Carmilla is a pre-Dracula vampire tale first published in 1872 of a 19th century woman living in Austria who unwittingly encounters the female vampire...moreCarmilla is a pre-Dracula vampire tale first published in 1872 of a 19th century woman living in Austria who unwittingly encounters the female vampire named Carmilla. There are some lesbian vibes coming from Carmilla which 19 year old Laura is very uncomfortable with but she can't seem to resist her. They have a mutual fascination with each other.
Carmilla is a story of coincidence, mystery and I would say trust and deception. I really liked that this story was fairly short and quite concise. I've been trying to read the vampire stories written before Dracula (1897), the only other I've read so far is The Vampyre by John William Polidori (1819).
If you find it difficult to read classics like me then listen to the audio, the narrator Tracey Childes did a good job of holding my interest. (less)
Critically, the Mystery bookends: murder at opening, closed at ending. Nothing in between. However, Harris's thoroughly great characterisation of Lily...moreCritically, the Mystery bookends: murder at opening, closed at ending. Nothing in between. However, Harris's thoroughly great characterisation of Lily Bard, artfully demonstrating the effects of a traumatic past - her bloody and brutal gang rape - on her present. How she was able to leave her family and move to a town where she could start afresh, no one knowing her history and treating her differently because of it. Her bravery, difficulties with PTSD, and her determination to never be found vulnerable to attack again by learning self-defense / martial arts. Dealing with the challenges in Shakespeare's Landlord made me respect Lily as a person and as a survivor of horrific circumstances that most would struggle to overcome in order to return to some semblance of normality.
That being said, I don't think I'll be continuing with this series as I've read a few reviews and found there's a love triangle - I'm not going there, sorry.(less)
I started off reading the book and listening to the audio at the same time but the narrator, Ms. Monotone put me off so I gave up on her and relied on...moreI started off reading the book and listening to the audio at the same time but the narrator, Ms. Monotone put me off so I gave up on her and relied on my own inner voice as I read the rest of the book by myself.
The first half was pretty interesting but at 51% I'd guessed the main murderer and the motive. After that, the book was no longer as interesting as I waited to be proved right or wrong. The violent attempts on Harper's life kept me reading but if it hadn't been for those the rest might've dragged. In the end, I was disappointed to be proved right in my guess.
However, Harper's background with her difficult childhood and family situation together with her intelligent observations and reactions to how others treat her as well as her determination to not be damaged by them, are the reason why I'm awarding this 3 stars instead of 2.
Her relationship with her brother is an odd one and is explained by Tolliver's observation:
"You need to stop reading mysteries for a while. Or get a new sidekick." "Sidekick?" "Yeah, if you're the brilliant sleuth, I must be the slightly denser but brilliant-in-my-own-way sidekick, right?" "Yes, Watson." "More like Sharona." "That'd make me Monk?" "If the shoe fits."
Monk is a TV show in which Sharona is Monk's nurse, handler and personal assistant all rolled into one. Harper was hurt by Tolliver's evaluation of his role in her life because it was a little too close to the truth but just because she was extremely vulnerable without him she managed to survive when she was physically attacked. She fought back with gusto and refused to back down to a pack of teenage bullies surrounding her. I admired Harper for this. She could easily play the role of a typical victim, persecuted for her natural talent for detecting the dead, their names and cause of death after being struck by lightning.
Tolliver, on the other hand, I couldn't get a complete grasp on him. I wasn't enamoured with him at all despite his obvious caring and protectiveness towards his step-sister. They live difficult lives on the road and I sympathised with their way of life, their erratic and depressing sex lives and just a general lack of genuine friends and family whom they can turn to in a crisis.
Overall, the mystery wasn't quite as mysterious as it first appeared but the characterisation and observations of the leading lady made up for this.
In comparison to Harris' other paranormal series, Sookie Stackhouse, this has a much more serious tone and a darker outlook on the realities of life.
I have the next two in the series so I will continue reading.(less)
I can tell you this right now, if I hadn't have been listening to the audiobook this would have been a "did not finish".
