A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and hea...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult dystopian that sounds so realistic in the audio version that it’s frightening. Funny and heartbreaking, it will help readers think about what our world could become if capitalistic advertising is allowed to run wild in combination with technology.
About: It appears that Titus is a regular teenager, the only difference is that in his world everyone has a “feed” implanted in their brain. It transmits constant personalized ads into their vision and auditory senses, including a way to keep in constant contact with anyone at anytime. It’s responsible for the fact that actual reading has become a thing of the past, since all communications are voice and thought activated via the “feed”. Sadly, also in this world the oceans are toxic, sterile, and no fish exist all in response to their rampant consumerism.
It's all too normal for Titus and his friends. As they party, take trips to the moon, and ingest the occasional mind altering substance, they lead their “normal lives” with a “party on attitude”. However, this world view is about to change when Titus meets a girl named Violet who is very different from anyone he knows. He begins to realize that, along with all the teen fun and games, there is an underlying angst and horror which they are all trying desperately to ignore and marginalize.
Thoughts: I enjoyed listening to this book in audio, with its well done and interesting sound effects. Told in first person by Titus, it’s coupled with their future version of “teen speak”. I dare you not to go around calling friends and family members “Unit” instead of “Dude” or other current young adult colloquialism. There was a romantic element to the story which is told from the guy’s perspective which I enjoyed. With a realistic ending that is not your “drive into the sunset” cliché. There are a good number of interesting science based elements in addition to the implant – including cloning and hover cars, however the best bit is how the actual feed sounds in this audio version that I think is particularly brilliant.
I enjoyed this novel in audio and would recommend it for any teen (adult too) who enjoys a good dystopian. I could even imagine using the written version within the classroom as a modern day trade out for 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, or perhaps in tandem with required high school readings; giving a fresher perspective to the classics. I give this audio version a 4 stars, since in addition to the author’s creative technological ideas which are a key to the book, the reader and audio producer have also contributed to create a darkly funny and all to realistic “listen”.(less)
A wonderful reading of this dramatic classic romance. Set during Vict...moreOriginal review with pictures of the Yorkshire Dales posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful reading of this dramatic classic romance. Set during Victorian times, upon the bleak and lovely moors of North Yorkshire, England. It has a strong, intelligent, and likeable heroine who has unusual moral character and perseverance, making the story even more compelling.
About: A plain young girl, Jane Eyre is a left a penniless orphan in the care of her wealthy aunt, who has promised Jane’s dying uncle that she will care for the child. Sadly this non-blood relative despises Jane, and at the age of ten Jane is shipped off to a boarding school where conditions are difficult in a different way. Yet Jane perseveres, receives an education and begins teaching at the school she once attended.
Her life and the real story begin when Jane places an ad in a newspaper and soon is accepted as a governess for the French ward of a local wealthy landowner Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is a rouge of a man and is twenty years her senior. That he is charming, wealthy, direct, and not very handsome does not stop Jane from falling in love with him. Yet this is only the beginning of this convoluted story, as Mr. Rochester has more entanglements than he wishes to reveal.
Thoughts: I absolutely loved every moment of this wonderful classic in audio, with its unexpected drama that kept me guessing. That the reader has a lovely voice with its North Yorkshire accent made the story even more likeable and realistic(she sounded similar to my in-laws who live in the area - my husband being a Yorkshireman) .
The book is also an enduring and relevant classic. Although the language is old fashioned there are the author’s timeless insights into human nature that give us a glimpse into our modern lives too. And even though social structures have changed (like women being able to own property today), our entanglements and dramas can be surprisingly similar.
It has wonderful descriptions of the green dales that are part of the landscape even today in North Yorkshire. With its weather swept beautiful moors and their natural bleakness, Charlotte Bronte describes them skillfully. So if you would enjoy a vicarious trip to the English countryside, albeit 150 years ago, then this is a perfect choice for a read or listen.
I do not give many five stars, but this book is one that is very deserving. It captured me with every word and drew me in until the very last sentence. I recommend it particularly in the audio version read by Susan Ericksen which was just lovely!
Audio Edition: unabridged version read by Susan Ericksen; Brilliance Audio; 17 hours, 21 minutes; May 25, 2005.
