I tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me there...moreI tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me there was no anchor in the story for the setting, or characters - so I felt lost.
However - I know many readers will enjoy it. I would say it has an unusual "stream of consciousness" style.
For those interested it is currently available at B&N for the Nook at .99 cents, and still may be available on Net Galley for review. The second in this series is soon to be or has recently been released.
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, incl...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, including a special kind of “werewolf” - a changeling.
About: When Zoey moves to the Canadian countryside to escape city life she is hoping to find peace and healing. As a reporter with a gift of psychic insight she was devastated at not being able to help the victims of the tragedies that she wrote about. However, the change she sought with this move to a small town turned out to have a bit more excitement than she planned.
As the story opens she inadvertently meets handsome and down to earth local veterinarian Connor McLeod, as he rescues her during an ice storm. She is precariously fighting off the attack of a very BIG wolf. Stranded on top of her funky truck, in her attempt to survive she is bitten; a sentence which could lead to a “change” at the next full moon - but not if Connor can help it.
Thoughts: I’m not a big romance reader; I am however exploring speculative fiction. So in an attempt to explore all bases including paranormal romance, I chose Changeling Moon. I am glad since I enjoyed it. Quite a lot actually. It’s a story that is not all “love, fluff, and dreamy stuff” – what I generally don’t like about some romance. There are some intense and horrific scenes, with light cursing and more than a few very sexy scenes – which I would define as erotic. So readers that are looking for a “clean read” should be aware, but in contrast and for my tastes its swearing and gore were not blatant, misplaced or overdone. The sex was interesting and creative versus silly, boring, or just plain hilarious – a big plus; as the latter is another peeve of mine.
The story has an interesting paranormal creature – the changeling; which according to the story are like werewolves. However, they are not constrained to having to turn “animal” at every full moon. They can change at will while still retaining their mental and human clarity, allowing them control in contrast to the classic werewolf. It’s an interesting combination which I am unfamiliar with as I have read very little about werewolves in the past.
Author Dani Harper is a reporter turned novelist, which is perhaps why her main character Zoey feel very realistic. This experience also adds clarity and truism to the book around the reporting done in the novel - which gives the story a bit of needed depth. It is clear that Changeling Moon has benefited from the author’s writing experience.
I can’t say one thing bad about this novel. It was great for an escape; in a genre where one can be assured that there will be a happy ending and which readers expect. The next in the series is now sitting on my nightstand for a needed break from some of the “heavier” novels I have recently read and will be reading soon. At 4 stars – it is an intelligent and entertaining story, recommend for anyone wanting a romantic, thrilling and sexy read.(less)
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that go...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that go beyond a monthly facial. If you are considering it, this is a helpful place to start.
Definitely not a normal read for me in recent years – I have been mired in fiction (mostly speculative). I decided to take a look at Fabulous Faces because I am an Aesthetician (a professional skin care practitioner – facials, waxing, makeup artistry) which makes me naturally interested in medical procedures and other efforts to look one’s best.
In years past, and within my skin care practices, I would come into contact with many people who would ask me questions about advanced skin resurfacing procedures and fillers and plastic surgery. I have also had the experiences of seeing many clients through their process– getting the real life before and after both visually and verbally. Most have been extremely happy with the results of their decisions. It is an exciting and scary choice, one which most people do not take lightly, so they are often looking for further information from a trusted source. This book is an example of one such example as it is written by an M.D. who specializes in facial, head, and neck plastic surgery.
The format for this accessible book includes short easy to digest chapters. It is concise, well organized, and informative, with real life questions around the feelings of people considering or wanting facial plastic surgery, as well as personal stories from men and women during their processes. The text moves from wondering, to researching options, the inevitable emotional examination, the procedure itself and, most importantly, the results. Dr. Adamson also includes a section on advance skin procedures - like deeper peels using lasers, CO2, and medical grade acids; as well as fillers and Botox.
I recommend it to anyone who is considering facial plastic surgery as a place to begin. It will help one to feel informed when speaking to a surgeon about the available options that he/she may be discussing with you. Most importantly, you’ll know more about what you can expect throughout the process, and then of course the possible results. 4 stars for this great little book written for the layman wanting to know more about facial plastic surgery and related procedures.
Peter A. Adamson M.D. is a plastic surgeon and Otolaryngologist (face, head, and neck specialist).
