Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Written by: Carrie Ryan
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Language: English
March 2009, $16.99
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

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I love zombies. Love to kill him in games like Resident Evil, love to watch them ala Shaun of the Dead and anything from George Romero and I love to read about them. Why? Because they are more than just the undead. They are metaphors for our society, of consumerism and what it is like to be one of the undead, not really living but just shuffling on. They are about faith, and death and a dystopian look on ‘what if’. They can be funny, thought provoking, scary and sad.

I think it started with Michael Jackson’s Thriller (yep I still know a good portion of the dance). I had always been drawn to the macabre, sneaking in to watch Nightmare on Elm Street with my babysitter who swore not to tell my parents but warned me that I would have nightmares (ooh my poor poor Johnny Depp. I was terrified of my bed for a good 48 hours). I loved to be scared, still do. It’s why I tend to be one of the few women that would rather go see a horror film than a chick flick. Blood and guts that is me and it should be a shock to no one. *smirk* I watch them all, the slasher flicks, the old Hammer films or Dario Argento’s pieces. I get annoyed at recent fares, but still netflix them or watch the abysmal yet funny Syfy channel flicks on Saturday nights. I long for drinking parties while watching Megashark vs Giant Octopus or the hope that someone will finally give me a good ghost story.

But there is something about zombies. They’re coming to get you Barbara. Yep, scared me and I loved it. George Romero had the flesh eating shambling type that had me preparing my zombie apocalypse plan even then. But he also made a sharp commentary on the breakdown of the American dream and society in general masquerading as a horror film. Pure genius as far as I am concerned. It is not so much about being eaten by a zombie, though admittedly that would suck. I think it’s about having your life, your soul, all that you are taken away from you. Maybe to another a person who controls you or maybe just becoming a mindless crawling thing. And let’s not forget our fear of death or the fear that our quest for immortality could go just a bit wrong.

We’ve had a lot of pop culturey goodness that feature the undead from Planet Terror to 28 Days Later, The Zombie Survival Guide, Zombie Haiku and The Walking Dead series. I have taken part in a few zombie walks, imagined how well I would do if the Zombie Apocalypse happened and devour anything zombie related.

However, that isn’t why I picked up this book. I picked it up because I loved the title. Then the back had me hooked. Zombies set in a Village sort of setting. Count me in. And I was hooked by the first paragraph. Smitten actually and four hours later I finally put in down.

It has been seven generations after the Return, generations after the Unconsecrated destroyed life as we knew it. For Mary who lives in an isolated village along the Forest of Hands and Teeth it has been a lonely, suffocating and frustrating life. Rules are all Mary has ever known. Commitment, duty, these are what the Village lives by. Mary wants more. Her mother has long told her stories of the ocean, of a life beyond the fences where maybe, just maybe there is finally freedom. But to leave means defying the Sisterhood, her family and friends and entering the forest which is filled with the Unconsecrated.

When events unfold Mary finds she finally has to make those choices she has never had the courage to make. Choices about love, about friendship, about the only life she has ever known and about survival. Are they the right choices? Is there anything left outside of The Forest of Hands and Teeth?

A Brief Excerpt: My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.

In my mother's stories, passed down from her many-greats-grandmother, the ocean sounded like the wind through the trees and men used to ride the water. Once, when I was older and our village was suffering through a drought, I asked my mother why, if so much water existed, were there years when our own streams ran almost dry? She told me that the ocean was not for drinking--that the water was filled with salt.
That is when I stopped believing her about the ocean. How could there be so much salt in the universe and how could God allow so much water to become useless?

But there are times when I stand at the edge of the Forest of Hands and Teeth and look out at the wilderness that stretches on forever and wonder what it would be like if it were all water. I close my eyes and listen to the wind in the trees and imagine a world of nothing but water closing over my head.

It would be a world without the Unconsecrated, a world without the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Often, my mother stands next to me holding her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and looking out past the fences and into the trees and brush, waiting to see if her husband will come home to her.

She is the only one who believes that he has not turned--that he might come home the same man he was when he left. I gave up on my father months ago and buried the pain of losing him as deeply as possible so that I could continue with my daily life. Now I sometimes fear coming to the edge of the Forest and looking past the fence. I am afraid I will see him there with the others: tattered clothes, sagging skin, the horrible pleading moan and the fingers scraped raw from pulling at the metal fences.

That no one has seen him gives my mother hope. At night she prays to God that he has found some sort of enclave similar to our village. That somewhere in the dense Forest he has found safety. But no one else has any hope. The Sisters tell us that ours is the only village left in the world.

My brother Jed has taken to volunteering extra shifts for the Guardian patrols that monitor the fence line. I know that, like me, he thinks our father is lost to the Unconsecrated and that he hopes to find him during the patrol of the perimeter and kill him before our mother sees what her husband has become.

People in our village have gone mad from seeing their loved ones as Unconsecrated. It was a woman--a mother--horrified at the sight of her son infected during a patrol, who set herself on fire and burned half of our town. That was the fire that destroyed my family's heirlooms when I was a child, that obliterated our only ties to who we were as a people before the Return, though most were so corroded by then that they left only wisps of memories.

Jed and I watch our mother closely now and we never allow her to approach the fence line unaccompanied. At times Jed's wife Beth used to join us on these vigils until she was sent to bed rest with her first child. Now it is just us…

Things I loved: Oh how I loved this book. In fact it is one of the best books I have read this year. It isn’t just the zombie factor or the fact that the mini movie in my head with streaks of red out of the corner of your eye completely captivated me as I read it. I was Mary. I wanted to know the secrets. I wanted to know what was beyond the fence. I felt trapped as Mary did, I questioned when she did and loved and lost. The fact that this once began as part of the Nanowrimo challenge in 2006 and that publishers took a chance with it makes me love it even more.

It is a beautifully written book and the prose completely had me hanging on every word. The internal dialogue is amazing with Mary as the core of this story. This is her life, through her eyes. It is an honest and strong voice. She is not without her faults. She can be brave and selfish, curious and loving, hateful and scared. She is a flawed creature, but she is a real one. More alive than anyone else in the novel, she wants what she cannot have. She dreams of freedom and of a life where she can be herself, where she can write her own story. Her journey is not without its own cost and in some of her choices you want to hate her. She may be selfish, but despite the consequences of her actions I cannot hate her. Her story is far more complex than it first appears and hit me on many different levels. As she struggles to find herself in world that can be so cruel and callous, I struggled with her. She is a force all her own, a fighter and a survivor. She pushes everyone else to their limits forces them to make touch decisions. She wonders if it is all worth fighting for? And she loves…oh how she loves…flawed and deep and beautiful in its own way.

A friend of mine said that the other characters seem one offs because Mary is so strong in her voice. In a way, yes. They are characterized only by how Mary seems them and interacts with them, how she loves and hates them and only by what she sees and hears and feels. Such is the way with first personal narration, but it is so much more engaging for me this way. Her voice and her story is more realistic because of this.

* I loved the setting. I know I may be one of the few people who actually loved M. Night’s The Village, but this was the Village with zombies, albeit the Sisterhood is far scarier than the Elders could ever dream to be. This is the world after the Zombie Apocalypse is over, a life after World War Z where the Unconsecrated still roam. It is a century later where nature has begun to take over the once carefully constructed fences, where the Sisterhood has taken advantage of their knowledge of the Return and uses it to rule, and where the shotguns have long run out of ammo. It is a simple life, a life without shopping malls and ipods, where an old winery is a cathedral and every day is a blessing. Even safe within the fence, you risk becoming Unconsecrated, not due to a bite, but because you are bound to rules and a life that you don’t want. You have survived the Return, but at what cost? And how, how did so much become lost? Are there still aging skyscrapers full of wildlife and trapped Unconsecrated? Are there more survivors? Is there still something left of the technology we have all grown so used to? And how can a single image of the ocean be something that pushes you forward. This is Mary’s Shell Beach ala Dark City.

* There is so much that I don’t know. It’s an odd thing wanting all the answers, but grateful that I don’t know them at the same time. Would I be satisfied with those answers? How did the Sisterhood start? Were they once part of the government or science communities who knew that the Return would come, prepared for it? What did they do to Gabrielle? What else was in the bottom of the winery? The Sisterhood is such a self serving group. True, they are allowing humanity to survive, but what else is out there? Did they enjoy being rulers of their own mini kingdoms even when they knew there might still be more out there? Did they factor in that the fences may be breached one day? Would they have left the Villagers? What other secrets did they keep? They were such an interesting part of the book and now that I know that there will be more books I want to know more.

