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Tell It Tuesday: Toby Peters Edition

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Tell It Tuesday: Toby Peters Edition

I can’t remember when I first discovered Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Toby Peters mysteries, but it had to be about twenty years ago. It was surely one of the snappy titles that caught my eye, like Bullet for a Star, Murder on the Yellow Brick Road, or Mildred Pierced. As a fan of 1940’s culture, private eye thrillers, and classic films, these fast-paced stories were like catnip for my brain, hitting all the right buttons every time.

Toby Peters, the titular investigator, is a hard-luck guy, beset with chronic back pain, a small bank account, and an office he shares with an unhygienic dentist. Most books see him shot at, chased, beaten up, scorned, and rejected, all of which he takes with a philosophical grain of salt. He’s smart, but bad luck during his investigations usually keeps him from making a skillful save or assembling all the suspects for a classic villain reveal. More usually he stumbles into the truth, a realistic touch I particularly savor.

A truly special facet of these books is all the cameo appearances by real-life folks from Old Hollywood, including the Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, and Mae West. Stuart M. Kaminsky was a cinema professor in real life, and he employs these guest appearances with skill and verve. He also pulls out all the stops at creating a believable 1940’s world for Toby to wander around in. From the advertisements our hero hears on the radio to the looming threat of war, the reader can gain a true sense of the period.

Just last week I decided to re-read all these books, since it’s been years since I picked one up. They’re available as eBooks now, or you could search out hardcover versions as I plan to do. Give Toby Peters a shot. How could you not love a character who eats cold cereal for dinner and tries to take care of an uncooperative stray cat?humphrey-bogart-619157_640And here’s a picture (copyright free!) of Bogey and Bacall, just to set the mood. Sadly, Toby Peters isn’t as cool as Humphrey, but in an odd coincidence, they do appear together in Bullet For a Star.

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Find It Friday: Ice Chips Candy

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Find It Friday: Ice Chips Candy

rsz_ice_chips_mix To brighten your day and not add any sugar to your diet, here is a recommendation: Ice Chips Xylitol candy. Two ladies, who appeared on Shark Tank, started this business of creating crunchy, flavorful candy treats and I wish I could thank them both personally. But since that’s unlikely, I’ll just recommend them to you. There are lots of different flavors like Root Beer Float and Pina Colada, as well as seasonal options like Cranberry and Clove. I have tins of these stashed everywhere so I can enjoy a guilt-free treat wherever I happen to be. They are supposedly even good for your teeth, but I’m not so sure something that tastes this good could be. Perhaps simply not having any sugar is good enough to get your dentist’s recommendation.

I’d love to see Black Raspberry or Mango flavors in the future. Or Cheesecake. Or Tiramisu. Or Chocolate Covered Cherry. I can dream…

I plan on trying the above pictured Coffee and Cream with Pumpkin Spice to see if I can get a latte experience going and I’ll post my impressions later.

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Tell It Tuesday: The Martian

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Tell It Tuesday: The Martian

moviecover1First, a disclaimer, I am Ridley Scott’s most grovelly fan and will see any of his movies, even the ones I know will be horrible (God and Kings) and those I had hopes for and was sorely disappointed by (Prometheus, Prometheus, and PROMETHEUS). Another disclaimer, I loved Andy Weir’s book and read it the same month it came out. It was a great book and I recommended it to several people which I don’t often do. Well, I read a lot of books, but I very rarely recommend any. It’s a process too fraught with uncertainty for me to attempt except under extreme circumstances. Andy Weir’s writing kung fu was impossible to resist.

There was a bit of a self-induced pall over my screening yesterday of The Martian. I wanted to like it, really wanted to like it because of Ridley Scott and the fabulous source material, which was exactly why I was worried about seeing it. I didn’t read any reviews of it, the better to temper my anticipation. After forcibly lowering my expectations to a painful degree, I settled in to the darkened theatre, ate popcorn, watched a half an hour of previews, and then the movie started.

Needless to say, I adored it and will rank it up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina as one of my top movies of 2015. Great performances, gorgeous cinematography, they stuck to the story, and best of all, they ‘scienced the s**t out of it’. I loved how they let an unappreciated science, botany, be as important as astrophysics. I loved the humility of the characters in confronting such a heart-breaking conundrum. It was wonderful, after the deluge of superhero movies, to watch normal humans achieving something without unbelievable feats of strength or harnessing the supernatural. Just smart people faced with mountains of problems and using determination, creativity, and sheer will to arrive at solution after solution. It was a very human movie, despite the alien setting and the out-of-this-world crises.

So, thumbs up to The Martian, both in written and film versions. You gave me believable characters that I rooted for, amazing extraterrestrial landscapes to remember, and some really great disco music in the soundtrack. And, just as an aside, kudos to the set decorator. Those potato sprouts were actual baby potato plants. When a film crew cares enough to include those details, I’ll trust them to take me on whatever ride they decide.

Have you seen it? Did you read the book? Comment below, or just subscribe to my newsletter for periodic updates. Like the periodic table, but fictional.

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