A classic science fiction and horror mix that includes monsters created by the amoral Dr. Moreau.
About: Set in the late 1800’s, an educated and professional man named Edward Prendick inadvertently becomes stranded on a South Pacific island. This tropical island houses the laboratories of Dr. Moreau - a mad scientist of sorts who is doing some unusual and cruel experiments on animals on the remote island. Although Moreau attempts to hide his studies from the stranded newcomer, Prendick eventually finds out what is becoming of the animals when he hears screaming from the laboratories. Prendick is naturally terrified that he too may become one of the doctor’s subjects.
Thoughts: Originally published in 1896, the novel is an adventure, with some thrilling twists in a spectacular setting. It’s definitely horrific and scientific, although the science is unrealistic based upon today’s standards. It has also been adapted into a variety of movies over the past 100 years. Some look interesting, so I plan to watch a select few since a movie version could be fun and I think would translate well.
There is some interesting commentary hidden in the story, bringing up questions around human and animal social structure, issues of vivisection, definitions of pain, and some unusual monsters; which in some ways reminded me of Frankenstein. So it could be an excellent book for discussion - take a look at its Wikipedia page where there is loads of fodder for thought: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Isla...
Highly recommended for anyone interested in stories with darker themes. Only 200 pages or so, or just several hours of listening time, I finished it quickly. It was a great read since I love science fiction, horror, and classics and this is all three. I give it a 4 star rating.(less)
A classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and...moreA classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and love during Victorian times.
About: Published in 1910 this is a short book that is supposedly a semi-autobiography from the interesting bohemian author – Colette. The story is told in first person by Renee Nere, the main character who has divorced her wealthy, philandering, artist husband after eight years of emotional torture. Damaged, much wiser, yet lonely, she has managed to support herself as a dancer and actor in Paris. Although not considered an acceptable profession for her social standing, it never-the-less gives Renee a sense of independence which is hard earned during a time when a woman’s independence was not common and, indeed, shunned.
When a wealthy gentleman falls in love with Renee and promises her the moon, and the dancer attempts to decide between marriage and independence - that is when the reader gets a glimpse into why this book is considered a feminist classic.
Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this book in audio, with its UK-English accented reader and its esoteric French phrase usage. (I speak 4 words of French and received horrible grades for it in high school, so did not understand most of it). Yet the English part of the book is descriptive and pleasant, if slightly long winded at times. At one point Renee travels the French countryside, and the letters Renee writes her would be lover are sweet indeed.
When doing research about the author, I found Colette to be an intriguing subject. Living a life that was not standard, she broke many social rules including affairs with a tabooed family member and women. Although this book does not have LGBT elements, it’s still feminist in nature and is not your happily-ever-after romance. But I think that is where its value lies, in a “realistic” example of a woman who goes against the social norms of the times and lives her life to the fullest.
I give this wonderful short novel (especially in its audio version) a 4-star rating and recommend it highly for those interested in anything French, Victorian classics, and feminist fiction.(less)
This is a series review for the: Fever Series in audio.
Set in the rainy city of Dublin, Ireland, this paranormal romance/urban fantasy series has a complex mythology, intense sexual tension, two alien fairy factions, and loads of interesting drama and action. It’s a completely addictive series and highly recommended in its audio version for a five book escapist read.
For the entire review link to the blog post above or my review here on Goodreads. (less)
The first in a popular young adult/middle grade romance series about a teenage girl who is required to reside at a boarding school for troubled youths...moreThe first in a popular young adult/middle grade romance series about a teenage girl who is required to reside at a boarding school for troubled youths. But the students are not normal delinquents – they are fallen angels.
About: Luce is seeing things that her parents and the other adults in charge (teachers and the police) think are not real. That she appears to be responsible for the death of a fellow classmate (he burned to death) does not help either. It’s understandable that Luce is required to attend a school for damaged teens, a boarding school called Sword and Cross.
Luce is depressed at her apparent bad luck, lost in the old school’s halls where she does not quite fit in with the other students. She feels conflicted about her responsibility for her classmate’s death, and is also experiencing things that are out of the normal but that she knows are real – even though no-one else believes. She misses her mom and dad and the students at the boarding school are not very nice to her. When she meets Daniel, she cannot forget him and has trouble understanding why he likes her one minute then ignores her the next. Soon she finds that Daniel is not what he appears and that they have a past which is way more complicated that she could ever imagine.