Things I didn't love so much: I don’t really have anything to gripe on other than it ended far too quickly than I wanted to. That I was left too early in the morning wondering why there aren’t more books like that out there? That I didn’t have enough answers? That this would make a great film and I can already see the flashes of red vest, but too scared that they will ruin it and turn it into a Twilight-esque mess.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. Even if Zombies aren’t necessarily your thing, read it, tell me what you think. Let’s discuss. Just like George Romero’s Dead films were about more than the undead, so is Ryan’s novel. It is more about the Unconsecrated and survival. Haven’t we all felt a bit trapped by our hometowns, of societal and family expectations and wanting to know if there is something more out there, to live a life that is our own instead of someone else’s? And of course if you love zombies, whoo hoo this is for you as well.

Part of: a Series. The Dead Tossed Waves, a sequel will be out in 2010. One more is expected to be penned after that.

Also Recommended: World War Z by Max Brooks, Monster Island by David Wellington, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Generation Dead by Daniel Waters.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Strangely Beautiful Tale...

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
Written by: Leanna Renee Hieber
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books
Language: English
August 2009, $6.99
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy
ARC: Thank you http://www.leannareneehieber.com/

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

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I never thought that when I began to write my blog that people would visit, that my reviews would either persuade or dissuade someone from reading particular book. I began my blog for me simply because I love books. I love the worlds that they take me to, I love what they teach me and the pure entertainment and escape that books provide. I will be the first to admit that I am a bookaholic. My TBR piles are threatening to take over my bedroom and yet still I buy new books. Like the blog says I buy books first and if I have anything left over than we’ll move on to the clothes and food. Who needs gas in the car if only to drive me to the nearest bookstore.

I am happy to put forth a few bucks for a book to call my own, but it is nice when you get them in the post for less than that. Even better, when you get a chance to talk to the author about who they are, fangirlyness and all, before you receive said gift in the post. As a fellow Joss Whedon fan I knew that Leanna was good people and I was actually looking forward to the tale she had weaved. She described it as a gothic Victorian fantasy as well as few other much loved genres mixed within that is the first of a quartet of novels. She promised mythology, a tender love story and a while lot of fun. How could I resist.

The book begins in 1867 when six children from different backgrounds are drawn to the middle of London and to each other. They have become The Guard and have but one task and that is to fight the darkness and keep balance between the living and the restless ghosts that still wander London. It is a big responsibility and as members each have been granted a special ability thanks to the spirit that now lies within each.

That night they are also visited by what they believe to be a goddess who informs them what has happened and warns them that in order to fight the darkness, a Prophecy must be fulfilled in the form of a seventh member. But this seventh member means that the real war will begin and though she does not say how or when it will happen, she mentions that they will all see a door and that there will be a trickster as well. Then she vanishes.

Twenty years later those children have grown into adults. Their Prophecy has not yet come to ass, though they keep looking for clues. Rebecca and Alexi now run an exclusive Academy and it is at the exclusive Athens School where we first meet Miss Percy Parker.

She is a strange and beautiful creature. Raised in a convent with the ability to see and speak to ghosts, she looks very much like the ghosts that have always been part of her life. She is hoping for a fresh start and a chance to finally experience life outside the convent walls, but what she doesn’t realize is how much her life is truly about to change.

Things I loved: A mixture of Lady Amalthea from the Last Unicorn, a smidge of Luna Lovegood if she were fond of bustles and ghosts and a sweet far too innocent shy creature, Miss Percy Parker is certainly strange and beautiful as is her story. Alexi is dark and brooding all Edward Rochester with the smexiness of Alan Rickman. Not a horrible combination, come to think of it. I found myself both hating and loving Percy. Hating her because she was the teenage angst ridden, oh I am so strange and no one likes me version of Alexi in a pale pale body. She was so meek and uncertain that I wanted to shake her…a lot (In fact one of my meh moments was how often we are reminded of her self pity and angst, yes we get it you are so pale and oh how you hate it) But I loved her because weren’t we all that lost and uncertain at one time of our lives. Somehow she grew on me despite how bipolar she seemed at time. And she does have an inner strength which comes through when it needs to. Because this is the first book of a planned trilogy, I expect that she will grow as a character in the next two and no longer will we have the wisp of a girl, but a young woman. It is only if she doesn’t that I will truly be disappointed.

* I enjoyed the mythology surrounding the characters and if Percy is who she is I am quite interested to see who the rest of the Guard has at their core.

* The prose is lyrical, dreamy trying to invoke the Victorian era while trying to remain elegantly poetical. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are passages that are quite beautiful to read, but unfortunately at times it also came off as trying a bit too hard especially when it came to some of the dialogue. However, there are moments of greatness and those eclipse the meh moments so while it may not always be consistent, it is enjoyable over all.

* I liked some of the secondary characters such as Josephine, but longed for a bit more development. It is a hard thing to do sometimes balancing plot with character development and I will admit that many of the books I read fail in one aspect or another. And yet I know there will be more books and I hope that the rest of the Guard will become more fully developed. I love the ideas though and that is what draws me on. I want to know more, I want to see more and that curiosity has been lacking in a lot of books of late. So if a book can engage me that much, it is worth it.

* It’s a strange hodpodge of genres that somehow works. It is not spectacular but very charming. It’s a different take on the classic Victorian gothic romance with the paranormal and fantastic thrown in. Not everyone will enjoy it. Some may find it a bit stilted while others adore it. I found myself somewhere in between though leaning quite happily to the charmed side of things.

Things I didn't love so much: A small gripe, but the use of Prophecy as referring to a person was a bit maddening and irked me a bit as if trying to make the connection between Percy and Prophecy as if Percy’s name were Prophecy. Almost like being reminded of Percy’s pale pale beauty. Once or twice is fine, but when it is mentioned four times in 8 paragraphs, it is a little rough. In this I felt like she was trying too hard and she didn’t need to almost as if this were a really good piece of fan fiction that turned into her own story in the end. Sometimes less is more, something that George Lucas should also take to heart.

* I feel divided on the romance, mostly because I felt that Alexi was too much of a one note. There was no development with his character and to be honest the romance is a little creepy and happened quite quickly without a whole lot for me to go on. I need a bit of motivation. On the other hand it is a bit sweet as well. I know it may be weird of me, but I was hoping for not so much of an age difference, but in the end as I said it is sweet.

*This is more of a gripe in general these days, more to the whole of my beloved genre niche than to this book in particular. Everything seems to be series which can be nice because when you fall in love with a setting or a set of characters you want to read more. Unfortunately I think that sometimes a first in a series can sometimes get away with a lot of things like underdeveloped characters, convoluted plots, etc because we know there will be more and hope that such things are resolved. But why? Why can’t I have that the first round and the next only builds on what I already love? Sorry small tirade aside, there were frustrating moments in this tale. The beginning started out wonderfully, eerie, mysterious and intriguing. It lost its footing a bit in the middle, got a bit meandering and slow and then picked up the pace though perhaps a bit too fast in the end.

I did enjoy the book, gripes aside. I think my gripes come from seeing potential. Something you don’t always get these days. In all Percy is a delightful little read, but I know that Heiber has it in her to do something far greater and when she writes that I will be in line and will be happy to spend my hard earned money on the next. And it will be there, but like Percy I think she is just finding her stride.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a fan of genre and like the ideas behind it, borrow if you’re not quite sure. Not an insult by any means but I do think that any Snape lovers out here who read far too much fanfiction (like me) or have many many pictures of Mr. Rickman hanging about (also like me) may be smitten. It certainly didn’t hurt thinking of Alexi as Rickman (ala Prince of Thieves for me more than Snape, though with the robes)

Part of: The Guard? More are planned.

Also Recommended: You might enjoy the Menagerie series by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski which features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the second most powerful sorcerer in the world, a demon changeling, God’s own Clay in the form of a shapeshifting man, Eve…yes that Eve, an adventuring ghost, a hobgoblin, and a lady of Faerie. Like the Guard they are what keeps the balance between this world and the next and it is quite a fun ride.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Literate Housewife

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I had the chance to swap interviews with the amazing Jennifer over at the literate housewife. She has an amazing little site. Not only does she read a little bit of everything but her reviews are quite thoughtful and more than just a quick blurb. If she isnt already on your radar, she should be.



