Thursday, November 8, 2012

Casual Vacancy

Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This is Rowling's first book written for adults.  I had received reports from others who were in the middle of reading it when I first picked up the book.  Some reports were positive and some were negative so I was eager to see for myself.

This is a story of the people who live in a small village that is next to a town.  The "casual vacancy" is a formal term to describe a situation when someone on the community council of the village dies.  In the first chapter, a man dies.  As the story progresses we learn more about what kind of man he was and why his death is so pivotal in this community.

During the course of the story we get to hear the thoughts of most of the characters.  This gives us an interesting perspective in what seems to be a study of human nature.  In many ways we get to see that those people who think they are the backbone of the community are really the ones with the least to offer.  Those that think they are but a small, and even worthless, part of the community actually have the most to give.

There is another plot line within the book that follows the goals of the dead man.  This thread follows the reality of a 16 year old girl who lives in a run-down neighborhood, "The Fields", on the edge of the village boundaries.  Many people within the village believe that The Fields should be part of the town rather than the village so that the poor and disadvantaged that live there can stop polluting the quiet peaceful atmosphere of the village.  Others believe that the people of the village should be of help to those in The Fields so that they can change the circumstances of their lives.

I liked this book.  I disagree with my friends who said they felt like Rowling just stuck in swear words and vulgar scenes just to make it an adult book.  I felt that these all seemed appropriate for the characters.  I feel like it was an adult book from beginning to end because it was so much a study of human nature and not entertainment like the young-adult cross over books are.  This was not a page turner for me but I did become more engaged in the characters and wonder what would happen next and would so and so redeem their worth as a human being.  It took until almost half-way through the book to get engaged so if you are trying to read it and find it slow, keep at it.  It is worth the read.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Winter of the World

The Winter of the World - Book 2 of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

This book takes us from 1933 through 1949.  Once again, we are following five families from Wales, England, America, Germany and Russia.

I have decided that in a book such as this where we know the historical outcomes, a novelization of the scenario becomes that much more tense and anticipatory.  I was just waiting to see which characters would be part of famous scenes and who would survive and who wouldn't.

This is the kind of book that is hard to put down and I would have loved to just been able to read non-stop.  As it was, I had a couple very busy weeks and couldn't read as much as I liked.  It took me 16 days to read the 940 pages of this book.  I feel like starting all over again because it was so engaging.

Follett has created some very rich and real characters in this trilogy.  By having most of his characters placed in a political position in the first book, he was able to keep them in a position of action or knowledge as the First and then the Second World War unfolded.  There was a review on Amazon that someone was complaining that it wasn't plausible that all these people could meet and connect the way they do in the book.  I disagree.  I think that the circle of people in charge is not a very large one and the idea that a Senator and his son could encounter someone in the Red Army Intelligence community during a summit in World War II is completely believable.  Also, this is a work of fiction so there are certain conveniences that the readers just need to go with.

I love this series and I think I'll need to re-read Fall of Giants and then Winter of the World again just before Book 3 is released.

On a side note, October is banned books month so your next book should be one that has been banned.  Tomorrow ends the official Banned Books Week but check out the website for a list of books to choose from.  I found I have read plenty.  How about you?

The Hound of Rowan

The Hound of Rowan: Book 1 of the Tapestry Series by Henry H Neff

According to Amazon, the book is for ages 8 and up.  I'd guess it is for ages 8-11.  It is a little more detailed than I think a younger reader can engage in but it is too simplistic for 12 and up.

Our hero is Max McDaniels.  He is a regular boy living in the suburbs of Chicago with his father who is in advertising.  Max' mother disappeared a few years earlier.

I am going to read this book to my 6 1/2 year old and see how he likes it.

I kept waiting for the author to develop ideas and characters more but it never happened.  The concept of the tapestry was not developed or explained with regard to its importance or even just the impact that it had on Max.  The dreams that Max has of the Hound of Rowan are not well connected to legend so I'm still waiting to see if that resolves itself further.  The connection that Max has with his "best friend" David Menlo is not believable.  Max and David just happen to be roommates but I never got the impression that they were fast friends - just convenient ones.

This book feels like it wants to be Harry Potter but it falls short in many ways.  Unless my son loves the story and wants to continue, I won't be reading any more of the series.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Dark Monk

The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale by Oliver Potzsch

This is the second book in the Hangman's Daughter series.  There is a third book and I will be reading it.

This is really fun historical fiction.  Potzsch began his story with his own geneology.  His ancestor Jacob Kuisl who was the hangman of Schongau in Bavaria.  His own family had many generations of hangmen from which he could draw information.

This book begins in 1648.  Potzsch has once again created a great murder mystery while combining the historical information of the area, some of the people who actually lived then and there as well as what life would have been like during that time.

At the end of the book, Potzsch lets his readers know which characters and scenes are historical and which are fiction.  He also gives us a walking/biking tour of the region and the settings in the book.  If I ever get to Bavaria, I will definitely check it out.

The Snow Child: A Novel

The Snow Child: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey

Check your scepticism at the door and enjoy the fairy tale that this book has to offer.

In 1918, few things sound harder than homesteading in Alaska but that is just what Jack and Mabel have decided to do.

Jack was raised working his families orchards along with his brothers.  He never had a chance to do anything on his own and really show himself and the world just what he could do.  Mabel was raised by a University professor and seemed much more suited to the life of a professor's wife rather than a farmer's wife let alone a homesteader.

After the stillbirth of their only child, Mabel convinces Jack that the Alaskan wilderness is just the place for them.  In the first years it seems that this was the worst choice they could make.  They both struggled with what they perceived as their roles in their new life.  They were struggling with themselves and each other and it seemed all was lost.