I have received this book via the publicist in exchange for my honest opinion, which is offered here. (less)
A literary coming of age tale that catalogs a historical journey of a sailing ship’s trip to the South Sea...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A literary coming of age tale that catalogs a historical journey of a sailing ship’s trip to the South Seas. Set in Victorian times, and told in first person by its main protagonist, a boy called Jaffy, the ship voyages to exotic isles to capture wild animals. When the ship becomes lost at sea, the story addresses some of the darkest aspects of human need and survival.
About: Jaffy Brown, is a street urchin who lives in London with his working class mother. His adventures start when he accidently attains star-like status due to being taken up by a lion in its jowls, and surviving. So he is offered a job working for the man named Jamrach (an exotic animal dealer) because it is now believed he possess powers with wild animals. When later he is given the opportunity to travel on a whaling ship to the South Seas in order to capture more animals for Jamrach’s Menagerie, one of which is a “dragon”, Jaffy jumps at the chance.
A mistake aboard the ship creates a catastrophe and what’s left of the crew are forced upon two much smaller boats. Fending for themselves on the open sea for an extended period of time, it’s here where the nightmarish adventures begin and the reader gets a glimpse into the darkest and most sacrificing aspects of human nature and what men may and must do to survive.
Thoughts: Listened to in audio, this book has meandering and lovely language. The smooth voice from the reader also lends to the story telling. Although it’s often long winded, it’s done in a calm and English accented voice. Where the reader varies his accents well for each of the diverse characters. I would say that the audio for the book is well done.
Definitely a literary tale with some horrific aspects, where men are left to survive with little sustenance on the open sea, leaving some room for delusional experiences due to lack of water and food and with nothing but sea and sun for months. Because of this, and the characters’ natural descent into madness, the book has been designated fantasy. For me I am not sure I would classify it as fantastical.
I enjoyed this story, and at times felt like I was actually traveling to the ports, Islands and countries of the South Seas. However, the entire novel did not capture me completely, since I kept waiting for the author to get on with the story line. Also the horrific scenes went on more than I felt was needed. In the end, beyond my personal preferences, I think that many readers will enjoy this book. I recommend it for literary fiction lovers, those who are interested in settings within the Victorian era, readers who want to travel vicariously to foreign areas on a sailing ship, and those who enjoy descriptive language. I give this book a 3 star. (less)
A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually.
A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out of Afghanistan into various countries. Struggling as an illegal immigrant he eventually obtains political asylum in Italy.
About: Enaiat wakes up one morning to find his mother has abandoned him in Pakistan, after their small family’s flight from their home village in Afghanistan. Their village had been overtaken by the Taliban, who believe that Enaiat’s people have no value and treat them as such.
His mother, forced to leave her son for her survival, advises him on how to behave while he is asleep as she departs. So begins this young boy’s travels to many different countries where he is all but accepted. He finds that there are crocodiles not only in the sea but almost everywhere, with the title referencing an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a too small rubber dingy to find relative safety. This is Enaiat’s amazing tale as he tries to find a home, sustenance and survival.
Thoughts: A short and engrossing novel at only 224 pages, it’s been translated from Italian to English. Author Fabio Ceda tells Enaiat’s story to the reader from the boy’s perspective – in the first person with occasional interjections and questions for the boy by the author. Due to the nature of memory and the lack of concrete evidence to support a factual book, the story has been designated fiction.
I listened to the book in audio and found it was hard to put down. I couldn’t stop rooting for Enaiat while admiring his ability to get by in the most horrific circumstances. This is my favorite kind of narrator – one who overcomes the odds no matter how difficult the situation, and Enaiat’s experiences where at times terrifying.
This book is a testament to the human spirit and the will to not only survive but to thrive no matter the situation. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan. It’s a 3.5 star read in my opinion and is also done well in audio. Recommended for adults but especially teens.(less)
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -r...moreOriginal and a more complete review posted at Layers of Thought.
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -representing the best in the science fiction and fantasy field published in 2009. All chosen by peers from the SFWA –Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
In summary: I enjoyed every story in this great anthology, one of which is the best short stories I have ever read. Yep, it was that good. Subjective star ratings are shown for each individual work. I encourage you to read these yourself as they are an exciting bunch for anyone interested in SFF (and horror since there are many threads within this selection). Overall, I give this book a rare 5 stars.
