I tried this in audio with two formats, and read a bit. In the first the reader did not have a pleasant voice - stuffy and with a nasal sounAbandoned!
I tried this in audio with two formats, and read a bit. In the first the reader did not have a pleasant voice - stuffy and with a nasal sound. Very annoying. The second reader's narration was much more pleasant but after listening for a few hours I know now that I will become very annoyed and frustrated with the conversations and what appears to be petty manipulations and suppositions by the characters.
I am not a big romance fan, had enough Victoriana as a kid and am fairly certain that reading it will also produce the same feeling, since I did read several chapters as well. Perhaps I will try again in a few years? Probably not.
I do think Nancy Pearl has a great philosophy - the older you get the less time you should spend on books you don't enjoy. She even has a mathematical formula for it. Here is her quote -
"If you're 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up.
If you're over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100 - the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit. If you're 100 or over you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers in doing so." — Nancy Pearl
I have read more than 50 pages of this book, parts twice. I quit!...more
A wonderful, engaging historical fiction novel that has the science of botany as a key element. It has anOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A wonderful, engaging historical fiction novel that has the science of botany as a key element. It has an amazing strong female character and an encompassing theory on the nature of all things.
Description: When Alma Whitaker is born in Pennsylvania, USA in the year 1800, her exceptionally wealthy British father Henry is pleased. Alma will be his only natural child, will receive an education uncommon for women, and will want for almost nothing for her entire life. Alma is not a beautiful woman, but her strengths lie in her brilliant scientific mind and her excellent constitution. She spends her childhood days categorizing plants and reading in her father’s huge library. As an adult Alma becomes one of the first women to publish within the field of botany.
This is the richly imagined life story of Alma Whitaker, her driven father whose interest and dedication to botany build him a fortune, and her stalwart and complex family. It is set relatively soon after the American Revolution, during the civil war, and while the theory of evolution was taking form.
Thoughts: There’s a lot to like about this book. From the very start it becomes apparent that Elizabeth Gilbert is an expert story teller. I was entirely swept away with writing that flows and that captured me from the first page until the last. I particularly like that the characters are well developed and complex with a lot of back story. The book also has some famous historical characters which adds to the richness of the story line - such as Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook, who where significant contributors to science and botany - giving the book an authentic historical feel. There are some interesting settings within the novel which may intrigue readers, such as Kew Gardens, a botanical garden in London established in 1756 that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Tahiti, where the author goes into a good deal of depth about the culture and the setting.
As the title suggests one of the book’s major themes is a grand sweeping theory about the nature of humans and life in general, and since it is one that I agree with it made me like the book even more. My only quibble would be a strong and slightly embarrassing sexual thread that runs through the novel, which was a bit much for me. If this particular element had been a little lighter the book would have rated higher in my opinion. However, it’s a terrific novel and comes highly recommended. I would say one of my favorites this year at 4.5 stars. ...more
As Americans we "love" vampires. So much that in fact what was once horrific has become almost an "icon". Specifically, there are vampire novels of evAs Americans we "love" vampires. So much that in fact what was once horrific has become almost an "icon". Specifically, there are vampire novels of every thinkable sub-genre. We have romance, erotic, mystery, young adult, and classic vampire novels to name a few. Because of this, for an author to write a truly horrifying vampire novel that is out of the ordinary he would have to take a look at the novels available and find an element which has not been used extensively. Which is what I believe John Ajvide Lindqvist did. He took what is commonly accepted as one of the most disgusting things we as a culture see to be happening secretly in our neighborhoods and used it to change the typical vampire story line. He did so effectively, all the while taking the reader's horror to different level. This was an enthralling read. It scared me. It disgusted me. I was shocked. Which is the point of horror. I want to be truly scared. There should be gore....not a lot, but some, which was the case in this story. Fortunately, the story went beyond the shock to include interesting and colorful characters and day to day events which balanced out the shock and gore. It has an easy to follow format with small chapters divided into smaller sections which made it easy to pick up and put down. Which is welcome when your scared. The translation was excellent, which if it is not, can make the story difficult and unreadable. I felt I was reading a book written by a native speaker including enough of the Swedish culture to make it feel like it took place in another country. Personally, I would have liked to have read a bit more of the Swedish customs within the story, but then I like interesting cultural information. The only thing negative I can say about the book is that the very ending was fairly predictable and I found several typos, and I am a lousy editor. As for recommendations, I think that this book may offend a number of people. Truly horrifying things often do. So if homosexuality, pedophilia, and appropriately placed gore bother you then this may not be a book for you. I however, enjoyed it and thought it was "fun" if one can truly call being scared and disgusted fun. I enjoy it as long as it is in a book and thankfully not in "real life". ...more
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verOriginal 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!...more
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is tolOriginal 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 unusual 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 were 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 woman’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....more
Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements witOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements with a vampire as the main character. Set in Egypt in the 1200s, the main character (Count Saint Germain assisting as a translator) and a group of European Christian pilgrims are searching for holy sites and relics in the African desert, in hopes of redemption or money.
Shellie’s description: Sidi Sandjer’min (Count Saint-Germain’s name with an Egyptian twist) has been living at a Coptic monastery with his helper and friend Ruthier, assisting the monks and their visitors with their medical needs. He knows many languages and is an apothecary and a physician with knowledge that is advanced for the time.