THE BASICS:
Name: Jennifer
Blog Name: The Literate Housewife Review
Blog URL: http://literatehousewife.com
Country: USA

This is your back bio blurb. In 50 words or less describe yourself.
I am a 30-something wife and mother of two. By day I am a Senior Business Systems Analyst. By lunch break and evening, I am the Literate Housewife. I do my best to keep a tidy home for the insatiably literate.

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THE BIBLIOPHILE:
What inspired you to start a blog? Especially about books?
At the end of 2006, I decided to make a resolution that had nothing to do with my family or my career. Since my youngest daughter was born, I had been very depressed and the only thing that kept me sane were my 2am readings in my rocking chair. That gave me the inspiration to attempt to read 52 books in 2007. This blog began in January of '07 as a way for me to keep track of those books.

Have you always been an avid reader?
Yes, I've always loved to read. I used to spend my weekends and summers reading anything I could get my hands on.

What is it that you love the most about reading?
What I love the most is the way reading engages my mind and spirit at the same time. It also gives me the freedom to travel anywhere at any time. It is relaxing and adventurous to me at the same time.

What are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are Margaret Mitchell, Philippa Gregory, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, and Stieg Larsson most recently.

If you could only read 5 books for the next decade, which five books would they be and why?
What a nightmare! It's only for a decade though. Phew! I would choose Gone with the Wind, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Old Man and the Sea, U2 by U2 (eye candy), and War and Peace because I've never read it and it would take a good part of that decade to finish it. LOL!

What is your favorite genre to read? Why? What do you love most and least about that genre?
My favorite genre is Historical Fiction. I fell in love with it after reading The Other Boleyn Girl. Ever since them I've been fascinated by Tudor England. Recently I've been branching out to other countries and time periods. I love it because it encourages me to dig deeper into history so I learn a lot while while reading some great fiction.

If you become any character from a book or inhabit a particular literary world, who or where would you be?
This is a really tough question. Most of the characters in Tudor fiction are in way too much danger for me to actually want to become them. I've always loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Even though they were poor, they had such a loving family and it was such an interesting time in our country's history. I think I would choose that world.

What are your reading habits? Do you read one book at a time or do you read several? Any particular time of day? Any particular genre?
I read every spare moment I get. The most egregious place I read is at long stop lights - hey, I get a good paragraph or two in before the light changes and I never read while driving. I have a book in my purse and an audio in progress at all times. I get the most solid reading in while my daughters are watching Noggin or after they are in bed. I usually have a book in print and a book on audio going. If I'm having trouble getting into one or the other, I might have three. Historical Fiction and Gothic are my favorites, but I'll read just about anything so long as it isn't overly political, fantasy, or science fiction.

Speaking of reading habits, how big is your TBR pile? Do you keep adding to it?
My TBR is huge, but I can't give you an exact number. They are written down on scraps of paper and put into a little folder thingy in my purse. I've always been meaning to organize what I don't have already. Thankfully since I started entering all of my books with LibraryThing, I have a decent grasp of what I own that I want or need to read. I have roughly 190 books waiting to be read. That decade with only 5 books would kill me! LOL!

THE BLOGGER:
Since you have begun your blog what has been your favorite book you’ve read?
My favorite book since the beginning of 2007 is The Other Boleyn Girl. It was just the right book at the right time. That's not to say that I haven't read other incredible books. I just keep going back to that book because it was so defining for me and for my blog.

Do you read other book blogs? If so do you have any favorites?
I read a lot of other book blogs. My Google Reader is my salvation in that respect. It's the only way I really can keep up with as many as I do. In a way I'm a little anxious about BBAW because it's going to make my Google Reader explode.

What do you love most and least about being a book blogger?
What I love most about being a book blogger is the connections I've made with other book lovers all over the world. I live in a small, rural community. Without my book blog, I'm rather limited in bookish conversation.

What I least like about being a book blogger is the struggle to maintain a balance between my life and my blog. It's difficult and I don't always feel successful. My goal for next year is to get better at that.

What advice would you give to other avid readers who want to launch their own book blog?
Just do it! If you love books, engaging in bookish conversation, and have a desire to start a blog, you're half way there. Don't be afraid to ask advise of your favorite book bloggers. Just be patient when you're getting started. It takes some time to build rapport. If you enjoy what you do and are true to yourself, you'll do great.

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So there you have it the Literate Housewife aka Jennifer. She's a great woman who knows what she likes and isn't afraid to speak her mind. I have her bookmarked. Do you?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bone Crossed

Bone Crossed
Written by: Patricia Briggs
Hardcover: 309 pages
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Language: English
February 2009, $24.95
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy

Welcome to Patricia Briggs's world, a place where "witches, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters live beside ordinary people" (Booklist). It takes a very unusual woman to call it home—and there's no one quite like Mercy Thompson.

By day, Mercy is a car mechanic in the sprawling Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington. By night, she explores her preternatural side. As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, Mercy has often found herself having to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human. This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan—and she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack (and her close relationship with its sexy Alpha), it won't be Mercy's blood Marsilia is after.

It'll be her friends'.


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I will begin this review by stating, I can’t really review Bone Crossed without giving away the previous three books. So beware there will be spoilers as much as I will try not to give the entire plot away. You have been warned. And if you haven’t read the first three books, why the hell not?

Bone Crossed begins where Iron Kissed left off. Mercy is still reeling over the events from the last book, events that have left her vulnerable and just a little bit broken. But our Mercy is a survivor. Determined not to become a victim she tries to get on with her life, despite everyone hovering around her expecting her to break at any moment. She finally accepts Adam as her mate, though not everyone is ecstatic with this idea because Mercy is not a werewolf, but a walker. Of course Mercy doesn’t have a whole lot of time to tell the lot to stuff it when Stefan, Mercy’s Scooby Doo loving vampire friend, crashes into her living room half dead. It seems that Marsilia, the vampire queen knows that Mercy killed Andre, a member of her seethe and she is really not happy about it.

With crossed bones on the door of her garage, it is clear that Marsilia wants to send a message. Mercy is a traitor to the vampires and fair game to any sort of nasty. Though Adam’s Pack is sworn to protect her, Mercy isn’t willing to put them in the crosshairs. So she heads to Spokane, when an all too convenient college friend named Amber turns up with a haunted house problem. Of course it is far more complicated than that. Once again Mercy finds herself at the center of trouble and is forced to rely on herself, friends and a fellow prisoner if she wants to make it out alive.

Things I loved: We begin book four of the Mercy Thompson series with Mercy still reeling over the events from Iron Kissed. It’s hard to put things past you when everyone asks you how you are doing, but no one really wants to hear the truth of ‘No, I’m not okay’. Just because she is a walker doesn’t mean that Mercy is immune to those events. It is going to take a very long time to get over and deal with what was done to her. She still has panic attacks, is squeamish, has flashbacks when she least expects or wants them. This is where Briggs could have magically made it all disappear, but she didn’t. And while there are some rough spots where I think Patricia stumbled with Mercy’s rape (like when you are feeling extremely vulnerable and scared and scarred you go to a city that isn’t home, to deal with a ghost problem of someone you not only haven’t seen for years, but whom you don’t really trust especially when it leads her to be tied up, beaten, and thrown into a cage…cause that’s not going to be a trigger at all. But I digress, minor gripe), she dealt with it well. It didn’t go away. It wasn’t forgotten and for that I like Briggs just a little bit more.

*Yeah Vampires. I love how varied the menu is with these books. Sometimes we have werewolves, sometimes vampires and sometimes the fey. While they are all intertwined one species or the other tends to take center stage. I was ready to have werewolves again because I really do adore Stefan. More than that, the appearance of Marsilia and Stefan means continuity. Yeah! Finally we see that actions in previous books, most notably Blood Bound do have consequences.

* One thing I absolutely love about this series is the characters. Mercy is one of my favorite characters. She is strong, but yet knows she has vulnerabilities. There is no boring angst, no whining, no moping. She makes her decisions based on what will keep her or those she cares about safe. But she makes mistakes. Sometimes she doesn’t always see the glaring neon sign that says bad idea, or maybe she does and thinks it will somehow work out. And she is vulnerable. She doesn’t always accept those vulnerabilities or even like to admit that there are some things that she cannot take on by herself. Either way I can relate to her. I like her and we have seen her grow into a fascinating and truly likable character.

