Thursday, November 8, 2018

IQ by Joe Ide

Our Mystery Book Club selection for November was IQ by Joe Ide. I liked it. It is a story of strength, perseverance and survival in the face of adversity. It was quite a page turner and hard to put down. 


About: A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores. East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch.
They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay.
This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes. "

The story goes back and forth between 2013 as Isaiah (IQ) is working his most recent case, and 2005, when Isaiah was still a teenager in this "bad" neighborhood.

In 2005, Isaiah is living with his older brother Marcus, going to high school, participating in school sports and doing ok. In a split second, his life changes when he looses his brother to a hit and run accident.. On his own, no family, no money no means of support, he has to make his own decisions. If social services find out he is alone, he will be sent who knows where. Does he get a job, join a gang, join in a life of crime? 

Isaiah has some great qualities in his favor; intelligence, perseverance, patience, incredible observation skills and especially a conscious. 

My thoughts:

I found the other characters interesting and amusing. Dodson is Isaiah's friend from high school. Deronda is an ex-girlfriend of Dodson's but is still hanging around. The banter between Isaiah and Dodson reminds me of the relationship and banter between the current Hawaii 5-0 McGarrett and Danny. Partners, would do anything for the other, best of friends but drive each other crazy. I found their conversations and those between Isaiah and Deronda funny. IQ is the straight man and they are the comedic sidekick.

As I read the book, I could see a movie playing in my head. The "security guards" for Cal the rapper, also mad me laugh. Not sure they were meant to be, but in all their seriousness, discussions, and showing off, they seemed kind of silly.

Now, the language throughout the book is bad. Lots of swearing. But...I see the language as a character in this book. It is part of that neighborhood and culture. I don't think the story would have worked as well without it. It is part of that culture.

The book club members' thoughts:

A few people put the book down after 50ish pages because of the language and the story line of a rapper. Just not their thing. A few more read it but again didn't care for the subject matter. The majority of the members liked it. They liked Isaiah and the similarities to Sherlock. A couple of people already had book two checked out.

There are two more IQ books in the series:
Book #2 is Righteous and #3 is Wrecked.

IQ received an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for and Edgar Award, Barry and Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and short-listed for The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger- 2018.

Joe Ide is of Japanese American descent and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Joe’s favorite books were the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories. The idea that a person could face the world and vanquish his enemies with just his intelligence fascinated him. Joe went on to earn a graduate degree and had several careers before writing his debut novel, IQ, inspired by his early experiences and love of Sherlock. Joe lives in Santa Monica, California.

I recommend it and I do want to read the next two books in the series.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Have you ever read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley? The original book? I have not. We watched The Strange Life of Dr. Frankenstein on  TCM about Mary Shelley and this famous book. I thought it was pretty interesting and wanted to know more about her. I thought this would be good to share for Halloween.


When you hear "Frankenstein", what do you think of? I think of two movies; the 1931 adaptation with Boris Karloff and Colin Clive or the 1974 adaptation with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle. There are so many movies made about this character. From just Frankenstein to movies about Frankenstein's bride, comic adaptations with Abbot and Costello, Frankenstein's island, Jesse James meets Frankenstein's daughter (really?), Dracula and Frankenstein and kids version called Frankenweenie. I think I counted 60+. Do the movies follow the book?

Mary wrote Frankenstein in 1816 at the age of 18 on a writing challenge. According to the show we watched, Mary had run away with her lover Percy Shelley when she was 16. They traveled and stopped in Switzerland for awhile. In the summer of 1816, they spent the summer hanging out with Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Claire Clairemont. They were all interested in writing etc, and also opium laced wine. One of the group set forth a challenge that they all write something spooky and report back. Apparently Mary was having quite a time with trying to come up with an idea and the group was really giving her a hard time. Finally the idea for the Frankenstein book came to her in not a dream but a reverie. (I wonder if it had something to do with the wine).