Thoughts: This is my second go at this book. This time I listened to it in audio and enjoyed it. The reader has a pleasant young adult voice which I found easy to listen to. I abandoned the print version of the book in its arc format several years ago because it did not draw me in during the first several chapters. However, in its audio version I had no trouble completing the story.
As a person with a degree in education, I thought the book felt like a great one for middle-grade girls. It was easy to listen to, has light romance, and I would mark it as a “clean read” for early teens and pre-teens. There are some Christian and reincarnation themes which may be of interest to some, and just enough horror to keep most young readers interested.
Although I enjoyed the audio book, I personally do not feel a big desire to complete the other books in the series (there are another 5) and therefore give the book a 3 star. An enjoyable listen that I would recommend for tween girls, their parents and teachers looking for an intriguing dark romance for their female children/students. (less)
Originally published in 1970, this is a classic adult dystopian novel that portrays a frightening future i...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Originally published in 1970, this is a classic adult dystopian novel that portrays a frightening future in which a pseudo-government medicates its citizens and regulates all behavior, creating a hive like community. Everyone is equal and its adherents chant: "Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day".
About: “Chip” (Li is his real name and one of four names for every man given by the society) is a member of a “perfect” society where the members are semi-sexless, have no discernible race and exist through genetic modification. They live a day-to-day drone like existence where men do not have to shave, women have no breasts, they all wear identical coveralls, eat cakes and drink coke for every meal, and everyone gets along.
When Chip decides what he really wishes to do with his life and expresses it out loud as a youngster, his desires are superficially quelled as unacceptable and is told he is to have the career chosen for him by the government for the good of the whole. Then one day his internally conflicted self meets up with a group of members who have figured out how to avoid taking their weekly scheduled meds. When Chip joins them temporarily, he finds he has never felt more alive and decides he wants to live this way everyday.
This is just a glimpse of what happens to Chip, because things become decidedly more involved as the story continues.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this classic novel – even though it did not completely absorb my interest for the entire novel since I did a fair amount of skimming; a key sign that the novel was not going to be a big favorite. It felt like the first part of story, detailing Chip’s life in this medically created “utopian” society, went on a bit longer than needed for me. It did pick up in the second part of the novel and I do think that the story line is an intriguing one, and supports the fact that the book is often considered a corner-stone classic for the genre and included with the likes of 1984 and Clockwork Orange.
It also stimulated several questions – because as in all dystopian, this society is not as idyllic as it appears. I found I started asking myself: Who or what is leading and monitoring this society? What is their reason behind creating this pseudo-utopia? And are these leaders as altruistic as it first appears?
Recommended to anyone who enjoys social science fiction where a society has gone askew or indeed to anyone who plans to write one. So if you’re interested in a read that may be a bit chewy, or you would like the answer to the above questions, this will be a great story for you. For those not interested in reading the book, but who have a curiosity about the plot there is a complete summary (with spoilers) at its Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Per....
So I give This Perfect Day a 3 stars. I would have considered it torture as a teenager forced to read it in a high school literature class, like when I read 1984, but as an adult it was quite a decent read with a complex and surprising plot.
This Perfect Day was written in 1970 and won the Prometheus Award soon after it was published. Ira Levin, its author, passed away in 2007 and also wrote other books now considered classics - The Boys from Brazil, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Stepford Wives. The novel has been consistently re-published over the years with a variety of interesting covers. This latest publication makes the book available in e-book format. (less)
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of this “special organization” help with the fight against evil in their special and socially unaccepted way.
About: “The women of Nell Gwynne’s” is set in an alternative England where steam has a decidedly different technological aspect than the standard historical Victorian era model; this is definitely steam punk. The unique aspect of the story is the women. As high class call girls, each of these special women has been selected by the madam for their strength, feistiness and other special talents - all which help them in their fight against the darker aspects of their time. As you might imagine, their main way of ascertaining secret information is especially intriguing, and revolves around the high-standing men who possess it being in the awkward and vulnerable position of having “their pants around their ankles”.