Due to an edict passed by the ruler of Egypt that forces European inhabitants of the country to leave the land, Sandjer’min and Ruthiers decide their best option to avoid any persecution is to join a band of Christian pilgrims on their travels to visit churches and monasteries, as they are heading into the more remote areas of the Ethiopian highlands away from the main tributary of the Nile river. Set during a time without our modern conveniences, there is ample room for hardships and excitement and the story delivers.
With the faith of the zealous at its core, this is a novel which examines the place of religion in creating the world’s history and political climate during the 1200s.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is my first Count Saint Germain novel even though it is the 26th book in the series. Happily, I was not lost at all by reading this latest novel since the book stands completely alone. And according to Tor’s blog, all the novels in the series are that way; you can start anywhere in the huge collection and not feel lost or slighted.
I devoured this novel in a few days, which is a rarity for me. It was intriguing and has well-developed characters, romance, darkness, intrigue, medical predicaments, historical detail, geographic information and an exciting story line. What may put some readers off is that the main character is a vampire, fearing that there will be all those traditional vampire characteristics that so many readers are bored with. However, the vampire aspect is only a slight part of the story line. I would consider this book foremost a historical fiction book and it’ s really light on the vampire theme. Adding to the interest for me is that Count Saint Germain is an old, wise and kind vampire.
This is an entertaining book that I recommend for historical fiction lovers, horror readers, vampire aficionados (even though it is light on traditional vampire darkness) and anyone looking for a comprehensive and attention-grabbing read. 4 stars for this historical horror novel. I will be reading more from this series and will consider Chelsea Quinn Yarbro a go-to author when I am interested in a guaranteed good read....more
A sweet and whimsical tale with images of strength, valor and courage. It’s a poetiOriginal review with additional links posted at Layers of Thought.
A sweet and whimsical tale with images of strength, valor and courage. It’s a poetic and fantastical hero's journey especially for girls (and some boys too!)
About: September is twelve and like many children of that age she is bored and confused about life; feeling stifled by her chores - especially washing the household’s flowery china teacups. It does not help that Dad is off fighting for the country and mom is working in the war efforts; tough times for a young girl, creating the natural desire to escape the perceived drudgery which is normal for all youngsters of that age.
In her imaginings of something beyond her regular world she is visited by a Green Wind in a smoking jacket and whisked off to Fairyland. There she looses her heart and a shoe while meeting a variety of diverse fairies and fantastical creatures, while learning a thing or two about herself, the true meaning of friendship, and what is truly important in life.
Thoughts: With whimsical and imaginative prose akin to poetry (Catherynne Valente has an unusual grasp of language and is actually a poet), the book has meanderings with deeper archetypal and metaphorical threads creating a story that has wording that is often like a poem.
Contrastingly the story has “real life” issues placed strategically in it, where the main character faces tough situations which are not glazed over or skirted. There are sections which touched me deeply, creating a giggle or a heart-tug from September’s experiences.
Perhaps seen as an introduction to fairy lore for the uninitiated, or a revisit for the more advanced reader, the book contains many different fantastical creatures. Since I have never heard of a Dyad, Spriggans, Pukas, Marids, and perhaps a Golem, it was a lesson for me. There is an intriguing theory around the evolution of fairies – from frogs; which I liked so much. (Macmillan has a downloadable document; a bestiary for the book which is lovely and amusing.)
Will tweens and teens like it? I think most will. However, as one of the “uninitiated” adults (I have not read a lot about fairies), I found the text esoteric in areas - which may have changed since it I read the book in an arc format. So I would recommend it for precocious youngsters beyond their reading level (due to its vocabulary – check out widdershins!), older tweens and teens, children well versed in fairytales and their language, or to teachers and parents to read out loud to students or children. I would have loved having this read out loud to me as a youngster.
As a story for most age levels, it is a tale about fairies with old fashioned yet relevant ideals which may help solidify and reestablish it - strong girls/children become strong women/adults; perseverance does make a difference; and one’s home is the best place to be (mostly). I loved this whimsical and special book and rated it 4 stars. ...more
I really enjoyed this fast moving, young adult novel. I love strong female characters and fantasy so this was an easy read for me. I would recommend itI really enjoyed this fast moving, young adult novel. I love strong female characters and fantasy so this was an easy read for me. I would recommend it to anyone whom enjoys light fantasy/adventure, especially women over the age of 14 (it contains light sexual content and issues.) Katsa the main character is a Graceling. Gracelings are gifted with special skills beyond the normal human. Katsa's special gift allows her to kill anyone at will. She is consequently used for this skill by her uncle, a King, against her own beliefs and will. Katsa is also in conflict with her strong, and independent personality which challenges the traditional values of what kind of life a woman should want and choose - commitment, marriage, and children versus independence and the freedom to live her life and use her gifts as she chooses. This is the author's first book, she has a Masters degree in children's literature, which shows through in her plot, character development, and slightly unconventional ending. I think there may be room for a sequel? :)
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Actually 4.5 stars.
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbalanced nature of a community sets in motion a horrific series of events. The author uses a unique perspective around why she thinks this may have occurred.
About: This is set around actual events where the warped moral boundaries and a desire for revenge inflame the emotions of a local pastor and a selfish young woman. Situations are manipulated for personal gain, culminating in the hanging deaths of a number of its core community members - for witchcraft. Bloody scary!