* Whoo hoo on the return of the enigmatic little staff/walking stick. And kudos to the Oakman who was just plain cool.

* I enjoyed the foreshadowing and revelations we were treated with in this installment which of course makes me giddy for the next book. The plot itself wasn’t too shabby. While I would adore a clever thriller/mystery instead of another big bad making Mercy his/her play thing, I was pleased with the story overall.

Things I didn't love so much: Recognizing her own vulnerability as well as that of those she cares for she decides to finally accept Adam as her mate. It is not a light decision and I think it something that I hope Briggs will deal with as the series continues. While she is obviously attracted to Adam and in her own way loves the man, she feels pressured and no one should feel pressured to spend the rest of their lives with someone. Mercy has always been her own woman, the lone coyote, the woman who doesn’t enjoy being a damsel in distress. But what happened with Tim shook her to the core. For the first time I feel like Mercy became the damsel in distress. And yet she is loyal to the Pack, loyal to those she cares for and she knows the longer she doesn’t make a decision the more vulnerable the Pack is as a whole. While I was happy with the decision (I do have my soft spot for Samuel. I would take him any day) overall, I cannot help but be a little troubled. I want Mercy to choose Adam because she loves him, because despite all her worries she knows that he is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, that for once two loners can find comfort in each other’s arms. Both characters don’t trust easily, not do they like to lean on anyone for support because in doing so that makes them vulnerable and that is a scary place to be. I guess I just want my happily ever after for them because yes I am a big mushy romantic at heart.

*Speaking of Mercy and Adam, after all of that buildup and exquisitely crafted teaser scenes of sexual innuendo, all we get is Adam “getting down to business”. Where is the passion between the two characters, or the feeling. It seemed more of a ‘let’s get this over with’ instead of something that fans have been looking forward to for four books. And while yes I realize that Mercy is vulnerable, that she wants to push past things and probably moving faster than she should, there should have been more. The scenes between Mercy and Stefan had more passion. And yes I was disappointed. I didn’t expect some Laurell K Hamilton smut fest because Briggs has never strayed that way in my opinion, but I did want there to be something. When Mercy and Adam had their would they or wont they moment after some clever sparring a couple of books ago that held more oompf than what we got. We got all sort of tease and then a cop out. For once they fell flat.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. While admittedly the hard cover is all pretty, me and that lil OCD bibliophile is just a shade annoyed because she likes having either all paperbacks or all hardcovers because they look purty on my shelves. But despite my quirk it is worth the read and the buy if you are a Mercy fan.

Part of: Mercy Thompson series.
Moon Called: Book One
Blood Bound: Book Two
Iron Kissed: Book Three

Also Recommended: The rest of the series if you haven’t read them. The Alpha and Omega series also by Patricia Briggs. The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Written by: Mary Roach
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Language: English
October 2006, $13.99
Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor

The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers now trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

+++++++++++++

I first read Mary Roach’s Stiff a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I loved her writing style. It was humorous, it was honest and yet at the same time I learned something. I was thoroughly entertained and so when I saw Spook on sale, I had to pick it up.

I wasn’t as hooked on "Spook" as I was "Stiff". It was still an engaging read, but there was something missing for me. Maybe it was because I wanted Mary to find something in all of her research, that the Ghost Hunters watching, I want to believe inner Smirking was disappointed that Casper isn’t looking over my shoulder or hiding all of my socks. It isn’t that Mary isn’t hopeful because she is. As much as she is firmly rooted in the rational scientific aspect of it all, I think there is part of her that wants to be proven wrong, that there really is something outside of death.

Things I loved: I like that faith isn’t really brought up in this. The book is really about if science as a whole tackles and measures the ghosties, the soul and reincarnation well or if at all. Can science bring any new truths to the table? Mary keeps her impartial attitude for the most part though admittedly the few subjects she did tackle it seemed like she chose a few subjects that you knew were a bit iffy going in.

*I did laugh, don’t get me wrong. The chapter where she enrolls in Medium school is probably one of the best. Or possibly the chapter after that where she tries telecommunicating with the dead. It is those chapters where I get her quirky sense of humor, that I can relate to her and genuinely laughed out loud.

Things I didn't love so much: The historical bits aka the first few chapters were a bit dull and tended to drag on. Not exactly the way to start a book as I picked up a few times and admittedly did the skimming thing a bit just to get through them. It just wasn’t as interesting for me as some of the latter chapters.

*Roach could have taken her book in a very different direction and waxed poetically on every spiritual path and while I would have applauded her widely for such a task and been very interested, her books have been about the scientific approach to things, not philosophy. But as I said there was something missing in this volume of scientific humor. It seems like she spent more time debunking everything than really going in to discover all that the ideas of death and the afterlife could offer. Yet, at the same time, she tells us going in that she is skeptic and that she is just looking for proof. However, for me there was an underlying tone that almost said ‘I don’t want there to be proof’. Maybe that is just my Mulder self talking again.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. While not a bad book, I just wasn’t as entertained as I was with Stiff. I am hoping and thinking Bonk will be better.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: “Stiff” and “Bonk” also by Mary Roach. Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Killer Tease

Killer Tease
Written by: Danny Hogan
Paperback: 113 pages
Publisher: Pulp Press
Language: English
January 2009, $8.00
Genre: Fiction/Pulp
ARC

“Smiling, winking, pouting, hinting, allowing a quick peek – she was more titillating than a thousand dead-eyed cover girls who would show their all for cash and a taste of the highlife. She danced, punters watched. They didn’t touch. She had to perform –Burlesque was her reason to be.”

Eloise Murphy was a pure thoroughbred of the old school. It had taken her years of work to pay her dues; and she had paid them the old-fashioned way. Her ink was proof. She had fought tooth and nail for what she had. No-one was going to take away what she had earned, no matter what low-life, foul, under-hand schemes they threw at her.

Set in and around Kemp Town and the seafront pubs and clubs of Brighton, Killer Tease is a mean tale of getting up after being kicked to the ground.


+++++++++++++

A few years ago McSweeney’s put out an issue edited by Michael Chabon that was a collection of pulp fiction stories by authors like Stephen King, Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby. I loved it. The original pulp novels were printed on cheap wood pulp rather than slickness of more expensive magazines. And while authors like Raymond Chandler and Robert Heinlein wrote for pulps, they are mostly known for their cover art, and the exploitative stories that were within. It’s a great little genre. Usually they are gritty, unapologetic and a hell of a lot of fun just like their settings which are usually violent, crime ridden and just a little bit seedy. So when I got Killer Tease in the post and looked at the cover I was pleased as punch. Looking like a cheap dime novel with the faux distressed cover as if I’d found it in sitting among the penny dreadfuls at the local used boostore, it has our heroine looking tough and gritty with taglines of “Burlesque was her life but, in the seedy underbelly of Brighton, it might be the death of her.

Eloise Murphy is a burlesque dancer and though she may not bare it all she will crush your jaw if you manhandle her once she is off the stage. Likewise to the lap dancing cheap thrills upstarts who try to tell her she is a has been. Eloise is not a nice girl. She’s right out of Grindhouse exploitation film of the 60’s and 70’s, the girl with the razorblade smile who is too tough as nails for her to be sexy or glamorous. She’s had a hard life and has the scars both on the inside and outside to prove it.

After smashing a tumbler into a client who is trying to roofie her, Murphy finds herself out of a job and away from her beloved stage. Things only go from bad to worse when she finds a new gig from a wealthy club owner, especially when she is blackmailed into accepting the job when she realizes that there is something off about the whole thing. This is more than a burlesque job, when she gets on stage she discovers that it was all a ruse and every audience member is someone who saw her temper a time or two. They’re here to inflict pain and a lot of it. That is what they paid for after all.

Bruised and battered, Eloise goes for vengeance. Hell hath no fury is an understatement and what is left is a violent bloody romp that would make Tarantino proud.

