Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review: Kubrick's Game by Derek Taylor Kent

His whole life, ubernerd Shawn Hagan has had trouble finding a comfortable niche. His family doesn’t understand him, most people’s actions are a puzzle, but with an encyclopedic knowledge of movies and one patient friend with his own difficult childhood, Shawn has finally found a home of sorts at UCLA’s film school. Ah, sweet academia, where a student’s life is guided by a course plan and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.

Until now.

A mysterious package from the late director Stanley Kubrick arrives on the desk of the equally enigmatic UCLA professor, Antonio Mascaro. Shortly before his death, Kubrick devised a complex and obscure series of puzzles linked to hidden clues in his movies. Mascaro offers Shawn a chance to compete for the secret grand prize. Shawn, a huge Kubrick fan, is intrigued. Is this a huge joke or are the rumors of Kubrick’s lost film footage real? Is that the prize? Mascaro hints it may be something that can change world history. Or perhaps only the life of a geek who never felt comfortable anywhere except in front of a movie screen.

The difficulty? UCLA is not the only film school to receive a package. As Shawn delves deeper into the mystery by unraveling clues, the nerdy guy with social issues acquires a team to help along the way.  Soon, mysterious armed men along with other film students are on the trail of Shawn and his friends as they try to be the first team to find the prize. Will Shawn live long enough to collect his reward? Will the poor schlub ever get a girl? Any girl?

There’s a lot of fun in Kubrick's Game which draws connections between loopy conspiracy theories involving the Freemasons, NASA, and bizarre secret codes hidden in Stanley Kubrick films. Even a few celebrities such as Malcolm McDowell and Steven Spielberg make guest appearances. (For the record, Malcolm comes across as much more fun than Steven who’s a bit of a poop.) Although the ‘clues’ are a huge stretch and downright silly at times, the enjoyment is in seeing how Shawn and his friends find the answers. A reader also gets a good sense of the atmosphere at UCLA, the connection to the Hollywood entertainment industry, and the competitiveness and rivalries between its students and those enrolled in USC’s film school.

In general, Kubrick's Game will appeal the most to puzzle fans and film buffs. A slight knowledge of Kubrick films is helpful, but not necessary. Prepare to hear a lot of behind-the-scenes stories of his movies. (Including the fact his name is pronounced Kyu-brick and not Ku-brick.) The reader doesn’t need to be a Kubrick fan. I’m not in love with either Stanley Kyu-brick or Stanley Ku-brick movies, but I liked the book, especially the increasingly lunatic puzzle answers, each one leading Shawn and his team closer to the solution and deeper into danger.

The biggest weakness is characterization. The most convincing personalities are Shawn and his friend, Wilson, but the women all sound alike. They have differences in physical appearances, but their personalities are interchangeable and fairly bland. They’re not awful, but rather unmemorable. Nothing much distinguishes one from another. The villains are more of the cartoony, twirl-your-mustache type.

All in all, Kubrick’s Game is nice light reading and an interesting way for a movie buff to spend a few hours away from Netflix.

I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Chapter 1

There’s nothing like the smell of two billion meters of historic film mingled with Soltrol cleaning solution in the morning.

Tony Strauss considered himself the luckiest man alive to enter his office to that one-of-a-kind aroma each day for the past thirty-two years.

As the curator of the newly opened UCLA Film and Television archive in Valencia, a monumental complex six years in construction, he personally oversaw the cataloguing, storage, preservation and restoration of over 220,000 film and television reels, and the 27 million feet of newsreel footage, spanning over one hundred years. He presided over one of the largest archives of media in the world, second only to the Library of Congress.

Most would consider Strauss’s daily routine tedious beyond all reason, but to him, each repetitive hour restoring precious frames of a forgotten classic might as well have been a day at the carnival.

An added bonus: he could work all day in sweatpants and an old t-shirt. With his unkempt graying-black hair, glasses and pudgy frame, he looked like a certain famous director. “You’re an old-school Peter Jackson!” people would exclaim. Strauss would shake his head, thinking he looked more like another director who didn’t make as many talk show appearances.