Thoughts: I completely enjoyed this short novel and was immersed in it. A key to Kage Baker’s talents is that the novella is a page turner that took me on a trip into an alternative Victorian era - it included some fictional technological inventions which combined to create a story that anyone interested in steam punk should read. It was dryly funny too. I understand from my digging around for information on the author and the back story that she had a cutting wit and sense of humor; and it shows. I giggled a lot.
Although done tastefully it’s important to mention that since the story is about “ladies of the night” there are some interesting sexual involvements, so I consider parts of this story to be light erotica. Readers bothered by this kind of read should give the story a miss. But it is highly recommended for all steam punk fans and anyone interested in a fun read. It’s a 4.5 stars and darn near a 5 in my opinion. I will be reading a lot more by this author, which is heartbreaking since her books are numbered, considering her death prior to winning the Nebula for this book.(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)
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)
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 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)
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 zombie story, with just enough gore to keep you at the edge of your seat. It has an amazing opening whic...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A zombie story, with just enough gore to keep you at the edge of your seat. It has an amazing opening which will suck readers in… zombie baby fingers grasping hungrily under a door!
About: Set in Texas, where characters have easy access to firearms, there is plenty of shooting- especially with survivors attempting to remain alive and zombies searching for their preferred food. Jenni and Katie the main protagonists, are thrown together because their world has collapsed. As they run from the growing hordes that are starving for their flesh, they become friends fast, sharing a similar loss of loved ones. On a mission to find Jenni’s teenage step son they stumble upon a refuge - a group of individuals who have created a walled community. In their attempt to make the area safe against the hungry hordes, there is ample room for all sorts of conflict (internal and external) as the compound’s residents try to create a relatively safe environment.
Thoughts: Rhiannon Frater has a very down to earth writing style which is easy to get lost in, making The First Days a page turning novel. It is the first in a trilogy which was serialized by the author online, later self published, then recently picked up by Tor for traditional publishing - understandably a dream come true for Frater. With psychological insight into the feelings of her characters and a diverse character range (one main character is lgbt), this story has some interesting twists. I liked the two relatable main characters with their strength and feistiness; a favorite kind of female protagonist for me.
A word of warning though. Like much horror that is effective, it has some rough language. Not much but some. There is a lighter side too, with some romance (light sexual references) and plenty of brain exploding gore for a zombie-loving fan base. This is an apocalyptic story with a monster that is a bit faster than your standard moan, groan and limp kind. They run at 30 miles per hour giving the survivors a bit more to worry about. And apparently they are learning too, all of which leaves loads of room for some heart pounding action scenes.
This was my third zombie book ever, I enjoyed it. It’s a 3.5 stars in my opinion and I am looking forward to reading what happens to theses poor souls stuck in this compound trying to get by in a world that has turned to hell; and where they are on the menu. I am suspecting that it will not end well.(less)
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.
About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books which are important to her and her perspective around science fiction and more – how each book she describes affected her development, its place in history, and how it helped to create the genre as we see it today. Also included are her personal, respectable, and well thought out definitions for the sub and overlapping genres within the broad scope of speculative literature and science fiction. At the end of the book are two short stories written by the author and read by Susan Deneaker.
Thoughts: I devoured this short read/listen, since I adore anything sci-fi and books about books. It was a complete pleasure for me. Atwood has some intriguing ideas about what the genre of science fiction is all about, especially for me considering my obsession with defining genres. That Atwood goes into depth was helpful since I learned many things from this book, which for me is what it’s all about. I now have other ways of referencing and categorizing a book.
I am certain that this is not a book for everyone, however, I would recommend it as a must read for any serious science fiction geek. It’s also good for the reference shelf since it contains loads of information on classics, and of course those interesting “speculative” genre definitions that she has provided. In my opinion it’s a great listen. I will be purchasing a paper copy for my personal library. I give this terrific nonfiction book - a big 4 stars.(less)
A science fiction/fairytale with a strong female protagonist and a handsome prince. It’...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
4.5 stars actually!
A science fiction/fairytale with a strong female protagonist and a handsome prince. It’s a fun start to what looks to be very popular and exciting young adult series.
About: In a future world, plague is ravaging the population and everyone lives in fear of being it’s next victim. The main character, Cinder, is a teenage cyborg - a human with artificial and computerized body parts, including a too small artificial foot that she is self conscious about and has had since she was ten. Sadly, as a cyborg, Cinder is not considered entirely human in this society and has very few rights. So the story starts with a special and discriminated against main character.
