Book Review: “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore
Book Reviews / May 5, 2014

The off-season is usually a sleepy time in the scenic coastal town of Pine Cove, California. This fall, however, events conspire to make it a madcap emergency, combining crime, craziness, a man-eating monster from the depths of the ocean, and an epic wave of horniness. Fasten your Adult Content Advisory: It’s going to be a raunchy comedy from the author of “Practical Demonkeeping”, which shares this book’s setting and some of its characters.

Book Review: “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith
Book Reviews / May 2, 2014

Here is a most satisfying recent example of the classic type of private-eye novel. The detective is the whimsically named Cormoran Strike, an ex-military policeman whose career in the army ended when a roadside bomb took away half a leg. His name has nothing to do with his father, a philandering superstar rock musician with whom he has no relationship whatever, and a lot to do with his “supergroupie” mother, who was flaky and impractical and died with a heroin needle stuck in her arm. He is 35 years old, up to his ears in debt, picking up the pieces after the end of a stormy 15-year relationship with a beautiful woman called Charlotte, and struggling to keep his business afloat while sleeping on a camp-bed in his office. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, he is a very determined, methodical investigator. He has a special gift for drawing answers out of people who don’t want to be questioned. And when he looks at the evidence of a celebrity death that the police declared to be suicide, he sees a different picture emerge.

Book Review: “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / April 12, 2014

Already in the table of contents of this book, we encounter a mystery. The Kindle edition that I read includes 11 Sherlock Holmes adventures in this book, as do most American editions and some British editions of this book. The very first edition, however, contained 12 stories. Fear not; “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” will eventually turn up, most likely in “His Last Bow,” where it has been added to most American editions. The reason for this has something to do with censorship and public morals, but I won’t go into that here. What you want to know about this book is that it is the second set of short stories featuring Holmes, collected from the monthly installments that Conan Doyle published in “The Strand Magazine” between 1892 and 1893.

Book Review: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / March 29, 2014

Sherlock Holmes had already appeared in two novels, but his popularity did not really take off until the brief “adventures” collected in this book began to appear in monthly issues of “The Strand Magazine”, from 1891 to 1892. And though there are two novels and three volumes of short stories still to come, these 12 mysteries include some of Holmes’s most memorable and celebrated cases. Few of them are concerned with actual murder or even actionable crimes, and Holmes doesn’t always get his man (or woman). But they are Holmes all over, the Sherlock you sure love, fascinating us (even when his cases don’t) by his keen observation, quick deduction, and encyclopedic recall of the history of crime—so that he can often solve in moments a case that keeps Scotland Yard guessing for days.

Book Review: “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Book Reviews / March 27, 2014

Published in a series of magazine issues in 1868-69, this is one of the masterpieces by the author of “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”. It made me laugh a great deal, but it is not a comedy. Its climax is mysterious and chilling, but it is not a thriller. Dickensian in its large cast of vividly colorful characters and satire on the society of its time, it is not quite a picaresque. Tragic to a truly disturbing degree, it is too subtle and complex to make grand opera, too often given to immensely long talky scenes, featuring too many characters, to translate well into film—though the attempt has often been made to adapt it for stage or screen. It’s a great novel in which a sensitive reader can feel himself totally immersed, only to be shocked out of “willing suspension of disbelief” when its author breaks the fourth wall and begins commenting on his characters as fictional creations. Though it may come as a surprise to those of us who grew up watching a copy of the novel collecting dust in a reverential spot on our parents’ bookshelf, looking so serious and sophisticated that we could hardly imagine trying to read it, it happens to be a vastly entertaining novel. Once you read it, you will not forget it.

Book Review: “The Sign of (the) Four” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / March 17, 2014

The second book of the Sherlock Holmes canon was first published in 1890 under the five-word title “The Sign of the Four”. Since then, it has often been republished under the four-word title “The Sign of Four”. The confusion actually originates in the book itself, in which both phrases are used interchangeably. Although Holmes did not really become a hit until Conan Doyle followed up with a series of short stories (later collected in such books as “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”), this book is an important step in the development of a great cultural icon. This is the one in which Dr. Watson meets his beloved wife Mary. It marks the first time Holmes enunciates his famous dictum, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” In this novel, the sleuth’s craving for a seven-percent solution of cocaine is first mentioned, as is the name of the Baker Street Irregulars, those dirty-faced junior detectives of his. Viewers of TV’s “Elementary” will be thrilled to find Holmes here saying, for the first time: “You can… never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to.” And fans of the late Holmes film featuring a bare-knuckled boxing Holmes may be delighted to spot the first mention of his pugilistic talents, already in his second recorded case.

Book Review: “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / March 13, 2014

When detective fiction was still in its infancy, in the year 1887, this novel first appeared in an issue of “Beeton’s Christmas Annual”. Just imagine: It was the first anyone had ever heard of Sherlock Holmes! Then a young physician, just starting to stretch his literary muscles, Arthur Conan Doyle here created a character who has become one of the most enduring figures in the popular imagination. The “Holmes” canon now includes four novels and 56 short stories, written over a period of 40 years, but it all began here.

Book review: “Necromancing the Stone” by Lish McBride
Book Reviews / January 24, 2014

In this sequel to “Hold Me Closer”, “Necromancer”, college dropout, ex-fry cook, late-blooming necromancer Sam LaCroix begins to make sense of his long hidden powers, his network of strange and dangerous allies, his steamy relationship with the Alpha female of a werewolf pack, and the huge fortune left to him by the villain he recently vanquished. But he’d better hurry. More challenges are coming at him, as fast as he can deal with them.

Book review: “The Crimson Crown” by Cinda Williams Chima
Book Reviews / January 12, 2014

Book Four of the Seven Realms series brings Han Alister, Raisa, and the Queendom of the Fells to the crisis of their age. And—just think of it—their age is scarcely eighteen! Readers around that age will be especially thrilled by the political intrigues, the deadly dangers, the perplexing mysteries, and the turbulent romance that swirl around these two main characters. He is a former street lord who only found out within the last year that he is a wizard, the heir of a so-called Demon King who has cast a shadow over Fellsian history for a thousand years. She is heir to the line of Gray Wolf Queens, yet she must fight an hourly battle to keep command of her own fate while the wizard council and the upland clans—mutually sworn enemies—make their own plans as to whom she will marry and how she will rule. Political pressure is one thing, but neither side is above using deadly force to get the result it wants.

Book review: “Unspoken” by Sarah Rees Brennan
Book Reviews / December 22, 2013

Book 1 of “The Lynburn Legacy” introduces us to Kami Glass, a teenaged girl of mixed Japanese and English ancestry who lives in the Cotswolds village of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Since she was a baby, Kami has had an imaginary friend named Jared who talks to her in her head, telling her all about his make-believe life in America. Even into high school she continues to converse with this secret voice, though she has increasingly learned to hide it from her concerned parents and her weirded-out friends. Then one day the surviving members of the Lynburn family, the old lords of the manor, come back into town—and one of them turns out to be a boy named Jared, who grew up in America believing that the voice in his head was an imaginary friend named Kami.