Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Echoes of Sherlock Holmes" ed. by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

This is the third volume of "stories inspired by the Holmes canon" edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger.  Like the first two volumes, A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, this is a collection of stories by a varied, eclectic mix of authors.  The only thing the stories have in common is that they are somehow inspired by the original Sherlock Holmes stories by A. Conan Doyle.  Some of them take place in the Victorian era, some are modern-day, some fall elsewhere in history.  Some have canonical characters, some don't.  

Like I did when reviewing the first two collections, I'm going to tell you a little about my five favorite stories in this book.

"Holmes on the Range" by John Connolly involves a mysterious place called the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository where fictional characters whose authors have passed away come to live in quiet retirement amongst others of their kind.  When Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson show up BEFORE their author dies, but after Holmes has been sent hurtling over Reichenbach Falls, it threatens to mess up the entire retirement system.  This story kind of reminded me of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books in that you have ordinary people interacting with fictional ones.

"Before a Bohemian Scandal" by Tasha Alexander concerns the Crown Prince of Bohemia when he meets Irene Adler and has his fling with her prior to the events in the canonical story "A Scandal in Bohemia."  I love stories that fill in gaps in other stories, or give you a glimpse of what happened before or after a story, so I definitely enjoyed this one for those reasons.

"Raffa" by Anne Perry has an actor famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes on TV trying to help a little girl rescue her kidnapped mother.  He hates playing Holmes, hates that he gets confused with the character, but can't help but want to help the child, especially since no one else is taking her seriously.

"Understudy in Scarlet" by Hallie Ephron is about an aging actress asked to be in a remake of the film that made her famous, an adaptation of "A Scandal in Bohemia."  She gradually realizes someone is plotting against her and must use her wits and acting ability to figure out who and save herself from ruin.  It's a lot of fun, with overtones of All About Eve and an ending I very much liked.

"The Adventure of the Empty Grave" by Jonathan Maberry follows Dr. John Watson as he visits the grave of his friend Sherlock Holmes and meets a very strange stranger there who knows more about Watson, Holmes, and Moriarty than he ought to.  This was probably my favorite story in the whole collection, filled with emotions, surprises, and lovely details.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for language, innuendo, violence, and dangerous situations.  Nothing explicit, but some will find the subject matter of some stories distasteful.

This is my eighth book read and reviewed for the Adventure of Reading Challenge and my sixth for the Mount TBR Challenge 2017.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Want to Participate in the "Cloaked" Cover Reveal Event?

So, you know I'm working on independently publishing my book Cloaked, which is "Little Red Riding Hood" re-imagined as a western. Like my story in Five Magic Spindles, "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," was "Sleeping Beauty" re-imagined as a western. Same idea, whole new cast of characters and setting and story.

I'm pretty sure you know about this because I've been talking about it on my blogs off-and-on for like a year now.

It's my first time doing the indie-pub thing. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I'm terrified. I'm thrilled. And I'm almost done with this thing at last. Like, seriously, this book will be out in September. I don't have a firm date yet, but it's coming. For real.

(This popped up in my Pinterest feed today.  Perfect timing.)

I'm going to be asking for some Advance Readers soon. Very soon. But first... I'd kind of like to do something fun to celebrate my cover being finished and ready to share. I've been working with graphic designer Erika Ohlendorf on a cover for my book, and... it's basically done. We've got like one more tweak to do. Which means that next week, I will be sharing it with all of you!

I know a number of you, my lovely and supportive and encouraging blogging friends, have been looking forward to seeing what the cover will look like. (And to reading the book, too, I hope!) If you would like to join me in showing off the cover on your blogs or in social media this coming Wednesday, Sept. 6, please email me at rachelkovaciny at gmail dot com with "Cloaked cover reveal" in the subject line.

All participants will receive my gratitude, fake internet points, and an imaginary hug :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Rules of Murder" by Julianna Deering

Remember when I read Dressed for Death for the INSPYs and loved it?  And I said I intended to read the previous books in the series?  Well, I've now read the first book, and I am definitely a fan!

Rules of Murder introduces Drew Farthering, a wealthy British man of marriageable age with a fondness for mystery books.  He and his best friend Nick return to Farthering Place, which is home to both of them -- Drew inherited it from his father, and Nick's father is the butler, but the boys grew up together and are great pals.  Drew's mother and stepfather are throwing a big party, during which Drew meets his stepfather's American niece, Madeline Parker.  And also during this party, someone gets shot.  In the face.  Rather reminiscent of Vera Caspary's Laura in that way.

More people die.  Drew and Nick decide to try to follow a list of advice from their favorite mystery author and figure out who the murderer is.  They are both an aid and an impediment to the official police investigator, one Inspector Birdsong, who is alternately amused and annoyed by them.