It was tolerable up until Rav...moreI can tell you this right now, if I hadn't have been listening to the audiobook this would have been a "did not finish".
It was tolerable up until Raven met Alexander, after that point I worried about my face because I was cringing so much I didn't want it to freeze that way! It was love at first sight badly done. What could Alexander possibly see in the very immature Raven who constantly showed herself up to be unintelligent, and without grace and decorum next to the very cultured and almost stoic Alexander. Her obsession with him and his supposed vampire-state was beyond irritating, she barely knew him and she was breaking into his home and touching his stuff, can I say stalker?
Alexander's only reason for liking her is the likelihood that she will accept him for who he is, which brings me to what he is. Malicious rumours about Alexander and his family are spread about town, the word is they're vampires (queue the spooky music). Hints about them being such are laid on thick but then the rumours are retracted and Raven is back to thinking old Alex is human after all, until the very end when he had no reflection! Then Alex all of a sudden up and disappears for Raven's sake, whatever that means. I felt nothing at this, I'd all ready decided this was basically crap. It sort of reminded me of those tongue-in-cheek teeny bopperish American TV shows for children like That's So Raven. (I swear that just popped in my head, no pun intended!)
None of the characters were properly developed, Raven's upbeat goth, rebellious and whiny attitude grated on my nerves. Just because I like reading vampire fiction doesn't mean I'm as obsessed with Dracula, old vampire movies and everything black as Raven is. She was waaay over the top. We don't see much of Alexander and know little-to-nothing about him except that he was home-schooled, his parents travel a lot and is most likely a vampire.
As for character progression Raven had one (and perhaps her only) serious thought at the end about not wanting to become a vampire so she wouldn't have to leave her family, Matt decided to stop being a doormat and well, Trevor loses all his power to dominate, bully and generally get whatever he wants. I secretly believe he was obsessed and possibly even a little bit in love with Raven, we all want what we can't have, right?
On the positive side, and there is a positive side (I know you wouldn't think so reading this), the writing despite the clichéd teen-lingo was actually pretty good, it was simple, engaging and free-flowing with a few very comedic (read "big grin") moments.
If you're going to read this book I highly recommend the audiobook, the narrator Devon Sorvari did an excellent job of making this "readable".(less)
I think I made a small mistake when I chose this to read. It was a little too young for me but I was impressed with the use of Greek mythology and the...moreI think I made a small mistake when I chose this to read. It was a little too young for me but I was impressed with the use of Greek mythology and the way we weren’t told right away what each creature was. This lead me to guess and when I got it right it fed my ego, and when I had no idea I wanted to reach for a mythology book to look-up the specific myth to see how closely the book followed the actual story.
This and the humour kept me hooked though I admit my attention sometimes waned in the second half. There were times when Percy was having a slooow moment when I just wanted to yell at him to make that mental leap faster, or the eye-rolling in reaction to a cliché. Obviously these problems may have been down to me forgetting that Percy is only twelve and perhaps that may have been part of why I couldn’t see him as a “hero”. I had trouble picturing him fighting, the battles were fast and I never felt like he was in much danger. He always escaped usually without being injured, not even so much as a scratch and if he does get injured his wound is healed almost instantly.
The gods, though they were described as powerful, radiating deadly auras I didn’t feel Percy’s fear. I also didn’t think Percy’s reaction to his mother’s death was all that realistic. If it had been my mother I would have been an incoherent mess for days, Percy bounced back yet he supposedly adored his mother, this didn’t ring true for me even with his denial I couldn’t accept his reaction as normal behaviour.
I loved the application of Greek mythology and the inventiveness of certain scenes. I must say, I expected the entrance to the underworld to be in Las Vegas rather than Los Angeles, after all Vegas is supposed to be sin city. If I had read this at ten I would have loved it but having read stories that follow a similar (and rather tired) formula I can only give this 3 stars.