She lives in what is now considered New Beijing with her unkind stepmother, two step sisters (one is evil and one nice), and a sweet robot helper. She works as a mechanic - the best in the overpopulated city. She is the forced provider for her family, though her stepmother allots her only a closet sized room and dirty oil stained clothes. Cinder however, while berated in her home and society, is reasonably comfortable in her less-than-human place in this future world’s hierarchy. Life is looking up since she has found a replacement for her too small foot and there is to be a coronation for the local prince with a ball to celebrate. When Cinder meets the prince unexpectedly (he needs help with a broken android) it appears as if the Prince likes her.
As things become complicated and drama ensues, it becomes clear that Cinder may be a factor in saving their world.
Thoughts: This is a sweet and fun story and I just loved Cinder. She is imperfect and smart and stands up for herself. She works hard and gets beyond the grease and grime and does something of value other than fix her hair and make-up. She also has the gumption to tell off some evil and unkind people in the story, creating some excellent dialog that teens will love. Me too – it kept me rooting for this character.
I listened to this book in audio as well as read bits here and there. It was done very well with the reader having a strong and pleasant voice, which helps make an audio book listenable for me. It’s an interesting and surprising take on the original fairytale, with some unusual twists, a strong and smart heroine, some interesting science, and paranormal aspects, all of which kept me happily reading/listening. The only negative aspect for this story is that it’s a cliff hanger – so if you read this book you will most likely be sucked into the rest of the series. Sad thing is that you will have to wait for the next several books in the series as this was just released. Nevertheless, it’s a great book for young adults and adults that love teen reads; a fun one too! In my opinion this sci-fi-ish fairytale re-working gets a 4.5 star rating. (less)
The first in a sexy paranormal romance series where an ancient and darkly handsome demon meets a gorgeous...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
The first in a sexy paranormal romance series where an ancient and darkly handsome demon meets a gorgeous fledgling angel. Their attraction is so strong that there is only one thing that will save them both. Bet you can guess what that is!
About: Serena St. Clair embodies beauty, love and purity. She is blonde and virtually flawless. As a new angel, learning the ropes and saving souls on earth, she is given her first assignment to help a famous and misguided movie star from falling into the depths of hell. In the process she follows him to “Sin City” Las Vegas, in order to protect him. There she bumps into the extremely alluring, evil, and dark master demon Julian Archer. In Vegas he is a hotel casino owner where debauchery is the key activity for every guest. It’s a way to meet his goals of assisting humans in loosing their souls on their road to hell.
Julian is smitten with Serena; but he eats young lovelies like her for breakfast and throws them into a hell of insanity afterward – it’s an easy and pleasurable game for him. But Serena has other ideas, even though her attraction to him is undeniable and almost irresistible. And then, of course, there is drama, sex, and light violence as the two face-off in a battle for their souls. The question is: who will win?
Thoughts: This is a tale of good versus evil with some very sexy scenes (fairly explicit ones). With this dichotomy of black and white morality there are some distinct and polarized characters in Where Demons Fear to Tread. Perhaps this is a plus for a variety of readers, especially those who enjoy a world that is simply contrasted. This was a bit of a problem for me. I prefer complicated characters, and stories with “grey” morality themes.
On the plus side this was an easy and quick read. I think Stephanie Chong is a clear writer, who does not leave the reader in any doubt of her story line or leave any room for confusion with the world she’s created. It’s also her first novel. So, I am also thinking that there is room for her characters to develop? With that said, I am going to read the second in her Company of Angels series to see where she takes Serena and Julian and what other characters the author introduces into the series. Besides, this is romance and it’s supposed to be light, fun and not too complicated.
I would recommend this novel for paranormal romance readers who like a traditional story line in their reads and also readers who like clear evil versus good contrasts, but also enjoy sexy explicit romances. It’s a 3 star in my opinion.(less)
Not for just vampire lovers, this is another compelling and diverse collection of horror from some of the...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
Not for just vampire lovers, this is another compelling and diverse collection of horror from some of the best in the genre, edited by Ellen Datlow. What’s great about these stories, is they are not all based upon traditional “fangy” blood suckers since the cravings and feedings in this book are not only about blood.