It’s a historical novel about this infamous North American witch hunt, with a slightly different take on the original. The author’s slant is very plausible and extremely intriguing. While not giving this key piece away, let’s say that through some research and a bit of insightful luck or brilliance, Suzy Witten has added a theory around this 200 year old story which has created a page turning twist of a tale - a very good one at that.
Thoughts: One of my favorite genres is horror, so I devoured this story. At the same time, because it is based on a true story it is all the more terrifying, especially since it is entirely possible that something of this nature could happen again. As well as its plausible and intriguing twist, it has complex and well developed characters - many are easy to relate to and likable while others are naturally despicable. With its insight, it feels like a study in human nature with extreme examples of human failings. I was left on the “edge of my seat” (or the bed since I usually read at night). At one point I had to set the book aside with the downward spiraling events.
Another element which I liked is that there is “lustiness” as a large thread throughout the story, giving it darkness and juiciness which in my opinion did not become unrealistic and standardized (one of my peeves). So if you’re looking for a “clean” read this is not a good book for you. Witten also uses language that is accessible yet with a slightly “old English style” so that you feel like it is set within the period which it occurred. These elements give depth to the story and make it perfect for a historical fiction novel.
This is an impressive independently published debut novel, even though the author has extensive writing experience - she is a Walt Disney Studios Fellowship Finalist, which you can definitely tell by reading this book. The Afflicted Girls is also the winner of The 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction (Independent Publisher Book Awards). I would say that this book deserves 4.5 stars. I will be waiting for Suzy Witten’s next book since I think she is a talented writer and am curious why this book has not been snapped up by a bigger publisher. Highly recommended!...more
This was a fun and easy read, with a strong main character whom is a female - Yeah! I wish there had been science fiction like this when I was youngerThis was a fun and easy read, with a strong main character whom is a female - Yeah! I wish there had been science fiction like this when I was younger. Except for Nancy Dew, which is not sci-fi, I was stuck reading stuff for boys - with male main characters. Not that I didn't enjoy them but..... There's a number of important if not trite messages as well. One is that being pretty isn't all its made out to be, which makes this book all the more significant in this beauty obsessive culture. The author also makes reference to the stupidity/unhealthiness of anorexia/bulimia/being too thin, which is also an important subject for girls....more
The original copy of this review with additional links is posted at Layers of Thought, including a link to an interview on NPR.
4.5 stars actually
The original copy of this review with additional links is posted at Layers of Thought, including a link to an interview on NPR.
Tired of vampires? Well not so fast. This is a different kind of vampire (no sparkles here.) These are termed “Virals” and they are very scary.
Synopsis: In the recess of the Amazonian mountains a virus is discovered which scientists believe may extend human life, as well as some other physically enhancing features. Naturally the US government has to be involved, for military uses of course. Drama ensues and the virus is inadvertently transported back to the US with disastrous results.
Definitely horror, where it is told pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse with some interesting dystopian societies thrown into the works. With two apparent factions – “Virals” and humans or “Souls” competing, it is definitely War. One group needing food, the other striving for survival, but it’s a lot more involved than it sounds.
My Thoughts: Justin Cronin sure can tell a story. A master story teller, he is definitely the loquacious type. Within this book he tells it layer upon layer embedding the stories of each of the characters within the larger plot, which I believe is Justin Cronin’s signature style. I have read that this is his methodology in his Pen/Hemingway Award winning novel Mary and O’Neil. Which is now on my tbr list along with his other book The Summer Guest. For those whom are not fans of horror, I would recommend you check his other work out.
The characters are very well developed within these embedded tales which makes it an absolute page turner even for 762 (ARC) pages. You will not even notice that it’s a tome. Its done that well.
It will suck you in, surprise you (I thought I had guessed the next twist more than a few times- nope), make your heart beat, and I even cried at one point (I don’t cry.) It is a grand escapist book. A perfect summer read. It is no wonder Ballantine has promoted it so vigorously. You may even want to take a few days off before starting this, or be prepared for little sleep; or even better, take it on vacation.
I loved the fact that the book is broken down into short”ish” chapters. You can read bits here and there and not feel too committed to a long sitting. Yet you feel like you could read it all in one sitting… but good luck trying at 784 published pages.
I believe I have heard there is a movie in the works? Two others books are in the making as sequels and I am bummed that I will have to wait 6 years to see the conclusion to this saga. I give this a 4.5 stars. ...more
A historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression in the Appalachian Mountains. Pemberton, one of the main characters, is a wealthy young log
A historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression in the Appalachian Mountains. Pemberton, one of the main characters, is a wealthy young logger. He meets and brings back a wife of his dreams from a visit to Boston. Her name is Serena. She is complex, brilliant, and a dark embodiment of the goddess Athena. Like a Greek God she will stop at nothing until her will is done. Before Pemberton’s trip he has impregnated a poor mountain girl, and after returning home kills her father when he attempts to avenge his daughter’s honor. The rest of the story surrounds the Pembertons’ quest for control over the land, their decimation of the wild and beautiful forest, and the people who are as much a part of the mountains as the trees. As the story unfolds it is epic and Shakespearean in nature. My Thoughts: I adore a good American Historical novel. Serena is one. The novel has a wonderful flow. It has language and dialog from the era and location, as well as descriptions of the locale. It is believable yet thrilling which kept me thinking about it. The main character is an incredible, complex, and amazing woman. An embodiment of an evil Athena and one of the best dark female characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. I would compare Serena with two of my all time favorites of the genre - My Antonia by Willa Cather, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Serena is now included it in that lofty list. All are 5 Star books for me. ...more
4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth in their reading. This novel has an idyllic summer camp setting in the Ozark Mountains, where an unexpected tragedy is set in motion through a series of complicated events. It is a heart wrenching and insightful story that has a diverse and unusual set of characters.
