November 20th, 2016


Book Critique 2016 – 07/06/2016: Murder, She Wrote #3: Rum & Razors

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books under Murder, She Wrote series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

Rum & Razors is the third book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in 1995.

The plot begins with Jessica Fletcher after finishing her latest book is all set for her two weeks' vacation in St. Thomas. After the bout of pneumonia and the hectic schedule to finish her book, she was very much looking forward to this vacation. More for the reason that she would be residing in Lover's Lagoon while at St, Thomas - a place that had been bought and converted to a beautiful and expensive hotel by her friends from Cabot Cove Laurie and Walter Marschalk. All seemed peace and happy when she arrived. However from the minute she met Laurie at the airport, she felt the undercurrents of tension and stress in and around her.

At dinner that night, Walter reveals to Jessica far more details about the problems he has been having with the next door resort, Diamond Reef - the problems go to such an extent as to calling Walter and Laurie to have bought the land illegally by bribing the local Senator Bobby Jensen. He also gets a death threat in mail. Jessica although didn’t want to be involved in any of this sort this time around, she cannot but help to dig a little bit more into what was happening concerning Lover's Lagoon - only because Walter and Laurie have been very good friends with her. True to her fears which though she hadnt voiced out much, she finds Walter at the edge of the lagoon bordering near her villa, with his throat slit open. But, Laurie had told her that they were going to Miami that day and weren't going to be back until next day. So what was Walter doing in St. Thomas? Who killed him? Was the scandal true? Was there a connection between Walter's murder and a murder that had happened prior to Walter buying the place?

Several suspects line up in Jessica's mind - Chris Webb (partner of Laurie and Walter in Lover's Lagoon), Owners of Diamond Reef (The next door resort that was doing everything they can to get Lover's Lagoon reputation down and eventually buy it out), Jacob (a local employed as a gardener at the Lagoon and with a chip on his shoulder), Mark Dobson (general manager of Diamond Reef), Senator Bobby Jensen (friend of Walter who helped him get the land in the first place that became Lover's Lagoon, involved in the scandal around that buy and now resigned and heading to Miami, perhaps for good!), Jennifer Fletcher (Namesake to Jessica with similar initials, but a Ms. instead of a Mrs.), Fred Capehart (a colleague of Jennifer Fletcher, followed her all the way to St. Thomas) and finally Laurie Marschalk herself (she was suing Walter for divorce).

A very strong plot for a simple murder mystery. For once this series doesn't seem as simple as it looks. Another good book for any day of the year.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) GLOTCOYB - Remember this from the 32nd book in the series, Fatal Feast? (Check my review of the book here) Well, if you havent read that book, then here is a spoiler alert. Jessica receives these anonymous envelopes with these letters cut from magazines and newspapers and of various sizes. At the end of that book, we come to know that it meant "Good Luck On The Completion Of Your Book" and her friends at Cabot Cove had been behind these envelopes. All in good meaning, however. :). Now we know that the author re-used the scene from the 3rd book in his/her 32nd book. Very interesting.
2) Interesting words are seen throughout the book - terra firma (meaning dry land), lais·sez-faire (attitude to let things take their own course), travail (laborious effort), jo-jeezly (a Maine english to be used in negatice context).
3) Few Grammatical errors are seen - Missing "to" in the second line of the third para (Pg. 31)
4) Lover's Lagoon - a special drink that the bus boy (I think that's the name for these people!), Thomas gives to Jessica on the first day she settles in at the hotel. Per his version, it is a combination of dark and light rum, coconut milk, pineapple, kahlua and few other ingredients. I searched online to see if this drink indeed exists. But didn’t find any reference there. ;)
5) Jessica mentions about Candid Microphone to Detective Calid. The was predecessor to Candid Camera and was on radio. (More about it here)

Movie Critique 2016 – 07/07/2016: Monster's University

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: For those much needed laughs, silly antics and learning lessons of life in the process, this is another perfect movie to watch.

Monster's University is a 2013 American animated comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The movie is a prequel to 2001 hit animated film Monsters, Inc. The plot basically revolves around two monsters Michael "Mike" Wazowski and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan during their time studying at college.