Things I loved: You don’t like Eloise and yet you cannot help but root for her at the end. She is a mean, unappealing character and wears that title proudly just as her writer writes her unapologetically. But there is something endearing about her as much as you wouldn’t want to be on the same side of the street with her. She has attitude. She doesn’t take shit for anyone and despite that hardness you can’t help but admire her for not giving up, for not being the damsel in distress. Granted she becomes a berserker in a corset with a hatchet, but…you dig her. I want her to win and I want the bad guys to pay in really horrible ways. Maybe that is the horror fan in me.

Things I didn't love so much: The ending is a bit rushed and could have been stretched out a bit considering that the first half of the book is pure setup to the last bloody and brutal finale. It’s a quick read, but almost too much so. I wanted the holes to be filled in a bit more to make it truly wonderful just as I wanted character motivations to be a bit more clear. There is history between characters but I wasn’t quite sure what it was and I think it would have helped with the story.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a fan of the pulp genre. Borrow if it is something you are not sure you will like. For me the pulp novels I usually like are Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe more than a Kill Bill sort of thing. But I wasn’t disappointed. There was nothing that said the book was going to be anything other than what it promised. In the end it just isn’t quite the thing I read frequently.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The above mentioned McSweeney’s, The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer and Money Shot by Christa Faust.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Dirty Job

A Dirty Job
Written by: Christopher Moore
Paperback: 405 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Language: English
March 2007, $13.99
Genre: Fiction/Humor

Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy with a normal life, married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. They're even about to have their first child. Yes, Charlie's doing okay—until people start dropping dead around him, and everywhere he goes a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Charlie Asher, it seems, has been recruited for a new position: as Death.

It's a dirty job. But, hey! Somebody's gotta do it.


+++++++++++++

I have read some of Christopher Moore’s stuff (Lamb is highly recommended), but somehow I never got around to reading this one. Can’t imagine why it took me so long. I needed a break from the usual urban fantasy and graphic novel niche I have recently decided to reside in. I wanted funny ha ha and that is exactly what I got. Granted there are heavy shades of Terry Pratchett and Dead Like Me for me, but I haven’t laughed out loud this much in a long time and that is always a good thing.

The story begins with Charlie Asher, a recently widowed beta male and consignment shop owner, discovers he has been recruited to help death. However, a little difficult when your goth employee throws away the ‘how-to’ guide to all things death. Throw in some other death dealers, ancient death gods who really want to party topside instead of being stuck in the sewers and a daughter who cannot seem to keep her pets alive for longer than a day and you have a good time in store.

Things I loved: I laughed a lot. One of my favorite parts in the book is the mini montage of Sophie’s pets with the final ‘Kitty’ moment. Hi-larious. There are many moments like this, ones that you cannot help but giggle over or recite as if others will understand what you are talking about. Also made me want to go read Mort again and watch the mini movie of Dead Like Me (because I haven’t seen it yet).

*The characters are wonderful from Charlie, To Minty Fresh, to the wonderful neighbors Charlie and Sophie have, to the Hellhounds and even to the Squirrel People. They are all wildly imaginative, funny and yet there is more than laughs to them. There is a poignancy if you look hard enough and that makes the book endearing while making you laugh. Shiny gold star Mr. Moore.

* I loved seeing some familiar characters like The Emperor.

* The dialogue is witty, the action funny and quirky and the pace even and quick. Of course anything with Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev is top notch…like bear.

* I love that most people don’t have souls, that instead when they are ready their soul finds them. It is an interesting take without getting overly religious.

Things I didn't love so much: The squirrel people are a bit odd, almost too odd and yet somehow I didn’t mind all that much. Not that the rest of the book isn’t absurd enough, but it was a tad too much, though made for hilarious scenes in the little movie adaptation in my head. After all it is squirrels and other oddities in costumes.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. And by the way this would make a hilarious film. Though to be honest I suppose it depends on your sense of humor. I love snark. I love the absurd and the odd. So if you like those things I think you would enjoy this.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Lamb and Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore, Mort by Terry Pratchett

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In the Company of the Courtesan

In the Company of the Courtesan
Written by: Sarah Dunant
Paperback: 385 pages
Publisher: Random House
Language: English
January 2006, $13.99
Genre: Fiction/Historical

My lady, Fiammetta Bianchini, was plucking her eyebrows and biting color into her lips when the unthinkable happened and the Holy Roman Emperor’s army blew a hole in the wall of God’s eternal city, letting in a flood of half-starved, half-crazed troops bent on pillage and punishment.

Thus begins In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of life in Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, with their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, head for Venice, the shimmering city born out of water to become a miracle of east-west trade: rich and rancid, pious and profitable, beautiful and squalid.

With a mix of courage and cunning they infiltrate Venetian society. Together they make the perfect partnership: the sharp-tongued, sharp-witted dwarf, and his vibrant mistress, trained from birth to charm, entertain, and satisfy men who have the money to support her.

Yet as their fortunes rise, this perfect partnership comes under threat, from the searing passion of a lover who wants more than his allotted nights to the attentions of an admiring Turk in search of human novelties for his sultan’s court. But Fiammetta and Bucino’s greatest challenge comes from a young crippled woman, a blind healer who insinuates herself into their lives and hearts with devastating consequences for them all.

A story of desire and deception, sin and religion, loyalty and friendship, In the Company of the Courtesan paints a portrait of one of the world’s greatest cities at its most potent moment in history: It is a picture that remains vivid long after the final page.


+++++++++++++

For a very long time I have not only been fascinated with Venice but with courtesans. There is something undeniably alluring and fascinating about courtesans. The hetaerae of ancient Greece were some of the only educated women of their time and even allowed to take part in the symposia. They were independent and influential women, accomplished in the arts and yes were well skilled in other areas as well, but they were liberated far more than the average woman. But they weren’t common prostitutes nor were they simply mistresses. They were the female courtiers at court, paramour to the royals, the elite and the wealthy, and often had a higher status than wives. She used her intelligence, her wit, her body, and her talents to further her career. And they were usually successful ones.

But love was never part of the deal for the moment a courtesan fell in love with one of her patrons, she was no longer a courtesan. For a die hard romantic like myself that seems such a lonely life, despite the freedom and liberties a courtesan had. While many courtesans lived well after their beauty faded due to their wit and intelligence, others gambled away their money and jewels. As I said courtesans are fascinating so I relish anything I can get.

I had heard about Dunant’s ‘Birth of Venus’ and while I bought that as well it has stayed in my TBR pile, though possibly not for much longer. It was high time I picked it up and I am glad that I did.

The novel begins as Bucino, a dwarf and companion to one of Rome’s greatest courtesans, recounts the sacking of Rome. His mistress and their household do not flee, but use their wits to buy them some time. But eventually it all falls part and they barely escape with their lives and a handful of valuables to the glorious Venice to start again. But Fiammetta is not the beauty she once was (she did not escape Rome before being beaten and her head cruelly shaven leaving scars) and they are unknowns in the courtesan world of Venice. Their only hope comes in the form of the few jewels they escaped with and an intriguing blind woman named La Draga who may or not be a witch.

Bucino weaves a tale that is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. While sex plays a big part in the novel, we never get any in-depth descriptions of Fiammetta’s profession and I like that; while the life of a courtesan is part of the novel, it is not the central theme, but more like the setting. And Venice…oh it is vivid and lovely and is as much a character as Bucino, Fiammetta or La Draga.

Things I loved: One of my favorite films is called Dangerous Beauty which is a fictionalized account of the Venice courtesan and poetess Veronica Franco. Of course in the end Dangerous Beauty is a love story and in its own way I suppose “…Courtesan” is a love story as well. A love for Venice, Buchino’s love for the women in his life, and more.

* I have never read anything by Dunant, but she captivated me with her story. It seemed real and vibrant as if Fiammetta really was Titian’s courtesan in the picture, and not just her own creations. I wish she did exist and I would love to see Fiametta’s story brought to the big screen.

* As I said I love the characters. Buchino is a delight and extremely sympathetic. I liked seeing Venice and Fiammetta from his point of view. He is loyal and witty, a fine character. Fiammetta on the other hand is not as sympathetic, not because of her profession but her vanity though I suppose it is partly due to her beauty that she was so sought after. However, despite her dips into the shallow end of things she endured a lot with the fall of Rome and even in Venice. We see her grow up from the flighty, sometimes you want to smack her, young woman into something so much more by the end. She knows love, she knows loss and you cannot help but love her as she matures.

