Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Kevin's Corner 11/16/2004

Kevin’s Corner

Welcome back to Kevin’s Corner. Good to see you again and thanks for stopping by. I meant to have this up sooner but life just keeps getting in the way. Just when I think I have it under control, it slimes away from me again.

As I write this, the election has long past and thanksgiving approaches. That must mean Christmas and time to decorate. Many of my neighbors have already put up their Christmas decorations. We even have a local radio station that is already playing Christmas music and have been for the last two weeks. They said on one of the local newscasts that they did it because they wanted folks to remember them. Works for me! I will always remember not to listen to them.

But in the spirit of the buying season upon us, here are a few book recommendations. Many of these can be found at your local library, which is an even better deal. This edition is mainly about the children in our lives but stay tuned all the way to the bottom for a couple of adult recommendations.

First, for the very young set I would suggest:

Animal Snackers
By Betsy Lewin
Henry Holt and Company
ISBN # 0-8050-6748-5
$15.95 US
$22.95 Canada

This updated children’s book for readers age 4-8 uses small rhyming poems of four lines each and colorful pictures to explain what the animals and birds eat. This is truly a really neat book.

For the older kids and I hesitate to suggest an age range as it really depends on the child in question:

The City of the Golden Sun
By Marilyn Peake
Author House
ISBN # 1-4184-1057-8
Large Trade Paperback
159 pages
$ 12.25 US

This is a sequel to “The Fisherman’s Son” and chronicles the further adventures of young Wiley O’Mara and his companions from the city at the bottom of the ocean. As before, the writing is clear, the descriptions compelling, and the tale vivid as most of the action takes place in the distant past in a time that could have been. Like the first book, this sequel appeals to young and old.

Also very good is:

Jay Walker 4th Grade Noir: The Case Of The Missing Action Figure
By Grant R. Philips
Quiet Storm Publishing
ISBN # 0-9749608-4-5

If you remember the classic “Encyclopedia Brown” series and liked it as much as I did growing up, then this will work for the child in your life. For Jason Walker, forth grade student and son of a police officer, school occupies just part of his day. Sometimes he helps his fellow students solve mysteries and like any good private investigator or police officer, he keeps things quiet. An action figure has been nabbed and it is up to Walker to find it and return it to its rightful owner. Written by Phillip Tomasso III, under the name of Grant R. Philips, he can always be counted on for books featuring interesting plots, characters and plenty of action along with a very good story. Such is the case here in this children’s novel, which is simply a great read. Hopefully, this is the start of a series as this novel is a success for young readers and adults.

So, there you have my children’s picks. All good stuff and something sure to hit any age group in your house. But we can’t leave out the adults and I won’t.

What follows are my mine reviews of two very good books that could be labeled “cozies.” Personally, I hate the term. For me, it brings to mind two elderly ladies sitting in front of a fire, sipping tea and knitting while for three hundred pages they go through the list of suspects and try to figure out who killed the body in the Church Rectory. Just not my thing. By the way, the Vicar did it. You can tell by his shifty eyes and the fact that the Butler was away on Holiday.

I much prefer complicated plots, lots of action with car chases, and guns blazing. Give me the guy in Denmark going down an isolated street in a fog at midnight checking the drop for the disk he is supposed to bring back. What can I say? I like Steven Segal movies too. Not because they are epics but because someday you just want to blow up everything in sight and kill all the bad guys while the beautiful half dressed babe screams a little in the corner and not a hair on your head moves out of place. (Why is it that Chiropractors never sponsor a Steven Segal movie? Seems like the perfect audience.) Besides, bad guys, no matter what they shoot, always miss at point blank range. Which is a good thing as one of the good guys and I also like the fact that my gun never needs reloading. But, I digress.