About: Published in the Fall of 2011, this is my second horror collection edited by Ellen Datlow. Although all the stories in this collection are exceptional, I have my favorites and have marked them with asterisks. In my opinion it’s one of those perfect Fall reads, especially for any reader who enjoys short stories, likes a scare before going to sleep (to induce interesting dreams), or who may be short on reading time.
**All You Can Do Is Breathe ~ by Kaaron Warren: A stunning short that’s a 2012 Ditmar Award nominated story. It’s about a “very thin man” who feed on the survival instincts of the strongest survivors from close-to-death experiences. This story is one of my favorites from the collection.
Needles ~ by Elizabeth Bear: Demons, vampires, and tattoo needles are the theme of this story which is set in the town of Needles, Arizona.
Baskerville’s Midgets ~ by Reggie Oliver: It’s a dark competition between preforming midgets and dwarves that stretches beyond the grave, all set in a boarding house in what feels like 1930’s England.
Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow ~ by Richard Bowes: Two middle aged memorabilia sellers and “recovering blood-addicts” remember and long for the days when their addictions were active. And become seduced back into their old lifestyle’s drama.
X for Demetrios ~ by Steve Duffy: Based on a bizarre yet true story found in a newspaper article, this short is about a man with an extreme vampire phobia and obsession, and his relationship with the garlic he believes will protect him.
Keeping Corky ~ by Melanie Tem: A “special” mom with paranormal abilities decides to take back her beloved child from his adopted parent and the system that placed him, both of which are attempting to prevent her from contact with her boy.
Shelf-Life ~ by Lisa Tuttle: A childhood doll house takes on a life of its own and creates problems for a woman and her daughter in England.
**Caius ~ by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malsberg: One of my favorites, it’s a short story based on a radio talk/help show featuring a modern day messiah, his would-be worshipers, and his relationship to madness.
Sweet Sorrow ~ by Barbara Roden: A very dark short about an elderly couple who feed on the sorrow of grieving parents and friends of lost children.
First Breath ~ by Nicole J. LeBoeuf: A bizarre, twisty and surreal story with LGBT and reincarnation elements.
Toujours ~ by Kathe Koja: An obsessed butler becomes an even greater part of his talented employer’s life, not only to be close to him but to spite the artist’s new wife.
Miri ~ by Steve Rasnic Tem: A photographer is pulled into an imbalanced relationship with an anorexic woman who sucks out of him a key ability that he uses in the creation of his work.
**Mrs. Jones ~ by Carol Emshwiller: My favorite from this collection, this short is about two “old-maid” sisters, living together on their family farm. After years of juvenile-like conflict and competition between the two, they have an odd visitor who one of the sisters seduces. It’s darkly hilarious with a feminist twist.
Bread and Water ~ by Michael Cisco: A dark short about an ill and constantly thirsty man, who is quarantined with others who have caught the same virus.
Mulberry Boys ~ by Margo Lanagan: A revengeful short about surgically altered, bizarre “silk” producing and imprisoned boys, that has Margo Lanagan’s characteristic dark fairytale quality.
**The Third Always Behind You ~ by John Lanagan: Another favorite from this collection, it’s about a dark love triangle that continues even after the death of one of the participants. It is wonderfully disturbing.
The Siphon ~ by Laird Barron: An eternal bachelor con/salesman, after years of scummy behavior gets his just desserts by attracting a bevy of diverse and ancient demons.
Highly recommended, this is a great collection at 4 stars!
Blood and Other Cravings, has several significant award nominations:
A contemporary and historical mix that’s based around two story lines separated by 100 years. Its complex main characters, intriguing plots, and amazing equatorial African settings (which includes lions and gorillas) immerse the reader into its pages. The question is: how will these two characters be linked together in the end?
About: The historical story line is set in 1899 when Jeremy, a young American Engineer, travels to Africa in order to manage a team of 700 men constructing a railroad line in the heart of the continent. The workers are brought in from India to work on the line which is being built for access to the area for “Western” settlers. As the railroad workers battle the inhospitable drought-torn environment and malaria-causing mosquitos, they are ravaged by two 400 pound lions. The lions target the workers, just as they have been targeting the African natives. Jeremy, the only person with a gun, feels responsible for protecting “his” workers and begins to hunt them. As he becomes entwined with a native African tracker, who helps him find these elusive man-eating cats, the entire area remains terrified as one human per night is taken, killed and devoured by the starving lions.