About: When Wyatt Hudy is accepted as a camp counselor for the summer term at the Kinderman Forest Summer Camp at the very last minute, he believes he will be working with children. However, he has not been informed that for the first two week session he and the other new and impromptu counselors will be taking care of disabled adults that are wards of the state. A significant fact is that Wyatt could be mistaken for one of the campers due to a physical deformity he inherited at birth. As a series of seemingly unrelated events occur, there is an incredible build up a for a completely surprising and uncontrollable tragedy; and it does not stop there. What enfolds is at once heartbreaking yet understandable, leading the reader to think about areas that can be viewed as morally and legally ambiguous.
My Thoughts: This novel made me think and feel a great deal of unexpected emotions. The author's densely descriptive and beautifully accessible language helped me to believe that I was there in the mountains in this summer forest setting. But the best part is that the story includes developed, unusually flawed, complex and diverse characters. There are entirely unexpected personality aspects for the characters -counselors, staff, and the campers especially - creating a realistic and often shocking mix. One character could be even classified as the quintessential psychopath of the most insidious kind – one that charms and which most would not remotely suspect. With the questions that this novel will naturally create for its readers, I think The Inverted Forest will be perfect for discussions, though it may bring some heated conversations to the table.
I devoured every moment of the book, kept thinking about the characters, keep thinking about them still even weeks after finishing it. I enjoyed being immersed in the forest setting, one that most Americans will relate to and which is imbedded in our national psyche as a seasonal event – attending or counseling at a summer camp. This is a 4.5 stars and comes very highly recommended for contemporary fiction readers. For me it was the perfect summer setting and a powerful read. It almost made a rare five star status for me....more
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an4.5 star rating.
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put down.
About: A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.
The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.
The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds things are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.
Thoughts: Some of you may know that John (my husband) is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.
It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.
You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.
The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshireman had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.
Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007;
Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; ...more
I would give this book 4.5 stars. Highly recommended. This is an intriguing and psychologically complex book. Written by journalist Allison Hoover Bart I would give this book 4.5 stars. Highly recommended. This is an intriguing and psychologically complex book. Written by journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett who inadvertently finds herself in possession of a valuable and very old book. It is a German tome written in 1630 called Krueterbuch – plant book, by Hieronymus Boch. Its weight is 12 pounds.
Her curiosity takes her beyond her research for the owners of the Boch book. What she discovers about the nature of old books and the ease by which they are pilfered, leads her to believe that this is the probable story behind this ancient book as well. As she begins to explore, she comes across a community of old book lovers whose interests lay beyond that of the garden variety paperback book collector. They are book experts and aficionados whom care for, collect, and sell books with values of hundreds of dollars and beyond.
Interestingly, Bartlett finds that within the peripherals of this community there is a man named John Charles Gilkey. He is of questionable character and psychological health, and in an obsessive fashion values books beyond the norm. His goal is to acquire books through some very convoluted and interesting means, and his justification of those means is fascinating. He also triggers a series of events within the community. As the sellers become entrenched in their losses and their desire to capture this man, we find out about these experts, sellers, and collectors, as well as the inevitable obsessed “biblio-dick” (book detective), whom all in turn converge to find “the man who loves books too much”.
The Man who Loved Books too Much is a wonderful, interesting, and quirky read. I laughed. I reminisced. I was amazed and fascinated. I wanted to enter this world. To touch, smell, and read these old and special books.
I would recommend this book for book lovers, non fiction lovers, true crime fiction aficionados, persons interested in psychological intrigue, and those whom are “slightly older” since some of the references in the book are connected to the 1960’s and 70’s and may be lost on a younger reader.
On a more personal note since reading this I have had to restrain myself from creating my own little obsession. That would be researching these amazing texts, special books, and first editions, as well as purchasing them. This could be the figurative “rabbit hole” for me. My relationship with readable books is enough without bringing an additional obsession with ancient and valuable books too. *sigh*...more
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. TranslatOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. Translated to English from Japanese, it is a novel that has the distinct feel of its country’s setting.
About: There are a a number of story lines in this complex and layered story, with the two primary ones based around Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. The story starts with fifteen year old Kafka in the process of running away from his home in Tokyo, perhaps due to his emotionally unavailable father or to find his mother and adopted sister, who left when Kafka was little. As a usual sort of intelligent teen with some unusual attributes (he has an imaginary boy named crow who advises him on various issues), he takes his “road trip” to escape.
Then there is Mr. Nakata, a lovely “simple” older man who cannot read but can amazingly speak to cats (and boy are the cats amusing and well done). He has a “Zen” like characteristic to his attitude and also to his speaking quality in the audio version. Although the two men never actually meet, they move inside the story with their own personal quests overlapping frequently - with the intricate connections becoming clear as the story progresses.
