I worry about the sophomore slump when reading series. I've been burned too many times. Luckily, I actually enjoyed Alchemy more than the first book iI worry about the sophomore slump when reading series. I've been burned too many times. Luckily, I actually enjoyed Alchemy more than the first book in The Mercian Trilogy series, Blood. The characters that were introduced in the first book are given much more depth here, and we have the added bonus of the villain's backstory, giving insight into why Wyndham is after the vampire William of Mercia, and the history of Wyndham's alchemical experiments in an effort to live long enough to destroy Will. There's also plenty of action to keep the reader interested.
Something that bugs me in young adult novels is when the romance is too easy. Often, stress on relationships is introduced through a third romantic party, acting as a rival to be overcome in order to demonstrate the truth of the love. Otherwise, the heroine never doubts her love of the hero, even if he is of questionable character or does bad things. However, Wignall allows Eloise to actually glimpse into the true nature of Will's vampiric life, and the evil that he's done over many centuries. This is the crack in their relationship, and will eventually lead to a deeper understanding and compromise between the two of them. I'm really happy to see this kind of thought and character development in young adult writing, bucking the trend of the easy love triangle.
Sadly, this is another book where I need to bring up my anachronistic language beef. During Wyndham's exposition of his life, he recounts fighting a vampire in 1791. During this episode, they say not to look in its eyes to avoid "the demon's hypnotic spell". This word jumps out at me because I know that hypnosis, as he means it here, wasn't a thing until the mid-1800s. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (yes, I just went there), prior to 1843, when the term gained its modern meaning from the work of James Braid, hypnotic simply meant something causing sleep, not really to put in a trance where the person could be influenced. The same page uses the term "mesmerising," which is a term that doesn't appear in English until 1829. Obviously, this bugs me, but I'm probably alone in that.
Other than the historical language mistakes, I enjoyed this book and am pleasantly surprised with the series. There's real intrigue, a mysterious prophecy that needs to be fulfilled, and vampires. What else could you want?
On an unrelated note, I think the publisher could do much better with the cover for these books. If I were basing my reading on the cover alone, I'd pass it by. The story is much more distinguished than the half-naked, over the shoulder smoldering glance suggests....more
Know what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the ofteKnow what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the often creepy, but sometimes touching, encounters with the spirits of the dead in the place where most of us will eventually wind up.
A part of me really wishes that this book had been written and marketed as fiction rather than as a true encounters kind of book. I love hearing the stories, but if somebody is trying to convince me that all of these things really happened to her, my inner skeptic is going to speak up. I've heard de la Croix interviewed a few times before, and she really does maintain that she is a psychic. It's the kind of thing you just can't argue, but I also have a really hard time believing. It seems too convenient to have ghostly encounter after ghostly encounter when so many of us have had no experiences. Granted, a funeral home might ratchet up the spook-factor.
De la Croix's writing voice didn't always work for me. It can be overly saccharine at times. I think this is a problem with the chemistry between my own personal tastes and her way of expressing herself, so others may not share this viewpoint. Subjectively, I would have preferred a bit less of calling people "dear" or the way she spoke to the spirits to get them to stop what they were doing.
What I enjoyed most about this read were the ins and outs of working in a funeral home. De la Croix shares some of the practicalities of embalming and cremation, but she also gives us an idea of the many little things that come with the job, like bringing in more tissues for mourners, or setting alarms and turning off lights at the end of the day. This provided a nice grounding and insight into this as an actual career, rather than simply a setting for the stories.
Restless in Peace is a fairly quick read full of plenty of ghostly encounters, and is a fair choice for those who are curious about funeral homes and want some creepy stories....more
I was so looking forward to reading this book since I'd first seen the cover and blurb on Edelweiss all those months ago. The cover looks quirky and fI was so looking forward to reading this book since I'd first seen the cover and blurb on Edelweiss all those months ago. The cover looks quirky and fun, and just like DiDonato says at the beginning of the blurb, I really wanted to know firsthand what it's like to live with dwarfism. Sadly, the book just didn't deliver on any of those counts. Instead, this is one woman's story about her own life up until her very early thirties. Still, it could have been compelling, except that I just did not care about Tiffanie DiDonato.
I actually came to actively dislike Tiffanie. If I hadn't been rushing to finish my yearly reading challenge, I probably would have abandoned this book. Tiffanie comes across as a childish, self-aggrandizing, spoiled brat who happens to have been born with a serious medical condition that made simple things, like brushing her own hair, impossible. Tiffanie was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to stretch (get it!?) the limits of the newest medical innovations for limb lengthening that were available to her in her childhood and teen years. Tiffanie got blowback from some of the dwarf community for her drastic body modification, but can you blame her for wanting to be self-sufficient? I can't.