An afterthought: I bet this made a great movie, it's very visual.(less)
After hearing so many good things about this audiobook, I decided to download it to my iPod. I loved James Marsters in Buffy and Angel so I thought th...moreAfter hearing so many good things about this audiobook, I decided to download it to my iPod. I loved James Marsters in Buffy and Angel so I thought this was the perfect book to get me started in this format.
Well, James Marsters was brilliant he really made an effort to bring this book to life with different voices, inflections etc. However this is the only good thing I can say about it. Harry was a moron, he may have had magical skill but little common sense. If you risk your life in your job why not learn some form of martial arts? Or even get some regular exercise? He was attacked a number of times but lacked any real skill or strength to fight back effectively even with magic. He was pitiful yet he still managed to survive. I didn't really understand that. No one is that lucky. I was cheering on the bad guys hoping one of them would take him out and make him a winner of the Darwin Awards. On top of this, Harry was very pessimistic, I'm pessimistic but well, Harry was so down on himself that I wondered why he hadn't tried to slit his wrists yet. Yes, there was humour but not enough to balance all the negativity, it was depressing.
The writing was awful, if it hadn't been for Mr. Marsters I would have given up on this almost immediately. There are so many bad things I can say: sexist comments, cheesy lines and a story so dull I forgot to listen in places but there was one character that woke me up - Bob. Bob was cheeky, funny and reminded me of James Marsters' former role as Spike yet he only had a small amount of stage time.
I've heard that this is the weakest of the series and that books 3 and 4 are when it really starts to take off but if this series hadn't been so popular I wouldn't even consider the sequel though I won't be touching it for a good long while.(less)
I listened to the audio of this novella today. It wasn't bad but it isn't something you have to read as part of the series. It's an Eve book set 5 yea...moreI listened to the audio of this novella today. It wasn't bad but it isn't something you have to read as part of the series. It's an Eve book set 5 years after Haunted. I would have rather had the book so I could look at the illustrations but I wasn't savvy enough to figure out this was a limited edition. I learned my lesson, I've pre-ordered the next one, Counterfeit Magic (a Paige book featuring Savannah) which Kelley has promised will be even better (and longer).(less)
I'm sorry, I really wanted to like this but the language used was so simple, the kind you were criticised for using when doing creative writing as a c...moreI'm sorry, I really wanted to like this but the language used was so simple, the kind you were criticised for using when doing creative writing as a child, that my attention (even after taking breaks) kept wandering and only came back when I heard "Other Mother" or "cat".
Some of this may be down to the narrator who was hit and miss, mostly hit but Dawn French's voice was a little too calm and relaxing that I found I was just listening to her tone of voice instead of concentrating on the actual words. She'd make good money as a hypnotist.
There are definitely some very good ideas and fantastic imagery but I'm beginning to believe all of Gaiman's work should be turned into movies for me to watch instead of reading them because I think I'd enjoy them so much more, just like I did with Stardust. I'll definitely be looking to watch Coraline some time soon.(less)
A cleverly written, Tim Burton-eque fast-paced magical mystery with witty dialogue, and a beautifully eye-catching cover.
Mr. Skullduggery Pleasant is...moreA cleverly written, Tim Burton-eque fast-paced magical mystery with witty dialogue, and a beautifully eye-catching cover.
Mr. Skullduggery Pleasant is a vengeful detective, a living skeleton with a wicked way with sarcasm, introducing Stephanie (a.k.a. Valkyrie), an intelligent, resourceful, and inquisitive young girl, into the supernatural world her now deceased uncle was once apart.
The theatrically funny reactions of Stephanie's greedy family members to the reading of her bestselling author uncle's will hooked me into listening to Rupert Degas's masterful narration of Skullduggery Pleasant.
"There's something about you, Valkyrie. I'm not quit sure what it is. I look at you and..." "And you're reminded of yourself when you were my age?" "Hmm? Oh, no, what I was going to say is there's something about you really annoying, and you never do what you're told, and sometimes I question your intelligence, but even so I'm going to train you, because I like having someone follow me around like a puppy. It makes me feel good about myself." She rolled her eyes. "You are such a moron." "Don't be jealous of my genius." "Can you get over yourself for just a moment?" "If only that were possible." "For a guy with no internal organs, you've got quite the ego." "And for a girl who can't stand up without falling over, you're quite the critic." "My leg will be fine." "And my ego will flourish. What a pair we are."