He lived for the moments each week when a lost reel of footage found in a dusty attic, or unearthed in a studio warehouse, showed up in his mailbox. Each delivery held a potential holy grail.

Thousands of curious packages had come to him over the years, offering a tantalizing prize inside like little Cracker Jack boxes, or sometimes that rare pot of gold. But nothing could have prepared him for the package that had arrived this morning.

The envelope was rectangular and black, except for the thin white scribble of the archive’s address and the sender’s name. When he read the name of the sender, his hands began trembling.

“This can’t be,” he said.

Bold instructions on the front read:

The day had arrived. He slipped on a pair of rubber gloves and delicately unclasped the large envelope, painstakingly unsticking the edges.
He removed the contents, then ran to the phone.

“Hello, Professor, this is Tony Strauss. I’m sorry to call you so early, but just like you predicted, something strange has arrived. Yes, I know it’s five in the morning, but I didn’t think it could wait. You see, it’s impossible that we could have received a package from this person, because.... Professor, the sender has been dead for more than fifteen years.”

As Tony spoke the sender’s name, he heard a thud as if the phone had been dropped to the floor.

After a moment, the professor said, “I’m on the way. Tell no one else of this.”

The package had been sent by Stanley Kubrick.


About the Author:

Derek Taylor Kent, a multi- genre novelist, received a three book deal with HarperCollins for his award winning book series Scary School which was penned under his pseudonym Derek the Ghost. His romantic-comedy script Cupids was optioned by Liberty Films before the ink was dry on his next novel. Derek’s most recent screenplay, Naughty, co-written with Shawn Kittelsen, was recently picked up by Paradox Factory Productions and Without Chemicals.  Additionally, Derek's bilingual picture book El Perro Con Sombrero was released through Holt-Macmillan in August 2015. For more information on Derek Taylor Kent go to

Book Review: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

Sometimes the nicest things come in little packages. In honor of Olivia de Havilland’s 100th birthday, the publisher re-released a book she wrote in the 1960’s called Every Frenchman Has One. In the early fifties, after a failed marriage and a child, de Havilland visited France where she met a man, fell in love and married, and subsequently moved to Paris. The book is a collection of short sweet articles about adjusting to life in a new country and culture. Not an easy thing to do, even if you’re a famous movie star.

The pages are filled with de Havilland’s delightfully self-deprecating wit. She navigates the choppy waters of learning a new language by throwing herself headfirst into lessons often with less than stellar results. “Then there was the day I shook my professor. I’d been on a household shopping excursion and had been rather dismayed by the high cost of things. Well I don’t know if you see much difference between matelot and matelas, and I don’t know how you’d complain of the price of a mattress. But anyway I rushed in to my professor at lesson time in a state of outrage and indignantly proclaimed that I had discovered that French sailors were very expensive.”

The book is a quick breezy read, each short chapter describing an obstacle to overcome; shopping, health care system, buying a house, etc. Miss de Havilland would have made a darn good blogger. Her husband was connected to the magazine, Paris Match, and the book reads like a series of articles, so perhaps, they were. Each one whimsically relates the frustration of a stranger in a strange land, but also the charm of discovery, and the warmth of the French who were willing to embrace a newcomer. Lately, the French have gotten bad press as far as immigration is concerned, but by the last chapter, you’ll be ready to book the next flight to Paris.

I don’t know whether any of the France of the 1950’s exists today. Undoubtedly, much has changed as it has here in the States, but that didn’t decrease enjoyment of this book. I like to think the most important aspects in French life are constant; time spent with family, good friends, and a relaxed meal at the end of the day with the freshest possible ingredients. To this poor harried reader, it’s all trés charmant.

By the way, you pervert, what every Frenchman has is a liver (fois). If you want to know why it’s not only important but funny, read the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Ghostly Anthology on Sale now

 What do you get when you combine cowboys and ghosts? A collection of eight amazing stories from the Old West with haunts of every variety.Get your love of alpha cowboys on and feed your addiction for the bizarre (and sometimes spooky) world when you purchase The Good, The Bad and The GhostlyBestselling and Award-winning authors are pleased to save you more than 75% on this fantastic boxed set! (Price if books sold separately). Scroll down for a special excerpt from The Ghost and the Bridegroom by Patti Sherry-Crews.