The following two books, while a little short on my personal “I want violence” meter still fit the bill as great books. Both feature sharp writing and a great plot with many suspects and incredible twists. Both books feature strong protagonists that quickly pulled me into the web of their story. And both books were simply very good no matter what was considered. So, in no particular order, I strongly recommend:

Designed To Kill
By Chester D. Campbell
Durban House Publishing Company, Inc.
ISBN # 1-930754-46-9
Large Trade Paperback
$15.95 US

Following up on his novel “Secret of the Scroll” author Chester D. Campbell brings back Greg McKenzie and his wife Jill for a case that hits too close to home. After the death of the son of their best friends, Greg and Jill begin to investigate the case in Perdido Key, Florida. Quickly ruled a suicide by the locals, they uncover clues which lead them to believe it was murder connected to the construction of a local condo project.

Eye of Newt
By Denise Dietz
Five Star Publishing
ISBN # 1-59414-096-0

Sydney St. Charles is the latest in along line of witches but she does not really believe that she is a witch. Living in Manitou Falls, Colorado, she owns and runs an apothecary shop with the somewhat eccentric help of her great aunt Lillian. When a body part, possible removed from the body of Clive Newton arrives addressed to her niece as a birthday gift, Sydney has no choice to become involved in the search for the killer. As the same time, a journal from 1692 involving a deceased relative who lived in Salem is found in the attic. Are the links in the journal and the current case just coincidence or does the journal hold the key to a modern day killer who is becoming more and more bold?

In both books, detection is the name of the game and used to move the book forward in an n enjoyable way. Both books work and work well and should be considered for those most receptive in your life.

Giving books to others can be a tricky thing so pick wisely. And please remember to support not only the few independents, both presses and stores, left in this county of chain stores and strip malls, but also your local library. Budgets keep getting slashed and libraries desperately need help whether it is book donations, volunteer hours, or good old money.

That is it for this edition. Sermonizing at the minimum as was my attempts at humor (seven consecutive days of gray skis and rain might have a little something to do with that) and several book recommendations. More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note at Kevin_tipple@att.net with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2004

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Inaugural Edition

Kevin’s Corner

Welcome to Kevin’s Corner, the inaugural edition. A special thank you to Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier who cleaned out part of the basement of their sprawling palatial mansion so that I could move in. I’m glad to be their pool boy and gofer as well as sharing a few of my thoughts about life, politics, parenthood, and of course, books.

Without books, we would be forced to talk to the animals and you know, for the most part they don’t have a lot to say.

Some of you may know me from rejecting my short fiction and other works. You are forgiven. The knives have pulled out, the wounds are healing nicely, and the doctors say I’ll be ready for more rejection soon. One so does have to pace these sorts of things.

Those few brave souls that did publish my fiction have all closed their publishing doors and the magazines are defunct. Thank you for taking a chance and if my prose had anything to do with closing, I am sorry.

Some of you may know me from my book reviews. Those that feel I wrote an undeserved negative review and was obviously a moron may find solace down by the pool at the burning effigy statue. You may also find editorial assistance down there as well right next to the slab stone inscribed, “You Don’t Get It.”.

Those that know me from book reviews and loved my work are truly special folks and are very much appreciated. You know who you are so I shall say no more about that.

As I sit here writing this it is almost two weeks to Halloween. Halloween has to be one of my least favorite times of the year. Some folks actually like to be scared which is something I never got into. They want to see the walls drip blood, the dead walk again, and all that jazz. Not me.

Not only do I not want to see any of that stuff or read about it, but Halloween also sets off the national retail orgy known as Christmas. Thanksgiving is bypassed totally in favor of the giant “give me/buy me” of Christmas. And as I sit here with the temp pushing way upwards past 80 my eyes are drawn across the way to a neighboring apartment complex.

One tenant has put up orange Halloween lights and a number of small flying ghosts along with a witch that hangs from the balcony. The adjoining neighbor has Christmas lights up along with fake icicles dangling from the porch roof and a decorated tree in the window. Death and Resurrection all in a few feet and a happy power company all rolled into one.

Some may see the dichotomy as a clever social commentary on the coming election.

“Vote now, America, and watch the fun! Choose the wooden puppet of the lobby you like the most.”

