Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Tasting Nightwalker Wine by Janet Miller

Hollywood After Dark: Tasting Nightwalker Wine (Hollywood After Dark)Hollywood After Dark: Tasting Nightwalker Wine by Janet Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Romance novelist Stella is swept off her feet by a mysterious man she meets on her book tour.  Unfortunately, her date is a vampire who accidentally drains enough of her blood to leave her unconscious.  Stella threatens to expose his true nature unless he teaches her about the supernatural as research for her novels.

Nightwalker Sebastian agrees to Stella’s blackmail under the condition that she become his willing blood donor.  Their agreement puts her in danger when Sebastian learns that someone is hunting local vampires.

Miller’s entertaining Hollywood After Dark series is peopled with interesting, well-rounded characters.  The mythology guiding the vampires and other parafolk is well realized, but does little to set itself apart from other paranormal stories.  The premise of vampires making wine in Napa Valley is compelling, but ultimately not used to its best advantage.  While able to be read as a single title, continuity with previous books in this series is strong.  Don’t miss the ones written under Miller’s erotica pseudonym, Cricket Starr.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: KOP by Warren Hammond

KOP (Juno Mozambe Mystery #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Veteran police officer Juno has been assigned a new partner and an important homicide case. Police Chief Paul Chang, his close friend and former partner, is in trouble, the crooked empire he has painstakingly built threatened by a mayor pledging to root out corruption. So when a good PR opportunity comes to solve the murder of a city official’s son, Chang calls in Juno. The investigation leads to unexpected places, implicating those high in government and organized criminals alike.

It is a credit to Hammond’s writing skill that his main character, a corrupt police officer, is not reviled as a villain. He is in fact incredibly likeable, believably cast in the hero’s role. The futuristic setting, as important in this novel as another character, is well-drawn and compelling. This gritty cop drama is well-plotted, each twist a surprise. The conclusion of the novel is a bit abrupt, but leaves the reader anxious to read the sequel, Ex-KOP.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

Plague Year (Plague, #1)Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cam and his small community of fellow survivors live on a small mountain peak just over 10,000 feet above sea level.  Below this altitude is an invisible ocean of fatal nanotechnology.  Cam’s community struggles to survive until a stranger arrives to help them, setting off an unforeseen series of events.

Nanotech specialist Ruth works in the International Space Station, far above the machine plague below.  But in order to craft a cure, she must go back to Earth and find the origin of the plague.

Jeff Carlson’s debut novel grips the reader from its opening sentence.  A strong character-driven tale, Plague Year contrasts people’s heroic side with their basest instincts.  Delving into fears regarding technology, weapons of mass destruction, and political intrigue, this book is both chilling and timely.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

The Accidental Time MachineThe Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

MIT lab technician Matt Fuller discovers that the calibrator he was working on can disappear.  At first it vanishes for only a second, then for several seconds, then minutes.  Matt decides it is, in fact, a sort of time machine, able to leap into the future for longer and longer periods of time each instance he activates it.  He designs an experiment to send a turtle into the future, then finally himself. 

When he reappears about a month later, Matt is accused of murder and arrested.  To escape his circumstances, he leaps into the future once again.  Stranger futures await him along with the growing desire to find a way to move backward in time to the beginning.

Joe Haldeman deftly weaves the elements of physics, religion, and technology together in this tautly imagined and plot-driven story.  Despite the occasional high-level physics verbiage, the novel is a compelling read, completely unpredictable and un-put-down-able.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Conservation, Music, and Humor - The Great White Shark Song

I love this video for so many reasons! It's so funny and creative, the lyrics reference plenty of scientific facts (how many songs do you know that talk about the ampullae of Lorenzini?), and it is also doing its part for shark conservation.

The songwriter, Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, is helping to support great white shark conservation efforts with the sale of this song. Head over to his website to check it out.

Warning: there are a few naughty words in this video, so you might not want to watch it at work!

if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
and ask you how you do...then you'd look at me and pull out a harpoon...
and try to shoot me...then i'd realize how f*cking really hungry i am right now...
sorry about your leg...i'll be back in a while...for the rest...don't stress...
my sister will be back to clean up this mess...relax...kick back...
it's only a great white shark attack...

if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
cause sharks like surfing too...then you'd paddle out...chasing the fat sets...
and pushing the sunset...then i'd realize i've never seen a seal so fat and slow...
sorry about your arm...i just didn't know...think fast...swim back...
you still look like a seal...your wetsuit so black...and red...

great white sharks dive 4,000 feet...swim across the world...damn isn't that deep...
40 million years...and they haven't changed...apex predator...survival is the game...
ambush style is how they hunt...7 rows of teeth...lorenzini in the front...
oh i love the great white shark...their bellies are white...and the rest is dark...
and if i might just happen to be...a great white shark named abc...
oh you know i wouldn't bite you...

if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
if i was a great white i wouldn't bite you...but i'd swim right next to you
cause it's my ocean please keep it clean...cause i can be f*cking mean...
and i got sharp teeth...and if i realize that you don't care about the sea...
well that means you don't care about me...oh well...that's fine...
i'll just bite you in f*cking half this time...yeah if i was a great white...yeah...
if i was a great white shark...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shark Week - Jaws Book Review

As some of my readers must have already guessed, I absolutely love sharks! Anything ocean-y, actually; I’m a big fan of whales, squid, and coelacanth too.

This week is Shark Week on Discovery Channel and it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year. (Yes, I do know I’m a geek. Thank you for noticing.) So to celebrate Shark Week, I’ll be writing a couple of fun sharky posts as well as reviews of shark fiction. Of course, I have to start with that famous classic, Jaws!

The original hardback cover
Jaws is not just the basis for a great movie, but a fantastic book in its own right. It's actually much more complex than the movie, and this is part of what makes it successful as a book: characters you care about, complex relationships between the main characters (ex: Chief Brody and Ellen), the influence of small-town politics, and the almost scientific description of the shark. Benchley doesn't overdo and sensationalize the shark in this story. Its scenes are very matter-of-fact, which actually makes the whole thing more chilling.

Cover based on
Jaws movie poster
The writing is very clean overall, all of the elements work together, and nothing is extraneous. This is simply an excellent story told well.