Fantasy Book Review: Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince

Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince by Nancy Atherton

It’s a cold, dreary February in the sleepy village of Finch and Lori Shepherd has two stir-crazy seven-year-old boys on her hands. So when her good friend Bree Pym suggests an outing to Skeaping Manor, the bizarre Jacobean-house-turned-museum, Lori leaps at the chance. There she meets Daisy Pickering, a sweet (if a little odd) nine-year-old dressed in a shabby pink parka who regales Lori with a wild tale about the Russian aristocrats who once owned the priceless silver pieces on display.

A few days later, when a finely wrought silver sleigh figurine turns up in the pocket of a shabby pink parka at her thrift shop Lori recognizes it instantly as the object that mesmerized Daisy at Skeaping Manor. Hoping to avoid any real commotion, Lori tracks down Daisy’s mother, only to find that the Pickering family has disappeared without a trace. Stranger still, it seems that one of Daisy’s imagined Russian princes may be very real—and in desperate need of help.

With Aunt Dimity’s otherworldly guidance, Lori’s search for the sleigh’s true owner and the fate of the Pickering family begins to unravel a tangled web of secrets stretching from England’s finest country estates back to the blood-drenched soil of the Russian Revolution.

Lori Shepherd seems like a caring mother and a great friend. Their visit to the creepy Skeaping Manor is more for her boys and Bree. And the series is named after Lori’s deceased Aunt who communicates with Lori through a blank journal. This is the first I’ve read in the series and was actually expecting a bit more of the paranormal. But it’s a good standalone mystery novel. Fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple should enjoy.

The mystery of the Lost Prince takes Lori and Bree on a journey around various historic homes in the area. They’re searching for the truth behind little Daisy’s story about the prince and for more information on where Daisy and her mother went suddenly. Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince is an unpredictable, quick read with colorful characters. It’s a fun and entertaining mystery that kept me guessing. I’ll most likely be checking out more episodes in this mystery series.

Blu-Ray Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download 5/14

From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, the powerful and inspiring epic drama “Cloud Atlas” explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.

Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

The film jumps around six different stories in six different time periods. In 1849, a dying lawyer discovers an escaped, stowaway slave in his cabin. In 1936, young composer gets the chance of a lifetime working with an aging, famous composer. In 1973, a journalist gets wrapped up in dangerous corporate espionage. In 2012, a publisher finds himself locked up in a nursing home against his will. In 2144 Korea, a clone restaurant server dreams of something more than her life as a slave. And in the far distant future, a tribesman deals with an inner demon while escorting a woman to the forbidden mountains. Eventually, the stories begin weaving together with the message that “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” And the point is further pushed as the same actors play a variety of roles across each time period’s story. Most are easy to point out, despite the makeup. And in the end credits, each actor is shown in each role they had.

I haven’t read the book, so the story was new to me – other than the reviews from friends of mine. I had low expectations, hearing it was an over-done artsy film. But I was surprised by the power and drama of each story – moving and poignant. The acting was phenomenal. The music was enchanting. And the cinematography and special effects were stunning. The movie does drag at times though, and at almost three hours runtime became tiresome. Quite a bit could have been cut out and still had the same effect. While it’s a visually striking film, it was also emotionally draining. I don’t think that I would watch it again without skipping through a lot. But I’m glad I finally watched this epic fantasy. Most reviewers used the word “ambitious” when describing Cloud Atlas. I agree.

Blu-ray and DVD Elements:
Cloud Atlas Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
• A Film Like No Other
• Everything is Connected
• The Impossible Adaptation
• The Essence of Acting
• Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets
• The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas
• Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life, and Longing in Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
• A Film Like No Other

Mystery Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: the Legend Begins: Black Ice

Sherlock Holmes: the Legend Begins: Black Ice by Andrew Lane

When Sherlock and Amyus Crowe, his American tutor, visit Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, in London, all they are expecting is lunch and some polite conversation. What they find shocks both of them to the core: a locked room, a dead body, and Mycroft holding a knife. The police are convinced Mycroft is a vicious murderer, but Sherlock is just as convinced he is innocent. Threatened with the gallows, Mycroft needs Sherlock to save him. The search for the truth necessitates an incredible journey, from a railway station for dead bodies in London all the way to the frozen city of Moscow—where Sherlock is afoot in a world of secrets and danger.

