Monday, January 27, 2014

Novel Suggestions #2: The Lons by Peggy Rambach

Great Stories' regular book review feature will discuss both new and older releases from mainstream and independent authors alike.  The selections are made of the bloggers own personal reading preferences and not solicited in any way.  We would enjoy your feedback and discussion!

Peggy Rembach is a newer author on the scene who has received some accolades in the New England market with two Massachusetts Individual Artist Grant awards and a strong teaching pedigree in the fields of Corrections, Health Care, and Medical Humanities.  As well, she has taught Creative Writing at Chatham University and for the University of New Hampshire's graduate programs.  Residing in Northeastern Massachusetts, she wrote the book I had the pleasure of previewing for you called The Lons. It is not Peggy's first effort, but it is her first in some time as her last book, Fighting Gravity, was published thirteen years ago.  

The Lons is a story that centers around the discovery of a mysterious set of lifeforms growing in the watermelon fields of a farmer named Leonard Slinket.  Slinket is a man who leads a solitary life and when he happens upon the strange wiffle ball-sized shapes growing in the place of his watermelons, he is at once bewildered and frustrated by their lack of growth.  But he quickly senses that there is more to these 'lons (as Leonard likes to call his crop) than meets the eye.  Leonard's mundane and paint-by-numbers life has just been given new meaning with his quest to solve the enigma of the lon's origin and the reason for their presence on his property. 
Adding particular complication is the uneasy friendship Leonard has with younger and more extroverted friend, John Bigby.  When Leonard brings John in on his secret, a clash of philosophy immediately sets a chain of events into motion that will change both their worlds possibly forever.  John's romantic interest, Lydia Rice, is a science teacher who also lends her help to solving the great mystery before them, but at what cost?
Rambach's story runs 123 pages, and readers who pick up the book will find themselves with a story that is brief enough to be fit into a busy and active lifestyle, but not so brief to be left wanting.  Her writing style will be a pleasure for those readers who enjoy highly descriptive prose.  Her lengthy sentences might cause some casual or distracted readers to go back and look again at what they read, losing themselves in the detail.  There is no doubt that Rambach's style is to flesh out her character's thoughts and environment as vividly as possible.  

 Peggy Rambach, author, undated photo

Artist Pat Keck provides the front cover of the book, which features the transfixed visage of Leonard Slinket holding one of the lons, which is not in proportion to the lons that actually inhabit Rambach's story, but was undoubtedly done to inspire a more impactful visual effect.  The image, too, might lead one to believe that the story may be more directed towards a younger audience, but this is decidedly not the case after having read her work.  The story is certainly adult in theme, without being crass or inappropriate for a less mature audience.  

If you are in the market for a new author, you could do far worse than picking up a copy of The Lons.  As a fan of short stories and novellas, that allow for a more streamlined reading experience, Rambach provides a nice option when the demands of life and responsibility may not accommodate another Stephen King or Tom Clancy style epic.  And her detailed prose will leave you with no uncertain impression of the characters and the world they reside. 

- Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Comic Pick of the Week for January 22 2014

Great Stories selects......

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #9 (Marvel)

Odd choice for a pick of the week.  Yes, it is one of the b-books in the Spider-man series, but it has Marco Checchetto at the artistic helm!  And it reunites the three characters that served as the first major cross-over in Greg Rucka's unbelievably great Punisher run not too long ago (in The Omega Effect).  Yes, that's enough for us to make this new team-up story our featured book.  Setting the stage for this reunion is a Superior Spider-Man on a serious rampage against the head of all crime syndicates in New York City.  Having taken down Owl, Vulture, Tombstone, White Dragon, and Kingpin, things are looking a lot more safe and secure.  But a new threat of unknown origin takes everyone by surprise by infiltrating the thought-to-be impenetrable Spider Island.  Check out part one of this story and then do yourself an even bigger favor and pick up those Rucka-Checchetto Punisher trade paperbacks!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Comic Pick of the Week for January 15th 2014

Great Stories selects.....

Curse (Boom Studios) #1 (of 4)

A father whose son is running out of time due to a debilitating disease take drastic measures to ensure his care.  A creature stalking the local woods that has claimed five victims in five months.  And a local sheriff desperate to solve the crime.  That is the set up for this first of four mini-series from Boom Studios and we like the feel and atmosphere being set by writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel.  The art is supplied by Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer.  The team is bringing us one of the most promising new horror series to emerge of late.  A blend of classic genre elements and the characters do not ring hollow as in many similar efforts we have laid our eyes and dollars on.  Enjoy!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Comic Pick of the Week for January 8th 2014

Great Stories selects.....

Hoax Hunters #13 Season Finale (Image)

Fans of X-Files and mythological lore rejoice this title from Image!  Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley have written a book for over a year now wit an impressive cast of strong recurring characters and a story that has us literally begging for more at the close of each issue.  With art by Christian DiBari and colors by Mike Spicer fitting the exact mood and tone necessary for the subject matter to hit home for readers, we encourage you to give this book a very hard look as they enter year number or should I say season number two!

Hoax Hunters #13 was released today and is available at your local comic shops.

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fresh Popped Corn: January 2014 Theatrical Trailers

Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.  Movie release dates are subject to change.

