Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 1:53am

Have You Heard About... The Good Nurse

… the real-life serial killer who spent over 15 years of his life killing patients at local hospitals? The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber follows the story of Charlie Cullen, who worked as a nurse at multiple hospitals across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He had a good work ethic, was well-liked amongst his colleagues, and did his job well, if you overlook the fact that he has been implicated in the deaths of over 300 patients. Charlie liked to poison IV bags in the supply closets and watch as the IVs were given to random patients across the hospital. Administrators at many of these hospitals suspected him, but none ever went so far as to prosecute him. Charlie was simply relieved of his duties and eventually found work elsewhere.

The second half of the book details the investigation into a mysterious patient death which was eventually linked back to Charlie. But even more frightening than the murders were the lengths that the hospitals went to in order to avoid a potentially disastrous scandal. The detectives enlisted the help of a former coworker and friend of Charlie’s to convict him, and her taped conversations are included at the end of the book.

The story itself is frightening, but the author’s journalistic writing kept it believable without straying into melodrama. Charlie is not portrayed as a victim, nor is he portrayed as a soulless monster. He is a complicated criminal with motivations that go far beyond having a rough childhood or becoming too attached to his mother.

But the author doesn’t try to give an explanation for Charlie’s behavior. He presents the facts and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. And in this case, very little embellishment is needed. The book concludes with Charlie and his friend eating at a restaurant as his friend tries to provoke him into confessing. The dialogue, which is taken word-for-word from the official transcript, is one of the most chilling parts of the story.

The murders are not particularly bloody but this still makes for an extremely disturbing read. Definitely suggested for fans of true crime, and its lack of gore might entice other readers as well, but it’s a book that will likely keep you awake at night.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 1:29am

Have You Heard About... Carniepunk

… the darker side of carnivals? If you’ve ever wondered whether they actually have a lighter side, Carniepunk is the anthology for you. It has fourteen great stories by authors who specialize in dark fantasy and horror, including Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, and Kevin Hearne. They look into the shadows behind the midway lights to find what is lurking and what is looking back.

As you read through this book, it’s hard to decide which is worse — the demons, vampires, and other supernatural monsters, or the psychopaths and serial killers who are completely human. While some of these stories are relatively light and many have humorous elements, others are not for the faint of heart (or stomach). Running away to join the carnival may doom you forever or save your soul. Pay your money and take your chances. (Or play it safe and check out this book for free!)

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 1:33am

Have You Heard About... The Martian

… the debut novel that’s part science fiction, part survival thriller, and 100% amazing? In Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his crew mistakenly believes him to be dead. When he comes to, he is faced with the nearly insurmountable task of trying to survive in an alien and hostile environment with limited supplies and technological capabilities…for a period of up to four years.

It’s an intriguing concept, but it doesn’t even come close to explaining why this book has been so successful. The actual science behind the story is rock solid and insanely detailed, but it never feels overwhelming. The suspense about Mark’s survival situation is unrelenting until the very last pages. The humor is, well, hilarious. (I literally laughed out loud while reading this book, at home, by myself.) It’s like reading a Michael Crichton novel with a sarcastic streak. And without giving away any spoilers, the ending is pitch-perfect.

When I finished this book, I had an urge to a) turn right to the front of the book and start reading again, b) run around and start smacking people upside the head until they agreed to read it, or c) throw the book in the air in a fit of uncontrollable joy and excitement. This may end up being my favorite book of 2014, and we’re not even halfway through the year! I haven’t been this thrilled about a book in a very, very long time.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 1:13am

Have You Heard About... Dream Dog

… the boy who wanted a dog more than anything? Harry’s father wants him to be happy, but his nose can’t handle dog hair on top of the irritation from his job at the pepper factory. Finally, with a little help from his X-36 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet, Harry makes his own Dream Dog, Waffle. They’re inseparable, despite everyone’s claims that Waffle doesn’t really exist. What will happen when Harry has a chance to get a real, live dog though?

