Monthly Archives: February 2016

Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest RoomTrying to be a good older brother and best man, Richard Chapman offers his home for his younger brother’s bachelor party. But Richard couldn’t know that the “entertainment” for the evening wouldn’t be mere strippers but instead Russian sex slaves who were looking to exact a piece of revenge on their captors and escape. Before the night is over, Richard will endanger his marriage, find his home a crime scene and his world collapsing around him.

The first two-thirds of Chris Bohjlian’s The Guest Room is a fascinating, dark story of people trying to make good decisions under the worst possible circumstances. Chapters alternate between the backstory of one of the young girls who is preyed upon by her captors and forced into a life of selling her body for money and the events current unfolding during and after the infamous bachelor party. As with many of the best crime writers today, Bohjalian is less concerned with the who-done-it aspect of the crime and more interested in the impact of the crime upon his characters and their community.

As Richard finds his world collapsing around him (his wife mistrusts him, he’s put on suspension at work and one of his brother’s friends tries to blackmail him), we see how the crime and its implications have far reaching tendrils both before and after the murder of the two men sent to guard the two sex workers.

At its best The Guest Room is a compelling, character driven, page-turner that offers up a fascinating dilemma without any easy ways out of it. Well, that is until we get to the last third of the novel when things take a turn that feels like it’s right out of a Hollywood blockbuster and not the well-established and realized world that Bohjalian has created to that point. It’s not the ending is terrible so much as it’s a disappointment. Richard begins to make decisions to get his life back and I’d hoped to see more of the implications of that than the ending we got here.

I’m being vague here to avoid SPOILING too much of this novel because I really think the first two-thirds of the story are worth reading. It’s just the last third that let me down.

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The X-Files: My Struggle II

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After last week’s installment of The X-Files, I was concerned that Chris Carter wouldn’t be able to stick the landing for this six-episode event series.

And that concern, unfortunately, was realized with the muddled mess that was “My Struggle II.”

Beginning things with a voice-over monologue by Scully of things we learned just five weeks ago is not a good sign.   Pile on the typical mythology trope of separating our two heroes for much of the episode and then wrapping it all up with little or no closure and a cliffhanger ending and you’ve got — well, you’ve got a mess that was the final few seasons of this show.

Watching the episode on my DVR, I kept pausing things, thinking — oh great, it’s going to run over and I didn’t pad the recording time enough so that I’ll see how this all winds up.  Except that Carter wasn’t really interested in giving us resolution so much as he was about trying to keep us on the edge of our seats, not give us any answers and then leave us wanting more.    Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites Outside My Typical Reading

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Time again for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and Bookish).  This week’s question asks us to look at/recommend books that are outside our usual comfort reading comfort zone.  I may not make it to ten, but here are some of them I’ve picked up and enjoyed recently.

  1.  A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor.  I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy short stories, but I’ve recently tried to broaden my short story horizons a bit.  And this is a great collection of short stories.
  2. Mistletoe, Merriment and Murder by Sara Rossett.  I like a good mystery, but I’m not usually drawn to the cozy mysteries. But this holiday-themed entry in this on-going series caught my eye and was a lot of fun.  I may have to read more of this series that involves a military wife’s various run-ins with murder and mayhem.
  3. Armor by John Steakley.   I enjoy a good sci-fi novel and while I do have a couple of favorites in the military sci-fi section, I’m not usually drawn there.  But this one was an interesting read and it has an interesting twist.
  4. Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson.  I’ve read Samson’s novels in the past and really enjoyed them. But they’re not in my typical wheelhouse — though I’m not sure why.  Strong characters facing interesting challenges and life dilemmas.   I really should read more by her and not worry that they’re classified in the “women’s fiction” section.

That’s about it for now.  I’m curious to see what everyone else finds.

 

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Musing Mondays: Make Your Choice

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Kicking off the week with Musing Mondays (hosted by A Daily Rhythm).

Today’s question asks:  How do you choose which books you read?

There are a variety of factors that go into choosing the books I read.  Sometimes I’ll pick up a book based on a recommendation from a friend.  There are other times I may pick up a book because I like the author and enjoyed his or her works in the past.  Another time, it could be that I just like the cover or the description on the dust jacket or back cover.  Or it could just that I’m in the mood for a certain type of book and the book I find fits the bill.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it, really.

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The X-Files: Babylon

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Nobody but the FBI’s most unwanted. I’ve been waiting 23 years to say that!

Ever since season three, it feels like Chris Carter has been trying to compete with Darin Morgan (and later to some extent Vince Gilligan) for the title of funniest X-Files writer.  And every time that Carter has tried to prove that he can be funny too, it feels like his episode goes over a bit like a lead balloon.

It’s not that Carter can’t find humor in things and that he hasn’t done some pretty interesting things to stretch himself a storyteller and film-maker, but I just have to think that going for the funny bone may not be exactly up his alley.

Watching “Babylon” I couldn’t help but think that this was an episode that was trying to on the one hand be funny, on other hand be an observation about our current world and political climate and on another hand, an attempt to set up a spin-off should the schedules of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson not coincide any time in the near future for an eleventh season of the show. Continue reading

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Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

No One KnowsSeven and seventeen and five. That’s how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.

The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend’s bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven’t provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.

As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey’s life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh’s rather large life insurance policy.

With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows could easily feel like it’s just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh’s disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story’s length. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books & Music

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Time again for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and Bookish).  This week’s topic looks at music and books.  But instead of looking at the songs I’d like to see as a soundtrack for some of my favorite reads, I thought I’d take a different approach.  I’m going to list some of my favorite music to listen to while reading.

  1.  Star Trek: The Astral Symphony
  2. Fantasia Soundtrack
  3. Michael W. Smith — Freedom
  4. Yanni Live at the Acropolis
  5. The X-Files: Fight the Future Soundtrack
  6. Various Star Trek soundtracks
  7. Doctor Who: The Music
  8. Various classical playlists from Spotify
  9. A Charlie Brown Christmas

I’m sure there are others but these are some  that have been in my rotation for years now and continue to draw me back.

 

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