Short Stories ~ (under 7,500 words):
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed ~ An exotic story set in old Iran where a Sultan’s physician is sent into a dusty rural area as punishment because of his directness (he confronted the king, opposing the marriage of his lover to an old rich man.) During his exile he is called to cure a hermit’s wife, who has a startling affliction. Purported to be a witch, she is in fact more. With descriptive language and light insight into some of daily practices from Muslim culture, I re-told this great tale to John over Persian food the subsequent evening. Delicious and entertaining at 4.5 stars.I remember the future2
“I Remember the Future” by Michael A. Burstein ~ An aging and dying science fiction author deals with the anger and angst from his daughter from his slights and perceived neglect toward her over the years. As he descends into a happy madness, there was a tear inducing ending. 5 stars.
Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin ~ A down to earth and intelligent story, that is a “walk around” New York. It has a creative, fantastical, and magical link into a probability of sorts. It made me giggle and blush too. 4 stars.
“Going Deep” by James Patrick Kelly ~ A science fiction story whose main character is a tween girl. Living on a dying space center this girl’s genetic heritage is determined as – “space traveler”. The last in this “retired” collection, it is a relatable tale which accesses the psyche of the main character in an amazing way. A terrific story, which I want to read more of. It’s a 4.5 stars in my opinion.
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh ~ Horror, science fiction, and humor mesh in this story, where attractive dead women are frozen for reanimation and can be revived for dating and marriage purposes. Darkly hilarious and an incredible idea, this tale gave me “giggle tears”. I laughed till I cried at 4.5 stars.
Winner: “Spar” by Kij Johnson ~ A dark, horrific, and erotic science fiction short that includes an amorphous non-human alien. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. This story deserves 4 stars.
SFWA Author Emeritus – Neal Barrett, Jr. ~ “Getting Dark” ~ A southern story of sorts where the female narrator is haunting or being haunted - perhaps both? This is surreal and earthy, with a dark and sexual thread told in an authentic female voice. I give it 4 stars.
Novelette ~ (over 7,500 and under 17,500 words):
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi ~ Set in the future, a Laos refugee escapes his deteriorating country for the US only to find that his idealism does not work here - within the ever increasing thrill and monetary seeking society that the US has become. With an environmental thread - apparently one of this author’s major themes; this is an incredible story with interesting and sensitive cultural insight. It’s definitely a 5 stars.
“Vinegar Peace” by Michael Bishop ~ An emotional and convoluted story about orphaned parents - designated as such and put to pasture when they loose their children in death. Set in the future it is difficult, full of angst, and has a hallucination-like feel to it as it is often a natural consequence from a severe loss. Its is a 4 stars in my opinion.
“I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes ~ A dying man is brought into a hospital and falls into various dream like states around his life and the experiences of his friends; many ill like himself from Aids-related complications. I laughed, cried and just loved this incredible story. I’m now a serious fan; this is a 5 star from an incredibly sensitive and insightful author.
“Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka ~ Every once in a while you read something that just “blows you away”. That is the case with this story – consequently it is my favorite from the collection. It goes beyond any of my expectation and includes elements from several of my preferred genre mixes - horror, science fiction and an encompassing “meaning of life” thread. In my opinion it’s an impossible 5.5 stars. a memory of wind
“A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky ~ Reviewed by me in another post - linked via the title. It is based upon Iphigenia and set in ancient Greece. I gave it 4 stars.
Winner: “ Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” By Eugie Foster ~ In this consciousness-bending story – described as a “dystopian” tale - identity is a key element. The individuals of this society are required to wear masks imbued with different drugs/hormones which change daily. There is an element of blending of genders so the story will be classified as GLBT; it also contains a horrific thread. I enjoyed this phantasmagorical story at 4 stars.
Damon Knight Grand Master - Joe Haldeman ~ “A !Tangled Web” ~ An excellent science fiction short which tells the tale of a business deal made between humans and aliens on a planet other than earth. The aliens have an interesting physiology and language, and a method of self-depreciation which is beyond western behaviors. Because of this it’s a darkly funny short with an intriguing alien, written by an author who is rightly honored as a Grand Master in the field. This is my first story by him at 4.5 stars.
Rhysling Awards (poetry):
“Song for an Ancient City” by Amal El-Mohtar ~ Is about a magical ancientthe women of nell gymme's city; a short and lovely poem.