This is the 3rd young Sherlock novel in an exciting series that takes him from London to Moscow this time. Several minor characters make a return, and though the mystery is a standalone, it’s helpful to have read the previous installments to know who all the characters are and their histories with Sherlock. Black Ice was a pleasantly unpredictable journey that focuses on Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. Intrigue and mystery abound with plenty of twists and surprises. A fast-paced read, I thoroughly enjoyed this new Sherlock Holmes adventure.

SciFi Book Review: Doktor Glass

Doktor Glass by Thomas Brennan

In an age of Zeppelins and gyroplanes, atomics and horseless carriages, the Transatlantic Span is the industrial marvel of the nineteenth century. A monumental feat of engineering, the steel suspension bridge stretches across the Atlantic from Liverpool to the distant harbor of New York City, supported by no less than seven hundred towers. But in the shadows of its massive struts, on the docks of the River Mersey, lies a faceless corpse…

Inspector Matthew Langton is still seized with grief when he thinks of Sarah, his late wife. Tortured by nightmares and afflicted by breathless attacks of despair and terror, he forces himself to focus on the investigation of the faceless man. The victim wears the uniform of the Transatlantic Span Company but bears the tattoos of the Boers—could there be a Boer conspiracy to assassinate Queen Victoria on the upcoming Inauguration Day of the Span?

But the truth, as it begins to emerge, is far more bizarre than a political coup. As additional victims turn up—each with strange, twin burn marks on their necks—Langton draws a connection between the dead man beneath the bridge and chilling rumors of the Jar Bars, soul snatchers who come under cover of night. Most frightening of all is the mythic and elusive Doktor Glass, who may not only be behind the illicit trade in souls…but who may hold the key to what happened to the inspector’s own beloved wife on her deathbed…

Langton is still grieving, yet is back at work and assigned to investigate the murder of a man whose face was removed. But in trying to deal with his wife’s death, he begrudgingly visits a psychic and makes a startling discovery that leads to a clue about the faceless man. The setting is an alternate Victorian England, dark and eerie with a different science that merges science fiction and fantasy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of this steampunk mystery, with its many suspects and twists. Fast-paced and difficult to put down, I followed along captivated till the very end. Though, I was taken aback when Langton confronts Doktor Glass, and a difficult choice in morality comes into play. I struggled right along with Langton. And though I don’t think I’d make the same choices, the book certainly succeeds in making the reader second-guess and ponder choices. Dark and somber, the mood of this Doktor Glass is a bit different along with its unique storyline.

Mystery Book Review: The Bughouse Affair

The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon are partners at a detective agency in San Francisco. Quincannon’s latest case is investigating home invasions for an insurance company. While Sabina is tracking down a female pickpocket at an amusement park. But after investigating the pickpocket’s known accomplices, and stumbling upon a murder, Sabina begins to see a connection between the two cases. Further complicating Quincannon’s investigation is someone who claims to be a certain famous British detective thought to be dead – a bughouse Sherlock Holmes.

Set in an alternate 1890’s, this is a promising start to a new series. The Bughouse Affair is a spirited, fast-paced read. It’s a historical mystery with adventure, suspense, colorful characters, and humor. A fast-paced and quick read, Carpenter and Quincannon offer a fun and fresh take on the genre. The two have a blossoming chemistry; and I look forward to reading more in the series.

SciFi Mystery Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr Moreau

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr Moreau by Guy Adams

Official Synopsis:
Following the trail of several corpses seemingly killed by wild animals, Holmes and Watson stumble upon the experiments of Doctor Moreau. Moreau, through vivisection and crude genetic engineering is creating animal hybrids, determined to prove the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. In his laboratory, hidden among the opium dens of Rotherhithe, Moreau is building an army of ‘beast men’. Tired of having his work ignored — or reviled — by the British scientific community, Moreau is willing to make the world pay attention using his creatures as a force to gain control of the government.

This is a fun and imaginative blending of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells’ works. This new adventure of Sherlock Holmes and Watson brings science fiction to the plot instead of regular whodunit mystery. Holmes and Watson are hired by Holmes’ brother Mycroft to investigate sightings of unusual animal attacks in the city. Mycroft believes that these creatures may be the result of Dr. Moreau’s bizarre experiments. But as Holmes and Watson investigate, they uncover a surprising conspiracy.

Adams stays true to the original characters of Holmes and Watson, yet brings a fun, exciting twist with a fresh new story. This mash-up of classics was highly entertaining and completely riveting. I’m a sucker for a good mystery, and paired with my favorite genre, science fiction, I had high expectations that were well placed. I’ll certainly be reading more in this continued series of Sherlock Holmes.

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