What I can blame Tiffanie for is how she never mentions in this book the monetary costs of her operations. These are procedures that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I see two probable ways these were paid for: a) her parents, b) her insurance. If it was by her parents, then she does not even come close to giving them the huge thanks they deserve for what would be a huge sacrifice. Her parents come across as well-meaning and indulgent, but in their concern for her I think she became very spoiled. At one point, she gets into what she calls a "fender bender" on her drive back to college. When her sorority sister suggests she get her car fixed soon, she laughs it off and has her parents just buy her a new BMW Z3. Yes, seriously. Her sweet sixteen involves a limo ride to a fancy restaurant, as well as other flippantly offered shows that money is clearly not much of a concern of hers. Scenario b, the insurance, would mean that the cost of her surgery, surgery that many doctors would not have been willing to do, was passed on to the other insurance subscribers, raising the rates for everyone. But I'm sure Tiffanie deserves it.
Another reason she was so detestable? When ONE teacher mentioned her dwarfism, her parents tried to get that teacher fired. When that didn't work, Tiffanie set out with the internet to try to bring the teacher down with a computer virus, and spread her phone number around for awful phone calls. She never seems sorry for any of this, but is gleeful. Time to get over it, "Tiffie."
I gagged at the end when I came to the description of her fairytale wedding, complete with real trees her parents decorated at her insistence of it looking like an enchanted forest.
Yes, this book was a quick read, and I'm really glad for that, because I wouldn't want to spend another moment with Tiffanie....more
Soldier Dog was a bit of a departure from what I normally read, but it’s good to mix things up from time to time, isn’t it? It’s a middle grade historSoldier Dog was a bit of a departure from what I normally read, but it’s good to mix things up from time to time, isn’t it? It’s a middle grade historical fiction novel that takes place during the tail-end of World War I. Fourteen-year-old Stanley lives alone with his angry father after the death of his mother and the enlistment of his older brother. When their prize dog gets pregnant by a local mutt, Stanley’s father writes off the puppies before they’re even born. Stanley, though, loves dogs, and does whatever he can to make sure they’re born healthy. He picks one from the litter to be his own. His father has other ideas, though, and after Stanley’s dad pitilessly gets rid of all the puppies, including Stanley’s, Stanley has had enough. He decides to lie about his age and enlist in the army, to be sent to the front in France.
In the military, everybody seems to recognize how truly young and out of place Stanley is. Fortunately, he learns of a new unit that is training messenger dogs. I have to warn readers who are sensitive about animal death: this book includes dog death. However, the dogs are soldiers and it is treated the same as human death. It is World War I, after all. Being middle grade fiction, though, the death is necessary to the story and never gratuitous.
For being a World War I story, I felt like the war isn’t really at the heart of the book, but serves as a means of escape for the protagonist. While the story might make young readers curious about the war, I don’t think it will teach them a great deal about the major players or the reasons behind the conflict. I love that Angus includes real photographs of the actual messenger dogs and has a historical note and bibliography at the end, though.
Soldier Dog is a bit of a heart-wrencher, but it will have readers sympathizing with Stanley and hoping that he’ll finally get a dog he can keep. This could be a good readalike for fans of War Horse....more
A few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she wasA few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she was a breathing, sentient lady, and the next, when she was just a shell of organic compounds, laying there with eyes that no longer could see. It’s so hard to wrap my head around the death of another, but in Mortality, Hitchens takes it a step further by mediating at length on his own impending end, due to stage four esophageal cancer. Not that I can really compare the death of my cat with the death of Christopher Hitchens, but reading this book right now seemed appropriate.
This is a very short book, but with a subject as dark and universal as our own mortality, I don’t think it is necessary to linger longer. If we focus only on our impending deaths, we forget to enjoy our current lives. However, I do think it is important to approach the subject from time to time because a) death comes for us all and better to know your enemy, and b) it makes living that much more valuable to know that someday it will be taken from us. Hitchens’ voice in this is clear as a bell, until the last chapter, which remained unfinished and fragmentary due to his death. And as much as he knew he was going to die, reading this makes me wonder if he ever truly could wrap his mind around it until the final moment.
As grim as it was, reading Mortality actually helped. Hitchens brings forth the irony and humor of the horrors he went through, and even though he no longer believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the strength of his final writings show that he continued to live, even while dying....more