“Search” and “Fireflies” by Geoffrey A. Landis ~ The first poem speaks of a hope in finding other life forms in the stars; the other compares fireflies and the stars.
I enjoyed all three at 4 stars each.
A bundle of highly recommended stories from this “cream of the crop” collection. This was a tough one to complete. How do you review an anthology such as this? I am thinking maybe I should start working on the 2010 winners and nominees since maybe I will be fortunate enough to receive next year’s copy of the Showcase. One can dream.(less)
A darkly hilarious, and almost unbelievable journalistic journey into how “madness” is defined, recognized, and treated within western culture and the mental heath industry.
In attempt to the question “what is it that defines madness?” Jon Ronson spent two years undertaking some intriguing travels and interviews and then carrying out further research. As he examines himself, journalism, the entertainment industry, psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and more, he blends it all together with a reflective and self effacing style. On his travels he meets a psychologist who has created a check list that is used to define psychopathic individuals – hence the book’s title.
So what is a psychopath? (Also termed a sociopath or someone with anti-social personality disorder). And why a test? In his research Ronson finds that these are individuals who are lacking in common empathy and a moral sensibility. In other words they have no guilt. A psychopath’s very nature is often hard to recognize since they are charming, chameleon like, and blend well within the general population. They also prey upon unsuspecting people in order to satisfy their desires and perceived needs. Is there more of an excuse to define them? Ronson reports that it is believed that psychopaths account for as many as 25% of the prison population; by comparison, within the general population it is assumed or speculated that the respective figure is just 1%. He examines where these individuals are most likely to appear within the “free pollution”, including a theory that a much higher percentage of the world’s most powerful positions (CEOs, politicians, world leaders) are held by psychopaths. Not too hard to imagine.
Most interestingly the book contains some shocking evidence on just how far we have yet to progress in understanding what mental illness is and how best to treat it’s varying manifestations. Ronson includes some amazing situations - one in particular I would have believed could only exist in fiction (and maybe in his novel-turned-movie Men Who Stare at Goats). In this instance a prison psychiatrist, in an attempt to “cure” his psychopathic patients of their lack of empathy, grouped them together, isolated the group, and administered LSD for eleven day periods. The results were darkly hilarious and not at all shocking. Ronson does not stop there.
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the mental health or medical field, journalistic writing, and those with a twisted sense of humor – and I score on all of those counts! Be forewarned that this book is not for the “faint of heart” or those wanting conclusive endings. I give this book a 4.5 stars. I completely enjoyed this informing, intelligent, and darkly funny read.(less)
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and fa...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!
About: The main character, whose name is “R”, has little or no memories of who he was prior to his “death”. So a letter is all he uses as his name. He does know a few things about himself though - based upon the suit he wears he thinks that he must have been a professional. Better yet, he was probably good looking since his appearance is not “as bad” and he doesn’t smell “as much” as the other zombies he knows. Also he has a growing ability to communicate beyond the prerequisite grunt or moan, which continues to improve as he starts to ponder about who he is and his purpose in “life”.
To complicate things more, while out on a hunt with his zombie “buddies” he gets a taste of a young man’s brains which allows him to see and feel this victim’s (or should I say lunch’s) memories. In doing so he begins to share growing feelings for a feisty and pretty young woman who is his dead meal’s girlfriend. As he explores his growing love interest, the two share a common bond - a desire to look beyond their apocalyptic world. As they do so, inner turmoil and growth abound, all mixed with a lot of drama, some violence, understandable campiness, and light romance.
Thoughts: This novel borders ever so slightly on the literary side, with its interesting and almost too lengthy existential processes – all around R’s personal growth, meanderings, reflections and angst. It is not your usual horror book since it is only mildly scary and delves into the emotional changes of a zombie beginning to remember that he was once a man.
Recommended for readers desiring a “lighter” zombie story, who enjoy some reflection mixed with romance; also for those in need of some farcical fun. It has an unbelievable ending which is also redemptive. I liked this story at 3 stars. (less)
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which ver...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verges on the paranormal.
About: Arriving at his most recent boy’s school, the story’s narrator is among a number of “marginal” young adults living at the facility, perhaps with behavior problems or mental health issues – quintessential “lost boys”. The school appears to be their last resort before incarceration or asylums.
