossed!

Well, Thanks Mr. Duncan for taking the time to answer my questions as well as introducing me to your novel!

Read My Review of “The Last Straw” Here!

Buy “The Last Straw” by Ed Duncan Here!