Thoughts: Kafka on the Shore has a variety of themes which may intrigue potential readers, as they did me. Some of these are - cats; World War II; philosophical musings; discussions around literature; the use and discussion of literary tropes such as metaphor, allegory and more; and the arts, including music. Murakami addresses gender and feminism in an indirect way. He has also woven in Asian spiritual themes such enlightenment and rebirth, and some interesting imagery regarding body fluids. The strongest thread in the story is its connection with the mythical story of Oedipus, that creates an unusual twist within the book. For a bit about this myth, here is a short definition:
As a Freudian psychological metaphor describing son–father psychosexual competition for possession of mother, the Oedipus complex derives from the 5th-century BC Greek mythological character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother… (via Wikipedia)
It’s interesting that several of Murakami’s major themes for Kafka on the Shore are metaphor and the myth of Oedipus, and that this shocking complex is also considered a metaphor in its definition above.
I felt that the readers’ voices for the characters where done very well, giving life to the various and well developed characters. I liked that so many of the themes stimulated an intellectual side for me and that better yet I learned a few things. However, I had a conflict – there were too many sexual references and scenes, some were too detailed. Indeed the end of the novel became more about our main protagonist Kafka’s sexual desires and experiences than anything else. Otherwise a very worthy read and well done in this audio version. I give this intriguing audio book 4 stars; more if the sex had been a bit more subtle. ...more
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically t2.5 starts actually.
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically the truth of the matter is there is nothing we can do to completely stop aging. But we can live a healthy life, a balanced life, a contemplative life.
This book is an overview of one of my favorite health, diet and well being books by this Physician/new age science guru who mixes Eastern and Western medical advice. He debunks a lot of myths, tells you what he thinks and gives the reader a real life plan that one can work with. Although strict it feels like if you do your best to follow this advice you will be that much healthier
I would recommend you skip this book and move onto the one linked below for a comprehensive guide to logical holistic health that will optimize your anti aging plan:
A metaphorical and darkly hilarious novella about an environmentally poisoned wood where a ravenous monsteOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A metaphorical and darkly hilarious novella about an environmentally poisoned wood where a ravenous monster awakens.
About: A young ward of the state decides to leave the safety of her group home to return home to her dying grandmother. Her friend reminds her of the darkness that lurks outside of the doors; a monster is waking up slowly to a deep hunger in the dead woods. There is no food to satisfy its need, not even a starving rat. Where will it feed?
A lonely gay man living on the edge of the woods opens his door for the runaway girl in time to save her from what lurks in the cold darkness. This is their story.
Thoughts: A story with a moral, its more funny than scary – though that’s not to say that I did not get the chills or that my heart remained at its regular pace for the entire novel. It is a chilling tale. But laughing while one has goose pimples is a curious sensation; Wood definitely did this for me.
Even better, it’s only a 60 page novella with some colorful characters. Socially marginal individuals – these people are loners, orphans, and from the hidden classes of society. They are those that remain in the peripheral of our vision, barely noticed, but have their valid tales to tell. What’s important to their story is that these characters are not victims, creating a different example for those faced with real life horrors.
Intelligent with some snarky dialog, this is not a typical horror story. It’s an emotional roller coaster trip through metaphorical darkness and hilarity. A 4-star in my opinion. I recommended it for anyone who likes unusual characters, complex dry humor, and surprisingly nice endings....more
Synopsis: (may contain spoilers for some) This story is a well know horror classic and is an epistolary novel. It is written as a series of letter from
Synopsis: (may contain spoilers for some) This story is a well know horror classic and is an epistolary novel. It is written as a series of letter from an educated English explorer to his sister as he embarks on a journey through the inhospitable icy Northern regions of the world. As he is traveling with his ship and crew, he finds a man half frozen to death traveling on the ice. The captain brings the frozen Doctor Frankenstein onto his ship and nurses him back to consciousness. It is here that Victor Frankenstein's tale unfolds as he tells his tale to the captain where it is relayed to the reader through the captain’s letters. *A bit beyond the basics Victor begins by telling his story from his childhood on. He states he is from a wealthy family whom is loving and close. He is educated and is expected to marry his cousin of sorts and is happy to oblige. Being intellectually inclined he studies all the great philosophers of the age, eventually becoming obsessed with creating life from death. When he eventually does this, the man/monster he creates is appalling to him and is relieved when the monster finally disappears. The monster, spurned wanders in the wilderness contemplating life where he eventually stumbles upon a family that he grows to adore and wishes for his own. They do not know he exists, as he watches them from afar. In this way the monster learns the ways of the world. When he finally tries to befriend them they are of course horrified and violently reject him. The monster is heartbroken and horrendously distraught. He blames Victor, his creator, and vows to destroy his life completely. The quote below exemplifies his complete distress:
Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that ... instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.
My Thoughts: I listened to this novel, unabridged, on audio. It was very pleasant because on this version the reader has an English accent which was wonderful and appropriate for the story. I am not sure if I would have been able to actually read it in written form, since old English can be very difficult. So I recommend audio for experiencing this wonderful classic. The story is emotional and it pushes the reader’s feelings toward those of complete and utter despair, both from the Doctor’s perspective and that of the monster’s. The monster himself is not terrifying. He is a lost soul in part a product of his environment. I think that the story is more heartbreaking than it is scary. Its link to GLBT: One of the reasons I listened to this audio book was because it was designated GLBT in nature. Thinking about it from this perspective I think it is due to the intimate relationships between the main characters, being mostly males, which are very convoluted and intense inferring an intimacy of sorts. I can also see that since GLBT individuals may un-rightly be considered an abomination by some, this may also be a source of connection for the community. The horrible feelings of being an outcast, being shunned by society, family, or father all link to the experiences of the monster. ...more
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which linOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which links to the US Civil War. Readers won’t guess what the source of the horror is until two thirds through the book; be prepared to linger at the edge of your comfort zone and have a hard time putting this book down.