This is a great story about imagination by Lou Berger, with exuberant illustrations by David Catrow. Dream Dog does a wonderful job of exploring the point where imagination and reality come together, without sacrificing either one.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 1:13am

Have You Heard About... Mrs. Poe

… the love affair between Frances Osgood, a struggling female poet, and the mysterious, brooding Edgar Allen Poe? Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen may be a work of historical fiction, but the love affair and other period details make for an astoundingly realistic novel.

The story revolves around the dark love triangle between Poe, his young bride (and cousin!), and Frances Osgood, a struggling poet who meets Poe at the height of his success and finds him just as intriguing as his poetry. Frances is still legally married, even though her husband left months ago and has been seen in the company of several women. And in 1840’s New York, the idea of a woman carrying on an adulterous affair has severe and far-reaching consequences. And then there is Virginia Poe, Edgar’s young, manipulative bride who attempts to cultivate a relationship with Frances, although Frances is quite sure there is an ulterior motive behind the friendship.

Edgar Allan Poe is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of romantic leads, but the author does a magnificent job of portraying Poe not as the brooding and macabre legend of pop culture, but as a conflicted, flawed, and intelligent man. I found myself swooning over Mr. Poe just as much as Frances was!

And although the novel is told from Frances’ point of view, the eponymous Mrs. Poe is the source of the novel’s most suspenseful moments. Her off-putting nature creates a sense of instability, and I found myself feeling just as unbalanced as Frances whenever Mrs. Poe was around.

This is a novel that I could theoretically suggest to anyone, with its minimal explicit content and superb storytelling. And despite the novel’s pervasive chill, there is something quite magical about seeing these historical characters brought back to life. This book haunted me long after I finished it.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 1:32am

Have You Heard About... Man Made Boy

… the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride? Jon Skovron tells his story in Man Made Boy — a teenager who feels even more alienated and out of place than most. Boy grew up in a small haven for monsters, surrounded by creatures of mythology, many of whom looked down on his family for being science-based instead of magical. Boy’s skills with computers let him communicate with the outside world, and he craves real freedom as he gets older and feels increasingly trapped in the small, safe world where he grew up. When he has the chance to get out, he grabs it, but the real world is very different from his expectations.

This is a wonderfully-written book with great characters and world building. Boy’s isolation and oddly-sheltered childhood leave him very naive in some ways. It takes him a long time to stop simply reacting and become willing to find (or make) his own place in the world. Skovron does a great job of showing Boy’s increasing maturity as he gets bounced from one incident to another until he finally takes a stand and starts making his own choices. The story is filled with action, humor, and romance, plus some lessons on the responsibilities of parents (or creators) to their offspring.

This very powerful book made me laugh and cry, and it made me think about families and what we create.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 1:58am

Have You Heard About... Hannibal

… the TV show that critics are calling “deliciously disturbing?”

I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to horror franchise reboots, and until last year, I had yet to see a reboot that did the original series justice. And then I discovered the TV show, Hannibal.

The show is loosely based on characters and events mentioned in Red Dragon, the first published novel in the Hannibal Lecter series, and takes place before Hannibal’s incarceration. Will Graham, a teacher at the FBI Academy, is called in by the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, Jack Crawford, to help profile a serial killer. Will has the ability to understand and empathize with killers, which takes an extreme psychological toll but also allows him to catch ruthless criminals. Hannibal Lecter, at the request of Jack Crawford, is called in to evaluate Will’s mental state on a continuous basis while assisting with the investigations. But there is evidence of another serial killer as well…a brilliant and ruthless psychopath who keeps (and eats) surgical trophies from his victims.

Obviously, we know Hannibal Lecter is the other serial killer at large, and the series plays on this existing knowledge brilliantly. The dialogue is full of gruesome double entendres, dark irony, and subtle nods to the original Hannibal Lecter films, and the graphic imagery is tempered with elegant sophistication. Actor Mads Mikkelsen plays the role of Hannibal Lecter with subtle intensity, creating a character that is intelligent, charismatic, and absolutely bone-chilling. In fact, I will even go on record as saying he equals (if not surpasses) Anthony Hopkins’ performances in the classic films. I know. I can’t believe I said it either.