All it took was snowfall, a moment of forgetting themselves and their lives and the snow child was created.  From there, their lives would never be the same again.

This is a wonderful story of hope and mystery and possibility.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Book 6 of the Outlander series does not disappoint.

The book begins in 1772 and the American Revolution is closing in on the people of Fraser's Ridge North Carolina.  The key people know what is to come and they know the outcome so they know which side they will need to be on to survive.  Just how to manage it is the issue.

Jamie Fraser is requested to work as the King's liason to the indians in the area.  As much as Jaime doesn't want to work for the king in such a public manner, the alternative person would wreak havoc in the area.  Jaime decides it's in everyone's best interest to take the job.  Later, he will have a hard time convincing everyone on both sides of the conflict just where his loyalties lie.

Always looming in the distance is the knowledge of the newspaper story about the demise of Jaime and Claire in the year 1776.

I will definitely keep reading and I am thinking of reading her supporting books in the Lord John Grey series.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

This book continues the Outlander series - book 5.  The year is 1771.

Claire and Jamie are living in the colony of North Carolina on what is called Fraser's Ridge.  War is coming and they are trying to survive their day to day life as well as the volatile politics of the time.

As always, Gabaldon has painted a vivid picture of life during this time.  It really makes me appreciate the luxuries of our modern world.

The love stories of Claire and Jamie as well as their daughter Brianna and Roger continue.  The romance aspect of this series is secondary to the research of the history at the time.

I continue to love these books.  They are fantastically fun escape books.

The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This is a story told through stories that are myth-like much of the time.  If that kind of story bugs you, don't read this.

This book is set in the present somewhere in the Balkans.  The country has survived a war and the story is of a young doctor, Natalia.  She tells her story by also telling the story of her grandfather.

The timeline jumps back and forth between the present, Natalia's past and her grandfather's past.  It can be a bit confusing at times trying to figure out who the people are and how the stories fit together.

My book club read this book and most everyone, but me, felt that the story didn't really come to a close.  They felt like the book just ended and there wasn't really any resolution.  I thought that the stories all tied together nicely and the novel did close nicely.

This is a great book club book as there is much to mull over with regards to who the different characters are and how they relate to each other across the different stories that are told.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I, Alex Cross

I, Alex Cross by James Patterson

The Alex Cross series of books is really popular but I'm pretty sure this was my first one.  The first book in the series is Along Came a Spider.  This particular book is number 16 and I think he's up to 20 now.  James Patterson is an extremely prolific writer but most of his books are co-written.  The Alex Cross series is one of the few that seems to be coming from him directly.

This was a good police thriller mystery book.  It's clear why Patterson is a bestselling author.  He can definitely write a good thriller.  I have read a fair amount of mystery/thrillers in my time and I'm usually pretty good at guessing about mid-way through the book.  It was pretty late in the book before I had an inkling of who it could be.

If you want a fast thriller for summer vacation, this is a good one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

This is book 12 in the Southern Vampires Series.  I have thoroughly enjoyed these books but I am thinking Harris needs to take a break from them or finish the series once and for all.

There was a lot going on but also not a lot going on. I felt like she spends way too much time reiterating information we got in the past.  I've said it before and it still stands.  If someone picks up a "series" book mid-series rather than starting from book 1, they will miss a few things and they should just deal with it or go get book 1 and start from there.

All in all, it didn't resolve much with Sookie and the vampires.  Her relationship with the werewolves seems about the same.  Her relationships with humans seem to be about the same if suffering slightly from a whirlwind of fairy activity.  The fairy equation was tied up pretty nicely.

I am thinking one more book, maybe two and Sookie can live happily ever after not being in the middle of vampire, werewolf, shifter and fae wars all the time.  Maybe not.

On a side note, I have finally let go of how True Blood is not sticking to the books.  I am looking at the HBO series as an alternate Sookie universe.

Fall on Your Knees

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

This is a multi-generational saga that begins before World War I.  It is the story of the Piper family on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.  This is a dysfunctional family.

The head of the family, James Piper, marries his wife, Materia, when she is only 12.  He is 18.  Six years is not a big difference when both people are adults but when one is only 12, the differences are stark.

A huge lack of communication plagues this family through the generations.  Only at the end of the book when only two Piper family members remain do the stories all get told in one place and time.

This book contains two wars, race relations between blacks, whites and people who are somewhere in between.  It contains physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, incest and pedophilia.  It contains straight couples, prostitution of a sort and lesbianism.  It also covers the illegal liquor trade during Prohibition and the Catholic Church.

This book was very frustrating and tedious at times and lovely and fluid to read at other times.  I hated some characters and loved others.  Many of the characters drove me crazy with their stupidity - much like people.

The book only has 512 pages but it took me a while to get through it.  There were times I didn't want to read just because the subject matter was tough to get through.  It was well worth the read though.  I recommend this book if you are looking for a dramatic saga.

Friday, June 8, 2012

This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor:The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

I just realized that this is the first in a series.  Book 2, Such Wicked Intent, is scheduled to be released 21 August 2012.  My copy of This Dark Endeavor (on the Kindle) included Mary Shelley's Frankenstein immediately following the end of the book.

This book is told in the voice of Victor Frankenstein, age 15.  He, his twin brother Konrad and their distant cousin are constant companions.  Elizabeth's parents died when she was young and Victor's father was loathe to leave her living in a convent rather than with family.  She has been raised as a sister to the twins.  There are also two younger brothers that are rarely seen or heard.