Michael "Mike" Wazowski as a young monster had always dreamed of going to Monsters, Inc. and become the best scarer. Chekc out his school bus and his scare card on his name that he designs.

However things turn out to be not so friendly as he imagines when he goes to Monsters University for his college education. His roomamte is Randall "Randy" Boggs.

He comes across James P. "Sulley" Sullivan, the obnoxious monster who gets through college only because of him coming from a privileged family. Mike works had to get through the semester while Sulley just relies on his abilities.

While Mike steadily succeeds in his college, Sulley starts to falter. On the day of the final exam though Mike gets into confrontation with Sulley despite his best efforts to avoid him, and Dean Hardscrabble fires them both.

Mike has only one more chance to prove himself and he enters the university's "Scare Games", challenging Dean that if he wins he gets reinstated into the university again - the games originally devised by Dean herself.  The challenge gets accepted and the games begin. Only issue for Mike is that one of his team-member is the fellow monster Sulley who was partly in responsible for being fired from the University in the first place.

The rest of the movie follows Mike and Sulley in how they become from rivals to friends, win each level of the Scare Games and reach to the finals. In the process they come across Randall "Randy" Boggs (the chameleon that has ability to become invisible), Oozma Kampa Fraternity members (who form Mike's team for the Scare Games),

Roar Omega Roar (an alpha fraternity team that originally draft Sulley as their member but end up taking up Randy towards the end),

the Snowman / Yeti and others.

Will they win the final game? Will they come out on top and get reinstated back into the University? Well no fun if I write about it all. Go pop in that video or click on Netflix or Youtube and watch it for yourself. I can promise you that the ride would be super fun.

With several new characters introduced and several of the original characters reprise, the movie weaves perfectly into the beginnings of the Monsters, Inc. movie. This film has certainly charmed one and everyone. No wonder it went to gross a lot that year.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Nathan Fillion, who portrayed the role of Richard Castle in the TV show Castle (My link to the review is here:), portrays the role of Johnny J. Worthington III, president of Roar Omega Roar.

2) Bob Peterson as Roz, a slug-like monster with a raspy voice reminiscent of Selma Diamond's who administrates for Scarefloor F at Monsters, Inc. is introduced in this film.

3) Scarer cards at the end credits shows all the characters that graduate from Monsters University, Legends and as well as those whom we will see in the first episode Monsters Inc movie.
4) The movie when released was followed by a short film, The Blue Umbrella, in the theaters. I havent watched this but another one for my future posts.
5) An animated short film titled Party Central, which takes place shortly after the events of Monsters University, premiered in Fall 2013. Again another one for my future posts.

Book Critique 2016 – 07/08/2016: Naked Heat

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you like easy read mystery with logic involving brain added with romance.

Naked Heat is the second book in the series of Castle books written by the fictional writer Richard Castle from the TV series Castle (portrayed by Nathan Fillion). The first book, Heat Wave, was an ok read, more so because I was comparing it to the TV Series. So this time along I decided to read the second book purely from subjective perspective. Yet, I did traverse a bit away from the path and into comparative mode once in a while. It's much better written than the first one, and of course coincides with the Season II of the TV Show.

The plot opens with a brutal murder of the gossip columnist and scandal-queen of New York - Cassidy Towne - when NYPD Detective Nikki Heat  and her team Detective Ochoa and Detective Raley arrive at the scene. Who do they find but the magazine journalist Jameson Rook. Nikki is surprised but not shocked to see him at the crime scene though. After his piece "Crime Wave Meets Heat Wave" in First Press magazine she had been recognized everywhere making her famous - much to her irritation. But what bothered her was that the article was supposed to be on her team but ended up being only on her, with her team mates barely mentioned, almost like footnotes. Neither her detective Roach (collectively called so) were pleased too, esp Raley whose nickname Sweet Tea was published in the article.