The story has a murky and gothic feeling – being set in an icy wintery season, containing dysfunctional adult characters, and taking place within decrepit halls and dusty corridors. Amazingly the story teller is never named. Lost in the system and within himself, our narrator tells his tale via cryptic journal entries, through which we see that he is “damaged” as he enters yet another broken educational facility.
Enter Willy, a charismatic, intelligent and contrastingly wealthy roommate to our story teller. He sees through the façade of the school and its teachers, and assists the boys to understand they are of value – especially our unnamed character. But this comes at a price, and as the story progresses the reader can only guess what is really going on.
My Thoughts: Through the narrator’s journaling, appropriate for a young person’s developing writing skills, the reader is led on a dark roller-coaster ride with only small glints of hopefulness. We see a lack of self worth, dark teacher student conflict, and a crooked system where the needs of the lost and disabled are not met by teachers/administrators. This is contrasted with emerging feelings of self discovery, including youthful romantic angst, and some normal coming of age fun and games.
Robert Dunbar’s grasp of the human experience is heart-piercing and he clearly understands these lost souls. Here, Willy is speaking to our main character:
“You don’t know what you are. You’re lost in yourself and you can’t always be. Would be a tragedy. Yes? No? Don’t nod like that. You don’t understand. Are you even awake enough to hear? It would be a tragedy because you feel, and you can’t imagine how rare that is, not yet. But you could. Be strong. If you survive long enough.”
One thing I think may be difficult for some readers is accessing the narrator’s language – a key to the story. It is choppy with some stream of consciousness thought which gives it a dissociative feel. However, I loved it and was at the edge of my seat while reading the book. The author effectively uses this and a variety of techniques to create a combination of angst and chills
In summary Willy, with its bits of resolution and redemption, was hard to put down. I think that it will be enjoyable for many mainstream readers, especially those who enjoy coming of age stories, stories that border on paranormal, and those that leave the reader wondering how it will all work out. There is some light m/m romance and glbt intimacy with tasteful sexual allusions, and also some slightly strong language and gore. This novel is distinctly intelligent, emotionally insightful and alarming; the reader is left with only a reference, a wonder, and a delicious dark suspicion of what has actually occurred. This genre-blending story gets 4 stars in my opinion. I loved it!(less)
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual...moreOriginal review post on Layers of Thought.
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual insight and quirkiness with unique and thought-provoking stories, and some that will leave you with a smirk.
This is author Ben Loory’s first book of odd tales, yet he has published many in literary magazines over the past several years. His new collection feels like modern and bizarre fables - a book for those looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.
The stories range from downright silly and funny to completely strange, while others will make your heart ache and more than a few may prevent you from sleeping. The stories in the book contain themes ranging from talking octopi who live on land rather than water and live like humans, to monsters of various kinds and much more. Definitely an adult book with some mature themes and not recommended for youngsters; it’s a book for “kids at heart”.
I read the book in it’s ARC/ebook format, but I have seen the paperback copy at our local indie book store. It is small, thin and easy to handle or to carry with you. Perhaps pick it up and read when there is a extra few minutes to fill, maybe before bed, or any time where one is interested in a mind altering, or potentially guffaw inducing “quickie” – each story will only take a few minutes to read. I give this collection a 3.5 stars and just love the interesting cover with the orange tentacle, UFO and blue water back ground. (less)
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey v...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey via internal biological internet connections into an intriguing online world.
Trouble is well known online as one of the best and most notorious “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker, where cracking is breaking through IC(E) – the acronym for the complex security systems which simulate actual ice. Intriguingly, web users have connections to the web via “dollie ports” and “brain worms” giving a “virtual reality” experience to being online, where one smells color.
A story set in a dystopian US where things have gone environmentally sour, the beaches are so polluted that visiting them is toxic. Political factions have set in place laws which make “cracking” illegal and dangerous. As the stakes become higher, Trouble disappears in an effort to protect herself.
What brings her out of hiding is that someone is using her name. Not happy (neither are some significant powers that be), she emerges to set things right. As Trouble lives up to her name - she and her friends have an interesting and not entirely safe romp into an online and real-world futuristic adventure.
Trouble and Her Friends is cyberpunk. It is a subgenre which is characterized by a high tech dystopian environment with characters that are of marginal class standing. It is also said to have a “noir-ish” feel. Which are perfect descriptions for this science fiction novel.