Wild, Wild Ghost by Margo Bond Collins
When Ruby Silver traded in her demon-hunting rifle for a badge at the Tremayne Psychic Specters Investigations, she didn't want another partner—losing the last one was too traumatic. But when a new case in the Texas Hill Country pairs her up with the slow-talking, fast-drawing Trip Austin, it will take all their combined skills to combat a plague of poltergeists in this German-settled town.

Comes An Outlaw by Keta Diablo
When a tragic accident claims her husband's life, Jesse Santos must find a way to keep the ranch, the only home her 12-year-old son has ever known.  The ranch hands have abandoned her, a gang of cutthroat ranchers want her land and an ancient Yaqui Indian insists a spirit has taken up residence in the house.

After a fifteen year absence, her husband's brother, Coy, returns to his childhood home. He doesn't plan on staying, and he certainly doesn't intend to settle down with a widow and her son…no matter how pretty she is. He's an outlaw, after all, and made a decision to put an end to his gun-slinging days long ago. Will his conscience let him walk away from family, or will his heart overrule his head?

Long A Ghost and Far Away by Andrea Downing
When Lizzie Adams returns as a ghost to a life she led in the 1800s, she is surprised to find herself on a ranch in Wyoming, but delighted to learn she was married to a handsome and loving man.  The reasons for her return become clear when she discovers how she died, yet the unresolved issues surrounding her death leave her unable to either live in the 1800s or return to her present life.
Colby Gates misses the wife he loved, yet a ghost is a poor substitute. Re-married to a woman he doesn’t care for, and with outlaws searching for buried gold on his ranch, the spirit of his wife is a further complication.
Perhaps if the questions surrounding Lizzie’s death can be answered, the two can be together.
For all time.

A Ghostly Wager by Blaire Edens
Even a skeptical detective needs a little otherworldly help.Nineteen-year old Annabelle Lawson hops a train to Reno to escape a marriage to a man twice her age. Alone and nearly destitute, she spots an employment advertisement that might change her life. If she can use the dreams that have haunted her for the last four years to land a job with the mysterious Treymane PSI Agency, she might be able to buy a train ticket home to Kentucky.

Agent Cole Swansby is an up and coming detective for Tremayne PSI. There’s only thing that can sink his career: if the boss realizes he’s a skeptic. He’s solved dozens of cases using old-fashioned logic, but he doesn't believe in the paranormal. Now he’s under tremendous pressure to solve a new case before the president of Midas Mining shows for a week of R&R at The Blade Saloon.Cole can’t solve this case without some otherworldly help, though, and Annabelle is just the woman for the job. As the two of them are drawn deeper into the mystery of the woman in green, they may not be able to banish the ghost without losing their hearts.To each other.

How the Ghost Was Won by Erin Hayes
From orphan to saloon girl to ghost whisperer, Hattie Hart has been and seen a lot of things in her time. Her new job as a detective with the Tremayne PSI Agency takes her out to the remote town of Carolina City, Nevada on a vague assignment to investigate the disappearance of a US marshal.

Except, when she arrives, she meets the devilishly handsome Grant Madsden, a US marshal who is alive and well. Certainly not missing, but certainly the man of her dreams. So why did her boss send her out to this small boomtown when there’s nothing for her to investigate?

She soon discovers that in Carolina City, there are strange happenings from the afterlife that threaten to kill her or worse. She’ll have to race against time to save her life, the town, and the US marshal she was sent to find—and maybe, if she's lucky, her heart.