Despite their dis-interest to have Rook tag-along again, he gets assigned as a ride-along for Nikki Heat and her team - because he was following closely Cassidy Towne for his next piece in First Press magazine. Will Nikki and Rook revamp their relationship that was so short lived during their previous case? Will Rook charm his way not only into Nikki's life but also into the lives of other detectives at her precinct and redeem himself from the column he wrote? In the meanwhile, someone attacks the ME Lauren Parry and Detective Ochoa to steal Cassidy Towne's corpse? Why would anyone want to steal her body unless there was evidence on that implicated them in the murder? As the tug of war between the emotions of Rook and Heat go on, they together form a team again in the hunt for the murderer of Cassidy Towne.  What is murder to do with Esteben Padilla's - the corpse that Detective Heat and her team found a few hours prior to Cassidy Towne's?

During their investigation, Nikki Heat comes across Petar Matics - her ex-boyfriend when she was taking a semester in Venice studying opera production at the Gran Teatro La Fenice. And instantly Jameson Rook feels threatened by the torch Petar still carried for Heat. But are they really in a committed relationship to feel so? They are not really, so why does Rook feel so? What will he do about it?

Several suspects line up in the process - Chester Ludlow (a disgraced politician whose secret BDSM nights were made public by Cassidy), Holly Flanders (the illegitimate daughter of Cassidy and was abandoned by her when Holly was born), Toby Mills (pitcher to the Yankees who had an altercation with Cassidy a few days before her murder), celebrity chef Richmond Vergennes (chef who had a very bitter argument with Cassidy just a week before her murder), Soleil Gray (a washed up rock icon who was making a comeback after her rehab and loss of her ex-lover Reed Wakefield, and had a beef with Cassidy as well) and Derek Snow (the concierge at The Dragonfly that Soleil had frequented).

There is a scene written by the author in this book, that clearly connects to Season II of the Castle TV Show. Jameson Rook comments that if ever an asteroid hits, she should duck and cover inside the claw-foot bath tub she has. In the two-part story, - ran as episode #17 and #18 in the season - Kate Beckett's house gets blown towards the end of the first part - episode titled Tick, Tick, Tick… - and Castle finds her ducked under the toppled bathtub at the opening of the second part - episode titled Boom!.

A well-kinitted plot that includes gossip, murder, paparazzi, stalking and mayhem for Detective Heat and Jameson Rook. Intense plot in many ways showing a deft hand of the writer. Also it was nice to see Jameson Rook elevated to something more than just a jester at one police plaza. This is definitely coming on to those serious mystery categories like Mary Higgins Clark and the likes. However, I still would like to see Nikki Heat's character better. She is the best cop no doubt, but there is a flaw and crack in her personality that bugs me. Perhaps the future books remedy that.

Another good book for those cozy nights.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Did you know that Stana Katic (who portrayed the role of Detective Kate Beckett in the hit TV series Castle) was in Quantum of Solace. I didn’t know either until I was looking for a picture of Simon Kassianides while posting a review on his Hallmark movie Smooch and found this pic of both of them. She portrayed the role as Corrine Veneau, a Canadian agent and Yusef's latest target in the film. I barely remember her in the movie so cant even remember the scene where she was in the movie at all. Needless to say I was hooked on to Daniel Craig all the time. :P Here is the scene from the movie:

She must have acted in many TV shows and movies in short roles but Castle's Detective Kate Beckett suited her well.

2) Rook's mother Margaret Rook is introduced again in this book. Yet there is no mention of any child or ex-wives for Jameson Rook yet unlike Richard Castle in the TV Show. Perhaps future books might have some reference.
3) The author mentions that there are only three sketch artists remaining in all of NYPD. I wonder if the art of sketching in police line has reduced now that so much use of social media and cctv is involved now.
4) Soleil Gray calls Madonna as Madge- which truly is her nickname when she was in Britain.
5) Rook mentions about Chekhov readings esp about The Lady with the Little Dog. Never read these before. Something read about it in future.
6) Interesting places from NYC mentioned in the book - Mud Coffee (a coffee shop off second - although Wiki calls it as a coffee company that sells in a converted Consolidated Edison step-van known as the Mudtruck. Check for more here), E.A.T. near 80th and Madison, Café Lalo (where You've Got Mail movie was pictured)