Also, Drew and Madeline find themselves mutually attracted to each other.  Drew thinks it's love, Madeline thinks it's too soon to tell, and I was very pleased by how well the author avoided the usual "insta-love" traps and pitfalls.

Then there's the fact that Madeline is a practicing Christian.  Drew kind of is for most of the book -- he believes more than he doesn't believe, sort-of.  So the story also involves him beginning to wonder if faith in God should involve more than just going to church now and then, if you should be living your life in a way that reflects your faith.

All in all, a fun first book in what promises to be an enjoyable series!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a soft PG-13 for violence, dangerous situations, innuendo about a married woman being unfaithful, and some mild kissing.  No bad language.  On my #RebelliousWriting reading list it goes!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Announcing This Year's Tolkien Blog Party!

Yes, I'm totally doing a Tolkien Blog Party for the fifth year!  Like every year, there will be a tag you can fill out, a giveaway, and some games.  It will run for all of Tolkien Week, which is September 17-23 this year.

Here are some buttons for you to share!

Hope to see you there :-)

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Every Frenchman Has One" by Olivia de Havilland

I have been having such a delightful string of books lately!  Been a good summer for reading, I guess.  Maybe it's because I've been reading a lot off my TBR shelves, and I wouldn't have bought these books if I hadn't thought they sounded like something I'd enjoy?  I don't know.

Anyway, about Olivia de Havilland's memoir.  It's hilarious.  Like, Dave Barry hilarious.  I laughed aloud soooooooooo many times while I read this book!  I wish it was four times as long, because I was absolutely not ready for it to be finished.

Ms. de Havilland wrote this in 1962.  She had married a Frenchman and moved to France a few years earlier, though she still came back to the US to make movies now and then.  The only one she really mentioned was The Proud Rebel (1958), which pleased me no end, of course, because that co-stars my beloved Alan Ladd.  She never talked about him, but whatever.  The book is all about what it's like to adjust to living in France after living in the USA all your life.  And when I say she can make the story of repainting their new home into a laugh-inducing tale of woe, you know this must be good, right?

Oh, another thing that made me laugh was the title of the very first chapter:  "I'm not at all sure if you know that I'm alive..."  That cracked me up because fifty-five years after this book was written, she's still alive.  Ms. de Havilland turned 101 in July, and she still lives in Paris.  Astonishing woman.

More than anything, this book made me want to hang out with her and be her friend.  I am not more firmly a fan of hers than ever, and I wouldn't be surprised if she became one of my ten favorite actresses before long.  

Oh, and what does every Frenchman have?  Not a mistress or a drinking problem or a beret.  It's a liver.  Every Frenchman has a liver.  If you want to know what on earth she could find to write about that, read the book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a gentle PG-13 for a few tastefully handled anecdotes about somewhat bawdy subjects.  

This is my fifth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RebelliousWriting -- Where Have All the Clean YA Books Gone?

If you read my other blog, you may have read this post last week, in which I announce that I'm joining the #RebelliousWriting movement, which is all about encouraging writers to create clean fiction for teens and younger readers.  I'll be posting more about this in the future, like when the official website launches on August 9.  

For the past few years, I've been putting a movie-style rating on the books I review here, and mentioning what kind of content the book has so that my blog readers will know if they'll be comfortable reading it.

Today, I'm debuting a brand new page for this blog!  If you look up at the top of the page, you'll see a page marked "#RebelliousWriting Reading List."  That is exactly what it sounds like -- my suggestions of clean, enjoyable books that I think teens (and adults) would enjoy.  Some of them are classics.  Some of them are brand-new.  Some of them fall in between the two.  But every book on it would NEVER receive a rating higher than PG-13 if it were a movie.  I will add new books to that list as I encounter them, so whenever you're looking for something new to read, that list might give you some ideas.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Snow White" by Matt Phelan

Does it ever happen to you where someone mentions a book, and you're like, "Whoa, that could be cool!" and then you get it... and it is way cooler than you could possibly have imagined?  And then you love it so much, you re-read it immediately.  And then you re-read it again quick before you have to take it back to the library.

Yeah, that's totally what happened with this book, for me.  Someone in the Rooglewood Fairy Tale Contest Facebook Group mentioned this graphic novel that turned the Snow White story into a noir story set in the 1930s, and I was like, "I MUST READ THIS."  And the library had it!  So I got it.  And I read it.  And now I've read it three times, and I want my own copy.  Because wow, it is just brilliant.

I was going to scan in some of my favorite panels, but then I found the official book trailer on YouTube, and it has so many of the good ones that I'm just sharing that here instead.

See?  It's no wonder I fell in love with this book.

If This was Actually a Movie Instead of Me Just Wishing It was, I Would Rate It: PG for some images that would probably scare young children, like the stepmother as an old hag and the guy chasing Snow with a knife.