About: Main character Frank Nichols is a WWI vet turned college professor. His girl friend Eudora and he have decided to marry after a several year affair which has destroyed her marriage and his career.
Against the advice of his deceased aunt they move into the house she has given him in her will. The small Southern town where the house is located (near the river) is where Frank plans to write his historical book. It will be about his notorious and cruel ancestor whose plantation was also located “across the river”, where he was horrifically murdered at the hands of his slaves.
Our narrator, Frank, and his young wife do not recognize what lurks just beyond the river, even though he has been warned by a variety of sources not to venture into the woods. But soon they and the entire town will be caught in a tangle which will alter their lives and the landscape completely .
Thoughts: I found Those Across the River in audio at our local library, and think it is a perfect read for Fall since the climax for the novel is set around Halloween. The reader has a slightly sad and light southern accent – perfect for Frank. Interestingly he also has a variety of deeper accents which are effectively used for the other Southern characters in the novel. All work very well in helping make this book a heartbeat-increasing pleasure to listen to.
With its historical thread I was thinking that it was going to be a realistic thriller, but after finishing think that I would define it as horror. I liked the dark paranormal aspect although would not recommended it for “sensitive readers”. There are some interesting and gory scenes - one in particular a graphic sexual encounter which may shake up some readers; it did me.
I would recommend it for those who enjoy Southern gothic stories, thrillers with a paranormal edge, horror aficionados, and anyone with an interest in the US civil war (sadly only a too short thread as I found myself wishing for more). I liked that everything did not end up in a “traditional story tied bow”, and give this audio book 4 stars. I will be watching for more from this author since it did surprise me. ...more
Mini Synopsis: This is a classic dystopian science fiction novel written by a “Grand Master” of the genre. It tells of a future world where books areMini Synopsis: This is a classic dystopian science fiction novel written by a “Grand Master” of the genre. It tells of a future world where books are illegal. They are burned by firemen whose sole purpose in life is to rid society of their supposed evils. Where the members of this society are indoctrinated with an audio/video infused system that produces a collective numbness. The main character Montag is one of these firemen, whom after some internal conflict comes to a transitional point in his life where he questions the loss of books and their importance to humanity. My thoughts: I listened to this book on an audio version on my iPod which was read by the author. It was my first book downloaded this way and I had some problems listening to it in order. In addition, when I first read Fahrenheit 451 when I was in high school the only thing I remember is my own teenage boredom. So naturally my thoughts are still a bit “choppy” around the book. However, I do know that revisiting it again in middle age, I can now relate to its significance as to why it was required reading for high school in the late 70’s. I believe it was to show us, as young adults, a significant precept in the US constitution - the right of our freedom of speech – specifically the press. So it was an indirect lesson in civics. The story reminds me that it is important to remember, and I truly believe, that information - specifically in this example books, should not be censored. Instead, labeled as we do with the movie industry’s rating system so that the individual has a choice, but never banned. It is a slippery slope if even one of our basic rights be dismissed or controlled as exemplified in this society. If I had not been so possessed with teenage apathy in my first so called reading of this book then perhaps I would have gotten half of the author's point. Here I finish with a quote which is significant on the issue of one of the gifts books bring us:
… books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.' Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don't ask for guarantees. And don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.
My rating for the book is 3 out of 5 stars. Translation - I Iiked it and recommend it for anyone interested in classic Science Fiction. ...more
A wonderful women’s historical fiction story set in Renaissance Italy and France, layered with the fairytaOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful women’s historical fiction story set in Renaissance Italy and France, layered with the fairytale of Rapunzel and a slight touch of dark magic.
Description: It’s France, June of 1666 (note all the 6’s) and Charlotte-Rose de la Force, an actual person and writer, has been banished from the court of King Louis XIV due to scandalous behavior. The king has forced her to live in a secluded convent where she serendipitously hears the story of Rapunzel from an old nun.
But it’s more complicated than that, with it’s layered and convoluted storylines. There are a bunch of things which add to its complexity - in front of each section are poems about Rapunzel written by other writers; the author has included operatic titles for each section of the book and the way the story builds has an operatic feel to it; and each of the key characters’ stories are told within the story of the others. Charlotte-Rose tells her story in first person, while Soeur Seraphina tells the fairytale to Charlotte-Rose, Margherita is the child that has been banished to a secluded tower, and Selena Leonelli (La Strega Bella) is the gorgeous witch. We get an involved tale about each of these key characters, all mixed up and blended together nicely.
Thoughts:Bitter Greens is well written and drew me in, with just enough historical details to give it depth and cultural context. And despite the complexity of the format for the story it is mostly easy to read and follow. I believe I was only confused once or twice when reading the trials of one of the many characters. I liked that the author takes the reader into 17th century France and 16th century Italy and that the character Charlotte-Rose was a real person. It was interesting to find out more about the court of King Louis XIV and the role that women played in society at the time. Also intriguing were the histories around the religious strife that occurred during his reign, as well as the complexities of Italian life and living in the time of the Black Death in Venice during the 1500’s.