In the parallel story which is set in the year 2000, Max, an ethno-botanist, has been commissioned to travel to the Congo by a US pharmaceutical company. She is to find and bring back a special plant that contains a chemical which may help victims of heart attacks and strokes. While searching in the mountain forest she becomes inextricably involved with the team of scientists who are living among and studying a wild gorilla family whose survival is in question. Max also finds that she too may be in danger.
Thoughts: Three Weeks in December is a terrific read and I think it has many elements which would be perfect for group discussion due to its layered and controversial themes. Audrey Schulman addresses environmental issues, gender issues, racial issues, and includes one character with a disability, making this a rich book, ripe for discussions.
It is a wonderfully descriptive story of equatorial Africa, with visions of the Savanna and jungle mountain areas, including interesting flora and fauna. While reading I kept thinking about the similarities of humans to gorillas, the complex and huge number of unknown plants that may have life-saving chemicals in their leaves, and the contrast with the torrid, dusty and dangerous areas where the lions reside. I could not help but think how easily a huge hungry cat could make us part of their menu.
The best part of the book is its complex characters, each with interesting personal attributes, giving the story depth and color. I learned from an online interview with the author that creating these characters took her some time and included repeated re-writes. A link for that interview is included on the blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks in December, with its exotic setting, complex characters, and in-depth relationship with the native animals and African environment. For me it was one easy-to-read story where I lost myself, my favorite type of book to read. I will be including Schulman’s other novels on my “to-be-read” list. I completely loved her writing style. I give this wonderful book a 4.5 stars.(less)
This is a book for story-tellers and story readers. It’s the third stand alone book in Frank Delaney’s “No...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This is a book for story-tellers and story readers. It’s the third stand alone book in Frank Delaney’s “Novel of Ireland” series. It includes Irish history, myth, and lore layered with its 1956 setting. It’s a book that will please those who wish a vicarious trip to Ireland and the oral traditions of its past.
“Do you have room in your mind for a tale of life itself, a tale of wonder, wisdom, and delight?” (page 331)
About: This is a multi-layered story which is the third book of the series starting with Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show and then The Matchmaker of Kenmare. In this latest novel, the main character Ben travels about Ireland recording the oral myths, stories, legends, paranormal sightings, and cures of the local residents to archive for the country.
He is emotionally battered and reeling from the loss of his enigmatic wife Venetia, who left him years before. Blaming himself, he tries to forget by burying himself in his important work. While doing so he is inadvertently caught between the police and the IRA, becoming indirectly sucked into extreme violence and narrowly escaping several horrific incidents. Combined with the drama and emotional upheaval, what evolves is a thriller of sorts where the reader is left wondering what heartbreaking event will happen next – whether emotional from Ben’s dramatic relationships or due to the warring sides.
Most importantly, interlaced through the realistic story are the tales which Ben records, and that mirror the “real life” incidences occurring for the characters. This creates a novel which has a special quality, affirming the importance of story telling and myth through the ages and their modern relevance.
Thoughts: This novel has a “magical realism” flavor which I liked a lot. I giggled, I cried, I wanted to skim quickly ahead to see what the next event in the continuing drama would be. But with this literary novel reading slowly is the best way to experience the subtle truisms and humor the author has hidden there.
The only niggle I had was that I found it hard to relate to Ben in the first 2/3rds of the novel. He is emotionally lost, depressed even, and pines for his lost love Venetia, who loves him still. Yet he lacks the gumption to step up and to win her back. It was difficult for me to deal with his vacillation. However, from reading other reviews of the previous novels in the series I know now that Ben’s attitude is built upon years of events which have affected him. I am thinking that it is important to read the other two books prior to this novel in order to completely “get” Ben.
Regardless, as a stand alone it does work. The story is well written, jammed packed with interesting events, and contains advanced writing techniques. I enjoyed this book a lot and think that many parts are exceptional. Highly recommend for anyone who tells or writes stories; and for literary fiction readers definitely. It has the trick of pushing the reader to work for the prize of each juicy dilemma and attests to the importance of the art of telling a good story. I give this novel 4 stars.