Melissa Scott uses many intriguing science fiction concepts - for example the “dollie ports” and “brain worms” which actually hook the user up to the net through implants into the body. Beyond the nerdy bits she also has included romance (lgbt), virtual sex (nicely done), and the experience of traveling the net via internally hard wired brain connection with some excellent results.
I could not imagine a writer being able to tell you about a virtual web experience as it occurs in Trouble’s world. But she does – and very well at that. Scott uses a technique that toggles between real world and internet experiences, using italicized letters for the virtual world travels and normal text for the real world experience.
Despite the description, the book is very accessible and is actually a mystery thriller set in a darker future time. There are strong female characters (another favorite element) and it has some realistic science (another one too). I will be looking at this author and this subgenre more. This is an impressive novel with a redemptive ending. I give it 4 stars.(less)
A fantastical and historical story that’s dark, funny and erotic – it includes fairies and a witch. Set in...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A fantastical and historical story that’s dark, funny and erotic – it includes fairies and a witch. Set in the trenches of WWI and the forests of Northern England, it’s told from the perspective of the narrator at 82 years old, reminiscing this adventure from his younger years.
About: In 1918 Alex White is 18 and enlists in the army to escape his sadistic militaristic father. Shipped off to the trenches of WWI in Europe, he meets what appears to be a young Englishman named Harold. Becoming friends quickly, within weeks Harold dies in Alex’s arms from a horrific wound. In his last moments Harold mentions a few jumbled sentences leaving Alex confused and distraught. Later when Alex finds a lump of gold, the size of his fist in the bottom of his soldier’s pack, he becomes even more curious. So he heads off to an idyllic community in the North of England called Gatford - Harold’s home. Here he hopes to find the answers to his questions about his friend’s last mumblings and the gold, and to heal from the wounds he too has incurred from battle.
There in Gatford Alex’s amazing adventures begin. It becomes apparent that fairies reside in the woods near his new home, where the locals keep eluding to the “little people’s” dangerous nature. Alex remains unbelieving, until he is inadvertently sucked into their conflict and drama. As he muddles over the boggling occurrences that keep happening, he becomes involved with a beautiful witch and an angelic fairy, creating room for some lustful interludes as well as a hard to put down story.
Thoughts: A fantastical romance of sorts told from an unusual male perspective, it balances the darkness of its horrific bits with lustful fluff and dry humor. At time it’s realistic and historical, including interesting factual details involving trench warfare - graphic details about the horrors of WWI with descriptions of what it must have been like down below ground level within dirt walls, including the various horrible odors, day to day waiting in the mud and filth, the inevitable rats, rotting corpses, mass graves, poor sanitary conditions and tasteless cold food. Contrasting this with some idealistic dreams of several youthful and inexperienced soldiers, the older and wiser narrator does a fine job of disparaging any kind of grand visions of what war is.
Listened to in audio, I think it was quite well done. The reader uses a moderated voice for Alex’s 82 year old self looking back and reliving his story, with his New York accent. He also uses a separate voice for each different English character in the novel, even varying accents for his female characters. Alex’s character is a bit cantankerous and slightly annoying at 82, however he is insightful into the foibles and mistakes of his youth. I imagine that male readers will enjoy this tale due to its perspective, and Alex’s lusty involvements. But I will say that it went into more detail than I liked in the erotic areas.
Beyond that I think that if you enjoy a realistic, historical fantasy containing some sexy content then this will be a great read for you. A note that it does contain violence, strong language and definitely is a book for adult readers. I give this book a 4 stars, since Matheson tells one heck of a story.(less)
A dark modern fable translated from German. It is a literary novel that is tragic and blac...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually
A dark modern fable translated from German. It is a literary novel that is tragic and blackly humorous, told by a narrator who is definitely misguided and “unreliable”.
About: Set in Russia in the 1970s, The Hottest Dishes is told in the first person by the self-centered Rosa. It starts with Rosa’s daughter Sulfia becoming pregnant in her early teens and not willing to disclose who the father is. Understandably Rosa is not delighted with the situation, but claims her “troublesome” granddaughter Animat as her own and attempts to mold her into an image of what she believes a child and a Tartar should be (Tartars are descendants of Genghis Khan or “mountain people”).