McKee's Ghost by Anita Philmar
His fiancée called off their engagement after being accosted by a ghost in his house. Now, a beautiful ghost detective has shown up at his ranch, saying his brother has hired her to take care of the unwanted spirit.Konnor McKee is more than happy with P.S.I Agent Ruth Oliva Wilson. One look and he's hooked. Now, if he can only get some help from a ghost, he might be able to secure himself a bride after all.With the return of his ex- fiancé, his life is turned upside down by an angry ghost, a vindictive woman, and a sexy medium. Konnor doesn’t know which way to turn.Can he get everyone out of this alive and marry the P.S.I Agent? Or has he lost all hope of a happy future because of the ruthless ghost of one of his ancestors?

A Ride Through Time by Charlene Raddon
Ghosts. Murder. Love.  P.S.I. Agent Burke Jameson travels to Eagle Gulch, Colorado to investigate a report of ghost activity at a house where a murder took place in 1881. When his vehicle carrying his P.S.I. equipment dies, and a riderless mare appears, he mounts up, hoping the horse will lead him to her fallen rider. What he finds is a whole new life beyond his imagination.

Clorinda Halstead believes she’s a widow. After all, she was the one who shot her husband, Horace, on a violent night in 1881. He deserved it, the jury concluded. Living with the town marshal and his wife, all Clori wants is to be left alone. Then a stranger, Burke James, joins the household and nothing is ever the same again.How did Burke find his way through time to the year 1881, and who is haunting the lovely but distant Widow Halstead? Can Burke find the ghost of Eagle Gulch without his P.S.I. equipment? And how will he ever choose between going home to his own time and a life of love and happiness with Clorinda?