If you've ever wondered how Victor Frankenstein ended up trying to create life from previously dead tissue, this is an excellent supposition.  Oppel plants the seeds of possibility into the impressionable young man.  He gives us a boy who is exactly like his twin but, nothing like him.  Konrad is a very likeable boy who is at ease in a number of social settings.  Victor feels awkward with anyone who is not a close family member and never knows what to say.  School work and intense study comes easily to Konrad but Victor must work harder in order to learn but the skills of study don't come easily or happily either.

We are left with a vision of a young man who is just starting to realize how different he is from his twin and how much he resents the differences when he has always thought of them as the same.  Couple this with a new fascination in alchemy and books filled with the dark arts and you have a wonderful beginning.

I enjoyed this book and now that I know another is coming out, I think I will read it.  I am guessing it ventures into the young adult phase of Victor as well as his formal education and relationships that will form him into the man created by Mary Shelley.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

This is an historical novel set during the Edo-era of Japan.  It begins in the year 1799.  Jacob De Zoet is a clerk for the Dutch East Indies Company.

This book alternated between very interesting and so tediously boring I wanted to scream.  The atmosphere of the era was, no doubt, extremely formal.  The island of Dejima was a man-made creation which allowed the Dutch to live and work there and not on actual Japanese soil.  Only specific Japanese officials were allowed to interact with the Dutch merchants of Dejima.  Japan for the Japanese was a very formal and restrictive place.  People could not freely travel around the country but had to carry papers of identification and have formalized reasons for their travel into different territories.  Leaving Japan was an act punishable by death for the Japanese people.  Only the people who worked as translators could learn the Dutch language.  The Dutch were not permitted to be taught Japanese.

Jacob De Zoet is a young man of promise who can read and write in Dutch and English.  He is a man of principle and honor who is assigned to work in a place where everyone is on the take.  Each person involved in a shipment is skimming some of the shipment for themselves so they may sell it and profit from it when they reach their destination.  Jacob must learn how to exist in this climate.

I haven't been able to put my finger on the specific reason that this book was so awful to get through. When I finally got to 49%, I told myself I had to keep going just to find out what happens to Jacob De Zoet.  The end of the book seemed as though a different writer had written it. One thread of the story ended and then the author rushed through the rest and wound everything up as though he suddenly had a deadline to meet. It was very odd and disorienting and rather unsatisfying as well.

I don't recommend this book unless you are desperate to read everything regarding Japan during this era.  I'm sure there must be other books that can satisfy your curiosity without having to read this one.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Drums of Autumn

The Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

This is book 4 of the Outlander series.  While this series is classified as historical fiction, my sister just pointed out that it is also considered a romance novel.  Admittedly the first book and even parts of the second were very romance related, I think the historical novel aspect outshines the romance.

This book takes Brianna, the daughter of Jamie and Claire back in time to search for her parents and warn them of their impending deaths.  Hot on her heels is Roger Mackenzie Wakefield who knows why she has gone but doesn't believe the past can be changed.

This book has pirates, theft, rape, the building of a house and a community. The politics of the Colonies under King George as well as interactions with the various indian tribes in the North Carolina area - some peaceful, some not.

I am enjoying this series and I plan to keep reading.  It is good escapist reading to fill in the gaps between other books.  I do with there was a bit more history although I think Gabaldon has done a good job painting a mental picture of the time and how people lived.  She makes it easy to see how people built their homesteads and farms and slowly built a life that brought in enough to feed their family for a year but also a little extra for the things they couldn't grow or raise themselves.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hush, Hush Saga

Hush Hush, Crescendo, and Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

I am thinking that fallen angels and Nephilim are the new vampires.  There are a whole slew of books out there, especially in the young adult fiction world, that involve angels, archangels, fallen angels and Nephilim.

This is the story of Nora, a high school sophomore in Maine whose father was recently murdered.  She and her mother are trying to make their lives work with just the two of them and everything seems to be going fine.  Then, one day, Nora's biology teacher decides to make a change to the seating chart so Nora no longer has her best friend as a partner, she has a mysterious new transfer student named Patch.

Soon, Nora learns that when God first created humans, he put angels on the earth to watch over them and protect them.  Some of the angels lusted for the human women and when their children were born, Nephilim, the archangels of heaven ripped the wings from these angels and they became "fallen".    Still roaming the earth, the fallen angels do what they like.  Fallen angels have some of their angelic gifts like mind control but they can't feel.  They have emotions and they can see and hear but they don't taste and they don't have the sense of touch.  From the moment their wings were ripped from their backs, they wanted nothing more than to have the human sensory experience.

Two weeks a year, during the Jewish time of Cheshvan, fallen angels have to ability to possess the body of another.  Human bodies are weak and often die within a week but the bodies of Nephilim are strong and can easily last.  The downside of this possession is that the spirit of the Nephilim is still in the body when the fallen angel is but the Nephilim has no control at all - they are a helpless bystander in their own body.  The Nephilim are forced to swear an oath of fealty to the fallen angels so they have no choice in the matter of possession.

Needless to say, only two weeks a year isn't enough for many fallen angels and they are always searching for another way.  The Book of Enoch supposedly tells of how a fallen angel can become human by killing his Nephilim.  The Nephilim are immortal though so things get complicated and involve killing a human progeny of the Nephilim when she is sixteen.  At the same time, the Nephilim are tired of being vassals for the fallen angels and are planning a way to stop the process before the next Cheshvan.