* One of my favorite characters was La Draga though. She is such an enigmatic woman and her relationship with Buccino was one that made me laugh and cry. Without giving anything away, the last fifth of the book is largely La Draga’s story and I loved every bit of it.

Things I didn't love so much: Nothing really sticks out. I am sure there is something, but I just cannot seem to think of it.

Buy or Borrow: A wonderful, sensual, captivating tale it is worth the read. Buy or at least please pick up from the library and give it a whirl.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Birth of Venus and Sacred Hearts also by Dunant, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and The Book of the Courtesans by Susan Griffin.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Pirate Queen

The Pirate Queen
Written by: Alan Gold
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade
Language: English
January 2006, $9.99
Genre: Fiction

“Grace O’Malley commanded more than a dozen ships and the obedience of thousands of men. Feared and loved on land as well as on sea, she ruled an empire that stretched from Connaught on the Irish coast to the cobalt waters off Africa. Through the daring of her piracy, Grace nearly bankrupted the English treasurey, and her outright defiance brought embarrassment to Elizabeth I. yet the lives of these two amazing women were inextricably intertwined, and their eventual meeting, during the most brilliant and romantic era that Europe as ever known, would shock the world…”

+++++++++++++

I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes I pick up a book simply by the cover and the title. Also I think when this book entered into the realms of my many to be read piles I was still on a bit of a pirate kick. Let’s face it pirates are cool. Kind of like ninjas and zombies. I had heard of Grace O’Malley and admittedly the fetching maid on the cover had me and my costume ideas in overload for the Renne faire. And yet it sat on my shelf for a while. Probably a reason for it now that I think about it.

There are a few well known pirating ladies: Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Lai Choi San. Gráinne Ní Mháille aka Grace O’Malley has her own history and I was curious to see how the author was going to view her life. We begin the tale when Grace is just a wee thing up through her life and meetings with Queen Elizabeth. Was it great? Well I will say that it made me want to read more about the woman. In fact I even went to the local library to see if I could find anything else not necessarily just on her but piracy and women in piracy in general.

Things I loved: I was looking for a light read and I will say that it was a breeze. I will say the prose isn’t that exciting. It isn’t horrible as I have read far worse, but it was nothing special. It was just kind of meh to be honest. I did however like the ideas behind what Gold was trying to do. I just wish he had done it just a shade better. Admittedly Gold makes Gráinne’s life far more exciting than what the history books say as he speculates about her life.

*I did like how she was handfasted to her second husband for a year and then took over his castle and divorced him while they remained a couple (which seems to be partially historically accurate). Made me giggle. Would make a great scene in a movie.

Things I didn't love so much: I am not a Tudor expert at all, but I do love Elizabeth and I thought her portrayal was very one dimensional. I didn’t like her. Not that Elizabeth was perfect, but I have read far better portrayals. Gold seems to be trying to show how similar Elizabeth and Grace were; that they were both strong, independent women who did not need men to save and take care of them. But it falls flat. And to be honest most of the characters were that way in this book including Grace herself. There is no real character development and often the secondary characters are very cliché in their portrayals. For example, Grace’s first husband Donal is an ass. Ever the macho, heavy drinking stereotypical jerk he beats and rapes his new bride. However, (methinks in an attempt to make Grace’s life tragic or something…I don’t know really) suddenly he becomes a loving and doting husband like something out of a bad romance novel. Why? Who knows, but it happens and it is forced and odd and completely out of his cardboard character. Then a chapter later he’s back to being an evil jerk and we don’t mourn his eventual death. Why did he revert? Once again no one knows…except for maybe the Shadow.

* Apparently Grace is also a nymphomaniac. Now I am all about sexually liberated women, but when the author tries to hard to make it so, it just ends up being…well boring and makes me like her less.

* The dialogue is bad. I am guessing the musical version of Grace’s life has to be more interesting. Once again it was dull, and extremely cliché.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I applaud Gold for trying to bring Grace’s story to life. I just wish he had done it much better. We’ll see how the film version (which is supposedly being filmed) tells her story.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Pirate Queen by Morgan Llywelyn or Granuaile: Ireland’s Pirate Queen by Anne Chambers.

2.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5 People Who Died During Sex

5 People Who Died During Sex
Written by: Karl Shaw
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Broadway
Language: English
February 2007, $9.99
Genre: Humor/Lists

All in perfectly bad taste. Prepare to be amazed, appalled, disgusted, and hugely entertained by this compendium of indelicate oddities. Nothing is too inane, too insane, too bizarre, or too distasteful for this incredible, seemingly impossible, but absolutely true collection of facts from across the ages and around the world.

Did you know…

…that Pope Benedict XII was such a hardened boozer that he inspired the expression “drunk as a pope”? (From “10 Historic Drunks”)

…that as a special honeymoon treat, Prince Charles read Princess Diana passages from the works of Carl Jung and Laurens van der Post? (From “History’s 10 Least Romantic Honeymoons”)

…that the best-dressed gentlemen in medieval England exposed their genitals below a short-fitting tunic? (From “History’s 10 Greatest Fashion Mistakes”)

…that Alfred Hitchcock suffered from ovophobia—fear of eggs? (From “10 Phobias of the Famous”)

…that King Louis XIV only took three baths in his lifetime, each of them under protest? (From “10 Great Unwashed”)

…that in 1930, Sears customers became enraged when the catalog was first printed on glossy, non-absorbent paper? (From “12 Magical Moments in Toilet Paper History”)


+++++++++++++

It is what it looks like a compendium of truly tasteless facts, but of course that is what makes it so much fun. There is no plot, no characters to love or hate, just a lot of funny and odd lists. Plus you got to love the cover.

Things I loved: I needed something light and yet fun. This hit the spot in both ways. It is a book you have to take with a grain of salt and while a lot of the information is interesting it isn’t always fact. For example Shaw attributes The Three Musketeers to be a work of Victor Hugo not Alexandre Dumas as it should be. There are other glaring errors like that and yet despite being a little sloppy with his fact checks, you cannot help but like it. However, most people who pick this up wont really notice though hopefully they wont be using it as ‘fact’.

Things I didn't love so much: See above factoid nitpicks.

Buy or Borrow: I would say that it is worth borrowing from your local library. It’s fun and if you like having some humor on your shelves like I do, pick it up. It certainly makes a conversation piece.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Royal Babylon by Karl Shaw.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds
Written & Illustrated by: Rutu Modan
Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Language: English
June 2007, $19.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Set in modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man, Koby Franco, receives an urgent phone call from a female soldier. Learning that his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins the soldier in searching for clues. His death would certainly explain his empty apartment and disconnected phone line. As Koby tries to unravel the mystery of his father’s death, he finds himself piecing together not only the last few months of his father’s life but his entire identity. With thin, precise lines and luscious watercolors, Rutu Modan creates a portrait of modern Israel, a place where sudden death mingles with the slow dissolution of family ties.

Exit Wounds is the North American graphic-novel debut from one of Israel’s best-known cartoonists. Modan has received several awards in Israel and abroad, including the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem four times and Young Artist of the Year by the Israel Ministry of Culture. She is a chosen artist of the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation.


+++++++++++++

Every now and again I find a few treasures at the local library as there are some graphic novels out there that you cannot always find at the local bookstore. I had heard of Exit Wounds long ago, but never managed to pick it up. With this last outing to the library I picked it up and I am glad I did.

It is the story of Koby Franco, a young cab driver in Tel Aviv and the mystery surrounding his estranged father Gabriel. It begins when he meets a young soldier named Numi, who had an affair with his father and who believes he may have been killed in a recent bombing. Together they not only try to discover what happened to Koby’s father, but the journey they take together leads them through love, secrets, identity and what the future and the present hold for you.

It takes a bit to get into the story as you feel like you are thrust right into the middle and in a way I like that. Koby’s life changes so unexpectedly and in ways he never imagined. You cannot help but be thrown a bit and immediately feel as confused as the lead character. You want to find out what happened to Gabriel. You want to discover all of the secrets right along with him.

Things I loved: I enjoyed the open ending, the simple life holds so much finale. The story doesn’t end and I love that. Nothing is tidy and while it is a bit frustrating that we don’t really get to know more about the enigma that is called Gabriel, life doesn’t always give you all of the answers.