Since I love to read and like the feel of real books, I want to mention that the lovely hardbound version of the book is easy to handle and well organized. It contains its operatic storyline sections listed in the first part of the book, there are also chapter titles and dates included for each of the sections, and poems are listed in front of the chapters. I liked that the chapters are typically short and that there are sometimes shorter sections broken down within the chapters, so that it is easy to dip in and out of the book.
All in all a terrific book that will appeal to women readers who like fairytale retellings, enjoy a touch of the magical in their reads, like strong and dark female characters, and love historical fiction. It is definitely a woman’s book. I also loved how the story ended which, importantly for me, is not one of those fantastical happily-ever-after conclusions. 4.5 stars for this page turning historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. It was a complete pleasure to read....more
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommendOriginal series review posted at Layers of Thought.
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommends books which are organized into themes, with great little descriptions; all are softbound, small and easy to read.
Books reviewed: Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason ~ by Nancy Pearl More Book Lust: Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason Book Crush: For Kids and Teens
Thoughts: Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, has created this series of books (with the fourth to be released in a few days - its one for travelers) which contain organized collections of book recommendations, labeled under catchy little categories. Inside the categories are enticing snippets of the books in a very readable format.
The books are small and easy to handle with a soft cover. With her “lust” of reading, Pearl shares with the reader the books she loves and those which she knows about, creating more desire and adding to your ever expanding book list. I spent hours perusing these books, enjoying her fun and interesting recommendations.
Better yet, Nancy has a variety of philosophies which she labels “Pearlisms”. One is the “rule of fifty” which I have used recently when an abandoning a book (Pride and Prejudice – sorry Jane). What I love is that she gives you permission to stop reading a book when you are not enjoying it. It’s a free “get out of guilt card”. Here is her rule:
If you’re fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up. If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100—the result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit. Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!
I loved these little books and will be purchasing every one for my personal collection. 4 stars for Book Lust and Book Crush, and 4.5 stars for More Book Lust – since it has so many books I had never heard of. Highly recommend resources for teachers, librarians, and book lovers within every genre....more
The latest page-turning stand-alone story in M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series. Fragrance plays a key rOriginal 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....more
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It h3.5 stars actually Original review with links and more posted at Layers of Thought.
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It has incredible black and white line drawn illustrations. It can be seen as a book for literary minded and reluctant readers and as an introduction to this fine American author.
About: Eddie is the nick name for Edgar Allen Poe and the story is based upon the author’s humble beginnings, as we find out more about how he was born, raised, and lived.
Young Eddie attempts to get himself out of trouble when a powerful next door neighbor’s prized rooster and the local tom cat are hung on a weather vein in a bag during the middle of the night. Eddie is blamed for creating the ruckus by the entire neighborhood and especially by his father.
Thoughts: I just loved this cute short story, the drawings are lovely black lined and delicately done and will break up the reading for younger or reluctant readers. The story is cute and has a deeper appropriate age level message – which states “if you know who you are and are honest and truthful that is what matters most - even if others do not believe you”.
The story has a touch of the speculative. Our young hero has his own personal imp - which is based upon one of Poe’s stories “The Imp of the Perverse” (actual story is linked on the blog). Eddie experiences the human conundrum where one often chooses to follow an internal voice (called by Poe the “imp”) rather than a better and more reasonable form of logic, therefore creating many human problems. Poe believed that it is human nature to follow this “imp” which persuades us to wait until the last minute to accomplish important responsibilities.
This book can be seen as a roll model for children, as well as for youngsters whose interest are literary rather than athletic or social. An important story about one of my favorite classic authors. 3.5 stars for this perfect Halloween “treat” rather than a bag full of candy – or in addition too! ...more
Mini Synopsis: Benny is a thirty something, single, hard working, Swedish dairy farmer living on his failing family farm. His mother whom worked diligeMini Synopsis: Benny is a thirty something, single, hard working, Swedish dairy farmer living on his failing family farm. His mother whom worked diligently with him to keep the farm running has just passed away. “Shrimp” is a librarian whose intellectually based life is in the near by city. She has just lost her husband of several years. Although opposites, the two cross paths numerous times with one another in the local cemetery when visiting their dead loved one’s graves. While both note their extreme differences and apparent incompatibility with the other, they soon cannot deny their physical chemistry. An unlikely and complicated relationship develops ending with unexpected and unconventional results. My short thoughts: It was a short, slightly sad, funny, and refreshing romantic story which did not end with everyone living happily ever after. I highly recommend this to any one who wants to easily step away from the conventional romance and who enjoys reading novels with a taste from another culture – or in this case two. I say this because the story was originally written in Swedish and then translated into “British English”. The text reflects this and makes the writing charming and quirky having idioms from both cultures which are interesting and enjoyable....more
I've always liked Marilyn Monroe - she did sexy with such innocent grace. As this is punctuated through the book as she describes her survival of a veI've always liked Marilyn Monroe - she did sexy with such innocent grace. As this is punctuated through the book as she describes her survival of a very difficult childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood with the strength and perseverance which would mold the woman that she would become. She also alludes to the circumstances of her death. My Story shows us a side of MM that is contrary to her identity as sex symbol - she in fact felt anything but sexy. She was also strong, choosey, and had high standards which she stood by – even when it was not in her best interest. For example - not sleeping with the powerful movie executive as a career move, or marrying a man she was not truly in love with although he was dying and would have left her a fortune. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to women looking for an example of strength, character, and grace. Or men whom are seeking to understand complex women a bit more. Too bad this “autobiography” was cut short – it ends abruptly during her second marriage to Joe DiMaggio, leaving me wanting to know what really happened to this American Icon. ...more
4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and pre4.5 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....more
The first in a planned trilogy, it’s a stream of consciousness styled apocalyptic tale with alternating tiOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
The first in a planned trilogy, it’s a stream of consciousness styled apocalyptic tale with alternating timeframes. The novel features an illness that horrifically decimates and changes the human population, and an intriguing mythic thread with a heroine’s journey - where a young survivor travels on a heartfelt mission to find the father of her unborn child.