January 3rd
Happy 2014 everyone!  May this year be one that brings us many incredible movies to discuss with friends and family.  Starting things off for us this year, we have the latest entry into one of the most successful horror franchises to have come along in some time.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones attempts to spin-off from the characters in the first four films somewhat in an attempt to make it seem fresh, but we are not holding our breath in anticipation.  The Best Offer is a drama about an antiques expert who has done his best to drive away any close human contact only to become infatuated by a young woman who lives a far more agoraphobic lifestyle behind the walls and doors of the antique-filled mansion he has taken assignment in.  Geoffrey Rush and Sylvia Hoakes lead the cast with Donald Sutherland in support.  Jamesy Boy is a true story of a troubled young man who gets sent to prison where he is mentored by an older convict played by Ving Rhames.  Yawn....oh, did I type that?  Open Grave is a thriller that seems to tie in elements of Saw and The Walking Dead to fairly creepy effect in the trailer.  No celebrity star power in this one to speak of, but it has us intrigued!  Our pick of the week, however, is going to be The Best Offer with the always great Geoffrey Rush.  Check out the trailer below to see why.

January 10th
Another week with a relatively short list of movies to preview.  We start things off with The Legend of Hercules starring Kellen Lutz and directed by Renny Harlin (the man who gave us Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger).  Next up, there is The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, starring Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, and Sam Neil in a story about a teen whose family vanishes setting him off on a quest to discover their fate.  A quest that uncovers strange magic, monsters, and supernatural artifacts.  Lastly, we have Banshee Chapter, a horror film starring Ted Levine and Katia Winter, about the effects of a research chemical by the CIA on civilians and a radio broadcast of unknown origin.  Well, it seems that last month's Desolation of Smaug has ushered in a run of questy and adventury-type movie fare.  Whether or not The Hobbit's success will feed the fire for audiences to see more remains to be seen, but our money would certainly be spent to support of Renny Harlin's Hercules tale, whose trailer you can see below!

January 17th
It seems that January 17th features the most crowded field of movie premieres this particular month.  The Night Before Christmas poem is re-imagined by removing the Christmas elements and making of the animated entry The Nut Job all about a desperate squirrel who is banished from his Central Park home and will do just about anything to claim a stockpile of food for the winter.  Ride Along is a comedy that features Kevin Hart has a security officer who dreams of being a real cop like his brother-in-law (played by Ice Cube) so he can prove himself a worthy of the woman he married. Big Bad Wolves is a subtitled Israeli crime thriller that apparently has Quentin Tarentino's creative admiration.  GBF is a lame story about groups of high school female cliques that seek out a token gay friend which grants them some sort of social advantage over their peer groups?  Life of a King stars the great Cuba Gooding Jr. as an ex-con who uses the game of chess to put struggling teens on the straight and narrow.  The character made famous by Tom Clancy and Harrison Ford, jumps back in time to his younger days as a CIA desk clerk in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Chris Pine takes on the role with Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and Keira Knightly in support.  Reasonable Doubt is about a prosecutor (Dominick Cooper) with a serious skeleton which compromises his ability to deliver a very dangerous man (Samuel Jackson) to justice.  Cooper pulls double duty as he also plays an English artist on the cusp of greatness if not for a fateful love triangle in Summer in February, which also stars Emily Browning.  While Reasonable Doubt looks pretty darn good with Samuel Jackson gettin' medieval or maybe just plain evil all over the joint, we are going to have to go with the latest Jack Ryan movie in a nod to our beloved and sadly departed author extraordinaire Tom Clancy.

January 24th
 I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart hits theaters on the 24th in the hopes of making us forget about the underwhelming Hansel & Gretel last year.  In this one, a new age Frankenstein monster finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between two immortal clans of angels, and is based on the graphic novel of the same name.  24 Exposures is a drama/thriller about a fetish photographer who is wanted for questioning in the murder of a glamour model, but strikes up an interesting friendship with a cop who takes a particular fascination with his work.  Gimme Shelter stars Vanessa Hudgens as a young pregnant girl who struggles with addiction and anger with the world around her.  Rosario Dawson and Brendan Fraser are in support.  Knights of Badassdom is about a bunch of gaming geeks who role play only to find out that one of their members has released a real life evil forcing them to unite and be the heroes they portray in their fantasy lives.  Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, and Steve Zahn all star.  Graphic novels to the big screen is definitely something that we support wholeheartedly but in this case we have to go with the Knights of Badassdom as the winner this week!

January 31st
That Awkward Moment (starring Zac Efron) is a comedy about three guys who pledge to the single life after one of their own experiencing the end of a meaningful relationship.  All goes well until one meets the "right" girl.  Labor Day is a drama we previewed for last month's Fresh Popped Corn, but was bumped to the post-holiday schedule starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet about a prison escapee who solicits the help of a woman and her son to make a new life.  Sinbad:  The Fifth Voyage is a long-delayed action fantasy film narrated by Patrick Stewart and just looks terrible!  Best Night Ever is the female equivalent of The Hangover series starring Desiree Hall and Samantha Colburn.  And finally, At Middleton finds two single parents, played by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga reliving or regressing to their youth following a tour of a college for their respective children.  It's a pretty weak finish to the month, but we will hedge our bets on the Brolin/Winslet drama as the best of the group.

And that does it for another edition of Fresh Popped Corn.  We would love to hear about which films you are excited for this month!

Chris (for the Great Stories team)