* I enjoyed the setting as disturbing as it can be. It is unfortunate that Numi had to differentiate between different bombings that had happened. You see the horrors without being thunked over the head with it all.

* I like how normal the characters are. They are relatable despite the extraordinary circumstances. Numi isn’t perfect and yet you like her nor is Koby.

Things I didn't love so much: I am a bit up in the air about the artwork. The art is very simplistic and in a way it leaves the storytelling to be the focus. It is very Tintin like and I don’t know if that is my thing. I wanted more emotion in the faces and such things are indeed possible with simplistic art. It’s very flat. And yet as I said it leaves the story the focus and sometimes there are graphic novels where the artwork outshines the actual story. I guess I am a bit up in the air on it all.

Buy or Borrow: I would say that it is worth borrowing from your local library.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan.

Has some sexual content along with the violence so it is not for the kiddies. Just a friendly warning.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Preacher: Gone to Texas

Preacher Volume One
(Gone to Texas)
Written by: Garth Ennis
Illustrated By: Steve Dillon
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
Marchl 1996, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

At first glance, the Reverend Jesse Custer doesn't look like anyone special - just another small town minister slowly losing his flock and his faith. But he's about to come fact-to-face with proof that God does indeed exist - and that He's one mean son of a bitch.

In one explosive instant, Jessie's lilfe is changed forever - and he aims to find out why. Together with his trigger-happy ex-lover Tulip and a hard-drinking Irish vampire called Cassidy. Reverend Custer begins a journey that will lead him from the heart of Texas to the bitter soul of New York City and beyond in search of answers from the elusive deity. But those answers are going to be hard-won - especially considering what Heaven has sent to stop them.


+++++++++++++

For years a friend of mine has raved about Preacher and despite how much I enjoyed Garth Ennis’ run with Hellblazer I never managed to pick it up until now. Of course I had high expectations considering where people usually put the Preacher series. In fact a lot of people put it in with the ‘you have to read this’ lists. I certainly like the ideas behind it and anything that might have a snarky, irreverent look at religion is kind of a must read for me.

Preacher follows Jesse Custer, who isn’t exactly the kind of preacher you would expect to meet. Not only has he lost his faith, but he also has a gun toting ex girlfriend and has no problem speaking his mind, even if some may find it blasphemous. But Jesse also has a sense of right and wrong. When the divine creature Genesis (the offspring of an angel and a demon who may have the power to rival God himself, if anyone knew where He was) escapes Heaven and possesses Jesse it not only kills Jesse’s entire congregation but destroys his church.

If Jesse had begun to lose his faith before, he loses it even more when through Genesis’ eyes discovers that God has left Heaven and disappeared. He also discovers that he has been given the power of the Word of God which makes his commands irresistible. So along with Tulip, his ex-girlfriend who has her own past and quirks, and Cassidy a 100 year old Irish vampire he decides to go find God and make him answer for his abandonment.

Meanwhile, Heaven is panicking and they send the Saint of Killers, an immortal and ruthless killing machine whose sole order is to reclaim Genesis at any cost.

Things I loved: I like the controversy. I like the irreverent look at organized religion. Its warped. It’s twisted, but I like it. While this disdain for organized religion is nothing new in Garth Ennis’ work, I think it is important to take everything with a little bit of salt. You will probably be offended at some point whether through the mocking approach to Christianity, the violence which can be a bit over the top or the excessive use of profanity. Was I offended at some point? Yeah. But did I care? Nope.

* Steve Dillon’s artwork was great. It worked with the story and complimented it well.

* I like the characters. I want to know more about them and I want to see how Ennis is going to deal with Jesse being extremely powerful. More than that I want to see how these characters will change over time. How will Genesis change Jesse? Will it? What happens when they do find God? Will it matter? I love that Jesse wants to get back with Tulip that some may find his profanity or viewpoints less than Preacher like, but it is very obvious that he has a distinct sense of right and wrong. Take Cassidy for example. Jess is conflicted about the vampire and I am curious to see how that relationship unfolds.

* Sam Mendes is said to be directing a film version of the series which you have to admit could be interesting and yet somehow I think that things will be so toned down it might ruin it. But you have to enjoy the breakneck pace at which it all runs and personally I dig the gore but then again I am a horror movie junkie so this should be no real surprise.

Things I didn't love so much: Arseface. Yep, that was the one part where I not only rolled my eyes, but was asking myself really? Why?

* While it is not so much a thing I disliked, I found myself a little let down. There was so much hype surrounding the series I expected to be immediately smitten and I wasn’t. It wasn’t a bad first outing and it was enough that I want to pick up the next volume, but I wasn’t blown away. It was no V for Vendetta or Sandman and in truth I found Ennis’ Dangerous Habits with Hellblazer more fun. However, I am interested to see where the series goes and how it ends and will be picking up more.

Buy or Borrow: I am up in the air about this one. Will get back to you on the rest of the series.

Part of: The Preacher Series
Gone to Texas (Volume One)
Until the End of the World (Volume Two)
Proud Americans (Volume Three)
Ancient History (Volume Four)
Dixie Fried (Volume Five)
War in the Sun (Volume Six)
Salvation (Volume Seven)
All Hells A Coming (Volume Eight)
Alamo (Volume Nine)

Also Recommended: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits by Garth Ennis.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hunter's Moon

Hunter’s Moon
Written by: James L White
Illustrated by: Dalibor Talajic & Sebastian Cardoso
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Boom Studios
Language: English
April 2008, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Collecting all five issues from the comic book debut of James L. White - writer of the Academy Award-winning film, RAY. Stockbroker Lincoln "Linc" Greer, a divorced dad, is looking forward to a hot date at a remote cabin, but his date cancels and he gets stuck with his son instead. While hunting, his son is kidnapped and a voice at the other end of his cell phone tells Linc to do what he asks - if he ever wants to see his son alive again! Linc soon finds that he's the only African-American man in this small, mostly white, logging community. Isolated and alone, Linc has to face a contentious community and save his son! A blockbuster thriller with sensational art from Dalibor Talajic and Sebastian Cardoso.

+++++++++++++

While the local library doesn’t have a vast catalog of graphic novels, they do have a decent little niche of things I wouldn’t normally pick up off the B&N bookshelves (if said novels were even on the shelf and didn’t have to be ordered). I saw this and thought hey, interesting art and a story by the man who penned Ray, why not?

It begins as a father/son story where Linc is a successful businessman, but disconnected from his only son. He is a man who put his career above his family which may or may not explain why he is divorced. And his son, Wendell, could care less about spending time with dear old dad. What is supposed to be an impromptu hunting holiday turns into something more when Linc’s son is kidnapped and Lincoln is forced to rob a bank in order to get him back.

Things I loved: The story is decent and while bits and pieces seem cookie cutter stereotypes of small town ideology, I sadly know that such towns still exist. The dialogue is realistic and the artwork decent. Even the interactions between father and son work. There is a palpable tension between Linc and Wendell and yet this need to reconnect with family. It’s a nice drama with splashes of suspense and action with a clever twist of an ending.

Things I didn't love so much: As much as the story is engaging there was something that didn’t quite work. It was a bit too rushed for me, too neatly tied up…too clean if such a thing is possible. I think it would have been more interesting to have things turn out not quite so clean.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: If you like the crime caper sort of graphic novel/ father and son story you might enjoy Road to Perdition by Max Alan Collins.

Apparently the graphic novel is also being made into a film with Mekhi Phifer (ER) to star as Linc.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fables: Volume 3

Fables Volume 3
(Storybook Love)
Written by: Bill Willingham
Illustrated by: Brian Talbot, Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina and Linda Medley
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
May 2004, $14.99
Genre: Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

In the Fables' world, there isn't a lot of happily-ever-after to go around. As refugees from the lands of make-believe, the Fables have been driven from their storybook realms and forced to blend in with our gritty mundane reality.

But that doesn't mean they don't have any room for romance--or the pain, betrayal and jealous rage that go along with it. In fact, love may be blooming between two of the most hard-bitten, no-nonsense Fables around. But are they destined for happiness--or a quick and untimely death?


+++++++++++++

This trade collects issues 11 – 18 of the series that I am quickly beginning to heart big time. I love Fables because it has characters I grew up with as a child and puts them into our own. I have Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, Bluebeard, Goldilocks and Bigby Wolf, Snow White and more. How could I not be captivated? Though there is not a single story arc like the first two volumes, we instead get four different tales: two one shots, a continuation of sorts from Animal Farm and a two part caper.