Sneak peak at The Ghost and The Bridegroom
Patti Sherry-Crews

Life is looking rosy for Abbott Foster when he brings his new bride to his ranch in Arizona. But when he is unable to consummate his marriage due to a malevolent spirit in the bedroom, he is forced to call in Psychic Specters Investigations.
Agent Healy Harrison doesn’t want to accept this case. She has her own demons and likes her quiet life, lived in the anonymity of St. Louis. But Tucson is where she finds herself—with instructions to “Have an adventure! Have a romance!” Things get interesting when she meets handsome Pinkerton detective, Aaron Turrell. Is this the romance she’s meant to have, or when their two cases intersect, will it drive him away?
The air burned as hot as a fever out here on the porch. The windmill in the yard creaked and creaked. Tumbleweed rolled past, carried on the same breeze turning the windmill. The porch smelled like hot, old wood.
Healy pinched the bridge of her nose, dislodging her glasses. Over the layer of perspiration covering her face, a fine coating of gritty dust stuck to her skin. She’d gone so parched; she had to work her lips off her teeth—where they were stuck—to utter a word.
“Yes, we’ve already established that fact, and as I’ve already had this conversation with the ranch hand you sent to fetch me, I’m finding this conversation about my gender rather tedious.”
He studied her with his gray eyes. “You’re a woman.”
“Oh, my…now that we’ve ascertained I’m not a man are we going to have to now go through this whole process again, establishing I’m a woman. I suggest we move on from this topic and talk about your problem, Mr. Foster.”
He ran a hand through his sandy brown hair. “I can’t talk to you about this. I thought you’d be a man. This is a delicate matter.”
“Mr. Foster, I assure you I’ve seen everything. There isn’t anything you can tell me I haven’t heard before. What is happening to you has happened to many before you.”
“That’s just it. I’ve heard about it happening to other men, but it’s never happened to me before.”
“Ah, I see. Well, this too is a common reaction. Many don’t believe in ghosts until they experience the phenomenon themselves. You’re not alone.”
He looked down. “I’m not talking about ghosts.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t talk to a young lady about this.”
“You can! Nothing you say will shock me.”
“Are you a…spinster?”
Healy huffed. “I don’t see how my marital status is relevant, but yes, I am not a married woman.”
“So you don’t have experience….”
“Please, I have traveled a long way under the most trying circumstances to help you. You’ve already paid the agency, and here I am!  Let’s just start at the place where you encountered the haunting?”
Abbott sighed. “In the bedroom.”
“You’re lucky in that sense. Some ghosts follow people around and make all kinds of mischief.”
“Naw, you ain’t catching my meaning.”
“Enlighten me.”
“Aw, all right.” He took a long pause, studying his boots before he looked up again. “I’m a newlywed….”
“Yes, but here’s the crux of the matter. The ghost will not allow me to…consummate my marriage.”
Healy felt her face burn red. “Oh, I see. Well, that is a new one on me. Never heard of that one before. How is it that the ghost has power to stop…the act?”
“Ever since I brought Erline—that’s my bride—home, things don’t work right.”
She put a hand on his arm. “Are you sure you’re consulting the right expert? Have you talked to your doctor?”
His face went beet red with frustration. “It’s having a ghost in my bedroom gumming up the works.”
“You have to be more specific. I need details.”
He shuffled his feet in the dust on the boards of the porch. “I think about Erline all day. She’s so pretty. I can’t wait to go to bed. I get in next to her all cocked and ready to fire—and she’s eager too--I can tell, but then when I put….”
Healy put up her hand. “I don’t mean those kinds of details. Tell me about the ghost.”
“Oh, well, it always starts the same way. First there is this god-awful odor like rotten flowers.”
“Olfactory manifestations. Very rare. Interesting. Go on.”
He looked proud of himself for a minute for having a rare haunting. “After I smell the odor a shape appears in the corner. A big, black shadow.”
“Oh, this is bad. Very bad. Black shadows are extremely malevolent.”
“It gets worse.”
“Worse than a black shadow? You’re wise to call in a professional.”
“The shadow moves. It walks, or floats--or whatever those things do--and comes and stands right next to the bed, and the creature points at me! Things shrink up down south at that point, if you know what I mean.”
“And your wife, does she see the ghost?”
“No, she don’t! I’d think I was going loco but the dog knows the ghost is there too. It ran away and won’t come home. Stays with the neighbor.”
“Interesting. Animals are sensitive. Does your wife believe you?”
“She does not entirely believe me. At first she did, but now she thinks it’s her. She is beginning to think I don’t desire her.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll sort this out. I have a high success rate. May I come in?”
“Yes, pardon my bad manners.”
He stepped aside and opened the door for her. The minute she walked through the threshold, Healy felt cooler—and not just because she was out of the sun.
“You, Mr. Foster, have a ghost in your house all right.” She ripped off her glasses. “Let’s get to work.”
The rancher’s boots clacked on the hardwood floors behind her as he followed her into the interior of the house.
“But, it ain’t in here. We have to go to the bedroom.”
Healy held up her hand to silence him, her heart humming like it did in the presence of spirits. “Its presence is all over. May I sit down? I have a few questions for you.”
He indicated a small cane-bottomed maple chair set at a side table. She sat down and he took a seat across from her, wincing with pain as he did so.
“Are you all right, Mr. Foster?”
“Got a little indigestion.” His eyes opened wide. “You look different without your glasses.”
She waved him off. “I need to ask you some questions. How long have you lived here?”
“Ten years.”
“And no hauntings up until this time?”
“Not a thing.”
“Has anything changed recently—aside from bringing home a wife? Like have you been…?” She tried to remember what Cato said. “Have you been doing any digging? Possibly in an Indian burial ground? Or mining?”
He looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face. “I’m a rancher. I’m not digging mineshafts or anything like that. Just move cattle around. That’s all I do.”
“Bear with me; I’m trying to eliminate the obvious. Any recent deaths here?”
“Not recently, but….” He stood up. “Miss Harrison, my wife, Erline.”
Healy turned in her seat to see a pretty blond in a bright blue satin dress, Healy thought too fancy for daywear on a ranch.
Erline tilted her head back and looked down her nose at Healy. To put things on a different level, Healy stood up. She had a head over the rancher’s wife, so now Erline had to look up at her. Healy extended her hand and the other woman gave her the briefest touch. Healy almost recoiled from the chill coming off her fingers. “I understand congratulations are in order. Congratulations on your recent nuptials.”
Erline spoke without a hint of warmth. “You’re welcome. I’m a lucky woman.”
“It sounds like you’re not from around here.”
“No, I’m from Ohio.”
“Really? Your accent sounds more southern.”
Erline narrowed her eyes.  “I’m from southern Ohio.”
“Of course, that explains it. You do understand why I’m here, don’t you?”
“I’m not sure I believe in all this, but if Abbott thinks it’s necessary….”
“It is necessary. Even in this room, I can feel a presence in the house. And now that you’ve joined us, perhaps I can see the bedroom.”
Erline and Abbott exchanged looks before the woman spoke. “If you think that’s necessary.”
“I do think it’s necessary.” This woman sure doesn’t want to do anything unnecessarily.
Healy followed the couple down a long hall. The plaster walls stretched out devoid of decoration, so when Abbott flung open the door to the bedroom, it surprised Healy to find a room looking like a lady’s boudoir. “Nice room,” she commented.
“I made a few changes,” said Erline.
Before even stepping into the room, Healy felt a cold, invisible fog surround her. She shivered. A foul scent filled the room. She and Abbott looked at one another other. He raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, I smell it too,” she said.
“I never smelled it during the day before.”
“Perhaps the ghost doesn’t like you,” Erline said looking at Healy.
“You don’t smell that?” she said to Erline.
Erline threw her a contemptuous look. “I do not.”
Abbott looked at her with concern. Healy realized she was shaking harder. Hostility poured off the walls in this room, and despite the chill in the air, sweat bathed her body.
“There is a mean-spirited presence in this room. I may need to….”
Healy’s knees buckled and her eyes rolled back into her head. The last thing she was aware of was Abbott Foster grabbing her around the waist before she hit the floor.