Nora and Patch slowly unravel mystery after mystery.  This is a young adult novel so there is the teen romance aspect even though Patch appears to be a couple of years older than Nora but is really hundreds of years older.  The frustrating aspects of teen romance, such as not communicating, are very present and affect more than just the romance - of course.  This is an entertaining series thus far and book 4 which is titled Finale? is scheduled for release in late October of this year.  I will probably read it just to finish the series.  I can see a spin-off series ensuing from this but I am okay not reading any more than just the four books.  The world of fallen angels is an intriguing one but not compelling enough to read much more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

This book supposes that Genesis 6:5 is a record of how angels of heaven mated with human women and children were born.  These children were Nephilim and they walk the earth still.  God tried to cleanse the earth of the Nephilim during the Deluge.  One of the Nephilim killed Noah's son Napheth and used magic to appear to be Napheth.  After the flood, the sons of Noah spread across the land to repopulate.  Napheth and his family went to Europe.  All children of Napheth after this time were actually Nephilim.  These children were more ruthless than the human children that had been born to the real Napheth.  The Nephilim were more war-like and devious and had a tendency to be more financially and politically benefited in their lives.

Throughout time a group of humans called angelologist have been at war with the Nephilim.  They spend their time scouring ancient texts for clues of the family lines of Nephilim.  They are determined to stop at nothing until they can destroy all Nephilim on the planet and keep them from ruling over and manipulating the humans.

This books weaves Mythology, Legend and Biblical tales to create a thriller in modern day New York.

I found the basis interesting although it was really hard to get into the book at first.  I didn't really like the ending although I understand Trussoni is probably going to write more books in this series so it did set up for another.  If you want a thriller that is different from most, this is definitely it.  This is historical fiction in that it recounts some pretty ancient scenarios of biblical scholars alleged to be angelologist in the book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This is book 1 of the Maze Runner series.

Lately there has been a bunch of hoo haw on-line regarding whether the movie The Hunger Games (rated PG 13) is appropriate for elementary students. The book was extremely violent and dark and was all about the government forcing 12-18 year old kids to fight each other to the death.

The Maze Runner is of the same ilk. It is young adult fiction and the youngest kid involved in this particular scenario seems to be about 13 but no one actually remembers exactly how old they are or where they came from. They remember their name and that's it for personal information.

The book begins as Thomas wakes to find himself inside of some sort of metal box and it seems to be moving up. He can't remember anything about himself, save his name, and he's pretty freaked out about the whole thing. After awhile the box stops moving and the ceiling is pried open. A bunch of boys ranging in age are peering down at him. After they hoist him out of the box, their leader, Alby, barks orders at Thomas and the others and Thomas is left in the care of Newt. Thomas has a million questions but no one is answering them. It seems as though telling someone too much, too soon, results in death but this is never really explained.

Thomas learns that he is in a place they call The Glade. It is surrounded by a Maze. Small lizard robots keep an eye on everything and make sure no one is breaking any rules. The rules aren't spelled out, they have been deduced over the past two years as kids who break the rules, die horrible deaths. Thomas makes a friend of Chuck, the newest arrival prior to Thomas. Chuck seems extremely like-able although hapless. The inhabitants of The Glade are all boys age ranging from about

Thomas is frustrated by the fact that eve

The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

If my book club hadn't just read The Paris Wife, we wouldn't have selected this book and I wouldn't have finished it either.

The basic gist of the book is of a group of friends who travel from Paris, France to Pamplona, Spain for the festival of San Fermin and the bull fights. 
The bigger picture is that of a group of people who are mostly residing in Paris as expatriates (from the US and Great Britain) and they travel to Pamplona.  They are not necessarily all friends.  There is one woman who is married and trying to get divorced.  Her current fiance as well as an ex-lover/boyfriend (Hemingway's character) are on the trip.  Also there is a friend of the narrator (Hemingway) who lives in the US.  Another man tags along much to the chagrin of everyone else.  He is engaged to another woman but is hopelessly in love with the woman in the story.  He had a brief fling with her and has convinced himself that she must love him back as he loves her.

The complex relationships made this a rather difficult book to read because I just wanted to slap everyone for behaving badly and stupidly.  Also, they are drunk almost the entire book which does not help their behavior. 

There is a brief period in the beginning of the trip when Hemingway's character and his friend from the US go off fishing in the lower Pyrennes.  The descriptiveness of this part of the book was very enjoyable to read.

Once all the characters gather in Pamplona, the relationships and emotions and drunken behavior cloud the rest of the story.  The descriptions of the bulls, the corredo and the fights themselves are very nice to read.  Hemingway definitely excels in writing about action and the outdoors.  He is not very good in describing people or writing dialogue or emotions.  I found much of the dialogue unrealistic.  Perhaps the ex-pats of the time, a.k.a. the lost generation, really did speak in a forced "hipster/beat" fashion but it didn't feel real to me.

During The Paris Wife, this particular trip was described and it actually seemed much worse than the portrayal in The Sun Also Rises.  Perhaps the difference was perspective.  The Paris Wife was a novel written in his wife's voice based on her writings and correspondence.  The Sun Also Rises was written from his perspective.  Hemingway wrote the novel just after they took this trip and the biggest change he made was that he left his wife out of the book.  There is one particular situation that happened to his wife but he had it happen to the other woman on the trip instead.  Even though he dedicated the book to his wife and son, the fact that she was left out of the book must have been a huge slap in the face for her.

If you are a huge fan of Hemingway, you will probably read this book.  It is definitely not his finest work but then it is his first novel so that may also have something to do with it. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Face of the Earth

Face of the Earth by Doug and Linda Raber

This is a modern medical/spy thriller. It is currently only available as an e-reader.

This was a fairly fast paced and interesting thriller. It combines politics, military and medicine very well. I was impressed, and sometimes disturbed, by all the excerpts from actual government documents - all of which are cited at the end of the book.