In “Bag o’ Bones” Jack, of giant killing fame, ends up having an adventure that involves a beautiful woman, Death and possibly the Devil. It is no surprise that Jack is a bit of a trickster and the results of hijinks have some fairly humorous and graphic results. It is a short piece, but fun.

The two-part caper "Sharp Operation" & “Dirty Business” involves a reporter contacting Bigby Wolf to alert him that he knows the secrets of Fabletown. Or does he? Actually he thinks that the Fables are immortal vampires. Regardless the man must be stopped. Along with Sleeping Beauty, Boy blue, Jack, Bluebeard and Prince Charming, Bigby has a plan to stop him without killing him. Of course Bluebeard has his own ideas and if you’ve ever thought Bluebeard was a good guy you wont after this volume. This is a good story as well and not only furthers Bluebeard’s character arc, but I love how they used Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty).

The main story “Storybook Love” continues not only Bluebeard’s storyline but is essentially a follow up to Volume 2 “Animal Farm”. This is the longest story in this volume as Bigby and Snow are on the run from a militant and very insane Goldilocks who is keen on finishing the job she started back on the Farm. However, not all of the action is centered on Bigby and Snow in the woods, but back in Fabletown where Prince Charming squares off with Bluebeard and decides to take his future into his own hands. This was one of my favorites. Not only is fairly graphic, but it ties up some ends and creates some great new plot twists as well. I like Snow and Bigby a lot, though their relationship could get fairly interesting from this point on.

The last story is “Barleycorn Bride” where Bigby tells the story of how the Lilliputians found brides their own size because let’s face it there needs to be at least one more woman other than Thumbelina. It’s short and not my favorite, but others many find charm in it.

Things I loved: As I said I really enjoy the subject matter of this series and the imagination behind it all. The stories are funny, entertaining and at times like something out of a slasher flick which of course makes the horror geek all smiley. While not one complete story arc, we do get a lot of development on some prominent players such as Snow, Bigby, Prince Charming and Bluebeard. I like that just as Snow is starting to show some vulnerability, especially when it comes to Bigby, that the unexpected occurs.

* I loved seeing Bigby go all Big Bad Wolf. He’s a great character. In the fairytales Wolf is always the bad guy. And while Bluebeard may have charm and charisma, Bigby is the hero. He may not want to be said hero, but he is one nonetheless.

Things I didn't love so much: It is a bit disjointed, but whenever you do trades you are bound to get some one-shots mixed in with the series arcs. Of the two one shots, I did enjoy Jack’s tale rather than that of Barleycorns which was a bit too meh for me. While the one shots merely tell tales from the world that has been created and feature some lesser known characters sometimes they do end up feeling like filler and that was the Barleycorn tale for me.

* Usually I like the artwork and this volume was a bit hit or miss for me. While I enjoy seeing different artists come in, like Carey’s Lucifer series some of the changes in the way a character looks is sometimes hard to swallow (like Bigby). Or maybe I just like my wolf more gruff and less caveman like.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow if you are new to the Fables verse, but a must have for fans of the series.

Part of: The Fables Series
Legends in Exile (Volume 1)
Animal Farm (Volume 2)
Storybook Love (Volume 3)
March of the Wooden Soldiers (Volume 4)
The Mean Seasons (Volume 5)
Homelands (Volume 6)
Arabian Nights and Days (Volume 7)
Wolves (Volume 8)
Sons of Empire (Volume 9)
The Good Prince (Volume 10)
War and Pieces (Volume 11)
The Dark Ages (Volume 12)

Also Recommended: Jack of Fables also by Willingham or Grimm’s fairytales perhaps. *smile*

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Magic Strikes

Magic Strikes
(Kate Daniels Book 3)
Written by: Ilona Andrews
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
March 2009, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy

When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it’s a job for Kate Daniels…

Drafted to work for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems these days than she knows what to do with. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games – an invitation-only, no-hold-barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament- she and Curran, the Beast Lord, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…


+++++++++++++

This is the third book in the Kate Daniels series, a series where magic and technology come and go in this alterna Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a world where you should probably have a horse standing by when the tech is down and your car becomes a giant paperweight and where a sword comes in handy when guns cease to work. It’s a world where magic is real, vampires aren’t sexy and cuddly, and our heroine’s past may finally be catching up to her. In short, it rocks.

In this outing Kate, mercenary and snarky Knight of the Order of Merciful Aid, finds herself and her hometown still reeling from the backlash from the flare that hit during Magic Burns. Running from one magical emergency to the next keeps you busy, but it can also tire a girl out. Just when she thinks she can finally get a good night’s rest she stumbles onto a crime scene where her former partner Jim, shifter and head of security for the Pack, tells her to mind her own business. When she asks if Curran knows about it, he blows her off even further.

Odd behavior and an odd evening gets even stranger when she has to go and save her werewolf friend Derek from Saiman, whom he was attempting to steal a ticket to the Midnight games, before Saiman can be unpredictable as always and do something Kate will have to kill him for. This leads Kate to the Midnight Games, an illegal tournament where there are no rules and the preternatural community fights and kills for the thrills of the crowd. Maybe she would have left things alone until Derek goes missing and is later found with injuries so extensive that even his shifter abilities may not be able to save him. Now it is personal.

But attending the games and getting revenge poses a problem. Curran, the Beast Master/Pack Leader and Kate’s would be sweetie, forbids any contact with the Games and everyone fears his wrath. Let’s just say it is not a wrath I would like to see anytime soon.

Things I loved: I love Kate and not just because she is snarky. She is a strong woman, but has very relatable doubts and weaknesses. I’ve seen her grow as a character as well. She is opening herself to other people now as scary as that can be sometimes. She protects those she cares about, admits to fear and really doesn’t like being threatened. Yes there may be other kick butt snarktastic heroines out there in the Urban Fantasy verse, but most fall a bit short for me. Some end up being too immature while others seem to have no chinks in the armor and are a bit too unbelievable. It’s a fine line to walk but Andrews does it and does it well. Like Harry Dresden, John Taylor, etc Kate may have an increasing catalogue of wicked skills (especially after this last book, which by the way makes me very very excited to see where this all goes), but she is not invincible. She has weaknesses and they are very real ones.

* The rest of the cast. From loveable Derek (almost wept) to the deliciously grey and enigmatic Saiman (was overjoyed to learn more about him) to Raphael (loved when Kate showed up with him to Julie’s school or his attempts to win Andrea’s heart) and Andrea (I really do heart her)…they are all equally as engaging as Kate or even my delectable Curran. I even liked the new introductions like Dali who is a shapeshifting tiger who is not only legally blind and a vegetarian (yes she eats grass when she shifts. Long story), but extremely funny and I hope she appears again. I love that every character has a role. Every character has development and a delight to read. Even the baddies.

* Speaking of Curran. I loved how things have subtly changed between him and Kate. I am not opposed to romance in my books just as long as it isn’t the chief focus and that the progression of a relationship is realistic. I could go on a rant on how urban fantasy has become to be paranormal romance where romance takes over the plot, but that can be for another time. I like Curran and Kate. They’re verbal banter is as entertaining as the rest of their relationship just as Adam and Mercy are from Patricia Briggs series. More important I like how their relationship has developed. It is not the focal point of the series, but it is there to keep me blissfully happy and I cannot wait to see the sparks continue to fly.

* I love the world that has been created and in this installment we were treated with even more world building. I love that the mythos is open for other cultural interpretations. There are so many possibilities and yet the world that Andrews has created is not confusing. It works.

Things I didn't love so much: There isn’t a whole lot that I can complain about here. The plot is engaging, secrets revealed, earlier plots continued and I laughed, almost cried and sat clamoring for an encore once it was all over. There is a reason why this series is in my top 10 favorite series. The fight scenes are believable, the action a joy to read and envision and the new questions posed making me hungry with anticipation. I cannot wait for the nest installment.

Buy or Borrow: Definitely buy. In fact, if you haven’t read the series, please do…now. While it is not essential to read the first two, it is always better to start at the beginning so you can enjoy the journey so far.

Part of: The Kate Daniels series.
Magic Bites (Book One)
Magic Burns (Book Two)

Also Recommended: The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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