Here is what the book is actually about:

"Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley's name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823. Shelley had travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where two centuries before an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she traveled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topics of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the story within the novel. Frankenstein is infused with elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement and is also considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction. Brian Aldiss has argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story, because unlike in previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character "makes a deliberate decision" and "turns to modern experiments in the laboratory" to achieve fantastic results. It has had a considerable influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories, films, and plays. Since publication of the novel, the name "Frankenstein" is often used to refer to the monster itself, as is done in the stage adaptation by Peggy Webling. This usage is sometimes considered erroneous, but usage commentators regard the monster sense of "Frankenstein" as well-established and an acceptable usage. In the novel, the monster is identified via words such as "creature", "monster", "fiend", "wretch", "vile insect", "daemon", "being", and "it". Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, the monster refers to himself as "the Adam of your labours", and elsewhere as someone who "would have" been "your Adam", but is instead "your fallen angel."

It's pretty fascinating that a person in 1818 would think up the subject of bringing someone back to life, the procedure, using electricity etc. And for a woman to write about a subject like at the time was unheard of. I wanted to know a bit more about her also. The feature on Mary and the book, shared that her first child died as an infant. Some speculate that her loss triggered the ideas of bringing a person back to life. I found it interesting that so much of her bio was like a teenager in the 60's... A teenager has a boyfriend her father doesn't like, she drops out of school, runs away with the boyfriend, uses drugs, gets pregnant etc. Gosh.

Here is more about her life from Wiki:
Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
After Wollstonecraft's death less than a month after her daughter Mary was born, Mary was raised by Godwin, who was able to provide his daughter with a rich, if informal, education, encouraging her to adhere to his own liberal political theories. When Mary was four, her father married a neighbour, with whom, as her stepmother, Mary came to have a troubled relationship.[2][3]
In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father's political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. Together with Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy's child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley's first wife, Harriet.
 In 1816, the couple famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53. 
Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements. Scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837). Studies of her lesser-known works, such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46), support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin."

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Half-length portrait of a woman wearing a black dress sitting on a red sofa. Her dress is off the shoulder, exposing her shoulders. The brush strokes are broad.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Featuring on Friday: Janet Pywell

I was introduced to Janet Pywell by another author I like, Virginia King. She thought I may like Janet's Culture Crime series. Although I have only read one of the books so far I really liked it and am ready to move into the next book in the series. I think the settings and topics are different and if they are like the first book, pretty thrilling.

Janet Pywell

About Janet:

"My background is in travel and tourism and I use my experiences of living and travelling abroad and knowledge of locations as an integral part of scenes in my novels. I use my writing as an excuse to travel, meet new people and enjoy exotic food and drink from around the world. I have a passion for history and cultural heritage and I love to see people maintain deep-rooted traditions. Writing is a personal challenge for me. I love the entertainment and pleasure of plotting events and creating fictional characters and I hope that you, my reader, will find excitement and enjoyment from my work."


The Golden Icon is the prequel to the Culture Crime series. I finished this book recently and decided I would combine my thoughts and feature Janet in the same post.

About: "Josephine Lavelle, a once-famous opera singer who became an international outcast, has one last opportunity to resurrect her career. She was born to sing Puccini’s Tosca and is determined to earn the right to perform again on the world’s most prestigious and celebrated stages.

But her fight for the future she craves is derailed when her ex-husband embroils her in a cynical blackmail plot. She is forced to take possession of a solid gold icon, part of a secret hoard of art treasures stolen by the Nazis - that dangerous men are prepared to kill for.

As well as determining the fate of the Golden Icon, Josephine must come to terms with her past, and fight for her own life.

If only her choices were simple..."

I found this book to be a very suspenseful story with lots of twists, turns and surprises. There is also  interesting information about Italy, Ireland, art, and the art that the Nazi's stole during WWII. I really felt for Josephine. She worked so hard to be La Tosca, only to be thwarted by cads and thieves! Everyone is after the Golden Icon; Italy, Ireland, Josephine's ex-husband, her lover...and they will kill to get it. I wanted to jump right into Masterpiece, the first book, but I am behind in my reading. :(

Masterpiece (Book 1) Culture Crime Series
Masterpiece is book one in the Culture Crime series.