I enjoyed SP and Stephanie's new and easy partnership in the supernatural detective business, saving the world from monstrous and magical bad guys, the first being Nefarian Serpine - the man who killed SP's wife and child, then tortured him to death. You see, he likes to leave a lot of bodies in his wake in his quest to bring back The Faceless Ones.
I wasn't particularly invested in the action, but I liked the way in which Stephanie learned how to navigate this new and interesting world, seizing opportunities, taking risks, and figuring out who she can and can't trust.
While many clichés are criticised by Landy, he still uses a fair few of them in his story, though Stephanie's endearing maturity, unexpected turncoats, the comedic elements, and the more violent and horrific aspects of the novel, do attempt to make up for it.
ETA June 2011: Listened to Samuel L. Jackson reading this on YouTube HERE and he narrated it perfectly. Profanity always sounds great when it's comin...moreETA June 2011: Listened to Samuel L. Jackson reading this on YouTube HERE and he narrated it perfectly. Profanity always sounds great when it's coming out of his mouth.
May 28, 2011: The pdf viral is excellent. Funny because it's true. Definitely a bestseller in the making.
From Publishers Weekly: Finally, one book whose buzz began weeks ago and kept rising after its .pdfs went viral, the wildly titled Go the F*** to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illus. by Ricardo Cortés, from Akashic Books, is still going strong. Consortium president Julie Schaper reports that there are 225,000 copies in print, the pub date has been moved up to mid-June, and almost all the copies are “spoken for.” In addition, movie rights have been optioned and at least six foreign language rights deals have been struck. Dave Mallman, a bookseller at the Next Chapter, called it a “stroke of genius that irreverently expresses the frustrations all parents face when dealing with our beloved but exasperating children.”(less)
Free audiobook of a 12-minute horror story read by the Neil Gaiman himself, available to download through to Halloween from Audible, and for every dow...moreFree audiobook of a 12-minute horror story read by the Neil Gaiman himself, available to download through to Halloween from Audible, and for every download donations will be made to two charities promoting reading. Further details on NG's blog post.(less)
Whether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reduces...moreWhether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reduces the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and anger, encouraging a calmer and happier disposition, and makes you smarter from better blood flow to the brain, enhances memory and general brain functioning (neurogenesis). A difference can be seen 6-8 weeks after starting regular exercise. It's also the ultimate anti-aging solution, preventing frailty, shrinkage (that includes the gonads!) and age-related damage to your DNA. Even if you're over 60 or obese, it's never too late to start exercising. Just 5 minutes a day is a good start. Years will be added to your life.
Weight loss, marathon running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, and general aerobic exercises are covered. Distinctions are made between men and women, by age (under and over 40), and advice given to avoid exercise-related injuries. Lookout for the end of chapter key points for great tips and advice. Below are some of the more general things I liked that people should either do or don't do.
✔ 150 minutes of exercise per week. (Sex counts as exercise!) ✔ Increase fitness by increasing intensity or duration by 10% per week. ✔ Keep an exercise diary. ✔ Only short, low intensity warm-ups work otherwise they impede performance. ✔ Eat a banana before exercise and exercise before breakfast, drink low fat chocolate milk after, and eat eggs for breakfast. ✔ Continue normal routine after exercise instead of being less active. ✔ Drink pickle juice (2.5 ounces) as a palliative (takes 85 seconds) for cramping which is due to muscle exhaustion, not dehydration. Vinegar may be the thing in the pickle juice that works. ✔ Interval exercise (e.g. 3 min high intensity, 3 min low intensity) is more efficient, 75 minutes per week max. ✔ Weight / resistance training is incredibly beneficial, especially for people like runners: increases flexibility, strengthens bones, increases reaction and speed times. ✔ More repetitions with lighter weights are more effective than less repetitions with heavier weights. ✔ Increase balance by standing on one leg and closing your eyes while brushing your teeth each day. ✔ 25 squats everyday, they strengthen most of the body. Add a kettlebell for more of a challenge. ✔ 16 pushups for women, 27 for men minimum. Beginners: use counter-top first, move to stairs, then the floor. ✔ Follow the right way to do certain aerobic exercises see the end of chapter 6 (40 mins into 6th audio file). ✔ Moderate exercise while ill improves health. ✔ Stand more than sit, it burns more calories.