About the Author:
Patti Sherry-Crews lives in Evanston, IL with her husband and two children. She writes both contemporary and historic romance. Under the name Cherie Grinnell she has written a series of steamy romances set in Dublin and Wales. She likes to include armchair travel with her books.Patti studied anthropology and archeology at Grinnell College and the University of North Wales, UK. After college she opened an Irish and British import store, which gave her an excuse to travel to the British Isles for the next fifteen years. Now she works from home and devotes much of her time to writing.
Find Patti on the Net:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

For almost all recorded history, women’s contributions have been constantly downplayed, especially in the field of science. If you think I exaggerate name one female scientist other than Marie Curie who worked before 1900. See what I mean? Well, Rachel Ignotofsky is here to set the record straight with a charmingly illustrated book filled with short biographies and achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

Some of the more recent are well-known; Mae Jemison (astronaut), Jane Goodall (primatologist), and Rachel Carson (marine biologist). If you haven’t heard of them, shame on you. Others will be new and range from Hypatia, an astronomer and mathematician in ancient Alexandria to women still working in science today. Ignotofsky devotes two pages to each woman. On the left side is a cute, quirky drawing done by the author. On the right is a biography and details of contributions surrounded by more of the author’s artwork with additional snippets of information. (Rachel Carson wrote a book about birds when she was eight).

Many of the women in Women in Science had little formal education. Most had to fight for respect. The author’s enthusiasm for her subjects is obvious by the numerous exclamation points scattered throughout. Ignotofsky doesn’t sugarcoat the problems her subjects faced.  She practically calls James Watson a lying scuzzbucket who stole credit for Rosalind Franklin’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

While the book has winsome charm, the writing and illustration suffer from a slight disconnect. The targeted readership is unclear. The pictures are simplistic and appropriate for an elementary school student, but the writing is geared toward teenagers and beyond. This book doesn’t have enough subject matter for high schoolers or adults, yet can a middle-schooler visualize a procedure such as, “They tagged the hormone with a radioactive isotope, and then measure the amount of antibodies.”?  The book also mentions penis envy. I don’t know any middle school librarian who’d find that acceptable, not to mention able to stand all the sniggling giggles coming from the stacks when a student stumbles on the page. In the back is a small glossary, but no page link in the biography where the term occurs. Complex notions including motor neurons, cytogeneticist, Doppler Effect, trajectory, and ethyl esters are mentioned in the articles, but not defined.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.