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Vacation

In Book Reviews on July 31, 2013 at 6:00 am

Vacation

Tomas Dunne Books 2011

Chaos – always close, always one attack away. The pressure from the Can Heads always there, always mounting.

I’ve taken a departure from my usual fare of post-apocalyptic zombie stories and have sauntered into the realm of cannibals. Exciting, eh?

Nutshell blurb: A global crisis kills off plants and animals and gives rise to a new type of human dubbed ‘Can Heads’ who are attacking and eating survivors. Jack and his family decide to leave New York City for a vacation in a secluded area which is reputed to be free from Can Heads.

I had some mixed feelings about this book. I feel like I should start by telling you the things I didn’t like so that I can end this post with the things that I did like.

So, what are Can Heads you might ask? You would be right to do so. I actually don’t know. I was really excited when I picked up this book because I’ve been reading so many zombie stories lately and it was nice to delve into something different. However, I never really got a feel for what these things were. They seemed pretty much like zombies to me, except that their bite didn’t turn people into zombies or Can Heads. They just went around eating people. There wasn’t much explanation about why they are or how they came to be that way and I found that to be a bit disappointing. Zombies are usually depicted as brainless, non-sentient creatures filled with a mindless hunger. When I think about cannibals, I think about people knowingly eating other people, whether they’re in the grip of religious mania or because they actually have nothing else to eat. I think of rituals and barbarians dancing around huge boiling pots usually with a fully dressed human inside a la Allan Quartermaine.

Obviously, it’s great to put a new spin on an old concept, but I didn’t feel that these things were much different than zombies.

Another problem I had was that I didn’t find the main character to be at all likeable. Jack was a jerk. I’ve read so many books which feature the hardened cop who isn’t in touch with his soft side and who doesn’t like to talk about his feelings. The wife is long-suffering and they bicker a lot. He always has to drive, even though he’s recovering from a leg injury and it’s very uncomfortable. He takes it all stoically and just expects her to understand. He can’t be happy with the woman he’s got and finds it difficult to hide his ogling. (Yes, we all ogle from time to time, but a bit of discretion is advisable.) I find it tedious. While I understand that people like this exist, I’m kind of tired of reading about them. We’re in the 21st century and it’s more acceptable for both men and women to show a wider range of emotions than ever before. It could be that I’m not the intended demographic for this book, in which case that would be quite a shame as I love a good actiony post-apocalyptic story.

The last negative thing I’ll say is that sometimes I didn’t like the writing style. I don’t mind a fragmented sentence here and there. It’s great for when you’re in someone’s head and it’s used to illustrate the tough situation they’re in, but I found that it was used a bit much in this book. This is a niggling, stylistic preference though, so don’t let that deter you.

Believe it or not, I really did like this book. There’s a lot of action and it’s just plain fun. The things I mentioned above are small things that made it good rather than amazing. I took this book with me on my daily commute to work, but found that I had to read it at home too. I was really caught up in all of it. I’m not sure if it’s one that I could re-read, but I’ll definitely read more of Mr. Costello’s work in the future.

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The Unit

In Book Reviews on July 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Unit

One World Publications 2010

I think it’s beautiful when men show their physical strength openly without being ashamed of it or apologizing. And I think it’s beautiful when women dare to be physically weak and accept help with heavy jobs.

This book affected me. Intensely.

Nutshell blurb: 50 year old Dorritt has just been admitted to the 2nd Federal Reserve Bank for Biological Material where she will spend the rest of her days in relative comfort, undergoing “humane” medical tests and donating organs to more important people in society until the day she makes her “final donation”.

This book scored high for me on the creep-out meter. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopia lately that has been deliciously scary but there is something about donating organs before one dies that freaks me right out. I mean, we will probably never experience a zombie apocalypse, an alien invasion or any of the many scenarios authors of dystopia have dreamed up. But this…this really feels like something that could happen one day. At least it does to me. I’ve never been the same since reading that email that did the rounds way back in the early 2000s about people being drugged in hotel bars and waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a note saying that their kidneys had been removed.

Anyway, back to the book. The fact that it weirded me out has no bearing on whether or not I liked it because I really really did.

