Monday, June 11, 2018

A Santa Barbara Murder Mystery

Nothing That Is OursNothing That Is Ours by D.J. Palladino
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A murder mystery set in Santa Barbara in 1958. The only words in that sentence that don't excite me are A, set, in, and in. So I knew this was going to be a good read!

D.J. Palladino's So Cal noir crime novel is so much more than the hardboiled detective fiction it's modeled after. It includes the brilliant mind of Aldous Huxley and his drugs with Dennis Hopper tagging along and doing his Apocalypse Now character. Frank Lloyd Wright grumbles on to the scene at one point. There's also incest, local politics, secret government projects, and an underwater fantasy world. And the scary thing is that much of this is based upon fact!

Our hero is a newspaper man, who comes from an influential well-to-do Santa Barbara family. He's also made his own bones with a successful work of fiction, which is interspersed throughout Nothing That Is Ours. A novel within a novel as they say. Anyhow, said hero has to -just has to- figure the whos and whys of a body that washed up on shore with some rather peculiar wounds. He also has to deal with his insatiable attraction to his cousin.

This is a very clever book that often revolves around intellectuals bandying witty gibes. It's not your typical whodunnit. Nonetheless, I was so intrigued by it all that Palladino held me until the very end, because hell, I wanted to know who dunnit!

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A WWI Choose Your Own Adventure???

World War IWorld War I by Gwenyth Swain
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Choose Your Own Adventure styled book on World War I seems disrespectful. CYOA are written for fun. It would be like doing a Mad Libs for 9/11.

Once I got past that feeling and got done to reading this thing --and read it I did, for I can not help myself when it comes to a CYOA-- I actually enjoyed this a good deal. It treats the war and its participants with the honor they deserve.

Unlike all CYOAs I've read, in this You Choose book you choose from three different characters to play: a Belgian nurse, a British Tommy, and an American ambulance driver. Because it's broken up this way, while maintaining the usual short CYOA number of pages, the storylines within World War I: An Interactive History Adventure are necessarily short. Usually you get about a dozen pages per story before surviving or dying.

And there is a lot of dying in this one. More than any other CYOA I've ever read. Author Gwenyth Swain didn't pussyfoot around the bloodiness of this particularly gruesome war, at least not considering this was probably written for someone around 10-12 years of age.

Yes, it is short, so much of the war is criminally curtailed, but still, I learned a tidbit or two. Seems there's always something new to learn about this seemingly insane war no matter how much I read about it.

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