I don't want to give anything away so here's a very brief blurb. What a doctor in the four corners area thought was chicken pox, was actually small pox. This book is a story of how it happened and what happened afterwards. The book addresses what our government policy is in certain situations and what might happen if that policy is not followed.

The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

This is book 1 in the Kane Chronicle series.

What Rick Riordan has done for Greek Mythology with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, he is also doing for Roman Mythology in the series The Heros of Olympus. Now, he's embarked into Egyptian Mythology with the Kane Chronicles.

Carter and Sophie Kane are siblings who have been raised apart the past 6 years or so. After their mother died, an apparent custody battle ensued. Their maternal grandparents took Sophie to live with them. Their father, Dr Julius Kane, took Carter. Carter was home-schooled by his father while they traveled all over the world. Dr Kane is an Egyptologist. Their mother had been an anthropologist specializing in ancient Egypt.

On a rare 2 hour visit to the British Museum, Dr. Kane promises his children that he will "make things right." Just after that, everything seems to go very wrong. After their father becomes imprisoned in a golden sarcophagus that sinks through the floor, the children are taken in by their fathers brother - the Uncle they didn't remember that they had.

Magic and Mythology combine in this fun story in which children must save the earth from Chaos. This series covers the basics of Egyptian Mythology and explains why the gods and goddesses have differing relationships depending on the story and time. This is a great way for kids to learn the basics of Egyptian Mythology including some of the magic that was used.

I would recommend this book for kids about 12 and up. Sophie is age 12 in the book and Carter is 14. There are some scary situations that could be a little much for younger children even if they are able to read the text.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Dance With Dragons

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

This is book 5 in the series A Song of Ice and Fire which is most commonly known as The Game of Thrones series. Apparently George Martin is planning 7 books for the series. Considering that this last one took 6 years to write and get published after book 4 was published, Martin will probably die before he finishes the series. If he does die, a bunch of people are going to be really annoyed myself included.

This series is a HUGE saga that begins in the fictional land of Westeros. The land has been peaceful for a few years but now war is back and there are many different people who think they are the rightful heirs to the throne. On top of war, Winter is coming. This is a land where the four seasons come and go in a year but there are also periods of Summer where every year is mild and even the winter season is not too cold. During the periods of winter, it is cold and bitter and many people die all the year. Along with the normal issues of winter, the dead rise and come back to kill and make more dead. There are other things of concern this particular Winter. Things referred to as The Others but not yet explained other than to say that old grandmothers would tell children tales of The Others to frighten them in to behaving properly.

This book ranges far and wide and encompasses many characters (494 characters are featured on the Shelfari listing for the book). There are 182 settings many of which are in Westeros but others are across the sea and far east into other countries. Keeping some people and places straight can become difficult so I just kept reading and clues would come up that would remind me of who these people are/were or where exactly things were taking place. The books have a map drawn but I read these on my Kindle and the maps are too small to actually be able to read anything to be of use.

As book 1 of the series proved, Martin has no problem killing off his characters. He kills off good people, regular people, bad people and really evil people. Often, the person you most want dead doesn't die but the person you start to like the most does. I am hoping he is more expedient in writing and finishing books 6 and 7 but I'm not going to hold my breath.

As far as fantasy and adventure these books are great. The fact that HBO picked up Games of Thrones as a series should be a red flag to those who have issues with violence, sex and language because these books have it all and Book 5 is no exception.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This is book 1 of a young adult series.

The book begins with Thomas waking up in a dark metal box that seemed to be moving up. Aside from his name, he couldn't remember a thing about himself personally. He's understandably freaked out and a bit angry as well. Once the box stops moving, the ceiling is pried open by a group of boys. The boys all seem to range in ages from 13-19. Thomas is hoisted out of the box and his nightmare continues.

Thomas encounters a couple boys who seem rather disagreeable as well as a couple who seem genuinely nice. He had a thousand questions and no one will answer them which intensifies Thomas' anger. Thomas soon learns that many of his questions can't be answered. Where he is is a place they call The Glade. The Glade is at the center of The Maze. Why they are there, no one knows. Why supplies show up every week, a new kid shows up once a month - no one knows. Why are there bio-mechanical killing creatures called Grievers in the maze especially at night? No one knows. Thomas really wants to know.

Thomas goes through the tour of the Glade and starts taking turns at the different jobs available. He continues to ask questions and some are answered and some are not. After only two or three days in the Glade, Thomas breaks the number one rule in an attempt to help save two other kids. He steps into the Maze as the doors are locking the kids into the safety of the Glade at night. He and two others, one seriously injured, are trapped with the Grievers for the night. No one has ever survived a night in the Maze.

When Thomas and the other two survive their night in the Maze and appear at the door to the Glade shortly after sunrise, everyone is freaked out and now suspicious of Thomas. Some think he is some sort of spy sent by the "creators". Later that day, a girl appears in the box with a dire warning and then she drops into a coma of sorts. This new turn of events heightens the tension in the Glade as well as the negative feelings toward Thomas.

Soon, Thomas, the girl and the other Gladers are racing to solve the Maze or the puzzle of the Maze to get out and get home. The big question is, once they escape, will the world they find be a better place than the Glade or much, much worse?

This series seems as dark as The Hunger Games. The violence is less about kids killing kids and was more about kids getting killed as part of the puzzle. The book was okay but the plot and the characters didn't draw me in as much as The Hunger Games did. If I didn't have about 30 books to read, I would probably read the rest of these but I have too many other books I am interested in so I think I'll stop here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is a book about people who love books. It was wonderfully written. There are stories woven within stories to create a rich fabric.