Others may see it as another reason the home improvement and decorating shows should be banned from television.

“Sir, you admitted you can’t program your VCR. That means you can’t put together the pool deck you saw on TV. Put down the power saw and leave quietly and we won’t press charges.”

Maybe it is time to throw another couple of hosts of such shows into jail. After all, we don’t have nearly enough “real” criminals to fill the jails now.

The clashing porch view across the way makes my head hurt and reminds me that more than anything, there ought to be a law. Heck, this is Texas. We can make a stupid law for anything. We still have laws on the books that one can’t leave a horse unattended on Main Street in downtown and remember, no spitting on the sidewalk.

“Save that spit for the ballpark, young man. Don’t forget to scratch and make your Mom proud!”

But in the spirit of the season, here are a couple of books that might work for you. It is amazing what I can be talked into reading in a weak moment because this stuff just isn’t my sort of thing at all. I don’t normally read the horror stuff. First in the pile is:

Father Exorcist
By Kevin Sheehan
Publish America Publishers
October 2004
ISBN # --Not Listed
ARC—Uncorrected Proof

Okay, I know what your thinking and I am not going to beat the old drum about POD, self-publishing and all that for several reasons. I will say this book along with his earlier novel; “Should Old Acquaintance Be Rubbed Out” are well worth reading and good stuff. While that book was a mystery and this is billed as horror, they both share twisted characters and a wild storyline.

In this case, Kevin Sheehan plays with the old idea of the ongoing battle between good and evil in sort of a televised wrestling match style. Everything is over the top and one has to be ready to rumble at any time. Representing good is the blind Father Michael who lives deep in the bowls of the Vatican. Representing evil is the Demon Cain “you know him, you love him) back for another rematch.

The battle begins in Vermont and soon moves to everyone’s favorite city, New York City. (How about them Yankees? As a Texas Ranger fan I loved that series. Okay, gleeful moment over, back to the review). Mankind is forbidden to know the actual truth of the battle between good and evil and Cain plans that the upcoming battle between himself and Father Michael will have grave consequences for all.

This novel was originally created as a graphic novel. Therefore, the character development is very limited and the focus is on the almost non-stop action. The action is very descriptive both in terms of violence as well as occasional sexual acts. Don’t read this one while eating and certainly don’t let the kids read it. It is written to be over the top but still some of this Bram Stoker award nominee book might be just a bit intense for some readers.

At the other end of the spectrum from the all out frantic and very graphic comes the next book on the pile:

Reach of the Claw
By Lawrence Crossett
LTD Books
January 2004
ISBN # 1-55316-117-3
Variety of Formats

“Aye, he could smell Luchorpan.
It was a fetid stench, and one that wouldn’t die.”

And no, he isn’t talking about the trash, which I still have to take out. Instead, the above quote comes from page 7 of this complex character driven book. The Luchorpan, a creature whose claws bring infection and which feeds off humans and anything else it can get has attacked the family Connor before. While the novel begins with that event in 1755, the primary focus is in the here and now where the Luchorpan is once again at work in the small town of Luther, Illinois.

Evil is at work here in the form of the Luchorpan who has ten year old boy Brent Mathers on the menu. Kenn Connor is here as well, on leave from the NYPD and for reasons, he doesn’t himself really know, he has the ability to find the thing. As strange things begin to happen and the Luchorpan does its thing, Ken must battle to save his own sanity, to be believed in an area where the townsfolk think he is nuts, and save one boy’s life.

For me, as I read the book, it really isn’t a horror novel. I think a “thriller” designation would be more appropriate as while it does horrible things, it can be defeated using normal everyday weapons. No special swords from underneath the neighboring monastery, white crosses, vials of holy water, or anything like that.

So, there you have it—the inaugural edition of Kevin’s Corner. A few thoughts, some rambling and a couple of book reviews. Who could ask for more? Okay, sir, you in the back, you want more? Okay, tell me what you want, what you thought, at Kevin_tipple@att.net