As a strong, independent woman, there were things that were difficult for me to read without wincing such as the quote above. The important members of society were the ones in important jobs which served society such as being a doctor, teacher, police officer, etc… Being a parent left you home free as well. Women who didn’t jump into relationships and who made it to the age of 50 without having children or an important job were sent to the Unit. The same went for men who made it to 60. These people are considered dispensable.

The main character wrote novels and read a lot. She mentions that people who read a lot tend to be dispensable. These are the type of people I tend to befriend. Strong, independent, smart.

The reason that I get so affected by stories is that I have a very strong sense of empathy. When I read a book or watch a film, I usually put myself in the place of the characters. I don’t mean that I imagine myself actually in the film or book; I mean that I try to imagine what I’d do in that particular situation. What would my role be in the society?

Well, let’s see…I love to read and write. I have no children and am not sure whether or not I will. I don’t have a job that’s important to society. OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT TWELVE YEARS UNTIL THEY SEND ME TO THE UNIT!!!

Ahem.

This book put me through some heavy emotions. I was terrified, heart-broken, tense, over-joyed…All of these things. I was reading it on the way to work one day and I got to a certain point which made my eyes tear up. I almost started crying right there on the Underground. I absolutely love it when a book can trigger such strong emotions. (I’m sure my fellow commuters thought that I was a bit unhinged, though.)

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. It missed out on 1 star because I was unclear about why the author ended it the way she did. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it.) It was a pretty powerful ending but there was no explanation about why the main character made the choices that she made. I don’t feel that every story has to be perfectly wrapped up, but I do want to understand the motivation behind the choices.

Gosh, I’ve gotta stop reading this kind of stuff before bed…

Reader Interview Number Nine – Buffy

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I’ve recently done a reader interview for the blog Library of Erana. Check it out! 🙂

Library of Erana

Welcome to Buffy.

Where are you from? I’m from the U.S. but am currently living in London, UK.

On average how many books do you read in a month? I probably read about 6 or 7 books per month. My commute to work is approximately 30 minutes each way, so I get a lot of reading done on the train.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? I’ve always been pretty introverted and when I was a little girl I would sometimes find a quiet place away from the playground and read a book rather than playing with the other kids. I definitely preferred reading books to interacting with people. People in books were so much more interesting. Now that I’m older, I’ve honed my personal skills and am much more social, but I still love escapism and being drawn into a story.

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Gone

In Book Reviews on July 24, 2013 at 6:00 am

Gone

Egmont Press 2009

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion.

Nutshell blurb: One day, everyone aged 15 and older disappears leaving kids to fend for themselves.

I wasn’t sure what I would think about this book at first. Sometimes books aimed at kids are so far below my reading level that I can’t take them seriously. They could be very well written but the fact that they are aimed at kids means that they’ll be written differently. (I’m still trying to slog through Harry Potter.) If a book has an interesting premise, I’ll give it a try regardless of whom it’s written for.

And in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book. It was written for kids, but it never talks down to them and the action was pretty intense. Mr. Grant didn’t pull punches and I respect him for that.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love stories which provide a picture of how people handle adverse situations and the choices that they have to make. I really like reading how people think that children would react in these situations with no adult guidance. It’s interesting to see what authors come up with. I think that Mr. Grant nailed it in this case. Kids are selfish, unsure of themselves, and need authority and guidance (although I guess that could be said of adults as well). I think that if they had to forage for food in deserted supermarkets the candy, pop, ice cream and junk food would be the first things to go. Their first thoughts wouldn’t be to see if anyone needed help. They would most likely mill around until someone corralled them and gave them tasks to do. I’m in no way saying that people under the age of 15 are stupid, but I think that adults who have more life experience would struggle in these situations too so it would be silly to think that kids would be able to behave the way we think that they should.

It was great to see that some of the kids accepted that they were alone and finally tried to sort things out, but they had to contend with bullies and other forces which thwarted them at every turn.

This was a long book at 570 pages, but I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next one.

Allison Hewitt is Trapped

In Book Reviews on July 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

Allison Hewitt is Trapped

Headline Publishing Group 2011

They are coming and I don’t think we will ever get out.

Yes, I’m posting my thoughts about another zombie book. I refuse to apologise.