The basics of the story are this, a young, amateur biographer named Margaret Lea is hired to write the life story of a famous and prolific author, Vida Winter.

Vida Winter is nearing the end of her life and she has one last tale to tell. It is the story of siblings, twins, and secrets. Margaret Lea has a secret of her own and it will come out as well before all the stories have come to an end.

I really enjoyed this book. It is easy to climb into this story and get lost. I don't want to give too much away because I knew very little about the book when I first began reading and the journey was a fun one.

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Vampires, Witches and Daemons oh my. This is a fun novel set in modern times. Our heroine, Diana, is a historian doing research at Oxford. She also happens to be a witch although she has shunned the use of witchcraft and magic her whole life. She encounters an ancient manuscript and chooses to ignore the magical aspect she senses and looks at it from a human perspective only then sends it back into the stacks of the library where it has been undisturbed for 150 years.

Shortly after encountering the manuscript, she meets an ancient vampire. Soon, all sorts of creatures are lurking around Diana and the library in which she works.

This is the first in a planned trilogy. It is a fun book that takes a different perspective of witches, vampires, daemons and the world in which we all live.

I liked this version of "girl meets vampire" as opposed to some others that I have read. This is an interesting story and I am looking forward to the second book that is due to be published this summer.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain

The Paris wife is how people sometimes referred to the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. Hadley Richardson was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She was 29 when she met Ernest Hemingway. This book is the story of how they met, their courtship and the years of their marriage. All but a couple of chapters are told in Hadley's voice.

Mclain did a great deal of research of the life and writings of Hemingway as well as correspondence between Hemingway and Hadley and others. She tried to stay true to fact with regards to where they were and when and with whom. She filled in the conversations and feelings when her research left holes.

I had a hard time reading this book at first because I had preconceived ideas about Ernest Hemingway as a person. I kept seeing "red flags" and wanting Hadley to run away from Ernest as fast as she could. In the end, I let go of my issues and just went with it.

This book gives a great perspective of life for 20 and even 30 somethings just after World War I. The energy and freedom to do whatever and say whatever and feel whatever was marvelous. The energy of Paris and the legendary people that they socialized with was so much fun to read about.

I really liked Hadley as a character (I know she was a real person) although at times she drove me crazy. Before she got pregnant when Ernest left town for the bull fights in Spain, she wandered Paris and was at loose ends. I kept wishing she would get a job or start teaching neighbor children how to play piano or something, anything. It was a different time, though, and she had been raised in a social and financial situation where she would not have thought about getting a job. Once she got pregnant, her free time was spent preparing for the baby and afterwards, her occupation was that of mother.

The "character" of Ernest was much as I had expected. He seemed self-centered and, at times, manic and then depressive. He was in constant need of adulation and did not deal well with criticism however constructive. He seemed like he like to live life on the edge. Not so much an adrenaline junkie but he regularly needed to remind himself of his own mortality and put himself into harms way. He was a brilliant writer and I have enjoyed all of his works that I have read but there are two books that I want to re-read that I will have a different perspective this time around. The first is The Sun Also Rises which he wrote at the end of his relationship with Hadley. It was, according to this book, a fairly true account of a trip they took to Pamplona with friends and the awkward and difficult relationship strains that were going on at the time. The second is A Moveable Feast which Hemingway was finishing up the edits just before his suicide. This book is about his life in Paris with Hadley. I can't remember if I've actually read this one or just heard about it. I'll make sure to read it soon though.

I recommend The Paris Wife as a good read but especially if you are interested in Hemingway or life in post WWI Paris. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Book 3 in the Outlander series is pretty much non-stop action and adventure.

Just when you think Claire and Jaime are going to have some peaceful time together and talk about what has happened in the last 20 years of their lives, something happens.

I am still liking this series and I like the fact that Gabaldon has them travel all over the place. This book landed them in the West Indies for a time. Another thing I like is that a seemingly inconsequential scenario will come back again later in the story line. Like any good mystery we have to keep countless amounts of information at the front of our brain just waiting for the appropriate time to use it.

I know the next book involves their daughter, Brianna quite a bit and as it ended on the shores of Georgia in colonial America, it should be an interesting read. Gotta read my book club book first though.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

This is book 2 in the Outlander series.

Since I think everyone should read this series, I don't want to accidentally drop any spoilers.

Suffice it to say that this book is awesome. It continues the story with Claire and Jaime in 1745 Scotland.

Claire is also in the twentieth century, 20 years after she returned and she has a grown daughter. She has brought her daughter to Scotland in order to tell her the fantastic tale of Claire's journeys.

Read these books.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Underworld: Blood Enemy

Underworld: Blood Enemy by Greg Cox

I promise this is the last Underworld book. Really. This is not a novelization and it was not available for my Kindle so I had to wait for a used book dealer to pull it from their shelf and ship it to me after I purchased it on Amazon. That's why I read all the others a while ago and just read this one.

After writing the novelization for the first movie, Underworld, Cox apparently decided to write his own prequel. This means that what Cox envisioned doesn't necessarily jive with what was later revealed in Rise of the Lycans. It was interesting to see what possibilities he came up with and then know what the original writers, the screen writers, had come up with as well.

Blood Enemy gives a little more back story of a couple of characters in Underworld that weren't ever developed all that much. It was nice to have that and interesting to see a slightly different alternative to the Lucian and Sonja love story.

If you are into the movies and the books, this book is worth reading as well.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Unbeknownst to me, this is book one in what is now a seven book series. I really liked this book and I am definitely going to try to read more and see how the series goes.