Hannibal is without a doubt one of the darkest and most disturbing shows on TV, but it manages to elevate an established horror series to an honest-to-God art form. If you’re a horror fan, this is a must see.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Tags: DVD, horror, review, TV
Post date: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 1:09am

Have You Heard About... Anything That Loves

… the Kinsey scale of sexuality? It charts orientation from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). Charles “Zan” Christensen edited a collection of graphic fiction and nonfiction called Anything That Loves: Comics Beyond “Gay” and “Straight” that looks at the space in between those extremes (and sometimes next to them or on a different chart entirely). The people in these stories range from gay or straight with exceptions to bi- and pansexuals to asexuals to transexuals and much more, sometimes even for the same person at different times of life. Some prefer to simply use “queer” as a way of saying that they don’t think any of the labels really apply to them.

This is an anthology, so the writing and art varies widely from story to story. Many of the works deal with disturbing issues — self-doubt, homophobia, identity issues, depression, rejection, and struggles to get friends and family to accept that “gay” and “straight” are not the only options. However, many of them also focus on the satisfaction that comes from accepting who you really are and the joy of finding people who love you for yourself, regardless of your labels (or lack thereof).

I think a lot about sexuality, gender identity and labels, but this book still gave me plenty of new aspects to consider. It also has a great balance of things that made me think, “Gah! How could someone say/do that?” and “Awwww, that’s so sweet!” Check this out if you or someone you know doesn’t quite fit at either 0 or 6.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 1:09am

Have You Heard About... The Bone Collector

… the brilliant quadriplegic forensic investigator, Lincoln Rhyme? Rhyme makes his first appearance* in Jeffrey Deaver’s The Bone Collector when a savage serial killer starts harvesting the bones of his victims in increasingly gruesome ways. Also joining the search is Amelia Sachs, a police detective who suddenly becomes Rhyme’s unofficial and unwilling partner.

Most readers will come to this novel because of the forensic details, and they will not be disappointed. The wealth of information about crime scene investigations is ASTOUNDING. Those were actually my favorite parts of the novel - the collecting of evidence, the conclusions drawn from a tiny clod of dirt or a stray carpet fiber. And the writing itself was just as sharp and intelligent as Rhyme’s investigative skills.

And then there are the plot twists…This book is full of them, from beginning to end. But the author kept them from feeling cheap or manipulative, so I felt like I was reading in a constant state of surprise.

After I finished reading, I took stock of everything I had come across in this book - intelligent writing with fascinating forensic details, well-developed and interesting characters, a detailed setting, a terrifying serial killer, and plot twists all over the place. Very rarely have I come across such a well-rounded and well-executed thriller. If you enjoy forensic mysteries and have not yet read this novel, read it. Read it now. No, seriously. Stop reading this and go pick up the book.

* The later books in the series include The Coffin Dancer, The Empty Chair, The Stone Monkey, The Vanished Man, The Twelfth Card, The Cold Moon, The Broken Window, The Burning Wire, The Kill Room, and The Skin Collector.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 1:03am

Have You Heard About... Sugar and Spice

… the mousy librarian who ended up with the hunky undercover FBI agent?  In this 1987 large-print reissue of Sugar and Spice by Debbie Macomber, plain-looking Jayne Gilbert is determined to go to her high school reunion with a good-looking guy. Being a librarian, she checks out a book called How to Pick up a Man. She knows that you can learn a lot of  useful information by reading!

In her apartment elevator, Jayne runs into her neighbor, Riley Chambers – literally. Riley thinks she wants to find a guy and get married when he sees the title of her book. Jayne has no idea that Riley is an undercover FBI agent, and he’s determined to keep it that way. Through a lot of teasing and misunderstanding, and a best friend who encourages Jayne to take a chance on love, Jayne and Riley finally come together in a very predictable ending, with a slight twist, that will leave you with the “warm fuzzies.” This was a fun fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)