✘ Take ibuprofen for sore muscles, it will decrease the effect of the exercise. ✘ Massage sore muscles, it impedes blood flow and gives no physiological benefits regarding performance. ✘ Take ice baths. They cause more soreness after exercise, and don't speed recovery or increase performance. ✘ Do carbo-loading, it doesn't work. It only puts weight on. ✘ Eat more when exercising if you're trying to lose weight. You're replacing what you've burned. ✘ Do crunches or sit-ups until you've researched the right way to do them or you could damage your spine. ✘ Buy tone-up shoes, they only work while doing squats. ✘ Buy individually tailored shoes, they lead to more injuries. Your feet adjust to what they're used to. Barefoot runners run differently to those in shoes, their feet slap the ground with less force and land on the front of the foot. If you want to switch types, do it gradually.
Listen up, women!:
✺ Scientific fact: It's harder for women to lose weight. ✺ But when we stop exercising we'll hang-on to our exercise benefits for longer than men. This is thought to ensure survival during pregnancy -an evolutionary advantage. ✺ We're more likely to be injured while oestrogen is high (i.e. during ovulation). We're more clumsy. ✺ In utero changes to foetuses in response to a good diet and exercise of their mothers, gives babies better starts in life. ✺ We sweat less than men during exercise; overweight and unfit women sweat less than fit women so they're less able to keep cool. Fit people sweat more at lower temperatures as a form of temperature control to avoid overheating.
Parts may be a little too technical and boring for some (perhaps a few too many studies were explained in detail), and it's a little repetitive in places. I've studied biology to degree level, but I was struggling to remember those lessons while listening to the more scientific elements of exercise. However, both the author and some of the scientists had a sense of humour. Reynolds said Paula Radcliffe 'runs like a praying mantis', and one study was called 'Revenge of the Sit.' Honestly, I think the usefulness of the advice given outweighs the more tedious aspects of the book.
Karen Saltus is an excellent narrator. She made this a joy to listen to rather than a chore. I'd definitely recommend The First 20 Minutes to everyone doing any sort of exercise.(less)
To anyone who downloaded Audiobooksync.com's free William Roberts narration: the end of chapter 4 is cut short and chapter 5 is completely missing. To...moreTo anyone who downloaded Audiobooksync.com's free William Roberts narration: the end of chapter 4 is cut short and chapter 5 is completely missing. To bridge the gap, you can read those parts for free in whatever format here.
Despite the above problem I quite liked The Call of the Wild, though I know that had I read instead of listened to Jack London's words my rating would be lower. In part, this is due to the authoritative voice of William Roberts, reminding me of Iain Glen's (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey), delivering the story with gravitas - a voice made for the wise man telling stories around the campfire to a rapt audience - overruling the effect of the wordy prose, from which some classics suffer, and stifled any boredom and frustration I may have had.
Saying that, the description of the scenery is above reproach. Although I've never been to Alaska or western Canada, I know it's a rugged, untameable and beautiful terrain where only the hardiest can eke out a living, somewhat echoing Buck's tale.
Buck is a domesticated family dog, half St. Bernard (like Beethoven), half Scotch Shepherd (think Lassie), living a comfortably relaxed life when he's stolen and sold, his will brutally broken, into dog-sled teams, passing through the hands of various masters. Along the way he learns how to survive on little food while doing hard work, how to socialize with other dogs, and how to assert his will, eventually becoming top dog, an alpha.