This is a historical novel that involves time travel. It starts in 1945 and travels to 1743. Set in Scotland, the time travel takes us back to the time of Bonnie Prince Charles and his supporters, the Jacobites, working toward the ill-fated Rising.

The heroine, Claire BeauChamp Randall is married in 1945 and then, shortly after traveling back to 1743, finds herself married again as Mistress James Fraser. Not sure if she's a bigamist since her first husband hasn't been born yet, Claire struggles to survive in this new and wild world in which she's landed.

This is a romance with some great history rolled into the mix. I love the Scottish dialect used in the book. I find the history very interesting. This is a time that I know little of and so I find myself very interested in not just the politics of the era but also the manner in which people lived and how they ate. Claire was an army nurse during World War II so she ends up as a physician / healer in 1743. This gives us a good idea of how healing went about during that era.

I highly recommend this book. Time will tell with regards to the books to follow.

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer

The Chronicles included six books. They follow Vladimir Tod from eighth grade until twelfth grade plus a side book giving us the back story of another character, Joss MacMillan.

Vladimir Tod is half vampire. His father was a vampire and his mother was human. They both died in a strange and isolated house fire that consumed them and the bed they were sleeping in and nothing else. Vladimir now lives with his "aunt" who was really his mother's best friend. Only his aunt and his best friend, Henry MacMillan, know that he is a vampire. Other than being a vampire, he's pretty much your average kid. The story is basically what his life is like. Each book covers one year.

Joss MacMillan is a vampire hunter. In the course of a job in which he is sent to hunt a vampire in the small town where his aunt, uncle and cousins live, he makes friends with a shy boy his same age named Vladimir. The extra book in the series gives us the back story of how Joss became a vampire hunter and why.

This was a fun series for tweens and teens. It is a good portrayal of what life is like for teen boys trying to figure out teen girls as well as dealing with bullies and all the other social groups that affect their lives. It was fun and entertaining and had a good amount of vampire lore.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Underworld, Underworld - Rise of the Lycans, Underworld - Evolution by Greg Cox

Since there is a new Underworld movie out, I decided to catch myself up to speed by reading the novelizations of the first three movies.

A novelization is where a writer is given the script and told to write it in novel form and it should be X number of pages long. This usually allows the writer to do a little extra character development but not much more action from what you would see in the screen version.

I loved these movies when I saw them. I am a sucker for a good romance (especially the secrect forbidden kind) and if vampires and werewolves are involved, count me in. The fact that the main character, a vampire named Selene, is completely badass just makes it that much better. Apparently the big Selene/Michael romance is non existent in the latest film so I might just wait for the dvd rather than trying to see it in the theater.

Anyway... I realize these were based on the screenplay (already written) but I'm wondering if Greg Cox noticed the 200 year flaw in the story line (to say the least) and tried to get the writers to somehow fix it and they wouldn't/couldn't or if he just figured that the readers/viewers wouldn't notice because Kate Beckinsale was wearing skin tight black vinyl on the screen and such inconsistencies wouldn't matter. I noticed the 200 year flaw when I saw the second movie, Rise of the Lycans, and it bugged me but I figured there would be some sort of "fix" in the novelization. Nope.

So here's how it goes. This is a spoiler, by the way, if you care.

First vampire, Marcus, is the twin brother to first werewolf, William. William is out of control making new werewolves all over the place and Marcus can't stop him or control him. Marcus makes a vampire out of a ruthless military leader, Viktor. They also turn all of Viktor's soldiers into vampires just so they can hunt down and kill all the werewolves and some how trap William. Unknown amounts of time pass. Finally, they trap William and Viktor imprisons him for all eternity and doesn't tell Marcus where said prison is.

William, Viktor and Amelia, the elders, begin taking turns being the ruling vampire. 100 years of rule and then 200 years of sleep.

Viktor commissions dungeons to be dug beneath his castle with a special oubliette where William will be imprisoned. A special key is made to open both the main door and the small cave where William is to be held. The key has two parts. The larger part, Viktor has implanted into his own body on his rib cage (ewwww) and the smaller part he puts on a chain and gives it to his daughter as a "priceless gift" for her to wear always.

Jump ahead 200 years and his daughter is dead and her lycan lover steals the necklace as a memento of their love. Shortly after this, Viktor "rescues" Selene from whatever killed her family and turns her into a vampire.

Jump ahead 600 years and you are now in the time of Underworld and Underworld-Evolution when Selene meets Michael.

Here's the inconsistency. Selene's dad is the one commissioned to dig the dungeon and make the keys for the oubliette. So, if we know that 600 years ago it was Viktor's turn to rule (because he turned Selene), then it would be Amelia, Marcus, Viktor, Amelia, Marcus, Viktor but in Underworld Amelia is at the end of her reign and is about to awaken Markus so this timeline is off. There's another timeline inconsistency in Rise of the Lycans since we are supposed to assume that Sonya and Lucian had 200 years of knowing each other and Lucian was about 8 or 10 when Sonya was born. Allegedly, Viktor branded Lucian with his brand and then both Markus and Amelia followed suit branding their own lycans with their initials (that would be 300+ years since Viktor is ruling when Sonya dies and Lucian escapes). Also, Viktor tells Selene that the elders have been leapfrogging through time for 1400 years. If this started after William was captured (all three elders were present for the capture) that gives us a gap of 600 years from William's initial capture until the alleged digging of the dungeons and imprisonment with the secret keys. Also, if the key was worn by Sonya for 200 years, how was Selene 6 years old when the key was made by her father and 20 years old when she was turned into a vampire shortly after the death of Sonya.
I've been trying to just enjoy the stories as I did when I first saw the movies but these are some pretty big holes that can't be filled easily. Especially the 14 mortal years of Selene's life that took 200 years in the vampire world.