As the reader is lead though the changes, deaths, and difficulties during the deterioration and dissolution of the Soviet Union (most historical details are easy to miss due to the extensive family drama), the tale culminates in a family visa finagled through some twisted means by Rosa from a German native who is researching Tartar Cuisine.
My Thoughts: Rosa is an intriguing character who is definitively an unreliable narrator, possessing a vision of herself that is unreasonably high. She navigates her life with a positive flair that ignores the perspectives and feelings of her family, creating situations which are painful and heartbreakingly sad. All the while she downplays the difficult reality in her world and country, which is more than a bit askew. Although her ability to get by in a harsh world is at times mildly admirable, in the end I was left asking myself the questions: How far would you go to get by or survive? What would you be willing to sacrifice for a chance at a better life for yourself and your family?
This is a short novel but one which I would consider a “chewy” read; it took me some time to finish due to its denseness. The text was not difficult, and the translation is excellent, but due to Rosa’s complexities and the unusual family dynamic she inadvertently creates it took a bit longer than normal. I had to stop to digest what it was about Rosa that I empathized with and what it was that I had a hard time understanding, and why her horrific opinions were in fact humorous. In the end I decided that at her best she is an extremely misguided “mother hen”. But as the adage goes “when does the means justify the end result”?
In conclusion I think that the story can be seen as dark fable for those who “do way too much”, providing lessons on what not to do even though one may think they know what is the best for everyone. Rated at 3.5 stars I enjoyed this translated story, and recommend it for readers who like literary fiction, unusual and complex characters, black humor, or those who would like a lot to think about. This is another book which would be perfect for a discussion group, as there could be so much to talk about. (less)
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put human...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put humans to sleep for extended periods of time.
About: Rosalinda (Rose) has been in “stas” (chemically induced sleep inside a tube) for 62 years. She was “forgotten” in a basement and awakes to a world very different from the one she left. Of course she doesn’t quite fit in. Understandably Rosalinda is weak, thin, and has difficulties relating to other teens because her mannerisms and language are old-fashioned.
Even more complicated is that there appears to be an unknown force that is stalking her and wants her dead. Rosalinda does not quite understand why and also doubts her perceptions that it could actually be happening. As she discovers who she really is and attempts to capture the heart of her “not so available prince charming” (there is a thin thread linking it to the fairy-tale sleeping beauty), the reasons become clear as to why she has remained asleep for so many years. Worse yet, perhaps it was not a mistake.
Thoughts: First I want to mention that I particularly liked this little snippet from the book. It is where the main character Rose is conversing via a tablet of sorts to a friend, which allows a form of texting. She is asking this genetically altered male Otto (who has blue skin) about his girl friend Nabiki:
Is Nabiki interesting?
Very. She has many layers of thought. Which is why she can feel hostility and sympathy for you at the same time. ~ page 105
It was really fun to read a novel that has the blog name in it!
Interestingly, I read the first half of this book from Net Galley in its ARC ebook format. I finished it in audio which is the cover you see above. I also took a look at a paper copy and read several chapters that way too. I liked seeing the differences in the versions and will have to say that I enjoyed the first half of the novel in the ARC format the most. The published version had been changed a bit from the ARC and the audio version had a reader which presented Rosalinda as depressed, and whiney. I understand why this characteristic was used to depict her, however, it is one that I did not like listening to in audio.
All in all this book is one of the meatier young adult dystopian books that I read during the 2011 year. I liked that it had real science as a basis for the world’s technological advancements and that the author addresses some interesting issues, moral and legal, around the ability to be able to put someone to “sleep” for long periods of time. Most importantly and unusually she addresses what may happen when the sleeping beauty does not get the so called prince.
I give this young adult book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot and wonder how it would have felt if I had completed the ARC version in the time allotted with the expire-able version. Conversely, reading these several versions made me curious about the differences between them and why publishers and editors make the changes they do.(less)
4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and pre...more4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and precocious young girl as the main character. All set in an exotic, magical, yet politically volatile country and time.
About: When Eleanor Cohen is born there are auspicious signs that she is not your normal child. She is to be a prodigy with gifts of memory, languages, extreme intelligence and something which is just a tad mystical. Set in the late 1800s in what is now Turkey, 8 year old Eleanor finds herself in Stamboul within the struggling Ottoman empire, after a decision to follow her father. As the fates conspire she is linked to the king - Sultan Abdulhamid II - and becomes his adviser for a short time during the ill fated years of his declining empire.