About: "Mikky is planning the heist of her life.
But when opera diva Josephine Lavelle appears on the scene her plans start to unravel.
An investigative journalist is intent on uncovering Josephine’s secret but Mikky faces a far greater threat from an unexpected source.
She stands to lose everything, including her life…
How far will she go to pursue her dream?
A gripping crime thriller. An exciting, fast-paced novel involving an exciting heist, an unusual robbery, and an innovative thief. Her secrets will have you hooked in the first book of this debut trilogy."

Josephine from the prequel is in this book and her secret, (which we know about from the prequel) is catching up with her. Mikky Dos Santos is introduced.  


Book of Hours is book two in the series.

About: "Mikky dos Santos, artist and photographer, is lured back to Malaga with the hope of rebuilding her past. When an old friend asks her to determine the authenticity of a rare manuscript she is drawn into a web of lies and deceit. Travelling to Bruges and Canterbury she must use all her experience and resources to face the trauma of her past and to find justice.

After a shocking discovery, a Janus figure in the art world forces her to make an exchange and she comes face to face with her friend’s murderer.

Will the price be too high for the retribution she seek." 


Stolen Script is book three.

About: "A Gripping International Crime Thriller from author Janet Pywell's Culture Crime Series. Artist and photographer, Mikky dos Santos is brilliant but rebellious. After a personal catastrophe in New York she insists on going to Greece to authenticate a valuable parchment where she makes a promise to return it to the Jewish museum in Rhodes. But time is running out and Nikos Pavlides isn't giving up the Torah easily. He's also hiding a deeper, darker secret and, as he plays a deadly game, the stakes are raised. Faced with drug dealers and human traffickers with no regard for life, Mikky's survival instincts kick in as she uncovers the sordid reality of the truth and its savage consequences. Fighting for her life, how will Mikky fulfil her promise? This enthralling, fast-paced thriller is an emotional roller coaster of shocking twists and turns... Set in New York (America), Izmir (Turkey) and Rhodes (Greece) this exciting novel will keep you turning the pages. 
It's A Deadly Game.."

As you can see, the books are all set in different countries. I love the covers of all of the books. The books all feature a piece of old/antique art, some of which are based on real items. 

 I have always been fascinated by archaeology, relics that are found and the history behind them. When I was a kid, I kind of thought I would like to go into archaeology, but then realized it took hours of sifting through dirt and not always finding anything. I don't have the patience for that. 
I also find the story of how the Nazis' stole so much art and that some has still not been found interesting and incredible. That story is in the prequel of course. Masterpiece is based on the painting The Concert by Vermeer that was stolen in 1990 and is still missing. The Book of Hours is about an illuminated manuscript. Illuminated manuscripts were made through the middle ages. The Stolen Script is about a Torah that turns up in a Jewish museum in Rhodes. 

As above, Janet's background is in travel and tourism, but she has also lived in many different places so has a good feel for some of the places her books are set in.

Janet has also written two books of short stories and a stand alone love story.


Red Shoes and Other Short Stories is "an eclectic mix of entertaining and interesting tales, some based on fact and others entirely on imagination."


Bedtime Reads: "Bedtime Reads consists of seventeen short stories based on relationships. Each individual tale spotlights a variety of compelling characters revealing their tangled emotions and complicated dreams. These bite-sized page-turners show the lengths to which some people will go in pursuit of happiness or revenge."

Note the writing on the cover: "Short stories leaving you stirred not shaken." Cute. :)


Ellie Bravo: "When Ellie Bravo loses her prestigious job and walks out on her partner, she decides to escape London for a new life as the marketing manager of a struggling IT firm.
But that’s when things start to really go wrong." 

All of Janet's books can be found on Amazon. You can download The Golden Icon for free at this time.

Janet has a great website. If you click on About Me (not the drop down list just the heading), there is a really good interview with her. Only about 11 minutes, but will give you a synopsis of the books, more about Janet and her writing process. I love how she and many authors seem to let the characters write the books. That is so interesting to me and mysterious.

Here is the link to Janet's website. If you like thrillers about different countries, history, and art, I think you will like The Cultural Crime series.