The latest page-turning stand-alone story in M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series. Fragrance plays a key r...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
The latest page-turning stand-alone story in M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series. Fragrance plays a key roll in assisting the characters in accessing their past-life knowledge, which creates drama and intrigue in its thrilling pages.
About: Robbie and Jac L’Etoile have inherited their family’s centuries old perfume business that has been passed down through the generations since Napoleonic times. The once flourishing business is in a shambles due to their father’s dementia which has deteriorated to the point where the siblings now have control of the fragrance house. Although close since childhood, the brother and sister are now in conflict about what to do with the business.
Robbie believes he has the method of finding a perfume – a lost fragrance, which will facilitate the smeller to reach a meditative state, assisting them to find their soul-mate. He’s assured himself that an artifact which he has found in his fathers work room will allow him to re-discover the lost element for this special fragrance, one that was created and used during Cleopatra’s reign centuries ago. When Robbie and the artifact disappear, intrigue and drama ensue as a variety of factions and individuals try to find him or to keep him missing.
Thoughts: Interwoven in the story are historical tales including reincarnation-based religious beliefs systems from China, Tibet, and Egypt. It has a multilayered story line and a variety of complex characters, but the plot is surprisingly easy to follow. This is another very readable book in this continuing series, where several of the characters attempt to prove that reincarnation does exist – while others would like it to remain just a paranormal imagining.
M.J. Rose has a very easy-to-read style that is light and slightly flowery, making this book similar to her others - a page turner. The story has a complex story line with a variety of characters which the author handles well, so the reader does not become overwhelmed or needlessly lost. She deals out the story line in small chapters, varying and alternating each character’s story, so it is a book that is easy to dip in and out of. A perfect read for someone who has a few minutes here of there to read.
If you’re interested in a thrilling read, have a curiosity about reincarnation, or like historical fiction and paranormal stories, then this will be a great book for you. You can start here with the series and work your way backwards since M.J. Rose has created a stand-alone in this book. And the series is so easy to read so you just may want to pick them all up. I did. I think that this is my favorite of the series because I liked the inclusion of the reincarnation beliefs and history of Tibet, specifically some of the modern occurrences. I am curious as to where that author will take this series next. Another 4 star for the fourth book in this very readable and thrilling series.(less)
A translated Italian crime fiction novel, that’s another thrilling read for the fans of this popular and e...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A translated Italian crime fiction novel, that’s another thrilling read for the fans of this popular and emerging genre. A very dark psychological read, with a paranormal element, which is not for the faint of heart, or stomach.
About: Six children’s arms are found in a desolate wooded area and the police are distraught, wondering where are the rest of the girls’ bodies? Half assuming they are all dead, it turns out that one may still be alive. The local police team is in a panic to find the living girl (or her body) and to capture the perpetrator who has done this horrific crime, before another child goes missing.
Mila Vasquez, the main protagonist and profiler, has a gift. She has the ability to locate and save live abductees. Naturally, she is brought in to help find this missing girl. And this is only the beginning of a convoluted chase, which includes insights into the darker elements of human nature and inside the lives of the damaged professionals, who are dealing with a child-preying, twisted, yet intelligent killer.
Thoughts: This is dark, very dark. If you do not like reading about pedophiles then don’t read this book. Conversely, If you love translated crime novels and can stomach some gore then this is a book for you. You will get loads of entertainment here in this intelligent page-turning book while at the edge of your seat.
I have not read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I imagine fans of that novel will also enjoy The Whisperers. The book is definitely literary with writing that is involved, and it’s also a fabulous translation. The psychological insight is enlightening and the story line is convoluted enough to keep one guessing, which is so very important in a book like this. I also liked that the story line contains a slight paranormal element giving it even more of an eerie feel.
The characters are complex and will surprise. Mila’s past and future are linked inextricably with the story line and she is deeply emotionally scarred. So is her impromptu partner, and readers will not realize how lost some of the characters are until close to the very end.
An amazing début, it’s an intriguing, involved, intelligent crime novel that I enjoyed quite a lot, so I think it deserves 4 stars. I was particularly pleased with the ending since it was surprising and gut wrenching - and the reader will finally find out who and what a “whisperer” is. Scary stuff! (less)