Once finished, I felt the overall message was this: being comfortable, i.e. fat and happy, or greedy, breeds complacency, and complacency in a world where it's the 'survival of the fittest,' is fatal - the strongest, most intelligent prosper, and the foolish die horrible deaths. A message applicable today as it ever was. Mercedes, her brother, and her husband all deserve Darwin Awards, though I felt for the poor, helpless, starved-almost-to-death dogs that die with them.
Buck conquers every challenge put to him, each one more difficult, bringing him closer to his wild roots, his suppressed instincts surging to the fore. The one time he was unable to overcome his circumstances, in the neglectful and abusive care of Mercedes, and Co. he was granted mercy on two fronts. John Thornton puts a stop to his beating, which could've been fatal on its own, but moments after Thornton takes ownership of a near-dead, starved Buck, his canine comrades and their human masters die foolishly when the thin, spring ice breaks beneath them.
Buck's journey shows him experiencing pain, hunger, anger, happiness, love (for his master John Thornton), and sorrow. Strangely, he doesn't appear to have a sex life until the end, after abandoning civilisation to become his own master and dominant alpha of a wild wolf pack, off-stage implying the next generation share his physical traits.
I highly recommend the audiobook for anyone wishing to read Jack London's timeless classic.(less)
Dickens bores us readers to death by describing everything down to the smallest detail, leading me to DNF amid the third chapter at which point distur...moreDickens bores us readers to death by describing everything down to the smallest detail, leading me to DNF amid the third chapter at which point disturbingly little had had taken place.(less)
A Secret Rage made for an uneasy listening experience, not just because of the graphic rape and its aftermath, but the misguided anti-racism and the s...moreA Secret Rage made for an uneasy listening experience, not just because of the graphic rape and its aftermath, but the misguided anti-racism and the shaky writing, had I been reading, may have resulted in a DNF.
Narrator Johanna Parker made Nickie's fear and horror so convincing I struggled to remain calm and continue listening. The rapes and the effect it has on its victims and the Southern community were well done, though you really can't definitively tell someone's skin colour from their voice despite Nickie and Barbara's assertion that you can, marking their rapist as white and not an N-word - that word used a couple of times.
Well, that's yet another of Charlaine Harris's protagonists to be unhappy and abused along with Sookie, Harper and Lily although this time she was an NYC model returning to the South and going back to college whereas the others tried to blend into the background whenever possible.
A Secret Rage doesn't possess all of the telltale qualities of a typical Harris novel, but as I understand it, this is one of the first books she'd ever written.(less)
If you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more ent...moreIf you've never read or seen a comedy of errors or farcical play like those of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, then you might find this more entertaining than I did. Having studied Wilde's slightly more modern The Importance of Being Earnest in great detail as a teenager and later watching An Ideal Husband, you come to realise this genre is little more than a one-trick pony; if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Besides minimal alterations in events, only the cast and the production values change from play to play, from performance to performance. Originality is harder to come by in these older and somewhat old fashioned, and perhaps less sophisticated, plays. Wilde managed to stand out from the crowd with his tricky witticisms and absurdities. She Stoops to Conquers possesses nothing so unique, as far as I can tell.
The repetitive nature of this sort of play's light humour devices such as the use of puns, wordplay, slapstick and the heavily relied upon mistaken identity trope (which is used here), concluding with the inevitable romantic happy ever after enacted by genteel, upper class main characters making satirical references to gender and class politics before falling in love at the drop of a hat (sometimes literally), tend to leave me a little bored of the predictability while only evoking a chuckle or two at most.
Also repetitive was the use of the word 'impudent'. Unfortunately this was written pre-thesaurus so I'll have to forgive Goldsmith's overuse since he didn't have easy access to synonyms like we do today.
Honestly, the skillful audio portrayal of She Stoops to Conquer by the distinct voices of a full cast, especially SpikeJames Marsters, is solely responsible for capturing and maintaining my attention throughout. I imagined Mr. Marsters in his Buffy persona's pre-vampire days as a less feeble version of the English gentleman William Pratt. You'd never know he's 100% American from his superb upper crust and unrefined British accents. Twice my age and yet I still perk up at the sound of his voice. *smiles*