Saturday, January 31, 2015

Penny pinching at Walmart? Not on these items.

I don't do a lot of shopping at Walmart. It's not because I think shopping there is beneath me or because I have some altruistic believe that the massive shopping behemoth is out to crush small businesses, or anything like that. There simply isn't a Walmart close by my house that is worth going to. The best one is at least fifteen to twenty minutes away. Having said that, I am aware that Walmart has really good prices on a lot of stuff.

For those who like to pinch pennies (and who doesn't try to save money these days), Walmart is always a good option. Well, according to a recent article from Kiplinger, you should take a step back when shopping for some items at Walmart, and rethink your purchasing strategy.

Kiplinger did some comparison shopping, and found eleven items that you can get cheaper elsewhere. Among them were toys and games, organic milk, brand name diapers, and more. Kiplinger found places like Amazon, Trader Joes, and wholesale clubs like Costco and BJs to offer better prices on a number of items.

To read the whole article, click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: "The War of the Worlds Murder" by Max Allan Collins

Being a fan of the excitement and drama that came out of the Golden Age of Radio, I found myself drawn to the book that I just finished reading. The War of The World Murder by Max Allan Collins is set in 1938, just  before and during the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air on CBS. Collins embroils Orson Welles and pulp writer Walter Gibson - creator of the pulp superhero The Shadow - in a murder mystery when a body is discovered in the CBS studios just minutes before the famous broadcast of War of the Worlds is scheduled to begin. With Welles as the number one suspect, Gibson has exactly one hour - while Welles is on the air enacting the infamous hoax story about Martian invasion - to find the real murderer and clear the radio star's name.

The concept of involving real life characters in fictitious mysteries is not a new one. Ron Goulart had a very successful series involving Groucho Marx. Harry Houdini was a member of a fictional secret society in The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler. The trend has gone on for years.

Let me start by saying that I loved The War of the Worlds Murder. The pacing was excellent, the detail of an era gone by was incredible, and the characterization of some of Old Time Radio's legends was fantastic. Collins did an admirable job in building up the relationships between the characters and providing insight into the daily dynamic of each individual. The way that Collins intermixes Gibson's investigation with the radio broadcast as well as the world's reaction to said broadcast was incredible, making the last half of the book a page turner that you just don't want to put down.

It was obvious that Collins placed a great deal of effort in researching his topic. His detail surrounding the historical context of the story seemed precise, making it easy for the reader to envision each scene with ease.

If I had only one complain about the book, it would be this. When the solution to the crime is revealed (and I won't give anything away), I found myself, for a moment, feeling a little cheated. But, after I considered the surrounding historical events, the ending makes perfect sense and wouldn't have been correct if done any other way.

This is, by far, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in recent months. It drew me in, and kept me hooked until the end. I would highly recommend The War of the Worlds Murder.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Thrilling Adventure Hour Brings Back Radio's Golden Age

I've always had an affinity for audio dramatizations and old time radio shows. My iTunes library in loaded shows from the 1930s through the 1950s, and even a vast collection of modern shows produced by the BBC. There are few, if any radio stations in America that produce audio dramas these days. The concept disappeared with the rise of television. While recordngs of the old programs are still available, new broadcasts do not happen anymore.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: "A Great Deliverance" by Elizabeth George

I don't think there has ever been a more unlikely pair of detectives than Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Lynley is from the upper part of the upper crust, with a title and all. Havers hails from the lower income part of London, and carries a massive chip on her shoulders about it as well. Neither thinks highly of the other, but they are forced to work together for the first time when a sixteen year old girl is accused of decapitating her father in a barn in the countryside of the small English town of Keldale.

I've seen the Inspector Lynley Mysteries on PBS, but they did not prepare me for A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. This is the first in the Lynley/Havers series written by George. I will admit that, at first, I struggled through the first few chapters of this book. It is not that it is poorly written, but Elizabeth George tends to use quite elaborate turns of phrase in her writing that doesn't necessarily appeal to me. But, I pressed on and was rewarded in the end for my perseverance.

As Lynley and Havers come to terms with their forced partnership, they also make strides in solving the mystery. The final five chapters generated such emotional response that I found it impossible to put down. I must warn you, though, those five chapters are not for the faint of heart. There were moments where I wanted to throw the book across the room in hopes that it could inflict some form of imagined pain upon some of the characters as punishment for the unspeakable crimes committed. What started as a slower page turner ended as a roller coaster of emotion once the full extent of the crime is revealed.

You may have noticed that I have steered clear of revealing any plot lines. It is the kind of book that reads far better by not knowing anything when you crack open the cover. But, again, if you are faint of heart, you may want to avoid this one. The ending can be gruesome and heart wrenching.