Thoughts: This was such a lovely read with my very favorite type of female character, one who is strong, brave and kind. Yet Eleanor is also beyond brilliant. Endearingly she makes a few girlish decisions creating a wonderfully realistic and exceedingly likeable character.
As a historical fiction novel, it is light enough to appeal to those who are not so historically inclined (like myself). I would even recommend the book to young adult readers due to its wonderful character and easy to read lyrical writing style. For those that enjoy history, also mentioned are classic texts which are significant to the political choices made within the novel, making it of particular interest.
As Lukas’s first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul is complex yet easy to read. His descriptions are sensual but there is no sex in this story, and many volatile elements are just alluded to. This combination gives the novel a very strong appeal -it’s a rare combination in my experience and leads me to think that Lucas is an extraordinary writer. He took six years to complete this story and it shows.
In my opinion this book is rated 4.5 stars since it doesn’t get much better - a lyrical historical novel with mystical yet realistic threads. I am wondering when we will see his next book? Hopefully it won’t be another six years.(less)
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is tol...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is told in the first person by Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin to Helen of Troy.
Interestingly Atwood tells this in an usual and layered way. Penelope is in Hades as she tell the story and pieces are conveyed in poem format at the beginning of each chapter, from the perspective of Penelope's 12 maids. These maids are sacrificed by Odysseus on his return after his 20 year of travels in the Mediterranean after the Trojan war. Needing a “scape goat” to keep his honor in tact, all twelve are hanged for mingling with Penelope’s suitors - who where hoping that Odysseus would not return so that they could take over his household and wealth. Through this story we see the perspective of a women’s life via Penelope’s modern voice re-telling.
Highly creative, Atwood has crammed an amazing amount of information in this story which is only three hours long. It has some interesting scholarly theories around a goddess cult which was believed to have included the 12 maids. Her perspective is light with a humorous thread, but nevertheless is understandably dark, as are most myths. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I truly enjoyed it and am now a big fan. Highly recommended at 4 stars.
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (in audio) ~ by Margaret Atwood; Laural Merlington (Reader); Canongate Myths series # 2.(less)
About: This is a child’s picture book and is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play. It is about Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his small daughter who are set adrift on the sea by the king of Naples and Prospero's evil brother. They are conspiring to acquire his land and holdings, but do not murder Prospero and Miranda since the evil doers do not want to be blamed for their deaths.
However, Prospero is a magician of great talent and he and Miranda survive the incident. They are washed up on an enchanted island inhabited by a variety of magical beings – both good and bad. Taking refuge in a cave, they try to live a peaceful and happy life. As Miranda comes of age Prospero knows she will need the companionship of others, so he conjures up a storm which blows his brother’s traveling ship onto the rocks around the island. He and the remaining crew are brought on shore, but because this includes the conspiring king as well as the king’s son, the story has just begun.
Thoughts: Ah Shakespeare, the incredible and articulate bard from days of yore. What I would not give to understand his wonderful and archaic language. Difficult as the verbiage it is for adults, it is much more so for children. With consideration to the many wonderful tie-ins around this fantastical story, it’s a shame not to have a simpler basis on which to build an understanding. That’s where a book like this can come in, as a way for adults to help children understand and to introduce them into the language of old England, and the wonders of ~ The Tempest.
With lacey and old fashioned illustrations from Gennaday Spririn, the co-author has included current language which is understandable for children (and for adults like me). Yet for authenticity she has included some brief and easy to understand quotes from Shakespeare’s actual work – like the one prefacing this review. (I have always wondered where that familiar line had originated). Helped by the illustrations, it is a way for children and adults to further understand the basis for Shakespeare’s complex story lines and language. I liked this book a lot and give it 3.5 stars.
I am actually surprised there are not more picture books as well as a graphic novel for the tale published. If there are I could not find one (hint to artists and publishers).(less)
A self published book, it is a short story with cute illustrations that helps children to realize that no...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A self published book, it is a short story with cute illustrations that helps children to realize that no matter how hard we try, at times things don’t always work out as planned. But even if they don’t, it is not always a bad thing. With a slightly Christian theme in the story, which includes the Nativity scene, it is a pleasant story for the season that children and parents will love. I liked this cute light story with a positive message and would give it 3.5 stars.(less)