I loved this book. It’s a great story and Ms. Roux has a whimsical style of writing that hooked me right away. I also loved the concept.

Nutshell blurb: A zombie outbreak has occurred and Allison Hewitt is trapped in a bookstore with colleagues. She blogs about her experiences of trying to survive.

What? You might ask. How the heck could someone maintain a blog during a zombie apocalypse? And you would be right to ask. I felt that the author did a great job of addressing this issue. Apparently there’s something called SNet that the government and military have implemented in case of an emergency such as the one in this book. The interesting thing about this concept is that the laptop remains at the centre of the action at all times. It is something to be protected otherwise, there’s no story. Ms. Roux does a great job of explaining the continued use of a laptop when there’s no electricity or when the living dead decide to launch an attack on our heroine.

I liked the characters and could sympathise with Allison. My one disappointment (and it’s a little one) is that I felt as though the end was a little too wrapped up for me. It’s not completely tied with a bow, but I felt that the romantic connections were a bit contrived. I don’t want to say anything else as I don’t want to spoil it for you if you decide to read it.

All in all, it was a fun read.

A Walk in the Sun

In Library Day on July 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

This week, I treated myself to a much needed library day at the Barbican Library. It’s quite a nice little oasis in the middle of the urban jungle which is the City of London. Unfortunately, I picked the hottest day of the week to make the 20 minute trek and I almost melted into a puddle by the time I got back to the office. You won’t catch me complaining about the heat, however, as we’ve been waiting for summer to come to Britain for quite sometime.

It was a pleasant walk (even in the heat) and I managed to find quite a few books that look interesting. I will let you know!

Vacation   Alif the Unseen   Hunger   Night Work   The Walking Dead 2   The Walking Dead 3   The Walking Dead 4

The Aquarian Guide to African Mythology

In Book Reviews on July 17, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Aquarian Guide to African Mythology

Aquarian Press 1990

Guess what. I’m writing a novel. This is my first time writing a blog post about it, but now you know. As you can probably guess from the title, my story is going to be based on African mythology. Some of you may already know this, but I love reading mythology. I love stories of fantastic creatures and larger-than-life heroes. I’ve read a few retellings and have been inspired to try my hand at it.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty daunting.

Africa has so many different cultures, languages and stories. Where does one start? Well, my story isn’t actually going to take place in Africa. I’m going to create my own world with similar regions, biomes and creatures as there are in Africa. I’m going to populate it with spirits, cannibals, witches, gods, goddesses, kings, queens, heroes and villains. To my intense delight, I found that Amazons are also represented in African mythology. I didn’t want to represent (or offend) only one culture, so I’ve decided to do a mish-mash and take as many of the interesting things that I could find to create my story.

When I came up with this idea, I was completely ignorant of African mythology.  We’re not exposed to it in the west, which is a shame because it’s fascinating. This book was an excellent place to start. It’s sort of an encyclopaedia as the various topics are listed in alphabetical order but it sparked so many ideas. I still have a lot of research to do but this was fantastic for dipping my toes into the mythology.

I’ve gotten as far as creating my main characters and I have a basic idea of how I want the story to go. I’ve already got a beginning and an end, so that’s a pretty good start. I’ve been working on my outline and researching as I go along.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book unless you’re reading with a mind towards research, unless you enjoy reading reference books for fun (which I could totally understand because I do) but it’s a great way to attain a basic grasp of African mythology.

The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

In Book Reviews on July 14, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Walking Dead 1

Seventh Printing 2008

It would seem that I’m going through a zombie phase at the moment. I actually started reading this graphic novel after having seen Seasons 1 and 2 of the The Walking Dead on tv. This worried me as I’m always a fan of reading the book before watching the tv/film. In this case, it really doesn’t matter as so far they are quite different from each other. Of course, I’ve only read the first one so I have no idea of what’s going to happen in the subsequent issues. I have noticed that my library has them lined up in numerical order as if they’re just waiting for me.