I still like the basic forbidden love stories (Romeo and Juliet as vampire and lycan) but the timeline is super distracting. Aaaaargh!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Since this is an election year, this was an appropriate read. Tedious but appropriate.

Most of us know at least the basics of the story. Caesar is stabbed to death by his colleagues. Most cruelly by Brutus, a man he trusted and thought of as a friend. Beyond that, I didn't remember why it happened or what happened afterwards.

Basically it boils down to ego and jealousy. One man was jealous of the glory and accolades that were given to Caesar. He, Cassius, had grown up with Caesar. He knew that Caesar was an epileptic and had witnesses a few seizures over the years. He decided that because of this 'weakness', Caesar was not fit to rule Rome. He knew, though, that popular opinion was against him. He needed a puppet for his plan to work.

Cassius began to work on Brutus and convince him that Caesar was ambitious to a fault but also had a weakness that would prevent him from being able to rule. Brutus was a weak willed man who seemed to go along with whatever was set before him. He buckled under the convincing sway of Cassius and agreed to join his band of conspirators. The play doesn't tell us who started it all but we're led to believe that it was Cassius. He had his other conspirators lined up before he got Brutus to join.

The conspirators were cowardly enough that they lured Caesar to the Senate that day under the guise of his receiving the crown. Caesar went against the wishes of his wife in order to receive the honor of ruling Rome. Instead, he was stabbed to death.

Cassius and friends hoped to sway the public in their view and thought if they could get the support of Marc Antony that nothing more would happen. Instead, Antony paid them lip service and conspired with Octavius against them that had killed Caesar.

Antony was able to get enough of the populous on his side, that many of the Senate were killed, most of them not part of the scheme at all. Antony and Octavius joined their military forces to battle the forces of Brutus and Cassius.

In the end, the conspirators lie dead. Most by their own hand, haunted by the ghost of Caesar and the evils of their own plotting.

Politics hasn't changed much for the better. Although, now we get awful advertisements (true and otherwise) on the television rather than actual assassinations. The whole petty ego driven spirit of it all seems about the same.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

I was finding Julius Caesar very tedious so I had to digress a moment and read my book club book.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is set during the French Revolution. He is a masked person (not literally but he does wear a disguise) who is a person of heroic legend in England and villainous legend in France.

He and an anonymous band of young men conspire to save the lives of many innocent nobility who are slated for the guillotine. They manage to steal the people away out from under the noses of Robespierre and his men of the French Provisional Government. Then, perhaps from hubris, a note is sent to the French powers that be advising them of who has just been stolen away and saved from certain death.

Along with this story of adventure and daring, is a love story of sorts. A young French woman, Marguerite St. Just has recently married a wealthy Englishman, Percy Blakenley, Bart. She is known to be the smartest woman in Europe and he is known to be a simple fop who loves fashion, cards and a laugh. Marguerite does not respect her husband and he, in turn, does not seem to respect her. Once they both learn more about each other though, things may change.

This was a fun read. It was a bit tedious at the beginning because I thought Lady Blakenley to be a shallow and snippy woman who clearly wasn't seeing what was in front of her eyes. As I got into the story more, I was able to more enjoy the intrigue that twisted through the story from a variety of corners.

I recommend this book. Now, on to finish Julius Caesar!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Since the list of works from the Authors card game was a bit overwhelming, I wasn't sure where to begin. I decided to list them in chronological order of publication date. This means, I'll get all the Shakespeare taken care of first thing. I've read them all before especially Romeo and Juliet plus I've seen them performed and seen a couple movie productions of the books. I decided to pay attention to what I have either forgotten or just never noticed before.

First, Juliet's nurse had a daughter, Susan, the same age as Juliet. Susan died but it isn't specific when that happened. Nurse had also had a husband who was around in Juliet's youth but has since died. The only reason this is really important is that Nurse seems extremely protective of Juliet. More mothering than Lady Capulet for certain. It is quite possible that after the death of Susan, Nurse poured more of herself into her duties as Nurse.

Second, Mercutio, Paris and Prince are all related. Mercutio seems like the quintessential playboy while Paris has always seemed like a dweeb. Perhaps it is the various portrayals that I have seen but he seems like such a suck-up with the Capulets in trying to marry Juliet who doesn't even know what he looks like. Prince is just all about duty. If they were the three little pigs, Mercutio would be the straw-building pig because he'd be too busy partying and brawling for anything else. Paris would be the stick-builder because he'd try to do the right thing but would be lame about it. Prince would definitely be the responsible brick-builder.

Third, Paris dies. It makes sense that he dies since it's a tragedy. It is also tidy for the story because now there isn't an extra suitor left hanging. I suppose Shakespeare could have married him off to Rosaline but then it wouldn't have been as tragic.

Fourth, Romeo's mother, Lady Montague, dies. News of her death is not reported until the scene at the tomb. She apparently dies of grief over the news of Romeo's banishment. Good thing she didn't stick around for the gruesome scene in the tomb. I'm surprised that Lady Capulet doesn't die of the shock of seeing her dead daughter now really dead and bloody too. She doesn't seem like a terribly sensible woman.

I really enjoy the plays on words and the fast banter that Shakespeare gives his characters. It makes the story more entertaining although I find myself needing to read out loud in order to get the full effect of the language. The silly, romantic behavior of the teenagers is mildly annoying but I suppose that's the way the world looks when you are 14. I don't think my memory does the age justice.