About: Zoe is strong, intelligent and reflective. In transition, she is working at a local research facility where she does janitorial work while trying to figure out what she will do with her life. In the process she visits a male therapist in an attempt to find herself and to figure out what appears to be a slight problem she is having around a jar that has “magically” appeared in her apartment - which the therapist thinks is in her imagination. She is at once scared, curious and concerned, about this metaphoric Pandora's box.
When everyone starts becoming ill and dying from similar symptoms, with the survivors changing bizarrely, Zoe remains unaffected physically. Yet emotionally she struggles to contain some part of a greater humanity while many that are left are loosing theirs. She is left with one option, which is to head out on a heroic journey to Greece to find her unborn child’s father. During her journey she finds the most animalistic, insane, dark yet conversely self-sacrificing aspects of human nature.
Thoughts: Although I really do not like to compare new novels to older very popular ones, this was very reminiscent of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You can’t have the world fall apart without loosing your mind, however strong the character, which both books exemplify. However, White Horse has a strong female heroine (which I really liked and could relate to), rather than a male, a fabulous mythic thread that McCarthy’s book did not, and some interesting insight into human nature - which is a key aspect to any good apocalyptic fiction and an element of both books.
Thinking about the author’s writing, it’s insightful and has unusual language. However, its “stream of consciousness” style and alternating timeframes sometimes made it feel choppy and confusing. I had to struggle to keep track of events and puzzled over whether what was happening was Zoe’s “stream of consciousness” delusional dream experiences and imaginings or if it was actually happening. Though I should mention that my version was an ARC so this “choppiness” may have been edited out; or perhaps it’s a trope used to create a surreal feel. I am thinking the later, since at the end of the world even the strong are going to loose their minds, even if it’s only partially.
Beyond my quibble, the best part of the novel and one which I really really liked was a spectacular thread that contained myth. I would have loved to see more of a discernable link in the first three quarters of the novel to the disease and its name, but then perhaps the book would have become trite? However, this is a terrific story with some exceptional elements. If you enjoy good apocalyptic stories and/or have an interest in mythology, this will be great read for you. In fact I think it may be one of those books which will be a perfect book club selection and that is probably worth a second read. I am curious what Alex Adams will do with the mythic element in the next two planned books for the series – Red Horse and Pale Horse. Despite my small concerns I enjoyed the novel and think it deserves a 4 star rating – definitely recommended....more
Basic Plot Summary: (may include spoilers for some readers however the middle and ending are not revealed)
Mistbor**spoiler alert** Actually 4.5 stars.
Basic Plot Summary: (may include spoilers for some readers however the middle and ending are not revealed)
Mistborn is the first book in a fantasy trilogy. It is a tale which takes place within an elaborate fantasy world. In it lives Vin, a 16 year old girl who is a member of a group of semi-heartless thieves. The abusive leader of this band is using her for her ability to persuade their victims remotely. This betters his chances of pilfering and cheating this wealthy subjugating elite class. This elite class have little compassion for their slaves whom are called the Skaa, of which Vin and the thieves are a member.
This fantasy realm in which they live is constantly being rained upon by ash, plants have evolved to have brown leaves, and the sky is orange and red. At night the land is cloaked in a mist, which has mythical stories surrounding it and monsters stalking within it, holding the natives in fear. The kingdom is also dominated by an evil king called The Lord Ruler who is considered a god and is reputedly immortal. His kingdom is tightly ruled, controlled to his advantage, and is surrounded and protected by some very powerful, scary, and dangerous classes - the Ministry and Steel Inquisitors.
Kelsier enters the story and saves Vin from a botched attempt at one of the band’s robberies, and consequently from their abuse. He is a noble thief. A Skaa of a more “elite nature”. A rebel leader whom has a gift which lends him 11 special powers involving the use of metals which is called Allomancy.
As the story evolves and becomes more complicated, a plan for Kelsier and his band of thieves to overthrow this evil king develops. The group creates an elaborate scheme in which to evoke revenge and to return the planet back to “equilibrium”. Vin is to play a key role. She will also find out who she is in the process.
I loved this fantasy, and rate it as a highly recommended - 4.5 stars. The writing is accessible, it flows, and is highly addictive.
Sanderson has created a complex yet relate-able world with interesting and like-able characters (my favorite is Saze) and some amazing “bad guys” (remember the steel inquisitors – very cool.) There are also some important messages within the book one where he addresses the social and culture importance and significance of religion. He does this while supporting a perspective of acceptance and diversity – a great message. There is also a science fiction element to the book due to Allomancy but I would never the less categorize Mistborn as a fantasy.
Mistborn has a strong female character (yeah!), some violence, and a light touch of romance. Even though classified as an adult book I would recommend it for advanced young adult readers interested in the genre because it has a “coming of age” feel to it.
I am really, really, looking forward to the second and third of the series as well as his other books but am told that this book can be read as a stand alone....more