I’m not entirely sure what’s prompted my zombie obsession these days. I’ve actually read a lot of dystopia in the past year or so and am fascinated by the choices people have to make when the world goes to hell. At first I found the tv show to be sappy and overly sentimental whereas the graphic novel doesn’t dwell on the feelings as much (so far). It is inevitable that I think about the show as I’m reading the graphic novel and now that I’m further along in the series I can appreciate the personal and emotional drama much better. I’m getting really attached to the characters and am terrified for them every time they get into a confrontation.

One of the difficulties that I have with reading graphic novels is that I read super fast. I wouldn’t quite call it skimming, but it’s pretty close. When I first started reading them, I missed so much because the stories really do rely on the pictures (duh, right?) and I would flip through a book and have a only vague idea of what was going on. I love graphic novels and manga, though, so I’ve had to teach myself to slow down when reading them over the years. It’s really difficult to change one’s reading style. Pictures = slow the heck down, Buffy. It’s worth it though. I would have missed out on a lot of good stories otherwise.

I really enjoyed the first issue of this series and will probably pick up more than one on my next visit. I might also share my thoughts on several at a time so that I have more to say.

World War Z

In Book Reviews on July 10, 2013 at 6:00 am

WWZ

Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 2006

Nutshell blurb: This book is a collection of stories in interview format from the survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

I really liked the idea behind this book. The stories were interesting, diverse and some of them were quite hair-raising. I liked the idea of having a collection of interviews from all over the world because it gave us a view of what was happening in more than one place. Many times, post-apocalyptic stories focus on the survival of a small group of people or even on just one person. This view of the zombie invasion gives us a great look at it from many different angles and it was really cool to read about the different ordeals various people went through.

I’m not sure if this mode of storytelling really works for this genre, however. I feel that the whole point of zombies is that they’re scary. They’re meant to terrify us into setting up fortifications in our houses and to start rigorous training exercises to ensure that we’re in tip top shape in case of a zombie infestation. (Or is that just me…?) Anyway, for me, this book lacked immediacy. We are so far removed from any action as we’re having it recounted to us by people who survived. Which is another thing. They survived. Their lives may have been in danger during the stories they tell, but the fact that they’re sitting there telling us about their experiences means that they’re alive. That’s another bit of immediacy taken away from me. (Not that I wish for people to die, but I certainly want it to be a possibility.)

I also saw the film last week. I’m really glad that I didn’t pay attention to the critics (I seldom do because I like to make up my own mind about things) because I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of complaints (which I read AFTER I saw the film) about the ‘soft’ ending (which I won’t spoil for you) but I didn’t have a problem with it. It did wrap things up a bit neatly but I don’t mind. I and found it to be an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. I was entertained.

The book and the film are two completely different animals. One has nothing to do with the other except the fact that they both have the same name.

Off in tangent land and speaking of names… Every time I looked at the book, my eyes would land on the surname of the author (Brooks) and I would see the M of his first name and my brain would instantly think of Mel Brooks. How cool would it be if he wrote a zombie novel? Food for thought, people.

Ice Land

In Book Reviews on July 7, 2013 at 6:00 am

Ice Land

Short Books 2009

“She craves the unexpected. Each day, she rides her horse across pock-marked fields of blackened lava to the hot pool…”

I had a serious book hangover after finishing this one. Absolutely gorgeous.

Nutshell blurb: We follow the lives of two women, Freya and Fulla, and the choices they make as they go through life. The story takes place in Iceland during a time when Christianity was inching its way through the populace.

It sounds really simple when I put it like that, but it was an elegant take on Norse mythology. Asgard isn’t some city in the sky. It’s actually in the mountains of Iceland and the people live alongside their gods. I will admit to my vast ignorance as far as Norse mythology and Iceland is concerned. I love mythology, but have just never gotten around to reading any from that area. I’m totally gonna now.

Fulla is a young orphan who lives with her grandfather. She’s impetuous and pushes him into making a decision that will change her life. Freya is the Freya from legend and is determined to acquire a necklace made by dwarves and will do anything to attain it. Their lives are intertwined with that of the volcano Hekla which serves as the backdrop for this beautiful story.

I was so enchanted by this book that on several occasions I was tempted to stay on the train past my stop just to keep reading. Also, when I finished it I wanted to start it all over again immediately. I have quite a backlog of books to get through, however, which is the only thing that prevented me from doing so.

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